Gainesville Devours Ken’s Unfiltered Food Blog

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Ken Eats Gainesville, the blog written by Gainesville resident Ken Peng, keeps a close eye on the food scene in town. And sometimes what he writes doesn’t go down very well.

Ken Peng gets ready to chow down at Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Ken Peng gets ready to chow down on spaghetti and meatballs at Piesano’s Stone Fired Pizza. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Just for the record, Ken Peng’s 16,366 Facebook followers should know that he eats spaghetti and meatballs one forkful at a time.

In other words, Gainesville’s No. 1 food blogger chews his food like everyone else. But it’s the way he writes about that food—particularly restaurant meals—that has elevated him to social-media rock star in this once culinary-starved college town.

“Wild, isn’t it?” said Peng, the man and mouth behind the Ken Eats Gainesville website and Facebook page. Not to mention his strong Instagram following.

“The scary thing about the Internet is that if you post something that people are interested in, it spreads like wildfire on its own. It’s all about that little ‘Share’ button and that little ‘Like’ button.”

We recently sat down with Peng at Piesano’s Stone Fired Pizza to talk about the evolution of the Gainesville restaurant scene as well as a scary encounter he recently had that proves just how seriously some people take the guy’s opinion.

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SoMa Art Media Hub Turns 1 With Bash

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To commemorate the anniversary, the Gainesville Arts Market and Gainesville Art Scene are hosting an expanded event that will include local musicians, artists, crafts, vendors, food trucks and beer. 

Celino Dimitroff stands in front of the store he co-owns with Charley McWhorter. Photos by Gainesville Downtown

Celino Dimitroff stands in front of the arts supply store he co-owns with Charley McWhorter. (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Nothing pleases Celino Dimitroff more than seeing a steady stream of customers—typically UF architecture students and local artists—browsing his SoMa Art Media Hub and finding what they’re looking for.

After all, that’s why Dimitroff and fellow artist Charley McWhorter decided to open their retail space at 601 S. Main St. one year ago this month.

“I think this is a wonderful store, and it’s something Gainesville has needed—a resource for arts supplies,” said Roz Miller, a longtime resident and abstract artist.

To mark the store’s first anniversary, SoMa Art Media Hub is throwing a party in the form of a larger-than-usual Gainesville Arts Market today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in the shaded parking area behind the store. There will be live music from five acts, food trucks and more than 30 artists and vendors offering their work—from T-shirts and jewelry to visual art and Henna tats.

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‘Women in Jeopardy’ is Loads of Jaw-Dropping Fun

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The Hippodrome Theatre’s latest play, which begins previews tonight, is a hilarious romp that pokes fun at divorcees, dentists, angst-ridden teens and, well, life in general.

The cast of Women in Jeopardy! from left, Matthew Lindsay, Lija Fisher, Carolyn Pool, Stephanie Lynge, Logan Wolfe and Michele Dalia. Photograph by Michael A Eaddy/Hippodrome)

The cast of Women in Jeopardy! from left, Matthew Lindsay, Lija Fisher, Carolyn Pool, Stephanie Lynge, Logan Wolfe and Michele Dalia. (Photographs by Michael A. Eaddy/Hippodrome)

First things first. The Hippodrome Theatre’s latest stage production is called Women in Jeopardy! Don’t confuse it with Women on Jeopardy! That would probably star Alex Trebek and have a certain level of sophistication that the popular game show is known for.

Spoiler alert: There is nothing sophisticated about Women in Jeopardy!

And thank goodness for that. In a Hippodrome season that has included such heavyweight dramas as All Girl Frankenstein and Collected Stories, Women in Jeopardy! is staged strictly for laughs. Lots of guilty-pleasure laughs courtesy of writer Wendy MacLeod.

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Documentary Features Micanopy Wood Mill

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Goodwin Heart Pine, a company specializing in reclaiming timber from beneath Florida waterways, is spotlighted in one of the 40 films to be screened this weekend at the 7th annual Cinema Verde International Environmental Film & Arts Festival in downtown Gainesville.

Florida is well known for its swaying palm trees, but 150 years ago longleaf pines dominated the landscape. The tall evergreens covered an astounding 22 million acres — or almost six out of every 10 acres from the panhandle to well down the peninsula.

Today, there are only about 4,000 acres of old-growth longleaf heart pine left in the Sunshine State. Most of them are on protected land at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida.

“They literally cut it all down,” said Jeffrey Forbes, marketing coordinator for the Goodwin Heart Pine Company. The Micanopy firm specializes in recovering longleaf heart-pine logs from river bottoms and using them for architectural purposes.

The story of the longleaf heart pine—with Goodwin featured prominently—is told in a documentary titled Longleaf: The Heart of Pine. Directed by Rex Jones, the 54-minute film will be one of more than 40 movies presented during the 7th annual Cinema Verde International Environmental Film & Arts Festival beginning Thursday.

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Love is In the Air for Dance Alive Duo

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The Italian newlyweds Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini are living a fairytale on stage for Dance Alive National Ballet—and in real life. They will perform together this weekend in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini perform in "Romeo Juliet" in 2013.

Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini perform “Romeo and Juliet” in 2013 during a gala put on by singer Andrea Bocelli.

They are from Italy. They have dashing good looks. They fell madly in love as teenagers. They cannot live without each other. They even finish each other’s sentences. …

Ines and Walter on their wedding day in December.

Ines and Walter on their wedding day in December.

Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini (now, that’s Italian!) are quintessential lovebirds. Their similarities to a certain Shakespearean couple are downright eerie.

“In Italy, people on the street used to stop us and say, ‘You look like Romeo and Juliet!’”

Angelini giggled when he shared that story. Sitting across the table from him, Ines burst into laughter.

“It’s true!” she smiled. “We love each other sooo much! He’s my best friend.”

Angelini, 24, and Albertini, 25, could easily be mistaken for youthful-looking students in this college town. They dress casually. They hang out at Starbucks. Their smartphones are always within reach.

However, about the only thing they study in Gainesville is their dance moves. Angelini and Albertini are principal dancers for Dance Alive National Ballet.

On Saturday, the couple will be onstage at UF’s Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Dance Alive’s dazzling production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The curtains rise at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

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Making Sense of a Mural for the Senses

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Two world-famous artists from Ukraine have left their mark on downtown Gainesville in the form of a whimsical and evocative mural on the east side of Market Street Pub & Cabaret.

The completed mural on the Market Street Pub wall by Interesni Kazki. Photo by Gainesville Downtown

The completed mural on the Market Street Pub wall by Interesni Kazki. (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Just when you thought the 352walls/Urban Art Initiative mural project in downtown Gainesville couldn’t get any better, along come Vladimir Manzhos and Aleksei Bordusov to blow you away.

Artists Vladimir Manzhos, left, and Aleksei Bordusov, collectively known as Interesni Kazki.

Artists Vladimir Manzhos, left, and Aleksei Bordusov, collectively known as Interesni Kazki.

The Ukrainian duo, known collectively in the urban-art world as Interesni Kazki, completed their huge mural on the wall of Market Street Pub & Cabaret last week. It is a surreal, dreamlike masterpiece that will leave people gawking and talking for years to come.

To the casual observer, the mural is a montage of seemingly unrelated images. Look closely, however, and the elements include everything from a flaming eyeball and a floating brain to a buzzing insect and a tropical bird.

Then, of course, there’s a Gator in a business suit climbing stairs to deliver musical notes to the ear of man with an out-of-control Fu Manchu mustache. Not to mention the monkey head on top of a box that resembles a temple with a wagging gator tale protruding from its front entrance. Oh, yes, and the hourglass with legs that seems to represent humans running out of time.

Or does it?

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Eastside High Team Feeling ‘Souper’

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Chef Billie DeNunzio’s culinary arts students stepped to the front of the class during Souper Fun Sunday at Saint Francis High.

Billie DeNunzio, right, and her award-winning culinary students from Eastside High. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Chef Billie DeNunzio, right, and her award-winning EHS culinary students. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

They went head-to-head with the best chefs in the Gainesville area, but the kids from Eastside High School’s Institute of Culinary Arts won the judges’ hearts—and tummies—during the 9th annual Souper Fun Sunday at Saint Francis Catholic Academy.

The Loaded Bacon Potato Soup created by students in Chef Billie DeNunzio’s culinary class earned first place in the non-seafood category in voting by a panel of six judges.

“I am absolutely thrilled and the kids are ecstatic!” DeNunzio said shortly following the announcement. “We’ve been coming here every year, but this is the first time we’ve won. I’m so proud of them.”

The Eastside team was one of 29 restaurants and/or catering businesses participating in the annual fundraiser for the school. There were 37 varieties of soup offered for tasting, 26 in the non-seafood category won by the EHS team.

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Finally, GFAA Has Place to Call Home

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The January edition of Artwalk Gainesville aimed the spotlight on new galleries and up-and-coming artists. There was certainly a little something for everyone, from one end of Main Street to the other.

The new GFAA Gallery on South Main Street glows with activity on opening night during Artwalk.

The new GFAA Gallery on South Main Street glows with activity on opening night during Artwalk.

The Gainesville Fine Arts Association showed off its brand new home on Friday night during the monthly Artwalk Gainesville. A steady flow of people meandered through its extensive “Love & Compassion” exhibit featuring the works of more than 60 local artists.

“This is our opening night after 93 years of not having a gallery to call our own,” said Karen Koegel, president of the GFAA.

“A lot of work by a lot of committed people went into bringing the GFAA Gallery together, and I am proud to be President of this incredible association.”

The GFAA Gallery is located at 1314 South Main Street, across from the relocated Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center (which is temporarily closed for construction). “Love & Compassion” is a themed exhibit judged by local businessman and art enthusiast Hector Puig.

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Art, Exercise Merge at Visionary CrossFit

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The artistic owners of the year-old gym on North Main Street are hosting an eye-opening exhibition during Artwalk Gainesville on Friday night.

Carrie Wachter Martinez and Jesus Martinez in front of the mural they worked on at High Dive.

Carrie Wachter Martinez and Jesus Martinez in front of the mural they worked on at High Dive. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

This has been a hectic week for Carrie Wachter Martinez and Jesus Martinez—all for the sake of art.

The Gainesville couple has been busy painting a mural on a wall at High Dive in time for the music venue’s monthly food-truck rally on Saturday. Meanwhile, they have been hustling to put together an impressive art exhibition they will host Friday night at their Visionary CrossFit studios at 716 N. Main St.

Titled “Expanded Visions” and featuring the work of seven artists, the show will be one of the featured stops during the first Artwalk Gainesville event of 2016.

Artwalk Gainesville is a monthly self-guided tour of downtown area galleries, art spaces and other arts-minded businesses. The event takes place from 7-10 p.m. at 21 venues.

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Cyclops Cinema Has an Eye for Film

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Video Rodeo has left town, but Cyclops Cinema has taken its place, offering the same extensive collection of DVDs and Blu-ray discs not available anywhere else in Gainesville. By the way, owner Jason McNeal knows a thing or two about film.

Jason McNeal (aka Jason Armadillo), owner of Cyclops Cinema.

Jason McNeal (aka Jason Armadillo), owner of Cyclops Cinema.

Jason McNeal is living his dream. He’s a diehard film buff who now owns a movie store and, soon, a screening room.

On Dec. 1, McNeal took over Video Rodeo at 10 E. University Ave. and renamed the DVD-rental place Cyclops Cinema at the beginning of the year.

Cyclops is an appropriate name for a couple of reasons. First, a movie projector—like the beast from Greek mythology—has just one eye. Also, Cyclops is a likable character in Marvel’s X-Men series, made into a popular movie franchise. Not to mention that McNeal is an artist known for painting cartoonish monsters.

“I was trying to come up with something catchy,” said McNeal, known artistically by the moniker Jason Armadillo.

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