Monday, September 12, 2016

1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora

This past weekend I attended a chef's dinner with Norman Van Aken at his new restaurant in Mount Dora. It's affiliated with the Modernism Museum across the street, with art and decor from the museum creating intimate, unique spaces throughout. Van Aken is a James Beard award winning chef who's considered the father of modern Florida cuisine. He chose Mount Dora for its historic charm and proximity to the finest farms in the state, creating what he considers to be the ultimate in Florida farm to table cuisine, and having experienced several dishes from his repertoire, I have to agree.

The evening began promisingly, with the most delicious sangria I have ever experienced. 1921's sangria is on tap, and is made with effervescent Rose Vinho Verde, peach brandy, and lemon. Light and sparkling, the flavors meld perfectly. The bartender is a veteran of Winter Park's The Ravenous Pig, and he created a version of their famed Gin and Jam, with house-made Bing cherry jam, lemon, lime, and honey syrup.
 Flounder ceviche in passionfruit juice with torched sweet potato. Light and flavorful.
New to the menu this evening was Chef Van Aken's version of a potsticker dumpling, with Florida spiny lobster and rock shrimp in country ham dashi with shiitake and lobster mushrooms.

Roasted Florida red snapper in coconut curry with conch fritters, charred pineapple, and Seminole pumpkin. I'd never tried Seminole pumpkin before, and it was the biggest surprise of the evening- a delicious smooth flavor and crisp yet creamy texture. 

Wood grilled dry aged New York strip with crispy shallots, and a creamy potato and cauliflower casserole.

Florida wreckfish, which is like grouper but even more sweet and tender, with pesto-vegetable gnocchi and corn relish. The roasted tomato was mind-blowingly perfect, from Tina's Pride in south Florida. The produce and fish are delivered daily, the chefs even know the name of the boats where the fish were caught the day before. Freshness and quality of ingredients make each dish outstanding.

Korea Town fried cornish hen in a crisp batter with a delicately spicy/sweet glaze.
And for dessert, a semifreddo: Georgia peach shortcake with peach custard, brown sugar crumble, peach jam and whipped cream. Perfection!

1921 by Norman Van Aken

142 E. 4th Ave., Mt Dora, FL 32751

 (352) 385-1921

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pizza Bruno

My friend Bruno finally opened his own place. I've enjoyed his cooking at many other venues in town and have long awaited him opening his own place.

Everything was great, generous portions, tasty food, cool atmosphere, good music, friendly staff.


Charcuterie platter with Prosciutto, Soppressata, house giardiniera, Pecorino with local honey. Huge portion, could feed a small family with just this platter, but save room for the pizza!

Huge Garlic knots

 Kale salad with cheese and caramelized pecans, golden raisins, emperors dressing, Pecorino cheese

Meatballs with Ricotta and sauce, very generous portion and excellent flavor.

Blanca Pizza - fresh aged mozzarella, lemon ricotta, garlic, rosemary, arugula, pecorino cheese.

 Crimson Ghost Pizza - chilies, hot Soppressata, fresh mozzarella, basil, honey

3990 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 440-3894

5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
4:00 pm - 9:00 pm

 Also check out some photos from their grand opening:


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Blu on the Avenue

Here are some pics from a recent meal at Blu on the Avenue in Winter Park.

 Kale Salad, was good, the red onions were a bit strong and dominated the flavor. The goat cheese was good, I wish there was more cheese though. The pecans were nice.

 Salmon with Farro. The Farro was very mild but a nice complement to the Salmon which was rich and sweet and had a great crisp crust on the bottom. I never could figure out what that green stuff on the side was, it didn't have any flavor. I'd get this again but $28 the price is a bit high.

These were what we got when we ordered roasted vegetables, they weren't bad. 

Lobster Grilled cheese, nice crust on the bread, there was a good amount of lobster but the cheese they chose didn't complement it well.

Overall I like Blu on the avenue a lot but if you go on the weekends expect it to be very loud and crowded. They also have a lot of creative dishes and sushi.

326 S Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789

(407) 960-3778

Blu on the Avenue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Florida Film Festival 2016

The Florida Film Festival will be held Friday April 8th-Sunday April 17th at the Enzian theater in Maitland. They have a number of great events with some spectacular food, chefs and restaurants involved. They also are showing a few food related movies.

The highlight for food lovers is the opening night party.

Opening Night Party:

Participating Restaurants:  K Restaurant, Market on South, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, ShishCo Mezze & Grill, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Jillycakes Orlando, Yogurtland, Mediterranean Blue, and 4Rivers

Participating Bars: Eden Bar, Hourglass Brewery, Tito’s Vodka, Terrapin Beer Company, Rogue Pub, Swamphead Brewery, Stacole Wines, Nespresso, Central 28 Beer, Copper Rocket Pub, and Diageo

Then a few days later there will be a Local Food event and a Farmer's Market afterwards:

Locally Fresh!
Sunday, April 10

Farmers Market
NOON- 2:30PM

Feed all your senses! Central Florida farmers and food purveyors partner-up with local filmmakers at this utterly unique (and mouth-watering) event—a festival favorite! Filmmakers dig into the stock and trade of what makes Central Florida delicious. Watch their documentaries accompanied by cooking demonstrations and sumptuous samples. A feast for the eyes… and the taste buds. After Locally Fresh! the lawn at Eden Bar transforms into a Farmers Market, filled with local products fresh from the field. Get to know Central Florida’s finest famers and vendors… and don’t miss this delicious opportunity to take some local goodies home for your own feast.
Live music during the Locally Fresh! Farmers Market provided by Performing Arts of Maitland.


