Thursday, June 7, 2018

Walt Disney World: Flame Tree Barbecue

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Whenever I visit Disney's Animal Kingdom, I find it difficult to avoid Flame Tree Barbecue. It's definitely one of the best quick service meals I've had on Disney property, which is a good enough reason to keep coming back.


It also has some of the best views for a quick service meal. There are several open air buildings around the vicinity where diners can sit down and eat, although my favorite is always the same one, which is painted blue, and closest to the water with clear views of Expedition Everest.


Over the years, nearly every visit to the Animal Kingdom includes a meal here, so I'm happy to share an update which includes some newer menu items that were not featured in my previous review from 2013.


Let's get started with the Mixed Greens Salad with Roasted Chicken Breast. A combination of apple slices, pecans, cheddar (omitted in this case), and white balsamic vinaigrette round out this relatively light menu option.


We also have one of my favorites, the Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich, which is topped with coleslaw, and served with baked beans. You really can't go wrong with this if you enjoy pulled pork. I've had this on more than one occasion.


Another excellent choice is the Ribs and Chicken Combo, which is great if you can't decide between the two. It's served with coleslaw and baked beans. Yum!


During this most recent visit I tried the Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork. It's topped with coleslaw, onion rings, and a drizzle of barbecue sauce. This is definitely a more decadent choice, but it's really good!


The macaroni and cheese is good, but the toppings are what make this really special. A balance of flavors and textures really put this dish over the top. I especially love the cool coleslaw and the crispy onion rings really playing off the other components.


We also really enjoy the Mandarin Orange Lemonade here. It's so refreshing, and really nice and light compared to heavier barbecue offerings.

Yup, two straws for sharing!

Flame Tree Barbecue still holds its place as one of my favorite quick service meals at Disney, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. I'm happy to see that even with changes to the menu over the years, the quality has not suffered. On the contrary, the menu just seems to get more and more interesting over time. I can't wait to see what they do next!

Flame Tree Barbecue
775 Werikhe Way
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/animal-kingdom/flame-tree-barbecue/

Monday, June 4, 2018

Murder at the Mansion: Clue Live!

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Clue is my absolute favorite board game. It's such a classic, and I've enjoyed playing it ever since I was too young to really understand strategy. When I learned last year that a local acting troupe conducts a Mystery Cafe experience based on Clue, I was ready to sign up!


Due to its popularity, tickets for Murder at the Mansion: Clue Live sell out rapidly. We purchased tickets last September for a date in March. Please excuse the snow :) This post is a few months late.


Head First Events, the group that hosts Clue Live rents out the MIT Endicott House in Dedham, MA. It's the perfect setting for real life Clue. It's a gorgeous estate that doubles at Mr. Boddy's mansion, the location of his gruesome and unexpected murder.

Gun Room

It is up to us, Mr. Boddy's dinner guests, to question suspects in various rooms throughout the mansion to decipher clues and hopefully solve the mystery of who murdered Mr. Boddy, with what weapon, and in what room. Sounds like fun, and we haven't even gotten started yet!

The Living Room, where we would be dining

Murder at the Mansion is more than just entertainment and an interactive Clue game. Think of it as dinner theater, because a full buffet meal is included in your ticket, and the actors portraying the suspects are quite hilarious. We laughed so much!


The mystery changes for each event, so even if you attend more than one of these dinners it will still be a new puzzle to solve each and every time.


Tickets are $79.95 per person, and totally worth it in my opinion. It's a meal, an experience, and bloody good entertainment. And since this is a food blog, I'm happy to share a little bit more about the menu offerings.


The evening begins with a cocktail hour with alcoholic beverages for purchase, a cheese and fruit platter, and a sliced fruit platter.


I didn't partake much of the fruit, but enjoyed a nice variety of cheeses, along with my glass of Prosecco.



This is a good opportunity to get some snacks, libations, and of course schmooze with the other guests, including our soon-to-be-suspects Mrs. White, Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mr. Green, and Mrs. Peacock.




The actors for these roles can change from week to week, but when we were there our favorite characters were Colonel Mustard and Mrs. White. Both cracked us up throughout the evening.


Selfie with Mrs. White!

A dinner buffet is served next. The menu is consistent throughout the year, so here's a look at our options.


I didn't take photos in the buffet line because it was kind of crowded and slow-moving, and I didn't want to be that person, so instead I'll just share my selections.


I'm not usually much of a salad person, but the salad was pretty good. It offset the heaviness of some of the other menu items, so it was very welcome.


I sampled quite a few of the buffet items. The carved beef was one of the highlights. It was very tender and juicy, and was served with horseradish and jus. The broiled Thai glazed salmon was also very good, and nicely seasoned. I enjoyed various sides including the pasta salad, roasted potatoes, mozzarella and tomato salad, penne with sun-dried tomatoes and vodka sauce, olives, rolls and butter.


After getting quite full on a surprisingly delicious dinner buffet, dessert was served. The tuxedo cake definitely hit the spot.


All in all, I was pretty impressed by what could have been a lackluster meal. For a meal that is part of a night of entertainment, the food was great, and whatever caterer they use for these events doesn't disappoint. After the completion of our meal, suddenly Mr. Boddy's lifeless body was found, and it was up to us to solve the crime!


I don't want to give too much away at this point, because it could ruin the experience for anyone who wants to try this for themselves. I will simply say that our experience was so enjoyable, that my sister actually booked another ticket for her and her husband to come back in December! It was really such a fun experience, and the delicious meal didn't hurt either. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys the game of Clue, or mystery-solving in general.

Murder at the Mansion: Clue Live
MIT Endicott House
80 Haven Street
Dedham, MA 02026
https://www.headfirstevents.com/shows/mansion-mystery-clue-live/

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Walt Disney World: Capt. Cook's

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When we recently stayed at the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, for dinner one night we walked over to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, which is right next door. No, we didn't have reservations at the ever popular Ohana, but rather were looking for a simple and quick meal before heading back to the park later that evening. The quick service dining options at the Grand Floridian didn't sound too appealing, so we decided to try Capt. Cook's instead.


It has a more exotic menu than some other resort quick service locations. The Seared Chicken Breast is served with pineapple sambal and red quinoa-edamame salad, definitely not your standard quick service chicken breast. The sides definitely add a more tropical touch.


The Pan-Asian Noodles with Vegetables are a popular option that can also be served with chicken or shrimp. Although this wasn't my pick, the two family members who chose this item really enjoyed it, and said that looks can be deceiving. The small cup is chock full of noodles and TONS of chicken. This was more filling than expected at first sight.


I had eaten the famous Pulled Pork Nachos years ago at Tambu Lounge, and really loved them, so I decided to order them again here at Capt. Cook's. Unfortunately they were not quite as good as I remembered. There could be a couple reasons for this. One, it looks like now they are served exclusively with potato chips, whereas in the past it was a combination of potato chips and fried wonton skins.


Also, for some inexplicable reason my nachos appear to be lacking cheese! Please note, the orange stuff in the picture is spicy mayo, not cheese. I swear I didn't see or taste any cheese on my nachos, which is odd because they're nachos. The other toppings were great, same as before, but without melted cheese all over them they're not exactly nachos. I ate them all the same. The pulled pork and pineapple salsa were a great match, just as before. Still kind of perturbed though by the lack of cheese...


For dessert we tried one of the new Millennial Pink treats that were released around Walt Disney World Resort this spring. This Millennial Pink Cupcake is a vanilla cupcake with guava cream filling, and it's only found at Capt. Cook's.



Not only is it adorable, but it's actually really good! The cupcake is moist and delicious, the filling is tasty, not too tart or sweet, and the buttercream frosting is light. We scarfed this down!


Generally speaking, my family was quite pleased by our simple, quick, and affordable (by Disney standards) meal at Capt. Cook's. It was a nice change visiting one of our favorite resorts and enjoying the ambiance of the Polynesian, and with the exception of my cheeseless nachos the meal was satisfactory.

Capt. Cook's
1600 Seven Seas Drive


Monday, May 21, 2018

Mexican Hot Pockets

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I have waxed poetic about my love for Disney Cruise Line's Mexican Hot Pockets on more than one occasion. I'm not the only one obsessed with this breakfast buffet offering at Cabanas. It's a favorite among many Disney Cruisers. It's not offered every morning, but on those extra special mornings when its served I always load up my plate!

Mexican Hot Pockets at Cabanas

I managed to find a recipe for Mexican Hot Pockets courtesy of Disney Cruise Line, however just like anything at a buffet it's made in bulk, and the recipe I found was for 10 pounds of ground beef. Needless to say, it needed to be scaled down significantly. The recipe also omitted some important details, including a recipe for their cheese sauce, and the size and number of tortillas required.


I managed to reduce the recipe to use only 1 pound of ground beef (a much more manageable quantity), and used my culinary knowledge and experience to work out the rest of the details on my own the best I could.


I also adapted the amazing cheese sauce recipe used for the cheese fries at my beloved Shake Shack. It's definitely not the same as the "plastic cheese" that Disney uses, but it's delicious and it works.


Folding in the edges burrito-style makes these a bit less messy to assemble and cook. You can trim the ends afterwards, and serve them just the way they do on Disney Cruise Line.


Like I said, there are some major adaptations here to make this work for the home cook. I think they turned out great! I'm pretty sure Disney uses a higher fat content ground beef, because their filling seems juicier than mine, but I tend to stick with relatively lean ground beef for all my ground beef needs. Use whatever you prefer.


