Two Celebrity-Chef Restaurants Close in South Florida

Written by Scott Joseph on .

August has proved to be a cruel month for celebrity driven restaurants, at least in South Florida. Emeril Lagasse closed his Emeril’s Miami Beach restaurant at the Loew’s hotel on South Beach on August 7th. Norman’s 180, which opened last summer in Coral Gables as a new concept from Norman Van Aken, closed the following Sunday, on August 14th. Van Aken had ended his association with restaurant in January.

Emeril’s Miami Beach opened in November of 2003. According to a release from Emeril’s Homebase, the company’s corporate office, the decision to close, first announced in June, was made mutually with the Loews corporation, which had planned to remodel the restaurant’s space. It closes just short of its eighth anniversary.

Coincidentally, Van Aken’s restaurant, Norman’s, at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, celebrated its eighth anniversary just last weekend. Lagasse has 12 restaurants in four cities, including Emeril’s Orlando at CityWalk and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at Loews Royal Pacific resort, also at Universal. His company is based in New Orleans.

The Orlando restaurant is now Van Aken’s sole property. The James Beard Foundation award winner and founder of New World cuisine also had a Key West restaurant close last year. Last month, he was named executive chef at Miami Culinary Institute, where he is expected to open a new restaurant.

Brandon Benack, who had been director of culinary operations for both Norman’s 180 and the Orlando restaurant, has left the company. Tim Doolittle, chef from Emeril’s Miami Beach, will relocate to one of Lagasse’s Las Vegas properties.


New Restaurant Will Occupy FormerMaitland Steak & Ale

Written by Scott Joseph on .

SoNapa Grille, a New Smyrna Beach restaurant, is planning to open another location in Maitland in early 2012. They will take over the long-vacant Steak & Ale at 640 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland, across from Lake Lily.

The restaurant, whose name combines Sonoma and Napa, has a menu of flatbreads, salads, soups and entrees of osso buco, short ribs, meatloaf, steaks, fish and burgers. Entrees are priced from $9 for a sandwich to $24 for a Chilean sea bass. (There is a $30 filet mignon, but that’s way out there.)

According to the SoNapa Grille website, the owner, Adam Barringer, was an operating partner with Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill. The SoNapa concept started as a wine club that became a wine bar that morphed into a restaurant.

The restaurant is planning on a January opening.


Barnie's Coffee & Tea becoming Barnie's CoffeeKitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Barnie's new logoOrlando based Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company is becoming Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen. Along with the new name will come a revamped logo, packaging and renovation of all the Barnie’s stores and include the addition of a new Barnie’s in the CityArts Factory in downtown Orlando.

“Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen will be a place where coffee is celebrated as a specialized food ingredient sourced from small family-owned farms throughout the world, and where we strive to engage the consumer in an enriched, personalized coffee experience,” said CEO Jonathan Smiga. Besides looking at coffee as a food, the new stores will feature breakfast and lunch menus, and each location will have a large kitchenlike table where, presumably, you’ll be able to sit with total strangers and pretend you’re in a friend’s house. The stores will also have in-store roasting and what is being touted as the largest selection of individually brewed to order coffees in the nation.

The first of the remodels will occur this fall, with the flagship on Winter Park’s Park Avenue and the store in Baldwin Park. The new downtown location is also slated for fall. The others will be revamped in the first quarter of 2012. The stores will sport color schemes of brown (espresso brown, of course), tan and sage. Distressed wood, marble, stained concrete floors and decorative iron work will be used in the decor. (Don’t know if the concrete floors will have coffee stains but that’s what I’m guessing.)


Join Taste of the Nation to Fight Childhood Hunger

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Don’t forget Share OUr Strength’s Taste of the Nation is tomorrow evening at the Marriott Orlando World Center, 8701 World Center Drive. Doors open at 6 p.m. for those with VIP tickets and at 6:45 for general admission. Everybody gets kicked out of the hall at the same time, 10 o’clock.

Taste of the Nation is the annual fundraiser to fight childhood hunger in America. Some of the area’s top restaurants and wine purveyors come together for an evening of great food and drink, as well as awareness of the problem. (See below for a list of the restaurants.) Those of us who are fortunate enough to have plenty to eat and drink can help those who don’t.

And the fact that this is the 22nd annual event tells you that this is not a new issue; the recent economic woes has made it more dire. Please plan to attend.

Oh, and there’s been a last minute addition to the evening’s events. There will be a
beef throw-down, which is not some sort of meaty mishap but rather a cooking competition. Two chefs will compete and CreekStone Farms will donate $5000 in the winner’s name to Taste of the Nation. Judges for the event will be Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, WFTV’s Bob Opsahl and me.

I hope you’ll stop by and say hey. Click here to go to the Taste of the Nation website where you can still buy tickets. And here’s that list of participating restaurants I promised: