Osprey brunch decor

I’m liking Osprey Tavern more and more each time I visit, and I liked it just fine the first time. It seems to be growing into a more comfortable version of itself. Once you’re past the tentativeness of the front desk, servers are amiable without being cloying, the atmosphere buzzes with mutual conviviality, and the kitchen, under the direction of Ravenous Pig alumnus Joseph Burnett, produces a menu that combines comfort with style.

The restaurant has a different feel at brunch, at least in the early hours. The atmosphere is a little less manic, though certainly not subdued. One can’t really expect total calm in a restaurant that features a show kitchen as a prominent part of the dining room. I must say, however, that several of the cooks “on stage” on a recent Sunday morning did not look up to performing a matinee.

 

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.

 

Yamasan bar

Yamasan Sushi & Grill is the latest restaurant to open at Mills Park. It’s a small restaurant with a very large and ambitious menu. Besides a full offering of sushi, Yamasan has hibachi and stone grill cook-at-your-table options as well as one-pot cooking, such as shabu shabu and sukiyaki. There are seven soups and 26 each of hot or cold appetizers (not counting variations on individual items, such as the Tuna Tartare that may be ordered a la Nobu or Morimoto).

Ganachery exterior

The first time I came across the Ganachery, a chocolate shop at Disney Springs, I was on my way to another venue at the endlessly-under-construction former Downtown Disney. The shop had just opened to the public and there was a startlingly long line of people waiting to get in. They weren’t passing time until someone unlocked the doors, they were simply waiting their turn for a chance to go inside and buy candy.

Yes, candy.

Very, very good candies to be sure. We’re not talking about Goo Goo Clusters or jelly beans, we’re talking about a very limited and exquisitely styled type of candy: ganache squares.

Ganache is the result of blending chocolate with cream, and in the case of the pieces sold at the Ganachery, we’re talking high quality chocolate. Under the direction of Disney chocolatier Amanda E. Lauder, the pastry crew on site makes a limited selection of 16 variations ranging from the not-so-vanilla Vanilla (it’s dark chocolate with Madagascar vanilla beans in the blend) to one called Matcha Yuza that is infused with Japanese green tea.

Each one- or two-bite-sized morsel measures little more an an inch square, and each one costs $3. For $15 you may select 6 ganaches, which brings the per-piece price down to $2.50. So, bargain. No wonder so many people were lined up waiting for their chance to plunk down money.

Divas Glammy Chili

If your New Years' resolutions include a bit more "me time," this is the dish for you. Succulent morsels of chicken, savory black beans and sweet, yummy yams come together in one glorious pot that can be made a day ahead.

To go with, we recommend a simple, sliced avocado salad drizzled with lime. Complement the Southwestern nature of the nosh with warmed corn tortillas. Grab a bag from the grocery, then sear in a dry, smoking' hot pan until nicely speckled a deep, rich brown.