Foxtail counter

I told you recently about Winter Park Distilling Company and their beautiful new digs in a refurbished former auto body shop. One of their neighbors is a cool little shop called Foxtail Coffee.

It has a distinctly Northwestern United States vibe, with lots of brick and wood and hanging block-and-tackle pulleys, a nod, I suppose, to the previous tenant.

Foxtail is serious about its coffee, right down to its onsite roasting room, and promises to source from only fair-trade coffee dealers.

WP Distillery still with andrew

Winter Park Distilling Company sure has come a long way in a short time.

The boutique boozer started making its distinct — and it should not go without mentioning, very high quality — bourbon, rum and vodkas just over six years ago. Until recently, the operation was housed in a small warehouse space on Solano Avenue with all the charm of a self-storage unit.

When I visited for a tour a few years ago, founders Paul Twyford and Andrew Asher gave me a tour of the facility, which included a space in the back of the building with an open garage door next to the railroad tracks. It seemed to me that anyone wandering along the tracks could pop in when no one was looking and sample some alcohol from the plastic tub. Also back then, Twyford and Asher, along with Asher’s wife, Francesca, who’s now an official part of the ownership team, were doing almost everything themselves, including putting the liquor into bottles, capping them and slapping the labels on by hand.

Now they’ve moved to a more substantial and more accessible facility. They can distill more product, and they can even sell it from a small kiosk window— well, some of it, but we’ll come back to that. And there’s even a bar in a comfortable, loungey space that I found immediately welcoming and attractive. When I first walked in I thought, “This is a place I’d like to hang out in and enjoy a cocktail.”

SushiCafe sushi

Well, we just don’t have a lot of good news for sushi lovers today.

Researchers at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University have concluded that diners in Los Angeles area sushi bars have about a 50/50 chance of getting the fish they actually ordered. Over a period of four years, researchers tested the DNA of 364 fish collected from 26 sushi restaurants with the highest Yelp and Zagat ratings. Forty-seven percent were deemed to be mislabeled.

For example, sushi patrons ordering yellowfin tuna were served something other than yellowfin tuna seven out of nine times. But those odds were better than for halibut and red snapper. Out of 43 orders of halibut and 32 orders of red snapper, tests showed that some other fish was substituted every time.

Maritas logo

I came across a little slip of a place on the east side of town that you might want to try the next time you’re peckish for some tacos or such.

Marita’s Fresh Latin Bites opened in November in a small storefront in a strip mall on Colonial Drive. There’s a counter for ordering your food and a couple of stools at the counter and two steps behind that at the window — think the original Black Bean Deli as far as size goes.

Yummy House beef with teapot

I miss Eastern Pearl. The Chinese restaurant in Altamonte Springs, in my estimation, did some of the best Asian dishes in the area. At least back in 2000 when it first opened. The success of the Altamonte restaurant prompted the owners to open another, in 2009, near Orlando International Airport. But that one was merely OK, and perhaps the vagaries of operating two restaurants eventually brought down both.

Now in the place of the original Eastern Pearl is another Chinese restaurant, Yummy House, a small chain out of Tampa with six locations, all within Florida. According to its website, YH has won awards for its cuisine at its Tampa and Gainesville locations. But I don’t see any accolades coming to the Altamonte Springs restaurant any time soon.

Perhaps my visit was destined to be troublesome when I was greeted — a word that doesn’t quite describe the unsmiling acknowledgement from the person who came from around the bar when I came in — and was directed to sit at the table next to the front door. When I said I didn’t care to sit there, he gestured to any of the other dozen or so empty tables and told me, grudgingly, to sit wherever I wanted.