Buvette Paris Bar

PARIS — Anyone who has asked me for restaurant recommendations in New York knows that one of my favorite spots there is Buvette, the tiny French cafe in the West Village. Wonderful food, great list of wines, excellent service from friendly engaging people. Always a joy.

So upon hearing that owner Jody Williams had opened a Buvette in Paris, I knew where I would be going as soon as I hit town. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The Paris outpost of Buvette is in the Pigalle quarter of the city’s 9th arrondissement. Like the New York restaurant, this Buvette is small, cramped even. The decor is similar, right down to the large blackboard with a chalklike outline of France's wine regions. And it's very popular. When we arrived, however, there was an open table available — which we turned down. In Greenwich Village, we always opt to sit at the bar where we can watch the plating of the food and the bustle of the amiable staff. We wanted the same here.

It took a little hovering and scoping to determine which stools would open first, but we were seated before too long and looking over the very familiar menu.


Lombardis cases

Lombardi’s Seafood, the longtime go-to spot for fresh fish, moved to its fresh new location on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park last month. Until then, it had occupied a warehouse at the corner of Orange Avenue and Orlando Avenue (U.S. Highway 17-92) since 1961.

The new location keeps a little bit of the warehousey feel but it has a decidedly spiffier mien. There are plenty of refrigerated display cases with the recently arrived fish and shellfish and reach-in cases for other related goodies.

And there’s a better space for a cafe than at the old location. I visited with some colleagues for a lunch meeting when the cafe was still offering a soft opening menu. It was obvious that the cafe crew were still getting used to their new space and equipment, and a soft opening menu should be taken with a grain of salt, if not a good dash of shrimp boil. But some of the shortcomings with the food we sampled had less to do with being new than with just being odd choices.


EIFWF preview Hunnel and deardorff

With only 75 days before the start of the 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the even organizers offered a preview Sunday of some of the new dishes that will be served in the Marketplaces around the park’s World Showcase. The tasting was offered to members of Tables in Wonderland, a membership service that gives discounts at certain WDW restaurants as well as invitations to special events, such as this one. I was invited to join in.

The tastings were set up in the World Showplace, which had enough open space for the World Cup Soccer champs to play a demonstration map. Too bad they weren’t there.

EIFWF preview haggis

One of the more notable new items is haggis, which will be served at the Scotland marketplace. “But the Scotland marketplace had haggis last year,” you interrupt. Sort of, I reply, not wishing to reward rudeness. What was served last year was a vegetarian version of haggis, which if you know what is in haggis might prompt you to ask “What’s the point?” The reason it was a vegetarian version is that it was impossible to gain approval for the importation of actual Scottish haggis, which generally includes sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, suet and some other goodies encased in a sheep’s stomach.

The Disney folks still can’t get clearance to import the real thing, but they’ve found a domestic producer that can provide a more traditional haggis experience. (Few use the stomach casing these days, so you don’t have to get too grossed out.) How did it taste? Exactly like haggis, and nicely plated with neeps and tatties, which are not as naughty as they sound (it’s rutabaga and mashed potatoes).


Del Friscos rendering

I was treated to a hard-hat tour of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Thursday. The high-end steakhouse is currently under construction on International Drive. The helmets were needed as regional manager Scott Gould and Dominick Delledera, the Orlando DFDE general manager, and I ducked under metal strips and the occasional scaffolding as we made our way through the 17,000-square-foot facility.

It certainly doesn't look possible, but Gould assured me that the construction will be finished in three weeks and the restaurant will open to the steak-eating public in five.

This isn't the area's first Del Frisco's but it is the first Double Eagle. The previous Del Frisco's, of course, is now known as Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster on Lee Road. If you don't know the full story, I explain it in this article. The short version: Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobster opened under an agreement with Russ Christner and the original owner of the Texas Del Frisco's. When that agreement ended, the Double Eagle parent company decided not to renew. The Lee Road restaurant took the Christner's name and the Del Frisco's folks waited out the non-compete clause. 

So, is there bad blood between the Christner's family and Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House? "Not at all," Gould told me. "We had dinner there last night," he said, referring to Christner's, "and we hope the Christner family will be at the opening." He also gave the Christners praise for serving the Del Frisco's name so well.

Here are some of the photos from the walk through.


Slate interior

Slate is a new restaurant that has opened on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, and I’m not sure why.

It’s a lovely place, and the food is good, but when I visited shortly after it opened as a guest at a media dinner, I found myself looking for a thematic clue, something on the menu, for instance, that tells the guest “This is our specialty” or “This is what is going to make you want to come back again and again.” Unfortunately, I never found it.

Even the restaurant’s name is a misleading misnomer, for if there is a scrap of slate anywhere in the decor, I did not see it. Copper, yes. And exposed brick, white tile, steel, elements of fire, both functional and decorative, too. But no slate.

It is, however, a beautiful restaurant, which is what one would expect from the same people who brought us Luma on Park and Prato. But it’s also because of that pedigree that one should expect more logic here.