MIKE THOMAS: THE END OF A CYCLE ■ JAY BOYAR: THE BRAINS BEHIND ‘BROADWAY’
T H E B E S T O F C E N T R A L F LO R I DA
HOME OF THE YEAR OFFICIAL PROGRAM
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DEPARTMENTS 8 JAY BOYAR’S LIMELIGHT
Jay talks to the brains behind Broadway Across America’s stellar lineup at Bob Carr; luminous Sarah Brightman alights at the Amway; bacon beckons at Orlando’s Festival Park; and we scare up a list of Halloween activities.
You may know Mark Pinsky as a religion writer. But his newest published work is a true-crime mystery about a rural cold case. by Harry Wessel • photograph by Sarah M. Brown
26 DESIGN / STYLE
Humble jeans in delightful denim can rise to the occasion and make a major fashion statement. by Marianne Ilunga • photographs by Rafael Tongol
It takes patience to find the Pharmacy, a retro pub/bar that harkens back to Prohibitionera speakeasies. by Rona Gindin • photographs by Rafael Tongol
FEATURE 32 HOME OF THE YEAR Our 10th annual Home of the Year competition was the toughest yet. But our panel of distinguished judges managed to come to a somewhat contentious consensus, and the winner is, as usual, spectacular. But then, so are the runners-up. Tour the overall winner as well as other homes that excelled in an array of specialty categories. by Randy Noles
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With new direct flights from Orlando, exotic Curaçao is now less than three hours away — and well worth the trip. by Denise Bates Enos
91 PEOPLE & PLACES
Paula is out and about at Norman’s, the Red Chair VIP event and Harriett Lake’s tribute to the suffragettes. by Paula Wyatt
94 RESTLESS NATIVE
Mike muses on a painful break-up with a longtime love. by Mike Thomas
49 SPECIAL SECTION
Horizon West is transforming burned-out groves in the western portion of Orange County into a vibrant series of villages where tens of thousands of people will live, work and play.
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from the editor
IN A QUIET CORNER GALLERY AT OMA, CHILDREN FIND A VOICE.
t’s no surprise to encounter the pierced gilt soup tureen. That’s exactly the sort of beautiful object you’d expect to encounter on a visit to the Orlando Museum of Art. But keep walking. Past the delicate tureen (“late 19th century, Japan, enameled porcelain with glided fittings”), part of the museum’s current exhibit of dozens of exotic collectibles from wealthy homesteads of other times and places. Past glazed porcelain milk pots and silver plate biscuit warmers and a 19th-century room divider inlaid with soapstone, ivory, bone and pearl. Beyond the luxurious appointments is a smaller corner gallery, where 51 brightly colored and exquisitely framed paintings hang on the walls. Next to each is a neatly printed, first-person account of the artwork and its inspiration. Here is a self-portrait from Timon, age 11 (“I am pulling on my ear because it hurts from all the bad things the world has to say”). And here is another by Martin, age 16 (“The yellow lightning bolt represents the power my past has on me, and how it continues to hold me back”). Across from it is a family portrait by Madison, age 9 (“I drew my mother like a lioness because, like a lioness, she does all the work”). And over there is a cyanotype-on-fabric painting by Liana, age 13. Five balloonlike letters that spell “D R E A M” hover over a flight of doves. (“My word is dream. The reason I chose this word is because when people go through sexual abuse they think their life is over and that there isn’t anything to live for. My wish is that they will keep dreaming and never stop, no matter what”). Their paintings are part of “Heartworks,” an exhibit that will be on view through Nov. 3. Sponsored by Dr. Phillips Charities, it represents a rare collaboration between Orlando’s high-end art establishment and some of the area’s neediest souls. All of the paintings were created during the course of an art program for children who are in families that are psychologically or financially distressed. The program was created by Renée Schneider, a retired Disney World art director. Her wish was that once exposed to some basic drawing principles, some of the children might have an aptitude for careers in art or design. “I was just thinking, if they had talent, I could nurture it,” she says. The children had something else in mind. Over time, on canvas, Schneider saw poignant revelations. So did Jim Hinson, president and CEO of Dr. Phillips Charities. After viewing a small display of the paintings, he decided a larger exhibit would bring much-needed attention to both the children and the agencies that assist them. Such is his wish. I have one, too. I wish that all those artists on the walls of that corner gallery keep on dreaming and never stop, no matter what.
Michael McLeod Editor in Chief firstname.lastname@example.org 4
Take Note What’s SOCIAL
Follow us on twitter: @OrlandoLifeMag and Facebook at: facebook.com/orlandolifemagazine. We’re on Google+ and Pinterest too: pinterest.com/orlandolife/.
What’s ONLINE Check out our expanded listing of arts organizations and their schedules of events for the upcoming season.
What you CAN DO Enjoy the cooler temperatures and Central Florida’s only juried art show to feature Florida artists exclusively: the 40th annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival, Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Central Park along Park Avenue. It’s free. While you’re at it, check out the special sidewalk sales the Avenue’s boutiques will be having.
What’s ON DECK In our November issue, we’ll take a look at a unique, grassroots outdoor art museum in an upand-coming downtown neighborhood. We’ll also be dishing out our annual Silver Spoon awards to recognize excellence in Orlando-area restaurants. OCTOBER 2013
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Copyright 2013 by Florida Home Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited without written permission of the copyright holder. ORLANDO LIFE (USPS 000-140) (Vol. 14/Issue No. 10) is published monthly by Florida Home Media LLC, 2700 Westhall Lane, Ste 128, Maitland, FL 32751. Periodicals Postage Paid at Maitland, FL and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Orlando Life Magazine, 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Suite 205, Sarasota, FL 34236. 6
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Mormons and War Horses BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS.
The effort to bring The Book of Mormon to Orlando has been underway for several years.
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PHOTOS: COURTESY BRoadway accross america
Ben Brantley called the show “heaven on Broadway.” But given the musical’s touchy subject and the irreverence of its creative begins marching through the Bob Carr Perteam, there’s certainly potential for offense. forming Arts Centre. And each year there’s “At first, everyone’s jaw drops,” Legler admits. “Then once usually only one show — or maybe two — that you get over that initial factor, it has the heart of any wonderI’m especially eager to salute. ful Broadway show.” This year, there are three productions in the six-show Once (Jan. 28-Feb. 2) and War Horse (Feb. 25-March 2) are Broadway Across America series I can hardly wait to see, the other shows in the series that I’m pumped about. The foras well as at least a couple of others I’m more than curious mer is based on the 2006 indie film that tells a simple love story about. Leading this season’s parade is The Book of Mormon, set in Dublin. The play sounds pretty simple, too, but there is the most eagerly anticipated show in years — and still the at least one gimmick — and it involves adult beverages. hottest ticket on Broadway. “At the very beginning they let you get up on stage,” Legler “It’s the biggest thing we’ve seen,” says Ron Legler, presipoints out. “There’s a bar that’s part of the set, and they actudent of the Florida Theatrical Association, the Orlandoally sell alcohol. The whole entire cast is based statewide organization that’s helpthere before the show starts, so you feel ing to bring the show to town from Oct. you have a connection with them. And 29 through Nov. 10. “It’s mammoth!” the connection just grows stronger.” Given this year’s remarkable slate, I War Horse, meanwhile, tells the story started wondering about something I of a boy and his horse, set against the ordinarily take for granted: How are The unholy ravages of World War I. That Book of Mormon and the other Broadhorse is a giant, complex puppet. way-series shows selected? It turns out “When I first sat down to watch War that Legler is the point man in a comHorse in New York, I thought, ‘Well, plicated process that involves planning, I’m going to have to get used to this,’” networking and research. Legler recalls. “But five minutes in, I “We have to think two or three years never realized it was a puppet again. It’s in advance,” he explains. “We have what just something magical that happens.” we call our pipeline of shows that are in Rounding out the series are Flashdevelopment.” Although Ron Legler’s crystal ball may dance: The Musical (Dec. 3-8), Evita Legler is a Tony voter, which means provide some insight, it’s actually hard(March 25-30) and Ghost: The Musical he’s required to see all the new Broadcore research that helps him decide which (May 13-18). Two stand-alone producway shows in each category for which tions that aren’t part of the regular seahe intends to cast a vote. Other mem- shows locals really want to see. son are also on the way: Mamma Mia! bers of his team watch those produc(Oct. 3-9), returning to Orlando for the fourth time, and Jertions, too, and they caucus to discuss which ones might work sey Boys (April 15-27), back here for its second go-round. best in Orlando. In addition they survey their nearly 8,500 Even as this season gets underway, Legler and his team are season-ticket holders, many of whom are, Legler notes, “very already hard at work on the next one, which will be the first savvy” about theater. in the series’ new home, the long-awaited Dr. Phillips Center This year, Legler and company ratcheted up the “pipeline” for the Performing Arts. I am definitely not taking that seaprocess. son for granted — and neither is anyone involved. “Knowing it’s our 25th anniversary, and knowing it’s the “I can tell you,” says Legler, “that Orlando isn’t going to last year at the Bob Carr, we put it out there very early — miss anything that goes through the pipeline.” probably a few years ago — that we wanted to make this a Visit orlando.broadway.com for more information. n very special year,” he says. “We leveraged everything we had and we made it all happen.” Jay Boyar, arts editor of Orlando Life, has written about film and Again, that includes The Book of Mormon, a collaboration intravel for the Orlando Sentinel and numerous other newspapers. volving Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park) He’s the author of Films to Go: 100 Memorable Movies for and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q’s composer). It’s about a pair of Travelers & Others and a contributor to Reel Romance: The naive missionaries who are out of their depth seeking converts Lovers’ Guide to the 100 Best Date Movies. in Uganda. Reviewing it in the New York Times, theater-critic bout this time every year, a parade of musicals
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plan on it Jake’s Inaugural Beer Festival
The Barber of Seville
High-class beer connoisseurs and craft-brew gurus are in for a treat this month. Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort celebrates Oktoberfest in style with what is expected to become an annual beer festival. O’zapft is!
Even after 200 years, Rossini’s boisterous comedy is still an opera buffa favorite. Filled with high-wire feats of vocal agility, nonstop action, tenderness and joy, it’s the opera for people who don’t like opera.
He’s been a megastar with Creedence Clearwater Revival and as a solo act. Now the singer, songwriter, guitarist and father of the flannel shirt is touring the country behind his newest album, Wrote a Song For Everyone.
Central Florida Veg Fest
Oct. 4 Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Oct. 3-9 Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
On the eve of her wedding, a young bride’s quest to have her father walk her down the aisle turns up three men from her mother’s past. This comedic musical, which features ABBA’s greatest hits, will have you dancing in the aisles.
Oct. 25 and 27 Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre
Oct. 30 Hard Rock Cafe
Oct. 26 Orlando Festival Park
Nine Inch Nails
Oct. 31 Amway Center
For veg heads and meat lovers alike, this celebration of all things leafy and green offers educational exhibits, vegetarian food vendors, food demonstrations, a kid’s zone and live music.
Before “Hurt” was a Johnny Cash song, it was a Nine Inch Nails song. Lead singer Trent Reznor and company hammered home the industrial rock music craze of the early ’90s, and now the reconstituted group — with Reznor still at the helm — is touring for the first time in five years.
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If all goes according to plan, two years
from now the world’s most popular female classical singer will hitch a ride on a Russian Soyuz to low-earth orbit and turn the International Space Station into the solar system’s most expensive recording studio. But before singing up there, Sarah Brightman is going to sing down here, showcasing her otherworldly voice Oct. 8 at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando. It’s one of more than 100 stops on the 53-year-old diva’s worldwide Dreamchaser tour, touting her recently released album of the same name. The video of its signature track, “Angel,” makes259-215 it clearPMwhat dream the for- OrlHome&LeisureV4.pdf
mer Mrs. Andrew Webber is chasing: It intersperses home movies of Brightman’s childhood in the English town of Berkhamsted with dozens of vintage clips of space launches, astronauts and cosmonauts. Her dream isn’t cheap. While no price tag has been given for the scheduled October 2015 excursion, the cost for the last space-tourist flight — taken by Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté in 2009 — was $40 million. Brightman, who originated the starring role of Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera and pioneered the “classical crossover” genre, can afford it. Her worldwide album sales top 30 million, a British publication re1 9/4/13and1:57 PM
cently ranked her as the world’s richest female classical performer. Visit amwaycenter.com for more information. — Harry Wessel
PHOTO: COURTESY AMWAY CENTER
At Amway, a Heavenly Voice Prepares for a Lilting Liftoff
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Bacon is hot these days. “The candy of meats,” as it has been
dubbed by the online publication Bacon Today, has spawned numerous worshipful gatherings: A recent bacon festival in Des Moines, Iowa, sold all of its 8,000 tickets in less than four minutes. Orlando baconnoiseurs are expected to match the Iowans’ enthusiasm, if not their numbers, when The Festival of Bacon is held at Festival Park on Oct. 5. “We’re expecting 2,000 people, and there’s a solid chance the event will be sold out,” says Kyle Morris, 26, one of the event’s five founders, all of whom are local entrepreneurs involved in computer- or Internet-related companies. They’ve signed up dozens of Central Florida restaurants and pubs to compete for various bacon-preparation prizes, with the overall Best of Bacon winner earning a spot in November’s Bacon World Championship in Las Vegas.
The festival will feature live music from top-notch acts including Kaleigh Baker, Ben Prestage, Good Luck Penny and, from Louisiana, Vagabond Swing. There’ll be a bouncehouse for kids and pets are welcome — although who knows how they’ll behave, with the seductive porcine aroma permeating the air. Two big worries for Morris: the possibility of rain during the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. festival or, even worse, the possibility of running out of bacon. Although they can’t control the weather, they can control the bacon. They’ve ordered enough meat to guarantee at least a half-pound per patron. That doesn’t include the 1,000 samples that each participating restaurant is required to bring. See festivalofbacon.com for more information. — Harry Wessel
POSTer: the festival of bacon
Bringing Home the Bacon, Literally
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POSTer: the festival of bacon
9/13/13 10:26:56 AM
Scare Tactics Range From Meek to Bleak world on Halloween: the scary and the scared. Fortunately, those who fall into the latter category have options, ranging from hair-raising to a walk in a well-lit park. A few possibilities: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom Selected Nights, Sept. 10-Nov. 1
Little ones can trick-or-treat alongside their favorite Disney characters in this separate-ticket event ($59 to $73, depending on the night). Its traditional, friendly ghost-type parade will feature Jack Skellington, protagonist of the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas, for the first time. disneyworld.disney.go.com.
Halloween Horror Nights Universal Studios Selected Nights, Sept. 20-Oct. 27
Eight haunted houses for die-hard scareseekers are themed after several horror movies: Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London and, new this year, Cabin in the Woods. Also new: a haunted house based on the video game series Resident Evil. halloweenhorrornights.com. Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker Orlando Shakespeare Theater Oct. 9-Nov. 10
Before True Blood there was the blueblood of bloodsuckers, the alpha vampire of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. The celebrated gothic tale has been adapted
for the stage by Orlando Shakespeare Theater artistic director Jim Helsinger. orlandoshakes.org. WJRR Halloweenie Roast CFE Federal Credit Union Arena at UCF Oct. 25
This annual concert always features a creepy rocker. This year it’s one of the patriarchs of the genre: Alice Cooper, accompanied on his campus visit by assorted guillotines, electric chairs and boa constrictors. Also on the bill: Bullet for My Valentine, Black Veil Brides, Papa Roach, Pop Evil and Heaven’s Basement. livenation.com. — Jessica Gilbreath
© 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.
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HEATING UP A COLD CASE, WITH RIVETING RESULTS. ark Pinsky, former longtime religion reporter
for the Orlando Sentinel, has a new book coming out this month, Met Her on the Mountain. It centers on the unsolved 1970 murder of a young federal VISTA worker in western North Carolina. Pinsky, 66, is the author of four previous books, including the 2001 bestseller, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, which
4OHL_Oct13 Conversation.indd 18
was revised and re-released in 2007. He lives in Maitland with his wife and fellow Duke University graduate, Sarah M. (Sallie) Brown, a social worker and freelance photographer. Both their children â€” Asher, 25, and Liza, 22 â€” are also Duke graduates. Now a freelance writer, journalist and public speaker, Pinsky recently covered the Trayvon Martin trial for the
PHOTO: Sarah M. Brown
By Harry Wessel
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Q: You spent more than two decades as a religion writer, first with the Los Angeles Times and then with the Orlando Sentinel, and your four previous books have religious themes. How is it that your latest book involves a coldcase murder in a rural North Carolina county where you’ve never lived? A: The day after this woman’s body was discovered in Madison County, an article appeared in the Durham [N.C.] Sun. I was on the Duke University campus, where I had recently graduated. I had been very political in the ’60s at Duke. At one point I wrote a column for the Duke Chronicle called “The Readable Radical,” and I felt an instant kinship to this woman even though I never met her. She was a year or two older than I was, had a commitment to social justice and reminded me of a lot of people I knew. I clearly remember tearing out the article, putting it in a file and writing “Nancy Dean Morgan” on it. That was the 19th of June 1970, just six weeks after the Kent State and Jackson State killings. Did I know I would write a book about it? No, I didn’t. But something made me put that article into a file and save it. Q: But you didn’t do anything more at the time? A: No. I went away to graduate school in journalism, and I came back to North Carolina to begin a career as a freelance writer. My early stories involved racial justice and capital punishment. But I wasn’t making enough money to support myself, so I had other jobs. One of them was as a researcher for the Southern Oral History Project in Chapel Hill. I opened one file that said, “Zeno Ponder” — a funny name — and “Madison County.” Something clicked. Here was a county of 17,000 people, and Zeno was one of two brothers who had ironclad control there for 35 years. Immediately my conspiratorial brain said, “If they weren’t involved in the killing, at the very 20
4OHL_Oct13 Conversation.indd 20
least — in a county that small and the control that great — they must know who did it.” So I took the whole file, photocopied it and put it into the Morgan file I had started several years’ earlier. Q: Would the book have happened if you hadn’t opened that file? A: I don’t know. But having stoked my interest by coincidence, I heard a friend of mine from Duke had bought an old inn up in Madison County. That was around 1975, and I went up to visit. I told him I wanted to write a book about the Nancy Morgan murder and asked him to keep his ears open. I had started writing about murder cases, and I was building that as a professional skill set. Q: What kind of murder cases were you covering? A: The first one people of a certain age might remember was a rape and murder case involving Joan Little, a young black woman who killed her jailer with an ice pick following what she said was a sexual assault in her jail cell. It was my first big national break, in March 1975. I covered the trial on an almost daily basis as a stringer for the New York Times. I later covered the Ted Bundy arrest and trial in Miami for newspapers, magazines and broadcast; in his jail cell in Tallahassee I got the first face-to-face interview with him. I covered the Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald murder case and trial in Raleigh. I covered the Tommy Zeigler murder case — the murder was in Winter Garden but the trial was moved to Tallahassee. In the ’70s most of my work involved murder and racial justice. I started out with trials where the defendants were poor, black and innocent, and by the end of the decade they were focused on the affluent, white and guilty. Q: What kept you from working on the Nancy Morgan case during the ’70s? A: I was in no hurry. It was an open case. It was just one of the things I knew I wanted to write about but no sense of when I wanted to write about it. In the early ’80s I was in China, working for the New China News Agency, and I came back looking for what to OCTOBER 2013
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The Huffington Post and other news outlets. He spoke with Orlando Life about his writing career and his fourdecade obsession with a violent backwoods crime.
