hhsc chefChef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers gives the rundown for the evening's meal at the H&H Supper Club in November.

As I told you when I first reviewed Highball & Harvest Kitchen and Bar, the Southern-inspired restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, the name is partly a reference to a railroading term that means to go at high speed. To continue that analogy for our recent Supper Club there, H&H's engineer (chef de cuisine Mark Jeffers), conductor (manager Matt Cristi), and all the porters who cooked and served the meal had us at full-steam-ahead all night long. It was one enjoyable journey.

We started with a reception on the covered terrace overlooking the grounds of the resort on one of the most gorgeous evenings we've had lately. There the bartenders were shaking one of the lounge's signature cocktails, the Doc Holliday, which features Tito's vodka, ruby grapefruit juice and house-made ginger beer, plus blueberry jam. The jam gave me caution the first time I tried this cocktail, but it all comes together nicely, and everyone loved the copper mugs it was served in. We nibbled on pimento cheese and smoked fish dip before heading into the adjacent dining room for supper.


Onion Relish

Relish a relish with nary a cranberry. Crunchy pickled red onions bathed in a kicky Latin marinade of orange juice, smoky chipotles and a swig of tequila adds a bit of sass to even the most traditional holiday menus. And you won't believe how easy these complexly flavored beauties are to create.

Without the hassle and mess of canning, the marinade performs its magic in the fridge, working to draw some of the liquid from the onion, leaving it as crisp as a fresh apple. And you can pickle to your heart's content up to two months before you plan to serve the sweet/hot scarlet nibbles (or fill an extra jar or 10 as the perfect gift for the foodies on your holiday shopping list).

Serve alongside, oh, just about everything--a swanky buffet, the humble casserole, a platter of cheeses, or straight from the jar for a low-calorie late night indiscretion.


Whenever I see an article like this one from Lifehacker with the title "Tips from a Former Server: How to Get Better Service at a Restaurant" I greet it with a raised eyebrow. This article tells the readers how they should comport themselves when dining out to ensure their waiters treat them properly.

The problem with the concept is that everyone should be getting proper service to begin with. The article's tone suggests that the onus is on the guest to treat the server right if one is to expect good service. It's certainly true that being a guest in a restaurant does not excuse someone from the tenets of the Golden Rule. But my position is that into every server's life a jerk will eventually appear. And even that jerk should get the best service available. 

But what do you think? Does the article tell you anything you didn't know? I'd especially like to hear from some of you servers out there. Leave a comment below.


txokos tortilla

Brunch is suddenly big again. Or maybe I'm just, shall we say, waking up to it. But it seems that it's almost a requirement that a restaurant now offer one. A restaurant that recently opened in downtown Orlando had barely finished serving its first guests before they started asking when the new business would add brunch. Sort of like new parents being asked if they'd selected the newborn's college yet.

If you're among those who don't quite get the allure of Sunday brunch — and in most cases we're talking about Sundays, though Saturday brunches are beginning to be more available — you might enjoy an article from the New York Times on the subject by freelance writer David Shaftel. Its title, "Brunch is for Jerks," will give you an idea about how Shaftel feels about them.

But if you read that title and thought, "Hmmm, jerked chicken omelet sounds good," then let's start exploring some of the brunch places available.