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Cityworks ext 1

Note: All photos were taken before the coronavirus lockdown; masks and social distancing had not yet been mandated.

Here’s a little insight into the world of restaurant reviewing. Sometimes a restaurant gets visited and the review is written right away. It’s technically possible to write and publish a review before the credit card check slip is signed. That’s an advantage of the internet age.

A disadvantage, too. Sometimes it’s best to put some time between a visit and sitting down to write the review. Rumination can be a good thing. Plus, being the product of the print age, I had to plan which restaurants I would review weeks and sometimes months in advance. I still try to work ahead and visit restaurants that I won’t write about immediately.

That was the case when I ate at City Works Eatery and Pour House, a then-new restaurant and beer bar at Disney Springs, in early March. I remember having a conversation with my dining companions about this virus we were hearing about in the news. The U.S. had just seen its first case, but we had no inkling how things would quickly spiral downward. Two weeks later, businesses were closing, first voluntarily and then under orders. City Works went dark along with the rest of Disney Springs.

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safe eats logo

Visitors to New York are used to seeing placards in the front windows or on the doors of restaurants with a letter grade issued by the department of health. If the restaurant doesn’t have a large, blue A, many diners will simply pass it by. A B or lower (higher?) is considered a failing grade. (And most won’t consider a “grade pending” notice on an established restaurant because that usually means it has failed an inspection and is awaiting a do-over.

Now, a group of restaurateurs has initiated a program that would put a new sign in the window, one that attests that the establishment is following stringent sanitation and distancing guidelines.

Those standards are set up by the nonprofit’s organizers and, they say, offer clearer standards than what the government lays out.

Safe Eats is the name of the organization and it what is displayed on the sign, in white and blue that is similar to the letter grade’s color.

The organization, according to a story in the New York Times, charges restaurants $69 a month to join and provides the owners with advice, training and updates on regulations. The owners sign a Safe Eats pledge to follow all the rules the organization sets out.

The only problem: Unlike the letter grade from the health department, compliance of the guidelines is not backed up with inspections. Certification is a goal, one organizer said, but for now the consumers just have to trust the restaurant staff to follow the rules.

Safe Eats is currently only in New York City restaurants but the organizers hope to expand it to other cities.

Would a Safe Eats sign in a Central Florida restaurant’s window put you at ease?

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EIFWF Clink

So apparently there’s a semblance of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival going on right now. It’s being called Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and is a mere slip of the usual culinary extravaganza that occurs each fall. Still, there are 20 marketplaces socially distanced throughout the park and some inside the ginormous World Showplace, which allows for social distancing galore.

France is one of the marketplaces, even though the restaurants in the pavilion haven’t reopened yet. Canada’s kiosk is available, too, which means another year of that cheddar cheese soup that is so mysteriously popular.

This is the 25th year of the festival and probably isn't the way Disney would like to have celebrated, I’m sure. There’s talk that the full festival can be up and running later – it usually doesn’t kick off until the end of August anyway – but I’m even surer that won’t happen.

By the way, you can’t just pop out to the park and take in the Taste of... You’ll need to purchase an admission ticket in advance – no walkup windows – and have a reservation to attend. You can get details at the Epcot website.

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Pleau headshot

Clifford Pleau, the chef who along with general manager George Miliotes made Disney’s California Grill such a popular restaurant that Darden wooed them away as a team to develop Seasons 52, has returned to the Orlando area after six years as a vice president for Bloomin’ Brands.

Pleau started with the Tampa-based company’s Bonefish Grill brand, switching it from frozen fish to fresh, then moved through some of the other restaurants, including steakhouses Fleming’s and Outback, running their research and development.

For his next act, Pleau has a three-prong business approach – after taking some time off and getting settled back in the area. He plans to do product development and endorsement; high-end catering (anyone need a chef for a six-night cruise on a private yacht in the Aegean Sea?); and restaurant intelligence, which he describes as a consultancy to help restaurateurs fix an ailing business or get started on a new one.

“Time to get back to health and wellness in my cooking for some fulfillment in the legacy years,” Pleau told me. I’m guessing that means the guests on that yacht in the Aegean won’t be served any deep-fried bloomin’ onions.

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Osprey ext

The word Tavern is still on the outside of the building in Baldwin Park, and it still appears on the charge slip, but the owners of what originally was known as the Osprey Tavern would like you now to just call it the Osprey. And when you think of it, think of it as more of a seafood restaurant.

The owners are Jason and Sue Chin, whose restaurants are now under the auspices of Good Salt Restaurant Group. (Why not Best Salt or even Better Salt? I don’t know, but I like the name.) The disparate brands include Seito Sushi, just across the street from the erstwhile tavern, and Reyes Mezcalaria in the North Quarter. Reyes’ executive chef, the talented Wendy Lopez, is serving as culinary director at the Osprey, with Anthony Watler as its chef de cuisine. Elek Kovacs, who had been executive chef, left with the tavern.