Here are a few of the movies that are food related:

SEED: The Untold Story

  • Directed by: Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz
  • USA, 2016, 93 minutes
  • In English
  • Southeast premiere/2nd US showing
  • Sun, April 10th 2:15PM - 3:45PM Regal Winter Park Village B
“Seed is not just the source of life. It is the very foundation of our being.” --Vandana Shiva.
In the last 100 years, 94% of our seed varieties have vanished. Facing this alarming decline, filmmakers Siegel and Betz (The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Queen of the Sun) take us on a fascinating, artful exploration of seeds. You will meet captivating, crazy, colorful people who are true crusaders for maintaining seed varieties facing extinction. They are pitted in a David-and-Goliath battle with industrial seed companies. (Monsanto, anyone?) You will journey into astonishing seed banks; you will visit the Hopi Nation—“The People of the Corn”; you will see the devastating effects of seed test plots in verdant Hawaii; and you will learn the dramatic story of seeds, the basis of life on earth. Along with the filmmakers, executive producers Marisa Tomei and Marc Turtletaub are on a mission in this inspiring work.

King Georges
  • Directed by: Erika Frankel
  • USA, 2015, 77 minutes
  • In English
  • Rated Unrated
  • Sat, April 9th 2:15PM - 3:35PM Regal Winter Park Village A
The legendary French restaurants in America, including La Côte Basque, La Caravelle, and Lutèce, had closed by 2010. Yet after 40 years, one of the great ones remained in Philadelphia. At the heart of Le Bec-Fin is the mercurial chef-owner Georges Perrier, a 67-year-old native of Lyon and one of the best chefs of his time. Filmmaker Erika Frankel captures the iconic restaurant and its famous chef, with an intimate look at Perrier, his kitchen, and his dining room in their final years. Battling to make Le Bec-Fin more relevant, Georges partners with Top Chef-winner Nicholas Elmi, but he cannot hand over control. The end of an era approaches. KING GEORGES is a fight-to-the-finish tale of a great French chef/maestro and a style of dining no longer found in America. Interviews with three of this generation’s culinary masters—Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Éric Ripert—provide perspective and pay homage to a true lion in winter.  

 Bacon & God’s Wrath

  • Directed by: Sol Friedman
  • CANADA, 2015, 9 minutes
  • In English
  • Florida premiere
  • Rated Unrated
Captivated by the Internet and “the Google,” Razie—a feisty, kosher nonagenarian—expands her mind and her gastronomic pleasure in this live-action/animation hybrid from the director of last year’s brilliant take on Noah’s Ark, “Day 40” (FFF 2015). Winner of the Short Film Grand Jury Award for Non-Fiction at Sundance 2016.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Market on South

Recently visited market on south for a meal with some friends. It's a new vegetarian restaurant/market which is a mash up of 3 unique companies.

Market On South Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tapa Toro

Tapa Toro is located in the Orlando Eye 360 complex near that giant ferris wheel on International Drive. As the name might hint they are a Spanish Tapas restaurant, featuring paella and tapas style dishes inspired by the cuisine of Spain with their own unique twists.

In addition to the great food they have a nice bar and outdoor patio atmosphere and Flamenco dancers that dance through the dining room at regular intervals. Tapa Toro serves a nice selection of wines, sangria and cocktails.

Started off our meal with the grilled octopus, as you can seen from the pictures this dish had a spectacular presentation. The tentacles had a nice char on them. The green sauce shown is a green olive puree. Flavor was good, octopus was tender and not chewy. Though the green grapes seemed a bit out of place, I can see the chef wanting to add some sweetness, they were such a small part of the dish it really didn't matter.


Next up was the pork belly with carrot puree, arugula and Marcona almonds. The milder puree was really creamy and played really well with the light crunch of the almonds and the richness of the pork. I really liked this dish the best of everything we ate. 

Datiles con pan - Medjool dates, goat cheese mousse, pan rustico, preserved lemon curd, honey and arugula. I really enjoyed this as well, the lemon curd had a great tang to it and the goat cheese was mild and creamy.

 Croquetas de Jamon - Kurobuta ham & potato croquettes with aioli

Croquetas de Jamon

Chicken liver pate 
Patatas Bravas
Paella stove at the round bar

All in all I'd definitely return to Tapa Toro there are at least a dozen other items and some cocktails that I wanted to try. As with all tapas style restaurants it's best to go with a decent sized group and share many different tapas.

Menu can be seen on their website.

8441 International Dr #260
Orlando, FL 32819
Google Maps

(407) 226-2929 
Tapa Toro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato