Shantell ext

If you were to just show up at somebody's house and ask to be fed, you probably wouldn't be surprised to be made to wait while something was thrown together for you. Even if you showed up during what might be considered a normal meal time, you might have to cool your heels while your friend found something to cook for you. Assuming you pulled this stunt at a friend's house and not a strangers, because then you might find yourself arrested.

Even if you were to show up at a restaurant on an off hour you may experience a longer than ideal wait time. Kitchens tend to put foods away and break down service stations. If guests come in before or after that process, it may take a while to get things resituated.

But when you show up at a restaurant at 1 p.m., which to most people is still the heart of lunchtime, you sort of expect more prompt service. Especially when only two other tables — a total of three people — are occupied and waiting for food.

I waited over 45 minutes for my food to arrive at Shantell's Cafe, a well-regarded restaurant in Sanford that recently moved to a new location not far from its original home. It's not like I ordered something out of the ordinary. I selected the chicken and waffles, a dish considered to be so much a signature that it's written in the front window.


Ameca interior

It's been just over a year since my trip to Mexico City and I believe I've just had the most authentic Mexican food since then. It was at a little place called Taqueria Ameca.

This is a small, barebones operation in a cramped strip mall south of downtown. (It's in the same location as the recently reviewed Flavors Nigerian.) On my recent visit the restaurant was doing a brisk lunch business, and I was encouraged to realize that I was the only non-Hispanic among them.

There is no printed menu, as far as I can tell. The selections are inartistically written on a white board near the ordering counter. There aren't even headings — the tacos are listed with the various filling options with enchiladas, sopes and other items mixed in.


Umi ramen

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Umi, the latest sushi bar and Japanese restaurant to occupy a familiar Park Avenue Space, even though it included some of the absolute worst mussels to ever have been placed in front of me.

Umi is at the "bottom" of Park Avenue, at 525 South, where various other sushi and Japanese restaurants — plus an occasional bit of Thai — have called home. Most recently it was Avenue Thai & Sushi. Its longest and most familiar occupant was Shiki.

Umi has an austere yet pleasant vibe. The menu features not only the expected sushi selections but also kitchen foods that include robata grilled meats and a couple of ramen soups.


Finalists for the James Beard Foundation's culinary awards were announced Tuesday morning in New York. Central Florida was again brushed over.

Nominees for the South region, which includes Florida, are Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, PR; Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, MS; Slade Rushing, Brennan's, New Orleans; and Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans.

The list of 20 semifinalists had included Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert's; Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon; Hari Pulapaka, Cress; and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig. All have been previous semifinalists, Hunnel the most frequently. No Central Florida chefs have ever advanced to the finals. (Norman Van Aken and Melissa Kelly, who both have restaurants in Orlando, won best chef awards for restaurants outside the area.)

Tampa's Bern's Steakhouse is nominated for an Outstanding Wine Program award.

For the first time in the awards' 25 year history, the winners will be announced outside of New York, at a black-tie ceremony at Chicago's Lyric Opera, Monday, May 4.

The full list of finalists can be viewed at JamesBeard.org. (The list will publish after the announcement ceremony, which is still going on at this moment.)


Shaw white zinThe news — or partial news, as is often the case with misinformation — that California wines are loaded with arsenic has sent people into a panic. I hope you didn't do anything rash like pour all your Napa and Sonoma County wines down the drain. Well, I do hope you poured your Cook's spumante out, if you had any.

In case you missed the report, a lawsuit was filed last week against several winemakers that claims they are selling wines with high levels of arsenic. Specifically, 83 bottles of wine from 28 California wineries that are sold under 31 brand levels were cited. All of them might conservatively be referred to as cheap wine. Among them, certain wines from Almaden, Sutter Home and Charles Shaw, which is sold at Trader Joe's and commonly referred to as 'Two Buck Chuck" by fans and detractors alike. (Actually, the wine sells for closer to four bucks these days, but never mind that.) And not all the wines produced from those winemakers was named as having dangerous levels of arsenic. For example, only the Charles Shaw white zinfandel was cited. (You can see the full list in this article from AP.)

According to a Wine-Searcher article titled Scaremongers Spark Fear Over Arsenic in Wine, which highlights the expected distain of the winemaking community, the lawsuit has little chance of succeeding because there are no standards in place regarding accepted levels of arsenic. California does have a limit of arsenic in drinking water of 10 parts per billion. The suit claims that an independent laboratory found up to 50 parts per billion in some of the named wines. The article claims that that is one fourth as much as what is permitted in Europe.

The U.S. government does have standards for arsenic in such things as apple and grape juice, and arsenic levels in rice has been in the news recently, as well. (Arsenic, besides being a poison in high levels, is a known carcinogen.)

And about that independent laboratory. It was Denver based BeverageGrades, owned by Kevin Hicks, who was not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. However, the company said in a press release on Thursday, the day the suit was filed, that it believes that alcoholic beverages should undergo a screening process and be properly certified for purity. That happens to be what BeverageGrades does. So, a dog in the fight, if you will.

It's always a good idea to buy wine from a trusted winemaker through a reliable retailer. But right now, there probably isn't a reason to dump the cheap stuff down the drain. Unless it's that Cook's spumante. Seriously, don't drink that crap.