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OWFA22 site

The Orlando Wine Festival & Auction, sponsored by the Orlando Magic and benefitting its Youth Foundation, had its second event last weekend, but it wasn’t exactly second annual.

The first OWFA was in 2019, and the second was planned for March of 2020 and was to have included Michael Symon as the headlining chef and a concert by Boyz II Men. But it was cancelled – along with many other things, including the remaining NBA season – just days before it would have happened.

As Alex Martins, chief executive officer of the Orlando Magic, says in the video below, the decision to go ahead this year was made only 45 days before the event took place at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando.

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vanda19 kitchenThe kitchen of Victoria & Albert's in June, 2019.

Everyone seems quite excited about the news that Victoria & Albert’s, the ultra posh high-end restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, will reopen “later this year.” There is still quite a bit of year left to still qualify as later, and Disney is offering no hints as to how much later. It’s also not saying why its top restaurant – arguably one of the finest in the country – has remained dark while so many others have reopened. And with the announcement that Michelin Guide inspectors will begin visiting area restaurants, you’d think the culineers would want it open as soon as possible since it’s almost a shoe-in for a starred rating.

The Michelin inspectors will just have to make do with Grilled Cheezus, which has opened in the Mills 50 space Bites & Bubbles left empty when it moved up the street. GC occupies the front of the store and Phat Ash Bakes, a cookie company, works out of the rear.

In its annual version of “No soup for you!”, the James Beard Foundation and its panel of judges for its once-prestigious awards have again excluded Central Florida semifinalists from the final ballot. Sue and Jason Chin of Good Salt Restaurant Group had been nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur; Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney Resort for Best Pastry Chef; Evette Rahman of Sister Honey’s in Orlando for Best Baker; and Kabooki Sushi’s Henry Moso for Best Chef – South region. As usual, the South region chef category is dominated by New Orleans chefs, with three of the five slots. Two Alabama restaurants somehow sneaked in this year. Here’s the full list of finalists, if you care to see it.

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Foss plaquePhotos Tori Tori via Facebook

George Foss, chef de cuisine at Tori Tori, the popular Mills 50 Japanese pub and restaurant, was killed March 10 when the motorcycle he was riding crashed with another vehicle on U.S. Highway 27 in Davenport. He was 35.

His death was announced on Tori Tori’s Facebook page on Mar. 11. It read in part: “George has been the heart and soul of our company for the past 4 years and is an extraordinary person, father, leader, and son. He has inspired so many lives, brought laughter, brought hope, and a sense of family to many individuals.”

The restaurant closed Mar. 11 to allow the staff time to grieve.

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HangryWG ext

After more than a year’s delay, a second outpost of Hangry Bison, the popular Winter Park Village restaurant, has finally opened, bringing its award-winning burgers and creative cocktails to downtown Winter Garden.

Set in a newly constructed building fronting Plant Street, it’s a bigger restaurant than the original, with more outdoor seating and a large, expansive space indoors with a large bar the main focus. And even the indoor dining room has an al fresco vibe thanks to garage-door walls that open the space up. (It’s one of the new realities that air-flow is a concern in restaurant design.)

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orlando wine fest barrels

Two years ago, the stage was set for the second annual Orlando Wine Festival & Auction, hosted by the Orlando Magic and benefitting its Youth Foundation. Approximately 600 people were expected to attend, with highlights including a dinner hosted by celebrity chef Michael Symon and a concert by Boyz II Men.

And then, well, you know.

Now the event is being revived and will take place Saturday, March 19, at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando. Can we still call it the second annual when the first one was three years ago?