Orlando-Area Resort Celebrates America’s First Thanksgiving – In Florida

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Historians are in a bit of disagreement about the time and place of America's first Thanksgiving meal. Two possible scenarios are in the Sunshine State, placing America's first Thanksgiving dinner in Florida long before the Pilgrim's landed in New England. Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. is celebrating the Florida Thanksgiving with special meals and other holiday activities.

While New Englanders boast about their ancestor’s role in the first American Thanksgiving, visitors to Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida are tossing out this traditional story in favor of a new version of history.

“The history books don’t agree on the location or date of America’s first Thanksgiving,” said Keith Salwoski, public relations manager. “In 1565, settlers of the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Fla. shared a meal with the Timucuan Indians. In our eyes, Thanksgiving was born.”

This revised version of history is shared by some historians who point out that St. Augustine had a thriving city for three generations before the Pilgrims ever arrived in The New Word. One such historian is Dr. Michael Gannon, a history professor at the University of Florida, who detailed the first Thanksgiving in his book 'The Cross in the Sand.' Other historians contend that another "first Thanksgiving" was held a year earlier in 1564, when French Huguenot colonists celebrated in a settlement near Jacksonville, Florida.

Regardless of its initial location, visitors who choose to make a “pilgrimage” to the state of the first Thanksgiving feast will find a host of special activities throughout Orlando. As part of the Gaylord Palms Resort “Best of Florida LIVE!” program, diners at will receive special menus that commemorate the Floridian Thanksgiving celebration.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Villa de Flora

This "European market" will feature chefs stationed at six kitchens, featuring a seasonal market-inspired menu of more than 100 items.

Indeed, Thanksgiving Brunch at Villa de Flora is an all-day feast. The kitchens will feature antipasto, Mediterranean salads, Brunch entrees, carved meats, “kiddie korner,” and the Dolceria, featuring hand-made holiday desserts.

Morning highlights include traditional Eggs Benedict; fresh Belgian waffles and omelets made to order; and apple crepes with “drunken” dark cherries & roasted pecans.

Afternoon menu additions include spanakopita salmon with broiled tomatoes & cucumber salsa; pork tamales with pineapple & green tomato salsa; and a holiday risotto bar.

Traditional Thanksgiving favorites include a sage-rubbed roasted turkey breast, sage stuffing, oyster stuffing with pancetta bacon, buttermilk mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and oven-hot cornbread.

The Dolceria will include a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, traditional pumpkin pie, pecan tartlets, house-made Tiramisu, baklava, caramel flan, tres leches, blueberry amaretto cheesecake, warm rice pudding, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Villa de Flora will be served from noon until 10 p.m. Prices are $38 per person (plus tax and gratuity) for adults, and $19 (plus tax and gratuity) for children ages 3-12. Brunch at Villa de Flora, named top brunches in the state by readers of Florida Monthly, historically sells out early. For reservation, call 407-586-1114.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Old Hickory Steakhouse

Set among a dramatic indoor Everglades landscape, Old Hickory Steakhouse presents a new holiday tradition at Gaylord Palms, featuring an upscale menu of Thanksgiving favorites. The new holiday experience will include menu items served from stations, as well as made-to-order selections from Chef Guy Reinbolt and his staff.

The highlight of the meal will be a traditional roasted turkey breast with corn meal stuffing and holiday side dishes. Other specialties will include authentic New Orleans jambalaya, and Maryland blue point oysters served on the half shell.

For the breakfast minded, diners can choose from a selection of gourmet omelets, Applewood smoked bacon, handcrafted herb pork and chicken sausages, assorted canapés, fresh seasonal fruit, muesli cereal, and French breakfast pastry.

A selection of 10 soups and salads will be served, including Yukon potatoes and watercress salad, a vine-ripe tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, and creamy lobster bisque with sherry and fire-roasted shrimp.

Diners are invited to step into the Old Hickory kitchen, where the chefs will personally prepare sautéed wild mushroom crusted ostrich medallion with coconut milk polenta; pan-seared beef medallion and foie gras with a parmentier potato and Swiss chard; stuffed jumbo shrimp with crabmeat, tomato confit and basil beurre blanc; oven-baked Florida red snapper with a corn sabayon and fried leeks; and traditional Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce and potato gratin.

In addition, meal choices include a variety of smoked fish, artisanal cheeses, European meats and charcuteries, and caviar with its traditional accoutrements.

For those with a sweet tooth, the restaurant will feature a soufflé made with chocolate and Grand Mariner, a secret of Chef Guy’s grandmother from Alsace, France. In addition, a selection of fresh holiday pies, truffles and cakes will be served.

Holiday diners can begin their meal with premium Bloody Mary and Mimosa drinks, fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice and French-press dark roast coffee.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Old Hickory Steakhouse will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Prices are $59 per person (plus tax and gratuity). For reservation, call 407-586-1600.

Other Thanksgiving weekend activities at Gaylord Palms Resort include:

-- Best of Florida Christmas : A holiday wonderland with fun-filled Christmas activities and entertainment for the family, including special attractions, ice skating, live stage shows, and holiday decor!

-- ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort : A walk-through attraction hand carved from nearly two million pounds of ice (presented by Walgreen’s). Special ticket required.

-- Hidden Holiday Gnome Hunt: Families can hunt throughout the Gaylord Palms atriums to spot cleverly hidden gnomes (presented by Travelocity).

-- Visits with Santa Claus: Kids can take an opportunity to share their special Christmas wishes with Santa Claus…in person, or via email.

For more information about Best of Florida Christmas or ICE!, visit http://www.gaylordpalms.com/christmas.

A new website, ChristmasInOrlando.com, offers a “one-stop shop” for information about special events, theme park activities, shopping, and worship. The site is presented by Gaylord Palms Resort, the “headquarters” of the holiday season in Central Florida.

About Gaylord Palms Resort

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center has gained the attention of the meeting and convention industry by providing world-class convention and leisure-focused amenities – all in one place. The award-winning Gaylord Palms is a Gaylord Hotels-branded property owned by Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET), a leading hospitality and entertainment company based in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit http://www.gaylordpalms.com or http://www.gaylordentertainment.com.

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