Bran Muffins still

When I was the food editor for the Phoenix New Times, I wrote an article that included a recipe for muffins. I got the recipe from a nutritionist who called them Mighty Bran Muffins (she also referred to them as broom muffins because they had so much bran that they would sweep you clean, so to speak).

I forget what the article was about but I’ve kept this recipe for 33 years and use it often.

Although I don’t mention it in the video, be sure to use golden raisins – they really do make a difference.

I like to prepare the dry and wet ingredients in the evening, cover them and put the wet mixture in the refrigerator overnight, then mix the two together and bake them in the morning. It’s nice to have hot muffins for breakfast.


JJstogo ext

JJ’s Fresh from Scratch is celebrating its sixth anniversary. But technically it’s only been JJ’s Fresh from Scratch for a fraction of that time, three or four months. When it opened, in 2014, it was JJ’s Grille. And when, in 2017, it won a Best Tex-Mex Foodster Award, it was going by the name JJ’s Fusion Grille.

The mainstay has been JJ – full name JJ Paredes – who started the quick-serve assemblage concept on Curry Ford Road at the age of 24. The quick popularity of the restaurant prompted Paredes to open two other locations, but they have closed. So Paredes said that he decided to go ahead with the rebranding, which had been planned before the pandemic, and focus on the Curry Ford West flagship.

Also a constant, as I wrote in my original review in Dec. 2014: ‘The people are friendly because they want to be, and the food is better than average.”


Monroe constructionPhoto: The Monroe

In the latest match of Musical Chefs, we learn that Josh Oakley will leave 1921 Mount Dora for the currently-under-construction Monroe (see photo at top to show I'm not kidding), a new concept from Good Salt Restaurant Group set to open in Creative Village’s Julian Apartments next year. 1921 seems to be particularly diasporadic to a chef’s career. You’ll recall that it was originally 1921 by Norman Van Aken, who held the executive chef title while Camilo Velasco was the chef de cuisine.

Van Aken ended his relationship with the restaurant, prompting the name change. (I still think they should have just changed it to 1921 Not by Norman Van Aken but no one took my calls.) Then Velasco left and moved to Ravenous Pig to become chef de cuisine... of lunch, which seemed a step down. Oakley, who had previously been at Smiling Bison, took over at 1921.

Then Velasco left the Pig to take a position at a Disney’s Old Key West. Clay Miller left DoveCote in downtown Orlando and moved to RavPig. DoveCote’s website lists two sous chefs (chefs de sous?) but no executive chef. And we’ll just have to wait to see who takes over at 1921 and just how long he or she stays.

  • And, of course, we will be anxious to see who will be the chef de cuisine at Norman’s in its new location when it opens. If it opens. (What have you heard?)


Hyltin book

I’m sorry to hear about the recent closing of the original Amigos restaurant in Altamonte Springs. I had a close affinity with it. We both came to Central Florida about the same time, in 1988, Amigos’ owners came from Texas; I moved here from Phoenix.

During my six or so years in Arizona, I developed an affinity for Tex-Mex and didn’t realize that I had taken it for granted until I moved to Orlando and couldn’t find any. At least not any good Tex-Mex. It seemed that most of the restaurants around here were doing what they thought Tex-Mex should be. The result was something I dubbed Flori-Mex. It made me sad.

It wasn’t just me who thought that. When Texan Andy Hyltin was 14 he came to visit his father in Orlando and the two went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. But later that night, Andy called his mother, Nell, and whispered into the phone, “It wasn’t Mexican; I don’t know what it was.”


Estefan ext

Beat the drums, this ain’t Bongos.

Estefan Kitchen has opened its first location outside of Miami, one of several restaurants at the new Promenade at Sunset Walk near Walt Disney World.

Gloria and Emilio are the Estefans of the name, she the renowned Cuban-American singer who along with Miami Sound Machine gave us the effervescently zingy “Conga” and other classics.

The couple were also the owners of Bongos, the Cuban restaurant that opened in 1997 at what was then known as Downtown Disney West Side, now Disney Springs. It was in a distinctive pineapple-shaped building and served food that, well, let’s just say that when it was announced Bongos would close and the structure would be razed to make room for something else, I offered to push the plunger to detonate the explosives. No one returned my calls.

And so it was with hesitancy that I visited Estefan Kitchen, an offshoot of their Miami Design District restaurant, which remains closed at this time. (The Estefans also own Larios on the Beach on Ocean Drive in South Beach.)