June 20, 2008

Winter Park Food Market Evokes Memories of Yesterday

By Scott Joseph, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

Jun. 20--The Hound has been feeling nostalgic lately. I recently passed my 20-year mark as the Sentinel's restaurant critic, and I've been thinking about all the change that has happened in the last two decades.

A lot of it has been on and around Park Avenue in Winter Park. One of the fun little hot spots back then was Dexter's. But it wasn't in the spot it is now, in Winter Park's West End; it was in a little space at 200 W. Fairbanks Avenue, a wine bar with food and a retail wine shop combined.

In 1999 the Winter Park Dexter's moved to its current location, and the old space sat empty.

Three years ago, folks driving by started noticing construction at the old Dexter's. Signs indicated there might be a butcher shop, but that concept fell away.

Then, about a year ago, the building started to take shape. Earlier this year Strollo's Cucina Due, a specialty foods market and cafe, finally opened.

Strollo's is a large, free-flowing space. The market aspect seems a bit underdeveloped: There are a few shelves here and there with gourmet items, mostly Italian. But it wouldn't be a place you'd go to do your shopping. Rather, it's more likely you'd pick something up on impulse while waiting for your food order.

There is a long display case with prepared salads, meats and cheeses, but I concentrated on the sandwich counter.

Sandwiches are listed on boards behind the counter in groups that didn't make any sense to me. I think some were supposed to be hot, some cold, some made with saladlike ingredients. I tried three types: a duck (perhaps an unintentional homage to one of the better sandwiches that Dexter's served in that space), roast pork, and egg and red peppers.

The egg and pepper was nice from a textural standpoint. The pre-formed omelet was dense, not spongy. The red peppers gave the sandwich a bit of liveliness, but in truth all the sandwiches could have been improved with a bit of seasoning. Kind of bland.

But the meats were plenty, and the breads were fresh and better than your average sandwich rolls.

I loved the side of couscous, which had bits of cheese in it. And the potato salad was just creamy enough, and the meaty hunks of potato were firm, not squishy.

Strollo's has plenty of space for those who want to dine in. On the other side of the building, which has a soaring ceiling with a loft of office space, is a teaching kitchen where, says manager J.P. Gagnon, cooking demonstrations will be held. Gagnon said he's been doing informal wine tastings on Tuesday evenings and will probably continue with that schedule.

Scott Joseph can be reached at 407-420-5514. [email protected]


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