image001normans dinner benefitI think everyone should dine at Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton at least once a year, and if you still haven't gotten in your 2015 splurge, here's a chance to have a sumptuous meal and help raise some money for a good cause.

On Saturday, December 5, at 6 p.m., Norman's will host a five-course holiday wine connoisseurs dinner benefitting Kids Beating Cancer, which provides resources and support for children with cancer, leukemia and related life-threatening diseases in need of bone marrow or stem cell transplants.

The dinner, which features some excellent wine selections to go with the always impressive food, is $250 per person. Tickets can be purchased at


 See the menu below.

















segafredo logoSome new blue hues emanating from the recently depared Segafredo’s at Mills Park have some in that area speculating that the owners will reopen as Blue Cafe, which was to have been the original name before it took that of the Italian coffee company’s. (An email address for a manager on Segafredo Orlando’s Facebook page has a domain of, although there is no active site at that address.)

It probably won’t be coffee-centric but rather a sports bar. I’m guessing that Segafredo’s management often looked at the crowds at the Brass Tap next door and wondered how to get some of that.

Better management might be a good start.

My only first-hand experiences with Segafredo’s managers were during my two visits before writing my review. Many of the issues that contributed to the negative notice can be traced back to poor managerial choices. Other examples that have not been independently verified include the decision to close Segafredo’s with no notice, texting some of the staffers to let them know it was closed and letting others find out when they showed up for work that day. Classy. If true, that should be a caution to any potential employees in any new venture that may reopen there.

My sources also tell me that the Segafredo franchise has almost certainly been lost. I know that if I were in charge of an internationally known coffee company whose name had been besmirched, I would do what I could to keep the franchisee from sullying it any further.


So, you've been thinking up until this point that you'd go ahead and cook a turkey dinner for Thursday's big feast. Yeah, doesn't sound like much fun now, does it? It's still possible to get a reservation at a restaurant that will be open for Thanksgiving. Here's the list. Just be ready to be flexible with your dinner time. 

And restaurateurs: Time to start sending Christmas info. If you'll be serving Christmas Day, send me the details for the listings. Please include the full name of the restaurant, the physical address, website link with contact information for reservations and menu links. Your information will be included in the listings just as you present it, so be as detailed as you can. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Smiling Bison Sanford interior

I popped into Sanford for dinner the other evening.

That's not quite true. One doesn’t just “pop” into Sanford. For most of Greater Central Florida, visiting Sanford requires determined planning, especially the downtown historic district, several miles off of Interstate 4.

But with apologies to the businesses in an around the city’s mall, and despite the naming of that facility as Seminole Towne Center, the preponderance of restaurants, such as a preponderance exists, is in the historic downtown (not downtowne).

Joining the ever growing list of independent restaurants is a second location of the Smiling Bison, the funky little cafe and bar on the near east side of Orlando. Anyone familiar with the original may not recognize the new place. Whereas the Orlando Bison is divey with a fun and grungy vibe that suggests a pop-up venue, Sanford’s seems more adult and established — like a real restaurant. Part of that is due to the age of the building and its old time-y mien. It feels as though it has been there for generations. If this were a new Disney restaurant, they’d slap a sign on the front of the place that reads “ Est. 1910” and include a backstory detailing its provenance and just exactly what first caused the bison’s grin.

What will be familiar to the already loyal Bisonians is the food, which has always been creative, full of integrity, and with a promise of brilliance at times.

four seasons

Do you have a serious foodie on your gift list this year? You may an early present of what promises to be a fabulous dinner.

The folks at the Four Seasons Resort have called together a pantheon of celebrated chefs, most winners of coveted James Beard culinary awards, for a special dinner on Saturday, December 5, at the luxurious resort at Walt Disney World. Scheduled to cook your multi-course meal are:

Gerard Craft, 2015 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef-Midwest, known as St. Louis’ preeminent chef-restaurateur at flagship Niche as well as at Brasserie by Niche, Taste and Pastaria

Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky and Top Chef

Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, Illinois, Top Chef Masters and James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Midwest

Michael Sullivan of Creekstone Farms Beef in Arkansas City, Kansas, formerly of Blackberry Farms, Tennessee

Norman Van Aken, of Norman’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida and James Beard Award winner for Best Chef South East

Stefan Riemer, Pastry Chef, Food & Beverage Development, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

James Tidwell, Master Sommelier, of Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Texas

  • The special guests will accompany chefs from the resort:

Fabrizio Schenardi, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Rabii Saber, Executive Pastry Chef, Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Tim Dacey, Chef, Capa restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Orlando

The eight-course dinner menu includes:

Course 1: Beef carpaccio salad by Chef Michael Sullivan
Course 2: “Bass Under Glass” red wine reduction sauce under a potato torta by Chef Norman Van Aken
Course 3: Roasted winter squash, spiced squash puree, squash vinegar caramel, seeds, Missouri goat cheese and mint by Chef Gerard Craft
Course 4: Ravioletto filled with crescenza cheese, brown butter, parmigiana reggiano, white truffles by Chef Tony Mantuano
Course 5: Veal cheeks braised in Barolo chinato; polenta and roasted chestnuts “chicche” by Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi
Course 6: Seared ribeye, gochujang butter, grits, radish bottarga by Chef Edward Lee
Course 7: Imported cheese display presented by Chef Tim Dacey
Course 8: Gianduja-citrus crèmeux with dehydrated milk foam and vanilla Chantilly by Stefan Riemer

Each course includes a wine pairing. The phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime meal is available for USD 235 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. For reservations call 407 313 6161 or buy tickets online.