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Tamarind interior

Tamarind, the Indian restaurant with locations in Winter Park and near UCF, has been voted Best Indian in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants by readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide.

Saffron Indian Cuisine on Sand Lake Road was second and Kohinoor, Altamonte Springs, was third.

When I reviewed the original Tamarind in Winter Park, in 2012, I noted that “it’s a charming restaurant with a tasteful decor and a thoughtful layout, and, not incidentally, delicious food.” The second location, on East Colonial Drive, opened in 2015.

Saffron Indian Cuisine, which opened in 2011, is from the same owner as Mynt in Winter Park. I reviewed it here.

Kohinoor is the oldest of all the finalists. I first reviewed it in 1995 for the Orlando Sentinel and it was my Critic’s Pick for the Foodie Awards on more than one occasion. Of course, back then we didn’t have as many Indian restaurants as we do today. Still, it may be time to go back and revisit.

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HookReel exterior

Hook & Reel has set up shop in a former Logan’s Roadhouse on the west side of town. It’s a restaurant company that started in Lanham, Maryland, but is now based out of Flushing, N.Y. Any restaurant based in a place called Flushing is just asking for it if it doesn’t serve good food.

Luckily, H&R does serve good food – seafood, in case you hadn’t already deduced – in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.

The menu is Louisiana accented. In fact, the sign out front declares “Cajun Seafood & Bar.” The highlight of the menu is a seafood combo that is served in a poofy, clear plastic bag that sort of looks like a transparent Jiffy Pop. I had to order one after seeing several go by my table. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

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Epcot Large sign

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is in full swing at Walt Disney World, continuing through Nov. 23. And with relatively cooler weather coming in, now is the time to start planning your visit.

There are some changes this year that you should know about. First, there is no Festival Center because the building that usually houses it is being renovated, or, as they prefer to say, currently being reimagined.

So seminars and tastings that would normally take place there are at the World Showplace this year. Merchandise that was sold in the Festival Center can be found throughout the park.

Finding other things throughout the park might be a little difficult because this year there is no map of the various food marketplaces. Instead, the guidebook simply says what a kiosk is near, such as Future World West for the Cheese Studio and Norway for the Alps, because it would be silly to put the Alps next to Mexico.

As for what’s new to eat and drink, I spoke to members of the festivals food and beverage team at a media preview, so I’ll let them tell you about it in the video below.

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Il Borro Estate

Start planning now to join me on a tour of Tuscany May 30 through June 7 when I host an Art in Voyage journey to Florence and the Arezzo region.

We’ll spend three nights at a five-star hotel in beautiful Firenze while we take a private food tour of the city, visit farms and markets, take cooking classes with local chefs, and of course drink wonderful Italian wines.

On our way to Arezzo and the five-star Il Borro resort we’ll hunt for truffles in Chianti and eat our harvest with our lunch. During our four nights at Il Borro (pictured at top), a former village transformed by the Ferragamo family into a wine estate and luxurious resort, we’ll visit the villages of Siena and Montepulciano, and we’ll learn about Italian farm to table cuisine sitting at a table on the farm.

Two of the included meals will be at Michelin-starred restaurants. And you’ll have the opportunity to join me for a “critique exercise” and contribute to the review of a Tuscan restaurant.

We’ll do more than just eat and drink. We’ll wander the vineyards and see the soil, learn about the climate and what makes Tuscan wines unique. And we’ll hear about the culture of the cuisine from locals whose passion is to preserve the integrity of the regional foods.

This will be my second journey with Art In Voyage and I can tell you that owner Mikael Audebert arranges only the finest accommodations and tours for his guests. What’s more, the group is kept small – eight or 10 people – to assure an intimate experience. Besides the many planned meals and guided tours, you’ll also have plenty of opportunity to explore on your own, to relax or to shop in Florence’s many markets.

I love Tuscany, and Florence is one of my favorite cities. I can’t wait to show it to you. But because there is limited space, you’ll want to reserve yours now. Visit Art In Voyage’s Food Secrets of Tuscany for more specific details and pricing.

Then start brushing up on your Italian.

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MorimotoFest 2

  • Morimoto Asia is hosting MorimotoFest, an alternative to the annual German celebration, Sunday, Oct. 6 (or Okt. 6, if you prefer) from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Just as in Munich, MorimotoFest will feature beer, these being from 10 local microbreweries. Unlike Munich, the food will highlight M.A.’s pan-Asian cuisine, including sushi, ramen, dumplings and spare ribs. It’s a walkabout event with multiple food and beer stations. Cost is $55 for adults and $25 for kids age 4-12 (no beer for them). Entertainment, too, so I’m hoping for at least a little oom-pah-pah. Tickets at morimotoasia.com.
  • Tapa Toro is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month now through Oct. 15 with special $16 sangria flights. And Sunday, Sept. 29, is Flamenco Night, with performances at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. You’ll want to get reservations for that.
  • Thursday, Sept. 26, you can eat Breakfast for Dinner at First Watch in Mills Park. You’re probably thinking you can eat breakfast for dinner any time you darn well please, but on this particular date you can also benefit Edible Education Experience, a program of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden. And besides, First Watch isn’t usually open for dinner, so it’s extra special. You can choose your time and buy your tickets at this link.
  • Soco Thornton Park is hosting a wine pairing dinner featuring Cambria Estate Winery on Wed., Oct. 9. Five courses, five wines, $95 plus tax and gratuity. Contact the restaurant to reserve, 407-849-1800.
  • Disney Springs restaurants Raglan Road, the Boathouse and House of Blues were all named to OpenTable’s list of the 50 Most Kid-friendly Restaurants in America. That gives me an excuse to remind you that our next Supper Club will be at Raglan Road on Oct. 17 (details here). You’ll want to drop the kids off at HOB.