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April 10, 2016

An Evening At Crimson Tavern's Chef's Garden


It's no secret that Orlando has a large number of alluring hotels to accommodate throngs of tourists, but I do have a secret to let you in on... they aren't just for the tourists! I'm not referring to those of us who enjoy the occasional staycation, either. This time, we're taking you to a hotel for another kind of experience altogether. Let's get our eat on at Crimson Tavern's Chef's Garden!




Crimson Tavern is a somewhat hidden gem, located within Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside. Crimson Tavern is a farm-to-table gastropub with a twist. While many ingredients of the dishes are locally-sourced, some are grown just feet away, in the 2,500 square foot Chef's Garden. Opened in 2013, Chef's Garden features a wide variety of robust herbs, fruits and vegetables. Due to my own black thumb hindrances, I was particularly impressed with the bounty of leafy greens and vibrant herbs. Even my garden-whiz grandmother would be green with envy! Florida is not always the kindest state for gardening, but these plots were abundant, and impeccably untouched by pests. 
Centered in the garden is a clearing where seating is arranged. With archways on either end, this area is fully adaptable to your event. Seating can be tailored to your needs and group size. This enclave is so inviting. Adjacent to Lake Michelle, the garden overlooks the water for a breathtaking scene. Lights are strung overhead for a festive touch to take your event from a crisp afternoon straight through the evening. It's the perfect setting for weddings, receptions, birthday parties - whatever your heart desires - welcoming anything from casual to classy.
We were invited to experience Chef's Garden for the Milk and Honey Dinner media event, featuring five courses with thoughtful pairings. My first thought - I'm going to need a second stomach!
Mike greeted us with an assortment of beverages upon arrival. Not only did he immediately give us an exceptional impression of the level of service by the Chef's Garden staff, but he was incredibly knowledgeable about the evening's menu. His very first suggestion was the Bellini/ Honey Punch (complete with tiny little diced chunks of peaches). Very unique, smooth, and so very tasty for those of us who adore our peaches! He talked me into trying the Butterscotch Milk Punch as well - which I didn't expect to like at all. Mike wins again with another slamming success. Who knew milk could become so very adult-worthy?
Local craft beers were on hand to accompany dinner as well, thanks to Swamp Head and Ten Ten.
Appetizers kicked off our dining experience, and they were a brilliant introduction to the coming feast. Although I avoid seafood myself, the Beet Cured Salmon was a celebrated hit with my fellow media guests. Personally, I could've eaten tray after tray of the House Biscuit Country Ham minis. 
1st course - Charred House Ricotta/ Garden Greens/ Preserved Lemon/ Crispy Garbanzo paired with Swamp Head "Wild Night Honey Cream Ale"
This was so pretty to look at that I was reluctant to take a fork to it. I'm glad I finally found the strength to deface the art because this was such a treat for the taste buds! I can imagine this would also make for a good spread. This pairing was perhaps the most complementary of the night as well.
2nd course - Local Seafood/ Coconut Curry/ Cauliflower/ Crispy Frog Legs paired with Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc
Again, my one big road block is seafood, so I regretfully had to pass on this dish. In the blink of an eye, Chef Tony Hull took the liberty of whipping me up an alternative dish. While I have to admit that I could have stood to take a break from the gluttony, I was dazzled by the replacement course, featuring meat, greens, and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. Though I cannot give a firsthand account of the planned course, the reactions of my dining companions were so favorable that I momentarily questioned my seafood aversion.
3rd course - Crispy Skin Chicken Sausage/ Fwaffle/ Honey Braised Shallots/ House Vinegar Gastrique paired with Ten Ten Havakon Milk Stout
This is a prime example of how Chef's Garden demonstrates thoughtful originality. Chicken and waffles are not an entirely unusual concept, but Chef's Garden puts a twist on the ordinary to make it extraordinary. Make sure to combine the elements as you present each bite to your palate - the flavorful blend is a match made in culinary heaven!
A quick break in the courses for a remarkable bread treat! At first glance, there is absolutely nothing special going on here, but why does the bread have a candle partner? The candle substitutes butter! No, Chef Tony wasn't promoting the benefits of eating candle wax. The candle is made of lamb fat! As it melts, a pool of luscious sauce spread across the plate - perfect for dipping the bread. I loved everything about this concept. Who knew a bread break could be so impressive?
4th course - Milk Fed Lamb Pot au Feu/ Bunching Onions/ Potatoes/ Heritage Carrots paired with Sir Adrian's Mead
This was my very first time eating lamb. Tender doesn't begin to describe it. One of my fellow diners was attempting to find her knife (which had been taken with her previously plate), when she aptly pointed out that there was absolutely no need for it. Tantalizingly smooth and delicious!
5th course - Warm Olive Oil Cake/ House Spun Whey Ice Cream/ Smoked Honey/ Strawberry paired with Hibiscus Tea
Once again, something so seemingly simple transforms into something overwhelmingly good. The ice cream was particularly tasty. One thing that genuinely surprised me was the tea. I'll admit that I am very abnormal in this respect, but I have a lifelong hatred of teas. I would've happily guzzled a gallon of this one! I don't know what magic was bestowed on it, but pigs just might have been airborne by the time by cup ran dry.
If you follow my restaurant reports, or if you know me at all, you know that I am usually a bit challenging to feed. I've come a long way since the days when I'd always find the hamburger on any menu and avoid all other selections. I've learned to explore the world of food with a more mature, adventurous attitude, but I still have my little quirks. This was an experience that left me pleasantly surprised - surprised by not only the unique presentations, but by the array of new tastes and combinations that I would have previously chosen to avoid... and by how much I thoroughly enjoyed every last bite and sip. Chef Tony is truly a master of his craft, and he is supported by very skilled staff. Together, they delivered amazing dishes with outstanding, friendly service. I don't think it's possible to bestow too many compliments upon Chef Tony and his crew.

Crimson Tavern is open for lunch and dinner service, seven days a week, from 11:00am - 11:00pm. Chef's Garden is not regularly open for walk-in dining, but can be booked for events and gatherings. You do not need to be a hotel guest to dine here, but a quick tour of the surrounding areas of the hotels certainly proves that it wouldn't be a bad idea to partake in the full Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside experience. The poolside patio features ample seating, a bar, and free recreational amenities (including fishing and bike rentals). You can also take in the fresh air lakeside in a wood-decked gazebo, or rest on the water's edge in cozy Adirondacks or hammocks. Yes, I did say "wow" more than once during our evening - and it wasn't always in reference to the food. For more information on Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside, click here. To learn more about Chef's Table and Crimson Tavern, click here