Tip Jar: local food news

This week: Competition heats up on Orlando Avenue, a slew of special dining events, and openings/closings

Just a little more than three weeks to go until the start of Top Chef Masters Season 5, which reminds me of another summer treat: Norman’s 10th Anniversary Dinner (featuring five top-notch, masterly chefs). Drop $1,000 of your summer vacation money and you’ll feast on truffles, foie gras, caviar, wagyu, buffalo, quail, lobster and so much more. There are only 50 seats left as I write this: Call 407-393-4343.

Restaurant options along Orlando Avenue are on the rise, and so is competition. Marlow’s Tavern is the latest to open on the strip and will vie with the recently opened Carmel Café for a piece of the pie. Carmel announced it will serve lunch Friday through Sunday – an all-but-necessary move, given the slew of restaurants serving lunch nearby (Hillstone, Italio, Rocco’s, El Bodegon). When Winter Park Lakeside and its 32,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space opens next year, things will get interesting.

The Ravenous Pig’s July 6 Summer Picnic Roast goes from 11:30 a.m. until the food runs out. Menu sampling: smoked baby back ribs, crispy chicken wings, Zellwood corn, shrimp, watermelon, potato salad and cherry shortcake. Featured beverage: Cask & Larder’s Cherry Gold Ale. Cost is $17 per plate and $5 for beer. Go to theravenouspig.com for more info.

Audubon Park celebrates their fifth annual Bastille Day Celebration from 5-7 p.m. July 13 (a day early), featuring select wines, macarons from the Ritz-Carlton, and small-production, grass-fed cheeses from family-owned farms, care of chef Tonda of La Femme du Fromage. Tickets are $25 ($30 day of event); visit audubonparkfl.com.

Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company in Baldwin Park Village Center will serve its last espresso July 28; Hot Olives on Fairbanks Avenue will serve its last fried kalamata a day later.

Black Bean Deli No. 2 should open any day now in the former Vega’s Café spot on East Colonial … Gringos Locos No. 2 will open in the wee building next to Bull & Bush later this summer … Work continues on Schumann’s Jäger Haus, a German bar-restaurant in the former Dragon Room space on Church Street. If it’s half as good as Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café in Sanford, it should last.

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