Friday, December 30, 2016

Walt Disney World: Territory Lounge


My family truly fell in love with Disney's Wilderness Lodge during our recent stay. There are so many things to love about this resort, and I've shared some thoughts and many photos in a recent post.

There are several dining options at this Deluxe resort, including Artist Point (a signature restaurant), the Roaring Fork (a quick service option), Whispering Canyon Cafe (a themed dining experience which I will be discussing in a future post), and the Territory Lounge.

Territory Lounge is probably one of the best lounges on Disney property. It's themeing matches that of the Lodge itself, with wood paneling, paintings of wildlife, shadowboxes filled with artifacts from expeditions, animal carvings flanking the bar, and of course Lewis and Clark's exploration map on the ceiling, complete with a hidden Mickey (I'll give you a hint, it's on a horse's butt! haha). 

From 7 am to 2 pm, the Territory Lounge serves specialty coffee drinks and pastries. This is a real treat because otherwise you are limited to standard coffee offerings at nearby Roaring Fork. 

Assorted pastries

My sister and I stopped here on a rainy afternoon during our trip for a pick-me-up, and enjoyed a bear claw and some delicious drinks. I picked an iced Wilderness Bark Latte, featuring chocolate and hazelnut flavors. My sister had a hot S'mores Latte. We both loved our drinks and really enjoyed the sweet afternoon treat. I will say the Wilderness Bark Latte would probably have been even better hot since that would have really dissolved the chocolate syrup, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

Humphrey Bear Claw $3.99

Iced Wilderness Bark Latte

The following day we revisited the Territory Lounge for dinner. Just to be clear, this is a lounge and not a typical restaurant, so the menu items are more like snacks, appetizers, and shareable plates. It should be noted that the Territory Lounge is adjacent to Artist Point, and thus likely shares a kitchen (there's even an asterisk on certain items stating they are only available during Artist Point hours of operation). Several of the menu options are a bit more gourmet than you may expect due to this signature restaurant kitchen access. Also, this menu changes seasonally, so the items will vary throughout the year.

We selected four items from the menu to share between three adults, but first we selected a couple cocktails to try out. These are from the standard Disney bar menu. There aren't any specialty cocktails here. Our chosen libations were the Moscow Mule and Bahama Mama. The Moscow Mule features ginger beer, which gives it a stronger flavor, while the Bahama Mama is a totally classic Caribbean treat. Both are delicious.

Moscow Mule $10.50

Bahama Mama $9.75

Every item on the menu sounds really good, but we needed to narrow down to a few choices. I love eating foods at Disney restaurants that feature ingredients from The Land at Epcot, so the Land Greens Salad was a shoo-in. With crisp heirloom apples (both dehydrated and fresh), crunchy granola, tangy goat cheese, and banyuls, a relative of port wine (I'm assuming it's used in the dressing). This salad is fresh, and delicious, and really a stunning start to our laid-back lounge meal.

Land Greens Salad $13

We also tried the Potato Wedge Fries with smoked house ketchup. There's nothing quite like deep-fried starch to balance out of a fresh salad! These potato wedges were tasty, quite simple, but that is to be expected. The ketchup is the real highlight here.

Potato Wedge Fries $9

Our third pick was the Crispy Asian Chicken Wings with miso-soy glaze, sesame seeds, and scallions. I'm a big fan of wings in general, and these are good. They probably won't win any awards, but they definitely hit the mark and add some protein to our meal. Another good choice.

Crispy Asian Chicken Wings $14

Last by not least, this was actually the reason I wanted to enjoy a meal at Territory Lounge during our visit: the fondue. The exact type of fondue, along with it's accompaniments varies throughout the year. I'm not exactly sure how or why they make these adjustments, but all the more reason to keep coming back!

Oregon Chardonnay Fondue $14

During our visit we had Oregon Chardonnay Fondue which is served with pretzel bread and grapes on the vine. 

I truly, deeply love this fondue. The salty, chewy pretzel bread is such an easy dipper (especially if you are okay with double dipping) and the sweet, juicy grapes help offset the richness of the fondue. I'll also add that the aforementioned potato wedges are fantastic dipped in fondue!

My dining partners at first somewhat resisted my choice of fondue, saying that they weren't in the mood for something heavy, and may taste it but that I'd have to eat most of it myself. Soon afterwards, they jumped right on the fondue bandwagon once this bubbling vessel of cheese arrived.

After running out of bread, I enjoyed watching the cheese bubble up like a little hot springs :)

I really enjoy the laid-back vibe at Territory Lounge. Both daytime and evening experiences here are wonderful. I kind of wish they made the specialty coffees available longer, although 2 pm isn't unreasonable. There were a couple later afternoons where coffee was necessary to push through the rest of the day, and these lattes would have been perfect! I also think it would be fun if they offered some special themed cocktails outside of the standard Disney bar menu. Otherwise, definitely two thumbs up for Territory Lounge! I'm desperately craving more of that fondue right now...

Stay tuned for more Disney posts soon! Next we will hit up Whispering Canyon Cafe for a seriously fun dining experience.

Territory Lounge
901 Timberline Dr
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Peppermint Mousse Black Bottom Pie


I'm going to apologize in advance for not making/sharing this Peppermint Mousse Black Bottom Pie recipe before Christmas. I made it over the weekend FOR Christmas, and thus couldn't have shared it prior to its creation.

With that said, regardless of what holidays have come or gone, this pie is worth making simply because it is the epitome of winter comfort, featuring a layer of decadent chocolate-mint custard beneath a fluffy mound of peppermint mousse, and finished with a shower of crushed peppermint candies (candy canes in my case).

While the recipe looks a bit time consuming, its really not, beyond pre-baking a pie crust, making some mint-flavored pastry cream, some of which is mixed with chocolate and the rest stabilized with a bit of gelatin and folded with fresh whipped cream. The result is sublime.

This pie has a subtle peppermint flavor, definitely not overpowering at all. The chocolate-mint custard layer is silky and rich while the peppermint custard is creamy, smooth, and light as air. My family loved this pie, and even those who aren't typically keen on peppermint raved about this creation.

When filling the pie, I ended up with a few tablespoons more peppermint mousse than would comfortably fit in my pie dish (which is technically more of a deep-dish size anyway, so it definitely would overflow in a standard depth pan), so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to taste test! Don't feel inclined to overfill your pie if you think it's too much. Just eat the extra mousse like I did :)

Top this pie with chocolate shavings or crushed peppermint candies, but I will offer a bit of warning. If you do as I did, and sprinkle on the crushed candy canes hours before serving, any condensation that may develop on top of the pie will make the colors bleed.

I had to gently soak up this colorful wetness with a paper towel, and then sprinkle a bit more crushed candy canes on top right before setting it on the Christmas dessert table. No one was the wiser, but I'd still take caution in the future since it provided some frustration.

Although I said earlier that you definitely don't need a holiday to provide a purpose for making this pie, I think it would be excellent for ringing in the New Year!

And although peppermint seems to be a more wintery flavor, mint chocolate chip ice cream is my favorite year round, so I can't imagine this pie being neglected any other time of year either. It's truly excellent! A pie-lover's dream!

Peppermint Mousse Black Bottom Pie

Makes 1 (9-inch pie)
(From Magpie)

1/2 recipe Magpie Dough for Flaky Piecrust (recipe follows), chilled overnight
4 ounces (120 g) semisweet chocolate
2 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
Chocolate shavings or crushed peppermint candies, for serving

Lightly flour a smooth work surface and a rolling pin.

Take a chilled disk of dough out of the fridge. Give it a couple of firm squeezes just to say hello, then unwrap it and set it on the floured work surface.

Set the pin crosswise on the dough and press down firmly, making a nice deep channel across the full width of the disk. Turn the disk 180 degrees and repeat, making a second indentation, forming a plus sign.

Use your rolling pin to press down each of the wedges, turning the dough 45 degrees each time. This will give you the beginnings of a thick circle.

Now, rolling from the center outward and rotating the dough a quarter turn to maintain a circular shape, roll the dough out to a 13-inch circle with an even thickness of 1/4 inch.

Set your 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan alongside the circle of dough. Brush off any loose flour, carefully fold the dough circle in half, transfer it to the pan, and unfold.

At this point, the dough will be lying across rather than fitted into the pan. Now, without stretching the dough, set the dough down into the pan so that it is flush up against the sides and bottom. The best way to do this is to gingerly lift the dough and gently shift it around so that it settles into the pan bit by bit. Use a very light touch to help cozy it in.

To flute the edge, fold the overhang under to form a 1-inch wall that rests on the lip of the pan with the seam slightly below the pan's top edge. Flute the edge of the crust at about 1-inch intervals, pressing from the inside with the knuckle of your index finger while supporting on the outside with the thumb and index fingers of your opposite hand.

Transfer the crust to the refrigerator to chill while you make your filling or to the freezer to prepare it for prebaking. Alternatively, at this point the crust can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days or double-wrapped and frozen for up to 2 months (defrost overnight in the refrigerator before filling and baking or prebaking, or at room temperature for 30 minutes).

To prebake the shell, chill the panned, fluted piecrust in the freezer until firm, 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with the rack in the center (in the future I may try pre-baking my crust in the lower third of the oven instead, to allow the bottom to brown faster than the edges). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Cut an additional 13x13-inch square of parchment.

Set the pan on the lined baking sheet. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. This will help release steam and prevent the bottom of the crust from puffing up during baking. Set the square of parchment in the pie shell and gently smooth it into place, pleating as needed to fit it up against the bottom and sides of the shell. The edges of the paper will project beyond the rim of the pan; just leave them standing straight up.

Fill the shell to the top with dried beans. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the shell for 25 minutes.

Set out a wire rack and alongside it, a mixing bowl. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and set it on the rack; bring together the points of the parchment, and carefully lift out the beans and transfer them to the bowl.

Slide the baking sheet back into the oven and bake the crust another 10 minutes (until golden brown and fully baked--mine baked twice as long, an extra 20 minutes until the bottom of the crust was light golden). Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the black bottom layer, chop the chocolate and set it aside in a medium bowl.

Heat 2 1/4 cups of the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming (do not boil). Keep warm over very low heat.

Whisk together the sugar. cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and pale. Immediately measure out 1 cup of the hot milk and slowly whisk it into the yolk mixture, pouring in a thin stream and whisking constantly until combined.

Turn the heat under the saucepan back up to medium and slowly add the tempered yolks, pouring in a thin stream and whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency and a few large bubbles rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Once the bubbles appear, continue cooking the custard, whisking constantly, for 2 more minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the butter and the vanilla and peppermint extracts, mixing until smooth.

Measure out 1 cup of the hot custard, pour it over the chocolate, and let stand for 2 minutes, then whisk together until smooth and creamy. Pour the chocolate custard into the prepared pie shell, spreading evenly. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to chill while you make the peppermint mousse.

To make the mousse layer, sprinkle the gelatin onto the surface of the remaining 1/4 cup milk and let soften 5 minutes.

Transfer the remaining custard from the saucepan to a medium bowl and whisk in the bloomed gelatin. Refrigerate until cool, 15 to 20 minutes, whisking at 5-minute intervals to prevent the edges from setting.

In a separate, clean, dry bowl, whip the cream to medium peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard gelatin mixture in thirds, mixing the last third just until no white streaks remain.

Retrieve the pie shell from the refrigerator. Spoon the mousse on top of the chocolate custard layer and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the pie overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 3 days) before slicing and serving.

Serve cold, garnished with chocolate shavings or crushed peppermint candies.

Magpie Dough for Flaky Piecrust

Makes Enough Dough for any of the Following:
2 (9-inch) single-crust pies, 1 (9-inch) double-crust or lattice-top pie, 8 (4 x 2-inch) potpies, 12 (2 x 1-inch) mini pies, 1 (9 x 3-inch) quiche, or 8 (4-inch) hand pies

2 1/2 cups (312 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (6 grams) fine salt
3/4 cup (170 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and frozen
1/4 cup (60 grams) vegetable shortening, preferably in baking stick form, frozen, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, and put back in the freezer
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 grams) ice-cold water

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse the machine 3 times to blend. Scatter the frozen butter cubes over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine 5 to 7 times, holding each pulse for 5 full seconds, to cut all of the butter into pea-size pieces.

Scatter the pieces of frozen shortening over the flour-and-butter mixture. Pulse the machine 4 more 1-second pulses to blend the shortening with the flour. The mixture will resemble coarse cornmeal, but will be a bit more floury and riddled with pale butter bits (no pure-white shortening should be visible). Turn the mixture out into a large mixing bowl, and make a small well in the center. If you find a few butter clumps that are closer to marble size than pea size (about 1/4 inch in diameter), carefully pick them out and give them a quick smoosh with your fingers. Pour the cold water into the well.

Use a curved bowl scraper to lightly scoop the flour mixture up and over the water, covering the water to help get the absorption started. Continue mixing by scraping the flour up from the sides and bottom of the bowl into the center, rotating the bowl as you mix, and occasionally pausing to clean off the scraper with your finger or the side of the bowl, until the mixture begins to gather into clumps but is still very crumbly. (If you are working in very dry conditions and the ingredients remain very floury and refuse to clump together at this stage, add another tablespoon of ice-cold water.) Lightly gather the clumps with your fingers and use your palm to fold over and press the dough a few times (don’t knead! —just give the dough a few quick squishes), until it just begins to come together into a single large mass. It will be a raggedy wad, moist but not damp, that barely holds together; this is exactly as it should be—all it needs is a good night’s rest in the fridge.

For single- and double-crust pies, mini pies, potpies, or hand pies: Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, gently shape each portion into a flat disk 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. For quiche, leave the dough in one piece, flatten it into a single large disk 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.

No ifs, ands, or buts, the dough must have its beauty sleep. That means 8 hours in the refrigerator at the very least. Extra rest is just fine; feel free to let the wrapped dough sit in the fridge for up to 3 days before rolling. (The dough may discolor slightly. No worries. This is merely oxidization and will not affect the flavor or appearance of your finished piecrust.)

Cooks' Note: The wrapped, chilled dough can be put in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Walt Disney World: Grand Floridian Cafe (+ Christmas Decorations!)


Perhaps the most timeless and opulent of all the Walt Disney World resorts is Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. With its Victorian themeing, and it's likeness to the classic Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California, the Grand Floridian is the epicenter of elegance at Walt Disney World.

Staying here as a guest is still on my to do list, but in the meantime, I love visiting the resort, wandering around the grounds, and dining at its fantastic restaurants. During a recent trip to Disney, my family had lunch at the resort, so we had the perfect opportunity to take in all the wonderful holiday decorations, including the giant gingerbread house in the lobby.

The Grand Floridian Christmas tree features swans, bird cages, ribbons, flowers, and more--super elegant


Before heading in to lunch, let's take a quick look at the beautiful grounds of the Grand Floridian, including its two luxurious pools.

Beach Pool

Giant chess set by the Courtyard Pool

Courtyard Pool

Courtyard Pool

The Grand Floridian Cafe is seriously a hidden gem. I've eaten here twice now, once for breakfast and most recently for lunch, and it's probably the best bang for your buck in terms of quality that you will find at all of Disney.

Featuring a seasonally changing menu, what was offered during our visit may vary, but from my experience there are always great options to choose from regardless of the time of year, or even time of day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all great here!

The lunch menu includes some breakfast favorites as well as solid lunch options, so I think of it as more of a brunch menu. Let's start out with some fun drinks. The Raspberry Colada is a creamy, almost milkshake style drink with pureed raspberries. The Tropical Splash was another table favorite featuring a combination of strawberries and orange juice, although I didn't manage to snag a photo of that one.

Raspberry Colada $5.50

With so many great choices, its tough to pick just one. I selected the The Grand Cafe Sandwich, an open-faced hot sandwich with ham, roasted turkey breast, bacon, tomato, and crunchy fried onion straws, served with a Boursin cheese sauce on the side. The sauce is a lot less rich than one would expect, and was the perfect compliment to provide a bit of creaminess to this protein-heavy sandwich. I really loved this, and saw many patrons at nearby tables ordering the same thing. I would imagine it's one of the more popular choices, and I was very pleased that I picked it.

The Grand Cafe Sandwich $16

My sister swooned over her Miso-Glazed Salmon with lemon sticky rice, French beans, wasabi peas, and ginger-soy vinaigrette. Our server agreed that it's one of her favorites too, and certainly one I would consider ordering on a future visit!

Miso-Glazed Salmon $25

Both of my parents picked the Reuben Sandwich, featuring corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. They were both very satisfied by their sandwiches. Thirteen dollars is a small price to pay for so much good food!

Reuben Sandwich $13

My brother-in-law selected the Kobe Burger, which is a 7-ounce American Wagyu beef burger with Swiss cheese, red onion marmalade, and arugula mayonnaise on a brioche bun, served with seasoned fries. He was blown away by how good it was, and definitely stood by his choice. This burger seriously looks exquisite!

Kobe Burger $23

You can't go wrong with a visit to Grand Floridian Cafe. It's one of my go to options on the monorail circuit, and certainly one of the best deals for the quality of food you'll find here. Honestly any excuse to visit the Grand Floridian Resort will add a bit of luxury to your Disney vacation, and stopping by during the holidays is absolutely worth it to check out the decorations alone, but grab a bite to eat while you're at it. You won't be sorry.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
4401 Floridian Way
Bay Lake, FL 34747
(407) 824-3000

Grand Floridian Cafe
4401 Grand Floridian Way
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 824-1841


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