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April 30, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - The Food

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What's a Disney race weekend without the opportunity to enjoy a little food? And some adult beverages, too. :-) One of the things I was looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to sample foods from the food booths at Epcot's Flower and Garden (aka mini Food and Wine) Festival.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Lee and I arrived fairly late on Wednesday night. We were headed to the Boardwalk Bakery when we noticed that the Trattoria al Forno pizza window was still open...so that's what we had. We were hungry, and scarfed it down pretty quickly, so there's no photos. :-) My cheese pizza was just ok - it had been sitting around under the heat lamp for a while. Lee really enjoyed his piece of the Boardwalk Signature Pizza, though. (This is the stock AllEars.net photo of the cheese pizza - mine didn't look quite this good. :-) )

Trattoria al Forno Pizza Window Cheese Pizza

The next morning we went to the Bellevue Room at the Boardwalk, which sells "Continental Breakfast" types of foods in the morning - pastries, bagels, cold cereal, yogurt, fruit cup/whole fruit, and beverages: coffee, tea, juice, milk. We were planning to visit the food booths at Epcot, but needed something to eat since they didn't open until 11:00.

When we walked into Epcot I picked up a "Garden Passport". This little booklet had the menus for all of the food booths, and there was a place to get a stamp at each booth.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Passport

All of the food booths had unique stamps, and there were some really interesting designs. There were stamps for the butterfly garden, the Festival shops, playground, and tours, also. No reward (such as a pin) for getting all of the stamps - just the completion stamp. But I had fun doing it anyway.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Tasting Passport stamps

The first thing we sampled was Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragout, Spring Vegetables and Marble Potatoes from Urban Farm Eats. It was excellent, and a good-sized serving for $6.00. I appreciated the fact that it had some vegetables - pieces of asparagus, onion, and beans - in addition to the sliced potatoes.

Seared Pork Tenderloin from Urban Farm Eats

Next was "Adult Soft Serve", as the Pineapple Promenade CM called it: Pineapple Soft-Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum for $10.00. Oh wow. This was SO good! The rum was on top so we had to make sure we got a little on our spoons in addition to the pineapple soft serve - but once the ice cream level was low enough we could mix it in. We liked this so much that we went back later in our visit to share another one.

Pineapple Promenade Pineapple Soft Serve with Coconut Rum

One thing we really enjoyed about the food booths was that there were no lines! Mostly we walked right up to the cashier, or at most waited behind 2-3 other people. Very different from the Food and Wine Festival.

Hanami Japan Food Booth

From La Isla Fresca we sampled the Jerk-spice Grouper with Mango Salsa, Chayote and Green Papaya Slaw with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette. This was another good one though I had to eat around the red and green peppers.

La Isla Fresca Jerk Spice Grouper

We also tried the Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum. I was surprised that this had chunks of mango in it - but I thought that was the best part. It was all pretty tasty, though.

La Isla Fresca Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum

At the coffee kiosk near Mexico I tried the Tiki Torch - a passion fruit slush with Grey Goose vodka. I was expecting it to be more slushy, but it wasn't really frozen. It was fine, but Lee enjoyed this one more than I did.

Coffee Kiosk Tiki Torch

At Lotus House in China Lee tried a Gaoli Beef Bun, which a friend had recommended. He really liked this.

Lotus House Gaoli Beef Bun

I had my first sparkling wine at Germany's Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market - Hugo-Charles de Fere "Organic" Brut with Elderflower and Mint. This was good - fortunately the mint was not overpowering, so I could taste the elderflower. Lee tried the Kostritzer Schwarzbier Black Lager, which he enjoyed.

Bauernmarkt Brut with Elderflower and Mint

From Primavera Kitchen at Italy we ordered Mezze Lune Primavera - Egg Pasta stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Creamy Sauce with Spring Vegetables and Pecorino Cheese. This was...OK. It seemed a little bit dry.

Primavera Kitchen Mezze Lune Primavera

At THE SMOKEHOUSE at The American Adventure we tried most of the food items. The Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw was pretty good, but not great. I think I liked the coleslaw more than the slider.

Smokehouse Pulled Pig Slider

We also tried Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad. I thought these were better. They were pretty meaty and tender. Lee liked the corn salad.

Smokehouse Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad

For topping the BBQ offerings there were three BBQ sauces at the condiment station to choose from - I had North Carolina (nice and mustardy) and Lee had the classic.

For dessert we tried the Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans. This was just ok. The top part of the cake which had the caramel sauce and nuts on it was the best part. And when they say "spiced" pecans they mean spicy hot and not spicy cinnamon. These had a kick to them.

Smokehouse Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

That was pretty good for a first round of tastings. The last thing I tried was the La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush - Grey Goose vodka orange, St-Germain liqueur, white and red cranberry juice at France. Lee didn't care for it, but I thought it was tasty. I knew I had to finish it before we could leave the park, though. :-)

La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush

That evening we went to Disney Springs for dinner at Morimoto Asia. This was our first experience driving ourselves there and parking in the "Orange" garage. The "smart garage" worked really well - when we first pulled in the sign told us which parking levels had the most spaces, and then once we chose level 4, each row told us how many spaces were in it, and there were green lights on the ceiling of the garage over each open space to identify it. Super easy! We arrived about 5:20, so it might be more of a challenge when it's busier, but we had no problem.

We were a little early at Morimoto Asia - instead of a pager, they told me they would send a text message to my phone instead. We were seated in less than 10 minutes, but had a nice conversation with a blog reader (Hello!) while we were waiting. Our table was the outside corner of the middle block nearest the hostess station - I was concerned it might feel very busy with the aisle right next to us, but it was fine.

I'd been to Morimoto in February, but this was Lee's first visit. We started off with a couple of glasses of wine from their "Spring Selections" list. They were both very good. We also shared two appetizers. The first was the Tempura Rock Shrimp. It was $16, and I was expecting it to be just a few pieces of shrimp, but it was a very generous serving! Easily an appetizer for 3-4 people and not just two. Very good, also.

Morimoto Asia Tempura Rock Shrimp

Our other appetizer was Kakuni Pork Bao - steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo. This was also excellent, and very filling. Lee was concerned that the pork belly might be very fatty but it wasn't. I was expecting it to be more of a traditional bao (sort of a large dumpling) rather than the something more like a taco, but we definitely got a lot more filling this way.

Morimoto Asia Kakuni Pork Bao

And then the entrees arrived. Honestly, after the appetizers I didn't need much more to eat!

I ordered something different this time and tried the Lo Mein Noodles with Chicken - stir-fried egg noodles, Napa cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions. This was good but not awesome - the Shrimp Pad Thai I had last time was much better. I still enjoyed part of it (I was too full to eat much of it), and took about 2/3 of it with me, figuring it would taste good after one of the races (and I ended up eating it after the half marathon, when it tasted REALLY good).

Morimoto Asia Lo Mein Noodles Chicken

Lee tried the Singapore Laksa Noodle - creamy coconut and spicy curry, rice noodle, chicken meatballs, and soy marinated egg. He was disappointed in this. He didn't care for the chicken meatballs, and thought the curry didn't have enough coconut flavor. I tried it, and it was a bit too spicy for me. He also ended up taking about 1/2 of it with him, which he also ate after the half marathon. Things taste a lot better after a half marathon when your body is just saying: "FEED ME", and you're shoveling it in as fast as you can. :-)

Morimoto Asia Singapore Laksa Noodle

We'd left some room for dessert. I would've liked to have had the MM Parfait again, but there was no way the two of us were going to make any serious inroads on that! So we tried the Churro Fondue instead. Housemade churros, with Nutella and vanilla cream sauces. The churros were freshly made and hot, but I thought they were a little doughy inside. They were dipped in sugar - I would've preferred cinnamon sugar, though. I really liked the Nutella sauce, but Lee preferred the cream sauce. I didn't think it was very creamy - it was a little too thick.

Morimoto Asia Churro Fondue

When our server brought us the dessert menu, I had a chuckle over a typo under the tea selections. I guess this is not the Mos Eisley Cantina, and they serve droids here. :-)

Morimoto Asia Tea Menu
Cylon Tea

It was still a really good dinner - we loved the appetizers. Next time (and there will be a next time!) we might just do appetizers/sushi/dessert and skip the entree. This is not a quiet intimate experience - the restaurant is very noisy. Though our table, being along the edge, wasn't as noisy as the one I sat at the last time. I think one of the tables along the outside wall might be better, also.

Friday morning we went to Animal Kingdom. As a snack we tried the Smoky Cheddar Grits, served with pulled pork and bread-and-butter pickles, from the Smiling Crocodile kiosk. We'd wanted to try this in February but the kiosk was closed, so we were happy to see that it was open. At $5.99 it's a pretty small serving - the size of the bowls you get at the F&W Festival. But it was really good - once Lee pulled the green peppers out of it. Ick. The pork was moist and flavorful and the grits were very cheesy - even had little bits of cheese in them. Yum.

Animal Kingdom Smoky Cheddar Grits

That afternoon we went back over to Epcot to sample from some of the food booths we hadn't yet tried. First was the Cider House at the UK. We wanted to sample three of the food items. Unfortunately they had just run out of the corned beef and cabbage that Lee wanted to try, and wouldn't have more for 15-20 minutes. But we tried the Land-harvested Field Greens with Apples, Dried Blueberries, Stilton Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. This was a nice salad, though I don't care for blue cheese.

Cider House Land Harvested Field Greens

We also ordered the House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare. We both really liked the biscuit. I also enjoyed the salmon tartare, especially with the little bit of fresh dill, but Lee let me eat most of that. :-)

Cider House Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit

We washed it down with two of the ciders: Keel & Curley Mad Man Blueberry Hard Cider for Lee and McKenzie's Black Cherry Hard Cider for me. We tried what the other had ordered, and both were happy with our own choices.

Cider House Blueberry and Black Cherry Hard Ciders

Next stop was Hanami in Japan, where we ordered all of the food items. First up was a Chicken Edamame Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken and Edamame and topped with Curry Sauce. It was very good - maybe my favorite Festival item. The curry sauce was more like a curry aioli, but it really added a lot of flavor to the bun and the filling inside. Yummy.

Hanami Chicken Edamame Bun

One of Lee's favorite items was the Beef Teriyaki Udon: Thin-sliced Beef, Onions and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger. We ordered this and the steamed bun again on a later visit.

Hanami Beef Teriyaki Udon

We also tried the Frushi - Fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon, rolled with coconut rice, topped with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side. These were tasty, though the fruit leather they were rolled in was a bit odd. And they gave us an awful lot of whipped cream - we didn't use very much of it.

Hanami Frushi

We decided that Japan won the award for most attractive presentation of their food items. They really were very pretty.

I also tried a Desert Rose from Taste of Marrakesh at Morocco. It was sparkling wine with pomegranate liqueur. It was very pretty, though a little too sweet. At $7.00 it was the cheapest sparkling wine I had, though!

Morocco Desert Rose

That evening we met friends at the Crew's Cup Lounge at the Yacht Club for dinner. I hadn't realized this place existed, much less that they served food! It was a really nice place to hang out with friends and enjoy some beverages and conversation. I tried the Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich. It was excellent - plenty of thick-sliced fresh mozzarella, with nice slices of tomato and pesto sauce on toasted sea salt foccacia. The bread was very good also. I had a choice of house-made chips, French fries or pasta salad and chose the chips - they were crisp and salty and yummy.

Crews Cup Lounge Tomato Mozzarella Sandwich

Lee ordered the Angus Cheeseburger - he had his choice of cheese, and it came with lettuce, tomato, onion, and French fries. He said it was an excellent burger.

Crews Cup Lounge Angus Cheeseburger

Saturday morning after the 10K we went to the Boardwalk Bakery to get something to eat. I got a great big Sticky Bun. After a 10K I figured I was entitled to it. The pastry at the bakery is lighter and not so doughy, which I really like. So this was not as huge and filling as it looked, though I was still surprised that I ate the whole thing.

Boardwalk Bakery Pecan Sticky Bun

We went to the Studios later that morning...after using our Star Tours Fastpasses we were hungry, and the Backlot Express was about to open. This place has a Star Wars overlay menu now. We both had the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles, though Lee had the adult portion and I had the kid's meal. I wasn't expecting chicken nuggets as the chicken part, though at least they were tasty chicken nuggets.

Darth Vader Chicken and Waffles

I was surprised that my kid's meal came with fries - the menu said carrots and applesauce, which was actually what I wanted. I enjoyed it all, though, and it was plenty of food for me. At $7.99 the price was not too bad, either, especially since it included a small bottle of water.

Backlot Express Kids Chicken and Darth Waffles

The friends with us got their food on the lucky orange tray, which meant that they were invited to choose a free dessert. They chose the BB-8 cupcake, and shared with the rest of us. It was lemony, and just ok. We were all glad that no one had paid for it. The "pebbles" on the outside were candy covered chocolate - but very inferior chocolate.

Backlot Express BB-8 Cupcake

Saturday evening a group of us went to Il Mulino in the Swan Hotel for our pre-half marathon Italian dinner. Our reservation was at 5:00, which was when the restaurant opened. We were seated pretty quickly at our table for 11 people. The server was a little slow getting drinks and initial orders taken, but after that things moved along ok.

Lee and I ordered Parmigiano Reggiano for Two as an appetizer. I think I forgot to take a photo of it. But it served more than two people! Quite a lot of really yummy cheese for $10. We passed it down the table and a few other people partook and we still had about 8 pieces left that we took with us at the end of the meal.

We also shared an Insalata Trattoria, which our server split onto two plates. Nice selection of greens with fennel, red onions, and pine nuts.

As an entree I chose a half order of the Pappardelle Pasta with a tomato basil sauce. I'd had this before and thought there wasn't quite enough sauce, but this time it was a more generous serving. Still very tasty and I enjoyed it - and a half serving was plenty for me.

Il Mulino Pappardelle Pasta

Lee tried the Spaghetti Carbonara - spaghetti with pancetta, cheese and egg. He ordered the full serving, and managed to finish all of it.

Il Mulino Spaghetti Carbonara

While most of us enjoyed our dinners, one of our fellow diners ordered the Pollo Parmigiana and did not like it at all. It was very tough, and she couldn't cut it. Our server apologized, offered to bring her something else, and did not charge her for the entree. Unfortunate, but they tried to do the right thing.

The restaurant is pretty noisy, but fortunately it wasn't packed with diners, so it wasn't as loud as the last time I'd eaten here. (Obviously I came back, because I did enjoy the food I had last time.)

We all passed on dessert though the Torta Di Cioccolati (flourless chocolate cake) was tempting.

I found Il Mulino to be a nice alternative to the Disney restaurants like Mama Melrose, Via Napoli, and Trattoria al Forno which always seem to be disastrous dining experiences on the night before a half marathon. And actually there were a number of menu items that I'd enjoy trying when I don't have a race the next day.

For "breakfast" on Sunday after the half marathon we finished our Morimoto Asia leftovers. :-) That afternoon we went to Afternoon Tea at the Beach Club - but that is going to be a whole separate review coming soon to the All Ears Team blog. It was a very nice experience.

Sunday evening we had dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby with our friends Dave and Holly. The restaurant was very busy and loud...so we were very pleasantly surprised when the hostess led us to a separate room at the back of the restaurant. It was so nice and quiet in there! There was one large group in there, plus two tables that were set for four people. It was really, really a very welcome oasis of calm. So nice to talk to each other without shouting!

Our server was not very good. He seemed to keep getting lost, or forgetting about us. It was a long time before we got any water or bread. Dave's drink order was messed up (though that might have been the bartender), and there was confusion about Lee's wine and he brought me the wrong salad.

I ordered a sparkling wine flight, with a prosecco, Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, and Rosa Regale. It was very nice.

Brown Derby Sparkling Wine Flight

Holly had a martini flight, with a gin martini, citrus vodka martini and cosmopolitan. Such cute little martini glasses!

Brown Derby Martini Flight

For an appetizer, Lee and I both ordered the Local Greens - tossed in champagne vinaigrette, with blueberries and peaches, Laura Chenel goat cheese, spiced candied pecans. It was a really nice salad.

Brown Derby Local Greens Salad

Dave tried the Tomato Soup.

Brown Derby Tomato Soup

As an entree I ordered the salmon, which was very tasty. It came with roasted potatoes, crispy leeks, English peas, and cauliflower puree.

Brown Derby Salmon

Lee and Holly both ordered the Charred Filet of Beef - Cabernet and Shallot Butter, Forest Mushroom and White Truffle Oil Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Rainbow Carrots, Haricot Verts, and Red Wine Reduction. They were both pleased with it and the way it was cooked to order.

Brown Derby Charred Filet of Beef

Dave had the Pork Three Ways with a grilled wild boar chop, pork rillette, and crispy pork belly. Served with sweet corn and chili spoonbread.

Brown Derby Wild Boar special

Desserts are served as a choice of three mini desserts now - no full-sized servings of anything (even the famous Grapefruit Cake). We were disappointed in the dessert choices, so didn't order any of them. Our choices were: Amaretto Flan and Opalys White Chocolate Whip (whatever that is), Warm Blueberry Cobbler, Chocolate Mascarpone Sphere, Double Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana-Toffee Cake, and the aforementioned Grapefruit Cake.

The food was good, the service was so-so. The company was terrific, and we really enjoyed being in the "quiet room" - we were sorry to leave it. And we probably lingered longer than we would have if we'd been in the main dining room.

Monday was our final park day - we had an evening flight home. We started with breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. We've eaten breakfast here several times since the conversion from Kouzzina. Mostly because it's the only place to get a hot breakfast at the Boardwalk rather than because we really love the food.

I ordered something new this time: Breakfast Pizza, with sliced potato, tomato sauce, and cracked egg. Normally it also comes with fennel sausage but I requested bacon instead. It was really good, and VERY filling - it was unfortunate that it was our last morning because otherwise I would've had most of it to take with me. As it was I ate the eggs and two pieces of the pizza, and picked off the potatoes and bacon from the rest.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Pizza

Lee had the Frittata - with red peppers, prosciutto, onions, potatoes, and pecorino romano cheese topped with arugula. It was served with breakfast potatoes and a multi-grain croissant.

Trattoria al Forno Frittata

Monday afternoon we made one last circuit of the food booths at Epcot. We had a few favorites a second time, but also tried some new items. Lee was able to get his Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing from Cider House this time, and enjoyed that.

Cider House Corned Beef and Cabbage

We also tried the Lemon Scone with Créme Fraiche and Mixed Berries. I thought this was very good - it wasn't overly lemony (and that's a good thing). I was very surprised to read that this was gluten-free - it certainly didn't taste like it.

Cider House Lemon Scone

Lee sampled a Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset – Layered frozen Strawberry and Lemonade topped with Grey Goose Vodka from the coffee kiosk near the American Adventure. He said it would've been better without the vodka. :-)

Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset

From Florida Fresh we ordered Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, Goat Cheese and White Balsamic Vinaigrette. This was very good - I think it was the best salad I had anywhere the entire weekend.

Florida Fresh Kale Salad

We finished our food adventure at Japan, where we ordered the Chicken Edamame Bun and Beef Teriyaki Udon again. And I also tried a Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy. It was different...not bad, but not my favorite beverage.

Hanami Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy

I really enjoyed the mini Food and Wine Festival aspect of the Flower and Garden Festival. It wasn't nearly as busy, so it was a much more pleasant experience. And with fewer food booths it seemed like there were more tables set up - only rarely did we not find an open table. I enjoyed the selection of foods and beverages - with fewer food booths the choices weren't so overwhelming.







March 9, 2016

2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 4 - Dining

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Lee was finally able to join me on Thursday night. I had moved to Kidani Village earlier that day. Unfortunately by then the cold had really taken hold of me and my appetite was not every good - for a number of meals I just wanted fruit or yogurt. So there's not going to be quite the dining variety in this part as there was in the earlier part of the trip.

Friday evening we had dinner at The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I just got a Chef Salad out of the Grab and Go area. It was actually a really good salad with nice fresh greens and turkey, ham, hard boiled eggs, two kinds of cheese, onions, tomatoes, olives and lentils. I couldn't eat it all.

Mara Chef Salad

Lee had the BBQ Chicken Flatbread with chicken, BBQ sauce, onions, cilantro, and corn. He's a flatbread aficionado, and he enjoyed it.

Mara BBQ Chicken Flatbread

Saturday morning after the 10K we went into the Studios. Apparently there's no place to get a quick service hot breakfast in the Studios any more. The Starbucks there has some hot sandwiches, and that's where we ended up. We split the egg and bacon sandwich. It was fine, but nothing special.

Starbucks egg and bacon sandwich

That night, before the half marathon, we had an early dinner at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion. I still wasn't real hungry and I really wanted some soup, so I had the Roasted Tomato Soup, which was topped with goat cheese. It was very good.

Seasons Roasted Tomato Soup

I needed a little more food so I ordered the Kids Salmon - it came with choice of side (mashed potatoes) and beverage (bottle of water). It was just the right size and nicely prepared.

Seasons Kids Salmon

Lee tried the Chicken Corn Chowder soup, which he really liked.

Seasons Chicken Corn Chowder

He also ordered the Mongolian Beef with fried rice. He enjoyed that as well.

Seasons Mongolian Beef

Sunday after we finished the half marathon we had lunch at Sanaa. Our reservation was at 11:30 (when the restaurant opened) and we had one of the window tables with a view of the savanna. We saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, Ankole cattle, and birds.

Sanaa view

We started with a couple of specialty cocktails. The one in front is Lee's - I don't remember the name, but it was basically a pina colada with strawberry. I had the Kande Coconut Cooler. The description said it was "a refreshing combination of Starr African Rum, coconut, vanilla ice cream, and orange juice." I got the orange juice and the rum, but I didn't taste coconut or ice cream. Not what I expected, and I was disappointed.

Sanaa cocktails

I don't think you can go to Sanaa and not order the Bread Service! Though with just two of us it was an awful lot of bread. All good, though. We ordered just three of the accompaniments rather than all nine: Mango chutney, roasted red pepper hummus, and tamarind chutney.

Sanaa bread service

Lee ordered the "slow cooked in gravy" selection, which they call "Potjie Inspired" now. He chose the Goan Seafood Curry and Braised Beef with rice. He said the beef was really excellent - melted in the mouth. He enjoyed the curry, also.

Sanaa Potjie Inspired

I tried the Kenya Coffee BBQ Sandwich - pulled pork with warm root vegetable slaw served with housemade chips. The pork was very good - I could definitely taste the coffee flavor, but it wasn't overwhelming. The vegetable slaw was nicely vinegary. It was very good.

Sanaa Kenya Coffee BBQ Sandwich

That evening we joined a group of friends for dinner atThe Boathouse in Disney Springs. We'd never been there before. On the expensive side, but a very nice experience.

I started with the Chopped Salad - romaine & iceberg, poached bay shrimp, peppered salami, hearts of palm, red onions, olives, pepperoncini, and smoked mozzarella topped with an herb vinaigrette. I ordered the small salad, but it was a lot bigger than I expected. Lee had some of it, too.

The Boathouse Chopped Salad

For an entree I tried Grilled Fish Tacos - jerk spiced, with vegetable slaw, avocado, and serrano-chili cream. I can't remember what type of fish it was -it varies depending on what's fresh that day. They were very good - the jerk spice wasn't too strong.

The Boathouse Fish Tacos

Our friend Phill highly recommended the steaks at The Boathouse, so that's what most of the table ordered. Lee had the 8 oz Filet Mignon. The server scared him a bit with his descriptions of "medium" vs "medium well", and Lee ended up ordering it medium well - in hindsight medium would have been better. He still really enjoyed the steak.

The Boathouse Filet Mignon

The steaks (most of the entrees for that matter) don't come with any accompaniments, so Lee ordered a side of Roasted New Potatoes to go with it. They were very good - a nice crisp on the outside, but still fluffy inside.

The Boathouse New Potatoes

He also shared some of the Mac N' Cheese side that Anna ordered. All of the sides are plenty large for sharing between at least three people.

The Boathouse Mac N Cheese

I've heard about The Boathouse desserts, and wish we'd had the opportunity to try one of them, but we were just too full.

The next day we were in Animal Kingdom at lunch time. I wasn't very hungry, and just got a fruit and cheese plate from the Harambe Fruit Market. This hit the spot nicely.

Harambe Fruit Market Fruit and Cheese Plate

Lee wanted something more substantial, and we went to the Harambe Market. I really like the looks of this area - very well-themed. And there's quite a variety of foods available at the individual stands, a nice change from normal theme park offerings. But it's very popular and I couldn't find a table for a while, until I saw a couple of girls who were getting ready to leave.

Harambe Market

Lee tried the Boerewors Sausage fried in curry batter. A more interesting variant of a corn dog. :-)

Harambe Market Boerewors Sausage

He also got an African Milk Tart for us to share. This was coconut custard in a chocolate tart shell dusted with sugar and five spice powder. It was pretty good, though I would've preferred a much strong coconut flavor - it was pretty light.

Harambe Market African Milk Tart

That was our final meal on Disney property. After that we spent some time at Universal Studios. We stayed two nights in the Cabana Bay Resort, and ate one dinner and one breakfast in their food court. I thought it was decent, and the food prices were about the same as Disney. The one morning I enjoyed their "Make-your-own Yogurt Parfait" bar. I was impressed at the variety of fresh fruit - four kinds of berries as well as mango and other toppings. It was sold by weight. Lee had a steak with chimichurri sauce the one night that was very good.

We ate our other meals in the parks or in CityWalk. The only meal I took photos of was our lunch at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) on our final day. I ordered the Ploughman's Lunch, which came with several kinds of cheese, Scotch Egg, cornichons, a pickled beet salad, mixed green salad, grilled tomatoes, and bread. I also ordered a cup of split pea soup with it. The soup was very good. The rest of it was ok - the salad, bread, and cheese was good, but the rest - definitely not to my taste. :-) I LOVE tomatoes, but grilled tomatoes - ick. It was interesting to try something different, though.

Harry Potter Leaky Cauldron Ploughman's Lunch

Lee had the Mini Pie Combination - I think it was shepherd's pie and a seafood pie - served with salad. He said they were both very good.

Harry Potter Leaky Cauldron Mini Pie Combination

The day before we had gone to Schwab's in Universal Studios and had ice cream. Lee had a chocolate shake that was very good - made the old-fashioned way, and not just out of a machine.

Universal Schwab's Chocolate Shake

And of course it's not a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without some butterbeer! :-) Lee likes it, but I think it's too sweet. My favorite is the pumpkin juice. If you go into the Hogs Head Bar adjoining The Three Broomsticks, you can get a pumpkin fizz - pumpkin juice with soda water. That's my favorite.

Harry Potter Butterbeer

I also tried a Cauldron Cake from Honeydukes. It was not bad - but the Triple Chocolate Cupcake I had at Be Our Guest was better.

Harry Potter Cauldron Cake
Harry Potter Cauldron Cake

We'll be back at WDW in April for the Stars Wars - The Dark Side half marathon weekend - I'm looking forward to being in better health then and enjoying my food a lot more than I did on this trip.

Thanks for reading!







March 8, 2016

2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - Dining

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I was able to dine at a number of new (to me) places on this trip and had some really good experiences.

I started off my trip staying at the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. On the first night there I went to Captain Cook's. I wasn't very hungry but I thought the Pho Noodle Bowl with Shrimp (it also comes with beef) looked good. Rice noodles and seasonal vegetables in Bui broth. It was tasty and really hit the spot, though I would've liked to have gyoza sauce or something like that to add to it to kick up the flavor a little. All that was available was soy sauce. Still, I liked it so much that I had it again later in the week.

Captain Cook's Pho Noodle Bowl

The following afternoon Deb and I went to Afternoon Tea in the Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian. Sigh. It was just lovely.

Grand Floridian Tea

We both had the Derbyshire Tea, which was three courses: sandwich plate, scone and tart, and choice of dessert. We also received a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne and our choice of tea, each with our own individual pot.

Grand Floridian Derbyshire Tea

The sandwich plate was four tea sandwiches: egg salad, golden beet and goat cheese, curried chicken salad, and cucumber. It also had generous slices of Tillamook and sage cheddar cheese with lavosh, grapes, and a small caramelized onion tart. I thought the presentation was very attractive. And it was really quite a bit of food.

Grand Floridian Tea sandwiches

The currant scone was served with apricot jam (which was wonderful!), clotted cream, and lemon curd, accompanied by a strawberry jam tart. The scone was very good, but the tart was disappointing - the jam seemed gummy and the texture was unappealing.

Grand Floridian Tea scone and jam tart

For dessert we had our choice of strawberries and cream, pastries, or banana creme brulee trifle. I chose the strawberries and cream. A little too much whipped cream, but the berries were excellent.

Grand Floridian Tea berries and cream

Deb tried the trifle - she said it was too sweet. The pieces of banana in it were good, but there weren't enough of them. (This photo is from my tea with Lee later in the week - he ordered the trifle and I tried the housemade pastries, which I really enjoyed.)

Grand Floridian Tea trifle and pastries

I chose the Mad Hatter's Tea Party as my tea selection. I really enjoyed it - black tea, a bit fruity with some vanilla.

It was really a lovely way to spend almost two hours. We were not rushed at all and were able to relax and enjoy our food, as well as our tea and champagne. We were both pleasantly full when we left.

Grand Floridian Tea

The Derbyshire Tea was $45/person, plus tax and gratuity. (The Lounge does not accept Tables in Wonderland.) I thought it was well worth it for the experience that we had. In addition to being tasty the food was very satisfying - we weren't hungry again for hours.

Tea is served from 2:00-5:00. It's not a very big place, and most of the tables are only seated once. I made reservations six months in advance - you need to plan ahead for this one.

Grand Floridian Tea Garden View Lounge

I recently tried the new Classic Afternoon Tea at Steakhouse 55 at Disneyland - and while that was very nice, I have to say that I enjoyed this one more. It was also significantly cheaper - our Derbyshire Tea was almost equivalent to the Premium Tea Party we enjoyed at Steakhouse 55 (it also included a salad), but that one was $65/person.

That night we had a late dinner at Captain Cook's. I tried the Aloha Pork Sandwich - pulled pork on pineapple-coconut bun with cheddar, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It came with fries, but I opted for steamed vegetables instead. Unfortunately that included lots of red peppers - yuck. The pork itself was good and the pineapple-coconut bun was really good - very soft and tender.

Captain Cook's Aloha Pork Sandwich

Deb tried the Hot Beef and Cheddar Sandwich - Roast beef, cheddar, caramelized onions with sweet chili mayo on house-made bread. It was also topped with yellow peppers, which were not mentioned anywhere in the description. She likes peppers about as well as I do, so was not too happy about that. The sandwich was served with a small side "Asian slaw" - it was mostly red peppers and onions! Deb commented that it wasn't like any "slaw" she'd ever had before. Pretty inedible.

Captain Cook's Hot Beef and Cheddar Sandwich

The next afternoon we went to "Be Our Guest" restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. I'd also made this reservation six months in advance. The restaurant gives you the option of pre-ordering your food - you can do that several days in advance, but we just did it that morning. When we arrived at the podium outside we were given a large plastic rose (tracking device), then we went inside to the registers. The cashier asked if we had any changes to what we had pre-ordered, we said no, and she rang us up.

The restaurant is "seat yourself" at lunch. While it was busy, we were still able to quickly find a table in the main room. Our food was delivered to us about 10 minutes later, and the server took the rose away. That worked pretty well.

I ordered the Tuna Nicoise Salad - Warm seared tuna steak with chilled green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs. Bell peppers again - ugh. (Ordering on-line gave me limited options for modifying the dish.) Fortunately there weren't very many and they were pretty easy to pick out. I was able to order the dressing on the side - it was some kind of a light fruit vinaigrette. The tuna was very good, and it was nice to see the roasted potato wedges. The egg wasn't hard boiled - it was more like a poached egg over medium. It was a very good salad and I would order it again, though maybe for $15.99 they could have added some more greens to it.

Be Our Guest Tuna Nicoise Salad

Deb ordered the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich - served warm on a baguette with horseradish sour cream and Pomme Frites. She said it was good. I tried a couple of the fries and they were decent.

Be Our Guest Roast Beef Sandwich

Our friend Jack joined us (they were able to add him to our party as a walk-up), and ordered the Carved Turkey Sandwich - served on a warm baguette with Dijon mayonnaise and Pomme Frites. REAL carved turkey - it looked very good.

Be Our Guest Turkey Sandwich

I had ordered dessert: The Triple Chocolate Cupcake. They had me at "chocolate". :-) Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling, and chocolate ganache. It was a pretty small cupcake for $4.59, but it was really good. The cake was moist and delicious, and the mousse filling and ganache icing were chocolaty goodness. My sweet tooth was happy. (I did offer to share!)

Be Our Guest Triple Chocolate Cupcake
Be Our Guest Triple Chocolate Cupcake

That evening four of us dined at Liberty Tree Tavern. Let's just say I will not be returning there anytime soon. The seating process was chaotic. They don't use pagers there - instead the hostesses stand in the restaurant waiting area and announce: "Hear ye, hear ye, now seating the Wills family from the colony of Florida". Which is different, but the waiting area is SO loud that we couldn't hear them - especially since most of them didn't project very well. We had a reservation but we still waited about 20 minutes before we were seated.

Once we made it to our table, our server quickly took our drink orders and explained the menu. It's a series of items served family style - and if you want more of anything the server will bring it to you. We started with the Declaration Salad. It was your average green salad - nothing remarkable about it. Also served with rolls and cornbread, which you will see in the next photo.

Liberty Tree Tavern Declaration Salad

The entree and side dishes were all served at the same time. The Patriot's Platter included roast turkey breast, carved ham, and pot roast, with stuffing and cranberry relish. For side dishes we had green beans and mashed potatoes, gravy, and macaroni and cheese. It was all - OK. Filling, but not exceptional. None of us cared for the cranberry relish - all we could taste was orange rind. The turkey was pretty good, and the ham was fine. I didn't try the pot roast but the others didn't like it at all.

Liberty Tree Tavern Meat Platter

For dessert we had pieces of Johnny Appleseed's Cake - Tavern made white cake filled with apples and dried cranberries, topped with ice cream, according to the menu. I think I was the only one who liked this. But the menu description is not correct - it was not cakey at all - it was more like a bar topped with apples and cranberries. I don't think this is a very appealing dessert to most people - it didn't look very appetizing, and I think they would have been better off with apple pie or apple crisp. (I make an oatmeal apple crisp that is way better than what I was served.)

Liberty Tree Tavern Johnny Appleseed Cake

It was a disappointing meal. Not that anything was really BAD, but for the price ($34/person) I expected more. If you have a hungry family and want to fill them up this might be a good option...but I won't be returning any time soon.

The next morning we went to breakfast at The Garden Grill in The Land Pavilion in Epcot. It's an "All-you-care-to eat Harvest Feast" served family style, and I enjoyed this one a whole lot more than our meal the night before.

We started with Chip's Sticky Bun Bake - a large cinnamon bun served in a skillet. It separated into pieces pretty easily. I loved this...I could've filled up just on this - it was hard not to go back for seconds or thirds (I did have a second piece after I'd finished most of the rest of my breakfast.)

Garden Grill Chip's Sticky Bun

We also had a dish of fresh fruit. It was good - it would have been nice to have more strawberries.

Garden Grill Fresh Fruit

And then there was a plate of sausage gravy with biscuits. I didn't try this, but my companions seemed to enjoy it.

Garden Grill Biscuits and Gravy

The main platter included Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon (and it was CRISP! Yay!), ham, and tater tots. There was chocolate-hazelnut sauce to go on the Mickey waffles...heavenly! (Though the rest of the table requested plain old maple syrup. I'm not sure they are really my friends. :-) )

Garden Grill Breakfast Platter

The scrambled eggs were freshly prepared but they were a little salty. We requested a second serving later and they were fine.

The tater tots were surprisingly good - I'm not sure why. But several of us had a hard time stopping and kept returning to the plate to have "just one more".

Garden Grill Breakfast Plate

This was a character meal, with Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto. They all came by at least twice. The chipmunks were a hoot. Chip tried to convince us that he had layed the eggs (eww!), and Dale had a sign telling us to "look for the hidden Dale in the flowers" - the mural on the wall. But there wasn't one - he was just messing with us.

Garden Grill Pluto

Farmer Mickey was having a hard time keeping the chipmunks under control. And they were taking all of the credit for his hard work in growing the food, too. :-)

Garden Grill Farmer Mickey

The Garden Grill restaurant rotates above the "Living with the Land" attraction. We were there a little over an hour and made one revolution. Afterward we walked around the restaurant to have a better view (we were on the upper level, so couldn't see down into it very well when we went around.)

The price for breakfast was $29.99, and it also included juice, and coffee/tea. For a character meal I didn't think that was too bad, and I really enjoyed the food. I'd seriously consider returning again when I want a big breakfast - like after running a half marathon or even a 10K. With so much of The Land pavilion closed right now (Living with the Land is the only attraction open) the restaurant was relatively quiet - when it's very busy and loud I might feel differently.

Even though we were still pretty full from breakfast, in the interests of research Deb and I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for a late lunch at the new Skipper Canteen in Adventureland. You can watch our episode of AllEarsTV below, or keep reading...

It was much larger than I expected - three different rooms. All decorated in that sort of Jungle Cruise motif.

Skipper Canteen

This is one of the back rooms - more of a library or study.

Skipper Canteen

The room we were in was a large, richly decorated dining room - this is one of the lights.

Skipper Canteen light

Our server told us that the menu would take us all over the world. And yes, it included selections from China, southeast Asia, and India. There were also more traditional dishes like mac and cheese and lamb, but they incorporated spices from Africa and Asia.

Deb and I both started with one of the specialty (non-alcoholic, since this is the Magic Kingdom) beverages. I had the Schweitzer Slush (trying saying that fast even twice!) - frozen apple juice and passion fruit with bursting green apple boba balls. I liked it because it wasn't too sweet - very refreshing, and the boba balls are fun, though I had to be careful not to inhale them through the straw.

Skipper Canteen Schweitzer Slush

Deb tried the Punch Line Punch- tropical fruit juices and mango puree. She enjoyed that - said it was like a mango smoothie.

Skipper Canteen Punch Line Punch

The bread service was an Ethiopian bread served with honey that was spiced with fenugreek. The bread had coriander in it. It was a fairly assertive spice flavor - I really didn't like it at all.

Skipper Canteen bread service

As an appetizer we ordered the S.E.A. SHU MAI - steamed dumplings filled with pork, shrimp, and mung beans. It was served with tamari sauce - sort of a soy sauce with some additional flavor. I thought it was a pretty generous serving for $10.

Skipper Canteen shu mai dumpling

For an entree I tried Char Siu Pork - marinated grilled pork tenderloin medallions served with Chinese broccoli and white rice. It was the right color, and nicely grilled, but it was dry. While it had a good flavor it didn't have the sweetness I associate with Char Siu pork. The Chinese broccoli was pretty fibrous - it needed a sauce or some additional flavors.

Skipper Canteen Char Siu Pork

Deb tried Skip's Mac and Cheese - an Egyptian take on the dish with spiced ground beef, pasta, and Bechamel sauce. Also served with Chinese broccoli. She enjoyed it, and in fact said the mac and cheese part was among the best she's had. I tried just the mac and cheese part and it was very good.

Skipper Canteen Mac and Cheese

For dessert we tried a Kungaloosh. Those of you who remember the Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island will be familiar with this name. In this case it's a chocolate cake served with cashew caramel ice cream and caramelized bananas. We were pretty full - all I tried was the ice cream. Which was excellent - like a butter pecan, but with cashews.

Skipper Canteen Kungaloosh

As Deb and I said in the AllEarsNet TV episode - we really liked the idea of this restaurant, but don't think the menu is going to go over very well in Magic Kingdom. The spices and flavors are more appropriate for Animal Kingdom or a resort restaurant. I thought a lot of the appetizers looked good, so on a return visit I'd be tempted just to order several of those to share rather than ordering entrees.

That night a group of us went to Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. This was my first time visiting Disney Springs since before the name changed. So there was a lot of it that was new to me. The restaurant is really gorgeous, and quite large. Unfortunately it's also extremely loud.

Morimoto Asia

The menu had all kinds of offerings that looked really good. To start I ordered a glass of Sake Sangria - asian pears, apple plum, tangerine juice, sake, light white wine, plum wine. It was refreshing - the sake gave it a different flavor that I'm a little on the fence about.

Morimoto Asia Sake Sangria

For an appetizer I tried Vegetable Sushi with spicy mayo, asparagus, carrot, and cucumber. I liked it.

Morimoto Asia Tuna Pizza

Deb ordered Shrimp Tempura Sushi with asparagus, spicy mayo, and avocado, and I tried a piece of that. It was also very good, though the panko crumbs on top weren't very attractive.

Morimoto Asia Shrimp Tempura sushi

Several of us also shared a Tuna Pizza - crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeno, and anchovy aioli. It was a little messy to eat, but very tasty.

Morimoto Asia Tuna Pizza

For an entree I ordered Pad Thai with Shrimp - it also comes with chicken. Stir-fried flat rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallions, fried tofu, pickled turnip, and sweet tamarind sauce. Our server advised me that it was not a traditional pad thai with peanut sauce - and that was fine with me, since I don't really like peanut sauce. It was very good - I especially liked the fried tofu. The sauce was very good.

Morimoto Asia Pad Thai with Shrimp

For dessert we all shared an Mm Parfait. This is a dessert for two: chocolate cream puffs, vanilla gelato, hazelnut chocolate crunchies, and sesame mochi. I thought the mochi was a little odd, but I really enjoyed all of the rest of it, especially the hazelnut crunchies. It will definitely serve more than two people.

Morimoto Asia Mm Parfait

Other than the noise I really enjoyed our meal at Morimoto Asia. We had a terrific server and the food was great. I'm looking forward to trying it again, and being able to take Lee this time.

More dining still to come!








March 11, 2015

Eating to Run: Marathon Dining at Walt Disney World

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OK, I'll admit it...one of the reasons that I run is so that I can eat. I don't think I'm alone in that...Still, it's important to at least try to make those calories count, especially when I'm coming up on a race day (or two or three).

This food blog covers my last two WDW race weekends: WDW Marathon Weekend in January, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February. My goal is always to keep myself sufficiently fueled, try to eat what I normally would when I can, not eat anything too exotic that might upset my system, and yet still indulge myself a little bit. So far I've always been pretty successful.

We almost always stay at the Boardwalk Villas for Disney race weekends, and so we frequent many of the restaurants in that area for our meals. One of our "go-to" restaurants is The Dolphin Fountain over in the Dolphin hotel. We ate there twice on our WDW Marathon Weekend trip in January: once for lunch and once for dinner.

For dinner I tried something new: a Falafel plate with chickpea croquettes, sesame tahini, and a side salad. Everything was good, but I thought the portion size was a little small.

Eating to Run

Lee's favorite here is Build Your Favorite Burger. There is choice of cheese and toppings like chili, bacon, sauteed onions or mushrooms.

Eating to Run

It's our tradition to have lunch at The Fountain after the half marathon - we get there around 11:30 when they open and get right in. Though lately it's been quite popular and is often full by the time we leave. My favorite is the Turkey Burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Nice lean protein and it really hits the spot after running a half marathon in the morning!

Eating to Run

Lee wasn't very hungry so instead of his usual burger he had some chili with a side of sweet potato fries. The sweet potato fries were pretty good.

Eating to Run


A lot of people talk about the burgers and ice cream at Beaches and Cream, but I think the Fountain is as good, and much less crowded. Also, there's a 20% discount if you show your DVC Membership card!

Dolphin Fountain Menu

Since we stay at the Boardwalk, breakfast is often from the Boardwalk Bakery. Thanks to a recent expansion, the Bakery has a few more food items (especially for breakfast) than they used to. The Breakfast Sandwich is bacon, egg, and cheese served on a croissant-type roll, with a small side of fruit. It's pretty good, though I would prefer more fruit and less bread.

Eating to Run

Lee had the Biscuit and Sausage Gravy. This looks pretty disgusting to me...he said it was just ok. I wish they offered oatmeal here rather than the biscuits and gravy.

Eating to Run


One of our favorite lunch spots is Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. I usually order the Tempura Shrimp Udon Bowl along with a side of steamed vegetables. I've learned to eat the shrimp first, otherwise the tempura batter gets all soggy and falls off. And I dunk my veggies into the broth of the udon bowl to give them some flavor.

Eating to Run

Lee had one of the curry dishes with rice, and he also ordered a side of vegetables.

Eating to Run

Katsura Grill Menu


The night before the half marathon we had dinner at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion at Epcot. I don't find that I need to carb-load before a half marathon, but it is important to eat a good dinner, and preferably an early dinner, too. 5:30-6:00. Sunshine Seasons has a lot of pretty good choices, though you won't find pasta there other than the kid's mac-n-cheese meal.

I had the Rotisserie Chicken, which comes with black beans and rice. It's a half chicken (a small half chicken), but that's still more than I can eat. The chicken can be a little dry sometimes. I wish it came with a green vegetable, but it's still a pretty good meal for me.

Eating to Run

Lee ordered the Slow-roasted Pork Chop with mashed potatoes.

Eating to Run

We shared the Butternut Squash Soup which was surprisingly good! The pepitas on top added a nice crunch.

Eating to Run

Sunshine Seasons Menu


We're almost always in a DVC unit for race weekends, so we at least have a refrigerator and toaster, if not a full kitchen. For race mornings we like to have yogurt and a bagel before we leave the room. So one of our challenges is always to find yogurt and bagels once we get to Disney so we can have them available in our room in the mornings. The Boardwalk Bakery is usually an option for both, but for whatever reason I've had a very difficult time getting yogurt at the bakery on recent trips - even in the mornings they have been out of it. They have had the yogurt parfaits, but those are too sweet and I don't like them. I've had better luck finding yogurt at the nearby Hess station, which has a mini-mart. The price is a lot lower, too. We bring packets of peanut butter and almond butter from home, and we can usually find bagels either at the bakery, or a package of them at the Hess station or in the grocery section of the Thimbles and Threads store at the Boardwalk. Lee usually has a banana, too, and fortunately those are pretty easy to find - though they aren't usually ripe enough for him. :-)

The night before the Marathon we had dinner at the new Trattoria al Forno, on the Boardwalk. It replaced the Kouzzina restaurant. We were a large party, and were at three different tables all across the restaurant, all with different servers.

One thing I noticed very quickly is that the new restaurant is much quieter than Kouzzina was - in Kouzzina you almost couldn't hear yourself think. Now there's some carpet on the floor, as well as wall hangings and other furnishings that help absorb the sound. It's still far from quiet, but we didn't have to yell to make ourselves heard.

Eating to Run

The menu is Italian, but I would call it more up-scale Italian, and not family-friendly spaghetti-and-meatballs Italian. They serve pizza, but it's Neapolitan style with a very thin crust, and odd toppings - you won't find pepperoni pizza here. There's a Margherita pizza, but two of the others are broccoli rabe with fennel sausage, and smoked prosciutto, potato, and rosemary.

It being the night before the Marathon, I asked our server if there was a "Runner's Special", and he had no idea what I was talking about. I've eaten at other Disney restaurants (including Kouzzina) the night before Disney races that have offered a pasta special, so I was very surprised. The Trattoria really doesn't have a simple spaghetti with marinara dish on the menu - he tried to direct me towards the "Polpetta Gigante - giant meatball with ricotta cannelloni and marinara", but that's not the same thing.

I had the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with tagliatelle. This was a HUGE serving of chicken, and it was very good. Not quite as good as the chicken parm in Palo on the Disney cruise ships, but I liked it. The pasta was just ok - it was heavy and it needed more sauce. But the whole thing was a pretty generous serving and I ended up taking half of it back to the room (we devoured it the next day after the marathon).

Eating to Run

Lee ordered the Baked Lasagna with shaved fennel arugula salad. He also thought this was excellent. He said it was very light, but still satisfying and filling.

Eating to Run

We had decent but not great service. There were 9 at our table, so that was a fair bit of work for our server. But I think only a couple of people ordered appetizers and no one ordered dessert.

Trattoria al Forno Dinner Menu


The night after the marathon it was time to celebrate, and any ideas of trying to eat light or healthy go out the window. :-) We had dinner at Flying Fish - yet another Boardwalk-area restaurant.

I tried the nightly fish special - I think it was barrelfish, but I'm not positive about that. Whatever it was, it was very good. Of course I don't think I've ever had anything at Flying Fish that wasn't - it's always been consistently good.

Eating to Run

Lee had the Potato-Wrapped Red Snapper - this is a signature dish at Flying Fish, and it's always excellent.

Eating to Run

Where we really indulged was on dessert: there were four of us, and we ordered four different desserts and shared. The first was a special seasonal sundae - I don't remember now what was in it - maybe cinnamon ice cream, raspberries, and spiced nuts? It was pretty good.

Eating to Run

This is the Signature Flying Fish Cafe Caramelized Banana Napoleon. I'm not a banana fan, so I didn't have any of this, but Lee really enjoyed it.

Eating to Run

The surprise, and my favorite dessert of the evening, was the Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding. I interpreted it as cherries IN the bread pudding, but instead it was cherry sauce served with it. The chocolate bread pudding was VERY good - more "chocolate" than "bread". It also came with a scoop of "sinful chocolate sorbet", which was excellent. While everyone tried it, my tablemates generously allowed me to eat most of this one. :-) It was quite filling and very satisfying.

Eating to Run

We also sampled one of the "no sugar added" desserts: Chocolate Sable-crusted Peppermint Cheesecake. I'm not a big cheesecake fan, but this was pretty good. It had a light mint flavor rather than being overwhelmingly minty, and that was nice.

Eating to Run

Really a lovely meal, and a great way to celebrate completing a successful Marathon weekend.

Flying Fish Menu


Before heading home from Marathon Weekend we went back to Trattoria al Forno to try their breakfast menu. Lee and I both ordered Scrambled Eggs with Tomato, Basil, and fresh Mozzarella, though he requested no tomato on his. It comes with choice of bacon or chicken sausage, with breakfast potatoes. As they put peppers in their breakfast potatoes I requested fruit instead. It was a pretty small serving of fruit, but I was glad that it was mostly pineapple and blueberries rather than melon.

Eating to Run

People at the next table ordered the Poached Eggs with sausage and tomato gravy served over polenta. That looked pretty good, and they enjoyed it.

Eating to Run

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Menu


Fast forward about 6 weeks to the end of February...

For Princess Half Marathon Weekend I was also staying at the Boardwalk with my friend Deb. Deb is a planner, and she planned almost everything from dining reservations to Fastpass+. That was quite a treat for me and I LOVED having someone else do it for me!

I arrived on an evening flight on Thursday, which meant I'd want dinner soon after I arrived at the Boardwalk. Deb suggested Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot - and with a reservation time of 7:50, it meant we should be able to watch Illuminations from there, also! She's brilliant. :-)

It was a very chilly evening, and we were bundled up in coats and scarves and gloves. Initially they sat us outside...it was a table right on the water, and on most occasions it would have been a prime location, but after a few minutes we knew we'd be too cold there, and asked to move inside. They had no problem doing that. We didn't have a window table inside, but we could see through one of the windows. And it was SO much warmer and more comfortable!

I'd never dined at Spice Road Table before, but Deb had. Apparently the menu has gone through a number of iterations in the time the restaurant has been open. It started off as small plates for sharing, but now in addition to those there are full dinner entrees as well. We ordered some of both.

We started with the Hummus Fries. Deb had had these before, and said they were served differently - these were large sticks instead of the squares she's had in the past. And they were also MUCH spicier than she'd had before. Not only was the sauce spicy, but the fries themselves were, too. A little too spicy for my taste, unfortunately. They were also very filling.

Eating to Run

We also ordered Spicy Garlic Shrimp. As promised these were a bit spicy, but fortunately not as spicy as the fries. :-) Deb enjoyed them, I thought they were just ok.

Eating to Run

On the entree side we tried the Lamb Sliders. These came with another order of hummus fries - though the menu didn't say anything about an accompaniment, nor did our server mention it to us when we ordered the hummus fries separately. I really enjoyed the sliders - maybe a bit more sauce would have been nice. I'd order those again.

Eating to Run

For dessert we ordered the Chocolate Pyramid. That was a wonderful surprise! It was really excellent. The outer layer was not really cake, but was sort of spongy, with more of a chocolate mousse underneath, and in the center was a white custard. It was served with almond ice cream, though I didn't taste much almond in it. It was an excellent dessert.

Eating to Run

We also shared the Spice Road Digestive Flight, which seems like a very odd name for a flight that included Grand Marnier, Godiva Liqueur, and Frangelico. Each was a 1-3/4 ounce pour.

Eating to Run

Just after our dessert was served Illuminations started. While we didn't have the best view from that location, it was certainly a good view, and a very interesting place to watch the show from. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The restaurant is not very busy, so it would be great if they would offer some kind of dessert/Illuminations experience here. I'd definitely do it - as it is I'd certainly return to do dessert and wine/liqueur before Illuminations again.

Eating to Run

The meal itself...I wasn't too impressed. Which disappointed me, because I'd really wanted to like this place. The sliders were good, but the others were just too spicy for me. And I'd steered away from a couple of the other appetizers because Deb had tried them before and thought the spice level was a little too high. But I really did enjoy the dessert and the liqueur flight.

Spice Road Table


Deb and I went to Magic Kingdom on Friday and had lunch at Columbia Harbour House. I ordered the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad - mixed greens, corn, peas, chicken, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. It is normally tossed with peppercorn dressing, but I requested it on the side. I was expecting the broccoli to be warm, but it was cold. The chicken was warm, so that made for a somewhat strange combination. But it was a pretty good salad.

Eating to Run


That night we went to Trattoria al Forno - Deb hadn't been there, and I didn't mind returning. DebW and Linda joined us, also. We started with the Margherita Pizza. I thought it was ok - it needed more basil. And I'm not a big fan of the thin crust Neapolitan style of pizza.

Eating to Run

DebW and Linda had dined at the Trattoria before, and they recommended we share the Grilled Treviso. Treviso is a type of radicchio, which is an Italian lettuce (I had no idea what it was). This was served with Gorgonzola and pistachios. Not something that I would ever think about ordering, but it was delicious!

Eating to Run

Since I was running the next day I stuck with my Chicken Parmigiana as my appetizer. It wasn't quite as large a piece of chicken as I had in January, but it was still good, and I still had leftovers. The pasta seemed kind of glued together, though - and it still needs more sauce.

Eating to Run

We tried several different desserts. The chocolate gelato was excellent, and I really enjoyed it.

Eating to Run

The Piedmont Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake was just ok. It was a very small serving, and I thought the cake was dry. It had a lot of hazelnut flavor, though.

Eating to Run

We also had the Tiramisu, but we ate this one so quickly that no one took a photo of it! It was very good, and very light. Deb and Linda said it was served much differently than when they had it before, but said it was just as good.

After eating dinner at the Trattoria twice, I'd give it a B-. They do some things very well, and other things not so well. I'm not sure how wide an appeal the menu has to the average WDW visitor looking for Italian food...I'll be surprised if the menu is not significantly changed later this year.


One afternoon we had lunch at Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. This has always been one of my favorite counter service locations. I had one of my usual choices: Falafel Wrap served with lentil salad and couscous. The wrap was pretty good, but I don't remember the lentil salad having red peppers in it before. And I don't like peppers. Sigh.

Eating to Run

For dessert I had a piece of Pistachio Baklava. It was pretty good - not as good as my mom's - but good. Nutty and crisp and not cloyingly sweet or sticky.

Eating to Run


The night before the Princess Half Marathon we had dinner at Il Mulino in the Walt Disney World Swan Resort. I'd never eaten there before. Because it was an Italian restaurant, and it was the night before a big race, it was crazy busy - I'm told it's not usually like that. So we had slower service than usual, unfortunately.

I ordered the house salad to start. It was a nice salad with mixed greens, sliced red onions, carrot strips, and pine nuts.

Eating to Run

For my entree I requested a half order of Pappardelle and Tomato Basil Sauce Even a half order was plenty of food!

Eating to Run

The menu had lots of interesting things on it, and I'd like to go back again on an evening that's not quite so busy.

Il Mulino Dinner Menu


My last meal at WDW on this trip was Fish and Chips from the shop in the UK pavilion at Epcot. The two pieces of fish were pretty large, and nice and hot and crispy. It's not something I eat very often, but I'd run a half marathon - I could indulge myself. :-)

Eating to Run

So there you have it...two long weekends of running and eating.


May 17, 2013

Be Our Guest - Lunch

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his recent trip to Walt Disney World.

This was my first visit to the New Fantasyland portion of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. For lunch we tried the Be Our Guest restaurant with Deb Wills. Here are some pictures from this experience. For lunch Be Our Guest is a "Fast Casual" location. The menu pricing and choices are close to your regular counter service locations. You order via self serve kiosks, then the food is brought to your table for you.

Approaching the Be Our Guest restaurant. To the left is the check in area for dinner, the rest of the time a cast member is there to answer questions and provide you a preview of the menu if you ask.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Approaching the castle.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch


The front doors.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Off to the left there is a side door and this is on the wall.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Inside the entrance lobby.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

To the left are the restrooms.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

A quick peak inside the men's room..

Be Our Guest - Lunch

To the right the hall of armor which leads to the room where you place your orders.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch


The screens in the middle display music in the morning and during dinner, during lunch time they highlight menu items.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch


In front of you is the Ballroom. I stopped by early in the morning and they had the lobby open so you could look into the room.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch


One of the beverage stations off to the side.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Turning around you can see the main doors that are closed and off to the right is where I entered from.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Looking out you can see Cinderella Castle in the distance. Also note no line! This was taken before 9am.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

We returned for lunch around 11am.. the line filled the entire bridge. We waited about twenty minutes from entering the line till we were in the dining room. They had a relatively short lunch window of 10:30am till 2:30pm.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch


If you listen carefully you can hear the suits of armor snoring and making other sounds, here is a brief video clip as we passed by with the line.

A look at one of the menus that were on the center displays.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

You make your way to the library where you order. Here is a picture of one of the kiosks.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The system is fairly intuitive and easy to use. Once you have ordered and paid you then head out to the dining room to find your seat.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

You have three choices. The first room you encounter is the large Ballroom.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Off to the left is the West Wing, which is a smaller and darker room.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

It features the enchanted rose.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The third room, which is to the right from the Ballroom is the Rose Gallery. The center piece here is a large music box. This is the room we ate in.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Ringing the room are several paintings featuring moments from the film.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The detail work around the room is great.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Be sure to look down too.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The view from my seat.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

A quick video clip of the music box, unfortunately the camera picked up the background noise more than than the music.

Stopped by the soda fountain to pick up my beverage. Notice how even its details match.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Your meals are brought out to you by Cast Members on these carts. Now a look at our lunches...

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Potato Leek Soup $4.49

Be Our Guest - Lunch

French Onion Soup $4.99

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Carved Turkey Sandwich - served on a warm baguette with Dijon mayonnaise and Pomme Frites $10.99

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Croque Monsieur - Grilled sandwich of carved ham, Gruyere cheese, and bechamel with Pommes Frites. $10.99

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Quinoa Salad - with green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted bell peppers and tomatoes $9.99

Be Our Guest - Lunch

Grilled Steak Sandwich - with garlic butter spread and pommes frites $11.99 (Note as of mid-May I read this item had been removed from the menu).

Be Our Guest - Lunch

I ordered mine plain.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The desserts we ordered. Chocolate Cream Puff, Passion Fruit Cream Puff, and Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcake $2.99 each.

Be Our Guest - Lunch

The overall experience surpassed my expectations. I was not sure if waiting in the long line would be worth it for counter service fare. But the incredible detail of the restaurant, efficient experience - from the ordering process through food delivery - and decent food would put this on my list of places to visit again. Would I wait an hour in the Florida sun to dine there? No, but the 20-30 minute range I could probably handle again. We choose the Rose Gallery to eat in because it seemed to give us the best place to chat. The main ballroom seemed very busy and much louder as we walked through and the darkness of the West Wing was not going to work since we wanted to take pictures of the food. The Rose Gallery was a nice compromise and had plenty of seating when we arrived. It seemed most people were trying for the main Ballroom. We had a very leisurely lunch and at no time felt rushed to leave. I thought maybe to keep the line moving they would try to keep guests from lingering but that did not happen. Also depending on where you sit be prepared for foot traffic and photographs...a large number of guests were roaming around (just like me) looking at the three rooms and taking pictures so there was a fairly steady stream of flashes going off near the entrance areas and some minor traffic jams.

The Food: My meal was decent by quick service standards. I had the steak sandwich and thought I would try that again on a return visit. Unfortunately I am seeing reports now that the sandwich has been replaced and nothing else on the menu really worked for my plain preferences so not sure when my next meal there will be. The rest of our group who all had more open/normal eating habits found the food to be ok. They commented many of the items tasted salty to them but the consensus was they enjoyed them. I was surprised not to find at least one "comfort" item, especially on the kids side. I know they are trying to make the dining experience different but having something more traditional for those of us who enjoy a limited palate would be nice. A basic chicken dish or burger would be a welcome addition especially now that the steak sandwich is gone.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the Be Our Guest Restaurant. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Walt Disney World Updates I posted on my site from all seven days, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.



March 17, 2013

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - The Food

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It's not a Disney trip without a food blog, right? Here's my thoughts on our dining experiences during our recent Princess Half Marathon weekend trip.

We arrived at Coronado Springs on Thursday night (actually Friday morning) way too late to have anything to eat there. I believe Coronado Springs is the only moderate hotel with room service, but that was closed, too.

Friday morning we went to Pepper Market for breakfast. They have changed it around a bit since we were last here. Each person still gets their own "food log", which is stamped at each station you get food from, but instead of paying on your way out you simply pay your server.

It was about 9:00 in the morning and fairly crowded - the lines at most of the food stations were 12-15 deep. I'd planned to get the standard eggs/bacon/potatoes breakfast but I saw the scrambled eggs they were serving and they were kind of runny. I hate runny eggs. So I had a pre-made ham and cheese omelet instead, which came with potatoes and fruit. The omelet was just barely warm, and nothing special. The potatoes were pretty good, though.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee had the breakfast platter with the "fiesta" scrambled eggs - which were also a little runny, so he wasn't very impressed, either. His roasted potato wedges were good, though.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

That afternoon we were in the Studios...my least favorite park when it comes to trying to find a decent counter service meal. We tried the Studio Catering Co., in the back of the park near the Backlot Tour and the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground. We were with my Evil Twin Pam, and we all ordered the Pressed Turkey Club. This was more like "squashed turkey" - it was pretty flat. The bread was my favorite part - it was a multi-grain roll and was crisply toasted. The sandwich came with choice of coleslaw, fries, or sliced apples. It just worked out that we ordered one of each. I had the coleslaw, which was pretty good. The fries were just ok - not very hot or crispy.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Later in the day we went to Epcot. It was National Margarita Day, so we HAD to have frozen margaritas at Mexico. I was surprised that the line was not very long. Pam and I both had the Fiesta Margarita - frozen lime, mango, and strawberry. Yummy.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

For dinner we went to Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, which has been one of our favorites for a long time. I had the Vegetarian Sampler - falafel, hummus, lentil salad, couscous, tabbouleh, marinated olives, and pita bread. They have changed the falafel since I last had it and I thought it was better - more of a patty shape and not as dry. It was a lot of food and I didn't quite clean my plate, but I really enjoyed it!

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee and Pam had the Mediterranean Sliders - we had not seen these before. There were three small "burgers": one with chicken, one with lamb, and one with falafel. Served with hummus and tabbouleh. They enjoyed that.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Under a nearby table a small rat was foraging. I told him he belonged next door in France. Everyone seemed to find it rather amusing (after all, aren't we used to seeing lots of rodents at Disney?), but the poor cast member clearing tables was appalled and asked us to please, please complain about it. (I thought it was pretty cute, for a rat.)

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

We still had room for dessert, so we went to Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France. This re-opened in January in a much larger space, with a much bigger selection of food items, like soups, salads, quiche and sandwiches. Mmmm...and so many wonderful looking pastries!


I had the chocolate mousse, which was really good - silky chocolatey goodness.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee had a caramel cream and chocolate mousse tart, and he really enjoyed that one, too. We'll definitely be going back to check out some of the food items as well as some of the other desserts.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Saturday morning we went back to the race Expo again. While we were waiting for the entering crowds to subside we went back to Pepper Market for breakfast again. Yeah, because it was so good the day before...

I didn't take any photos, but I had oatmeal. It was fine oatmeal, but all they had for toppings were brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon. The oatmeal at Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom is a lot better - they give you chopped apples and Craisins. Lee had the cinnamon French toast, and he said that was pretty good. Much better than what he'd had the day before.

We were in Animal Kingdom for lunch, and went to Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafe (aka the counter service restaurant). I ordered the side of chicken fried rice and the side of pork egg rolls. The chicken fried rice was surprisingly good, and had some peas and a few other vegetables in it. My only comment is that the chicken was rather microscopic bits, but that was fine. The pork egg rolls were crispy and tasty and filled with pork and veggies (cabbage, mostly). I've found that there's often an odd aftertaste in egg rolls, but these did not have that. I was really happy with my lunch!

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee had the Beef Lo Mein, with stir-fried veggies. He enjoyed that, also.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

It was a lovely warm afternoon in Animal Kingdom. After we saw the Finding Nemo show we stopped at the very colorful Anandapur Ice Cream Truck for some ice cream. This one always seems to have the best-tasting soft serve at WDW.

That evening we stopped at Mara in Jambo House to get dinner, which we took back to our room at Kidani Village. I forgot to take pictures, though. I had the Half Chicken Dinner with couscous and vegetable stew. The chicken was pretty tasty - a little dry. The vegetable stew had lots of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and pieces of squash, I think. I had to pick out the peppers, but otherwise it was good, and definitely different than fries or mashed potatoes.

Lee enjoyed the Chicken Flatbread - a BBQ chicken pizza by any other name. We also picked up a cookie and a chocolate muffin for dessert.

Our breakfast on the morning of the race was bagels, yogurt and a banana that we'd picked up at Mara the night before. After the race we snacked a little bit on what was in the runDisney boxes they gave us at the end of the race - crackers, hummus, fruit and nut mixes.

We returned to Kidani to shower, then went back to Epcot where we were
meeting some Team AllEars members at La Cava del Tequila in Mexico. Lee and I ordered the Wild Passion margaritas, though if I'd realized I could've ordered a frozen margarita like some of our tablemates did I would've done that instead. The one I had was good, though. We also ordered Chips and Guacamole. Those were quite good - it was real guacamole with real avocado. Though I don't know that either the chips or the margaritas would be the recommended post-race nourishment. :-)

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

That evening we met Pam and several Team AllEars members for dinner at Sanaa. We had a 5:10 priority seating and had no problem getting right in and being seated. We had an excellent server who described the menu to the members of our party who hadn't dined at Sanaa before. She recommended the bread service, and we'd already decided to get two orders of that. There are four breads - two different naan breads, pappadum (a flat bread made with lentil flour) and onion kulcha, which is filled with melted cheese. There are nine different accompaniment (sauces and chutneys) and you can choose five, but our server just brought us all nine. :-) I forgot to take a picture - we were all hungry and dove into it. So good. I could easily just order bread and an appetizer here and be very happy. (This is a photo from a previous dinner at Sanaa.)

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee and I ordered two of the wine flights. The flights had the same names as before but some of the wines were different. They still had the Chakalaka that Lee likes. (I'm not sure how much he likes the wine or if he really just likes saying: "Chakalaka". :-) )

For our entrees, we all ordered variations on one of Sanaa's specialties - dishes that are Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-Seasoned. There are six choices, and you choose two, with a choice of basmati rice or five-grain pilaf. Between five of us we had Butter Chicken, Spicy Durban Chicken, Lamb Vindaloo, Beef Short Ribs, and Shrimp with Green Curry Sauce. The only one we didn't try was the Spicy Durban Shrimp.

Butter Chicken and Shrimp with Green Curry Sauce:

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Short Ribs and Spicy Durban Chicken:

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lamb Vindaloo and Shrimp with Green Curry Sauce:

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Sanaa has a number of vegetarian dishes, and Mike ordered the Vegetarian Sampler. It also comes with choice of two and rice or pilaf. He had the Spicy Peas, Chickpeas, and Potatoes (which our server said was her favorite) and Stewed Lentils.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Desserts are the one thing at Sanaa that disappoints me a little - they fit the theme of the restaurant, but just don't really appeal to me that much. I also think they are rather small for the price. I tried the Chocolate Cake with raspberry-mint sorbet. It was pretty good cake - moist and chocolatey.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Lee had the Warm Rice Pudding, which we've had before. Sticky rice with coconut syrup and some mango.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Ellie ordered the Banana Kulfi Sundae. Obviously not your traditional sundae!

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Monday morning we packed, loaded the car, and drove to Mara for breakfast. Mara is often VERY busy in the mornings, but it was fairly quiet and we didn't have to wait for our food. We both had the Bounty Platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, small Mickey waffle and biscuit. It's quite a bit of food for $8.99. Thankfully the eggs were cooked and not runny.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

We had lunch in Magic Kingdom - this is the first trip in quite a while where I've had a meal in all four theme parks! It was prime lunch time so most of the counter service restaurants were quite busy. I remembered hearing about the waffle sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow and suggested we go there.

It had a very short line, but they were so disorganized! We ordered, and the cashier told us we picked up our waffles at the first window, drinks at the second, and water bottles at the third. The waffle window was total chaos because they couldn't make waffles fast enough to keep up with the demand. And then they weren't checking tickets to make sure people were picking up what they had ordered. I don't think anyone was abusing this, but it was still very odd. If an item you ordered appeared on the counter you grabbed it, regardless of whether it was "yours", or should belong to the person standing next to you.

Lee and I both had the Ham, Prosciutto, and Swiss Waffle Sandwich. It was a very large serving (half would have been plenty for me), but it was just really odd. The waffle didn't work with the meat at all, though by itself it was ok (though I like my waffles crispy, and this one was soft). Ham AND prosciutto was also overkill - I would have preferred it with just the prosciutto.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Pam ordered the Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich, and she didn't care for it at all - and as she told me, normally she eats just about anything. I think if we try this place again it will be for the Nutella waffle - those two things go together!

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Unfortunately that was our last meal at Disney World - we definitely didn't leave on a high note. But at least we'd had that terrific meal at Sanaa the night before. That's definitely in our top three - it may even be #1 at the moment.

The Good:
Sanaa

The Bad:
Waffle sandwiches

The Ugly:
Runny scrambled eggs

Thanks for reading!

May 18, 2012

Dining at Sanaa

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Sanaa has become one of our favorite Disney restaurants - we look at the menu and it all looks good, and we have a hard time deciding what we want! They updated their menu within the last couple of months, so there were some new items since our dinner there in December.

We had a really terrific server, Rico, who made the evening an even better experience. He was really good about telling us what was new and suggesting things we might like to try.

For those not familiar with it, Sanaa offers more of an Indian-style cuisine along with some African-inspired dishes, including a variety of Tandoor oven dishes and curries.
Sanaa also has a wonderful selection of vegetarian dishes. While I am not a vegetarian, I don't eat a lot of meat, and I really enjoy a good vegetarian dish. At Sanaa it's a difficult decision! Fortunately their Vegetarian Sampler allows you to select two different dishes, so I only have to whittle it down to two.

One of the other special things about Sanaa - it's on ground level of Kidani Village, with windows that look right out onto the Sunset Savanna. And they conveniently have feeding stations near the windows, so there are almost always giraffe or zebra grazing within view. We did not have a window table this time, but we still could get a glimpse of what was going on outside. At one point there were several zebra and an impala that were running laps - we weren't sure who was chasing who, though it looked like the impala was just kicking up its heels and showing off how effortlessly it could run as compared to the rather lumbering zebras. :-)

But back to our dinner...

As our appetizers we ordered the Potato and Pea Samosas and the Lamb Kefta. The samosas are always good - a little bit spicy but not too hot for me.

Dining at Sanaa

The Lamb Kefta meatballs seemed to have a lot more of a kick this time - these were too hot for me, so Lee got to have the extra one.

Dining at Sanaa

We also ordered the Bread Service, with Naan, Papadum, and Paneer Paratha. The bread service includes three types of bread and your choice of four sauces (there are 8 or 9 on the menu). I could make a meal just out of this! The naan is usually served fresh out of the cooker but this time it had been sitting around for a while and was a little tough.

Dining at Sanaa

We REALLY liked the paneer paratha - I don't think we'd had that one before. It has paneer cheese on top, and it was just delicious - it didn't need any of the accompaniments! I always enjoy the papdum, too - it's cracker-like but has a distinct crunch and flavor.

Dining at Sanaa

They have two new sauces: coconut chutney, and jalapeno lime. We tried the jalapeno lime and it was definitely kicky - not my favorite. I thought we were trying the coconut curry, also, but that didn't seem to be on the plate. We also had the cucumber raita, mango chutney, and red chile sambal.

Dining at Sanaa

I tried two of the items from the Vegetarian Sampler: Spicy Cauliflower, Onions, Tomatoes and Mint and Vindaloo-Style Vegetables. They came with basmati rice. The "spicy" part in the first refers to the flavors and not the heat - it was very mild, but really tasty and flavorful. The Vindaloo was a little hotter, but still on the mild side, and it was also good. It had potatoes, squash, and a little bit of cauliflower in it. (I was very happy that none of the dishes contained red or green peppers!)

Dining at Sanaa

Lee had two of the Slow Cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well Seasoned dishes - Spicy Durban Chicken and Lamb Vindaloo, served with five-grain pilaf. They were both very tasty, but I thought they were skimpy on the meat, especially when compared with the chock-full-of-vegetables dishes that I had. (We did share!)

Dining at Sanaa

We also ordered two of the wine flights - we'd enjoyed those very much in December. They were quite different than what was available in December - different names, different wines. I had the Sustainable flight, which included a nouveau blanc, a chenin blanc, and a merlot-cabernet franc blend. The two whites were very nice - light and refreshing. The red was fine, but not remarkable in any way.

Dining at Sanaa

Lee tried the Durban, which was three red wines: Chakalaka, a red blend called "The First Lady", and a Malbec from Argentina. He enjoyed the first and the third, but the second didn't have a lot of flavor (I tried it and I thought the same).

Dining at Sanaa

For a change we actually had room for dessert - though we split one. I still have to say that dessert is the weakest part of the Sanaa menu - there's nothing I look at and say: "Oh, that looks great!" We ordered the Warm Rice Pudding - with Mango, Pistachio Tuile and Cinnamon Cream. Our server was hesitant on this one - it's not traditional rice pudding, and apparently only about 50% of the people who order it like it. It's not pudding consistency - it's grains of rice with a sweet sauce and chunks of mango. But that's what we were expecting, since we thought it would be like the sticky rice with mango dessert that we always order from our favorite Thai place back home. It was similar, so we were not disappointed (though I have to say the one we get at home was a LOT better than this one - this one wasn't sweet enough and the mango wasn't really ripe).

Dining at Sanaa

Overall it was a wonderful meal! Lee said it was just a warm-up training meal to get us ready for the cruise. :-)

Sanaa is open for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu is similar to the dinner menu, though they also offer a selection of sandwiches at lunch.

Sanaa Lunch Menu
Sanaa Dinner Menu

January 22, 2012

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

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It wouldn't be a complete set of trip blogs without a food blog, right? :-)

I'm afraid you might find it a little repetitive, though - we ate at Kouzzina three times (two dinners, one breakfast)! :-)

The night we arrived, after we visited the Marathon Expo, we still had time to walk into Epcot (one of the advantages of staying at the Boardwalk!) for dinner at Tangerine Cafe, which is a long-time favorite of ours.

A while ago they replaced the shawarma sandwiches with wraps - I still prefer the sandwiches, but the bread they use for the wrap is very good. I had the Falafel Wrap. This one is a hit-and-miss - sometimes the falafel is tough and dry...and it was tough and dry this time. I was surprised that it didn't come with any sauce at all, but Lee had extra tzatziki sauce with his and gave it to me, otherwise it would have been too dry. And I have to remember to ask for hummus or tabouleh in place of the lentil salad - they put red peppers in that.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the Shawarma Platter with lamb and chicken. It also came with hummus, tabbouleh and couscous. He really enjoyed his dinner!

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

The next morning we were at Animal Kingdom, so we had breakfast at Pizzafari. We thought that was the only counter service option available for a hot breakfast, but as we went back to Harambe Village we noticed that Tamu Tamu Refreshments offers breakfast - they had a breakfast flatbread, French toast sticks, pastry basket, and yogurt parfait.

At Pizzafari I had my usual $2.79 bowl of oatmeal and fruit, though I also had a cinnamon roll, since that looked really good. (And it was pretty good.)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the Bounty platter, with scrambled eggs, French toast sticks, sausage, bacon, breakfast potatoes and biscuit. And he also had oatmeal. For some reason I didn't take a photo of his breakfast this time, though. But it looked like this one he had back in October: :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It's a good thing we had a big breakfast, because with various AllEars and Team AllEars events that afternoon we never had time for lunch! Instead we went to an early dinner at Kouzzina with some of our fellow Team AllEars members, and had a great time, though the service left a bit to be desired. But that means I have lots of dishes to show you!

As an appetizer, Lee and I split Spiro's Greek Salad - Vine-ripened Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Onions, Kalamata Olives, and Feta. When it came out it was not at all what we expected - instead of greens with all those other ingredients, it was large pieces of all of those ingredients, and just a little bit of lettuce on the bottom. Individually everything was tasty (Lee said it was the best cucumbers he'd ever had), but there was no way to combine it. I wouldn't order it again.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

One of our fellow diners ordered the Crisp Calamari and Lemon. She said it was very good, and it was a large serving which she offered to share.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Another appetizer was the Seared Greek Cheese. I think we all enjoyed a bite of this one. Definitely the kind of thing you'd want to share with several other people - I think it would be too rich for one person.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Because it was the night before the Half Marathon, they were offering a pasta special, and several ordered that. It looked really good - pasta in a very light sauce with white wine and ouzo (our server advised us that all the alcohol would burn off in the cooking process), with artichoke hearts, sundried tomato, and I think it was goat cheese on top. It looked really good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

This is the Fisherman's Stew with scallops, fish, shellfish, and fennel.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

And the Oak-Fired Pork Tenderloin with Feta Gremolata, Zucchini Corn Pie, and Succotash.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I had the Kouzzina Sampler, which included a lamb slider, and sample portions of two popular entrees: the cinnamon-stewed chicken and the Greek-style lasagna. The server warned me that the lamb was spicy. And it was, but it was still very good, and it was a small enough portion that the spiciness didn't overwhelm me. I really enjoyed the cinnamon-stewed chicken, also. Only picked at the lasagna, since it has beef in it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I was very intrigued by the garnish they used on top of my lamb slider - I thought it looked like an insect perched on top. :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the full-size portion of the Greek-syle Lasagna. Our server advised him that you needed to break the cheese crust and mix it all up, and he did. He thought it was very good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee and I were the only ones to have dessert - we ordered the Loukomades, which are Greek doughnuts drizzled in honey. I don't know why I didn't take a photo of them. It's one of our favorites here, though we think they should offer them on the breakfast menu!!! They would be really yummy in the morning for breakfast.

Saturday morning after cheering on the half marathon runners we walked back into Epcot for breakfast at Sunshine Seasons. There were lots of runners in there! I had the Breakfast Platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuit, potatoes, and French toast. The eggs were a little undercooked for me, but otherwise everything was fine.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the breakfast "panini", though it's really more just like a stacked breakfast on foccacia bread. I believe it has slices of roast pork as well as bacon. He enjoyed it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It was another day that we missed lunch and had an early dinner - this time we went to the Dolphin Fountain. I like the food better than Beaches and Cream, and it's not nearly as crowded! We got in with no wait and had a charming server - it looked like she belonged in Pixie Hollow instead of waiting tables! She was very good, though.

I ordered the turkey burger, which I've had several times before. This time the chef got too carried away with the rosemary - it was a bit overwhelming. But I ate it anyway. :-)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the "Build-Your-Own Burger" - a hamburger with your choice of toppings, like different cheeses, chili, bacon, sauteed mushrooms or onions. He at the wholllllle thing.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Sunday night after the marathon relay we went back to Kouzzina for dinner with our friends Gale and Julian. They had not been to Kouzzina before, but I think they will be back again. Our server was rather frazzled and disorganized with the ordering process, but after that everything was fine.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

We all started with one of the Kouzzina Wine Flights. Gale and I had the Greek Isles Flight, which was three white wines - a sauvignon blanc and two white blends. They were all different, but were all very nice and refreshing - I'd order that wine flight again.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

The guys had the Cat Flight, which is three wines from Cat Cora's "Coranation" label - sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. I think they enjoyed them all.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

As an appetizer Lee and I had the Kouzzina Sampler, which serves two people. It includes olives, spiced cashews, dolmades, tzatziki sauce, hummus, pita wedges and choice of two of either spicy prawns, lamb meatballs, or chicken. We chose the prawns and lamb. We've had this before and like almost all of it - neither of us care for the dolmades.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Gale ordered the Goat Cheese Sto Fourno - baked goat cheese with peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, served with bread and greens. She really liked it.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Julian ordered the Spanakopita - a phyllo turnover filled with spinach, feta, and leeks. He said it was good.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I ordered the Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken as my entree - I'd had the sampler size of it two nights before. It was good but more than I wanted - I think I prefer it as part of the trio.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Everyone else had the Kouzzina Trio, which I'd had two nights before, and which is pictured above. I think they all cleaned their plates - I know Lee and Julian did.

Gale and Julian passed on dessert, but Lee and I tried something different this time, the Chocolate Budino Cake. This was a chocolate lava cake, and I have to say it's one of the best lava cakes I've ever had - even a little better than the one I make.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

It was a very nice dinner, especially because we were able to share it with friends we don't see very often.

Monday morning we were back in Kouzzina for breakfast. :-) It's very convenient when you're staying at the Boardwalk!

We started off with sort of an "appetizer" - it sounded similar to a dessert that's on the dinner menu. Warm phyllo filled with semolina custard and cinnamon sugar. It really wasn't that warm - it would have been better if it was. It wasn't really what I expected, and I don't think we'd get it again. (I still don't understand why they don't serve Loukoumades for breakfast!!!)

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I ordered the Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast, but with scambled eggs rather than poached. It was served with bacon or chicken sausage, kalamata olive toast, artichoke spread, and sweet potato hash. I enjoyed the kalamata olive toast and the artichoke spread, but otherwise I think I'd be happier with the usual American breakfast - they put peppers in the sweet potato hash, which ruins it for me.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee had the French Toast Baklava, which also came with choice of bacon or sausage. He enjoyed it - I was surprised that he didn't find it to be too sweet for him.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Our final meal on this trip was a quick counter service meal at Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom, just before we had to leave for the airport. I had the Barbecue Chicken Salad. Nothing too special about it - the lettuce was mostly iceberg, which is not very appealing to me.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

Lee ordered the Pork Sandwich. He's been hit-or-miss with this one, but this time was a hit - the pork was not full of fat like it sometimes is, so he liked it a lot.

WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food

I wish we could say we got some kind of special dessert for the road...but we didn't. I wish that we had had time to make it over to babycakesNYC in Downtown Disney for some special treats.

That's it for this trip - but we'll be spending a weekend at Disneyland soon (for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon), so I'll have another food blog from that trip.


December 8, 2011

December to Remember - Day 0

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Lee and I are back at WDW for the All Ears December to Remember events. 15 years - congratulations Deb Wills and Deb Koma and all of my other fellow All Ears team mates! And thank you to YOU, all of our readers - All Ears wouldn't be what it is without you!

I'm not planning to do my usual descriptive blog about this trip, but will share a few photos as I have the time.

The new Katsura Grill opened at Epcot today, in the former Yakitori House restaurant. Lee and I had dinner there. The menu has most (if not all) of the items from Yakitori House - teriyaki chicken bowls, beef curry, and noodles, but also has some new items, like the Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake, a chicken katsu sandwich, and the Tsukemen Salad, a cold ramen noodle salad. Unfortunately, we didn't try any of those - it was a very chilly evening at Epcot (cold front going through, and very breezy), so we had the Udon Noodles - with tempura shrimp for me and with beef for Lee. Both really good. My only complaint is that the bowls they use do not insulate well at all, and my soup cooled off much faster than I would have liked on a chilly evening.

December to Remember - Day 0
December to Remember - Day 0

Katsura Grill Menu

They didn't make the restaurant any larger, but they moved the ordering counter back and added a queue and another register or two so it's not quite as chaotic and crowded inside. They also lightened the color of the decor inside so it seems larger.

December to Remember - Day 0

I'm sure you'll be reading a much more detailed review from Jack Spence soon - we talked to a manger who saw Lee's AllEars hat and said that he had talked to Jack earlier today. :-)

Something I had NOT heard about at all - there's a new sake bar/drink stand - it's on the same side of Japan as the Katsura Grill, approximately across from the steps leading up to Tokyo Dining. (It used to be a merchandise cart). They offer several kinds of sake, sake cocktails, frozen sake beverages, beer, a seasonal smoothie, green tea, and soft drinks. I don't know the name, though. It was chilly so we didn't try anything, but I want to return to try one of the sake cocktails - or even the Amasake frozen beverage if it warms up enough.

December to Remember - Day 0

We treated ourselves to a Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake from the stand next to the American Adventure. It was really good!

December to Remember - Day 0

I thought these projected snowflakes were really pretty.

December to Remember - Day 0

From our balcony at the Boardwalk we could see the Illuminations fireworks - this is part of the holiday finale. While I love seeing it up close, I think it looks a little better from a distance.

December to Remember - Day 0



January 17, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - Dining

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So what do you eat when you're getting ready to run a marathon and half marathon? "Anything you want" sounds like a good answer...but that's not what we did. One of the things you get pounded into you when you're training is: "Don't do anything different just before a race." This applies not just to your shoes, socks, and other clothing but also what you eat and drink as well.

Fortunately we've been to WDW a number of times, so we have favorite foods that we like, and that are familiar and not likely to upset our systems. We did eat maybe a little bit extra, but we tried to make smarter choices, so we weren't indulging in funnel cakes and Mickey bars - we save those for AFTER the race! :-)

When we came back from the Expo on Friday we went to Picabu at the Dolphin. I wasn't that hungry, but I had the chicken pasta soup with crackers, and that tasted good.

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Lee did go with a pasta meal, and had their meat lasagna with a couple of sides.

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My "secret weapon" is Rold Gold Honey Wheat Braided Twists (pretzels). When we were training for our first WDW marathon five years ago our West Coast Road Runners coach advised us to snack on pretzels the day before the race, both for the carbs and the salt, and that really works for me. So I munched on those Friday and Saturday. They taste really good after a race, too. We also drink at least 16 ounces of sports drink (we use Ultima) the day/evening before (and after) and also lots of water.

A half marathon doesn't require the energy stores that a full marathon does, so we don't worry much about carbo-loading before a half marathon. It's important to eat a good (and fairly early) dinner the night before, but I don't stuff myself. Yes, we eat some carbs, but also some lean protein, too.

We went to Seasons in The Land pavilion for dinner the night before the half marathon. I had the Sustainable Fish Nicoise (which always seems to be salmon) and a side of mashed potatoes.

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Lee had the Mongolian Beef, which came with noodles and a lovely side of broccoli. I love broccoli (it's something I usually eat for dinner at home the night before a long run), so he offered me some of his broccoli in exchange for some of my mashed potatoes. Deal. :-)

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I did eat more the day before the marathon - had what was for me a pretty big lunch (also because I was hungry after the half marathon!) and a reasonable dinner. Our lunch was at Big River Grille and Brewing Works - we've eaten there a number of times and enjoy the food, plus as DVC members we get a 10% discount.

I had the Honey Dijon Chicken Sandwich, topped with bacon, swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato. I didn't finish all of the bun, but ate just about everything inside. And yes, most of the chips too - salt and carbs!!! :-)

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Lee had the Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich - he pretty much cleaned his plate except for the chips. He had a beer, too. (Lots of carbs in beer, right?)

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For dinner we went to Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. We both had the butternut squash soup and Lee had a pizza. I had a sandwich, but I was disappointed in that - it was not made fresh at all - they just pulled it out of the refrigerated case. I only ate about half of it. The soup was good, though, and very filling. Not what I'd choose again the night before a race, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and it didn't have any adverse effects the next day.

The standout meal of the weekend was definitely our celebratory dinner on Sunday night AFTER the marathon, when we had an early dinner at Kouzzina. Kouzzina re-opened in mid-December after some remodeling with a slightly new look and a slightly updated menu.

We had a terrific server named MaryAnn who took excellent care of us, and answered questions and made recommendations. There was so much on the menu that looked good that we had to make some hard decisions.

We started off with a pitcher of Sangria - no need to worry about alcohol dehydrating us! Though this had very little alcohol in it - it was very tasty, though. MaryAnn brought us some herbed bread with two different olive oils to dip it in, but we also had the Kouzzina Sampler. The platter had olives, spiced garbanzo beans, dolmades, tzatziki sauce, hummus, and grilled pita wedges and came with two skewers - we had our choice of grilled prawns, lamb sesame meatballs, or chicken. We chose the prawns and they were excellent. (For $4 more she would've brought all three kinds of skewers. That would make an excellent dinner for me one of these day.) Everything was really good.

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For an entree I had something that is new to the menu: Saffron Pasta with Lamb Ragu and Shaved Kefalograviera Cheese. (Try saying that three times fast!) It was very tasty.

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Lee had the Kouzzina Trio, which has been on the menu for a while. It's "tasting sized" portions of three favorites: cinnamon-stewed chicken, Greek-style lasagna, and a half-sized lamb burger. It was all good, though the lamb burger is a little bit too spicy for me (that's why they only serve the small size now - it used to be an entree on the menu by itself, but many guests said it was too spicy to finish).

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There was no question what we were going to have for dessert: Loukoumades These are freshly made Greek doughnuts drizzled with honey. Definitely to be eaten while they are hot! There are six to an order, and they come with two dipping sauces (raspberry and vanilla) though neither of us used them. Mmm, mmm, good!

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It was really a wonderful dinner. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we went back to Kouzzina for breakfast the next morning! (Actually dinner had nothing to do with it - we'd planned to eat breakfast there already.)

There's some interesting items on the breakfast menu, too, but we went with the French Toast and theWaffles and split them. I found it very filling - I couldn't finish my half of both.

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Not exactly "marathon eating" in terms of amount and variety, but it powered us successfully for the extended weekend!


October 29, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 6

Considering our late night Sunday night we got up fairly early on Monday, since we wanted to be at the Studios when it opened to try to get a couple of rides on Toy Story Mania.

It was another absolutely gorgeous day - clear and sunny, but a little bit cool - most of us were wearing jackets in the morning, but didn't need them the rest of the day.

We arrived on Hollywood Blvd just as the park was opening. As expected, most everyone headed for Toy Story Mania. We went straight to the Fastpass machines, which had pretty long lines...in the time we waited, the return time went from 9:45 to 10:15! Unfortunately Toy Story Mania was not yet up and running, so we couldn't ride it then. :-(

We wandered into One Man's Dream instead. The video on some of the exhibits wasn't working, and some of the sound in the movie was really awful - and the worst of it was Julie Andrews' narration - which was not something recorded over 40 years ago like the various excerpts of Walt's voice.

Over at the ABC Commissary we had breakfast. The last time we did that they were still serving stuff like eggs, bacon, french toast, etc., but they have really cut down on the menu - there was a bagel sandwich, hot or cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, and pastries available. Which was actually ok for us, but anyone wanting a more substantial breakfast would have been very disappointed!

The next Voyages of the Little Mermaid show was seating when we went by so we went into that - Lee and I hadn't seen that in a couple of years - not because we don't enjoy it, but mostly because the queueing and pre-show areas are so unpleasant - they pack you in like sardines. Which I guess is appropriate giving the theme of the show, but still. Anyway...this show was not full, and we walked straight into the pre-show area, and didn't have too long a wait before the doors opened. I really enjoy the puppetry, especially in the "Under the Sea" song. I think whoever plays Eric must have one of the easiest jobs in the parks, though - he's on stage for what, 3 minutes maybe?

By then it was time to use our Toy Story Mania Fastpasses - fortunately it was up and running by then. We had a longer wait in the Fastpass line than we did the other day, but it still beat the 60 minute standby line.

Lee had read some tips on the web the night before on how to score higher on the ride by cooperating, so we tried those - we were successful with one but not with the other. Overall it hurt our scores, though, and we didn't score as high as we did the other night.

Prince Caspian was hanging out in his meet and greet spot when we walked by - he wasn't too busy, so he was spending a lot of time with the kids (including the not-so-little girls!) that came to see him.

We went over to Epcot after that to eat around the world again and do a little sightseeing. We saw Serveur Amusant in France - or Sherry and I saw it, at least - Lee doesn't like it - he says it makes him nervous - and Jim was off getting some Crawfish Etoufee from the Louisiana booth. They have changed the chair-stacking routine a bit since we last saw it. The guy who actually does the balancing used to appear to be a tourist who was pulled out of the audience, and now he is one of the "waiters", and obviously a part of the show.

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Ran into an AllEars.net reader at the Tokyo booth - she saw my AllEars hat and asked about it. I'm sorry I didn't get your name, but if you're reading this, it was nice talking to you!

I was very disappointed to look at the entertainment schedule and find that Voices of Liberty was not performing at all. :-( That's one of my very favorite things at Epcot. Lee and Jim and Sherry consoled themselves with food (and beer) from the Hops and Barley booth, and then they went to the Beer School, which they enjoyed. While they did that I saw a cooking demonstration down at Italy - the chefs were making petate - the Italian version of fried dough balls. They looked pretty good, but unfortunately we didn't get to taste them. :-(

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As we ate our way around the world we explored a couple of the other entertainment options, like the two Circle-Vision films in China and Canada. I've only seen the Canada film a couple of times since it started showing - Martin Short's narration is fairly amusing.

Things we tried on our eating adventure around the World:

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche - France

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Crawfish Etoufee and Pecan Praline Bread Pudding - Louisiana
Lamb Slider and Bay Scallops -New Zealand

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Spicy Tuna Roll - Japan

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Lobster Roll and Crabcake - Hops and Barley

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Boxty and Cheese Plate - Ireland

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It was a bit after 4:00 by then, and we had a 5:30 reservation at Jiko so we made our way back to the room to get a chance for a short nap before dinner. Lee set his alarm for 5:00 - good thing, because otherwise we would have all slept too long!

We still arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge in plenty of time. Something that was new to us - when we went through the guard shack the guard gave us a parking pass on which he had written "Jiko". So I guess they are cracking down on parking a bit more now? Since we had some time we wandered around the lobby a little, and down to the Arusha Savanna - saw some birds and a zebra, but that was all.

At Jiko we were quickly seated at a nice table next to the window. And we had a wonderful dinner. Jiko has changed their menu quite a bit since we were last here a year ago, and I think it's even better. We shared two appetizers - the BBQ chicken flatbread and the vegetable samosas. Both were great - the samosas were especially good. We'd had samosas at the Food and Wine Festival and at Tusker House the day before, but these were SO much better!

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Our waiter had recommended a wine made from South Africa's pinotage grape and we shared that bottle. It was also really good.

For entrees, Jim and I had the maize crusted halibut, served with vegetables of the moment, and that was wonderful. Lee had our server's favorite - the beef short ribs with crushed potatoes and garlic. He'd told Lee it was so tender it would fall off the bone, and that's exactly what happened. Sherry had the Swahili Curry Shrimp with coconut rice - we all got to try some of her shrimp. Lee, Jim, and I cleaned our plates - our server told us he was going to show the chef how clean how plates were. :-)

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We were pretty full, so we decided to split two of the desserts - again, we went with our server's recommendations and had the Pistachio Creme Brulee and the Tanzanian Chocolate Cheesecake. They were both quite good. The cheesecake had a great chocolatey flavor but was not too rich. It was served with lavender ice cream, though we really couldn't taste any lavender.

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It was really a great meal - definitely the best of our trip. Jiko made a good impression on Jim and Sherry - whew. :-) (Yeah, because they have been SO hard to please this week...NOT!)

After dinner we went outside to see if there were any animals visible on the Uzima Savanna (the one next to the pool) but we didn't see any.

We headed back to the room after that - it was after 8:00 by the time we got back. We were all pretty tired after a couple of late nights, so no one was interested in trying to go to Illuminations or Downtown Disney.

October 24, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 2

Day 2 of our Food and Wine Festival trip.

We got a late start this morning - still on west coast time. I'm actually trying to STAY on west coast time until after the Tower of Terror 13K race Saturday night - my body will be much happier (ok, so "happier" isn't really the right word) running if it thinks it's 7:00 at night than if it thinks it's 10:00 at night.

We made the loooong walk (NOT!) from our room at the Boardwalk Villas to Spoodles at 9:00, where we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast. I hadn't eaten breakfast at Spoodles in years, and then it was a buffet. I think it has a very nice breakfast menu now - frittatas, breakfast flat breads, french toast, etc. You can find the menu on AllEars HERE.

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We had a very nice breakfast, and sat around chatting for a long time, until we realized that it was after 11:00! Our server came around a couple of times to check on us and make sure we didn't want anything else. :-)

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Eventually we said goodbye to Paul and Ilene and got ourselves together and into Epcot. The forecast for the day was heavy rain, though it was still looking ok at that point, and was actually very pleasant outside! But we brought our rain jackets and umbrellas with us. Jim was the group pack mule today - Lee did it yesterday. :-)

A performance of the World Showcase Players was just starting in the UK as we walked by, so we stopped to watch that. They've changed it a bit since I last saw it - they've included a third tourist in the cast - a woman to play the Evil Wizard Pelham. It was great fun, and the guy who played Galahad did a really good job. They even had a few new, but still bad, jokes. (Lee would have made a MUCH better King Arthur than the one they selected, though!)

Sherry had been asking to go on a ride, so we finally did one - Journey into Imagination. (They only get better from there, right?) After that, we steered them toward The Land pavilion and Spaceship Earth, and Lee and I went back to the UK, where we were meeting one of my long-time RADP IRC friends (and fellow AllEars staffer) Jack and his wife Judy.

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We got a few cold beverages and went back into the garden in front of British Invasion's stage to have a nice long chat. It was good to see them, and I'm glad our trips overlapped a little bit!

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Back in Future World we met up with Jim and Sherry again - they had just ridden Spaceship Earth and played a few games in Project Tomorrow. Sherry wanted to do the "Power" game, so we had a short wait for that, and Lee did it with her. They had a good time and did pretty well!

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We got Fastpasses for Soarin' (not good until 7:51 that night!) and went over to the Seas pavilion. Fortunately the ride through the aquarium, featuring Nemo and friends, was a walk-on, but wow, that is a looong queue!

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Our timing was perfect, and when we got off the ride they were just getting ready to let people in to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Dude! It's so totally awesome!!! (Sherry wants to know how they do that. I wish we could tell her!)

We went upstairs to see the manatees, and talked to one of the Cast Members for a while about them. The two they have now they are still hoping to reintroduce to the wild. They eat romaine lettuce as the main part of their diet, since that mostly closely resembles the nutrients they would be eating in the wild. For treats they get things like apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

We wandered around the rest of the aquariums - I noticed this Mickey head on the bottom of one of them.

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From there we went over to Mission Space, where we did the "Green" side. (As I did not wish to *turn* green I chose that instead of the orange side!) Since there were 4 of us we were one complete team, and that was fun. (Sherry was our commander, though, so we thought we would be doomed!!!)

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As we walked into the Mission Control area they were just starting a Space Race game. We were the crew of the Orion - our four challengers on Team Triton were 4 pre-teen boys, so we figured we were doomed. And we were right - though we only lost by 2% - they had 97% and we had 95%. Which wasn't too bad. I'd never done the crew thing, though I have been one of the Mission Control players a lot of times. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but once we did the crew part was fun, too.

We had a 6:30 reservation for Marrakesh, and it was about 6:00 by then. Lee and Jim wanted beers from the Barley and Hops Market at the American Adventure pavilion, so we took the long way to Morocco. It was still a very nice evening - cloudy, but not raining, and still a comfortable temperature. Crowds were still not bad - none of the food booths seemed to have much of a line at all.

Marrakesh wasn't too busy at that time, and we got a table close to the middle of the restaurant. We all decided to order the Royal Feast, which included Harira Soup and Beef Brewat roll as appetizers, and then Lemon Chicken, Roasted Lamb Meshoui, and Couscous with Seven Vegetables for an entree, with assorted Moroccan pastries (which ended up being three kinds of baklava) for dessert. It was all good. The baklava was quite good - not syrupy sweet like some are. Sherry and I both had a white wine named Ksar with dinner - it was a very nice crisp, clean wine that I really enjoyed. Jim had a Casablanca beer, and Lee had a Marrakesh Express.

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The restaurant offers entertainment while you're dining - belly dancer accompanied by two musicians. We were there for about 2 hours, so we saw them twice. I think the guys enjoyed her act more than Sherry and I did. :-) Don't get me wrong, she was very talented and graceful, but just didn't have quite the same appeal to me. :-)

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We saw people coming into the restaurant who were wearing ponchos, so it looked as though the rain had arrived while we were eating. But it had stopped before we left the restaurant, so we started making our way to Future World to use our Soarin' Fastpasses. We got to the UK, and it started raining, so we broke out the umbrella (mine) and rain jackets (everyone else). And then it started to REALLY rain...we all ended up with squishy shoes and wet shorts/jeans, though it stopped raining just before we got to the Land.

At that point I'm not even sure we needed Fastpasses - looked like Soarin' was almost a walk-on. Jim and Sherry had never ridden this before, so I requested top row, center section - might as well maximize their first experience, right? :-) I think it was a little bit more exciting than Sherry expected - I heard a lot of gasps and screams out of her, and I think she had a death grip on the handles beside her seat. :-) She still enjoyed it and wants to do it again, though!

The rain had not restarted while we were inside and Illuminations was over, so people were streaming out of the park. Since we were headed back towards the International Gateway we were going opposite most everyone else, and felt like salmon swimming upstream until we got past Canada.

Jim and Lee went to Big River Grill to have a beer, while Sherry and I came back to the room to finish drying out. It started raining again about 20 minutes later...and rained for over an hour, though it sounds like it has stopped now. I hope it gets it out of its system tonight!

It was a great day, though, if you can believe it, Sherry doesn't seem to have gotten this whole "ride" thing out of her system, and wants to go on MORE rides tomorrow!!! :-) I think we're going to the Studios tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll be attending a Food and Wine Festival event, City Tastes - Spain over in the World Showplace.

August 30, 2008

Disney-Like Dining, Vineyard Room Closing

We had a wonderful dinner last week at a new restaurant here in San Diego called Roseville. The cuisine is "seasonal French-Mediterrranean" and we enjoyed a number of selections from the menu, which featured a very nice variety of creative dishes that were well-prepared and beautifully presented. We had knowledgeable and efficient servers, and there was also a really excellent dessert menu.

And what does that have to do with Disney, you may ask? Not much really, except that both Lee and I commented that it was the type of experience we used to associate with fine dining at Walt Disney World restaurants, before things got a little bit too homogenized. We can remember going to restaurants like the Contemporary Grill, Artist Point, and Jiko, and having a hard time deciding what we wanted because there were several things that looked really good. In recent years we've been disappointed because it seems like there's only one or maybe two items that appeal to us. And I've been especially disappointed in the dessert menus - there has been a distinct lack of really good chocolate desserts!

Over on the Disneyland side of the world...I was dismayed to learn earlier this week that the Disneyland Resort is going to be closing The Vineyard Room by the end of August. The restaurant is inside Disney's California Adventure and it's my favorite table service restaurant in the parks. Lee and I thought about eating there when we were at the park in July - now I wish we had. I really hope they will use Executive Chef Gloria Tae's talents somewhere else at the resort.

Anyway...for anyone who lives in San Diego, we highly recommend Roseville!

Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

May 9, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 4: We Got Dreamed!

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, Lisa and I received lanyards entitling us to admission to some kind of after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom last night, but we didn't actually know what it was going to be.

Lee didn't get back to the room until after 7:00...we decided to eat here at Riverside instead of at the Magic Kingdom (we wanted to get to the MK in time to see the fireworks at 9:00).

We both decided to have the roast turkey dinner - it was *real* turkey breast, carved right before our eyes, and served with corn bread, and choice of two sides: mashed potatoes, corn, or mixed vegetables. It was actually really quite good - we both had the potatoes and the veggies. The corn bread was just a little sweet and had pieces of corn in it. And the price was quite reasonable, too - $8.99.

It was almost 8:00 by the time we got out to the bus stop, and found a bunch of other folks waiting for the MK bus, also. Apparently they had been waiting for a while, since the bus got quite a cheer when it arrived. Fortunately we all fit on the bus, though it was standing room only.

We staked out a spot about half way between the hub and the ice cream shop for Wishes - we could have gotten closer but we know from past experience that it's possible to be *too* close. This turned out to be a really good place.

What can I say...Wishes is a wonderful fireworks show. So many different kinds of fireworks, and the beautiful light show that goes on on the castle iself is great. I think Disneyland's Remember...Dreams Come True is a little bit better, in terms of the integration of the castle lighting projections, music, and fireworks, but Wishes is a whole lot more reliable - barring something like a hurricane I don't think it gets canceled.

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We waited for the traffic to subside before going to Tomorrowland, which was where we were supposed to be for the start of the Dream event. We arrived just as they were counting down to the start of it (it started at 9:30), and people starting streaming out of the fenced-in area.

Apparently if you arrived at 9:00 like they told you to (but we wanted to see the fireworks) they put you in a fenced-in area once you showed your lanyard. There was a stage and a DJ playing music, and Mickey and Minnie were there, too. I assume they told people about what was going to happen, and what would be open, but we missed that part. Fortunately, Cast Members were handing out a special event Entertainment Schedule (just like the usual ones you pick up in all of the parks) which had information on the event - including important details on how long it was (9:30-10:30) and what attractions were open.

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Lisa and I were told earlier in the day that only Tomorrowland was open, but that wasn't the case - there were attractions open all over the park! That's a lot of ground to cover in just an hour. Lisa had called Mike Scopa earlier who did some Googling and found that they only give out 9600 lanyards the day of the event, and of course not all of those people attend, so the park seemed pretty empty.

Our first ride was Buzz Lightyear, since Lee hadn't yet done it this trip...and it actually had a line, and we had to wait for at least a minute to get on. :-) We *really* miss the removable laser cannons that they have in California.

Remember that I said the park seemed pretty empty? That made things even spookier over at the Haunted Mansion. One nice thing about it was that we could hear all the sounds coming from the mansion, which you normally can't hear over all the noise from the people. Wolves howling and stuff like that.

We split up after that - Lee and I rode Thunder Mountain, which seemed especially fast and more of a thrill than the one in California (which we just rode on Sunday). Or maybe it was because we aren't used to the ups and downs and turns here like we are there. It was fun. Lisa went to Pirates of the Caribbean, and after we finished on Thunder Mountain Lee and I went there too - that was our last ride of the evening since it was just after 10:30 by the time we got off. Sigh...the hour went much too fast! And hour and a half, or even two hours, would have been much better!

On our way back to Main Street we saw this:

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Who knew that they let homeless people sleep inside the Magic Kingdom? :-)

On our way out of the park, Mickey and Minnie were waving goodbye from the train station, and some management type was talking and thanking us for coming, etc. It really was a nice event - just too short!

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We said goodbye to Lisa and went to our respective bus stops. Lee and I stopped at the Food Court on the way back to our room to pick up some dessert - I had ice cream and he had a brownie. They aren't as good as the brownies from the Boardwalk Bakery, though.

So that finally brings us to today. After breakfast Lee dropped me off at the Boardwalk and I walked into Epcot via the International Gateway. I called Lisa, who was still finishing up with her packing (since she was going home this evening), but she said she'd call me when she arrived at the park.

So I wandered around the park enjoying the flowers and the topiaries, and taking some pictures. Over in Norway I noticed something I'd never noticed before...look closely at the upper window in the right hand side.

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There were trolls in this window, and in many of the other windows around the Norway pavilion. I didn't realize that this was a troll couple until I unloaded the pictures off my camera! There was also a troll couple perched on the Stave Church.

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I did another (successful) training mission at Mission:Space (green, non-spinning side, of course!), and Lisa called me after that. We sampled some beverages in Club Cool, and as we were walking back towards World Showcase we noticed they were setting up for some kind of a shoot. Lots of people and cameras and lights. It was a promo for the High School Musical - Get in the Picture thing that is touring the country - we saw the setup they had at DCA last weekend. Lisa pointed out Nick Lachey - good thing she knew who he was, since I never would have known. :-)

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We wandered back towards the UK pavilion, taking pictures of flowers and topiaries. We went into one of the shops in the UK and noticed a quiz posted next to the cash register, with questions like: "Name 5 Disney movies set in the UK", and "Where does the P.M. live?" The Cast Member there gave us a "Certifiable Magical Moment" certificate for participating in the UK Quiz, and told us there were additional quizzes in the other UK shops.

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We checked in at Rose & Crown where we had a lunch reservation. Lisa had the Fish & Chips - the chef came out before her meal to discuss her dietary restrictions, and then he personally delivered her meal to the table! He was pretty cute, too. :-) I had the Vegetable Curry, and that was pretty tasty.

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After lunch we visited the other UK shops and found two more quizzes - one of them had a list of American words, and we were supposed to come up with the UK equivalent. Like "elevator" is "lift", and "vacation" is "holiday". Some of themn we had no clue about, like "pacifier", "eggplant" (eggplant???), and "bun". Unfortunately the CM in that shop wasn't into it at all - she just told us what the answers were, and didn't offer to give us a certificate.

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I said goodbye to Lisa then, and went back to Riverside for some relaxation time. It seemed hotter today than yesterday, and I was getting a little too warm.

It was nice to have several relaxing hours to nap and read! Lee came back and picked me up and then we both went back to Coronado Springs where one of his co-workers was having an impromptu pizza and beer party on the beach behind the cabana he was staying in. I really like Coronado Springs, even though I've never stayed there. I was hoping we'd get in there this time, but it was sold out of conference rooms by the time we booked.

Lee doesn't have any conference events on his schedule tomorrow, so we'll spend the day doing whatever he wants to do since it's his only day to play...AK and Epcot for sure, maybe the Studios.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Dining category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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