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Archive for the ‘Quality Eats’ Category

I had the chance to eat at La Hacienda de San Angel, Disney’s new restaurant at Epcot a few weeks ago. The restaurant was brand new, having been open only a few days when we dined there. Everything was new and beautiful including these paintings located just inside the doors.

I value to decor of a restaurant and how well it matches the theme. This place was nicely done and gave me the feel that I was dining in Mexico. It helps that outside the restaurant is Epcot’s Mexico.

I made note that the menus were decorative.

The drink menu and such.

Funny story. We walked by the outside of the restaurant earlier in the day and asked if they had a vegetarian menu. The nice representative said yes and that they had just come up with it that morning because they had not included vegetarian choices on their menu to start off. I suppose they had already gotten a lot of negative feedback about that. She presented us with this typed on paper version of their vegetarian menu.

Here is little Duffy.

We ordered from the vegetarian menu of course. We had the Cheese Empanadas, which were delicious. They were also beautifully presented.

If you noticed on the menu, the Cheese Empanadas was supposed to come with black beans and rice. Here is a shot of the beans. Also, just a little note, the cheese that topped these items was lovely. You’ll notice that I do not have a shot of the rice because were were not given any. When I asked about this the manager came to the table and told me that because they had just planned the vegetarian menu, the rice that they had was cooked in chicken stock. We asked for the rice anyway because we are not too prudish.

We shared the main course above so that we  could each get desserts. Here is my Chocolate con Churros. The churros has a lovely caramel-like sauce. The hot chocolate was sweet and complemented the churros well.

My LW’s dessert: Tamal de Dulce. I heard it was good.

Overall, everything we ordered was delicious and presented nicely. The whole new restaurant forgot to have a vegetarian menu thing is okay because they were clearly trying to fix that. I would like for them to have noted that the rice was cooked with chicken stock prior to me having to ask why it wasn’t brought along with the meal but oh well. I will attest that too the waiter who seemed pretty young. The atmosphere was definitely fun and I would dine at this restaurant again. I give it four forks. Enjoy!

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The Cellar

My most recent dining experience was at The Cellar in Daytona Beach.  The Cellar has been open for several years now and maintains a modest clientele with word of mouth being their only advertisement.  Any restaurant that can survive in this economy with word of mouth advertisement must be good.

The entrance to The Cellar is awkward but quaint.  You enter the side door of an old house and go down about eight steps to the restaurant’s main dining area.  It is family owned and operated as the hostess told us that her husband was the chef.  He was trained and spent time cooking at a fine dining restaurant in Italy.

Two types of bread were brought to our table with olive oil in a fancy looking Erlenmeyer flask.  The flask was brilliant for pouring the oil in a controlled manner.  The whole grain bread was slightly sweet and delicious.

As I was dining with five other people, our table ordered a bottle of white wine.  It was a nice touch that the waiter brought us new white wine glasses as the table was set for red.  The wine selection was good and after showing interest in the wine, we were offered a sample of a new wine that they will be serving. Notice all of the wine in the background, that is a tiny fraction of the supply they had.

You can view the menu online at The Cellar Menu, though as a party of six we were able to order a lot of different dishes.

For starters I had the Peperoni Imbottiti

Gnocchi Alla Bolognese

Ravioli al Mare

Avocado con Gamberi e Granchi

Main courses were just as delicious as the starters.  This is my dish which is salmon with king trumpet mushrooms and veggies.

Risotta ai Porcini:

Fettucini con Salmone Affumicato:

Snapper Special: It was pan-seared, wrapped in thin potatoes, and served with squash asparagus, and potatoes.

Even though we had originally planned to go home for dessert and coffee but the options looked so good that we decided to order desserts at the restaurant.

Torta di Cicocolata

Frutti di Bosco paired with Chateau de Cosse Sauterne.  Just a note here, the dessert wine was super sweet and super tasty.

