Nostalgic American Style Pancakes

Seriously, I know I keep going on about the food we ate in America…but these delights need to be shared!!

One of our favourite parts was the AMAZING  breakfast we had whilst staying at the Homewood Suites hotel on International Drive. A full cooked and continental complimentary breakfast called the ‘Suite Start’, it set us up for the day and meant we didn’t need to eat anything else for a good 5 or 6 hours later. It could quite easily have been 7 or 8 hours later but we force-fed ourselves at lunch in order to sample as many American culinary delights as possible.

Some mornings we had the cooked option, which changed every day…

Sometimes I had raisin whirl bread and various yummy condiments…

And some mornings I just went all out and got pancakes and waffles! Ohhh the calories.

Back to reality…we had some friends stay with us over the Bank Holiday weekend and as they share our passion for Florida I thought it would be fun to surprise them with an American breakfast and make my very first pancakes!

These were so easy to make, I can’t believe I haven’t made them before! The only thing is the pan I used was slightly bowed which caused the pancakes to be oval shaped 😦 Next time (and there will be a next time!) I’ll probably invest in a mould or a tiny saucepan that will produce perfect circular pancakes a la Nigella. I definitely want to be the kind of girl who makes homemade American pancakes all the time!

We teamed the pancakes with super crispy bacon from Sainsburys – £1.40 for 12 streaky ‘USA style’ rashers which produced the perfect crispy bacon that is so prevalent in the US of A. We also made a big batch of scrambled eggs as it was the ‘morning after the night before’ and we all needed something nourishing to repair our poor hungover bodies!

The finishing touch was a big squeeze of maple syrup – purchased in Florida by my parents and bought home to my eagerly anticipating self as a gift. Honestly, the first waft of the sweet, smokey maple syrup and I was transported right back to Florida and the holidays I spent there growing up. Such a lovely feeling.

Check out the spread!

And heres the moral of the story – So excited were we by our authentic American breakfast and the rush of nostalgia it caused that we basically threw caution to the wind…all four of us booked for next year! Vicki and Ian for their ‘Disneymoon’ following their wedding and 14 nights on-site at Disney for us…with 7 nights on I-Drive and Universal to be booked in the coming months. 3 weeks baby!

Only 521 days to go!

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Narcoosee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Here is another of the amazing restaurants we ate at while in Florida last year. Narcoosee’s is a Signature restaurant located at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa hotel, near the Magic Kingdom. As I said before, we were on the Disney Dining Plan and used 2 credits each for this meal. It was so worth it! One of the best meals I’ve ever had, ever!

First of all, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. My dream hotel and WDW’s ‘flagship’ resort. Look how beautiful it is! Of course, it’s very very expensive and we will never be able to afford it but a girl can dream…

(Taken from the official Disneyworld website)

Narcoosee’s is outside the main hotel, down by the lake. It is actually set over the water and offers stunning views across the Seven Seas Lagoon and over to the Magic Kingdom, perfect for watching the fireworks after dinner! We had planned this as our Anniversary dinner as we had been together 7 years which is definitely cause for celebration –  I added this to the online reservation I made 180 days before.

Our ADR was for 7.10pm. We were greeted by a lovely Cast Member who wished us Happy Anniversary and said there was about a 10 minute wait and would we like to wait on the balcony? Ummmm yes please! So we went out the little side door out onto the balcony that goes all the way round the restaurant. Such amazing views!

We had been out there about 5 minutes when we were told our table was ready. We were led inside to a PERFECT TABLE, right against the window, opposite the Magic Kingdom with a view of the castle. Little bit of pixie dust there I think! I was so pleased.

Our server was Amir and he was just perfect – kind, funny, attentive, knowledgeable…I sound like I’m describing a blind date but he was just lovely!

He introduced himself, wished us Happy Anniversary and produced two Happy Anniversary badges from behind his back! Adorable! He then asked us what we would like to drink and produced the menus for us to have a look at. But, not just any menus. personalized “Happy Anniversary” menus with Minnie and Mickey on! I was so excited, we both thought this was such a cute touch and it really made our night.

I just ordered a glass of rose and Benji ordered a Sam Adams. Apologies for the poor photos, it was very dark in the restaurant.

Amir then bought us out some delicious warm sourdough bread, with butter topped with sea salt. Yum! I’m a total salt fiend and had to refrain myself from scraping it all off the top and dumping it on my bread so that Ben could actually try some.

Every time Amir came over to check if we were okay we ended up deep in conversation as he was just a really chatty and interesting guy, we learned he had worked at Narcoosee’s for 12 years and absolutely loved it, you could tell he loved his job and was very proud of the restaurant.  This made me really happy because Narcoosee’s gets very mixed reviews with lots of people saying it is their least favourite signature but right from the moment we stepped in I could tell we were going to love it.

We were REALLY GOOD here and decided not to order starters. Shocker! There wasn’t anything on the starters list I was dying to try and I really really wanted to be able to finish what I was anticipating would be an amazing main course.

Once we’d munched our way through most of the bread and had a good long look at the menu, Amir came over to take our order. I was of course torn between various items and needed help! From the moment I saw the Narcoosee’s menu (like a year ago…) I knew I was going to order the famous Surf and Turf. But, the dish was now being served with mashed potatoes (the menu changes seasonally) which I’m not the biggest fan of, and I was also tempted to order the Filet Mignon as that came with a delicious sounding risotto. As I was uming and ahing about which to order, Amir said ‘Well why don’t we just get you the Surf and Turf with a side of risotto?” Yes please! I was a very very happy girl. I ordered the steak medium rare.

Benji was a lot easier to please as there was only one veggie option bless him. He opted for the Fall Vegetable Lasagna.

Orders placed, we sat back with our drinks and waited, taking in the lovely calm atmosphere and looking out toward the castle.

Not long after, our main courses were delivered to our table and we just sat there in stunned silence staring at them. They looked incredible!

This was my dinner. I ordered the Butter-poached Lobster Tail and Grilled Filet Mignon with Boniato Mashed Potatoes, Fall Vegetables, and Shallot-Red Wine Butter Emulsion, but substituted the mashed potatoes for the Gruyère Cheese and Caramelized Red Onion Risotto from the Filet Mignon dish. I got the shallot-red wine reduction too which was a bit of a bonus!

I took one taste of the reduction and poured it half over the risotto and half on the steak as it was just the most rich, amazing flavour – it needed to be enjoyed with all areas of the plate. I reserved the butter emulsion for the lobster and dipped each piece in…then pretty much poured the rest on the last mouthful. I promise you, not a drop of either was left in the pots. Very classy.

This was the first time I’d ever had real, properly cooked lobster and it is without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever eaten. The filet was fabulous of course, but the lobster was just in a different league. It was buttery, sweet and tender and I savoured every mouthful. The veggies were lovely too, perfectly cooked and a nice accompaniment to the rich meat and sauce.

Phew! Can you tell I liked this dish!?
Ben had a perfectly cooked lasagna, a huge portion, stuffed with roasted vegetables like courgette, pepper, onions, butternut squash and spinach. It was all bound together in a flavourful tomato/cheese sauce and topped with extra cheese that was mega crispy! It was sat in a crazily vibrant bright green sauce that turned out to be pea sauce. Just incredible. He ate every single last bite of his as well.

Amir came over half way through to ask how we were doing and we asked him loads about the food and I was gushing quite a lot about it all as I tend to do and he seemed really pleased.

All too soon I realized my plate was empty! Nightmare! Luckily I still had a tiny bit of room for dessert, PHEW! Just a tiny bit though.

I had to order the Almond Crusted Cheesecake. Had to! Look how beautifully it was presented to me.

It came with a lambert cherry sauce and it was absolutely to die for. I was so full I thought I might keel over but I managed to force down most of it. The almond crusting gave an amazing crunch to the cheesecake, perfectly complimenting the sweet, rich creamy insides. Mmmm. I ate it with the cherry sauce and it was grand.

Ben pulled a bit of a wildcard here and chose the cheeseplate! Which was really exciting as I’d wanted to see a signature cheese plate but I didn’t think I’d get to. He really enjoyed this, a bit of a treat. Neither of us have huge sweet tooths, I often find I need something sweet after dinner but I normally only need a couple of bites and then I’m done so it was nice to find we could order cheese as a dessert if we fancied.

Artisan Cheeses – Humboldt Fog, Fourme D’Ambert, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve with accompaniements.

While we were enjoying our desserts/trying not to be sick, Amir came over with a surprise!!

How amazing is that. He set them down and said “Happy Anniversary, I wish you seven more years of happiness!” I’m surprised I didn’t cry!  Once we’d eaten all we could of our desserts it was coming up to 9.30 and Amir came over and advised us that the Magic Kingdom fireworks would soon be starting if we wanted to watch it from the balcony. Perfect timing!

It was fabulous to stand out on the balcony, champagne in hand, watching ‘HalloWishes (the Halloween version of the usual ‘Wishes.’)  There were lots of other people out on the balcony but plenty of room for us all to stand and see everything.

Once the show was finished we went back inside to pay for our delicious dinner. We decided to give Amir a super duper big tip because we felt he had just gone above and beyond as a server and we had really enjoyed hearing about his life and his job at Narcoosee’s and just his company in general! At one point we were even considering asking him if he’d just sit down and join us!

He was really pleased and thanked us lots, he then made my night even more as I asked if we could keep the personalized menu’s and he said he could do one better than that and disapperared for a second, returning with two new personalised menu’s for us in a Narcoosee’s envelope. What a lovely, special memento of our night.

Narcoosee’s is a wonderful restaurant with delicious food and is second only to California Grill in our opinion. Obviously we didn’t get a chance to try any of the other signature restaurants (that is for our next trip!) but judging by these two, the standards will be pretty high! They’d have to be very good to beat these two though. Incredible food and one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Stuffed Pretzels

THIS is the best snack in all of Walt Disney World, in my humble opinion. We had these for breakfast while at Animal Kingdom and even though I was initially worried they were unsuitable as a breakfast item (even though the other options were cinnamon buns and chocolate muffins…) I was soon proved wrong. This is a jalapeno pepper and cream cheese STUFFED soft pretzel. And yes, they are as good as they look!

Ever since we had these delicious heaven-sent pretzels, I know Ben hasn’t been able to stop thinking about them. So, I decided to be a really good girlfriend and recreate them for him as the only pretzels we get over here are of the party food ‘snack selection’ variety. Not quite the same.

I started with a simple sounding pretzel recipe – Alton Browns. I was going to go for one that avoided the boiling-in-water step as it sounded way too difficult but in the end I decided to just man up and go for it.

I started by adding all my wet and dry ingredients into the bowl and stirring them together. We were house-sitting and they didn’t have a Kitchenaid so it was unfortunately all done by hand. Quite the work out!

Once the dough was formed I kneaded it for about 5 minutes before putting it into an oiled bowl, covering with clingfilm and leaving it to rise for about an hour.

Once it had doubled in size I removed it from the bowl and cut it into 8 equal pieces. This recipe makes 8 large pretzels but you could make lots of mini pretzel bites which would be perfect for parties and a possibly a little bit simpler – I imagine it would be easier to get the filling inside.

From this point on I was pretty much on my own, couldn’t find any recipes that were exactly like the Disney pretzels so I was very much making it up. Eek!

In a bowl, I mixed together a tub of Philadelphia cream cheese and a handful of jarred green jalapeno peppers. I finely chopped the peppers (removed the seeds first! I’m a wuss!) and then chopped them even smaller so that it was nearly a paste. I also added in some of the brine from the jar to moisten the mixture until it was pliable. Finally, I grated some cheddar cheese to really maximise the cheesiness.

Then it was time to get my roll on. I rolled each ball out into a long strip and then rolled sideways until the dough was wide enough to hold a good portion of the cream cheese filling in the middle.

I spooned the mixture all along the length of the dough. Not going to lie, it was fiddly…but I knew the end result would be rewarding!

As you can see, it got a little messy toward the end as I was getting impatient and just wanted to get to the exciting part of plunging them into boiling water. It didn’t matter though as I found it easy to pinch the edges together even if the cream cheese was spilling out a little bit – if anything it helped it stick better!

I then Youtube’d a selection of videos of people making pretzel knots until I felt confident enough to try it myself. It was so easy! Knotted up a treat! I knew my childhood years spent in the Brownies would come in useful.

I was so nervous about putting them in the water because I was convinced they’d collapse or unravel and let all the mixture ooze out. However, after just a few seconds in the scalding depths of the pan, my brave tester pretzel rose defiantly back up to the surface. Score!

I was then faced with the challenging task of lifting the pretzel out of the pan and onto the baking tray. It was too large and floppy to pick up so I brought in reinforcements of a fish slice and a ladle (two implements not used to working simultaneously.) I was then able to use this unusual combination to pick the pretzel up and slop it onto the baking tray where it waited until I’d finished the other three. (I saved half the dough for the following day.)

Once the pretzels were laying pretty on the tray I sprinkled them with big chunks of rock salt, placed them in the oven and waited 20 minutes for the darlings to be done.

This was the result!

Attempts to show the creamy cheesy middle!

I don’t think I need to tell you that these went down an absolute treat. They were creamy and spicy at the same time with the occasional punch of salt from the rock salt on top. I really recommend getting the rock salt if you can, normal salt isn’t quite the same as you don’t get the texture and crunch. The only thing I would say is I needed to have made sure that the ‘seam’ of the dough wasn’t on the bottom – some of the mixture oozed out during cooking so despite my well oiled tray it stuck, making for a very difficult removal session involving a spatula and quite a lot of swearing. When I made the rest of the batch the next day I made sure to keep the seam on the top which resulted in an intact pretzel with a lovely crispy bottom. Perfect!

I scored some serious girlfriend points with these little babies and Ben was so enamoured with them that he ate all four for lunch! Good lad. When we made the remaining four I shook things up a little by adding sliced pepperoni to mine in place of the jalapenos, taking them to a whole new level of amazing.

Our cunning plan for them to be Monday’s work lunch was over-ambitious at best and we both ate one at breakneck speed moments after their removal from the oven, throat-scalding temperatures be damned.

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza – Cooks Illustrated

I love Valentines Day. I really do.

I don’t understand the seemingly widespread dislike of it (at least judging by my Facebook feed this year!) and the accusations of it being ‘commercialised’ and ‘invented by card shops’ as it clearly isn’t, it dates back to the Middle Ages!  I especially don’t understand people who say “I don’t need a set day to tell my other half I love them.” Fair enough, none of us do. Or we shouldn’t. Me and Ben say I love you every day, often multiple times a day, but still we enjoy a chance to celebrate our love and spoil each other. And, I love the idea that lots of other couples all around the world are doing it at the same time.

So, V-Day 2012. Bit of an annoyance as it was a Tuesday night, possibly the most un-romantic day of the week. But we made it work. We decided against going out for dinner and paying extortionate amounts for a lame-o set menu with a ‘free’ glass of lukewarm bubbly and opted instead to stay in with a home-cooked dinner. I’d had an idea in my head for quite some time and I decided Valentines Day would be the perfect time to put it into action.

When we were in Florida in October we unwittingly ordered a pizza one night that would go on to become the pizza by which all other pizzas would be judged. It was a Chicago style, deep dish stuffed pizza from Giordano’s; original cheese with added pineapple (don’t ask, it’s Ben’s favourite pizza topping…) and when it arrived we were a little gobsmacked:

 

The thing was huge! And so heavy! I swear it weighed at least half a stone. We forced down a slice each while staring in horror at the side order of mozzarella sticks that had seemed like a good addition when we ordered, before admitting defeat. The rest of the pizza (and the mozzarella sticks…) were carefully placed in the fridge in our hotel room for the next day. The only problem was, we were never really hungry enough for it! Largely due to the amazingly huge American portion sizes. Sadly, we had to throw the majority of the remainder away! (Ben bravely managed to squeeze in a slice late one afternoon.)

We haven’t stopped talking about that pizza since. Unfortunately, it seems you cannot get a deep dish stuffed pizza over here for love nor money so it was becoming clear that my only option would be to create it from scratch myself – a nerve-wracking concept as the only time I’d made pizza dough was at school! A depressingly long time ago.

A couple of weeks before Valentines Day I was so excited about my big plans that I designed a little menu for the evening and gave it to Ben whose face lit up when he read it. I added a spinach and artichoke dip for a starter, (another hard-to-find favourite from our holiday!) Mickey rice krispie treats for dessert (these need no introduction for hardened Disney fans but if you are not, have a look here) and a dress code of ‘Disney’ which we actually didn’t really follow as we decided to dress up nicely instead.

On the Monday night I was in the kitchen for three long hours preparing most of the food, so that I could enjoy a nice relaxed evening with my sweetie the next night. Up first was the dough. I had my beautiful pink Macbook Pro on the side with about 8 tabs open, all holding different blogger’s versions of the Cooks Illustrated recipe, plus a YouTube video of the pizzas being made. You know, just in case.

Here is the Cooks Illustrated recipe that I followed, kindly posted by Thirty Bucks a Week. I chose it firstly because it seemed to be universally popular with multiple accounts of successful recreations, and secondly because it made two 9′ pizzas which coincided nicely with my Mum’s two 9′ cake pans.

