The Local: Winter Garden—May/June 2024

Page 1

WINTER GARDEN I MAY/JUNE 2024 and the Foreign No More Bruno Fonseca’s recipe for success 54 Shell Shock The area’s 7 best taco spots 120 Dish & Tell Readers share their best bites 78 Debut! Scenes of South Lake 25 THE FOOD ISSUE Featuring A passion for food turns into something for Chef Barbara Alfano and Raul Lecuona 40 BIGGEST ISSUE EVER!
Residential & Commercial 407-720-4774 Grills • Louvered Pergolas • Outdoor Kitchens • Motorized Screens Outdoor Furniture • Composite Decks • And more! TRUSTED BRANDS INCLUDE HAMLIN SHOWROOM NOW OPEN! With everything outdoor from total renovation to the latest grills

Home for the Recipies

We Do Talk About Bruno

contents The Food Issue featuring 66 Second Helping Second Harvest Food Bank nourishes lives. KATE MCDONALD 40 Amore Chef Barbara Alfano and Raul Lecuona on nding love and family in the passionate pursuit of food. HEATHER ANNE LEE 54
Bruno Fonseca’s recipe for success: Make it delicious. Make it beautiful. Share it with people. HEATHER ANNE LEE 78 Dish & Tell Readers dish about the meals they crave most. 79 Don Pancho 80 Urban on Plant 82 Gingers Baking Co. 83 Cilanto & Spice Kitchen 84 Simply Capri 86 Rusteak 88 Skyline Chili 89 Market to Table 90 The Tasting Room 4 The Local WINTER GARDEN

You’re not just our patient. You’re our neighbor. Since 2018, we’ve been honored to provide exceptional care for the Central Florida region we proudly call home. Together, we can foster a partnership focused on health and wellness. Giving you more reasons to choose well.

Minutes From Home. A Lifetime of Healing.
contents The Food Issue departments WINTER GARDEN Foreign No More Bruno Fonseca recipe for success Shell Shock The area’s 7 best taco spots 120 Dish & Tell their best bites Debut! Scenes of South Lake FOOD Featuring A passion into something for Chef Barbara Alfano and Raul Lecuona 40 BIGGEST ISSUE EVER! Amore the cover Peperoncino’s Chef Barbara Alfano and Raul Lecuona. FRED LOPEZ promotional features 21 A Delicious Analogy IQ Portfolios 33 A Real Estate Revelation Revel Realty 52 A Strong Foundation Foundation Academy 64 Homemade Viewpoint Design & Installation 76 Art Forms Artful Ortho dontics special section To Dine For 98 Grande Escape Grande Lakes Orlando 100 Culinary Spheres Hemisphere 102 Perfect Pair JW Mariott 104 Feel Good Food Mouthfeel 106 On Pointe The Pointe Orlando 108 Spice of Life The Spice & Tea Exchange 110 A Steak Lovers’ Brunch STK Orlando 112 Swan Dines The Swan and Dolphin 114 Food, Fun & Fussball Schweini’s Delicatessen 115 Curry Up Cilantro 116 Whisked Away The Whiskey 117 Crabcakes & More A Plate Above 10 For Starters Healing an aching heart through culinary therapy 14 Garden Variety The Play Boys 24 Tails Joey The Cat 25 Scenes of South Lake Banks Helfrich, Alysha Jackson, GCCF & more 92 Oh, Well He Med, She Med 118 Taste From Pit to Party Shell Shock 130 Rhetoric The Cost of Co 6 The Local WINTER GARDEN

• PERGOLAS Before After






Kaitlin Guerin, owner of Lagniappe Baking, New Orleans, LA

A work of art deserves a proper pedestal.

Pastry is a delicate dance of butter, flour, and technique where bakers can create edible works of art. We kept this in mind with our new 48-inch Built-in French Door Refrigerator. From dual compressors that keep temperatures within 1°F, to a 5-mode Convertible Drawer for special ingredients to all the capacity you need, it ensures the last step to the plate is as cared for as the first.

See how we respect food at every level at

Copyright 2024© Signature Kitchen Suite, 111 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. All rights reserved. “Signature Kitchen Suite” and the Signature Kitchen Suite logo are trademarks of Signature Kitchen Suite. Southeast Steel Appliance Warehouse 63 West Amelia Street, Orlando, FL 32801 407-423-7654
True to foodTM • 5-mode Convertible Drawer • Extra-large Capacity • Craft Ice TM • SignatureFitTM Design Visit our showroom near you: PA071323
Presenting the 48-inch French Door Refrigerator by Signature Kitchen Suite

For Starters

Last month, my life collapsed like a sou é after someone slammed the oven door.

My relationship ended abruptly, and in a matter of days, I watched movers pack my things and deliver them to an empty apartment across town. Once the door nally closed and I was alone, looking at my life now in boxes, I did the only thing my heart really knew to do in that moment: I went to the kitchen to slice and simmer my way toward some semblance of healing.

I aggressively chopped shallots and crushed tomatoes. I used cayenne and chili crisp when rage lled me, carbs and red wine when sadness washed over me, and vinegar when bitterness hollowed me out again. Every emotion I tossed into the pan only made the dish more delicious—a selfre ective culinary experiment. In those moments, cooking for myself, a newly named “party of one,” I discovered that the only way out of my sadness was through it.

I found solace in the words of two writers-turned-cooks who emulsi ed their own heartbreak into the pages of their books. Nora Ephron’s novel-withrecipes, Heartburn, was written in the raw aftermath of heartbreak. And Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, penned as she grieved the abrupt end of her career at Gourmet magazine. These two women invited readers into their kitchen therapy sessions, shattering the idea of what it means to live through heartache. They embraced their pain and transformed it into something that can nourish others.

Like good food, good writing is easy to devour and satisfying to prepare. Each is an art and a skill wielded to ful ll and delight. In the following pages are stories of passion, avor, hunger, and rich, decadent layers of love. Proving yet again that food can be a key ingredient to life’s most extraordinary stories. And so, like Nora and Ruth, I cook. Right now, my inner life is consumed with worries, failures, fears, and loneliness. I have no answers. Just a tiny glimpse at the rubble of my past, even as I sauté my way to a more beautiful future.And every day that goes by, cooking feels more and more like my way of saying “I love you”... to myself.

I hope you’re hungry.

Ace Hardware (Hamlin)

AntiquiTeas @Plant St Market

Axiom Bank Hamlin

Cariera’s Fresh Italian

Driftwood Market

Everything Local (Clermont)

Foxtail Co ee Co.

Gochi Sushi

Home State Brewing Co.

Je ’s Bagel Run

Little Greek @WG Village

Ocoee Taco Company

Orange County Public

Library, Winter Garden

Pammie’s Sammies


Poke by Gochi

Polka Dotz

Puppy Dreams

Rosallie Le French Cafe

Seacoast Bank

Schweini’s Deli

Sweet Dee’s Cupcakery

Thai Blossom

The French Cafe

Three Birds Cafe

Tony’s Liquor

WG Heritage Museum

Writer’s Block Bookstore

YMCA (Roper)

YMCA (Doc Phillips) and more!

Find Online @thelocalwg In Print
LOCALS SUPPORT A1 Aluminum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 A Plate Above 117 Ad Solutions Media 123 AdventHealth 63 Artful Orthodontics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76, 95 Centrum Executive Meeting Center . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Bryan Fifer, State Farm Agent 17 Clermont Brewing Company 125 Cilantro 115, 125 Charles Schwab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Daniel’s Cheesesteak Express 126 Fit 407 95 Foundation Academy 52 Go Figure Accounting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Gochi Japanese Kitchen 126 Grande Lakes Orlando 98 Gymnastics USA 31 Inspirazione Italian Sandwiches . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 Hemisphere Orlando . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Horizon West Roofing 75 IQ Portfolios 21 Kitchen Fun with Sherrie 129 JW Mariott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102 Mary Kay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Mouthfeel 104 Orange County Library System 85 OrlandoHealth 5 Orlando International Airport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Orlando Outdoor Living 2 Pammie’s Sammies 127, 131 The Peach Cobbler Factory 127 Pilars Loft. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 The Pointe Orlando 106 Poke by Gochi 127 Polka Dotz 123 Revel Realty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 The Roasted Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128 Safely SoftWash 91 Shelly Dawson Realtor 85 Schweini’s Deli 114, 128 Southeast Steel Appliance Warehouse . . . . . . . . .8 Southeastern Fitness Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Southern on 8th 23 The Spice & Tea Exchange 108 STK Steakhouse 110, 128 Thai Blossom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129 United Rehabilitation 13 The Whiskey 116 Viewpoint Design and Installation 64 Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin . . . . . . . . . . 112 We Are Winter Garden 18 Winter Garden Family Law Firm 95 Winter Garden Senior Home Care 3 And Em Agency! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 Everyone says they support local, but the businesses below really do! They are why you get The Local for free. Please thank them with your support. (Don’t see your fave business here? Consider finding a new fave business.) We’re happy you The Local. We really making it for you. To join The Local economy
18 Awards for editorial and design excellence in just our first two years WINTER GARDEN May/June 2024 Vol. 3 No. 06 ©2024 Em Agency. All rights reserved. Published monthly. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Em Agency. Reader submissions have been edited for length or clarity. Advertising of products does not imply endorsement. Em Agency can not be held liable for the business practices of these companies. 407-573-6061 / @EMagencyinc ADVISORY BOARD EDITORIAL
Anne Lee Editor
Lopez Chief Photographer
Miklosey Web
McDonald Marketing
Senior Home Care
Building Corp.
Heather Heather Diaz Writer Mark McWaters
Tarin Scarbrough
Andrew Ontko Art
Josh Clark
Wendy Mak Designer Rheya Tanner
Austin Arthur Co-CEO Stars and Stripes Marketing Services Shelley Dawson Realtor RE/MAX Prime Properties Tara Zele Director of Operations Bryan Fifer State Farm Insurance Kirsten Harrington Freelance Writer Becca Lanterman Bradford Owner, Winter Garden
Mark Schmidt New Business Development, Boyer
Pam Thomas Owner & Founder, Pammie’s Sammies
Nicole Spooner Account Executive 407-595-4793 Jamie Ezra Mark Publisher 352-425-6400 Sara Noboa Account Executive 602-284-1583

Don’t let joint pain or muscle strains keep you from playing pickleball. Our expert physical therapists will create a personalized treatment plan to get you out of pain and back in the game.


The Play Boys

Five West Orange High School students with a passion for jazz.


As Louis Armstrong once said, if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know. With its improvisational air and rhythmic complexity, jazz music has long captivated musicians and audiences alike. And apparently West Orange teenagers as well.

For Angelo, Asher, Christian, Dylan, and Kaiden, jazz isn’t just music; it’s a way of life, a rebellion against the mainstream cacophony that dominates their peers’ playlists. They nd solace in the intricate improvisations of Thelonious Monk and the sultry vocals of Billie Holiday, their spirits soaring with each blistering trumpet solo and mournful piano ballad. These young virtuosos, united by their melomania for jazz, share their experiences, aspirations, and the transformative power of music. Together, their individual talents intertwine to create magic on stage.

Kaiden Hunter found his calling in the deep resonance of the bass.

“Originally, I picked the tuba, but my band director nudged me toward the bass for jazz band,” he shares with a grin. “And I’ve stuck with it ever since.”

For Angelo Del Oro, the allure of jazz came through family in uence. “My cousin’s trumpet performances sparked something in me,” he explains. “From there, I transitioned from the violin to the trumpet.”

Asher Whitman’s musical journey began unexpectedly, with a piano donated to his family. “I started tinkering with it, and the rest is history,” he says.

Dylan Fontenot’s love for jazz blossomed in high school. “I started on euphonium but longed for the trombone,” he recalls. “Joining the jazz band was a game-changer for me.”

Christian Josil, the cadence of the group, expresses, “I come from a musical family, so I


decided to pick up drums. I’ve been playing since middle school.”

Their bond transcends the school’s jazz band— they often rendezvous at Pilars, a local hotspot for jazz enthusiasts. “We play just about every week. It’s a place where we can express our true selves,” Asher re ects, emphasizing the joy found in their musical exchanges. Dylan nods. “We’ve formed friendships with seasoned musicians and even connected with professors from UCF,” he shares. “It’s a melting pot of inspiration and learning.”

For these young musicians, the stage is both a playground and a proving ground. “Performing live has boosted our condence dramatically,” Kaiden says with a smile.

“It’s where we push ourselves, make mistakes, and grow.” Dylan laughs, “That’s what jazz is:painted over mistakes.” Jazz, they agree, has left an indelible mark on their musical journey. “It’s the pinnacle of musical expression,” Angelo declares. “It’s subjective—unlike other styles of music, jazz allows for endless interpretation and creativity.” Christian muses, “Jazz is colorful, dirty, unpredictable; there isn’t just one word.” In its unpredictability lies its charisma—a space where each performer can express themselves freely. Consider them a new generation of musical guardians, keeping the ame of jazz burning bright for generations to come.

MAY / JUNE 2024 15

Closer to the Heart

The French Family Foundation making a di erence for families with disabilities one child at a time.

In 2021, Kelly French embarked on a mission close to her heart, fueled by personal experiences and a desire to make a difference. After welcoming her son with a birth diagnosis of Down syndrome in 2013, Kelly’s journey led her to the heart of the disability community. In 2020, the family expanded through adoption, embracing a child with autism, ADHD, and apraxia.

Driven by compassion, the French Family Foundation was born in 2021, aiming to support local families with disabilities. Kelly expresses, “Our mission is to provide support to local families of people with disabilities, as well as giving nancial support to families looking to adopt children with a disability.”

Despite facing challenges in awareness, the foundation has garnered positive

community response through initiatives like 5k fundraisers and virtual receptions. Kelly emphasizes the importance of overcoming hurdles, stating, “Our two biggest struggles are getting the word out and nding more board members.”

With a vision for the future, the foundation aims to raise $100,000 in 2024, intending to address immediate needs and pave the way for businesses

providing employment for people with disabilities.

Kelly nds ful llment in the impact, noting, “The best part is meeting people we’ve helped, sponsors, and donors who are passionate like we are. It feels like we’re going down the right path, making a difference, even if it’s just one child at a time.”

To get involved: frenchfamily

Charity Spotlight Garden Variety 16 The Local WINTER GARDEN

For Life

*Bryan Fifer First

For the family you’d do anything to protect, State Farm provides simple, affordable ways to secure their future. To find out how, ask your local “bestie.”

3724 Winter Garden Vineland Rd

Garden Variety

Must Haves

Market vendors spotlight their favorite wares Nick Sovercool RHN Wagyu LLC

“The Denver Steak is our favorite cut of meat—it tastes like our ribeye, but it’s not as expensive. I could have it with every meal!”

