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Florida, Day 3 (Part Deux): The Winding Road to Orlando and Supper at Emeril’s

Connie

By mid-afternoon on Monday we were tooling down the road, St. Pete in the rearview mirror and plenty of great memories bouncing around in our heads. We had Big Plans for Tuesday, at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. First, though, we had to run the gauntlet. There are several air museums near the direct path from Tampa to Orlando, and I intended to check them out.

We stopped at Sun n’ Fun, where the Florida Air Museum is located. They were closed, though; apparently never even opened up. I found that odd, this being the Fourth and all. But I settled for taking pictures of the planes out front, and then we hurried on. Our next stop was Fantasy of Flight in Polk. However, we got there just as they were closing the hangar doors. No dice there either. I took a few snaps of the Starliner (Super-Connie L1649A, owned by Lufthansa) parked along the entrance road, then we moved on.

I assumed that, given the late hour, the other museum I knew about in Kissimmee would be closed. Besides, PJ was getting antsy. Oh, she was being patient on the surface. But underneath I knew she was considering crossing her arms, tapping her foot, and maybe even squinting. I had no desire to see her in that state while on vacation (survival odds go way down in those conditions) so in the interest of marital harmony (and perhaps basic existence) I kept my mouth shut and drove like crazy to Orlando.

PJ did some phone searching for a good place to stay while I studied out how to get to the park. As we were meandering around the area we happened on a Days Inn with a superb rate, not five minutes from Universal! Paula Jo was suspicious (I swear she was still on the verge of a good squint), so she asked to see a room. The beds were good, the room clean, so we checked in. Saving us about the price of one ticket for the park in the process. Sweet!

Shooting Star

Speaking of Universal Orlando: They have a section, called CityWalk, that’s open to the public. As in no entry ticket required. Only parking, which is $3 after 6 P.M. So we chose to close out the day with a tour of CityWalk and see what we could find to enjoy there.

What a lot of stuff! Bars, restaurants, street entertainment, hawkers, the works. It was a solid flashback to the strip in Las Vegas.

We strolled and shopped (not buying, not yet), then we saw a sign that positively beckoned to us: Emeril’s. We’d been to Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse in Vegas for our anniversary, some years back, and we both remember that meal fondly. Especially the dessert: A special crème brulée. With another shot at Emeril’s quality cuisine, we couldn’t restrain ourselves. We followed the mouth-watering aromas to the entrance and asked for a table. Maybe one where we could see the fireworks? (It WAS the Fourth.)

IslandsWe were in luck. They had just such a table. Although they warned us, the fireworks at Universal aren’t the biggest or the loudest in the area. We forgave them that, of course.

We had three wait staff pretty much all to ourselves. I could easily get used to that level of service! (Don’t kid yourself, you’d go for that too. Especially if it comes with chef-prepared grub.) Given that we were still a bit woozy from calorie poisoning over the previous 24 hours, we chose to try some appetizers and dessert. One of our favorite ways to end a long day, actually.

The choices were almost too much. But after much anguish and yelling and screaming we settled on three things: Emeril’s Sausage Plate, the BOA Flatbread, and (drum roll, please) Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée.

The sausage plate held four sizable pieces of hand-made Andouille sausage, with bacon and caramelized onions on top and a whole-grain mustard to spread on the accompanying small toasts (croutons). The sausage was very spicy, just like I like, and with the mustard and onions it was a real tongue treat. PJ tried a piece, but found it a bit too much for her tastebuds. (More for me!) The flatbread, though, was certainly to her liking. (I enjoyed it too.) Applewood bacon lardons, sweet onions, Rocket greens, and a creamy topping made with Boursin cheese; all on a flavorful round of thin, toasted bread that was about 7-8 inches across. The bread was cut into four large pieces. Since I had the lion’s share of the sausage, I split one of my pieces of the flatbread with PJ. It was that, or give her the majority of the dessert. (Some deals even I won’t make.)

When the server brought out our crème brulée it brought a small ooh of delight from Paula Jo. I was too astounded to make a sound a bit more stoic, as befits a Real Man. In the center was the custard, with plenty of sauce; a ring of blueberries soaked in brandy surrounded the burnt cream; two nice pieces of shortbread cookie on the side; and plenty of white chocolate shavings tossed artfully about.

It was almost a crime to eat such a work of art. Almost. (We’ll go quietly, officer. We’re too stuffed to fight.)

During dessert the fireworks starting flying and popping. It was great timing on their part to hold off until we had our dessert. I don’t know how they did it, but we’re grateful they treat their Texas cousins so well.

When the light show was over we payed our tab and strolled through more of CityWalk to see the sights (and settle our meal). We bought our park tickets for the next day and got a 10% discount just for asking. (I tried for the half-price Texas special; no dice. They also didn’t believe I was a junior. My knees still hurt.) Having scored a final treat, we moseyed on back to the car and took the short ride to the hotel. (We only got lost twice.) It took forever to fall asleep; at least five minutes…

Emeril's Orlando on Urbanspoon

Emeril’s Orlando, I-Drive Universal (in CityWalk), 6000 Universal Blvd. #702, Orlando, FL 32819. Phone 407.224.2424. Fine dining in the park. Open seven days a week, dinner only. Reservations encouraged. Tell’em the Chile Doctor sent ya…

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Eat at Emeril’s…

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