Kouzzina dinner

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We arrived a little early for our reservation at Kouzzina, which happened to be just as the restaurant opened. We sat on the Boardwalk, watching the ducks bob around the boat dock and the happy vacationers ambling around.

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So while we were sitting outside Kouzzina, the staff all came out in front of the restaurant, circled up, and did a little cheer for Cat Cora and Kouzzina . It was a fun way for everyone to get into the spirit and fun of the restaurant (without being really over-the-top or cheesy).

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We went inside, and were promptly seated. I then promptly decided to have a drink, upon hearing the words “sparkling” “wine” and “sangria”.

Sparkling Sangria @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

Delicious! (For the record, I was given the option of red, white, or sparkling wine for the sangria. I’m a fan of white, and sparkles just seemed even more vacation-y )

We were dining here just a few days after Kouzzina reopened after a refurb. Some things we noticed were small screens in the lobby with pictures of Cat, and a few new menu items.

One new part of the dinner the restaurant added was an olive oil service along with the bread. They provided two types of olive oil, each with a slightly different flavor.

Olive Oil Tasting @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

One was a kalamata olive oil, and one was…something Wingnut and I both forget. We liked both, but preferred the kalamata olive one, as it had a bit of a bolder flavor. (I asked the woman walking around with both and asking diners their opinions as we were leaving which one that most people preferred, and she said it was the kalamata olive one, overwhelmingly.) The olive oils were accompanied by a little dish of olives (just to ensure I would use the word “olive” a few more times in this review, I’m sure).

For his appetizer, Wingnut had the saganaki, which he was happy to see on the menu.

Saganaki @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

He says “it was really good… I’ve had several saganaki’s, and this was the best of the lot. With the capers adding some saltiness and the bread a little crunch, it really was tasty.”

I decided to have the Kouzinna spreads.

Kouzzina Spreads @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

There are 6 options to choose from (you can pick 3). I went with the Chickpea Hummus (very good), Skordalia (not my favorite, but was still good), and the Whipped Feta with Peppers (I picked this more for Wingnut, he enjoyed it, I thought it was alright). The other options are Harissa Yogurt, Eggplant Spread, or Tzatziki. This was accompanied by some pita, olives, and peppers.

Wingnut then moved on to the Kouzzina Trio, which includes Greek Lasagna, a Lamb Burger, and Cinnamon-stewed Chicken.

Kouzzina Trio @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

He says: “The lamb burger is the highlight, it has a nice spice to it and is very tender and juicy. The pastitsio is very creamy and cheesy, but was my least favorite of the three – although thats not saying it is not delicious. (Lets see how many more triple negatives i can get into a sentence here ) The chicken with orzo was really good, but very cinnamon-y. It is a very different flavor than anything I had ever tried, but for fan of cinnamon, it was definitely a must-try.”

I decided to have the Wood-Grilled NY Strip Steak.

Wood-Grilled Flank Steak @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

I had had this dish the year before, when it was served with the flank steak instead (but with the same accompaniments). I enjoyed it a lot more the previous trip, this time the steak wasn’t as much to my liking, and the herb salsa seemed incredibly salty (but Wingnut thought it tasted alright to him – I may have also been feeling finicky after a bit of disappointment with the dish). What was one of my favorite meals of the trip before definitely did not measure up this time, I really think that the flank steak was a much better fit for this dish.

Oh well, on to dessert!

I was hopeful that I would be able to have the Loukoumades (Greek-style doughnuts), but sadly for Stringbean, those were cinnamon dusted. Undeterred by spices, Wingnut decided to have them.

Loukoumades @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

Unfortunately, it was Wingnut’s point in the meal to be disappointed. “The dipping sauces were nice, not too sweet, nice flavor. However, the donuts were just puffs with no real flavor or substance, and deflated when you bit into them.”

Foiled from my original plan, but not discouraged, I chose the chocolate budino cake.

Chocolate Budino Cake @ Kouzzina, Boardwalk

This was very good, it was a fairly typical molten chocolate cake, but was allergen-free, so that earns a from me. The whipped cream a nice fresh accompaniment, but I could have used about 5 times as much as they provided (and I don’t use whipped cream with abandon).

So, Kouzzina. While we did have a very nice meal, it did have its ups and downs, a little more so than our previous experience. The food is very good, and is a nice and different type of meal from a lot of the other places around WDW. And I do love being in the Boardwalk area, it’s a nice excuse to meander around there.