John, Nathan, and Johnny Kresl

Tres Amigos Grill

“Our Skirt Steak Breakfast Tacos are mouth-watering. It just melts in your mouth, creating a savory experience that’s nothing short of extraordinary.”

Lorenzo & Olivia Salas

Tracy’s Cheesecake

“The Strawberry Classic is our best seller, delivering a burst of fresh strawberry goodness that perfectly complements the rich, creamy texture of our classic cheesecake.”


Local History


Every week, as Rod Reeves, the founding director of the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, conducted art

Mama’s hand me down recipes make delicious reading.

weren’t just nostalgic anecdotes but legacies of culinary expertise and timeless advice.

Reeves realized the impor-

Cracklin’ Corn Bread

1 ½ cups corn meal

½ tsp. salt

2 tbs. our

MAY / JUNE 2024 19

Victoria Pines

Spice & Tea Exchange

Fave food combination: Beef Kelaguen

Guilty pleasure food: Cookies & cream ice cream

Fave home-cooked meal: My father’s lasagna

Salty or Sweet: Salty

Denise Mead  Swalty Sisters

Fave food combination: Sweet and salty (swalty)

Guilty pleasure food: Dark Chocolate

Fave home-cooked meal: My mom’s beef strogano

Salty or Sweet: Salty


Sean O’Neill, the man behind the area’s rowdiest Facebook group, reshares some standouts.

Wanted to RAVE about Sizzlin Greens! We stopped in for lunch today and it was awesome. The space was really clean, well decorated, one of the owners, Jason, greeted us and explained some background on the store: all organic locally sourced produce, grass fed beef, and cage free/antibiotic free chicken. All soups and dressings are made daily in house. My husband had a Pick 2 with the Philly Cheesesteak and Southwest salad with chicken, he said it was amazing, will 100% come back for it and I had the potato soup which was incredible! ~Rave posted by Taylor Boyer on April 7

Have a rave to share?

Here are ve tips for posting a rave on WGRRR:

1. Always include the business name and location!

2. If it’s a restaurant, the more descriptive you can get is better. Pictures of the food are always good, and if you had great service, make sure you get the server’s name and mention them. That goes a long way.

3. If it is a service you received, be descriptive, mention the name and location of the business, and the person who helped you.

4. Try to make it short—maybe a paragraph or two. If you write a rave that is a book long, you’re going to lose a lot of readers.

5. Remember, small businesses thrive with support. If that business has done a great job, they’d love to hear about it.

Experience Winter Garden’s Rants Raves Reviews Facebook group for yourself:

Vocal Locals
Garden Variety


IQ Portfolios (IQP) is an independent State Registered Investment Adviser Firm located in Windermere, FL. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an o er or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.

Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial advisor and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. A copy of IQP’s current written disclosure statement discussing IQP’s business operation, services, and fees is available upon request.



Variety is the Spice of Life. Just as a balanced meal includes a variety of foods, a balanced investment portfolio includes a variety of asset classes. Stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities all have a place at the investment table.

Quality Over Quantity

With food, quality matters more than quantity. It’s the same with investing. It’s not about having a lot of investments. A few, high-quality investments can often yield better results than many mediocre ones.

Avoid Junk

Just as junk food can harm your health, ‘junk’ investments can damage


your nancial health. It’s important to stay informed and avoid investments that seem too good to be true.

Get Regular Check-ups

Regular health checkups help you monitor your physical well-being and adjust your diet as needed. Similarly, regular portfolio reviews can help you adjust your investments based on market conditions and personal circumstances.

Be Patient

Good, nutritious food often takes time to impact overall health. In the same way, investing also requires patience. It takes time for investments to grow and for the compounding e ect to manifest.

In conclusion, the principles of maintaining a good diet can o er valuable lessons for investors. By adopting these principles, one can navigate the financial markets more e ectively and work towards a healthier financial future.

Professional Guidance

A nutritionist can provide expert guidance and create a diet to achieve your health goals. Similarly, a nancial advisor can tailor an investment strategy that suits your lifestyle

Financial questions?

Just ask Andy!

IQ Portfolios is an independent stateregistered investment adviser firm. Always

Promotional Feature
MAY / JUNE 2024 21

Garden Variety

Kasey Fava

Ancient Olive

Favorite food combination: Freaky Tiki’s Pineapple Pickles

Guilty pleasure food: Tony’s Chocolonely

Fave home-cooked meal: Grilled cheese & tomato soup

Salty or Sweet: Salty Vocal Locals

There’s a new vibe in town!

Keep your eyes peeled for this orange golf cart and 6-top bar trailer where Chris Chan will be hosting his new podcast and handing out fun Vibes merch.

Big news from Matthew’s Hope Minstries (@matthewshopeministries). Founder and CEO Scott Billue named Shelley Bradford as the operation’s president and executive director, and Shannon Diaz as its new Orange County campus director. Congratulations! The newly opened Shen Tea Boba (@shenteaboba) has your favorite sips and savory bites as well. Take your Boba on the road and and check out Hive Boutique (@hiveboutiquewg), a women’s shoes and accessories boutique on Boyd Street. Looking for clothes for a younger fashionista?

Valerie’s Garden Boutique (@valeriesgardenbabiesandtoddlers) is a children’s-only store showcasing baby and toddler essentials. Lovers of healthy fast food rejoice!

Sizzlin Greens (@sizzlingreens) is now open and re-defining what it means to be “quick-service”. With options for veggie and meat lovers alike, make this a must go when you are out and about. For those with a sweet tooth, head to the mall and check out the new home of Signature Bake House (@signature_ bakehouse), specializing in the ”Art of Pie.” Or, if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the newest queso hot spot, run to Tacos Padrisimo (@tacospadrisimo) now open in the former Tres Amigos space o of Dillard. Love Winter Garden so much you want to ink it? Well, now you can!

Winter Garden Tattoo (@wintergardentattooco) is open and ready to create art for you. Then go show o that ink at Wine O’Clock Bistro (@wineoclockbistro) or Antojitos Loco’s (@antojitoslocosfl) opening soon on McKey Street in Ocoee.

Good news to share?

Send to:

the Garden
There’s always good news in

At Schwab, we hold ourselves accountable for your satisfaction. It’s why we offer a Satisfaction Guarantee, which ensures that if you’re ever dissatisfied with us, we’ll refund your fee and work with you to make things right. You won’t find that kind of promise everywhere, but you will find it here. Michael Wytiaz,

If you are not completely satisfied for any reason, at your request Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”), Charles Schwab Bank (“Schwab Bank”), or another Schwab affiliate, as applicable, will refund any eligible fee related to your concern within the required time frames. Schwab reserves the right to change or terminate the guarantee at any time. Go to to learn what’s included and how it works.

is the
Branch Leader
Schwab way.
1600 Hancock Road, Suite D Clermont, FL 34711 352-404-5238 Get started at We see things through your eyes.
(1120-0JP6) SCH11302-42 (08/23)
© 2023 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”) Member SIPC. All rights reserved.

How you doin’? I’m Joey, and let me tell ya, life doesn’t get better than this. I started o as a barn cat, lost a leg, but who cares? I rock the threelegged swagger. And you know what else? Don’t mess with my meals, seriously. Joey doesn’t share food. You get between me and my grub, and you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Life’s too short for sharing meals. So, respect the food zone, and we’ll all get along just fine.

Sponsored By The Savvy Sitter Home & Pet Sitting Tails Does your pet have a tail to tell? 24 The Local WINTER GARDEN
Joey The Cat

Scenes of

MAY / JUNE 2024 25
Accidental Farmer 26 Flour Power 28 Seeing Stars 30 Bras for the Cause 32

The Accidental Farmer

For Banks Helfrich, sustainability isn’t a buzzword; it’s a personal calling.

Banks Helfrich stands barefoot in the dirt, a tangle of tomatoes, lacinto kale, turnip greens, squash blossoms, and edible owers rising to meet the folded cu s of his muddy overalls. “My Minnesota tuxedo,” he says with a warm smile. Out here on the farm, there’s no sign of tra c congestion, no crowds.

Just … peace. The clanking of bamboo and sugarcane. The rustling of lemongrass. A steady hum of honey bees.“When I’m here, in the dirt, I can just let go of everything and live in the moment. I’m free,” he says. Banks treasures freedom. The American kind, which is why he’s also an independent candidate for the Florida House of Rep-

resentatives. But there’s more to Banks than just politics—he’s also deeply passionate about farming. For him, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a personal calling.

Born in Tarpon Springs, Banks grew up on three acres in New Port Richey, the 6th in a family of

eight.“We had one cow, one horse, a couple of chickens, and a small vegetable garden. I always loved working in the garden. I mean, what boy doesn’t try to dig their way to China?” he jokes. “I grew up with dirt under my ngernails; it’s in my blood to do this.”

And by this, he means the seven-acre food forest he’s cultivating o Sam’s Lake Road in Clermont.

Long before he was a farmer, however, Banks attended Auburn University, then moved to Georgia State University for graduate school in Sports Nutrition, but seven months before graduation, he chucked it all to join the circus. “I went to clown college, literally,” Banks


says. “Ringling Brother’s Barnum Bailey Clown College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fun Arts.”

Indeed, his life is peppered with a colorful cast of characters from the two years he spent on the road with the Greatest Show on Earth. After circus life, he dabbled in standup comedy and acting. His other career highlights also include writer, editor, lmmaker, and lm historian. And while he still pens a column for the Clermont Sun, dabbles in acting, and spends four hours every day networking and door-knocking, his passion is tending the land.

“I bought this property, a former citrus grove, in 2013, but didn’t move here until 2016 and built the house in 2018. My favorite thing is the outdoor shower, but it took a long time to gure out how to make that work,” he says with a laugh. Though Banks is an

extrovert, and loves talking to “anyone with a pulse,” he actually enjoys doing the DIY work himself.

From outdoor showers to rainwater collection to grey water recycling, Banks has built it all from scratch.

It wasn’t until 2020, during the pandemic, that the food forest component of the farm came to fruition. “Pineapples, mulberries, blackberries, blueberries, sugarcane, a food-bearing orchard. Plus a vegetable garden, herb garden, and I even had a tea garden!”

“What I’m attempting to create is a sustainable oasis,” he says. “We live with concrete under our feet, and we have forgotten the feeling of the earth. We forgot how great it is to eat something o the plant. I call it the real fast food, from plant to mouth. None of this McDonald’s stu . And it’s not just me.

“We have forgotten the feeling of the earth. We forgot how great it is to eat something off the plant. I call it the real fast food, from plant to mouth.”

There’s a real hunger in people to get back to the earth. I think COVID did it, in a way. When the shelves at grocery stores were empty, people had to rethink where they would get their food. This farm is my way of showing them how it can be done.”

Which is exactly why Banks opens his farm to the public once a month for complimentary “Here On The Farm” tours. “All you need to bring is a bucket/bag, a hat, and your curiosity,” he says.

For Banks, it’s about more than just farming— “It’s all about community,” he says, his voice tinged with the sincerity of a man deeply rooted in the earth. “Connecting people to the land, and connecting people

MAY / JUNE 2024 27

Istarted baking sourdough and just couldn’t get enough of it,” Alysha Jackson says. “As long as I can remember, I’ve been cooking for my siblings, college roommates, and now for my family, especially as I started looking for healthier options.”

The owner and baker behind Minneola’s thriving Wild Flour Home Bakery is on a mission to share the bene ts—and deli-

ciousness—of sourdough. Thanks to its fermented starter, sourdough is a healthier alternative to conventional bread, with better digestibility, a lower glycemic index, natural prebiotics, and increased nutrient absorption.

“I started baking more than we could eat, and there was a need in the community for a bakery, so selling the extra loaves just seemed logical,” she says. Her menus drop each week via social media, and orders

can be picked up from her home on Fridays. “ There’s always a classic artisan sourdough loaf, but Olive and Rosemary and Jalapeño Cheddar Loaf are crowd favorites,” she says. Recently, she added sourdough scones to the mix, ranging from sweet to savory.

“I love Minneola. The small-town feel, the sunshine ...having four young children, it’s the perfect place to raise our family.” And a growing bread business. “Like families, food and bread take time to create and

prepare … they also take much love.”

And with that love, Alysha weighs, shapes, and scores every loaf, scone, and cookie that goes out into the community, kneading a treat for everyone.

Alysha Jackson sprinkles her sourdough magic across Minneola.
MAY / JUNE 2024 29

Seeing Stars

Groveland is leading the way in e orts to turn down light pollution and embrace the night.

From the dawn of time, stars have captivated humanity, weaving their way into our religions, our stories, and our art. And yet, they’re slowly disappearing. Van Gogh painted his famous “Starry Night” in Saint Rémy, France, and now, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.

Yet, there is hope on the horizon. Across the nation, cities are taking a stand against light pollution, vowing to preserve the wonder of the night sky. And in a groundbreaking move, Groveland has become the rst city in Florida—and the rst in the southeastern U.S.—to earn the prestigious designation of a Dark Sky Community.

Securing this certi cation from DarkSky International is no small feat. It requires years of dedication and e ort. But for Groveland, the

rewards are manifold. Not only do residents see the stars—they also see reduced energy consumption, lowered electricity bills, improved health, enhanced environmental protection, increased ecotourism, and even accomplished safer streets.

Moreover, dark sky areas—parks, communities, and reserves—safeguard true wilderness conditions vital for space research and local ecosystems. They are reminders of the critical importance of protecting public lands, day and night.

You don’t have to be an astronomer to appreciate the beauty of a starry night. For the residents of Groveland, and those who are ocking there to catch a peek at an uninterrupted view of the stars, you have a safe place to gaze, chart, or even wish on the stars in the night sky, thanks to DarkSky. What’s

Oh hello, South Lake! We’re so happy to be here. First things first…get your copy of The Local at Everything Local (@everythinglocalco) in downtown Clermont. It’s great reading material while you wait for a table at Salt Shack on the Lake (@saltshackonthelake). Or, if dim sum is more your style, hop in the car and head to Dim Sum House (@dimsumhouse.fl) for authentic Cantonese favorites. Feel like cooking? Stop at the newly opened Harvest Market (@theharvestfl), a specialty market for all things farm fresh, certified organic and locally sourced. Speaking of farm fresh, head to the Groveland Community Market for the pasture-raised poultry from O beat Acres (@o beatacresfl) or Harrison Creek Farms (@HarrisonCreekFarm12).

Definitely worth searching out! If botanical remedies are more your style, be sure to check out Livin’ Boho Apothecary (@livinboho) for your natural health needs.

Good news to share?

Send to:

new Good things are always going on in South Lake 30 The Local WINTER GARDEN
BOOK NOW! 529 E Crown Point Rd, Ste 125, Ocoee EXECUTIVE MEETING SUITE Our executive meeting suite is comfortable, convenient, and equipped with the latest tech. • 98”videoscreen • Flexible layout • Sink and Refrigerator • 1000 sq ft area • Close to 429 & Turnpike new year new look Get a free private consultation Call or text Jan at 352-978-5550 CELEBRATE. AMAZE. SPARKLE.

Busting Stereotypes

At the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation raising awareness also comes with a little extra underwire humor.

In 2004, a bunch of local heroes banded together to create the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation (GCCF), dedicated to giving a hand to cancer patients and their families in South Lake County. As a volunteer-run nonpro t, GCCF’s mission remains unwavering: to provide nancial assistance, support, and

comfort to those battling cancer. O ering a range of grants, including patient assistance and scholarships for a ected family members, as well as screening and test grants for various cancer types, GCCF lessens the daily challenges encountered by patients and their loved ones.

Now, how do they keep the lights on? With love

and generous support from local businesses and kind-hearted individuals. And let’s not forget the yearly bash that’s become the talk of the town: “Bras for the Cause & Boxers, Too” fashion show and auction. Picture this: locals showing o their creative air by decking out bras and boxers in the quirkiest designs imaginable.

This year’s Leather & Lace themed event sold out months in advance, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the charity.

Event Director Marie

Howd says, “People are always asking, ‘What can I do?’ Well, this is what we can do—get involved.” It takes a village, and GCCF has cultivated one “supportive” crew. Pun intended.

A Real Estate Revelation It’s time for Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 33

Suzi Karr Realty is now

Revel Realty

More than just a new name, Revel reflects a new approach to real estate. Say goodbye to “selling homes” and hello to celebrating milestones.

Sapp are no exception. From Sapp stepped foot into Suzi Karr Realty 16 years ago, to tinct concept. He envisioned something more transparent,

Revel Realty, and when May

“Buying a home is so much more than a transaction on a page. Unfortunately, for many in our business, real estate is purely a numbers game. Get the listing, get the sale, cash the checks, and go do it all over again. Not here. Not at Revel. We’re here to celebrate homeownership for buyers and sellers for the milestone it is, for the life impact it will have.

“Real estate is a business, but it is also personal. People don’t just move into a home, they move into a

community, a school district, a lifestyle that fulfills the basic needs of their family. Our agency roots run deep in our community, with most of our agents either from or living in Dr. Philips, Windermere, or Winter Garden. So, we know all the churches, the schools, the shopping areas, the restaurants—and the neighborhoods.”

But it’s not just about what you know, it’s what you do with that knowledge that matters, and Revel Realty does plenty. “Our approach,”

Promotional Feature 34 The Local WINTER GARDEN
MAY / JUNE 2024 35

huge milestone— something to celebrate!

Revel Realty is here to turn your house hunt into a house party, and turn every buyer and seller into the


Revel was born out of a desire to change the real estate game — to pull back the curtain keeping buyers and sellers out of the sale. Our agents are your advocates, prioritizing people over commission and involving you in every conversation.


A home isn’t just about the house. More than just layouts and amenities, we make it our business to know the neighborhood — from schools and churches to social hotspots — of every home we show and sell.


Watch the story unfold


We know a thing or two about the spotlight, and we love to shine it on our homes. For sellers, a Revel sign in the front yard is a sign of quality, and our expert design team gives your listing the perfect presentation that no one will be able to ignore.
Promotional Feature 36 The Local WINTER GARDEN
v te! Time to
te! Choose Your Favorites in More Than 100 Categories! Vote May 1-31 @ Winners announced in the July/August issue! Readers’ Choice Awards 2024
Chef Barbara Alfano and Raul Lecuona on finding love and family in the passionate pursuit of food.


MAY / JUNE 2024 41


Peperoncino is a loud, happy restaurant. Its floors are Roman travertine; its ceiling is tin; its interior walls are vibrant red and yellow. On one side, a marble-top bar cuts a swath through half the space, standing room only on many nights. The other half is the service counter for the open kitchen, where Chef-Owner Barbara Alfano sends out more than a hundred covers a night. When she flames the wine in a seafood pasta sauce, the dimly lit room ignites, and patrons grin with delight.

The only voice louder than the happy guests is that of Sommelier Raul Lecuona, whose Tucciesque, bespeckled, preppy frat-boy baritone booms through the din, almost always followed by an extraordinary laugh. The playfulness and colorful storytelling invariably make customers feel at home and certainly come back for more.

This lively, narrow trattoria, reminiscent of eateries in Italy, is

the epitome of a neighborhood haunt. No pretentiousness, just seriously delicious, authentic Southern Italian food. A home away from home—which is exactly what Barbara envisioned when she converted the former children’s boutique in the Dellagio Plaza on Dr. Phillips’ Restaurant Row 14 years ago. A stunning achievement in a notoriously volatile industry, and a testament to Barbara’s vision, skill, and resolve, and to Raul’s ability to make guests feel like family.

This was supposed to be a story about food. It was supposed to be a story about chunks of tender polpo in a stew of Calabrian chilies and spicy, fatty ’nduja sausage spooned onto crunchy bread. Uncommonly delicious balsamic-drizzled burrata; creamy arancini stu ed with eggplant; house-made bread with smoked swordsh, grilled onions, and homemade ricotta. And don’t forget the ery, sweet, smoky, slightly tangy peperoncino. Instead, I discovered a love story. Then again,

isn’t that what good Italian food is?

Calabria In Cucina

At the southern “toe” of the Italian peninsula lies an Italy that few people know: a land of ancient olive groves, fragrant bergamot orchards, dramatic coastlines and terraced hillside villages. A place steeped in tradition and ritual, where the sword sh catch and hot pepper harvest are celebrated with vibrant festivals, where everyone’s nonna hosts Sunday supper, and women still roll pasta dough around knitting needles.

Chef Barbara’s obsession with the sea (and seafood!) began early, shown here at the beach in Sapri, Salerno.


This is Calabria, the scenic and storied region where cooks maintain a food culture unique to Italy, each dish a tale of tradition and terroir. Calabria is the kingdom of eggplant and tomato, where every cook knows dozens of ways to prepare these vegetables, together and separately. Pork, lamb, and goat are the dominant meats, roasted simply with wild herbs and potatoes, or made into rustic, slow-cooked pasta sauces. The sea yields incomparable tuna and sword sh, anchovies and sardines, as

well as octopus, clams, and mussels.

Rooted in the garden and enlivened by the peperoncino (hot pepper), Calabrian cooking is rustic, spicy, and deeply avorful.

Much like Barbara herself.The Italian-born beauty spent her youth immersed in Calabrian culture. “My mom’s side is from Salerno, just below Napoli, in the north, and my dad’s side is Calabrian, from a little town in the mountains called Saracena. I spent almost every summer with my grandmother in Calabria. Even after we moved to

Venezuela, my parents would send me, and I loved it!”

“Sundays were always my favorite. They would have this long table for lunch with all the family, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors. I loved being in the kitchen, sneaking tastes of the tiramisu and helping my aunts with the dough. As I got older, I would sit for hours with whatever basket the neighbors brought over … fresh gs, fava beans, whatever was in season … helping prepare them for the Sunday meal. Hours and hours of cooking and

eating and laughing and playing, and then cleaning up. Those memories inspire me to this day. Such a happy time. I wish my kids had that. Even though we eat together, it’s not the same.”

Barbara’s blue-grey eyes well up with happy tears. “I’m so emotional,” she says with a smile, wiping the tears. “I cry over everything. It’s the Italian in me.”

She’s not wrong. Over an al fresco lunch, Barbara’s emotions spill over into the meal easily and often. But in an endearing way.

“The restaurant is my child,” she explains. “I always say I have four kids. First, my daughter. Then Peperoncino. And now my two boys.”

Her oldest daughter is now 17, and Peperoncino just turned 14. (The boys are 6 and 7.) And much like children, those years have been lled with peaks and valleys. “Love and divorce. Birth and death. People have lied to me, stolen from me, broken my heart, and my wallet. Covid nearly ruined me.

Eight year old Raul (bottom row, red shirt) at the Lounge and Restaurant on his family’s ranch in Venezuela.

MAY / JUNE 2024 43


But every day when I walk into the kitchen and I turn on the gas, I’m home. And the customers are my family. Some have been coming three or four times a week for 14 years. And still, they taste the food and they cry, saying I just tasted my nonna’s supper. And then I cry again. It’s so emotional. But that’s beautiful, right? That’s food. That’s life.”

And indeed, for Barbara, it’s all about the food. The food she ate as a young girl in Calabria, lovingly replicated in various forms on her menu. The purest expression of her

love of family, friends, heritage, and hospitality in every bite.

A tavola!

Raul has been hosting and entertaining, in one form or another, for some four decades now. He’s always had that certain élan, a masterful blend of charm and charisma. He banters irtatiously with anyone who listens; his hands move with the uidity of a con dent man dealing an ace from the bottom of the deck. And oh the stories this man can tell. A gregarious, con dent storyteller, Raul’s colorful

anecdotes pepper every conversation he has, whether it’s two minutes or two hours.

Consider the espresso sidecar—a small glass of sparkling water or seltzer served alongside the demitasse.“Espresso is a really concentrated, intense beverage. When it’s a well-balanced shot, that intensity is unbelievable because it’s a lot for your palate at once,” Raul explains. “It’s nice to have something to prepare your palate, then cleanse it, possibly during and at the end of the cup. It’s a beautiful little tradition

that I recently discovered and now I share it with everyone I like.”

Or the way he gets incredibly excited about curating Peperoncino’s wine list. “You nd grapes here that you won’t nd anywhere else. It’s going to Italy without the passport and the jetlag.” Something that we can all thank them for.

His career has orbited the world of food and drink nearly from the start. “I grew up in Venezuela, in the country. My family had a working ranch and a hotel, where we hosted guests from around the world. I remember as a little boy, as early as 8 or 9, being a guide, a host, and the one responsible for taking care of the children of the guests. This was the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, it was a di erent Venezuela at that time.

““My grandfather, a proud University of Texas alumnus, had the idea for adventure tourism long before it became popular,” Raul says. And then takes a moment to add, “My Left: First date magic and the beginning of something beautiful.

Right: Pecorino Fritto drizzled with honey and spicy peperoncino.

“People have lied to me, stolen from me, broken my heart, and my wallet. But every day when I walk into the kitchen and I turn on the gas, I’m home.”
MAY / JUNE 2024 45


Burrata con Pomodori Freschi Fresh burrata served over vine-ripened tomatoes dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil and a hint of garlic

whole family would come to America to study. It’s why we all speak such good English. Anyway, he managed the ranch, established a hotel, and even became a private pilot.

“At the hotel, we welcomed between 80 to 120 guests who would arrive in Caracas. Then, my grandfather would personally y them to our ranch. We o ered private charters and a range of activities such as piranha shing, horseback riding,

animal sightings, bird watching, hiking, and swimming. Overall, we aimed to provide our guests with the best possible experience.

“But what I learned early on was how to take care of guests. How to connect with people. How to talk with strangers. How to entertain. My grandfather has this amazing ability to make people feel at ease and make them feel special. Depending on the personality of the guest,

he would invite them to a little table he had set aside for private conversation, and he would decide what kind of drink to serve that guest. Hospitality at its nest, and he was never wrong in his choices. Because he paid attention, he listened. It’s kind of the same process I use now when I decide what kind of wine to serve a guest. Sometimes it’s just instinct, but even after talking to you for a few minutes, I can always

learn something that will tell me what to pour for you.”

By all accounts, growing up on the ranch was an extraordinary experience, but Raul always yearned for more. In college, he pursued a degree in journalism and spent ve years in television, radio, and corporate journalism before nding himself disillusioned with the career. So he went back to school for sales and marketing and was

MAY / JUNE 2024 47


immediately recruited into the high-pressure world of pharmaceutical sales. A job that ultimately relocated him to Spain.

What he learned during those six years was a now-e ortless ability to read a room and to make a sale. “Pharmaceutical people are monsters of sales, training, and conventions. You learn quickly that you have only two minutes to make an impact, to stand out, to make a sale. Dozens of other companies

are competing for your spot every day. It’s a madhouse, literally a hamster wheel. You’re always chasing a number, and when you catch it, it changes.”

When it came time to reinvent himself yet again, Raul decided to return to his roots: hosting and entertaining. He began taking seasonal jobs in the restaurant industry throughout Europe, spending time in Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, and Spain. When

family members in the Orlando area encouraged him to come to America, his multicultural background and international experience opened the door to a work visa. “My English was already good, but I spoke three other languages, which made me valuable to companies like Disney with a high number of international travelers.”

After a few years, more family made the move to

his home with his two children, now 16 and 12.

“When I started to look for work, Peperoncino was hiring. Barbara hired me as a dishwasher,” he says with a laugh. “That was early 2018. But I think because of my personality, work ethic, and experience, I quickly took on other roles. Kitchen prep, ordering, and then cooking when Barbara needed help. But then one day, we’re cooking and

Risotto ai Funghi
MAY / JUNE 2024 49
Creamy shrimp risotto with wild mushrooms, finished with Parmigiano Reggiano, tru le pearls, and shaved black tru les


of the kitchen and start talking to guests.’ And that was a game changer for the restaurant. The storytelling, the sales, the guest experience … all my life’s experience nally started to make sense. Everything shifted. For the better. She saw how good I was with guests and how that made them feel. How I was able to describe the food and the wine. After a little while, she asked me to train everyone, and then I eventually took over the front of the house.”

That’s Amore

Pairing Barbara’s expertise in creating authentic, but approachable dishes with Raul’s evocative narratives is a ve-star recipe for success. The respect they have for one another is palpable, and they each stay in their own lane. Barbara in the kitchen; Raul as the culinary tour guide.

“People ask me all the time what my favorite dish is, but it’s not about me. Who cares what my opinion is,” Raul says with a laugh. “It’s more important to know what you like and what you don’t like. And sharing the stories of Barbara’s food … where the inspiration came from, the legacy in every dish. What


with Love

I do is simply match the ingredients and avors you like with the stories of Barbara’s food.”

That deep-rooted respect blossomed into a deep friendship and eventually a romantic relationship anchored by a shared passion for the restaurant. Only Barbara says it a little di erently: “Love

gifts—it is truly a match made in culinary heaven.

“You want to know why everybody loves Peperoncino? I’ll tell you in one word,” says Raul. “Family. There are plenty of good restaurants, but you come here for something more, to feel connected to something bigger than the food on the plate. The people, the human connection, that sense of being home, that’s what this place is all about.”

is the most important thing. Love for the food, love for the people, love for one another.”

Brought together by fate, this team is a palpable force to be reckoned with on the food scene in Central Florida. With their authentic roots, family-like setting, and deep-rooted respect for the other’s

I nod in agreement, but am entranced by precisely what is on our plates: the gnocchi are plump, the chunks of succuluent osso bucco, the pecorino melting into buttery pools in the rich, smoky sauce. The diners next to us crane their heads for a better look. “Excuse me, what is that?” one of them asks. Before I can reply with a sample, Raul is there in a ash, bringing extra from the kitchen. “Try this, you’re going to love it. It’s Chef Barbara’s special tonight. Her Nonna used to make a version of this, but she does it better.”

Their faces illuminate, Raul starts to tell more stories, and soon they’re laughing with delight— enjoying something bigger than the food on the plates, indeed.

Nonna Chef Barbara with her two biggest culinary influences: Nonna Atoinette, on the left, who has passed; and Nonna Concetta, on the right, just celebrated her 98th birthday.
“...Then one day, we’re cooking and she says, ‘That’s it. You talk too much. Get out of the kitchen, and start talking to guests.’ And that was a game changer for the restaurant.”
MAY / JUNE 2024 51

History of Growth

This year, Foundation Academy is celebrating its 65th year in Christ-centered education! Our story began in 1958, when the Plant St. Campus first opened its doors in historic Downtown Winter Garden. Nearly fifty years later, in 2006, Foundation expanded to 67-plus acres on Tilden Rd., allowing us to serve 7th–12th grades on campus. Finally, in 2019, we expanded once again, partnering with The Family Church to establish Foundation Academy Lakeside to K-6 grades. At Foundation Academy, we’re proud to call this our “family of campuses”—three beautiful campuses, all Christ-centered, one great school!

Meeting Demand

Over the past decade, the demand for high-quality Christian education has increased. According to Director of Marketing and Communications Joseph Cio i, “The demand for a Christ-centered education started with the cultural shifts in philosophy and values that influenced students’ environment and ultimately their curriculum in most public school o erings.”

In addition, he believes the pandemic played a pivotal role. “For the first time

in a long while, parents were experiencing firsthand what their children were being taught. They began to weigh the value of what their students were receiving, and in many cases, this led parents to seek a better, more meaningful educational experience that fit more closely with their values.”

With such demand in sight long before the pandemic, the school formed a comprehensive expansion plan in 2016. Under President Dave Buckles’s leadership, the plan would not only accommodate demand, but continually improve the school’s specialized educational space. The $17 million expansion project, called Expansion Set Apart, is taking place on the 67-plus acre Tilden Campus, which enrolls 550 students. The initial expansion included a 17,000-square-foot addition to the main educational building, including an athletic annex housing weight and agility training, and the Collegiate Recruiting O ice for Prospective college athletes. The current phase of expansion includes a cafeteria/worship center slated to open in the 3rd quarter of 2024 and a new 40,000-square-foot educational building to be completed in time for the 2025-26 school year.

Building Christian Leaders

With Expansion Set Apart firmly in motion, Vice-President of Education Carol Grosshans and Principal Sarah Reynolds are keenly focused on building the Academy’s curriculum to meet the demands of high-quality education in a world influenced by technology. Supporting that e ort, Foundation Academy received a transformational gift from Cynthia and William E. Perry that will be strategically utilized to enhance and innovate the Foundation’s educational programs, support faculty development, and fortify the school’s infrastructure with the Cynthia and William E. Perry Innovation Center which will reside in the new educational building.

“Teaching is such a noble pursuit, and there is nothing more rewarding to our team than witnessing the growth and development of our students,” says Cio i. “Our portrait of a graduate comprises three elements: Love, Learn, and Lead. All of our e orts are made with the intention that Foundation Academy students will love by Christ’s example, continually desire to learn, and lead their generation in the truth of His word today, tomorrow, and into eternity. As passionate, committed

Christian educators, we are excited about meeting the ever-increasing demand and reaching our goal that every graduate that walks our stage will know the love of Christ.”


as they excitedly exit their graduation.

For more information

15304 Tilden Rd.

Winter Garden, FL 34787


Foundation Academy from an aerial view. (Below) Students giving high-fives
Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 53
Jamon Iberico, a timeless symbol of culinary heritage and decadence, mirrors the essence of Chef Bruno, intertwining centuriesold tradition with the art of indulgence.

We Do Talk About Bruno

Bruno Fonseca’s recipe for success:

Make it delicious.

Make it beautiful.

Share it with people.

MAY / JUNE 2024 55

Chef Bruno Fonseca’s pantry is stocked, like most in his culinary bracket, with the cream of the seasonal crop. On one hand, he draws from the legacy of local Central Florida farmers: Sugar Top Farms in Clermont to Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee, Herta Berk Schwein in Groveland, Everoak Farm by Baldwin Park, just to name a few.

On the other hand, he draws from nearly three decades of working with the best. Indeed, Bruno’s culinary journey reads like a roadmap of ambition and achievement. From the esteemed kitchen of Norman’s to the venerable Bern’s Steak House, he honed his skills in the hallowed halls of haute cuisine and food trucks alike, as anyone who remembers 5 Gastronomy can attest. His expertise extended beyond the stove, as he shared his knowledge as an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, helping shape the next generation of culinary talent as an instructor and now as an employer.

Still, there’s more than just hard work and dedication at play here. It’s the way the chef handles his raw materials with a neurosurgeon-like attention to detail that must be the secret ingredient to his success.

This became clear to me just from watching him at

work during Friday evening service at his celebrated restaurant, Foreigner.

His movements are as uid and sure as a classical dancer. Each move has an immediate end but is also part of a bigger design.He slices Jamon Iberico, then spins to his right to ip a let of black drum with his palette knife—but that spin continues almost full circle to his mise en place for yet another plate.

If you like to watch cooks at work, as I do, Bruno is engrossing, an intersection of legacy and experience, technique and heart, skill and inspiration. “Foreigner came out of necessity to create,” Bruno explains. “I try to feed people foods that may be familiar and somehow entirely di erent, but for a reason. In other words, we aren’t doing this just to be di erent; we are trying to expand horizons.”

Foreigner opened March 3, 2023, in Winter Park to critical acclaim and sold-out seatings. Just months later, Bruno’s

Oysters opened in Plant Street Market’s Barrel Room — an intimate space just six minutes from his house in Oakland. “Pure insanity,” he says with a laugh.

There is, of course, a driving force to this insanity, one that colors both Foreigner and Bruno’s Oyster Bar: marrying creativity and education.

“What I try to do is feed the people foods that may be familiar and somehow entirely different, but for a reason.”

“The inspiration behind it all is to tell the story of a foreigner’s perspective on food, let it be the food that I grew up eating in my house, which was very multicultural with Brazilian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian in uences. There’s the food I encountered when I moved to the U.S. and then the food I grew up cooking in the di erent kitchens I’ve been lucky to work in. It’s given me a unique perspective on food, one that I deeply appreciate and want to share as often as possible.”


Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Bruno was steeped in a culture of diversity and shared experiences.

“My mother is a huge part of what I do. She’s a great cook, of course, but what made the biggest impact was dining out. She took us out to restaurants at an early age, and it was always a ‘happening,’ if you will,”

Bruno 56 The Local WINTER GARDEN

At Foreigner, caviar service epitomizes elegant simplicity, where each shimmering orb of roe tells a captivating tale from sea to silver platter.

MAY / JUNE 2024 57

he recalls. “At rst, it was very annoying—what kid wants to wear a jacket and sit at a nice restaurant? But she always made it fun and educational. We were always tasting and learning, so the beauty of breaking bread together and sharing a meal is just part of me.”

Basketball was Bruno’s rst love, paving his way through high school and into college at Florida State University. But when he took his rst restaurant job, his future was forever changed. “My rst job was in the front of the house. I enjoyed it, and the money was good, but I can’t say I loved it,” Bruno says. “One day, I had the opportunity to help in the kitchen and I fell in love. The adrenaline, the rush, the skill, and the technique felt like playing basketball but

with re and knives. It’s intense in a way that other careers just don’t reach.”

He dropped out of Florida State but kept working in kitchens, challenging himself to learn and progress daily. When The Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts announced its opening in Orlando in 2002, Bruno applied and was accepted into the inaugural class.

“I’ve been cooking for 25 years now,” Bruno says.“I was never OK with being complacent or mediocre. I hit walls at times, working with other chefs. The people above me wouldn’t be willing to step outside their comfort zone and be creative. And I hated that; it drove me nuts. Over time, I thought ‘Maybe I should just do something myself,’ but I didn’t have

“On the outside, Foreigner can look pretentious, but it’s not meant to be. It’s set up like a kitchen island, a place to break delicious bread and drink delicious wine with friends.”

any money. So I test-drove the idea by doing pop-ups nearly ve years ago.”

Indeed, this underground series of transcendent chef’s tastings were held at The Heavy in Winter Park and Melts on Main in Winter Garden, growing from ve courses to seven to nine, from one night a week to two to three.

“I really wanted Foreigner to be in Winter Garden, and it breaks my heart to say that it just struggled here. But it took o like wild re in Winter Park, growing in popularity and respect. So when I decided to open a brick-and-mortar, Audubon Park became the obvious choice.”

Despite Bruno’s success with his tasting menu concept, he yearned for a more intimate, casual

Scenes from a Foreigner experience include a bespoke charcuterie platter, compressed beet salad, fresh black tru les, and a caviar service upgrade, all presented with Chef Bruno’s neurosurgeon-like attention to detail.
MAY / JUNE 2024 59

dining experience where friends and family felt welcome. No reservations or stu y dress codes; just honest, simple food, a really nice beer, and a great time. So, when fate presented him with the opportunity to open a small operation inside the Barrel Room at Plant Street Market, he couldn’t refuse.

“Opening an oyster bar was totally sel sh,” he says. “I’d always wanted to have something at Plant Street Market since the day it opened. Plus, I’m super, super passionate about oysters.”

This is a subject on which Bruno and I fervidly agree. Much like champagne or caviar, raw oysters can make an evening luxurious, but also comfort food. They are reminders of the beach, the boat, the

sand,and the surf. They’re shucked and slurped on the dock, chased with a cold beer,as wonderfully and easily as they are served on a silver platter with champagne and mignonette, a briney, slippery vehicle of happiness.

“There’s so much to learn about oysters,” he says. “They’re like wine in how they depend on the terroir, the temperature of the water … if they’re going to be in cages, or if they’re going to touch the bottom of the ocean or the bay. Every little shift in the environment a ects how an oyster grows and tastes. It is much more magical than people realize … I want to share that.”

Sharing. That’s a word that comes up quite a bit in conversation with Bruno, inside and outside

“Every little shift in the environment affects the way an oyster grows and tastes. It is so much more magical than people realize.”

the restaurant. Sharing meals. Sharing memories. Sharing moments. “I think one thing that played the biggest role in growing up in Brazil was the sense of hospitality. On the outside, Foreigner can look pretentious, but it’s not meant to be. It’s set up like a kitchen island, a place to break delicious bread and drink delicious wine with friends. That’s it. Nothing else. I have it because I can’t have 10 strangers coming to my house twice a night during the weekend. That’s the honest truth. It’s a home away from home that I can share with the world.”

Foreign No More

For Bruno, his two restaurants navigate a delicate dance between tradition and innovation, striving to meet the demands

From oysters and caviar to scallops and pasta, Chef Bruno blends a unique perspective on food from his Brazilian heritage and the flavors he discovered moving to the U.S. with the skills honed in various kitchens where he’s had the privilege to work.
MAY / JUNE 2024 61

of discerning diners while educating those new to the world of food while staying true to his culinary ethos.

Whether experimenting with seasonal ingredients, reimagining classic dishes, or fostering collaborations with local producers, Bruno nds solace in the kitchen’s endless possibilities, fueling his passion to continually push boundaries and delight gastronomic enthusiasts.

“Lately, I’ve been inspired by the classics and how to make them more interesting,” he says. “There’s one dish in particular that comes to mind. It’s very classical to me, to my Portuguese and Spanish heritage. And that’s bacalao.”

In its most basic form, bacalao is salted cod and potatoes cooked in olive oil. It’s a culturally signicant dish, especially in Rio. When there’s something to celebrate, bacalao is there. “We decided to make a little tartlet of bacalao, but we wanted to give it a more Iberian peninsula avor, so we made cannellini beans with stock made from the bone of Jamon Iberico,” Bruno explains. “Here’s the thing: No one would come to a restaurant and order a salt cod tartlet with beans, right? But they eat it here, look at me and say, ‘This is incredible. I would never

have ordered this, but this is incredible.’”

The same can be said of the Beet Pave that appeared on Foreigner’s March menu. “I absolutely hated beets growing up, and so many guests feel the same way, which is exactly why I put them on the menu. We roasted and compressed heirloom beets from Sugar Top Farm, served it with pistachios, arugula, fresh owers, and nished it with a dusting of chocolate. Those people who don’t eat beets … their eyes widen in astonishment, and now, suddenly, they like beets.”

That moment inspiresBruno to nourish others,evoke di erent memories and feelings, and create new memories for them. “This whole thing, it’s very educational. Once you learn how to make it relatable and not so fussy or ‘che y,’ it’s like the curtain goes away,” he explains. “Sure, I want the food to be excellent and memorable. But when we evoke those feelings, that’s where the success comes in. That’s what keeps me inspired every day.” Make it delicious. Make it beautiful. Share it with people. That’s Bruno— simple, direct. No longer a foreigner, but a friend.


AdventHealth Well 65+ is primary care for seniors that is customized to fit your needs and goals at age 65 and beyond.

Our team of board-certified physicians and advanced practitioners specialize in providing primary care to older adults. Together, we’ll develop the optimal care plan for your individual health and wellness.

Do I qualify?

If you have, or intend to enroll in, one of the Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans below, we have a doctor ready to care for you.

• Original Medicare

• Same- and next-day appointments

• In-person and video visits

• More time with your physician (30 to 60 minute appointments, as needed)

• 24/7 access to your care team

• On-site lab Services include:

Visit or call 407-809-5457 to schedule your appointment today.

AdventHealth Well 65+ Winter Garden

12323 West Colonial Drive, Suite 140 Winter Garden, FL 34787

• Health First Health Plans

• Cigna

• Devoted

• Florida Blue

• Freedom

• Humana Medicare Advantage PPO/ PFFS

• Optimum

• United Healthcare

• WellCare



Viewpoint creates the perfect kitchen for each client’s personal tastes.


What makes the perfect kitchen? Is there even such a thing?

Ask John Ried, owner of Viewpoint Design and Installation, and his answer will be the same for everyone and di erent for everyone. He’ll tell you, in a general sense, the definition of a perfect kitchen will be di erent for everyone. Yet, on the other hand, there absolutely can be a perfect kitchen if it is the kitchen for you. The one that fits your family, your lifestyle, your kitchen wish list—it won’t fit everyone, but it fits you— that is the perfect kitchen.

“We spend a good bit of time getting to know our clients before we ever put pen to paper,” John says. “We want to know how they’ll really use their kitchen. Are they foodies who love to cook? Is there a baker in the house? Do they entertain?

