Adventures in Dining

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Old Hickory Steakhouse, Tour de Fromage, Spain, August 18, 2007 August 19, 2007

Filed under: Gaylord Palms — hpandaw @ 1:48 am

We’d read about the Old Hickory Steakhouse’s Tours de Fromage in a local paper, so we called right away (about a month in advance) and made reservations for this event. The newspaper article had the time wrong: it said that the event started at 12 noon. When we called for reservations, no one mentioned this, but it was only when I called the week before to confirm and happened to ask about the time that I was told it was actually at 4 pm. The hostess said that there had been a few articles with various times: 12 noon, 6 pm, 5 pm, so we were fortunate to have called in advance.

A word about parking at the Gaylord Palms: it stinks. We couldn’t believe that it costs more to park at some convention center than it does to park at Disney! And that the restaurants didn’t validate for parking, so we were stuck with a whopping $12 parking fee. Sheesh.

There was a chiropractor’s conference going on that day, so we had to park far in the back of the building, out in BFE. We approached a canopied entrance that said, “Entrance of the Stars.” Apparently we weren’t considered stars, because we were turned away and told to hail down any passing black vans that we could find. These “shuttles” (not labeled, of course) would take us to the front entrance of the convention center. Hoping it wasn’t a van full of Iranian terrorists, we flagged down an approaching unmarked black van and, lo and behold, the driver very kindly offered to drive us to the front entrance. This still left us walking from there to the actual hotel in 90+ degree weather, but half a loaf and all that.

The moral of the story, Children, is to arrive early enough to walk a half-marathon around and through this building if you have reservations for an event inside the hotel. And don’t be afraid to climb right into unmarked black vans – the drivers are your friends!

We arrived at the Old Hickory Steakhouse, hot, dishevelled, and slightly out of breath, with five minutes to spare. Go us! We then had to wait until around 4:05, when our host came to seat us.

A word about the dress code: it is business casual. And please keep in mind that it is a cheese and wine tasting, which requires the use of all of your olfactory senses, so drenching yourself in perfume will impair the experience not only for you, but for everyone else at the tasting. The room is exceedingly small, with a maximum of 30 guests.

We were fortunate enough to be seated at our own table, but one poor couple got stuck at a table for five and were joined by three 50’s-60’s-ish women dressed for a formal wedding and reeking of scent. It was enough to discommode everyone in the room. We’d go to smell the wines or cheeses, and all we were getting was eau de middle-aged-ladies. After it was over, our Maitre de Fromage, Kayla, asked us for suggestions for future events, and I suggested having the hostess taking reservations remind guests not to wear heavy amounts of perfume. At a tasting, that kind of thing can really mar everyone’s experience. Kayla agreed and immediately knew who we were talking about.

But now on to the actual event!

Our first cheese was Garroxta, a goat’s milk cheese from (where else?) Spain, though the paired wine was a champagne: Chartogne-Taillet “Cuvee St. Anne”, NV. This was a 50/50 mix of Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, and it was a grower’s champagne, which meant hand-selected the grapes that (s)he wanted and made the wine himself, as opposed to selling the grapes to the negociant, who would buy the grapes for a large house. The negociants are looking for a certain flavor & consistency, whereas the growers are looking for grapes that are representative of their terroir. This wine had very small bubbles and apples on the nose. The sommelier (John Glover of Augusta Wine Imports) commented that this wine was sweet, which we actually didn’t get until after we’d tasted this champagne again after the next cheese.

The Garroxta itself was very good. It was mild, not extremely goaty, yet not without goat, if that makes sense. I like my cheese to be animally, and this was, but no offensively, in-your-face animally cheese. Kayla suggested that we pair this with the quince jelly or the date. To me, the quince jelly was a bit overpowering with this very mild cheese. The quince jelly was delicious and sweet, but when you paired it with the cheese, you tasted – quince jelly. The date did much better. It had a mild enough taste to accentuate rather than overwhelm the Garroxta.

