A couple of weeks ago I was sauntering down the quaint streets in Mount Dora, Florida, a wonderful somewhat hilly lakeside town about 30 minutes from Orlando, and I hit the proverbial dining gold mine.
One of the town’s newest restaurants (only a few months old) is 1921 By Norman Van Aken at 142 East 4th Avenue. I was first introduced to Van Aken’s cuisine in 2003 when Ritz-Carlton Orlando opened and I dined at his on-site restaurant, Norman’s. Van Aken is a legendary figure in the Florida dining scene. He is known as the founding father of “New World Cuisine”, which fuses and celebrates Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors.
Van Aken is a certifiable celebrity chef and is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.”
That said, it’s amazing that Van Aken would choose little, ol’ Mount Dora for his new restaurant.
Let’s get to the food, right? I had an exceptional lunch highlighted by one of his sumptuous appetizers, the Smoky Maduro Plantain Flatbread with marinated feta, sage, Asher Blue cheese and fig. Two weeks later and I’m still have culinary dreams about that amazing starter…
I followed that up with the Korea Town Fried Chicken with Cola Collards & Mac n’ Cheese…tender, crunchy and delicious.
As you might surmise, to say the menu is eclectic is an understatement. That’s what makes 1921 so appealing and, of course, the food is prepared to perfection. Other interesting dishes include the Beer Battered Fish Tacos with avocado and Zellwood corn relish; the 1921 Burger with house bacon, horseradish cream, b & b pickles and aged cheddar and Ponce Inlet Grouper with Mole Rojo, grilled cactus, braised white beans, chorizo and ember roasted Poblanos (available for dinner).
Set in a converted home built in 1921, the dining environment is sophisticated and elegant. The walls are dotted with a collection of impressive artwork, with select pieces on loan from the Modernism Museum in Mount Dora.
Van Aken sums 1921 up best when he writes on the restaurant’s website: “1921 is my love letter to Florida and encompasses the totality of the state from its cuisine to its art to its culture and beyond. Just as the Modernist artists create their works from the tapestry of varying art styles, we create our menu out of the intricate matrix of cuisines found here.”
If you’re searching for a truly special dining experience, I highly recommend 1921 By Norman Van Aken.
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