Or, is the aesthetic more important than the function? Do they want a showplace or a cook place? Our job is to figure that out and design for it.”

A prime example is a new kitchen project Viewpoint recently finished for the Rodriguez family.

“When we first met the Rodriguez family, they told us there was nothing really wrong with their kitchen. It had functioned OK for 15 years. But their family had grown. Color trends had changed. Designs and even appliances had evolved. They needed an update.

“As we talked, we found out both parents were cook-

ers. Function was extremely important to them. We added more storage, improved work flow, moved some things around. We added spice drawers and brought pots and pans within easy reach, so they didn’t have to walk several feet to access what they needed while they cooked.”

In the end, was it the perfect kitchen? “I believe, for the Rodriguez family, this is the perfect kitchen. Now they are making new memories—and delicious dinners for their family—in a space that truly fits who and where they are today and for years to come.”


For more information

1200 E Plant St

Winter Garden 407-917-1594

Timberlake Cabinetry’s No. 1 area distributer
Promotional feature MAY / JUNE 2024 65

Volunteers work through thousands of pounds of cold and dry food each day serving the community


Second Harvest Food Bank empowers, sustains, and nourishes lives through compassionate distribution and community engagement initiatives.

MAY / JUNE 2024 67

Second Helping

Do you have a favorite memory of food? Maybe it’s an early memory, like watching your grandma cook her famous pot roast. Maybe it’s cooking with your mom during the holidays, trying new recipes. Maybe it’s you and your significant other’s favorite date night spot, in your bar seats, giggling over a shared creme brûlée. For me and many others, food holds cherished memories that evoke a range of emotions, from nostalgia to delight. It’s a universal

language that is beloved, transcending cultural boundaries and bringing people together

Until it isn’t.

Consider Tonya*, a survivor of domestic violence, who resides anonymously in a group home, striving to rebuild her life.Or Janet, a 68-year-old woman raising ve great-grandkids on a limited social security budget, struggling to put food on the table after paying rent and utilities.Then there’s Crystal’s family of six, surviving solely on sh

caught from local waters, where a scarcity of sh means a scarcity of food.

For more than 500,000 people in our community, hunger is a daily reality.

And it’s the mission of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to bridge those gaps.

True Food

You could easily miss Second Harvest if you weren’t looking for it. It’s tucked amidst a sea of strip malls, Asian groceries, and repair shops o Colonial Drive on a tiny road called Mercy Drive near

downtown Orlando. You could live here your entire life and not know Second Harvest was there at all.

I know, because that was me. But at 7:36 am

on a Tuesday, my life was changed by one right-hand turn.

Despite its unassuming location, Second Harvest’s sprawling 100,000-squarefoot distribution center spans two city blocks, serving as a lifeline for countless individuals and families in need. Its walls house event space, executive o ces, multiple conference spaces,

“We’ve never fully met the need for food in Florida; there’s always a gap of unmet necessities that we keep trying to grow into. Every time we think we’re getting close, something knocks us back.”
Students of the culinary training program work with Chef Izzy, learning skills to help them obtain
MAY / JUNE 2024 69

classrooms, commercial kitchens, volunteer break spaces, and enough food storage space to hold 1.5 million pounds of product at any given time.

And if that wasn’t enough, Second Harvest distributes enough food for 300,000 meals per day.

Read that again: 300,000 meals every day.

According to Greg Higgerson, Chief Development O cer of Second Harvest, this demand has only intensi ed within the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.And yet, today, the number remains the same. “The people who are most vulnerable in society will unfortunately be the last to recover,” Greg shares. “We’ve never fully met the need for food in Florida; there’s always a gap of unmet necessities that we keep trying to grow into.Every time we think we’re getting close, something knocks us back.”

Florida’s rising population in the wake of the pandemic has led to “in ation hotspots” across the state: neighborhoods, especially in urban areas, where wages have yet to catch up to the cost of living. Last year, we saw the largest annual increase in food prices since the 1980s. Credit card debt is

also on the rise, exceeding the previous record set in the fourth quarter of 2019, as families resort to high-interest borrowing to cover essentials like housing and food.

In a country that prides itself on hard work, initiative, and the American dream, we’re seeing parents who are working full-time at $20 an hour— maybe stringing together multiple jobs —but aren’t earning enough to buy a house, save for retirement, or send their children to college.They may not even be earning enough to ensure everyone in their household has enough to eat.

On that Tuesday morning, I naively thought I would be one of just a handful of volunteers. As the clock moved closer to 8 am, I was shocked to see a lobby packed with more than 65 volunteers. Parents, children, kids from a local camp, groups from Disney, groups from Wounded Warriors, and countless other community advocates had arrived.

Together, we were led into two volunteer areas, easily 10 times the size of a Costco. Towering over me were hundreds of pallets stacked with banana boxes lled

with unsorted meat products and dry goods beyond imagination.

Yet, the stark truth remains: hunger is an ever-present challenge, and it does not discriminate.

I was given a pair of gloves to protect me from paper cuts, the dirt/grime (I was confused by this until I saw the state of the food I was sorting), and to help me grip the items I was to sort. With a smile and a slightly overwhelmed nod, the music turned on, and I began working through my never-ending stack of dry goods. The types of food had no rhyme or reason: rice, noodles, cat food, chips, and Nutella— all in large bins waiting to be sorted, checked, and inspected. Throughout the three-hour shift, we sorted through 11,074 pounds of food—that’s just about the size of a full-grown African elephant.

Food, however, isn’t enough. Greg shares, “We feel pretty strongly that we’re not going to ‘food bank’ our way out of this, so we need to do some other things that are available to us—help people that way.”

Recognizing that food alone cannot solve systemic issues, the organization o ers comprehensive programs aimed at addressing the root causes of hunger. One such initiative is the Culinary Training Program, a 16-week

Second Helping 70 The Local WINTER GARDEN
“Through this kind of work, with our core mission, we’re feeding the line of people who need help.”
Lead Volunteer Steve Noppinger volunteers 20 hours a week, and his help
MAY / JUNE 2024 71

Second Helping

educational opportunity designed to equip adults facing employment barriers with essential culinary skills and life training.

“Through this kind of work, with our core mission, we’re feeding the line of people who need help,” Greg says.

Along with training, the program helps teach students nancial management, interview skills, and creating a successful resume. The result? A transformative journey that culminates in graduation ceremonies and, more importantly, the promise of a brighter future.

“It’s extremely emotional on graduation day, for a lot of these people, because they’ve never graduated from anything. We get to give them the gift of a graduation ceremony and a job to walk into,” Chef Izzy says proudly. Through this program, he and Second Harvest Food Bank have changed the lives of 470 people. By empowering individuals to overcome obstacles and pursue meaningful careers in the food industry, Second Harvest is creating a ripple e ect that reverberates far beyond its walls.

Food You

Leaving the food bank, I drove home in silence.

I couldn’t shake the profound sense of gratitude and inspiration that lled me. I was utterly moved by the dedication and compassion exhibited by every volunteer and sta member, underscoring their mission—a mission as simple as helping your neighbor. Something that we all have the power to do, regardless of where or who we are.

During my two-day volunteering experience with Second Harvest Food Bank, I was curious if any of the food I sorted would make its way to Winter Garden. To my surprise, I discovered that there are 13 feeding partners, all within a ve-mile radius of my front door. It was truly sobering, considering many of us are completely unaware of the sheer need, let alone the amount of help available locally.

Through partnerships such as Feeding America, a strong sta , and a herd of volunteers, Second Harvest is not only nourishing bodies but also fostering a sense of community and belonging. “We are transforming people’s lives. Not only through meals, but through job and life coaching, nutrition counseling, and education,” echoes Erika

Food storage space to hold 1.5 million pounds of product at any time, all organized by the counties served.

“We are transforming people’s lives. Not only through meals, but through job and life coaching, nutrition counseling, and education.”
MAY / JUNE 2024 73

Spence, Communications Manager and Storyteller for the Food Bank.

Yet, the stark truth remains: hunger is an ever-present challenge, and it does not discriminate. It touches the lives of every individual, young or old, rich or poor. Whether it’s your next-door neighbor, your child’s closest friend, your dedicated employee, or maybe even yourself. In this shared struggle,

Second Harvest stands as support, extending its reach to all corners of our community. It’s a reminder that in our collective journey, as we navigate our own challenges, we have the opportunity to uplift others. Second Harvest is here for all of us, and we should be there for Second Harvest, for in supporting them, we uplift not just our neighbors, but the very fabric of our society.

Food Bank Stats

300,000 meals sent out per day

800 Store pickups per week

7 Counties served

76 million meals in a year

16-17 million dollars worth of government-provided food

750 nonprofit feeding partners

Helping 74 The Local WINTER GARDEN

We sell only the best fitness equipment in the market, with the product knowledge that comes from over 20 years of experience. And, we’ll stay with you after the sale for all your fitness needs. (352)705-2869 •Tile Roofing
Roof •Quality Materials LOCALLY OWNED FREE ESTIMATES CCC# 1334549
•Roof Repairs •Roof Replacement •Roof Inspection

Remember the old days of holding sticky goop in a tray up to your teeth to get an impression?

Those days are long gone at Caroline Pawlak’s Artful Orthodontics. “We are an all-digital o ice here. I can get a much more accurate and reliable image using a scanner and CAD soft-

ware…without that sticky, yucky aftertaste.”

That is just the beginning of what sets Artful Orthodontics apart. “I call my practice Artful Orthodontics because I believe what we create here is truly an art. It is not enough to just straighten the teeth. I see many people who’ve had work done

Art Forms

Orthodontics combination of art and technology gives people a lot to smile about

and their teeth stop short of what they could have been.”

For years, the “holy grail” in orthodontics was truly, custom fit braces. Teeth are so specific to an individual that dental records are used to solve crimes. And now, with advances in scanning techniques that dream is a reality at Artful Orthodontics.

Dr. Pawlak says, “I use a wand, go in and scan your mouth. Then we use CAD software to create a digitally precise 3-D rendering. I mark exactly where I want braces to go and we utilize technology developed by Lightforce to create a fully integrated system of 3D-printed ceramic braces. There is no guesswork, no

Promotional feature 76 The Local WINTER GARDEN

slight deviations trying to place them. Later, as adjustments become necessary, the same precise approach is used. They’re more comfortable, with fewer side e ects, and the digital software lets me preview the results we expect to see, and I can actively show my patients what they have to look forward to.”

While the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children visit an orthodontist at age seven to establish a good baseline for their teeth development, Artful Orthodontics isn’t just about teens and young adults.

“Whether you’re 8 or 80, if your teeth are healthy, I’m here to help you achieve

the smile of your dreams. Just recently, I had the pleasure of fitting braces for a vibrant 83-year-old woman who had been turned away by other orthodontists. Don’t hesitate to come in and chat with me about your smile aspirations. The best part? Your initial consultation won’t cost you a penny!”

For more information 1995 Daniels Rd Suite 110 Winter Garden 407 910 1297 Forms OrthoFriendly Recipes See Dr. Pawlak’s food picks that pair well with braces. before after Promotional feature MAY / JUNE 2024 77

Dish &Tell

Readers dish about the local meals they crave most.


Egg and Cactus Gorditas

Don Pancho

Don Poncho’s gorditas are my reward for making it to the gym on Saturday mornings. A little bit crisp on the outside but still tender, these warm corn our pouches are stu ed with creamy beans and seasoned chicken, steak, or my new favorite, eggs and cactus. Topped with lettuce, cheese, and splash of salsa, these are the breakfast of champions.

MAY / JUNE 2024 79

Salmon BLT

Urban on Plant Kitchen & Bar

Picture-perfect salmon and thick-cut bacon, beautifully complemented by the crisp bite of arugula and the juicy sweetness of tomato. Finished with a velvety smear of mustard aioli, this sandwich is irresistible. Hands down, my rst choice when we are dining out!

& Tell 80 The Local WINTER GARDEN
MAY / JUNE 2024 81

It’s basically like a deconstructed samosa, blending crispy and crunchy with saucy creaminess all in one bite. It hits all the avors of sweet, tangy, salty, and spicy with the layers of chopped samoses, chickpeas, yogurt, and chutneys. It’s also a good size for sharing at a really great price!

MAY / JUNE 2024 83

Scialatielli dei Faraglioni

Simply Capri

This dish is a masterpiece of avors and textures, with each component perfectly complementing the next. Handmade egg ribbon pasta provides the base for succulent shrimp, tender clams, plump mussels, and delicate calamari, all enhanced by vibrant cherry tomatoes, parsley, and olive oil. Every time I take a bite, it brings me back to the warmth and joy of the Mediterranean.

& Tell 84 The Local WINTER GARDEN

Sweater Season Salad


I crave this salad all the time. Always plump, perfectly seared U10 scallops over a bed of arugula, kale, and mixed greens with this fantastic green apple vinaigrette. Butternut squash, goat cheese, and candied walnuts are just a delicious bonus. The summer version with balsamic compressed strawberries is great, too, but I’m always ready for sweater season.

Dish & Tell 86 The Local WINTER GARDEN
MAY / JUNE 2024 87

Cheese Coney’s Skyline Chili

I literally dream about eating Cheese Coney’s!  Little hotdogs in a pillow-like bun dripping with that famous Skyline Chili and covered in u y delicious cheese.  The chili is like no chili I have ever tasted with a avor all its own, and the cheese just puts it over the top.  I am not from Cincinnati ,but after trying Skyline for the rst time a few months ago, I am hooked!

Dish & Tell 88 The Local WINTER GARDEN

Roasted Bone Marrow Market to Table

The roasted bone marrow is incredibly decadent, with such a rich avor! Slathered on thick-cut, grilled focaccia and a few slices of pickled onion, it is truly indulgent and unlike anything I have experienced before. The presentation is lovely, too.

MAY / JUNE 2024 89


Duck Fat Truffle Fries

Tasting Room

Can we talk about the duck fat tru e fries for a second, a dish that not only deserves its own mention, but its own ode to greatness? The hand-cut french fries, crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside, get a salty blanket of parmesan, tru e oil ,and chives ,outdone only by the melted duck fat they’re cooked in. Make sure you order extra smoked aioli ... you won’t regret it.

& Tell 90 The Local WINTER GARDEN 407-755-8540 Residential/Commercial Exterior Cleaning Licensed & insured technicians Eco-friendly chemicals & cleaning methods Good on all roofs (barrel tile, shingle, metal or slate) With roof cleaning
After Before

He Med, She Med.

One local couple discovers “healthy” is a matter of perspective.

I’m the wife.

I’m 50. How can I be 50? It’s a new reality when you hit those digits. Routine physicals, blood work, cholesterol, colonoscopy, mammogram … those have all seemingly become conversations in my daily life. So now that I’ve reached 50 and my husband, 55, our focus on health has become more of a priority. Where would I like to see myself when I’m in my 80s? Sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, sipping lemonade with my husband. This means we must make sure

our bodies are prepared to last longer, a lot longer. However, my husband and I approach our “how to” very di erently. I follow the rules.

Annual physicals – check! Annual mammograms -check! OB/GYN (yes, that!) -check! And everything else that comes with “age,” like colonoscopies, hearing, and vision – I’m on it. When my doctor says I need blood work done, I’m scheduling it as I walk out the door.

Necessary meds, you better believe those are sent and ready for pickup tomorrow! Exercise? Yes siree. Now let’s be real –many of us have a hard time committing to a gym regularly because of kids, schedules – you know, LIFE. But I always make sure I’m doing my part

Wellness Counts


Life expectancy for men (


Life expectancy for women. (


men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. It’s the second leading cause of death in men. (

44.3% of women in the U.S. (56+ million) have high blood pressure and are taking blood pressure medicine. (

to ll all those circles on my app! Not just sitting around. I track my steps regularly and feel accomplished when my watch vibrates because I’ve hit goals! I have TWO Monday through Friday daily pill boxes. I do all this, why? Because I want to increase my possibilities to be around for the next 40 years or so. My husband has the same hopes. However, his approach to getting there isn’t exactly so similar.

I’m the husband. I’m 55. I do my annual physical every year. I drag my feet getting it scheduled, but I do it. What happens after that is another story. My doctor has given me a “talking to” about a colonoscopy and a nice list of all the things I need to get done every year since I’ve turned “that age.” Prescriptions, bloodwork, diet info. You know, the whole rigamarole. Of course, he also sends over the prescriptions for the dreaded colonoscopy uids and we schedule the procedure. Not something

MAY / JUNE 2024 93

Oh Well

anyone wants to do; and I haven’t delayed it for reasons you might think, although the ones you’re probably thinking are very good reasons, right? I promise to go. Then, inevitably, I cancel. Pretty sure it’s been ve times. I might be on number six. I’ve lost count. I don’t have time, I don’t want my wife to have to take a day o

to take me, I don’t want to endure “the process.” I have a lot of excuses. My “guy sense” kicks in to do what I want and continue to ignore my doctor’s orders. I am fully prepared for another lecture this year. It’s less invasive. With all that said, I do understand the need for it and will eventually have to let “the wife said so sense” kick in

and get it done. I exercise, I scale back on the diet, and I forego that beer every now and again. I’m not as good about these health “tasks” like my wife – she might be a little bossy about it. Just don’t tell her I said that. But I do know I want to make sure I’m around to be rocking in that chair right next to her on our porch in the next 40 years.

I’m not as good about these health “tasks” like my wife — she might be a little bossy about it.

Wellness Counts

1 in 3 women’s deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease.

45% of females 20 years and older are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.

50% of women entering pregnancy in the United States have good heart health.

52% of high blood pressure deaths, otherwise known as hypertension or the “silent killer,” are in women.

SOURCE: American Heart Association

Winter Garden Windermere Dr. Phillips 407-775-0130 Can 45 minutes change your life? EMBRACE YOUR FACE (407) 910-1297 1995 Daniels Rd, Suite 110, Winter Garden Dr. Caroline Pawlak

Do we both want to be healthy and stick around for another 40 years if we can? Absolutely. Do we approach our health tasks the same? Absolutely not! Her way or my way? Pretty sure that’s a whole other article, but our goal to be together as long as life allows is on par.”

We must make sure our bodies are prepared to last longer. My husband and I approach our “how to” very differently.

The Doctor’s Opinion

A respected surgeon explains how men and women can support each other’s health journey.

In celebrating Women’s Health Month and Men’s Health Month, it’s crucial for couples like Greg and Tara to adopt strategies that enhance their individual and combined goals. For Greg and many men who might overlook healthcare, setting non-negotiable annual check-ups and using technology for health reminders can make a signi cant impact on general wellness and life expectancy. Small, achievable lifestyle changes, such as incorporating more physical activity into daily routines and understanding risk factors, is important.

For Tara and women in general, advocating for one’s health and balancing preventive

care with life’s responsibilities are essential. Joining supportive communities and nurturing the mind-body connection through practices like yoga can greatly bene t overall well-being.

Together, Greg and Tara can set joint health goals, such as taking daily walks or preparing healthy meals. Open communication about health concerns and educating each other on various health topics can foster a supportive environment. Planning for the future by discussing long-term health goals and celebrating health milestones can motivate and reinforce positive health behaviors.

By implementing these strategies, couples can not only improve their individual health management but also strengthen their partnership through shared health goals and mutual support.

Oh Well
this sampler of 30 delicious dining experiences. MAY / JUNE 2024 97

Two hospitality heavyweights, The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott, make Grande Lakes a foodie destination for local nights out and staycations.



To Dine For

Primo at JW Marriott celebrates 2x James Beard Award-Winning chef Melissa Kelly’s heritage with seasonally fresh and locally sourced Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Its beautifully re-designed space of textural and tonal architecture reflects their commitment to being stewards of the land. And, in the inaugural Florida 2022 MICHELIN Guide, Primo was honored to be designated a Recommended Restaurant.

Knife and Spoon chef John Tesar has created a foodie’s dream at The Ritz-Carlton Resort. A four-time James Beard “Best of Southwest Chef” semifinalist, a twotime contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and the winner of the inaugural season of Food Network’s “Extreme Chef,” Chef Tesar specializes in modern American cuisine with authentic European techniques. The dry-aged steak is a standout among an exquisite menu. Plus, very big news in the world of fine cuisine, Knife and Spoon received the coveted MICHELIN Star for 2022 and 2023!

Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, also at JW Marriott, presents farm-inspired comfort food and crafted cocktails in a family-style, communal setting. Its farm-to-table dinner menu requires precise methods of production and resulted in simple, familiar plates. The restaurant features an open-air kitchen and Whisper Creek Farm specialties like fresh pickled vegetables, entrees, and small plates.

Highball and Harvest takes diners on a culinary journey through the bounty of Central Florida. Listed as one of the Top 50 Southern Restaurants in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, H&H uses produce, herbs, and spices grown at the in-house farm. H&H serves true Southern fare and authentic cocktails crafted by master mixologists. Not to be missed: the shrimp and grits, pimento cheeseburger, and real Parker House rolls served with lemon herb butter! Southern fixins like crispy fried dill pickles and Southern street corn have Southern comfort food written all over them.

Grande Lakes Orlando boasts several awards including the most Forbes Travel Guide Stars in Orlando for the hotel, spa, and restaurant—four stars each for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Spa, and the Knife and Spoon Restaurant, JW Marriott three stars and Forbes Travel Guide Recommended for Primo restaurant.

For more information

4040 Central Florida Pkwy Orlando 407-393-4000

Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 99
Culinary To Dine For 100 The Local WINTER GARDEN
Hemisphere offers discriminating foodies a dining experience sure to satisfy.


Talk about an elevating dining experience! Hemisphere, on the ninth floor of the Hyatt at the Orlando Airport, serves a dizzying array of culinary delights against a background of incredible panoramic views. Floor-toceiling views will thrill plane spotters with an unbeatable vantage point for plane take-o s and landings against starry night skies. Pick the right night, and launches from Cape Canaveral will provide a tasty side dish indeed.

But the food at Hemisphere is the real star. Executive Chef Je rey Powell and his culinary team have designed

a menu that infuses robust international flavors, seasonal local ingredients, and careful pairings of select wines and cocktails from complementing hemispheres (hence the name) to create a fusion of modern flavors from around the world.

Rather than o ering individual starters and main courses, Hemisphere serves dishes that are designed for sharing among friends and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal. The menu divides dishes into “Tastings” and “Helpings.” As you might expect, Tastings are smaller plates, more like tapas, and Helpings are full-sized entrees.

The menu changes with the seasons, though we should mention that the Crawfish Chowder has been on the menu since 1992. The Niman Ranch Pork Chop— apple brined and trimmed tomahawk-style with Grilled Swiss Chard, Sea Island Red Peas, Hen Of The Woods—is a mainstay. As is the Grilled Cauliflower cooked with Tahjini Glaze, Panang Coulis, Fire Roasted Peppers, Baby Yukon Gold, and Basil.

A popular addition to an already extensive wine list, Hemisphere has added two “wine cuvees” in the center of the restaurant where diners may “tap” into select vintage wines in an assortment

of specific sizes starting from one ounce and up.

Wondering about that airport location? Not to worry. Head for Terminal B and follow the signs to the Airport Hyatt. Parking is all valet. You’ll be greeted by a doorman and escorted to the elevators and the ninth floor!

For more information

Hyatt Regency

Orlando Airport

9300 Je Fuqua Blvd



Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 101




restaurants are better than one at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Sear + Sea Woodfire

Grill is a fine dining restaurant named a Recommended Restaurant in the Florida 2023 Michelin Guide. Think of it as a classic steakhouse inspired by its elegant, vibrant Florida surroundings. Soft lighting and luxurious greenery set the stage for a parade of taste sensations from world class chefs.

For starters, fresh octopus served with aji verde, huancaina, ceviche scallops, and marble potato crisps is a delicious beginning. Or, if beef is more to your liking, A5 Wagyu Carpaccio is a standout. The wagyu is served shaved, with horseradish vinaigrette, caper salsa, fried shallots, and brioche. From the grill and sourced from Creekstone Farms, we

Promotional Feature 102 The Local WINTER GARDEN

To Dine For

pagne and Caviar menu—is a delicious way to elevate any Sear + Sea meal to another level.

Illume is an Asian-inspired rooftop lounge and restaurant that combines a magical culinary experience with even more magical views, courtesy of the nightly Walt Disney World firework displays. Our signature sushi roll, Angry Tiger, popular with many diners, features spicy tuna, shiso, shrimp, aji amarillo, and a bubu arare topping. (Tiny, crispy rice that adds a spicy sweet crunch.)

As you would expect from a sushi bar with Illume’s pedigree, all our ingredients are fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced. Cocktails make delicious use of the finest Japanese sake and whiskeys. A popular choice is the Magritte’s Pipe made with Nikka Co ey grain whiskey, Amaro Montenegro, demerara, tobacco bitters, and served smoked.

o er all cuts of prime steaks, aged from 21 to 65 days for taste and tenderness. The 10oz. filet is a most popular selection accompanied by your choice of jumbo Canaveral shrimp, blue cheese crust, lobster tail, or Oscar-style crab and béarnaise.

In a celebratory mood? An exciting new addition to Sear + Sea—our Cham-

For more information

14900 Chelonia Pkwy Orlando, 32821 407-919-6300

Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 103

Feel Good Food

Mouthfeel’s nouveau style of catering is elevating local events.

Mouthfeel is the catering brainchild of Britt and Colon Robles who met, coincidentally, while working at another catering company. “As Chefs, we spent a lot of time talking and exchanging ideas,” Colon says. What began as shared shifts evolved into a profound connection and chemistry that extended far beyond the kitchen. “Our goals lined up

and we decided why not do it together? Within a year, Mouthfeel was born, we got married, and we’re in a new house. It was kind of an act of God.”

Britt’s culinary journey began with a high school work-study program, igniting her passion for cooking, a flame that has since taken her across the globe, immersing herself in diverse culinary traditions. Meanwhile, Colon honed his skills under the

Promotional Feature 104 The Local WINTER GARDEN

tutelage of sushi masters before expanding his culinary repertoire to embrace a myriad of flavors and techniques. Together, they helm a unique catering venture that transcends the ordinary. Everything is fresh and fresh-made. “Unlike traditional catering, we stay away from the hot bu et line; we don’t do frozen fried or pre-made,” Colon says. “We make all of our hors d’oeuvres, spreads, and desserts from scratch using only the finest, freshest ingredients.” Their charcuterie boards are works of art. Their meats,

cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and appetizer creations are exquisite. And the only food genre they specialize in is “delicious!”

Mouthfeel may be best known for their grand grazing tables, a growing trend in event catering. In keeping with their over-the-top attention to detail, they only use locally sourced Florida cedar wood for Mouthfeel’s grazing tables. Designed with risers and elevated shelves for dramatic displays, their tables overflow with abundance, color, and flavor.

“We are very strict about quality, and details do make a di erence,” Colon says. “We have a certain way that we do things. Even the ways we fold our meats, sliced to bring out more flavor and less fat, is important to us.”

Mouthfeel has catered events as small as a dozen to as big as 500. Whatever the size, the event is guaranteed to be an extraordinary experience. “Our goal is to elevate your event to a higher standard of luxury and create a feast for the eyes and your tastebuds.”

For more information (352)782-6378 Join the party! Watch the video for a delicious look at a real Mouthfeel event. MAY / JUNE 2024 105

On Pointe

The Pointe Orlando is your passport to a wide world of taste. Take your taste buds on a trip.

Promotional Feature

To Dine For

Get ready to take your taste buds on a trip around the world at The Pointe Orlando!

The Capital Grille is your first stop for prime steak, meticulously dry-aged on premises for 18 – 24 days, then hand-carved by our inhouse butchers to exacting standards.

Now let’s take to the sea at The Oceanaire Seafood Room. It’s seafood elevated to a fine dining Ultra-Fresh Seafood Experience™. Seasonal and sustainable seafood is flown in fresh daily to create a chef-driven menu that is truly exceptional.

Next stop Britain, and The Pub for fish and chips voted “Best Fish and Chips in the USA by UK’s Greene King Brewery! Try the Shepherd’s Pie or Mum’s Pot Roast. Then, wash it down with a pull at one of two Pour Your Own Beer Walls!

Feel like a little Italian today? Indulge in comforting flavors at Maggiano’s Little Italy, where each dish is meticulously crafted with a homemade touch. All the classics and then some; spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmigiana, shrimp scampi, and the scrumptiousness goes on. Taste the irresistible Mom’s Lasagna, ensuring a dining experience reminiscent of Nonna’s authentic recipes.

Head south of the border next to Kavas Tacos + Tequila! This new Mexican

restaurant combines TexMex with playful takes on Mexican street fare to deliver spectacular, tasty results!

O ering a 3-foot taco board and live entertainment nightly, Kavas is guaranteed to transport your taste buds.

Taverna Opa puts Greece on your plate straight from Yia-Yia’s cookbook! Ordered individually or family style, the deliciousness comes served with healthy helpings of fun—belly dancing and Greek music. Opa!

Brazil is up next at America’s first Brazilian

specialty menu items, ensuring a diverse and enticing experience for every visit. Or, have a Havana night out at Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar! Sample traditional Cuban cuisine with a contemporary spin. Sip a tasty mojito or a select rum from our extensive rum collection. As you indulge in the vibrant atmosphere, complete with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, get ready to drink, dine, and dance the night away in true Cuba Libre style!

my! Plus, state-of-the art bowling, billiards, laser tag arena, and tons more. Or, class things up a little at The Hampton Social. The relaxed nautical theme and fresh, coastal-inspired menu bring The Hamptons home to Orlando.

