Santiago’s Bodega

If you are looking for a date night in Orlando, look no further than Santiago’s Bodega in Altamonte Springs Florida. The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, yet vibrant at the same time with lush red velvet booths and intricate lighting fixtures. The cuisine is tapas with a twist. Santiago’s offers small plates so you can share- or not. The plates range from the fairly usual fare done deliciously to the outright inventive. My husband and I almost fought over the last of the dates stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto. Incredible! He has heard that some people come to Santiago’s just for the dates. It’s true. The dates by themselves are reason to go back. Jim loved the beef short ribs, and I loved the pasta with shrimp and basil. We almost had another tug of war over the pastry puffs with portabellas. There was nothing we tried that we didn’t love. The flavors of all our dishes were perfect. Everything was seasoned and done to perfection. The sangria was the best I’ve had this side of Barcelona.

I was surprised not to see any children. None. Our server explained that Santiago’s does not offer a children’s menu, and while children are not banned from the restaurant, they are not encouraged either as it is an adult venue. There are locations in Orlando and Key West as well. The Altamonte restaurant was quiet, which was wonderful for conversation. I sometimes tire of loud restaurants with crowds of people talking over one another, children yelling, and high ceilings that do nothing to mitigate the noise. Santiago’s provides an oasis of civility, and taste. Far from the usual, and far from boring, Santiago’s is the place for innovative food, chic atmosphere, and good conversation.




Melbourne Beach


When people come to Central Florida, Daytona, Cocoa and New Smyrna Beaches get all the attention.  Those beaches are world famous.  They’re fun and wonderful, certainly worth visiting, but there’s a hidden gem that most people don’t know about, Melbourne Beach.  It’s about a two- hour drive south of Orlando, and well worth the visit. If you like quiet, unspoiled natural beaches that aren’t crowded, head to Melbourne. There’s always a peaceful spot of beach waiting just for you with very few people around. Melbourne is quiet and friendly.  One the best things about going to the beach in Melbourne is that I can leave my umbrella, chair, cooler and even car keys and take a walk on the beach.  Nobody will bother my things. Try doing that at the other beaches.

Most of the beaches are semi-private, meaning that locals hang out there. You’ll see retirees fishing, couples walking down the beach, surfers, yes, families with kids, but no crowds. There’s lots of space on the beaches so you can place your chairs away from everyone else, if you want peace and quiet. You’ll never have to eek out a tiny space on the beach next to somebody you potentially don’t want to be near.

There are also lots of fun restaurants in Melbourne if you want to find something delicious.  We like Skewers, a Middle Eastern restaurant complete with belly dancers, Bizzaro’s Pizza, on the Indiatlantic Boardwalk, which offers excellent gluten free pizza, and the New England Eatery. The Eatery, as locals call it, is a local hang out. Nothing fancy, just great seafood. If you want something more upscale, head further South to Vero Beach and hit Cobalt at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, which is right on the ocean.  They have a fabulous happy hour that offers small plates and specially priced drinks.

My parents and my sister and her family have lived in Melbourne Beach for years, and I have fallen in love with the town and the beaches. Jim and I have spent many weekends in Melbourne Beach and it is one of my favorite places.  There’s lots to love about Melbourne Beach. Pack your swim suit, sundress, and a cooler and head South!


Photos courtesy of Jennifer and Brad Helin, my sister and brother-in-law who live work and play in Melbourne Beach.


Pierre’s Wine Cellar

If you like wine, Pierre’s Wine Cellar is a hidden gem in downtown Lake Mary, a small suburb of Orlando, Florida.  Pierre’s is owned by Olivier and Marie Uteschill.  They are a delightful couple from France who have spent many years in the wine and food industry.  Olivier grew up in the family vineyard in Provence overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and is a graduate of the School of Hospitality in Nice.  He managed a French Hotel and cooking school is Minnesota before moving here to Florida and opening Pierre’s.  Both he and Marie are knowledgeable about all the wines they sell, as well as food and wine pairings.  Marie and Olivier can always fine a wine that is just right for you to serve at any occasion.

