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.)

Krungthep interior

Krungthep Tea Time isn’t your typical tearoom.

Or maybe it is and I’m just not familiar with them any more. My perception of a tearoom is set in the days of doilies and lace, quilted cozies and delicate tea cups with rose patterns and handles so small you couldn’t pick one up without raising your pinkie.

At Krungthep there are no doilies, no tablecloths of any kind. The floor is bare concrete, and tea is served in big honkin’ glass mugs.

1921 bar 1

Get a room.

No, seriously. 

That way you can spend the leisurely pace a meal here demands without the worry of the drive ahead, the concern about whether you can have one of the craft cocktails before dinner or enjoy the carefully selected wines to accompany the fine cuisine during. And an after-dinner drink with the freshly roasted coffee and exquisite desserts isn’t given a second thought.

This highly anticipated restaurant from one of Florida’s most celebrated chefs is, to be a bit trite, a feast for the senses. The restaurant occupies an old house, built circa 1921, across the street from the Modernism Museum in the quaint downtown. In partnership with the museum and Main Street Leasing, which is listed as the “presenter” of the museum, 1921 becomes part of the artistic complex that also includes the museum’s shop (every museum has to have a shop), which shares an adjoining patio with the restaurant.