Sunday, January 31, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
I ADORE lamb - this was a spam like lamb product. I'm sure it was lamb or mostly lamb but had the look and pressed consistency of spam so I am now scared but I soldiered on. It came with hummus (the ONLY way i will EVER eat garbanzo beans, usually I just flick them at people), tabuli and cous cous. There was also a light yogurt sauce on the lamb.
Word to the wise, do NOT do what this weenie in front of me did. What did he do, you ask? He looked at the menu, saw all the "ethnic" food, got in line and ... ordered a HOT DOG! What is WRONG with you? Why do I care? Because you are in Morocco and if you want nitrate infused beef/pork left over parts go to AMERICA! It's NEXT DOOR! It's like ordering a hot dog in Akershus. Why? It's a waste to eat at a place when you don't like the food.
I'm glad I tried this lamb dish but next time I will try the fish & chips next time for counter service just because the pressed lamb/chicken scared me.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Down the Middle - a hearty Irish tomato and vegetable broth $5.50
Goats Town - Herb-crusted grilled Irish goat's cheese salad served with fruit compote $12.00
Celtic Chique - baby chicken finished with a light apple cider glaze. $15.95
Leek Anatomy 101: When cooking with leeks, you want to use the white part on the very bottom by the roots and a bit of the light green section but not too much. As the leek gets greener, it becomes more bitter.
Well this was the problem with my dish. It was too bitter and too overpowered by the leek. I could hardly eat it (even afterwards and that is UNHEARD OF). GRADE: C-
Well due to my lack of food intake while drinking my cider I am getting a little buzzed. I get up to use the ladies room, got really confused by the Gaelic names on the doors and walk into the men’s room. "hmmmmm, a line of drinking fountains - guess I am in the wrong place". Fortunately there were no occupants at the time BUT when I opened the door the urinals were right there directly in front of me so if anyone opened the door to enter the bathroom, people in the hall could see men standing there peeing - just saying.
I will add that the presentation of the fish and chips is awesome. It is in a paper cone and the cone is inserted in a metal spiral thing. At first I thought they were the missing breadsticks. They remove the paper cone and then dump the fish and chips on your plate. They looked good....
OVERALL I would give this place a B. I feel that I didn't make the best food choices and as a result would give it another chance. Maybe if I sat somewhere else or came a little earlier. I will save it for my solo return trip as my next trip is shorter and pretty much booked. We'll see.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Now things started to take a bad turn. My fav items were gone. No Fois Gras Ravioli, no Duck Breast and no Rack of Lamb. I asked Danny about the items. He gave a good dance about keeping things fresh and animal rights activists and the price of lamb and stuff. Well I told him to see if Chef Gray could make the Raviolis for me anyway since I knew they had Fois Gras at V&A and they share a kitchen.
OK, I am thinking - the reason I have not gone to Narcooses before was the total lack of enthusiasm by foodies that I trust and now their Chef is at my Fav place??!!!!!!
God this can't be happening. I went on and on to Danny about how Chef Gray is a God (which he agreed with) and got the distinct feeling that some of the menu changes were due to new chef issues.
We ordered. The Manager came over to try to talk me out of going to Narcooses on my next trip. I told him that I am following Chef Gray. No offense but he turned this place around and I am following the food. He said to give them a try. Ok, here is for trying.
Warm Goat Cheese Salad: Arugula, Frisee, Lardons, and Marinated Tomatoes - $9
Gateau of Crab: Jumbo Lump Crab and Orange Fennel Coulis - $12
Grilled Swordfish with Vegetable Pearl Pasta and Red Pepper Coulis - $32
Pan Roasted Orange Tilefish with yellow tomato-pepper compote and spinach risotto - $31
This was very light and lovely. Fish can be hit or miss for me and this I completely finished. There was one flavor that was missing that would push it over the edge into the "I'm crying it is so good" territory and that is the yardstick that I am using. GRADE: A-
Citricos Cinderellabration, Bittersweet chocolate mousse tart with orange sauce - $8
Danny also brought us a bottle of Evian and 3 paper cups to go (we were heading over to MK to watch Wishes) and I thought that was really nice.
Overall, the food is still very good. It was the best place we ate at this trip with Jiko and Akershus and Artist Point very close behind. However none of these items made me cry. When I return for a shorter trip next year, I will try Narcooses now that Chef Gray is there though would not eliminate this from rotation in the future. Only time will tell if their new Chef will step things up. Currently Citricos has fallen to #2 behind Napa Rose at the Grand Californian for the first time. (I don't include V&A since it is in a category all of its own).
We were seated pretty promptly though I thought the picture spot was LAME! They give you a ticket for your family to get a picture in front of...... tikis. Yup, tikis. Whee. At Akershus, they at least had pictures with Ariel. No character, just tikis. Lame. We passed
Now let me say that I have never been addicted to coffee. I will drink it on occasion but do not turn into a grumpy, sludge monster if I don't get coffee. Guess who needs coffee in our party? Yup, cousin George. Let's call him Grumpy.
The server didn't get to our table fast enough. OK she was a little slow and is it just me but I really think most of these servers are the oldest servers in The World. Just an observation.
So we are finally greeted, drink orders taken and then the coffee wait begins. O God, will it never end! PLEASE bring us coffee as I am dying here. Grumpy with no coffee is scary.
The characters were Stitch, Lilo, Pluto and The Mouse himself! As I am writing in my trip report book, Stitch snuck up behind me and scared me. Bad Stitch! I thought that the whole Stitch thing would annoy me but he was really fun to watch and play with. Grumpy didn't play much since he still needed coffee.
Now came the food (sorry, no pictures, we were too busy eating). They bring you a big wok with the regulars - scrambled eggs (good but a little loose/wet if you don’t like that, they may need to cook them more), bacon (very good), sausage (didn't try but heard from they were a little spicy but good), Home fried Potatoes (didn't try but heard they were good), Mickey Waffles (not as warm as I would like but fun), bread basket with biscuits, cinnamon roll and PINEAPPLE BREAD! OH MY GOD! This stuff was sooooooooooooo good. I had them bring more and then I took it with me. I snacked on this all day. It is a soft yeasty roll type bread with crushed pineapple on the bottom. It's really good warm but just as yummy cold. A little sticky but I can deal.
Pluto was very funny and then I got to see the MOUSE! He was wearing his Hawaiian shirt with a lei. I told him that he is my fav and that I love him. He got all embarrassed. I swear I will mud wrestle Minnie for The Mouse. OK, I'm getting a little carried away and weird but it is early in the morning on the west coast. Mickey signed my book and that made my morning. Lilo never came by which was fine with me since I really don't care about her. It’s all about the Mouse.
Grade: Overall Food = B-, Pineapple Bread = A-, Characters = A, Noise Level = B (Actually pretty good table spacing and not a lot of screaming), Kid Activities = B (They had a parade with noise makers)
The atmosphere was lovely. We were seated at a window with a decent view of Illuminations. They had tablecloths and silverware and cute napkins folded like dinner jackets.
We decided to get the Chefs Tasting Menu. It sounded good and was reasonably priced. $65 without wine pairings (which is what we had), $100 with wine pairings.
Rare seared tuna with Jamaican Pepper, sauce of lemon comfit and banyuls vinegar, arugula coulis and a crunchy vegetable salad.
