Tomorrow morning Local contemporary Mexican restaurant wunderkind — wish I knew of a similar Spanish word to use here — Cocina 214 introduces what I’m sure will be a new highly anticipated annual event in Winter Park: Chihuahua races! It’s officially called The Running of the Chihuahuas. Think Pamplona with no horns, no goring, and, yeah, small dogs instead of bulls. Like in Pamplona, however, there is bound to be a fair amount of chaos. 🙂 So many little furry ones with big personalities (and egos, think Napoleon) are bound to produce a healthy dose of laughs. I stopped in on Thursday to talk with Cocina 214 owner, Lambrine Stergios Macejewski, and I think our non-stop joking and laughing about the possibilities are surely indicative of what is to come.I arrive at the restaurant and am taken to see Lambrine (Greek and pronounced Lamb-reen-E) in the back, not the usual office visit. There I find her standing before a multitude of white bags waiting for goodies from The Doggie Door for Saturdays, uh, runners. From the outset this was no ordinary conversation. Lambrine, myself and Private Dining / Catering Coordinator Madeleine Glascock are all just a wee bit too excited. I’m just a big kid, easily excited; and, I sense I’m with two others. (And I apologize to them now for talking over them so much . . . as witnessed by my recorder. Again, TOO excited.) Back here also is a large cutout of a donkey and a faceless figure — just insert head — with sombrero obviously to be enjoyed during this weekend’s events.
As we move to the office Lambrine is quick to credit City of Winter Park Economic Development/CRA Director Dori Stone with suggesting the idea, mentioning a similar event held in Delray Beach each year. She and Madeleine then dive into a large box filled with teeny sombreros, ready for each small participant. “They get little miniature sombreros, each Chihuahua,” Lambrine says, demonstrating how they’d be attached, holding them forward to be photographed. “Yeah, they’re cute,” adds Madeleine.
At the time we talked on Thursday 34 Chihuahuas had been registered, with a goal of 50, an absolute cut-off of 60, planned. If those numbers are not exceeded registration can occur right up until race time, 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Ten individual heats are planned, with Chihuahuas tasked with covering a distance of 40 feet. Doesn’t sound like a lot to us, surely, but think in Chihuahua scale, think of screaming adults and kids cheering on their favorite wee athlete.
“We did a little practice run yesterday and Fox 35 came. It’s best if someone they don’t like as much holds them and their favorite person is at the finish line so that they will run to them, even entice them with treats,” she manages between our laughter. “So we have a barricade, and they’re all starting here and it’s just a race to the finish.”
Heat names will also relate to tequila and names of most contestants I catch relate to Mexico or tequila, which I guess is no surprise. There is one early registered contestant named Foster who promises — at 19 pounds — to be among those easiest to spot during the activity. “He was pretty chill. I was like, Foster, you’ve got to run dude,” Lambrine said of Foster during their Fox TV demo on Thursday morning.
When Lambrine first heard the idea, she said her response was instantaneous: “OMG, I am totally stealing that idea! We want to do that. Totally fun.” She added, “I want something where kids can come out, families will come out, it’s during the day, something fun. So really, I have to credit Dori because she’s the one who told me about it. I’m always like I want to do something fun. I want FUN. Totally. FUN.”
No rabbits to chase, I ask if there’s anything owners will be doing to jack ’em up before the race, but apparently not. Also no word of the training regimen each of these little athletes may be going through in preparation for their big race.
Says Lambrine, “We will have one winner.” The Doggie Door will be supplying the prizes, but Cocina 214 will be awarding a gift certificate to the parents. And if they eat on the patio, the newly crowned champ is welcome to dine with them.
“The cool thing is that we have a six year old and she’s so excited. She can’t wait to come see it. There aren’t a lot of events that kids can be a part of, kids can watch, you know what I’m saying? This is kind of an adult thing that kids can come and watch, too,” Lambrine explains. “They can come as a family. We’re big family people and you know what, bring your friends, bring your family.”
They’re obviously excited, but I ask to confirm, stoke the energy in the room. “TOTALLY. It’s going to be fun. It’s different. I grew up in Dallas and Dallas just had cool events. I remember events, going and doing and seeing.” She specifically mentions fond memories off Shakespeare in the Park being a fond memory.Madeleine notes “the servers are all excited” as well.
“It’s our first but we’re going to keep doing it,” says Lambrine.
Sunday is the Cocina 214 Cinco de Mayo block party and also the second anniversary of their opening. I ask about that and when she confirms it’s only been two years, I’m rather floored.
Cocina 214 was selected by Orlando Sentinel readers as the BEST over all restaurant in January’s Foodie Awards. They were also just named Orlando Magazine’s Best Tex Mex for the second year in a row.
The ‘Running of the Chihuahuas’ event will benefit for Florida Little Dog Rescue and Winter Park Lost Pets.
Multiple Opportunities to Enjoy The Kentucky Derby With Your Friends & Neighbors
Click on respective image below for event information . . .