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Kappo Spiny LobsterLordfer Lalicon dismantles a spiny lobster at Kappo at East End Market. Nothing will go to waste.

Just after I sat down on a stool at Kappo — one of only seven seats at this cubby-hole sushi bar at East End Market — I watched one of the owners rip apart a fresh spiny lobster. A few minutes later, its tail meat had been seared with a blowtorch and was part of my sashimi selection. And shortly after that its brain was floating in my soup. In case you haven't gathered, Kappo is not your typical sushi joint.

Kappo is owned by Jennifer Benagale, Lordfer Lalicon and Mark Vyan Berdin. All three have impressive resumes that would belie their youthfulness, with such well-known restaurants as Blue Hill, Morimoto, the Oak Room and Aquavit scattered among the three. Lalicon was part of the opening team at Carbone in New York; Benegale and Vyan Berdin were on the staff at Umu in the Mayfair section of London. All three are graduates of the University of Florida. It was while working together at an Asian restaurant in Gainesville that they met.

Read more: Kappo

Dublin Dinner Redux: Irish Mist, Courgettes, and a Most Memorable Meal

Dublin menu

With the exception of an uncooperative cloud overhead, our first International Scott Joseph's Supper Club featuring celebrity chef Kevin Dundon in Dublin was a big success. We convened at Morgans Wine Merchants on Pembroke Road (not to be confused with Pembroke Street or Pembroke Lane, although it inevitably was) on Friday, August 29, the night before the UCF/Penn State football game at Croke Park.

Morgans occupies a space that previously was one of the city's premier restaurant, Le Coq Hardi, and which, apparently, was before that an elegant townhouse. A townhouse with a gorgeous garden out back. When I stopped by Morgans earlier in the day to meet owner Andrew Keaveney and look over the facilities, we agreed that the garden was the perfect place to hold the pre-dinner reception. After all, it was gorgeous outside — the Irish skies were smiling.

And then, just before guests were scheduled to arrive, those skies started weeping. Raining, actually. So instead we moved the reception to the bar and lounge in the basement, next to the gravel-floored rooms of the wine cellar.

Dundon served samples of his Arthurstown Porter Storm Ale, which is brewed at Dunbrody, his place in Wexford. Supper Club guests were the first to sample the dark and full-bodied ale, and everyone liked it so much that no one made any cracks about it being called Storm.

The chef also served his house-cured salmon, which should be called "Oh My God, Did You Taste That Salmon?" So rich, the flavors filled the mouth.

Dublin dining 1

Dublin dining 2

The maitre d', who led a very abled serving staff, announced that dinner was served and we all trundled up to the tables that had been set up in what was likely the home's living and dining rooms. We were at full capacity at 54 guests, and everyone quickly settled.

Raglan Road co-owner Paul Nolan was to greet the guests and give a little background about the relationship with Dundon and the Downtown Disney restaurant. (Speaking of Disney, one of the guests was Dick Nunis, who had flown in for the game and regaled his tablemates with stories about finding a European location for a Disney park. As we all know, Paris was eventually selected, but Nunis had his mind set on Spain.)

Dundon ran through the menu (I had to remind him that Americans might not know what a courgette is) and Keavening announced the wine pairings. He had given me a tasting when I stopped in earlier and I couldn't wait to try them with the chef's food.

Dublin foie gras

We started with a foie gras mousse served in a small latch-lid jar and topped with natural yogurt foam, served with a slice of soda bread. It was paired with Champagne de Canteneur, whose bubbles made the first course extra celebratory.

Dublin soup

Next was a soup of espresso of courgette (zucchini) and almonds. (Sorry about the photo -- I couldn't stop eating it long enough to snap a picture.) It was served with a Meursault Domaine Regnard, which immediately became one of my tablemates' favorite wine of the evening. (And the servers were not shy about keeping everyone's wine glasses filled — no one was driving!)

Dublin beef

My favorite wine was the Margaux from Bordeaux Hauts de Tertre. Deep rich red color and wonderful black cherry notes, it was perfect with Dundon's filet of Irish beef with garlic mash, roasted garden beets and beet emulsion. The beef was terrific, but the beets were extra special, too.

