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Grande Lakes, Orlando

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As primarily a food writer, I was so excited to check out all the wonderful offerings at Grande Lakes Orlando. The food definitely did not disappoint, and the variety of options were amazing.

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A highlight of the experience is Grande Lakes' commitment to sustainable, local food. The chefs work closely with local farms and develop menus based on what is available locally and in season, and pride themselves in serving the best of the best, whether made in house or brought in.

Some local fare is truly local; it is grown and harvested directly on the Grande Lakes property. Primo, one of our dinner locations, hosts an organic garden right outside the restaurant, growing vegetables and herbs used along with other local foods to create a unique menu. The garden itself is available for guests to walk through before dining, a true farm-to-table experience.

Primo Organic Garden

A second highlight, for me, was two chef's table experiences--a lunch sampler with the executive chef at the Ritz Carlton and a charcuterie board and wine pairings with the executive chef and sous chef from the JW Marriott.

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The Ritz-Carlton chef's table featured highlights from several of their talented chefs, including an appetizer of English pea ravioli and scallop mousse stuffed mushrooms, one of the most amazing things I have tasted. Each course was exquisitely prepared and served with the perfect pairings. The chef's table itself, located within the kitchens at the Ritz-Carlton is available for private bookings and features no set menu. Servings are up to the discretion of the chefs and contain more of the fresh, local ingredients, emphasized at the hotel. Our host, executive sous chef Melissa Lee, shared the Ritz-Carlton's missions towards sustainable food, including organic, local beef.

Phyllo crusted cheesecake with quince topping

The second chef's table featured a charcuterie board and wine pairings from Chris Brown and Dan Yates, the executive chef and executive sous chef at the JW Marriott. Besides a variety of local cheese and meats, the board featured honey, apple butters, jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles, all created in house at the JW Marriott. Several of the meat selections are also cured and prepared at the hotel; all part of the commitment to sustainable local foods. The chefs explained how sustainable food factors in all parts of production from the food itself to packaging to transportation costs. The commitment to sustainability has a greater environmental impact, well beyond the food.

Charcuterie board at JW Marriott

Other than amazing restaurants, Grande Lakes offers aspiring chefs cooking classes on site. A summer BBQ class, for example, includes lessons in three different grill styles and features cedar plank salmon, ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket. Themed classes and events, such as holiday gingerbread house building with the chefs, are part of the resort's amenities.

For more information on the resort and booking your trip visit www.grandelakes.com

Full Disclosure: Hotel and airfare were included to give us a true taste of the resort.

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