Winter/Summerfest – Part 4

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While I have covered nowhere near all of the festive ambiance and activities Disney unleashes during the holiday season, I figure I will wrap up this 4-part series with a look at the little details. Not the huge trees, the spice-scented oversized gingerbread creations, or the spectacle of lights. Just the other little reminders placed throughout the resorts and parks that this is a season of celebrating (and yes, decorating!). Here is just a fraction of the many:

Lobby decor in the Yacht Club

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The Yacht Club also puts out a train set

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It’s themed with locations from the Yacht and Beach clubs

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Beach Club

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Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Holiday topiaries in Epcot

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Holiday sprinkles

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Epcot adds a special holiday ending to Illuminations – very peaceful and wonderful.

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Some of the details can’t be captured in a picture. For example, the parks, rather than the usual area music, play instrumental holiday music. (Here is part of the Hollywood Studios loop)

I’m sure you’ll notice that I didn’t include any of the ticketed events in this series, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the Candlelight Processional. While these events are also wonderful ways to experience Disney during the holidays, I had wanted to just write about the things you could “discover”. None of the items in my list require extra money, a ticket (beyond a park ticket in some cases), or a special time (except for the Osborne Lights, but those are almost nightly, or the ending to Illuminations). And in my mind, that makes them even more magical.

Feel free to chime in with your favorite Disney holiday events/decorations/special touches!

Winter/Summerfest – Part Three!

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First and foremost, I apologize for my inexplicable absence recently. I’m back, and I’m here, I promise!

For our third part of our look into the holidays at Disney, we’re going to be looking at something big. And bright.

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The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights takes place on the Streets of America (where the aforementioned umbrella is) every November to late January. The display consists of more than 5 MILLION lights strung around pretty much any surface that sits still long enough for Disney to.

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The story behind the lights goes as follows:

Jennings Osborne, from little Little Rock, Arkansas, began putting up lights on and around his home at the request of his young daughter. Each year, he added to the displays, making them larger and brighter and more elaborate. When he ran out of room on his own property, Osborne bought the two houses on either side of his home so he could continue his creativity.

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Neighbors began to complain about the display, and it was ruled that Osborne’s house, when decorated with the 3 million lights, was a public nuisance. Despite legally barred from creating a “spectacle”, Osborne still lit the display on three nights. He ended up being fined for this.

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In 1995, the Osborne family decided to share the spectacle that the lights had truly become with the world, and Disney brought the lights to WDW. Walt Disney World Resort is now the permanent home for what is now the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

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The pictures honestly do not capture the amazingness that is these lights. In addition to the lights being, well, lit, “snow” falls periodically.

Also, I believe I had called them “dancing” lights before, had I not?

(Sorry this next video is sideways, I’m not sure how to rotate it!)

This one isn’t sideways.

Even the smallest details are dancing.

I truly believe that the Osborne Lights are one of the most special and magical things in Disney. I have never seen a place full of people that are all truly entranced by the lights, happy and dancing through the streets.

Yes, people do dance through the streets.

No, it wasn’t (just) me.

During the day, you can still walk down the Streets of America, but the lights are a bit more unassuming.

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At dusk each day that the lights are running, they are turned on, and run for several hours.

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This year, the lights will be running from November 10th 2011 to January 3rd, 2012. They are absolutely and completely worth a visit if they will be dancing during your trip!

Winter/Summerfest – Part Two!

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Giant trees aren’t the only decoration adorning the various locales of WDW during the holidays.

Far from it.

Today we will take a look at a different kind of decoration seen in a few of the deluxe resorts – the gingerbread concoctions.

As with the trees, these are far from all of the gingerbread decorations around the resorts, but here are the ones from the Grand Floridian and the Yacht & Beach Clubs!

The Grand Floridian goes “traditional” with a giant gingerbread house.

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Seriously, this thing is huge.

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And detailed.

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Really detailed.

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(Also, a fun place for holiday pictures)

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Inside the gingerbread house is a store, selling little gingerbread houses and “shingles” for a smaller taste of the craftsmanship. (Gnawing on the walls of the large house is frowned upon.)

The Yacht & Beach Clubs have a different take on their gingerbread structure.

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A carousel!

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This carousel is just as detailed as the house.

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While you can’t actually go into the carousel, as in the Grand Floridian’s creation, this one has the added fun of hidden Mickeys!

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Nothing like the smell of gingerbread wafting through the lobby to get you into a holiday mood!

Winter/Summerfest – Part One!

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One of the things that annoys me about the holiday season is how quickly you are onslaught with everything festive, to the point where you get sick of it before the festivities even take place, and then there is a dearth of festivity for the rest of the year.

Take the music, for example. When you first start to hear those beloved tunes such as Christmas Eve Sarajevo or All I Want For Christmas Is You, you’re all excited. You haven’t heard these songs in forever.

But then they’re played ALL THE TIME. And you start to think that if you hear The Little Drummer Boy one more time, you might lose it.

And then, as quickly as it all arrived, the holiday music is gone, tucked away for another 11 months.

This slightly drawn-out introduction is the explanation as to why I am choosing to talk about all of the fun holiday touches in WDW now. In August.

