Full weekend of Memorial Day events at Grande Lakes Orlando

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Grande Lakes fireworks

Our friends at Grande Lakes Orlando are going all out for Memorial Day Weekend with four days of activities, events and special dining options.

There are boat rentals for tooling around the lake — did you know there’s an actual Grande Lake? — and eco-tours are Shingle Creek. Golf specials, including a 20 percent discount for active or retired military personnel. There’s also going to be a falconry school where you can learn about falconry. After a brief training, you’ll go out to field and the birds will follow and come when called. You can pretend you’re a helpless field mouse.

HH a la carte compressed copy

You’ll find me inside at one of the many good restaurants, most likely Highball & Harvest because I like their cocktail program. And I’ve been promised they’ll have some special drinks and menu options inspired by the Memorial Day commemoration. Reservations required, call 407-393-4648.

Citron and Primo are good options, too. Citron has special buffet from 5:30 to 9 p.m. of Saturday and Sunday. Over at Primo by Melissa Kelly there will be hand-crafted cocktails, upscale wine and Kelly’s imaginative organic cuisine. After dinner, step out onto the terrace to watch the fireworks.
6 - 10 p.m., a la carte. Reservations highly recommended, call 407-393-4444.

Lots of things for the kids, as well, with giant inflatable waterslides, sand volleyball and movie nights on the lawn.

You can see the full schedule of events at this link. But keep in mind that you’ll need reservations to dine in the restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton or JW Marriott.

I hope you have a peaceful Memorial Day.

Personnel updates

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Alon Gontowski has been named executive pastry chef for the Rosen Centre Hotel. Gontowski is a past winner of the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” competition and was part of the team that made the world’s largest wedding cake to claim a Guinness World Record (no word on whose wedding it was for). He most recently was with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.

Gontowsk, above,i was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He has also baked at Todd English’s Tuscany and Michael Jordan’s Steak House.

Speaking of Rosen hotels and pastry chefs, there’s still no final word on who will replace David Ramirez, who left the executive pastry chef position at Rosen Shingle Creek to concentrate on his growing business, David Ramirez Chocolates. I’m told the hotel is in negotiations with a candidate but an announcement is not expected until at least the end of June.

Wesley De Souza photo copyThe Alfond Inn has appointed Wesley DeSouza food and beverage manager. He will oversee all food operations, including Hamilton’s Kitchen, the hotel’s full-service restaurant.

DeSouza is a native of Brazil and was previously with Heathrow Country Club and Darden Restaurants in Kansas City. He also handled event planning and concierge services for Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty Orlando.

Bullet Point Buffet: Openings, closings, other stuff

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Tako Cheena ext

Tako Cheena has finally opened in the former Forbidden City space in Mills 50. The popular Mexican/Asian fusion concept first announced that it would take over the Forbidden City building in July. Of 2015. Even considering the condition that the former gas station cum restaurant was in — I try not to think about it — that’s a long time for renovations. Currently, the original Tako Cheena is closed and undergoing renovations, most likely for a new concept. But I’m not going to expect anything real soon.

Tre Bambine, the Italian restaurant that took over the former Spice Modern space overlooking Lake Eola has closed after just over two months. In a story about the closing by Jessica Bryce Young at Orlando Weekly, the owner was quoted as saying she just couldn’t make it work. Kids, if you’re considering opening a restaurant, consider this rule of thumb from veteran restaurateurs: you should expect to lose money for at least two years. It’s a tough, tough business.

Disassociation: Breaking with Beard

Written by Scott Joseph on .


The James Beard Foundation held its annual awards ceremony earlier this month, an occasion Central Florida’s culinary community has come to observe as passover.

I have been a member and participant in the James Beard Foundation for over 30 years, almost since its inception. I often traveled to New York for the annual gala weekend events, a perk afforded to the regional judges. It was always a fun excuse to visit Manhattan and schmooze with writers, restaurateurs and chefs from around the country.

I just broke one of the foundation’s rules by telling you that I was a judge. But it doesn’t matter anymore: My association with the Beard Foundation has ended.