Beard ceremony

In an outcome that will surprise few — the other chefs who compete in the South category least among them — the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef in that region, which includes Florida, was awarded Monday to a chef from New Orleans.

Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery took the award in a black tie ceremony in Chicago. The odds were good that a New Orleans chef would take home the medallion — three of the five finalists were from that city, and New Orleans chefs have dominated the category for years.

But NOLA’s recognition wasn’t relegated to a regional award. Shaya, a modern Israeli restaurant, was named best new restaurant.

Bern’s Steakhouse, the Tampa mainstay, won an award for Outstanding Wine Program.

Alinea of host city Chicago was named Outstanding Restaurant overall, and Ken Friedman (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin) in New York Outstanding Restaurateur.

Winners are voted on be a panel of judges comprised mainly of restaurant critics and food journalists from around the country. Judges must state that they have voted only for restaurants they have dined in or chefs whose food they've eaten. 

You can find the full list of winners at the James Beard Foundation website.

Pizza pizza boxPhoto: Vinnie's Pizzeria

Here's an instance where you may not mind that your pizza tastes like the box it came in.

Vinnie's Pizzeria in Brooklyn is offering a pizza container fashioned out of pizza. Two square pieces of dough, slighly larger than the round pie to be placed in it, are baked with crusty edges and full complement of sauce cheese and attendant toppings of the "real" pizza.

It's fitting that this comes out of Brooklyn, a city that knows pizzas, and where everyone who deals in them is vying for attention. Vinnie's has certainly been getting that attention. 

A gimmick? Sure -- one doubts that anyone would want to actually eat this edible box after the delivery person drops it off. But Vinnie's is enjoying some bit of fame for its tongue in pizza-burned cheek invention.


Buffet spreadMother's Day is just a little over one week from today. If you haven't made your dining plans, head over to our Mother's Day listings on the Holiday Dining Page for plenty of options.

Be sure to consider our friends at Chef's Table at the Edgewater, The Whiskey, Tapa Toro, Taverna Opa, and the Alfond Inn

Mother's Day is traditionally the busiest dining day of the year, and if you're making reservations at the last minute (read: now) be prepared to be flexible with your dining times. 


somm logoSOMM wine bar opened recently at I-Drive 360, the dining and entertainment complex anchored by the enormous Ferris wheel known as the Orlando Eye. It’s a fittingly intimate space with a contemporary design that makes good use of wood tones, with living-roomlike seating arrangements and full walls of wine coolers. There is a sort of free flowing drop sculpture with a non-conforming honeycomb design. There are also places to sit outside next to a pleasant lawn area just on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

SOMM, whose name is derived from sommelier and is not connected to the documentary of the same name, is from the same folks who opened Slate on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row last year.

The wine list is a thoughtful collection, and each selection is available in 3-, 6- or 9-ounce pours, or, of course, the full bottle. It’s nice to be able to have a smaller pour of a wine you’re not familiar with before committing to a fuller glass.

I met some colleagues there for a sip before a recent Supper Club. The staff on hand were welcoming and helpful, eager to offer selections based on preferences. You can make the experience whatever you like — an exploration of new and interesting wines or a chance to relax with friends and have a glass of wine.

As for food to go along with the wine, currently the only offerings are prepackaged charcuterie and your basic bar snacks, such as peanuts. That’s because a different license is required to prepare and serve food.

But that’s coming, said manager Lawrence Head. The food will be designed and prepared under the direction of Slate’s executive chef, Dominick Rice, and in fact prepared at the restaurant on Sand Lake Road. Then it will be heated and served to guests on order at SOMM.

Here’s an opportunity for you to experience SOMM. On Wednesday, May 4, the wine bar will host Georgia based master sommelier Michael McNeill in a blind tasting of six wines — 3 red, 3 whites — from Stacole Fine Wines.

The tasting will begin at 6 p.m., and tickets are $35 per person. Reserve a space by calling 407-500-7528. SOMM is at 8395 International Drive, Orlando. By the way, there is free parking in the I-Drive 360 garage and complimentary valet parking, as well.

da vi logoIt's looking very much like Da Vi Vietnamese Cuisine is closed. The small restaurant at 1915 E. Colonial Drive has been open only since November. The phone goes unanswered and is not set up to take messages (but is not disconnected). A person who was reached at a nearby business said that he wasn't familiar with the restaurant's business practices, but that "there hasn't been anyone over there for a couple of weeks." 

Sounds closed to me.

H/T: Joe Sarrubbo