So many tasty decisions—and we’re not close to filling your passport. There are plenty more to try, and every one makes for a di erent and delicious night out at The Pointe Orlando!

Steakhouse—Rodizio Grill! Authentic Churrascaria— rotisserie meats carved tableside—to satisfy any appetite come with unlimited sides, gourmet salad, and homemade desserts! Indulge in the renowned grilled pineapple and savor the irresistible homemade Brazilian cheese bread, both cherished favorites. Throughout the year, Rodizio Grill also unveils

Whew! Time to head for home for three uniquely American hotspots! Feeling nostalgic? JoJo’s ShakeBAR will leave kids in awe and transport adults back to simpler times with its 80s/90s-inspired details, diner fare, hand-crafted cocktails, and over-the-top Biggie Shakes. Main Event is a sports bar with nachos and burgers and wings, oh

For more information

9101 International Drive



Promotional Feature
MAY / JUNE 2024 107

The Spice and Tea Exchange delivers a blend of exotic flavors from across the globe to locals with a taste for adventure.

Spice of

Promotional Feature
To Dine For

Freshness is a big part of the reason The Spice and Tea Exchange is enjoying a booming business at their fourth store, this one in Winter Garden. Bill and Linda Files opened their first store eight years ago in Winter Park. Fernandina Beach followed in May 2021. Cape Cod in March 2023. The Winter Garden Spice and Tea Exchange opened last September.


“Freshness makes all the di erence in spices and teas,” Linda Files says. “People don’t know how important it is to have fresh spices and teas. We stock eighty-five di erent spice blends, six di erent paprikas, five cinnamons, all from their countries of origin. And we constantly rotate them to keep them fresh.”

“Go to your pantry,” Bill says, “open your spice jars, and sni . Smell is 97% of taste. If you get a strong smell of what the label says you should, you’re good. If

not, replace it. We cleaned out my mother’s pantry and found spices she’d kept from when I was a boy! If you’re a professional cook or a home cook, freshness makes all the di erence. We had a chef come in for the first time and he couldn’t believe how bright green our parsley spice was. Now he’s one of our best customers.”

Fresh tea? Same story. “We sell only loose-leaf teas. Tea bags are filled with the scraps, and twigs, and leaves that fall o the plant. You’ll taste the di erence right away. Every one of our teas comes with brewing directions for that specific tea. Tea is very sensitive to time, temperature, variety, and the amount of tea. Black and herbal teas steep higher. But over-steep and they’ll get bitter.”

Bill and Linda say, “Come in, browse. Open some jars and smell. Want to try a new tea? We’d love to make you a cup.”

For more information

Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 109
4 E Plant St, Winter Garden 407-347-9152
To Dine For 110 The Local WINTER GARDEN

A Steak Lovers Brunch

The traditional Weekend Brunch just got a culinary upgrade!

Brunch at STK

Steakhouse is a celebration you have to see, sip, taste, and experience to believe.

So, lift your handcrafted Mimosa or Bloody Mary (they’re bottomless at STK

Brunch) and get ready to sample a luxurious new take on a weekend favorite. Or, start with something a little less traditional. Our Espresso Martini— Tito’s Vodka, Owen’s NitroInfused Espresso, and Gi ard Creme de Cacao— is a crowd favorite. On the refreshing side, choose from three tasty spritzes: Stiletto Spritz with muddled cucumber and mint, the classic Aperol Spritz, or Rosé Spritz.

But brunch is really all about the food and at STK, you know that’s going to be extraordinary. Order up a perfectly seared steak and eggs and you’ll taste what we mean. If eggs Benedict is more your go-to brunch order, STK boasts an innovative take on several Benedicts. Lobster Eggs Benedict makes a delicious statement with caviar hollandaise on top to set expectations high! Smoked Pork Belly is next with a bourbon maple glaze. Or, Scottish Smoked Salmon with lemon and chive hollandaise.

Let’s talk steaks, now. This is STK after all and the beef is exquisite. Choose from a dizzying selection of premium cuts and dry-aged steak perfection. STK’s commitment to excellence is reflected in a Certified Heritage Black Angus program that

ensures exceptional quality and taste. Take on a dryaged masterpiece like the Tomahawk (34oz), Bone-In Strip (18oz), Delmonico (14oz), or Porterhouse (28oz), each aged to perfection over 28 days.

Steak and eggs takes on a whole new meaning at STK with the Steak & Eggs with Pancake Stack! We are talking brunch, aren’t we? Wrap your appetite around an ideal combination of perfectly grilled steak, farm-fresh eggs, and a flu y pancake stack. And, before you ask, yes. The Eggs & Pancake Stack duo can be added to any brunch steak selection.

STK is not your daddy’s steakhouse. Weekend Brunch is not your traditional weekend brunch. Sensing a theme here? Come in—reservations not required, but recommended—and taste exactly what we mean!

For more information

1580 E Buena Vista Dr Orlando 407-917-7440

Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 111

Swan Dines

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin features six signature dining experiences to suit everyone’s appetite.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin restaurants are surprising culinary gifts Winter Garden locals need to know about—and enjoy. Why? There are 23 eateries to choose from! Six of their signature restaurants we’ll feature here today. Parking is validated when dining at these restaurants. And no, you don’t have to enter the parks to eat there. And let’s not forget the eve-

ning fireworks for dessert! Shula’s Steak House, their line Eat Like A Legend says it all. The menu features entrees that have made Shula’s a “Critics Choice for Orlando’s Best Restaurant.” Newly renovated and refreshed, the restaurant sports a new look and new menu items. Slice into a premium Black Angus steak— The SHULA CUT®—and see what you think.

To Dine For

Todd English’s Bluezoo presents fresh seafood in a vibrant setting. A AAA Four-Diamond creation by internationally renowned celebrity chef Todd English, Bluezoo features coastal cuisine with both international and New American culinary influences. From the signature simply fish to the two-pound Maine “Cantonese” lobster, Bluezoo’s menu serves blissful bites for every palate.

Il Mulino, the renowned New York Trattoria and international icon for 35 years, fills its menu with fragrant wood-fired pizzas, fresh fish, chicken, pastas and meats, all bursting with hearty blends of seasonal ingredients drawn from the Abruzzi region of Italy.

Rosa Mexicano o ers a fresh take on authentic Mexican cuisine, serving both beloved classics and sophisticated dishes in a stylish and festive atmosphere. Every dish honors Mexican heritage, as well as the culinary techniques, global explorations, and

For more information

inspirations of founding chef, Josefina Howard. Don’t miss the award-winning margarita—Rosa Mexicano’s signature frozen pomegranate—named the Best in New York City!

Kimonos features sushi raised to a fine art. The restaurant, voted top for sushi by Orlando Sentinel readers, also o ers house specialties like traditional hors d’oeuvres, gyoza, octopus, shrimp, tempura platters and Kobe beef satay. Stick around for karaoke!

Amare—the name means “to love”—presents the tastes and cultures of the Mediterranean region. The menu highlights fresh premium ingredients popular in the area, including a wide variety of seafood, citrus, olive oils, pasta, and pitas. Visitors come from all over the world to experience what we have in our own backyard! Plus, we get to visit these fine dining destination restaurants whenever our appetites take us there!

1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd, Lake Buena Vista 407-934-4000 • Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 113

Food, Fun & Fussball

Winter Garden’s authentic German Delicatessen is wunderbar!

The “twist” comes courtesy of the owner of Schweini’s Delicatessen, Chris Frommeyer. A culinary school background gave Chris a strong foundation. “I learned how to sit down and create a recipe, how to bring flavors together. I had a tent at Crooked Can for Oktoberfest for a season and fell in love

with German sandwiches.”

Then came the idea to open his own German Deli and Schweini’s was born. “I did a lot of research, I still do.

I start with Olde World recipes and figure out how to make them my own. When people come back for one of my weird recipes it is such an awesome feeling!” One taste of his Schweinibraten,

bratwurst, German potato salad, or homemade sauerkraut and you’ll understand how special this deli is!

The vibe at Schweini’s Delicatessen is casual and comfortable. There are seven TVs, soccer scarves everywhere, and an impressive selection of German biers. Come in and taste what you’ve been missing!

For more information

108 S Main Street

Winter Garden

407-395 3235


The only way to get fresher, more authentic Indian food is to board a plane for Bombay. At Cilantro, everything is made to order—there’s not a buffet in sight. And you can’t get more authentic than curry made in-house daily. They even grind their own spices! The Cilantro curry is deli-

ciously traditional with heavy cream, cashews, and a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, and chilis. Their Indian hot sauce from five di erent spices.

Chicken Tikka Masala is their most-ordered dish. But there’s also Bhuna—a thicker curry with tomatoes, onion sauce and spices. Butter Chicken or Vindaloo, more your style?

chicken, lamb, or goat. The menu is an extensive blend of northern/ northeast and street food with chicken wraps, sizzlers, fusion bowls. It’s healthier; Cilantro uses a tandoor oven with no oil. And you choose the heat: mild, medium, or Indian hot. Yes, mild really means mild! All entrees include naan or rice , so come hungry.

For more information
W Plant St #103, Winter Garden Curry Up Cilantro brings a fresh take on authentic Indian food. PROMOTIONAL FEATURE Promotional Feature MAY / JUNE 2024 115

Whisked Away

Bourbon and rock and roll is a match made at The Whiskey!

“We have live music every day at The Whiskey,” says owner Katie Zagaroli. “It’s definitely rock and roll. We cover it all; oldies to classics, 60’s to the 80’s and 90’s. I call it rock for everybody. We have pictures all over our walls of whiskey drinkers, celebs like Bill Murray and Kate Moss, and rock bands.”

The Whiskey is the place for food and music.

And of course they have whiskey. To date they’re at 970 brands, with nine hand-picked blends in barrels. Exotic, delicious libations that go down easy with The Whiskey menu that elevates “bar food” to a whole new level.

You have never had a burger like one you’ll get at The Whiskey. The Whiskey Burger is their top seller, along with the Southerner Burger and the Salty Pear (an eight ounce patty with bourbon-poached pear and brie mornay sauce)!

Happy hour is Monday thru Friday 4:00 to 7:00.

Bring your appetite, The Whiskey will do the rest.

For more information

7563 W Sand Lake Rd



Promotional Feature 116 The Local WINTER GARDEN

Crabcakes & More

More crab than cake is how chef Jill Holland describes one of her fullservice catering company’s more popular dishes. A steady diet of cooking competitions has kept chef Holland at the top of her game for twelve years and counting. “It’s helped me elevate our menu and maintain some very high standards. We serve an awesome bu et, the best box

lunches and yes, the best crab cakes.” Plate Above is available for private parties and corporate events.

For more information

411 Mercy Drive Orlando


To Dine For
the creative team behind The Local We build brands we believe in. Maybe even the brand you believe in.

From Pit to Party

Avocado brings a tropical twist to a classic cocktail.


In the world of spirit trends, one undeniable star has emerged triumphant: tequila. With its sales soaring by an impressive 5.1% in the past year, tequila claims the crown for the highest spike among its spirited counterparts.

I am a contributor to this intoxicating surge.

Whether it’s sipped solo or mixed into a beverage, tequila has a smooth sweet avor that is very palatable, not to mention lower in calories than other drinks. I don’t even need to be eating Spanish food to enjoy it, but it de nitely helps complement the experience.

My current obsession is Avocado Margaritas. I venture all over town to sample how restaurants and bars are featuring the fruit in their beverages (as if I need another reason to introduce avocados into my diet.)

Local haunts like The Whole Enchilada in Winter Garden and Pepe’s Cantina in Clermont have become my weekly sanctuaries, where I can rely on a consistent dose of avocado-infused delight. But for those willing to journey a bit further, the pilgrimage to Rick Bayless’s Frontera Cocina is a must. And then there’s Epcot—a trip around the world would

be incomplete without a stop at the Mexico Pavilion, where the Avocado Margarita takes on a daring twist with a splash of midori.

All do phenomenal interpretations of the drink — each sip an ode to the avocado’s creamy allure.

Every Friday, my friend and I look forward to toasting the week’s end and mindfully attempt to ration our Tajin rim the entire drink. Last week, the unthinkable happened— the bar ran out of avocado puree and couldn’t make the drink. I found myself devastated. What had become a weekly tradition was now tarnished, and I couldn’t even bring myself to order something di erent.

Yet, in the face of adversity, innovation ourishes. With a steely resolve and a thirst for tequila, I embarked on a daring mission to craft my own rendition of the beloved Avocado Margarita. What followed was nothing short of epic—a culinary odyssey that saw six intrepid souls journey through 1.75 gallons of tequila, 24 limes, and an army of avocados in my humble test kitchen, all in pursuit of perfection.

This recipe delivers happiness in every sip, I promise.

Avocado Margarita

For Avocado Puree

• (Makes 4 drinks)

• 1 Avocado, pitted & peeled

• 1 Jalapeno chopped, seeds and ribs removed (this controls the spice level)

• 4 tbsp of chopped Cilantro

• 2 Limes, juiced

• 1oz of Agave Nectar

• Splash of Water

Add to blender till smooth, should be slightly thick. Funnel into a bottle for an easy pour.

For Avocado Margarita

• 2oz tequila of your choice, blanco or reposado

• 1oz avocado puree

• 1oz lime juice, plus extra for lining glass

• 1oz triple sec

• Tajin for rim

Fill the glass with ice and dump it into a shaker along with all the liquid ingredients. Using one wedge of lime, rub the edge of the glass until slightly tacky and then rim the glass with Tajin. Shake contents vigorously and pour in glass .

Additional Modifier

As always, enjoy this cocktail as you’d like. If you prefer a frozen drink, follow all instructions then add to blender. If you prefer it spicy, add 3 slices of jalapeno (with seeds) for an extra kick. If you want a floral flavor, supplement the triple sec with elderflower liqueur. If you want a fresh fruit note, muddle a handful of sliced cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries, or pineapple. If Tajin isn’t your jam, supplement with salt, or a salt & pepper mixture.

MAY / JUNE 2024 119

Shell Shock

The local taco scene is more vibrant than ever thanks to a new crop of street stars and a collection of dedicated classics.

Fact: tacos are awesome.They’re cheap, avorful, and loved by all ages. But why con ne yourself to Taco Tuesday? Here’s a hot take: tacos should be celebrated every darn day.I’ve waxed poetic about tacos countless times throughout the years, and I’m de nitely guilty of having some triedand-true favorites. But with the vast array of tantalizing taco options out there, I’ve embarked on a quest to uncover new spots that promise to satisfy your taco cravings, seven days a week.So let’s taco ‘bout it.

