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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 7 years ago

Caribbean flair at Taste in College Park

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More than just good food
by: Josh Garrick Columnist

Taste in College Park is a restaurant that serves up delicious food – and so much more. It’s also a neighborhood art gallery and a performance space for local bands and jazz groups where the artists and performers are found interacting with the food clients – all done to give back to a grateful community. It’s a pleasure for me to join in applauding the management of Taste for their kindness and generosity.

It’s also a pleasure for me to share my reactions to the glorious food that comes out of Taste’s kitchen. Self-described as a “small plate (tapas) restaurant, with Caribbean influences,” the servings I enjoyed were anything but small, and Caribbean is the major influence. Located at 717 W. Smith St., just around the corner from Edgewater Drive in the heart of College Park, Taste offers a uniquely varied menu, a full-service bar, and an extensive wine list.

The contemporary/retro interior provides a variety of seating choices – from the potentially romantic seclusion of the front room, to the main dining room with a choice of individual tables, family-style seating (to fully appreciate the live music), or seating at the bar.

Beginning sensibly with the avocado and hearts of palm salad, I immediately recognized the aptly-named Taste manages to offer extra taste in the food from a variety of sources – one of which is Chef Joan’s personal herb garden. The fresh thyme in my salad came from that personal garden.

Moving on to the crab and goat cheese torte — which comes with the highest recommendation — I luxuriated through every bite. When I experience a “taste” that is new (and this special), I always slow down to fully appreciate the new taste sensation. I love goat cheese and who doesn’t love crab, so I was already thinking of telling everyone about this amazing mix of my favorite things served together. This is the perfect appetizer before a full meal, or an accompaniment to an after-work-drink, or a taste-treat while listening to live jazz. Even the handmade bread crisps – served with the torte – made their way into my notes as “wonderful.” When I commented to my server about how much I enjoyed the torte, she wisely noted, “Everything tastes better when it’s made with fresh ingredients.”

I was enjoying these food treats with a homemade specialty of the house called ginger vanilla soda – which can be served with or without vodka. While I’m not normally a fan of sweet drinks, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and found it refreshing – even on a chilly evening.

The Caribbean influences in this kitchen are to be celebrated, so I ordered the

Blackened chicken served with a side of rice and sweet plantains. Chef Joan gets her “blackened” chicken just right. It’s marinated in her own blend of tropical spices and herbs, but where some restaurants serve this dish and leave your mouth tasting nothing but fire, Chef Joan’s is both tender and spicy (in a good way).

We also tasted the oxtail – done with the Caribbean seasoning Chef Joan has mastered so beautifully. Served with navy beans, and creating its own natural gravy, don’t be afraid to pick up this wonderfulness with your fingers and eat it off the bone. Picking it up is “proper” for this dish that had me dipping bread into the gravy to make the experience last longer. We added a side order of sautéed mushrooms, which also benefitted from the fresh herb garden. I never knew mushrooms could taste that good.

I had now been ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over the food so much that we were presented with a specialty dessert of the house – Bananas Foster. My advice – when you enjoy the food that much – is to always let the chef know it. Our gift from the chef was that old New Orleans specialty, served here with the Caribbean touch of candied citrus. Thank you.

I am more than happy to recommend Taste’s food, but you can also visit Taste’s website for more on this charming and friendly restaurant that sincerely cares about the community. Its event calendar showcases jazz, open-mic nights, Caribbean music, and art galleries featuring local talent.

And if you’ve read this far, tell them “Josh sent me,” and Taste will offer a free dessert with every entrée purchased in the month of February. Call 407-835-0646 or visit tastecp.com

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