Treviso Restaurant at the Ringling Museum

10602892_10152573235175837_293550673_nRecently I found myself at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota and took the opportunity to dine at one of their restaurants, Treviso. Situated in the welcome center at the museum, Treviso features primarily Italian inspired fare. The restaurant is open for lunch daily in the summer from 11am – 3:30pm and for dinner Thursday – Saturday from 4:30 – 8pm.

While I was waiting for the rest of my party to arrive, I opted to have a late lunch at the restaurant I’d passed by on many previous visits. I was very glad to take the time relaxing after having spent several hours in the museum already. I arrived around 2pm and took a look at the menu finding myself curious about the soup and sandwich combo. Apparently this was a popular idea because Treviso was already out of the stacked sandwich that made up half of the combo. The chicken and sausage gumbo sounded good, but I didn’t want to get it on its own, however other diners said it was very good.

I chose something on the menu that intrigued me and wasn’t something I’ve often seen elsewhere. The Modena Pizza is a flatbread pizza with gorgonzola, balsamic vinegar, roasted pears, mozzarella and caramelized onions. Since I was solo, I sat at the bar where service was prompt and attentive. The pizza was very good with a really nice balance between the savory flavor of the mild cheeses and the sweetness of the pears, onions and balsamic. To balance it out a bit more I decided to add a glass of a nice dry prosecco to my meal. It was a perfect pairing.

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If you get a chance to check out Treviso at the Ringling, I highly recommend it and I can’t wait to get back here on my next visit. Have you been to the Ringling or Treviso? What did you think?

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Be Our Guest Dining Review

be our guestOne of the most sought after dining reservations at Walt Disney World is the Be Our Guest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a Disney Parks Blog meet up before Be Our Guest officially opened, which you can read about here. It has been over a year and a half since I had dinner at the restaurant, but I have had lunch there a few times over the past couple of years. Fortunately, I was able to snag a last minute reservation less than a week before the holiday weekend, so I was very excited to enjoy a nice meal with a friend at the park.

Our reservation was for 7:45pm, but we arrived at the Magic Kingdom a bit earlier than we expected, so we headed back to see if we could get in to Be Our Guest a bit early. The host said that since we were a party of two it looked like they could squeeze us in. The magic was definitely in our favor that night! We were instructed to wait for our pager to light up and then check in with the cast member at the gates to the Beast’s castle.

Once the pager illuminated, we were escorted into the castle and given a brief tour, eventually being led into the ballroom where we would be eating. Shelley and I had eaten there before for lunch, but never for dinner since Be Our Guest officially opened in late 2012. I don’t know if you are aware or not, but it can be a bit challenging to get a reservation at this very popular restaurant. 😉

Melissa was our server, who I actually remembered from the Parks Blog Meet Up as our server then, so it is nice to see the cast members sticking around from opening still. Since we have some allergies, the chef was called to come and review the menus with us to make sure we didn’t have any issues. This gave us an opportunity to just soak in the environment of the magnificent ballroom setting of Be Our Guest. I am still blown away by how gorgeous the details are, especially the ceiling chandeliers, and how much the restaurant reflects the beauty of Beauty and the Beast.

For the first time, I enjoyed a nice glass of wine with my meal in the Magic Kingdom. I think this was a nice addition to a French-inspired meal. Several French and California wines and select beers are available to be served with your meal at Be Our Guest. For our first course, I ordered the potato leek soup, which I have had several times before and enjoy quite a bit. The taste is fantastic, but this time the consistency seemed a bit off, like the soup needed to go through a strain or puree a bit more. I would still order this again every time. The entree I have heard the most about from friends and other guests is the sauteed shrimp and scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce. Despite having had shrimp and scallops earlier in the week, I could not resist ordering this dish.

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Even though Be Our Guest is not considered a character meal, the Beast is often known to parade through the castle waving at guests to welcome them to his home. He also frequently will meet with guests to pose for a picture with them in his library before they depart. We had a great time, the food was enjoyable and I’d definitely order what I had again. I also am anxious to go back and try the salmon I had before to see if it holds up to what I recall from before. The experience is so fun and the food is some of the best in the Magic Kingdom.

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As we left the restaurant, we stopped on the bridge on the way out to get a few pictures of the gorgeous sky after the storms cleared for a bit. Have you been to the Be Our Guest restaurant recently? What were your thoughts? Did you order one of the desserts? We skipped out this time since we were full from our meal, but we’ve tried them all before.

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California Grill- finally my first visit!

California Grill

 

I have been wanting to dine at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for so long now, and I am always asked if I would recommend it. Of course, from what I hear I absolutely recommend it, but I had never actually been there myself. So it was my wedding anniversary this month, and we decided it was the perfect reason to go to California Grill as we had heard it was a very romantic restaurant. Plus it has recently been re-imagined with a new design inspired by mid-century modern California, featuring a new seasonal ingredients menu. The sushi bar was also extended and now features a 12-course omakase menu.

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We found out that the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom were going off that night at 10pm, so we booked our meal for 9:40pm knowing that would give us time to sit, peruse the menu, order some drinks and possibly appetizers right by the time we should be thinking about going out on the balcony to watch them. One of the highlights of California Grill is the amazing view over Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks.

 

So we checked in at the California Grill desk on the second floor in the Contemporary, and were told to take the elevator upstairs to the restaurant. Upon getting out of the elevator, there’s a secondary check in desk in front of a very impressive wine selection of 1,600 bottles housed in a climate controlled showcase. It has been reported that they have about 250 wine selections, 80 by the glass!

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While you wait for your table to be ready, you are invited to sit in the lounge area, where tables are a first come first serve basis. Some people without reservations actually dine here as the entire California Grill menu is available to order from the lounge also. We had only just been given our menus when our buzzer was already going off, so the wait was very short. The nice thing about when they take you to your table is that they walk you by the open kitchen, so you can see all the chefs and what dishes they are coming up with. The person who seated us actually pointed some items out that we were looking at, which later on helped me decide on which dessert I was going to order!

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We ended up being seated in a quieter room toward the side of the California Grill. I want to say she called it the Monorail Room, but as there was no view of the monorail I must have misheard her. From what I gather this used to be the old wine room, but it was very intimate as the ceiling is lower here, and there are only around 10 tables inside. The view was very relaxing as although you couldn’t see Magic Kingdom, you could see the lake and the electrical water pageant very well.

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I was told the drinks are wonderful at California Grill, so of course we had to try them out. Our favorite was the Sake Martini recommended by a friend, it was so delicious! The Cucumber Fizz was my second favorite, but I don’t doubt that had I tried more, that they would have all quickly become my new favorites!

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By this point they had announced that in 5 minutes Wishes fireworks were going to be starting, so they give you time to get outside on to the balcony to find your spot. Of course, you don’t have to go outside, if you remain inside California Grill they dim the lights and play the music inside the restaurant for you. As we couldn’t see them from our room, we decided to head outside for them. We got a great spot, and they have speakers out there playing the same songs and sound effects as the ones in the park.

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Despite living close by, there’s nothing like watching them from high up, going off over Cinderella Castle! Feels quite romantic too if you tune out the rest of the people around you and just face forward. This was truly a highlight of the meal at California Grill, and I’m sure it looked and felt just as beautiful from inside the restaurant if you had a lovely view.

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We got back to our table and the server brought out our appetizers immediately, they must have been holding them ready for when you return from the fireworks. For our starters, my husband had sushi which he loved as it was such a generous portion for an appetizer! I had the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, which was nice but I wasn’t expecting it to just be one piece, at least I wasn’t too full for my main course.

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For our main course, Simon had the grilled pork tenderloin, and he said it was so delicious and cooked perfectly to his liking! I chose something that wasn’t on the California Grill menu, I chose to go with the Vegetarian Unplugged, a dish that is always different. Basically you never know what you are going to get, as the chefs pass a dish around the kitchen and they put a part of whatever vegetarian side dish they are creating at that time. So you end up with something different each time you go, they also do a Vegan Unplugged dish too with the same idea.

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My server wasn’t quite sure what my items were but they were pretty easy to figure out. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that there didn’t seem to be much to each plate, so it wasn’t very filling and had a lot of similar tastes, which was a shame as it had sounded so promising. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my dishes at California Grill.

 

I would say the best part of the meal at California Grill was the dessert! Simon ordered the Seasonal Tasting featuring Peach themed desserts, and I ordered the Sundae Sampler. My favorite being the Reverse Root Beer Float, which featured root beer ice cream with a little tiny cute glass bottle of vanilla soda to pour on top! Very cute!

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Overall we did really enjoy our food at California Grill, but for me, as a vegetarian I wasn’t that impressed with the dish I had. I was also a bit disappointed no one acknowledged that we were on our anniversary despite letting them know at the podium and telling our server. I’m not sure if they just don’t do anything special here, but a simple “Happy Anniversary” would have been lovely. I might not be rushing back to dine here, but now I can recommend it to others and I will certainly encourage them to try the Sake Martini and Reverse Root Beer Float!

 

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Lunching at The Wave…of American Flavors

One of my favorite “under the radar” restaurants at Walt Disney World is The Wave…of American Flavors (The Wave for short) at the Contemporary Resort.

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The menu here features American cuisine and many of the ingredients are sourced locally. I’ve always felt that the food I’ve eaten here has been fresh and prepared so that these fresh ingredients, especially produce, can shine.

The restaurant is located in the back corner of the lobby, just past the check-in desks. The entrance is definitely one of the coolest on property!

Entrance

Various elements of the décor also bring out the “wave” theme. It also features close up photographs of produce, like an ear of corn.

Picture from Disney
Picture from Disney. Interior.

I’ve eaten at the Wave several times now of the past few years, at least once for every meal. Recently, it’s become a tradition for my mom and I to eat Easter brunch there after church service. They always have a fantastic breakfast buffet there (sweet potato pancakes anyone??), but for Easter they add a few extras, like carving and omelet stations.

Today though, I’m going to focus on lunch at the Wave. I’ve eaten lunch there a couple of times now. I love that you can usually always get in without a reservation there and that is especially true at lunch. It’s very quiet and I think could be a great break from a busy (and hot) theme park day. Plus, it’s an easy walk from the Magic Kingdom!

Now onto the food…I will warm you that I’m not the greatest when it comes to food reviews. They usually consist of varying degrees of yumminess! But I’ll try to be a bit more descriptive this time!

Most of the time, I like to keep it light at lunch with a salad and maybe an appetizer. My first lunch there, I fell in love with the Wave’s version of the Cobb salad.

From the menu: MacGregor Farms Greens, Naturally Raised Eggs, Bacon, Florida Avocados, Chile-Lime Vinaigrette, and Midnight Moon Cheese
From the menu: MacGregor Farms Greens, Naturally Raised Eggs, Bacon, Florida Avocados, Chile-Lime Vinaigrette, and Midnight Moon Cheese

Most Disney fans know of Brown Derby’s version, which is great, but I give the Wave’s a bit of an edge because of the bigger pieces of the ingredients. With the Brown Derby’s I feel like it all sort of mushes together. I’m also a bit obsessed with the bacon on this salad. It’s thick-cut and has a bit of sweetness to it. It goes great with the tangy vinaigrette. I know there are people who aren’t fans of the traditional bleu cheese found on most Cobb salads. You will be happy to hear that the cheese on this version is much more mild and has a parmesan-like texture.

You can choose to add chicken or steak to the salad to make it more of an entrée. Instead, I decided to go with the soup of the day, which was a Zellwood corn and chicken chowder. The restaurant happened to be a bit chilly that afternoon so sop actually sounded fantastic. And it was! Zellwood corn is known for being sweet. The chicken was shredded and there was some spice with red peppers in the base. This was also paired with a jalapeño corn bread muffin, which also added a bit of heat, but nothing overwhelming. Our server made sure to warn us.

Season Soup - corn chowder
Season Soup – corn chowder

I will definitely be back to The Wave…for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Lunch is definitely a treat and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a break from the parks for an hour or two. The only complaint I have is I’ve had some inconsistent service there. The servers have always been very nice, it’s just some have been more on top of everything than others.

Have you been to The Wave? What would you recommend for my next visit?

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The Pharmacy Review

Been to The Pharmacy lately?

No matter how many pharmacies you’ve been to in the past, this one is a bit different.

Have you realized I’m talking about a restaurant yet? If not, I am. It’s not a well known place because it’s set up like a speakeasy.

Do what?

I know. I understand. That was my same reaction when I found out about it.

The Pharmacy opened in early 2013. They serve local, organic food and tinctures/drinks are hand-crafted, as well as the sodas. It’s located at 8060 Via Dellagio Way in Dr. Phillips.

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, I guarantee you’ll miss it. It looks like a nondescript elevator.

IMG_1101That button on the right side is how you get the door to open.

If you listen close enough when you’re near it, you’ll think you’re close by an elevator where people aren’t standing around in an awkward silence 😉

All the food that we’ve had has been really good. This is just a little selection of what we’ve tried.

IMG_1095The fries (appetizer) are amazing, along with the homemade ketchup and mayo.

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Hanger steak

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Paella

IMG_1099Wagyu Burger, small but SO good

My biggest selling point for going are the drinks. They are amazing!

IMG_1094Sidecar (I tried this the first time we went, it’s my favorite and I haven’t seen it since!)

They are a bit on the pricey side, but one drink is like you’re drinking at least two. More than likely, you’ve never seen a drink list like theirs before!

Besides the somewhat high prices, the service is what makes us weary about going back. It’s been so hit or miss.

We’ve gone a few times (mainly for special occasions), while this isn’t out “go to” restaurant anymore, it’s still definitely a great place to go and experience!

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The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Review

This meal was paid for by me and my friends. No compensation. I wanted to share a place that we love with you.

A few years ago, The Crooked Spoon was a food truck. And while I had never tried anything from the food truck, I had heard wonderful things about it.

From there, Chef Saelg decided that he wanted an an actual location and I’m so happy that Clermont was decided upon. That means that I don’t have to drive to Orlando all the time for a super fantastic meal!

The food truck may not be around anymore (from what I know), but The Crooked Spoon is worth the drive from wherever you are when you’re in the Central Florida area!

The Crooked Spoon

We’ve gone twice now and the first time we went we were excited about our meals and loved every bite of them and this past time was no different.

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The prices are good. They have a happy hour. And the food has been amazing so far!

Crab cake to start off with. I mean, just look at the presentation of this thing.

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Their drinks look and taste amazing. And their beer and wine selection is quite impressive as well!

Here’s the rest of the food our table had (minus the pork belly BLT because I apparently ate it all before I remembered that I needed to take a picture. Oops!)

6 Cheese Mac and Cheese (the plate looks small here, but it is SO not!)

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Cranberry Turkey Sandwich

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Smoked Chicken Wings (this is actually an appetizer, but my friend really liked this last time so went with them as a meal)

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The restaurant is set up really well with lots of space and a big outdoor area as well.

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I HIGHLY recommend you going to try out The Crooked Spoon Gastropub because…well, just typing this up made me want to go back and we went there last night!

The Crooked Spoon is located right next to the Citrus Tower in Clermont – 200 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, FL 34711

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Capone’s Dinner and Show in Kissimmee, Florida

For the past 10+ years, I have been to Capone’s Dinner & Show numerous times! The main reason is my mom LOVES it.

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I’m telling you, I can quote the show. And I notice when songs are removed (I’m still sad one of my favorite music numbers is gone.)

When we got there to pick up our tickets we were given our secret password and the option to go in a bit early and enjoy the upstairs bar. The early access means that you have to pay for at least one drink (per person), but you’ll get first go at food before everyone else starts pouring in.

The meal provided is buffet style (read: buff-et) and you can view the menu here. As for the drinks…they are a plenty! Included in your ticket price is unlimited drinks, which makes the show even THAT much funnier 😉 Your choice of unlimited drinks include: Bud Light draft, rum runner, rum & cola, cranberry & vodka, white zinfandel, merlot & chardonnay wines, soda, iced tea, hot tea, coffee, cranberry juice, fruit punch. (You’ve already gotten a great deal with the meal/drinks alone!)

When we were given access to be able take some pictures and video, I couldn’t wait to share it!

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What’s Capone’s about? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but you’re in the gangster underworld.

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All of the wait staff are in character and talk and act like gangsters would (or at least that’s the way I would imagine they would..you know, if they were somewhat nice.)

The stage is taken over by a six person show – Bunny and her new husband, Fingers, are the who the story line follows. The songs are catchy and the lines exchanged are punchy.

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So many laughs and “oh, that was a pun” laughs are heard during the show.

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Whether you’re a local and have driven by it or your visiting from out of town, make sure to stop by Capone’s for dinner and laughs! Before you call for reservations make sure you check out their website for any deals they may have on tickets (I just looked and spied a 50% off coupon!)

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Shula Burger Restaurant Review

All this food was paid for by me! No compensation here!

When we saw a new place being added on 192 near 429/Target in Kissimmee and the other run of the mill restaurants, we just assumed it’d be just another place, thankfully we were wrong!

My boyfriend has been stalking Shula Burger since the sign went up, and when he saw it was open, he was more than ready to go.

Shula Burger
Shula Burger

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Guys, they had been open THREE days when we went. I am always skeptical when places haven’t been open too long because they probably haven’t gotten their stuff together.

Wrong again. We were proved wrong in the BEST way.

First of all, Shula Burger is not your standard burger joint. You order your burger, salad, chicken, sweets, whatever you want at the counter.

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From there you can get your order to go or eat in. They give you a number if you eat in and your food comes to you! Oh and if you want to call in and pick it up, you can do that too.

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We both ordered create your own burgers – garlic herb mayo, onions, mushrooms, bacon, cheese. The choices go on and on. I had sweet potato tots (which were AMAZING) and Jeff enjoyed his sea salt fries.

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During our lunch I actually stopped and said, “This burger is cooked perfectly.” And it truly was.

Oh and if you’re wanting to enjoy the outside with your meal, you can sit in this huge patio area.

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Before we left I approached the kitchen window, some of the staff, and the manager to tell them how great our experience was.

When we left I heard “See you soon!” and that is 100% true – they will definitely see us soon!

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Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Citricos
Citricos

This past weekend I had the opportunity to eat at one of my favorite restaurants on Walt Disney World Property at Citricos. Located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Citricos is a signature restaurant with a focus on Mediterranean influence. I have eaten here at least 5 – 10 times over the past five years or so and it is consistently in my top five Disney restaurants. I previously wrote about it here when talking about my favorite restaurants.

The restaurant is located on the second floor of the Grand Floridian and is decorated in soft yellow and orange tones that invite guests to enter. Citricos shares a lobby with Victoria & Albert’s, the resort’s Five Diamond fine dining establishment. Inside Citricos there is a small lounge open to the restaurant, as is the kitchen, which always makes for fun dining to be able to see the chefs hard at work right before your eyes.

Citricos bar
Citricos bar
Citricos lounge and kitchen
Citricos lounge and kitchen
Citricos open kitchen
Citricos open kitchen

My friends and I arrived about half an hour before our scheduled reservation time, but since it was relatively slow, we were seated almost immediately in Citricos. The table we were lead to by the greeter was all the way in the back of the restaurant by the bank of windows facing the Magic Kingdom. We had a fantastic view of Cinderella Castle from our table for Wishes!

Chicken B'steeya
Chicken B’steeya
Crispy Fried Yellow Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella
Crispy Fried Yellow Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella
Panada
Panada

Appetizers

We started off each with an appetizer to begin our meal. I opted for the Ashley Farms Chicken B’steeya at the recommendation of a friend. It was almost like a version of baklava with chicken and almonds, a little sweet with the orange blossom honey, but very tasty. Shelley had the Crispy Fried Yellow and Buffalo Mozzarella, which was somewhat like a deconstructed Caesar salad. She said the sweet flavors of the heirloom tomatoes were well complemented by the bitter romaine and strong garlic of the dressing. Dave ordered the Panada, which one or two of us couldn’t help calling Panda and saying we didn’t want to eat our dear friend John. It was fantastic! The slow-cooked beef and pork are spiced with a tamarind sauce and then baked in phyllo.

Entrees

For entrees we each chose something that wouldn’t necessarily be our go to item on the menu to live dangerously. Shelley was craving beef, so she order the Oak-grilled Filet of Beef, which had fantastic accompaniments of Yukon Gold Potato and Peppadew Peppers. She said it was a good cut of meat, but a little bland for her taste and felt it could have been seasoned a bit more, but the cabernet demi-glace did help. Dave opted for the Madeira-braised Short Ribs with Hominy-Cheddar Potato Puree and Wild Mushroom Ragout, which is my go to entree at Citricos. I went out on a limb and got the Berkshire Pork Two Ways with Rotisserie Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Pork Belly, Brentwood Farms Corn Bred, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Green Apple and Cipplolini Onion Chutney. I am not usually a fan of pork, but thought I’d give it a shot. Dave was having buyer’s remorse, so we ended up actually switching our entrees after trying the ones we originally ordered. This ended up working out perfectly as we were both much happier with what the other got.

Oak-grilled Filet of Beef
Oak-grilled Filet of Beef
Berkshire Pork Two Ways
Berkshire Pork Two Ways
Madiera-braised Short Ribs
Madiera-braised Short Ribs

Dessert

Dessert was served just moments before Wishes started! Dave chose the Tiramisu, which he said was incredible. Shelley got the Tasting of Gelato, which is typically served with vanilla, cappuccino and raspberry, but she substituted the cappuccino for a second vanilla. I ordered the Granny Smith Green Apple Sorbet since I didn’t want anything creamy. This was amazing! It was like biting into a freshly frozen green apple and was served with strawberries and blueberries. Our view for the fireworks was awesome, only to be rivaled by the incredible service from our server Kierra.

Tasting of Gelato
Tasting of Gelato
Tiramisu
Tiramisu
Granny Smith Green Apple Sorbet
Granny Smith Green Apple Sorbet
Wishes
Wishes

All in all, this was yet another fantastic dining experience at Citricos. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough if you are looking for a nice meal outside the parks at Walt Disney World. I have learned I need to order the short ribs pretty much every time unless I opt for one of the phenomenal seafood dishes, which makes me lament the demise of the Gateau of Crab that used to be my favorite appetizer here. Have you been to Citricos recently? What did you order? Please let me know what your thoughts were.

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Kona Cafe dining review

 

Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe

Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian resort is one of my favorite go to table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. You can usually get in pretty easily with little to no wait unless it is a holiday. The restaurant is located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House, which is the main building that encompasses the resort’s restaurants, gift shops, arcade, lobby and front desk. Kona Cafe is open on one side to the walkway that circles the second level that is also open to the lobby below.

This restaurant is a great choice for a nice break from the parks if you want an affordable meal that has an Asian/Pacific flare. Many people have heard of the famous Tonga Toast (deep fried sourdough bread stuffed with bananas, dusted in cinnamon sugar and served with a strawberry sauce) that is served here for breakfast. I also love the Macadamia-Pineapple pancakes served with macadamia nut butter and pineapple sauce with a side of ham, bacon or sausage. It is one of my absolute favorite breakfasts on property! Pair that with authentic Kona coffee in a french pressed pot and I am in heaven! Although, this past trip two weeks ago I opted for the awesome Liliko’i Juice (an orange, passionfruit and mango blend)!

Tonga Toast
Tonga Toast
Kona Coffee
Kona Coffee
Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes
Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes
Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe

In addition to a fantastic breakfast menu, Kona Cafe offers plenty of choices for lunch and dinner too! The menus are very similar for lunch and dinner with some crossover and some unique items on each. Some of my favorite appetizers are the sticky wings, pot stickers and the Kona salad (which I’ve even recreated at home thanks to recipes). Now, full disclosure, I haven’t actually eaten at Kona Cafe for lunch, but I have been plenty of times for dinner.

Backscratcher
Backscratcher

At dinner, I almost always order a backscratcher (alcoholic drink with tropical juices, Jack Daniels and a dark rum floater, served with an actual backscratcher) to start the meal. The full bar from Tambu Lounge is available to order from if you don’t see anything on the regular menu that suits your fancy. For entrees, I love the Teriyaki-style New York Strip steak served with a fabulous teriyaki pineapple glaze, sticky rice and broccolini, and I don’t even like strip steak usually. My other favorite is the recently discovered Pan-seared duck breast.

Pan-seared duck breast
Pan-seared duck breast

I rarely have room for dessert, but the Kilauea Torte is definitely a house favorite with this Polynesian twist on a chocolate lava cake. I have also heard really good things about the pineapple upside down cake, but have not yet tried it myself.

Tuna Poke
Tuna Poke

Just adjacent to Kona Cafe is the Kona Island Coffee/Sushi Bar (depending on the time of day). Open for breakfast and dinner, this extension of Kona Cafe offers pastries and coffee to go or sit at the island bar in the morning. At night they offer a great sushi menu and drinks. My favorite rolls are the Volcano roll and the Tuna Poke. It is always fun to sit right at the bar and watch the sushi chefs make the rolls right in front of you!

Kona Cafe is a fun and casual atmosphere with solid choices for any meal if you are looking for an affordable option while taking a break from the Magic Kingdom. It is a good place for large parties, as I’ve been there recently with parties of 10-15 several times in the past few months. Due to it being open to the atrium below as well as sharing common areas with guests waiting for ‘Ohana, Tambu Lounge and those exiting the monorail, this isn’t exactly what I would choose for a quiet romantic meal. However, if you are looking for a good meal with a nice family friendly vibe, this is the place for you. Kona Cafe also takes Tables in Wonderland discounts, which is nice if you are visiting and opt to valet.

Have you been to Kona Cafe? What are some of your favorite dishes? What are you looking forward to trying next time? If you are looking for a more detailed look at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, check out my previous post here.

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Bonefish Grill Review

Bonefish Grill
Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill is one of my favorite restaurant chains. I eat at Bonefish Grill at least every other month as they have fantastic seafood and my favorite filet if you like a great steak. With locations in over 30 states across the country, it is likely that there is a Bonefish Grill restaurant near you. If not, there are several locations within a few minutes drive of Walt Disney World property to check out on your next visit to Florida.

I absolutely love the feel of the restaurant as you enter. Outside, most locations offer great seating areas with different sections with inviting couches, benches and chairs to have a drink outside or just enjoy while waiting for your table. Inside, you are greeted with the vibe of an upscale, yet still casual feeling restaurant with a great bar and high top tables as well as regular tables and booths.

Bonefish patio
Bonefish patio
Restaurant interior
Restaurant interior

Some of my favorite dishes on the Bonefish Grill menu are the Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer, the aforementioned Filet Mignon, Chilean Sea Bass, and the Bonefish Caesar or House salads. This past weekend I took my mom out for dinner after enjoying the new Monsters University movie. We opted to start with some martinis – she with her usual Winter White Cosmo, and I decided to try the new Fresh Watermelon Martini. The martini was so clean and refreshing, with a hint of the cucumber infused vodka balancing out the sweetness of the fresh watermelon. It was a great way to start the meal!

Drink specials
Drink specials
Fresh Watermelon Martini
Fresh Watermelon Martini
Bread with oil and herbs
Bread with oil and herbs
Macadamian Nut Encrusted Mahi
Macadamian Nut Encrusted Mahi
Shrimp and Scallops
Shrimp and Scallops

Since we had a few snacks at the movie theater, we decided to skip appetizers and just split one of the great house salads with several kinds of lettuce and greens, hearts of palm, tomatoes (no olives for me) and all with a fantastic light citrus dressing. This along with the fresh bread, olive oil and herbs was enough to kick start our appetites. Mom ordered the grilled Sea Scallops and Shrimp with Herbed Jasmine Rice and the seasonal vegetables of tomatoes and zucchini. She asked for all of the different sauces they had that day: lime garlic tomato, lemon butter, asian, mango salsa and chimichurri. I have had this dish before and it is amazing! My favorite dipping sauce for the shrimp and scallops is definitely the lemon butter. I picked one of the specials of the Macadamia Nut Dusted Dorado (mahi) wood grilled with a mango rum sauce. For sides I selected the seasonal vegetables and steamed broccoli. The meal was absolutely perfect, with the mahi mahi being nice white and flaky and was great with the mango sauce.

After our entrees and salad, we were completely satiated. Despite being full, we both ordered dessert to go. My mom got her usual Coconut Rum Pie and I chose to take the special Chocolate Creme Brulee with a hint of Grand Marnier, which I tried for the first time a couple weeks ago. The desserts as always were wonderful even later that night at home.

I absolutely love the fresh food that is mostly grilled and served with incredible side options. Bonefish Grill gives me a great meal with friendly service, unique drink offerings and convenient locations nearby. I highly recommend Bonefish Grill to anyone who enjoys a night out at an affordable price. The restaurant also offers kids and gluten free menus upon request. Wine and beer lists are extensive, but I often find myself trying their various drink specials. If you get the opportunity, try to take advantage of their great happy hour drink and appetizer specials. Have you tried Bonefish Grill before? What are some of your favorites? Next time you can, swing in to the nearest Bonefish Grill for a great dining experience.

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Disney Parks Blog Be Our Guest Meet Up

Entering New Fantasyland for the Disney Parks Blog Meet Up
Entering New Fantasyland for the Disney Parks Blog Meet Up

Recently we were fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few to successfully register for the Disney Parks Blog meet at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Those of us in attendance were treated to a grand evening in Disney’s newest counter/table service restaurant. Shalon and I had a great time at this exclusive opportunity. If you look closely, you can spot Shalon and me in the pictures and video on the Disney Parks Blog post about the night here.

We were greeted outside the Magic Kingdom at the registration table by Cast Members welcoming us to the event who gave us each complimentary tickets to the park good for that day or the next. They also told us that we were randomly selected to get autographed posters signed by the artist at the party. In addition to these we received Fast Passes to be able to experience the new attraction Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid.

As we entered the New Fantasyland area of the park, we were guided to queue up before the bridge to the Be Our Guest Restaurant. We met up with our friend Vickie, wife and social media director of Steve Barrett, the Hidden Mickey Guy, and invited her to join us. We were ushered in and were promptly seated at a table right in front of the stage.

Entering Be Our Guest
Entering Be Our Guest
Rose Napkin
Rose Napkin
Disney Parks Blog meetup agenda
Disney Parks Blog meetup agenda
Disney Parks Blog Meet Up menu
Disney Parks Blog Meet Up menu

Before the speakers started, we were greeted with excellent service from our server Melissa. I was thoroughly impressed with the presentation and quality of the food. During the meal we heard Thomas Smith from the Disney Parks Blog, Imagineer Chris Beatty and Executive Chef Mike. After dinner they we were all available for meet and greets along with other Imagineers in the West Wing.

L'amour Vrai
L’amour Vrai
Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith
Chris Beatty
Chris Beatty
Executive Chef Mike
Executive Chef Mike

The highlight of the evening for me was the amazing meal to which we were treated. It started with the beautiful light up goblets serving L’amour Vrai: all natural fruit juice punch with wild berry extract and lemon lime foam. Fresh warm rolls and butter started the meal off right. For an appetizer I had the potato leek soup and Shalon had the french onion soup. Both were fantastic! I love this soup just as much as at Rose and Crown where it is my favorite appetizer there. My entree was the incredible pan-seared salmon on leek fondue with creamy saffron crushed potatoes and Shalon ordered the thyme-scented pork rack chop with au gratin macaroni, seasonal vegetables and red wine jus. I don’t even like pork chops and I tried some of Shalon’s and loved it. The meat was so juicy and tender and my salmon was cooked to perfection.

