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 ari interior

Ari, a sushi and Japanese restaurant, has opened in the Gateway Village just north of Orlando International Airport. Technically, this is a second location for a restaurant in Celebration. But this new Ari has added hibachi, or teppanyaki cooking, to its repertoire. That's the style of cooking where the guests sit around large griddles while the chefs make a lot of really unnecessary banging and clanging sounds with their spatulas, knives and even the salt and pepper shakers. Eventually, a shrimp tail is going to get tossed somewhere it has no business being. I've never quite understood the allure of this type of dining, except for people who don't have any interest in talking to each other during dinner. Frankly, I had hoped the fad would have faded by now, but apparently not.

So when I arrived at the new Ari location ahead of my lunch guest and the greeter asked me if I wanted the hibachi seating, I perhaps answered "No" a bit too emphatically. I hope I didn't frighten her.

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 tinroof interior

Tin Roof, a "live music joint," as its subtitle touts, opened recently in Orlando, the latest in the flurry of eateries, mostly chains, to pop up at I-Drive 360. That's where the Orlando Eye, the mega Ferris wheel, is currently under construction. Developers are hoping tourists will flock to the wheel to see just how flat Florida is. Perhaps while they're up there they can look down and see if the Tin Roof really has a tin roof.

I couldn't tell you myself, but I can attest that it has a tin ceiling. Or some sort of corrugated metal, anyway. The decor is early roadhouse, with vintage metal signs sufficiently aged and battered, rustic wood booths (no padding for the butt), and freestanding tables with red and blue vinyl-clad kitchen chairs. There's a bicycle hanging from the ceiling for some reason, but I suppose you have to store it somewhere.

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SQN Krankl"Something that Cannot be done Without", is what Sine Qua Non has come to mean to its collectors and enthusiasts. It literally translates in Latin to "without which not." Recently, a group of collectors got together for a Sine Qua Non Retrospective. It took place in the cellar, downstairs at Luma on Park. The vintages spanned over a decade with 42 different bottlings. To call these wines rare is an understatement; they are so hard to find they are the mystical unicorn wines that no one can get their hands on. The production of the wines is extremely limited, their wines routinely receiving 98-100 point scores. The label art is different each year, designed by the winemaker/owner, Manfred Krankl. Krankl is considered a mad scientist of sorts, and the limited availability of his wines, along with the original art on the labels, have made it so the bottles themselves are just as valuable as the wine inside. In May, a bottle of the 1995 Queen of Hearts Rosé, sold on WineBid for $37,200. It is highly doubtful that the wine inside is any good anymore, even if the wine has been stored perfectly. Since only 25 cases of this wine were made, we may never know. By the way, if you sign up on the waiting list today, estimates are that you have a 20 year wait coming.

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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.