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Champagne Taittinger & ZD Wine Pairing Dinner

A unique dinner featuring Taittinger Champagnes and ZD Wines. Click for information.

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Piscopo

Special guest Joe Piscopo from "Saturday Night Live!"

Special guest Joe Piscopo from "Saturday Night Live!"

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Taittinger

A very special dinner featuring Champagne Taittinger and ZD Wines. Click for more information.

A very special dinner featuring Champagne Taittinger and ZD Wines. Click for more information.

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Ferrari

Part of the Celebration Exotic Cars event.

Part of the Celebration Exotic Cars event.

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Appetite for the Arches is March 7

appetite-for-the-arches-logo1 420 472 sHave you ever wondered what sort of delicacies skilled, classically trained chefs could create using only ingredients from a typical McDonald's? Oh come on, it has to have crossed your mind at one point or another.

That's the premise behind Appetite for the Arches, a fundraising event benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities. This is the second year for the event, which was a big hit in 2014. It will be held Saturday, March 7, 2015, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

The chef lineup is impressive, and includes several past James Beard Award nominees and some of the current semifinalists: James and Julie Petrakis of the Ravenous Pig and the Rusty Spoon's Kathleen Blake.

The full list of participating restaurants includes:

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse
  • Cask & Larder
  • Chef's Table at the Edgewater
  • Cuisiniers Catering
  • Emeril's Tchoup Chop
  • Hamilton's Kitchen at The Alfond Inn
  • K Restaurant
  • LUMA on Park
  • Orlando World Center Marriott
  • Paxia Modern Mexican & Tequila Lounge
  • Ravello Restaurant at Four Seasons Orlando
  • SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando
  • The Ravenous Pig
  • The Rusty Spoon
  • The Smiling Bison
  • Txokos Basque Kitchen

Wines and signature cocktails will also be offered. It's fun and creative, and it benefits a very good cause.

Tickets are $250 per person and can be purchased at this website, where you can also find more information.

Signing Event for Beard Nominated Pulapaka's "Dreaming in Spice"

Dreaming cover

Hari Pulapaka, the just-nominated James Beard Award semifinalist and chef at Cress restaurant in DeLand, has an interesting event to commemorate the recent publication of his book, "Dreaming in Spice." Instead of setting up a table at a bookstore, Pulapaka is having a private food and wine book-signing at East End Market. The event will feature hors d'oeuvres prepared by Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and wine pairings curated by Pulapaka's wife, Jenneffer, who serves as Cress's able sommelier.

Tickets for the signing, which can be purchased at this link, are $75 per person. That includes admission to the event, one signed copy of the book and a Cress shirt. A $112 option includes admission for two people, two Cress shirts and one signed copy of the book.

In the book's preface, Pulapaka writes, "'Dreaming In Spice' is part autobiography, part memoir, part cookbook, part dream, and mostly reality. Ultimately, it is my humble attempt to document and share my life as I've lived it." I'm looking forward to reading it myself. Besides being a Beard nominated chef with a critically acclaimed restaurant, Pulapaka, who has a Ph.D. degree, is also a professor of mathematics at Stetson University. There are bound to be some interesting stories.

The book signing event is Sunday, March 8, at East End Market, 3201 Corrine Drive, Orlando, from 4 to 6 p.m. Additional books may be available at the event for $38 plus tax.

Red Lobster's Director of Culinary Wants You to Give It Another Try

Dustin Hilinski Headshot copyDustin Hilinski has a big job on his hands. He is the director of culinary for a new seafood restaurant company, albeit a company started out as the largest chain of seafood restaurants in the world, with more than 700 locations. That's a lot of people to feed, but that isn't his biggest challenge. It's getting the dining public to reconsider its opinion of Red Lobster and to give it a second chance.

For Hilinski, that means putting more fish and lobster on the menu. You'd think that would be obvious, what with the name of the restaurant and all. But Hilinski thinks that Red Lobster sort of lost its way in its final years under the Darden Restaurant banner. It tried, he says, to be too many things to too many people, and in so doing lost its focus.

Darden, of course, sold the seafood restaurant chain in May for $2.1 billion to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital. It was all kind of a messy situation and ultimately contributed to the reasons that led Clarence Otis to resign as Darden's CEO and chairman. As it shed the brand like a crustacean during molting season, Darden said the company would be better off without it, citing that Red Lobster had not been profitable since 2011.

What happened to it? After all, this was the brand that launched what would become the largest restaurant company in the country when Bill Darden opened his first Red Lobster in Lakeland in 1968. He chose Lakeland because it was not on a coast, and he wanted to see if a seafood restaurant could succeed without a saltwater view. The middle of Florida, however, is hardly the middle of America. And getting average Americans to eat fish has always been one of the chain's biggest challenges. That's why, in its later years under Darden, Red Lobster was adding more non-seafood items to its menu.

7th Annual Downtown Food & Wine Fest is Saturday and Sunday

webheaderdtfw

I hope you like your wines slightly chilled.

The seventh annual Downtown Food & Wine Fest is Saturday and Sunday, February 21 and 22, following the coldest morning of the year. But take heart — the forecast for the weekend is predicted to be much balmier, even reaching back to a much saner mid 70s both days.

So it should be pleasant for strolling around the Lake Eola site to sip wine, eat some nibbles and listen to some music, including Lifehouse on Saturday and Loverboy on Sunday (Loverboy must be exhausted with Valentine's Day just passed).

Restaurants that are scheduled to be offering food include The Pub, The Knife, The Porch and other minimally monikered businesses. (Smiling Bison, Fish on Fire, Wildside BBQ Bar & Grille, Tibby's and Morton's will be there, too.) Contrary to the way many other food and wine festivals work, the food and drink samples at DF&WF are sold individually. Food tickets are $2 each, but it may take more than one ticket to purchase separate items.

Same with 10 wine stations that will be pouring 50 wines. However, you can purchase a Wine Taster's Club lanyard that will get you five samples of wines that you can taste before committing to a full purchase.

The lanyard costs $15 (amounts are limited). One-day admission is $15. But according to the fest's website, you can get an admission ticket and a lanyard for $30, so you can see the savings there.

Actually, the whole pricing structure is a little baffling, so I'll just throw you over to the Downtown Food & Wine Fest website.

The festival takes place along Robinson Street at Lake Eola from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Sunday, 1st March 2015

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