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Trotter project ice

The final numbers have come in for A Tribute to Chef Charlie Trotter, the event that was held in December by the late chef's friend Norman Van Aken. Van Aken's elegant restaurant, Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton, was transformed into a multi-stationed food emporium for the evening. The tables and chairs were removed and some of the area's best chefs came in to cook, serve incredible wines and raise funds and awareness for the Trotter Project.

More than 165 guests raised $8,300 for the organization, which was formed by Trotter's family and former staffers to promote culinary education.

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The voting has closed in our annual Most Romantic Restaurant poll and the results are in. More than four thousand votes were cast for over 50 restaurants. As I said before: Romantic is as romantic does; what may be someone else's idea of a lovey-dovey dinner might seem oddly straightforward to you. But I think you might agree with some of the top vote getters.

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Venetian Room dininig roomThe Venetian Room is just as romantic on February 13 and is extending its Valentine's Day special. Get a room!

What's the most romantic restaurant in Central Florida? According to our poll, the current frontrunners are K restaurant in College Park, followed by Vito's Chophouse on International Drive and Cafe de France on Park Avenue. Other top vote getters include Bistro on Park, RusTeak in College Park and the new Boca, also on Park Avenue. I guess those Winter Parkers are a passionate bunch.

There's still time for you to vote for your favorite — I'm holding the voting open until Friday. Click here to place your vote for Most Romantic Restaurant in Orlando. The winner will be announced Friday afternoon.

It's a fairly disparate collection, which only goes to prove that romantic is as romantic does. And of course all of this is just to remind you that Valentine's Day is next week and if you haven't made a reservation at your favorite romantic restaurant yet, you may find yourself trying to whisper sweet nothings to your Valentine across a table at Chuck E. Cheese. And they probably have a wait list.

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Umi logoI wonder if there's a clause in the lease for the space at 525 Park Avenue South in Winter Park that it must be occupied by a sushi restaurant. It's been one for as long as I can remember -- and it's been three in just the past few years.

Most recently it was Avenue Thai and Sushi, which replaced the short-lived Thai Thai V. Despite its name, TTV was largely a sushi restaurant. Avenue Thai closed in December, and since Monday, Umi Japanese restaurant has been operating there. 

Avenue Thai's owners have opened U Roll Sushi at 7685 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. Haven't been yet, but it appears from the website to be another assemblage concept where you tell the person behind the counter (no doubt a skilled sushi master <cough>) what ingredients to put in your sushi roll.

I haven't been to Umi yet, either, but if the person who answered the phone so warmly is any indication, it shows promise. No details on the scope of the menu -- the website is still under development. More to come. 

For you historians, it was Shiki Sushi that was the longtime occupant of this storefront at the southernmost end of Park Avenue.

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Chris Brown 2015 copyChris Brown is leaving his position as executive chef at JW Marriott Orlando, but he has only a short stroll to his new job. Brown will be taking over as director of food and beverage at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Both properties are on the Grande Lakes estate.

In his new job, Brown will oversee the management of all things food and beverage at the Ritz, including the new and critically acclaimed Highball & Harvest restaurant. (Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton is privately owned and operated.)

While at JW Marriott he led the creation of Whisper Creek Farm, the 18,000 square foot farm that produces herbs and produce used by both hotels. He has also been involved in two upcoming projects: an onsite brewery and The Kitchen, a restaurant at the farm. Both are expected to open in the spring. Brown will still be involved in those projects as he helps transition his replacement as executive chef at the Marriott. An announcement about that position is expected soon. Brown replaces Brian McHugh, who has transferred to the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Arizona.

"We are delighted to welcome Chris Brown to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando," Jon McGavin, the Ritz-Carlton's general manager, said in a statement released Wednesday. "His knowledge and talent combined with his exceptional experience at Grande Lakes Orlando will allow him to continue to positively grow the culinary program at the resort."

Brown, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is a certified cicerone (a beer equivalent of a sommelier), master barbecue cook and certified judge of the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Prior to joining the JW Marriott Orlando, Brown was executive chef at the company's Tucson Starr Pass and has also cooked at the Orlando World Center Marriott and the New Orleans Marriott.