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New Yorkers like secrets, and (since 1936) one of the most closely kept has been the Valencia Bakery, known in Manhattan and the Bronx for a particular style of cake -- rich buttercream frosting covering super-moist white cake with three layers of real pineapple filling.

Well, the secret is out in Casselberry, where you'll find Ray Perez's own Valencia Bakery. It is filled with sugary pasteles (pastries from Puerto Rico), including cannolilike sweets with flaky outsides and custard fillings, and turnovers filled with guava jelly. There are also pastelitos (like empanadas), but they sell out fast.

Well, the secret is out in Casselberry, where you'll find Ray Perez's own Valencia Bakery. It is filled with sugary pasteles (pastries from Puerto Rico), including cannolilike sweets with flaky outsides and custard fillings, and turnovers filled with guava jelly. There are also pastelitos (like empanadas), but they sell out fast.

Then, of course, there are the cakes, actually made in the original New York bakery and shipped down. Valencia has only been open since November, but more than 800 of these beauties already have graced local palates.

There was nothing deliberate about Viet Garden's decision to offer a half Vietnamese, half Thai menu when it opened in 1994. It was merely a reflection of a kitchen team skilled in both cuisines. But as Thai food has taken off in popularity, Viet Garden has added even more Thai items and specials.

The restaurant continues to do an equally good job with its Vietnamese and Thai creations. And the quietly understated atmosphere -- the tile floors are glossy and polished, and lacquered furniture is precisely arranged -- ensures the emphasis stays on the food.

The restaurant continues to do an equally good job with its Vietnamese and Thai creations. And the quietly understated atmosphere -- the tile floors are glossy and polished, and lacquered furniture is precisely arranged -- ensures the emphasis stays on the food.

We started off with nam sod ($5.95), a fantastic Thai appetizer that is much more delectable than it sounds. Ground chicken is jazzed up with ginger, scallions, chili and lime dressing, and it crunches with the texture of the whole peanuts. Served with a pot of peanut sauce, this appetizer was our favorite. Other items not to miss include the popular "pineapple fried rice" ($8.50), served in a scooped-out pineapple shell with chicken, shrimp, eggs and scallions.

We started off with nam sod ($5.95), a fantastic Thai appetizer that is much more delectable than it sounds. Ground chicken is jazzed up with ginger, scallions, chili and lime dressing, and it crunches with the texture of the whole peanuts. Served with a pot of peanut sauce, this appetizer was our favorite. Other items not to miss include the popular "pineapple fried rice" ($8.50), served in a scooped-out pineapple shell with chicken, shrimp, eggs and scallions.

Next we moved on to the "Viet combo appetizer" ($7.95), which featured a fabulous shrimp toast. Luscious shrimp paste was spread over toast points and broiled until sizzling. There also were crackling-crisp spring rolls, fresh garden rolls, beef tenders and fried wontons, all of which were appealing.

Next we moved on to the "Viet combo appetizer" ($7.95), which featured a fabulous shrimp toast. Luscious shrimp paste was spread over toast points and broiled until sizzling. There also were crackling-crisp spring rolls, fresh garden rolls, beef tenders and fried wontons, all of which were appealing.

We also liked fine rice vermicelli topped with grilled pork ($6.50). The bed of pure white rice noodles was properly sticky, and the pork strips were flawlessly tender. The dish was even better enjoyed with a sprinkling of crushed nuts, with each forkful dabbed into plummy hoisin sauce.

We also liked fine rice vermicelli topped with grilled pork ($6.50). The bed of pure white rice noodles was properly sticky, and the pork strips were flawlessly tender. The dish was even better enjoyed with a sprinkling of crushed nuts, with each forkful dabbed into plummy hoisin sauce.

Less exciting was the "flower connection" ($9.95), a surf-and-turf extravaganza presented in a blossom formed from fried wonton skins. There were shrimp, scallops, pork, chicken and stir-fried vegetables, but something was missing in the sauce, which was bland and flavorless.

Less exciting was the "flower connection" ($9.95), a surf-and-turf extravaganza presented in a blossom formed from fried wonton skins. There were shrimp, scallops, pork, chicken and stir-fried vegetables, but something was missing in the sauce, which was bland and flavorless.

The only lapse in service came at the end of the meal, when we were left waiting for the check for nearly 15 minutes after we had finished eating and only a few other customers lingered. We finally beckoned to our waiter, who was seated at an empty table across the room. He brought the check and just one box instead of the two requested for our leftovers.

The only lapse in service came at the end of the meal, when we were left waiting for the check for nearly 15 minutes after we had finished eating and only a few other customers lingered. We finally beckoned to our waiter, who was seated at an empty table across the room. He brought the check and just one box instead of the two requested for our leftovers.

Although service isn't always as sharp as it should be, you can count on Viet Garden for delicious food from the Far East, time and again.

Affordable pho, rice bowls and noodle bowls makes this small, trendy eatery a bastion for collegians attending UCF and Full Sail. Fair warning: The place can get packed pretty quickly, but if you snag a table, take advantage and order the oversized “king pho” bowl with as beefy a broth you’ll ever slurp. While bao and spring rolls are serviceable, a rice bowl of crispy tofu, and the banh-mi are sure-fire options. Open daily.
Village Tavern features a wide-ranging menu of inventive American food. Only the finest ingredients are incorporated into each dish, including fresh produce, made-from-scratch pizza dough and Certified Angus beef that is cut and aged to exclusive specifications.

Shakespeare's Juliet pondered, "What's in a name?" Obviously Juliet wasn't in the restaurant business, because names seem to be of primary concern to those vying for dining dollars.

Because of a lawsuit brought by an out-of-town claimant, Wildfires Bar 'n' Grill in Thornton Park recently changed its name to Wildsides. And just as we were wiping our mouths at Woodstone Grill, we found, because of litigation brought by nearby Stonewood Tavern, the Sand Lake Italian eatery was to be rechristened as Vines Grille.

Because of a lawsuit brought by an out-of-town claimant, Wildfires Bar 'n' Grill in Thornton Park recently changed its name to Wildsides. And just as we were wiping our mouths at Woodstone Grill, we found, because of litigation brought by nearby Stonewood Tavern, the Sand Lake Italian eatery was to be rechristened as Vines Grille.

In an area dominated by high-concept restaurant giants, Vines is surprisingly cozy, an intimate space with probably no more than two dozen tables. Several of them overlook the open kitchen and its large charcoal-fired grill, a rotisserie filled with crispy chickens slowly revolving above it. The former tenant, Stallone's, used the grill and ovens for brick-oven pizza and casual specialties, while Vines goes the more high-end route, offering a full menu of steaks and seafood.

In an area dominated by high-concept restaurant giants, Vines is surprisingly cozy, an intimate space with probably no more than two dozen tables. Several of them overlook the open kitchen and its large charcoal-fired grill, a rotisserie filled with crispy chickens slowly revolving above it. The former tenant, Stallone's, used the grill and ovens for brick-oven pizza and casual specialties, while Vines goes the more high-end route, offering a full menu of steaks and seafood.

The meal began with an enormous, beautiful platter of roasted mussels ($9.50), the broth spiced with shreds of still-crunchy red pepper. Vines' substitute for pizza is flatbread. My order of the garlic shrimp variety ($9.50) looked wonderful, the thin bread nicely charred from the oven, with spicy tomato sauce and a few well-placed jumbo shrimp atop. But the center of the bread was soggy and limp, impossible to pick up by hand.

The meal began with an enormous, beautiful platter of roasted mussels ($9.50), the broth spiced with shreds of still-crunchy red pepper. Vines' substitute for pizza is flatbread. My order of the garlic shrimp variety ($9.50) looked wonderful, the thin bread nicely charred from the oven, with spicy tomato sauce and a few well-placed jumbo shrimp atop. But the center of the bread was soggy and limp, impossible to pick up by hand.

No faults could be found in the twin tenderloin entree ($22.50), two succulent and immaculately cooked bacon-wrapped steaks dressed with wine-soaked mushrooms.

No faults could be found in the twin tenderloin entree ($22.50), two succulent and immaculately cooked bacon-wrapped steaks dressed with wine-soaked mushrooms.

The young Vines is a restaurant of appearances, like the flatbread -- beautiful to look at, but not yet past the soggy middle stage.

The young Vines is a restaurant of appearances, like the flatbread -- beautiful to look at, but not yet past the soggy middle stage.

One of my favorite New York restaurants is a place called Peasant, which features chicken slow-roasted in a charcoal oven, and the sight of those birds at Vines made my mouth water in remembered anticipation. This free-range bird ($16.50) turned out to be a bit dry, even though the deep flavors were perfect. The rice accompaniment listed in the menu was mysteriously replaced by rosemary mashed potatoes; since I had also ordered the mashed potatoes as an a la carte side, I wish the overworked waiter had caught the duplication.

One of my favorite New York restaurants is a place called Peasant, which features chicken slow-roasted in a charcoal oven, and the sight of those birds at Vines made my mouth water in remembered anticipation. This free-range bird ($16.50) turned out to be a bit dry, even though the deep flavors were perfect. The rice accompaniment listed in the menu was mysteriously replaced by rosemary mashed potatoes; since I had also ordered the mashed potatoes as an a la carte side, I wish the overworked waiter had caught the duplication.

While outgoing and attentive when they got a chance, only two waiters were on that night, and the demand got away from them at times. I think delays in service accounted for a lot of the faults.

While outgoing and attentive when they got a chance, only two waiters were on that night, and the demand got away from them at times. I think delays in service accounted for a lot of the faults.

This is a good space, and I hope that the potentially great food will get Vines through the opening jitters.

For many foodies, Lake Mary's Colonial TownPark offers a culinary dead end, a place where homogeneity meets the uninspired, but a place that suburbanites flock to nonetheless. That's not to say the food inside the entertainment complex is bad, but there's an cookie-cutter approach to many restaurants here, and the Vineyard Wine Company falls into that category. The appellation of the wine bar'bistro'bottle shop doesn't exactly scream originality, and the fact that it sits across from 'The Coffee Caféâ?� underscores the argument. A place for intrepid or adventurous diners it's not ' though if you're the type to judge quality by the way dishes are plated, VWC more than holds its own.

The cutesy star-shaped dish flaunting warm 'drunken bruschettaâ?� crostinis ($7.95) was outdone only by the puzzle-piece plates that held orbs of 'jumboâ?� lump crab cakes ($13.95). And like their serving contrivance, the toastettes were stellar tapas items that held up under the weight of vine-ripe tomatoes, goat cheese and a liberal balsamic drizzle. The crab cakes weren't jumbo in the least, but the meaty pan-seared rounds were given a Southern kick with the addition of roasted corn, bell peppers, caramelized onions and a Cajun remoulade.

Mains comprising a selection of beef, poultry and seafood courses are available, but the wide-ranging tapas menu proves most popular with regulars, most of whom pair those items with a selection from the extensive wine list. An option for 3-ounce pours allows for great variety with your meal without the inconvenience of utter inebriation. There's no doubt that wine is taken seriously here, and sommelier Fidel Palenzuela may just stop by your table to lend his expertise. I enjoyed a glass of the Rutz Sonoma Cuvee Pinot Noir ($4.49) with some toasted beef-filled ravioli ($7.95) ' that is, until I dipped the crisp bite-sized pasta bits into a pomodoro sauce of cloying sweetness. I can understand adding a little sugar to offset the tomatoes' astringency, but this sauce was ridiculously sweet and practically inedible. The hummus trio ($5.50) was as insipid as the pomodoro was sweet ' the kalamata pesto was a timid mush; the roasted garlic lacked any zest; and the sundried tomato, humdrum at best. None of the three, unfortunately, were worthy of the pillowy-soft pita bread. Greek chicken kebabs ($6.95), featuring a quartet of corpulent, lemony chunks with an accompanying dish of tzatziki sauce, were satisfying, but nothing to Opa! about, even when enjoyed with a glass of delicate Dr. Loosen Riesling ($4.49).

Just as tame were the two desserts we sampled. Romanoff strawberry butter crepes ($5.95) were sauced nicely, but the hotcakes were overcooked; the praline-chocolate mousse cake and lemon-blueberry roulade in the 'night and dayâ?� ($6.95) made for unremarkable endings.

Vineyard's inviting space is an attractive assemblage of Floribbean stylings with touches from Ethan Allen, and it possesses the primary characteristics of an ideal first-date locale: It's eye-catching, predictable and safe.

It's eye-catching, predictable and safe.

You like thick slabs of meat? You like a room full of dark wood, tuxedo-clad waiters and a wine list that looks like a small phone book? Then you will like Vito's Chop House.

