On a recent evening when Jess and I were in need of an outing, we decided to head to the schmantzy part of town, Winter Park, to nosh at Luma. I’d been here a couple of times before, and left both times thinking how hit or miss the place was, but worthy of further gambles. The restaurant does offer a kickin’ wine cellar and produces creative, quality food in an open kitchen, which makes for lovely watching if you can score a seat nearby (plus they send generous gift certificates to mailing list recipients during the summer months).

We carpooled from Jess’ place – where I typically have to be dragged away from soaking in the view from her 23-story balcony (this played no small part in my urging her to get this place when I tagged along during her apartment hunting days) – and arrived early for our reservation.

view of downtown Orlando and Lake Eola from the Jess balcony

They were running behind on this busy weekend night, so we wandered down for an appetizer at a macaron shop she was hankering to visit, aptly named Le Macaron.

Now, I’ve sampled my way (unsatisfyingly) through a number of local macaron purveyors, but this place was new to me, probably because it is hidden off the main drag, Park Avenue, in a covered but open air arcade. The intrepid Jess had found it and pronounced it good, however, (which it was, I found – best in Florida so far) and we decided to split a 6-pack assortment of flavors.

our macaron loot… and swimmin’ koi in background.

Jess, who is tall and willowy with the circumference of a champagne bottle, inhaled her macaron allocation before we reached the end of the block. I off put nibbling mine ‘til later, wanting to save all tummy space for the dinner to come.

We were seated just a few minutes after returning and ordered up our meals and wine.

Luma.

Luma interior. Sorry: hard to keep a steady hand in low light while snapping a pic on the down low.

the intrepid restoventurers.

One super awesome thing about Luma is that you can order half-pour glasses of wine, which have correspondingly petite price tags. I therefore ordered a small pour to accompany each of my courses, and allowed myself a moment of self-congratulation when the server complimented my pairings (work for that tip, baby!)

I like to experiment with appetizers as a rule, so I got two to serve as my meal. The first was a red snapper ceviche served with lemon-basil compressed watermelon, melon sorbet, and Serrano chile, plus my a nice cool pour of Secateurs chenin blanc.

In addition to being beautiful, this was kick ass: a genius blend of super fresh and sweet snapper (those are the thin white sheets you see) that had a silky oiliness, the herbaceous fruity cake of the pressed watermelon concoction (the fuschia rectangle, which had been divested of pretty much all hydration), chilly smooth and sweet sorbet (the pale pink scoop), and then the short bite of the serrano (green flecks). The wine was crisp enough to clear the fish from the palate and added a slightly fruity complement: my only possible complaint was it was damned hard to eat. Spoon, fork, and knife were practically all simultaneously required and nothing would be crowded cooperatively together on any one utensil without dripping, drooping, or leaping free.

Jess ordered Massachusetts diver scallops on pearled barley, which came arrayed around a little mound of ‘cauliflower pine-nut relish’ and was finished with an oozy ladleful of citrus-fennel butter.

Another total winner: excellent tasty sear on the scallops, full-bodied al dente barley, and as the flavor of the creamy buttery sauce receded in your mouth, the light briny sweet of the scallops lingered behind. Well balanced and super satisfying.

She also ordered a side of the Yukon gold potato puree with truffle oil and chives.

Now, I know truffle oil is a cliché-trendy resto ingredient – the ‘new goat cheese,’ if you will; you can find it on a variety of carbs from popcorn to ‘taties, and I’ve even seen an ice cream of it – but holy moley, was this shit the absolute bomb! Silky, sultry earthiness from the truffles and unbelievably delicious. Good thing there was a shallow skillet full of it: my ‘shared taste’ turned into numerous return trips, each demarcated with (probably rather embarrassing) moaning and eyes-closed incremental spoon-licking. I wanted to bathe in a tub of this stuff, and I’m not even normally much of a carb eater – it was pure potato seduction. Jess, bless her, sent the tiny remainder home with me, where I was free to continue the slightly indecent oral adoration of my potato-laden eating utensil in private.

The only solid miss of the evening was my bacon-wrapped rabbit terrine.

It came with what was over-optimistically described as a bing-cherry/leek salad (looked more like a wilted garnish), a tiny squirt of port wine glaze, and a hefty dollop of whole grain mustard. Oh, and a handful of lip-abrading, over-toasted brown baguette slices. I’d somehow imagined the terrine would be served slightly warm, but it came in a cold and rather unappetizing-looking slab. Had there been a softer bread-delivery platform and more of the ‘salad’ and glaze – both of which made a very nice accompaniment, but there was so little of them! – it would have been better. As it was, it was like eating a half inch thick slice of nice if chilly bologna. While my mental conjurings were certainly partly at fault for my disappointment, so was the overall execution. The deliciously soft Erath pinot noir, though, made a very competent chaser to wash it down. I left most of it for the doggie box and made a warmed sandwich version at home with more cherries and arugula on actually edible bread, and deemed it good.

We paid our tab and Jess, after recovering from slight wooziness brought on by her nearly non-existent alcohol tolerance and a very high proof Riesling, accompanied me for a leisurely sniffing walk around the city rose garden across the street, and then we made our way back to her entrancing balcony for a touch more wine (now that she was safely home) and some high-level observation of the fabulous sky and the downtown weekend debauchery taking place below.

In case you’re wondering at this point if the sun *ever* sets fully in Florida in the summer, I should admit I’m totally cheating here: this pic was from another wine-quaffing night on the balcony, but properly demonstrates how pretty it is (and by the amount of pics I take, how damned entrancing I find it).

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