Taco Norteño

Ask anyone in town where to get the best taco and they’ll inevitably mention this place. For good reason, as the daily crowds attest. Don’t let the line deter you, it’s well worth the wait. Their salsa bar, though not obligatory, is an absolute gem that

demands your attention. Regardless of your choice of protein, satisfaction is guaranteed. Personally, I gravitate toward the al pastor or the tantalizing blend of asada y chorizo. For the bold palate, embark on a culinary adventure with the lengua (beef tongue) for an unexpected delight.

Don Poncho

This is the unsung hero of Winter Garden tacos. New to the scene, only opening in the last year, I am still shocked that there’s not a constant line out the door. It’s not merely a lunch or dinner destination; Don Poncho’s opens its doors at the crack of dawn, catering to the early risers with delectable breakfast items, including chilaquiles. And let’s not overlook their o ering of Victoria beer, a personal favorite among Mexican lagers.

Their portions are huge, the service is top-notch, and you can’t go wrong with the chorizo queso taco (shell made from cheese) or taco de tripa (tripe) for the wildcard.

Panaderia y Tortilleria Las Delicias

For an authentic taco experience that’ll elevate your homemade taco night, make a beeline for Las Delicias, nestled on Dillard Street alongside Key Foods. Renowned for their handcrafted corn tortillas, they’re the talk of the town—and for good reason. Trust us, they’re that good. But here’s the catch: these delectable tortillas sell out fast, so arrive early to secure your stash. As a cozy, family-run establishment, a little patience and gratitude go a long way during your visit. And while you’re there, don’t overlook their irresistible

baked goods. A dear friend of mine once exclaimed, and I quote, “I would BATHE in the tres leches.” Need we say more?

El Alacran

A few years back, a friend tipped me o about this hidden gem tucked away on Dillard Street, and let me tell you, it was like stumbling into a esta. Ever since, I’ve brought multiple groups of friends and we always have a good time. While I know we’re talking about tacos, their menu is extensive, so don’t limit yourself. Brace yourself for generous portions that spill over with avorful protein, practically begging to be devoured. This joint exudes authenticity from every corner, but fair warning: parking’s a bit of a gamble, so pack your patience and a smile. Remember, a little kindness goes a long way, even if your Spanish is a tad rusty.

MAY / JUNE 2024 121
Soluna Tacos


Ocoee Taco Company

While not in Winter Garden, OTC always gets a nod of approval. A small space with only 5 tables, you could almost miss it if it wasn’t for the giant multi-colored chair parked right out front of its building. Don’t let the size fool you, what they lack in tables they make up for in avor. Go for the asada queso tacos or the keto tacos, with the option of lettuce or cheese shells. Also, try to grab a table so you can try the hot sauces, they add so much to the street-style taco experience. Also, the service is fantastic, so don’t be surprised if the owner stops by your table to say hello!

Ocoee Taco Company
12 West Plant Street, Winter Garden FL 34787 FIND BROSWAY ITALIA #1 FASHION JEWELRY BRAND at in Downtown Winter Garden Discover your Unique Color Key with Fancy Collection p: 269.579.2130 We drive customers to your business with the power of digital media Our Services Include: Google Map Stack SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Advanced Meta Ads (Facebook & Instagram) Pay Per Click Lead Generation Custom Landing Pages Streaming TV Ad Insertion First Page, First Choice. Transform Your Business's Online Presence with Our Google Ranking Services!


El Sabor de la Vida

Nestled in the parking lot of US Tire Imports is a gem of a food truck that delivers in every way. Thriving for the past 16 years in Winter Garden, if you haven’t made a pit stop here yet, consider it a culinary sin of omission. What it lacks in a brick-and-mortar setting it makes up for in the quality of food. Their

pastor con chorizo is my favorite in town and their spicy green sauce will light you on re in the best way. For the ultimate authenticity, indulge in the cabeza, or beef head—trust us, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Soluna Tacos

Speaking of food trucks, Soluna Tacos is

responsible for some of the best birria tacos in town. Their tagline is “Dip It and Drink It” because their birria consommé is so delectable that you want to sip what you don’t dunk. It’s a little thicker than what’s usually expected, but I just attribute that to all the extra avor it packs. Parked right inside the Tractor

Supply Co. in between Oakland and Winter Garden, there is plenty of parking and they’re also available on DoorDash if you nd yourself craving them and aren’t out and about. Also if you want more than tacos, they feature their birria in multiple ways, from quesadillas to ramen. Just another way to drink your consommé.

Don Poncho

11a-3p / 4:30-9p 11a-3p / 4:30-9p 11a-3p / 4:30-9p 11a-3p / 4:30-9p 11a-3p / 4:30-9p 11a-3p / 4:30-9p

Dining Guide

Mon Tue

Thu Fri Sat Hours 11a-10p 3-10p 3-10p 3-10p 11:30a-12a 11:30a-12a

-Thu 3-6p Happy Hour

Cilantro Indian Cuisine

360 West Plant St, Ste 103, Winter Garden 407-395-3400 /

“Oh, I don’t like Indian,” you might be saying. “I can’t do spicy food.” But true Indian cuisine is about so much more than spice, and Cilantro is here to prove it. Every entree on Cilantro’s diverse menu can be served mild (as well as medium, hot, and Indian hot), with your choice of meat and a wide selection of vegetarian options. Savor the warmth and richness of Indian cuisine, as mild or as spicy as you like it.

Clermont Brewing Co.

750 W. Desoto St, Clermont 321-430-BEER (2337)

It’s a brewery. It’s an eatery. It’s home to a rotating selection of handcrafted and seasonal brews for every taste. It’s where artisanal dining creations tantalize a wide variety of passionate palates. But more than any of that, Clermont Brewing Co. — CBC to its fans — is proudest of being the place where the community comes together.

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
MAY / JUNE 2024 125

Daniel’s Cheesesteak Express

793 W Montrose St., Clermont 352-933-3136 /

As the home of award-winning wings and the #1 cheesesteak in town, nine years and counting, Daniel’s Cheesesteak House does exactly what it says. Established in Winter Garden more than 30 years ago, there’s no better place to go for a perfectly melty cheesesteak—except the new Clermont location.

Gochi Japanese Kitchen

14195 W. Colonial Dr., Winter Garden 407-877-0050 /

Since 2007, Gochi Japanese Kitchen has been providing the highest-quality Japanese favorites. Raw a la carte options like nigiri, sashimi, and rolls, plus uniquely crafted noodles, yakiniku and yakiyasai bbq grill options. Need space for a special event? Ask about our private dining room and catering options!

Ispirazione Italian Sandwiches

1711 Amazing Way Ste 107, Ocoee 407-988-9499 /

Taste the di erence! Ispirazione sandwich shop specializes in tigelles, baking the bread and slicing the meats right when you order. Fresh, quality ingredients make each sandwich a masterpiece of avor. Let Ispirazione be your guide to an authentic Italian culinary journey.

Save 10% In-store when you mention

10a-4p 10a-7p 10a-7p 10a-7p 10a-7p 10a-7p 10a-7p Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours
10a-7p 10a-7p 10a-8p 10a-9p 10a-9p 10a-10p 10a-10p Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours
12p-9p 12p-9p 12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p Daily 12-3p Daily 3-6p Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours Lunch Happy Hour
Guide 126 The Local WINTER GARDEN
Taste I Dining

Get 15% o your order

Mention TheLocal15 at checkout

Pammie’s Sammies

121 S. Boyd St, Winter Garden 407-730-3212 /

Feed the Soul. Craft with Love. Serve from the Heart. That’s the record-setting recipe behind Pammie’s Sammies, a fun sandwich space with funk woven into its atmosphere and baked into every dish. With food that is thoughtfully sourced, earth-friendly, and tastefully adventurous, our menu pairs old family recipes with tasty trends, all to the soundtrack of classic tunes and conversation among friends.

Peach Cobbler Factory

13848 Tilden Rd Suite 172, Winter Garden

It’s a classic dessert dilemma: no one can agree. Your son wants brownies. Your daughter wants pudding. And you, you’re craving a fresh cobbler with ice cream. Good thing you can get it all under one roof! Satisfy every sweet tooth with cinnamon rolls, puddings, cookies, churro sticks, wa es and so much more — while you get our 12 varieties of warm, delicious cobbler all to yourself. Dessert is solved!

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours

11:30a-7:30p 11:30a-7:30p 11:30a-7:30p 11:30a-7:30p 11:30a-7:30p 11:30a-7:30p

Triple Rewards Points on Mondays

Poke by Gochi

13770 W. Colonial Dr., Winter Garden 407-347-5091 /

Poke is the bowl of the moment, and no one does it better than Gochi. This fast casual concept by the owners of Gochi Japanese Kitchen uses all the same, high quality ingredients as its sister location, only in a one-bowl concept. Choose from chef crafted options or customize your own with a variety of colorful sauces, piles of crunchy toppings, and a white rice, brown rice, or lettuce base.

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours
11a-7p 11a-7p 11a-7p 11a-7p 11a-8p 10a-7p Home of Boyd Street Radio Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours
12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p 12p-10p
DINING GUIDE I Taste MAY / JUNE 2024 127

Roasted Spirit

756 West Montrose St., Clermont 321-376-5004 /

With a long day behind you and spirits still high, you must be in the mood for a drink. The fresh, innovative craft cocktails prepared by master bartenders at Roasted Spirit feature in-house specialty bitters, syrups and juices. Come in to enjoy live music, from-scratch small plates, and Clermont’s largest selection of sipping spirits. 11a-11p

Get 10% off dine-in when you mention The Local

Schweini’s Delicatessen

108 S Main St, Winter Garden 407-395-3235 /

The mission of Schweini’s Deli is to make your belly happy by lling it with authentic German beers and hot sandwiches piled high with the best meats. With only the freshest locally sourced ingredients, including house-made cheesecakes, Schweini’s invites you to come in, stay awhile, maybe watch the latest soccer match — and get your fröhlicher bauch on. 11a-3p 11a-3p

STK Steakhouse

1580 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando 407-917-7440

STK is “not your daddy’s steakhouse”—it’s a highenergy ne dining experience, where delectable cuisine and upscale cocktails meet chic décor and an in-house DJ. The menu features reimagined classic American cuisine for lunch, brunch and dinner, with traceable, ethically sourced beef that produces quality craveable steaks. 3p-10:45p 11a-10:45p

Bottomless Mimosas

& Bloody Marys at Weekend Brunch 9:30a-3p

11a-3p 11a-3p 11a-3p 10a-3p Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours (COMING SOON!) Sat+Sun 7-10am
website for details Breakfast
11a-11p 11a-12a 11a-12a 11a-1a 11a-2a 11a-2a Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Hours
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
11a-10:45p 11a-10:45p 11a-10:45p 11a-11:15p 3p-11:15p
Hours $30
Guide 128 The Local WINTER GARDEN
Taste I Dining

Thai Blossom

99 W. Plant St., Winter Garden 407-905-9917 /

Your love of Thai will blossom among fragrant curries, silky noodles, stir fries, and grilled meats. Authentic, avorful and always cooked to order Thai Blossom o ers some of the tastiest cuisine in central Florida, right on Plant Street. And plenty of options for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals make it the perfect choice for workday lunch, dinner dates, and special celebrations. Writeup

Order online or come see me in person @ Brownwood Town Square Farmers Market (The Villages) Saturday mornings

Clermont Farmers Market twice a month

Clermont Food Truck Events

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat 12-8p 11a-3p / 5-9p 11a-3p / 5-9p 11a-3p / 5-9p 11a-3p / 5-9p 11a-3p / 5-9p 11a-9p Hours
Nemetz 321-436-0709
Bread • Gourmet Nuts • Amish Popcorn • Gourmet Flavored Pretzels Gourmet Flavored Cheese Balls • Seasonings • Gluten Free Options
Foodie Award Critic’s Choice Orlando Sentinel Readers’ Choice Dining Awards Orlando Magazine 3 Sherrie
DINING GUIDE I Taste MAY / JUNE 2024 129

The Cost of Co

A grocery store hater talks shop about Clermont’s newest institution.

For years I’ve had this recurring dream where I’m at a store, never the same store, looking for an item I can never nd. Someone else is there, an aisle over, someone I know and very much do not want to talk to. I need to get out of there before they spot me, but I can’t leave until I nd this one thing. So I’m stuck scouring endless shelves and avoiding a vague, unwanted interaction for eternity.

I don’t know what made me think of that. Anyway, I got a Costco membership a couple months ago.

Not something I ever thought I’d do, since there’s never been one close by. But that new one in Clermont changes everything, doesn’t it? Sixty smackaroos later, my boyfriend and I are Gold Star members with the exclusive privilege of breathing that blessed Costco air and partaking in what has got to be my least favorite shopping experience.

Now, I don’t want this to read like a Costco roast, because at the end of the day, I mostly dig it. The savings really are great, everything we’ve tried has been pretty tasty (shoutout to chocolate covered almonds), and I’m severely into the jeans I bought there last month. Nevertheless, I have preexisting storethemed trauma, so Costco’s fate was sealed before I ever set foot inside.

Here is a free sample of our typical Costco experience: We grab an absolute school bus of a shopping cart and ash our member card to the Costco Bouncers so they let us in. We traverse the “products for rich people” department, dodging booth barkers who want us to look at their $40 hypoallergenic pillow cases or whatever. And then, we nally see it—the massive, obtuse shopping arena that takes great pleasure in being massive and obtuse. Buy a canoe. Buy a 50-gallon drum of baked beans. Buy a

whole-ass shed. No, we don’t label our aisles, have you tried using your eyes? Here’s a free thimble of ravioli.All while playing shopping cart chicken with 10,000 other people who I’m pretty sure don’t exist outside these warehouse walls.

Once we’ve stu ed the cart with all those sweetheart deals we paid $60 to get, we take on the second-to-last border control checkpoint: the checkout line.We ash our card to the cashier. “Only Gold Star? Why not Executive?” She scans our stu faster than should be humanly possible, but does not bag it. They don’t do that here.

At last, the nal stretch: the “services for rich people” department and one

last bouncer who checks our receipts to make sure we aren’t trying to steal any of the dirt-cheap products that we (I cannot stress this enough) paid $60 to buy. If only there was some way for them to tell at a glance that our items properly cleared the checkout line, like, I don’t know, bags?

OK, look, I completely understand why they have people posted at each entrance to keep their membership sacred. I get that it’s all about the “Costco experience.” It’s not their fault that experience is the stu of my actual nightmares. So, we’ll be going back next week to do it all again. Remember, Rheya: you’re doing it for the almonds.

on life as a local 130 The Local WINTER GARDEN
Rhetoric Rheya Tanner muses
121 S Boyd St * Winter Garden Get the latest on bands and Thursday performances here!


With more than 150+ destinations worldwide, the opportunity to escape is now. From 100+ Domestic destinations and 50+ International destinations, Orlando International Airport provides access to unique travel experiences that you seek and deserve. Why wait? The time for adventure is now. Scan for Parking Reservations

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.