Exploring Orlando’s specialty markets offering ingredients for a fun, multi-sourced dinner at home.
Story and photos by Marta Madigan
Hey, home chefs, do you want to create an epic feast? Flavor tip #1: Venture beyond familiar supermarket shelves. Visit gourmet shops and international markets. Talk to their owners. Be curious, smell, taste. Add new foods to your shopping list. Get on the trail to Flavorland! Orlando’s specialty markets
In the Golden Hour Wine, sometime after 5, Heather LaVine pops a bottle of Michel Gahier Crémant du Jura, a French bubbly chardonnay that could set in motion an exciting dinner chez you. Apart from well-represented sparkling whites, LaVine’s elegant shop also features fizzy reds. “I think this is an underrated category in wine and, almost without exception, goes well with pizza—including vegan—and cheese and charcuterie,” she says. Ask LaVine about wine and food pairings. She will help you navigate through several hundred options, all from small, organic operations, mostly in Europe. She takes particular pride in vino grown and produced by women. Her latest favorite? She points at a 2020 Rabasco Cancellato from Iole Rabasco’s pesticide-free vineyards in Abruzzo, Italy. This vibrant Montepulciano tastes best served slightly chilled. So does Le Spritz by Ghia, a teenage-friendly aperitif with riesling grape juice and yuzu extract in the mix. It’s complex, flavorful and fun. Alcohol content? None.
Oils and Vinegars
With appetite-whetting bubbles in one hand, your guests need some nibbles. Hummus or tapenade? Whichever spread you make, drizzle it with a good quality EVOO. At The Ancient Olive, they showcase an olive oil bar with 25 varieties you can taste before you buy. The one with white truffle reigns among finishing oils. A few drops over popcorn will up your game. Talk to the friendly staff if you get confused over the difference between fused and infused. They will make all oils clear while suggesting a few other taste boosters. “We have 40 plus balsamic vinegars all produced in the Modena region in Italy,” says Jeffrey Schrader, who together with Bryan Behling, is a co-owner of The Ancient Olive. Try Winter Park Rosé on the spot. This fruity Italian vinegar will make your salad dressing sweet. Also consider chili-infused “Hot” honey by Honey Feast that proudly represents Florida. It could be one of the fixings for your grazing board. Orlando’s specialty markets
Salumi e Fromaggi
“For a basic board, I would do three meats and two cheeses,” says Bryan Fisher, the manager at Tornatore’s Italian Market. He grabs a loaf of bresaola (beef prosciutto) and cuts a dark-red, paper-thin slice. It’s lean, meaty and aromatic. Among other salumi, or the Italian cured meats as they are called collectively, speck (smoked prosciutto) has a glorious taste as it melts in your mouth. Across the counter, three kinds of game salami chill in the fridge. The one made of duck is the manager’s pick. When asked about the cheeses, Fisher names crucolo and taleggio in one breath. Crucolo is semisoft, friendly yet pronounced. Taleggio, known as the king of Italian washed rinds, has been made since Roman times. To clear the palate between each bite, consider a pungent pear mostarda. If fruit with a kick isn’t your thing, Tornatore’s curates an assortment of scrumptious jars with an amarena cherry on top. Flavor tip #2: For inspiration, walk to the adjoined restaurant and order their antipasto board, or sign up for Tornatore’s monthly charcuterie class.
While wagyu and Asian mushroom medley on thin crust from Ziggie’s Pizza might be a level above, the classic beef stroganoff over noodles is a fairly easy-to-make winter dish. You don’t have to break the bank for a top-grade wagyu beef, either. Many more-affordable options await in freezers at Wild Fork. This new South Florida-based meat and seafood market offers an impressive selection of proteins, especially when it comes to exotic cuts. They are all blast-frozen, which, according to Wild Fork, preserves food taste, texture and nutrients. Alligator or ostrich? Venison or elk? Go wild or go beef tenderloin tips. “Our beef is wet-aged for at least 17 days,” says Ashley Ferro, Trade & Field Marketing Manager at Wild Fork. This process tenderizes meat and intensifies its flavor.
To crank up the umami of your stroganoff, head to Lotte Plaza Market. Exotica in the produce section is just the beginning of your tour inside this large Korean grocery store. Keep walking straight and you will sea food so fresh it’s still moving. To your left are rows of fire, or gochujang red chili paste, which provides heat and umami flavor to kimchi—also available by the brocket-load. To upgrade your main dish, throw fresh maitake, shiitake and king oyster to your shopping cart. These mushrooms are so savory that you may consider giving a meatless stroganoff a try (see author’s recipe).
All trails in Flavorland eventually lead to the International Food Club. There you will find imported goods from more than 20 countries under one roof. In their sweets stand await edible jewels that will crown your dinner party. Made of sugar, starch and flavorings such as rosewater, Turkish delight is pleasantly chewy with an occasional nut crunch. Choose a sample of each colorful kind. Flavor tip #3: If you cater to the diet-restricted crowd, halva—a fudge-like sesame paste—is another vegan, gluten-free confection popular in the Middle East. Ideally, these sweets are served with Turkish coffee or tea. Check out the espresso-size cups and the tulip-shaped glasses on a shelf by the entrance to the International Food Club. For loose-leaf tea, there’s one more stop.
“I make my own blend depending on what I am in the mood for,” says Jackie Chirinos, who along with husband Juan owns The Collective, a craft tea and coffee shop. Cold brew, flat and nitro that Juan steeps are branded Wavelength Coffee. A mosaic of dozens of teas and tisanes belong to the Rosie Lee Co. “I have a group of college kids who come in, and their goal is to try every tea on the wall,” reveals Jackie. You too can eventually reach that goal by selecting a few 2-ounce bags each time you visit. Earl Grey Creme makes a perfect London Fog. China Rose Petal is another delicious black tea with floral fragrance. Florida Sunrise won’t keep you awake as it’s a blend of herbs and fruits with orange notes. Bring these beautiful flavors home. Enjoy.