Grilled quail with baby frisee salad and poached egg, creamy green lentil vinaigrette and cheese chips
Bland. The egg was lukewarm, the quail was difficult to eat and the flavors were not there. I was trying to get a bit of everything on the fork to blend the flavors and had to add salt and pepper to try to give it some flavor. Beautiful presentation but little wow factor. Grade: B
Provencal bouillabaisse, scallops, shrimps, stripped bass, mussels and codfish served with aioli and toasted bread
Pretty but bland and lacking any bite or kick. The fish all took on the flavor of the tomato base with no flavors of their own coming through. Grade: B-
Seared scallops with a fleur de sel on a goat & sun dried tomato ravioli with creamy lettuce sauce
Pretty but bland. Are you seeing a pattern here? The scallops were cooked perfectly but the lack of any dynamic flavors continued this pretty but bland parade. Grade: B
Apple sorbet with apple liquor and dried apple slice
Say it with me now! B - L - A N - D - Y It was palate cleansing but pedestrian. Grade: B-
Here is where I got a glass of red that had been paired with my meat. I live by Napa. I know wines. I love wines. This wine sucked. It was soooo tannic that I could clean rust off chrome with it. French wine is really over rated.
Roasted beef tenderloin with marrow, potato boulangere with comte cheese, green asparagus, red wine and juniper berry sauce.
This steak doesn't hold a candle to Jiko. It was very tender but bland. No real flavor. The potato gratin in the ramekin was better. A bit of flavor starting to poke its head through the snow. Grade: Meat - B, Potatoes - B+
This was $5 extra per person. I am allergic to blue cheese so they served all goat cheese. Wow. The 3 French goat cheeses were mild to nutty to slightly pungent. These cheeses were fair but it wasn't Red Hawk but then what is. Check out cowgirl creamery in Point Reyes. AWESOME! This cheese - ho hum. Grade: B+
Well only dessert left and I have not shed one tear of food joy on this whole pricey menu. I am hoping for one standout.
Overall, our meal was bland and pedestrian. While the price for the offerings is good, the chef missed the boat. They could have been standout or even noteworthy but are just fine. What is wrong with FRANCE?! I am placing this in 10th place overall behind even Fulton’s. The chef needs to follow Chef Gray or Chef Scott around for a month or so. This place really needs some help to make it great.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This was my favorite attraction at Magic Kingdom. Around 2002, it traumatized so many children that they re-vamped it into the idiotic "Stitch Encounter". This is the story of one of the coolest rides that Disney ever thought of, it was just in the wrong park. In my opinion, it should have been in "teen/tween park" Disney Studios.
I first rode this in 1998 and for the last time in 2001. The mistake people made was to think a scary ride called Alien Encounter really wasn't that scary. They thought it was Haunted Mansion scary. They were soooo wrong. They thought Michael Eisner would NEVER put a truly terrifying ride in the Magic Kingdom of all places! Evidently they didn't get the memo telling them that Eiser is the Devil. So let's go back in time to a day when the Happiest Place on Earth turned evil.
There are warning signs posted for this ride. In my opinion, they are not large enough. This is a VERY mentally scary and intense ride. Grown-ups will have fun and find themselves a bit scared or freaked but if you take your child on this ride, you WILL be paying for therapy for the next 10 years. I am NOT kidding! Little kids have NO business on this ride. Now I did my good deed by warning parents with small children that I saw on the buses about this ride. I told them that perhaps one of them might want to screen it first. It seems that I didn't talk to some of the people in line. I like this ride for adults if you can deal with mind game scares. It is less scary the second time around.
It is based (very loosely) on the Alien of Ridley Scott fame. You enter a very entertaining queue where you get a lesson in teleportation from an evil robot and his unwilling volunteer “Skippy”. Just seeing cute little Skippy get crispy in a teleporter “accident” and then have the slightly malevolent robot trap him in the transporter interface while in transit, perhaps permanently, can be a bit disturbing to kids.
You next enter a circular room where you sit around a giant tube. There is a large shoulder harness that comes down over you. While it is used for an effect later on, its main purpose is to keep people in their seats so they are not running around in terror in the dark and break their necks. They start the show and someone starts talking on a screen about this new teleporter technology and how they are going to teleport something harmless to you in the theatre. Yeah.. right. Like that turned out real well for Skippy.
