2nd in a series

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

There have been a few misses during the years Russ and I have indulged in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month experiences, but none as sharply disappointing as the meal at Ravello, in the Four Seasons Resort. It’s not that our meals were bad; they were just so mediocre and unmemorable. Vastly different from our expectations.

This was our first time to the Four Seasons, so we arrived early to walk around the property. Gorgeous, especially the lobby entrance. Flanking both sides of an impressive curving staircase are tall black vases filled with flowers. Hanging over the staircase are an array of multi-dimensional crystal chandeliers that sparkle and refract glittering colors.

In contrast, Ravello was subdued in tans and creams. Modern minimalism. Refined, but casual. Russ and I are of the “old school” mentality that when you dine at a fine restaurant, even in the midst of tourist town, one should dress at least somewhat more dignified than what you wear to the beach. Alas, the flip flops and baggy shorts attire worn by many guests may have been an omen we missed.

For our appetizer, Russ had his usual, a Caesar Salad (without the anchovies). I tried the Grilled Calamari, stated as having orange, fennel, arugula and capers. Our intent was to share both. His Caesar was okay. We’ve had much better in many other restaurants. There was nothing distinct about the taste or presentation. The grilled calamari was nothing I anticipated from the description. I couldn’t tell the calamari were grilled, and I detected no fennel, orange or capers. The calamari were white pieces buried underneath a mound of chopped arugula, which totally overshadowed any other flavors if they were present.

For our entrée, Russ chose the Veal Milanese, with oven roasted tomatoes and an herb salad. The thinly-sliced veal was lightly breaded, crispy fried, and served with a mound of arugula on top. It seemed to be missing any discernable herbs (basil and thyme) that are typical of Veal Milanese, which could have accounted for the blandness. I ordered the Pan-Seared Salmon, with string beans, pancetta, and fregola, little pasta pearls akin to Israeli couscous. Didn’t spot any pancetta, but four string beans were definitely in the fregola. As for the salmon, it was dry and unless you count the fishiness of it, pretty flavorless. The waiter noticed I wasn’t eating it and immediately offered me another choice.

I took the Grilled Chicken with herb-crushed potato and some seasonable vegetables, which included some al dente zucchini rounds and string beans. Much better selection. The chicken was juicy, had a lovely sear, and the au jus was tasty.

We each took one of the two desserts offered so we could share. The Granita-Cassata with watermelon, lemon and peach wedges was so frozen that when I tried to cut into it with my fork, the pieces went flying off my plate. It did make a pretty presentation and the lemon was vibrant with flavor once I could keep some on my fork. As for the Sweet Grape Focaccia, Nutella Gelato, we’re still trying to figure that one out, both taste and texture.

This may not have been a favored meal for either Russ or me, but I encourage you to explore the menus of the more than 70 restaurants participating this year. We’ve had many memorable meals, which has made us return customers. It’s an ideal way to check out restaurants for which you may not have otherwise budgeted or were simply curious to try.

If not familiar with Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, it’s an annual event that began this year on August 24 and runs through September 30. Participating restaurants (mostly upscale because this is the slow season for corporate functions) offer a three-course prix fixe meal for $33. One dollar from each meal sold is given to a charity. This year the charity is ELEVATE Orlando, a program whose mission is to provide urban youth with character education and life skills training.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI and is now serving on the 2015 – 2016 MPI Global advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.