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Oblivion logoI suppose it would be too glib to say that the name of the place was a predictor, but Oblivion Taproom, the self-described “bad-ass bar & grill” that was dedicated to craft beers on tap, will close Sunday, January 31 according to a note posted on the business’s Facebook page on Saturday. No reason for the closing was given.

Owner Missy Jahn was not immediately available for comment.

Oblivion opened in 2011 in the former Straub’s Fine Seafood building on East Colonial Drive in Orlando. It was well received and reviewed and was particularly known for its burgers. In 2013, Oblivion was burglarized twice in just one week.

More information when it is received.

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Clark WolfClark Wolf/ForbesMy friend the New York based restaurant consultant Clark Wolf responded to the recent downgrading by critic Pete Wells to two stars (from four) of Per Se with a column for Forbes titled Is Fine Dining On the Way Out? Per Se, of course, is the Thomas Keller restaurant in the Time Warner Center in New York that famously charges extravagant fees for its fare. (Wells drops in his review that one of his meals would cost his party of four nearly $3000. He also drops that he dined there three times, so you do the math.)

In his article, Wolf wonders if the drubbing of Per Se has as much to do with the current culture or economy than with an actual decline in the quality of the meal.

"These days the dining public simply knows more, expects more and is impressed less. We’re nearly recovered from the excesses and silliness of so-called molecular gastronomy (mostly soluble fiber and smoke) and begin to better understand the real value of good, fresh, delicious foods. We’ve watched Downton Abbey and know that the class system is just about defunct and we have friends who are tech billionaires who want major meals with world class cult wines, while dressed in product logo t-shirts and questionable jeans."

It might also be a case of The Emperor's New Clothes, in which someone finally has the nerve to declare that the emperor is naked. Or in this case, that there isn't any food on the bare plate.

It isn't any surprise that the days of fine dining, at least as defined by the sort of white-gloved service doled out to well-dressed patrons, are waning. One wonders if the recent policy shift at Victoria & Albert's wasn't initiated as a way to bring in more business. (As far as I know, there is no talk of loosening the dress code, which still requires gentlemen to wear a jacket, or easing the style of service there.) V&A is still here, so is the Venetian Room and Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton. But all you have to do is join me at the opening of even an "upscale casual" restaurant and take a look at how the people who consider themselves avid foodies dress for the occasion to know that the climate is changing. (Actually, I'd be impressed to have some of these people wear product logo t-shirts and questionable jeans instead of the usual cargo shorts.)

Even the category of "special occasion dining" is shifting. No, that's not quite right. A special occasion restaurant has always been a relative thing. Even a chain restaurant that specializes in all-you-can-eat breadsticks and a bottomless salad before a plate of pasta can be considered a special night out for the person who can ill afford dining out more than once or twice a year, if that often. And that's not to say that those people are ignorant of what a truly fine restaurant experience can be. Watch them; I'll bet you'll see them laughing and enjoying themselves and exclaiming how wonderful the meal is and what a great birthday/anniversary/whatever it has been. 

So what about those of us who can afford to dine out more often, if not at $750 a head, as Wells paid at Per Se? Can't we be just as happy and can't we celebrate just as much for less as long as the food is good and the service sincere?

 

 

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duke bourbon greg

Orlando’s Greg Richie has emerged the winner of the Dining with the Duke competition, a food and cocktail pairing contest sponsored by Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon and the Tasting Panel magazine and held in Las Vegas this week. The whiskey is named for John Wayne, the renowned star of Hollywood westerns, whose nickname was the Duke.

According to Richie, he was the only chef among the finalists, the others were all bartenders and mixologists. The other finalists were: Dane Nakamura, beverage director, Bryan Voltaggio Restaurant Group, Washington; Mackenzie Cavanagh, The Hawthorne, Boston; Kurtis Williams, In Good Spirits, Phoenix; Will Benedetto, William Colliers, Nashville; and Jeremy Hahn, The Gilroy, New York.  "The main focus of the competition was pairing the bourbon with food. So while I could never presume to compete with these talented guys on a straight up Mixology competition, my familiarity with combining flavors is what gave me a leg to stand on."

The two-day event, which included a trip to a gun-shooting range (because John Wayne), culminated with a pairing event at Moonen’s restaurant Boiler Room at the Mandalay Bay hotel. The contestants were tasked with pairing food prepared by Moonen to go with red and white wines, and then to create cocktails in the theme. Speaking from his hotel room Thursday morning, Richie said that he had not won the Tuesday afternoon cocktail competition but that his Wednesday evening creations must have been good enough to give him the edge.

The event at the shooting range did not include cocktails, so there’s that.

Judges for the final were: Francesco Lafranconi, Southern Wine and Spirits mixologist; master sommelier Fred Dame; and James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Moonen (rm seafood).

Richie is a chef and partner in the Thornton Park Restaurant Group (Soco, Baoery).

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Saint Anejo table

After visiting Saint Anejo, new Mexican restaurant in Winter Springs, I was reminded of the obscure 2006 movie “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” starring Robert Downey Jr. As far as I can tell, there was no Saint Anejo in the firmament of the canonized. At least not one listed at Catholic Online, which appears to have a rather exhaustive roster of the righteous. There are more than 750 just under the A’s, but no Anejo.

Apparently, it’s a reference to tequila, anejo being the designation of the oldest aged varieties. In my experience, tequila drinking has seldom led to saintly behavior, but there you go.

So then, Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen + Tequileria (ah, now the name makes sense). It’s the latest attempt to bring something more than chain dining to the Winter Springs/Oviedo area. One of the previous tries also involved a restaurant that used a plus sign in its name. Remember South + York? This restaurant, from the same group that operates Agave Azul, another tequila-centric restaurant in the area of Universal Orlando, even aims at offering a more upscale Mexican experience. Not that this is anything close to fine dining, but it is more pleasant than your typical stereotypical Tex-Mexery.

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Saigon Noodle Bumby vermicelli 2

Saigon Noodle & Grill has taken over the space on Bumby Avenue that for a short time was Pho K5 and for a very long time Medina’s Market and Cafe.

This is a second location for SN&G. We visited the original, on Goldenrod Road last year as a suggestion for celebrating the Lunar New Year. This year Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 8, signaling the Year of the Monkey, which is just perfect for this particular election year. You may want to consider the new Saigon Noodle & Grill for your celebration again this year, but you might not want to wait two weeks to go.