NowaitWhen I was in New Orleans a couple of months ago I used an app for the first time called Nowait. If the recent news is any indication, you might be using it soon, too.

As the name might indicate, if you put a space between the no and the wait, the app is designed to eliminate waiting at popular restaurants. For example, in New Orleans, I had a hankering for the gumbo at Stanley’s at Jackson Square. Because of its central location in the heart of the city’s most touristy spot, not to mention its crazy good gumbo, there is almost always a long line to get in, sometimes with waits up to an hour.

But with the Nowait app, I simply logged on, found the wait time, and clicked the restaurant to automatically place myself in line for a party of two. Even though I was across the French Quarter, I was able to put my name down without trekking over. And I was able to stroll the shops on Royal Street rather than standing around within shouting distance of the cafe’s host stand. I was also able to keep track of my place in line. Very convenient. If there isn't a line, the app will tell you the coast is clear and to come on in. 

(Stanley's, by the way, requires users of the app to be within 2 miles of the restaurant, so you can't click it to get in line just before you board your flight in Orlando, though on Sunday mornings the timing might be about right.)

MMOmakase kobe cu

As the area gets more — and better — sushi restaurants, the omakase experience is becoming more prevalent. Omakase is a Japanese term that translates roughly as “I’ll leave it to you.” When you request omakase, you put your trust in the sushi chef to present you the best and freshest and finest.

This concept isn’t unique to Japanese restaurants. Many cuisines, though mainly upscale restaurants, offer chef’s tasting menus that might include little bites or full entrees, all at the whim of the chef. Regardless of the type of food, diners who choose this option tend to be more adventurous and willing to try something different. But even the most daring diners often say they would order omakase only in a restaurant in which they are a regular and they know the chef (and the chef knows the diner, too).

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs recently added an omakase option and I was invited recently to give it a try. Here the dinner is offered only at the sushi bar — and only with a minimum 24-hour advance reservation and deposit. The cost is $150 per person, and after my nearly three-hour experience, I can’t imagine any lover of sushi and Japanese food walking away feeling that it wasn’t worth it.

Omakase is the purview of the sushi chef, but chef de cuisine Yuhi Fujinaga was our guide for the evening. He explained the progression of the dinner and the various courses that would be represented. Technically, there are seven courses in Morimoto Asia’s omakase, but some of those courses have multiple components, so it seems like much more. For example, the sushi course had five items, each presented separately, as did the sashimi course. The high-grade Wagyu beef was served two ways. And there was a “pre-dessert” before the final plate.

Below is how the evening flowed. You may also click on the video below to get a look at the meal.


CNC Rivers

John Rivers was beaming Saturday night.

And why not? The Cows 'n Cabs event he started five years ago as a fundraiser for local charities has grown into one of the area's top food and wine events. Taking a break from serving guests some of the signature barbecue from his 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Rivers marveled that Cows 'n Cabs has grown from a relatively small gathering of 350 people that first year to a sold-out event, with a thousand tickets sold this year. The participating restaurants, wine merchants and entertainers spilled out beyond the big tent in Winter Park's West Meadow.

No matter there -- it was a gorgeous evening, one of the first "cool" nights of the season. Which made this well-run operation even more of a pleasure.

Chefs Gala Jared

Chef’s Gala, the annual food and wine fundraiser for Heart of Florida United Way, is moving the event up next year. Usually held in May at Epcot’s World Showplace, the gala will take place on Saturday, February 4, 2017.

Citing scheduling conflicts with the venue surrounding the usual dates, organizers made the decision to go early next year.

Chef’s Gala features 20 chef’s from Walt Disney World Resorts and top Central Florida restaurants in a splashy, party-like atmosphere. Think Party for the Senses without the Epcot admission fee. (Guests are bused to the venue from the Epcot parking lot through the theme park’s backstage area.)

Click the video below to see some scenes from this year’s event and to get an idea of what to expect in February.

tripadvisor list

Victoria & Albert’s, the ultra-fine fine dining restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, was named the second-best fine dining restaurant in the United States by travel website Tripadvisor in its 2016 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

V&A came in behind Alinea, the Chicago restaurant from chef Grant Achatz, and ahead of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Manhattan. (I especially found that juxtaposition interesting because when I dined at Per Se, in 2006, I remarked to my dining companion at the end of our meal, “I can get this food at Victoria & Albert’s.”)

Chef Scott Hunnel and his team are certainly deserving of the accolade, and it isn’t their first — it has won enough stars, diamonds and gold medals to start a jewelry store. But this particular honor might appear more dubious when taken in full context with others on the list. You may find yourself, as I did, going “Huh?” at some of the “winners.” (There is a link to the full list below.)