Bullet Point Buffet: A Manny's Makeover and mixing things up in a big way

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mannys interior

  • Look for the Baldwin Park location of Manny's Original Chop House to close sometime in July or August and, after a 30 day or so redo, reopen as a more upscale steakhouse. It'll still be under the same ownership -- sorry to get your hopes up -- but I assume they'll get rid of the "Pump Boys and Dinettes" decor. The new name hasn't been finalized yet but it will be similar. Manny's Unoriginal Chop House? 

Monkey Mixer

  • Monkey Shoulder, a maker of a blended malt scotch whisky, will be pouring cocktails at Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Friday and Saturday (March 29, 30) from a rather large shaker. It’s called the Monkey Mixer, and you’d be forgiven for confusing it with a tony cement mixer. The 2400 gallon mixer is attached to the rear of a semi truck. Technically, I think you’d have to agree that although it’s in the shape of a shaker, the device is actually stirring the cocktail. Said cocktail will be the Mixed Up Monkey and may be sampled 5:30 to 10 p.m. Wouldn’t just just love to see the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile pull up next to that thing?
  • If you’d rather wield a more conventional shaker, you may be interested in attending the Master Mixology Class hosted by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of American on Sunday, March 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Registration is $50, which will get you in to all of the events that day, including an afternoon wine seminar, plus a $10 lunch coupon. It’s part of a Consumer Day outreach by the organization. Register here.
  • The people who own the Chai Thai restaurants will open Mai Thai in the former Artisan’s Table space on Pine Street in downtown Orlando. I told you that Artisan’s Table moved to 55 W. Church St., right? I wonder if the new tenants asked Artisan’s why they wanted to move. Or the Black Olive. Or Pine 22. Or Blue Smoke Burgers.

Local restaurants and chefs excluded from list of Beard Awards finalists

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Beard announcement

The finalists for the 2019 James Beard Foundation awards were announced Wednesday morning at an event in Houston. Unfortunately, Central Florida’s record of never having a semifinalist advance to the final ballot remains intact.

Central Florida restaurants and chefs were nominated in four categories this year, all national: Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant; Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was on the long list for Outstanding Service; Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef; and James and Julie Petrakis were co-nominees as Outstanding Restaurateur.

The Petrakises have been nominated multiple times previously in the Best Chef: South category. For the past two years, no local chefs were singled out in the category, even as a semifinalist.

One interesting note in the Outstanding Restaurant category: Jaleo in Washington, D.C., is a finalist. The José Andrés helmed ThinkFoodGroup opened its fifth Jaleo, the group’s largest, at Disney Springs last week. With five locations, Jaleo can be considered a chain, so it’s worth noting that the Beard judges are willing to include a chain restaurant as one of the country’s best.

Jaleo’s fellow nominees are: Balthazar, New York; FIG. Charleston; Quince, San Francisco; and Zahav, Philadelphia. (FIG and Quince should team up against the others.)

In the Best Chef: South category that has proved so elusive for Central Florida’s deserving chefs, the finalists are: Wishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, P.R.; Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans; Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans; and Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans.

The 2019 James Beard Awards Gala will be held in Chicago on Monday, May 6.

Here’s a link to the full list of award finalists.

Jaleo opens at Disney Springs

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jaleo Opening

José Andrés officially opened his newest restaurant, Jaleo, at Disney Springs Thursday with a closed door reception for invited media and guests.

The Disney Springs Jaleo, which occupies a vastly refurbished building that once held Wolfgang Puck Cafe, is the fifth and largest for Andrés’ Washington, D.C., based ThinkFoodGroup. The building also has a dedicated corner for Pepe, a fast food restaurant based on Andrés’ food truck.

A highlight of the open kitchen is a wood-fired paella pit for cooking one of the signature dishes.

While invited guests were beginning to arrive inside the restaurant, Andrés sat down with a group of five media representatives, including three from Spanish language outlets. We sat on the patio overlooking the lagoon as the chef, still in a Patagonia quilted jacket, talked about opening the restaurant.

I asked him if there is a point where a chef and restaurateur loses control over what goes on at his properties because there are too many of them — his company owns and operates 15 brands. He said there was, but the key was having people he can trust at each location. He said that he is often asked, “Who cooks when you’re not here?” His reply: “The same person who cooks when I’m here.”

He told us that having a restaurant at Disney has been a dream of his ever since he first visited Epcot and saw that Paul Bocuse had a restaurant there. He said that Spain should be represented. “Spain is meant to have a bigger presence in Florida,” he said. “Spain arrived [to Florida] before anyone else in Europe.”

Here’s a video from the opening.

La Tavola dinner will preview upcoming tour of Tuscany

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Curious about the Food Secrets of Tuscany tour that Kevin Fonzo and I are cohosting in June?

Come to a special edition of Fonzo’s La Tavola dinner event on Wed., March 27, and we’ll answer all of your questions. Joining us will be Art in Voyage’s Mikael Audebert, the tour’s curator. Audebert can tell you about this and other AIV tours. Plus, he is offering to reimburse the cost of the La Tavola dinner to anyone who signs up for the trip that night. Tim Varan of Tim’s Wine Market (who also hosts tours through AIV) is serving some welcome sparkling wine to start the evening.

Cost of the dinner is $95 per person plus gratuity. Reservations are a must; the dinner is already nearly sold out. To reserve a space, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..