Most Americans live for Christmas (or the December holidays); some Thanksgiving; still others Halloween. I live for Magical Dining Month. Preview week starts the week of my birthday at the end of August and then the rest of the next month, which leads into Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and eventually Halloween. Once that first week begins, it is a non-stop rollercoaster of making plans and carrying them out. I used to try to do Food and Wine Fest at EPCOT, but that got too difficult with my allergy as well as trying to fit it in with everything else happening at the same time.
For those that do not know, Magical Dining month is a way for local restaurants, on the fancy side, to entice locals (and visitors) to check out the restaurant at a smaller price than usual. It consists of three courses, including an appetizer, entree, and dessert for a prix fixe price (this year it is $35). A dollar from each meal goes to Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida this year. So as I get to try the place, I also get to give a little to a local charity. I go through all of the menus and rate them on a four-point scale with one being the lowest. I will usually rate something a one if they have too many items on the menu with tomatoes. I plan on going to ten locations this year, and this was the first.
I intentionally picked this location, Chez Vincent, as it was around my birthday and I have discovered French food tends to agree with my allergy (see FAQs). So I used Open Table to make the reservations, where I have the tag for my allergy preassigned; mentioned we were doing Magical Dining; and also said it was a birthday. I have a friend that went as well, and she shares my birthday, so I didn’t specify whose it was.
We wanted to do a small gathering so there were five in our party and we arrived at roughly the same time. We walked in, and they found our reservations, mentioning that we were there for Magical Dining. The place was crowded, but expected, on a Saturday evening. Although it was crowded, it was not filled. Last year, I went on a Sunday, and there were only three in my party. We pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves.
When we were seated, we were given the Magical Dining menus, and our drink order was taken. We were offered water and probably could have had bottled, but we were all fine with “Winter Park’s finest” as the waiter put it. The birthday girl ordered a Reisling, her husband a Coke, their passenger a Jameson and ginger, and I had an Arnold Palmer.
The noise level was loud, but that was because there was live music in the accompanying location called Hannibal’s. We were competing a bit with that level and probably increased our side’s noise in the process.
After our drinks came out, we were asked for our order. Because it was not mentioned when we sat, I asked my usual question, “What does not have tomatoes in it?” Keep in mind; I specifically chose this place because I saw the menu and did not find anything on it that had tomatoes in it and it wasn’t an issue last year. I was particularly interested in the lamb shank for an entree, but the waiter hesitated after saying it was OK and checked with the chef. He returned and said that all entrees except the Coq au Vin had a demiglaze that used tomato paste as a base. This was not news to me, but it was disappointing. I was informed that they could make any of the fish dishes with a lemon caper sauce instead. I want to mention that I love lemon… To drink ONLY (note I had an Arnold Palmer and it would be odd for me to imbibe that if I did not like lemons). He mentioned they could simply have a caper sauce, but I am not a fan of capers. That being said, I ordered the Coq au Vin.
The first course came out, and we realized everyone ordered the French onion soup as their appetizer. I knew one of my friends was fond of it so I was not shocked by him ordering it. Everyone else ordered it, though; that seemed odd. The soup was flavorful and not very oniony. It was sweet and full of bread. The cheese was overflowing, and it was very gooey. This was one of the better French onion soups I have had in my life. Unfortunately, it was what it was, and I burned my mouth in the first bite.
While the soups were being slurped, we were asked if we wanted bread to go with our meal, which made sense as we had bread plates and butter knives on our chargers that needed to be moved to make room for the soup. We agreed to it, and when it was delivered, two of the bread plates were removed from the table. Three scoops per ramekin of flavored butter were brought in two containers. One of the three scoops, which were stacked on each other mixing all, so they were not homogenous, was red in color and I was hesitant to eat it. Eventually, the waiter returned, and I asked what it was, to which he replied sun-dried tomato. I asked for plain, and he returned with it. At that point, I also ordered a Long Island iced tea. I want to point out that the Arnold Palmer was good, but I think it was made with artificial lemonade.
We all finished our soups, and the bowls were removed. A few minutes later, after getting my drink, that I quaffed in a matter of a few gulps, our entrees arrived. The iced tea had an odd taste to it. I drink Long Island iced teas all the time, and most taste alcoholic or like nothing because I down them so fast. This had an oddness that I can’t place, but something was off.
I discovered that someone at the table did get the lamb shank and he said it was good and it looked it. Three of us got the Coq au Vin, and the final person had the blackened grouper. We all enjoyed our meals and as small as it looked, it was quite filling. As I did not really go to the restaurant with the intent on getting the Coq au Vin, I have nothing particular to say about it as it was exactly as it should be, which is why I didn’t plan on having it. It was a nice alternative to a fish I would not like or getting sick from a sauce I could not eat.
After finishing, getting refills on our drinks (mine the non-alcoholic only), and a bit of conversation, the dessert came out. I chose the 3-layer chocolate cake because, unlike the mousse, it did not say it had raspberry sauce. Unfortunately, it did. The sauce was not unpleasant, but, again, not what I wanted when I planned the meal. The cake was overpowered by the sauce, and when the check arrived, I didn’t even realize I had it. The birthday girl was the only exception from our group, and she ordered the Crème Brulee. It was a nice portion, unlike our cake that was basically a sliver. Because I am not a fan of Crème Brulee, I was not upset in the least. I will take chocolate laced in raspberry over Crème Brulee most of the time. If it were a chocolate one, I might make an exception.
We stayed a little longer after the checks arrived because they were not picked up for some time and it gave us a chance to digest. The restaurant cleared out, and it was practically empty on our side when we left. The noise level did not change much.
Although I had many complaints, I would still return there and have seen their regular menu (as I did last year), I will make an effort to do so this year. The last thing I want to mention was pointed out to me by my companions and I didn’t really notice. Our waiter seemed a bit miffed at us. I do not know if it was because we were doing Magical Dining (I have seen this before and will mention it in detail in another post) or if it was related to my tomato comments. Either way, they were getting a bad vibe. I’m used it to so it didn’t bother me until we left and I thought about it.