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Muddy exterior

Muddy Waters, the New Orleans style restaurant in Thornton Park, has closed. It closed Friday, according to Todd Ulmer of Beacon Hill Group.

The space has been taken over by the owners of the Stubborn Mule, a bar and restaurant acrossSouth  Eola Drive in the Sanctuary condominium building. Brian Buttner and his business partner, Jonathan Canonaco, plan to open a new concept called the Menagerie Eatery and Bar. Buttner said they plan to have a soft opening as early as next week.

They have also acquired the Mucho liquor store and will replace that with a bar called the Broken Cage.

Muddy Waters opened just last year, in June, and was a partnership between Beacon Hill Group, which operates a number of successful downtown bars, and the then owners of Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar in the North Quarter, Bernard Carmouche and Larry Sinabaldi.

Shortly after Muddy Waters opened, Carmouche and Sinabaldi closed Two Chefs and dissolved their partnership; Carmouche continued as the chef/partner at Muddy Waters.

Carmouche on Sunday said that the restaurant closed because "We got an offer we couldn't refuse." Reached by phone, Ulmer, whose group also owned Mucho Tequila & Taco Bar that occupied the space before Muddy Waters, said, "We've spent a long time there and we're ready to move on. We were offered money by the Stubborn Mule group and we accepted their offer."

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Thermador top

I have gas!

OK, OK, get all your restaurant critic wisecracks out of your system.

I have for most of my adult life lived in houses that did not have access to natural gas. So that meant cooking on electric stovetops. For the past 14 years, my stovetop had the kind of electric coils that never seem to be seated properly. I don't think any of them were level. I hated them.

I also hated the unresponsiveness of electric. If a pot starts to boil over and you turn down the heat, it takes a while for the bubbling to subside. You usually have to lift the pot off the burner until it reaches the lower temperature.

With gas, the change is more responsive. What's more, you can see the flame under the pot to know just how much heat is being applied. So for most of my life I've lusted after friends who had natural gas to cook with. (I didn't envy the propaners I know, but that's another story.)

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Homestead table

If you were at the first-ever Homestead Harvest last year, then you're as excited as I am that the event is coming up again soon.

The second annual Homestead Harvest will occur Friday, October 26, at 7 p.m. It's hosted by chef Scott Pizzo of Highball & Harvest and benefits Fleet Farming and Frog Song Organics' Free Mulch Incorporated program.

What sets this event apart from other walkabout food and beverage functions is the setting. It takes place on the grounds of Grande Lakes' Whisper Creek Farm, so there's a real out-in-the-woods feel to the setting. As the sun goes down, the bucolic setting is illuminated by strings of lights, bright artificial moons and the glow of fires the chefs cook over.

Homestead area

The list of chefs this year include Norman Van Aken and Andres Mendoza of Norman's and Camilo Velasco, chef de cuisine at 1921 by Norman Van Aken. Brandon McGlammery of Luke's Kitchen & Bar will be on hand as will Kevin Fonzo, representing his Kevin Fonzo Foundation.

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Cantina sign

This is another in a series of reviews of Central Florida's classic restaurants that have been in operation 25 years or longer.

Linda's La Cantina is the oldest restaurant in Central Florida, and the reason for its longevity and its continued popularity can be attributed to one thing: it serves damn good steaks. It certainly doesn't warrant hour-plus waits based on its ambience or service, but more on that in a moment.

The title of the oldest restaurant comes with an asterisk. There has been a restaurant called La Cantina at 4721 E. Colonial Drive since 1947, but it wasn't always Linda's. We could double-asterisk the title, too, because there was another an Italian restaurant on that spot before Rudy Seng bought it and renamed it Edie and Rudy's La Cantina. Why a steakhouse with an Italian accent had a Spanish name is unknown.

Rudy and Edie had a son named Al who fell in love with a young salad girl named Linda Gilland. They got married. Al took over the restaurant in 1972 after Rudy died and renamed it Al and Linda's La Cantina. Linda bought out Al's share of the business in 1984 and the couple divorced shortly afterwards. Al's name was ripped from the sign and it's been Linda's La Cantina ever since.

Three asterisks: La Cantina's operation has not been continuous. The original restaurant was torn down in 1979 and replaced with a larger building. A fire destroyed that building in December of 1994 and it was replaced with the structure you see today by mid '95.

When I reviewed the risen-from-the-ashes steakhouse in August 1995, I marveled at the phenomenon that is Linda's La Cantina and said, more than once in that same review, "I don't get it."

I still don't.

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MclaughlinRyan McLaughlin, the former sous chef under Kevin Fonzo at K restaurant who took his place when the restaurant was sold, was fired Wednesday by owner Chad Phelps.

Reached by phone Thursday morning, McLaughlin said he was dismissed because he had hired someone to work in the kitchen without getting prior approval. "I hired somebody last week because it's hard to find [kitchen] talent," McLaughlin said, "and I didn't tell Chad.

"I figured I'd act and ask for forgiveness later."

Phelps was not immediately available for comment.

McLaughlin was not sure who would be tapped to take over the executive chef position at K, which is one of the area's most acclaimed restaurants.

He said he had already received a couple of phone calls from people offering him work. But he said he planned to "take my time to think about the kind of place I want to work and the kind of food I want to cook." He planned to spend Thursday fishing.

Out of solidarity, McLaughlin said, the person he hired last week quit when McLaughlin was let go.