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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Orlando’ Category

Friday, August 12, 2011 @ 08:08 AM

048I want to start off by apologizing for the inconsistency when it comes to posting this summer. Let’s just say working a new full time job, growing a little one inside my belly, trying to keep our house running, still be a good wife, and enjoying a little free time have all sort of put my little blog on the back burner. But I really want to try and get the ball rolling again consistently… at least until our little beanette arrives, and then who knows. 😉

While I love reviewing restaurants and trying new hot spots around the country, I also love getting to try unique and exciting experiences (or food related excursions) that are also featured in popular culture. From Harry Potter to the good ol’ County Fair, our excursions have run the gamut. While some of our excursions are more focused around food than others, this next one I want to showcase was truly a culinary adventure of epic proportions. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is an annual event that takes place for 2 months at…you guessed it, Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando; and what makes this event such a fun experience is it is something you can participate in as little or as much as you want to once you have been admitted into the park.

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I am sure you are all aware of what Epcot is all about. But if you aren’t, I will sum it up for you: it’s a park dedicated to science & ingenuity on one half and a World Showcase on the other. In the World Showcase, it is divided up into 11 sections, each section representing a different country from around the world with unique rides, shops, and eateries that are themed specifically for that country; and so you can imagine, this entire area is the venue for the Food and Wine Festival. Also, even more and what makes it so fun is in addition to those food items you can always find at each country, the festival adds tents scattered throughout the park where you can buy samples of even more culinary treats and drinks from many more countries.

While we didn’t try every food item or even stop at every country at the over 25 different food tents, we did try a good number. I thought Adam and I played it very smart, and something I would recommend if you are thinking about ever attending… DO NOT TRY TO EAT IT ALL! We decided our best bet in getting to fully experience the festival was to pick and choose what really sounded delicious or interesting to us and then share those small plates. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the day we were still very stuffed, but I never felt uncomfortable because we really tried to edit our choices and then each got a couple of bites so we could enjoy it all. Throw a couple of beers from around the world and rides in there, it was definitely the way to go and truly made for a fun and memorable experience; and rather than talk about each dish individually, I’m going to show you through the pictures the many worldly dishes we tried and all the fun we had:

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There were SO MANY dishes you would be hard pressed to try them all, or even remember what you ate from the beginning of the day to the end, but we had such fun making our way throughout the park and trying some items that were new to us and a few favorite dishes along the way.  By the time we sat down for our Japanese Hibachi meal that evening, our feet were aching, our bellies were surprisingly still ready for more food, and what a great adventure it was! I highly recommend that if you are planning a visit to Epcot in the near future and you like to eat, it is worth your while to plan during the International Food and Wine Festival just to expand your options. You won’t regret it.

SIGNATURE DISH: Well if International Food and Wine Festival doesn’t explain it, I will say there isn’t one dish in particular that make this excursion, but rather the whole experience is the variety of dishes from a number of countries that are the signature.

TASTE: While every dish we opted to try was not our most favorite, there were definitely some that stuck out for us as “wishing we had more of that!” We really liked the Greek stand, and the German tent I would say was far and wide our favorite. This could be because we love sausage and pretzel roll and the spatzle with ham and cheese was pretty gosh darn good too. But overall, we really enjoyed most everything we tried.

AMBIANCE: It’s pretty hard to beat getting to try all these wonderful bites of food while you are surrounded by a huge Disney theme park, complete with costumes, rides, and fun.  They have really gone to big lengths to create a sense of realism; and I know some of you might think you are too old for all of that, but really it’s hard to ever get too old for Disney! There is just something about it that takes you back to being a kid.  And well…with the little pit stops you can make for adult beverages around Epcot, it is hard to not enjoy it all the more. 😉

PRICE: This would have to be the rub of the whole event. Don’t expect to attend this festival without shelling out quite a bit of dough.  For starters, you do have to pay your entrance fee to the park, which alone is sort of pricey…near $50 per person. But on top of that, every dish you want to try at the tents ranges from $4 – $7, which can add up pretty quickly if you want to try a variety.  This was largely why we opted to share all the plates, so we could try all the more.  Being that we were on a special vacation, we didn’t mind paying a little more for the whole experience, but just know going in over the course of the day you will likely spend a lot.