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Robert & Tricia Earl
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do next. I pitched the Morgan murder to the New York Times and the Village Voice. An editor at the Voice wanted to know if there were any racial elements: The trifecta, today as it was then, is sex, race and violence. When I told the editor there was no racial element, she lost interest. Q: You joined the L.A. Times in 1984 and left it in 1995 for the Orlando Sentinel. Did the Morgan story have anything to do with the switch? A: It was one of the factors. I had bumped heads with editors at the L.A. Times, which I tend to do. Every place I work I end up on probation at some point. It’s never for personal problems; it’s involving how I relate to authority or to journalistic decisions. At the Times I got in trouble, rehabilitated myself, and once I was rehabilitated I began looking for other work. I wanted to go to the Southeast, to be in or near North Carolina. So I combined the first four or five job-interview trips to the Southeast with side trips to Madison County, and I began doing my first research on the book. Here it was 1994, 24 years later, and no one had done the book, no one had done the magazine piece. I was always in fear that someone else was going to waltz in — maybe a better writer than me, certainly a more famous writer than me. It was a good story whether you found the murderer or not. Q: Did you try to find a publisher for the “good story”? A: I made a conscious decision at the front end that I wasn’t going to find a contract first. When you go for a contract, you take their money and they’re in charge. You have to promise what you don’t know you can deliver. My strategy was to write it on my own time, on my own nickel, and auction it off for a lot of money. No book company is going to write you a contract and say come back in 16 years with your book. I had a job, so I could keep researching until I thought I was ready. The story had four major elements, and in the beginning I couldn’t get them in the right order. There’s a story of the murder and Nancy Morgan; there’s a story of Madison County and its rich history; there’s a story of the Ponder political dynasty; and there’s a story of, “Mark tries to solve a murder.” The question for me was, what’s the main narrative trunk? 22
I was frustrated for a good while, and in 2000 I put it aside to work on other books. This was supposed to be my first book, but it’s my fifth book. Q: Your first book, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, was a bestseller. Where did the idea come from? A: Right here at home. I think the best parenting decision Sallie and I ever made was, no television in the house during the week. But it was summer, school was out and the kids wanted to watch it. I said, “Here’s the deal: I’ll watch it with you, and if it’s OK we’ll keep watching and if it’s not, we’ll stop.” And I had the remote. They were 8 and 11 at the time. In those days you could watch a dozen episodes a week, with syndicated old shows six nights and a new show on Sundays. What struck me the first weekend was how much religion was in the show, so I got a legal pad and started making notes. I had two concerns about the kids watching it: One was language, the other was sex. I found the language was not a big deal, and the sex went over their heads. The primary sexual message of The Simpsons is that the husband and wife are still hot for each other after 10 years of marriage, and I’m OK with that message. I wrote a long Sunday piece for the Sentinel and it got picked up around the country. I did a book proposal and a chapter outline, photocopied the article and began sending packets out to agents and publishers. In the end there were two nibbles — a religious publisher in Michigan and Westminster John Knox, which understood the premise because they had done The Gospel According to Peanuts back in the ’60s, which sold like 10 million copies. Q: So you had a contract and were off and running? A: I got an unpaid leave of absence from the Sentinel to write it. It’s scary to go three months without salary with two kids. Yes, I had a contract; I also had an empty computer screen. But the raw material was there, and the book started to flow. The publication date was Sept. 1, 2001. We had 10 days of unobstructed media exposure, then the twin towers fell and we shut down for three months. A lot of very good books that came out that fall never came back. But the media constituency for The Simpsons was so deep and so strong that we had print, radio and television exposure that didn’t end for 18
COVERS: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX PRESS
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months. We just rode that wave. It was a good book, not a great book, but we ended up selling 160,000 copies. The publishers asked, “What’s next?” Q: And you answered, The Gospel According to Disney? A: I was already neck-deep covering the Disney boycott [by Southern Baptists protesting Disney’s domestic-partner benefits]. Plus, as with The Simpsons, I had done a Sentinel article on the subject, “The Disney Gospel,” and I got the original idea the same way: When the kids were young I would watch the full-length animated Disney films with them, and I began to see a consistent moral and kind of religious message. With The Gospel According to Disney, I had a contract immediately. I always knew I wanted to do a book on the films, but I also did chapters on the boycott — I had written 40 or 50 articles in the Sentinel about it. I also did chapters on Michael Eisner’s Jewish background, on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Jewish background, and on Walt and his sort of Christian/ non-Christian background: Walt Disney was very ambivalent about organized religion. That book didn’t do as well, but it sold 40,000 copies. Q: Then you switched gears in 2006 with A Jew Among the Evangelicals. How did that come about? A: I thought there was a real misunderstanding in the Northeast about who these people were, that I could be the person who explains Sunbelt suburban evangelicals as middle-class, college-educated and more moderate than the caricature of knuckle-scraping, pitchfork-bearing rural folk. I was right, but when it came out there were about 40 other books on evangelicals. They were all timed for the November 2006 midterm elections, which I believe was the high point of evangelical political influence in America. So, I’m proud of the book, but we had a hard time giving it away. After that I turned back to thoughts of the murder book. I did a first draft right after I was laid off by the Sentinel [in 2008], but then came an offer to do a book about religion and disability. It was a cash deal, and it would have been irresponsible for me to turn it down. I had done maybe half a dozen disability-related stories for the Sentinel, and they ultimately were transformed into chapters for the book, Amazing Gifts. It opened my eyes about a lot of things I didn’t know about. 24
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Q: What else were you doing to earn money after leaving the Sentinel? A: Some lecturing, some teaching — I taught two adjunct courses at UCF — some freelancing, but not making much money at all. Q: Do you expect this book to have much of an impact outside of North Carolina? A: I don’t know, but it got a rave review in Publishers Weekly, which called it a “compulsive page-turning true-crime narrative.” Absent that, it might have been popular in North Carolina and the Southeast among some truecrime people. Q: What’s next for you? A: If this book does well, there are two other cases with which I have a personal connection that have book possibilities. One is set in Montgomery, Alabama; the other in Newport Beach, California. The Newport Beach case I covered for the LA Times, and I’ve appeared on two true-crime cable shows based on the same case. Q: Are these cold-case murders? A: No, they’re old but not cold. They both had resolution but were very intriguing cases nonetheless. No one has written books about them. But I don’t have any cases where I have such a deep and longstanding personal connection as I did with Nancy Morgan. One is plenty. Q: So, who killed Nancy Morgan? A: There are two narratives. My narrative says Richard Johnson and four local thugs killed her, perhaps not intentionally. Raped her intentionally, but didn’t kill her intentionally. Q: And the narrative of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is that the person you pseudonymously call “Ed Walker” did it. He was a colleague of Morgan’s and the last person known to have seen her alive. But your book pretty much says he’s not the man. A: No. It’s possible Walker really did kill her. That the process may have been corrupt does not exclude the possibility that was true. In the end I wish there had been a DNA match — I could have put a bow on it — but there wasn’t. Johnson is still alive, in his late 60s, in prison for another murder. He’s a very scary guy. ■
COVERS: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX PRESS; AMAZING GIFTS, THE ALBAN INSTITUTE
9/13/13 10:39:43 AM
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It’s All in Your Jeans A FAMILIAR STANDBY ALWAYS PROVIDES A LEG UP, WHATEVER THE LOOK. styling by Marianne Ilunga photographs by Rafael Tongol hair & makeup by Elsie Knab
Alexandria Morris is casually cool at Snap! Space, a soon-to-open gallery showcasing the works of local and national photographers. She’s wearing a Clover Canyon chiffon graphic-print sweatshirt, $198, and carrying a Rebecca Minkoff colorblock zipper bag, $495, both from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall. Her Citizen of Humanity green jeans, $212; Sam Edelman two-toned spiked Oxfords, $138; beaded jade necklace with tassel, $84; and black, white and gold bracelet, $158; are all from Tuni on Park Avenue. 26
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CREDITS: PHOTOGRAPHERâ€™S ASSISTANT, CHRIS RANK; EDITORIAL INTERN, JESSICA GILBREATH
The 7 For All Mankind jacquard pattern jeans, $198; Vince black sheer sleeveless top, $195; and Prada suede wedge boots, $730; are all from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall. The Dolce Vita fur jacket, $348; necklace with cross, $28; and gold ring with faux diamond, $135; are all from Tuni on Park Avenue.
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The Bella Dahl split-back jean shirt, $165; Rag & Bone faded distressed jeans, $200; Les Copains black and gold metallic coat, $1,095; and DVF gold-lip clutch, $395; are all from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall. The Boutique 9 Brianna strap heels, $178; suede and gold tassel necklace, $144; gold tassel drop earrings, $88; star shield ring, $135; Mimi ring, $188; and black and gold bracelet, $28; are all from Tuni on Park Avenue.
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The Yoana Baraschi equestrian jacket with leather details, $478; BLK mesh blouse, $195; Citizens of Humanity black jeans, $235; chain bracelets, $84 each; hoop bracelets, $18 each; ring, $34; and necklaces, $34-$174; are all from Tuni on Park Avenue. The Burberry black and white leather and calf-hair tote, $2,195, and Prada black and white pointed ballerina shoes, $650, are both from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall.
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9/13/13 10:46:19 AM
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The Current/Elliott plum-color coated jeans with zipper details, $248; Rebecca Taylor denim zipper vest, $295; and geometric drop earrings, $22; are all from Tuni on Park Avenue. Loeffler Randall maroon calf-hair and leather purse, $695, and Alice and Olivia sheer floral blouse $297, are both from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall. The Chanel plum-color frame sunglasses, $348, are from Eyes & Optics on Park Avenue.
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The June leather motorcycle jacket, $588, and Schutz blue calf-hair and suede ankle boots, $340, are both from Tuni on Park Avenue. The J Brand leather jeans, $229, and Marc Jacobs calfskin cross-body bag, $358, are both from Saks Fifth Avenue at The Florida Mall; and the Splendid Navy camo top, $78, is from Splendid, The Mall at Millenia. The fingerless knit gloves are the stylistâ€™s own.
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2013 HOME OF THE YEAR THE COMPETITION WAS CLOSE, BUT THIS YEAR’S WINNERS REFLECT EXCELLENCE IN AN ARRAY OF GENRES. by Randy Noles
9/16/13 5:30:04 PM
PhotoS: Eric Cuccianioni
lorida is known for close votes,
but Bush vs. Gore in 2000 has nothing on Orlando Life’s Home of the Year in 2013. When the results from the judging for this annual honor were tallied, the top three candidates were separated by just a handful of points. In fact, there was tie for runner-up, and no debatable butterfly ballots or hanging chads to break the stalemate. But that’s not too surprising, considering the quality of the entries. Our distinguished out-of-market judges were uniformly impressed, although they held contradictory opinions about which home ought to get the ultimate nod. Judges assigned point values between 1 and 25 in the categories of creativity, efficiency, aesthetics and livability. So the highest possible score from an individual judge was 100. The scores from each judge were then totaled, making the highest possible combined score 300. The winning home got stratospheric marks from two judges and a so-so score from a third. An overall runnerup was actually the highest-rated home on one judge’s score sheet. That alone says volumes about how high the bar has been raised in this competition. The same was true for an array of sub-categories, including individual rooms and outdoor living areas. A specific category for green building was dropped. However, that doesn’t mean eco-friendliness is no longer important. It simply means that sustainability and energy efficiency have become so pervasive in new construction and remodeling that they no longer warrant special mention for uniqueness. With that background in mind, on the following pages we’ll take a grand tour of the winning homes in each category. ORLANDO LIFE
9/16/13 4:50:09 PM
Villa dei Gemelli (pages 32, 33, 34)
HOME OF THE YEAR
Villa dei Gemelli Entered by Charles Clayton Construction Team members: Builder, Charles Clayton Construction; architect, Phil Kean Design Group; interior designer, Rob Turner, Phil Kean Design Group; pool designer, Redmon Design Company; pool contractor, Orlando Pool Designs; landscape designer, Redmon Design Company; kitchen cabinets, Cabinetry Creations. The aptly named “House of Twins” is a contemporary Italian showplace built for a young family raising twins, a boy and a girl. The home is open and inviting, and packed with energy-efficient technology. It also emphasizes indoor-outdoor living, with a 40-foot wall of glass opening onto several large lanais overlooking the pool and beautifully landscaped gathering spots. An inner courtyard features a hand-carved fountain depicting the resident twins. A two-story, curved-glass staircase is a particularly eye-popping interior feature. Dropped ribbed panels anchor the impressive backlit barrel-vault ceiling in the family room, while the entertainment area boasts a wall of stacked stone encompassing a large TV, a linear fireplace and two large saltwater aquariums. Beautiful glass rotundas accentuate the master suite, master shower and breakfast nook. A casita, PhotoS: Eric Cuccianioni
wine room and study complete the home.
FROM THE JUDGES Wonderful floorplan that blends indoor and outdoor spaces ... appropriate combination of traditional imagery and more up-to-date interior spaces ... spaces flow from one to the other effectively and efficiently, especially the living room and adjacent kitchen and outdoor living areas ... the restrained color palette is light and refreshing ... great style, form and detailing ... expansive, bright and airy. 34
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Palazzo Lago Entered by Silliman Homes Team: Builder; Silliman Homes; architect, Tony Weremeichik, Canin Associates; interior designer, Masterpiece Interiors; landscape designer, Randy Scruggs; pool designer, Canin Associates; pool contractor, Orlando Pool Designs One judge was adamant that Palazzo Lago should have been the undisputed Home of the Year. And why not? From the stunning entry to the poolside cabana, the home features clean lines reminiscent of South
The New Southern Home
Florida architecture from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Downstairs, every room boasts large windows overlooking the lake or other lush outdoor spaces. The large, chef-inspired kitch-
The New Southern Home Entered by NWC Construction and Keesee Associates
en features a separate sink and prep station as well as a notably long granite countertop. The grand first-floor master suite is highlighted by a dramatic vestibule entry, a private retreat separate from the bedroom and an oversized closet. The first-floor “Old Florida” room is flanked by
Team: Builder, NWC Construction; building designer, David Pillsbury, Keesee & Associates; interior designer; Design Studio 15; landscape designer, Bonnett Design Group; pool designer, David Pillsbury, Keesee & Associates; pool contractor, Sea Maiden Pools; kitchen cabinets, UltraCraft
double French doors and anchored by a beautiful stone fireplace. The
The New Southern Home, built in conjunction with the 2013 Southeast
FROM THE JUDGES The blend of historic Florida design with cutting-edge interiors make this a winner … attention to detail inside and out makes it ideal for elegant yet comfortable entertaining … rich woods and warm colors preserve the historic style … looks native to the area rather than a snowbird’s summer house.
Building Conference, was inspired by the much-photographed Interfaith Chapel in Seaside, a neotraditonal community in Florida’s Panhandle. This year’s NSH is a whitewashed board-and-batten Florida vernacular beauty with distinct, well-defined living spaces and a pitched tin roof. Yet, although the picture-postcard design is reminiscent of another era,
second-floor centerpiece is a recreation room that opens onto a viewing deck. The surrounding three bedrooms and bonus room each have private bathrooms. Outdoors is a cabana with a fully equipped summer kitchen and a nearby fire pit.
the physical structure is very much a product of the 21st century. The technology is cutting-edge green. A gour-
PhotoS: (top) Uneek Image; (bottom) Bill Bachman
met kitchen opens seamlessly onto an outdoor kitchen
and pool area with a fire pit. The downstairs master suite, with its cathedral-beamed ceiling, solar-powered skylight and sliding barn doors, is a particular highlight. In the first-floor master bath, wall-to-wall louver panel cabinets replace drawers and closets, while the secondfloor master suite boasts a coffee area, Greek bath and lake-view balcony. Also upstairs, a multipurpose room features a wet bar and sitting area.
FROM THE JUDGES Attention to detail was apparent in every aspect ... although simple in concept, the design has a great flow and yet creates wonderfully detailed entertainment and private zones ... efficient and livable floorplan ... great aesthetics. ORLANDO-LIFE.COM
9/16/13 5:32:28 PM
Villa dei Gemelli
LIVING ROOM OF THE YEAR
Villa dei Gemelli Entered by Charles Clayton Construction Team: See Home of the Year The Home of the Year just happens to encompass the Living Room of the Year. It’s an oversized space with an abundance of natural light and a large, barrel-vault ceiling highlighted by oversized dropped-rib panels. The center “feature wall” contains a large TV, a linear fireplace and two saltwater aquariums, while the glass wall opens onto a large covered lanai overlooking a waterfall pool.
FROM THE JUDGES Beautiful articulation of space through use of shape, texture and color ... the open-ness to the outdoors is a fantastic amenity ... I like the textured wall ... unique ceiling treatments and expansive openings.
PhotoS: (top) Eric Cuccianioni; (Bottom) harvey smith
Villa DiLusso Entered by Cornerstone Construction Team: Builder, architect and interior designer, Jorge Ulibarri, Cornerstone Custom Construction The living room in this spectacular “Modern Mediterranean” home isn’t really a living room at all. It’s a “grand room” with a jaw-dropping, 22foot-high fireplace and dark wood columns illuminated by LED lighting. The designer ceiling boasts beams in a crisscross pattern and a trio of modern, sculptural hanging light fixtures. A stunningly executed niche of glass mosaics and stainless-steel plates is the centerpiece of the space, which is accessed through a tower entry anchored by a glittering chandelier.
FROM THE JUDGES Great interpretation of Spanish Mediterranean style with modern touches ... a spectacular space ... the finishes are so beautiful that you don’t need to do much in the way of decoration. 36
Villa DiLusso OCTOBER 2013
9/17/13 9:07:15 AM
BATHROOM OF THE YEAR Bay Point Entered by Phil Kean Design Group
Team: Builder and architect, Phil Kean, Phil Kean Design Group; interior designer, Rob Turner, Phil Kean Design Group This spa-like master bathroom, which offers expansive lake views, highlights a second-story addition. Neutral colors and natural materials, including limestone, walnut and stacked quartz, combine to create a relaxing, organic ambiance. Floating cabinetry provides clean, minimalist lines, while sleek fixtures and back-lighted floating ceilings softly illuminate the space. The soaker tub features a lustrous chrome wall, while the shower is enhanced by an assortment of niches and a floor fashioned from six-inch-square limestone tiles laid in a quarter-turn pattern. A wall of charcoal-colored, stacked quartz creates ad-
ditional architectural interest. An expansive balcony provides a relaxing indoor/outdoor space. Built-in blackout shades provide privacy.
FROM THE JUDGES Well-conceived contemporary design ... great relationship of indoor and outdoor spaces ... I love the layout ... storage abounds without taking anything away from the sleek design ... the shower and toilet tucked behind the graceful waterfall tub doesn’t allow any distractions from the views reflected in the mirror, adding depth and dimension to the space.
PhotoS: (top) Michael Lowry Photography; (Bottom) Everett & Soulé
Historic Estate Entered by Farina & Sons Team: Builder, Farina & Sons; architect, David E. Runnels Architects; interior designer, Grant Gribble, Gribble Interior Group One judge picked this modestly sized but stylishly eclectic bathroom as the first-place winner. The goal was to create a space that evoked vintage Hollywood glamour, which is appropriate for a home originally built in the 1920s. Both a freestanding, cast-iron tub and a glass-encased individual shower were incorporated. The two-tone tub, however, is the focal point of the room. It’s placed on a diagonal to create a corner display shelf for a treasured antique lamp. The custom cabinetry incorporates an antique mirror within the door panels, while granite countertops are used throughout. A detailed marble floor pattern, Asian-style wall coverings and a sunburst light fixture complete the transformation from modest to marvelous.
Historic Estate ORLANDO-LIFE.COM
FROM THE JUDGES The ability to create luxury within a modest space is a testament to the designer’s vision ... attention to detail transforms a modest, efficient bath into an oasis. ORLANDO LIFE
9/16/13 4:52:26 PM
KITCHEN OF THE YEAR Coastal Volusia Entered by Charles Clayton Construction
Team: Builder, Charles Clayton Construction; architect, Johnson Estate Designs; kitchen cabinets, Busby Cabinets
The Rosalind House Entered by MJS Custom Home Designs Team: Builder: GAM Construction; building designer, Interiors by Craig Deneer; kitchen cabinets, S&W Kitchens The gourmet kitchen is the heart of this charming home, located in the heart of a downtown Orlando historic district. An open and inviting space, it’s perfect for entertaining, especially around the showpiece center island, which boasts both seating and a convenient food-preparation area.
The kitchen of this gorgeous custom home
The room is illuminated by abundant natural light, and soft neutral colors predominate. The
takes full advantage of its beachfront loca-
traditional theme suits the home, which pays homage to the homes from the ‘30s and ‘40s that
tion by emphasizing expansive ocean views.
The home’s open floorplan has the kitchen
FROM THE JUDGES The style and color of the cabinets makes it seem like part of the furniture selected for the house ... it’s a modest space that feels expansive ... a dream kitchen for any cook.
placed conveniently next to the family room and dining room, while the contiguous wine area offers counter space from which to decant your favorite vino. The expansive island comfortably seats four, and provides an ideal
PhotoS: (top) Eric Cuccianioni; (Bottom) Macbeth Photography
gathering place for friends and family. The white marble of the countertop, combined with use of cool blues and light woods, gives the hub of the home a clean but elegant ambiance. The pantry and butler’s pantry provide plenty of storage without requiring an overabundance of cabinetry.
FROM THE JUDGES Great relationship to adjacent dining and outdoor spaces ... bright, welcoming and sophisticated ... combines high style with functionality ... I love the “waterfall” stone details ... everything about this contemporary kitchen speaks to me ... it has the spaciousness of the oversized island while keeping the work triangle to a minimum of steps. 38
The Rosalind House OCTOBER 2013
9/16/13 4:51:25 PM
MEET THE JUDGES
OUTDOOR LIVING SPACE OF THE YEAR Historic Estate Entered by Farina & Sons
Team: Builder, Farina & Sons; architect, Davie E. Runnels Architects; landscape designer, Frank Joseph Brooks Landscape; pool designer, Frank Joseph Brooks and Grant Gribble Interior Group; pool contractor, Artistic Pool Design When this historic 1920s home underwent a restoration and transformation, the outdoors received as much attention as the indoors. The goal was to create a private outdoor environment that preserved the home’s original privacy wall and fountain while maximizing space for entertaining. The fan-shaped pool incorporates glass pebbles in the interior finish and colorful Mexican-style tiles along the water line. It features a salt-water system and solar heating so it can be used year round. Decorative lighting within the pool adds visual excitement. Of particular interest are period light fixtures, and fencing and railing that showcases custom ironwork. The Travertine patio provides space for gardening, cooking and dining. The scope of the project also included a revamp of the home’s front, which
Patrick W. McClane, Smith and McClane Architects, Richmond, Va. A native Floridian, McClane received his Bachelor of Design from the University of Florida and later studied at the Vicenza Institute of Architecture. He also received a Master of Architecture from the University of Virginia. His work, including new homes and home additions, has received numerous awards, and he is an expert on the work of renowned Winter Park architect James Gamble Rogers II. Gregory F. Shue, Shue Design Associates, Holden Beach, N.C. Shue, who began his architectural career after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1997, has experience with an array of building types. His residential work, including primary residences, seasonal and vacation residences, apartments and townhouses, has been featured in magazines and books. In addition to designing homes for private clients, he’s a design consultant to local, regional and national builders and developers.
now boasts a stately entrance with a front porch and a garden seating area.
FROM THE JUDGES The transformation of this “backyard” into a secret oasis is a testament to the contractor’s team ... beautiful transformation ... imaginative solution and wellintegrated architecture and landscape design with wonderful color palette ... I love the arched elements that echo the architecture of the house ... great idea to install grass around the pool. n
Photo: Everett & Soulé
REMODELING WINNERS IN NOVEMBER Because of the quantity and the quality of entries, Orlando Life will present the Remodel of the Year winners and several related categories in its November issue, as part of its quarterly Remodel Orlando special section. The section is published in conjunction with the Remodel/Design Council of the Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando.
Jannis Vann, House Plan Resource, Woodstock, Ga. Vann, who has been designing homes since 1982, has won local, regional and national awards from the National Association of Home Builders and the American Institute of Building Design. She has also judged competitions for those organizations. Vann, who completed courses from the Institute of Classical Architecture in 2002, markets through national web sites and designs custom homes and remodeling projects in metro Atlanta.
9/16/13 5:33:10 PM
A New-Age Speakeasy
YOU CAN FIND PHARMACY. IT JUST TAKES PATIENCE.
oren Falson, Tyler Brassil and Dominick Tardugno are
gifted at identifying national trends and bringing them to Orlando before anyone else. First, the trio opened The Table, a tiny restaurant where the evening’s 22 or so guests gather around one large table and share a pre-set, five-course dinner with wine pairings. We still have nothing else quite like it. This past February, they followed with Pharmacy. It’s billed as a speakeasy, mirroring an urban trend found elsewhere in the country in establishments such as Varnish (Los Angeles) and Manifesto (Kansas City). The concept is threefold: Make it a challenge to find the spot; serve beverages that pay tribute to the Prohibition era; and, in some cases, plate up good-quality food. A little polish on all three fronts wouldn’t hurt the Pharmacy, although based on the buzz it has maintained and the long waits customers are willing to endure in order to be seated, it 40
appears to be wildly successful regardless. Of course, first you have to find the place. Like many of its culinary kin, Pharmacy has a secret door. “A true speakeasy has no sign, no advertising; it’s word of mouth,” explains coowner Brassil. “You only tell people you can trust, or would want to see there.” Once you arrive at the correct section of Dellagio, the upscale strip center on Restaurant Row, you’ll see two elevator doors. One is legit. The other is the speakeasy’s entrance. Press the button and the silver panels glide open, revealing a hostess desk and bar. Clever, if that’s your thing. That takes care of where to go, but good luck finding out when. The website doesn’t list the operating hours, and the generic message on its answering machine doesn’t reveal so much as the restaurant’s name. I left a voicemail asking to be called with the opening time for that night, but never heard back. OCTOBER 2013
9/13/13 10:52:01 AM
rona gindin photographs by rafael tongol
Get over yourself, Pharmacy. Yes, it’s a catchy ploy, but are you sure you want to so utterly confound potential customers? For the record, the Facebook page has the answer: 5 p.m. That’s important to know, because Pharmacy doesn’t accept reservations. We showed up at 6 and were seated immediately. But friends who arrived half an hour later were told there’d be an hour wait. Yet another set of friends reported that they shifted from foot to foot for three solid hours one night near the backside of those fake elevator doors. The beverage menu is thoughtful, as you’d expect from a cocktail-focused enterprise. “It’s not about slinging one back; it’s about enjoying your drink,” says Brassil, noting that many of the selections are “pre-Prohibition cocktails.” As our waiter explained, the drinks are “stronger and dryer,” as they were in the ’30s, and all the ingredients, except the spirits themselves, are made from scratch. I tried two beverages, each clearly high quality and packing the promised punch, but simple in flavor: Maybe that’s what the server meant by “dryer.” Since so many local bars now blend highly flavored ingredients, the lack of zing came as a disappointment. Still, we drained both glasses. Feed the Pigeons was a blend of Slow Hand white whiskey, Germain-Robin Pear de Pear, ORLANDO-LIFE.COM
(Left to right): The Classic Cheese Fondue was a bit of a mystery; a Portuguese pork and clam alentejana was superb; the Pharmacy bar offers Prohibition-era libations; co-owners Tyler Brassil, Loren Falson and Dominick Tardugno have a knack for spotting dining trends; the banana split is a timeless and formidable delicacy.
Fever Tree Tonic and key lime. Our other selection was a “hard soda” using homemade cola. It’s called East Setauket Job, and was a mix of 44 North vodka, Diplomatico Rum, Old Forester bourbon, Ford’s gin, Tapatio Reposado, Luxardo Triumplum, lemon and lime tincture, cola and gas (carbonation). No wonder just one of those concoctions knocked my 6-foot-2 inch guest off his sturdy, size-12 feet. It’s like a classy Long Island Iced Tea. The next time I might try Pharmacy’s take on classics such as the Manhattan (the menu lists two versions, one a “hard soda,” the other a “libation”) and a Tom Collins. Like The Table, Pharmacy features foods made from locally sourced, organic and/or sustainable foods, and the freshness of those ingredients was apparent in all five dishes we sampled. ORLANDO LIFE
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PHOTO: RAFAEL TONGOl
The Facebook page says the foods are tapas style, which generally means small portions (the opaque website merely refers to the food as Prescriptions), so I was surprised to see a traditional menu listing appetizers, entrées and desserts, with entrée prices ranging from $16 to $27. Prime ingredients and pride in presentation are a given, but we found mixed results in flavor. The two entrées we sampled were rave-worthy. A Portuguese pork and clam “alentejana” was superb. What Brassil refers to as a “hard-core” authentic take on alentejana is a sort of light stew. Tender marinated pork and a handful of tempting clams are bathed in a broth of white wine, tomatoes and onions surrounding a mound of ultra-fluffy mashed potatoes. Specks of parsley and slivers of green onion add pizzazz. We were just as enchanted with the double-cut pork chop, a flavorful hunk of meat served over a vivid salad of baby rocket, garlic croutons and local heirloom tomatoes. To make the meat that good, the chefs brined it “for several days” in salt, sugar, herbs and spices. Bravo. But the appetizer? I wanted to cry, and not in a good way. The Classic Cheese Fondue arrived bubbling in a crockpot, surrounded by thick slabs of crusty, homemade “100 yr Old Sourdough” bread crostini rubbed with garlic and oil, served with a dish of pickled green beans. The server had mentioned gruyère cheese, which has just the right sharpness for fondue. Brassil says the other ingredients include Emmentaler, white wine, garlic and kirschwasser, a Swiss cherry brandy. Yet the melted cheese was bland. Downright tame. I kept swiping up more with the luscious bread, sure I was missing a beautiful flavor. Nope. To be fair, my friend who waited for a table said her party enjoyed the dish, picking up hints of strong flavors. Did the cooks forget to add something to ours? I suspected the same of the pizza. We’d been set to choose the beef bone marrow with oxtail and fig marmalade, or the “whole buttery, garlicky Cape Canaveral rock shrimp,” as our second starter. At least we were until we saw a pizza set down at the next table. The thin crust, the blistered edges — we absolutely had to get that pie. We chose the Bianco, made with three cheeses, fried eggplant and baby rocket. Those three cheeses had no flavor. We spied creamy ricotta covered with gentle mozzarella and ta-
(Top to bottom): Flowers on the bar and nondescript china on the shelves comprise the sparse décor at the speakeasythemed establishment. However, a Mason-jar chandelier is a clever homage to the heyday of moonshining. 42
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leggio, my favorite cheese in the world, and a few strips of eggplant the size of those Band-Aids made for pinkies. Yet we tasted no more than the peppery greens. I can only hope that the spinach version with Harvest Moon Ghost Chile Spicy Oil has more oomph. Dessert will compensate, I assumed. I’d eyed a roasted peach and coffee custard napoleon on the menu. That just had to be, as the Pharmacy website might word it, “the bee’s knees.” But I wouldn’t know, since the restaurant had run out of it, just as it had run out of the tagliatelle Bolognese. That seemed odd for so early on the busiest night of the week. We wound up splitting the caramelized banana split, a boatload of sweetness with coconut ice cream, “bourbon caramel,” “Le Noir” hot fudge and fresh unsweetened whipped cream. Again, the flavors were mild, but that whipped cream compensated. It couldn’t have tasted fresher if a milk cow had been positioned, ready on demand, on the other side of that fake elevator door. Speaking of décor, the much-touted speakeasy theme wasn’t apparent. The L-shaped space has a slate floor, slatecolored paint on the walls, simple wooden tables and a glitzyish bar in the center. It’s nice-looking, contemporary, but not noteworthy for its design. Should you try Pharmacy? Of course. It’s of-the-moment, ORLANDO-LIFE.COM
(Left to right): Pharmacy uses a gravity-powered, cold-drip device for making specialty cocktails; homemade cola is the key ingredient in a concoction called the East Setauket Job; the Papa Oaxaca cocktail, one of the restaurant’s many offthe-wall libations, is topped by a chili lollipop. it’s overall good, and the origin of the name is fun. “We named it that because during Prohibition pharmacies were the only places you could legally get alcohol,” says Brassil. “And they quickly turned into local watering holes.” But show up very early, and be careful how you order. That’s my prescription, anyway. ■ WHERE: 8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando HOW MUCH: $$ WHERE TO CALL: 407-985-2972, thepharmacyorlando.com
Rona Gindin, dining editor of Orlando Life, has written about Orlando’s restaurants for Fodor’s and Zagat, among many other publications. She’s the author of The Little Black Book of Walt Disney World. ORLANDO LIFE
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3701 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, 407938-7400 / disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/sanaa. Sanaa, one of Disney’s most interesting restaurants, offers dishes based on cuisine from the Spice Islands, a coastal African area rich with Indian influences. Flavors are intense, but spicy only upon request. (Curry, the chefs insist, is a melding of flavors, not one particular spice.) The marketplace-style dining room boasts picture windows overlooking the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savannah, so you might spot zebra or wildebeest while lunching on tandoori chicken or a vegetarian platter with stewed lentils and a vegetable sambar (stew). $$
AMERICAN Cask & Larder
565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-280-4200 / caskandlarder.com. Billing itself as a “Southern Public House,” this casual Winter Park eatery serves up modern twists on traditional favorites. Look for a three-ham platter with pepper jelly; pimento cheese; and seasonal favorites such as grilled pork belly and chicken-and-biscuits. Many beers are made on the premises. $$
Chatham’s Place 7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando, 407- 345-2992 / chathamsplace.com. For an old-fashioned dining experience — a subdued dining room and doting personalized service by a longtime staff — dine at this hidden Restaurant Row establishment. Locals return regularly for Chef Tony Lopez’s classic dishes such as black grouper with pecan butter, rack of lamb and filet mignon. $$$ Dexter’s 808 E. Washington St., Orlando, 407-648-2777; 558 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-629-1150; 950 Market Promenade Ave., Lake Mary, 407-805-3090 / dexwine. com. Central Florida has three Dexter’s locations, and each has become a neighborhood magnet, drawing diners of all ages for hearty portions of creative American fare (at fair prices), good wine and, in some cases, live music. Casual dress is the rule. The brunches, and the pressed duck sandwiches, are especially popular. $$-$$$ Emeril’s Orlando 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando,
407-224-2424 / emerils.com. Get a taste of New Orleans at Emeril’s, a fine-dining restaurant at always-bustling Universal CityWalk. You’ll find classics from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, including the signature barbecue shrimp, andouille-stuffed redfish, double-cut pork chops and banana cream pie. The service, of course, is superb. Consider sharing appetizers at the bar area. $$$$
Hillstone 215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-7404005 / hillstone.com/hillstone. Formerly known as Houston’s, this Winter Park mainstay is part of a high-end chain. Still, it grows its own herbs, bakes its own bread, grinds its own meat, cuts its own fish and whips its own cream. In nice weather, guests relax with a cocktail in Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Killarney. Many proposals have been popped during dinners for two on the boat dock. $$$ Jernigan’s 400 W. Church St., Orlando, 407-440-7000 /
amwaycenter.com. Watch a Magic game in style at Jernigan’s, a well-appointed buffet restaurant located on the Amway Center’s exclusive club level. The reservations-only eatery, open to ticket holders, serves wholesome meals for about $40. The menu of the day might offer slow-smoked barbecue ribs, grilled rib-eye steak, pasta pomodoro and Chinese chicken salad. Jernigan’s is run by Chicago’s Levy Restaurants, the team behind Downtown Disney’s Portobello Yacht Club, Fulton’s Crab House and Wolfgang Puck Grand Café. $$$
Rusty Spoon 55 W. Church St., Orlando, 407-401-
8811 / therustyspoon.com. Foodies flock to this Church Street gastropub, a warm and welcoming space in which meals are described as “American food. European roots. Locally sourced.” Your salad will consist of über-fresh greens, your sandwich will be filled with slow-braised lamb, your pasta will be hand-rolled and your meat will be robustly seasoned. $$-$$$
Seasons 52 7700 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, 407354-5212; 463 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-767-1252 / seasons52.com. Business dinners, ladies’ luncheons and date nights abound at these ever-popular restaurants, big bustling spaces with satisfying food and comprehensive wine lists. It seems incidental that the food happens to be healthful and low in fat, with no menu item topping 475 calories. So if you want that clam chowder, go for it. It will be cleverly produced without cream, butter or roux. $$-$$$ 44
Shipyard Brew Pub 200 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-274-4045 / shipyardwinterpark.com. This ultra-casual brewpub has been packed night and day since it opened in 2011, and not just because it pours a great lager. To complement suds brewed both in-house and elsewhere, a from-scratch menu offers Buffalo chicken dip, amazing white-bean hummus, sandwiches, flatbreads and entrées, including étouffée and pot roast. Stop in any time to pick up a loaf of some of Orlando’s best bread. $-$$
Tap Room at Dubsdread 549 W. Par St., Orlando, 407-
650-0100 / taproomatdubsdread.com. One needn’t play golf to dine at this historic course-side tavern, a College Park icon offering a varied menu — and a reputation for fine burgers. Options other than the famous half-pound patties include steaks, salmon, tequila-citrus chicken and a dandy Reuben sandwich. $$
The Table Orlando 8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, 407-900-3463 / thetableorlando.com. For special occasions, book a place at The Table, a tiny restaurant that serves a five-course gourmet meal with wine pairings. Up to 22 guests at a time share the repast around an oversized table. The New American menu changes regularly and is comprised in large part of locally sourced foods. The price is a set $100 including tax and tip. Groups can host private events here. $$$$ TooJay’s Various locations / toojays.com. When it’s time
for a taste of Jewish Brooklyn — pastrami on rye, latkes, blintzes, knishes — the six local outlets of this South Florida-based chain have it all. You’ll also find diner foods such as omelets, sandwiches and pot-roast dinners. Take home some black-and-white cookies. $
ASIAN Anh Hong
1124 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, 407-999-2656. You’ll receive a bundle of fresh herbs to tear into your soup at this Mills 50 Vietnamese eatery, and another bunch for a roll-your-own entrée that’s like a DIY summer roll. Asian classics, such as grilled meats and scallion pancakes, are done exceptionally well here, which makes Anh Hong a top choice for local Vietnamese-Americans longing for a taste of home. $
Hawkers Street Fare 1103 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, 407-237-0606 / facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare. This Mills 50 mainstay, named for street vendors of Asian fare, serves up generous tapas-size portions of curry laksa (an aromatic Singaporean soup), roti canai (Malaysian flatbread with a hearty curry sauce), five-spice tofu, chilled sesame noodles, smoky mussels and sensational beef skewers with peanuty satay dip. $$
Sea Thai 3812 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, 407-895-0985 /
seaorlando.com. Start with a green papaya salad and beef yum, then feast on steamed whole fish with garlic chili sauce, pad Thai and green curry chicken. But you can’t go wrong with any of the Thai classics offered at this welcoming East Orlando eatery. $$
Seoul Garden 511 E. Horatio Ave., Maitland, 407599-5199 / orlandokorearestaurant.com. Seoul Garden is so Asian-focused that the “about us” section of its website is written in Korean. That authenticity extends to the food. Barbecued meats are grilled to order in the dining room. Be sure to try the marinated beef short ribs and the soft tofu stew. $
Sushi Pop 310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo, 407-542-5975 / sushipoprestaurant.com. Oviedo is an unlikely location for this cutting-edge restaurant, a popular spot for sushi. The food is serious and often experimental, as chef-owner Chau uses molecular gastronomy to create some of the fusion fare. The aura is fun: Asian anime on the walls, playful colors, and servers who dress in outrageous themed outfits. $$
$ Inexpensive, most entrées under $10 $$ Moderate, most entrées $10-20 $$$ Pricey, most entrées over $20 $$$$ Very expensive, most entrées over $30 indicates the restaurant is a Silver Spoon winner (Judges’ Choice).
BURGERS Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille
110 W. Church St., Orlando, 321-319-0600 / hamburgermarys-orlando.com. A colorful crowd is part of the fun at this Church Street hotspot, where bingo games, trivia contests and cabaret shows are among the events that vie for guests’ attention beside the enormous and creatively topped burgers. $
Pine Twenty2 22 E. Pine St., Orlando, 407-574-2160 /
pine22.com. Burgers go chic at this fast-casual downtowner, where every ingredient is special. The burgers are from happy cows, the eggs from free-roaming chickens, the pork from lovingly raised pigs. Mix and match your toppings over a patty of beef, turkey or black beans (or pulled pork), with options ranging from mango salsa to sautéed mushrooms. $$
CONTINENTAL Venetian Room
8101 World Center Drive, Orlando, 407-238-8060 / thevenetianroom.com. Walk though a run-of-the-mill convention hotel to reach the AAA FourDiamond Venetian Room, an elegant, domed-service, continental restaurant that hearkens to the heyday of unapologetic, butter-and-cream-enhanced fine dining. The lobster bisque is an absolute must. After that, try the filet mignon, duck a l’orange or Dover sole. $$$$
CREATIVE/ PROGRESSIVE Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel
99 W. Plant St., Winter Garden, 407-230-4837 / chefstableattheedgewater.com. Husband-and-wife team Kevin and Laurie Tarter are your personal servers at this intimate Winter Garden hideaway, where Kevin prepares the evening’s three-course, prix-fixe meal and Laurie helps choose the wine. Both stop by every table to chat with guests. Adjacent, the Tasting Room offers tapas-size portions of international dishes and a full bar. $$$
Funky Monkey 912 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, 407427-1447; 9101 International Dr., Orlando, 407-418-9463 / funkymonkeywine.com. These twin eclectic eateries are known as much for sushi and intriguing wine lists as for creative American cuisine and an ever-changing menu. FMI Restaurant Group also owns Bananas and the Funky Monkey Vault, a wine shop that also sells gifts, apparel and furniture. $$
K Restaurant 1710 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, 407872-2332 / krestaurant.net. Kevin Fonzo, the go-to chef in College Park since 2001, owns this homey eatery, which is, in fact, located in an erstwhile residence. The menu is mostly creative-American, along with Italian favorites celebrating Fonzo’s heritage. Casual wine tastings and themed special dinners, along with a constantly changing menu, bring back regulars for singular experiences. $$-$$$
Luma on Park 290 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-4111 / lumaonpark.com. If there’s pancetta in your salad, the salumi was made in the kitchen, by hand, starting with a whole pig. Most herbs are from local farms, fish from sustainable sources, pickled vegetables jarred in house and desserts built around seasonal ingredients. Luma’s progressive menu, which changes daily, is served in a sleek and stylish dining room in the heart of Winter Park, under the passionate direction of Executive Chef Brandon McGlamery, Chef de Cuisine Derek Perez and Pastry Chef Brian Cernell. $$$
Norman’s 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, 407-393-4333 / normans.com. Celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken’s restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, turns out artistic New World cuisine combining the flavors of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Far East and the United States. The dining room is dramatic, the food astounding and the service polished. Be sure to begin with a Norman’s classic: foie gras “French toast.” And you’ll be delighted with the Mongolian veal chop. $$$$ Park Plaza Gardens 319 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-
645-2475 / parkplazagardens.com. After 30-plus years, Park Plaza Gardens is practically an institution on Winter Park’s tony Park Avenue. People-watchers gather at the small bar and sidewalk tables to linger over casual meals and cold beers, while those looking for an indulgent experience dine in the garden-like back dining room, which boasts atrium windows and plush décor. The menu features a melding of American, European and Asian flavors and cooking techniques. $$$-$$$$
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Ravenous Pig 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park,
407-628-2333 / theravenouspig.com. After leaving their hometown for serious culinary training, Winter Park natives James and Julie Petrakis returned to open the region’s first genuine gastropub. Dinner reservations have been tough to snag ever since. The ambitious menu changes daily based on the fish, meat and produce that’s available, and it’s executed by a dedicated team that abhors shortcuts. Besides daily specials, The Pig always serves up an excellent burger, soft pretzels, shrimp and grits, and a donut dessert called Pig Tails. $$$
Victoria & Albert’s 4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista, 407-939-3862 / victoria-alberts.com. Indulgent, multicourse prix-fixe feasts are served in the serenely elegant main dining room, accompanied by live harp music, while yet more courses are offered in the more intimate Queen Victoria’s Room and the private Chef’s Table. Chef Scott Hunnel, Maitre d’ Israel Pérez and Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek travel the world to seek out impressive food and service trends, then adapt the golden ones locally. That’s why V&A, at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is Orlando’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant. $$$$
HAWAIIAN/ POLYNESIAN Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
6300 Hollywood Way, Orlando, 407-503-2467 / emerils.com. Emeril Lagasse’s Polynesian-fusion fare is executed within a dramatically decorated space. Diners enjoy tropical cocktails, steamed dumplings and creative entrées such as pan-roasted duck breast with gingered pear chutney and umeboshi (pickled) plum glaze. $$$$
Roy’s 7760 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando, 407-352-4844 / roysrestaurant.com. Hawaiian-fusion flavors enhance familiar and exotic fish dishes at this Restaurant Row pioneer, a link in a Honolulu-based chain owned by namesake chef, Roy Yamaguchi. $$
5748 International Dr., Orlando, 407-370-9830 / aashirwadrestaurant.com. Begin with kashmiri naan, a slightly sweet bread stuffed with nuts, coconut and raisins, and continue with chicken biryani, cauliflower in exotic Manchurian gravy and a mixed tandoori grill. Whole spices are roasted and ground daily on site, further enhancing the cuisine’s authenticity. $$
Memories of India 7625 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando,
407-370-3277; 3895 Lake Emma Road, Lake Mary, 407-8040920 / memoriesofindiacuisine.com. Exceptionally good Indian fare draws diners in Dr. Phillips and Lake Mary to these twin restaurants, where dishes such as palek paneer (creamed spinach) and lamb masala in rich ginger-garlic gravy always satisfy. $$
Raga 7559 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando, 407-985-2900 /
ragarestaurant.com. From its stylish décor to its inspired, somewhat global menu, Raga is a step above most local Indian restaurants. $$-$$$
611 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-645-5523; 691 Front St., Celebration, 407-566-2233 / antoniosonline. com. Fine Italian fare comes in three price ranges at Antonio’s, proprietor Greg Gentile’s trio of culinary homages to his ancestors. In Maitland, the upstairs Ristorante is somewhat formal, although the open kitchen provides peeks of the chefs in action. Its downstairs counterpart, Antonio’s Market & Café, is a more casual spot that doubles as a market and wine shop. And in Celebration, the casual, lake-view Cafe d’Antonio hits that center sweet spot. $$-$$$
Enzo’s on the Lake 1130 U.S. 17-92, Longwood, 407834-9872 / enzos.com. Long before Orlando became a serious foodie town, Enzo’s was serving up lovingly prepared Italian specialties inside a converted Longwood home. Little has changed. Split a bunch of antipasto to begin your meal.
