Taste! Central Florida – Aug.19

The incredible Taste! Central Florida event is coming up on August 19th. It’s an amazing culinary event that supports the end of childhood hunger and supports local charities Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, supported by a team of volunteers and hosted by the Orlando World Center Marriott. There are over 40 restaurants and 20 breweries and wineries participating with Central Florida’s most accomplished culinary minds, all for an amazing cause. Join for an evening of tasting selections of local signature dishes created by talented local chefs, wines and craft beers.

1 in 4 kids in Central Florida are hungry. Join Taste! Central Florida on August 19th to end childhood hunger. Check out the entire list, join me in turning the table on childhood hunger and grab your tickets at tastecfl.org.


Participating restaurants are:

4 Rivers Smokehouse & The Coop

American Culinary Federation – Central Florida Chapter
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Cala Bella at Rosen Shingle Creek

Ace Cafe Orlando
Canvas Restaurant & Market

The Capital Grille


Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
CFHLA Food & Beverage Council
Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

Cress Restaurant
Dragonly Robata Sushi and Grill
Eleven Restaurant at Reunion Resort
Empress Sissi Cake & Pastry
Florida Nitro
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Hemisphere Restaurant at Hyatt OIA
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes

Rosen Shingle Creek

Marlow’s Tavern
Orlando Food Department Co.
Orlando World Center Marriott
Plancha at Four Seasons Resort
Primo at JW Marriott, Grande Lakes
Raglan Road
The Ravenous Pig
Red Wing Restaurant
Satu-Li Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Savor…Osceola Heritage Park
Seasons 52 Fresh Grill
SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando


Universal Orlando Resort

Urbain 40 American Brasserie

The Whiskey
Yak & Yeti


Follow this link to purchase your ticket today: https://feedhopenow.ejoinme.org/tastetickets

Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Katrina Belle


Cuba Libre to Celebrate Rum Month with Flights and Specials throughout August

In honor of National Rum Day on August 16, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, located in Pointe Orlando on International Drive, will dedicate the entire month of August to its favorite spirit with its annual Rum Month celebration, featuring special rum tasting flights available daily from August 1 to 30 in the dining room and at the bar beginning at 5 p.m. Then, on National Rum Day, all rums, rum flights, and rum cocktails will be offered at half-price at Happy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. at the bar.

Cuba Libre has hand-selected two special rum flights in celebration of Rum Month, each consisting of three 1 oz. pours. The restaurant’s rum list showcases more than 90 varieties from Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua and Tortola, and includes dark, light, spiced and aged rums for every taste. Guests looking for a particular flavor profile can ask their server for recommendations.

Cuba Libre’s special Rum Month tasting flights include:

El Coqui Flight ($18)
Named after the Puerto Rican frog with a unique sound, Don Q is what islanders drink when they want to relax on the beach.

  • Don Q Single Barrel: Aged for more than 10 years. Rare, single barrel hand-selected rum. Rich, buttery notes of deep woodiness, mingled with tannins and sweeter notes. Aromas of heavy oak bouquet, leather and dried fruit.
  • Don Q Añejo: Light golden brown in color. Aged 3 to 7 years in whisky and bourbon barrels. Medium-bodied. Molasses, vanilla, tobacco, leather, and oak. Slight sweetness. Pleasant complexity. Dry finish.
  • Don Q Gran Añejo: A blend of rums aged 3 to 12 years to create blend of sweet and dry finish. Flavors of baked apple, tropical fruits, spice with hints of nuts and smoky vanilla. Wonderful to sip neat or on the rocks.

Kirk and Sweeney Flight ($20)
Named after a wooden rum running schooner that shipped spirits from the Caribbean to America during prohibition. Distillery based in the Dominican Republic.

  • 12 Year: Aroma of earthy sugarcane and vanilla. The initial flavors of sweet nectar and honey give way to notes of oak and toffee. The finish ends with a smooth vanilla kick.
  • 18 Year: Traditional, well-aged. Notes of brown sugar, vanilla, and some chocolate/coffee overtones on the nose and palate with some curious red wine notes. Coffee character builds along with Port-like sweetness with finish.
  • 23 Year: Fully matured sipping rum. Deep caramel, flecked with barrel char, toffee, intense vanilla, and a touch of baking spice — particularly cloves on the nose and palate with a rich, silky finish

Cuba Libre located 9101 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819 call (407) 226-1600 to make your reservation today!

Chef Bryan Thoman: Creating a Master List of Flavor!

Just a short drive southeast from Downtown Orlando brings you to the Lake Nona area, which has everything that Central Florida is known for: beautiful scenery, sunny skies, and the fresh and innovative tastes that greet you as you dine at “Canvas Restaurant & Market” in the Laureate Park Village Center in the heart of Lake Nona. With a creative and unique culinary vision, Executive Chef Bryan Thoman and his team work hard to make your dining experience fun, fresh, and fantastic!

Born in the northeast United States, Chef Bryan recalls how he became introduced to cultural flavors, “I spent my early years growing up in south New Jersey, and we had a lot of neighbors who were of Italian descent, and some of them were what you would call ‘right off the boat.’ I remember having dinner at several friend’s houses, and I was intrigued at how they would grow so many of their ingredients right in their yards, made wine in their basements, and cooked every dish fresh from scratch… it was like the ‘Farm to Table’ tradition of the day!”


Growing up, Chef Bryan was always interested in food and the preparation process involved with cooking. “It was the late ‘90s and the ‘Food Network’ was just becoming popular, so I would stay up late at night watching all the great Chefs while my friends were watching ‘Beavis and Butthead’… my mom would tell me to turn off the TV but I would say ‘Mom, they’re making foie gras!”

“I’ve been working in restaurants since I was fifteen, so I don’t really know how to do anything else. When I got out of high school, I went right into culinary school, which is a great way to learn how to cook and to become proficient with all the basic cooking techniques; however, restaurants are where you really learn what it means to be a chef.”


Working in kitchens, watching and learning from the chefs, Chef Bryan realized that he wanted to be the guy in charge. “I didn’t want to be the one taking directions and being told what to do, I wanted to be the person giving the directions, teaching and coaching people… so I worked as hard as I could to make my way up the ranks, and to become the ‘guy who knew everything’ who was able to teach all the younger cooking staff.” His hard work paid off, and Chef Bryan became a “Sous Chef” when he was twenty years old and, being driven to make it to the top, earned his “Executive Chef” position when he was 27. “It takes a lot to learn to be an Executive Chef… there’s a lot to it.”


Chef Bryan firmly believes that, first and foremost, the Executive Chef is a teacher, a mentor who is developing the next generation. “I am always telling my Sous Chefs that 90% of my job is people, 5% is cooking, and 5% is the business/financial side. Without my team, the restaurant doesn’t move… I mean, I can cook on the line, but I can’t do the job of four people.” Chef Bryan believes the Executive Chefs have to make sure that those in the next generation know where they stand, know what they need to do in order to do their jobs correctly. “It’s important to that they understand the expectations… instilling a work ethic into a team is the most important job for the Executive Chef.”


When he is developing a menu, Chef Bryan likes to stay a season or two ahead. “At ‘Canvas,’ our goal is to be a ‘Florida Fresh’ restaurant, with our focus on what is in season and readily available… which is a wide selection any time of year here in Central Florida, but I like to design the menu based on ‘peak’ times of the seasons. So, my first question is ‘which season is this menu reflecting,’ then I ask myself ‘which ingredients are going to be the most flavorful and abundant,’ and finally, what is the ‘location’ or theme of the menu.” From these questions, Chef Bryan makes a “Master List” of all the ingredients that fit the food profiles, and he starts mixing an matching. “It’s like being at the market and seeing what ingredients are displayed, what looks good together.”


“I like to think about what ‘Florida’ means to my guests… there are a lot of Carribean and Latin influences but there are also flavors found in the South. I take all these flavors and themes and put them together, making sure that the taste is the prime consideration, super fresh and super high quality. Merging all those Florida flavor profiles is a challenge, but it is a labor of love… making something that is appealing to people from all walks of life, who just want to come in and enjoy being in a cool atmosphere, perhaps with live music and patio dining, is what makes ‘Canvas’ the perfect place to relax and enjoy great hospitality with great service and enjoying equally great food. It’s what I’m all about!”


Come try Chef Bryan’s culinary vision at “Canvas Restaurant & Market” where all the Central Florida flavors from his “Master List” of ingredients merge into gustatory greatness… not bad for a kid from Jersey!


Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot

Chef Timothy Keating: Passion Is Number One Ingredient!

The award winning Chef Tim has been cooking for over 45 years. He is from an Irish family of ten, he grew up right outside of New York City, and spent his summers on the Jersey Shore where his love of cooking developed. His family is still very close and have moved to the Central Florida area, and spend their holidays together.

Chef Tim attributes his culinary success to deep passion and love for cooking that he developed in a very early age: “Passion for cooking is in my heart and that is number one ingredient.” He developed his culinary skills while working in several restaurants and hotels in California, working with “some of the best chefs in the world” in “a very very intense French environment,” it was tough and rough. He “became executive sous-chef which is one of the first Americans do so”.


After incredible experiences at the several luxurious five-star, five-diamonds resorts, nine years at Disney’s Flying Fish Cafe, chef Tim saw an opportunity to get back to the local community with a new venture, as he is “very much of a local guy whether it’s local products farms, ranches, fishermen,” spending time with “the local chefs in the area and that’s when I was introduced to Urbain 40 family.”

Chef Tim believes that in order to be a good leader, a chef needs to provide an example and be a great role model, taking their lifetime of experience and travels around the world into account. He puts his team first and strives to teach them what he knows, and is grateful to them for being a team that could keep up the kitchen while he travels. To Chef Tim this is especially rewarding when somebody says “I had the best meal of my life,” but I know that I wasn’t there last night, I was off yesterday with my family, those are the best days because then you know your team is the best.”


When asked about most memorable moment, he remembered hearing his name at the the James Beard Awards. Chef Tim always considered cooking as an art, and In 2002, when cooking was recognized as an art for the first time at the Olympics, he was honored to be one of their James Beard chefs. Also a special dinner for about five hundred people with six different chefs from all over the country, Paul Bocuse gave him his jacket “and I know how he signed it for me afterwards, and have it hanging on the wall so I mean those are accomplishments… those are the rewards you could get a raise you can get an award but the real success is what you do every day.”


When asked about the theme for his current restaurant, he said that “I have this strange feeling that I although I was born in the late ’50s I was living in the ’40s, I was one of those people that came back to life you know… so the feeling of this restaurant, if you think about New York or LA or any other places in the 40s there is a feeling that goes to it… that rat pack and the music is amazing… they have a band going almost every night… that side of the dining room has that” retro 40s feeling.


Chef Tim now has a very local focus; “in Florida I’m always looking to get things out of the water, off the ranch out of the farm onto the plate as quickly as possible… I can buy things from all over the world but I’d rather really support the local people here… what is American cuisine is one big melting pot full of different ethnicity from all over the world.”


Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Katrina Belle

Chef Bob’s Luau: A Hawaiian-themed Culinary Experience

Chef Bob Aungst, Monark Premium Appliance Company on Park Avenue in Winter Park,  Kona Brewing Company and Fire Fruits Artisanal Sauce are hosting a Hawaiian-themed culinary experience. The event will be held on Saturday, August 12 from 1 to 3pm at Monark’s kitchen and appliance showroom at 500 S. Park Ave. Participants will enjoy an interactive culinary experience, featuring the tastes of Hawaii in an easy to prepare family style meal – no suckling pig or fire pit required!


Collectively, participants will prep and prepare the ingredients for an appetizer, main course and sides, and a dessert, while honing cooking skills. Traditional luau flavors, like smokey salty Kalua, sweet pineapple, and refreshing coconut will be incorporated into the dishes. The cooking class will culminate in a shared full meal of the items created during the event. Throughout the experience, guests will enjoy signature Hawaiian brews from Kona Brewing Company.

There are a very limited number of seats, to reserve yours please visit www.rockssticksandhell.com

Dine, Dance, and Live the Havana experience at Cuba LiBRE Restaurant and Rum Bar Orlando!

Executive Chef Jose Gonzalez and his team are proud to introduce a new menu at Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar located in Pointe Orlando on International Drive. The menu includes creative appetizers, entrees, and hand-crafted cocktails, featuring 12 brand new classic and contemporary Cuban dinner items. Take a look at some of the new mouthwatering additions as Chef Jose introduces what’s special and new from his kitchen!

As you can see in the video, Cuba Libre added a number of new appetizers based on traditional Cuban recipes, like this Crab Guacamole:


and this innovative menu item, the Cuban Sandwich Spring Rolls:


Cuban twist on the current poke trend, Cuban Poke – marinated seasonal fish, compressed watermelon and English cucumbers, pickled seaweed, avocado, white rice and toasted macadamia nuts, with pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette.


