Saturday, March 26, 2016

Disney Polynesian Village Spirit of Aloha Luau, Orlando Florida

As well as multiple theme parks DisneyWorld has a number of hotels on property ranging from affordable family lodgings to high end resorts. The Polynesian Village is one of the original resorts that opened with DisneyWorld in 1971. 




With no family in tow we were looking for something a little different to do for Christmas dinner and booked the Spirit of Aloha Luau. This is a theatre dinner with tropical food and Polynesian entertainment strung together with a slightly hokey Disney channel style story about a Hawaiian girl leaving her family to make it big in America.



 Truly I was hoping that there would be a Character experience with Lilo and Stitch but instead we got a series of fairly authentic Polynesian dances. Many island cultures were represented including Tonga, Samoa, Maori (New Zealand) and of course Hawaii.


 Costumes were based on real Polynesian national dress and the highlight of the night was an incredible fire dancing display as the finale. Some games and songs appeared during costume changes and of course songs from the soundtrack to Lilo and Stitch were highlighted. 



The dinner is presented in a large tropical bungalow, prices varied based on the view of the stage but even the "cheap seats" had an excellent view. Prices per adult include all you can eat food plus basic beer, wine and sangria $64USD for Category 3 to $74USD for Category 1. 


Tiki style cocktails were available for additional cost like this Pina Colada fit for a Hawaiian King at $14USD



The appetizers were reasonably healthy and included a tangy Coleslaw, Mandarin Salad, Sesame Soba noodles and chunks of sweet Hawaiian pineapple.


The main meal was a hungi / luau style barbecue meat platter including roasted chickens, ribs, pulled pork and an Asian vegetable medley. Gluten free and vegetarian alternatives were available on request.

Further platters were available on request but the servings were generous and we found we were unable to eat the platter presented to us. 


A moist pineapple bread pudding with soft Hawaiian style bread was served for dessert. 

The food was surprisingly good for a family all you can eat dinner and the service and show were Disney quality family entertainment. We had a great time and while it was a little cheesey it was great fun especially for the kids. The dance shows were excellent and the music and comedy were at least Dad Joke funny. 

To top it all off Florida had a heat wave over the holiday break. The heat, food and families dining in tropical Hawaiian clothing made it feel just like Christmas in Australia. We had a great time and would recommend it for someone looking for a different dinner at DisneyWorld. 


Disney's Spirit of Aloha Luau

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/polynesian-resort/disney-spirit-of-aloha-dinner-show/

1600 Seven Seas Drive
Orlando, FL 32830

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review: Coral Reef Restaurant, EPCOT at Disney World

We spent two weeks at Disney World Resort in Florida during the end of year holiday period. One of the great advantags of Disney World over Disneyland are the endless seated dining options. Add a Disney Magic Band and set all your reservations before you leave and you can avoid eating hot dogs and churros every day. 

The busy holiday period had upwards of half a million people on the park properties during Christmas and New Year and so booking early is a must. Reservations can be made at all the Disney restaurants months in advance. I'll be posting a number of holiday resort food destinations that we went to so keep an eye out for new posts. The prices are holiday destination pricey but there are some cheaper options particularly for those on a Disney Dining Plan.



The Coral Reef Restaurant is in the Sea section of EPCOT and is designed to invoke memories of Finding Nemo. The star attraction is the huge windows into the Ocean Tank where you can watch clouds of fish serenely float by. Sadly for the kids in the room the fish spotting map was out of date and we couldn't put the breeds to the pictures provided.

The food at Coral Reef is standard steak and seafood formal dining. There are plenty of options including vegetarian and land animals so that if you're not a seafood fan you won't miss out. Kid friendly options like Fish and Chips and Mac and cheese are included as well as "Mickey Check Meals designed to keep kid friendly food healthy.

 Being a Disney destination they're also meticulous about fussy children and food restrictions. You should be able to find gluten free, dairy free, nut free, wheat free, low carb or diabetic friendly options at all of their restaurants. If you don't see what you need on the menu the "cast members" that make up your dining service are more than happy to help you with options or talk to the chef. The service is Disney immaculate, the food was good but not amazing but given this is a theme park really one cannot complain for it not being Michelin level.


Pina CoLAVA $10USD

The menu is filled with sweet and sticky cocktails like you might enjoy at a beachside resort. Have a pina colada or three with your fish, just remember this is a family dining experience and getting giggly should include being careful to keep the language and topics child appropriate. There are mocktails available so your kids can join in on the fun.




Creamy Lobster Soup $9USD

I'm not a big fan of fish but I do love lobster! This is a classique creamy bisque soup with fresh herbs and cream. Note the kid friendly name to avoid putting off fussy diners.


Heirloom Tomatoes $10USD

Heirloom caprese one of my favourite classics. The tomatoes were ripe and juicy and obviously benefit from the Florida sun. 


Shrimp and Grits $30USD

Shrimp and grits is one of those American classic dishes we had to learn about moving to the US. Corn mash is topped with succotash and seafood, this was a nice rendition filled with coastal prawns. 


New York Strip $33USD

This was a decent but not amazing steak, similar to what one might find at a chain restaurant like Cheesecake Factory. Green vegetables and a decent mash are included.



The Chocolate Wave $9USD 

I can't see a lava cake without thinking of the melt down scene from Chef anymore but sticky gooey chocolate concoctions are right up my man's alley.



Seaside Cupcake $9USD

I saw one of the kids desserts go by and couldn't resist. I admitted to the waiter I was hoping there was one for adults and he laughed and told me this request was common. Moist delicious chocolate cake topped with mounds of butter cream and seaside fancies. Be warned though the Brilliant Blue dye gave me an allergy reaction :o(

All in all we had a great experience at the restaurant and it's a welcome piece of peace after walking around EPCOT all night. On a night you're not waiting for fireworks the serenity of the sea this is a great option. Book ahead.


Coral Reef Restaurant EPCOT


 Epcot
1520 Avenue of the Stars
Orlando, FL 32836

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Recipe: Home made Nutella (Vegan, sugar free, low carb)



Sugar Free Nutella



1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup hazelnut oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tbpsn cocoa powder
2 tbpsn liquid stevia


Method




  • Roast the hazelnuts on a piece of foil at 135C (275F) for 15 minutes
  • Remove the tray from the oven and wrap the foil around the nuts, let the nuts sit for 10 minutes wrapped in foil as this will loosen the skin on the roasted nuts
  • Place the roasted kernels on one side of a clean kitchen towel, double the towel over the nuts and rub vigorously to remove the skins
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pan or microwave
  • Put the nuts and hazelnut oil into a blender and pulse until grainy
  • Add the cocoa, coconut oil and stevia
  • Blend on "Liquify" mode until a smooth liquid is formed
  • If liquid stevia is not available dissolve 4 tbspns of stevia powder into the melted coconut oil before using or a grainy texture will result
  • 1/4 cup skim milk powder can be added to get that "just like store bought" taste but compensate by adding an additional tablespoon of oil
  • You can buy hazelnut oil at Safeway or specialty stores but if not available substitute with a light vegetable oil like canola or grapeseed
  • Pour into a jar and refrigerate
  • Try not to eat the whole jar



Monday, January 11, 2016

Recipe: Coffee Jelly (low carb, gluten free, dairy free)

Coffee jelly is a common dessert in Asia and it's very easy to prepare, low in calories and free from any artificial flavours or additives.


Coffee Jelly


4 cups of coffee
2 packets unflavoured gelatin
3 tbspns sugar or stevia


Method

  • Prepare coffee as usual - brewed or French press coffee works best
  • Pour 1/2 cup of the brewed coffee into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin 
  • Wait for the gelatin to bloom into the liquid
  • Pour the remaining coffee and sweetener into a saucepan
  • Add the bloomed gelatin and coffee 
  • Heat and stir until the sweetener and gelatin have dissolved
  • Using a sieve to catch any undissolved gelatin or loose coffee grinds pour into moulds or cups

  • Cool overnight or until set in the refrigerator
  • To remove from a mould set the mould in a bowl of warm water then turn onto a serving plate
  • For a vegan alternative use agar agar in place of gelatin
  • If desired serve with unsweetened cream or sweetened condensed milk
  • Makes 4 1 cup servings (Macros with stevia: 20 calories, 1g carb, 0g fat, 4g protein)




Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: South City Kitchen, Atlanta

It's January and that means a lot of us are eating healthy and trying to take off Christmas weight; but at least I get to look at some of the reasons why that's necessary!

South City Kitchen is a high end Southern restaurant in Atlanta offering traditional local dishes with a flourish. We went in a large group and had a set menu but it meant I got to see what everyone had to eat. The food in Atlanta is definitely "hearty" and harks back to days when Georgia was an agricultural center of the South. It's sticky gooey comfort food as far as the eye can see and while I might need to run a few extra miles this month it sure was worth it!


Pimento Cheese with pickles and crackers $7USD

Pimento cheese is one of those American things I don't understand. Sharp cheese is mixed with bell peppers and mayonnaise. This is a good rendition of the dish but I think this requires a little nostalgia. The pickles and benne seed crackers were very good though. 


Fried Green Tomatoes $10USD

Stuffed with goat cheese and served with a sweet red pepper coulis this is a morish vegetarian delight that pairs great with cold beer or white wine. 


Salad $8USD

All the fried food in Atlanta really needs some greens to cut through it. This was a good simple side salad with fresh vegetables and a light vinaigrette.


Buttermilk fried chicken with potatoes and beans $19USD

Boy do they know how to make fried chicken in these parts. Brined in a buttermilk bath overnight and then dipped in a slightly spicy batter then fried. The chicken was crisp and the oil not too heavy, great with mash and beans for a simple Southern delight.


Shrimp and Grits $21USD

Shrimp and grits is another very American traditional dish that was unknowns to me before moving to the US. Grits are a corn based porridge similar in taste and texture to polenta made by boiling ground corn. Some grits is made with "hominy" which are corn kernels treated with alkali and give a slightly chewy texture. Shrimp and grits comes with grilled or fried prawns and a gravy often made with pork belly or porcetta. 


Southern Pork Chop with succotash and fried onions $27USD

A very hearty double thick pork chop was basted with a Georgia peach relish and grilled to perfection served over a succotash of corn and beans. The sweet glaze was to die for and this dish was just amazing but we could have easily shared one between two people.


BBQ pork with scallion "hoecake" and horseradish slaw $9USD

This was a main meal sized version of what is usually an appetiser so the serving size may vary. The hoe cake is rather like a vegetable tortilla that soaks up the juices from the meat. Served with a sticky BBQ sauce and cut through with the tangy slaw. Yum.



Dessert platter - Peacan pie, banana pudding and buttermilk chocolate cake ($8USD each for full serves)

We got a sampler plate of tiny versions of these desserts but I'm not going to lie after smothered chops and fried chicken most of us could not eat dessert and a lot of the plate went lonely. Sticky and very sweet desserts seem to be common in the south but I love the user of Buttermilk and custards which give a surprising lightness and destract from all the sugar.

South City Kitchen came well recommended by many and to get a good sample of Southern cuisine it was a great choice. The restaurant was buzzing but the service was excellent. I would definitely avoid eating lunch before hand though. 

 South City Kitchen

http://midtown.southcitykitchen.com/

1144 Crescent Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone:(404) 873-7358

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Peach Tree Food Tours, Atlanta

You might have noticed a bit of a radio silence, but for me that usually means lots of travel so there's lots of blogging to catch up on! 

Atlanta is a surprising delight, a beacon of society and culture in the south filled with technology and media companies that keep the city vibrant. I was surprised to find how fantastic the food and bars were in Atlanta, seemingly everywhere we turned. 

Taking a day out from a busy conference and convention schedule I signed up for a walking tour of Midtown restaurants. 


I found Peachtree Tours through TripAdvisor and the reviews were great, for a reason! John is a local resident who lives in Midtown and has great local knowledge of the area and the local eateries. Buying tickets was easy and John was very friendly and in contact early to talk to me about our needs; he was even able to accomodate a last minute ticket for a friend who joined.


We met at the iconic Fox Theatre in Midtown and I was happy to see that the group was reasonably small. This makes dining and chatting with the group relatively easy and the starting point is easily accessible from local hotels. 


Georgian Terrace Hotel http://www.thegeorgianterrace.com/


As we walked to our first dining destinations John took some time to talk about the local architecture and history of Atlanta. While we didn't stop to eat at the Georgian we got some great history on the building including this ballroom which was the site of Margaret Mitchell's society debut. 


Sadly we were not able to stay on but it was great to see signs for Taste of Atlanta. Atlanta is a great destination for food and drinks and as a foreigner it was great to see a lot of local and Southern food highlighted throughout the city. 


Cypress Street Pint & Plate http://cypressbar.com


Firstly we stopped for the Most American Thing - a bacon cheese burger made with donuts for buns. Surprisingly it wasn't as overwhelming as I expected but I'm told the secret is that they use an Asian style donut less sweet than most American donuts. We shared burgers though, with many dishes to come throughout the day there was no need to fill up early! At each stop we had a drink pairing as well, not so much to distract during the walk but enough to wash down the meal. In this case it was a Crispin Apple cider perfect in the warm Atlanta weather.



Hi Five Diner http://hifivediner.com/


John focussed on some great Southern traditions and as a foreigner exploring the food scene this was a great insight into local traditions. Here we were given boiled peanuts in bourbon and coca cola - Atlanta is the home of Coca Cola and they truly own the town. This was once a working man's treat and the cafe balanced it out with a fresh kale salad. 


Margaret Mitchell House http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/mmh


Amongst the other local architecture we got to see Margaret Mitchell House, a great treat for the Gone with the Wind fan. He took the time to explain some of the history of the house from it's original owner to reconstruction for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games



Einstein's http://einsteinsatlanta.com/


What a great slice of Southern treat! Fried green tomatoes and a fresh Moscow Mule on a delightful patio with plenty of opportunity for crowd watching. Einstein's is an Atlanta instutation and I can see why. This is the perfect lazy Sunday destination or celebration meal and the high class rendition of these Southern favourites was just perfect. My only wish? That we'd had a sweet tea cocktail to wash it down. 



Max's Wine Dive - http://www.maxswinedive.com/atlanta-12th-street/


Fried chicken and champagne? Why the hell not indeed! I probably wouldn't have thought about this combination but it just works. For me this really represents that great cultural mix that Atlanta has, a little bit posh but a little bit wild and really into great chicken. The butter milk chicken came with traditional sides like cornbread, greens and potatoes and came washed down with a generous glass of Classique Prodige Blanc de Blanc NV. This could have been a meal in itself and I'm glad the portion wasn't bigger. Fried chicken and champagne might just become the new meal of the Southern fashionista. 

The branding on the restaurant could do with a little work, I couldn't get any shot where the name of the restaurant and their amusing slogan went side by side. What a missed opportunity for free instagram advertising! On top of this the "wine dive" name is a little odd, people who like dive bars don't really drink wine. I loved the decor though all rustic wood covered in mug shots of famous people - Jimi Hendrix and Al Capone to name a couple. This is definitely a restaurant with potential that needs a new executive manager to really drive the opportunity to target women with disposable income.




Cafe Intermezzo http://www.cafeintermezzo.com/


If there is one thing I miss about Australia it is the cafe culture. Wide patio dining and classic European coffee couture are sadly missing in California. Intermezzo really harks to a lazy afternoon in Florence or even Melbourne. Great espresso drinks and a seemingly endless liqueur selection go hand in hand with a pastry cabinet that is just to die for. Traditional Italian pastries, American classic cakes and pies and sticky Southern delights all feature. Everyone was delighted with their pastries and a coffee was just perfect to cap it off.



For my friend's birthday we even got a candle on her cake and had a birthday sing song. How lovely!



Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe http://www.sweethutbakery.com/cafe-menu/


But wait there's more! Just when you think you couldn't eat another bite John stopped at the bakery for us to take home some treats. Asian bakeries are high on our list of favourites and this shop had a great mix of sweet and savoury buns and delightful hand crafted desserts. This gave us a better than average breakfast the next day!

All in all it was a marvellous food tour and very involved compared to some of those I've been on. We covered quite a bit of distance in Midtown Atlanta, but it was not strenuous and I was able to easily traverse without impact on a bad leg. Truthfully it was good to walk off some of the food so that you didn't feel lethargic by the end of the tour. I would advise if you have older members in your party that taking the tour in the colder months might be sensible.

There was plenty of history, culture and sites as well as the food and the portions and drinks were very generous for the price. As well as the stores and restaurants we visited we stopped to talk about iconic eateries not on the tour and I had plenty of ideas of where else we could go while visiting. A highly highly recommended event for the food traveller.

Peach Tree Food Tours



805 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
(770) 352-4607

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Recipe: Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers (Low carb, gluten & dairy free)

Sometimes cooking for my team at work can be hard since we all have so many dietary restrictions. This was a great answer for the low carb and gluten free diners. Chimichurri adds a freshness that lifts even fatty beef and it pairs wonderfully with the sweet roasted peppers. I've prepared this dish with a beef roast but it works just as well with grilled flank steak or rib eye - use the meat that fits your budget. 


Chimichurri beef with roasted red peppers 

1 bunch flat leaf parsley
6 - 8 cloves garlic
3⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon diced red onion
salt and pepper to taste

300g beef per person

Method

  • Cut the cheeks off your peppers and deseed
  • Place on a foil covered baking tray and grill at 260C (500F) fairly close to the heat on a high shelf
  • The skin of the peppers will begin to blacken and bubble - this is intended and we want as much of the skin as possible to blacken
  • 8 - 12 minutes should be enough depending on the heat and freshness of your peppers
  • For best effect use 2 - 3 colours of peppers for contrast



  • As soon as the peppers are out of the oven wrap them in the foil you used to bake on. 
  • Wrapping the peppers in foil contains the moisture and steam and this will make removing the skin easy



  • Leave for 10 minutes then unwrap and scrape off the blackened skin with a fork. Your nude pepper cheeks should look a little something like this



  • Cut into small strips and leave to cool 



  • Set your oven to 180C (350F) if you are roasting beef
  • For steak wait until the peppers and sauce are made before grilling


  • For roast beef turn into a baking tray fat side up, liberally coat in salt and pepper and score the fat, roast while we prepare the sauce Bake at 180C (350F) for around an hour


  • To prepare the chimichurri you may want to use an electric chopper since you will need to finely dice all the ingredients. Make sure to only use the pulse setting to avoid liquifying your herbs
  • Feel free to do this by hand using a chef's knife if you have good knife skills or you prefer a courser sauce
  • Dice the onion and add to a bowl
  • Finely chop the garlic and parsley together
  • Add the vinegar, oil and citrus juice then stir
  • Taste and then season with salt and pepper
  • If you wish to soften the sharpness of the dish you may add more oil and a small amount of Stevia or brown sugar (1/4 teaspoon should be enough)
  • Slice the beef into slices then layer with chimichurri sauce and roasted peppers
  • Serve with a fresh green salad