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Recent Reviews and Restaurant News

Written By Scott Joseph On October 8, 2020

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News from the Flog  

Recent Reviews

Knife & Spoon

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Knife & Spoon, the much anticipated restaurant that replaced the estimable Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton, opened on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, its delayed debut was not caused by construction slowdowns but rather the pandemic that has affected so many restaurants. The upside, if pandemics are allowed to have an upside, is that the developers were able to engineer the space to meet safety protocols rather than having to retool, as so many other restaurants have done.

KnifeSpoon sambonet

The knife of the name is an actual knife, a rather impressive Sambonet in this case, and signifies the steak specialty of the menu. Given the quality of the meat, however, an instrument with such a honed blade might be considered – you should pardon the expression – overkill. But we’ll come back to that.

The spoon of the name is not a spoon, or at least not a spoon found on polite tables. Instead, it references a fishing lure known as a spoon, which then leads to the seafood offerings. (More ancient mariners would tell you to look for largemouth bass, salmon or trout on a list of spoon-caught fish, but I saw none; it’s a clever name nonetheless.)

The Knife is also a nod to John Tesar, the Dallas chef and restaurateur, who owns Knife-named restaurants there. His accomplishments, as listed on the Knife & Spoon webpage, include being the pseudonymous Jimmy Sears in Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”; appearances on the Today Show and Top Chef; and being “famously entangled in a feud with Dallas food critic Leslie Brenner.” That feud, which included a negative review from Brenner and Tesar’s two-word response, happened in 2014, so maybe it’s time to let it go.

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JJ’s Fresh from Scratch

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JJ’s Fresh from Scratch is celebrating its sixth anniversary. But technically it’s only been JJ’s Fresh from Scratch for a fraction of that time, three or four months. When it opened, in 2014, it was JJ’s Grille. And when, in 2017, it won a Best Tex-Mex Foodster Award, it was going by the name JJ’s Fusion Grille.

The mainstay has been JJ – full name JJ Paredes – who started the quick-serve assemblage concept on Curry Ford Road at the age of 24. The quick popularity of the restaurant prompted Paredes to open two other locations, but they have closed. So Paredes said that he decided to go ahead with the rebranding, which had been planned before the pandemic, and focus on the Curry Ford West flagship.

Also a constant, as I wrote in my original review in Dec. 2014: ‘The people are friendly because they want to be, and the food is better than average.”

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Other Stuff

Newsy Nuggets: When the music stops, grab a stove and start cooking

Monroe constructionPhoto: The Monroe

In the latest match of Musical Chefs, we learn that Josh Oakley will leave 1921 Mount Dora for the currently-under-construction Monroe (see photo at top to show I’m not kidding), a new concept from Good Salt Restaurant Group set to open in Creative Village’s Julian Apartments next year. 1921 seems to be particularly diasporadic to a chef’s career. You’ll recall that it was originally 1921 by Norman Van Aken, who held the executive chef title while Camilo Velasco was the chef de cuisine.

Van Aken ended his relationship with the restaurant, prompting the name change. (I still think they should have just changed it to 1921 Not by Norman Van Aken but no one took my calls.) Then Velasco left and moved to Ravenous Pig to become chef de cuisine… of lunch, which seemed a step down. Oakley, who had previously been at Smiling Bison, took over at 1921.

Then Velasco left the Pig to take a position at a Disney’s Old Key West. Clay Miller left DoveCote in downtown Orlando and moved to RavPig. DoveCote’s website lists two sous chefs (chefs de sous?) but no executive chef. And we’ll just have to wait to see who takes over at 1921 and just how long he or she stays.

  • And, of course, we will be anxious to see who will be the chef de cuisine at Norman’s in its new location when it opens. If it opens. (What have you heard?)

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Goodbye to an old friend

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I’m sorry to hear about the recent closing of the original Amigos restaurant in Altamonte Springs. I had a close affinity with it. We both came to Central Florida about the same time, in 1988, Amigos’ owners came from Texas; I moved here from Phoenix.

During my six or so years in Arizona, I developed an affinity for Tex-Mex and didn’t realize that I had taken it for granted until I moved to Orlando and couldn’t find any. At least not any good Tex-Mex. It seemed that most of the restaurants around here were doing what they thought Tex-Mex should be. The result was something I dubbed Flori-Mex. It made me sad.

It wasn’t just me who thought that. When Texan Andy Hyltin was 14 he came to visit his father in Orlando and the two went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. But later that night, Andy called his mother, Nell, and whispered into the phone, “It wasn’t Mexican; I don’t know what it was.”

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Scott’s Kitchen: Mighty Banana Bran Muffins

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When I was the food editor for the Phoenix New Times, I wrote an article that included a recipe for muffins. I got the recipe from a nutritionist who called them Mighty Bran Muffins (she also referred to them as broom muffins because they had so much bran that they would sweep you clean, so to speak).

I forget what the article was about but I’ve kept this recipe for 33 years and use it often.

Although I don’t mention it in the video, be sure to use golden raisins – they really do make a difference.

I like to prepare the dry and wet ingredients in the evening, cover them and put the wet mixture in the refrigerator overnight, then mix the two together and bake them in the morning. It’s nice to have hot muffins for breakfast.


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