Our next cheese was a sheep’s milk cheese, a Zamorano. This was interesting, because it definitely had what Kayla called a “sheep’s bite.” It almost made the back and top of the mouth itch, if that makes sense. This cheese was better with the wine, and it was creamier than a Manchego.

The wine paired with this was a Jose Palactos Petalos Mencia from Spain. This grape varietal was genetically similar to a Cabernet Franc. The wine tasted a bit like licorice and was better with the cheese. The cheese made the wine taste smoother; by itself, the wine’s tannins were a bit much.

Our third and final cheese (yes, were were disappointed that a “tour”de fromage consisted of only three cheeses) was our favorite, the Mahon. This was actually very similar to an extremely stinky cheese that we’d bought at the Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York this summer, from a New Jersey cheesemaker. The Jersey cheese had been stinkier then this one, and it had also been creamier. This cheese had a similar pungency, though. Kayla said that when she first tasted it, she took a big bite and had to spit it out!  The Mahon was very tangy and very salty, and we enjoyed it in small, deliciously interesting bites.  I picked up notes of apricot, while my husband thought it was reminiscent of a really funky cheddar.  It was so odd that we both immediately declared this to be our favorite of the three cheeses.

The wine paired with this cheese was an Atalayas de Golban from Spain.  This was from Tempranillo old vines that have never been re-planted, grafted, or changed.  Apparently soil conditions and the altitude of these vines made them resistant to phyloxera.  It was a so-so wine and didn’t impress us in any way.  It tasted a bit smoky, whereas I like my wines to be a bit more fruity.

Here are the cheeses, with the Garroxta on the far right, the Mahon in the middle, and the Zamorano on the left.  The slice of red is quince jelly.  Just below this is the date, and just below that is a fig cake, which my husband enjoyed.  I don’t care for figs – I don’t like the seeds.

When we were seated at our table, the two red wines were already poured.  This was good, because the wine had a chance to breathe, but bad because a bug had flown into one of my glasses and I had to request a new one.  The interior of the Gaylord Palms is an ersatz tropical forest, so flies happen.

We were actually quite disappointed in the sommelier from Augusta Wine Imports.  I don’t know whether it was his first event, or whether he was nervous, or whether he just didn’t give a rat’s a**, but he made no effort to circulate or talk to the guests about the wines.  He stood in the front of the room, gave a short spiel about each one, then waited at the bar for the next wine to be introduced.  At one point, he stepped outside to make a phone call.  We were expecting him to be a bit more like the vineyard representatives we’d encountered at the Jiko wine dinner.

Overall, for $30 per person, it wasn’t a bad deal for three cheeses and three glasses of wine, though I was expecting more cheeses to make it an actual “tour.”  I also had thought that it might be nice to be seated banquet style, to inspire guests to converse about the cheeses and wines, but instead we were at our own tables.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise when the perfume ladies walked in.  Even though we could smell them, it would have been much worse if we’d been seated next to them.

 

California Grill, August 7, 2007 August 16, 2007

Filed under: Disney Restaurants — hpandaw @ 8:47 pm

When we arrived at the check-in desk downstairs in the Contemporary, we asked the hostess whether it would be possible to wait for a window seat. She said that she would see what she could do, and she radioed upstairs to let them know that a couple at Disney for their anniversary was requesting a window seat. She then warned us that it might be a bit of a wait and sent us up on the elevator.

When we arrived on the 15th floor, we wandered out to the outside walkway, fully expecting to spend quite a while out there. The walkway had a good amount of people on it, waiting for a table, so we assumed that it would take a bit of time to get a table. Wrong! Within 5 minutes our pager was buzzing, and we were off, to be seated at the most glorious table in all of Christendom. Coincidentally enough, this was the same table we were given last year, so perhaps it’s now a tradition for us?

To show you just how magnificent this table was, I’ll post two photos of our view:

And this:

Both of these photos were taken from the table. Fantabulous, hmm?

Now, I have to give a disclaimer about the photos that will accompany this review. They kind of stink. My husband said that the ISO was set wrong (?), and so they look extremely funky. But you will get the idea, at least, of the presentation & the quantity of the portions.

For our appetizer, we began with Yoshi’s Deluxe Sushi Platter. We both love sushi! And we both really love the California Grill sushi, which is always inventive and always fresh. For example, one of the items on the sushi platter was a roll with fried shrimp inside. My husband’s fried shrimp roll had a piece of strawberry in it, which we’ve had before, and we both love. The tart, juicy strawberry contrasts so nicely with the warm, crispy-coated shrimp. Heavenly… My fried shrimp roll had pieces of melon inside it, which was a nice surprise. Again, the crispness of the melon went very well with the tempura fried shrimp.

The rest of the items were fairly standard rolls & nigiri, some with slight twists like the fish with lemon zest over it. All of the pieces of fish were tender, soft, and very, very delicious. We enjoyed this dish was much as we usually do.

For his entree, my husband elected to go with the BLT flatbread. He was saving room for the cheese platter here! He really liked the bacon on it; it was good quality bacon and was quite thick. He wished that the cheese had had a little more flavor to it, but the crust was nice; crispy and well-seasoned. The lettuce was interesting, because he wasn’t used to lettuce on a pizza, but he liked it. He thought that the tomatoes were a bit juicy, and he wished that they’d been drained a little better. Overall, he enjoyed this selection, though he couldn’t finish it. By the end, the richness of the cheese & the heaviness of the bacon were too much for him.

My entree was another sushi platter: the Yellowfin Tuna Three Ways, poki, tataki, and tartare. The poki was just large-ish, competely raw chunks of tuna, topped with something that was funky looking and bright green. I don’t know what it was, but I enjoyed it! Each of the three items was topped with a different color caviar. The poki had red caviar; the tataki had green caviar; the tartare had yellow caviar.

The tataki was very nice, though I have to give the edge to the Flying Fish’s version of this. The outside was lightly seared, and the inside was nice and rare, but I had been really wowed by the Flying Fish chef’s use of interesting spices on the crust of their tuna tataki. In comparison, this one was a bit bland.

I saved the tuna tartare for last, because it’s usually my favorite, but this one, while good, was actually a touch too spicy for my taste. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t tolerate heat well, so a normal person may find the level of heat to be just right. The small cubes of mango mixed in with the tuna were quite nice, and I enjoyed their fruitiness. It complemented the tuna very well.

For dessert, we couldn’t wait for the cheese plate! The cheeses were, from first to last:

  • Coulommiers- a bit mroe flavor than a brie; liked
  • Lionza- mild
  • Flixer- good to see you, old friend!  Thanks for the Flying Fish memories
  • Clochette- good, not too goaty
  • Hubbardston Blue- not memorable, at least at this point

We took our time eating these cheeses, savoring each one; I liked them all. The cheese plate at the California Grill costs $2 more than the one at the Flying Fish, and we didn’t know why that was, except possibly because the California Grill serves larger portions of cheese. We were quite pleased with the size of the cheese wedges here.

Our server was so kind as to bring us out a slice of possibly the richest chocolate cake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We couldn’t quite finish it, but we made a good effort! It was lovely, with a thick, cold, extremely rich chocolate ganache layered between the slices of soft, moist chocolate cake.

For those interested in dining at the California Grill, the dress code is business casual. Shorts and tank tops are out of place here. Sushi platters average $20, and entrees range from $23-35. The flatbreads are a relatively affordable entree alternative with a $10-$14 price tag.

Many people come solely for the view, which is a mistake. Odds are against ever being given a window seat, especially around fireworks time. For as many times as we’ve been to the California Grill, we’ve only gotten a window seat twice: our past two visits. If you don’t have a window seat, forget about trying to view from within the restaurant. People at the bar will shout at you to move and crouch down, even if you happen to be barely 5 feet tall (I know this from experience!). And people on the viewing walkway will shove you around. Apparently fireworks at Disney are the equivalent of a shipment of food to the Sudan. People are ready to hurt you, just to get a better fireworks view. It’s a scary thing.

But the food alone is worth visiting for. In many ways, I wish they’d move Chef Mickey’s up here and just create a Lord of the Flies-esque pandemonium on Floor 15, while letting those of us who enjoy good cuisine quietly eat our California Grill meals, sans shoving or yelling, in a less view-centered arena.

 

Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table, August 4, 2007 August 13, 2007

Filed under: Disney Restaurants — hpandaw @ 11:41 pm

Since we had our wedding reception at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant, we return here every year for our anniversary. We prefer to eat at the Chef’s Table, even if we can’t get it on quite the right date, which happened to be the case this year.

Even though the Chef’s Table is in the kitchen, the dress code is still formal, with jacket required for men and a similar level of formality for women. Once seated at the Chef’s Table, though, men can remove their jackets, which is a big no-no in the main room. The primary advantage of the Chef’s Table is twofold: 1. You get to sample EVERYTHING and 2. You get to interact with the chefs and watch them at work.

On this particular evening, Chef Scott was off, so Sous Chef Aimee was our chef for the evening. My husband selected to go with the wine pairings, but we all started off with a champagne toast: Hiedsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut Champagne, NV.

Our amuse bouche course was incredible, so we began the meal with exuberance. The Cream of Cashew soup was sweet and incredibly creamy, and the candied cashews added an interesting crunchy texture that contrasted nicely with the thick creaminess of the soup. There were small pieces of squash in the soup that my husband could have done without; he felt that they didn’t add anything to either the flavor or the texture.

The next amuse was Lobster en Crepe with Vanilla Aioli. In contrast to the soup, this was very light and delicate. We wished that it had a bit more flavor; the strongest taste came from the vanilla. I wished that there had been more caviar, because there is usually a caviar-based amuse bouche.

Our final amuse was Monterey Abalone with Preserved Lemon. Neither of us had ever had abalone before, so this was a new taste for us. In my husband’s words, it tasted like “an awesome fried clam.” It was clean and tender, with a bright taste, and was fried delicately, so that it wasn’t greasy at all. This dish and the cashew soup both had that “wow” factor.

My husband’s first course was Seared Colorado Buffalo Tenderloin, Braised Fennel, Radishes and Blood Orange Vinaigrette. He could only taste the outside of the tenderloin: the sear and the seasoning. The inside wasn’t as flavorful, so it got lost in the stronger flavor of the crust, which tasted almost like beef jerky. The blood oranges had an exotic taste, like oranges with an interesting twist. The wine paired with this was the Cantina Del Taburno Falanghina, Campania 2005.

My first course was upsetting to me, mainly because it included *gasp!* prosciutto. As I’d specifically told them that I didn’t eat meat, and as Chef Aimee had confirmed this with me prior to the start of the meal, I was surprised that they’d made this glaring omission to their usually dietary vigilance. I peeled the prosciutto off and gave it to my husband, and then proceeded to eat the (no longer) Prosciutto Wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Melon Coulis and Pickled Watermelon.

This dish was very good, nice and light; the melon coulis gave a faintly sweet, fresh taste to the shrimp. Except for the pig, I enjoyed it very much.

Our next dishes were similar, yet different: two variations on one theme. My husband had the Crab Stuffed Tempura Squash Bloom with Grape Must Mustard. The tempura batter was light, not greasy, and the crab was sweet, which provided a nice foil for the fried batter. This dish was great. The mustard was creamy, not too pungent or strong, and it was light enough to pair with the crab without overpowering it. Every ingredient was beautifully matched. It was the kind of dish that, if we tried to make it at home, the mustard would be too strong, or the crab would be too tasteless, or the batter would be too greasy, but somehow the chefs at Victoria & Albert’s harmonized these ingredients beautifully. He ate it all, even the stem! His wine with this was one of our favorites, Caymus Conundrum, California, 2001.

My dish was a Vegetable Ratatouille Stuffed Tempura Squash Bloom with Tomato Broth. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish. I’d had the crab stuffed squash blossom before and had been a big fan, so I was at first disappointed to get a different version. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of tomato broth, but, again, every ingredient worked so well together. The faintly tart tomato cut through the light, fluffy, crispy tempura batter, while the bits of vegetable added an interest to the texture. My husband offered to half his squash blossom with me, but after tasting mine, I said that I’d prefer to stick with my own dish, though I did taste his.

My husband’s next course was a Pondichery Peppered Quail with a Four Grain Pancake, Georgia Peaches and Corn. He said that this was so nice. The best part was the cracked pepper on top of the quail egg; it tasted like no other cracked pepper he’d ever had, and it worked well with the quail. The theme was pancakes and eggs, and the pancake was okay. It was a nice background but didn’t really add anything to the dish. The quail was juicy, tender, and extremely flavorful. The egg was too small; he wanted more of it. It was cooked sunny side up just perfectly: a little past soft, so that it didn’t run everywhere, but still had a nice liquidity to it. The wine paired with this was a Grans-Fassian Auslese Trittenheimer Apotheke, Pfalz 2002, and it was off-dry. He liked this wine very much.

My next dish was a Vegetarian Consommee with Potato Gnocchi and Morels Mushrooms. I thought that this was the weakest of all of my dishes. The vegetable broth was very light, and, though it had some flavor, it was still lacking oomph. I was underwhelmed. The potato gnocchi was very light and fluffy, but, again, wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.

My husband’s next dish was a Ballotine of Poulet Rouge with Duck Consomme and Morels. This was his weakest dish. The duck and the consomme were both rich and flavorful, but the chicken didn’t go very well with the mushrooms. The chicken was too mild tasting, and didn’t pair well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. He thought it was a weak match. Boiled chicken by itself has a wimpy taste anyway, so there probably wasn’t much they could have done to make this dish interesting or exotic. The wine with this was a Newton Red Label Chardonnay, Napa 2005.

I had the Seared Wild Turbot with Brown Butter Sauce and Toasted Capers. Chef Aimee said that Turbot was her favorite fish, and I agreed that it tasted wonderful. The fish was deliciously flavorful, and the rich, creamy brown butter sauce contrasted beautifully with the tartness of the capers. Despite the rich sauce, this dish was not too heavy at all.

My husband then had the Duo of Pan Roasted and Chilled Terrine of Foie Gras. The foie gras had a great taste, but it was a bit greasy and weighed heavier than it normally would have, given how full he was. It was slightly over-salted, as well. In comparison with the foie gras he’d recently had at Per Se, this was a disappointment. It still had a great taste, but he’s had better foie gras there. This was paired with Royal Tokaji Azsu 5 Puttonyos, Mad Tokaj-Hegyalja 2000, which we’ve had before. We always enjoy this dessert wine.

The terrine was rich, and it tasted very much like a richer, gamier version of a chicken liver pate. It was heavier than the seared foie gras, and he wished that they’d just served him the foie gras, not the duo.

My next course was Virginia Beach Striped Bass with Oyster Sauce and Asian Vegetables. The bass was good, and the oyster sauce added a nice flavor to the mild taste of the fish. The sauce was enjoyable, but not outstanding; it tasted like standard oyster sauce.

My husband’s main course was a Tasting of Japanese “Wagyu” and Australian “Kobe” Beef Tenderloin with Oxtail Jus. This was paired with a Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc 2003.

The Australian “kobe” was tender like butter. He didn’t really need to use the knife with this. The flavor, also, was mild. He’s had this several times before, at just about every meal. The jus had an anise, licorice flavor to it and was very rich.

The Japanese Wagyu, in comparison, was like night and day. It had so much more beef flavor. It was extremely well seasoned and had more marbling, which is probably why it had so much more flavor. He definitely preferred the wagyu to the “kobe.”

The shortribs that accompanied this dish were the one of the richest things he’s ever eaten. They were nicely shredded, not fatty, but a bit greasy. They felt heavy in his mouth, and he could barely finish this dish, not because of the way it tasted, but because of where it was placed in the meal. The shortribs tasted great, though he has to give the preference to the pork shortribs that Chef Aimee does also.

My next dish was an Alaskan King Salmon with Bamboo Rice Blend,Coconut Broth. The salmon was great. It had a lot of flavor, and there were crispy, very salted pieces of salmon that tasted almost like bacon. I enjoyed it very much, especially since I’m a big salmon fan but don’t often get salmon of this quality.

The bamboo rice was flavorful. Again, it was very salty, but it tasted more like something that I could get in a good Chinese restaurant, instead of something truly special and unique.

We then each had a cheese course next: a Comte Saint Antoine, Pierre Robert, Monte Enebro and Fourme D’Ambert. Unfortunately, we don’t remember much about these! The Comte Saint Antoine was rather mild, as the first cheese, and the Pierre Robert had more flavor than the triple creme cheeses usually do. The Monte Enebro was a goat’s cheese that was very good, and the Fourme D’Ambert was quite mild for a blue cheese. My husband’s final wine was a Cockburn’s 10 year old Tawny Porto. I prefer a 20 year tawny port, since the flavor is just much richer, but this one was quite good also.

We then had a course of fruity desserts: Wild Strawberry Sorbet, Mango-Yogurt Panna Cotta and Miniature Banana Gateau. The sorbet was a nice palate cleanser, and we preferred this course of fruit-based desserts followed by a chocolate dessert to the meals from years past when we had a chocolate course followed by another heavy or rich dessert. The Mango-Yogurt Panna Cotta was also light and refreshing, and the banana gateau was very sweet and creamy, but still fairly light.

Our final course was the chocolate course: Tanzanian Chocolate Pyramid, Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle and Peruvian Chocolate Ice Cream and Puff Pastry. Of these three items, we’d had two before: the souffle and the pyramid. The ice cream and puff pastry was new to us on this trip, and I didn’t like the way it looked. It reminded me of a small, spiky animal. It wasn’t enough to keep me from tasting it, but I just didn’t find the presentation to be very appealing.

Of the three chocolate dishes, my least favorite was the Peruvian Chocolate Ice Cream. My husband agreed that it was nothing special, but he thought that it was the best of the three! He said this was probably because it was cold and at that point, he was so full that he wanted something a bit more refreshing. The chocolate pyramid was a deliciously rich mousse, though the Kona chocolate souffle was too heavy for me to eat at this point in the meal! Each time we eat at the Chef’s Table, we come with empty stomachs and try to do justice to all of the courses, but we never quite make it. Still, I’d prefer having too much fantastic food at Victoria & Albert’s than a few good courses and stingy portions at Per Se.

And, as always, we finished with a delicious cup of coffee, brewed in the Cona coffee maker:

Overall, this was an immensely enjoyable experience. We always appreciate the care and attention to detail that go into our meals at Victoria & Albert’s. The service was very smooth, and the only glitch was the prosciutto that found its way into my shrimp dish. This was disappointing, but not enough to prevent us from returning, and neither are the rapidly rising dinner prices 🙂

 

Sunshine Seasons Food Fair, August 5 & 7

Filed under: Disney Restaurants — hpandaw @ 9:20 pm

We visited this counter service restaurant twice, only getting a soup on our first trip.  The reason for this was that we’d eaten lunch earlier that day at the Kringla Bakeri Og Cafe, and then we went off to do the Aqua Tour.  All the swimming left me hungry after a relatively light lunch, so I suggested that we stop by the Sunshine Seasons for a quick snack.  Hence not one, but two days of reviews rolled together.

Our first meal consisted of a bowl of creamy tomato soup and the accompanying giganto cracker.  It pretty much tasted like creamy tomato soup with an immensely large cracker.  The soup was about mid-range creamy, not rich and luscious, but definitely not pure tomato juice.  This dish was a great comfort food, and I think they should offer it during the winter time for guests facing down the blizzards of Central Florida.

One of the reasons why we like this place is that it has a variety of stations, so there’s pretty much something for everyone.  There is a salad bar, for those attempting to stay on a diet while at Disney World (good luck with that).  There is an Asian bar, which I never try, since it seems to consist mostly of meat offerings.  There is a sandwich bar, a dessert bar, and, finally, there is my favorite bar: the warm foods bar.  At this bar, you can choose from salmon or chicken, and you get to pick two vegetable sides.

I chose the salmon with mashed potatoes and carrots as my sides.  Since Tusker House has fallen victim to the notorious Disney Dining Plan, the salmon here at Sunshine Seasons has become my favorite counter-service salmon.  It’s got flavorful char marks on it, and it served warm with a cold kalamata olive sauce.  The mashed potatoes were also pretty good.  They weren’t extremely creamy, but they weren’t dry at all.  There were big pieces of red potato skin in this item.

My husband’s sandwich was a Turkey and Muenster sandwich, which was far too dry.  It needed more chipotle mayonnaise to make it palatable.  The turkey and cheese here were just standard, grocery store deli counter fare, and the chipotle mayonnaise was nice, but  they’d skimped on this necessary ingredient.

Overall, we would return, though my husband would probably order something different.  I continue to order the same salmon dish every time we eat here, because it is decent quality counter service food.  My only complaint is that they don’t accept the Disney Dining Experience discount here.

 

Kringla Bakeri Og Cafe, August 5, 2007

Filed under: Disney Restaurants — hpandaw @ 9:06 pm

This was just a quick counter service meal for us, so we decided to split the Daily Chef’s Selection, which came with an open-faced ham sandwich, a cup of Jarlsberg and Leek soup, and a Veiled Maiden.

Since we were on vacation, my husband was eating meat, though I was remaining a pescatarian, so he took the ham sandwich.  He said that this was okay, but nothing great.  The ham was just deli counter ham that we could purchase at any grocery store.  It also didn’t have mayonnaise on the sandwich, so he had to add this.

I was expecting the Jarlsberg and Leek soup to be creamy, but it wasn’t.  If anything, it was quite watery, and it badly needed salt.  Fortunately, they had little salt packets at the condiment table, so I was able to amend this need.

Our dessert was a Veiled Maiden, which turned out to be sweet baked apples layered in between whipped cream.  It was okay, but, again, was quite bland.  Since I just had the bland soup and the bland dessert, my general impression was one of excrutiating mediocrity.  An ingredient with a more interesting texture would have added to this dish, raising it from a mushy mediocrity to something even faintly memorable.  Oh, well…

We probably would not return here for lunch, since there are other, better counter service choices available in the Epcot park.  Our general consensus was, “Eh.”

 

Flying Fish Cafe, August 6, 2007

Filed under: Disney Restaurants — hpandaw @ 8:37 pm

We’d been to the Flying Fish several times before, and have consistently been unimpressed, but this restaurant recently acquired a new chef (Tim Keating, I believe?), so we were willing to give him a chance.

Our server started us out with some bread, which was so nice.  The bread was still warm, and it had a lovely hard crust on it that went very well with the soft, creamy butter.

My husband started with the Main Lobster Bisque with roasted sweet corn & crab salad and chive oil.  This was quite good, and very creamy.  It was actually heavier than he’d anticipated, but he liked the taste.  The corn kernels in the bisque were a nice surprise, but, if they were going for additional texture, he would have preferred chunks of lobster.

I decided to have two appetizers, one as my appetizer and one as my entree, in order to save room for the cheese plate we’d been eyeing for dessert.  On the recommendation of my server, I had the Duo of Yellowfin Tuna alla Mediterranee (tartare, avruga caviar, and quail egg as one, and Moroccan-spiced loin, tomato, piquillo and olive compote as the other).   This was outstanding, so much so that I wished that I’d ended with this dish rather than beginning with it.  I like to work my way up to the best.

The Moroccan-spiced loin was great; it was served cold and raw in the center, though lightly seared on the outside.  The Moroccan spices here added so much to this item, and really complemented the mild flavor of the tuna.  They were faintly sweet, and it was spicy without having much heat, which is good, since I don’t tolerate heat well.

My favorite of the two, though, was the tuna tartare.  It tasted as lovely as it looked.  The soft, buttery tuna, the gentle pop of the caviar, the smooth dark taste of the yolk, and the crispness of the quail egg white all melded perfectly.  I enjoyed it very much, and I took my time, savoring every small bite.

My husband’s next dish was Lemon Myrtle Scented Maine Diver Scallops & Black Tiger Shrimp, served with tomato-mushroom polenta cake, forest mushrooms, corn & lobster roe emulsion.  We both thought that this  dish was simply outstanding.  The server had warned my husband ahead of time that the scallops were quite small this time of year, so they gave him four small scallops in lieu of two larger ones.  The server also asked him how he’d like the scallops to be cooked, which was a nice touch, since he is quite particular about how his scallops are done.

The dish was truly a myriad of flavors, his favorite of which was the lobster roe emulsion.  I particularly enjoyed the very flavorful polenta.  There were so many flavors in this dish, but, unlike those we tried at Blue Zoo, these flavors all harmonized beautifully with and complemented each other.  By the time he had finished this dish, my husband’s palate was a bit fatigued from so many different tastes.

My main dish was my second appetizer, the signature Crisp Jonah Lump Crab Cake over savory vegetable slaw and served with ancho chili remoulade.  I did not enjoy this at all.  The breading was not memorable in any way, and I wished that there had been large chunks of crab inside the crab cake.  The remoulade was much too spicy for me.  As I mentioned earlier, I don’t do well with too much heat, and I couldn’t finish this dish.  This dish has been on the menu through the past few chefs, the ones who didn’t dazzle us, and I was enjoying this new chef’s work so much that I wished I’d ordered something that had been his creation, instead of an old standby.  The vegetable slaw had celery seeds, and I have an antipathy to celery.

Our dessert was the tasting of five cheeses: Comte, Shelburne Two-year Cheddar, Flixer, Monte Enebro, and Rogue River Blue.  We are both fans of cheese: the more interesting, the better.  We found the Comte and the Shelburne to be inoffensive but too mild for our tastes.  The Flixer was more to my liking.  A sheep’s milk cheese, Flixer is mild in taste, but it has a very funky smell.  Mmmm…  Apparently it’s quite a rare cheese, made by only one cheesemaker in Switzerland, from his herd of 12 or so sheep.  The Monte Enebro was also very enjoyable.  It had a lovely, goaty taste, without being overpoweringly sharp as some goat cheeses can be.  This was again, quite mild, but it had a lot of flavor.  Finally, the Rogue River Blue was too much for my husband.  He couldn’t eat very much of it.  I liked it, because it lacked that ammonia taste that some blues have.  It was also fairly mild, for a blue cheese, but I’m not a huge blue cheese fan.

Overall, we would return to the Flying Fish.  We  enjoyed this chef’s inventive use of a variety of spices and ingredients in his dishes.  He has raised the quality of the Flying Fish from so-so to quite good, so we were pleased with our overall experience.  Our server was prompt and very courteous, though not exuding warmth.  We appreciated the way that she let us know in advance that the scallops were small and that she asked how my husband would like the scallops to be prepared.