Urban Tide interior

I have to admit I haven’t been all that excited about Magical Dining Month this year. That’s because most of the restaurants on the list are places I’ve already been. And while most are places I like and wouldn’t mind revisiting, I’m more interested in new experiences. So that’s why Urban Tide was one of my MDM choices.

Technically, Urban Tide isn’t entirely new. It replaced the wrong-coastally named Napa when the hotel it is in was named Peabody Orlando. The new owners, Hyatt Regency Orlando, gave it a much more appropriate name, one that celebrates the seafood potentials of the correct coasts while acknowledging its inland city locale.

Little has been changed in the decor — no changes were really necessary. The space was spiffed up for Napa in 2010 with a contemporary design that emphasized a friendship with the environment (lots of cork tiles, for example).

And Jared Gross, an able and creative culinarian, remains as chef de cuisine.


Trastevere interior

It was not the best start to a dining experience.

My companion and I decided, on a whim, while driving up Magnolia Avenue, to stop in to Cafe Trastevere. It had been years since I’d dined there and I thought it would be nice to see how things were going there.

They seemed to be going fine. In fact, there weren’t any tables available in the dining room. Actually, that’s not saying much as there are only about a half dozen tables to begin with. But there was a high-top table in the bar area, so we plopped ourselves down there.

While we looked over the menus, I asked the gentleman who greeted us if I might have a taste of the sangiovese wine. He gladly obliged. But after I took a sip, I told him that the wine was rather warm.

“Well, yes, of course,” replied the man, who I assume was the owner, “it’s a red wine so it’s served at room temperature.”

OK, let’s just stop right there.


An event called Pigs & Pinot is alluring on its own, but when you add the information that the pig will be cooked by Kathleen Blake of Rusty Spoon and the pinots will be curated by the wonder woman of wine, Linda K. Sullivan, it causes one to perk up the pig ears a bit.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 at Rusty Spoon, 55 W. Church St., Orlando. Tickets are $85 per person all inclusive. Call the restaurant at 407-401-8811 to reserve your spot.



Jack in the ParkJack in the Park, an “outside the ballroom” fundraising event benefitting Special Olympics Florida, will be held Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center in Winter Park. I am honored to serve as the honorary chair and emcee of the event.

The Jack in the event’s name refers to blackjack. You were thinking it had to do with Jack Daniel’s, weren’t you? But no, a 21 card tournament is a big focus of the festivities. But there will be so much more, including a silent auction, raffles, entertainment, and, best of all, food from some really terrific restaurants.

Some of the restaurants that are scheduled to be serving include Flog favorite Tap Room at Dubsdread, Carmel Kitchen Wine Bar, Portobello, the Osprey Tavern, blu on the avenue, White Wolf Cafe, Scratch, BB King’s Blues Club, newcomers Lafayette’s and Itta Bena, and a bunch more.

There will also be an open bar, and looky here: it will feature Jack Daniel’s, so you got your wish after all.

Tickets for the event are $125, which includes the blackjack tournament, food and open bar. All proceeds go to benefit Special Olympics. For tickets and more information, visit the Jack in the Park webpage.

I think every party should have a pre-party, don’t you? Luckily, so do the people at Jack in the Park. So they’ve called on the folks at Talk of the Town Restaurant Group (Charley’s Steak House, Vito’s Chop House, FishBones et. al.) and they’re going to haul their big portable fire pit to Field’s BMW in Winter Park. They’ll be making Sliced Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Fondue and Atlantic Cedar Plank Salmon along with a salad and dessert. I’m told there will be drinks, too. The Field’s folks will be showing off all the new car models. Just be sure not to get any of the gorgonzola sauce on the upholstery.

The pre-party is this Thursday, Sept. 24, from 7 to 10 p.m. And get this: tickets are only $35. tenderloin, salmon, drinks — you do the math.

Purchase your tickets to the pre-party at the Jack in the Park Pre Party web page.


JJ Rotator.001Flog favorite JJ's Grille is celebrating its first anniversary Thursday with some specials at the Curry Ford Road restaurant.

All day Thursday, Sept. 24, guests can get a free side of guacamole, hummus, pico de gallo, or J-Bouli, as well as a free regular-sized soda or tea.

Owner Julio Paredes added, "We'll also be giving away prizes throughout the day, anything from our sweet JJ's Grille tank tops to our customized shaker bottles and even gift certificates."

And the first year has been such a success that Paredes plans to open a second location, in Altamonte Springs, before the end of the year. It's nice to see people embrace good, honest food served with genuine hospitality.

JJ's Grille is at 2950 Curry Ford Road (in the Winn-Dixie plaza at Crystal Lake Road), Orlando. It's open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-802-2947.