SERVICE: As you would expect of a Disney park, everyone on the staff who we encountered was extremely helpful, friendly, and accommodating.  Luckily, we didn’t really encounter too many outrageous lines, but those that work for the park truly do a great job of making everyone feel at home and welcome.

If you have never visited or haven’t visited in awhile, Epcot is a theme park that is well worth the trip in and of itself; and if you are making that trip, I think it would for sure be a fun addition to go during the International Food and Wine Festival to get a truly well rounded culinary experience worth 3 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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Thursday, April 21, 2011 @ 09:04 AM

044The Florida heat sure is looking good right about now. Still cold up here in Indiana, and although we are getting closer to May, it is still averaging only 40-50 degrees here each day!  So, needless to say, I’m longing for the days when I got to enjoy warm weather, which ultimately takes me back to our anniversary trip to Orlando last October. Great trip of friends, fun, great weather, and of course….food! On that specific trip, we knew we wanted a couple of nicer meals to celebrate our anniversary, that being the reason for our trip and all, and one spot that was on the top of the list was Emeril’s.

While Emeril has gained lots of notoriety as a TV personality and with his big three restaurants in N’awlins (including his famed stint as the head chef at the famous Commander’s Palace), his now 12 restaurants around the country has helped to expand his name even more. So needless to say, with that much notoriety, we knew we wanted to experience a little bit of what makes his culinary world so great when we got the chance….in this case at Emeril’s Orlando at Univeral Studios City Walk.

Adam and I thought given the popularity of Emeril’s name and where this restaurant is located (in such a touristy hot spot like City Walk), a reservation would be our best option.  So on that designated night we set out on what I thought was going to be a very romantic and wonderful meal. Unfortunately, it certainly didn’t start off that way.  First, we opted to take a cab even though it was only a short distance (I was wearing heels and preferred not to have to walk), and our cabby was pretty much an ass. Rather than just driving to where we asked, he kept giving us his two cents on where to drop us off, until Adam finally told him to simply pull over and we’d go from there. On a side note, this is a pet peeve of mine, your job is to drive me where I say, that is what I am paying you for, so if you feel the need to make that difficult and tell me a better way or how I need to get out, last I checked that wasn’t in your job description.  Anyway, I digress, but let’s just say that was not a great start.

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We arrived at the restaurant right at our scheduled time, but were told we would need to wait a moment. Another bummer, because again….a pet peeve….I am starting to think restaurants don’t know the meaning of the term “reservation.”  If you are going to offer this service, you better be prepared to actually be able to accommodate people who make them, because that is sort of the point…so you don’t have to wait!  Then, while waiting Adam and I may have gotten into a little “tif” about my lack of confidence about my blog and about “selling it” to those working at the restaurant. Regardless, by the time we were seated, the romantic mood had turned from wonderful to downright UNPLEASANT!

Things really didn’t get any better when our waiter, who clearly hadn’t been trained in the art of customer service. He sort of impatiently asked for our order about 5 seconds after we sat down, and at this point I had had it! I was on the verge of tears, not feeling romantic whatsoever, and MAD! I didn’t want to bother with this place that obviously could care less that we were about to pay a pretty penny for a meal and seemed to rather just want to hurry us out.  Adam too wasn’t all that impressed at that moment, but the saving grace of it all was a brief chat with the manager and our secondary waiter Spencer, who we promptly asked to be our main guy.  After a few calming words from Adam and a few sips of wine, I began to ease up and enjoy the meal….Wine makes everything better. 😉

So after perusing the menu we decided the best “course” of action was for me to get a salad and Adam would order a steak that was big enough to split. Also, he would order a side that I could have a few bites of.  For how expensive the food was, I was honestly not hungry enough to get a whole entrée for myself, and honestly it worked out perfectly for me to have a few bites here and there.  So I went with the Emeril’s Salad, Adam chose a steak, and then of course…, the Chipotle Louisiana Crawfish Mac & Cheese.

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Overall everything was very tasty, and although maybe a tad overpriced, I guess to be expected from a place with that type of location, atmosphere, and well….name recognition.  Also, I was very glad I just had a few bites of this and that because I was pleasantly full and not overly stuffed.  I even saved a little room for one of their desserts…., the Godiva White Chocolate Bread Pudding…., YUM!!!!

