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All Roads Lead to Toll Road Brewing Company By Sandra Carr

Craft breweries are popping up everywhere in Central Florida nowadays, but Toll Road Brewing Company is making its mark in downtown Ocoee. The cozy brewery opened back in June and is quenching thirsts with its signature brews.

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Toll Road Brewing Company serves its signature craft beers. Photo by: Matt Geleske

Brewery founders and owners David Strickland, Duane Morin and Russ Balazs had been planning to open the brewery for the past three years.

Morin was impressed with the small breweries that he visited during a trip to San Diego along with the successful business models, which put the brewery plan into action when he returned to Ocoee.

Morin and Strickland had been brewing beer for the past 15 years. The time was right for taking the next step and fulfilling their brewery dream.

The brewery has been a labor of love. The owners did the building demolition and refurbishment themselves, but had technicians do the electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s founders and owners during the brewery’s grand-opening celebration: l-r Russ Balazs, Duane and Melissa Morin and Donna and David Strickand Photo by: Sandra Carr

The brewery’s name and location were a perfect match since it seems like you have to drive on a toll road to get anywhere in Orlando. Plus, State Roads 408 and 429 and Florida’s Turnpike all converge in Ocoee.

Toll Road Brewing Company’s tasty craft beer keeps the customers coming back for more.

“We serve sours and a lot of typical American style beers,” said Strickland. “We brew what we like to drink. Our plan is to have 8-10 beers rotating regularly and a few guest taps, a cider and glasses of wine.”

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s menu. Photo by: Sandra Carr

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s beer is brewed on the premises. Photo by: Sandra Carr

During my Toll Road Brewing Company visit, I ordered The Crowdpleaser. The refreshing and delicious Kölsch beer and the name said it all! I can see why this beer is a favorite with the brewery’s customers! Kölsch beer originated in Cologne, Germany and is fermented with ale yeast and then conditioned at cold temperatures like a lager. I’m a wheat beer fan, but this brew has become one of my top faves!

I also enjoyed sampling the brewery’s robust porter The Sheriff. My palate isn’t a fan of dark beers, but this brew didn’t leave an aftertaste in my mouth and was very rich and smooth. I finally found a porter beer that I can drink! Porter beer fans will rate this brew high on their list, that’s for sure!

My husband Dan drank the Irish Red called Shamrocks & Shenanigans. I thought this brew’s name was catchy and perfect for Irish beer aficionados. He loves malty beers and this brew passed the test! The porter is also Strickland’s favorite Toll Road Brewing Company beer. He says, “the beer is a little bit different from most porters you’ll get around town and has more substance.”

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Image courtesy of the Toll Road Brewing Company.

The comfy taproom has wood tables with high top chairs and stools for those who want to belly up and hang out at the bar. The walls are gray with decorative tile accents with neutral tones and the main seating area features faux red, white and blue painted panels. Plus, there are purse hooks and USB ports for charging your phone, which are nice touches. If you want to get some fresh air, then you can hang out on the outdoor patio. The brewery is also dog and kid-friendly and provides pooches with treats.

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Toll Road Brewing Company Photo by: Sandra Carr

You can tell a lot of thought went into planning this neighborhood brewery in west Orange County. The owners went the extra mile to ensure the taproom had a homey ambiance.

“We wanted a comfortable taproom that was a low key place to hang out and have a few beers,” said Strickland.

His wife Donna Strickland added, “craft beer camaraderie is experienced at Toll Road Brewing Company. We want our customers to hang out, enjoy a good beer and experience Ocoee. We aimed at having the brewery to be a comfortable place where people feel like they’re at home.”

Customers can take a piece of Toll Road Brewing Company with them by purchasing one of the brewery’s T-shirts. Tasty Trivia, which has “Friends,” “Star Wars” and ’80s themes, is every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and happy hour features $1 off beers on Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s merchandise. Photo by: Sandra Carr

The Toll Road Brewing Company is included on the Central Florida Ale Trail, which features 26 breweries, and is a must-see craft beer destination in downtown Ocoee.

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Disney and Debonair and Dazzling Vintage Styles are Displayed during Dapper Day By Sandra Carr

Retro revelers took over Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot during Dapper Day last April. The step-out-in-style soirée included craft cocktails and mingling with other vintage aficionados at the steam punk-themed restaurant The Edison, located at Disney Springs, the Charles Phoenix Retro Disneyland Slide Show, traipsing around the theme parks and shopping galore during the Dapper Day Boutique at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s convention center.

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I attended Dapper Day at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa last April.

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My husband Dan is striking a pose during Dapper Day!

I enjoyed seeing dashing gents and gorgeous gals dressed to the nines during Dapper Day. I have been wearing vintage clothing since the 1980s, so I’m extremely pleased that others are carrying the torch and keeping the vintage spirit alive!

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Josh Ramsey and Judy Pop are wearing their stylish vintage attire during Dapper Day!

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She’s looking vintage posh!

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This cute couple is wearing matching Orange Bird couture outfits!

The boutique featured vintage clothing by Orlando Vintage Clothing and Costume, Retromended, Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing and other fabulous vendors.

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Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing.

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Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing.

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A Dapper Day attendee is browsing at the boutique.

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A vintage dress paired with a beaded sweater and antique jewelry is on display at the Dapper Day boutique.

Charles Phoenix, the ambassador of Americana, was the main attraction during last spring’s Dapper Day. Phoenix presented a vintage Kodachrome slide show on the big screen, featuring folks who visited Disneyland during the 1950s and ’60s. The slide show also featured legendary, long-gone Disneyland attractions, including the Monsanto House of the Future, Skyway, Skull Rock, Rainbow Caverns, Flying Saucers and The Carousel of Progress. Besides the spectacular slides, Phoenix’s hilarious commentary and backstories are what make his laugh-out-loud slide shows even more special. I know!

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Tomorrowland and the Monsanto House of the Future.

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A Disneyland slide, featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse, one of The Three Little Pigs, an employee and child.

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Disneyland’s Skyway.

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I’m hanging out with Charles Phoenix during Dapper Day!

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The classic and iconic Disneyland sign!

Disneyland holds a special place in Phoenix’s heart.

“I’m a child of Disneyland and an enthusiast,” said Phoenix. “It’s the only place that I go with my family and it’s the greatest time. Thank you Walt Disney for making your great magic a part of our lives.”

Phoenix was also selling and autographing his latest book, “Addicted to Americana.” The book celebrates classic and kitschy American life and style. The book retails for $29.95 and includes his autograph. Bonus! Phoenix’s book is a treasure trove of information, which includes roadside attractions, classic cars and space-age style that he has encountered during road trips. Add this must-have book to your holiday gift list! You will be delighted and learn about a plethora of places before you plan your next trip!

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“Addicted to Americana” by Charles Phoenix.

This was the third time I have seen and experienced Phoenix’s slide show. He didn’t disappoint and was a real hoot! He also has slide shows, tours and other exciting events listed on his website throughout the year.

I’m a native Orlandoan, so visiting Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as a child with my family was always an adventure! My parents bought my brother Vernon and I Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls, hats and frisbees during our first visit to the Magic Kingdom in fall 1973 (Note: The photos are dated Jan. 1974 because my parents developed the Kodak 110 camera film after the holidays). My parents took photos of us with our souvenirs after we got home from the Magic Kingdom. Vernon and I still have those memorable keepsakes!

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My brother Vernon and I are posing with our Magic Kingdom souvenirs.

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My brother Vernon and I are posing with your Magic Kingdom souvenirs in front of our dad’s Chevrolet Chevelle.

Dapper Day’s fall excursion is happening Nov. 16-18, 2018. The fun festivities will include an evening at Paddlefish, located at Disney Springs on Friday, Nov. 16, taking a walk on the wild side at Disney’s Animal Kingdom from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and reliving your childhood at the Magic Kingdom from 3 p.m. until close on Saturday, Nov. 17 and drinking around the world at Epcot on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Experience Disney while looking dapper every fall and spring! Learn more by visiting Dapper Day’s website.

Dapper Day Fall 2018

Dapper Day fall 2018.

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Refreshing Mexican Flavors are Savored during MargaritaFest By Sandra Carr

Tequila was flowing while the summer rain showers held off during the ninth annual MargaritaFest at the Wall Street Plaza last Saturday, Aug. 25.

Partygoers were cooling off with marvelous margaritas and relaxing to the reggae beats. VIP attendees took advantage of the Tequila Terrace’s offerings, which included access to the Monkey Bar, a high-end tequila tasting, complimentary Corona beers and full-sized tequila drinks.

