Best Hotel Restaurant

MOOR, the seafood restaurant at Gaylord Palms with a sailboat setting, is the readers’ choice for the 2017 Best Hotel Restaurant Foodster Award.

Second place goes to MOOR’s cross-atrium neighbor Old Hickory Steakhouse. Close behind, Eleven at Reunion took third.

MOOR is the excellent restaurant under the culinary direction of its ironically named chef, Phillip Fisher. I reviewed it in 2015. And last year, we hosted a progressive Supper Club that began at the Everglades inspired Old Hickory for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from chef George Yiu and his team then proceeded to MOOR for the multi-coursed main event. Food, staff and ambience were terrific at both, so I can’t argue a bit with your choice.

I also liked Eleven when I reviewed it in November. And I hope to return soon to see what changes newly installed chef de cuisine Jake Brenchley has initiated. (Early word sounds great.)

Scott Joseph’s Foodie Awards for Independent Restaurants celebrate the culinary excellence of Central Florida’s finest restaurants. Only businesses with three or fewer locations are eligible — no chains.

Visit the Foodster Awards page to see the other 2017 winners and to vote in the current categories: Best Power Lunch, Best Tex-Mex and Best Mexican.

Ace Construction exterior

It was April 30, 2015, that Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer led a bevy of motorcyclists in a “ground shaking” motor revving to ceremoniously kick off the renovations for Ace Cafe in downtown Orlando.

One year and 11 months later, the company is claiming the restaurant will finally open before it hits the two-year date of that occasion.

They’d better start revving up the workers because there’s still a lot to be done.

And did they factor in the arcane City of Orlando inspection process? I’m thinking June.

But I’ll tip my helmet to them if they can pull it off.

This Ace Cafe is the first in North American and is based on the original in London. (I had intended to visit the London Ace last summer, but when I plotted getting there by Tube I realized it would have taken the better part of a day — I went to Gordon’s Wine Bar instead.) In a nutshell, it’s a motorcycle and music themed restaurant. We’ll expand on the nutshell after it opens. Perhaps in autumn.

I took a tour last week of the massive space, which includes the former Harry P. Leu building at the corner of Garland Avenue and Livingston Street. The building was previously a couple of nightclubs — the country/western themed :08 and, before that, the Edge — and also at one time the offices of Orlando Weekly, which apparently gets its name from how often it moves.

Here are some of the things I saw.

GeislerScott Geisler, who left his position as general manager of the Ravenous Pig to be the opening GM at 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora, is returning to his old job at the Pig.

“I’m coming back to the Swine family,” he told me by phone Wednesday.

He said that returning to the Winter Park restaurant was “always something in the back of my mind.” He said that he was originally lured away by the prospect of being part of opening a new restaurant. “I’d always wanted to open a restaurant from scratch,” he said.

The Mount Dora restaurant opened in August and has received critical praise. “We’ve gotten it to a great position where it’s running well,” Geisler said of 1921. “I think the time was right for everybody.” He stressed that he is leaving on good terms and with Van Aken’s blessing.

Geisler had previously worked for Van Aken at his Orlando restaurant, Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton.

Reading between logo

The annual Reading Between the Wines event is taking a culinary tack this year with two celebrity chefs and cookbook authors, Norman Van Aken and Art Smith.

The event, a fund- and awareness-raiser for the Adult Literacy League, features a walkabout wine tasting with food provided by local restaurants. The 2017 Reading Between the Wines is Wednesday, April 12, at the Orlando Science Center from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $90 and can be purchased at the Adult Literacy League website.

This is the 10th year for the event, which in the past has invited novelists and other book writers to speak and sign books. This year, Van Aken and Smith will participate in a discussion moderated by local author Bob Morris.

Van Aken is the author of five cookbooks and a memoir. He is a nationally recognized chef and a James Beard Foundation award winner and has been named to its list of Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage. He has two local restaurants, Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton and 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora.

Smith also has a local restaurant, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, but is best known as the former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. He is a two time James Beard Award winner and the author of four cookbooks.

The Adult Literacy League helps adults 18 and older gain employment and economic self-sufficiency through one-on-one tutoring and classes in reading, writing, math, computer skills and other key studies.

It’s a fun and worthwhile event. And both of the chef/authors should have some good stories to tell.

Food will be provided by Swine & Sons; 4Rivers Smokehouse and The Coop; Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant of Disney Springs; Carmel Café; Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando; The Palm and Olde Hearth Bread Co. Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen at Disney Springs and 1921 by Norman Van Aken will also be offering signature dishes to sample.

Polite Pig sign

The Polite Pig, the new restaurant from the owners of the Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons, will open at Disney Springs on Monday, April 10.

Joining husband and wife team James and Julie Petrakis in the venture will be James’ brother, Brian. Brian Petrakis is the owner of the Greens & Grille, a salad concept near Mall at Millenia. He joins the venture as a managing partner.

“The chance to work with my brother and his wife to create a new restaurant concept is something I’ve dreamed about over the years,” Brian Petrakis said in a statement. “We’re going to have fun and serve great food.”

James Petrakis said Wednesday that the restaurant would be a "hybrid quick-serve" operation. Guests will queue up to order food and drinks at a counter, but upon being seated they will be greeted by a server who will be able to ring up and deliver any other food and drink orders. The bar, with approximately 20 seats, will be full service.

Polite Pig’s chef will be Allison Weldon, who started with the Ravenous Pig as a line cook in 2013. Most recently she was part of the team that moved Cask & Larder from Winter Park to Orlando International Airport.

The new Pig’s menu will feature “local and sustainable” ingredients in such dishes as house-smoked chicken, brisket and pork shoulder, peel and eat shrimp with bourbon cocktail sauce, and salmon BLT with bacon jam.

The bar will feature beers from the restaurant group’s Cask & Larder Brewery and on-tap cocktails, such as gin and tonic, vodka lemonade, and rum and Coke. It will also offer more than 60 varieties of bourbon. Only the drinks offered on tap will be available -- the bartenders will not make any other cocktails by request, said James.

The Polite Pig will be open for lunch and dinner daily.