Nitro Draft Cold Brew on tap at the Southern Grind Coffee House in Orange Beach, AL

The food in this post were provided by Southern Grind Coffee House but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Day 6 of our road trip to the 2018 World Food Championships was a great one. The sun shone brightly and the anticipation of bacon only a few hours away. Like any sport, it was time to “carb and caffeine up” for a long day. A visit to my friends at the Southern Grind Coffee House was our #1 priority of the morning.

I just can’t start my day until I have a good cup of coffee. Southern Grind Coffee House is my favorite coffee spot in Orange Beach. This time I went with something new, Nitro Draft Cold Brew. I’ve had it a few times in California from a can and on draft at a local donut shop. I love coffee whether is hot or cold brewed. Each process brings out different flavors from the beans. Anyone who loves coffee needs to try cold brew at least once to experience it. Nitro cold brew coffee takes cold brew coffee to another level. Cold brew coffee is infused with nitrogen gas and released through a pressurized valve with tiny perforations. As the cold brew is forced through, it creates a creamy effect that you would experience in a stout (like Guinness). The result is a smooth, clean, and velvety coffee. During November 2018, Southern Grind had a Pumpkin Pie Nitro Draft Cold Brew on tap. I normally take creamer and sweetener with my coffee, but I didn’t need it with this cup of joe. It was so smooth with the flavor and aroma of pumpkin spice. So good!

Smothered Burritos were the breakfast special with your choice of meat. It’s Mexican meets Southern cuisine in this breakfast entrée. I ordered bacon and the hubby ordered sausage. Just like my dad, I love gravy. I was also hooked by the word “smothered” – it’s music to a foodie’s ears! The burrito itself was good, packed with scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese, but it was the gravy that made it great. I had the gravy last year over biscuits and couldn’t wait to have it again!

My dad tried the Breakfast Biscuit – egg, cheese, and served with choice of bacon, ham, or sausage. He went with ham. My dad is all about biscuits since he arrived in Alabama. He loved it! Just the perfect size for breakfast to accompany his cup of hot coffee.

All carbed up and caffeinated, it was time to head over to the pantry to pick up our ingredients for the opening round of the World Chicken Championships!

For more information:
4790 Main St. Ste. 116
Orange Beach, AL 36561

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Villagio Grille creates Italian fusion in Orange Beach, AL

The food in this post were provided by Villagio Grille but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Day 4 of our road trip to the 2018 World Food Championships was a stressful day: from my pastry dough exploding in our cooler, stopping by Whole Foods Market in Mobile to find pastry dough just in case I could not find the dough in Orange Beach, and then nervously waiting for my dad’s plane to arrive in Pensacola (a long delay in Hilo meant that he would miss his connections in Los Angeles and Houston).

Day 5 started out great. We met my friend, Lynn, downstairs for breakfast to go over our game plan for the World Chicken Championship. My dad was just so happy to be in Orange Beach since he had never been to Alabama before and that they had biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Southern and Hawaiian cuisines are very similar in that we love gravy, rice, and fried foods.

I found out that Villagio Grille’s Chef Fletch Miller was competing in the World Chef Championship. I wanted to chat with her to see how she did and what she made for the opening round. Since this was our third year in Orange Beach, I really wanted to see what Villagio Grille was all about. Check out the YouTube video above as Chef Fletch talks about her experience and about Villagio Grille.

Beef Carpaccio is thinly sliced rare beef tenderloin topped with arugula, capers, red onions, and horseradish. This was the first time I had ever had beef carpaccio seared on the outside. It is surprisingly great as it gives the beef additional texture and flavor from the sear. The paper-thin slices just melted in my mouth with that natural beef flavor. I love the briny pop of the capers and the bitter green flavor from the arugula. So fancy yet approachable!

Scallops & Arugula Salad is St. Georges Bank Scallops atop arugula, Granny Smith apples, bacon, orange segments, and parmesan cheese with a balsamic citrus vinaigrette. Being so close to the beachy shores of Alabama, this is the perfect salad for lunch. It is light with the sweet, meaty, and perfectly seared scallops. The arugula lends a nice bitter note which balances out with the tart, crisp granny smith apples. The oranges add acidity and sweetness along with the vinaigrette.

Shrimp Sacchetti is pasta stuffed with truffle infused ricotta topped with shrimp, roasted tomatoes, peas, prosciutto, and chardonnay cream sauce. The first thing I notice is the intoxicating aroma of truffle. I could smell it before it arrived to the table. Ever since my business trip to Milan during truffle season, I am almost hypnotized whenever the aroma is in the air and time stops so I can take it all in. This dish has the same effect on me. I went in for the first bite and I was in love. The pasta is cooked and stuffed perfectly with ricotta packed with truffle flavor. Nothing beats gulf shrimp and its sweetness paired well with the dish. The chardonnay cream sauce is light yet ties the whole dish together. That sauce would be great on anything!

This was such a great treat to visit with Chef Fletch and try some amazing Italian fusion dishes at Villagio Grille! It’s time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the World Food Championship Welcome Reception. This is where we get to see all our food competitor friends, judges, sponsors, and wonderful WFC staff and break bread before the games begin!

For more information:
4790 Main St. Ste. F108B
Orange Beach, AL 36561

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“Tacos are the most important meal of the day” at Rusty Taco in Beaumont, TX

The food in this post were provided by Rusty Taco but the opinions expressed here are my own.

After 4-hour drive from Lockhart, Beaumont was our final stop for the day. We stopped here last year and all I remember was the warm humidity hitting me in the face as I opened the car door. This year wasn’t so bad. We unpacked the car and were able to relax a bit before heading out to dinner.

In 2010, Rusty Fenton and his wife, Denise, opened their first fast-casual taco restaurant in a converted gas station on Greenville Avenue in Dallas. Almost 8 years later, they have 30 locations in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Ohio. The concept is a taco shop serving freshly-made, authentic and creative Mexican street-style tacos in a friendly and welcoming environment. Even the location at the Parkdale Mall has a friendly vibe with interior and exterior seating.

Tres Grande is chips, salsa, queso, and guacamole. This is a wonderful way to start your meal with family and friends. The chips are crisp and sturdy enough for dipping. The queso is creamy and has a little bit of heat. The salsa has a nice consistency for dipping and pops with freshness from the cilantro. The guacamole is creamy with flavor of onion, garlic, and tomatoes.

Beef Fajita Taco is topped with grilled onions and cilantro. Being a SoCal local, this taco reminded me of a carne asada or steak taco. The meat is well-seasoned and works well with the caramelized flavor of the grilled onion and refreshing cilantro.

Texican Taco is Tex-Mex beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It is a take on a fast food soft taco. The Tex-Mex beef has a nice chile flavor. The lettuce adds a nice crisp texture. I love cheese so I loved that there was plenty of it in here.

Fried Chicken Taco is crispy chicken with jalapeño ranch, slaw, and cilantro. This is an employee favorite and I can see why. It is like a crispy fried chicken sandwich but instead of buns, it uses a tortilla. The fried chicken is well seasoned, and the crunch is great. The jalapeño ranch pairs nicely with the slaw adding a creamy, spicy flavor with the crisp crunch of the cabbage slaw. Cilantro is always nice to refresh the palate.

Brisket, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Taco is served all day. When in Texas, I must eat brisket. For a taco joint, they have some mighty tasty brisket. The egg and cheese were along for the ride and didn’t outshine the brisket. This is my favorite taco!

With a foodie coma commencing, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest. Our next destination, Orange Beach, AL, home of the 2018 World Food Championships!

For more information:
4215 Dowlen Rd Ste A
Beaumont, TX 77706
Hours: Sunday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.