Potato leek soup
Potato leek soup
French onion soup
French onion soup
Salmon
Salmon
Pork chop
Pork chop

Dessert was a thing of sheer brilliance, especially on Shalon’s part. Having just come off of a Disney Cruise, she was accustomed to being able to order multiple desserts and figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask here. Melissa was very nice and accommodated our request, so we each had two desserts. I started with the strawberry cream cheese cupcake with vanilla sponge cake, strawberry mousse filling and cream cheese icing, then tried the gluten-free, no sugar added lemon-raspberry cream puff filled with lemon custard. I actually preferred the latter to my surprise! Shalon had the chocolate cream puff filled with chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and then her favorite the triple chocolate cupcake with chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache. We even got to try the grey stuff.

Dessert cart
Dessert cart
Strawberry cream cheese cupcake and lemon raspberry cream puff
Strawberry cream cheese cupcake and lemon raspberry cream puff
Chocolate cream puff
Chocolate cream puff
Triple chocolate cupcake
Triple chocolate cupcake
The Grey Stuff
The Grey Stuff
Lemon meringue cupcake
Lemon meringue cupcake
The Grey Stuff by goblet light
The Grey Stuff by goblet light
Be Our Guest ballroom
Be Our Guest ballroom

Once the meal concluded, we were free to roam about the restaurant and take pictures and meet with the Imagineers and chef to ask any questions. Also, to our surprise, we were also given the opportunity to have our pictures taken with the Beast in the library. Shalon and I won signed copies of the poster all guests received at the Disney Parks Blog meetup and were able to meet the artist, Jeff Maurer, to get them personalized. On the way out we were given our choice of cupcakes to go so I got the triple chocolate cupcake which was the best dessert I had.

The Beast in his castle
The Beast in his castle
Beauty and the Beast music box
Beauty and the Beast music box
Artist Jeff Maurer
Artist Jeff Maurer
Me and the Beast
Me and the Beast

The evening was absolutely amazing from the atmosphere to the food to the service. From previous experience at the restaurant in dress rehearsal mode, I was very impressed with the level of the presentation of service we received. I cannot wait to go back and try some of the other items on the menu like the sauteed shrimp and scallops and mussels provencal. This was yet another magnificent production put on by the crew at the Disney Parks Blog and I look forward to future events they host. I hope you all get a chance to experience this great addition to New Fantasyland!

Gaston's Tavern
Gaston’s Tavern
Prince Eric's Castle
Prince Eric’s Castle
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iPad Used At The Carmel Café & Wine Bar For An Improved Dining Experience

Carmel Cafe iPad

Recently I went to Carmel Café & Wine Bar in Sarasota for a friend’s birthday lunch. It was my first time visiting the restaurant and was very pleasantly surprised by what I encountered. The aesthetics were nice and it was welcoming and comforting from when you enter. What I was most excited about after I walked in was seeing the stack of Apple iPads on a table by the hostess stand.

I immediately asked the hostess jokingly if we got iPads to play with during our meal. Surprisingly, she said we got one, but not to play with. She explained as she escorted us to our table that the iPads are used for ordering. The menus are all on there along with the ability to order.

I had a new toy to play with during lunch and couldn’t wait to explore the functionality! The menus were very clearly laid out and featured full color pictures as well as written descriptions of each menu item. You could swipe from right to left to select the next category from appetizers to entrees, beverages to dessert. You also have the ability to search from the menu at the top and quickly jump to the desired category instead of scrolling through them.

Flatbread menu
Menu Search
Gluten Free Menu
Vegetarian Menu

This was such an awesome experience! To be able to control your food and the timing and not have to depend on servers to come around was great. We first ordered our drinks, then appetizers, then when we were getting towards the end of our first course, we ordered our entrees. This made the process so much smoother and more fun than the typical dining experience. Service was prompt and the timing flowed much better instead of food being brought out before you were ready only to get cold, or long after you had finished your previous course.

Our server still stopped by periodically, but it felt like at natural times to see about water refills, instead of the often annoyance of a server coming too frequently or not frequently enough. This felt like we had more control over our meal and the experience was made more enjoyable by the technology Carmel Café brought to the table. We even had the ability to see our check as we added items to our order on the iPad.

On top of the amazing use of technology to ameliorate our meal, the food was excellent. There were tons of healthy options including gluten free and vegetarian menu options. I cannot wait to go back to Carmel Café again since this was such a pleasurable experience and the food was great! They even offer great specials like “After 5 at Carmel,” which feature $5.00 wines, small plates and martinis on weeknights from 5-7pm, Wine Wednesdays, and Prix Fixe Dinners for 2. In addition to the Sarasota restaurant, they have locations in Tampa and Clearwater.

I highly recommend Carmel Café and hope that some of this use of the iPad technology will spread to other restaurants and maybe even to our theme parks. I was recently listening to an episode of the Betamouse podcast from last year and they talked about their desire to see something of this nature at Walt Disney World. I would love to see this come to fruition in the near future whether by iPad or even your own smartphone. Like they say in Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom, “What will they think up next? … Who know? We’ve got a whole new century waiting for us out there.”

If you are interested in learning more about how Carmel Café uses Apple technology to improve the dining experience, check out this video here on Apple’s website.

Carmel Cafe bar
Carmel Cafe dining room
Grilled Lemon Chicken & Artichoke description
Grilled Lemon Chicken & Artichoke flatbread
Soup Menu
Tomato Basil soup
Glass of red wine
BLTA description
BLTA Sandwich with Fresh Fruit
Grilled Chicken Caprese description
Grilled Chicken Caprese Salad
Check details
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Roccos Tacos – A Mexican Restaurant With Flair

Roccos Tacos
Roccos Tacos

Roccos Tacos and Tequila Bar is a fabulous new restaurant located on West Sand Lake Road in Orlando. The decor is very eclectic and representative of what one would find in the tequila region of Mexico.  There are beautiful star shaped chandeliers as well as masks of all shapes and sizes along the walls.  The restaurant houses three bars, one outside as you approach the front door, another just inside the main entrance, and a third which opens to the outdoor patio situated with a charming lake view.  Starting at 9 PM nightly, a live DJ plays a variety of upbeat music, setting a fun and party like atmosphere.  The dress code is casual while maintaining a hip and trendy vibe. It’s a family friendly environment but can get very loud so take that into consideration with young children. Dining reservations can be made by phone and walk-ups are taken as well.  There is complimentary valet which is recommended due to the limited availability of parking.

Enough logistics, let’s discuss the food!  It’s delicious! The menu can be described as upscale Mexican cuisine with a variety of choices.  One of the house specialties is the guacamole prepared tableside. Eaten with the house made tortilla chips, it’s almost a meal in itself.  Another great appetizer choice is the Queso Fundido Con Chorizo, which is simply a casserole of cheese, Chili’s, and chorizo sausage baked in an iron skillet and served with flour tortillas.  There are a variety of other appetizers to choose from, but be sure to save room for the main course!

Rocco’s offers an array of entree choices including salads, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, and combination plates. Within our group, we had the California fish tacos, the chimichanga Nationale, and the carne asada soft tacos.  The fish tacos are filled with fried mahi mahi, served with cabbage slaw and avocado ranch, and come with rice and beans for $17.  The chimichanga is made with a spicy chicken, also served with rice and beans, and is $13.  The carne asada, or grilled skirt steak, tacos were $4.50 each. Speaking of tacos, Tuesday’s are a great time to visit for Taco Tuesdays.  For $14.95, it’s all you can eat tacos, in any combination of chicken, pork, spicy beef, steak, mahi, shrimp, chorizo and mushrooms.  You can choose from hard or soft shell tacos and all are served with taco sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, pickled red onions and cotija cheese.  The shrimp, mahi, and steak seemed to be the most popular. Rocco’s Tacos also has offerings for kids including chicken fingers, pasta, quesadillas, and hot dogs.

The bar at Rocco’s serves everything from tequila and margaritas to sangria, beer and wine. They have 225 varieties of tequila ranging in price from $6 to $85.  The flavored margaritas are not to be missed including pomegranate, mango, and blood orange.  When owner Rocco Mangel is in the restaurant, he can be found on the bar in his white platform shoes pouring free Patron to the sounds of the song “Tequila!” A great non-alcoholic treat is the “REAL” Coca Cola made with real sugar cane in Mexico.

Rocco’s Tacos is a great place to go to hang out with friends, grab a drink, enjoy a meal, or bring the whole family. They serve lunch, dinner, and have a limited late night menu along with a full bar during all business hours.  The atmosphere and service are top notch as is the quality of the food and drinks.  Be sure to check out the newest location in Orlando or try one of the other four locations in South Florida.  Visit their website at www.RoccosTacos.com, friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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Pammie’s Sammies Grand-ReOpening!

Pammie's Sammies
Pammie’s Sammies
5907 Turkey Lake Road, Suite 100
Orlando, Florida 32819

I got the chance to swing by the Grand ReOpening of Pammies’ Sammies, located near the Universal Orlando Resort, and I have to say it was super yummy and a great place to just kick back and have a nice meal with friends or family.

Pammie’s Sammies is a family owned cafe that prides itself on being thoughtfully sourced, earth friendly and tastefully adventurous. Pam Thomas, the proprietor, puts an innovative spin on classic sandwiches (“sammies”), burgers, BBQ, soups and salads. As part of the grand reopening, Pammie’s Sammies has expanded to include a craft beer and wine bar and will now serve happy hour bar bites and dinner entrees in addition to their original breakfast and lunch offerings.

While the food is absolutely delicious, their Cuban was my favorite and Zoe has been asking for more brownies, it is Pam herself that really creates an atmosphere of fun and hospitality that makes you feel like you are a friend just dropping in for a bite to eat.

And when I say it’s located near the Universal Orlando Resort, I mean you can SEE Universal Studios Florida from there windows, which make it an ideal place to stop before or after heading into the parks.

If you are looking for an affordable, fun, and delicious place to grab a great Sammie, I would definitely suggest heading over to Pammie’s Sammies!

Pammie's Sammies
Pammie Herself
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