Divas Meatball soup

Note: Today's column is the final edition from our good friends Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Denicole, the Divas of Dish. Their first column appeared here on June 20, 2009, and twice monthly since then they've offered wonderful, reliable recipes, expert cooking advice and entertaining tips. Like many of you, I looked forward to each new column and followed the easy instructions with the hope that the results would be as beautiful as the photo of the Divas' finished product. The 140 so past columns are always available on the Divas of Dish pages here on SJO. And, of course, there is the cookbook that started it all, "Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas." 

Some would argue that soup is best served on a chilly winter day, but we disagree. In all its salubrious glory, soup is a year-round pick for your health, waistline – and wallet. Perfecting the pot is an opportunity to clean out the fridge with a deliciously creative spin.
A single one-pot wonder per week, teaming with fresh veggies, legumes and whole grains (think bulgar, quinoa and farro) is your go-to lunch on the fly, or a cozy, casual supper curled up with a book, a glass of wine--and a nice big spoon.


Tampa Bay Times page

Earlier this week, the Tampa Bay Times published an article by its food critic, Laura Reiley, titled Farm to Fable: At Tampa Bay Farm-to-Table Restaurants, You’re Being Lied To.

It’s a stellar piece of investigative reporting, the sort of watchdog journalism that proves why newspapers are still relevant. Reiley is sure to garner many awards for the article, the first in a series, including, if there’s any justice, a Pulitzer.

If you’re in the restaurant business, I imagine you’ve already read the piece. If you just like dining out — and I’m guessing that’s why you’re here — you should read it too. If you haven’t, click on the title above. It’s worth your time. Then come back here because I want to discuss it.

What Reiley has detailed is not particular to Tampa restaurants. It goes on everywhere, including right here in Central Florida. Restaurant writers just haven’t called any of the restaurants out.

I’m including myself among the guilty critics.


tapatorosc flamenco

We had a terrific meeting of Scott Joseph’s Supper Club at Tapa Toro recently. The food, the cocktail and wine pairings, and the attentive service just reinforced my previous notion that TT is a restaurant that locals should visit.

Besides the gracious owners, Katerina and Vassilis Coumbaros, we were tended to by executive chef Wendy Lopez and manager and beverage director Alex Attart. As we gathered in the bar area of the I-Drive 360 restaurant, which sits below the Orlando Eye Ferris wheel, we sipped a refreshing gin and tonic cocktail while some of the servers passed hors d’oeuvres.

We were shown to our private dining room for the evening, a glass-walled rotunda separated from the lounge by billowing red curtains.


K Invite FINAL JPEG copy

K restaurant chef and owner Kevin Fonzo is calling on some of his friends to help throw a party at the popular College Park dining destination in celebration of its 15th anniversary. And if you know anything about Fonzo's friends, that means a lot of good food, wine and cocktails.

The celebration will be in the form of a backyard party -- K occupies a structure that was once a house whose backyard has been converted to a herb and produce sourcing garden for the restaurant -- on Sunday, April 24, from 2 to 7 p.m. Joining the acclaimed chef will be other acclaimed chefs, including Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon; James and Julie Petrakis, Cask & Larder, Ravenous Pig; Greg Ritchie, Soco, Baoery; Austin Boyd, Seito Sushi; Jamie McFadden, Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events; and Henry and Michelle Salgado, The Spanish River Grill. Each will prepare something for guests to nibble on.

There will be wines, courtesy of Kinda K. Sullivan of Noble Wine, beer courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery, and cocktails courtesy of The Courtesy Bar. Tickets are $115 with $15 of each ticket going to the Kevin Fonzo Foundation. To reserve tickets -- it isn't a large backyard, so don't wait -- call the restaurant at 407-872-2332.



Venetian Chop House dining room

Breathe a sigh of relief.

If you were concerned, as I was, that the recent rebranding of the Venetian Room to the Venetian Chop House would mean that Orlando was losing yet another fine dining venue you can relax.

The signature restaurant at the Caribe Royale is still an elegant dining room, the service is still first rate, and, perhaps most importantly, the food is as high quality and well prepared as ever.

In fact, except for some tweaks to the menu, now under the direction of chef de cuisine Luis Taborda, working with the Caribe’s executive chef, Vincent Posada, and a more forward focus on steaks and chops and their accoutrements, you’d be hard pressed to find any substantive changes.