The Cuban restaurant’s new menu features several massive meat entrees for two, such as the Crispy Pork Pata, a 48-hour slow-cooked Berkshire pork shank, served with grilled seasonal vegetables and Moros y Cristianos, in a citrus pan reduction:


A tropical seafood dish, the Pargo Frito, has also been added – crispy whole red snapper, coconut basmati rice and candied cashews, with a sprouts salad and mango red curry sauce:


Chef Jose recommends to try any or all of the daily featured desserts:


Dine, Dance, and Live the Havana experience as you “Free” your inner Cuban at the “Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar”!


Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Orlando serves dinner daily from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Happy Hour is available every day from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. The bar is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (407) 226-1600, visit http://www.cubalibrerestaurant.com

Chef de Cuisine Scott Pizzo: Live, Eat, Breathe, Cooking!

Central Florida’s agricultural history has been well known to include abundant harvests of fresh produce, vegetables and livestock. Chef de Cuisine Scott Pizzo, of Orlando’s Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, “Highball & Harvest” restaurant, believes this history of fresh foods and ingredients are what makes the “Farm to Table” concept so appropriate for the dishes served at his restaurant.

“‘Highball’ is the signal a train conductor would use to initiate a full-speed departure, especially when fully-loaded with produce from a harvest… so ‘Highball & Harvest’ is a way to pay homage to the legacy of moving great, fresh food from the farm to the table, something we practice daily here at the restaurant!”

Describing himself as your basic “positive person,” Chef Scott says his daily life goals are “Live, Eat, Breathe, Cooking!” as well as a constant desire to learn, teach, and make the best out of life.


Chef Scott is not one to shy away from what he calls his humble beginnings: “Unlike a lot of chefs, I did not grow up in a ‘cooking’ household. My mom, who was an excellent baker, was not the best cook, and I was not particularly interested in it when I was younger, so I definitely didn’t grow up ‘cooking in the kitchen with Mom and Grandma.’” After a brief pause, he continues to reflect, “Sometimes you have to find things on your own, I guess. My mom passed away when I was 15, and my Dad was working, so I had to learn to cook for myself. That’s where my drive and passion originated… ‘cook or starve’ is a great motivator, and it was that need that opened the door to the rest of my life.”


According to Chef Scott, the first step in creating a successful menu is also the number one rule in being successful in real estate: Location. “I like to start with the location, where the restaurant actually is, finding out what the local cuisine is based on, what foods the area is known for, what ingredients can be easily found locally and brought as freshly as possible into the kitchen. Then I factor in the season, what is currently being harvested, without looking to a different climate or even hemisphere to create flavorful and local dishes. Local is always best, because you understand the markets, seasons, and the products so much better… you know what you’re getting, what you’re eating, what you are putting into your body. You don’t have to rely on someone else telling you, you have your own personal experience!”


“I like to think of the menu at ’Highball & Harvest’ as being traditional Florida food, with local ‘farm to table’ ingredients that really set the stage for a great meal.” Chef Scott believes the ingredients not only create the basis for the taste of the food, but also form the basis for how the entire restaurant is perceived. “The ingredients that you bring into the restaurant, how you make the food, creates the world surrounding it… which provides the vision for what the restaurant is and reflects the atmosphere you want to instill into your guests. If you wish to enhance your guest’s experience, you begin with the ingredients, it’s right on their table, all the tastes, presentation, and quality… that becomes the experience for them.”


When asked what advice he would give an aspiring chef, Chef Scott is quick to say “always keep learning.” “I learned in a classic, French-style kitchen, and it is great to have that background and those techniques. However, when you want to keep learning and expanding your knowledge base, such as Japanese or Italian cuisines, you become familiar with how they prepare foods, how they work, and you can then take those techniques and blend them into other traditions to create something new, different, and exciting… and that inspires you to continue to create even more unique and flavorful dishes!”

“A chef doesn’t have to be an artist… but to really achieve your own style or mark in the culinary world, you have to view it as your own artistic expression.”


You can enjoy the artistic expression of Chef Scott at your own table just by visiting “Highball & Harvest” at Orlando’s Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes… and partake in his life mantra: Live, Eat, Breathe, Cook! Namaste!

Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot