It seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating the 10th anniversary of Disney World’s California Grill, the 15th-floor restaurant in the Contemporary Resort where the entertainment giant’s climb up the gourmet ladder began. Today we gathered to toast the restaurant’s 15th anniversary with a lunch prepared by chef Brian Piasecki and complemented with California wines selected by sommelier Bridget Sherren.
Arriving at Miami's new Baru Urbano, a destination for Brickell-area hipsters, my first reaction was 'cool.' The bohemian interior is quasi-industrial and graffiti-filled with colorful compelling Latin-inspired street art. It works, especially with the rich dark-wood-filled décor set against gold-hued banquettes. Immersed in the scene, I imagined this was a café in Buenos Aires or perhaps Bogota!
I was among the rousing crowd of amateur cooks donning aprons and toques at the SoBe Wine & Food Festival’s FT+L-sponsored Barilla Interactive Luncheon last Saturday at the Biltmore Hotel. Leading the show was chef Scott Conant (scottconant.com) The American-Italian chef (remember him from Top Chef, Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle), whose Scarpetta restaurant recently opened at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Resort, teamed up with Barilla chef Lorenzo Boni.
I’m a Food Network junkie. I admit it; I love to watch chefs on TV. My senses go into overdrive when I’m glued to the tube, so imagine my joy at being in the thick of things at the foodie and star-sated hot ticket in town, the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Despite attending year after year, I’m always excited at the prospect of who I’ll see, what I’ll taste and what I’ll imbibe (flowing Perrier Jouet, no less).
Last week at a kick-off dinner to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival I joined meat-loving foodies at Red, The Steakhouse. Rightly so, the star of the show was the beef and more specifically Certified Angus Beef (certifiedangusbeef.com); however there was some tough competition for the limelight.
One good thing about the down-in-the-dumps economy is that the price of wine-paired dinners has dropped. The last few years prices skyrocketed to way over $100 per person, closer to $200. Now the cost is so reasonable that there's really no excuse not to indulge. So I did just that at the Everglades Restaurant in the Rosen Centre hotel (rosencentre.com) on Orlando's International Drive, where $65 gets you a five-course menu with pairings.
A place that serves 500 beers? Is this some Homer Simpson dream sequence? Nope. It's World of Beer, the new brew-topia in Viera, a growing suburb just west of Melbourne (Exit 191 off I-95). Tucked into an airy indoor/outdoor space at The Avenue, World of Beer is decked out with high ceilings, red brick accents and flatscreens galore. But no one is coming for the interior design or high-def picture quality. World of Beer has over 500 beers (50 on tap and 450 by the bottle).
The ambience lured me in at the seductive RA Sushi (rasushi.com) in Palm Beach Gardens. Located in Downtown at the Gardens, where numerous shops and restaurants have closed the past year, this dining venue remains vibrant. And that's a very good thing. Red permeates the interior, with cool Geisha Girl art, bamboo and lots of globe fixtures, which I found quite transfixing.
Often I come upon great restaurants that I want to try, only to be told, "Sorry, members and guests only." So when I learned that the Reunion Resort (reunionresort.com) off I-4 at exit 58 was loosening its reins of exclusivity and opening its Eleven tapas lounge and Forte Grille to the public, I didn't hesitate to visit this meticulously landscaped golf community of luxury homes, condos and villas.