After that, you pretty much can’t go wrong, but standout dishes include homemade ravioli stuffed with chicken and spinach, veal with artichoke-caper-white wine sauce and possibly the best spaghetti carbonara in town. $$$
O’Stromboli 1803 E. Winter Park Road, Orlando, 407-
647-3872 / ostrombolis.com. This innocuous neighborhood eatery isn’t fancy, but the food is filling and fresh. That’s why it has become a favorite of residents of Merritt Park, Rose Isle and Baldwin Park. The carbonara is particularly hearty and the fettuccini Alfredo is rich, buttery and more than you should eat in one sitting. The homemade soups are always a dependable starter. $$
Peperoncino 7988 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, 407-440-2856 / peperoncinocucina.com. The menu changes every night at this cozy Dr. Phillips Italian, where chef-owner Barbara Alfano puts out plates of fried pecorino drizzled with honey, pear and four-cheese pasta, and fish steamed in parchment paper. $$$
Prato 124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-262-0050 / prato-wp.com. This is one of Orlando’s very best Italian restaurants, but don’t expect a classic lasagna or chicken parmigiana. Executive Chef Brandon McGlamery and Chef di Cucina Matthew Cargo oversee an open kitchen in which pastas are made from scratch, pizzas are rolled to order, sausages are stuffed by hand and the olive oil is a luscious organic pour from Italy. Try the chicken liver Toscana, a satisfying salad Campagna with cubes of sizzling pancetta tesa, shrimp tortellini and citrusy rabbit cacciatore. Begin with a Negroni cocktail; it’s possibly the best around. $$-$$$
Rocco’s Grille & Bar 400 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park,
407-644-7770 / roccositaliangrille.com. Calabria native Rocco Potami oversees this romantic Italian eatery, where fine authentic fare is presented in an intimate dining room and on a secluded brick patio. Classics include carpaccio (raw, thinly sliced beef with white truffle oil and arugula), ricotta gnocchi and a breaded veal chop topped with a lightly dressed salad. It’s easy to miss, tucked away in a Winter Park strip center, but once you find it, you’ll be back. $$$
LATIN Mi Tomatina
433 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 321-972-4881 / mitomatina.com. This eatery bills itself as a paella bar, and indeed guests share a half-dozen varieties of the signature Spanish rice dish. Yet others come for a mellow meal over tapas (garlic shrimp, potato omelet, croquettes) and sangria, enjoyed while seated within a small contemporary dining room or outdoors overlooking Hannibal Square. $$-$$$
Pio-Pio 5752 International Drive, Orlando, 407-248-6424
/ mypiopio.com; 2500 S. Semoran Blvd., Orlando, 407-207-2262 / piopios.com; 11236 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, 407438-5677. Latin American-style marinated roast chicken is a mainstay at this trio of Peruvian-Columbian restaurants, where families fuel up on heaping platters of pollo along with garlicky salad, fried plantains (sweet and green), and rice and beans. $$
108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-6448609; 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-352-6766 / bosphorousrestaurant.com. This is the place for flavorful Turkish fare in either a white-tablecloth setting or alfresco along Park Avenue or Dr. Phillips Boulevard. Many couples fill up on the appetizer sampler with oversized lavash bread. For a heartier meal, try the ground lamb “Turkish pastry,” a shish kebab or a tender lamb shank. Outdoor diners can end their meals by smoking from a hookah. Or not. $$
Taverna Opa 9101 International Drive, Orlando, 407-
351-8660 / opaorlando.com. The food is excellent, but that’s only half the reason to visit Taverna Opa. On busy nights, the place is festive indeed: Some guests join a Zorba dance around the dining room while others toss white napkins into the air, joyously shouting “Opa!” Then there’s the belly dancer. $$
MEXICAN/ SOUTHWESTERN Cantina Laredo
8000 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, 407345-0186 / cantinalaredo.com. Modern Mexican cuisine in a spiffy setting draws lovers of cilantro, jalapeño and pico de gallo to this Restaurant Row eatery, where the
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margaritas flow, the guacamole is made tableside and the portions are generous. The spinach enchilada is a vegetarian-friendly treat. $$
Cocina 214 151 E. Welbourne Ave., Winter Park, 407790-7997 / cocina214.com. Tex-Mex food is top quality here (214 is the Dallas area code), with salsa, savories and even margarita flavorings made from scratch. The spinach-mushroom quesadilla and tacos are especially noteworthy. $$
617 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, 407-849-9779 / cityfishorlando.com. Feast on slabs of grilled, blackened or fried fresh fish at this hip Ts-and-flip-flops Thornton Park hangout. The atmosphere is ultra-casual and the sidewalk seating is great for people-watching. $$
Flying Fish Café 2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, 407-939-2359 / disneyworld.com. Creative seafood — and some great steak — are on the menu at this upbeat restaurant in the Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. It is themed after Eastern Seaboard summer spots of yore. For a special experience, enjoy a five-course Chef’s Tasting Wine Dinner while seated at the food bar. $$$$ Ocean Prime 7339 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando, 407-7814880 / ocean-prime.com. Designed to evoke the ambience of an old-time supper club, Ocean Prime’s white-jacketed servers offer sensational steaks and fish dishes along with creative options such as sautéed shrimp in a spectacular Tabasco-cream sauce, crab cakes with sweet corn cream and ginger salmon. End with the chocolate peanut butter pie. $$$$
Todd English’s bluezoo 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, 407-934-1111 / thebluezoo.com. Creatively prepared seafood is served in an over-the-top undersea setting at this fine-dining restaurant, located in Disney’s Swan and Dolphin hotel. The fashion-forward choices might be a miso-glazed Hawaiian sea bass or fried lobster in a soy glaze. The desserts are among the best in town. $$$$
Bull & Bear 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, 407-597-5500 / bullandbearorlando.com. Orlando’s Bull & Bear looks similar to New York’s legendary steakhouse (except for the pool and golf course views), but ours has its own ambitious menu. Guests of the Waldorf Astoria’s finedining spot can feast on traditional items such as veal Oscar and prime steak that’s dry aged for 21 days, and intriguing ones like appetizers of gnocchi and escargot with crescents of black garlic, and shrimp and grits presented under a dome that, when removed, introduces a waft of aromatic smoke. The chocolate and lemon desserts are superb. $$$$ Capital Grille 4200 Conroy Road, 407-351-2210; 9101 International Drive, 407-370-4392 / thecapitalgrille.com. Capital Grille tries to one-up its upscale steakhouse competitors by dry-aging its beef, an expensive process that results in especially flavorful meat. Try a beautifully unadorned chop or a more creative dish, such as citrus-glazed salmon or Kona-crusted sirloin. The setting is clubby; the wine selection is generous. $$$$ Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster 729 Lee Road, Orlando, 407-645-4443 / christnersprimesteakandlobster.com. Locals have been choosing this prototypically masculine, dark-wood-and-red-leather enclave for business dinners and family celebrations for more than a decade. Family-owned since 1993 yet under the Del Frisco’s banner until mid-2013, Christner’s features USDA Prime, corn-fed Midwestern beef or Australian cold-water lobster tails with a slice of the restaurant’s legendary mandarin orange cake. And there’s a loooong wine list (6,500 bottles). On select nights, Kostya Kimlat hosts magic shows along with a prixfixe menu in a private dining room. $$$$ Linda’s La Cantina 4721 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, 407-894-4491 / lindaslacantina.com. An Orlando icon, this style-free, windowless restaurant is always packed, and that’s because it serves top-quality steak dinners at wallet-friendly prices. Namesake Linda’s daughters Karen Hart, Debra Tassoni and Lori Coley run the establishment today. $$-$$$
Nelore Churrascaria 115 E. Lyman Ave., Winter Park,
407-645-1112 / neloresteakhouse.com. This is one of two Nelore Brazilian all-you-can-eat steakhouses — the other one is in Houston — where the servers, or “gauchos,” come to your table as often as you’d like bearing skewers of premier beef, chicken or pork. There’s a world-class salad bar and Brazilian cheese bread to keep you happy between meat courses. $$$$
Shula’s 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Orlando, 407-934-1362;
2974 International Parkway, Lake Mary, 407-531-3567 / donshula.com. Coach Don Shula, who led the Miami Dolphins through a perfect season in 1972, is now in the restaurant business. One of his Orlando outposts, located in Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin resort, is a dark, tastefully sports-themed steakhouse where the menu is painted on a football. Offerings include Premium Black Angus beef as well as barbecue shrimp, wedge salad and crab cakes. Up in Lake Mary, Shula’s 347 Grill is more of a sports bar with ambitious food. $$-$$$$
VEGETARIAN Café 118
153 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407-389-2233 / cafe118.com. Raw foods — none cooked past 118 degrees — are the focus of this crisp Winter Park café, attracting raw foodists, vegans and vegetarians. The spinach and beet ravioli stuffed with cashew ricotta is an impressive imitation of the Italian staple. Thirsty Park Avenue shoppers might stop by for a healthful smoothie. $$
Ethos Vegan Kitchen 601 S. New York Ave., Winter
Park, 407-228-3898 / ethosvegankitchen.com. Ethos is a vegan restaurant with a menu that also satisfies open-minded carnivores. Fuel up on pecan-crusted eggplant with red wine sauce and mashed potatoes or a meat-free shepherd’s pie, if salads, sandwiches and coconut-curry tofu wraps won’t do the trick. $-$$
Celebrating Seven Great Years!
Join the Celebration and Enjoy a Complimentary Glass of Wine*
LIKE us on Facebook for a chance to win dinner for two. *One complimentary glass of wine with a dinner entree during the month of October 2013. Mention our 7th anniversary to redeem this offer. Offer is limited to one glass of wine per guest.
Orlando Restaurant Guide 2013
ORLANDO-LIFE.COM Roccos_Oct13 .5.indd 1
W inter Park 400 South Orlando Avenue s 407-644-7770 Reservations online at www.roccositaliangrille.com ORLANDO LIFE
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You are cordially invited to the
Saturday, November 2, 2013 Benefiting the Orlando Science Center Thanks to our Sponsors
Harriettâ€™s Caveman Couture Contest
For tickets, sponsorship inquiries or auction donations, please contact Kathy Lopus at email@example.com.
For more information, please visit www.osc.org.
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