The Daily Flog

2015 AWARDS LOGO SHELFThis certainly is Chicago’s time to shine in the national spotlight.

First the NFL held their draft Thursday in the Windy City, the first time it’s been conducted outside of New York, the, um, Not So Windy City. On Monday, the James Beard Foundation will have its annual awards gala at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, the first time that ceremony has been held outside of New York.

Let’s hope the top chef pick isn’t a misogynistic, accused-rapist shoplifter.

The Bearders also held the announcement of the semifinalists for the awards in Chicago, but it wasn’t the first time that’s been outside of its Manhattan home. The first time was in 2014 when the announcement was made from East End Market in Orlando.

But so far that’s the closest Orlando has gotten to the awards. Although we consistently have area chefs on the semifinalists list, none has made it to the final ballot.

But take heart. As I’ve been saying for some time — a long time, actually — it can be a long process to get to the awards podium. Judges, who may vote only for chefs whose food they’ve actually eaten, see names of regional nominees on the semifinalist lists and often choose those restaurants to visit when they travel. It can take several years of having a name on the long ballot to make it to the short one, and even longer to win the award.

As this interesting series of charts explaining the James Beard Awards from Eater shows, Tom Colicchio was nominated seven times, as chef for two separate restaurants, before winning the award. Granted, it was for Outstanding Chef and not a regional Best Chef, but still.

Then there is the other extreme, such as last year, when New Orleans’ Ryan Prewitt won for Best Chef South Region, which also includes Florida, and his Peche Seafood Grill also was named Best New (!) Restaurant nationally. By the way, I’ve dined at Peche and it’s nice, but I wouldn’t have cast my ballot for either award over one of several of our area chefs. Not out of local loyalty but because I would put the quality of the food and dining experience ahead of Peche’s food.

Maybe next year.

Ace Groundbreaking Buddy

What was supposed to have been a ground breaking turned into a ground shaking when more than a hundred vintage automobiles and motorcycles revved their engines to signal the start of renovations for Ace Cafe Orlando. Following a proclamation naming April 30, 2015 as Ace Cafe Day in Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer donned a leather jacket with the cafe’s insignia, hopped on a motorcycle and gave the call for all of the others to “Start your engines.” Then, after a couple of minutes of ear-splitting noise from unmuffled mufflers, he waved the checkered flag for all to stop. (We knew the mayor was going to run; we didn’t know he was going to ride, too.)

Shari overlook

Today we welcome Shari Sushi Lounge to the flog. (Everybody say Hey, Shari.) If you’ve read my statement about advertisers on the site, you know that not just anyone can have an ad displayed in these pages. In order to keep the integrity of SJO high, only restaurants that meet my standards of quality may present themselves here for your consideration. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve said no to a number of requests to advertise here, and I’ve dropped some restaurants whose quality flagged. If you don’t believe me, ask Nicole Spooner, my sales rep.

So when Nicole said that Shari would like to come on board I said, “Hmmm, it’s been a while since I’ve been there; I’d better go back and check them out.” After a couple of recent visits, I’m wondering why I hadn’t been back in so long. Everything I tasted was terrific.

ABO logo

I finally made it to Atlantic Beer & Oyster, or ABO as its becoming more commonly known. ABO is part of the triumverate of businesses that opened over the past several months at the corner of Park Avenue and Canton Avenue that also includes Boca and Park Social.

Actually, ABO was the first to open. It occupies the little space that is off the avenue, at the entrance to the Hidden Gardens, just across from Scott Laurent Galleries. I had stopped in a couple of times previously to give ABO a try, but each time I left without trying anything. The first time there was a terrible smell; the second time the place was completely empty and I didn’t feel like being the sole customer.

Nikkis Fire

Nikki's Place, the soul food restaurant in Orlando's Parramore District, was all but destroyed by a fire on March 30. The fire, which started on the upper level of the two-story structure and resulted in heavy water and smoke damage, is under investigation by the Orlando Fire Marshal. 

In the meantime, Bungalower reports that a page at GoFundMe has been set up to raise money to rebuild and to support the staff while the restaurant remains closed. As of Tuesday afternoon, $750 had been donated toward a goal of $10,000. It isn't clear at the GoFundMe website, but according to Bungalower the restaurant has only a few more days to reach the goal.

Nikki's Place had been open for 16 years prior to the fire. The restaurant was reviewed here just last year.