There was a time when the only place in Central Florida you could find sushi was in a Japanese restaurant. Then – I don’t know, maybe 15 years ago – it started to show up on the menus of Thai, Chinese and even American restaurants. Sushi was suddenly hot.
At first I took a purist view. Sushi, I argued, was an art that should only be performed by those who had painstakingly studied the craft. Then, a well-known restaurant consultant whose opinion I respected told me to get over myself. Sushi, he argued, was a good way to introduce fresh fish to a menu and in doing offer a healthful dining option.
That’s how I feel about today’s growing poke market. There are some people who still would not deign to try sushi, but put many of the same ingredients into a bowl and they’ll gladly partake.
One of the area’s newest poke purveyors is Island Fin Poké Company in Windermere. It’s a small storefront in the Grove shopping complex, and at first glance you might think the menu is rather small. But with three bases, eight protein options, and over 30 mix-ins, toppings and sauces, the variations are infinite. (Well, technically they’re finite but I can’t do the math.)
I first wrote about Cecil’s Texas-Style Barbecue in 1992, the year that it opened on South Orange Avenue. It was in my weekly Chow Hound column in the Orlando Sentinel and I included it in a roundup of new barbecue joints that had recently opened.
I also mentioned Ream & Co. in Bayhill Plaza; Buz-moz Barbeque & Grill in Apopka; and Lazy Pig BBQ and Tavern just a few blocks south of Cecil’s. I also noted in the same column that there was a new College Park location for Carolina BBQ, a popular Eastern North Carolina barbecue restaurant on Curry Ford Road, and a second location on Primrose Drive for B’s Bar-B-Que Diner, which was near the corner of Mills Avenue and Nebraska Street.
You may have noticed that all of those restaurants have closed – B’s original spot has been a vacant lot for years, though the last time I looked its sign was still there. Heck, even the Chow Hound is gone. (Cecil’s also opened a second location in the Casselberry area that closed in late ’99.)
Bolay, a quick-server from South Florida, is another assemblage restaurant, though I’m not quite sure what the assembly is based on – I mean besides the rice, noodles or greens that you’d find in other assemblage concepts. It’s sort of American meets Asian meets Cuban. The name, according to the website – which currently features a popup pushing holiday gift cards every time one navigates to a different page; hugely annoying – the name is a portmanteau of bol, the Spanish word for bowl, and olay, which is either an alternative spelling of olé or refers to “oil of”; I’m assuming the former. (And wouldn’t it be Bololay?)
It came into the Central Florida market a couple of years ago with a restaurant in Lake Nona, then spread to Oviedo and Winter Park. I found myself nearby the Winter Park store recently, so I figured it was time to give it a try.
If you have a cook or foodie on your holiday shopping list – or if you just want to treat yourself – here is a list of things I use in my own kitchen.
The links here lead to the item’s listing on Amazon. You should know that as an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission if something is purchased through one of the links (but the prices are the same). I never endorse items I do not use or would not recommend.
I’m a fan of Wüsthof knives (though I was recently gifted this Santoku knife that I’m enjoying using, too). The 8-inch chef’s knife is the one I use the most for meal preparation. The paring knife also gets a good workout. I use the serrated paring knife for cutting fruit and cheese, and the serrated slicer for breads.
You’ll want the Classic models (the ones designated Gourmet are not as sturdy). I don’t recommend buying sets of knives because you’ll probably end up with some that you don’t need. The only exception is a set that combines the chef’s knife with a paring knife.
I keep my knives sharpened using the Trizor XV Edge Select sharpener from Chef’s Choice. The $160 price tag is the cheapest I’ve seen it, and that’s still a hefty chunk of money. But it sharpens fast and accurately. Check the video below to see how.
Walt Disney World is continuing with its roster of attenuated Epcot events with its current offering of Festival of the Holidays, now through Dec. 30. Or Dec. 31, whether you believe the Festival Passport or the website.
Officially it’s called Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, sort of the way Stephen Colbert’s program is currently called A Late Show instead of The Late Show. It’s a way of acknowledging that things are different during the pandemic.
And speaking of the ongoing pandemic, I should mention that this Taste of A Festival is sponsored by AdventHealth. Perfect marketing. Go directly to the people most likely to need your services.
I attended a media event to showcase the festivalette inside the social distanceable World Showplace where we were able to spread out and have our very own table. (Still, some of the attendees decided to cram in together around one small table, so I hope there was an AdventHealth representative there to hand out cards.)
Hari Pulapaka, who gained culinary renown as the chef and owner of Cress restaurant in DeLand, has released his second cookbook, “Dreaming In Spice: A Sinfully Vegetarian Odyssey,” a sequel, of sorts, to his 2018 book “Dreaming In Spice.”
Actually, cookbook is only a partial description; it is also part memoir and philosophical guide. Indeed the first recipe doesn’t appear until page 73, with the ingredient list and methodology for making a garam masala. But 250 recipes follow, not only from Pulapaka’s native India but also dishes from around the world. (The book is published by Pulapaka’s company, Global Cooking School, LLC.)
As you can gather from the subtitle, this book is dedicated to vegetarian cooking, though what makes it sinful is not immediately clear. It seems to me that for a devout vegetarian the consumption of meat would be the sin.
I’ve mentioned before that my main knife is the Wüsthof 8-inch chef’s knife, which I really like. It isn’t cheap but it lasts forever.
But even well-made expensive knives have to be sharpened now and then. A professional knife sharpener is great, but it isn’t always convenient to take your knives to a sharpener’s shop, and besides, they need to be sharpened more often than that.
I could never get the hang of using a sharpening stone because you have to keep the knife at a precise angle. Not easy to do.
But I’ve found a home knife sharpener that I really love and is easy to use. I’m never more than a few minutes from turning a dull knife to a sharp knife.