Archive for August, 2010

Orlando Haircut That Transforms–Alchemy!

August 30, 2010

Alchemy--The Best Hair Salon In Orlando

“Alchemy…an acient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold,” say Wikipedia. Can the transformative properties of alchemy also apply to your hair?

The lucky readers of my blog can check it out for themselves at a hair salon called Alchemy located on Edgewater drive in the College Park area of Orlando.  This is a place to attain “the shiniest, softest, healthiest and most stylish hair.” Visiting their website will give you an idea of just how far out and creative this place is.

What's In Store?

We discovered Alchemy when Number One daughter went with Mrs. LanceAround and I to the farmer’s market in college park. Across the street was a small, yellowish shop with the large word “Alchemy” over the door and a beautiful arrangement of plants in front. We weren’t sure if it was a clothing store, curio shop or antique place. Number One Daughter went to investigate.

She opens the front door and says, “Wow!”

Inside was the most unusually decorated hair salon she had ever seen. Large free form mirrors adorn the walls in front of cushy salon chairs. A thermos of coffee and/or hot tea at the reception area communicates that this is a place to relax and, uh, let your hair down. A disc jokey in the back pumps a continuous selection of relaxing contemporary music into the salon.

Michael Arranges the Hair

Michael is a junior stylist and an apprentice. He is busy cutting hair. Cutting? No, wait, it’s more like…how to describe it?  At the next chair is Corinne Gammichia, the creator and owner of Alchemy. She is teaching a team of stylists. As she lifts and releases the hair of the person in the chair, Mrs. LanceAround remarks that it looks like she is doing a flower arrangement.

That’s it! They don’t cut hair at Alchemy–they arrange your hair in the most creative and artist fashion using cutting edge (pun intended) hair styling techniques.

Michael explains that he has been with Alchemy for four and a half years, yet he is only a junior stylist and an apprentice. He looks forward to completing his apprenticeship and becoming a senior stylist. Not that this matters–the education never ends at Alchemy, he explains. They are constantly being sent to the latest hair styling conventions to learn the most up to date techniques and bring them back to the shop to teach the other stylists.

Have Some Coffee or Tea & Relax

Mrs. LanceAround has a conversation with Corrine, the owner. She says she started Alchemy in 1989 as a venue for “artist hairdressers.” She wants her shop to be “fashion forward.” At Alchemy, they want you looking and feeling good about your hair and yourself. It’s no wonder they won the Best of Orlando award in 2009.

Prices range from $23 for a kids cut, $35 to $50 for men (depending on the experience of the stylist) and $45 to $65 for women. Color, chemical processes, styling, deep conditioning and make up are also available at costs from $20 to $125 and up.

Getting your hair done in this creative environment with these top notch stylists? Priceless!

If you are taking a vacation to the Orlando area and you want a vacation from your normal, drab hairstyle, treat yourself to an appointment at Alchemy. Then leave me a comment and send me a picture of your new “do.” I can’t wait to see it!

2812 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804

Treasure Tavern

August 26, 2010

Orlando's Newest Dinner Show Adventure for Adults Only

Avast, me hearties, the seas have been rough and we’re puttin’ in to port. When yer through swabbin’ the decks, yer might wants to spend yer plunder at yonder Treasure Tavern, arrr, it be the hottest new dinner show fer weary mates. Shiver me timbers! 

That’s right, there’s a new show in town. 

Authentic Caribbean Ambience

In the 240 seat theatre connected to the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure on the popular International Drive strip, comedians, acrobats and dancers will entertain you in a themed Caribbean outpost with rum and good times. The two hour festivities feature a three course prime rib dinner and ala carte appetizers.  They’ll throw in a signature rum punch for good measure.  Open Tuesday through Saturday the cost is $49.95 ($24.95 if you opt out of dinner) and you must be 18 to enjoy. 

Tavern Creed

Enter a time gone by when sailors and travelers would spend hours in exotic ports-of-call. It’s one of the few venues in town that does not focus on entertaining the children. 

Mrs. LanceAround and I got a glimpse of the Tavern at our monthly Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers meeting. We were impressed with the layout of the tavern, bar and stage. The technical details, such as lighting and sound, were excellent. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the show yet. 

If you’ve experienced the Treasure Tavern, leave a comment and let us know how it is. 

Treasure Tavern
6400 Carrier Drive
Orlando, FL 32819

Oysters, Oysters & More Osyters

August 24, 2010

Homeowner Dennis Says, "Eat 'em Raw & Let 'em Slide!"

[Guest Blog Post–Homeowner Dennis is a lawyer in Illinois who owns this beautiful vacation home right beside Disney World.  Last month, during one of his many visits, he discovered Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar. When he came to my office, he was so ecstatic.  He described it as “a dive” then couldn’t stop talking about how much he enjoyed it!  He give’s us today’s post–LanceAround.] 

By Homeowner Dennis 

Most people either love them or hate them, but oysters seem to be the craze these days. 

In every major city you’ll find a fancy “oyster bar” where you’ll spend 10 bucks for a half dozen of these slimy little mollusks.  They’re served raw, steamed, deep fried, put in chowder or used in all sorts of recipes.  We’ve seen them featured on the food channel in weird eating contests where people will eat hundreds of raw oysters in one sitting. 

A Bar For The Whole Family

 If you are one of those who just loves these little creatures and can’t get enough, or, if you want to see if  you have the fortitude to down a few raw oysters right out of the shell, then you’re in luck.  Right here in Orlando is Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar. 

This place is known by the locals as the best place in Orlando for oysters.  It’s been around for half a century (now being operated by the son of the original owners.) The outside is a plain bar-type building that has some extra sheet metal to make it resemble a shipwreck.  But you’re here for the oysters, not for the ambiance.  The owner says, “People get really upset if we try to change anything–like paint!” 

The oysters are delivered three times a week from the Apalachicola area in the gulf.  Your dining experience begins when you get a table or grab a stool and sit at the cement bar where they spray it down with a garden hose to clean up. 

Lee & Rick's Motto

Start by getting a bucket of fresh, raw oysters (2-1/2 to 3 dozen) for 17 bucks and the server (wearing a T-shirt that says, “I eat’m raw!”) cracks them open faster then you can slide ’em down yer gullet. Grab the oyster shell, add a little lemon or hot sauce, put it to your mouth and LET ‘EM SLIDE…get a napkin from the overhead dispenser, chew on a saltine cracker and start over.  You’re allowed to pause for a drink of ice cold beer, if necessary. 

THIS PLACE IS AN EXPERIENCE.  (Maybe not the BEST experience, but still an EXPERIENCE!) 

Orlando Magazine gave Lee & Rick’s its 2010 Dining Hall of Fame award.  One thing is certain, you’ll get fresh shrimp, crawfish, crab, clams and (of course) OYSTERS–which they sell in any quantity up to a bushel bag.  Don’t expect more than great food–it’s a bar!!  (which is nice because you don’t need to dress up) and it’s OK for children (there’s fries and chicken nuggets.) 

If you want to sit at the bar, get there early! 

Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar
5621 Old Winter Garden Road
Orlando, FL 32811

[Ed. Notes–As you can tell, Homeowner Dennis is a bit of a culinary connoisseur.  At Christmas, he often sends my office frozen authentic Chicago deep dish pizza.  Perhaps I can convince him to write a post about which is the better potato chip–Ole Saltys or Mrs. Fisher’s.  Both are handcrafted in Dennis’ hometown.  He’s sent us cases of both kinds.  My whole office loves opening packages from Homeowner Dennis.–LanceAround] 


Kouzzina–Good Food, Horrible Atmosphere

August 19, 2010

Kouzzina Restaurant on Disney's Boardwalk

Although Number One Son and Daughter love Iron Chef, I have never watched it. I don’t know who Cat Cora is. Mrs. LanceAround and I decided to treat Our Friend Karen to Cat Cora’s recently opened Greek/Southern restaurant, Kouzzina, on the Boardwalk in Disney World. 

According to our menu, Cat Cora was born to a family of Greek restaurateurs in Mississippi. Kouzzina means “kitchen” in Greek. Cora became famous as the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network’s hit show. This is her first signature restaurant. She has blended the Greek food of her ancestors with a Southern twist from her native Mississippi. 

I decided to begin the evening by parking in the Hollywood Studios parking lot and taking a Disney Friendship boat to the Boardwalk. The flaws in my quixotic plan soon became evident as a light rain shower, longer than anticipated walk to the boat and noise of the boat engine drowning any attempt at conversation made me wish I had just parked at the Boardwalk. 

Open Kitchen was N-O-I-S-Y

By the time we arrived at the restaurant, we were starving. Although it was late on a Tuesday night during a slower tourist season, we were dismayed when we were told the wait would be 35 to 45 minutes. Dismay turned to frustration when the wait actually took one hour, 3 minutes and 57 seconds. (a grumpy LanceAround was timing it!) 

If we were disappointed by the wait, our discouragement tripled as we encountered three unexpected things: 

1. The restaurant, with its large open kitchen, was just one room jam packed with tables and noise so loud that conversation was impossible. 

2. The waitress, while knowledgable and efficient, was robotic and inattentive. 

3. Thinking that the casual atmosphere of the boardwalk and the assembly line atmosphere of the restaurant and wait staff meant this would be a moderately priced affair, we did not expect entrees priced from $20 to $28 and appetizers approaching $10 each. 

Crammed In a Big Box

Our Friend Karen remarked that the restaurant had all the ambience of a Cracker Barrel–only with three times the level of noise! (At least I think that’s what she said. I could barely hear her.) 

Just when we thought our experience couldn’t be any more frustrating, the waitress warned us that all the food is freshly prepared so we could expect it to take longer than normal for us to eat. She then helpfully recommended that we could have something sooner by padding our bill with an order of appetizers.  (Although she did not quite say it that way.) 

Though the description of the entrees was enticing, we wound up ordering 7 different appetizers and salads. Our fear of an extended wait for food came to a sudden halt when everything was served to us in, literally, two to three minutes. All 7 items arrived before our waitress had time to get Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen the beverages they had ordered. 

“So much for ‘freshly prepared’,” I thought as I noticed that the Spanakopita, a complex phyllo pie of spinach, feta, leeks and dill, was at our table faster than it would have taken a team of chefs to put one together! The climax of our misguided adventure came when I tried to cut the Saganki (a seared Greek cheese with lemon and oregano served next to toasted bread) and got a blistery burn on my finger from the cast iron bowl. It was clear that nothing would go right tonight. 

Then, we took our first bite. 

Because of my commitment to a new, healthier lifestyle, I was not eating that late at night, so I have to rely on Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen to report on the experience of actually eating at Kouzzina.  Their opinion was quick–Mrs. LanceAround thought the food was fantastic and Our Friend Karen thought it was just OK. 

The Food Was Fantastic For Some, OK for Others

Mrs. LanceAround said the Spanakopita was bursting with flavor, the Saganki was scrumptious, the sweet potato fries were tasty, the greek salad was divine, the goat cheese stuff grape leaf was both unique and delicious, the herbed orzo provided a nice compliment to the harissa yogurt. Kalamata fig and hummus spreads served with grilled pita. 

If nothing else, it was an unusual and eclectic mix of tastes and textures. 

Seven appetizers and two glasses of wine came to over $70. Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen were now content as we rode the boat back to the Hollywood Studios parking lot under a now rainless sky. It was a more relaxing and peaceful end to the evening. 

I’m reminded of one of my favorite foreign films–Babette’s Feast–which portrays how a community can come together and enjoy each other over a delightful meal. It was interesting to note how our experience at this restaurant so closely paralleled the numerous reviews I found later when researching it on the web. 

In summary, skip Kouzzina if you want nice atmosphere or great service. Enjoy it if you are looking for a creative, unique combination of Greek and Southern food and have some money to spend. In other words, the food was good enough to recommend trying Kouzzina despite the horrible atmosphere and service–but just barely.

Disney’s Boardwalk

August 14, 2010

Disney's Boardwalk is Part of the EPCOT Resort Area


Disney World is packed with serendipitous environments tucked away from the glare of their four world famous theme parks. One such place is the resort area located behind EPCOT. For the lucky readers of my blog, it is just waiting to be discovered. 

The entire area encircles a lake located between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. One could walk or take a Disney Friendship boat from place to place around the EPCOT resorts. There is the Yacht and Beach clubs, the Swan and Dolphin hotels and the Disney Boardwalk. 

The Yacht, Beach, Swan and Dolphin are resort inns that feature convention services, great pools and lots of other resort amenities. You have to be a guest in the resort to enjoy most of these. But there are nice restaurants and other shops that anyone can enjoy. For me, the jewel of the EPCOT resort area is Disney’s Boardwalk 

Unexpected Street Performers Suddenly Appear


The Boardwalk itself is built with planks of wood reminiscent of my younger days enjoying similar boardwalks on the Jersey shore. There are various shops, restaurants, arcades and kiosks throughout the area. In my next post, I will review Kouzzina restaurant. There is also the upscale Flying Fish restaurant and the flamboyant ESPN Club where I often go to watch my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies play football. 

On the boardwalk, you can get your hair braided, play a basketball shot challenge, have an artist create a caricature of your family or encounter an extemporaneous show of street performers like this one:

Another one of our favorite activities is renting a bicycle large enough to take the entire family for a spin around the lake. 

Jellyrolls is an adult bar featuring dueling pianos and audience sing-alongs. Try to stump the maestro with your requests! The Atlantic Dance Hall is a huge, art deco ballroom showcasing cool bands and hot DJs nightly for the over 21 crowd. 

Sometimes it’s a pleasure to simply walk along the boardwalk throwing breadcrumbs to the ducks paddling around the lake. 

Whatever your preference, Boardwalk is an enjoyable, relaxing environment for those readers searching for “more than a mouse.”™

Sesame Street Safari of Fun at Busch Gardens

August 11, 2010

Sesame Street Safari of Fun Features the Popular Character: Tickle Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo made an appearance at our vacation rental home managers monthly meeting to promote the new Sesame Street Safari of Fun area in Busch Gardens Tampa theme park.     

Air Grover Loves to Fly

This new area in the Africa section of Busch Gardens features a plethora of rides and attractions designed for the youngsters. The Air Grover junior roller coaster soars over the Sahara with Grover in the pilot’s chair and parents can ride with children. Encounter The Count in his Zambezi Rally with child sized cars. Zoe-patra & the Hippos of the Nile is a fun flume ride with a riverside glimpse of Africa. Elmo’s Safari Go-Round teams parents and children on a carousel. Rosita’s Djembe Fly-Away is a swing ride above the African canopy. Big Bird’s Whirly Birdie is a child size ferris wheel for children and parents. To cool off from the hot, African frolic, children will love splashing around in Bert & Ernie’s Watering Hole.   

Great Addition to Our Theme Parks

In addition to all these rides, the safari of fun features a 4-D theatre show, tales of adventures, character encounters, netted play area, a sand filled beachy oasis, a trading post and the opportunity to dine with Elmo and friends! 

No doubt Busch Gardens has drawn from their years of experience as the creators of the Sesame Place theme park just outside Philadelphia. I have fond memories of Mrs. LanceAround and I taking our children to Sesame Place during our time in Pennsylvania many years ago. 

There is nothing to compare to the experience of young children enjoying the companionship of the characters of Sesame Street.

Raw Food Restaurant–Cafe 118

August 7, 2010

Cafe 118–Orlando’s Newest Gourmet Raw Food Restaurant

Adherents of the raw food movement believe that cooking food kills healthy, life-giving enzymes. Often raw fooders are vegan and prefer organic ingredients. Vegan is a strict form of vegetarianism where no animal products are consumed, including dairy, eggs, honey, whey and so forth.

Raw food proponents go a step further. They do not heat any food beyond 118°. Hence the name: Cafe 118º.

Joseph Diaz is the owner, operator, chef and–as he likes to point out–occasionally the dishwasher at Cafe 118°.