First up, all the dough ingredients went into the bowl of my Mum’s brand new super shiny KitchenAid where they were mixed into a lovely plump ball.

I left it to rise for an hour while I got on with prepping the other two courses. When I took it out it looked like this – unintentionally heart-shaped, how quaint!

Next up was the laminating – spreading a thin layer of butter on the dough and then rolling it up to make the dough flaky, buttery and crusty. Mmmmm. Worked perfectly!

I split the dough in two, rolled them into perfect little ovals and placed them side by side in a bowl in the fridge where they would sit patiently  overnight, awaiting their grand reveal on V-Day.

Fast-forward 24 hours…

Ben arrived at my house and we decided to get the evening off to a good start by cracking open a bottle of bubbly (interestingly, the reward at my works Christmas Party for being the proud owner of ‘Highest Hemline!’) and toasting our love 🙂

Then it was time to get down to business! I removed the laminated, risen dough from the fridge and rolled both balls out into discs. I then impressed Ben immensely by managing to whip the dough onto the cake tins first time using the classic rolling pin trick. Genius!

I flattened the dough into each cake tin and it fit perfectly. Check out that hiiiiighhhh crust!

Domestic Goddess.

It was shortly after this photo was taken that a minor disaster happened. I went into the fridge to get the mozzarella out to start layering on the dough…and there was not a shred of mozzarella in sight. Oops! We must have left it in Ben’s fridge…at his house…15 minutes away by car when you haven’t had the best part of half a bottle of champagne. I started to panic with visions of a cheese-less deep dish pizza and a ruined Valentines Day.

But, I needn’t have worried. Ben to the rescue! Before I could say ‘lets just use cheddar’ his trainers were on, coat zipped up and he was out the door and halfway up the street on the way to the shop. I wandered nervously around the kitchen while he was gone, sipping my champagne and silently praying that the shop (Tesco Express) would sell sufficient amounts of grated mozzarella (the C.I recipes calls for a pound of the stuff!)

In no time at all he was back, two bags of grated mozzarella AND a bonus ball of buffalo mozzarella, “because it was cheap.” God I love you. We were back in business!

I made two pizzas with different fillings so we could experiment a bit. One was plain cheese with one half topped with pineapple (to recreate the magic of Giordano’s) and the other had sliced Quorn sauasges in between the (homemade!!) tomato sauce and the cheese. We layered the pizza, cheese, filling, tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan, and they were ready for the oven. As they cooked, we ate our spinach and artichoke dip which I’m afraid I neglected to photograph because frankly, mozzarella-gate had somewhat thrown me off course. It was really lovely though.

In a perfect timings situation, our pizzas were ready just as we finished our dip. You just can’t make that stuff up. I left them on the side to cool for a bit as we cleared away the dip debris, as advised by my fellow stuffed-pizza-makers. This would make them easier to slice. I took the opportunity to take some photos while we waited and honestly you’d have thought they were newborn twins in the baby ward the amount of cooing and ahhing that took place as we gazed at them.

Twin number one – Sausage (odd name for a baby but this is 2012)

Crust!!

And Twin number two – Plain, half pineapple

And the finale of any deep dish pizza recipe…innards shots!

They were incredible. Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy! The crust was perfect – it tasted EXACTLY like the Giordano’s one…dare I say it, better! It was flaky, buttery and rich. Delicious. It cooked perfectly in the amount of time stated on the recipe too even though I was afraid the bottom wouldn”t crisp up, it did! The tomato sauce was probably the best one I’ve ever tasted – grating the onion and cooking it really slowly as per the recipe made it so intense and deep, I’m glad I didn’t buy a sauce like I was originally planning to.

Obviously this makes a lot of pizza so we had leftovers for the next day…and the next! Easily fed 2 of us for 3 meals.

I was so thrilled that my pizzas had turned out perfectly that I didn’t even care about dessert! Honestly, I was on a dough-based cloud 9. But, I had a boy to feed, and dessert was the cutest part!

