Dining at Disney – Sanaa

Time for another disclosure, this is my second favorite restaurant at Disney World and there are days I have difficulty making that ranking decision between Sanaa and California Grill. They are dramatically different restaurants both in food and price, but the quality shines through in both locations. The food is so unique here that we verify all of our dishes are nut and fish free so that we all can share bites of everything.

I remember our first visit to Sanaa and encouraging my husband and boys to try the bread service with all of the toppings, they weren’t sure about it, but I had visited India and knew how good this could be. Sanaa executes this perfectly and we now order it every time we visit; yesterday was no exception and it vanished quickly.


We ordered a South African wine to pair with our food; most of the menu is African and Indian flavors and my husband and I learned long ago that a wine local to the type of food will pair well.


All of our dishes were amazing, and I have sincere compliments to the chef; that original visit inspired me to bring lamb into my own cooking. My eldest ordered the lamb shank, on our original trip it was the youngest, and I tought them both to make sure they get the marrow from inside the bone as well as the meat from outside. After the duration of cooking it’s perfect. The meat simply falls off of the bone when you pick it up: perfection.


I selected the duck; I can’t get it fresh and I haven’t had success reproducing recipes with frozen so this has not made it into my repertoire. It was served a perfect medium rare, with very crispy skin and duck confit (made from the legs and thighs) on the side. Like the lamb and other red meats, when cooked correctly it simply melts in your mouth.


My husband opted for the Braaivleis, a trio of grilled meats; the meats aren’t ever listed on the menu as they are subject to change. His came with pork tenderloin, lamb chops, and a boar meat sausage. All were perfect and flavorful, with the sausage as a clear favorite of my husband and boys due to the unique flavor profile.


My youngest selected the Spicy Durban Shrimp with Aloo Masala after researching all of the terms so that he knew what he was ordering. Again, another amazing dish, the shrimp were full of flavor, and we may have to start ordering extra bread to soak up the sauces.


When it comes to nuts, the desserts are different story and my eldest made sure he ate enough that he didn’t want dessert. My youngest got the Spice Trade Candy Bar and my husband and I split the Kenyan Coffee Petit Entremet. Both were amazing.

  

If you are willing to be a bit more daring in food options, definitely try Sanaa.


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Dining at Disney – Via Napoli

Yesterday we enjoyed another favorite, not for dinner, but rather for a very late lunch. We try to do this at least once during our longer trips at Disney to get a pizza “fix” which we enjoy at home at least once a week. Via Napoli, is our well-established favorite for this with their flour imported from Italy, San Marzano tomatoes, and in-house made mozzarella. In the future, we may have to try Blaze in Disney Springs…maybe.

The meal is simple, red sangria, an appetizer (prosciutto and melon this time), a family style salad, and a large pizza.


The melon and prosciutto is easy to do at home, the saltiness of the prosciutto and the melon are simply a perfect complement. This is a very elegant simple appetizer on skewers if you are looking for something unique. And the salad was loaded with tomatoes, cucumber, green and Kalamata olives, marinated mushrooms, and peperocini and peppadew peppers with a simple red wine vinaigrette was perfect in the heat of the day.


We followed this with a pizza with some of our favorite toppings; this is always the difficult decision since we love them all. We selected Italian sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni.

All good!


We rounded out the day with snacks as we got hungry.

Dining at Disney – The Boathouse

My husband made yesterday’s reservations based on a recommendation from a friend. It is one of the new restaurants located in Disney Springs and it is right on the water. They have a collection of vintage Amphicars (they go straight from the road into the water) that you can take tours of the lake on. The evening was nice, so we elected to sit outside and enjoy the view. We began our meal with wine and bread.

  

They have a very good raw bar and we elected to have a dozen oysters as a starter, on a good/bad note the raw bar was so backed up that they didn’t arrive until our meal, but the manager made it more than right and they were really good. We had selected the Lucky Dux oysters which are harvested in Massachusetts for the Boathouse. They were served with a classic cocktail sauce loaded with horseradish and a cucumber mignonette (cucumber, garlic, lime, oil); I could not decide which complemented them better. 


For the table, my husband ordered Truffle Fries with Lemon Aioli; we rarely eat fries so these were a treat, even more so since they were tossed the the truffle oil and freshly minced garlic and parsley. They did however deliver a huge bowl of these, since we have plenty left I am considering turning them into hash browns or making a hash with those and the shrimp (see next paragraph) this morning. I thought I had a better picture, this will have to suffice.


