Highball & Harvest

4012 Central Florida Pkwy. Orlando, FL32837 • (407) 393-4422highballandharvest.com

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The JW Marriott and the Ritz Carlton are both so massive on their own that when you connect them it creates a structural morass the likes of an MC Escher drawing. And while you might wish you had Google maps to find your way through the Shining-like halls of this behemoth, there’s gold in them, thar hills! The treasure I speak of is Highball & Harvest a contemporary Southern restaurant located somewhere in the belly of the Ritz.

The décor is a little all over the place, but ultimately passes as nice and the service is suspiciously friendly, perhaps I think that because I’m from New York City where most people that jolly are heavily medicated.

But our waiter’s chipper demeanor aside, he was also spot on with the recommendations, the first of which being the Parker House rolls . They are so good I actually recommend NOT ordering them, because the temptation to fill up on bread will be immense. Which means you’ll need to dig deep, mustering up some serious willpower so that you can enjoy the things to come. Things like the crab cakes with fried green tomatoes and remoulade. An ultimate worthy dish to the second power, proving tops in both the crab cake category as well as the fried green tomato.

Another dish I highly recommend is the blackened grouper. Cooked perfectly and placed over a bed of hominy ragu, adouille sausage and pickled okra.

On the mortal end of the spectrum I would place the kale salad the sticky toffee pudding and the donuts. None of them were bad or even mediocre, but they just didn’t wow like their predecessors.

I do, however, feel the need to expound upon the donuts as I applaud the presentation. Dusted cinnamon sugar donut bites served warm in a paper bag next to a tube of Nutella which you use to inject the donuts full of chocolaty wonder. It’s definitely good, but just shy of great.

But I don’t want to end things on a blah note, because I really did love this place. So, I have saved one of my favorite things for last, the cocktail. Called the Doc Holiday it comes in a copper mug filled to the brim with Tito’s vodka (not something I believe was around during Doc’s existence, but I’ll let it slide), ginger beer, grapefruit and blueberry jam. Plus hand-cut ice. Now I’m not exactly sure how hand-cut ice actually influences the flavor of the drink, but they seem to be very proud of it at H&H. And while I kid the things I love, I can’t say enough about this drink. In fact, it’s not just a drink, it’s an experience. As is Highball & Harvest in its entirely. Run. Don’t walk. Assuming you can actually find it.

4 teeth

Primo

4040 Central Florida Pkwy. Orlando, FL 32837 • (407) 393-4444grandelakes.com/Primo-78.html

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Hotel food is always a dicey proposition at best. And a Marriott restaurant, dicier still, even if it is of the JW variety, case in point my review of Citron, the other place in this hotel. So, with low expectations in hand, I have to say, Primo sailed over them.

Some of the highlights were the mushroom pasta with scallops, my favorite thing of the night, and the tilefish entrée. Perfectly cooked and rich with the flavors of its preparation.

A few other apps on the table ranged from good to just okay. And the dessert ranged from skip it to… well, skip it. In fact, I just wouldn’t get dessert- not worth the calories or cost. But if you must, the budino was the best of the lot (basically a molten chocolate cake).  So a note to Primo, your pastry chef should be firedo.

Service was good. Décor is nice. And the wine list is very solid. So all in all, while a touch hit and miss, the net net is that Primo is yumo.

3 teeth

Citron

4040 Central Florida Pkwy. Orlando, FL 32837(407) 393-4621grandelakes.com/Citron-79.html

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While it may be located in a JW Marriott, everything about it screams same old Marriott food you’d expect. The décor is over-sized, underwhelming and it felt dirty when we entered by the simple fact that where they sat us, we were literally surrounded by about a half a dozen un-bussed tables.

Then, of course there’s a buffet, which is overpriced and nothing special. So we tried to be clever and ordered a la carte- which is usually the best bet in my experience, but alas it turned out to be a la pointless, because the food was basically the same shit they serve in buffet bins at twice the price.

For example, I had the eggs benny, coming HIGHLY recommended by our waiter who said it was the best thing on the menu. Eggs from farm raised chickens, country ham from their own pigs, etc…

Now, I warned him that I am a bit picky about my eggs benny, but he assured me it was amazing… Well, as you can probably guess from my set up, it was just about the WORST eggs benny I have ever had. It tasted like it came out of the wrong hole in the chicken. That or it was a frozen Weight Watchers dish reheated. Seriously. Freezer burn was definitely the predominant flavor. The only saving graces were the home fries and the fact that the eggs were runny, as they should be. But so disgusting I would’ve sent them back had I not been in such a rush.

The other thing we got were the Belgian waffles which I was assured were good by my mother, but from the looks of them I was skeptical and decided to cut my loses until later when I grabbed a KIND bar to eat, just to get the taste of freezer burn out of my mouth.

1 tooth