Every time I've stayed at a Four Seasons, it felt as if I were visiting family. So, I'm very excited that they're opening a resort in my hometown of Orlando.
I walked through the property on a hard-hat tour a couple of months ago, back before the drywall was even up and heavy duty construction boots were a requirement. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to walk through the resort again with a group of select media for a preview tour.
To see the hotel nearly completed, with all the furniture and fixtures in place, was simply breathtaking. The lobby welcomes you with an impressive crystal chandelier in the shape of fireworks, no doubt representative of the views guests will see from their balcony windows.
After a warm welcome by the staff, we made our way downstairs to begin our tour of their restaurants. (I've got a tough job, I know.) The first tasting was at Ravello, an Italian restaurant with a modern twist and impressive custom-curated wine list.
There's casually elegant indoor dining, a welcoming verandah that I'm sure will be popular during the cooler winter months, and even a live-action show kitchen where culinary demonstrations and classes will be held.
Italian-born Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi talks about food with such a passion that you can't wait to taste it. He certainly brings some fabulous authentic Italian recipes to the menu.
We sampled a Veal Ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, topped with wild mushrooms, truffle essence, and fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano. It was so temptingly delicious, I forgot to take a picture before I devoured it. (Sorry!) Next, we tried a Pan Seared Tuna with eggplant caponata, saba, and drizzled in basil oil and balsamic vinegar. Also fabulous.
Our next stop was a quick visit to the spa. It's not quite complete yet, but the scent of essential oils and soothing music still had a calming effect on us even amid the construction and boxes of furniture that still need to be put together for the opening.
The Spa Director, Derek Hofmann, comes from Beverly Hills and brings with him all sorts of knowledge and tricks of the trade for being "red carpet ready."
We could all use a little Hollywood magic every now and then, but what I'm most excited about experiencing here is their selection of treatments that incorporate indigenous Florida ingredients such as pink grapefruit, orange, and sugar cane.
After a visit to the spa, we walked outdoors, over a boardwalk to their lakefront dining, PB&G. There were lots of fun jokes about what the name of this restaurant stands for -- peanut butter and gin, peanut butter and ganache. But ultimately it simply stands for Pool Bar & Grill. It's casual outdoor barbeque done Four Seasons style.
The restaurant is outdoors on a covered platform suspended over a lake. If not for the sprinkling of palm trees here and there, it almost has a feeling of being somewhere out west.
It's rustic, yet equally elegant and modern. The rotisserie and smokehouse kitchen are indoors, but there's a glass window showcasing a whole team of chefs making different barbecue creations.
We were welcomed on arrival with a hand-crafted cocktail they call Peach Thyme. This isn't your ordinary glass of iced tea, but a mix of Absolut Peach, Peach and Raspberry Grand Marnier, ginger tea, and garnished with a fresh sprig of thyme and peach slices. It's a perfect blend of Southern hospitality.
The barbecue has two sides to the menu -- homage and treason. The homage side is all of your favorite comfort foods and the treason is barbecue sacrilege, with stuff you'd never usually see in traditional barbecue, such as octopus and tofu.
This is a selection of their barbecue, including rotisserie chicken and potato salad in a paper bag, beef brisket with sauerkraut coleslaw on rye ...
And Oysters "Roc"a fella" with spinach puree, smoked aioli, bacon breadcrumbs. Drooling yet?
Finally, we headed up to the coffee shop, Lickety Split, for a selection of desserts and coffee. Now this is one impressive coffee shop, which will please even the most discerning coffee connoisseur.
Their beans are from Caffe Umbria, a roasting company lead by Master Roaster Emanuele Bizzarri. It's shade grown. It's organic. It's divine.
In addition to expertly made Italian style cappuccinos and espressos, they also have a slow drip cold brew that I'd liken to a strong, nutty-flavored rocket fuel. Sip this one with the warning -- it will keep you up all night and it's best to enjoy it in the morning or when you really need a jolt. I sampled a little too much and ended up being wide awake until 2 a.m.
As much as I feel like the coffee is such a star here, the artisan-made (true artisan, not marketing fluff) pastries and desserts are simply gorgeous and just as delicious as they look. I mean, really, have you ever seen a key lime pie this fancy?
And take a look at these. "Of course I'd like some little gold flakes along with my fruit ..."
And then there's the chocolate. Intense, rich, flavorful dark chocolate.
Are you hungry yet? Well, you'll have to wait. The Four Seasons Orlando officially opens Aug. 3, and I can't WAIT to go back and see their rooftop restaurant, Capa.
For more information, here's all their web and social details:
Hashtags: #FSOpenings #FSSneakPeek