Craft beer battles, the return of La Coquina’s brunch and tons of new restaurants

Tip Jar: local food news

Beer lovers won’t want to miss two free events at Whole Foods Market on Sand Lake Road: 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, Beer Brewing 101 teaches the basics of crafting suds; and 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, the third annual Battle of the Brews allows those 21 and over to try eight different beers and vote for a champion in a bracket-style battle. Bring your ID.

At Cask & Larder, brewmeister Ron Raike got hold of some prized citra hops, known for their tropical fruit flavors and aroma. Raike will fashion 30 kegs of an IPA that C&L will start pouring in early February.

All you brunch hounds still lamenting the loss of La Coquina, be sure to mark Feb. 2 on your calendar: In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, La Coquina makes a one-time return. Seatings run from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and cost is $69 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 407-239-3830 for reservations.

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop unveiled a revamped interior including a renovated sushi bar and Japanese robata grill, as well as a new chef de cuisine: Ryan Vargas. Vargas replaces noted chef Greg Richie, who’ll helm the kitchen at the yet-to-be-named restaurant taking over the HUE space in Thornton Park. Other Universal happenings: Feb. 7, Harbor Nights Romantico at Portofino Bay Hotel features 15 wines and gourmet fare from Mama Della’s, Trattoria del Porto and Bice Ristorante. Cost is $45 online or $55 at the door. Reserved seating, which includes a private wine station, is $75.


The Strand has opened in the former Chuck’s Diner space on Mills Avenue, serving “new American” cuisine … Raw Juice Bar and Healthy Eats has opened in Thornton Park … Over in Lake Mary, a second Ravalia’s Pasta Bar has opened up in the Lake Mary Centre plaza, as has a Jimmy Hula’s … When Saks Fifth Avenue closes March 15 at the Florida Mall, the space will be used as an expanded food court. Take that, rich people!