Honey Nougat Glacé, the entry from Chef Catherine Delrieu of Mon Petit Cheri Cafe in Winter Park, has been named Orlando’s Signature Dish. The announcement was made by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and chef Art Smith at the annual meeting and holiday luncheon of Visit Orlando, which sponsored the contest.
The announcement was the culmination of a search that started earlier in the year that called on local chefs to create something that could become Orlando’s equivalent to Buffalo’s wings or Philadelphia’s cheesesteak. Eventually, the criteria were narrowed to stipulate that the foodstuff be a dessert and that it feature honey as a main ingredient. Honey was chosen because it is a major product of Central Florida, a fact that seemed to surprise just about everyone who was involved in the project. (Except Jacobs, who produces — but does not sell — honey from hives in her backyard.)
Approximately three dozen entries were whittled down to 10 finalists. Those were presented to a panel of judges for tasting in November. Besides Smith, who owns Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming restaurant in Disney Springs, judges included Lauren Delgado of the Orlando Sentinel, Tish Boyle of Dessert Professional magazine, and me.
Delrieu’s dessert included Italian meringue prepared with honey, nougat and fruit confit, on a red berries sorbet. It was distinct in its presentation at the judging for its whimsical bee, with a body fashioned out of chocolate and almond-slice wings.
Mon Petit Cheri Cafe was formerly known as Palmono’s Trattoria and Wine Bar. When Delrieu and her husband, Pierre, bought the Park Avenue cafe, in 2014, they changed the name to Chez Palmano but then eventually went full francais on the name. Mon Petit Cheri Cafe is at 333 S. Park Ave., Winter Park.
Of course, simply declaring a dessert to be the area’s signature food item doesn’t make it so. Neither does putting it on dessert menus throughout town, if indeed that comes to pass. Restaurant owners have been putting the words “World Famous” next to menu items since the days of Magellan. You get the final say.
But even if this dessert doesn’t catch on, the contest was successful for getting the culinary community together for friendly competition, and for raising awareness of Florida’s honey production — 17 million pounds a year, who knew?