Southeast Steel Air Fry Competition still

I helped judge a friendly little chicken wing-cooking competition at Southeast Steel the other day. But the twist was that these wings weren’t deep fried, they were air fried.

And to make it twistier, they weren’t done in one of those countertop air fryers but rather in a “conventional” oven with an air frying element built into it. A representative for Frigidaire explains it in the video below.


Will Fly for Food

The travel-booking website Kayak and OpenTable, an online reservation resource, have published “Will Fly for Food,” a compilation of “25 restaurants worth traveling for,” and Orlando’s Tap Room at Dubsdread is on the list.

Tap Room is listed among other worldwide destinations such as Gilda by Belgious in Barcelona, Paddock & Vine in Sydney, and Wirsthaus in der Au in Munich. Ft. Lauderdale’s Serafina by the Sea and Crust in Miami were also cited.

According to Kayak’s website, the list, which you can see here, features “hidden-gem restaurant’s in Kayak’s most popular destinations around the world.” Tap Room at Dubsdread is certainly a local gem but I wouldn’t consider it hidden. Los Angeles’ Musso & Frank Grill is downright legendary, but it, too, is on the list.

So how does the Tap Room at Dubsdread land on an exclusive list along with the likes of カヤカバイザシー in Tokyo?

According to the site’s notes on food data methodology, the destinations were selected based on trending booking data for travel between July and the end of 2019. So, good news for Orlando’s tourism numbers.

The restaurants on the list were generated by diner reviews on OpenTable’s website left during a 12-month period that ended June 30, 2019. To be considered, the restaurants had to have an overall rating of more than 4.4 stars and had to be tagged as a “neighborhood gem” in at least 10 percent of the reviews. Tap Room’s overall score is 4.8 stars out of 5.

If Tap Room at Dubsdread is too hidden for you, enter the address (which, oddly, is not included in the Kayak listing), 549 W. Par St., Orlando, in your favorite mapping app.


Signature exterior

As we await the results of the 2019 Best Indian Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants, let me tell you about a new Indian cafe in South Orlando that you may want to give a try.

It’s called Signature India and it opened in April in a strip mall at 11352 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. The place isn’t heavy on decor. There are tomato red walls and oxblood red booth backs and pendant lights over the booth tables. The place is neat and tidy for the most part.



SCC RiosSCC Ikeuchi

The second annual Scott Joseph’s Sous Chef Challenge: The Next Big Thing took place Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show as part of ACF Central Florida’s Culinary Arts Competition. And for the first time in the 25 years that ACF CF has been holding these contests, there was a tie for first place.

Sharing the award – and the $1000 prize – were Takeshi Ikeuchi, above right, of Morimoto Asia and Jacob Rios of American Kitchen at B Resort.

SCC Rios dish

Rios, who also won first place at last year’s competition, presented a dish of Koji-aged Duck with Sunchoke and Foie Gras Foam.

SCC Morimoto snapper

Ikeuchi’s dish was Red Snapper with Spicy XO Sauce and Yuba Roll.

Because only one First Place trophy had been produced, the judges ruled that it would go home with Rios while another one is being made. But Ikeuchi didn’t go home empty handed, he also won the People’s Choice Award, voted on by those who had purchased tickets to attend the competition and taste the dishes.

The second place trophy was awarded to Emmanuel Santiago Jr. of Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill for his entry of Beef Salpicao, a Filipino dish. Third place went to Ulas Peksun, JW Marriott, Orlando Grande Lakes, who presented House-made Bao Buns with Marinated Duck Breast and Kimchi.

SCC judges

Joining me at the judges’ table were, clockwise from top right, Terrence Tookes, CEC; Joe Alfano, CEC, AAC; and Nora Galdiano, CEC, AAC.

Also participating in the Challenge were: Jeffrey Rivera, Hyatt Regency Orlando; Samuel Bove, Cress, DeLand; Dennis Roach, Saratoga Springs; and Tara Valle, Centre Court, Tampa.

SCC produce

The cosponsors of the event were Sysco, which provided proteins to the participants, and Freshpoint, which donated spices and produce. The sous chefs were not required to use the provided ingredients.


Manning with Knightro

Ryan Manning is softly opening his second MxTaco location today. The date is significant because Sept. 16 is Mexico’s Independence Day. (No, it isn’t Cinco de Mayo; that’s a fairly insignificant holiday, which I can explain for you here.)

The new restaurant is at Waterford Lakes, 861 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando, in the same grouping of businesses that includes Domu Chibi, Little Greek and Fresh Kitchen.

If you’ve been to the original in the Milk District, you’ll be pleased to know that the Waterford Lake location has more space. And because of its proximity to UCF, its decor includes a special painting that incorporates the traditional use of skeletons, or calaveras, in Mexican art with Knightro, the university’s mascot, who has skillfully impaled a taco. The painting is by local artist Romaine Tacey.

The restaurant is just in soft opening today because the signage isn’t up and the beer cooler isn’t stocked, but I’ll bet you can find your way there and take a beer with you if you want.

And of course Manning's taco mneu, featuring variations from throughout Mexico, will be there. If you haven’t tried MX Taco yet, you can read my review of the Milk District restaurant here.

 By the way, Manning isn’t done expanding. Another MX Taco is planned for sometime next summer in Celebration.