Win Dinner for Two at Chez Vincent During Orlando Magical Dining Month

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Update: Winner of dinner for two at Chez Vincent is Chris Goff.

One more day -- or, as they sing in Les Miserables, One Day More -- until the start of Orlando Magical Dining Month, the September-long celebration of Central Florida restaurants. On every one of the 30 days that September hath, you can dine at some of our best restaurants from a Screen_shot_2010-08-30_at_10.14.51_AMspecial prix fixe menu of three courses for $30. For most of the participants, that represents a considerable bargain over the a la carte prices.

I've got an even better bargain for one of you. I'm giving away a Magical Dining Month dinner-for-two certificate to Chez Vincent, the charming French restaurant in Winter Park's West End. The drawing is this afternoon, and all you have to do to be eligible is sign up for my occasional newsletter. Just enter your e-mail address in the box you'll find on the right side of the screen and that's it -- you're entered. And not just for today's drawing but tomorrow's, as well, which is for dinner at The Ravenous Pig during Magical Dining Month. And all the drawings coming up in the next several weeks. I have lots of fun things to give away.

Aura, New Restaurant and Lounge, Planned for 101 Eola

Written by Scott Joseph on .

EXCLUSIVE -- Expect to see a new Aura on South Eola Drive after the first of the year. That’s to be the name of a new restaurant and lounge that will open in the 101 Eola condominium building. The project is a partnership of Jesse Newton, Erica Herman and Ricky McIntosh. Newton and Herman were previously with Blue Martini, the ultra lounge at Mall at Millenia, he as the managing partner and she as the VIP manager; McIntosh was with Dragon Room on Church Street.

Newton told me that the three will draw from their bar experiences, but Aura will also be serious about its food. “We really didn’t want to be just a bar,” he said. (The name of the chef is being withheld because of current employment, but it would seem that the group will indeed be serious about the food.) Newton said if he were to compare the menu to an existing restaurant, Ocean Prime would most closely match it. But he said they will offer a variety of menu items, each based on market freshness, and the kitchen will offer tapas sizes of all the entrees. In addition, the bar will feature freshly squeezed fruit juices.

The restaurant and lounge will be open until 2 every day, and will open at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for breakfast. Newton says he wants to create the sort of place that is typical of Manhattan neighborhoods, where there is a different type of customer and feel to the restaurant at various times of the day.

The restaurant will seat 180 inside and 30 at an outside patio, which will also feature a bar. Because of the day-long work hours -- as well as some details to be released at a later date -- the business will employ a staff of 150-160.

Newton said the group hopes to have Aura open as soon as possible after the first of the year.

This is the second new restaurant announced this week for this area. As I reported on Monday, Napa’s Stone-Fired Pizza and Draft House is slated to open in the Sanctuary condominium building across the street later this year. Aura will be on the other end of the 101 Eola building from Mucho, whose owners, some of which are involved in Napa’s, also announced a package liquor store that will open between Mucho and Aura. Looks like this neighborhood, which at one time featured Graze, the Beacon and Sanctuary Diner, all now closed, is starting to come back.

Red Chair Affair, With Art, Performance and Food, is Saturday

Written by Scott Joseph on .

red_chairThe traditional start of Central Florida’s arts and cultural season is the annual Red Chair Affair. The year’s event -- the 6th Annual --is Saturday evening at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. The event includes art displays (themed around the red chair theme) and performances by myriad Central Florida troupes. This year you can expect to be entertained by:
• Cirque du Soleil
• Orlando Ballet
• Orlando Gay Chorus
• Orlando Shakespeare Theater
• SAK Comedy Lab
• Orlando Repertory Theatre
• Orlando Philharmonic

You can get in to see the performances for a mere $22 ($15 for seniors and students). But for $225 you’ll get the VIP treatment, including food and drink from some of our high-performing restaurants. The VIP ticket includes a backstage -- onstage, too -- reception with food from Rosen Shingle Creek, The Boheme and White Wolf Cafe. Beer and wine will pour freely (full liquor costs extra). After the show, in premium seats, of course, VIP level patrons will be invited back on stage for dessert and coffee.

Yes, $225 is a big jump from the general admission price of $22 (oddly, if you purchase 10 VIP tickets the cost is $2500) but you’re helping to support the arts. And just factor in what you would spend if you went out for dinner before the show, then stopped somewhere for coffee and dessert afterwards. If that isn’t enough for you, how about this: the VIP ticket includes valet parking next to Carr. I know -- that’s worth a couple hundred bucks right there!

The VIP event starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, August 28 (general admission doesn’t open until 7); the performances begin at 8. For ticket information call 407-872-2382 or visit the Red Chair Project’s Web site. (Not the easiest site to navigate, so here’s a direct link to the tickets page.)

New Restaurant Planned for Former Beacon and iMansion Space in Sanctuary Condos

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Exclusive -- A new restaurant and bar with the tentative name Napa’s Stone-Fired Draft House is planned for the space in the Sanctuary condominiums that previously held (ever so briefly) iMansion and, before that, the Beacon. The owners, which include members of the group that had owned the Beacon, are Mark Angelo, his brother Robert Angelo Jr., Todd Ulmer and Chance Gordy.

Mark Angelo says the space will be completely redesigned with a rustic California decor that will have lots of stone and wood and will feature a special stone oven to bake the California style pizzas in. The menu will also offer baked wings, sandwiches and salads, many made with organic, locally sourced products.

Angelo says there will be a full liquor bar and 50 beers on tap, as well as over 100 bottled beers and an array of California wines.

Angelo, who also owns Mucho across the street in the 101 Eola condominiums, says he is also planning a package liquor store for the space next to Mucho. He says the liquor store will have a Day of the Dead theme, therefore they would like to be open by November 1st. He hopes to open Napa’s at about the same time.The new restaurant will employ a staff of 40.

The name of the restaurant in the Sanctuary space may change depending on whether there is any conflict with the soon-to-be-open Napa restaurant at Peabody Orlando.