on

meatball shoppe

Orlando has a new meatball shop. It's called the Meatball Shoppe.

It's located in a small decidedly unattractive strip of businesses at the corner of Lake Underhill Road and Goldenrod Road (the northwest corner, to be precise, just south of the East-West Expressway). Although the Meatball Shoppe's website refers to it as a restaurant, it's really more of a grab a bite or get something to go kind of place. The seating area is limited and not especially comfy or inviting. There appears to be quite a large kitchen behind the ordering counter, but my guess is that the space doubles as the commissary for the Meatball Shoppe's owners' other business, Isabella's Bella Cucina Catering. It seems to me to be a smart thing for a catering company to do: They can promote the (probably) more profitable catering business while generating income through the sales of meatballs.

on

Brussels sprouts divas

For those of us who suffered the childhood agony of boiled Brussels sprouts, it's time to rethink those itsy orbs.

Oh-so-thinly sliced, pan-seared and caramelized, Brussels sprouts are reborn. Tossed with pecorino Romano, plump golden raisins and a drizzle of sweet agave nectar, they're ready to wow even the most discerning foodie.

Delish with ham, roasted pork or a juicy leg of lamb, and, even better, this side is on the table in just 10 minutes.

on

fiori charger

Notes from New York, Part 1, included reviews of Chef's Club by Food & Wine, Gato, Boulton & Watt, and SixtyFive Lounge at the Rainbow Room.

The big "blowout" meal was at Ai Fiori at Langham Place hotel. Part of the Altamarea Group, Ai Fiori is chef/owner Michael White's to Italian and French Riviera cuisine. (The name means among the flowers in Italian.)

The restaurant is on the hotel's second level, overlooking Fifth Avenue, and has a modernly upscale decor — not an exposed brick in sight. It's quiet, subdued, and very comfortable.

The menu is decidedly Italian, but while there might be recognizable names, don't expect familiar presentations. The item under the Pasta e Risotto heading called Spaghetti, for example, features blue crab, lemon, bottarga (a fish roe) and chilies. Not your typical plate of pasta.

on

Louie meatballs

It's been a little over two years since the strip mall across from the UCF campus on the corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail was demolished to make way for a student-centric apartment building. The demolition forced the relocation of such eateries as Lazy Moon Pizza and Miss Saigon and the outright closing of others, including Mama Millie's Caribbean and Anmol Indian restaurant. Things turned out just fine for Lazy Moon and Miss Saigon — they're both in better spaces, at least in terms of decor and functionality if not proximity to the student body.

The structure that now stands on that corner looks just fine, though those of us who watched it during its construction know that the solid looking facade is basically just, well, a facade — it hides the ticky-tacky that would go a long way in explaining if any of the new residents happen to hear a neighbor sneeze — two apartments away. (For all I know, the flats are perfectly solid and soundproofed; I suppose it's possible.)

But the new development also brought new retail and restaurant space. As far as I know, none of the businesses that were displaced from the old strip mall hung around to wait for the new construction, but businesses are starting to move in.

I visited one of the first ones, Bar Louie, a while back. You may be familiar with the Bar Louie that opened six years ago at the Rialto on Sand Lake Road.