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It's not like throwing tofu in stir-fries or over noodles is exactly ground-breaking in these parts. Asian restaurants abound in soy offerings, and one of the tastiest tofu dishes in town comes from the long-standing Anh Hong, at the crossroads of Mills Avenue and Colonial Drive. (Parking is around back, so don't be thrown off by the busy intersection.) Just say, "No. 146," to jump into "fried tofu stir fried with lemongrass and chili" ($7.95). The peppery batter flavors up the curd and makes for a satisfying bite once you spear a chunk amidst the lemongrass, red chilis, celery, onions and snow peas, all mixed in a sesame-oil-tinged sauce.

The thing that'll take the longest is making your way through the eight-panel takeout menu, which offers the subheadings "squid" and "family dishes." Good news for vegetarians: There are 21 choices under "vegetables" ($7.95-$9.95) making use of noodles, vegetables, rice cakes, rice crepes and eggs.

Subs ($2.50-$5.50) are another cheap staple, with crisp cucumbers, carrots and cilantro added to Vietnamese deli-style meats (bologna and ham), beef stew, grilled pork, beef, chicken or tofu loaded on "French sub" bread. My recent snacking on a bologna sub found the meat to be a bit of a mystery but OK when crunched along with the greenery and the fresh roll.

Smoothies ($3) are another sure bet at Anh Hong. Mango, strawberry and banana are familiar flavors, along with the more exotic jackfruit, sour sop, sapota and durian (the super-stinky tropical fruit). Experiment if you feel daring, but some fruits, like durian, are an acquired (blech) taste. Add an order of summer rolls (two for $2.50) for a fast takeout lunch.

The real mystery is what's in the refrigerator case. Neon-colorful cups of gelatins mixed with unrecognizable fruits mingle with strange plastic-wrapped sandwiches and rice blobs; the baffling descriptions on the labels render the contents lost in translation – sample if you dare.

Picking up sushi for dinner on the way home from work is a fairly daunting proposition in that it usually means stopping by the Japanese deli case near the produce section at your local grocery store. The convenience is nice, but the sushi – while tolerable and far better than a delivery pizza – leaves something to be desired (especially the weird, plastic-looking tuna). If you're one of the approximately 80 billion people who uses East Colonial Drive for the daily trip home, you've no doubt noticed the poster-sized photo of the scrumptious-looking "Sky Tray" of sushi that graces the window of Bikkuri Sushi and wondered: Wouldn't that be great for dinner?

Although there is limited seating inside Bikkuri, the restaurant's specialty is takeout, as the menu is almost completely composed of takeout trays. From the Rose Party (32 pieces, all rolls; $13.29) to the African Violet (80 pieces of rolls, 10 nigiri sushi; $46.59), a variety of sizes and combinations is available and all of them are, surprisingly enough, priced more reasonably than the stuff in the grocery store.

The 72 pieces (and $50 price tag) of the Sky Tray might be a little much for a typical after-work meal, but I had friends coming over and figured it would be a good opportunity to sample Bikkuri's skills. Still, none of us expected Bikkuri's fare to be as fresh as it was. Some of the nigiri wasn't cut to perfection (a tiny piece of bone showed up in some yellowtail), but the fish was excellent and well-chosen, and the rolls were beautiful and bursting with flavor.

It would have been unimaginable a few years ago to think about picking up sushi as easily as picking up a pizza, much less FRESH sushi, but Bikkuri's tray combinations make it easy, and their excellent sushi makes it a pleasure.

Given the seemingly unambiguous moniker of Boston Bakery & Café, one would expect to find display cases filled with mouthwatering cream pies, cupcakes, whoopee pies, molasses-sweetened brown bread and, perhaps, the odd patron or two downing frothy glass mugs of Irish coffee. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Instead, this simple café on the fringes of Little Saigon is primarily a Vietnamese restaurant, and lies smack dab in the middle of what I like to call the CoFer District (Colonial Drive and Ferncreek Avenue).

Further digging revealed that the name isn't so cryptic after all. Owners Tony and Yolanda Vu ran a restaurant in the Boston suburb of Quincy before swapping nor'easters for sweltering zephyrs a year ago. The couple shares kitchen and cooking responsibilities, but it's Yolanda who handles the baking duties.

A large cake display case sits at the core of the square space, but upon entering, neither 'bakery� nor 'café� are descriptors that immediately leap to mind. In fact, the baby blue'colored walls and children milling about makes it feel more like a nursery or after-school daycare. Even so, I did glimpse a few baguettes resting on sheet pans behind the counter, undoubtedly prepared for one of their many banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches (ask for a side of their homemade butter if ordering one).

But the purpose of this assignment was to spotlight confections, not comestibles, and with Halloween looming, focusing on a place where those of us over the age of 13 could go and satisfy our sweet tooths seemed imperative. So, off to the display case I went in search of treats but, I have to say, I felt slightly tricked after perusing the offerings. Most were cake rolls, birthday cakes and Napoleons that weren't offered by the slice; and there was nary a tart, pie, turnover or éclair in sight.

Evidently, they were all sold out of personal-sized cakes, but a small, oval-shaped 'cheese cakeâ?� ($2) stared back at me, which I promptly ordered and devoured in four bites. Now this isn't your Cheesecake Factory brand of cheesecake; it's more like pound cake with a layer of soft cream cheese in the center, and rather delicious.

Pre-packaged cakes made by a friend of the owner are also available, but the plastic wrapping is a total buzz kill.

Still craving cake and cake-like products, I got myself a chocolate cake roll ($8), which resembled a log made of sponge. Light and airy with a hint of coffee flavoring, the roll embodied a minimalist ideal in both look and taste. I took it home and enjoyed it deeply with a dollop of double Devonshire cream. Simple, unaffected, not too sweet, but far from orgasmic.

The menu board beckoned to 'experience the slush magicâ?� so, on this particular visit, my accompanying beverage of choice was a perfectly tangy and refreshing passionfruit slushie ($3.50). Other flavors, ranging from mint-chocolate to watermelon, are also offered, each with the option to add chewy 'pearls,â?� or tapioca balls, to the mix for an additional 40 cents. Those rubbery orbs are often found dotting the bottoms of plastic cups filled with milk tea, thus the terms 'bubble tea,â?� 'pearl teaâ?� and 'boba tea.â?� The drink, hugely popular in cities with large Asian populations, was as trendy as Starbucks' lattes among high school and college students when I was growing up in Toronto, and it seems to have a burgeoning following here in Orlando. I enjoyed the sugary Thai bubble tea ($3) until the tapioca balls got stuck in my straw. Neophytes, take heed: When you're offered a straw from the decanter, be sure to choose one wide enough to suck up the balls. Uhh, yeah.

If sipping bubble tea through a broad, colorful straw seems too emasculating an act, might I suggest the red bean tea ($3.50), sans tapioca. The proteined potable (the sole nod to their Beantown roots) features red bean (or azuki) powder, producing a smoky slurp akin to liquid barbecue.

Vietnamese coffee ($2), meticulously prepared in a press pot by blending a chicory-flavored French roast with Vietnamese arabica and robusta grounds, will definitely turn your crank. Served in a small glass, the coffee is at once ridiculously strong, syrupy-sweet and glacially creamy thanks to the addition of sweetened condensed milk. Amusing side note: The brand of the chicory-flavored coffee, Café Demonte, is a blatant rip-off of Café du Monde and even comes in a can that looks remarkably similar to the one the venerable Big Easy coffeehouse produces.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in this bakery, especially when, on a return visit, the display case was, once again, devoid of individually portioned baked goods. Pissa! If sweet treats are what you crave this Halloween, avoid being tricked and take your chances at the Publix across the street.

Colonialtown’s Chuan Lu Garden employs plenty of fiery stimulants in their authentic, real-deal Sichuan fare. Must-try dishes: cumin lamb, laced with aromatic and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, and Lanzhou-style beef soup with hand-pulled noodles.

More than 30 organic loose-leaf teas are offered at this socially conscious teahouse that's become a gathering ground for nonconformists, neo-cons and everyone in between. A predominantly vegan menu of wraps, salads and an outstandingly hearty chili will satisfy even the most ravenous of carnivores. Start with hummus with hemp seeds, and finish with the fluffernutter sandwich - a sweet proposition.


Teaser: More than 30 organic loose-leaf teas are offered at this socially conscious teahouse that's become a gathering ground for nonconformists, neo-cons and everyone in between. A predominantly vegan menu of wraps, salads and an outstandingly hearty chili will satisfy even the most ravenous of carnivores. Start with hummus with hemp seeds, and finish with the fluffernutter sandwich ' a sweet proposition.
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