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

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