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My husband Dan and I enjoyed experiencing the margarita madness during the annual fete!

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Bottoms up! Dan and I are sipping margaritas at the Wall Street Plaza.

The margarita tour began by tasting the Wall Street Cantina’s Te-Kill-Ya-Rita. The Orlando Pub Crawl’s crew were dressed as sorcerers while serving the margarita and promoting its A Wizard’s World Pub Crawl on Saturday, Sept. 15. Bonus points for creativity! The Te-Kill-Ya-Rita was my hands-down favorite during the festival! The delicious and refreshing margarita tasted fruity and pleased my palate. Plus, you couldn’t taste the tequila, which in my book that means the margarita was mixed to perfection.

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The Wall Street Cantina’s Te-Kill-Ya-Rita was served by sorcerers!

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The Heritage Square’s alligator gives the Te-Kill-Ya-Rita five chomps!

The Wall Street Cantina also served its Cantina Rita during the festivities. I could taste the tequila, but it was fruity and mixed well.

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The Wall Street Cantina’s Cantina Rita.

The next sample was Don Julio Tequila’s Paloma margarita. I could taste the tequila and grapefruit and lime juices, but the tequila didn’t overpower the other ingredients. Find out for yourself by creating the Paloma margarita with Don Julio’s recipe.

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The Don Julio Tequila’s Paloma margarita.

Casa Noble’s The Tommy margarita was very strong and you could definitely taste the tequila. Unfortunately, the margarita was hard to enjoy, especially since I couldn’t taste the other ingredients in the drink recipe.

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Casa Noble’s The Tommy margarita.

Casamigos, which means house of friends, was launched by actor George Clooney, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber and property developer Mike Meldman five years ago. The tequila brand served its Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita during the festival. The cucumber and jalapeño drink elements were prominent in this clear and refreshing margarita. Make the Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita at home with Casamigos’ recipe.

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Casamigos’ Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita.

I experienced the best of both worlds with Tijuana Sweet Heat’s Sweet & Spicy margarita. The recipe included tequila, cranberry and sour mix. The concoction was mixed well and one ingredient didn’t overpower the other, which was a huge plus.

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Tijuana Sweet Heat’s Sweet & Spicy margarita.

Blue Nectar Tequila’s Cherry Latino margarita was refreshing to drink on a hot and humid day. The cherry-tasting margarita was delicious with a slight bite.

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Blue Nectar Tequila’s Cherry Latino margarita.

Jose Cuervo, one of the MargaritaFest sponsors, served its classic margarita. You can’t go wrong with a traditional margarita!

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Jose Cuervo’s classic margarita.

Another favorite margarita that I sampled was the 1800 Tequila’s Coco Loco margarita. I would enjoy sipping this yummy margarita while sitting in a cabana on the beach! The mixture included 1800 Tequila Coconut mixed with cranberry and pineapple juices.

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1800 Tequila’s Coco Loco margarita.

Maestro Dobel Tequila went the extra mile with its Black Diamond margarita. The original recipe features agave syrup, but the tequila brand served its concoction with  black cherry syrup instead. The drink was topped with a black cherry, which was a nice touch. Try the Black Diamond margarita for yourself with agave or black cherry syrup.

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Maestro Dobel Tequila’s Black Diamond margarita.

The fan favorite was probably Patrón since the tequila company had the longest line during MargaritaFest this year. Patrón served its pineapple daiquiri instead of a margarita. The bold choice paid off! The smooth and tasty cocktail wasn’t a margarita, but it was worth the wait. Keep the summer vibes going all year long by making the pineapple daiquiri at home with Patrón’s recipe.

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Patrón’s pineapple daiquiri.

Would you like wine with your tequila? Absolutely! Tequila Cazadores served its Mexican Chardonnay, which was a unique twist on the margarita. The tequila, agave and chardonnay wine actually tasted well together. Wine connoisseurs may want to give this margarita a shot. Make the Mexican Chardonnay with this recipe.

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Tequila Cazadores’ Mexican Chardonnay margarita.

Dulce Vida, an organic tequila, provided MargaritaFest attendees with samples of its Pineapple Jalapeño margarita. The pineapple, jalapeño and tequila were stirred well. You could smell the jalapeños, but there was just a veiled hint of the chili peppers existence in the margarita.

