Today, November 17, has been declared for all time to be National Baklava Day. And you thought congress was incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

Baklava, of course, is the sweet and nutty dessert made with multiple layers of delicate phyllo dough, honey, rose water and pistachios. It's a staple of most Greek restaurants, and one of our favorites, Taverna Opa, is commemorating the occasion by offering free baklava all day long. Just show up at the Pointe Orlando restaurant and they'll hand you a square of the gooey goodness faster than you can say "Opa!" (Just to be clear, saying "opa" is not a requirement to receive your free baklava.)

If I were you, I'd take advantage of this offer, because tomorrow is National Vichyssoise Day and I don't know of anyone planning to ladle out cold potato soup.

Taverna Opa is at 9101 International Drive, Orlando. It's open today from noon until 11 p.m.

The folks at T.O. also sent along this recipe for Brandy Baklava:

Divas Pumpkin Bisque

For those of us who have wrestled a fresh pumpkin with sharp knife and lived to tell the tale, it's hardly surprising that we look so longingly at the canned variety. No longer is canned pumpkin strictly a shortcut for the quickie pumpkin pie. With all the nutritional bennies of squash, canned pumpkin fortifies sweet treats such as puddings, cookies, cakes and trifles, as well as creamy soups and bisques.

This bisque takes you on a culinary journey to Southern India. With richly toasted spices and creamy coconut milk, it’s a perfect starter to grace the holiday buffet with a festively exotic twist.

Gaylord Palms AtriumThe Gaylord Palms Atrium will be decked out for the holidays for Thanksgiving Day diners to enjoy.

I’ve been putting together lists of restaurants that serve Thanksgiving Dinner for decades and I can’t remember there ever being as many as there are this year. I don’t know why that is. Maybe more of us are growing weary of the long preparation, drawn out service and the inevitable cleanup after. If that’s you, the good news is that you have a lot of choices.

Click this link to see the list of restaurants in Orlando and Central Florida that will be open on Thanksgiving.

The bad news is — if you haven’t already made your reservations, the longer you wait the fewer choices you’ll have. So don’t wait any longer — check out the list of restaurants that will be open on Nov. 26 (which is a Thursday, by the way) and make your reservations pronto, as the pilgrims used to say.

But be prepared to be flexible with your preferred dining time.

Isla Verde bar

Isla Verde by V, the Puerto Rican restaurant in downtown Orlando that had very good food but very poor service and a lousy atmosphere, has closed. Now I may never find out who V was.

The restaurant posted November 3 on its Facebook page that it was temporarily closed, and feel free to put air quotes around those words. The post says that the closing, temporary as it is, was due to circumstances out of their control. Must not have been due to the lackluster service and dreary surroundings because those things are definitely controllable.

But right after saying the closing was only temporary, the FB post goes on to thank, with some finality, “all of our friends and family who supported us during our time in operation.” Not the sort of words to use when you want to convey a “we’ll be right back” message.

Isla Verde by V was in the Plaza building in a space that has had more than a few tenants in the past few years.


1921 by Norman Van Aken.

That's the official name of the restaurant planned by the celebrity chef for Mount Dora. The number is the address on the side of the buiding. "The sign was literally written on the wall," Van Aken said of his decision for the name.

The restaurant, at 1921 E. Fourth St., will open after the first of the year. Van Aken said that he had hoped to open before Christmas but that some things were taking a little more time than he had hoped, including the delivery of needed equipment.

The decor throughout the five or six dining areas will feature artwork from the Modernism Museum, including works by Chihuly and Nakashima. Even a couple of the tables will be museum art pieces, he said. The restaurant will seat 160 guests including patio tables.

As previsouly announced, Camilo Velasco will be chef de cuisine and Scott Geisler, most recently of the Ravenous Pig, is the general manager. Both are alums of Van Aken's restaurant in Orlando, Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton.