celeste drawing

The University of Central Florida long planned for a hotel on its campus. Last week, the Celeste Hotel finally opened, part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio of independent hotels.

And with the hotel comes a new restaurant for East Orlando: Aurora (there’s a lot of super-terrestrial branding here). It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and has an American menu under the direction – or as the hotel’s website puts it, the “inspiring culinary genius” – executive chef Mike Trudnak. Trudnak has also been the e.c. at at the contradictorily named Orlando Lake Mary Marriott.

Look for shrimp & grits, grilled skirt steak, pork tenderloin and a breakfast item called the Metro Pileup. Brilliant.

  • FK Your Diet, a breakfast and lunch restaurant, has taken over the former McGinnty’s Irish Pub on Hansel Avenue south of SoDo (SoSoDo?). The FK is for foster kids, which doesn’t make as much sense as what you originally thought it meant. But owner Doug Miller, who grew up a foster kid himself, has pledged to donate five percent of the restaurant's revenue to agencies that deal with foster children. There are two other FKYDs, in Fort Myers and Cape Coral.


Foodandwine limited

Due to popular demand, as the saying goes, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin has added a second date for its Food & Wine Classic: Limited Edition, part of its Sip, Savor & Stay Saturday events during the month of October.

The new date is October 30, and a limited number of tickets are available only as part of a one-night package. Prices start at $395, which includes two tickets to the event, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and features food and beverages from the resorts’ top restaurants.

Originally, the Food & Wine Classic – dubbed Limited Edition because it’s a more intimate, VIP-quality event this year – was to be held only on Saturday, Oct. 17. The Sip, Savor & Stay promotion was to conclude with an Oktoberfest-inspired biergarten on Saturday, Oct. 24.

But with the added date the event will stretch to the end of the month.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic has become one of the area’s best events, running two days during October and attended by hundreds. But due to the restrictions made necessary by the pandemic, a full-blown event was not possible.

But rather than cancelling outright – and recognizing that cabin-fevered locals were anxious for staycation opportunities – the Swan and Dolphin team developed the Sip, Savor & Stay events, which have obviously been quite popular.

Packages may be booked by calling 888-828-8850.


SearSea verandah

Seemingly out of nowhere, a big new JW Marriott has appeared and along with it a pretty darned good restaurant, Sear + Sea Woodfire Grill.

The hotel is a new neighbor of other large hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, Hilton and Wyndham in the area known as Bonnet Creek. In fact, if you sit on the restaurant’s comfortably spacious veranda, as I did on my recent visit, you’ll have a view of the actual creek and its woody banks just below.

As you might deduce from the clever name, Sear + Sea is a steak and seafood restaurant, which might sound a bit ho-hum at first. But the menu, under the direction of chef de cuisine Alex Pyser, is creative and appealing.


Pomodoro ingredients

I have a renewed respect for the pizzaiolas of the world.

Chef Justin Plank of Terralina Crafted Italian restaurant at Disney Springs joined me, virtually, in my kitchen to walk me through making a pizza.

It did not go well.

I explain all that in the video, but there is nothing wrong with Plank’s recipe, just the way I executed it. And executed is an apt word.

Watch the video then check out the recipe. Be sure you use high-gluten flour and not gluten flour. Other tips in the video.


Cavos ext

Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen was another of those restaurants I had visited just before the shutdown in March and was waiting for things to calm down before telling you about. In mid March, we were expecting a lockdown of maybe a few weeks. Seven months later, I’m clearing out the files and figured I’d go ahead and give you my impressions from those early days.

Which were generally positive, I should mention. Cavo’s doesn’t pretend to be any more than it is, which is basically a bar with a food menu – something alcohol-only bars have recently been struggling to become, even though the governor has given the go-ahead for bars to reopen, regardless of food menus. (Just a thought here, but if you’re a bar owner who decided to drop the idea of serving food once Phase 3 was announced, you may want to reconsider; winter is coming.)