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Walt Disney World II (Vacation Dining)

29 May

A return to Disney had me wanting to try new places. I’ve dined many times at the casual dining restaurants or kiosks within the parks and I was ready to continue my ventures outside of the parks. After all, hubs and I were having a great casual vacation so some great food would make it even better. We were able to dine a few different areas over the course of the couple of days we were there prior and post cruise. Here is a recap:

Trail’s End (Fort Wilderness Campground)

Over at Disney Food Blog’s new(ish) podcast, episode one discusses ‘jaunts’. Quick trips that you can access from the parks, thus getting a break from the crowds and the heat, plus getting something other than chicken tenders and hamburgers. A quick boat ride to the Fort Wilderness Campground had us at Trail’s End. The restaurant wasn’t busy at all and we were quickly seated. Hubs ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which has a surprisingly tangy barbecue sauce which I really enjoyed (yup, I steal bites on vacation too). There was a corn bacon slaw on top, but really, the taste of bacon was lacking though the sandwich overall was great. I had ordered an ‘open faced Johnny Cake BLT’ with a side of sweet potato fries despite looking forward to the fried chicken. But, I didn’t regret it at all once I took a bite. A corn based pancake topped with bacon, arugula and tomatoes. There was a peppery mayonnaise on top too – and when all those flavors combined, all I can say is wow. It was something I would have never imagined eating at The World and was beyond tasty. Beats a burger at a stand anytime surrounded by a crowd. Highly recommend – though I do hear their chicken is great, as is their breakfast buffet.

Kona Cafe (Polynesian Resort)

The Polynesian Resort is beautiful, full of lush florals and vegetation in the lobby. Honestly, I haven’t been to Hawaii but it is everything that I imagine it to be. So when we sat down at Kona Cafe for lunch, I wasn’t surprised to see all of the great Polynesian food, and I wanted to get my hands on all of it. Hubs settled on barbecue pork tacos. Visually, I was surprised to see the homemade tortillas be so thick. But, it was still a great taco and hubs gobbled them up. I ordered the Ahi tuna sandwich. I absolutely loved the sweetness of the pineapple bread the sandwich was served on. The tuna was thick and seasoned well, but cooked a little bit more than I would have liked. But the pickled vegetable slaw and bread made that sandwich very good. The sweetness of the bread played really well with the vinegar of the slaw, though it did kill the overall flavoring of the fish. And of course, sweet potato fries were great as always.

Whispering Canyon Cafe (The Wilderness Lodge)

Before heading home, we ducked into The Wilderness Lodge for a bite to eat. We decided to eat a few appetizers between each other, though there is an all you can eat type of barbecue lunch that looked appetizing (and what they are known for). We started off with queso and chips, which was nothing too fancy. Though small and minor, I did like the fact the chips were sprinkled with tomatoes and green onions. No idea why, I normally don’t go for that flair, but alas, I liked the extra nudge that pushed it towards nacho type. I had a salad, which was dressed in a really light apple vinaigrette. I mainly ordered it because of the candied walnuts. It was much bigger than I anticipated, but there wasn’t anything too special about it. Hubs ordered the smoked salmon, which he thought was a little dry and anticlimactic. Though all of this was okay and standard, I couldn’t get enough of the cheddar cheese soup. It was creamy, decadent and so tasty. I absolutely loved the sharpness of the cheddar. And to make it even better, popcorn and bacon. Candied bacon gave it a slightly sweet bite through the sharpness, while the popcorn was just fun. I loved it. I ate it so fast, maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy the other bites because I was so focused on that soup. Next time, soup and barbecue.

All of these were great choices for us to try while enjoying the parks. We did eat in the park at one point, but it was in Epcot where I have a little bit more love for due to the country and ethnic drive of the food. Though all of it isn’t spectacular, I still appreciate it a little bit more as there are more options than the other parks (though if you recall, the Animal Kingdom does have a great restaurant). Eating new (and great) food is always an important piece of our vacations – what about you? Anything you look forward to when on vacation?

Walt Disney World (Vacation Dining)

16 Aug

After my work conference, I took a few days off to enjoy Walt Disney World and stay with a friend of mine who is a cast member of the company.  I dined at a few restaurants when in the parks, here is a quick recap:

Hollywood Studios – Pizza Planet

Though I’m sure this is nothing less than a frozen pizza, I have to admit it hit the spot.  The crust was doughy and filling and the pepperoni was your average pepperoni.   It was also served with a small Caesar salad, a good attempt at bringing a little health to the counter service action.  Nothing special, just romaine lettuce with bottled Caesar, but a nice addition when I wasn’t thinking I’d get any vegetables this go around.  And yes, I’m aware that I set it up to look like a hidden Mickey – that’s the Disney fan in me.

Epcot – Morocco’s Tangierine Cafe

I have only heard great things about the sit down restaurant in Morocco, so I decided to give the quick service option a try and ordered the three slider combo.  The trio consisted of three pitas (falafel, lamb and chicken) served with slices of red onion, cucumbers, romaine lettuce and tomatoes.  All were lightly dressed with tzatziki, which I originally wanted more of.  That was until I started to utilize the hummus which was perfect for the sliders.  The parsley relish was also great to give the sliders a bit of freshness.  I really enjoyed this and would definitely consider it again when in the park.

Polynesian Resort – Captain Cooks

Before spending the day by the pool, I grabbed a Hawaiian flatbread from the quick service restaurant.  I loved ordering by the self service kiosk – it made the order process extremely efficient.  The flatbread crust was slightly crispy on the edge, but floppy and soft towards the center.  The ham had good flavor, the pineapple a fresh taste and the red onions have  a sharpness to what can sometimes be a sweet combination.  I would have liked a bit more cheese and sauce, but I wasn’t expecting too much from another quick service restaurant. But this was a great meal, something different and I liked how it matched the theme (maybe next time I’ll carry sliced almonds and cinnamon to add to the pizza – delicious!)

Anyone have a favorite quick service restaurant in Walt Disney World they would like to share?

Fulton’s Crab House (Vacation Dining)

12 Aug

During my recent business trip to the Orlando area, I had the opportunity to dine at Fulton’s Crab House for a special event.  I was really excited about this opportunity because I had never been despite walking by many times.  Fulton’s is located in Downtown Disney, right in the middle of the district.

It is a beautiful restaurant, a riverboat that was converted into a crab house.  The basic history behind it is that it was part of Disney’s property, once called Empress Lilly after Walt’s wife (Lillian), before being purchased by Levy restaurant’s.  Levy’s – you may recognize this name as it is the restaurants of Conseco Fieldhouse – has several restaurants in the area, specifically the sister restaurant next door, Portobello.  It really is a beautifully decorated restaurant with interesting space for events and dinners.  Wedding rehearsals, even small weddings, have taken place here.  And the food is quite delightful.  During our event, this is what we noshed on:

Cocktail Hour Starters

There was this great display of crab legs, grilled scallops and shrimp.  Not just your baby cocktail shrimp, these were jumbo shrimp that were perfectly cooked and chilled.  I gobbled a few of these with the subtly spiced cocktail sauce and remoulade.  The crab legs were sweet and divine, scallops grilled to perfection.  Nothing better than eating perfectly cooked seafood while enjoying a glass of chilled wine.

Soup Starter – Crab and Lobster Bisque

The signature bisque was creamy and full of crab flavor.  It was slightly sweet, rich in cream and finished with sherry.  Smooth and rich, a bowl of the bisque is more than needed as it can be filling.  There was also fresh baked bread with a crab butter, giving a touch of sweetness to the butter bread.

Entree – Land & Sea

Duo’s are the perfect dish and this didn’t disappoint.  A beef filet mignon was cooked medium rare for ultimate taste.  It was lightly seasoned so the beef flavor really shined.  Despite being delicious, the Alaskan King Crab claws were the star of this show.  The claws were subtly sweet, extremely tender and easy to break into because of the great service already provided by the kitchen.  They didn’t need the butter, but it did make them a bit more decadent.

Dessert – Biramisu

A specialty by another Levy restaurant, Portobello, we enjoyed this version of the classic Tiramisu.  What made it different was the Orlando Brewing Porter that was used rather than espresso.  The porter still has a coffee like flavor, but it definitely gave a different taste to the classic.  The dessert was light and delicious.  And from conversations, the portion is normally quite large – pint glass large (though it may not seem like it – this was a large shot glass).  In addition, a berry sherbert with fruit and a chocolate shell was served with the dessert – fantastic.

It was a great event due to company, service and delicious food.  I haven’t dined there prior because when on vacation, I couldn’t rationalize the expense of the restaurant.  But the quality of both food and service delivered a great evening.

Fulton’s Crab House * Downtown Disney * Orlando, Florida * 407.934.2628

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Conference Dining: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

10 Aug

As mentioned, I recently spent some time away from Indy for a conference (followed by a vacation).  Conference dining has this banquet food stigma.  Sometimes, it just isn’t true.  Then other times, you get an entree that screams “this is why there is a stereotype!”  While in Orlando, I experienced both sides of this spectrum.

The Good

Many of the good was from receptions.  I fall helplessly for small bite sized food.  My preference is to eat small bites of many items – I like the variety of everything.  Here are a few goods:

From top left, counter clockwise: A cheese display at a reception; these fantastic little goat cheese bites – goat cheese was mixed with a variety of herbs and piped onto toasted bread slices, topped with asparagus; Tacos – a hand made tortilla stuffed with tilapia and topped with a crisp coleslaw; a dessert display at Epcot; scallop on whipped potatoes; and a shrimp salad (though the presentation left a curious look by many).

The Bad

By bad, I mean it just there.  I ate it, but it wasn’t anything to rave about.

Left to right: Two desserts from an evening reception – one was a chocolate covered mousse that was overly rich and not smooth like mousse should be; this was a fried polenta circle, topped with melted asadero cheese (Mexican cheese) and pulled pork.  The pork lacked flavor, the cheese was too mild to taste and the polenta was lacking.

The Ugly

One entree in particular – from the Orlando Convention Visitors Bureau – really stood out.  Stood out to the extreme that attendees literally stood and walked out of the luncheon.  It was unfortunate, especially since it was during a luncheon I had been looking forward to – the Iron Chef competition. Just a note, they were making some amazing dishes that we didn’t get any of – instead, we were served the ugly while the judges noshed on risotto and other brilliant food.

Some sort of sauce (well, two sauces) were used over a dry piece of meat and another chicken.  Nothing was good about this – even in appearance.  This was my second plate because the first had clearly sat for too long as the sauce was baked onto the plate – completely inedible.  The second plate – I didn’t walk out but I unhappily ate the protein and left the vegetables uneaten.  I definitely was not satisfied.

Despite the lunch meals, I pretty much snacked my way through the conference.  And as stated, I didn’t mind that at all.

Anyone have any great or horror stories regarding food at a conference?  Would love to hear your good, bad and ugly.