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Dulce Vida’s Pineapple Jalapeño margarita.

el Jimador joined forces with the energy drink Red Bull to create its margarita. The mixture was simply tequila and orange Red Bull. The concoction was delish! Bravo for thinking outside of the box!

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The el Jimador margarita with orange Red Bull.

Suerte tequila took a different spin on the classic Tom Collins cocktail with its Juan Collins margarita. I had an ah and Zen moment when I was sipping Suerte’s Juan Collins margarita. The grapefruit seltzer ingredient made the margarita more flavorful. Find out for yourself with the Juan Collins recipe.

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Suerte’s Juan Collins margarita.

Cenote Tequila’s Watermelon Mint margarita was disappointing. It was watered down and you could only taste the tequila. Hopefully, this was an off day for the tequila brand.

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Cenote Tequila’s Watermelon Mint margarita.

MargaritaFest provides tequila fans with a chance to try an array of margaritas without having to travel south of the border. The annual margarita festival happens in August or September, so get your taste buds ready for next year’s event.

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Fine Artist Chelsea Smith Brings Celtic Creatures to Life By Sandra Carr

Shapeshifting, mythological goddesses who transform into animals emerge from hibernation in “Chelsea Smith: Magical Realism…Etching Myths and Legends” exhibit in the Orlando Public Library’s first floor gallery through July 31.

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“Chelsea Smith: Magical Realism…Etching Myths and Legends” exhibit is on display at the Orlando Public Library through July 31.

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I’m posing with Chelsea Smith during her meet-the-artist reception at the Orlando Public Library.

Fine artist Chelsea Smith is influenced by artists and printmakers Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt and her Irish and English heritage. Her artwork, which explores the empowerment of women, is inspired by Scottish, Welsh and Nordic animal symbology of ancient civilizations and folklores and brought to life with etched copper plates.

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Chelsea Smith’s artwork is created with etched copper plates.

Smith drew pets to raise monies for Pet Rescue by Judy as a child and graduated from Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Fla. as the Dora Lee Russell Scholarship for Fine Arts recipient. She established herself as a copper plate etching and printmaking artist after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Central Florida.

The copper plate etching process features an image drawn on a copper plate then transferred onto paper by using a printing press.

Smith’s favorite piece of artwork is the black-and-white “Tempus Fugit Vanitas Vita,” which means time flies vanity life.

“The artwork is a throwback to art history and the Renaissance period,” Smith said. “As a 21st century female artist, I wanted to represent a female artist because women weren’t allowed to draw human figures during the Renaissance.”

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“Tempus Fugit Vanitas Vita” artwork by Chelsea Smith.

Smith has been garnering prestigious, fine-art accolades during juried national fine arts festivals. She has been bestowed with numerous national level fine art awards, including poster artist for the 2017 Mount Dora Arts Festival, a merit award during the Mayfaire-by-the-Lake Art Fest Lakeland 2016, the judges choice at the Central Park Art Festival Winter Haven 2016, first place in fine arts at the Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival and a merit winner during the 2015 Winter Springs ArtoberFEST. She also was selected for judging during the 2015 Winter Park Autumn Art Festival.

42nd Annual Mount Dora Arts Festival Poster

42nd Annual Mount Dora Arts Festival poster by Chelsea Smith.

She has provided former U.S. President Barack Obama, musicians and bands with her artwork, including Duran Duran, the Goo Goo Dolls, Boy George of Culture Club, Adam Ant and Johnny Marr. Actresses Dichen Lachman from “Agents of Shield” and Billie Piper from “Doctor Who” also own her artwork.

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Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran is posing with Chelsea Smith’s “The Third Eye.”

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John Taylor and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran are posing with their dog portraits.

This is Smith’s first solo exhibition at the Orlando Public Library, which features artwork from her “Sacred Feminine” and “Celtic Mythology” series. Her meet-the-artist reception was held on June 21. The festivities included an introduction by City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner and artist Patty Sheehan, discussion, question-and-answer session and artwork raffles.

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City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner and artist Patty Sheehan introduced Chelsea Smith before her discussion during the meet-the-artist reception.

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Chelsea Smith discusses her artwork and copper plate etching process at the Orlando Public Library.

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An attendee won Chelsea Smith’s artwork during the meet-the-artist reception at the Orlando Public Library.

Smith is honored to have her exhibition and reception at the Orlando Public Library.

“Having my first solo exhibition has been a lifelong dream of mine,” she said. “This is one of those milestone events featuring my whole body of work during my first 26 years up to this point. I got to meet new people and see my family and friends during the reception who have been supporting me throughout this ride. I enjoy showing people what I love to do along with educating them about my artistic process.”

 

 

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RumFest Brings Tropical Spirit to Orlando By Sandra Carr

The rain couldn’t keep revelers away as they quenched their tropical thirst during the 14th Annual RumFest at the Wall Street Plaza last Saturday.

The festival featured more than 20 different rums, live music by local reggae band Hor!zen and DJ RED i spinning the island beats. Attendees sipped concoctions, played with beach balls and had a passport stamped by the rum company representatives for a chance at winning a year’s supply of rum during a drawing.

VIP ticket holders experienced the Red Stripe Terrace at the Monkey Bar, which included complimentary Red Stripe beer, select rum cocktails and Caribbean-style snacks along with RumFest sampling.

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My husband Dan and I have been attending RumFest since the very beginning and look forward to our rum rendezvous every year!

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Dan and I are striking a pose during the 14th Annual RumFest at the Wall Street Plaza.

The first stop was one of our faves Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. The retro-inspired rum brand served its Cherry Jerry and handed out buttons and koozies. The delicious cocktail tasted like a cherry-flavored drink and was mixed just right with rum, pineapple juice and grenadine ingredients.

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Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry cocktail.

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Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry recipe.

The Kraken Black Spiced Rum poured its Cephalopunch, which features the same ingredients as Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry, but with less grenadine. For those of you who aren’t anatomy aficionados, the drink’s name refers to a human’s head.

The tasty concoction made me want to sit back and relax while enjoying the tiki vibes. Create your own cocktail with this rum recipe.

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The Kraken Black Spiced Rum’s Cephalopunch.

RumChata never disappoints with its Dirty Banana. The creamy and tasty cocktail is always popular during RumFest and worth the wait. Ingredients include two parts RumChata and one part banana liqueur shaken and poured over ice.

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RumChata’s Dirty Banana cocktail.

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RumChata girls served the Dirty Banana cocktail.

The Dos Maderas’ Pineapple Smash didn’t make a big splash. The cocktail tasted watered down with hardly any rum.

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Dos Maderas’ Pineapple Smash cocktail.

The rum excursion continued with Bayou Rum. The Louisiana rum company presented its Gator Bite during the festival. This flavorful and perfectly blended cocktail contained its silver, spiced and satsuma rums mixed with pineapple, orange, cranberry and lime juices. If there was a rum concoction competition during the festival, then this drink would have won hands down. Create your own Gator Bite with Bayou Rum’s recipe.

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Bayou Rum’s Gator Bite cocktail.

Bacardi, one of the RumFest sponsors, had not one, but three cocktails this year. The options included the Coconut Colada, Limonade and Rum Punch. Dan and I sampled the Coconut Colada, which was a refreshing cocktail that urged me to hang out in a beach cabana. The ingredients included Bacardi coconut rum mixed with pineapple juice and served over ice.

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Barcardi’s Coconut Colada, Limonade and Rum Punch cocktails.

Captain Morgan has provided festivalgoers with unique cocktails in the past, but decided to keep it simple with just Captain and Coke this year.

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Captain Morgan’s Captain and Coke cocktail.

Country musician Kenny Chesney wanted to give back to his island adventures by launching Blue Chair Bay Rum five years ago. The Caribbean rum presented its Pineapple Paradise during the festival. The concoction was creamy like RumChata’s Dirty Banana, but didn’t make its mark since you couldn’t taste the pineapple or any other tropical ingredients. However, I was impressed that the rum company’s representatives provided attendees with mini Caribbean cocktail recipe books, so they can create their own drinks at home.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Pineapple Paradise cocktail.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Caribbean cocktail recipes.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Caribbean cocktail recipes.

Bounty Saint Lucia Rum’s Spirit of Saint Lucia and Don Q’s Pina Fizz cocktails were uber popular during the festival because both rum companies ran out of their mixtures before Dan and I could sample their cocktails.

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Bounty Saint Lucia Rum’s Spirit of Saint Lucia cocktail.

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Don Q’s Pina Fizz cocktail.

RumFest is a wonderful opportunity to sample new rum brands and cocktails and experience the Caribbean in the heart of downtown Orlando. The annual rum festival occurs in June or July, so add the event to your summer calendar next year.

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Lion’s Pride and Soccer are a Perfect Match By Sandra Carr

Gather your purple-pride posse before or after an Orlando City Soccer Club match and dine in style at the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill in downtown Orlando’s Church Street district.

I experienced a filling, five-course foodie feast served by attentive staff during the restaurant’s media tasting event last week. The sports-dining destination, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary in May, serves delicious and moderately-priced dishes created by executive chef Scott Phillips.

I was welcomed with a glass of bubbly and presented with the first course, featuring peppered tuna with sweet Thai chili sauce drizzled on top, avocado relish and cilantro lime slaw paired with a mini Blue Moon draft and fresh orange wedge. The sweetness complemented the fresh and healthy sides and beer sample, which is my favorite, go-to wheat beer.

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Peppered tuna with sweet Thai chili sauce, avocado relish and cilantro lime slaw.

The starter course continued and included two petite brisket soft tacos with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, queso blanco and chipotle aioli paired with a Samuel Adams Winter Lager. The small but mighty duo was delicious and coupled with the brew. The brisket was tender and blended well with the fresh ingredients. The mixture didn’t fall out of the soft taco shells, which was a plus.

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Two petite brisket soft tacos with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, queso blanco and chipotle aioli.

Round two featured a caprese salad with good-sized red and yellow vine-ripe tomato slices and round chunks of buffalo mozzarella garnished with basil oil and balsamic glaze and paired with a glass of Terra d’Oro 2015 blended Chenin Blanc. The elegant salad’s veggies were deliciously compatible with the rich, buffalo mozzarella and basil oil and balsamic glaze. The glass of wine complemented the flavors even more with each sip.

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Caprese salad paired with a glass of Terra d’Oro 2015 blended Chenin Blanc.

Next was a shrimp and lobster risotto with creamy Parmesan cheese and parsley sprinkles paired with a Lion’s Pride signature, hand-muddled lime margarita. This was the creamiest risotto I have ever eaten, and was my favorite dish during the tasting. The medium-sized shrimp and lobster pieces were mixed smoothly with the Parmesan cheese and gave comfort food a whole new meaning with its refreshing margarita counterpart. More, please!

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Shrimp and lobster risotto with creamy Parmesan cheese.

The fourth dish, a blue cheese filet with garlic boursin mash potatoes and red wine demi-glaze with two generous-sized asparagus and a carrot paired with a glass of Emmolo 2015 Merlot from the Napa Valley was a hearty meal. The medium-cooked, juicy and tender filet with melted blue cheese was oh so good! The fresh-out-of-the-garden vegetables and the dollop of garlic boursin mashed potatoes made the meal even more satisfying with the glass of Merlot.

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Blue cheese filet with garlic boursin mash potatoes, red wine demi-glaze, asparagus and carrot.

Two desserts provided a sweet ending to the tasting. The thick, chocolate mousse with whipped cream paired with a Lion’s Pride whiskey-based red sangria adorned with a fruit skewer balanced the rich and sweetness nicely. The Romeo and Juliet, a guava-filled Phyllo dough pastry with white cheese queso blanco, was complemented with a glass of passion fruit pureed champagne and took an edge off of the sweet journey. The Romeo and Juliet is ideal for folks who like a light baked good as a snack or after dinner.

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Chocolate mousse with whipped cream paired with a Lion’s Pride whiskey-based red sangria and the Romeo and Juliet complemented with a glass of passion fruit pureed champagne.

Phillips was a Tribeca neighborhood chef in New York City for many years. His goal was to create a menu with an array of selections for everyone’s taste.

“The menu features a variety of different kinds of cuisine,” he said. “I didn’t want to stick to a typical sports-bar food menu. I wanted it to be a bit upscale.”

Besides the menu, I was impressed with the building’s transformation. The restaurant was formerly Bliss Ultra Lounge and Phineas Phogg’s, which was renowned for its nickel beer every Wednesday night back in the day. The décor features a casual-style design with warm, natural tones and a comfy ambiance that makes you feel right at home while watching a soccer match on the pub’s flat-screen TVs. I’m happy to report that some of the original brick panels were saved during the renovation.