Torta di Pane with Hazelnut icecream:

Over all, this restaurant was above and beyond what I had expected.  The service was excellent, the switching to white wine glasses was a nice touch, the food was perfectly cooked and the dishes all had a traditional Italian base but were prepared and presented creatively.

Five Forks! Enjoy!

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Two days ago, I have the great fortune of dining at The Ravenous Pig.  My wife’s cousin, Chef Stew, recommended this location if we were ever in the Winter Park, area.  I supposed you should always listen to a chef’s recommendation as eating at The Ravenous Pig was refreshing.  I wish there were more restaurants like this one.  Ashley and Judy at the table, which was set with recyclable paper top, cloth napkins, elegant silverware, and wine glasses.  Impressive first impression.

The menu, which changes regularly, was printed on recyclable materials as well.  I took a photo of it (click to enlarge) because I knew it wouldn’t be online.

Also, the beer menu.  I did not photo the wine list but it was similar, with lots of selections by the glass or bottle.

I took a recommendation from the waiter for a small beer.  This was a just-my-size, IPA, but not too hoppy beer, the Brooklyn Brewery Lager.

For starters I got the deviled eggs.  I love deviled eggs and these certainly did not disappoint.  I felt it was a fair portion of them for the price, and the filling was light and flavorful.  They were topped with a little paprika, chives, and course salt.

The table shared the House-made Charcuterie.  We learned that 95% of the items on the menu are made from scratch at the restaurant.  Any restaurant that maintains home-made, hand-made foods to the same degree that we do at home now, is high on my list.  On the plate below there are pickled cucumbers, tomato, and onion, home-made grain mustard, three cured meats, salad and grilled home-made bread.  Everything was delicious.  Each meat had its own flavor, one was chorizo which was spicy, one was fennel and brown sugar, and the other was sopressata.

The wife and I shared the Grouper sandwich with fries.  The fries were home-made, of course.  The sandwich came with a nice piece of grouper, pan-fried, roasted tomato, bibb lettuce, and gribiche on a brioche bun.  The fish was cooked perfectly.  The fries were light and crispy, and not greasy at all.

Judy had the Grilled Cheese Sandwich which came with la quercia prosciutto, mozzerella, basil pesto, and roasted lemon marmalade on sourdough bread.  She had the side salad with it as well.  The bread was crispy and the maramalade was sweet and refreshing.  The flavors blended well with the cheese and meat.

Of course, after the appetizers and main courses, we had to give the “pigtails” a try.  Four light and crispy fried doughnuts were served coated in sugar and with a chocolate dipping sauce.  Eating all four was not a problem and who got the fourth one (as there were three of us at the table) was the real question.  We split it, of course.

Presentation of all of the food was creative and well thought out.  The quality of the food was top-notch, as they use only the freshest ingredients and make most of their items from scratch in-house.   I was impressed with the atmosphere, the focus on organic and home-made items, the recyclable table setting, and the quality of the food.  I would return to The Ravenous Pig and recommend it to everyone.

The Ravenous Pig gets five forks. Enjoy!

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Breakfast buffets are a big thing at Disney.  They must make a fortune off of them because they send some characters into a room, fill up a buffet with relatively cheap food and charge people and exorbitant fee to eat there.  We don’t usually go for these types of meals at Disney because we like to take advantage of their nicer restaurants and/or restaurants that serve unusual food.  As we were on the dining plan for our visit we decided to try 1900 Park Fare, which is located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

The food was a pretty straight forward selection of breakfast items, eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, and more.  There were Mickey shaped waffles, which were tasty.  The photos below show a sampling of the food but certainly not everything.  There was an omelet station and smoked salmon with capers and hard boiled eggs as well.  The strawberry soup was a bit on the thick side but good.

For most people that eat at 1900 Park Fare, the appeal is the photo and greeting opportunity with the characters that come around to each table.  If you sit at the table an hour you should be visited by each character at least once.  Alice made a stop at the table along with Tigger, Pooh, Mary Poppins, and Mad Hatter.

Overall, the food and service was nothing special.  The atmosphere was load and hectic.  For the amount you pay to eat breakfast here you would expect some element of fine dining, but it’s just not there.   The characters were fun but not worth the money for two adults.  I give 1900 Park Fare two forks. Enjoy!

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I recently dined at Coral Reef Restaurant in Disney’s Epcot.  I will be upfront in saying that it was not my first experience at this restaurant.  I had previously eaten there and was not impressed.  However, we chose to go back and give it a second chance primarily for the location.  One wall of the restaurant is the tank of the Living Seas. 

We had reservations and did not wait long for a table right next to the tank.  We were immediately greeted by our server who took lots of time to go over the menu and specials.  We got smoothies to start, which were good. 

Between the service and the automatic bread with sea salted butter, Coral Reef got off to a great start. 

One negative to note here was the appetizer options.  My wife ordered what appeared to be vegetarian appetizer, Sweet Corn Chowder with Smoked Paprika Oil, and it turned out to have bacon in it.  Otherwise, it tasted good. 

I ordered the Crabcakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa and Tequila Aioli which were light and delicious.  The sweetness from the salsa worked well with the crab and the Tequila Aioli had a nice tangy flavor to it.

The main courses were just as delicious as the appetizers.  The Wild Mushroom Lasagna was excellent.  It must be noted here (as the server noted it to us at the table when taking the order) that the dish should not be called a lasagna as it is not layered.  The filling is actually wrapped in noodles and baked then served over sauce.  Whatever it should be called it was inspiring.

I went with the Grilled Maui-Maui.  It was served on a bed of Jasmine rice and hearts of palm (which made the dish in my opinion).  The texture of the rice and hearts of palm worked nicely with the smoothness of the fish.  The flavor was light and almost buttery. 

As a note of celebration, the served brought us two glasses of Champagne with our desserts.  It was a nice touch.  The desserts were delicious.

All in all, I was quite impressed with Coral Reef.  I enjoyed the food.  The service was fantastic.  They went above and beyond to make our dining experience special.  I give this restaurant four forks! Enjoy!

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Kouzzina, which means kitchen in Greek (trust me, I heard the seater say it about 40 times as our table was near the restaurant entrance), had an obvious gay appeal since it is Cat Cora’s restaurant and is headed by Disney Chef, Dee Foundoukis: Disney Press Release.  Trying new foods is one of my favorite things to do and Mediterrainean food is supposed to be healthy so I was looking forward to our dinner at Kouzzina.

The table was set nicely with wine glasses and cloth napkins, the atmosphere was loud and busy, and with an open kitchen and Greek theme. I’m convinced that these choices all work.  What is convenient for Disney is that the intentional atmosphere works well with theme park goers and screaming children.

They did serve bread automatically, which I enjoy, though I didn’t eat much because it was just bread and salted butter.

The appetizers started the dinner off nicely even though the service was perhaps the worst I’ve had a Disney location.  I order the Kouzzina Spreads and my wife ordered the Spiro’s Greek Salad which both turned out to be very authentically Greek.  My spreads were delicious.  I hate olives but ate them with the Harissa yogurt and they weren’t bad.

The salad seemed to have very little lettuce, which is appropriate for a Greek salad, and the ingredients were all quite fresh.

The main courses were less impressive and corresponded perfectly with the downfall in service.  The vegetarian option was just tomato based vegetables over orzo.  It was good but nothing special.

I selected the Kouzinna Trio which included sample portions of Pastitsia, Char-grilled Lamb Burger, and Cinnamon stewed Chicken with Orzo.  Of the three my favorite was the Pastitsia which is basically like Lasagna.  The lamb-burger had a lot of seasoning mixed into the meat that I didn’t care for.  It was a little dry and the taste was too strong for me.  The chicken was in line with my wife’s dish in that it was just chicken over orzo.

Desserts were good.  This is the Loukoumades which were light and tasty doughnuts.

The Chocolate Budino Cake was delicious and the coffee went nicely with it.  The center of the cake was warm and gooey and how can you go wrong with that?

The plating and creativity was nice throughout dinner and the menu offered a good selection staying within the Greek theme.  I was least impressed with the main course and the service.  Unfortunately, these two things are major portions of the dining and I would likely not return to Kouzzina.  Towards the end of dinner we waited far too long to receive a bill and then to receive the cards back.  After getting the card back the waiter had run the wrong amount and we had to wait even longer to get this issue fixed.  I don’t like to linger after I’m done eating and the waiter was in no hurry to help us out.

I give Kouzinna a disappointing two forks.

Enjoy!

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The Wave, located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, serves food cooked American style with a hint of worldly flavors and influences.  The menu is full of fresh and healthy items including sustainable fish, and organic fruits and vegetables.  They also have an extensive cocktail, wine, and beer menu that includes organic beer and cocktail ingredients.

The Wave Dinner Menu

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which I attribute to Disney needing more places for people to dine (a.k.a. make money).  This review is strictly related to dinner.  As you enter the Contemporary, there are impressive sites before you get to the entrance to the restaurant.  This is one of the walls covered with a tile mosaic:

Here is the entrance to the restaurant which sets the theme and gives you an idea of that the dinning experience you are going to have:

The table was set nicely with cloth napkins, bread plates and wine glasses:

I love a restaurant that serves bread without asking.  Here they served this delicious multi-grain bread and butter with sea salt:

As an appetizer we had two for the table, Buffalo Mozzarella Flat-bread and Florida Rock Shrimp and Lump Crab Cakes, and both were lovely.  Everything tasted fresh, was cooked masterfully, and served artfully. The flat-bread was topped with pesto and fresh basil leaves which finished it nicely.  The Florida Rock Shrimp and Lump Crab Cakes were tasty.  The shrimp was actually in the cakes and not separate as you might expect.  The comment from everyone at the table was that the appetizers were a bit small to share.

The Buffalo Mozzarella Flat-bread:

Florida Rock Shrimp and Lump Crab Cakes:

For dinner we had two selections for the table as well.  The first was The Sustainable Fish with Edamame Stew and Cilantro Chutney.  It was a trio of fish, Snapper, Cobia, and Shrimp over a bed of fresh beans, corn, tomatoes, and edamame.  The sauce was a bit sweet but complimented the dish well.  The snapper was light and very fluffly, the cobia was a bit heavier with a more of a fishy taste, and the shrimp tasted like shrimp.  All three were cooked perfectly and the edamame stew was full of flavor. The other entree at the table was Linguini with Florida Littleneck Clams and Rock Shrimp with Chunky Tomato Broth.  It had a bit of a spicy kick and the clam were very fresh.

The Sustainable Fish with Edamame Stew and Cilantro Chutney:

Linguini with Florida Littleneck Clams and Rock Shrimp with Chunky Tomato Broth:

The waitress brought out these TWO free desserts!  (We were wearing our anniversary buttons from Disney.)  Desserts are one of the most important parts of a meal for me.  These are two different trios.  The first (on the left), was The Creamy Indulgence, which included Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis, Coconut Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Drizzle, and Chocolate-Passion Fruit Mousse with Pecan-Olive Brittle.  The second (on the right), was The Decadent Flavors, which included Blueberry Compote with Yogurt Gelato, Lemon Cornbread with Vanilla Panna Cotta, and Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel Sauce.  All six were tasty but my favorites included the cheesecake and the chocolate mousse.

The Wave Dessert Menu

Overall, this restaurant had a clear theme and elements of fine dining.  The experience was positive from the entrance-way all the way through dessert.  The service was attentive but not in your face.  The food was fresh and prepared elegantly.   I give it five forks up! Enjoy!

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