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Food & Wine Classic, plus latest restaurant reviews

Written By Scott Joseph On October 3, 2019

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News from the Flog  

10th Annual Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is Nov. 8-9

WDW Swan and Dolphin Causeway FW Classic

The 10th edition of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic takes place Nov. 8 and 9 around and between to two hotels. It’s a weekend full of cocktail classes, culinary workshops and lots of wine sipping and food tasting.

I’ve always thought this was a great idea – hosting a companion event to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival just a popped Champagne cork away but without the theme-park admission fee. I think it’s even smarter that this year they’ve moved it to November from the usual October dates, so  balmier weather has a better chance of reaching Florida.

The structure of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, or WDWSDFWC, if you prefer, has remained the same, but its breadth has broadened.

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Recent Restaurant Reviews

Kaizen Izakaya

Kaizen interior

Amura, the sushi restaurant on Church Street in downtown Orlando, is now Kaizen Izakaya, and it’s not the first time this restaurant has changed names under the same owner.

When it first opened, more than 20 years ago, it was called Samurai. But, not surprisingly, another restaurant in the state already had claim to that name. So, perhaps to save on signage costs, the owner dropped the first and last letters from the word Samurai and came up with Amura.

What prompted the latest change I can’t say. An izakaya is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub or tavern where the focus is more on the drinking and mingling with friends – the word means stay sake shop – and the food consists of small bites and nibbles.

Kaizen’s menu is just as robust as before with a full array of sushi and sashimi as well as noodle and rice dishes and other kitchen foods. And the surroundings here don’t exactly inspire one to linger, but I’ll come back to that.

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The Mexican Camel

Mexcam exterior

The young woman behind the counter at the Mexican Camel, responding to my question regarding how the concept works, said, “We’re sort of like Chipotle.”

Just as a matter of brand recognition, it may not be advisable to suggest you’re copying another restaurant. And if you do, maybe choose one that hasn’t been plagued in recent years with foodborne illnesses.

What she was trying to convey is that the Mexican Camel is yet another assemblage concept wherein diners choose the ingredients to be piled into a conveyance and thus take all responsibility if the melange sucks.

But Mex-Cam has its own unique spin to promote, and that’s that it combines Mexican and Mediterranean flavors in one dining excursion, making it possible to screw up your choices with two separate cuisines.

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 News

Beard Foundation Announces Changes to Best Chef Regions; Florida Still Screwed

Beard Regions

When I gave notice, in May, that I was no longer associated with the James Beard Foundation, after having been a regional judge for 30 years, the chief reason I gave was my frustration with the awards process and the imbalance of competing entities within most regions. Specifically, Florida, as part of the South region, was grouped in with, among others, Louisiana. Therefore, New Orleans, one of the country’s great dining destinations, dominated the nominations each year, overshadowing other deserving chefs and restaurants, including many in Central Florida.

This month, JBF announced changes to its chef awards, increasing the number of regions to 12 from 10. But before you get too excited you should know that the changes will not affect the disparity that faces Florida and other states and communities clumped in with culinary powerhouses. In fact, in at least one instance, it makes things worse.

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Other Stuff

Next Supper Club a Harvest Dinner at Raglan Road

raglan dancers

We still have a few seats available for our next Supper Club, a Harvest Dinner at Raglan Road on Oct. 17. RR is always a fun experience, and with this dinner we’ll get a taste of new chef MarK O’Neill’s cuisine.

Tickets for the dinner are $100 plus booking fee, with tax and gratuity included. The retail price of this dinner would be $185 but the folks at Raglan Road are offering this special price exclusively for readers of the flog. Follow this link to the Supper Club event page. Seating, of course, is limited, so be sure to book right away.

Click Read More to see the menu and pairings.

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Dates Announced for 2nd Annual Orlando Wine Festival & Auction

Martins MiliotesOrlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, left, announces dates for 2nd annual Orlando Wine Festival & Auction at Wine Bar George Thursday as owner George Miliotes looks on.

The second annual Orlando Wine Festival & Auction will be March 13 and 14, 2020, again with the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes as home base.

 

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Join Scott on a Tour of Tuscany, May/June 2020

Il Borro Estate

Start planning now to join me on a tour of Tuscany May 30 through June 7 when I host an Art in Voyage journey to Florence and the Arezzo region.

We’ll spend three nights at a five-star hotel in beautiful Firenze while we take a private food tour of the city, visit farms and markets, take cooking classes with local chefs, and of course drink wonderful Italian wines.

On our way to Arezzo and the five-star Il Borro resort we’ll hunt for truffles in Chianti and eat our harvest with our lunch. During our four nights at Il Borro (pictured at top), a former village transformed by the Ferragamo family into a wine estate and luxurious resort, we’ll visit the villages of Siena and Montepulciano, and we’ll learn about Italian farm to table cuisine sitting at a table on the farm.

Two of the included meals will be at Michelin-starred restaurants. And you’ll have the opportunity to join me for a “critique exercise” and contribute to the review of a Tuscan restaurant.

We’ll do more than just eat and drink. We’ll wander the vineyards and see the soil, learn about the climate and what makes Tuscan wines unique. And we’ll hear about the culture of the cuisine from locals whose passion is to preserve the integrity of the regional foods.

Click Read More and then start brushing up on your Italian.

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