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I have had more amazing bread pudding, but this was still delicious. Also, it was sweet of them to add a little candle for us, which of course helped make up for the lack luster start to the evening.  I believe the manager even gave Adam a complimentary glass of wine…score! As I mentioned, that manager and our waiter Spencer truly saved the experience for us, because up until they came along, I was not greatly impressed with good ol’ Emeril’s. Good job guys…and thank you for making our 2nd anniversary a good one!

SIGNATURE DISH: While Emeril himself is very famous, he is not known for any one dish in particular, but rather the flavor and often creole or southern inspired flair he brings to his dishes.  This restaurant is no different and although not heavily focused on Creole cuisine, you can see the influence on a variety of the dishes…like the Chipotle Louisiana Crawfish Mac & Cheese, for example.  There wasn’t any one dish that stuck out to us as being a “signature” per se, rather just a standard menu of this type of fare.

TASTE: Everything we ordered tasted very good, but nothing blew our socks off…except maybe the mac & cheese and the bread pudding.  Again, this restaurant is more known for just being high-end good food. Regardless of what you order, there is a good chance you’re going to like it. Emeril has made sure of it.  That being said, everything we ordered was pretty standard, but all of it was cooked very well and we definitely enjoyed it.

AMBIANCE: Being an upscale spot, you would hope they would hit this one the head.  I thought they did a fantastic job of making you feel that although you are really dining in the middle of a tourist trap, you don’t know that unless you step outside.  The décor was all modern and hip and I thought played really well with the food they were serving.

SERVICE: This is almost what did our whole experience in.  One, we were not impressed with having to wait initially, and two, then feeling rushed by our first waiter. I’m sorry…but as a head waiter, our first guy sucked!  If I’m going to pay you $100 for a meal, you better let me enjoy it and take my time.  Luckily, the manager apologized and explained that they were swamped. He then stepped in and paid us some attention, which is always appreciated.  Also, the backup waiter, Spencer, was so kind and pretty much took over our table, which then allowed things to progress very smoothly. Spencer…if you’re reading this….you deserve a promotion. Good job!

PRICE: Due to the name and type of restaurant Emeril’s is, I’m sure you can assume that the prices would be pretty high…., and they were.  However, we knew that going in; and being located in the heart of City Center, we also knew that would increase the spike.  I would equate this to any other fancy restaurant out there and expect to pay $10 or more for a salad and $30 – 45 per entrée; and given that we were celebrating a special occasion, we didn’t mind the cost. Still, I would have to say given the meal itself…, I’ve had better for the price.

In the end we did enjoy our visit and are glad to say we have now eaten at Emeril’s.  Our meal was good and we were still able to celebrate our anniversary romantically, after all.  Although there were many things I hoped would be better, we still enjoyed the experience (much thanks to our eventual service), and thus give Emeril’s Orlando 3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011 @ 04:03 PM
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0ObZNylkMM&feature=related

I’m pretty sure if you have been living on this planet for the last decade or more you know that scene fairly well.  I mean, when the topic of shrimp comes up, those phrases are typically uttered by someone or another…, well at least I know they have been if you hang around me.  All kinds of shrimp have been longtime staples at any seafood restaurant around the country, however, with the release of "Forrest Gump" in 1994, it brought about a whole new wave in the world of restaurants that focus on this tiny sea crustacean…quite literally!

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opened in 1996 in Monterey, CA, and with the popularity of the movie the restaurant is strictly modeled after, it has quickly grown to more than 45 locations both here and abroad; and although seafood restaurants of all types abound around the country, where this one stands apart is not only do they serve great food, but they have a theme that is fun for all ages that they’ve run freely with…just like Forrest. Winking smile

Now I will admit, themed restaurants of any type can often be a bit too over the top and even too cheesy for me. Also, it is typically not great on the food front.  However, where Bubba Gump’s differs is that although it is definitely theme heavy, it is so fun and interactive that the entire time it is hard not to enjoy the experience; and on top of the fun factor, the food is actually REALLY good…, so much better than one would ever expect from a themed joint.  We have even been to quite a number of Bubba Gump’s locations and the food has been great each and every time.

