By Heather McPherson, ORLANDO SENTINEL FOOD EDITOR
December 9, 2012
Winter Park's Hannibal Square continues to thrive with an eclectic mix of eateries. Now diners seeking restaurants that have a mission to use local ingredients have a new option along West New England Avenue.
Fresh offers a menu that is globally inspired with the majority of ingredients sourced within 150 miles. In the kitchen is Gina Bugayong, a self-taught culinary talent with Filipino-Italian roots and an eye for cooking without borders.
The small space — there are just five tables inside — used to be a bakery. A wooden bar has replaced the bakery case and the new industrial-chic decor is highlighted by sturdy wooden table tops and metal chairs and stools.
We started with the shredded pork tostadas ($9). A mound of braised pork intermixed with roasted tomatoes and shredded cabbage rose from crisp tortilla squares. The chipotle seasoning had good punch and the cumin-laced sour cream balanced out the pop on the palate.
Our chicken satay ($9) was equally pleasing. The grilled chicken skewers came with a thick peanut sauce with just a hint of sweetness. The savory leaning balanced well with the scallions and fried garlic.
But the roasted brussels sprouts ($7) tossed with sultry caramelized onions and drizzled in a Dijon fig balsamic mixture were fab. The roasting brought out the veggies' earthy side and the onions and balsamic dressing elevated them to subtle sweet-sour perfection.
Salads are impressively composed. The wild mushroom salad ($10), with chanterelles, arugula and mixed greens, was lightly bathed in a truffle vinaigrette. Shaved Parmesan finished the plate. The mushroom's delicate apricot notes came through nicely in the mix.
The pear salad ($10) of mixed organic greens, crisp prosciutto, thin slices of fruit and goat cheese in a fig balsamic dressing was a showcase of how proper proportions can make or break a dish.
Our lamb ragu ($22) was a behemoth bowl of braised meat with a fresh roasted tomato ragu sauce and large tubes of tender rigatoni pasta. It was good but a little light on the lamb for the price.
The Lake Meadow Naturals roast poussin ($22) came with an indulgent wild mushroom risotto and sautéed seasonal vegetables. The free-range young chicken had wonderful flavor.
Our Berkshire pork chop ($24) came on a bed of black beans and fire-grilled sweet corn and was topped with a papaya salsa. The thick chop was slightly overcooked, but it had the wonderful flavor one expects from a heritage breed.
Service is friendly, but food can be slow coming out of the kitchen on busy nights.
Because inside seating is at a premium, reservations are strongly suggested. There are several tables outdoors that fit Winter Park's thriving cafe culture.
Fresh is small but has a mighty mission that it seems well-positioned to fulfill.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5498
Where: 535 W. New England Ave. in Winter Park (in Hannibal Square at Pennsylvania Avenue)
When: Lunch, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; dinner, 6-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
How much: lunch $7-$12, dinner $9-$24 (menu changes often), brunch $7-$15
Beverages: Wine and soft drinks
Wines by the glass: From $7
Extras: Outdoor dining, focus on local ingredients
Attire: Casual to casual chic
Noise level: Nice buzz
Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Online: freshcafe-wp.com and Facebook
Diningon a budget
The small plates ($7-$10) are filling and pair easily with a salad ($9-$10)