Published on: September 14, 2012
Sometime, I just get lucky.
While in Florida this week, I met up with the mystery novelist Bob Morris for a drink at Prato, a terrific bistro in Winter Park, Florida. I've gotten to know Bob a bit because of some mutual interests, and I first met him because I was fascinated by his publishing of collected travel and food columns exclusively as e-books. (You can read or watch the piece I did about him on MNB here
Hang out with Bob, and inevitably the food and drink are going to be pretty good. Or better. On this day, they were better. At Prato, he introduced me to Maduro Brown Ale, from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, which is a fabulously rich beer, all silky and chocolate, and perfect with the most amazing Bianco Pizza, made with marscarpone, taleggio, gorgonzola dolce, and candy stripe figs - it had this extraordinary combination of sweetness and spice, and was just wonderful.
While we were chatting Bob introduced me to James and Julie Petrakis, who are chef/owners of two local restaurants, The Ravenous Pig (which apparently has a great reputation) and Cask & Larder, which just opened last week. And so, the next night, purely in the interest of research and scientific exploration - and because it was almost five o'clock and I was thirsty, I went with friends of mine to Cask & Larder, figuring that we'd help out the new place.
They didn't need our help. While the bar wasn't very busy when we got there, within a half-hour the place was packed; regular customers of the Ravenous Pig seemed to be anxious to spread their patronage to the new joint in town. I can't speak for everyone, but I suspect that nobody was disappointed.
The owners call Cask & Larder a "Southern Public House," and I'm perfectly happy to accept that description ... though I never would have thought that it would be a Southern Public House where I would first eat grilled lamb heart, served with popcorn grits, peaches, sorghum and roasted peanuts. That's right - grilled lamb heart. The good news is that it does not come to the table with the ventricles still pumping. The better news is that it is about as tender a dish as I've ever eaten in my life, with a wonderfully smoky taste to it. Equally good was the roasted black grouper, served with bacon-corn succotash and smoked ham hocks.
It gets even better. (Yes, my research continued. The things I do for MNB...)
They make their own beer at Cask & Larder, and while I heartily recommend the sampler because, well, that's just the best way to get a taste of everything, I am here to report that the Olde Southern Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer with just a hint of coriander, may in fact be the best wheat beer I've ever had ... and perfect to compensate for the hot and steamy temperatures.
All in all, I must tell you that Winter Park strikes me as the kind of place that would be found at the end of my personal rainbow. The hell with pots of gold; I'd prefer fantastic beer and food, like the kind they serve at Cask & Larder and Prato.
Like I said, sometimes I get lucky.
Regular readers of MNB will know that I am enthusiastically awaiting the release of Skyfall
, the new James Bond movie scheduled to open in early November. Well, a friend sent to me a 90 second movie clip that mashes together chase scenes featuring all of the actors who have played James Bond ... and I suspect you might like it as much as I did. Check it out here
Another must-see for the fall: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln
, starring Daniel Day Lewis as the 16th president of the United States. Check out the intriguing trailer, just out today, here
Finally finished watching "Homeland" on Showtime this week, and I can tell you with great confidence that this show is every bit the worthy successor to "24," which it resembles in some ways. (It should; both shows share a producer.) It is one of those rare programs where you spend half your time trying to figure out different characters' motivations, and the other half being surprised when things go in a different direction. The acting is great, the writing is sharp, and the whole thing shows you why so many TV programs these days are better than much of the stuff in the movie theaters.
The second season begins at the end of September, and I'm glad to be caught up. Just FYI...the first season is available both on DVD and on-demand on many cable systems.
That's it for this week. have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.