Cuba 1800s top

I was motoring along Colonial Drive the other day when I spotted a new restaurant, Cuba 1800’s, so I decided to take a step back in time and have lunch.

Actually, I can’t really see the difference between this place and similar restaurants specializing in Cuban cuisine. But I can tell you I liked the food very much. And the casual picnic-style atmosphere. And especially the way I was welcomed by the staff of Cuba 1800’s.

And before my copy editor friends come after me, yes, I know that the apostrophe in the name is mechanically incorrect, but that’s the way the restaurant has it so that’s what I’m going with.

And besides, with food this good I’m willing to forgive them for being too possessive.



Ritz Gingerbread

The folks at Grande Lakes Orlando have announced their lineup of holiday activities and as always they sound like great fun and a good way to get into the holiday spirit.

And no, it isn’t too early to be thinking about these things. November is [checks watch] HERE, so haul out the holly, already.

First things first: Highball & Harvest will host a Thanksgiving Feast, conveniently held on Thanksgiving Day, which is Nov. 28 this year (that’s a Thursday). It’ll be a festive Southern style spread featuring H&H’s terrific farm-to-fork cuisine. Feast hours are noon to 8 p.m. and cost is $120, $50 for kids 12 and under. Reservations are a must: 407-393-4648.

Beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 30, and on various days through Dec. 22, the Ritz-Carlton’s Pastry team will call Gingerbread School into session. Enrollees will build their very own gingerbread house using pre-baked panels. It’s sort of like a modular home but more useful in a hurricane because you can eat it. Cost is $195 for a family of four and includes a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network and a personalized brick on Santa’s Workshop. Check out the schedule at the Grande Lake website.

And along with Gingerbread School there’s Bubbles & Ginger on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. to celebrate National Gingerbread House Day. (You knew there was a National Gingerbread House Day, didn’t you?) At this event you’ll construct a gingerbread house then sip Champagne and nibble on savory treats while you wait for the Ritz-Carlton’s building inspector to approve it for occupancy. $255 for the family of four, but the kids can’t have the Champagne.

Also on various days throughout December, you can enjoy Santa’s Teddy Bear Tea, a holiday version of a traditional tea that includes a special gift for kids and a visit from Santa (for everybody).

You'll find more fun things to do at the Grande Lakes website.


Delaneys table view

It always seemed like a good idea to me, a full-service restaurant in the culinary desert between downtown and Sodo. It made especially good sense to locate one across the street from the massive Orlando Health medical complex as a hospital-food alternative, not to mention adult beverage opportunity, for staff and visiting family members.

But Doc’s, the first restaurant to give it a try, couldn’t quite make a go of it, not even with an estimable chef like Neil Connolly, who was formerly the private chef for the Kennedy family compund in Massachusetts. And it didn’t do any better when it tried, after Connolly’s death, to go sports bar-ish as the casual Doc’s Streetside Grille.

But something feels different about Delaney’s Tavern. It essentially occupies the same space, though it was somewhat altered when a boutique hotel was added to the upper floors (something that was planned even back in the early Doc’s days). I hesitate to use a cliché and call it Cheers like, even though that’s what the owners Dr. Tom Winters, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Dr. Becky Moroose, were going for. But it does have that mien, and not just because John Ratzenberger, the actor who played Cliff, a regular at the bar of the old television series, could be spotted sitting on one of its stools recently.

It’s comfortable, it’s relaxed, and it feels like a place you might want to visit regularly. And I can only imagine the food served here is better than you’d find at Melville's Hungry Heiferthe restaurant upstairs from the fictional bar.

A lot better.


Cavos logo

Despite what you may have read [cough, here], the new owners taking over the just closed Felipe Rodriguez space are not going to be doing a Philly cheesesteak concept. But it is going to be based on a Philadelphia restaurant, Old Nick’s Famous Roast Beef, a family-operated sandwich spot.

Cavo’s Bar and Kitchen will feature “a simple menu with a northeast twist,” said Johnny Markaj, who will open the restaurant with partners John Cavallini and Mark Cavallini. “Northeast comfort food,” with house roasted and hand-carved beef, pork and other meats.


Valencia exterior

When UCF and Valencia opened their joint campus in the Creative Village, downtown Orlando got a culinary arts school. That’s because Valencia moved its existing culinary arts and hospitality program from its West Campus.

And thanks to a donation of $1.5 million dollars from Walt Disney World Resort, the facilities, including high-tech classrooms, specialized kitchens with overhead cameras, and even a mixology lab, are all state of the art.

The facilities occupy three levels of the 15-story UnionWest tower constructed by Ustler Development that also has student services offices and dormitory housing on the upper floors.

I was given a tour of the facilities recently by Alex Erdmann, dean of the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality at Valencia College; Jim Inglis, Hotel/Restaurant Management director; and Ken Bourgoin, chef and instructor.