Taste! Central Florida will return as a live event this year

Written by Scott Joseph on .

TAstecfl logo

Taste! Central Florida, the usually annual fundraiser to ironically fight childhood hunger, will return Aug. 18 to the Orlando World Center Marriott from 7 to 11 p.m. Vendor and sponsor packages are on sale now and individual tickets will go on sale this spring. Proceeds go to Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to aid in their efforts to stanch food insecurity, which effects one in five children in the area.

The event, which features a collection of 40 or so local restaurants in a walkabout setup, has been absent for the past three years. That was because of Covid-19, of course, and it was not deemed safe to have thousands of people gather together, even in a massive venue like the OWCM’s grand ballroom. Also, Covid tends to affect the senses, so it didn’t make sense to have an event called Taste! Central Florida if people couldn’t Taste! anything. (It also affects the ability to smell, but so far no one has come up with an event called Smell! Central Florida. Although that would make a good fundraiser because childhood hunger stinks.)

Norman's has finally reopened; bid on a certificate for dinner

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Normans extPhoto via Norman's Facebook page

Norman’s is finally open in its new home at 7924 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. The return of Norman Van Aken’s restaurant has been bated-breathily anticipated ever since it departed its original Central Florida home at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando in 2019. The Ritz-Carlton space is now occupied by Knife & Spoon.

The restaurant had originally planned a 2020 reopening, but that pesky little pandemic slowed things down. Then there were the usual construction delays and dilemmas that all restaurants face. But it’s finally here and ready for you.

Van Aken and his partner Thomas D. Wood Jr. have generously donated a gift certificate to Norman’s for this Sunday’s Orlando Shakes Gala. The silent auction is open online now and you can bid on it and other restaurant prizes here. Successful bidders will be announced at the event.

Help Scott write a new review for Enzo's on the Lake and support Orlando Shakes

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Enzo sign

This Sunday, Feb. 26, is the annual Orlando Shakes Gala, benefitting Central Florida’s premier professional theater organization. Of course, a gala usually features an auction and Shakes’ will have one, too. In fact, the silent auction items are already online and taking bids. You can see them here.

And among the items up for bid are some of the area’s best restaurants. Because I have a close connection with Orlando Shakes in Partnership with UCF, I’ve been helping the gala committee put together the Scott Joseph Collection of restaurants for the auction, and all this week I’ll be highlighting some of the selections.

Today we begin with: Me.

Well, me and Enzo’s on the Lake. As you’ve read here, the iconic Longwood restaurant was recently sold. Any time a popular restaurant undergoes a major change like that, I need to go back and do an updated review. I’m inviting two diners – the successful bidder and his or her guest – to join me for a multi-course dinner with wine and help me write the review. We’ll talk about the surroundings – the dining room ambience, noise level, lighting – the service (Enzo’s staff has always been the epitome of professionalism; has anything changed?) and of course the food. I’ll record your thoughts and use your quotes when I sit down to write the review.

Newsy Nuggets: Barnie's redo, meat and magic, and a spaghetti house bans kids

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Barnies new look

The Park Avenue Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Co. cafe, formerly known as Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen, is scheduled to reopen next week following a renovation of the space and a revamping of the food menu. CoffeeKitchen – you know they paid a branding expert lots of money to remove the space between the two words – was kicked off more than 11 years ago and featured the estimable chef Camilo Velasco as the company’s executive chef. Onsite bean roasting was planned, and pour-over coffee was meant to be a forte. By now, CoffeeKitchens (CoffeesKitchen?) should have been dotting the countryside.

None of that played out. Velasco is now the chef at the upscale Tiffins in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. And so far no new executive chef has been named for the reboot, which reclaims the old tried and true name. So we’ll just have to see what kind of food is available to go with Barney’s always-good coffee.

A media preview is planned for Feb. 23, so keep watching for an official opening announcement.