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Taste! Central Florida is Friday, Aug. 18, at Orlando World Center Marriott, and I’ll be there.

But right now I’m here – to save you some money.

Go to tastecfl.org and click on the link to Buy Tickets. You’ll see an option to “apply a promo code.” Click on that and type in SJO25. Update the amount and wah-la, you’ll see the purchase amount decrease by $25 for each ticket you’re purchasing. That doesn’t suck.

Taste!, of course, is the annual food and wine walkabout event that raises awareness and money for fighting childhood hunger. Proceeds benefit Coalition for the Homeless and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. And 100 percent of the monies raised stays in Central Florida.

As the event gets closer I’ll have more details on some of the participants and highlights of this year’s event. In the meantime, get your tickets now using the SJO25 code because it won’t last forever.


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I have a family recipe, one my mom cooked regularly when I was growing up, that I make from time to time. It’s noodle based and I’ve always just used store-bought dried egg noodles.

Then one day I decided to make fresh pasta and I used some in the recipe. And suddenly a mundane dish was a superior one. I’ll never go back to using dried pasta in that recipe again.

Vinicius Turci and his wife, Nathalia Kalil, understand that. Fresh pastas are the centerpiece of their College Park restaurant, Turci Pasta.


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The 2023 edition of Wine Quest, the annual wine tasting and auction benefitting Quest, Inc., will be Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. each night at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

Friday is the grand tasting event, a walkabout sampling of wines, hors d’oeuvres and craft spirits plus a silent auction.

Saturday is a sit-down, four-course dinner with pairings from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

You can do one night or both. The Friday tasting event is $250 per person and the Saturday dinner is $350. You can get both evenings for $500.

Or you could choose one of the group-ticket levels, such as the Bordeaux sponsor package, which gets you 18 tickets to Friday and 24 tickets to the Saturday dinner for just $30,000. Not sure how you break it to the six people not invited to Friday night, but that’s your problem. And true, you could buy 24 tickets to both nights for just $12,000 but the sponsorship level gets you lots more extras.

And let’s not forget that the proceeds go to furthering Quest’s mission “to build communities where people with disabilities achieve their goals.” You can find more information and purchase tickets here.


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John Paonessa has had a day. He arrived at work Tuesday morning to find news vans from every local television station in front of Hamburger Mary’s, the restaurant he owns and operates with his husband, Mike Rogier. He’s been fielding calls for requests for interviews from NPR and CNN and other national news organizations.

“I never thought this would blow up the way it did,” Paonessa told me.

The “this” is the announcement that Paonessa and Rogier, through their business entity HM Florida-Orl, LLC, are suing Ron DeSantis and the State of Florida in federal court claiming that a bill recently signed by the governor forbidding children to attend drag shows is a violation of their First Amendment rights. The downtown restaurant hosts weekly events featuring drag performers, some of which are attended by customers with children. The lawsuit also names Melanie Griffin, secretary of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.


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Pizzeria Valdiano has been sold, but it’s still staying in the Liguori family. Founder Joe Liguori, who also has the growing Hangry Bison brand, has sold the Pizzeria Valdiano business to his sister Angela Liguori and two longtime employees, Michael Fiorino of the Winter Park location and Adrian Zumbado in Lakeland. Asked if he was selling to focus on Hangry Bison, Liguori said: “Yes, that is the primary reason, but it is also for Mike and Adrian, my sister, and the Pizzeria Valdiano brand as well. The timing is right that The Hangry Bison needs my full attention, and Pizzeria Valdiano deserves new leadership as well.” Liguori is seeking franchisees for the Hangry Bison concept. Closing date for the Pizzeria Valdiano sale is Sept. 1.

Jason Wolfe, who recently left the kitchens of Tornatore’s, has joined Millenia Catering as chef de cuisine under executive chef and owner Lo Soukahvong. This is a return to the world of catering for Wolfe. Before Tornatore’s and K restaruant, he was chef de cuisine at Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events.