Saffron Recipe

Here’s a recipe for the adventurous. It’s for the Goan Prawns Xacutti served at Mynt in Winter Park and Saffron on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. Both restaurants, along with Madras, are owned by Sunny Corda, who shares this recipe in celebration of Saffron’s 10th anniversary.

This one is presented as a no-recipe recipe. That is, it isn’t in the conventional format with exactly measured ingredients at top and strict instructions for the procedure. That’s because xacutti, which refers to a blend of spices, is open to interpretation and improvisation. You’ll need to feel a little comfortable with tasting and adjusting as you go.

But watch Corda prepare the dish in the video, then gather up the spices and prawns (large shrimp are fine, too) and have some fun.


Chuck Cobb

As they have so many times in the past, Orlando’s culinary community is coming together once again to help one of their own.

On Wed., May 12, about 20 or so restaurants will participate in BBQ Around Orlando to benefit the wife and four children of Charles “Chuck” Cobb, the chef/owner of Git-n-Messy Barbecue who was killed last month while riding his motorcycle. He was 34.

The fundraising is an initiative of Ryan Manning (MX Taco) and Joseph Creech (Hunger Street Taco). The two contacted other chefs around town who have all agreed to donate the proceeds from the one-day sales of a featured dish.

Despite the event’s name, however, barbecue won’t be the only thing offered. Denny Tornatore, owner of Torntatore’s, the College Park Italian restaurant, said in a message: “Chuck ate at our place a day before his accident. He had fettuccine Alfredo with sausage. So in honor of him we will feature that.”

Alejandro Martinez, owner of Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs, is putting up the proceeds from the sales of Tortellini Stefano, which should bring in plenty of money because it’s one of the popular restaurant’s biggest sellers.

But there will be barbecue, too. All local 4 Rivers Smokehouse locations will participate, and Swine & Sons is offering a pulled pork sandwich. My friend Amy Drew Thompson at the Orlando Sentinel has a good list of participants – and the list is expected to grow – so check out the link to her story here.

All you have to do is show up at one of the participating restaurants and order the featured menu item (ask your server if it isn’t evident). Tip your server as usual, but I’m sure if you’d like to leave a little extra for Cobb’s family you can arrange to do that with the restaurant’s manager.


Bridge Bar

The Bridge is a New York restaurant. We know that because it says so in large letters, right beneath the name, on a big sign that, um, spans the backbar.

You’re probably wondering what makes it a New York restaurant, aren’t you, but you’re too embarrassed to ask. That’s OK; that’s what I’m here for. It’s my job to observe and scrutinize, to look for the subtle clues.

Perhaps the answer is in the menu where we find such things as hummus, guacamole and quesadillas. There is also menemen, a Turkish egg dish, as well as a few pastas, which for some reason are called macarna (probably after makarna, a Turkish word for pasta).

Burgers and steaks get us a little closer to New York, but also to just about any other city. Oh, hey – the Bridge has branzino on its menu, and for the last several years you couldn’t go into a restaurant in one of the five boroughs and not find branzino listed. It’s like the official fish of New York.

But branzino does not a New York restaurant make. So I did the only thing left to do: I asked my server.


Hambean bowl

I fell in love with pasta e fagioli, the ubiquitous Italian soup, the first time I tasted it. I recall one particular version early in my reviewing career that was especially notable. It was served at Toscanelli, a little mom and pop osteria where Mario and Evita Morosi were the pop and mom. It’s long gone, but if anyone ever forces me to sit down and list the best restaurants I’ve reviewed in Central Florida, Toscanelli would certainly make the cut. And the pasta e fagioli would be on my list of best things I’ve tasted.

Why? It’s just a simple bean and noodle soup. Yet if I’m dining at an Italian restaurant and it’s on the menu, I’m almost certain to order it.

Then one day not long ago it dawned on me. The reason I like pasta e fagioli is because it reminds me of the ham, bean and noodle soup that my mother made so often when I was a kid. So it is the very definition of a comfort food for me. If I had played the curmudgeonly critic in the “Ratatouille” movie, the rat would have made this soup for me – and Disney would have had to rename and recast the movie. Maybe the star of “Fagioli” would have been a ferret.

It isn’t an exact match to the Italian version. And in fact there are many variations. (I’m not much of a fan of any that have tomato in the broth.) But most use ditalini, the short macaroni. My mom made her own egg noodles, long and thick. She’d use her wooden rolling pin to flatten the dough, then roll it up and slice it with her utility knife. Then she’d toss the rolled noodles until they fell open into strands. I’ve tried doing that and it never works for me.

My mom died about 13 years ago so I can’t have her show me how it’s done, and I can no longer experience her soup, though I can still taste it in my memory. (And just a side note here: If you’re still fortunate to have a mother or grandmother – or any parent – who makes something you love to eat, you’re crazy if you don’t pull out your ubiquitous smartphone and record the process next time. You’ll cherish that video someday.)

With Mother’s Day this past weekend, I decided to make the soup myself in her memory. I’d share the recipe with you but there isn’t one. But this is how it’s done.


Tempura Avocado

Laurent Hollaender has left his job as executive chef for the Grand Bohemian in downtown Orlando to assume that role at a soon-to-open hotel in Washington, D.C. Taking over the executive chef position at the Bohemian is Venoy Rogers III, who was previously with B Resort near Walt Disney World.

Hollaender will be part of the opening team of the Kimpton Banneker near Dupont Circle. He will oversee a ground-floor French bistro called Le Sel as well as a rooftop lounge and restaurant called Lady Bird. Not sure if there’s any relation to the former First Lady or Lyndon Johnson but Hollaender does include a stint as executive chef for the National Democratic Club on his resume.

Hollaender, a native of Strasbourg, France, joined the Grand Bohemian staff nine years ago.

At B Resort, which he joined in 2016, Rogers oversaw the critically acclaimed American Kitchen Bar & Grill (and shared his recipe for tempura avocado with us in a Compliments of the Chef episode, pictured at top).

His new venue will be the Boheme, the tony restaurant off the boutique hotel’s elegant Bösendorfer Lounge. The restaurant, which opened with the hotel in 2007, has undergone a few changes over the years, but Rogers said Friday that he accepted the job under the precept from the general manager that a menu change shouldn’t be his first priority. “People love what’s going on there and what chef Laurent has created,” he said. And he’s fine with that: “There’s plenty of other things to do.”

David Roldan, a former executive sous chef at B Resort who left to work at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek and then Kabooki Sushi, will return to the property to assume the role of executive chef.