Hall on the YardPhoto: Hall on the Yard

Openings: Food halls, taqueria and Florida kitchen

Openings, we’ve got openings.

The Hall on the Yard, the long-anticipated food, beer and cocktail space, opened Thursday in Ivanhoe Village at 1460 Alden Road, Orlando.

The hall has nine restaurants, with a few more spaces yet to fill, three bars and private event spaces.

Opening restaurants include: Humbl, the quick-service plant-based eatery; Spice Affair, Indian; Pasion, Mexican; the Poke Rose (poke is pronounced po-kay, so is rose pronounced ro-say?); The Chef & I, American fusion; Fork & Hen, Southern; Daily Bread Bakers; True Island, Caribbean; and Wabi Sabi, Japanese.

Hall on the Yard will be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, opening 9 a.m. Sundays.

HOTY is the second food hall to open in recent weeks. Milkhouse, in the Milk District, naturally, has two concepts from Bruno Zacchini, owner of Pizza Bruno, and neither involves pizza. Instead there’s Bagel Bruno and Cicchètti by Bruno. Ravenous Pig Brewing Co. is on tap and Foxtail Coffee Co. is there, too. Fittingly for a pace called Milkhouse, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is there, too.


Francescos int2

I hadn’t visited Francesco’s, the Maitland ristorante and pizzeria, since it opened in 2012, so I thought it was time to go back and see how it’s doing.

Nicely, for the most part.

The restaurant was doing brisk business on a recent cold and drizzly night with people glad to accept outdoor tables. My guest and I preferred a table inside and waited patiently between the host stand and the counter of the open kitchen, which was strewn with packets of tablecloths (though tables were covered with sheets of paper), bins of flatware and various wine bottles, some full, some not.


yamazaki 55 momokase event fix

If you’re not doing anything Sat., Dec. 4, have a thing for Japanese whisky and you’ve got five grand burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to check out the Yamazaki 55 Momokase dinner at Morimoto Asia, hosted by Masaharu Morimoto himself.

The multi-course dinner will feature pairings of Yamakazi’s 12-, 18- and 25-year whiskies, culminating with a taste from one of only 200 bottles in the world of the distiller’s 55-year-old version.

Cost for the experience is $5,055, but I hasten to add that the price includes tax and gratuity, so there’s that. Only 14 seats are available and you can purchase yours here. (A press release says that the Disney Springs restaurant has one bottle; if I’m paying more than five thou I’m drinking half a bottle myself.)


Fusionfest Serbia Terry

FusionFest, pastry chefs, a food truck headed for the Pass, a Norman's update and Ramsay funds

FusionFest, the annual multi-cultural celebration, returns this year to its usual calendar spot, the weekend after Thanksgiving. The event will take place on the Frontyard Festival space at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 27 and 28. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday it’s from noon to 6 p.m.

FusionFest features dance, music, visual arts and games. Most notably, it features vendors serving foods from various world cultures. It’s free to attend and food can be purchased separately. Or you can buy a VIP Passport for $25 that will include four food tokens. Information here.

Sawaryn headshotChristopher SawarynRon James, the award-winning pastry chef at Tornatore’s Ristorante and Italian Market, has announced his “semi retirement,” which I think means he’ll only make pastries using semi-sweet chocolate. Taking over full-time head pastry chef duties will be Christopher Sawaryn, left, who has been working with James for the past four years and was previously with the pastry team at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. He’s also a former master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force, which should help keep his napoleons in line.

James had previously owned Sugarbuzz Dezert Company, a previous winner of our Best Dessert Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants. He was forced to close Sugarbuzz during the pandemic, and when he stopped by Tornatore’s to tell owner Denny Tornatore that he would no longer be able to supply the restaurant with pastries Tornatore invited James to come work for him.

The Pass Kitchen, an Altamonte Springs takeout and delivery ghost kitchen also known as Pass Progressive, is adding a food truck to its operations. Owner Willian Herrara said the truck is waiting to be “wrapped” with the Pass logo and pass its final inspection. Herrara also told me he’s been in discussions with Matthew Cargo about adding pizzas to the repertoire. The two worked together in the kitchens of the former Luma on Park and Prato (still on Park). Cargo left the area several years ago to accept the chef de partie position at Otium in in Los Angeles but recently returned to the area. However, Herrara said that Cargo had to leave again to deal with some family issues. He’s still hoping the two can get back together. I’d enjoy seeing that because they obviously did great things with pizzas. Watch for the Pass food truck in the Hourglass District (which is in the Curry Ford West district) on Dec. 11.


 Cowscabs21 Rivers2John Rivers, right, greeted attendees and served paella with Norman Van Aken.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect a more accurate estimate of the funds raised.

The 10th – or maybe it was the ninth – Cows ’n Cabs was held Saturday, partially under a massive tent set up in Winter Park’s West Meadow.

The confusion on the anniversary, of course, has to do with the pandemic. As with many annual events, Cows ’n Cabs wasn’t held last year due to social distancing strictures. But the sold-out crowd of two thousand more than made up for the skipped year.

As organizer John Rivers told me as he scooped out paella alongside Norman Van Aken, the first CnC had about 350 attendees. And the participating chefs and restaurants were all contained under the cover of the tent with plenty of room to spare. This year there were as many vendors outside the tent as there were under it.