Concerned about the portion sizes after looking around I selected a cup of Maine Lobster Bisque and the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer as my dinner (especially in consideration of the oysters and fries). I was right and still brought back over half of the shrimp. (I still need to get lobster bisque into my recipes.) The shrimp really were deserving of their name; I had been looking for some spicy food and these delivered. The shrimp are very lightly fried with sliced Serrano and sweet peppers, and then tossed in the sriracha mayo; wow.

  

My husband selected the New Smyrna Beach Wild Cobia from their daily fish features; it was cooked perfectly and well complemented by the roasted vegetables.  


My youngest select the Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos, which arrived with huge chunks of fish (we forgot to ask the variety) and avocado along with a jalapeño-lime crema. He simply devoured the plate and commented that they were amazing. He did have enough space to help me with a few shrimp, taste my husband’s cobia, and devour some fries.


My eldest, with the fish allergy, selected the Grilled Sea of Cortez Shrimp & Grits. Somehow I didn’t get to taste this either, he said it was delicious and that the grits were amazing.


This was certainly some of the best seafood we have had, not only at Disney, and we will be returning!

  

Dining at Disney – Kona Café

Decided to relax yesterday evening rather than finish this post, it is a vacation after all. 

Margaritas were the choice for this evenings accompaniment; I selected habanero lime, it had a very mild hint of spice. I would recommend that they allow it to be a bit hotter and ease up on the sugar.

As with all Disney restaurants they are very helpful when it come to allergies. They serve a Hawaiian bread made with pineapple juice and serve it with a house-made macadamia nut butter. For my nut allergy eldest, they brought real butter and kept the other off of the plate. For those without allergies, the macadamia butter is really good.


We had the Seasonal special roll for an appetizer, a California Roll with lightly seared Hamachi Tuna and our fish allergy eldest selected the Tomato Bisque topped with Bacon and Arugula Oil. The sushi was really good, definitely what a had a craving for. I did get to taste the soup, wow, another item I need to work on at home. 

  

For dinner, we had very varied meals, I selected the Tuna Poke appetizer along with another roll, the Hamachi Tuna-Cilantro Roll. I have to say it was too much for me, and I should have skipped the second roll even though it was really good. The poke was awesome!

My husband had the fresh fish of the day, a pistachio encrusted tile fish, which was really good and prepared well.


The boys selected the Duo of Pork and the Island Burger. The chili-rubbed pork loin elicited the only (mild) complaint; my boys are used to very moist pork tenderloin, as I cook mine until the center reaches 135, and then let it rest so that I serve it at 140-145.

  
Overall, it was a very good reasonably priced meal, I forgot to take a picture of the menu, but all Disney menus can be found, here is the one for Kona.

Dining at Disney – The California Grill

My up front disclaimer: this is my favorite restaurant on property. In my opinion worth every single penny.

As usual we started with drinks, a very dry, slightly dirty vodka martini for me and a vodka gimlet for my husband while the boys dug into the lavender focchia bread with butter and Hawaiian sea salt.

  
  

And then we ordered the wine, which was just waiting to be paired with food.


As I sit here and look out at Cinderella’s castle I am content reflecting on our dinners. My husband and eldest had the win with the filet on black truffle risotto and a side of French green beans. The steaks were a perfect medium rare and the truffle risotto was simply divine.


My youngest selected the sushi for his meal; thankfully this way I could steal a taste in trade for bites of my own dinner. He had the lobster and spicy Kazan rolls (these are a great appetizer, as are the beet salad and flatbreads). The menu changes regularly but there are certain consistencies that I have recognized over the past 21 years. 


I had the cioppino, also amazing but messy since everything is in its shell. 


Please enjoy, it’s amazing. Also, note that you need to dress for the occasion; this is not a casual restaurant.

Disney Dining – Homecomin’

Day two we elected to try one of the many new restaurants in Disney Springs, Homecomin’. The house specialties are moonshine and fried chicken. 

We decided to start with drinks and fried green tomatoes. The drinks arrived quickly, I had a Muleshine in respect of the specialty and my husband opted for the Basil Smash. Both were good drinks, but slightly sweet.

  
The fried green tomatoes were simply awesome with a salad of spinach, watercress, and arugula.

My husband and I split the hangar steak cooked medium rare with a side of Southern coke slaw. The steak was cooked perfectly and they split the plate for us (just nice). Good call by the chef, the menu said asparagus and there was none on the plate; it’s out of season and would not have been as good as the tender zucchini. The slaw was crisp and fresh, but with it being Southern slaw, I was expecting a hint if jalapeño; definitely good, but no heat at all.

  

My boys had two different fried chicken meals, the famous fried chicken and fried chicken with doughnuts. The seasoning was good, the skin was amazing, but the chicken itself was a touch on the dry side. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery. My son said that the doughnuts tasted as if they were fresh from the apple orchard. (If you are not from Michigan, that is high praise.)

  
So, in summary, it was a good option for our late lunch/early dinner, the ingredients were clearly fresh and high quality. It won’t make my list of favorites, but it’s certainly an alternative for classic Southern food at Disney.

Dining at Disney – Flying Fish

There are many opinions about the food at Disney. It is always difficult to determine the quality of the review in absence of knowing the style of the reviewer. Since you have all (hopefully) enjoyed my recipes, I hope that you have a distinct understanding of my tastes.

When we go out to eat, I prefer it to be either outside of my realm of expertise or take an investment of time not always available to me as a working mom.

We tried Flying Fish years ago before the recent renovation. The renovation was completely worth it. The overwhelming smell of fish is gone, the ceiling is higher making the whole restaurant peaceful (quiet), and the bar is beautiful.

  
We started with a cucumber martini with harshly muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin. Definitely good if you are a fan of either cucumber or gin. I will be abusing my cucumber more when I make my Hendricks and tonic at home.

The semolina bread with nori (seaweed) baked in served with a house made créme fraiche butter sprinkled with sea salt was earthy and really good .

  

We ordered the wine before the lobster bisque arrived. A Pinot noir was recommended to go with both our octopus/sea bass/shrimp and salmon.

  

The lobster bisque must have taken hours to make, the color could only come from using the lobster shells to make the stock. It was perfect and I now have a request from my husband to perfect lobster bisque.

My husband and eldest selected the same meal with one key variation. My eldest is allergic to fish and they replaced the sea bass with 2 jumbo prawn. The octopus was the star; it was cooked perfectly with the prawn as a close second. My husband claims it was the risotto. I'm going to disagree, I tasted the grilled tentacle and it was perfection; another skill I have yet to master. (This has been on my list for awhile to master.)

   
My youngest and I each selected the salmon. (If you must choose, select the octopus; although our waiter Chris says the lobster pasta is the best item on the menu.) The salmon, cooked medium as recommended by the chef, was cooked perfectly. It was completed by the grits, that simply added a creaminess to the dish. The carmelized onions and grilled avocado were a treat with the salmon.


If you haven't tried it or if it has been awhile, please check out the Flying Fish if it is in your budget, it was appropriately priced for a top tier Disney restaurant. It clearly ranks with California Grill and Citricos.

Corn Carbonara

Corn isn’t yet in season here in Michigan, but we are beginning to get in good corn from Florida. If you can get good corn this is an awesome spin on a traditional Italian dish that highlights the sweetness of fresh corn. 

Before I start on my activities, I wanted to share a few tips for ensuring that the corn you eat is the best possible. First and foremost, never peek or shuck the corn at your store or market, the minute you peel back the corn husk you will show your naïveté. It will start to get starchy and dry immediately, it is perfectly protected in it’s husk until just before you are ready to cook it. At farmer’s markets they watch for people who do this, and have to throw away those ruined ears. Instead, here are some tips to pick the best corn, without looking. And if you’re still worried, buy an extra ear, they aren’t that expensive. 

  1.  Look for tiny holes in the husk, especially brown and towards the top. Those are wormholes, and, naturally, worms are best avoided.
  2. Feel the kernels through the husk; they should be plump and plentiful. If you can feel gaps in the rows where kernels should be, then choose another.
  3. Look at the silk on the top of the ear, if it’s dry or black, then it’s an old ear of corn.
  4. Check out the color of the husk. If it’s a bright green and tightly wrapped against the cob, then the corn is fresh. (In some cases, it will even feel slightly damp. 

Also, after you shuck it, if you do find a small soft spot, you can remove it with a sharp knife, you do not have to throw the whole ear away, as you can see with one of the ears I used.
     

It was rather warm when I made this, but not quite enough for the air conditioning to be on, so I decided to do all my prep first and then cook everything outside on the grill so as not to make the kitchen unbearable. 

The first task (after shucking the corn) was to cut it off the cobs and divide it into two equal portions, the half in the blender container will be used for the sauce. 

  

The next task is to use the back of your knife (carefully) to extract the corn milk for the sauce. After you cut the corn, there is still a part of each kernel stuck in the cob, that along with any liquid from those kernels is what you are scraping out. I took a picture of before and after side by side so that you can see the objective. This gets added to the kernels in the blender.

      

Then I chopped my bacon. I always am a bit heavy handed with the bacon, since my youngest assures me that everything is better with bacon. 

  

I also minced my garlic and finished adding the ingredients for the sauce and blended it up. N

    

While I took care of this, I had started my water inside (the side burner is strong enough to maintain, but not to bring the water to a boil) and preheated the grill with the cast iron pan. So, as soon as I was done with the prep I started the bacon and the pasta.

When the bacon was close to crispy, I also started some chicken apple sausages.

When I set aside the bacon, I added my garlic to the pan, soon followed by the kernels of corn and cayenne pepper.

    

At this point it all comes together rather quickly, drain the pasta and put it into a large bowl with ½ of your cooked kernels, ½ of the bacon, ½ of the basil, the Parmesan, and all of the sauce.

    

Once you thoroughly toss this together, the rest of the toppings go on the top and you serve with additional Parmesan. 

Simply awesome. Served with a simple Greek salad and fresh bread. 

  

Fresh Corn Carbonara

Makes 4 Servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | August 2015
INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels cut off (about 3 cups), cobs reserved
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces), plus more to serve
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, divided

DIRECTIONS

Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove excess grease from skillet; keep 2-3 Tbsp. Add garlic to the skillet sauté briefly then add corn kernels and stir in cayenne, cook until some are blackened and all warmed through, ~5 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, scrape excess corn milk from cobs into a blender or food processor by firmly running the back of a chef’s knife down the sides. Add cream, half of the corn kernels, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Purée until a smooth sauce forms.

Toss hot pasta with corn sauce, ½ cup Parmesan, and half each of the remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil in a large bowl.

Divide pasta among bowls and top with remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil. Season with pepper and top with Parmesan

Chili-Lime Clams

Following the grad party, we capped off the craziness with one additional big event, my younger son earned his black belt. These two boys simply make me proud. 

I can no longer count how many grad parties I have attended this year, but we are now in the second week of what I will call “normal” for this summer and I am loving it. The pace is relaxed and I am enjoying being outside and cooking outside. 

Last Sunday was a typical Sunday dinner for us with my boys and in-laws. I had been eying up a new Bon Appétit recipe and was excited to try it. I made a couple of modifications and scaled it up for my usual group, but for the most part made it as it was described. I accompanied the meal with a spinach Greek salad, grilled corn on the cob, and spaghetti aglio et olio (garlic and oil). 

There wasn’t a lot to do in advance, so I started with the prep inside, chopping the shallots and garlic, scrubbing the clams, and rinsing the tomatoes and beans. If you haven’t cooked with clams before, “scrubbing” them is exactly what it sounds like, under very cold water, scrub the shells with a brush to remove all of grit so that it doesn’t end up in your meal.

              
Outside, I began to heat my grill and inside I boiled water and set up my skillet for the final pasta. I have a huge cast iron skillet that I put on the grill along with the corn. Once the pan was hot, I put the butter then shallots and garlic, quickly followed by the tomato paste. Grilling corn requires no advance work, the only trick is a couple of towels (that you don’t mind getting dirty) at the end to shuck them. They will be very hot, but the shucks and silk come off very easily. 

          
I added the tomatoes and chickpeas together to make sure that the beans were tender and that the tomatoes had enough time to fall apart (in the future I would cut the tomatoes in half to speed up the process. After they cooked for a bit, I stirred in the sambal oelek, and let it boil a bit longer. 

  

After adding the clams, I used foil to cover the skillet and drizzled the bread with oil.

    

I used most of the clam cooking time to shuck the corn and with a few minutes left added the bread to the grill. 

  

After they were done, I did a quick chop on some fresh basil and tossed the pasta with sautéed garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and the basil while my husband tossed the salad. 

  

Dinner is served.


Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread

Entrées, Grilling, Shellfish, Summer, Tested and Approved!
Makes 4 servings ∙ Source Bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek
  • 24 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 thick slices country-style bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare a grill for medium heat, placing a large cast-iron skillet on the grill to heat with it.

Once hot, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in sambal oelek, cook for an additional 4-5 minutes then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have fully opened; this could take from 5–15 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.