Check out these babies 🙂

Mickey and Minnie cake pop rice krispy treat…things. In my head they were a lot more polished and less…homemade looking…but that, I think, is the beauty of them! They were super easy to make – I melted a jar of Marshmallow Fluff, mixed it with rice krispies and moulded them into tiny little balls – a very difficult task; the fluff mixture was so sticky that they just stuck to my hands and not to each other! Eventually I got them to stick, dipped them in a mixture of chocolate and cream and stuck chocolate buttons on as ears. In a stroke of genius, I added heart-shaped cupcake decorations for Minnie’s bow 🙂

They looked really cute on the plate and they were really delicious but we’d unfortunately eaten so much pizza that we could only manage once each! These also worked well as leftovers so in fact our Valentines Day stretched to accommodate the best part of the week!

Overall, a very successful Valentines Day and one of our best to date. Happy Valentines Day Ben, roll on next year!

Disney’s California Grill

I am actually slightly incredulous that this hasn’t come up yet on the blog….but I have a confession to make.

I like Disney.

A lot. Like, really a lot. I’d say any time I’m not thinking about food, I’m thinking about Disney. Disney holidays, to be specific. I won’t go into my entire back-story and tell you how and why this came to such a big part of my life (not sure if anyone is ready for that) but suffice to say I’m a little bit obsessed. My parents first took me to Walt Disney World when I was 7 and we went back numerous times as a family right up until I was 16. I was at college then and went on other non-family holidays to New York, Amsterdam and France but I never stopped thinking about Florida. I went to Disneyland Paris when I was 14 with a friend and her family and my parents surprised me with a wonderful trip for my 18th birthday. When I was 20 and just about to go to Uni, me and Ben went to Disneyland Paris for a short break, he loved it as much as I did and we returned in 2010 for an even longer break, staying on-site this time! Very exciting.

On arrival back from our 2010 Disneyland Paris trip, I felt it was finally time to start thinking about going back to Florida (I say ‘start thinking,’ I’d never actually stopped) and we began researching. We both had full time jobs and for the first time there was actually a glimmer of light at the end of the Mickey-shaped tunnel.

Fast forward a year and we flew to Orlando on 6th October 2011 for 15 amazing, incredible, unforgettable nights.

I planned our trip for a whole year and think I could possibly go into business as a successful Florida travel agent now. We had a pretty packed itinerary. 7 nights on International Drive, 1 night at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel and 7 nights at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. We visited all four Disney theme parks, 1 water park, both Universal theme parks, Seaworld and Discovery Cove. It was a crazy, hectic fortnight but it was the best fortnight of our whole lives.

And, more importantly, we ate the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten in my life! Which I’m going to share on the blog as I photographed pretty much everything we ate. It was a lot, trust me. I won’t post everything, just the best of the best. And, the absolute best, and a perfect starting point, was an amazing dinner at California Grill, a Signature Disney restaurant right at the top of the Contemporary Hotel.

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Disney’s California Grill

I was so unbelievably excited for this meal. It was my birthday a week before the holiday and I had added this to my reservation at the restaurant (ADR – Advance Dining Reservation, the only way to guarantee eating at many of Disney’s very popular restaurants. I had made our California
rill ADR 180 days before we ate there!) I also just have to share the beautiful roses that Ben had delivered to our hotel room the day of the dinner. Cute!

Our ADR was at 7pm and we checked in at the podium on the first floor of the Contemporary. We were then taken upstairs in the elevator and led through the gorgeous dining room to a lovely table near the window. I was facing the window and I could clearly see Cinderella Castle changing colour in the distance which was fabulous 🙂 And look! Our table was decorated!

 

Starters first! After much deliberation of whether or not I was going to try some of California Grill’s famous sushi, we decided to share the infamous goats cheese ravioli and the heirloom tomato flatbread. Once we had ordered, the bread arrived which was really lovely, real butter with salt on top and fresh sourdough bread. I’m a bit of a salt fiend so having salt on my butter was a huge treat and it tasted so good! Lets just say this was all gone quite quickly.

Shortly after this our starters were brought out and Ben started with the flatbread while I had the ravioli and we planned to swap half way through.

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli – With sun dried tomatoes, pesto, shiitake mushrooms and basil. I eagerly tucked in…but it was not to be! I didn’t like it! Disaster and very unusual as I do not meet many foods I don’t like. Also, I absolutely LOVE goats cheese and will slather it on just about anything normally. It was just too strong for me, I’ve never had anything like it. Ben had eaten half of the flatbread by now and barely spoken during this time only to breathlessly declare it “one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life” so we swapped. And he loved the ravioli! So each to their own.