Mexican Hot Pockets
Serves 4
(Hot pockets adapted from Disney Cruise Line; cheese sauce adapted from Shake Shack)

Mexican Hot Pockets:
1 pound ground beef
1 ounce diced red onion
2 ounces diced green bell pepper (a little less than half a pepper)
2 ounces diced red bell pepper (a little less than half a pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch chili flakes
Kosher salt
2 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) drained and rinsed canned kidney beans (the original recipe calls for baked beans, which seems odd, so I replaced it with kidney beans)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated cheddar cheese
4 burrito size flour tortillas (10-inch diameter)

Cheese Sauce:
1/2 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
1 (1/2-inch-thick) slice onion
1 slice jalapeno (I used a slice of picked jalapeno since I didn't have any fresh--it worked fine!)
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup (a little over 1 ounce) grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup (a little over 1 ounce) grated American cheese (I actually hand-chopped a couple slices of American cheese from the deli counter)

For the filling: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute beef with onions and peppers until beef is no longer pink. Add tomato paste, cumin, paprika, chili flakes, and salt to taste. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes until fully cooked through, and any excess liquid is evaporated.

Remove from the heat, add the beans and cheese, and mix until thoroughly combined. Allow the mixture to cool.

For the cheese sauce: Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, peppercorns, and salt, and cook, stirring often until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and wine, and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Stir in the cream. Remove the pan from the heat and let the cream steep for 30 minutes to build flavor.

Return the saucepan to the stove and heat over medium heat until very warm, but not boiling. Meanwhile put the cheeses into a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream through a strainer (to remove the solids) over the cheeses, stirring until the cheese melts, and the sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. You can easily reheat the sauce in a microwave or over a pot of gently simmering hot water. Makes about 1 cup.

To assemble: Divide the meat mixture onto the four tortillas into a strip down the length of one side (off center), leaving an inch or two at either end empty. Roll the tortilla around the filling from one end to the other, folding over the edges to seal in the sides (like a burrito).

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add the rolled tortillas seam-side down to the pan (in batches if necessary), and griddle until crispy/brown, rotating the rolls to crisp on all sides and heat the filling through (lower the heat if it's browning too fast, or else it may not heat the filling before the edges are crisped).

Remove from the heat, and use a serrated knife to trim the ends, then cut the trimmed roll in half crosswise, and then cut each piece again in half on an angle, to yield 4 pieces that are flat on one side and angled on the other. Repeat with the remaining rolls to yield 16 pieces. Discard the trimmed ends (or eat them if you want). Garnish with cheese sauce, salsa, and cilantro (if desired).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Walt Disney World: Liberty Tree Tavern

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The Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square is one of the more popular table service restaurants at Disney's Magic Kingdom. I recently enjoyed my second meal here, and would happily come back a third and fourth time in the future.


Six different dining rooms are themed to represent six important historical figures from colonial times including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and George Washington. Both times I've dined here, I've sat in the Betsy Ross room, which is one of the smaller rooms actually.

Paul Revere room

Betsy Ross room

Betsy Ross room

George Washington Room

Thomas Jefferson room

While dinner here is an all-you-care-to-eat family style Thanksgiving-inspired feast, lunch is mostly a la carte. If you love dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern, you can enjoy the same feast at lunchtime as well, but there are so many other options for those of us who want to try something a little different.



The a la carte menu is full of favorites. Our Tavern Keeper's Favorite, the pot roast, is so popular that there was an outrage when it was recently removed from the menu. It was quickly added back. Another popular dish, and the one I selected, is the Freedom Pasta, a combination of cavatappi pasta, artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled chicken or sauteed shrimp (I went with chicken) in a roasted red pepper cream sauce.


I didn't really notice roasted red pepper flavor in the sauce, but no matter because the pasta dish in general was excellent. It was a HUGE portion, and a great value, with lots of flavor. I actually only ate about half, and took the leftovers with me to the airport later for a pre-flight meal. It wasn't as good leftover, of course, but this pasta could easily be shareable among two adults, especially if you also share an appetizer.


While the majority of my dining party ordered the pasta, my mom picked the Tavern Battered Fish and Chips. It's really your typical fish and chips. My mom enjoyed it, but said it was inferior to the excellent fish and chips we had eaten only a few days prior at the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room in the United Kingdom Pavilion at Epcot.


Liberty Tree Tavern is an excellent choice for a sit-down meal at the Magic Kingdom, whether it's lunch or dinner time. We changed our lunch plans the day before, and were still able to snag a nearly last minute lunch reservation. The meal was incredibly satisfying, and a nice break for our tired feet.

Liberty Tree Tavern
1180 Seven Seas Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463


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