A roundup of the week's restaurant reviews and news from Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide.
The 10th annual Downtown Food & Wine Fest Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24 and 25, in downtown, of course.
More specifically, it's along Robinson Street next to Lake Eola Park. Actually, some of it even spills onto the east end of the park. That's usually where the stage is set up.
The stage is for the various bands that will play throughout the weekend, including nationally known musicians and local groups. It really should be called the Downtown Food, Wine and Music Fest.
This event differs from others in that you pay a nominal fee to enter the fest area then purchase food and drink tickets to sample what the numerous restaurants and wine vendors are offering. Depending on the item and the size of the portion, one, two or three tickets might be required. It's handy when you don't want to commit to a three ticket glass of wine -- you can taste it for one ticket then decide if you want more.
On Thursday I chatted with event spokesman Jay Edwards at Hubbly Bubbly on Orange Avenue about the fest. Hubbly Bubbly is one of this year's participating restaurants. Take a look at the Facebook Live video we did with the folks at icFlorida. I also spoke with Georgie -- just Georgie, like Cher -- who showed me how to make a falafel sandwich.
You can get more fest and ticket details at this link.
I love rice.
Even though I have limited real estate on my kitchen counter, my rice cooker has a permanent dedicated space. Food processor, mixer, slow cooker -- all relegated to the pantry or even the garage. But the rice cooker is used too often to put away. I've been known to make a full meal out of rice with just butter, salt and pepper.
So a new restaurant called Sticky Rice certainly got my attention. I'll admit, though, that I was a bit wary. That's because Sticky Rice moved into a small space on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district that in a very short span of time has been home to at least two (and I think three) really disappointing restaurants.
But those memories faded during my visit to SR. The food is good, the staff, though not especially warm or fuzzy, work hard, and the overall experience is positive.
Who else could they possibly have chosen?
The James Beard Foundation has announced that chef José Andrés will receive the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year Award at the organization's gala ceremony in Chicago on May 7.
Andrés is a multiple Beard Award winner, including Outstanding Chef in 2011. He has also been recognized, in 2012, by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world, and GQ magazine named him its Man of the Year in 2009.
The Spanish-born chef has restaurant operations all over the world and later this year will open Jaleo at Disney Springs.
He is a longtime advocate for food and hunger issues, and in 2012 founded World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides solutions to hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies.
But it is surely what Andrés has been doing over the past several months that brings him the humanitarian award. Along with World Central Kitchen, Andrés has served over three million meals to the citizens of Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. He didn't just send representatives, he went over himself to cook and serve the food, usually under challenging conditions.
And it's ongoing. Just Saturday he posted a video on Facebook from Punta Santiago that said schools were closing at 11:30 a.m. because they could not feed the students.
“The Foundation is thrilled to name José Andrés as the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year,” Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, said in a statement. “José’s work in Puerto Rico and Haiti shows how chefs can use their expertise and unique skills to enact profound change on a global scale. He has demonstrated how, at the most difficult times, hot-cooked meals provide more than nutrition, they provide dignity."
No details have been released regarding the opening date for the Disney Springs Jaleo, but I'm sure we'll all welcome Andés to the community.
Winnie's Oriental Garden, the Chinese restaurant on Orange Avenue in Winter Park, is expected to close in "a few more months," according to Nick Leung, son of the restaurant's owner and namesake, Winnie. Leung said that his mother "is ready to retire and I can't handle it on my own." The restaurant opened in the summer of 1995.
Leung said that his mother has a preliminary agreement with the owner of Black Bean Deli, the popular Cuban eatery whose original location is just around the corner on U.S. Highway 17-92.
Leung that despite the proximity to the Winnie's location, the owners of Black Bean Deli intend to keep the original BBD as a catering kitchen. That location has virtually no seating, mainly just a ledge along the wall. A second Black Bean Deli opened in 2013 in the former Vega's space on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district with seating and full service. Black Bean Deli also has an outlet in the Amway Center open during events. A call to the owners of Black Bean Deli was not immediately returned.
Winnie Leung has been operating Chinese restaurants in the area since 1979. She and her husband owned China Garden, the restaurant on Semoran Boulevard near University Boulevard in Winter Park. When the couple divorced, she opened Winnie's.
Nick Leung said that he's not sure what's next for him or the "five to seven" employees at Winnie's. As for his mother, she's just ready to relax.