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Aurora Celeste

A new hotel, The Celeste, opened last fall on the edge of the UCF campus. And as is often the case, with the new hotel came a new restaurant, Aurora at the Celeste.

If you were just passing through Aurora, perhaps on your way to a function on the tailored event space lawn just off the restaurant’s patio, you might dismiss it as little more than a perfunctory coffee shop, there only to serve basic fare to weary guests; the decor does little to dissuade that notion.

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Lombardis ext

It was quite an acquisition and a move to upgrade its cafe offerings when Lombardi’s, the Winter Park seafood monger, announced in September that it had hired Austin Boyd to revamp its onsite prepared food selections and Yoshi Pintar to oversee a new sushi bar.

Now, both have left, Pintar to a new position with a hotel and Boyd to Seito Sushi Sand Lake, according to Mike Lombardi. “Both partings were amicable and I wish both of them nothing but the best as dining increases as the Covid crisis minimizes.”

Lombardi said his Fairbanks Avenue fish market will continue to offer sushi and he’ll implement a new menu soon.

Boyd had found his way to Lombardi’s when the Good Salt Restaurant Group, whose portfolio includes Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, was restructured and his position was eliminated. Seito Sushi Sand Lake is not listed as one of Good Salt’s restaurants on its website. So his moving there is, what, just an awkward coincidence?

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doshi topbox

Collab Kitchens is one of the area’s many new ghost kitchens – also known as virtual kitchens, dark kitchens, virtual restaurants and other monikers. This one, started by the owners of Bento Asian Kitchen, Jimmy and Johnny Tung. Their term for the type of business that offers kitchen space to multiple entities for takeout and delivery only is collaborative cooking, hence the name of this operation.

One of the new tenants cooking collaboratively there is Doshibox Korean Kitchen, specializing in doshirak, a sort of lunchbox meal with multiple items served in trays, sometimes stacked. They’re known in Japan, not so coincidentally, as bento boxes.

Doshibox’s doshirak meal is served on an aluminum tray with seven separated compartments. Kind of like a larger version of a frozen tv dinner, except the food is fresh and it’s all more than edible. In fact, I enjoyed the food I fetched from Doshibox so much that I could see myself indulging in a craving for its japchae noodles, Korean fried chicken or even one of its rice bowls. Although immediate gratification of such a craving might be problematic. But more about that in a moment.

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NYC iceskating copy

I try to get to New York a few times a year, but always – always – in December.

Well, not last December because... you know.

But things are looking good for travel to resume well before the end of this year, so I think it’s time to start planning a New York trip for the holidays.

Come with me.

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Shining Spice interior

Today marks one year since I had a full dining experience inside a restaurant. It was at Shining Spice in Winter Park, and I chose it specifically because it was a Chinese restaurant. What was then known only as a novel coronavirus had originated in Wuhan, China, and Chinese-Americans were facing bewildering discrimination. I wanted to make a point.

We knew a shutdown was imminent, though we didn’t know it would last this long. In the past 52 weeks I’ve written more than 100 reviews, most of them about takeout and delivery with a handful being accounts of outdoor dining.

I’m now fully vaccinated and ready to start dining in again, though I’m going to heed the experts’ advice to continue avoiding places that are overcrowded. Seems the responsible thing to do until we’re all fully dosed.

Shining Spice, by the way, apparently did not make it. It’s website is down and its phone disconnected.