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Taste! Central Florida, the usually annual fundraiser to ironically fight childhood hunger, will return Aug. 18 to the Orlando World Center Marriott from 7 to 11 p.m. Vendor and sponsor packages are on sale now and individual tickets will go on sale this spring. Proceeds go to Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to aid in their efforts to stanch food insecurity, which effects one in five children in the area.

The event, which features a collection of 40 or so local restaurants in a walkabout setup, has been absent for the past three years. That was because of Covid-19, of course, and it was not deemed safe to have thousands of people gather together, even in a massive venue like the OWCM’s grand ballroom. Also, Covid tends to affect the senses, so it didn’t make sense to have an event called Taste! Central Florida if people couldn’t Taste! anything. (It also affects the ability to smell, but so far no one has come up with an event called Smell! Central Florida. Although that would make a good fundraiser because childhood hunger stinks.)


Normans extPhoto via Norman's Facebook page

Norman’s is finally open in its new home at 7924 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. The return of Norman Van Aken’s restaurant has been bated-breathily anticipated ever since it departed its original Central Florida home at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando in 2019. The Ritz-Carlton space is now occupied by Knife & Spoon.

The restaurant had originally planned a 2020 reopening, but that pesky little pandemic slowed things down. Then there were the usual construction delays and dilemmas that all restaurants face. But it’s finally here and ready for you.

Van Aken and his partner Thomas D. Wood Jr. have generously donated a gift certificate to Norman’s for this Sunday’s Orlando Shakes Gala. The silent auction is open online now and you can bid on it and other restaurant prizes here. Successful bidders will be announced at the event.


Enzo sign

This Sunday, Feb. 26, is the annual Orlando Shakes Gala, benefitting Central Florida’s premier professional theater organization. Of course, a gala usually features an auction and Shakes’ will have one, too. In fact, the silent auction items are already online and taking bids. You can see them here.

And among the items up for bid are some of the area’s best restaurants. Because I have a close connection with Orlando Shakes in Partnership with UCF, I’ve been helping the gala committee put together the Scott Joseph Collection of restaurants for the auction, and all this week I’ll be highlighting some of the selections.

Today we begin with: Me.

Well, me and Enzo’s on the Lake. As you’ve read here, the iconic Longwood restaurant was recently sold. Any time a popular restaurant undergoes a major change like that, I need to go back and do an updated review. I’m inviting two diners – the successful bidder and his or her guest – to join me for a multi-course dinner with wine and help me write the review. We’ll talk about the surroundings – the dining room ambience, noise level, lighting – the service (Enzo’s staff has always been the epitome of professionalism; has anything changed?) and of course the food. I’ll record your thoughts and use your quotes when I sit down to write the review.


Whiskey luck of Irish

Yes, it’s still February and Valentine’s Day is just passed but it’s time to start thinking ahead, people. Before you know it, St. Patrick’s Day will be standing over us wielding a big ol’ shillelagh.

The Whiskey, the Sand Lake Road restaurant and bar, can not only help you with your early St. Patrick’s Day plans but also help you get the jump of the actual events with its Luck of the Irish St. Patrick’s Day kickoff dinner.

The event will be Monday, March 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Restaurant Row venue. Tickets are $95 per person and seating is limited to 56 guests. Purchase tickets here

The evening will feature a four-course dinner with pairings from Redbreast Single Pot Still’s catalog of Irish whiskeys. Attendees will also receive a Redbreast Glencairn glass & hat. The Whiskey folks are also promising chances to win other prizes.

More fun than you can shake a stick at.


TablaOviedo door

I feel a certain connection with Tabla, the Indian restaurant, because it was the first restaurant I reviewed for this website after leaving the Orlando Sentinel in 2008. Back then, it called itself Tabla Bar & Grill and was located in a nondescript space in a motel or timeshare (I could never figure which one) near Universal Studios Orlando.

Fifteen years later, that first location still exists. But in the past few years owner Nora Jain and family have grown the business to four locations. The Winter Park Tabla opened in 2020 in the off-Park space that had been Paris Bistro. Then Lake Nona got a version in late 2021.

Now, Tabla has opened in Oviedo in Center Lake Park overlooking the quiet lake and fountain. To maintain bragging rights that I’ve visited all four Tablas, I headed to Oviedo recently. And I had to smile at how far Tabla has come.