MagdinMo full logo18

It’s still six weeks away, but Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month has announced the list of participating restaurants, and those venues are now accepting reservations. MagDinMo, which historically was confined to the days of the ninth month of the calendar, will run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 30.

During Magical Dining Month, restaurants that have paid a fee to be part of the program offer special three-course menus priced at $35. Often — but not always — these menus give you a taste of what the restaurants have on their regular menus at a significant savings.

Something new this year is that several restaurants have agreed to offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items, because the epidemic of faux Celiac disease continues. Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is among the list of restaurants offering one or more of the special diet options.

Still missing as an option: Choosing an appetizer, soup or salad, and an entree as the three courses and eschewing dessert. Maybe next year?

And it isn’t new, but this year you won’t see Emeril Lagasse’s face hanging out of the MagDinMo’s website banner. This is the first time in many years that Lagasse has no restaurants in Central Florida. Both Emeril’s Orlando and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop were regular participants.

But, more than 100 restaurants are on this year’s list, including 19 first-timers. On that list you’ll find our friends at Maria & Enzo’s and the Tap Room at Dubsdread.

As in years past, one dollar from every MagDinMo meal sold will go to children’s charities. This year, the program will help children affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities, though donations to Best Buddies and The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. I wonder if American Express is matching the donations through its sponsorship. That sure would be a nice thing to do, Amex.

I’ll be looking over the list and doing my math and will make some recommendations in the coming weeks. In the meantime, give the list a look and start making your plans.

Curry Mantra ext

The young man who greeted us and showed us to the lunch buffet at Curry Mantra, a new Indian restaurant, seemed genuinely interested in making sure my lunch guest and I were pleased with the food.

Unfortunately, we weren't. With the exception of a spicy lentil soup, everything was quite modest and mundane. And even worse, much of it was tepid or, like the mixed pakora, downright cold.

Lyon1 sud

Note: This is one of a series of articles about Art in Voyage -- Beyond Travel's tour of Paris and Lyon, co-hosted by Scott Joseph with Kevin Fonzo. Previous articles include A Food Adventure in France Begins, Paris Day 2, Paris Day 3 and Paris Day 4.

LYON, FRANCE — Because of the unpredictability of the French rail strikers, we traveled from Paris to Lyon in a van. It was comfortable, and it’s always nice to have door-to-door service, but what would have been an hour and a half trip on the TGV was a four-hour journey by highway.

We arrived later than we had anticipated and headed to our lunch reservation at Le Sud, or the South, one of the Paul Bocuse brasseries (there’s one for every direction). The last time I dined here, circa ’95, it had just opened.

Eastside Asian exterior

There’s an interesting little Asian market on the East side. It’s called Eastside Asian Market.

What makes it more interesting is that along with the aisles and shelves of specialty foods and dry goods that you won’t find in your basic Publix, a corner of the store is dedicated to small cafe with an exclusively vegetarian menu. In fact, a note at the top of the menu board next to the kitchen reads, “Everything is vegetarian. Deal with it.”

There isn’t a whole lot to deal with. The menu is succinct and the food is good.

EHS 3D no Farmlettes Close Up

Scott is currently in Russia on assignment. Wish we could tell you more but it’s all very secret. It has something to do with video production and asparagus. Very hush-hush. We probably shouldn’t have told you that. Don’t mention it to anyone. Before he left, he guest authored this article for Edible Orlando about a new initiative called 4Roots that is being spearheaded by 4 Rivers Smokehouse founder John Rivers. The program has many facets but its main purpose is to get school kids interested in agriculture and food production. Like growing asparagus. Not that we know anything about that. Here’s the beginning of the article with a link to the full story at Edible.

4Roots Farm and Agricultural Center gets fresh produce into public schools—and jump-starts a much bigger idea

by Scott Joseph

When he opened the third location of his burgeoning barbecue brand, in 2011 in Longwood, John Rivers looked at the cash register at the ordering counter and said that it was his least favorite place in the restaurant.

It’s not that he was intimidated by the technology or that the business side of the restaurant flummoxed him. On the contrary, before he began his path to becoming the area’s smoked meats mogul, Rivers had a successful career in the world of business, including as president of CuraScript Specialty Distribution, managing a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical operation, and as director of the strategic business group for Johnson & Johnson, Cordis Division.

He is not intimidated by money.

Link to the full story at Edible Orlando