Last year, I received an email from Cori (a PR Specialist for Wellons Communications) inviting me to an “exclusive” tasting at Hillstone because I’m an Orlando blogger. For whatever reason, I couldn’t make it, so I thanked her but declined. Fast forward a year later and Cori invited me again since I couldn’t make it last year. I was all over that like Charlie Sheen on hookers. Since I’m an internal awkward mess in groups of people I don’t know, I asked if I could bring a friend and surprisingly Cori said yes. So, I invited Michelle and off we went to Hillstone after work last night.
Hillstone is located in Winter Park. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the restaurant before I went. I love trying new places and being surprised, so I didn’t exactly do any research either.
When Michelle and I arrived, there was nowhere to park. There was a huge, empty valet area. But no regular parking. So I pulled up to the valet and when he opened the door, I might have said something like, “nothing like some forced valet!” I know. Not subtle. He told me he didn’t want me to feel forced into valet and that I could drive through the cones and park if I’d like to. That was sufficient enough to make me feel like a jerk, so I let him park the car. He gave me a beeper and told me to press the button one minute before I wanted the car back.
Fancy beeper valet!
For this tasting, what I expected was a room of 20 or more bloggers with servers walking around with trays of appetizers and mini-portion entrees for us all to sample. What I got was a full-on private dinner with 8 other people out on the dock behind the restaurant. (Then I may have felt guilty for asking to bring a friend.)
And the view did not suck. In the words of Keanu Reeves, “whoah.”
Another little surprise? One of my favorite people ever was also invited.
Immediately after we sat down, we were offered drinks and the appetizers started making their way down the dock. Once an appetizer hit the table, my base instinct to plant my face in it had to wait while everyone took a million pictures of each dish. (By the way, that’s Cori at the end of the table.)
Once the sun started to set, umbrellas were used as lighting devices. I’m pretty sure that pork chop had more pictures taken of it than I had taken on my wedding day.
Anyway, back to the food. Did I mention the food part? First there were plates and plates of appetizers and entrees brought out to the table to share family style.
Several of the dishes didn’t make it into the collage, but you get the idea.
Honestly, everything was delicious. I think the veggie burger was the best thing on the table and that’s not something I would normally order at a nice restaurant…or ever. But when I go back, that’s what I’m getting. It was amazing. The wedge salad included yellow (or are they golden?) beets which I had never tried before and now want to marry. The restaurant makes their own bread which is also ridiculously good. We all tried to be nice and use clean utensils to scoop food onto our plates, but toward the end no one cared anymore and started stabbing things with forks directly off the main plates. Or that could have been just me.
After all the entrees were served, our server asked us if there was anything else on the menu that we’d like to try that we haven’t already. Whaaaa? More food? I seriously felt like a VIP. I mean, well I am a VIP. Duh. But you know, more of a VIP.
And then I think you know what happened next.
Banana cream pie, five nut brownie, and key lime pie. The key lime pie was the best of the desserts and I don’t even like key lime pie. So that’s says something.
After dinner the GM, Todd Martin, came out and talked to the table and answered questions. Katy is really good at asking relevant questions. I just sat there rubbing my belly and drooling out of the left side of my mouth.
And we also got to chat with Sherry Martin, the Service Captain. Super nice girl but she made the mistake of telling Michelle and I that she runs, so we may have tried to guilt her into signing up for a race. (Didn’t work. Can’t win ‘em all.)
After dinner, Sherry gave us all a bottle of champagne and a basil plant to take home with us. (Yes, a fully complimentary meal and something to take home.) We said our goodbyes and I used and abused the valet guy one more time for a picture.
If you’re in the Orlando area, you need to try this place out. It’s delicious (and beautiful) and I’ve already told hubs we need to go back soon. Honestly, I have no idea why I was picked to attend but I’m so glad I was. This is one of the coolest opportunities that blogging has afforded me. So, I just wanted to say thank you to Hillstone for hosting a delicious dinner and thanks to Cori for inviting me.
I’m going to go back to microwaving hot dogs now.
P.S. This post was in no way a requirement for attending. I wanted to post about it. I mean, who wouldn’t? Oh, and all opinions are mine.