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I had a perfectly pleasant meal recently at Korean Gogi Grill on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. I enjoyed the surroundings, the graciousness and good humor of the staff, and the food (mostly).

Gogi occupies a building on an outparcel in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips. It’s a lovely space with a modern decor. Tables are wired for those wishing to cook their own meats and the comfy chairs – and plates and napkins and just about everything else in the restaurant are emblazoned with the restaurant’s name, which is Korean for meat.

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Maxine trio

Maxine’s on Shine is throwing an 80th birthday party for executive chef George Vogelbacher on Tuesday, April 27, from 5 to 8 p.m. The celebration is open to the public and you can register your interest to attend at the event’s Facebook page.

Vogelbacher joined the neighborhood boîte almost exactly seven years ago, in April of 2014, and was named its executive chef a couple of months later. But he has a long history of cooking in Central Florida restaurants as chef and sometimes owner. Most notably, he and his wife operated Le Cordon Bleu, a French restaurant that opened in 1968 in the building where Ravenous Pig now resides; Harper’s Tavern was on the other side of the building. The restaurant was a popular special occasion destination for many locals until fire destroyed it in the summer of 1996.

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BoVine, an upscale steakhouse that opened last year amid pandemic strictures and limitations, occupies the space that for many years had been the jewel of Winter Park’s poshest boulevard when it might have been considered the area’s first Restaurant Row: Park Plaza Gardens.

It would be difficult to come up with a more venerable and iconic restaurant than Park Plaza Gardens. It was a jewel of fine dining in an era when few special occasion restaurants existed in the area, back when its menu was described as continental cuisine (a term that has thankfully been eighty-sixed). Over the past several decades, its menu and ownership changed (Robert Earl had it at one time; Manny Garcia was on a management team) and at one point even the name was tweaked, known briefly as Chef Justin’s Park Plaza Gardens for Justin Plank, now the executive chef at Terralina Crafted Italian in Disney Springs.

But through it all, the decor and design of the restaurant remained, with the signature element of a main dining room under a glass ceiling with brick floor and lots of green plants. It had the effect of dining outside but without the vagaries of Florida’s weather.

All of that is gone. It had to go. The building had fallen into disrepair – it became harder to keep those Florida elements out – and a dispute between the last owner of the restaurant and the building’s landlord involving accusations of infestation had damaged any brand goodwill that might have remained.

But don’t lament the loss. The restaurant that has taken its place is arguably better than any iteration that preceded it.

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The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort held a spring version of its popular Food & Wine Classic.

It took place entirely outdoors and safety protocols were followed.

The best thing I tasted was the roasted Colorado lamb chop with charred artichoke and gigante beans from the Swan Reserve hotel now under construction.

Second best were the St. Louis style smoked ribs from Smokin' D's BBQ. Fall off the bone tender and perfect with the slightly sweetish sauce.

It wasn't all meat. Chinatown served a vegetarian bao with glazed jack fruit, green onions and ginger.

Kimonos, the estimable sushi restaurant, was there serving raw deliciousness.

Kimonos, the estimable sushi restaurant, was there serving raw deliciousness.

Kimonos, the estimable sushi restaurant, was there serving raw deliciousness.

Wine stations were separated by region and varietals, and kept far apart to avoid crowding.

And live band kept everybody bobbing along to the musice.(That's the Swan Reserve going up in the distance. Hope the rest of the food there is as good as the lamb chops.

The Walt Disney World Swan Resort held a springtime version of its popular fall Food & Wine Classic, a sort of dry (though not in the alcohol sense) run for any changes that might be needed for the October event. It was a beautiful evening and everything ran smoothly. Well, except for the restaurant from the Swan Reserve kept running out of lamb and having to send someone jogging back to the indoor kitchens. They kept running out because it was arguable the best thing there. Check out the gallery above for more.