Shedding Light on Central Florida Hunger and Blindness

dining dark imagesmWhen I was a child, there was no such thing as Second Harvest here in Central Florida. The house I grew up in (not far from Fern Creek), provided shelter, but was often not often stocked with healthy foods. Some days it didn’t have any food. That’s just the way it was. I know the feeling of a rumbling stomach, and remember clearly how hard it was on occasion to focus in school because I didn’t have enough to eat. Those memories make it all the more personal for me to promote the excellent work done by Second Harvest Food Bank.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is partnering with Lighthouse Central Florida to host a unique event, Dining in the Dark, to support both their excellent services here in Central Florida.

Dining in the Dark is a sensory experience, as well as a dining event like no other. Diners usually expect to be wowed by a lovely presentation, a grill mark or two, or a vibrant color that indicates an amazing meal to come. But what if you couldn’t see the meal in front of you? (And what if you couldn’t take a photo for Instagram!?) At a Dining in the Dark event, the sense of sight is temporarily blocked. Smells and sounds take on new meaning as you soak in the experience with other senses taking the forefront. Temperature, texture, acidity, sweetness… the sound of glasses clinking, the brush of a server’s arm by your chair… Close your eyes and imagine.

The elegant three-course meal will be prepared by Second Harvest Food Bank’s very own Chef Dawn Viola and her team and will be served by the Orlando Police Department SWAT Team (who will need special night-vision goggles to see what the guests cannot!).

The Dining in the Dark Orlando dinner is an artistic event designed to enhance dining pleasure for sighted guests. Dining in the dark—the daily experience—is nothing out of the ordinary for those with vision problems. Lighthouse Central Florida helps people living with vision loss and blindness in Central Florida and offers them a comprehensive range of services.

Your ticket purchase price helps fund both organizations: Lighthouse Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank.

Tickets to Dining in the Dark are $125.00 each to include a cocktail hour from 6–7 p.m. with passed hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and live music, followed by a three-course gourmet meal prepared by Second Harvest Food Bank’s very own Chef Dawn Viola and her team from 7–9 p.m. Learn more, or purchase tickets by visiting

Special offer: Through May 5, purchase tickets for 25% off!
No code needed. The new price will show up in your cart.

Executive Chef Hector Colon Shares Recipe from SeaWorld

Executive Chef Hector Colon SeaWorld OrlandoJulia Child would have been 100 years old today. Her inspiration in the kitchen cannot be underestimated. As I think of how much fun it is to watch and learn from the original “iron (lady) chef,” I’m reminded of various dishes I’ve had recently that were spectacular—ones SHE might have enjoyed, too.

This dish was served at a special event at SeaWorld Orlando recently at Ports of Call. Duck Confit over Wild Mushroom Grits. The Executive Chef, Hector Colon, was kind enough to share!

Here are the recipes:

Duck Confit


4 lbs duck legs
1 tbsp kosher salt
.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 whole garlic cloves*
4 bay leaves*
4 sprigs fresh thyme*
1.5 teaspoons whole black peppercorn
.5 teaspoon table salt
4 cups olive oil

*for each leg portion


Lay 2 leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle on the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ground pepper. Place the garlic, bay leaf and thyme on each of leg portion. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions flesh to flesh on top. Put reserved fat from the duck** in the bottom of container. Sprinkle with the remaining kosher salt cover and refrigerated for 12 hours.

**Note from SWM: If you haven’t prepared the duck, you can buy duck fat at your local butcher shop. BTW, it’s amazing rubbed on potatoes in the oven….

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F

Remove duck from pan. In a hot sauté pan sear the duck until golden brown then place back in the pan with all the spices and cover with olive oil and bake for 12 to 14 hours.

Cool down and pull the meat from the leg and sauté as desired.

Wild Mushroom Grits, Serves 4


3 slices raw bacon
10 medium-sized shiitake mushroom, sliced
10 medium-sized bottom mushroom, sliced
.25 tsp chopped rosemary
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped
4 tbsp white wine
1 cup grits
2 cups milk whole
6 oz chicken stock
6 oz heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
Salt and white pepper to taste


In a medium sauce pan add bacon cook until crispy. Add butter and condiments, plus all the sliced mushrooms and cook until tender.

Add cream, milk and stock. Bring to a boil. Add grits and cook on low heat until tender, adjust flavor using salt and white pepper.


While Executive Chef Hector Colon may not have been channeling Ms Child, his Duck Confit over Wild Mushroom Grits is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It makes me drool to think of it, even now, just as I often do reading over Julia’s recipes. Did you #cookforjulia today?

Note: This recipe is reminiscent of her “goose confit,” though I am a simple home chef, so feel free to contradict.