Taste of Chengdu, the Sichuan restaurant that opened in west Orlando two years ago and quickly established itself as arguably serving the best Chinese food in town, has opened a second location in Baldwin Park.
It is technically in a soft-opening phase and the menu is currently limited – call it a taste of Taste of Chengdu – but the quality is every bit as good as the original.
True to its namesake province, Taste of Chengdu features dishes that use Sichuan peppercornss, the boa constrictor of seasonings. Take a bite of something with the pepper, perhaps dan dan noodles with a chili oil sauce, and you at first feel a warm embrace of your tongue, then a tingling effect, just before the real heat comes in for the kill.
But it’s a pleasant demise. And even people who find western chilies overwhelming might be pleasantly surprised at how tolerable the spiciness is. It isn’t heat for heat’s sake, it is a logical component of the dish as a whole.
When I first moved to Orlando, in 1988, and was still becoming familiar with the dining scene, I often found myself in conversations with locals about favorite restaurants. And one name that kept coming up as a favorite special occasion restaurant was the Mason Jar.
I couldn’t imagine how a place named Mason Jar could be a fine dining restaurant. And it would be some time before I realized that Mason Jar was a tongue-in-cheek reference for a restaurant whose real name was Maison et Jardin. (It’s possible that people just didn’t know how to pronounce it correctly and anglicized it, much in the same way that l’Enfant Castille in London came to be known, officially, as Elephant & Castle.)
Now there is a restaurant in Orlando whose actual name is Mason Jar, Mason Jar Provisions, to be precise, and no one will be referring to is as Maison et Jardin.
Citing a “notable positive impact benefitting local restaurants,” Visit Orlando announced Wednesday that it is extending its Magical Dining promotion through the end of October.
The program had been scheduled to end on Oct. 4. With the extension, Magical Dining will have the longest run of its 15 year history. When it began, the promotion ran only during September, and in fact was originally called Magical Dining Month. The event was devised by Visit Orlando as a way to boost restaurant business during a traditional lull.
But restaurants have been experiencing an extended lull because of the pandemic. Many customers are still anxious about going out to eat, and restaurants are restricted to allowing only 50 percent of inside dining capacity.
Wine Quest, the annual tasting event that supports the work of Quest in assisting people with developmental disabilities, is going to be virtual this year. It will feature a live show from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, with a raffle, a live auction and a silent auction, the latter, I suppose, for those who don’t know how to unmute themselves. There will be a wine tasting, too, of course, led by Tim Varan of Tim’s Wine Market. But if you want to taste, you’ll have to buy the wines ahead of time. For information on how to do that and to reserve your free ticket, visit the Virtual Wine Quest site.
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster is hosting a virtual Maker’s Mark tasting on Sept. 21 or 24 hosted by the bourbon maker’s distillery diplomat, DeNiro Fisher. The Zoom session begins at 7 p.m. on both dates, but you have drop by the Lee Road steakhouse beforehand to buy a bottle (or two) of Christner’s Private Select ($70 for one or $130 for two). I guess if you buy two bottles you can Zoom in on both evenings. Details here.
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Have you ever thought you’d like to try cooking an Indian dish but the thought of sourcing all the ingredients stopped you? The recipe may call for spices that you don’t normally keep in your cupboard – turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander – and if you don’t cook Indian dishes a lot, those spices may get old and you end up throwing them out, wasting the spices and the money you paid for them.
That’s why I’m excited about this edition of Scott’s Kitchen. Tabla, the fine Indian restaurant in Orlando and Winter Park, is offering a meal kit with most of the ingredients you need to make its chicken curry, including the chicken, as well as basmati rice pulao to go with it. It’s all portioned out (you’ll still need to measure as you cook) so there’s no waste.
Each meal kit serves three to four people and costs just $40.
Even better, proceeds go to Cooking for Cause, a charity founded by Shivi and Sahil Jain, whose parents own Tabla. The Jains have chosen Ekal Vidyalaya, an organization that brings education to rural India, to receive the proceeds from the sale of the meal kits.
And Tabla’s chef Sajan Prem will guide you through the process of cooking both dishes in the video below.