Another trip to fantasy land | lifestyles

ORLANDO, Fla. — For several years, I’ve ventured to Orlando’s Bonnet Creek area for the Association for the Advancement of Automation (A3) Business Forum. Prior to that event, I facilitate a group of automation distributors called Industrial Technology Group (ITG).

With last year’s meeting canceled, everyone was anxious to get together. Then COVID panic set-in and A3 changed attendance rules requiring everyone to provide proof of negative testing then wear N95 masks during the meeting. Immediately, many ITG members canceled causing me to cancel again, but we’ll try later in the year.

I almost didn’t attend, and even though the temps were in the 50s, my curiosity about a couple of new culinary discoveries in the area, changed my mind. That, and the Danish robot company I work with, Kassow Robots, was one of the sponsors for the A3 event.

After painless flights (if you want to get up at 4:30 in the morning) from Fort Wayne (through Chicago), my driver with me at baggage claim. Then I found another story.

A couple years ago, I introduced readers to Sol, an amazing woman whose family escaped from Venezuela by walking several nights to the Columbian border. She also is a driver in Orlando.

On this trip, I met another amazing woman, Sandra. She and her family fled Columbia when the government starting leaning toward dictatorship. Inflation was out of control and life’s necessities were becoming very scarce.

In her case, the departure was far less traumatic. She and her family were able to catch a flight to Atlanta, then on to Orlando. They are happy to be free of the chaos.

FLORIDA CUISINE

Whenever in Florida, the quest is always for fresh seafood, and although the complex where the forum was held has two great restaurants that I’ve written about in the past, I decided to venture off-property to the Sear + Sea Woodfire Grille.

They feature a nice selection of chilled shellfish, and of course, oysters are always a high priority. Unlike most places in these parts, they allow you to choose your oyster. I bellied-up to the bar and chose three from the East Coast and three from the West Coast. Plum, salty, and delectable doesn’t cover the sensation.

Octopus is always of high interest when in Florida and Sear + Sea offers an octopus appetizer. The tentacles were grilled to perfection, and it was slammed.

Next up: grouper — always a favorite of mine. Here it was lightly coated with a strawberry glaze and grilled over a wood fire that provided a hint of smoke. It was an excellent entrance.

THE BULL & BEAR

I’ve enjoyed several delicious meals here over the years. They offer an extensive wine list and their steaks are dry-aged to produce an enzyme explosion on every bite when grilled.

Several in our group ordered steaks and all were more than satisfied. For me, few restaurants offer foie gras, but here, they had a nice plump slab as an appetizer. So, I ordered a lovely Sauterne and dove-in. It was like eating butter.

The steaks were far too large for me, so I went for fish. They always have salmon, but so does almost every other restaurant of any importance. But, on this day, the seafood special was wild-caught sea bass and seeing one come out of the kitchen made my mouth water.

The dish included a crisp waffle sweet potato chip, broccolini and a black rice pilaf (not found much outside of Asian restaurants). The broccolini was crisp tender and seasoned with lemon zest. The rice was cooked in a flavored stock — probably chicken stock — and had flecks of carrot and celery. It combined well with the tender, flaky fish, which had an interesting light glaze. Some sugar had to be in that glaze because there was a wonderful caramelized crust on both sides. It was a spectacular dish.

A3 hasn’t scheduled its 2023 meeting, but I hope it takes us to another delightful destination where there are many luscious locations.

Loren Shaumi is an automation engineering consultant, retired pilot, author, home gardener and sometimes chef. He and Gayle reside in Syracuse. He can be contacted at comtec@kcaccess.com.

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