Chef Rick Bayless HiResAs I reported back in November of 2014, celebrity chef Rick Bayless will open a restaurant at Disney Springs, joining the already opened Morimoto and the currently in progress STK. Bayless' restaurant will be called Frontera Fresco after his popular Chicago restaurant Frontera Grill, which opened in 1987 and was awarded Outstanding Restaurant in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation.

The restaurant will operate under the aegis of Vista Springs LLC, a division of Palmas Services, which also operates San Angel Inn at Epcot's Mexico pavilion.

Daroff Design of Philadelphia will design the 6000 square foot restaurant, which will seat 200 guests. Frontera Fresca is aiming at a Summer 2016 opening.






Oudom interior


 Oudom, a Thai and sushi restaurant, is the latest to take over the Graze/Prickly Pear/ Lotus/Mingos space in the Sanctuary condominium building in downtown Orlando. Five restaurants in seven years isn't too bad, is it? 

Maybe Thai will be the magic sauce for this place. Or curry. Or whatever. A restaurant in this location needs to count on frequent vists from neighbors. A menu with a lower price point can help in that regard.

Oudom Tom Kha

I began my lunch visit with a bowl of the Tom Yum soup, a hot-and-sour broth with some large chunks of tomatoes, mushrooms and shrimp, tails removed, thank you. I also was served a salad, apparently part of my entree order. The salad was a bit of a soggy sort.

I was heartened a bit when someone came by and left a set of chopsticks on my table after I had ordered my Pad Thai with chicken. The Thais don't use chopsticks except when eating noodle dishes, which is odd since noodles are the hardest thing to eat with chopsticks. I'm wondering now if the young fellow, who was not my server, just thought I had ordered sushi. I did not see chopsticks on the only other occupied table, even though some of the guests there were eating noodles.

And speaking of there being only one other occupied table in the restaurant, it was extra annoying that my server asked if I wanted to keep my fork when she took my salad away. "If that's my only option," I replied, placing it on the white butcher paper that topped the tablecloth.

Oudom pad thai

My Pad Thai was fine and had a good spiciness to it. (I had ordered it medium spicy so that I could gauge; ask for Thai hot if you really like the heat. I appreciated, but did not need, the tray of condiments, including crushed peanuts and pepper flakes, that were offered with the dish.

Food did not come out at a speedy pace. Something to keep in mind if you visit on a limited lunch break.

Oudom is at 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-849-3739.




Whitney MillerWhitney Miller, the first season winner of the Gordon Ramsay television show MasterChef, is joining Winter Park’s Coop restaurant as chef de cuisine. Seeing as how Miller survived the histrionics of Ramsay, she should be able to put up with the polarizing mood swings of Coop owner John Rivers.

Miller will create recipes and spearhead seasonal menu changes for the Southern style quick-serve restaurant.

Miller will be on hand at the Coop booth at Saturday’s Cows ’n Cabs in Winter Park’s Central Park serving her Mississippi Mud Pie and previewing her latest cookbook. “I couldn’t be more excited to join the team at the Coop and work alongside someone as established and passionate about Southern cuisine as chef John Rivers,” Miller said in a statement. “I am looking forward to sharing some of my special dishes as well as creating some new local favorites.”

Miller, who lives in Plant City, will begin her duties at the Coop in November.

For details about the Saturday event, visit the Cows ’n Cabs website.








Saturday was a great night to be in downtown Orlando.

I was there as the co-emcee, along with Nancy Alvarez of WFTV, for Savor the Night, the kickoff to the Latin Food & Wine Festival sponsored by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando. It was held on the plaza in front of — and on the steps of — City Hall.

Across the street the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center was aglow as people streamed in to see Monty Python comedy legends John Cleese and Eric Idle.

A couple of blocks to the west, Orlando’s professional hockey team, the Solar Bears, was hitting the ice.

And up Orange Avenue, from Central Boulevard to Robinson Street, the first Creative City Project had artists of all stripes painting, drawing, performing — there were jazz musicians, classical quintets, country/western, the Orlando Ballet in full tutu attire — and perhaps thousands of people strolling in the gorgeous October weather and taking it all in.

I wandered around after my event and it occurred to me that with all that was going on Orlando is finally a big city.

So when I passed Gitto’s, a pizza joint on Orange Avenue, I did what I do when I’m in a big city: I stopped in to get a slice to walk around with. And I saw it as a good sign that there was a line. Turns out the line was mainly for people waiting to pay and not for those who had ordered their slices; not sure what the holdup was, but it took a long time to process through.

I ordered my basic sausage and my friend got pepperoni. They were pretty much interchangeable — neither had much flavor. The crust was the appropriate thinness, but it was dry and chewy. In other words, the pizza was a disappointment. And they were served with totally superfluous knotted rolls.

The price was certainly Big City: $4.50 each. That’s about what they charge the tourists in the blocks surrounding Times Square (New Yorkers know better than to get a slice from one of those pizza joints — and to pay that much).

We’re a big city now, too, so it’s time someone stepped up and started making a good pizza. That would be something to be proud of.

Gitto’sis at 120 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open…well, the website doesn’t list any opening hours or days. And at this point, do you really care? If you do, you can call them at 407-203-8889.


GeislerScott GeislerIt hasn't been written in stone, or, for that matter, on a wooden plaque outside. But the tentative name for the new restaurant that celebrity chef Norman Van Aken is planning for Mount Dora is 1921. That's the year that the structure the restaurant will occupy was built. A definitive name will be chosen soon.

It's also starting to look like a reunion of past employees of Van Aken's Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton at the Grande Lakes Resort Orlando. Scott Geisler, who had worked as dining room manager and sommelier for that restaurant for five years, has accepted the position of general manager at the Mount Dora restaurant. Geisler had been manager at The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park. (Palmer Linscott, who had been general manager at sister restaurant Cask & Larder has moved over to the Pig.)

Geisler will be reunited with Camilo Velasco, who will be the executive chef at 1921, or whatever it is finally known as. Velasco was executive chef at the Orlando restaurant at the young age of 21. Before joining the new Lake County project, Velasco was executive chef for Barnie's CoffeeKitchen, which had expanded food offerings at its Park Avenue store in Winter Park.

More to come.