artisans interior

Artisan’s Table, the downtown restaurant owned and head-cheffed by Scott Copeland, has a pleasant vibe on Sunday mornings. It’s a decidedly young crowd, and I got the distinct impression that some of them had not yet been home since the night before. At least not to their own homes.

My guest and I were shown to a dark table in the center of the dining room. When we asked if we could possibly have the empty table next to the window overlooking Pine Street, she told us that they were waiting for clean butcher paper (which is what covers the tablecloths here) and that that paper was too dirty. There was no offer to seat us at one of the other, less dimly lit tables, so we alighted.


AlFresco interior

I went out to Winter Garden to attend a show at the Garden Theater and had a thoroughly enjoyable pre-theater dining experience at alFresco.

Despite the name, alFresco is not all outdoor dining. In fact, from what I could see of the actual patio space, it wasn’t nearly as comfortable and inviting as the indoor dining space, which has a balance of old and new in its decor of rustic bricks and brightly painted walls.

AlFresco arancini

My guest and I started with appetizers of arancini and empanadas. The two risotto balls were substantial and perfectly fried, served sitting in a puddle of fresh tomato sauce and topped with greens and shaved parmesan. I liked them, though I thought the pomodoro, though clearly freshly made, lacked any distinctive flavor.


Roadtrip cookery class

Editor’s note: Scott was hosted on the trip by Raglan Road and Dunbrody Country House Hotel. Read Raglan Road Trip to Ireland, Part 1, here.

COUNTY WEXFORD, IRELAND — The group — five contestants and five media reps, along with our guide, Aileen Ferguson — had spent the first two days in Ireland in Dublin and then motoring south to this region on Hook Peninsula to Dunbrody Country House, the elegant hotel and cooking school owned and operated by Kevin and Catherine Dundon. The main house is a stately old manor that was once the hunting lodge of an Irish prime minister. (Only prime ministers warrant hunting lodges with 22 bedrooms.)

While the main structure keeps true to its 1800s heritage, Dundon’s Cookery School, located in perhaps an old stable structure, is a modern facility where students are given instructions designed by Dundon and often carried out by his full-time chef de cuisine, Julien Climot.

It was here that the contestants gathered on the morning of the third day to learn what dish they would be assigned to cook for the 10th anniversary dinner at Raglan Road back in Orlando in October.

All five had submitted videos that demonstrated a three course menu. From those submissions, Dundon selected five that would make up the anniversary dinner.

But not quite.


Good Catch mint coleslaw copy

Summer has arrived, and that means plenty of casual get-togethers that happen at the beach, poolside or in the back yard. And for the divas it also means steering clear of the kitchen. This is one of our go-to salads that eschews lettuce, a riff on old-fashioned slaw that’s gussied up with peas and fresh mint – a little ah-ha that makes everyone want the recipe. (It’s from the “Good Catch” cookbook co-authored by diva Pam Brandon, Heather McPherson and Katie Farmand.)

With five ingredients, it comes together in about five minutes. Who wants to cook when a cool cocktail awaits?


Dining Pavilion at The Florida Mall FINAL copy

Florida Mall is apparently trying to move beyond the common food court experience.

Simon (no last name given), the company that owns the mall, this summer will open what it is calling its Dining Pavilion, a 105,000 square foot space. It has announced the tenant lineup and there isn’t an Orange Julius among them.

Among the 23 restaurants that will be part of the Pavilion are: El Meson Sandwiches; CARVERA Argentinian Grill; Carlo’s Bakery; la Madeleine; Bubbleology; Tobu; Five Guys Burger and Fries; Charley’s Philly Steaks; Dumpling and Noodle Bar; Chicken Now; A&W All American Food; Asian Chao, Sbarro; Taco Bell; Häagen-Dazs; Spoleto Italian Kitchen; Nature’s Table; FRESH – Healthy Café; Ugrean; SUBWAY; and Jamba Juice. OK, that last one is a little Orange Juliesque, and aren’t we all a little tired of Nature’s Table? But I’ll admit I haven’t seen an Argentinian grill in a mall food court before, so that’s exciting.

According to a press release, the Dining Pavilion will be located “between American Girl and Dillard’s on the north side of the mall,” which is a way of avoiding saying that it replaces Saks Fifth Avenue, which bugged out of the mall a while back.

The Dining Pavilion will have indoor and outdoor seating — 1400 seats in all. Maybe diners won’t be forced to do the Food Court Walk of Desperation where you wander throughout the space looking for one empty space with a clean table.

When the Dining Pavilion opens, the existing food court and its adjacent retail space will be redeveloped for new retailers. Wouldn’t it be great if Saks moved in there?