nikkis lunch

If you were to look only at the website for Nikki's Place without first visiting the restaurant in the Parramore district restaurant, you might expect something quite different than what it actually is, a quaint neighborhood diner. In fact, you might be expecting someplace quite grand and celebrated. And if you reverse the order and check out the website after a visit, you might wonder if you'd been to the same place.

That's because the website for Nikki's Place was apparently designed by someone who was trying to get the attention of Internet search engines by inserting key phrases into the copy. Go to the site and try to count how many times the phrase "best restaurants in Orlando" appears. That's so that if someone, perhaps a potential visitor to the City Beautiful, types that phrase into, say, the Google search bar, Nikki's Place might be one of the top results. (By the way, be warned that the website has an annoying autoplay video with rather loud music, too).

The problem is that Mr. Google and other search engine moguls long ago figured out that people were trying to game the system and the algorithms that determine search results have been rewritten several times over. Search with that phrase now and Nikki's will not appear until several pages in. And that's how it should be.



Party for the Senses is the weekly event during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival that features chefs from around the country who are visiting the festival. This year there was something new: An all-Disney Party for the Senses with chefs from properties around the world. I was invited to stop by the party on Oct. 25 and experience this first-ever gathering. (Click the video above to see some of the sights and hear some of the sounds.)

Not all of the company's properties were accounted for, as it turns out. Conspicuous in their absence were any representatives for Disneyland Paris, which you'd think would be a natural for a food and wine event. At least, no one from Paris was listed in the official program, and I did not come across any Frenchmen as I wandered the vast space, but I certainly could have missed a thing or two.

Not surprising, the majority of the chefs cooking Saturday didn't have to travel too far. They were from the various restaurants and properties situated throughout the WDW campus. And among them were some of the food highlights of the evening, including Tim Keating's Fish Tacos a la Flying Fish and Lamb Four Ways from California Grill's Brian Piasecki. Victoria & Albert's sous chef, Tom Hill, standing in for a missing Scott Hunnel, had a delicious Tuna with Black Radish and Celery Root.

Michael Pythoud, listed on the program as executive chef at Disney's Hollywood Studios, even though he was recently promoted to executive chef of resorts, offered a baked Salibut - a salmon and halibut fusion — with fennel confit, saffron pearl potatoes and pinot noir sauce "inked" with squid ink. Stefan Riemer, pastry chef and concept developer, offered Marscapone-Lemon Cremeux, and Erich Herbitschek, executive pastry chef at the Grand Floridian, had Peruvian Chocolate Timbale with Raspberry Foam. Curiously, Herbitschek's booth featured a Darth Vader helmet.

Christine Weissman was still listed in the program as the executive chef at Disneyland in Anaheim even though she has returned to Orlando to oversee the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. She offered Braised Veal Cheeks with Butter-Poached Lobster and Carrot Puree.

Among the out of town chefs, Kevin Chong of Aulani, a Disney resort and spa in Hawaii, stood out with his Spicy Tuna Poke stuffed with Yuzu Crab Salad and coated with Puffed Furikake Rice.

Masayoshi Suzuki, executive chef at Disneyland Tokyo, had Deep-Fried Mille-Feuille of Scallop and Mushroom Duxelles, and Tony Leung, executive sous chef at Hong Kong Disneyland, presented Braised Pork Belly with Chinese herbs.

As with other Parties, entertainment was provided by cast member of Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.

Only one more Party for the Senses remains for this year's festival, on Saturday, November 1.


Boca practiceStaff on Thursday conducted practice service sessions at Boca, which is set to open Monday, Oct. 27.I had announced earlier that SoHo Hospitality Group of Tampa would be opening three new concepts on the corner of Park Avenue North and East Canton Avenue in Winter Park. That's no longer true. Wait, don't get upset — the bars and restaurants are still going to open. In fact two are already taking customers and the third has set Monday as its opening day.

It's the SoHo part that has changed.

Because of a dispute among its partners involving the group's restaurant CopperFish in Tampa, SoHo Hospitality has divided into two separate entities. According to an article by Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times, Kevin Enderle and Chas Bruck have left CopperFish to their former partner, Gordon Davis, and have formed BE-1. Under that company, Enderle and Bruck will keep Boca Kitchen Bar and Market and Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club in the Tampa area and the three Winter Park businesses: Boca, Atlantic Beer & Oyster and Park Social.

The split settles a dispute that included a lawsuit filed by Howard Park Properties, where CopperFish is located, against SoHo for nonpayment of rent. Howard Park Properties is owned by Gordon Davis. The breakup settled the lawsuit.

All that unpleasantness (there also apparently were fines from the city levied against CopperFish), which was resolved in September, may have been part of the reason that the Winter Park properties have taken so long to finally open. The delays certainly have led to several of the staff, some who told me they had been waiting several months with the promise that the businesses would be open "soon," leaving the company. Among those who departed were Dominic Rice, who was hired to be the chef of the downstairs restaurant that will be called Boca, and a bar manager Park Social, who told me that as many as seven other bartenders and servers left when he did, about 10 days ago. A spokesman for the restaurant group denied that there had been any departures other than Rice.

Atlantic Beer & Oyster opened the weekend of October 11. It occupies a stylized shanty off Park Avenue in the Hidden Gardens. I stopped in the other evening and would have stayed except that there were no other guests at the bar (and I didn't want to sit there alone). There was also an odd smell that I can only describe as the odor that comes from a refrigerator that has sat empty without power and with the door closed for a long time. I hope they figure out how to get rid of that smell because I like the look of the place, and I'd love to try the oysters and a cold beer.

As I was leaving, I was approached by a young man on Park Avenue who handed me a card for Park Social and asked if I would like to go upstairs and check it out. Park Social is supposed to be a speakeasy, so it seemed a little incongruous to have someone hawking for it on the sidewalk, but there you go. (In the future, the young man told me, I would have to call the number on the card that he handed me and get the password, which is to be entered on the keypad of the pay phone next to the door that leads the the stairs to Park Social.)

I went upstairs and sat at the bar and tried one of the retro cocktails and a flatbread from the menu. It would be unfair for me to give a review based on that early visit, so I'll reserve comments for another time.

Downstairs, the staff of Boca was conducting practice service for invited guests. A sign out front said that the restaurant would open on Monday. As I told you previously, Rocky Tarantello, who had collaborated on the original Boca in Tampa, has taken over the Winter Park kitchen as the group's corporate chef.

More to come.


You might have thought that when Orlando based Planet Hollywood got around to building its second PH hotel, to got with the one it has in Las Vegas, Orlando would be the logical location. Because, you know, hometown and all. Plus, we use a lot of hotels around here. Just sayin'.

But no. As hotelchatter.com reports, the city chosen for a new Planet Hollywood hotel is Utorda Beach in lovely Goa, India. According to the article, the hotel will feature "115 rooms, 15 luxury tents, spa, and multiple swimming pools."

I'm sure it will have all of the amenities that...


Luxury tents?

I asked a Planet Hollywood spokeswoman what that means and she said she didn't know but plans to find out. I'll pass the info along to you. In the meantime, start planning your Goan getaway.