25th Annual Taste of the Nation Orlando

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On August 9th, 38 Chefs, including Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian, along with 2,000 attendees have raised over $300,000 in the 25th Annual Taste of the Nation Orlando. All of the proceeds from the event are going to help end childhood hunger in Central Florida, benefiting Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.The Coalition will use the funds to provide food, shelter and services to more than 150 children and their families each night in the coming year. Second Harvest will direct the funds to Benefits Connection, one of their primary feeding programs. P1040740_Fotor_Collage_2

What a successful event! Thank you to everyone who participated – all of the chefs, sponsors, volunteers and guests! For more information on how to become a part of this great cause, please visit www.tasteofnation.org/orlando.

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster

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We visited one of the oldest steakhouses in Orlando, Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, formerly known as Del Frisco’s, located at 729 Lee Road in Orlando. Opened in 1993, this fine dining experience is known for its meticulous service and fabulous steaks.

We spoke with Owner Alice Christner about the restaurant’s history and future plans for Christner’s.

Chef Zoli Davis began his career at Christner’s at the age of nineteen. In our interview, he speaks about becoming a chef.

Christners Del Frisco Steak & Lobster

Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster on Urbanspoon

Lee St. John – Gigi’s Cupcakes

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Cupcakes are not just a treat, they are a celebration!  Lee St. John, owner of Gigi’s Cupcakes, recalls his youth in small-town Georgia, where cupcakes meant a special event was happening.  “You don’t bake cupcakes to sit on a shelf, you bake them for a reason… and we take our cupcakes seriously!”  Treating each customer as family is Rule #1 at Gigi’s Cupcakes,  something that Lee learned while growing up in rural America. Upon retiring from the large corporate world, St. John felt drawn to a business that would allow him not only to connect with the local community but also provide an opportunity to lend a helping hand.  This has grown to an involvement in many Central Florida charities, such as Gigi’s Cupcakes partnership with Give Kids the World in their Ice Cream for Breakfast campaign, among others.
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The only way to bake a cupcake is from scratch, every morning, and Gigi’s Cupcakes also adds the secret ingredient of LOTS of love and care!  Whether your favorite cupcake is Carrot Cake, Strawberry, Wedding Cake cupcakes, or if you have a special order in mind, let Gigi’s Cupcakes know and they will “Bake to Taste.” 
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And the goodness doesn’t stop at cupcakes: Gigi’s Cupcakes specializes in cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, or just about any confection that you can dream up, from the special-themed birthday or wedding to graduation displays! If you have never experienced a “Photo-Finish-Frosting,” then just bring them a favorite picture, and soon you will be eating the results.  For the busy-party-planner, for a small fee, Gigi’s Cupcakes will special deliver your order to your party or event, saving you time, trouble, and a panic attack!
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At Gigi’s Cupcakes, you are not just another customer, you are family.  Lee St. John enjoys providing that “special touch” that each order needs… plus, if you join the Gigi’s Cupcakes Loyalty Club, you can treat yourself to a free Birthday Cupcake on your own special day… when was the last time family did that for you?  Enjoy!

Gigi's Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Executive Chef-Owner Barbara Alfano – Peperoncino Cucina

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Peperoncino Cucina is located at 7988 Via Dellagio Way off Sandlake Road in Orlando. Greeted by the gorgeous fountain and beautiful landscape of the Dellagio Plaza of Dr. Phillips, you will be immediately transported to the streets of Rome.

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This small, yet welcoming restaurant offers authentic Italian cuisine with special touch of peperoncino in every bite. Everything is cooked fresh to order in an open kitchen located in the dining room where you can see dishes being created and smell the wonderful aromas.

At work, doing what she loves!

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Chef Barbara Alfono was born and raised in an Italian family in Venezuela. She spent every summer with her grandmother in the south of Italy, where she learned how to cook and fell in love with the her grandmother’s kitchen. After coming to the United States and completing her culinary degree, she transformed her family’s secret recipes into delicious dishes for you to enjoy at Peperoncino.

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If you are a big fan of Italian food, like me, or missing nice European flare in your dining experience, or simply looking for a quiet place to eat, you must come and try some of the best Italian classics. Peperoncino Cucina is open for lunch and dinner daily.

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by Irina Pabis
Peperoncino on Urbanspoon

Picking the Right Wine for Summertime

Five Seasonal Suggestions from Rosen College of Hospitality Management Wine by Education Program Instructor David Black 

Hot summer weather calls for wines that are light, unoaked, refreshing and full of flavor. Each of the four white wines I’ve chosen should be served at refrigerator temperature (45 to 55 degrees F). The lone red wine from Chianti’s Sangiovese grape should be served after spending about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. All of these wines are readily available in most retail outlets for prices that average less that $20 per bottle.

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2012 Kim Crawford Chardonnay Unoaked (South Island, New Zealand) 

As the label reads, this Chardonnay is completely unoaked, which means it was aged in a non-oak barrel. That difference insures that the wine retains a crisp acidity and a lovely apple-like freshness.

2012 Honig Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California) 

It can be argued that Honig Winery makes perhaps the Napa Valley’s finest, unoaked and most refreshing white wine from 100-percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

2013 Castello Banfi Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” (Tuscany, Italy) 

There are innumerable Pinot Grigios on most retail wine seller’s shelves, but this single-vineyard wine from Banfi’s Tuscan estate is my hands down favorite thanks to its rich, full flavor and lively, savory finish.

2013 La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 

Piedmont’s La Spinetta Estate is one of Italy’s premier wineries. Their rendition of the increasingly popular Moscato d’Asti represents everything that is enjoyable from the ancient Moscato grape: very aromatic, slightly bubbly (frizzante), low in alcohol and absolutely delicious.

2012 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese (Molise, Italy)

This 100-percent unoaked beauty from Italy’s Molise province is the only red in this group. It is light on the palate, full of flavor, pure in its Sangiovese red fruits and, like all the whites listed above, it is best when served quite cool.

 For Best Results:

  • Serve these wines in a glass that tapers toward the rim. This will allow you to fully capture the unique aroma of each one.
  • Fill your glass about a third full and twirl the wine inside the glass to release its bouquet.
  • Before swallowing, let the wine linger in your mouth to coat your palate. This will allow the wine to impart its best qualities.
  • None of these great value wines need to be decanted. It is acceptable to to pour them right from the bottle into a glass where they will quickly breathe as you begin to enjoy them.

IMG_0505David Black has served as an instructor and lecturer at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida since 2009. Black has more than 30 years of experience in fine wine and spirits, including an intensive, five-year Master of Wine Program, studying viticulture, winery techniques, business, blind tasting and evaluation. He has also traveled extensively to major wine regions in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and California. Click here for more information about the Rosen College Wine Education Program.

Executive Chef Jamie McFadden – Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine & Events

We had a chance to visit Chef Jamie McFadden, award-winning Executive Chef and Founder of the Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine & Events in Winter Park Florida. In this segment, he shares how he got started, his early influences and how he came up with the name for his business.

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Check our previous interviews by following links:

Community Champion Chef Jamie McFadden

Chef Jamie McFadden