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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tokyo Dining - Sushi & Sake or Thank The Gods It Isn't California Roll

Well this was my last day at Epcot and I hadn't planned for a sit down lunch since I was having dinner at Victoria & Alberts at 8:30pm. However it was POURING rain so I decided I would check out Tokyo Dining. I figured they might be able to get me in without a ressie since the rain was keeping people away.  

They sat me right away, gave me a window seat and were sooo polite! I didn't bring Bun with me due to the excessive rain however I had a very good time none the less.  

First let me clarify a few things about sushi. This will save you from looking like a dork in a real sushi bar: 
* California Roll is NOT real sushi! That isn't even real crab in there. It is crab flavored white fish. It was invented to help Americans with their "weird food fear". 
* Wasabi is NOT to be heaped into the bowl of soy sauce and stirred until it is a muddy paste! STOP IT!!!! It is insulting to the sushi Chef. Both the wasabi and soy are to lightly accent the fish. When you do the sludge thing, you are saying you want to taste wasabi and not the FISH. 
* Some pieces of sushi (that come with their own sauce) are NOT to be drug in soy sauce. 
* NEVER stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice. That indicates an offering to the dead. Either use a chop stick rest or place them sideways across the bowl of rice. 
* If you are dipping sushi in soy, pick the piece up with your chop sticks and touch them to the soy "upside down" so the top of the fish touches the sauce and not the rice. If you place it in the soy rice end first, it will tend to fall apart. 
* You will receive a warm washcloth before eating. This is for wiping your hands NOT for taking a BATH!!  

I also must say that I eat many things white people don't eat. I eat organs (like brains and sweetbreads), I eat live things, I eat things that move, I eat things that smell so rank it makes Mickey cry (like Durian). Doesn't mean I would eat Durian again but I try it. One of my favorite sushi offerings is Ama Ebi. They did not have any but they are raw sweet shrimp with the heads deep fried. one sushi chef I know calls the heads "Japanese French Fries". They are WONDERFUL!!!! One Chef also took the brain out after chopping their little heads off and gave it to me with a thin slice of lemon. It was still pulsing. YUMMY!  

Anyway, I ordered some hot sake (for such a cold day) and the following sushi dishes Maguro (Tuna) - they didn't have Toro which is a higher grade of tuna belly, Sake (Salmon), Unagi (Eel) and Ika (squid). They were out of Conch (you know those big shells Hawaiians blow) and Octopus. :sad1

This was very decent sushi. Not as good as the places in San Francisco but it was on par with your average sushi place. Some of the cuts of fish were a little on the thin side but the prices were a little lower than I have seen in sushi bars so I guess it evens out. Sushi can be an addicting and pricy enterprise. I have been known to eat $75 worth of sushi by myself. I also love Uni (Sea Urchin Gonads, which they didn't have) which is pretty pricey. This is a definite return for me even if they have "dumbed down US food" like California Roll and that abomination Philidelphia Roll on the menu. That Philly roll is GROSS! Cooked salmon, cream cheese and rice in a roll. BLECH! Had it at a place in Oakland (a friend ordered it) and I think it was near as bad as Durian and that is bad. Here if you are not a true Japanese sushi person or not an adventurous eater they have tempura, teriyaki and *shudder* California Roll. Have at, more conch for me however, please try one thing for me. Use chopsticks, not a fork. Really it isn't that hard, I learned when I was 8. Just try for me. Promise?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Partners - A Story of Statues

As you can see from the picture at the top of this blog, Walt & Mickey are partners in creative work, in Disneyland, in life. The bronze "Partners Statue" was installed in Disneyland in November, 1993. It is located in the circular hub in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. It is also surrounded by small bronze statues of Chip & Dale, Goofy and the White Rabbit among others.
A copy of these statues were added to Walt Disney World in front of Cinderella Castle in June of 1995, dedicated by Roy E. Disney

The "Partners," statue was sculpted by long time Imagineer artist Blaine Gibson. During the Halloween season, pumpkins sporting cut outs of Disney characters surround the hub with Walt's statue in both parks. Blaine contributed his sculpting talents to such attractions as the Haunted Mansion, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Enchanted Tiki Room. He also sculpted the faces for all of the Presidents for the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom.  Current President Barak Obama was his last.  Mr. Gibson is currently 90 years old.
The Magic Kingdom opened on October 1st, 1971 and this plaque commemorated all that had gone into furthering Walt's dream.  
The plaque above reads: Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place ... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.    Roy O. Disney  

Roy, Walt's brother, partner and "money guy" died 2 months after this dedication of a stroke.  However Blaine preserved his presence at the Park he finished for his brother.  While not as commanding as Walt's statue in front of the castle, this one conveys the more casual demeanor of Roy.   The "Sharing the Magic Statue" of Roy O. Disney seated with Minnie Mouse is located on a bench near the park's entrance. The statue was dedicated in October of 1999 by his son, Roy E. Disney, who recently passed away from cancer. He was just shy of his 80th birthday.
Here is me and "Pal Mickey" sitting next to Minnie and Roy.
Not only are these statues reminders of the great men who gave us the best playgrounds on Earth but are inspirations for what we can do if we dream it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out To Socialize - The Various Mansion Flavors From Abroad

Today I thought I would give everyone a brief intro to the Haunted Mansions that live in the non-USA parks.  The Haunted Mansion is the only attraction that is in a different land in each Park.  Well we know the original Mansion is in New Orleans Square and the WDW Mansion is in Liberty Square but what about the other ones and how are they different?
Haunted Mansion: Tokyo Disneyland (Fantasyland): opened 1983
Look familiar?  No, it's not the Haunted Mansion in WDW but you really can't tell these two apart from the outside at a glance.  The exterior is a copy of the Florida Mansion with a little more "wear and tear" however the ride itself is located in Fantasyland.  Why?  My guess for the exterior is that is was quick and cheaper than developing something original.  

The land placement issue has to do with Asian culture.  The departed spirits of their ancestors are very much a part of their lives.  Many families have Butsudan (shrines) in their homes to honor their ancestors.  "Ghosts" in Japanese lore are not friendly or humorous.  These spirits are vengeful, evil, jealous, angry.  They are not the same as their ancestors or other spirits in the world around them.  The Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland because Disney came at it from the point of view that these ghosts were make believe.  They were not real and thus were in Fantasyland.

The ride itself is mostly the Florida ride but with a few changes such as a room filled with cobwebs & spiders, a free floating spirit in Madame Leota's room and the old attic treatment with the "Bride" and the beating heart that freaked me out as a kid is here.

Phantom Manor: Disneyland Paris: formerly EuroDisney (Frontierland): opened 1992
Yes, I know, it looks like the Psycho house which is kind of cool.  Actually this was inspired by the original Haunted Mansion sketch from Harper Goff in 1951 when Walt thought of having a walk-through Haunted House off of Main Street.  He pictured a church with a graveyard and a run down house up on a hill.  

So now you can see how the Mansion evolved and I think it is nice they were able to find a Park to use this first concept in.  This is also the first Mansion that has a very definite story line.  It is based loosely on Phantom of the Opera (written by Gaston Leroux - a Frenchman) but with a western twist to fit the Thunder Mesa (Frontierland) feel.  

The basic story has Henry Ravenswood, who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain, build this victorian mansion for his wife and daughter Melanie.  The gold dried up, his daughter wanted to marry someone he didn't approve of, then an earthquake buried Henry and his wife.  No one heard from the family again.  Later the story surfaced that on Melanie's wedding day, a mysterious phantom appeared, lured the groom to the attic and hung him.  Melanie, not being able to find her groom slowly went mad, wandering the house in her tattered wedding gown, waiting for her groom.  The Mansion became over run by spirits and demons enacting a parody of the wedding party she never had.  Her singing is heard through the Mansion at night.  The earthquake also cut through the old, abandoned mining town (which for some strange reason is in the Mansions backyard).

I have a friend who actually went to Disneyland Paris and gave me her views on the ride:
The obvious difference from the beginning is the exterior.  Not only the design of the Mansion but how it is obviously derelict with weeds, peeling paint, shuttered windows.  This is genuinely creepy especially at night.

The stretching room shows various portraits of the daughter in some scary, creepy situations.  This Mansion also utilizes an elevator so it does "stretch".  The scene at the end in the copula shows the Phantom hanging the groom and not just a hanging body.

The effects from the hall through the Doombuggies are pretty much like the original.  As you travel past the suit of armor you see familiar items with an overlay of either the girl appearing and disappearing or the Phantom doing the same thing.

Madame Leota is there for the seance but instead of general lingo about conjuring spirits to ring bells, she is talking about calling ghosts to a ball that specifically references the Bride and the vanished groom.

The ballroom is pretty much the same only with the addition of the bride and a laughing Phantom.  When you enter the brides bedroom (attic), you see the bride now as an old lady crying in front of a mirror while a music box plays.  Another Phantom of the Opera touch.

This is where it gets really different.  When you go into the graveyard, you see the Phantom with a dead dog instead of the live caretaker, you go underground into catacombs and see the busts singing Grim Grinning Ghosts.  You now enter the western ghost town with shoot outs, a dead Mayor (with the original ghost hosts voice), a saloon with ghostly showgirls, gamblers and bartenders.  At the end you still get a ghost in your car and Little Leota telling you to hurry back and bring your death certificate.  Same things as the original ride but the theming is a wine cellar from the Mansion.  All and all it was pretty cool since so much of it was different, you can judge it as another attraction in a way and not compare it too closely to the original.

Mystical Manor: Hong Kong Disneyland (Adventureland/Mystic Point) - Opening 2013/14
We can only speculate on what this ride will eventually be as it is not open yet.  I have heard two rumors as for as location.  It will either be in Adventureland or a new land called Mystic Point that still will have an Adventureland feel.  There IS an Adventureland in this Park (will be writting about it later) but at the moment I can not get definite confirmation on the location.

My Imagineer insider did tell me this ride would be the first to have NO GHOSTS.  I am assuming it is a similar culture issue, just like Japan.  This ride will take you on a dark ride tour through the Manor of Lord Henry Mystic, an Edwardian adventurer and explorer.  His Victorian home rests on a jungle hilltop and all hell breaks loose when his mischievous monkey opens a cursed music box.  It's always the monkeys......

There will a pre-show introducing the monkey and the music box.  The doombuggies will be replaced by turn of the century horseless carriages.  The manic monkey opens the box and the magic that is released brings the artifacts of the Manor to life.

The planned rooms are a music room, a Greek room, a conservatory, a Norse room filled with cold wind and smoke, an armory where an animated cannon blasts the ride vehicle backward, the Egyptian room (I'm sure there will be mummies), a tribal room that resembles the Tiki Gods from the Tiki Room, a Chinese room and then the return to the end where the Monkey traps the magic back in the box and returns things to normal.

However in spite of the issues with opening Mansion, Hong Kong Disney DOES have something no other Disney Park has - a real haunt.  Not Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party but a real scary haunt like Knotts Berry Farm or Magic Mountain with haunted mazes, spook houses (including a haunted hotel on Main Street).  As you remember Walt talked about putting the Haunted Mansion at the end of Main Street.   It was later moved to it's own land of New Orleans Square. 

If you think I am joking about the Haunt, watch the promo (this one is in English) for the 2009 event.  American kids would wet their pants going by how uber-PC Disney is in this country with not making anything "too scary".  Well unless you count the now defunct Alien Encounter (read my previous blog on that).

While the Tokyo Mansion is pretty standard, the Paris and Hong Kong one sound pretty cool and make me want to take a trip abroad to see them for myself.  Maybe some day!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yak & Yeti - Tibet, the Dali Bunny & an Attack by a Yak

Well today was my day at Animal Kingdom. Initially I had decided to just grab some counter food (something I rarely do) but everything (including the counter by Yak & Yeti that serves things in cute colored Chinese food boxes) looked either greasy, unhealthy or too large a portion. I will be 100% happy with package delivery if they will shlep my left overs back to my room. I know they won't do it but.....

So I decided to try to get in at Yak & Yeti when they opened. I've found that if you check in for a non-ressie time right when they open (11am usually for lunch and 5 or 5:30 for dinner at most places) that you can be seated.

While the place was empty, they were not taking any walk-ins for tables. I am thinking they had lots of ressies for 20-30 minutes later HOWEVER you can eat at the BAR without the ressie as they serve the full menu.

This is the view from the bar.  I decided to start with a drink I heard a great deal about - the Yak Attack. This is a mango daiquiri with more rum and a berry swirl. I decided to have Bun try some.

Who is Bun? Well, Bun is The Softest Bunny In The World and I found him at the gift shop at the Dolphin Resort. He went drinking around the World with me and now he was on Safari (in his protective plastic bag).

That drink was sooo fruity good! In fact, while they do sell them around the corner from the counter food place outside, they aren't as good. Maybe the bar one gives you more of a berry swirl. I compared and these won. YUMMY! Bun agrees.

I decided I would order some food and the bartender suggested the American Kobe Burger but since I was lower carb, I ordered it without the bun, medium rare. It was sooooo good.
It was tender and juicy and full of flavor. I cut pieces, wrapped them in lettuce and ate them with the onions and tomatoes with a little bit of dressing. The nice bartender even brought me more lettuce. The fries were also wonderful. True, I only ate half due to the carbs but they were amazing! I'm so glad McDonald's is out of the park. These are tons better than Mickey D's! Next trip I am coming here again for sure!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rose & Crown Dinner - Attack of the Killer Squirrel

OK, well this was kind of weird. I need to back up, let's go back in time - whoooooo whoooooo whoooooooooooooooooooooo

OK, 2 months ago I was talking to Beth at Dreams Unlimited and making my table ressies. I know things were late but I had just gotten the word I was going to WDW from my cadre of traveling companions known as "The Singing Marys" but that is another story.

Anyway, I wanted to get right in for lunch at Askershus first thing, like 11 or 11:30 BUT they were full and the only time they had was 1:45pm. I wanted dinner ressies at Rose and Crown but their only time was 5pm. Ummmm, that is only 3 hours after eating a HUGE buffet lunch.

We were going to grab some counter service but that is usually iffy or nasty. Beth said to keep the ressie just in case so we decided to use it.

OK, going back to the present and first person since my traveling companions like to be mysterious to protect their public sector and Disneyland jobs. (They were the ones singing show tunes out to the bus later tonight - OK that is for later..)

So I check in and am seated right away over by the water. I contemplate boggarting the table for the next 4+ hours but figure I will get heaved out by a bouncer by at least 7pm.

I wasn't that hungry but I figured I would get some little bits to tide me over since I was staying for Illuminations. I start with a cup of the potato and leek soup. SOOOOOOOoooo yummy!

I was soooo into eating this that I forgot to take a picture until it was nearly gone. It was lovely in taste and texture. Creamy with that lovely sharp onion leek taste that mellows with the cream.

Now after the soup, movement caught my eye down by my foot. It was a squirrel.  (It says something that I could even FIND THIS EMOTICON) If you know anything about me you know that squirrels are out to get me. They are the evil minions of Satan I tell you! One lobbed a wee lemon at my head once and also tried to run off with a pair of my knickers. So when I looked down and saw the squirrel by my foot I started calling it a minion of Hell and threatening to whack it and make it into a wee hat.

The squirrel, whose name is Brian!!, jumped up on my table, looked it me with his beady black souless eyes, twitched his nose and ran over to the wall using my dining companion as a spring board. 

I realize I probably looked like a crazy person. OK, I looked like a crazy person but you've never had your thong snatched by a rodent OR have a squirrel hang its furry butt over the power line and try to piddle on your cats head! There is a reason why I am crazy.

The server explained that the cheeky little bugger, who they have named Brian, has made this his private playground. They shoo him off but he comes back. They always come back..... Minion of evil..... 

For my entree I decided to get the fish & chips but since I am low carb I told her not to bring any bread to the table and to substitute veggies for the chips. I told them it didn't matter what kind of veggies, I will eat them all.

It was soooo good. I took off half the yummy batter to lower the carbs and calories. The fish was so flaky, the batter was light, the veggies were perfectly seasoned. I just couldn't eat it all so I took it to go. I wish I could have had dessert. Next time this will be a definite return and with an empty stomach so I can have sticky toffee pudding.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Walt Disney Family Museum - San Francisco, CA

(Thanks to fellow Disney Geek Will R. who took this picture and yup, that is me on my iPhone.  We are total geeks)

It was a dark and stormy night.  Actually it was an overcast, lowering day but our hearts were full of giddy joy as myself and three stalwart companions breached the battlements of the Walt Disney Family Museum in honor of fellow Disney Geek Will R's 21st+ turn around the sun.

This wonderful museum to "All Things Walt" was built in the Presidio, a former army base by the Golden Gate in San Francisco.  Why San Francisco for a museum about Walt?  Well, firstly this museum is about the Man, not just The Mouse and was paid for with Disney family money.  The Disney Corporation did not build this.  Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, lives in Napa with her husband, LA Rams football star & former Disney Studio CEO, Ron Miller.  Together they own and operate the award winning Silverado Winery in Napa.  Thus the museum to her Fathers memory in the area where they live.
This museum is inspiring, tasteful and widely encompassing.  It fills 2 floors and starts with Walt's birth and childhood in Marcelline, Illinois.  It features tons of family photographs, an ambulance similar to the one Walt drove as a teen in WW1 in France.

You see his early animation works (Laugh-O-Gram Studios), his partnership with Roy, the live action Alice Comedy films, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the loss of rights to that character and the birth of Mickey Mouse.  You see cells from Snow White, Walts special one of a kind Oscar for that film which included one standard Oscar statuette along with 7 small ones on "stairs" next to it.  This Oscar was presented to Walt by Shirley Temple.  There is a section that discusses color mixing, ink & paint, original cells and the infamous Multi-Plane Camera (of which they have one and yes it is HUGE).

You go through the Wars Years, the War Shorts (including the infamous Der Fuehrer's Face),'s_Face, realism in animation shows itself in Bambi, Walt's pet project that was way before its time - Fantasia and the revival of the Studio with Cinderella.

You see Walt's hobbies such as polo, pictures from his vacations with Lillian to Europe and South America where he worked on live action shorts.  There are family mementos, watches, pictures, lots of interesting things that give you a peek into the life of Walt.  However, the Museum does not gloss over the rough patches.  It documents The Strike in detail.  How betrayed Walt felt and the feelings from the workers on the other side.  It should be noted that not all of Walt's people went on strike and not all of them felt work conditions were not fair.  However the Studio changed after that and so did Walt.

There are pictures of Walt at home, making sundaes for his daughters (Diane and Sharon) and their friends.  The most thrilling part for me personally was seeing the original Carolwood Pacific Railroad cars.  This was a live steam powered train that Walt would drive, give people rides on and ran on a track in his backyard of his Holmby Hills house.  It seems animators Ollie Johnston and Ward Kimball had their own backyard trains which got Walt obsessed with his.

You see the birth of Disneyland.  There is a special miniature Disneyland that includes all the rides (and only the rides) that were either original to Disneyland or that Walt worked on.  Thus the most recent ride is Pirates of the Caribbean.  If you look above the firehouse on Main Street, you see the lamp in the window that is always kept on, just like at the Park.

There is an area devoted to the television shows such as The Mickey Mouse Club, The Wonderful World of Disney and The Wonderful World of Color.  As we travel by a replica of Walt's office at the Studio and the planning of Walt Disney World, especially Walt's vision for EPCOT, you know where this is going and it is not a happy place.

Walt Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966 in Burbank. 
However in spite of the sadness that this great talent has gone, you are left uplifted by the body of his work that lives on and brings joy to so many people.

It is a shame that Walt's daughter Sharon did not live to see this as she passed away in 1993. There are so many things that fill this museum that it really does take a day to take it all in.  Tickets are available on-line and are timed for entry however when the weather is bad and tourist season is low (winter), there is never a problem getting tickets.

They also have a theatre which features one Disney film a month along with films on special topics and seminars.  If you are peckish, they have a counter that sells lovely sandwiches, salads, cookies, lemonaide, etc.

Adult admission is $20, Seniors and Students (with ID) are $15 and Children 6-17 are $12, Children under 6 are free with Adult paid admission.  These prices are MORE than reasonable for a day of one of a kind entertainment.  If you are a Member, free admission is one of the perks.  Memberships are priced from $55 - $500.

If you are in Northern California, this is not to be missed.  It is TONS better than wandering around the Haight looking at aging hippies.  Trust me, you will love this!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kona Cafe/Poly - Why Eating Here Might Not Have Been A Good Idea

Well, this was Tuesday and my first Epcot day. It was drizzling in the morning which then resolved itself into rain by 11am. My original plan was to do all of Future World, then go to DTD, have lunch at the Earl of Sandwich or Raglan Road and then have dinner at House of Blues with a hang out at Pleasure Island for a bit.

However after walking around all day in a hoodie and getting rained on (umbrellas and plastic ponchos that make you look like bags of produce are for the weak and the sober), I decided to have dinner at Kona Cafe at the Poly. I had heard from this Board that the Tuna Oscar was really good so I decided to try it.

I was also on a quest for Pineapple Bread. I have been dreaming about this since I had breakfast at Ohanas 4 years ago. After wringing out my socks on the monorail, Hey, my shoes & socks were SOAKED, I was an hour early.

I had an adult beverage, looked around, wondered WHY on God's Green Earth anyone would pay tens of thousands of dollars for a giant Imeron red painted dolphin, and made some notes.

I was seated right when the restaurant opened, ordered Kona coffee and here is where things got weird. It seems there is a bit of a pineapple bread grudge match between Kona Cafe and Ohana. When I asked my server about pineapple bread she said they had it. I asked her if it was the same as Ohana because that is what I want. I just loved the soft, sweet, sticky bread with the pineapple on the bottom. She said that theirs was freshly baked and that Ohanas is flat and comes in a box.

OK, so she brings me this HUGE load of bread:

It was fresh baked but looked NOTHING like Ohanas and it is WAY too many carbs for me. I asked her if it has the pineapple on the bottom. She said it has pineapple in it and there is macadamia nut butter.

Ummmm, SHE LIED! This is NOT Pineapple Bread. It is nice, sweet, soft bread. A bit like that Hawaiian bread you can buy at the store but better. The butter was nice but it was NOT what I wanted and NOT what I asked her about and there was NO pineapple in it at all. It was just sweet bread. PERIOD.

My coffee comes. It isn't Kona. I don't drink coffee as a rule but I was cold. It wasn't that Nescafe crap but the check only listed the coffee as $2.50 and that didn't sound like Kona which should have been 3x that amount. Of course I didn't find out about this until after the meal.

So I decided to deal with the MOUND OF CARBS and waited for my Tuna Oscar. Here is how it looked when it was delivered:

Tuna Oscar - served with fried green tomatoes, tempura-fried jumbo lump crab, and wasabi hollandaise $22.99 ($23)

This dish looked amazing. Then I tasted it. ummmm, damn. This Chef is smokin crack!

OK, first the Tuna (seared rare which is perfect) is blackened. NOWHERE on the menu description does it say that. There is just so much wrong with this I don't even know where to start.

First I think what the Chef was going for was a take on a Southern Fav with a "tropical twist". What am I talking about? Does this plate remind you of something? How about cajun catfish with fried green tomatoes and hush puppies?

So working with that concept he blackened the tuna, replaced the hush puppies (deep fried cornmeal balls) with the tempura crab, added asparagus for the whole "Oscar" concept and wasabi to the Hollandaise to give it an Asian flair.

Why is this wrong? Let me show you the plate after I moved things around:

First as far as presentation, the tuna is not sliced. Seared tuna is usually sliced thin after it is cooked. You are presented with two HUNKS of tuna that you have to slice yourself. The slicing actually improves the texture of the fish and hacking at it yourself with your not-so-sharp knife doesn't work.

The red pepper spice on the tuna DOES NOT WORK! It is WAY too spicy and completely detracts from the fish. You can't taste the tuna at all. When I brought this up to the server, she looked at me like I was high and offered to..... take it to the kitchen and WASH IT OFF FOR ME!!!!!!! Let me say that again, WASH IT OFF! WASH MY FISH!!!!! ***??!!!

I told her, no thank you, I would just scrape it off and could she bring me some more sauce and a steak knife since this knife was in no way sharp enough to cut the fish like it should be sliced.

The crab lumps were light, lovely and cooked perfectly. The Green Tomatoes were nice but not the same as they make in Georgia. I did take a doggie box to have leftovers for breakfast (including half of that carb monster bread).

I give this a B-. This will not be a return next trip but I am glad I went. The service was spotty, the food was ill conceived and the server lied to me on numerous occasions, denying me the Pineapple Bread that I sought for so long. Perhaps next time I will go to the podium at Ohana and ask for some to go. Does anyone know if they do that?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What is Wrong with Parents? Kids vs. Bars at Disney

What is the drinking age in your State?  18?  21?  Most States are 21 including California and Florida.  We all know that it is illegal for a minor to drink or even hold alcohol.  I am hoping we all agree with this.

How many of you would go to your neighborhood watering hole/dive/bar/whatever, take your 5 year old with you and then sit them at the BAR next to the drunks?  If you are normal I would say none.

Now how many of you would go to Disneyland Resort or WDW, take your 5 year old with you to a BAR and sit them on the stool AT THE BAR?  I'm willing to bet there are more of you that would do that and right now I am calling you out as a bad parent.

If it is not ok to take Timmy to your local dive and sit him at the BAR (not a table) why is it ok to do so at the Mouse?  Because it is DISNEY?!  All of a sudden that makes it ok?

I know there are some people out there who think rules are made for everyone else but not for them and especially not for their special child.  Sorry to ruin your day but your kid isn't special and neither are you.  In California it is ILLEGAL to have a child at the BAR.  I found out that while it is not illegal in Florida, what kind of message are you sending your child?  Think about this for a minute.

Bars are places where grown ups go to drink fermented fruits and grains, let their hair down, perhaps curse, debauch, try to get laid, etc.  This does not change just because that bar is now at the Polynesian or the Grand Californian.  There are some places where it is just not appropriate for children to be.
* Strip Clubs
* Bath Houses
* The Adult Film Awards
* The French Quarter during Mardi Gras and....

I am so happy to report that the Rose & Crown pub in England at Epcot took out all of their bar stools!  YAY!  Now the kids can't sit at the bar, they have to go to the tables where they belong.  However, not all of the bars have picked up on this.

This past trip I was at the Tune In Lounge and a family that was waiting for a table at the eatery next door decided to sit at the bar.  While they are waiting, Dad wants a drink and sits their two tykes at the bar.  So I turn to the kids and ask them "Are you going to order a beer or a shot of whiskey?  Now make sure when you get back to school to tell everyone at Show & Tell that Mommy & Daddy took you to a BAR at Disney!"  At that point Dad paid for his drink and Mom drug the kids over to a table, where they belonged.  There was seating available so trying to tell me there was nowhere else to sit while they waited for their table was bogus.

I know, I'm a dick.  Actually, no I'm not.  I was being the adult.  The fact that these parents could not walk 5 more feet to sit down on the chairs provided is not my problem.  They are the ones setting the bad example for their kids by letting them know it is OK to sit at a bar before you are legally old enough to drink.  They are saying that drinking is a family activity, like waiting in line to get autographs from Princesses or taking a picture with Mickey Mouse.

We should be teaching children to be responsible adults and part of that is the reality that there are some activities/areas that are for grown ups and not for kids.  Period.  Please think about the message you are sending to your child when you allow them into an adult environment and understand that when you bring your kid into my grown up house, I will not change my language or behavior because you were the one who decided to be a bad parent and take your kid to a bar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blue Zoo - Dolphin (WDW)

I have heard from Disney friends and foodies that this is an exceptional dining establishment.  Todd English is the celebrity Chef with his name on the door and I have heard wonderful things about his seafood so I decided to try it.

As it is located over at the Dolphin, it is a little bit of a trek to get to.  The Swan & Dolphin Resorts are on the water between Epcot & Disney Studios.  It should be noted they are not owned by The Mouse and as a result do not accept Disney Dining.

I got there right when they opened and was seated right away. The restaurant itself is gorgeous and my server was very fun and professional.

For cocktails I started out with a Cable Car.  This was a recommendation from my server and it was delightful. It is a rum drink with a cinnamon rim and an orange twist.  It is not too sweet, more of a twist on a "grown up drink" rather than a frothy, frozen "girlie drink".
I ordered my Main Dish:

Simply Fish - Our daily selection of finest fresh fish selected from coastal waters around the world, simply grilled on our teppenyaki grill. Served w/ choice of sauce...warm crabmeat, dijon mustard & chives or cucumber vinaigrette or red curry coconut, parsley & lemon. - $32.00 
Sauce supplements: lobster $5.00 or caviar buerre blanc $8.00 
They had a choice of four fish to choose from. I chose the one I had never heard of before - Covina. It is a thick fish, almost cod like in appearance. I ordered the crabmeat/dijon sauce and had them add the chunks of lobster to it for an additional $5. This was the best $5 I spent. The pieces were large and succulent. However, ... Houston, we have a problem.

Fish, unless it is sushi, should flake when it is done and be moist. The edge of my fish was lovely but when I went to break it in the middle the fish would not budge.  I thought "o no he didn't". This is exactly what I said to the server when he came to check on me.

My fish was raw. Not moist, not undercooked, it was 80% raw. This should NOT happen especially at this level of dining establishment and one that prides themselves on fish. The Chef really needed a boot in the junk. The server asked if I wanted another fish. I told him, no I would give the Chef the opportunity to get this right and ordered the covina again.

In the meantime, the Chef sent over this appetizer:

Teppan Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops - Served with a braised beef short rib, and silky cauliflower puree. - $14.00

This was amazing. I know the picture is blurry but I was so into eating I near forgot to take the picture. I cut each of the scallops in half. They were on the strip of short rib. The scallops were perfectly cooked as was the beef. It was tender and juicy. The cauliflower was so creamy and paired so well with this mini "surf and turf". This was an amazing dish! A+.

So my fish returns:

The flavor was delicate, the sauce was soooooo yummy. Creamy with lots of crab and lobster, just amazing but... I couldn't cut the fish. It was cooked but there was skin on the bottom and I couldn't cut through it. I though perhaps my knife was not serrated. Nope. I couldn't get through the skin with a buzz saw.

I told the server that the taste was good so I was keeping it as they did offer to replace it. The manager came over, told me the fish was a new menu addition and it must have been "stressed" when it died which is why the skin was so hard to cut. The Chef has pulled it from the menu for the evening. Stressed when it died = impossible to cut skin?  Huh?! Ummm, I've fished. You either catch fish with a line or a net or a cage. They are all equally stressed so unless they tortured this fish for fun, I fail to see how a fish being "stressed when it died" has anything to do with my dinner.

I asked the manager if the Chef cooked it during his prep this afternoon since it was new. He said no. I told him that Todd English would have. Gordon Ramsey would have. If a Chef is working with a new dish and new ingredient, they should cook it first to see how it works.

My entree and the appetizer were on the house so I just paid for my drink and a good tip for my waiter. I would go back here on my next trip in a heartbeat.

Why? The scallop was amazing, the service was stellar and the manager did the correct thing and "made it right". Hopefully this was a learning experience for their Chef when he gets new items. Next time I think I am going to order their Soy Lobster and am looking forward to it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland (WDW)

Cinderella's Golden Carousel



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages.

ADULT RATING – (C+) If you like going around in a circle.
Let's face it, a merry go round is a merry go round.  This one is prettier than most but it is still the same thing.  A bit of trivia for you: the white horse on the outside with the gold ribbon is Cinderella's horse.  The absolute BEST way I have found to ride this ride is with a fabulous guy wearing a pointy Princess hat.

Dumbo's Flying Elephants



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages.  This is a time tested favorite!

ADULT RATING – (C+) Again if going around in a circle is your idea of a great time, you will love this.  Personally I have found most adults just find it a few minutes of respite because now their kid is having a good time.
This is one of the Holy Grail rides of tiny tyke land.  All the little kids want to ride Dumbo and it is a pain in the.. donkey.  Why?  Because there are only a handful of elephants that fly for a specific amount of time.  This makes the ride very slow loading. If you want to ride without standing in the sun for over an hour, this is what you have to do.

Get your family up, dressed and going EARLY in the morning.  No excuses.  Poke them with something sharp if you have to.  Get them to the Magic Kingdom at least an hour before it opens.  They will open the front area of the Park and then have the "rope drop".  When the rope drops, go STRAIGHT TO DUMBO!!!  Do not get something to eat, don't stop to pee, GET TO THAT FLYING ELEPHANT!  This way you can ride right away, get off, get back in line and ride it a 2nd time.  See?  Wasn't that fun?  Now we can ride some of these other rides in Fantasyland.  The things you do for your kids....

It's A Small World



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages. 

ADULT RATING – (C+) OK, the ride is entertaining but that song will haunt your nighmares.
This is a poor imitation of the original ride at Disneyland.  Disneyland's is better.  The whole line is a topiary extravaganza!  The pop-out dolls and animated clock are iconic.  Magic Kingdom gets a tent.  whee.  This really is a fun ride.  Walt debuted this at the 1964 Worlds Faire in New York.  It is sweet, infectious and the song will imbed itself in your brain and never leave.

I must say the BEST time I ever had on this ride was at Disneyland in the 80's.  We had an AIDS fundraiser and riding this with a boatload of drag queens, singing along was the most magical thing EVER!

Mad Hatter's Teacups



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages but evaluate how they deal with spinning

ADULT RATING – (B) A fun ride if you like spinning like a looney
It's really not fair for me to review this ride because I hurl.  I hate spinning in circles and I hate spinning fast.  I avoid this ride like the plague.  So I will turn this over to my Disney Companion "Dot " for her analysis of this ride:

I really like spinning fast. Watch the teacups and head for the fastest spinners. Some are better than others. Spreading your weight out so you are not all clumped in one place also helps for maximum spinage.

I give this ride a solid B but the waiting and break-down factor can slip it to a B-.

Peter Pan


WAIT TIME – Medium

KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages unless your kid is freaked out by the dark or flying over Lodon.

ADULT RATING – (B) Just for the sheer kitch and nostalgia.  I mean honestly, who doesn't like flying in the air in a pirate ship?
Peter Pan was always one of my favorites from Disneyland. They show more of the story on this ride than the original Disneyland version so I do like this one better. You can’t beat seeing everything from in the air in a sailing pirate ship. This was one of my favorite rides when I first went to Disneyland at 8 and still is.

While the ride cars (pirate ships) do not hold many people, the ride is short and they are quick to load.  At peak times there can be a wait of upwards of 45 minutes.  I personally think this is the best ride in Fantasyland.  How can you miss with flying out of Wendy's window, sailing over the streets of London, soaring over Neverland (please, not NeverNeverland) and watching a swordfight at the end between Pan and Hook?  It's the best.

One of the mermaids in the lagoon sequence looks a bit like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Hmm. One small, picky geek note of an error on this ride. Peter Pan is set in late Victorian/early Edwardian London. When you are flying over London, look down. You will see streets filled with cars (headlights). There were no cars in Peter Pan’s London.  Barrie wrote Peter Pan in 1902.  The Model T Ford rolled off the line in 1908.  Even with this issue, I give this ride an A-

Kid Grade (G): Suitable for all ages.  Kids will either love the flying or be a bit scared.  It is perfectly safe but the "buoyancy" of being suspended from the top of the car may set very small children on edge.  Only minor scary scenes.  Nothing objectionable.

Pinocchio's Daring Journey



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages. 

Pinocchio is not my favorite story.  Let's see, a creepy old guy builds a little boy puppet to keep him company, a blue fairy brings the puppet to life and the puppet goes wild.  He is inconsiderate, goes truant from school, smokes, drinks, barely escapes turning into a donkey only to go on a voyage of redemption to try to find the father figure he lost.

We see the dancing puppets, Pleasure Island, the blue fairy, Monstro the Whale, all the good bits with little of the scary, dark and depressing parts of the movie/book.

Snow White's Scary Adventures



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages unless your child is freaked out by the dark, menacing trees or other "spooky" things.

ADULT RATING – (C) This is really pretty dull. Sorry.
When this ride was first designed for Disneyland it was always intended to be from Snow White's point of view.  As a result, she wasn't in the ride.  As the ride says, you see her "scary adventures" so there are lots of Evil Queens, warty hags, apples, scary trees, and falling rocks.  If your kid wants to see Snow, this is not the ride for them.  If they are freaked by the dark and scary things, like the Evil Queen trying to poison them (remember YOU are Snow White) then skip it.

True, the refurb threw in more dwarves and one shot of Snow but it doesn't change the fact that the ride is not all goodness and light and singing critters.  Make sure your kid understands.  For solo adults, pass it.  It's boring.

Winnie the Pooh



KID GRADE – (G) Suitable for all ages. Only minor scary scenes.  Nothing objectionable.

ADULT RATING –  (B) if you are into Pooh
Here in WDW, Pooh created quite a stir.  He evicted staple Fantasyland ride Mr. Toad.  If you still want to ride Mr. Toad, you can do it at Disneyland.  At Disneyland, the rotund bear evicted his kin (The Country Bear Jamboree).  It seems Pooh brings ride destruction in his honey lickin' wake.  

All and all this was a nice ride (although I still miss Mr. Toad). The ride depicts Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.  The cut-outs were bright and the animatronics were decent for a Fantasyland ride.  There was a variation of movement to the ride. You would bounce when Tigger was there, you felt like you were floating on water when it was raining, etc. There are a few tiny scary elements in the storm but it is not anything Mom can’t fix by being there. Teens may find it slow but I think it's just plain fun. I give this a B+.