There isn’t a lot of holiday spirit in August, is there? But they’re right around the corner (albeit a 4-month-long corner), and well, I thought we could all use a little advance festivity.

Hence, Augustmas. A 4-part series in which I will highlight some of the awesome details and touches Disney adds around the holiday season.

First, a few of the larger-than-what-you’ll-put-in-your-living-room trees. They are all unique to their setting, adding to the fun.

Magic Kingdom

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Hollywood Studios

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Epcot

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Animal Kingdom

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The resorts also put up their own unique trees. Here are just a few of them:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Grand Floridian

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Yacht Club

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Swan

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Dolphin

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Of course, these are just a few of the magical and majestic trees that grace Disney property around the holiday season. Which is your favorite Disney holiday tree?

Throwback Disney shirt

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Wingnut and I recently moved into an apartment together, which meant that I rediscovered a bunch of old stuff I hadn’t seen in years, including a set of Backstreet Boys action figures that were part of a Burger King promotion back in approximately 2000.

(Yes, Wingnut thought that those could be thrown away. No, I did not let him.)

But this isn’t a Backstreet Boys blog.

Also hiding in the back of my closet was a shirt I had gotten in WDW back in 1997. Back when the castle looked like this:

I’ll admit, as my younger self, I thought the pink cake castle was pretty cool. I remember leaning over the bridge and touching the side of the Pepto-Bismol covered facade, wondering what it was made of. (According to Wikipedia, “icing” and paint.)

However, looking back, it does look quite gaudy. And if I was a 1997 Disney bride with photos planned, I’d be freaking out.

But as a pre-teen, this was a souvenir-worthy occasion!

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(yes, that is a giant stuffed chicken behind me)

(This is Now!!! – Walt Disney World – 1997)

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(That was then – Walt Disney World – 1971)

What do you think of the Castle Cake? Awesome? Horrific? A combination thereof?

Beaches & Cream

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If you’ve never experienced this adorable gem tucked away in the Beach Club, well…I suggest you change that ASAP!

Beaches & Cream is mainly known as an ice cream shop, but they do have a full menu as well, complete with classics such as burgers, onion rings, and fries.

Look how cute the menu is!

Menu @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

Now, Beaches & Cream is VERY small, and does not accept reservations. Your best bet is to go during an unpopular meal hour. Probably the busiest time is after Illuminations, that’s when the biggest crowds gather for their ice cream. They do also have a takeout window, but the menu is very abbreviated there.

But Wingnut and I walked to the podium at around 12:15, and I was surprised to be given a choice of a counter, table, or booth, all available right away. We chose the booth, and happily began to peruse the sherbet-hued menu, while enjoying the ice-cream-themed decor around us.

We both decided on the Roast Beef Sub, which comes with cheese, peppers, onions, and (possibly) mushrooms. It is also accompanied by french fries and au jus for dipping.

Roast Beef Sub @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

I enjoyed this, it was a nice and filling meal. Wingnut says that “it was good, a teensy bit dry, but the au jus was enough to make up for it, it had a nice flavor. The fries were run of the mill.”

Beaches and Cream has those fun squeezy bottles of ketchup and mustard, which Wingnut used to create a hidden condiment Mickey.

Ketchup Mickey @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

Wingnut ordered a strawberry malt along with his sandwich, which he really enjoyed: “very thick and malty, probably the best malt i’ve had since i was a kid.”

Strawberry Malt @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

(See the cute beach decor in the background?)

Now, I am lactose-intolerant, and I had asked our waitress earlier in the meal about non-dairy ice cream alternatives available (they offer Rice Dream and Tofutti products), the wheels in my head turning in the direction of a post-sub sundae. However, as I watched him delighting in his frozen treat (a teensy bit jealous), our waitress came over to let me know that they could make me a non-dairy malt with soy milk and either the Rice Dream or Tofutti, if I so desired.

Seriously?!?

I love Disney World.

Yes, vanilla please.

Non-Dairy Malt @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

(Yes, that is whipped cream on top – I can have limited bits of dairy.)

I never knew non-dairy life could be so rich and decadent!! This was the perfect treat, and Wingnut was thrilled I could join him for a malt, something we never even considered could be possible.

Even though the malt was wonderful, that isn’t the main thing that Beaches & Cream is known for. Their big (literally) item is the Kitchen Sink, which consists of 8 scoops of ice cream, every topping they have (of which there are more than several), and an entire can of whipped cream (because…well…why not?).

While Wingnut and I didn’t attempt to tackle this on our own, we did get to see one being served to a table nearby. There is a fun celebration that ensues when a Kitchen Sink is delivered, complete with flashing lights and cheering.

Beaches & Cream is located in the Beach Club, right by Stormalong Bay.