Epcot Festival of the Holidays Runs Through Dec. 30

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Epcot Holiday tree

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is over, so — Next! — it’s time for the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. That includes more food and wine, so it’s basically the same sort of festival but with more strings of lights and jingly bells.

Now, before you start putting on your war gear and asking why it isn’t called the Epcot International Festival of the Christmas you should know that there are plenty of other holidays celebrated at this time of year and they’re all represented here. For example, there’s L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen in recognition of Hanukkah (which starts Sunday, by the way) and there’s, um...well, that’s pretty much it. There’s a nod to the Lunar New Year observed by some Asian countries, but considering that the next Lunar New Year isn’t until Feb. 5 and the Epcot festival ends Jan. 30, so it’s a stretch )Epcot will already be into Festival of the Arts mode by then). (Kwanzaa is represented with music on the Fountain View Stage.)

But it’s still not all just Christmas. You’ll find Las Posadas, a Mexican and Latin America tradition; and Feast of the Three Kings, which technically also isn’t until after the festival ends, but work with us here, folks.

Mostly it’s a showcase for the way Christmas is celebrated in different countries and cultures, especially with food.

FusionFest Offered a World of Good Eating

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fusionfest samosa

The first FusionFest was held Saturday and Sunday on Seneff Arts Plaza in front of the Dr. Phillips Center in downtown Orlando. It was a two-day celebration of the area’s diversity, with a parade of flags, multicultural entertainers, and food, food, food.

A number of diverse food vendors lined the plaza, which I consider to be Orlando’s Front Yard.

Fusionfest Serbia Terry

Organizer Terry Olson was spotted by the Serbian food stand.

I thought the sign on this African vendor was redundant when I saw that the food was “Togo,” but it meant that it was the cuisine of the nation of Togo. Don’t see that too often.

Bullet Point Buffet: Black & White Edition

Written by Scott Joseph on .


  • You’re thinking Black Friday, I’m thinking White Truffles. Word comes from Rocco’s Italian Grille that the truffles have arrived and owner Rocco Potami is offering them up in daily specials. Really, if you’ve never experienced fresh truffles you owe it to yourself to have some grated onto a pasta dish. Heaven. Pricey, but heaven.
  • K Restaurant has truffles, too, and will offer its annual Truffle Dinner on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Six courses with pairings for $160 all inclusive.
  • If you’re reading this while stuck in traffic around one of the Premium Outlets shopping malls, you may be interested to know that Foxtail Coffee Co. is continuing its campaign for world caffeine dominance with a partnership with the Tommy Hilfiger outlet stores. Foxtail will have a cafe space in the stores and will offer light food options, as well. They’re not open yet but they may be by the time you find a parking space.
  • Shop Small Logo copyBy the way, instead of a shopping mall consider shopping small, especially on Nov. 24, which is Small Business Saturday. Our friends at Southeast Steel are participating with some pretty nice deals on LG appliances. If you were cursing your kitchen while preparing your Thanksgiving dinner, this is your chance to make it better for the coming holidays.
  • Wonton Asian Kitchen, which I reviewed in April when it was still pretty new, has closed. A note on its Facebook page thanked its fans for support and told them to watch the building, on Fairbanks Avenue just west of Orlando Avenue, for “a very new and exciting restaurant.” Doesn’t say if it will be from the same owners or someone else. I’ll watch the building on Mondays; need volunteers for the rest of the week.
  • You can stop watching the building at 207 N. Bumby Ave. in the Milk District. That’s going to be the home of MX Taco from chef Ryan Manning, who was sous chef at Highball & Harvest when it first opened (his latest gig was at the Ritz in D.C.). Probably after the New Year.

Bury that Caesar: C.D.C. Warns Not to Eat Romaine Lettuce

Written by Scott Joseph on .

romaine small copyThis isn’t a good time to have all your money tied up in romaine lettuce stocks.

Let’s start with the blunt directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Do not eat romaine lettuce. Period. Full stop.

The warning comes after an outbreak of E. coli made 32 people sick in 11 states and Canada last month. No deaths have been reported but 13 people were sick enough to be hospitalized and one developed kidney failure. A third of the cases were reported in California and most of the others have been in the Great Lakes region and the northeastern U.S. as well as Ontario and Quebec.

But that doesn’t mean you’re safe if you bought your lettuce in Florida. Despite the trend for local sourcing, a lot of our food still comes from far away, and exact provenance is difficult to determine.

Don’t take any chances. If you have romaine lettuce in your refrigerator, throw it out. The lettuce, not the refrigerator, but you’re going to want to sanitize the bin it was stored in. Have a lettuce mix that might have bits of romaine in it? Throw that out, too. Even if you’ve already eaten some and haven’t gotten sick — although most people start feeling ill three to four days after consuming the bacteria, illness can occur anywhere between one to 10 days.

Here’s a link to the C.D.C.’s Food Safety Alert

Needless to say, restaurants are also affected, and indeed most people who consume romaine lettuce usually do so in a restaurant — no Caesar salads for a while.

Steve Gunter, who operates the Tap Room at Dubsdread said Wednesday, “We have stopped serving any Rromaine in any level. Even though it only affects certain lots from certain places we aren’t taking any chances. Not worth it.”

Soco’s Greg Richie said, “We tossed it all to be safe. We’re using hydro Bibb in the meantime.”

If you’re dining out soon, don’t take for granted that the restaurateur knows about directive from the C.D.C. Question what types of lettuces are being used — good time to test the server’s menu knowledge — and if romaine is mentioned, be sure it has been discarded and the proper sanitizing procedures have been applied.

And just to make your Thanksgiving dinner a little more fraught with worry, consider that for the past year the C.D.C. and the Department of Agriculture have been tracking an outbreak of Salmonella linked to raw turkey products. So be extra careful when handling your turkey Thursday.

Here’s a tip that has recently been advised for handling poultry: Don’t try rinsing it in the sink before you prepare it and shove it in the oven. Although it sounds counterintuitive, washing the bird, it’s believed, can actually spread pathogens through your kitchen as the water splashes off of it. Just season it, stuff it — usual warnings apply there — and put it in the oven; the heat will kill the bacteria.

Thorough hand-washing should follow. And you’re just going to have to forget that recipe for turkey carpaccio.