Most taste-expert programs are modeled, in some fashion, on the venerable wine sommelier certifications; none have deviated radically from these. The term “sommelier” technically means a “wine waiter” or “wine steward,” a restaurant position dating to 18th-century France. “My purist definition of a sommelier is someone who works in hospitality, who serves wine in a restaurant,” said David Wrigley, international development manager of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a London-based accreditation organization. I spoke with Wrigley last summer in Washington at an event called SommCon. There, the WSET presented its program to potential students alongside three rival organizations: the Society of Wine Educators, the Institute of Masters of Wine, and the Court of Master Sommeliers, the last being the subject of the popular documentary “Somm” and sequels. All of these programs offer a ladder of advancing levels, from introductory through master, increasing in price and commitment. WSET Level 1, for example, begins at just under $400 for six hours of course study, rising to Level 4. Level 4 alone takes up to 18 months and 600 hours of study to complete and costs more than $4,000 — and that cost can easily double as thousands more are spent on travel and acquiring bottles to taste. The WSET’s enrollment in the United States grew by 24 percent in 2017-2018. It now has more than 14,000 students, and worldwide there are more than 94,000.
A gourmet kitchen will have professional-grade appliances and fixtures, often conveniently arranged for ease of food preparation. For example, it may have a six-burner gas stovetop and dual ovens plus a warming drawer, with a powerful ventilating hood and a pot-filler faucet over the range. The cabinetry can provide convenient storage for appliances, tools, and pantry items. A gourmet kitchen also has enough counter space for food preparation tasks.
Charly Robinson, who runs F&D Kitchen & Bar and F&D Cantina in Lake Mary, moved into the building that previously housed Peppino’s Organic Italian Kitchen in the newly minted Hourglass District – one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Robinson subsequently spruced the place up making it even more inviting and welcoming than before without compromising the restaurant’s convivial mien. A bevy of Neapolitan-style pies are offered from a bianca with fennel sausage and rapini to three-milk blue cheese with caramelized onions and rosemary, as are a trio of vegan pies. But a cacio e pepe from their pasta offerings is what’s causing a stir amongst the city’s noodle hounds.
The Adobo Chicken Sandwich unfortunately also missed the mark. Adobo chicken is usually marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and other seasonings. I would characterize this chicken sandwich as a plain old blackened chicken sandwich. The sandwich also had crackling, which is just fried fatty skin, which would have been great. However, the crackling wasn't seasoned and wasn't completely crispy, and so lacking the texture that they were aiming for. The accompanying fresh potato chips though were crispy and nicely salted.
Once you hit day three of a convention or a conference, you’re going to want to eat something that doesn’t weigh you down as you sit through four more hours of back to back powerpoint presentations. During your next break, head to Da Kine Poke. This former food truck now has food stalls at both downtown’s Market on Magnolia and at The Local Butcher and Market in Winter Park. There are a few signature bowls on the menu, or you can make your own, with a variety of fresh fish, vegetables, sauces, condiments, and bases to choose from.
Why go: Take Cheena is for adventurous eaters. Flavors hail from all over Asia but are served in American style. Ever had a Korean beef empanada or an Indian butter chicken burrito? Definitely try the “JapaDog,” featuring Chinese sweet sausage, avocado-wasabi, fumi, cabbage mix and scallion. Just remember that you won’t find any yellow mustard here.
When I visit Armenteros at the shop in Princeton, he guides me into the humidor, amid shelves of boxes and hundreds of cigars. “The most fulfilling, exciting thing we do,” he says, “is when you take a customer to another level. When you open up their enjoyment. That’s the greatest thing a tobacconist, or any sommelier, can do.” He talks excitedly about the differences among Nicaraguan, Dominican and Cuban tobacco, wrappers grown in Connecticut or Ecuador, the size or “ring gauge,” from skinny lancero to coronas to robustos to thick Churchills. A Padrón cigar, from Nicaragua, “is a steak, a wagyu.” Meanwhile, another cigar from the Dominican Republic “is like fish. It’s an elegant, delicate cigar.” We compare what spirits to pair with cigars, and both of us agree that describing flavors is not easy. “Not just in cigars,” he says, “but in any world of organoleptic delicacies.” He points to some cigars he’s been aging for close to a decade. I ask if cigars can age like wine. “F— yeah,” he says.