Weekend Events Include Hearts, Chili and Wine

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Weekend events kick off Friday evening with Central Florida Regional Hospital’s seventh annual Iron Heart Cook-off at 6:30 at the Westin Lake Mary-Orlando North, 2974 International Parkway, Lake Mary.

No, Iron Heart isn’t like an iron lung. And don’t worry, the contestants won’t be cooking hearts, at least I don’t think so. But they will be actual doctors, including Dr. William David, Dr. Manjunath Harlapur, Dr. Brad Litke and Dr. Lawrence Vallario. They will be competing Iron Chef style with secret ingredients to prepare a heart-healthy entree. I don’t know about you, but when I want good eating, I always turn to the nearest physician. Fox 35 anchor Bob Frier is the emcee.

Saturday it’s the 2016 Orlando Chili Cook-off, which is appropriate because Saturday is predicted to be chilly.

And with the temperatures cooler, a bowl of chili sounds great. Chefs from around the country whose friends have told them “Hey, you make a really great bowl of chili, I’ll bet you could win a contest; would you pass me another beer?” will meet at Festival Park, which most of the time is a vacant lot at 2911 E. Robinson St. in Orlando.

There will also be live musical entertainment, a kids zone and the World Chili Eating Challenge, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t mean “I’ll bet you can’t eat this.” Organizers expect to dole out over 100,000 samples to the estimated 20,000 attendees. Here’s a link to the official website, and if you can find the time that the event starts, you’re a better person than I am.

Also, don’t forget that flog favorite Bevfly is having a a Pre-Valentine’s Day Pairing Party Saturday. I really like this idea. From 2 to 4 p.m. (thanks for providing that information, guys) you can sip Champagne, Port and other selections and nibble on oysters, charcuterie and chocolate

It’s just $25 per person, but you’ll need to make a reservation because they don’t want the crowds to be so overwhelming that they can’t talk to everyone. I like that they’re doing this the weekend before Valentine’s Day — it’s perfect for someone who wants to a Valentine out to dinner and order a bottle of wine with more authority.

Bevfly is at 5425 International Drive, Orlando. It is open daily. For reservations at the February 6 event, or just to chat about wine, call 407-826-1542.

Nothin' Says Lovin' Like Somethin' From Someone Else's Oven: Where to Dine Valentine's Weekend

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Solarium 2 copy

Love is in the air. Or maybe that’s just Rosemary and Dijon Encrusted Lamb Chops. Either way, my heart is beating a bit faster.

Yes, it’s time for Valentine’s Day, which often means a dinner at a romantic restaurant. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday (it’s February 14, in case you’d forgotten). That’s not the most convenient evening for dining out, what with it being a school night and all that. So many of the restaurants that are offering V-Day specials are making them available all weekend long, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s convenient for those who those who want to treat their sweetie to an evening out but not on a Sunday. It also allows the scamp with three different Valentine’s to play all weekend.

One of the enticing specials is at Bistro on Park Avenue, an especially romantic restaurant because of its location in the Hidden Gardens, perfect for a secret rendezvous or tete-a-tete.

Bistro on Park is offering a five-course dinner for two for $80. It includes shrimp bisque; a shared second course of prosciutto-wrapped melon; Bistro Salad; and a choice of entree from Grilled Fish Tacos, Filet Mignon or those Lamb Chops I mentioned above; and a shared dessert to finish.

The special is offered Friday through Sunday. And because Sunday is the official big heart day, Bistro on Park will be staying open until 10 p.m. — 3 p.m. is the usual close time. (School night, like I said.)

For reservations — and you really should make reservations — call the restaurant at 407-539-6520. Bistro on Park Avenue is at 348 Park Ave. N., Winter Park.

And for some other restaurants offering Valentine’s Day special, check out our Holiday Listings here.

Bram Fowler Takes Over Kitchen at Park Plaza Gardens

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Bram FowlerBram Fowler, the former owner of Journeys restaurant in Longwood, has taken over the kitchen at Park Plaza Gardens. Fowler had been in talks with the owners of PPG in November to do some consulting at a future date. When the executive chef at the time quit — on Christmas Eve — Fowler was asked to step in and handle things for the New Year’s Eve bookings. They’ve now come to an agreement that names him executive chef and gives him some control over the menu.

That menu, which Fowler hopes to have in place within the next couple of weeks, will have some things that the owners of the restaurant see as furniture pieces necessary to the identity of Park Plaza Gardens, one of the oldest restaurants on Park Avenue.

But he will also feature some items that made his Journeys restaurant popular, including Prawns Peri Peri. Journeys restaurant was originally in the Shoppes of Longwood on State Road 434 at Interstate-4 and then move to Alaqua Country Club in 2010. It closed shortly afterward and Fowler and his wife, Geraldine, began Journeys Catering.

When he was asked why he wanted to get into the restaurant business, Fowler answered, “I’m not sure I want to get back into the restaurant business.”

It’s no secret that he will have quite a task on his hand. At one time a top choice as a special occasion restaurant among locals, Park Plaza Gardens has faltered in recent years under a number of chefs and consultants. (Disclosure: Scott Joseph Company was retained by a third party to prepare an audit of the PPG guest experience in 2014.)

Known for its dining room with an outdoor patio decor inside, Park Plaza Gardens at one time was one of the few dining options on Park Avenue — and in fact one of the few fine dining options in Central Florida. It is now one of many restaurant options along the Avenue but still seems mired in the past.

Quite a task indeed.

This was first reported in a tweet from Faiyaz Kara.

Oblivion Taproom Closing

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Oblivion logoI suppose it would be too glib to say that the name of the place was a predictor, but Oblivion Taproom, the self-described “bad-ass bar & grill” that was dedicated to craft beers on tap, will close Sunday, January 31 according to a note posted on the business’s Facebook page on Saturday. No reason for the closing was given.

Owner Missy Jahn was not immediately available for comment.

Oblivion opened in 2011 in the former Straub’s Fine Seafood building on East Colonial Drive in Orlando. It was well received and reviewed and was particularly known for its burgers. In 2013, Oblivion was burglarized twice in just one week.

More information when it is received.