The teleporter is accidentally rerouted and instead of the chairman of the teleportation company coming to talk to you, an Alien is transported in his place. The Alien busts out of the tube, total darkness descends and the fun begins. This is a total mind trip. Nothing in the room moves. You hear the Alien running on the catwalk, breathing hot breath on your neck, it kills a few people, you hear chewing sounds, you feel warm “blood” dripping on you from the guy he ate on the catwalk, etc. As you can tell, this is intense.
There was a kid sitting next to me that looked like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”. He was about 9 years old and was screaming and hysterical with terror. His Dad was trying to calm him down, tell him it’s just a ride, that it’s not real but the kid was terrorized. I'm going to Hell because while I feel sorry for the kid, his genuine screams of abject terror really added to the experience of the ride.
Please parents, don’t be selfish and drag your small children on this ride just because you want to see it. Do the child swap, preview the ride first, judge your childs ability to handle this before you damage them. I give this ride an A- for adults, and A for teens, a D for average kids and an F for small children. I think this would have been better at MGM/Disney Studios and put Star Tours here (like they have in Disneyland).
The only thing that you can skip is the tourist film that comes after the ride. I saw it once, and it's really pretty but I've had my fill of fjords. No offense. I would suggest see it once and then skip it for future rides. You can just walk straight through the theatre without stopping and exit into the gift shop.
I have been on this attraction three times in the past four years and my opinion of this ride has not really changed at all since the last time. I continue to add my friends as converts to the "Small World on Drugs" concept of a Disney ride obviously put together in the 70's and not refurbished since.
This ride is lame but it's great if you are hot, tired, drunk or just plain cranky. You can relax, there has never been a line when I've been there and they did lower the volume so you can actually hear yourself think. You float by a restaurant (WDW's version of the Blue Bayou & Pirates of the Caribbean) with a dark, romantic atmosphere and a smoking volcano in the background. I think that having human sacrifice on the Aztec pyramid with a head rolling down it would add to the ride atmosphere, however, it may scare the children. Hmmmmm..... anyway…..
The boat ride is ala Small World. The first part is the most promising. A large Aztec warrior, standing Godlike in his feathers and gold and tiny little loin cloth talking (I think) about the great scientists, mathematicians and poodle breeders (hey, I don't know, the sound was bad) that their civilization had. However, it started to go downhill with the next section, "Aztec Interpretive Dance". I had no idea what the point was since you couldn't hear the narration. There was no human sacrifice. I was bummed.
Next you enter the room of "It's A Small World" rejects. It's not nearly as scary as the actual Small World but it's getting there. THEN you get to see bad film clips from the 70's of girls water skiing, people getting drunk and a Mexican couple trying to sell you stuff. This moves on to a large room where a festival is going on. What are they celebrating? I have no clue. There is a carousel of marionette people in the center of a modern town with fireworks overhead. Maybe they are celebrating that we left the peddlers in the next room.
(Editorial non-PC rant: I am assuming that these rides in Epcot are to, in part, educate guests about the glorious history of the country represented and give a sense of why this is a neat place to visit. To me, it cheapens the history of Mexico and its people to portray them as annoying peddlers that are always trying to sell you stuff. Sure I go to Mexico and have to beat off the herds of youngsters that are trying to sell me Chiclets or a paper mache donkey but this is suppose to be an INCENTIVE to go to Mexico. Mexico has a rich history and I DIDN'T SEE ANY OF IT! I saw "interpretive dance" and that's it. How about the art of Mesoamerica or festivals specific to the Country? NO! I get water skiing bikini babes and people "running" next to your boat tying to sell you junk! That is really insulting to the people of Mexico. End rant)
Now I admit that I was a little nervous about this ride. I hear some people hurl, some are fine, and some feel a little off for a while then are fine. For anyone that has ridden Rock ‘n Roller Coaster at Disney Studios, the G forces are less on Mission Space but last longer.
There are a TON of signs that tell you that the ride spins and that you can get sick. You are also reminded many times not to close your eyes or to ever turn your head. You must always look straight ahead. There is a very good reason for this. The ride is a centrifuge. Watch “The Right Stuff” for an idea of what this is. Basically it is a sphere that spins very fast.
Now you may say, “I hate spinning rides”. I agree with you but this is different. If you think about it, you spin every second of your life. The Earth spins. It is all in your perception of your environment.
If you keep watching the screen you can trick your brain into believing what it sees is “real”. If you turn your head to the side, your body will notice the spinning and you will vomit. DO NOT TURN YOUR HEAD. Honestly if your kid won't listen to you and fidgets don't take them on this ride or you could get hit when they hurl. In fact they had to put us in another car on our first trip because they had to hose the last one down due to some crazy kid didn't listen to or believe the directions. Believe them. The cast members don't call it Mission Hurl for nothing.
That being said I love this ride. I personally am the biggest spinning weenie on the planet and I did OK on this ride. It was amazing, I just laughed with sheer joy through the lift-off. It was fun and amazing. All I can do is say “COOL! THIS IS SOOOOOO NEAT! WOW!”
Afterward I left the ride, I got a tiny bit dizzy. My body is now mad at me because it has figured out that it was tricked. “HEY! I WAS SPINNING! DAMN YOU, YOU CRAZY MONKEY!!!” It’s trying to get its equilibrium without the spinning. A sit down for 5 minutes or so and taking it slow for another 20 and I was fit as a fiddle.
UPDATE: There are now two versions of this ride. The original in the centrifuge and another with the same elements but you won't be spinning. I haven't experienced the Lite version yet so I can't compare.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Overall Rating = A-
The premise is you are in a limo, racing through the streets of LA to meet Aerosmith at their concert. As you wait to board the ride you see others being launched, yes - launched into the ride. Watching the cars rocket into the darkness just adds to the thrill while you wait your turn. This ride does have inversions (a first for Disney). After you are strapped in, your car is pretty much rocket launched forward going from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. According to cast member information, when you enter the first turns you are pulling 5 g's. This is 3 g's more than the shuttle astronauts experience being blasted into space. Fun, huh?
The ride seats are molded and comfortable so you are not shaken and jolted around. No stomach dropping lurches either. I know some of you sickos like those but you’ll just have to content yourself with the speed, corkscrews and the loop. A really fun ride. Just don't eat too much before going on it. This ride is Fast. Very Fast. But also VERY fun! It's dark but not too dark. You have great Aerosmith music blaring in your ears and hurdle past oversize freeway signs, through giant donuts and finally up to the concert to disembark. This is not to be missed.
The elevator then "leaves" the shaft and travels around the hotel where you see the spirits of the missing people from the elevator accident of long ago and the weird Twilight Zone effects. Are you doomed for their fate?
The ride car actually does move across the floor from point A to point B. When the car starts to move forward after the "space scene", you are almost there….. Your car is being moved over the elevator shaft. The doors in front of you open and in a split second you see the Park and the Everglades and Jesus and Elvis and then you drop.
They use to have metal lap bars but if you get a very large person sitting with a small person, the small person wasn't as "secure" so they were changed. There were people that LOVED the "air time" and wanted to sit next to a very large person so the bar would not go all the way down on the small persons lap. Why? They are strange, that's why!
Actually when you are pulled down faster than gravity, you "float". It's a bit of a hang time delay. Like when you jump right before your elevator stops on the bottom floor and you have farther to fall on the way down. You can try this out with a quarter and a piece of string. Glue a piece of string on the back of a quarter. Right before you drop, put the quarter in your palm. If you can actually watch the money and not have your eyes closed, screaming your fool head off, you will see the quarter "float" above your palm. That is what your body is doing.
It is a very fun ride but one that you have to determine if you (or your kids) can handle. I got through it saying "Mickey wouldn't kill me" over and over. I enjoyed it and was glad I went. I also shamed myself by looking around and figuring if little old ladies and 7 year olds could go, so could I. Try it, really. If you want to see the cool lobby stuff, get in line and then you can bail out at the "chicken exit" right before they load the car. Just tell a cast member.