So although we have eaten at Bubba Gump’s many a time, we know we like it so much that we planned another visit for our trip to Orlando last October, and also because we knew we needed to really document it for PCC.  So on our first night in O-Town, we ventured over to Universal Studio’s City Walk where Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. – Orlando is located.

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We settled in quickly and having been to a Bubba Gump’s before, we kind of knew the lay of the land.  If you’ve been here like us, you know there are signs (see pics above) on each table with the phrases “Run Forrest Run” and "Stop Forrest Stop" on them…, which is how you signal your server that you need something and they will happily stop right away for you.  I find this feature especially helpful, because I don’t really like to be bugged a million and one times if we don’t need anything, which helps me to enjoy my meal all the more.  So moving on, we enjoyed a pre-drink cocktail and decided what each of us was in the mood for.  Well…I should say Adam did, because I knew before we even sat down that I wanted their hush puppies appetizer and a big ol’ bucket of peel n’ eat shrimp.  Adam, on the other hand, had a bit of a harder time because since the last time we’d been, Bubba had gotten rid of his favorite dish…a penne pasta dish with grilled shrimp, garlic and feta. Needless to say…he was pretty bummed. So instead he went with one of their stuffed shrimp dishes and a side of rice (menu).

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Hush puppies are one of those things I find to be hit or miss for me, but Bubba’s hush puppies are unlike anything you have ever had in your life!  You will be thanking me you decided to order these, trust me.  These puppies are chalked full of bits of veggies and seafood and have a creamy dipping sauce to boot. They are just divine and Adam and I had no problem polishing off the whole bucket ourselves.

Moving on to our shrimp dishes…, I knew I would love mine, having ordered it before. You just have to know you are going to get a little messy, so dig in and enjoy.  They were every bit as buttery, spicy, and tasty as they always are…and when I say spicy I don’t mean unbearable, just seasoned well with tons of flavor.  Adam also enjoyed his stuffed shrimp, but we agreed, it was nowhere near as good as the pasta dish he typically would order.

All around, another great meal, complete with tons of fun “Forrest Gump” trivia and laughs…which I might add we received a perfect score on. Hey…you may have to visit to find out just exactly what I’m talkin’ about.

SIGNATURE DISH: Bubba Gump’s is not known for a certain dish per se, but with Shrimp Co. in their name you can be sure shrimp is what they truly focus on.  Still, they have seafood dishes of all kinds, but shrimp dishes far outweigh the other dishes.

TASTE: Having been to visit one of these restaurants more than a few times now, it is safe to say they know how to prepare food for a crowd, and can do so fast and well.  Everything we have ever ordered has been wonderful; and while maybe it’s not 5 stars, it beats some other truly over the top fancy food we have had by a mile.  One dish that certainly always stands out are their hush puppies…, perfectly cooked, not dry, packed full of flavor, and totally unique. Also, it is refreshing to have a place you can count on for good seafood any time of the year, regardless of where you are.

AMBIANCE: If theme restaurants aren’t for you, I would still beg you to give Bubba Gump’s a chance, because really you can make it as interactive or as simple as you would like.  It is also just really cool to be able to see all of the memorabilia they have around from the movie; and with T.V.’s playing the movie on a constant rotation, it is hard not to remember all the great scenes.  So although it is touristy, I find it to be one of those touristy places I can tolerate.

SERVICE: This is another area I always find them to be very good. The sign system they have implemented really helps their wait staff know which tables they need to visit and which they can overlook for that moment.  As a patron this is always nice because it allows you to feel as if you really have control over your experience and don’t have to be bugged in the middle of a conversation or your meal unless you want to.

PRICE:This is where I feel Bubba Gump’s is a bit off. They are a tad pricier than many other restaurants in the area, but I attribute that to a couple of things.  One, they are smack dab in the middle of a giant tourist play land, full of touristy restaurant stops and other fun attractions.  Places like this know they can up their prices because people just expect to pay a little more at a theme park or area attached to one.  Two, they are still a seafood restaurant and that always jumps the bill up just a bit.  That being said, Bubba Gump’s is far from outrageous, and if you are looking for good food and a fun time, I still think it is worth it.

So if you are in the mood for a good meal, looking to entertain yourself or some guests for the evening, or just needing to brush up on your “Forrest Gump” trivia, I urge to visit any of the Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. locations. I promise you’ll be in for a good time….so good we have given them 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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