Shari overlook

Today we welcome Shari Sushi Lounge to the flog. (Everybody say Hey, Shari.) If you’ve read my statement about advertisers on the site, you know that not just anyone can have an ad displayed in these pages. In order to keep the integrity of SJO high, only restaurants that meet my standards of quality may present themselves here for your consideration. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve said no to a number of requests to advertise here, and I’ve dropped some restaurants whose quality flagged. If you don’t believe me, ask Nicole Spooner, my sales rep.

So when Nicole said that Shari would like to come on board I said, “Hmmm, it’s been a while since I’ve been there; I’d better go back and check them out.” After a couple of recent visits, I’m wondering why I hadn’t been back in so long. Everything I tasted was terrific.

ABO logo

I finally made it to Atlantic Beer & Oyster, or ABO as its becoming more commonly known. ABO is part of the triumverate of businesses that opened over the past several months at the corner of Park Avenue and Canton Avenue that also includes Boca and Park Social.

Actually, ABO was the first to open. It occupies the little space that is off the avenue, at the entrance to the Hidden Gardens, just across from Scott Laurent Galleries. I had stopped in a couple of times previously to give ABO a try, but each time I left without trying anything. The first time there was a terrible smell; the second time the place was completely empty and I didn’t feel like being the sole customer.

Nikkis Fire

Nikki's Place, the soul food restaurant in Orlando's Parramore District, was all but destroyed by a fire on March 30. The fire, which started on the upper level of the two-story structure and resulted in heavy water and smoke damage, is under investigation by the Orlando Fire Marshal. 

In the meantime, Bungalower reports that a page at GoFundMe has been set up to raise money to rebuild and to support the staff while the restaurant remains closed. As of Tuesday afternoon, $750 had been donated toward a goal of $10,000. It isn't clear at the GoFundMe website, but according to Bungalower the restaurant has only a few more days to reach the goal.

Nikki's Place had been open for 16 years prior to the fire. The restaurant was reviewed here just last year. 

aerlingus

Chef Kevin Dundon has named the five finalists for his Raglan Road Master Chef contest. Three are from Central Florida and the other two are from out of state. They are:

  • Janice Epaillard, Mt. Dora
  • Aaron Van Swearingen, Winter Park
  • Colleen Kerney, Orlando
  • Heather McBroom Walker, Scottsdale
  • Linda Rohr, Darien, Connecticut

The five will travel to Ireland on May 21 for a five-day stay that will include a night in Dublin before heading to Dundon’s hotel and cooking school, Dunbrody, in Wexford. While there, the contestants will get cooking tips from Dundon and visit local markets, farms and fishing docks. The winner of the competition will not be announced until October 10 at a special 10th anniversary dinner at Raglan Road Irish Pub at Downtown Disney.

To be considered, all applicants had to submit a brief video describing a three-course menu for the anniversary dinner.

“Total dream come true and i'm still pinching myself!” Swearingen posted on his Facebook timeline after he was told he was a finalist. “Get to mark a big one off the bucket list. Only 3 weeks til this amazing trip, time to go pack!”

Reached by phone, Swearingen told me about his three course meal that he presented, which included deviled “Scotch” eggs, a main course of bangers and mash stew and a caramelized pear tart with whiskey cream sauce. The graphic designer and website developer said he has always enjoyed cooking but had never entered a cooking contest before. He told me that Raglan Road was his favorite restaurant and the one he goes to for every special occasion.

If it wasn’t his favorite restaurant before, it certainly is now.

segafredo logoIn the realm of consumable hospitality there are two choices: food and drink. Some places excel at food; these are generally referred to as restaurants. Some are better with just the drinks; we call them bars.

In some cases both food and drink are proffered with equal deftness. You’ll usually find this quality in the hospitality venues we call restaurants. It is rare, though not unheard of, that a place that focuses on specializing in drinks, on being a bar can do good food.

And if you need an example of what I’m talking about, just visit Segafredo, a new business in the Mills Park development.