Recently we were invited to participate in a chefs tasting at Crimson Tavern located at the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside. Crimson Tavern features craft cocktails, and a menu filled with great pub fare like shrimp & grits and chicken pot pie thats elevated to a gourmet level.
We actually started our dinner adventure in the tavern sampling some of their craft cocktails and some appetizers made specifically for this event. We got to sample some chickpea fritters and a smoked trout mousse served on bread slices both very tasty! I also got to sample the Highland Garden cocktail which has Don Julio Tequila, celery bitters, apple, honey, and fever tree tonic. This was a strong drink but the apple and the honey took away some of the bite of the tequila.
Our meal that evening was not items from the taverns regular menu, but consisted of 5 courses derived from a whole lamb that was locally sourced and one dessert course.The theme for our dinner was “Everything Lamb” and this meal was served to us in the beautiful chef’s garden by Executive Chef Anthony Hull.
Let’s look at our first course lamb head cheese. This had a Pâté texture and it also had some crunchy bits that were like granola. Taste wise it tasted like a Pâté and it had a sauce that reminded me of a chimichurri sauce. This was delicious the only element i did not like was the crunchy bits. It threw the texture off a little bit. This was paired with a Peak Organic beer Simcoe Spring Ale. This beer had a bit of a bitter hoppy taste but paired well with this course.
Our second course was my favorite. We were served lamb meatballs with tomato sauce made from locally sourced tomatoes. The lamb meatballs were fantastic they were seasoned great and had a great meatball texture, but The tomato sauce truly made this dish. This meatball really tasted like a great italian meatball that was made of meat not lamb. The tomato sauce or gravy as the chef called was amazing! I often find tomato sauces too sweet or acidity. This was the perfect balance it had a light sweet taste but was not over acidic. This was the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had! Also one thing I noticed throughout this dinner and especially in this dish was the fact the lamb never had a gamey taste. This is usually something you get from a lamb chop, leg of lamb or really any lamb, and it was non existent throughout this whole meal. This course was paired with a St Supery chardonnay. I loved this both as an accompaniment and on its own.
Our third course was a interesting one, but another hit. We were served pickled lamb tongue on top of arugula with a green apple vinaigrette and house made bacon crumbles. Now I knew going into this that whole lamb meant parts I would usually not try or maybe say ew no way, and I mentally prepared myself for this. I have to say though all of that preparation was not needed. The thing I was worried about the most the texture of the tongue was not a issues at all. It almost cut like a piece of meat and the bacon mixed the vinaigrette was delicious! There was a tartness from the vinaigrette mixed with the crispness and saltiness of the bacon. The lamb tongue really didn’t have that much in the way of flavor it was light when put up against the bacon and arugula but I still feel without it the dish would have lacked something. This course did not have a beverage pairing with it.
Our fourth course was a nice ramen bowl. It had a nice dashi broth filled with crispy lamb belly, handmade ramen noodles, local river mushrooms from Kissimmee right up the street, and a poached egg. For me though this was probably the least eventful dish of the event, but it was still good. I loved the poached egg and the dashi, and the mushrooms were also a plus. I just think the dish lacked that wow factor for that the other dishes had. This was paired with a True Grit Petite Sirah. I am not a huge fan of sirahs so this was not a favorite for me.
Our fifth course was a saddle loin chop. This was served with charred artichokes, arbequina olives, cannellini beans, and bone au jus. The saddle loin chop was fantastic a succulent cut of meat perfectly seasoned with a nice crispy fatty edge. The beans were tasty and the bone au jus was fantastic added a nice flavor to this dish. The only i felt was not needed was the charred artichoke. I’ve never been a fan of raw artichoke and this being charred the texture was just off for me. Other then that this was my third favorite course of the evening.
Now we move onto our sixth and final course which was dessert. This consisted of a strawberry gelato made from fresh local strawberries on top of a cardamom shortbread cookie. There was also a small amount of strawberries that tasted like they were mixed with basil. That was new to me but it tasted so good! You get that sweetness from the strawberries and that balances out with the basil taste so well it’s just a perfect mix! Now back to the main event here the gelato and cardamom shortbread cookie. the gelato was fantastic very creamy and had a nice strawberry taste throughout it paired well with the shortbread cookie. The shortbread cookie was really elevated by the cardamom it gave it such a unique taste that paired well with the gelato. I could have easily eaten both of these by themselves. Now if you notice in the picture there is a small jar that came with our dessert. This was the same preserves used to make this gelato with directions on how to make this at home. This was a nice touch. I have yet to make the gelato but will soon.
Overall I felt as I’m sure you can see here that this was more than a meal it was a experience. Between sitting in the Chef’s Garden which was beautiful and quality of the food it was amazing. Although this type of meal is not a normal thing at Crimson Tavern it really shows you what this chef can do. Honestly it gets me really excited for the regular menu which includes items like shrimp and grits and a smoked pork porterhouse! You have to check them out inside the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside. They are open seven days a week and there hours are Lunch: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Dinner: 5:00 PM – Midnight. For more information including a full drink and food menu click here.
Robert Bearden lives and works in Central Florida.