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    The last time I had breakfast at Heathrow, I was hurriedly downing steak and eggs in the airport's food court before a connecting flight to Cairo, Egypt, an act I considered quite brazen considering it was during the height of Britain's mad cow frenzy. But for the ensuing seven-odd hours, the two proteins waged an intestinal terror campaign at 36,000 feet. Needless to say, the terms 'breakfastâ?� and 'Heathrowâ?� hold a not-so-special place inside me, so when the opportunity arose to experience breakfast in Heathrow (Florida, not London), I could hear the psychosomatic rumblings.

    Furthermore, driving out to a suburban outpost for an omelet and a stack of pancakes seemed like a flight of fancy, but when I found myself being calmed by the café's bucolic lakeside view, a craving for, of all things, steak and eggs ultimately materialized. Given this was Saturday morning, satisfying that craving necessitated a 20-minute wait but, unlike the fare at the airport food court, it was well worth it. Besides, complimentary coffee in their anteroom served to stimulate the appetite while I waited.

    Everything ' from the big windows and lemon-colored walls to the clinking cutlery of diners seated in comfy high-backed booths ' plays up the café's rise-and-shine splendor. Quite a few starved souls even braved the heat by dining al fresco in the spacious covered patio, a scene I took in while sipping on peach tea ($2.75), one of only two items on the menu with the fuzzy fruit as an ingredient.

    I soaked the trio of fluffy Frisbee-sized buttermilk pancakes ($5.25) in ersatz syrup (Aunt Jemima, my waitress confided), but even that sugary goop couldn't ruin these monster hotcakes, which were neither rubbery, spongy nor dense. Why diners can't enjoy them with real maple syrup is beyond me. At the very least, breakfast joints should offer the real deal as an upgrade.

    French toast ($5.25) was a disappointment. The menu read 'six pieces of Texas toast dipped in our homemade batter,â?� but the triangular slabs were Colorado-thin, not Texas-thick, and nowhere near eggy enough. The cheese omelet ($6.29), loaded with melted cheddar, kept it simple, but breakfast potatoes, crisped on the outside and thoroughly cooked inside, were indisputably divine, maybe the best in town. The buttermilk drop biscuit was a delicate and flaky puck best enjoyed with the thick and meaty sausage gravy ($4.50), but it was the Philly steak'and'eggs Benedict croissant ($8.39) that really impressed. Perfectly poached eggs sat inside a buttery crescent roll along with juicy slivers of grilled beef, the lemony hollandaise sauce meshing well with the sweetness of onion and red bell peppers. A side of potatoes and a cup of fresh fruit rounded out the platter.

    Peach Valley Café is open daily until 2:30 p.m. (3:30 on weekends), and also serves an assortment of soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers and wraps. The menu's sweeter side pushes their sugary apple fritters ($3.50), but I opted for the subtler peaches and cream muffin ($2.10), most of which I enjoyed with a cup of coffee later in the day.

    The café, owned by the same folks who brought you the Stonewood Grill & Tavern, is everything a brekkie joint should be and more. But until early risers in Orange County catch wind of the place the way their Seminole County counterparts have, Peach Valley Café will continue frying under the radar.

    When you grow up in an Italian family, dining out rarely means Italian food. Why go to a restaurant if Mom makes it better at home? The sole exception for us were occasional visits to a nearby family-owned joint. Besides an acceptably rich marinara, it offered more entrees than Mom's recipe file, semiformal waiters and an unintendedly kitschy dining room boasting the aggressive bad taste second-generation 65-year-olds find comforting. ("Look, hon, these plastic flowers never need watering!") Perhaps this is why dining at Peppino's feels like so familiar to me.

    Located waaaaay out east in Oviedo (two miles north of University, at 434 and Carigan), Peppino's had been around for 13 years, though it looks sprung from Astoria, Queens, circa 1972. There's is nothing remotely trendy within these walls or on the menu. But if you want traditional Italian fare in a place that your parents -- or at least my parents -- would love, Peppino's fills the ticket nicely.

    Located waaaaay out east in Oviedo (two miles north of University, at 434 and Carigan), Peppino's had been around for 13 years, though it looks sprung from Astoria, Queens, circa 1972. There's is nothing remotely trendy within these walls or on the menu. But if you want traditional Italian fare in a place that your parents -- or at least my parents -- would love, Peppino's fills the ticket nicely.

    For a recent dinner, a friend and I started with two appetizers, "escargot cognac" ($6.50) and "zuppa di mussels" ($6.95). The escargot, sautéed in a butter/garlic sauce and served in mushroom caps, were only average. The sauce and the texture of the mushrooms overwhelmed the escargot. On the other hand, the mussels, served on the half-shell, were plump and tasty, kicked up nicely by a spicy marinara sauce.

    For a recent dinner, a friend and I started with two appetizers, "escargot cognac" ($6.50) and "zuppa di mussels" ($6.95). The escargot, sautéed in a butter/garlic sauce and served in mushroom caps, were only average. The sauce and the texture of the mushrooms overwhelmed the escargot. On the other hand, the mussels, served on the half-shell, were plump and tasty, kicked up nicely by a spicy marinara sauce.

    For a second appetizer, we opted for a small "pizza primavera" ($7.95), topped with sausage, onions, mushrooms and sliced tomatoes. The crust was perfect, crisp on the bottom and substantial without being doughy, and the toppings were so fresh they made your mouth tingle (especially the sausage). This pizza was the surprise hit of the evening.

    For a second appetizer, we opted for a small "pizza primavera" ($7.95), topped with sausage, onions, mushrooms and sliced tomatoes. The crust was perfect, crisp on the bottom and substantial without being doughy, and the toppings were so fresh they made your mouth tingle (especially the sausage). This pizza was the surprise hit of the evening.

    For entrees, my friend ordered the "shrimp and scallop bianca" ($15.95), while I called for the "chicken a la Maria" ($13.95). Both were excellent, but the chicken was a clear winner on both our cards. The bianca, served over linguine, offered a delectable white-wine-and-butter sauce and robust scallops, but the shrimp were a tad overcooked and rubbery. On a different night, this would have been fantastic, but during our visit it was merely good.

    For entrees, my friend ordered the "shrimp and scallop bianca" ($15.95), while I called for the "chicken a la Maria" ($13.95). Both were excellent, but the chicken was a clear winner on both our cards. The bianca, served over linguine, offered a delectable white-wine-and-butter sauce and robust scallops, but the shrimp were a tad overcooked and rubbery. On a different night, this would have been fantastic, but during our visit it was merely good.

    The chicken, wisely recommended by our excellent waiter, was a huge portion of rolled chicken breast cut in four pieces and stuffed with spinach, cheese and spices and served in a hearty "pink" sauce. (It looked more light brown to me, but maybe that was the lighting.) Coated with a thin (perhaps egg?) batter, the meat was succulent and moist without a hint of greasiness.

    The chicken, wisely recommended by our excellent waiter, was a huge portion of rolled chicken breast cut in four pieces and stuffed with spinach, cheese and spices and served in a hearty "pink" sauce. (It looked more light brown to me, but maybe that was the lighting.) Coated with a thin (perhaps egg?) batter, the meat was succulent and moist without a hint of greasiness.

    One tip for dining at Peppino's: Trust your waiter's recommendations. We noticed that everything he suggested was excellent, or turned out to be excellent when it was served to another table after we chose something else. If you do that -- and order a pizza -- you'll immensely enjoy this Oviedo tradition.

    Designated shopping-cart drivers, anyone? Don't laugh. On Saturdays at Petty's Specialty Foods and Meats in Longwood shoppers can pour themselves a beer at a free keg. But place the blame for the jammed aisles on the 60-foot-long deli counter filled with international meats, cheeses and entrees-to-go.

    There's a huge selection of hard-to-find items, from fiery mango chutneys to obscure brands of olive oil. And you can taste-sample any deli item before buying. On a typical day there are about 75 dinner combos, from stuffed pork chops to chicken with Chihuahua cheese. A lot of items check in at $4.59 per pound, but you can go all the way up to $11.99 per pound for filet mignon. Petty's also packs a deluxe picnic basket with ingredients of your choice for about $50.

    Comfort food: Every cuisine has it. Whether it's American macaroni and cheese, English trifle or French cassoulet, comfort foods share certain basic qualities – lots of carbohydrates, a lack of challenging texture or spices, and a comforting reminder of childhood. And on those terms, Pilin is a total success.

    American "Thai" food is undoubtedly different from what you might eat in Thailand. The dishes on the menu at Pilin (and most Thai restaurants) would probably seem as foreign to a Bangkok native as your neighborhood Chinese restaurant's kung pao chicken would to a diner in Beijing. But as Thai overtakes Chinese as the ethnic cuisine of choice, those "Thai" dishes are becoming just as codified: phad Thai, tom kha gai soup, Panang curry; all are as familiar as moo goo gai pan these days. For some of us, a steaming coconut-scented bowl of tom kha gai is just as comforting as Mom's chicken soup.

    After some aimless driving and a U-turn, we finally found the place (it's in a strip mall on the north side of the street, near the intersection of 436 and 434). A mirrored back wall augments the wide-open feel; there weren't many people seated in the room, but there was a booming takeout trade. We sat near the front, and there was a steady in-and-out of locals picking up brown paper bags. Service was very friendly, somewhat hampered by the fact that our waitress didn't speak much English – and seemed to be baby-sitting her very young sister and providing service to every table. Still, she was quite attentive and tried her best to answer questions.

    We started with a selection of appetizers. The chicken satay was juicy and lightly seasoned with turmeric, accompanied with a mild peanut sauce; the tom kha gai was creamy, packed with chicken and straw mushrooms; so far, exactly what you expect from your neighborhood Thai place. But we were thrilled to see green papaya salad on the menu. It was referenced as "Thailand's most favorite salad," yet it's inexplicably rare at Thai restaurants around Orlando. We took a flyer on "tofu todd," fried bean curd served with a weak vinegar/sugar dipping sauce and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. And it's a good thing we did – our pal Todd was utterly bland ("useless" was the general sentiment), but that blandness complemented the papaya salad, the cool crunchy strands of which were lip-tinglingly spicy.

    Now here's where the comfort-food aspect of the evening started to become apparent. The massaman curry – chicken, pork, beef or tofu with potatoes, onions and a mild peanut-coconut sauce – was as soothingly creamy and bland as any 5-year-old could wish for. I mean that in the best possible way. This is the dish to order on those days when you crawl home after an exhausting day at work or when you're looking for culinary consolation. The potatoes were tender; the onions almost melting, all sharpness simmered away; the curry was velvety-smooth. A little boring, but heavenly.

    Our other entrée, the phad lad na, was also addictive, though somewhat spunkier: wide, silky noodles and crunchy-crisp broccoli swimming in a wine-scented broth. The menu advised that it was "recommended to mix with vinegar chili pickles and chili powder," and they brought out a pretty, green china tray of condiments: chilis pickled in vinegar, dried chili seeds, chopped peanuts and chili paste. Delicious as the dish was without it, the enhancements gave a nice kick to stir us out of our massaman stupor.

    In the interests of thorough research, we decided to try dessert. I'm not much of a dessert fan, but we ordered the sweet sticky rice with mango, and it was the high point of the meal. A small slab of chewy rice was lapped in sweet, thick coconut milk, contrasting with slices of ripe, peppery mango. Lush yet zingy, it was as though the two halves of our comfort-food equation came together.

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