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A smorgasbord of bits and tids about Central Florida restaurants.

  • The lineup of restaurants for this year’s Taste! Central Florida (formerly known as Taste of the Nation — Share Our Strength) is complete and it’s a good one. There are 41 restaurants signed up to offer you samples of their best at the event, which is Saturday, Sept. 8, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. Among those who will be serving at the walkabout affair are The Whiskey, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, Highball & Harvest, Whisper Creek Kitchen, Tapa Toro and Taverna Opa. Tickets are $175 and 100 percent of the profits stay in our community to fight childhood hunger through Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. As always, Taste! Central Florida will be at Orlando World Center Marriott. Do the clicky thing here to see the full list and to get your tickets.

  • Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster had a special dinner on June 14 in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The family-owned restaurant raised $18,000 for Aspire Health Partners, which provides prevention, intervention and treatment to individuals and families coping with substance use and mental health disorders, juvenile delinquency, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other behavioral health issues.

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse is selling a special cupcake at all of its Sweet Shops with a portion of the proceeds going to the Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute. The Red Vel-fit cupcake features less sugar and fat and fewer calories and carbs than a regular red velvet cupcake. The special cupcake is available only through July, then it’s back to the unhealthful dessert.

  • Terralina Crafted Italian has opened at Disney Springs, still Italian, still operated by Levy Restaurants. This is the remade space that was previously Portobello and Portobello Yacht Club before that (when it was part of Pleasure Island and its backstory had to do with Merriweather Pleasure, or something like that; I haven’t heard yet what its made-up story to fit in with Disney is supposed to be).

  • Speaking of the Springs, https://tastecfl.org, the fun “former power plant” (wink), has launched a Burger of the Month program. This month, it’s the Red, White and BBQ Burger in celebration of the Fourth of July, which I missed entirely because I’ve been in Europe since June 23. This month’s burger has a patty fashioned out of short rib and brisket garnished with house-made pulled pork, fried onions, and coleslaw. I’m curious to see what the August burger will be. However, since August is known for its dog days, I’m also a bit apprehensive.

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It’s still six weeks away, but Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month has announced the list of participating restaurants, and those venues are now accepting reservations. MagDinMo, which historically was confined to the days of the ninth month of the calendar, will run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 30.

During Magical Dining Month, restaurants that have paid a fee to be part of the program offer special three-course menus priced at $35. Often — but not always — these menus give you a taste of what the restaurants have on their regular menus at a significant savings.

Something new this year is that several restaurants have agreed to offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items, because the epidemic of faux Celiac disease continues. Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is among the list of restaurants offering one or more of the special diet options.

Still missing as an option: Choosing an appetizer, soup or salad, and an entree as the three courses and eschewing dessert. Maybe next year?

And it isn’t new, but this year you won’t see Emeril Lagasse’s face hanging out of the MagDinMo’s website banner. This is the first time in many years that Lagasse has no restaurants in Central Florida. Both Emeril’s Orlando and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop were regular participants.

But, more than 100 restaurants are on this year’s list, including 19 first-timers. On that list you’ll find our friends at Maria & Enzo’s and the Tap Room at Dubsdread.

As in years past, one dollar from every MagDinMo meal sold will go to children’s charities. This year, the program will help children affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities, though donations to Best Buddies and The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. I wonder if American Express is matching the donations through its sponsorship. That sure would be a nice thing to do, Amex.

I’ll be looking over the list and doing my math and will make some recommendations in the coming weeks. In the meantime, give the list a look and start making your plans.

Curry Mantra ext

The young man who greeted us and showed us to the lunch buffet at Curry Mantra, a new Indian restaurant, seemed genuinely interested in making sure my lunch guest and I were pleased with the food.

Unfortunately, we weren't. With the exception of a spicy lentil soup, everything was quite modest and mundane. And even worse, much of it was tepid or, like the mixed pakora, downright cold.

Lyon1 sud

Note: This is one of a series of articles about Art in Voyage -- Beyond Travel's tour of Paris and Lyon, co-hosted by Scott Joseph with Kevin Fonzo. Previous articles include A Food Adventure in France Begins, Paris Day 2, Paris Day 3 and Paris Day 4.

LYON, FRANCE — Because of the unpredictability of the French rail strikers, we traveled from Paris to Lyon in a van. It was comfortable, and it’s always nice to have door-to-door service, but what would have been an hour and a half trip on the TGV was a four-hour journey by highway.

We arrived later than we had anticipated and headed to our lunch reservation at Le Sud, or the South, one of the Paul Bocuse brasseries (there’s one for every direction). The last time I dined here, circa ’95, it had just opened.

Eastside Asian exterior

There’s an interesting little Asian market on the East side. It’s called Eastside Asian Market.

What makes it more interesting is that along with the aisles and shelves of specialty foods and dry goods that you won’t find in your basic Publix, a corner of the store is dedicated to small cafe with an exclusively vegetarian menu. In fact, a note at the top of the menu board next to the kitchen reads, “Everything is vegetarian. Deal with it.”

There isn’t a whole lot to deal with. The menu is succinct and the food is good.