Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or finally cleaning out your garage, it’s good to have a go-to restaurant where you can eat and drink really well and get a little dressed up. For us, that’s Luma on Park. This place serves a mix of Italian food and things you might not expect, like soft shell crab and steak tartare, and between their basement wine cellar and cocktail bar, there are a lot of drink options. This Winter Park staple also has a $35, three-course prix fixe menu that includes things like kampachi crudo and homemade bolognese for when you don’t want to make a ton of decisions.
Landlocked Central Florida is not Italy, but when you want to temporarily forget that, go to Prato. This always-packed restaurant in Winter Park serves modern Italian food, like mustard spaghetti cacio e pepe and a variety of wood-fired pizzas, and has retractable doors and a patio, which almost makes it feel like you’re getting a nice breeze from the Mediterranean. There’s always a wait if you don’t make a reservation, but just grab a drink at the bar and start debating with your friends about how many pastas to order in the meantime.
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Prato’s style of cooking can be defined as classic Italian with an emphasis on local ingredients. This, coupled with the restaurant’s sleek wood-and-brick decor, makes for a modern dining experience with a cool, rustic vibe. A signature special beloved by locals is the Widowmaker pizza, which is topped with caciocavallo cheese, romesco, fennel sausage and an egg in the center. A small yet eclectic selection of pastas and secondi awaits, where dishes change seasonally – and daily, depending what fresh ingredients are available. Chef Brandon McGlamery, who is also responsible for the success of the hugely popular Luma on Park, located a few steps down Park Avenue, reassures that his restaurants ‘stick to seasonally directed and ingredient-driven as our motto’.
This trading from non-local regions, also means, almost by necessity, that there was much cultural exchange between different groups to get these goods. The Columbian Exchange introduced many ingredients and styles to the new world and Europe starting with the expansion of the Iberian Empires. The new world introduced to Europeans tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, and many more. Another example would be interactions with the Islamic world, which impacted catholic cuisine in the 1100s. These interactions introduced many spices, the theory of the culinary cosmos, and cooking items such as North African pottery. These trades were facilitated by rich merchant states that traded with them the most notable being Venice.
To illustrate how important the olfactory sense is, Marchese earlier asked me to hold my nose and gave me something granular to put on my tongue. At first, it just felt grainy and sweet. Yet once I unplugged my nose, I experienced a rush of cinnamon flavor. As further practice, we sniffed little vials of typical honey aromas, similar to a kit other sensory experts use. I was proud of myself for identifying scents of mint, peach and lily. But others stumped me. Nutmeg? Wrong, hazelnut. Tea? No, hay. Truffle? Sorry, mushroom.