13 September 2018

First-Class Fine Dining

It’s Magical Dining Month in Orlando, and Walt Disney World is getting in on the charity dining adventure again this year. The event is put on by Visit Orlando and offers diners a chance to have a three course meal for $35 at select restaurants, with a dollar from each meal going to support local charities. This year’s charities are Best Buddies Central Florida and the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. I highly recommend checking the Magical Dining Month website to learn more about the charities and to get a full listing of restaurants.

Last year, several resorts at Walt Disney World took part in the event, but for this iteration the Disney participants are all from Disney Springs. These include such locations as Morimoto Asia, Paddlefish, STK, and many others. We hadn’t had the chance to try out Maria & Enzo’s yet, and as they were taking part, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sample something new. While the portions are never huge, you definitely get your money’s worth and will definitely not be hungry at the end of your meal.

The first course is appetizers and, as with all of the categories from Maria & Enzo’s Magical Dining menu, there were three selections to choose from. We opted for the Fontina en Carozza and Salumi Misti. The Fontina en Carozza is three pieces of marinated fortina cheese that has been lightly breaded then fried and it comes with a side of spicy Pomodoro sauce. The Salumi Misti is charcuterie that features two meats, salame finnocchiona and prosciutto di Parma, along with two cheeses, grana Padano, giardiniere vegetables, and grissini.

The fontina cheese may sound like it’s just a variation on fried mozzarella sticks, but trust me when I say that would be woefully undervaluing this appetizer. The creaminess of the cheese, crunch of the fresh fried breading, and tasty Pomodoro sauce make this arguable some of the best fried cheese you’ve ever put in your mouth. The Salumi Misti could have used larger portions of the vegetables and preserves that come as accompaniments, as well as both of the cheeses, but everything was top notch and delicious. I regularly see meat and cheese boards as never seeming large enough, and as this was just a small plate, which may have contributed to my desire for more here.

The second course features entrees, and we selected the Hanger Steak and Sea Bass. The Sea Bass is listed on the website as coming with cherry tomatoes, green beans, taggiasca olives, and watermelon radish, but that appears to be an outdated listing as the menu we received at our table showed it actually comes with cauliflower, green beans, lemon, and roasted grape agro dolce. For the Grilled Hanger Steak, the sides include roasted garlic smashed potatoes, broccolini, and pizzaiola sauce.

The steak was well seasoned and cooked to perfection, with the pizzaiola sauce adding a unique Italian flavor I don’t commonly associated with steak, but that was delicious all the same. The broccolini and smashed potatoes were both tender, yet not overly soft and smushy the way potatoes and green vegetables can sometimes be overcooked. They were also incredibly buttery, probably due to ridiculous amounts of delicious butter they were cooked in. The Sea Bass’ dolce, green beans, and rainbow cauliflower were equally delightful and highlighted the flavors of the sea bass well. The cut of sea bass was small, giving it a firm and flakey, but not tough, texture. Overall, both entrees highlighted a kitchen that knows how to prepare proteins and how to bring out their flavors in the best possible way.

For dessert, our final course, we picked the traditional Tiramisu and the Pistachio Olive Oil Cake. The Tiramisu comes with a salted caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream and on the side. Meanwhile, the olive oil cake is served in halves and covered in a roasted strawberry jam. The Tiramisu was a wonderful example of how to handle a classic dessert, meeting and exceeding every expectation we had of it. The Pistachio Olive Oil Cake is a twist on the traditional, but was no less enjoyable. The cake was dense and moist, with a mild flavor of pistachio shining through. While the strawberries could be overpowering at times, it reminded me of pound cake and strawberries I had as a child just down the street from Orlando in Plant City, so it was a welcome taste of childhood for me.

There are only two and a half weeks left of Magical Dining Month, with it concluding on September 30th, but this is always an event that I recommend. Particularly as an entryway to trying new restaurants that you either hadn’t gotten around to yet or that may have a menu you may find a little discomforting. The small portions and small number of selections make it easy to approach and to gather whether or not a restaurant could make it into your regular rotation. For Maria & Enzo’s part, they have definitely given me a go-to Italian restaurant to add to my list. Plus, there is the charity aspect of the event, and we could all do a bit more to lift each other up, especially when you get such a wonderful meal out of the bargain.

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