Wine Bar George Ext

Now that Wine Bar George has been open for seven months or so, I thought it would be interesting to revisit and see how it is settling in to the Disney Springs community.

Actually, there was another reason to make another trip there. A Wine Bar George dining experience with me was offered as a silent auction item at this year’s gala for Orlando Shakes in Partnership with UCF. The dinner, donated by Rick Schell, was for two people to join me and Schell for an updated review. After a fierce bidding war in which two parties battled for the two seats, Schell graciously expanded the invitation to both couples.

Joining us for the evening were John and Rita Lowndes, Dr. Ann McGee and Chuck Kovaleski.

Winebargeorge digby

Owner George Miliotes greeted us with an interesting sparkling wine, Digby Fine English, from Sussex. I know what you’re thinking: English wine? And a sparkling wine at that? This was a delightful surprise. The nonvintaged blended wine — pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier — could hold its own next to many Champagnes. And why was there even a question: It’s been clear since the beginning that Miliotes doesn’t stock swill in his joint. (The Digby goes for $88 on the wine list, so that’s another indicator that it isn’t a second-rate wine.)


Dexter lake mary

The last of the four Dexter’s restaurants has been sold.

Hospitality Investment Partners, which may or may not call itself HIP, has acquired the Lake Mary Dexter’s from John Hoffmeister, who was a partner with founder Dexter Richardson in the restaurants. When we told you about the sales of the other restaurants in this article last month, Hoffmeister was vague about whether he would keep or sell the Lake Mary location. “I’m possibly selling everything but not 100 percent sure,” he said at the time. He said that if he did sell to a party that has shown interest, he would likely stay on as the general manager to run things. “I expect to be here another five to 10 years,” he said.


ColindresNote: This story has been amended to add details on funeral arrangements.

Mauricio Colindres, one of the two owners of Orlando’s venerable Chatham’s Place restaurant, died Saturday. The cause was cancer, according to a coworker. Colindres was 71.

Colindres had been working at restaurant in Dr. Phillips for several years when owner Louis Chatham expressed a desire to sell the business. Chatham had started the restaurant with his brother Randolph in Windermere and moved it in the early ‘90s to is current location, on the ground floor of an office building on Dr. Phillips Boulevard just north of Sand Lake Road. It would be years before more restaurants started to move into the area — though none close to Chatham’s — to warrant the Restaurant Row designation.

But Louis Chatham grew disillusioned with the business after the sudden death of Randolph. When Chatham said he wanted to sell the restaurant, Colindres, Chatham’s sous chef, Tony Lopez, and Carol Conwell, a regular customer who wanted a job, got together and bought it in early 1997. Lopez took over as executive chef, Colindres was the maitre ‘d and manager, and Conwell served as hostess, taking over for Chatham’s mother, Bettye. Louis Chatham told me at the time that he had two other interested buyers, both with cash, but he wanted the people who had helped to build the restaurant’s reputation to have it.

The three kept the restaurant going and maintained its high standards. In a followup review later in 1997, I wrote that not only were the new owners keeping the quality level high but they just might have improved it.

Conwell died in late 2006, leaving Lopez and Colindres as the two remaining partners. Colindres told me at the time that it was their intention to keep the restaurant going in her honor.

Colindres learned that he had lung cancer in May this year, according to Liza Causey, a manager at the restaurant. He was undergoing chemotherapy, said Causey, the staff was looking forward to him coming to the restaurant on New Year’s Eve. They learned of his death Saturday shortly before the restaurant opened for dinner service. Lopez was not available for comment Monday.

Colindres is survived by his wife, Alicia, two sons and a daughter.

Services will be held Friday, Dec. 21, at 10 a.m. at St. James Cathedral, 215 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. A reception will follow from 11 a.m. to noon.


Magdinmo checkBest Buddies ambassadors Seaira Sevison and Travis Morgan; Emily Hunt, director of state operations, Best Buddies Florida; Don Engfer, Visit Orlando Board Chair; Joanne Marsal Vassos, American Express; Amy Drow, development manager, Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida; and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida ambassadors Paige and Tristan McMillen. Image courtesy of Visit Orlando.

A record number of people dined at participating Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month restaurants this year, 251,766 to be exact.

How do I know that? Because for each dinner sold from the special $35 three-course menu, the restaurants donated one dollar to charities chosen by Visit Orlando to benefit from the proceeds. This year the dining program raised $251,766, more than any previous year.

The recipients of the dining dollars this year are Best Buddies, which fosters inclusion and one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, which strives for acceptance and empowerment for people with Down syndrome and their families.

“What another fantastic year for our Magical Dining program,” George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, said in a statement. “Along with our valuable members in the restaurant industry, we’re excited to make this record contribution to our friends at Best Buddies and the Down Syndrome Association.”

Visit Orlando estimates that it has donated more than $1 million to local charities since initiating the donation feature in 2009. Other charities that have benefitted include: