Earls exterior

Earls Kitchen + Bar opens today at Mall at Millenia. It’s also opening day for Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen. It’s clear that new restaurants are starting to, um, add up.

I told you about my preview of Chroma last week. I also got a sneak peek along with some other members of the media of the new Earls. I think you’re going to like this place, too.

The Millenia Earls is the first Central Florida location for a long-established, family-owned Canadian restaurant group, though the founder, Leroy Earl Fuller was originally from Montana. (I’m just guessing here, but maybe he moved to Alberta after a presidential election.) I haven’t been able to figure out why the restaurant is called Earls and not Earl’s; perhaps more than one Earl is involved.

Anyway, there are now, as of today, 68 Earlses, including one other Florida location, in Miami’s Dadeland.

Earls took over the space that had been Blue Martini. But if you were familiar with that drinking hole (and I’m not editorializing with that term) you won’t recognize the place.

Amatista dining room

I took avail of its participation in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month to visit Amatista Cookhouse at Sapphire Falls, the new Loews resort at Universal Orlando.

The hotel’s website says that it “transports guests to a paradise in the heart of the tropics.” But with its austere and cold decor and vast, open dining room, I thought more about the icy Fortress of Solitude from “ Superman” than anything equatorial. (It might be more solitary than than the operators would like, given the low number of guests on the evening I dined.)

The menu is ostensibly Caribbean but the food is presented in a creative and stylistic way.

Coppertail brewing

Our friends at Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn are planning a beer-pairing dinner on Sunday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m.

Executive chef Jason Klingensmith is collaborating with the brewers from Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing Co. and has put together a delicious sounding menu with such things as Diver Scallops, Short Rib and Wild Mushroom Strudel and Tuna Lollipops, each paired with a different beer or ale. Even dessert, a Chocolate Tower with Peanut Butter Powder will be accompanied by a porter. You can see the full menu with pairings at the event page.

Cost is $65, which includes everything — tax, tip and fees.

I’ve hosted Supper Clubs at Hamilton’t Kitchen in the past (and hope to again soon) so I can tell you the staff always does a fine job.

The Alfond Inn at Rollins is at 300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park.

Epcot caribbean

The 2016 edition of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is officially up and running, though given the heat of opening weekend it’s more like it’s up and slogging. The heat didn’t deter the throngs of first weekenders, as it never does. They backed up at the parking gates, stood in line at the bag check, a sort of special “security theater” presentation that is supposed to make you think a thorough check of the contents of purses and backpacks is being carried out, and they gamely waited in another line to walk through airport-style magnetometers.

By all means, come on in and have fun.

I was fortunate to have been invited to a media day event that took place in a private space on an upper floor overlooking the Festival Center. So the other attendees and I were able to sample some of the festival’s newer food items in blessed air conditioning.


HH Brunch 2

Our friends at Highball & Harvest, the contemporary Southern restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, are adding Sunday brunch to the repertoire starting this weekend. H&H has consistently been offering excellent and inventive food since it opened just two years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing what chef de cuisine Nathan Hardin and pastry chef Stephane Chéramy have cooked up for brunch.

The opening brunch menu is set to feature such things as Smoked Pork Eggs Benedict with BBQ Hollandaise; Burnt Rosemary Rubbed Prime Rib; Salt Crusted Salmon; and a station for omelets or eggs any way you like them. You can see the full menu below.

There’s also a raw oyster bar, live entertainment and bottomless mimosas.

Brunch will be served from noon to 2 p.m. Cost is $58, $20 for kids 12 and under. It’s a pretty spacious restaurant, but you should call 407-393-4422 for reservations just so they’ll know how much of that BBQ Hollandaise sauce to whip up.

Highball & Harvest is at Grande Lakes Orlando, 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando