• You’re thinking Black Friday, I’m thinking White Truffles. Word comes from Rocco’s Italian Grille that the truffles have arrived and owner Rocco Potami is offering them up in daily specials. Really, if you’ve never experienced fresh truffles you owe it to yourself to have some grated onto a pasta dish. Heaven. Pricey, but heaven.
  • K Restaurant has truffles, too, and will offer its annual Truffle Dinner on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Six courses with pairings for $160 all inclusive.
  • If you’re reading this while stuck in traffic around one of the Premium Outlets shopping malls, you may be interested to know that Foxtail Coffee Co. is continuing its campaign for world caffeine dominance with a partnership with the Tommy Hilfiger outlet stores. Foxtail will have a cafe space in the stores and will offer light food options, as well. They’re not open yet but they may be by the time you find a parking space.
  • Shop Small Logo copyBy the way, instead of a shopping mall consider shopping small, especially on Nov. 24, which is Small Business Saturday. Our friends at Southeast Steel are participating with some pretty nice deals on LG appliances. If you were cursing your kitchen while preparing your Thanksgiving dinner, this is your chance to make it better for the coming holidays.
  • Wonton Asian Kitchen, which I reviewed in April when it was still pretty new, has closed. A note on its Facebook page thanked its fans for support and told them to watch the building, on Fairbanks Avenue just west of Orlando Avenue, for “a very new and exciting restaurant.” Doesn’t say if it will be from the same owners or someone else. I’ll watch the building on Mondays; need volunteers for the rest of the week.
  • You can stop watching the building at 207 N. Bumby Ave. in the Milk District. That’s going to be the home of MX Taco from chef Ryan Manning, who was sous chef at Highball & Harvest when it first opened (his latest gig was at the Ritz in D.C.). Probably after the New Year.


romaine small copyThis isn’t a good time to have all your money tied up in romaine lettuce stocks.

Let’s start with the blunt directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Do not eat romaine lettuce. Period. Full stop.

The warning comes after an outbreak of E. coli made 32 people sick in 11 states and Canada last month. No deaths have been reported but 13 people were sick enough to be hospitalized and one developed kidney failure. A third of the cases were reported in California and most of the others have been in the Great Lakes region and the northeastern U.S. as well as Ontario and Quebec.

But that doesn’t mean you’re safe if you bought your lettuce in Florida. Despite the trend for local sourcing, a lot of our food still comes from far away, and exact provenance is difficult to determine.

Don’t take any chances. If you have romaine lettuce in your refrigerator, throw it out. The lettuce, not the refrigerator, but you’re going to want to sanitize the bin it was stored in. Have a lettuce mix that might have bits of romaine in it? Throw that out, too. Even if you’ve already eaten some and haven’t gotten sick — although most people start feeling ill three to four days after consuming the bacteria, illness can occur anywhere between one to 10 days.

Here’s a link to the C.D.C.’s Food Safety Alert

Needless to say, restaurants are also affected, and indeed most people who consume romaine lettuce usually do so in a restaurant — no Caesar salads for a while.

Steve Gunter, who operates the Tap Room at Dubsdread said Wednesday, “We have stopped serving any Rromaine in any level. Even though it only affects certain lots from certain places we aren’t taking any chances. Not worth it.”

Soco’s Greg Richie said, “We tossed it all to be safe. We’re using hydro Bibb in the meantime.”

If you’re dining out soon, don’t take for granted that the restaurateur knows about directive from the C.D.C. Question what types of lettuces are being used — good time to test the server’s menu knowledge — and if romaine is mentioned, be sure it has been discarded and the proper sanitizing procedures have been applied.

And just to make your Thanksgiving dinner a little more fraught with worry, consider that for the past year the C.D.C. and the Department of Agriculture have been tracking an outbreak of Salmonella linked to raw turkey products. So be extra careful when handling your turkey Thursday.

Here’s a tip that has recently been advised for handling poultry: Don’t try rinsing it in the sink before you prepare it and shove it in the oven. Although it sounds counterintuitive, washing the bird, it’s believed, can actually spread pathogens through your kitchen as the water splashes off of it. Just season it, stuff it — usual warnings apply there — and put it in the oven; the heat will kill the bacteria.

Thorough hand-washing should follow. And you’re just going to have to forget that recipe for turkey carpaccio.


Christners wine glass

One in a series of reviews celebrating Central Florida’s classic restaurants, those open 25 years or longer.

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. But just as with Linda’s La Cantina, another independently owned restaurant reviewed recently in this series, the milestone comes with an asterisk.

As those who have lived in the area longer than five years know, Christner’s was originally known as Del Frisco’s Prime Steak & Lobster. It was not part of the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle chain, though both had the same origin. I won’t go into all the details here, but if you want to know more about the backstory, I’ve written about it in this article.

Russ Christner, who made the original deal with Del Frisco’s founder to open a steakhouse with that name in Orlando, chose a building on Lee Road instead of opting for something in the Tourist World part of town. That should have been an early indicator that this was meant to be a place for locals, a restaurant for celebrational splurges for some and for others a steakhouse for a fine piece of meat.

Christner grew the business and expanded the building’s footprint. But even as it got larger, he, along with his wife, Carole, maintained a hands on policy — Carole at the host stand and Russ wandering the dining rooms in his “uniform” of blue work shirt with a well worn and singed terrycloth towel over his shoulder — that kept it a family run business.


Puck rendering

It seems like we spend a lot of time talking about restaurants that have closed, it’s nice to be able to report a slew of openings.

  • Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is expected to officially open at Disney Springs Monday. Puck had previously had Wolfgang Puck Cafe when the area was known as Downtown Disney West Side, but that’s another story. It was a good restaurant when it opened in 1997, with an upstairs dining room that was meant to more closely approximate the culinary experience at the celebrity chef’s popular Spago. Then Levy Restaurants bought the Wolfgang Puck brand and took over the restaurant. How much did the restaurant change? Puck once told me that he considered asking Levy to take his name off of it. Puck, I’m told, is in control of the new restaurant, so let’s keep a good thought.
  • F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen has opened at 2420 Curry Ford Road, taking the place of Peppino’s Organic Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria, which operated in that building a very short time. This is the area that the developers have dubbed the Hourglass District. The city’s Main Streets program would rather you call it Curry Ford West (never mind that it’s on the east side).


Dexter lake maryNew information coming in on the status of the four Dexter’s restaurants. As reported earlier, and confirmed in this story, Greg Peters, founder of Graffiti Junktion, is part of a partnership that took over the Thornton Park and Winter Park locations.

I confirmed that John Hoffmeister, who was one of the partners with Dexter Richardson and Adrian Mann, has retained the Lake Mary store. In a phone conversation Friday morning, Hoffmeister said that he isn’t sure if he will hold on to the restaurant or sell it. “Right now, I am currently back in control of everything,” he said. “I’m possibly selling everything but not 100 percent sure.” He said that if he did sell to a party that has shown interest, he would likely stay on as the general manager to run things. “I expect to be here another five to 10 years,” he said.

Hoffmeister started as a dishwasher at the Dexter’s on Fairbanks Avenue 30 years ago and worked his way up through the kitchen and into management.

Hoffmeister also confirmed that the owners of the Windermere Dexter’s are Tom and Holly Ziupsnys, who also own a restaurant called Dulcetto in Championsgate. The Ziupsnyses have not returned repeated calls.

As I told you in my article Thursday, the Thornton Park and Winter Park Dexter’s will bring back some old items that had been taken off the menu over the years, including the Chicken Tortilla Pie.

Hoffmeister said that he does not plan to make any big changes at Lake Mary. “We’re killing it up here,” he said.