Not So Magical Dining

Every September, Orlando has this thing called Magical Dining Month. It’s when 20 or so upscale restaurants offer three-course meals for a discounted price of $30-33 per person. It’s a way for restaurants to grab new business in a slow month while letting people like me, who spend $3.00 in the Wendy’s drive-thru for dinner, try something new without having to take out a second mortgage.

Friday night, hubs and I met a bunch of friends out at Park Plaza Gardens in Winter Park for magical dining birthday celebration. The restaurant is super cute. It’s indoors but it looks like an outdoor courtyard. Amazing atmosphere.

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You can order off the regular menu, but if you want to do the magical dining deal, you choose from a limited menu. The choices are different every year (sometimes the same restaurants participate). Here were the choices for this year’s appetizer at PPG.

It was a toss up between the rock shrimp and the summer baby greens for me. The salad won out because it wasn’t described as being served “in butter.” I like to save my arteries for desserts, thank you.

The salad was good. I should have ordered the dressing on the side because there was too much of it, but I still ate the whole thing. The pastry wrapped brie was amazing. But I think you could have pastry wrapped dirty socks and I would like it.

Hubs picked the gazpacho for his appetizer. I didn’t get a picture, but it looked like a bowl of tomato soup. It was cold, which I didn’t expect. Or like. It tasted like spicy Bloody Mary mix so I guess if they added some vodka, it would have been alright. I didn’t care for it, but hubs seemed to like it and it was his meal, so I guess that’s what matters.

Here were the choices for entrées.

I picked the chicken. I know, not the fanciest choice, but it was a process of elimination. I don’t like pork 95% of the time and I don’t like mussels so chicken it was. Unfortunately…

My first thought when I saw that plate was how disgusting it looked and an up-scale restaurant should be embarrassed to serve it. I mean, it looks like baby vomit and the plate wasn’t even wiped clean. Maybe I’m just watching too much MasterChef, but that’s the kind of crap I expect from Fazolis (are those still around?). The dish didn’t taste any better than it looked. The manager did offer to bring me something else but I had already eaten half the chicken and was getting full so I declined.

Hubs had the pork rib eye, which actually looked great, but he didn’t care for it. I’ve never seen him leave meat uneaten on a plate. It made me sad for him and for that poor piggy that gave his little porky life to become a terrible dinner.

Finally, the dessert choices.

My friends think I’m crazy to not like Crème Brulee, but puddings and custards are gross so I went with the pecan pie.

I live for the filling that goes in pecan pie. So, so  good. That pie was all pecans and no filling. I ended up eating the ice cream and some of the crust and left the rest. It wasn’t sweet enough for me, though I heard someone else at the table say they liked it because it wasn’t too sweet. Too sweet is not a thing. That is just crazy talk.

Hubs had the Crème Brulee and said it was delicious. I’m taking his word for that one.

We had a table of 10 and most of us didn’t care for the food. It also took us 2.5 hours to eat. The service was painfully slow. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was still nice to celebrate our friend’s birthday and see a few friends we haven’t seen in awhile. So I guess a bad dinner is a still good dinner when you’re with friends and that makes it worth it, right?

Right.

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  1. Toronto does this kind of thing too in both the summer and the winter (called Summerlicious and Winterlicious). I love being able to go to fancy restaurants and not have to pay a million dollars.

    And I love that the salad came with brie wrapped in pastry. That would have sold it for me also. That chicken does not look appetizing, and I will eat pretty much anything and my plates are usually a mess, so that is saying something.
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  2. Melissa

    It’s SO disappointing when you go out to eat and the good is bad. I usually don’t do those restaurant week deals because they’re mass-producing it in the kitchen and I feel like the attitude from the staff is that you’re some low-brow, beneath them diner. That plate looks awful. I hope they’re embarrassed and someone gets fired over that because it’s super unacceptable to have something go out if the kitchen like that (having worked in an upscale place for a long time).

    • It’s funny, cuz FF’s plate looked good and well plated – even though it didn’t taste good. When my plate was put in front of me, I was actually surprised. And I don’t surprise easily.

  3. Mz. Teri

    You’ve never had gazpacho? I LOVE a good gazpacho and will usually order it if I see it on a menu… just to check it out and see if it’s up to par. 😉

    Too bad the entree came out looking like someone held the chicken about 2 feet above the plate and let it drop into a plate over-filled with creme sauce. That definitely is disappointing to see at a supposedly fancy restaurant, and slow service gets on my nerves. Bad management, IMO.

    Hopefully your next dining experience will be much better. 🙂

  4. Ah, haven’t been to Park Plaza Gardens in forever. Actually got engaged there back in the day. The atmosphere is pretty great, and I do remember liking the food, but then again I think I had mussels, so there you go. In general though I’ve never had a good experience with the magical dining month stuff. I’d always rather have full menu choice, even if it means spending more $. I tend to think the stuff on those magical dining menus is getting made en masse so you’re no getting the best of each resto. You’re right though, that chicken looked like something I would have made in college after a long evening out and all that was in the fridge was some chicken breast, ranch dressing, and a box of easy mac.
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    • Aww, so cute you got engaged there! That’s a great atmosphere to do it.

      The mass producing could be the case with PPG, but we did the magical dining at Grande Boheme a few years ago and it was amazing. FF went to one last year that he loved too (while I was out of town). So I know there are some great ones out there. We had 3 drinks between us and the bill was well over $100. I guess that’s how they get cha.

      • James

        Yeah, I’m sure there is some good stuff. I’d always just rather have full menu choice so I’m not picking chicken throw up by process of elimination.

  5. They do something similar here in Calgary, but it’s so hard to get a reservation for any of the restaurants because it’s so popular. But it’d be a great way to try out a restaurant that would otherwise be too pricey. That sucks that your meal was less than satisfactory….good thing the price was discounted!
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  6. It sounds like Restaurant Week in Boston and Seattle. It is a fixed menu with 3/4 choices for $30.33. And you get to go to some high end places that I would not normally pay for. I have always had a good meal maybe not great, but better than your chicken.
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  7. Amber K

    There are people that think “too sweet” is a thing? Are they insane?

  8. That dinner looks and sounds sad. We have similar restaurant events here and I often rule out a lot of the places because the limited selection of desserts is either gross or something I’m allergic to.
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