I was surprised when I was told that Frontera Cocina, the Disney Springs restaurant from chef Rick Bayless was celebrating its third year.
I was even more surprised that the man who told me was Bayless himself.
It seemed like no more than a year ago that Bayless, the well-known Chicago based chef and restaurateur, was on hand to open the Disney Springs venue. I figured that would be the last we’d see of him in Central Florida. Certain celebrity chefs are known for putting their names on restaurants and then practically forgetting where they are.
But Bayless, I’m told, is at Frontera Cocina at least once a quarter, usually to help roll out a seasonal menu. That was why he was there talking to me last month as part of a media preview of the winter menu.
Something’s getting lost in the translation. Or at least in the expansion.
When I first reviewed Sus Hi, in July of 2012, it was a nascent fast-fooder on Alafaya Trail near UCF, attempting to do for sushi what Moe’s did for Tex-Mex. It had an exuberant staff that called out “Welcome, Ninja” to each new guest, and they seemed excited about their food and genuinely happy to be serving it.
Now called Sus Hi Eatstation, it has four locations and another opening soon. One of the newer locations is in the Millenia area, and I stopped in there not long ago to see how the concept has fared over the past seven years.
The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the semifinalists for its 2019 chef and restaurant awards. After a complete snub in 2018, Central Florida is represented in four categories, though not for Best Chef in the South region.
Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant, a category the encompasses the nation.
Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is on the list for Outstanding Service award.
Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
And James and Julie Petrakis are co-nominees as Outstanding Restaurateur, a new category for them. They had previously been nominated — again as a team — in the Best Chef South category.
Kona Grill, the chain restaurant that opened in late 2017, has abruptly closed. It was one of the earlier tenants of the Lakeside Crossing complex. Locals who had liked the restaurant’s Facebook page received a note saying the location was closed. “We want to thank all our guests for their past patronage and hope you’ll visit Kona Grill again when you are near our other locations,” the note read.
The folks at Highball & Harvest are serious about their cocktails. After all, highball is part of its name (although it’s a winking reference to a train reference).
In this episode of On the House, bartender Noelle Benlolo demonstrates the restaurant’s Chickasaw Trails cocktail. Its named for the Chickasaw plum that grows in the northern part of the state, and plum syrup is part of the recipe.
Watch the video, then highball it over to the bar and give it a try.
There’s a new restaurant in Sanford called the Old Jailhouse. It’s located in an old jailhouse. I attended a media preview prior to the opening, last week, but I’ll withhold my review until I can visit it in full swing. I can tell you that the designers kept a lot of the original decor from the lockup days, including the barred window where inmates met their visitors. I’m pretty sure those are not the original chandeliers, however. The kitchen is under the direction of Bram Fowler, previously of Journeys restaurant in Longwood. Fowler also has the distinction of having been the last executive chef at Park Plaza Gardens in Winter Park. It closed a few days after he was hired (it wasn’t his fault).
Speaking of Park Plaza Gardens, it is still undergoing renovations to become a steakhouse, and yes, Bovine is going to be the name.
Central Florida Brewers Guild Festival is Sat., Feb. 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Sanford Harley-Davidson. General admission is $40 or $10 if you’re a designated driver. Apparently beer will be consumed and you wouldn’t want to end up in a jailhouse. Not even one with tasty food and complexion-flattering light fixtures.
I'm please to announce that once again I am partnering with Art in Voyage -- Beyond Travel to co-host a trip with chef Kevin Fonzo. I had the thrill last year of co-leading the trip to Paris and Lyon, and I was especially impressed with the high quality and attention to fine details that went in to putting the trip together.
This year, we're visiting Florence and Tuscany and I'd love to have you along. Here are the details from the folks at Art in Voyage: