FD Cantina bar

To understate it just a bit, I wasn't all that impressed with F&D Cantina when it opened in mid 2016 in Waterford Lakes. Besides being served food that was at a temperature lower than what could legally be considered warm, the service was lacking and the surroundings offered nothing to enhance the experience.

That location has closed.

But another F&D Cantina has popped up in Lake Mary, not far from F&D Kitchen and Bar, which causes a bit of a problem itself. I arranged to meet an associate at F&D Cantina, but Google Maps sent him to F&D Kitchen, which is not far away physically but is a logistical challenge. Thank God one of us wasn't in Lake Mary and the other in Waterford Lakes.

And thank God, or the chef, that the F&D Cantina in Lake Mary is good enough to put the Waterford Lakes location a distant memory.

Service smile 1Server smile 2 1

Have you ever heard people refer to the Orlando Style of Hospitality?

Neither have I.

We had more than 68 million visitors to the region last year. We'll likely have that many or more this year. And next year. They will be greeted and treated and guided and served by an army of hospitably workers. And, not incidentally, so will those of us who live here and also take advantage of what the service industry has to offer, especially our more than 4,000 restaurants.

Restaurants, of course, have been my focus for nearly 30 years, and anyone who has been reading my reviews for any part of that time will know that I'm a stickler for good service. The quality of a restaurant's food is very important -- without food, why have a restaurant?

But I've always considered the quality of the service to be even more important than the food. I'm not alone in that thinking. Numerous surveys of diners have concluded that people are willing to accept mediocre food if the service shines. It goes the other way, too. I could cite several examples of restaurants whose food was the talk of the town, so much so that reservations were hard to come by. Often, the headiness of being the popular new restaurant manifested in an arrogance among the staff. I can't name one that survived long with that attitude.

Glass Knife rendering

The Glass Knife is a little cakebox of a bakery and cafe. The pink walls don't appear to have been painted but frosted instead.

Indeed, cakes are the ostensible raison d'être of the Glass Knife. The name is a reference to cake slicers popular during the Great Depression. Glass didn't tarnish or impart an off taste as metallic slicers could.

The mother of the restaurant's owner, Steve Brown, collected glass knives, so the theme of his cafe was set with an ample stock of the delicate doodads to decorate. (My mother collected elephants; I will not be opening a restaurant.)

While cakes, pastries and other assorted baked sweets are a focus, chef Stuart Whitfield's menu makes a few forays into savory territory, mainly with soups, salads and sandwiches. A chicken pot pie is offered daily. Well, nightly, only after 4:30 p.m. All of the food I sampled was of high quality and expertly prepared.

However, the experience of eating there is less enjoyable, at least when there is a full house, as when I visited for lunch with a friend. And the process is a bit confusing, even with someone at the front door attempting to explain it.

36 hours map

Here's a note for people who edit travel articles for publications around the world. It's a plea, really.

The next time someone submits an article about Orlando with an opening sentence along the lines of, "There's more to Orlando than theme parks," send the article back for rewrite and tell the author to come up with something more original. That line has been done. Ad nauseam.

The latest iteration is in an article for the New York Times' 36 Hours In... series. I assume that 36 Hours in Orlando will run Feb. 11. It started appearing online last week, but Sunday's article was 36 Hours in Calgary, which the writer somehow didn't feel the need to open with, "There's more to Calgary that stocking caps and moose heads."

The lede for the most recent Orlando day and a half piece is: "Ever since the early 1960s, when Walt Disney chose Central Florida as the location for his most extensive theme park, Walt Disney World, Orlando has been synonymous with mouse ears, thrill rides and daily parades. But most locals readily divulge that fantasy fulfillment has little to do with the real life of urban Orlando."

The last time the Times featured Orlando, in March 2011, the opening read: "PEOPLE who live in the Orlando area will tell you that there is life here beyond the theme parks, gator farms and citrus groves."

And it's not just the New York Times. Here's an article just posted this week on Newsday's website: "Sometimes you just can’t take another minute in a theme park — the lines, the humidity, the jostling crowds, the screaming kids (and sometimes screaming parents) or too many renditions of “It’s a Small World.” What else to do?

"Plenty. Orlando, Florida, and its surroundings aren’t only about princesses and wizards. Here are some favorite escapes, most within an hour’s drive of the parks."

We get it. There's a history and a preconception about the area. But I've been reading this same opening for more than 15 years, and it's getting old. It's not only become stereotypical, it demonstrates lazy writing.