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Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill

On the second level, soccer fans can score a VIP experience with Church Street views, a gold-tone leather sectional sofa with a glass soccer ball-shaped coffee table, purple leather stadium seats, tables with purple chairs, a mural of the Orlando City Soccer Club’s mascot Kingston, a long bar with a marble top and a private party room.

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An upstairs wall features a mural of Orlando City Soccer Club’s mascot Kingston.

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I’m posing on the gold-tone leather sectional sofa on the second level of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

Soccer fans can hang out with a brew or cocktail while seated at tables that can accommodate large groups, be mesmerized by a vintage World Cup soccer ball collection and purchase Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride merchandise on the first floor.

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View a vintage World Cup soccer ball collection on the first floor of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

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Purchase Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride merchandise on the first level of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

Watch the Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride’s home or away soccer matches, World Cup soccer matches from June 14 through July 15, 2018 and any sporting event while chowing down at this lion’s lair.

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Actress Pam Grier Chats Candidly about her Career at Florida Film Festival By Sandra Carr

During her 50-year career, actress Pam Grier has portrayed powerful women and is the queen of 1970s blaxploitation films, including Coffy, Foxy Brown and Sheba, Baby.

Foxy Brown

Grier discussed her film career during a question-and-answer session with Rollins College history professor Julian Chambliss and fans after the Jackie Brown screening during the Florida Film Festival at the Enzian Theater.

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She portrayed the title character in the crime thriller Jackie Brown, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, which he wrote for Grier and is a love letter to her career. The film is about a sexy flight attendant who orchestrates a scheme to keep smuggled cash from an arms dealer. The movie pays homage to blaxploitation films and is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch.

Jackie Brown Movie Poster

When Grier first met Tarantino, she noticed his office walls were decorated with five framed posters of her films.

“These were original posters that are worth thousands of dollars,” she said. “It was humbling and made my heart race knowing that someone really liked my work. It was that moment of reality for someone who is an artist.”

Grier informed the audience that if you don’t rehearse, then you don’t get to work with Tarantino. She said she was always ready, knew her lines and credited her theater background for preparing her for the role. Grier also said she cooked meals for the cast and crew who sang and danced to tunes since Tarantino played music on the set.

Pam Grier and Quentin Tarantino

I had an opportunity to ask Grier about her chemistry with the film’s cast. She provided a hilarious assumption about Brown and Ordell Robbie’s past.

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“Quentin, why would this man (Robbie who was portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) walk into my apartment and turn out my lights? Did we have sex before? He feels like he can walk into my apartment and turn off the lights. Does he pay the power bill? Did we have a relationship before? I think we tried it one night and it didn’t work. We were awkward. I felt that. We became friends after that and we didn’t talk about him not being able to get it up. Maybe my nipples didn’t get hard. I don’t know! You all have been there before! I thought it was going to be hot, but it wasn’t. If we’re going to have sex, then don’t put a ring on your gotee! That’s going to hurt and cause blisters!”

Jackie Brown and Ordell Robbie

Grier also came up with the line “Booya! With a cherry on top!” during the scene where Brown leaves a shopping bag filled with cash underneath a fitting room door for Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) to pick up.

In the action film Above the Law, she portrayed Chicago Police Department narcotics detective Nico Toscani’s (Steven Seagal) friend and partner Delores ‘Jacks’ Jackson. Grier was diagnosed with cervical cancer the same year the film was released and is in remission.

Above the Law

She enjoyed filming Bad Grandmas with actress Florence Henderson. She said Henderson was very funny and didn’t act like she was in her 80s. The movie was Henderson’s last before she passed away in Nov. 2016.

Bad Grandmas

Grier also portrayed Lily in Rose, a film about a woman who finds love while soul searching throughout the southwest during her final days. The movie also stars Cybill Shepherd and James Brolin.

Rose

Besides films, Grier has appeared on TV sitcoms, including Miami Vice as Valerie Gordon, a New York Police Department detective who had an on-again, off-again relationship with Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) and The L Word as Kit Porter.

Miami Vice

The L Word2

She shared some funny anecdotes during her Q&A, including hanging out with John Lennon and Harry Nilsson during a Smothers Brothers concert at the Troubadour in Hollywood, Calif back in March of 1974. Lennon started singing a song and asked Grier if she knew it. The song was I Can’t Stand the Rain by Ann Peebles. Grier sang the song and Lennon hit the table like he was playing the drums. Lennon got everyone to sing while harmonizing and becoming intoxicated.

When the Smothers Brothers came on stage, Lennon thought they were boring and wanted to continue singing the song with Grier. The Troubadour’s manager asked him to be quiet. That didn’t last very long. He started singing again and the manager attempted to remove him by grabbing his collar and pulling him over the table. A fight broke out between Lennon, Nilsson and the manager. The group, including Grier, were tossed out of the club and sat on the curve while providing the Los Angeles Police Department with their accounts of the incident. Afterwards, Lennon sent Grier flowers and thanked her for not hitting him.

John Lennon Note

John Lennon’s apology letter to Pam Grier.

Grier was raped by two boys when she was 6 years old and again as a teenager. She said the incidences have affected her during her acting career. She recalled having a flashback of being raped when her and Thomas were filming a romantic scene for Miami Vice. She needed an hour to compose herself along with talking to Thomas about interacting with her differently during the scene.

She discussed her relationships with comedian Richard Pryor, actor Freddie Prinze and retired NFL basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and why they didn’t work out.

“These stars were reaching their pinnacle and becoming very powerful,” she said. “I was the target of possibly being their mate, wife and mother of their children. It was blocking my trajectory of being an independent woman. I didn’t want to thrive in their spotlight and lose my identity.  I loved them dearly, but I chose myself more and it was my time. I disbanded the relationships because I really wanted to be on my own.”

Pam Grier and Richard Pryor2

Pam Grier and Richard Pryor

Pam Grier and Freddie Prinze

Pam Grier and Freddie Prinze

Pam Grier and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Pam Grier and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Grier talked about Pryor and shared a humorous and almost tragic moment that occurred with the stand-up comic’s miniature horse.

“Richard’s dogs attacked his miniature horse Ginger, which was a gift from Burt Sugarman and the name is based on the Mudbone folklore (Mudbone was a recurring character in Richard Pryor’s stand-up comedy act),” she said. “I put the miniature horse in the back of my four-door Jaguar and we took it to the vet. We’re rolling down the 405 with the miniature horse’s head hanging out the window and Richard is in his bathrobe crying about what happened. We saved the miniature horse’s life and got it home. Richard then found out that I loved horses and thought he could lure me with horses. I knew if the miniature horse had died, then he would have fallen off of the wagon. Richard’s wife Jennifer Lee said in his Showtime documentary that I was the one person who had a positive effect on his life. I realized that he would fall and I didn’t want him to take me down with him. I’m a great nurse and caregiver, but you have to meet me half way. I can only carry you so far before my back breaks.”

Pam Grier and Richard Pryor3

Pam Grier and Richard Pryor

Her grandfather Daddy Ray was the first feminist in her life and taught her how to hunt, fish and shoot guns. She brought those experiences with her while portraying different characters throughout her acting career.

Grier also said young people introduce her to their dads and uncles. The men ask her if she shoots all of the guns in her movies. Grier lets them know that she has a gun collection, including hunting rifles from her grandfather, a gun that Steven Seagal gave her after filming Above the Law and another gun from Miami Vice.

She’s comical in her response to the men’s inquiries about her firearms.

“Their eyes get big and I tell them not to worry about my guns,” she said. “You just need to worry about my Sears Craftsman chainsaw! If I smell cologne or see lipstick when you come in, then you’re in trouble!”

Coffy

Pam Grier portrays Coffy.

She published her memoir Foxy: My Life in Three Acts eight years ago. Grier said a biopic is in the works for her story to appear on the big screen. Actor and former Saturday Night Live cast member Jay Pharoah has been selected to portray Pryor in the film so far.

Pam Grier's Book

Grier provided film students with advice and emphasized to the audience that we’re all brands.

“I started creating a brand by showing different types of women and not just the sexy and pretty ones,” she said. “I don’t want to fall behind the comfort. I want to be the antagonist and crazy person. There are so many roles that I want to do. I want to play my age, but a lot of it isn’t seen. Film festivals and schools are inspiring all of these new narratives and stories. The inspiration is during the film festivals across the country because they keep developing and sustaining the brands of the actors, producers and directors.”

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Learn more about Grier’s career on imdb.com.

 

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