The flatbread however, oh my lord. This was heaven on a plate. Brick oven Fired Flatbread – Chef’s Garden Heirloom tomatoes, baby mozzarella, tomato Jam, micro basil.

It was so delicately flavoured, I have never had tomatoes that taste like that before, wow, and the micro basil just took it to the next level! It literally took me seconds to eat my half of the flatbread.

Our server then came to clear our plates and he came back to ask us what we wanted for our main courses. I had known what I was going to have for approximately a year, CG’s signature Oak-Fired Fillet of beef. Done!

While I was dreaming of the steak, Ben was musing over his options. That’s right, options plural! He could have had the veggie dish of the day which I believe was a fettucine affair, or a plate of vegetarian sushi. But, I was really trying to persuade him to ask about a dish I had read about a few times on various Disney vegan/vegetarian dining reviews and thought Ben would love…the lesser-spotted Vegetarian Unplugged! Basically it’s a plate made up of 4 little plates that each holds a different dish that gets passed around the kitchen and made by 4 different chefs. He decided to go for it and very bravely said to our server “I’ve heard about a dish called Vegetarian Unplugged…are you serving it tonight” and the server was like of course! Coming right up! With that he was off, leaving us to wait in almost unbearable anticipation.

Excciiiiiiiteddd!

And luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. Our main courses arrived with a flourish and we sat staring at them for a good while before we tucked in.

Here is my absolute beauty of a steak…Oak-fired Filet of Beef – Mascarpone Potatoes, Blue Lake Beans, Arugula Oil, and Teriyaki Barbecue.

It was incredible; tender, flavourful steak, delicious, fluffy mashed potatoes and a rich barbecue sauce. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life, it definitely warrants three photographs!

And Ben’s main was also incredible, he was so pleased he chose it! I’ve had to guess what each dish is as we weren’t told but I think I’ve pretty much got it from studying various menus.

From top right and going clockwise –

Top right – I’m pretty sure this was the side dishes of the pork tenderloin, minus the meat. Goat Cheese Polenta, Roasted Mushrooms, Zinfandel Glaze and Sage which was fabulous as I got to try the very tasty goat cheese polenta.

Bottom right – recognize this? It’s the heir loom tomato flatbread that we had for a starter! Ben could seriously have not been more thrilled by this as he hadn’t wanted it to end!

Bottom left – I think this was the Heirloom Apple Salad . . . Fourme d’Ambert, Spiced Pecans, and Apple Vinaigrette. Delicious!

Top left – Can’t see anything on the menu that looks like this but I believe it was rice with lots of stirfried veggies on top with a soy and ginger dressing. Very refreshing and light.

Phew! What a dish! We both ate every single bite of our mains even though I was starting to feel so full. Even though we were both very full, we had desserts included as part of our Disney Dining Plan so we each ordered one before heading out onto the viewing platform that surrounds the restaurant. It was time for ‘Wishes’ fireworks!

The view on the platform is really stunning and it was incredible watching the fireworks from such a great height. We had a perfect view and although it was a little chilly, it was very romantic snuggling up together to stay warm.

Once the fireworks were finished we headed back inside to our table to find our desserts waiting for us! Perfect!

S’Mores Valrhona Chocolate Cake – Warm chocolate cake with molten center, Tahitian vanilla marshmallow, graham cracker sable, and peanut butter gelato.

It was my birthday a week before we flew out and I added it my ADR – California Grill really went all out to make our dinner special by giving me a birthday badge when I arrived and then adding this amazing solid chocolate plaque to my dessert! Wow! (They actually added it to Ben’s as well which we thought was hilarious, I think there was some confusion in the kitchen about whose birthday it was! Good result for us!)

Bananas and Caramel – Crispy baked phyllo squares layered w/banana, caramel, mascarpone mousse, and caramelized banana.

I took a couple of bites of my dessert and it was seriously amazing, if you like peanut butter even a tiny bit then this ice-cream will be your new best friend. However, I was really full at this point and had to take the dessert home with me all boxed up. Ben was able to eat the majority of his dessert and he really enjoyed it.

We declined coffee and finished our drinks before paying the bill which cost us 2 x Table Service credits each on the DDP. However, if we’d have been paying ‘out of pocket’ this meal would have been incredibly expensive, my steak alone was $44! I’d visit the restaurant without the DDP in a heartbeat though as the food is just out of this world.

Who says Disney is all hamburgers and fries? 😉