Armchair photo tours: Four dining experiences in Orlando

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The Spiced Alligator Bites at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

Photos by Cheryl Landes

If you want to treat your palate in Orlando, Florida, you’ll find some unique dining experiences. During my last trip there, I enjoyed four vastly different experiences, from a chocolate museum to a restaurant filled with working artists.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

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I discovered this cafe on Google Maps while looking up directions to another place in Orlando. Its description was intriguing: “Tapas and live painters in eclectic digs.” So, I went to the website to check it out and made a reservation.

It’s a funky, fun place.

All the walls are covered in art created by local talent. All of the art is for sale. Every other week, Cafe Tu Tu Tango features one artist on the wall pictured below.

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The Featured Artist Wall at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

Every day, one or two artists work at the cafe so people can watch and talk to them. I had a nice conversation with one of them tonight. There was also a tarot card reader and live music.

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Sometimes the entertainment is spontaneous. During my dinner there, a belly dancer appeared and weaved through the cafe. A young girl, probably four or five, was with a big party at the table across from me, watched the dancer with curiosity. Her mother and the belly dancer, who called the girl “a little princess,” tried to encourage her to dance. The girl acted as if she wanted to dance but held back. The girl continued watching the belly dancer until she left.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango’s menu contains small plates, so I ordered three.

The Al Forno Roasted Pears are roasted pears served on top of pecan crisps. A tiny arugula salad with blue cheese crumbles and vinaigrette comes on the side.

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The Al Forno Roaster Pears at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

The Ensalada Greca is an arugula salad tossed with artichoke hearts, oven-roasted mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes.

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The Ensalada Greca at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

The Spiced Alligator Bites are local wild gator nuggets served with a key lime mustard dip.

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The Spiced Alligator Bites at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

This was the first time I’ve eaten tender alligator meat. It was tough at other restaurants where I’ve tried it.

Together, the three small plates made a full meal for my appetite.

And I found one of the best ice teas I’ve ever tried. It’s called Tango Tea, and it contains tea, mango, a citrus juice mixture, and fresh mint. It’s garnished with a lemon wedge.

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The Tango Tea at the Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida

Chocolate Museum & Cafe

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I found the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in a strip mall at 11701 International Drive, Suite 400, while driving around to find a place to eat lunch after checking into my hotel room. The cafe had a small lunch menu that looked good, so I bought a ticket for the next guided museum tour and ordered a latte and Mediterranean panini with prosciutto, provolone, and roasted tomatoes.

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Then I tried the lemon-raspberry cake.

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Everything was delicious.

The tour started with a short introduction, followed by a trip into the tropical rainforest to learn about cacao.

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From there, the guide talked about the origins of chocolate, its history, and how it’s produced. He showed us some of the equipment that was used to produce chocolate over the years.

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Then we stopped in a large room filled with 25 sculptures carved from solid chunks of milk, white, and dark chocolate.

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Easter Island chocolate sculpture at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

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Mount Rushmore chocolate sculpture at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

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Chichen Itza’s Kukulkan Pyramid chocolate sculpture at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

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Taj Mahal chocolate sculpture at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

The tour ended at the tasting area, where we sampled a variety of chocolates from around the world.

Chocolate-Museum-and-Cafe-Orlando-tasting-areaThe tasting area at the chocolate sculpture at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

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Handcrafted truffles for sale at the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando, Florida

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

If you’re looking for authentic Cuban food in Orlando, the Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is the place to go. The restaurant started in Philadelphia in 2000 and expanded to Orlando, Atlantic City, and Washington DC.

The cuisine at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is the inspiration of Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot, a two-time James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Region, and the Best Single Subject Cookbook. He’s from Argentina, and his wife is from Cuba. They travel to Cuba periodically to visit family and to keep in touch with the culinary scene there.

The menu at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar follows authentic Criollo (home-style) recipes from the island. Pernot also adds unique touches, influenced by the cuisine of Argentina and Brazil.

For our dinner there, the food was presented beautifully and everything was delicious. Our server’s service was outstanding.

I tried the Vaca Frita, tender shredded flank steak, roasted onions, and citrus-garlic sauce topped with a crispy plantain slice and served with white rice and Cuban black beans.

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Vaca Frita at the Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Orlando, Florida

My dining companion ordered the Guava BBQ Ribs with sides of broccolini and brown rice and beans.

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Guava BBQ Ribs at the Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Orlando, Florida

The bar has an extensive selection of mojitos. I ordered one without the alcohol. It reminded me of the virgin mojitos I enjoyed during a trip to Havana.

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A virgin mojito at the Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Orlando, Florida (left); the entrance to the restaurant (middle); and a mixed drink my dining companion ordered and enjoyed (right)

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is located at 9101 International Drive.

Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows

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I went to “Lods Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet” at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows. We started with dinner. I ordered the honey-glazed Cornish hen, served with a salad, roll, herb stuffing, sweet potato, cranberry sauce, and dessert.

The show began while we finished eating dessert. In the story, the cast was preparing for the annual foxhunt banquet, but Lord Manfield was missing. Someone found him upstairs, dead in his bed. The detective arrived to interrogate the suspects, which resulted in several conflicting stories, including a few from the same people.

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Lord Mansfield’s daughter (left) and the maid (right) in “Lord Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet” at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows in Orlando, Florida

The detective then asked the guests at each table to talk about the evidence for 10 minutes and decide who was the killer. Each table elected a spokesperson to share our  findings. We ruled out the butler right away, because we assumed the butler is always guilty in mystery stories, so that would be too obvious. We finally settled on the maid.

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The butler in “Lord Mansfield’s Foxhunt Banquet” at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows in Orlando, Florida

Then the detective stopped at each table and asked the spokesperson to present the case for the chosen suspect. When they were finished, the detective revealed the name of the killer.

Our group didn’t identify the correct killer. When our conversations started, I suggested the correct person, but after our discussion, I changed my mind. Lesson learned: Always trust those instincts!

Sleuths Dinner Mystery Shows is located at 8267 International Drive. The shows are reservation only, and you order dinner when you buy your ticket. Five entrees are available: Cornish game hen, four-cheese lasagna, prime rib, veggie meal, and kid’s meal.

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