Food Secrets

If you've been wondering what to give yourself for Christmas this year, I've got just the thing: A trip to Paris and Lyon co-hosted by chef Kevin Fonzo and me.

The trip, which is being organized by Art in Voyage, will be April 21 to 28, 2018. We'll visit Michelin-starred restaurants, neighborhood bistros and the famous French food markets where Fonzo will gather ingredients for a cooking class.

We have a lot planned, including dinner at Le Jules Verne on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, a day trip to Reims to visit some Champagne houses, and a night in Versailles with dinner at Gordon Ramsay's acclaimed restaurant au Trianon at the Waldorf-Astoria (we'll stay the night there, too).

I'm anxious to show you my favorite places in Paris and Lyon, which as you may know is Paul Bocuse's milieu (that's French!). There's a reason the high-speed train from Paris to Lyon is called the Paul Bocuse Express.

The trip is limited to 10 guests. which will allow us to make this a more intimate experience. But that also means you'll need to secure your reservation right away.

Of course you'll also have time to explore the sights, including Montmartre and Sacre Coeur; the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay; the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees; Notre Dame; and the Moulin Rouge.

Art in Voyage's Mikael Frank Audebert has put together an incredible itinerary, which includes some fine hotels. (We're staying at Cours des Loges in Lyon, which is one of the best hotels I've ever stayed at.)

You can get all of the details of what's included as well as pricing information at the Art in Voyage page.

If you've never been to Paris, this will be a wonderful way to see it for the first time. And if you've visited before, you'll see the city in a whole new way.

Peppy interior

The Peppy Bistro, the College Park restaurant that took over the Paxia space last year, has closed.

The restaurant, which opened in May of 2016, got its name from the owner, Jerry Peppy. In a Facebook post dated Oct. 31, Peppy wrote:

To all my friends family and patrons I sadly decided to close the restaurant. I Originally came up to Orlando to be with my family during my father's illness. I opened The Peppy Bistro with great expectations and promise but unfortunately the market here was not what I was expecting. I did however meet some wonderful friends and people that will always be special to me. My father's passing the summer took a toll on many things including me. Not sure what's next but I want to thank everyone for all their love and support.

The restaurant's menu was hard to peg, which I noted in a mostly favorable review, and featured one of the largest meatballs in Central Florida.

Orange County Brewers tanks

The chrome bumpers of Fiats have given way to stainless steel brewing tanks at the corner of Orange Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Orlando.

The storefront space is the new home of Orange County Brewers, which is not affiliated with any government entity. OCB is the latest entry in the burgeoning microbrewery sector.

I'm always impressed by the major hardware involved with setting up an operation like this. The OC's main tanks can be seen from an open garage door (apparently left from the previous tenant) in the back parking lot.

There are also tanks to be seen through the darkened windows behind the many taps behind the bar. Also in view there: kitchen racks and boxes, and jars of hops, all of it rather unkempt looking, but hey, it's a brewery.

It's also a pizzeria. Or I should say, a pizzeria also occupies the space. The food is done by Orlando Pizza & Wing Company, which is not owned by the same people as Orange County Brewers, apparently, as I found out on a recent visit.

Cheramy Honey Dessert

Voting ends Thursday, Nov. 9, in the preliminary round to decide which honey-based dessert will represent the area as its signature dish. There are 29 entries in the competition. The 10 top vote getters will be presented to a panel of judges on Nov. 16; the winner will be announced at Visit Orlando's annual meeting and luncheon on Dec. 7.

I will be a judge for the finals along with Art Smith of Homecoming Kitchen; Tish Boyle from Dessert Professional Magazine; and Lauren Delgado, food reporter at Orlando Sentinel.

The competition, which is being sponsored by Visit Orlando, was championed by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who challenged local chefs to come up with a food that could be touted as the area's signature dish. The focus was narrowed to a dessert featuring honey to highlight the abundance and variety of honeys produced in Central Florida.

Besides using honey as a major ingredient, the desserts were required to be available for ordering at a restaurant. Among the entries are:

Honey Dessert Trio from David Ramirez, available at Cala Bella at Rosen Shingle Creek

Honey Peach Streusal Coffee Cake (pictured at top), Stephane Cheramy, Highball & Harvest

Orange Blossom Baklava, Vassilis Coumbaros, Taverna Opa

Galberry Honey and Pecan Cake, Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon

You can see the full list and place your vote at the Visit Orlando website.