Pierre’s has twice been voted the best wine store in Orlando, and it’s no surprise why.  They offer a large selection of wines and take pride in finding just the right wine for each customer.  They offer a guarantee that if you buy a wine that you do not like, you can return it.  I must say, however, that I have never returned any bottle of wine to Pierre’s.  I have enjoyed each bottle I have bought from Marie and Olivier for the last 2 and a half years.

The best part of Pierre’s is that every Thursday, Marie and Olivier offer wine and food tastings.  They serve five wines as well as culinary delights.  Olivier usually makes a dish such as chicken and potatoes or pasta, and that is served with bread, sometimes cheese and salads.  No matter what Olivier makes, it’s always good.  He can even make simple chicken taste like a gourmet experience.  There is a group of regular customers who gather at Pierre’s every Thursday and some contribute cheese, salads, or a desert.  At Thanksgiving, Olivier and Marie fried 3 turkeys and all the regulars brought a dish to pass.

Pierre’s has become my regular Thursday hang out, and I buy all my wine there.  Come and join us!

Universal City Walk

Universal City Walk is one of our favorite places to walk around and have dinner.  There is a good choice of restaurants including sushi, Italian, pizza, Mexican, an Emeril’s, a Hard Rock Café, and a Bubba Gump’s.   Our favorite restaurant at City Walk is Bubba Gump’s.  I love seafood, and the shrimp at Bubba Gump’s is delicious.  I love to get the large portion of the appetizer shrimp for my entrée.  You can get a bucket of shrimp steamed in beer with Cajun seasoning or garlic butter.  I like to do half and half.  My husband, Jim, loves the shrimp mac and cheese.

After dinner, we like to walk around and have a drink at one of many bars including Fat Tuesdays.  We also like the shows.  We have seen a couple comics, including Carlos Mencia, at City Walk.  We also saw the Blue Man Group show.  I have taught various music courses, s I love Blue Man Group.  Their show is an unconventional, unique, goofy, silly, wonderful artistic mess of a spectacle.  Don’t expect anything usual.  Don’t expect anything traditional.  It’s bizarre.  The look of the blue men, their PVC pipe instruments, the swirling paint, and the drumming with wet paint.  The Blue Men are strange and stranger,  weird and weirder.  I loved the percussion, and the party atmosphere of the show.

Besides the eats and Blue Man Group, there are always a variety of visiting shows ranging from comics to bands to check out.  If you like to go clubbing, there are plenty of clubs to dance the night away, plus there is always the movie theater. Whether you want to go to dinner, see a show like Blue Man Group, go clubbing or just bar hop, Universal City Walk is always a fun night out.  Enjoy!



Sushi Pop

Welcome to Orlando Without Kids!  Jim and I are budding foodies, so we thought we would first introduce you to our favorite restaurant in Orlando, Sushi Pop!  Sushi Pop is located in the suburb of Oviedo.  I have to admit that before we  discovered Sushi Pop, Jim and I both hated sushi.  When my nail tech first recommended Sushi Pop, I told him that Jim and I had never liked sushi.  He recommended it so highly that we hesitantly decided to give it a go.

We immediately loved the atmosphere of anime and white couches with lights that looked like upside down flowers.  Now that part of the restaurant is more cute and whimsical, and the restaurant has expanded to include another side that is more adult with a bar and high couches with swirling darker colors.

The best part of Sushi Pop of course is the food.  I fell in love with sushi rolls there, particularly the red hot and ceviche rolls, and my husband loves the low rider.  We’ve tried sushi in Vegas, Key West, Melbourne Beach, to name a few places, but none compares to the freshness and the flavors of the rolls at Sushi Pop.  Sushi Pop gets most of the fish from Port Canaveral, so it’s super fresh.  Then the sauces and vegetables added to the fish perfect the rolls.  No other sushi restaurant creates the flavor combinations that Sushi Pop does.  Pair the sushi with ingenious drinks and it’s a great dinner out.

We love to celebrate all our special occasions there.  Just be sure to make reservations on the weekends.  After all, it’s one of Orlando’s best sushi restaurants.