This unique, raw food restaurant in downtown Winter Park, just north of Orlando, has been open for almost two years. Joseph is quick to say, “This is gourmet raw. The flavors are more impactful, palatable, than the traditional raw.

“This country is having a lot of issues with medical, obesity (particularly childhood obesity), diabetes,” Joseph continues. “Raw food is very clean and very natural. We should all think about getting back to it. We should start eating more whole foods at home, not a lot of processed foods.”

It is clear that Joseph is passionate about this concept and his restaurant is a testament to his passion.

Mrs. LanceAround and I stopped there for a casual lunch. I ordered the lasagna while she tried the taco salad. The lasagna was a layered combination of raw (obviously), sliced zucchini and other veggies interspersed with a creamed nut, herb, pesto and tomato sauces. The taco salad was fresh organic lettuce with beans, corn and a Mexican spiced sauce drizzled on top served over a bed of raw tortilla chips. Both were unique, gourmet and, surprisingly, quite tasty!

We topped off our meal with Coconut Macaroon vegan raw ice cream. The primary ingredient was some kind of young, tender Thai coconut. It was scrumptious!

Raw Food, Fresh, Right Off The Truck

We asked our server where they get all their organic ingredients. She told us that what they don’t get from local vendors is deliverd by Global Organic out of Sarasota. As we were driving down interstate 4 on our way home from the restaurant, we had a serendipitous experience. We noticed we were passing the Global Organic Delivery truck. Did our meal just come from inside that vehicle?

If you are looking for something adventurous and new, we highly recommend trying the raw food at Cafe 118º. Expensive organic ingredients and extensive prep time that includes a lot of dehydration makes for a higher priced meal with smaller portion sizes. But this is one restaurant that will always place a value on quality over quantity.

Plus the great food and unique experience makes it worth the trip!

When you go, let us know if you like it.

Cafe 118º
153 East Morse Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Sebastian Inlet State Park

August 5, 2010


Sebastian Inlet State Park 

For the lucky readers of my blog who are seeking a truly natural Florida beach experience, you will be pleased to discover Sebastian Inlet state park

This is a great alternative to the more commercialized beaches, such as Cocoa or Daytona. Here, the crowds are sparse, the beaches serene and the wildlife abundant. Of course, there’s no stores, no pizza parlours and no ice cream shops. 

Instead, the Sebastian Inlet provides one of the best opportunities for surfers.  According to “Sebastian Inlet is a very consistent surf break! Sand bottom with refraction off the jetty bends the wave to form a powerful wedge effect! Big lippers and air launches! Along with right and left tubing waves! Not a place for beginners! Heavy locals, Big talent, and most of the pro surfers congregate at the 1st peak to show off their talent on a good day.” LanceAround does not understand a word of that report, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun. 

On Sunday, Number One Son, Number One Daughter and Mrs. LanceAround took a well deserved break and drove to Sebastian Inlet. We parked our car right beside the bathroom facilities. Outside, there was also a convenient shower useful for washing off the sand on your way out! 

Natural Wildlife Abounds

A short boardwalk takes you from the bathrooms to the beach. Along the way, the tall grasses were teeming with large, Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spiders. They created a magnificent array of beautiful webs. 

At the beach there were only a couple dozen bathers and no lifeguards. The sun was shinning, the weather was gorgeous and the surf very mild. (Unfortunately–as LanceAround and Number One Son love to ride large waves!) 

Number One Son and I enjoyed an hour long swim while Number One Daughter joined Mrs. LanceAround in a relaxing nap on the beach blanket. We then used the showers to remove all the gritty sand and drove to Vero Beach to enjoy an Indian meal before heading home for the evening. 

Located between Melbourne and Vero Beach, Sebastian Inlet State Park is only a 90 minute drive from downtown Kissimmee. In addition to pristine beaches, it features the premier saltwater fishing spot on Florida’s east coast. There’s surfing, the McLarty Treasure Museum, the Sebastian Fishing Museum, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking and nature trails.  Full facility campsites and a boat ramp are also available. 

A serendipitous discovery for the lucky readers of my blog who seek “more than a mouse!”™