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CE dinner menu

This is the second of a two-part recap of the Curated Experiences sponsored by the Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes Orlando. You can read the first part here.

On Saturday evening, the Da Vinci Lawn was staged for a more formal dinner with large round tables, no more than five people to a table, with each place elegantly set with all the forks, knives, spoons and stemware that would be needed for the five-course meal.

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CE Ritz

What an experience.

No, make that plural – experiences.

The Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes Orlando held its inaugural Curated Experiences event last weekend with food and wine events, cooking classes and demonstrations, non-food events such as gold lessons, fly-fishing tutorials and a chance to hold a bird of prey on your hand. And encouraged by the success of the first time, the team at Grande Lakes is already planning another weekendful in April.

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Epcot flower garden beauty beast topiary 900x360 copy

Photo: Walt Disney World

The latest “Taste of...” festivalette at Epcot opened Wednesday. This one is the Taste of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, running Mar. 3 through July 5. Throughout the past year, Epcot has been trying to maintain some semblance of its yearlong parade of festivals but without the full panoply of offerings. I wonder if this one will feature only seedlings? Still, there is a good array of outdoor kitchens offering food and drink, and festival planners even managed to add some new kiosks, including the Epcot Sunshine Griddle (avocado toast, shrimp & grits, corned beef brisket hash) and the Epcot Farmers Feast (spring onion soup, duck confit and profiteroles with red bbet mousse – you know, things farmers eat).

Reservations to get into the park are required, as is a valid ticket. If vaccinations stay on track, maybe we can look forward to a full-blown International Food & Wine Festival this year.

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Taproom interior

I’ve been a fan of the Tap Room at Dubsdread since it opened nearly 19 years ago. I first fell in love with its burger – and awarded it the Critic’s Choice Foodie Award for many years – then became a fan of its weekends-only prime rib. It was nice to have a place to go for good prime rib without having to put up with the arrogance of Hillstone’s management. (Seriously, do they go through special training to learn how to act superior?)

And then Tap Room upped its game on high-quality steaks and seafood making it a more well-rounded restaurant. And I’m not the only one who noticed the consistency in quality. Besides accolades from most other local publications, Tap Room at Dubsdread has received national recognition, including TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Award, and, in 2019, it was on Kayak and OpenTables list of the 25 Restaurants in the World Worth Traveling For in their "Will Fly for Food" compilation.

But...

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FWOpen eggs

To paraphrase an old saying, you have to break a few eggs to build a restaurant that specializes in omelets. Or something like that.

First Watch, the Florida-based “Daytime Cafe” chain with locations across the country, officially opened its newest restaurant Monday with an egg-cracking ceremony instead of the more usual ribbon cutting. On hand were Orange County mayor Jerry Demings; Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce,; Greg Higgerson, chief development officer of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida; and First Watch president and CEO, and UCF graduate, Chris Tomasso. Also included, for some reason, was Shades, the mascot of the Orlando Solar Bears hockey team, who’s decidedly better at breaking the ice than some eggs.