From the folks who brought us Fish Bones Restaurant comes Vito's, a re-creation of an old-fashion New York steakhouse. Over-the-top elegance is the game here, from gigantic portions to ultra-attentive waiters to the decor, which packs wine bottles into every spare millimeter of the main dinning room.

From the folks who brought us Fish Bones Restaurant comes Vito's, a re-creation of an old-fashion New York steakhouse. Over-the-top elegance is the game here, from gigantic portions to ultra-attentive waiters to the decor, which packs wine bottles into every spare millimeter of the main dinning room.

As seafood plays a strong second to red meat at Vito's, my friend and I started with "cold seafood antipasto" ($29.95). Ludicrously served in multiple trays of ice stacked 3 feet high (like a wedding cake), this was a delicious, if overpriced, appetizer. The chilled oysters, clams, New Zealand mussels, jumbo shrimp and Maine lobster were succulent and first-rate, but the $30 price tag was as excessive as the presentation. It effectively blocked all eye contact with the other side of the table. This dish should be served on one tray and the price cut by a third.

As seafood plays a strong second to red meat at Vito's, my friend and I started with "cold seafood antipasto" ($29.95). Ludicrously served in multiple trays of ice stacked 3 feet high (like a wedding cake), this was a delicious, if overpriced, appetizer. The chilled oysters, clams, New Zealand mussels, jumbo shrimp and Maine lobster were succulent and first-rate, but the $30 price tag was as excessive as the presentation. It effectively blocked all eye contact with the other side of the table. This dish should be served on one tray and the price cut by a third.

To help decide entree meats, our waitress presented a tray of thick, raw steaks wrapped in cellophane and proceeded to explain the various cuts. The show and tell was a nice touch. Fortified with knowledge, we ordered a 24-ounce prime rib-eye ($22.95) and a 24-ounce porterhouse veal chop ($22.95). According to the menu, Vito's grills meat very hot and fast over orange, oak and mystique woods. With cuts often 2 inches thick, this is the perfect place to order a steak "Pittsburgh blue" (seared on the outside, cool blue and raw on the inside). But not being into the raw-beef thing, we opted instead for medium-rare on both cuts.

To help decide entree meats, our waitress presented a tray of thick, raw steaks wrapped in cellophane and proceeded to explain the various cuts. The show and tell was a nice touch. Fortified with knowledge, we ordered a 24-ounce prime rib-eye ($22.95) and a 24-ounce porterhouse veal chop ($22.95). According to the menu, Vito's grills meat very hot and fast over orange, oak and mystique woods. With cuts often 2 inches thick, this is the perfect place to order a steak "Pittsburgh blue" (seared on the outside, cool blue and raw on the inside). But not being into the raw-beef thing, we opted instead for medium-rare on both cuts.

The meat was served alone, glistening and sizzling atop a gleaming white plate. The steaks were huge, covered most of the plates, suggesting not just dinner but some lower species freshly conquered and killed by the kitchen staff.

The meat was served alone, glistening and sizzling atop a gleaming white plate. The steaks were huge, covered most of the plates, suggesting not just dinner but some lower species freshly conquered and killed by the kitchen staff.

Being well-marbled, the selections had spectacular flavor. Silence fell over our table as my friend and I descended into unrestrained protein lust. Eating meat at Vito's will make you feel like a caveman (or a stockbroker).

Being well-marbled, the selections had spectacular flavor. Silence fell over our table as my friend and I descended into unrestrained protein lust. Eating meat at Vito's will make you feel like a caveman (or a stockbroker).

An excellent salad and wonderful bread comes with every entree, but vegetables are an optional side, ranging from a giant baked potato ($2.50) to a medley of oak-grilled vegetables ($5.95).

An excellent salad and wonderful bread comes with every entree, but vegetables are an optional side, ranging from a giant baked potato ($2.50) to a medley of oak-grilled vegetables ($5.95).

The dessert tray offered more ridiculously huge choices. We went for the "peanut butter explosion" and a house special "grilled peach D'Vito" (each $8.95). The "explosion" should have been called "wall o' peanut butter." This monstrous slab was too dense for us to tackle without a gallon of milk and several sugar-starved teen-agers. The "peach D'Vito" was a similarly sized but glorious mix of grilled peach chunks, cinnamon, flavored whip cream, ice cream and liquors. We demolished this sweet treat down to the last drop. It should not be missed.

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