Dublin dessert

Dessert was chocolate gateau with Storm Stout (again with the rain reference) topped with a bit of caramel popcorn, which Dundon said was a tip of the hat to American tastes. A 2009 Carmes de Riussec was the sweet accompaniment.

Everyone left quite happy, grabbing taxis that were rolling along Pembroke Road and heading back to their hotels.

I, personally, was grinning ear to ear. Putting this Supper Club together was just a dream I had when I first learned UCF would be playing in Dublin. I didn't quite know how to pull if off, but when I first said to Dundon, "I've got this idea; do you know anyone in Dublin I might talk to?" he said, "I'll do it with you." And he pretty much took care of all of the details. Many thanks to him, Nolan, Keavening, the servers, and several people back in Orlando who made it a reality.

I have no idea how I'm going to top this one.

Dublin dining 3

Dublin nunis

Lechonera Latina #3

Lechonera plateThis is what $6.39 worth of food looks like at Lechonera Latina.

When Tasty Thai closed the doors of its longtime Curry Ford location it didn't take long for Lechonera Latina to open them back up.

Lechonera Latina has two other locations: Lechonera Latina #1 at 9998 E. Colonial Drive, and Lechonera Latina #2 at 11129 E. Colonial Drive. The Curry Ford location shall be known as #3.

Read more: Lechonera Latina #3

Tomasino's New York Pizzeria

Tomasinos pizza

Here's the thing about eateries, pizzerias in particular, that claim to be authentically New York: They raise the kitschiness to a level that would never be seen anywhere in the city's actual five boroughs. And by so doing, they draw attention away from what should be in focus — the pizza — and put it on areas that are trying too hard to be cute and clever (and rarely are). Sometimes, the stereotyping employed is the best that the business can do because the food is nowhere near authentic. But in the case of Tomasino's New York Pizzeria it does disservice to what is a pretty good representation of typical NYC pizza.

I've been past Tomasino's many times, including when it was branded as Lil Anthony's (and still has that pizzerias same ownership, apparently). But I resisted going inside — I've been disappointed too many times with pizzas that weren't worth the money let alone the calories.

But I found myself out running some last minute errands before I needed to head to the airport for an international flight. I didn't have time for a a full-service restaurant, and I wasn't yet hungry enough to stoop to fast food level. As I walked past Tomasino's on my way back to my car, I popped inside for a slice. After all, pizza is the best on-the-go food there is.

I immediately liked the look and feel of the interior. More Brooklyn than Manhattan, it was narrow, cramped and dark, even in the middle of the afternoon. And I liked my slice, which I selected from the glass case just inside the front door and which the friendly young man tending the ovens tossed into one to put some heat on it. My slice had multiple meats, including sausage, pepperoni and ham. The crust was to the standards of New York regulations — not cracker thin, not doughy thick, able to fold into a manageable, bitable shape — and the sauce and cheese were applied in just-right portions.

Read more: Tomasino's New York Pizzeria

Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub

To get myself primed for an upcoming trip to Dublin, I stopped by Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub for a bit of an immersive experience.

Claddagh has occupied a small storefront in a tiny strip mall on Curry Ford Road, nestled between a funeral home and beauty salon for almost 19 years. It's atmospheric inside, with plaster walls, wooden tables that have not seen any Lemon Pledge for ages, and the various pubby wall hangings and hand-written signs you'd expect to find in such a tavern. And make no mistake: This is a tavern first and foremost.

But it also serves a decent menu of Irish pub fare. On my visit I ordered the Irish stew — because how could I not? — and the cottage pie (after all, the place is called Claddagh Cottage).

The stew had lots of beef and carrots, plus onions and potatoes, enough to qualify as hearty in ingredients if not in the thinnish broth (which is just fine with an Irish stew). It was brought down a bit by the toughness of the meat and a too-heavy dose of thyme.

I much preferred the cottage pie, a one-dish casserole of ground beef with peas and some carrots in a rich gravy, topped by a mashed potato dome. A little dash of the bottled brown sauce — the Irish equivalent of A-1 — and it was just right.

And of course there are some native beers and ales to wash everything down.

The clientele is made up of people who seem to be regulars, but an outsider was welcomed, too.

Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub is at 4308 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. It is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. There is no website. The stew was $7.25 and the cottage pie $7.50, so consider it reasonably priced.


Wednesday, 17th September 2014

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