Some people lament the coming of Labor Day because they see it as the end of summer. I look forward to it because I see it as the promise that cooler weather is only four or five months away.
Our friends at Grande Lakes Orlando see it my way, so they’re hosting their annual Labor Day celebration, culminating with a spectacular fireworks display on Sunday (in the evening, because these people are serious about their fireworks).
The fireworks start at 9 p.m., so the smart thing to do is to plan dinner at either Highball and Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton or Primo at the JW Marriott beforehand.
H&H will feature its regular a la carte menu as well as some special dishes inspired by the holiday (probably something that takes a lot of labor to create). And because Highball is part of its name, the Southern inspired restaurant will also have some great handcrafted cocktails to pair with the food.
Across the way, Primo will be rooting through its onsite garden to come up with its hyper-locally sourced specialties featuring sustainable seafood and organic produce. You can balance all that healthfulness with something from the extensive wine list or one of Primo’s special cocktails. An added advantage to dining at Primo is that you can just step outside to the terrace to watch the fireworks over the Lake, Grande.
Some new friends, new to town, invited us to join them for Chinese food, but, naturally, asked me to select the restaurant. Based on its location, and the fact that it had been years since I reviewed it, favorably, I chose Ming’s Bistro in the Mills 50 district.
Why, right there on the front window was a banner with a quote and my name. As we passed it on our way inside, I thought my new friends must think I really know what I’m talking about.
By the end of the dinner they were probably thinking I don’t know a thing. The meal was largely a disappointment.
Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining promotion begins Friday, Aug. 23, but I stopped by Big Fin Seafood Kitchen for a sneak preview.
Big Fin always offers quality seafood at price commensurate with its quality, but its MagDine menu represents a real bargain.
For the uninitiated, restaurants participating in Magical Dining (formerly known as Magical Dining Month, or MagDinMo) offer special three-course, prix fixe menus for $35, excluding tax, gratuity and beverages. One dollar from each meal sold goes to local charities. (As of publication or this article, this year’s charities had not yet been announced.)
Some restaurants, shall we say, cheat a bit. They sign up to participate – restaurants pay a fee to Visit Orlando to be a part of the promotion – but instead of offering dishes that are representative of their regular menus, they feature items that aren’t even on their menus, presumably dishes with lower food costs so they don’t lose money on the $35 charge. Or $34, since the restaurants have to send in the dollar-per-sale collections. Others might present regular menu items but in smaller portions.
The second annual Scott Joseph’s Sous Chef Challenge: The Next Big Thing is Sunday, Sept. 15, and you’re invited to attend, taste the competitors’ dishes and vote for your favorite.
The event will be at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show at the Orange County Convention Center and will be part of the ACF Central Florida Chapter’s Culinary Arts Competitions. The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show is generally open only to restaurateurs and culinary professionals. But those holding a ticket to the Sous Chef Challenge will be allowed to wander the convention floor, where, not incidentally, there will be dozens of other food, beer and wine samples to taste.
Only 95 tickets are available to the general public. The cost is $35 and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to Give Kids the World. Tickets can be purchased at the Sous Chef Challenge event page.