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.


capa dining roomFour Seasons Resort Orlando

If you required any more proof that the age of fine dining, at least as defined by posh surroundings, fine linens and what it generally referred to as white-glove service, is a thing of the past, you need look no further than the Four Seasons Resort Orlando.

You know the Four Seasons, for surely its reputation precedes it. Its hotels set the standard for luxury properties. Four Seasons hotels are where wealthy people choose to stay just to ensure they won't have to put up with common riffraff.

As if to emphasize that point, the Orlando property, which opened last year, is set inside the gates of Golden Oaks, a residential community where the minimum price for one of the mini mansions is said to be above $2 million. So you might expect the signature restaurant to be ultra elegant, refined and to not only set a standard for excellence in its own service and cuisine but to also expect a certain quality of style from its guests.

Well, you'd be wrong. Oh, the food at Capa, the Spanish steakhouse on the hotel's 17th floor rooftop, is excellent. And service is trained and professional if not white-glove refined. But the decor is decidedly casual, albeit with some killer design elements, which I'll tell you about it moment. And the "resort casual" dress suggestion means that the restaurant will pretty much accept any manner of attire. So get ready for the table next to yours to be full of people in shorts and flip-flops. The wealthy, it would seem, have become their own riffraff.


triomphe croque

I've been taking French lessons in anticipation of a trip to Marseilles , Bordeaux and Paris this spring. I'm determined this time to be able to ask more than "Ou est la biblioteque?", which is basically what I've been able to say since I first took French in ninth grade and listened to the PLM Series One records. Actually, the problem isn't being able to ask the question in French, it's being able to understand the response. Working on it.

So I was pleased to find Le Triomphe, a small French cafe in Winter Park that took over the space previously held by Dylan's Deli. As I've learned in my French class, the name Le Triomphe translates to The Triomphe. (It's still early in the lessons.)


Rainbow Room skyThe view from SixtyFive Lounge at the Rainbow Room at 30 Rock.

This trip to New York turned out to have a slight Italian bent, with a visit to the high end Ai Fiori and impromptu meals in two separate Little Italys.

But our first dinner was a late one Christmas night at the cumbersomely named Chef's Club by Food & Wine. The restaurant, located in the Puck Building on the corner of Houston and Mulberry, is one of those great New York spaces that is at once old and modern. It has rustic brick walls and ceiling with a modern bar on one side and a state of the art gleaming kitchen on the other. The concept here is to showcase the "best new chefs" from Food & Wine magazine.

chefs club dining

The chef in charge on the night we visited was Didier Elena, and he couldn't have communicated his disdain at having to work on Christmas more than if he went to each table and told the guests to get out. Instead, he just walked around and sneered, and at one point I saw him leaning on an unoccupied table next to the kitchen browsing through his smartphone, something he no doubt would have fired any of his staff for doing.



Our friends over at Barnie's CoffeeKitchen have begun a series of videos featuring executive chef Camilo Velasco. In the initial episode, Velasco explains three of the dishes he's featuring at the Park Avenue Barnie's on the evenings that dinner is serves, Thursday through Saturday. In case you missed it, I told you about some of the good stuff they're serving in this article.

Click the video image above to see Camilo in the Kitchen.