Rock Brews exterior

You'll be glad to know that Rock & Brews, the restaurant founded by rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is not exclusively a tribute to their band, Kiss. That is, you'll be glad to know that unless you're diehard Kiss fans, in which case I'm not sure there's anything that can truly make you happy.

Instead, Rock & Brews, or R&B, as it is misleadingly abbreviated, is a paean to rockers of all stripes. Nearly every inch of wall space in the massive space — and there are a lot of inches in the two-story open room — is covered with photos and album cover reproductions of everyone from Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen to The Rolling Stones and, yes, Kiss. (Maybe even Yes.) I should say every inch of wall space that isn't also sporting a big screen tv, most of which are tuned to sports channels, though interspersed among them are screens that play vintage music videos. Not the sound from those videos — that's supplied by a constant stream of rock music played loudly over the restaurant's sound system. And when you have a restaurant that is dedicated to rock music and has partners known for for their heavy metal style, you can't fault the place for the sound level. Expect it to be a tad noisy.

The Central Florida Rock & Brews is the first of the small chain's locations to open east of the Mississippi. According the the website, Oviedo was chosen for its "energized music and restaurant scene."

The menu is...

Wait. What?

meatball shoppe

Orlando has a new meatball shop. It's called the Meatball Shoppe.

It's located in a small decidedly unattractive strip of businesses at the corner of Lake Underhill Road and Goldenrod Road (the northwest corner, to be precise, just south of the East-West Expressway). Although the Meatball Shoppe's website refers to it as a restaurant, it's really more of a grab a bite or get something to go kind of place. The seating area is limited and not especially comfy or inviting. There appears to be quite a large kitchen behind the ordering counter, but my guess is that the space doubles as the commissary for the Meatball Shoppe's owners' other business, Isabella's Bella Cucina Catering. It seems to me to be a smart thing for a catering company to do: They can promote the (probably) more profitable catering business while generating income through the sales of meatballs.

Brussels sprouts divas

For those of us who suffered the childhood agony of boiled Brussels sprouts, it's time to rethink those itsy orbs.

Oh-so-thinly sliced, pan-seared and caramelized, Brussels sprouts are reborn. Tossed with pecorino Romano, plump golden raisins and a drizzle of sweet agave nectar, they're ready to wow even the most discerning foodie.

Delish with ham, roasted pork or a juicy leg of lamb, and, even better, this side is on the table in just 10 minutes.

fiori charger

Notes from New York, Part 1, included reviews of Chef's Club by Food & Wine, Gato, Boulton & Watt, and SixtyFive Lounge at the Rainbow Room.

The big "blowout" meal was at Ai Fiori at Langham Place hotel. Part of the Altamarea Group, Ai Fiori is chef/owner Michael White's to Italian and French Riviera cuisine. (The name means among the flowers in Italian.)

The restaurant is on the hotel's second level, overlooking Fifth Avenue, and has a modernly upscale decor — not an exposed brick in sight. It's quiet, subdued, and very comfortable.

The menu is decidedly Italian, but while there might be recognizable names, don't expect familiar presentations. The item under the Pasta e Risotto heading called Spaghetti, for example, features blue crab, lemon, bottarga (a fish roe) and chilies. Not your typical plate of pasta.