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Sometimes, when I walk into a restaurant or bar, I just feel at home. Or at least, even more at home than I usually do, which is often.

Some places just have the right vibe. A great wine list, and an equally impressive beer list, or maybe, even better, they make some of their beer themselves. A menu that offers some unusual choices, and then, when the food is served, a discovery that some of the flavor combinations are utterly unexpected. A friendly bartender, who I get to know by name within just a few minutes of sitting down. And then, somehow, the whole ends up being greater than the sum of the parts.

That's the way I feel about the Cask & Larder, described as a Southern Public House inWinter Park Florida.

The beer was utterly unique: Lineage Coffee Gold, an ale that is infused with coffee flavoring, but with a light touch so that it never is overwhelming. There were crusted oysters, served with a healthy coating of bourbon, brown butter and orange zest. And crab toast, with smoked artichokes, heirloom tomatoes, and pretzel bread. There was an utterly amazing catfish sandwich, crusted in cornmeal and served with collard slaw and bacon-poppy seed mayo. And, finally, handpies, which are sort of like empanadas made from oxtail, bone marrow and cranberry-chutney.

They were extraordinary meals, and highlighted by the kind of hospitality you'd expect to find at a Southern Public House - Larry, a wiz behind the bar, and Kelly, the manager who seemed to be everywhere, making sure that people were having a good time.

I went to Cask & Larder twice in three days, just because there was more that I wanted to try. If you are in the neighborhood, you need to hit the Cask & Larder. Let everybody else go to nearby Disney World and Universal; the Cask & Larder is my idea of an E-ticket ride.




No movies or TV shows to review this week … I'm just two episodes into the second season of "House of Cards," and I don't want to write about it until I'm done. Plus, this weekend has the season finale of "Downton Abbey." So there will be lots to catch up on next Friday…



Dave Barry's new collection of essays, "You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About," is always amusing, and often laugh-out-loud funny as it looks at a wide range of subjects in a way that always seems recognizable. He may be a 65-year-old man of long writing experience, but that doesn't mean he is any less exasperated/chagrined/amused by the world around him, and that shows whether he's addressing the challenges of having a teenaged daughter, talking about what women want (in a hilarious dissection of "Fifty Shades of Grey"), or writing about what it takes to be a professional, published author. Buy it or download it, and enjoy.




One wine to recommend this week … the 2010 Cecchi Chianti Classico, which this week, was the perfect thing to wash down a pepper-and-onion pizza.




That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!

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