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Grande Lakes Holidays logo

It’s the holidays at Grande Lakes Orlando and the offerings are so large and lavish that have to spell Grand with an extra e.

Grande Lakes, of course, is the sprawling resort that includes the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels and their myriad food and beverage venues that will have special dinners. But for the holidays, many exclusive events are also planned beyond the restaurants.

Grande Lakes Gingerbread

For example, the annual Gingerbread School at the Ritz, in which beginning construction students learn how to build their very own cookie condo using the life-sized gingerbread house in the lobby constructed by the resorts’ pastry masters for inspiration. The good news is that you get to take your creation home with you without it having to go through City of Orlando permitting. Gingerbread School has multiple sessions on weekends through Dec. 24. See the Grande Lakes Holiday brochure for times and tuition.

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Mu cow

When I drove to New Smyrna Beach, in 2002, to check out a new restaurant I’d heard about called Spanish River Grill, I pulled up in front of the place and almost didn’t go inside. It was in a corner of a nondescript strip mall and nothing about the outside made me want to go inside. But go inside I did – it was a long drive back to Orlando – and of course I ended up eating at one of Central Florida’s best restaurant, one where the chef would eventually be nominated for a James Beard Foundation award multiple times.

I was reminded about all this recently when I visited Mu Restaurant & Grill in Kissimmee. Its location and exterior might also cause you to raise an eyebrow. It shares a building with a Shell gas station and its mini mart, occupying a space accessed at the rear. Don’t turn around, don’t drive away, because inside you’ll find charming surroundings and a most gracious and welcoming staff.

You’ll also find some pretty excellent food.

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STK sign

Here’s the good thing about STK Steakhouse – well, there are many good things about the upscale Disney Springs restaurant that opened in 2016. But at this time of year the really great thing is that you don’t have to be concerned about whether you’re on the naughty or nice list – you’ll be just fine here either way.

STK, of course, is the high-end steakhouse with popular locations in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. The Orlando location is sumptuous and spacious and it’s one of the few that touts a rooftop venue. In my review shortly after STK opened, I noted how impressive the food was, and not just the steaks, which as the name would lead you to expect are a particular forte. The kitchen does equally well with seafood – scallops and octopus were especially memorable – as well as the various side dishes that complete a steakhouse experience.

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Barcelona roof

A recent cruise in the Mediterranean dropped me off in Barcelona, a city I hadn’t been back to in a long time. So instead of heading from the cruise port to the port of air, my companion and I decided to spend a couple of days in town.

Barcelona Celler ext

On our first night, we strolled from our hotel looking for a bar, Paradiso, that we’d heard was supposed to be good. We found it, but the line was long and we didn’t want to wait. Just around the corner we found an outdoor tapas bar, Celler de la Ribera, and grabbed a couple of seats.

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F2F22 camilo

The eighth annual Field to Feast took place earlier this month on the grounds of Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood. The event, sponsored by Edible Orlando in conjunction with Walt Disney World Resort, has become one of the calendar’s must-do food and wine events.

In fact, according to Edible’s Pam Brandon, F2F attracted 200 guests this year, double the number that attended the first one. The proceeds from ticket sales and a cash raffle raised a record $42,000 for the Kids Café Program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

The walkabout event featured an array of Disney World culineers cooking under a large pavilion surrounded by the farm fields. A live band played, and the foods were enhanced by wine pairings selected by master sommelier George Miliotes of Wine Bar George in Disney Springs (and the new Terminal C at MCO).

Some highlights included: