Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Scream, You Scream, we eat a lot of Ice Cream

When it comes to eating desserts, I could easily pass. I’d rather have a burger over cake.  I am however a great appreciator of ice cream. It is one of my favorite foods.  I prefer hard ice cream over soft serve.  Depending on the flavor, I can eat ice cream with or without toppings. Disney World and Universal  in Orlando are filled with a great variety of frozen delights, and I was ready to try as many as I thought my waist line could handle.  

Animal Kingdom
   Riding the first day of vacation high, and feeling the need for something to top off our Tamu Tamu lunch, we went in search of the elusive Animal Kingdom ice cream sandwich.  

There is no sign naming the kiosk where the ice cream sandwiches are sold. You just have to look for the kiosk that has it on the menu.  We found that kiosk located in between the entrance to the Discovery Island Trail and the large entryway to the Harambe Africa section of the park. 

 We stood in line and debated if we should get one to share or our own.  Fortunately the girl in front of us ordered an ice cream sandwich. Once we saw how gigantic it was, there was no need to get more than one.

 The chocolate chip cookies are the star of the this treat.  They were fresh and delicious and the cold super creamy vanilla ice cream complemented the cookies well.  There were only two issues
1)      We had to put a lot of muscle into hacking away at the cookie in order to split it in half.
2)      The hot weather caused the ice cream to melt rather quickly. 

Things got messy, especially towards the end. I had to take a trip to the restroom to get un-sticky. 

Minor problems however compared to the delightfulness of the sandwich. It was my favorite of our Disney World ice cream treats.  I recommend getting one if you ever find yourself in Animal Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom
I know, this might sound a little crazy to all of the Disney people, but this was our first time trying the popular Dole Whip vs. Citrus Swirl treats.  I was unaware in the past that they were such a thing. We wanted to see what the fuss was all about. To make a proper assessment, we had to get one of each.

The biggest pro to the Citrus Swirl is that the lines at The Sunshine Tree Terrace are refreshingly short.

The Citrus Swirl is tasty, but it does have a more tart slightly bitter pithy orange taste, so if you aren’t into that, it may not be your preferred treat.

The Dole Whip line was the longest line I waited in during our entire trip. There is a significant lack of shade and I could feel my skin crisping as I stood there waiting, and waiting.  I think the problem was that most groups nominate one poor soul to be their Dole Whip point person so each person standing at the window ordered three, six, even ten Dole Whips.

There was a British mother and daughter standing in front of me in line and a woman from Texas standing in front of them.  I witnessed what I could only describe as a British SNL skit where the British people make fun of what they think the stereotypical American is like.
First the woman from Texas kept pushing her sun block on the British ladies as though they were so foreign sun block must be a revolutionary invention to them.

“It’s cloudy and rainy all the time where y’all are from right?”

Texas must have asked that at least four times. At first the British ladies tried explaining that during the summer the weather in the UK is pretty much the same as the US, but they finally gave up trying to reason with Texas and replied yes. 

Texas continued talking the composed polite Brits’ ears off. She was TMIng all over the place and at one point the conversation devolved into her telling the ladies how in the US simple minded people kill babies by accidentally leaving them in hot cars. I really wanted to throw the flag at that point and tell her you can’t talk about dying babies at Disney World.  Really there should be a Disney task force that sweeps in and carts you away if you broach such topics.  I  also wanted to apologize to the two British ladies and let them know that we aren’t all like Texas. I imagine that once they had their Dole Whips in hand, they ran as fast as they could to the other side of the park to evade Texas for the rest of the day.

I liked the Citrus Swirl but if I had to choose, I liked the Dole Whip a little more.  It is sweet, light, and maybe it was the dehydration I experienced while standing in line, but I thought it was the more refreshing of the two. 

 The other most popular ice cream treat in Disney World is the Mickey Bar.  I’m not sure if it’s that you are on vacation and at Disney World, but I think that The Mickey Bar is better than your normal grocery store ice cream bar of a similar kind. 

The Mickey Bar’s chocolate coating is thick and the chocolate is good quality. We enjoyed our Mickey Bar break, but like the ice cream sandwich, they can get messy quick.

 Downtown Disney
We were feeling a little worn out the night we went to Downtown Disney.  Shannon skipped on ice cream, but I felt like I had to have my Ghirardelli sundae.  

If we are at a destination that has a Ghirardelli Shop we try to make a stop.  I’m not sure what it was, if it really wasn’t as good as it used to be, or if we had had such great ice cream already on the trip that it couldn’t measure up.  I got the Caramel Sundae and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t fantastic like I remembered.

It could have been just an off night for them. It was a busy night at Downtown Disney and the woman taking our order was grumpy and reminded me of the Lunch Lady from the Billy Madison movie.  I’m willing to give Ghirardelli the benefit of the doubt and another try on a future trip.

This is a bit of a cheat. We had every intention of having ice cream at L’Artisan de Glaces in France.  I was looking forward to it well before our plane departed for Orlando, but we visited Epcot at the end of our trip and by then we were feeling a little daired- out. 

Instead of ice cream we stopped in Japan at the Kabuki Café to try a Kaki-gori.

Kaki-gori is shaved ice that is topped with fruit flavor.  You can get strawberry, cherry, melon (tastes like honeydew), tangerine, or you can get rainbow if you want to try all of the flavors.  
Shannon got tangerine, while I went all in and got the rainbow with an added topping of sweet milk (that makes it ice creamish right?).  

This sounds a little strange, but as soon as I took the first bite I was transported to a Spanish colonial square draped with purple-pink flowers in the San Felipe section of Panama City.  Kaki-gori was exactly the same fruit flavored topped with sweet milk treat we had in Panama, but there they were called raspados.  We enjoyed our Kaki-goris so much that if we hadn’t strayed so far from Japan and scored a good fireworks viewing spot, we would have had a second.

Universal Studios-Diagon Alley
The ice cream place that I was most looking forward to visiting during our trip was Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor in Diagon Alley.  

I remember reading The Prisoner of Azkaban and being jealous of Harry as he hung out at Florean Fortescue’s, eating strawberry peanut butter ice cream while Florean shared his knowledge of the Goblin Wars.  I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of that actual ice cream parlor. It was the place I most wanted to see brought to life in Diagon Alley.

 The theming is fun and charming, but the service is no joke.  

Everyone is pleasant and polite but the line works like the Soup Nazi of ice cream lines.  You better know what you want when they ask, which is easier said than done as there are so many wonderful choices. 

 They have a Butterbeer soft serve, but I really wanted to try the strawberry peanut butter ice cream since 1) it is directly from the books and 2) peanut butter is my favorite ice cream flavor.  I got one scoop of strawberry peanut butter and a scoop of earl grey lavender because how could I pass up a chance to do a Potter- Next Generation ice cream mash up?

I adored the strawberry peanut butter. Oh how I wish I could have some right now.  It needs to become a more popular ice cream flavor.  I felt that the earl grey lavender was too mild.  Maybe they made it that way so it wouldn’t overwhelm the not so adventurous, but I thought that the earl grey ice cream that I had in Bryant Park in NYC was more flavorful. 

The ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s was so good, we returned for a second round the next day. On our second visit Shannon tried the clotted cream ice cream.  It was a strange mixture of tart and sour, I was not a fan.   I couldn’t pass up a chance to have the strawberry peanut butter again and I also got a scoop of the salted caramel blondie. That flavor was also divine.  I look forward to trying the other flavors and maybe even the butterbeer soft serve the next time I'm at Universal Orlando.

Our Orlando Parks trip turned out to be a great ice cream/ice treat tour.  

If you have a favorite Disney ice cream stop let me know. We are working on putting together another trip this fall and I’d love to try some different creamy indulgences.

J.K. Rowling skipped over the part of Harry's life where he blew all of his inheritance money partying in his 20s and had to earn money by scooping ice cream at Florean Fortescue's 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Musical Matilda-NYC Part Two

After lunch we walked a few short blocks to the Schubert Theater.  

We arrived to Will Call an hour before the show to pick up the tickets we had ordered. 

Our Cast for the day

Someone found where the chalk is stored

When Shannon walked up the man at Will Call stated that there were still plenty of seats available and would we be interested in upgrading our seats at no additional cost. Yes please. This was perfect timing because once we had our tickets in hand, tons of people started streaming in to buy tickets.  We ended up with center seats in the fifth row. They were great seats.

The curtains were Scrabble pieces 

I liked the guy with the pompom hat

Soooooooo excited 

Matilda the Musical is not Les Miserable. It is a play geared toward families (or geeky girls with whimsical childlike hearts). Like the book, it is funny, quirky, and imaginative. Half of the cast is made up of child actors and as someone who has directed children in plays (that didn’t have to be of professional quality), I was impressed by all of the kids in the play and their various directors, choreographers, etc… I was calculating the hard work in my brain. 

I only had one problem with the play. I have the soundtrack performed by the original London cast and I listen to it a lot.  During certain numbers I had to fight back the urge to jump up on the stage with an exclamation of,

“Hey guys I know this one. I'm going to join along.”

I assume this sort of behavior would earn one a lifelong ban from the theater so I remained glued to my seat.

There are several girls who rotate the role of Matilda. 

Our Matilda, Eliza Holland Madore, is the little girl who reads the comments to Ricky Gervais in the back of his car in an Audi commercial. She looked so tiny up on that great big stage. 

Matilda has a lot of long monologues to memorize in a British accent no less.  She did a great job and performed the best version of Quiet, one of my absolute favorite songs ever, that I have heard.  My eyes got a bit watery as she sang standing atop a stack of books. 

Eliza was quite excited to get the part of Matilda.

She was fantastic, but during the scenes with all of the kids, my eyes were constantly drawn to, Grace Capeless, the girl who plays Matilda's best friend, Lavender.  

She absolutely lit up the stage and made me believe that she was having the time of her life up there. I wish her a lifetime of theatrical endeavors because I would enjoy seeing her again.  

Since the debut of the musical, Miss Trunchbull has been played by a man. Our Miss Trunchbull, Christopher Sieber, was incredible. 

He was having a lot of fun up on the stage. His trampoline jump into a tumble was quite impressive for a man of his size wearing a tight pencil skirt. I have been binge watching the show Pushing Daisies recently so I was excited that our Miss Trunchbull was played by an actor who was in one of the episodes of the now deceased show.

 In  true Roald Dahl spirit, many of the songs have snarky lyrics, especially Mrs. Wormwood’s song Loud that includes her dancing around in a dazzling sparkly outfit.  

Mr. Wormwood sings a song entitled “Telly,” where he bashes books and sings the praises of the television.  Of course I squeezed Shannon’s arm during the part of the song Bruce where the children make a TARDIS reference (in her biography, our Matlida said that her favorite show is Doctor Who so I imagine she especially loves singing that particular lyric). 

Spoiler Alert-The play allowed me to check something off of my bucket list.  I’ve always wanted to be at an event where a huge shower of confetti rains down on me.  This happens at the very end of the play.  It was very cool and I was ecstatic.

While walking back to the train, Shannon asked if I remembered the part in the beginning of the play when Mr. Wormwood threw his fake cigarette into the audience.  I said I did. The cigarette landed somewhere near our section and people glanced around, but no one could find it.  Shannon then extracted the fake cigarette from his pocket. 

It landed near him.  I was excited. It was a great final birthday surprise to have a prop from the Broadway play that involved a character that had such an important impact on my life.  Now I'm going to wait and hope that the other most influential book when I was eleven, The Westing Game, gets made into a Broadway production next.

Our Cast 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lunching at Lillie's-NYC Part One

I have been a voracious reader since the time I first learned how to read.  There is nothing I love more than escaping into a good book; living the life of someone else if only for a little while. I was perhaps the rare child who didn’t mind reading a book and then sharing my new friends with others through the process of book reports.  
As an adult I love reading a little bit of everything, but as a kid I was stuck in a genre rut.  I loved historical fiction books and if the book involved an orphan or a boarding school, or an orphan now attending a boarding school, well for me that was little girl nirvana.  I’m not sure if my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Tambussi recognized my reading rut or if she just thought I would really like the book, but while we were picking books for our next round of book reports she suggested that I read Matilda by Roald Dahl. 

As the eleven year old me read this book the world was suddenly filled with vibrant color.  It was my first introduction to snark.  The book was poking fun at all of the shallow people that exasperated an introverted geeky girl like me.  At a time in my life when many girls were overly concerned with the height of their bangs and the day when their mothers would finally allow them to wear lipstick, Matilda made a hero out of a little girl who was smart and loved reading books. The writing/story was weird, crazy, with just the right amount of silly.  Some people who have read my fiction have stated that they can see a touch of Roald Dahl.  Matilda is one of those characters that I packed away in the well of the soul that bookish girls draw from when they need strength.

When I heard that Matilda the Musical, only being performed in London, was finally making its debut on Broadway in New York City, I was more than just a little persistent.

“So when are going to see Matilda? You do understand that we have to see Matilda?  Do you know how important Matilda has been to me throughout my life?” 

These are the sentences my husband had to listen to over the past couple of years.  We were going to to see the play last year, but we usually work off of a one Broadway excursion per year plan, and when we saw the opportunity to see Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot, Matilda would have to wait.  Finally for my birthday this year the time had come.

We left for NYC at an incredibly early hour.  We were determined to give ourselves plenty of time.  We caught the train at Hamilton, then took the blue line (so much less stressful than the red line) to 50th street.  
We were a little unsure what to do as it was more than an hour before our lunch choice opened.  
Normally we would walk around and take in some sights, but the weather was too frigid. We found a fun little coffee shop, grabbed some coffees and a waffle to share, 

and became privy to an amazing conversation that I think is worth mentioning.

 The conversation took place between a high school senior and a college recruiter. The recruiter was from Les Roches, a prestigious school that specializes in hospitality management.  The high school girl’s father wants her to apply to Cornell to study medicine, but the girl hated all of her biology and chemistry classes and can’t imagine having to spend the rest of her life devoted to something she isn’t passionate about.  Her passions leaned in the global hospitality industry direction.  The recruiter did a spectacular job. By the time we were ready to leave I wanted to ask if I could get an application to the school.  The school is based in Switzerland. The first semester of the program takes place in Switzerland. The second semester is in China, and the third semester is in Spain.  As part of the curriculum, you spend several weeks in various other countries to immerse yourself in their culture. You get to take classes like “pastry and baking,” and “The Gastronomy of Spain.”  I wanted to grab that student and shake her by her shoulders shouting,


With visions of global travel swirling through my head, we departed the coffee shop to lunch at Lillie’s.

 Lillie’s feels like walking into a Victorian dream.  

It’s beautiful, cozy, with a sense of quirk.  

It is the perfect place for a pre-matinee lunch.  They even have a matinee special.  For $13.00 you can have a salad or a sandwich or an entrée and a beverage, which includes wine and beer. 

Since we were going to a British play, I chose the Shepherd’s Pie and a glass of white wine.  It was warm and comfy in my belly.

Shannon also got a glass of white wine and the Chicken Pot Pie.

 We wanted to also split some kind of appetizer. Our server suggested the Parmesan truffle fries, and I am glad she did, they were fantastic.

I appreciated that they were cut thicker than most Parmesan truffle fries. The thicker cut caused them to have delicate fluffy centers.  They were neither too dry, nor too soggy with truffle oil, and you could tell that the restaurant did not skimp on the quality of the Parmesan.  

We topped the meal off with one of the creamiest crème brulees I have ever had. 

We had a delightful afternoon looking round, seeing something different at every glance and discussing our own someday traveling plans. It was such a nice lunch. If you are going to New York City to see a matinee, I recommend lunching at Lillie's. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Donald is good-Duck not so much-Eats at Hollywood Studios

During our trip we ate at Hollywood Studios three times.

We had fond memories of the ABC Commissary  and planned on stopping there for lunch, but when we scanned the current menu we discovered that all of the more unique items had been taken away and replaced with the same burgers, sandwiches, etc… as most of the other quick service eateries.  

After feeling momentarily uncertain where to go next, we headed to The Brown Derby Lounge.

Not to be confused with The Brown Derby Restaurant, the patio lounge sits just outside of the restaurant and serves small bites and drinks. 

They even have Shirley Temples, but it was so hot that day, all I wanted was a big tall glass of ice water.  Barbara, who was our amazing cast member/server, kept the ice water flowing without ever being asked. She even offered us two cups of ice water to go before we left.

 Since we had reservations for dinner, we only wanted a little something to tide us over. We ordered the cheese and charcuterie platter and the sliders.  

The sliders consisted of one beef slider and one duck slider.  The beef slider was one of the best burgers that I have ever had. I probably could have eaten five of them; the duck slider not so much. If you like duck, it’s probably very good, but I’m starting to learn that duck is not my favorite meat (good news for Donald I think).  Barbara assured us that next time if we wanted to get the sliders again, we could switch out the duck and get two beef sliders. I love a good fresh homemade potato chip and the chips that came  with the sliders did not disappoint. I could have eaten an entire plate of them along with the five additional sliders.  

Since the lounge wasn’t crowded, we lingered there for a bit people watching while we nibbled our chips and sipped our waters.  It was one of our favorite meals of the trip and we look forward to going back there again.

Though often maligned, we decided to make dinner reservations at the Hollywood and Vine buffet.

 We actually haven’t eaten at a ton of Disney buffets so we don’t have a lot of comparison, but I think Hollywood and Vine receives more criticism than it should.  Our main reason for reserving there was  to get passes for Fantasmic. Not because the seats are so fantastic, but so we wouldn’t have to line up hours before the show to get seats.  With the passes we could enjoy the park longer without worrying about whether or not we would get a seat for the show.
The food at Hollywood and Vine isn’t necessarily spectacular, but it’s good.  It’s nice sometimes to not have a challenge and to dig into a bowl of endless mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. 

We sat beside a cheeky almost unreal southern grandmother who repeatedly called her teenage granddaughter, “Missy.” She said things like, “I’m going to tan your hide Missy until you learn some manners.” 

My favorite part of the buffet was the dessert table, particularly the chocolate fountain.  

I appreciated that at a buffet filled with often unsupervised children scampering about, the fountain was kept out of reach of germy hands.  The best chocolate covered item was the dried mango.  We both ate a lot mango pieces.  

On our last day at Disney we ate at the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater.  

This was our first visit to this restaurant.  I know, I know it doesn’t make sense on a lot of levels that we have never been here, but the word has always been that the food was just okay and being a foodie, I tended to avoid going there.  This trip we decided that we should probably go there just to do it at least once.

If you have never been there, The Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater is an indoor restaurant that is set up to make you feel like you are dining outdoors at a 1950s drive-in theater.  The theming is fantastic. It was one of the most fun meals of our trip.

  We were seated in the front seat of our car/table.  

There was a fun quirky couple that sat behind us (the girl’s hair and dress were vintage perfection). For someone who has social anxiety about being seated with strangers it was a relief. It might have been a less pleasant experience if there were grumpy addicted to complaining people behind us.

Since we were planning on having a larger meal in the evening we decided to get snacks instead of a full meal.  Shannon got the buffalo popcorn chicken.

I ordered the fried dill pickles with spicy ranch sauce.  

Maybe I set my expectations low, but both snacks were very yummy.  I liked dipping my pickles in the blue cheese sauce that came with the buffalo chicken more than the ranch.  Since this was our first visit we found the old Sci-fi movie clips and vintage movie advertisements that ran on the screen highly entertaining, but I understand that if you visit the restaurant a lot it could get a little tiresome since they never change (I wondered if the cast members there see those clips in their sleep). 

Exiting the café can be a bit disorienting.  The inside immerses you in a pleasantly cool starry skied night and it takes you a moment to adjust to a sweltering bright sunny outside. Once our eyes were no longer blinded by the sunshine we declared that the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater was worth a repeat visit.