Tickets Still Available for Chef's Gala

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tickets are still available for tonight's Chef's Gala. The event, one of the area's top food and wine fetes, with fabulous food provided by cooks from more than 20 local restaurants. It all takes place at Epcot's grand World Showplace, beginning at 6:45 p.m. with a champagne reception. The serious eating starts at 7:30. It's all a fundraiser for Heart of Florida United Way, a worthy cause.

And because it is a fundraiser, there will be a silent auction with lots of terrific items, including a dinner in the home of HFUW president and CEO Bob Brown and Mary Recchia Brown with wines poured by master sommelier John Blazon (I'll be hosting the dinner and pouring my limoncello). Click here for more details and here to see the menu for tonight's event . I'll see you there.

Mitchell's Fish Market Will Open June 14 in Winter Park Village

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Central Florida based Ruth's Hospitality Group has set June 14th as the opening date for the area's first Mitchell's Fish Market. The company, known for its upscale Ruth's Chris Steak Houses, bought the seafood concept from Cameron Mitchell in 2008. (Cameron Mitchell owns Ocean Prime on Restaurant Row; that restaurant is not affiliated with Ruth's.) The Winter Park Village Mitchell's will be the company's 20th. Others are located in MitchellsConnecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as elsewhere in Florida.

Obviously, seafood will be a mainstay of the new restaurant, which will serve lunch and dinner. But there will be many nonseafood items on the menu -- 80 choices in all -- which the company says will be market driven. You've heard of restaurants that print their menus daily to reflect freshly available ingredients? Mitchell's says it will print its menus twice a day. Why stop there? I envision a gimmick where a waiter, wearing an earpiece connected to the kitchen, will be in the middle of his spiel and will stop, hold his finger to the earpiece to listen, then announce, "This just in...fresh tuna is on its way to the restaurant and can be on your plate in 20 minutes. Twenty-five if you want it seared."

Whatever. We'll keep an open mind and try to to snigger. Mitchell's is taking over the space previously occupied by Blackfin. Like that restaurant it will feature dining space inside and out. The restaurant is being remodeled (the picture here is an artist's rendering). I doubt, however, that the remodeling includes new parking spaces. There's a reason I refer to it as Winter Can't Park Village. We'll see. Wanna see more? Here's a link to Mitchell's Fish Market's Web site. (Warning: it starts playing annoying and completely unnecessary music.)

WineQuest Advance Ticket Discounts End Friday; Buy Now and Save

Written by Scott Joseph on .

WineQuestFriday, May 14, is the last day you can buy tickets to WineQuest at advance-sale prices. Depending on the event, you can save $5 to $15 per person. Not a tremendous amount of money, but, hey, it’s a savings.

WineQuest is June 11-13. It’s a benefit for Quest, an organization that aids people with developmental disabilities. WineQuest has been around for a good number of years now, and it seems to get better each time.

Grand Lakes Resort is the host property for 2010. Things kick off with a Grand Tasting and Auction Friday, June 11. (Actually, things kick off with a golf classic that afternoon, but it has nothing to do with wine, so you’re on your own for that one.

Saturday is the WineQuest Premier Dining Experience, a five-course food and wine pairing prepared by the chef’s of the J.W. Marriott. Things wind up Sunday with brunch at Primo.

There are different pricing packages, as well as those early-buyer discounts, so I’m just going to send you to the WineQuest Web site for details. You can purchase your tickets there, too. But do consider attending. You’ll find lots of wines to like, and it’s all for a worthy cause.

Bananas, an American Diner, To Join the Mills50 District

Written by Scott Joseph on .

UntitledEddie Nickell and Nicholas Oliveri, owners of Funky Monkey Wine Bar on Mills Avenue and Pointe Orlando, have announced plans for a new restaurant in the Mills50 district, two doors up from their current restaurant. Bananas -- it goes with the Monkey identity -- will be  a "modern American diner," says Nickell. The restaurateurs took over the space that has held what seems like dozens of restaurants, mostly Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese, over the years. Most recently it was Viet Thai, a very forgetable experience.

Bananas, says Nickell, will feature classic diner fare "with a twist." This from a press release:

On the menu at Banana’s, a Modern American Diner are classic recipe favorites, from Hamburgers served 18 ways to Fish-N-Chips, re-imagined with bold, unique flavors and a fresh flair.  With its early-morning and late-night hours, Banana’s Diner encourages guests to start the day off right with a hearty breakfast. From traditional favorites like Eggs Benedict served six different ways, to Country Fried Chicken and Waffles; the entire menu will be served all day long. Banana’s will offer free WiFi and take out service for those on the go, including fresh coffee, fruit or anything on the menu.

Bananas will keep late hours during the week, staying open until midnight most nights. On weekends, the diner will be open 24 hours. The two are aiming for an opening this summer.

Nickell and Oliveri have been busy with the Funky Monkeys. The Mills Avenue location has been undergoing redecorating inside and out. The Pointe Orlando restaurant, which the two opened within the past year, is already expanding into a empty space next door. They expect that work to be done by July 1.