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Plantees ext

Do you find it odd that a restaurant that bills itself as “100% Plant Based” would have artificial turf out front?

Maybe I should have taken that as an omen and fled from Plantees, a new fast fooder with a limited menu of meat-free items in the Mills 50 District.

Now before the die-hard vegans get poised to tap out a poison-pixel letter let me assure you this is not an anti-vegan review. In fact, I would love to introduce more plant-based foods into my diet. Obviously, someone in my profession can’t entirely eliminate animal products from his diet and still present a wide variety of restaurants for your consideration.

But on my nights off, those evenings when I don’t have to go to a restaurant, I’ve been striving to be more meatless (meatlesser?).

I was hoping to find the food at Plantees to be so good that it could offer a vegetarian option if I didn’t feel like cooking. I did not.

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Tartini Bruschetta

When I recently revisited Tartini Pizza & Spaghetteria, I was impressed with the improvements new owners Oleksandr Nechyporenko and Alvaro Ramirez, who is also the chef, had made. And I loved Ramirez’s creative take on Italian cuisine. His Chef’s Bruschetta is a perfect example.

Ramirez has taken something that is usually no more than chopped tomatoes and basil with olive oil on toast and taken it to new levels. For starters, forget the tomatoes and basil. Instead, he uses creamy herbed goat cheese, arugula and fresh peaches. He tops it with balsamic pearls that look like oversized caviar. The spherification process is included in the online version of the recipe for those who like to dabble in kitchen chemistry. But, Ramirez says, you can also just drizzle some balsamic vinegar for a workaround.

Click here to go to the recipe.

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4flameSC long table

After a pause of nearly three years, we finally had an in-person Supper Club again, breaking our pandemic fast at Four Flamingos: A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen. When I opened the reservations to my newsletter sibscribers, the dinner sold out in less than 24 hours. So the restaurant added another night – a Supper Club first.

4flameSC blais closer

And at both nights, Richard Blais, the celebrity chef who has attached his name to the restaurant, was on hand to talk with us. When we were in the planning stage for the dinner, we discussed having Blais join us by Zoom – something we learned when we did a virtual Supper Club online. We could talk with chefs and winemakers anywhere in the world. But Blais said “No, I want to be there.”

He greeted us, joked amiably and talked about his vision for the restaurant. Then he introduced his resident executive chef, Shelby Farrell, who ran us through the menu.

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taproom outdoor

The Tap Room at Dubsdread has been voted Best Outdoor Dining in our 2022 Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants. Maxine’s On Shine was second and The Garlic in New Smyrna Beach third. Only one vote separated second and third places.

Tap Room was a runaway first place winner. Its wraparound veranda has long been a favorite for lunches, dinners and Sunday brunches.

In placing her vote, Betsy Landesman Jacobs wrote: “Picked The Tap Room for their beautiful porch overlooking the golf course. A bit different from the rest, and so peaceful. Good food, great staff and service.”

Maxine’s On Shine, which was also recently honored as a Bib Gourmand recommendation in the inaugural Florida Michelin Guide, expanded its outdoor dining area beyond its front sidewalk area during the pandemic to include gazebos in the small side parking lot. Although the expanded outdoor dining was meant to be temporary, Maxine’s management has petitioned the city to make it permanent.

The Garlic, an Italian restaurant, is known for its overgrown garden dining area.

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EIFW22Photos: Walt Disney World Resorts

The 2022 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has officially kicked off. And if you plan to go out there any time soon, be sure to prepare yourself for excessive heat or you might kick off too.

EIF&WF used to be the park’s only big event before Epcot became a place for year-round festivalness. But it’s still the longest, running this year from July 14 through Nov. 19.

The food and wine fest still isn’t back to its pre-Covid self – who is? There will not be any tastings hosted by visiting winemakers nor special luncheons or wine dinners. And, saddest of all, no Parties for the Senses.

But the Global Marketplaces, those elaborate kitchen kiosks set up around the World Showcase, will be in full swing. Well, partial swing – some of the marketplaces won’t open until Aug. 15. You can see the full list of food and drink options and when they’ll be open here.

EIFW22 screen

Also back this year, the Eat to the Beat concert series. Or more precisely, Eat to the Beat presented by Florida Blue Medicare, as noted in the screenshot above from the Festival’s webpage that shows two not-quite-Medicare-aged men apparently telling their son a Ron DeSantis joke.

There are also Eat to the Beat dining packages on select nights. Certain Epcot restaurants will offer multi-course menus, and diners receive a guaranteed seat at that night’s concert. So technically you won’t eat to the beat; you’ll eat then go to Eat to the Beat. Is that clear?

Of course, this all requires admission to the theme park, and, according to the website, a theme park reservation is also required. And food and beverages are sold separately at the various marketplaces.

As for me, I hope to get out to experience the festival, but I think I’ll wait until the temperatures cool down. I’m thinking Nov. 18.