Oct 15

NEW Kona Cafe Autumn Menu and Changes at Downtown Disney

Laurie is back for another review.  This time she headed to Kona Cafe and then to Downtown Disney to see what has changed.  Check out what she has to say about the new menu at Kona Cafe and her tips and best places for a burger at Downtown Disney.
And may I just apologize now for the spacing of this article.  I can’t seem to get it to space correctly no matter what I do!  It was correct earlier and now it isn’t.
New: Steamed Pork Buns with apple slaw $7.49; Maui Onion Soup and White Bean Soup with mushroom duxelle and Creme Fraiche $5.99; Jasmine Tea-infused Cheesecake with Orange-Ginger Balsamic vinegar with a low-glycemic options; TartWarm Apple Tart with cinnamon gelatto and bacon-macadamia nut brittle $5.49
GONE: Polynesian Barbecue Pork Ribs; Thai-spiced Watermelon soup; A Sweet Ending to Your Celebration…White Chocolate cheesecake; No sugar added apple stacker.
Other Changes: Fried Rock Shrimp is now Fried Shrimp; lamb chops are now curry-crusted with roasted fingerling potatoes, Swiss Chard, and a mango compote; pork chops now come with wild mushroom bread pudding, braised red cabbage, and an espresso-cranberry veal reduction; pan-roasted chicken now comes with roasted pumpkin, purple potatoes, and coconut-curry sauce.
NOTES: Brian was the sushi chef so things were perfect and Amber was in charge so everything was perfect. The Maui onion soup comes with a big lump of mushroom duxelles with a pool of creme freche. This is the perfect soup on a cold day. This was a wonderful medley of tiny bits of beans, Maui onion, and chicken stock. I would be happy with just the soup. The mushroom duxelles is a finely chopped paste of mushrooms, shallots, garlic and other ingredients. It just sat there in the bowl and did not have a star quality. I feel it is me and not the mushrooms as it had good flavor and texture. They are very good with special diets and can provide an awesome vegan dinner. Come on in for hearty winter dining. My doggie bag was an entire chicken dinner. The herb crusted airline chicken has flavorful, tender breast meat with a very good sear. The pumpkin is served as the squash it is in cubes along with purple potato pieces which both were cooked to roasted perfection. There is a coconut curry that is sweet and creamy with a dash of heat.
Now on to DOWNTOWN DISNEY NEWS.  I am saddened to see that Captain Jack has left Downtown Disney. The restaurant sits there dark as she waits to be torn down and his marina will be closed with no word of it returning. Facing Planet Hollywood you will see a path going back to Village Lake and Flights of Wonder. From Flights of Wonder there is a path into Pleasure Island heading east/right to Raglan Road. The path straight east to Portobello has long been closed. Time to say farewell to Fuego by Sosa Cigars which was a bar for cigar smokers, Curl by Sammy Duvall, Apricot Lane store, West End Stage, and the kiosk across from Paradiso 37 that sold alcoholic drinks. When Harley Davidson moved to the West End it was replaced by Apricot Lane boutique. 
The path goes from Flights in Wonder to Paradiso 37, Raglan Road, and Paradise Pier Dock then around to Portobello. The path will be made in the lake to detour around construction.  However, I recommend the path along the parking lot. Adventures Hut is still open with a classical music trio playing, AWESOME!
WARNING:  Avoid Downtown Disney if you are driving as the entire parking lot in front of Cirque Soleil is closed. I spent 20 minutes trying to find a parking space at 4 pm.
BATHROOM WARNING: By Flights of Wonder is the first bathroom heading east toward Pleasure Island. On the island you climb a steep hill to the Adventures Club bathroom which will be closing. You can duck into Paradiso 37 and Raglan Road restaurants for a bathroom break but at times these are very crowded. I try to avoid using the bathroom unless I am eating at that restaurant. Down the hill and around Raglan Road east far far way to the path that runs next to the Lego store on its east side is the next bathroom. Soon Paradise Island will have no public bathrooms and detours that can make it hard to get around during busy times.
2010 saw McDonald’s in Downtown Disney turned into Pollo Compero, Fresh-A-Peel, and BabyCakes NYC. Fresh-A-Peel has been replaced by Bodie’s All American. There is a bar run by Pollo Compero that sells alcoholic drinks as well as fruity concoctions.
Now for the review. I like the theme, decor and good lighting. A major problem is that guests must pay then come back through the check out line to pick up their food. For a stroller, scooter, or wheelchair user that requires begging guests to let you get back to pick up your food. Guests mill around the counters waiting for their food so it can get packed and hard to walk around. Guests with allergies and other dietary concerns should ask for fresh toppings, lettuce and gloves. The employee uses gloved hands to grab ingredients out of the bins then mixes the salad with his gloved hands.  Even though he wears gloves every ingredient is cross contaminated. NOTE: staff told me that they are moving to a bigger location eventually.
BODIE’S BODACIOUS BURGERS is one of the best burgers I have ever had. Mine came with no sauce and no bun. It was dripping juices onto the lettuce leaf wrap then I bit into the 
Bodie'scheeseburger. It was strange at first as I rarely get an awesome burger. The meat is very loosely packed into a patty which means the burger retains its juices inside. PERFECTION!! The toppings bar has, among other things, pico de gallo, onions with cilantro, ranch dressing, fry sauce, chipotle honey mustard, bbq mayonnaise, jalapenos, melted nacho cheese, and salsas. The fries are gluten and soy free because they are cut on site and cooked in canola oil. I am going back for more of the fries. The building offers burgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage, fried chicken, and grilled chicken. They offer salads that can be turned into a wrap. Sides include potato chips, black beans and rice, yucca fries, French Fries, coleslaw, and sweet plantains. Adults can try the Chocolicious shake with Bailey’s Irish Cream. BabyCakes offers donuts, loaf cakes, and cupcakes for dessert. Be warned that they have great kitchen, great staff, great food, and overall it is one of the best burgers I have ever had. I recommend taking the food outside to enjoy the sites – it is very loud inside so anyone with sensory issues would not find this a great place to hang out.
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain – Review – I rarely have not finished something that is dessert. The place is well decorated and has great lighting but it is hard to navigate anything with wheels in their restaurant. The place is packed with guests waiting for their orders. I ordered a sundae that was supposed to come layered with toppings at the bottom and a sundaesquare of sea salt chocolate but it did not arrive. It was caramel and fudge then ice cream then whipped cream to make the worst sundae ever. I did like the sea salt sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. Normally a sundae is ice cream then toppings then whipped cream. I dug in to mediocre ice cream then a glob of caramel and fudge which were tepid at best. It was not a decadent intermingling of dairy and sauce but dairy and a glob of sauce. A true sundae should have sauce as an accompaniment where they intertwine flavors in your mouth. THUD is the best way to describe the caramel and fudge sauces.
WARNING – a manager warned me that if I have severe food reactions then I should not eat in their restaurant. Ghiardelli uses a lot of soy in their chocolate candy and the restaurant uses a check list.

Oct 05

2013 Food and Wine Festival – Danger, Delights, Updates, and Disappointment

Laurie is back with an update.  She got sick from one of the food booths so she wanted to give everyone a warning about what she found out.  Just be careful and be sure to speak to a chef if you have allergies!

DANGER – I found out that the souffle was not gluten or soy free. I spoke for a long time with a chef who went into details about soy in the batter and dusting the souffle with wheat flour. This kind of error could ruin a vacation and even kill someone. I spoke to a chef while making my list of safe foods. I did what I was supposed to do, not just guess that a souffle is safe. There should be a master guide listing every ingredient and how things are to be cooked safely. There should be an ingredient book that lists every ingredient used. When the recipe is changed a copy of the change should be put in the recipe book.

DISAPPOINTMENT – Currently any guest asking about ingredients that have allergies, medical, or sensitivity must have a manager or chef come out to speak with the guest. For Disney run booths this can be a few minutes or up to 15 minutes. 10 booths can mean an hour or more just sitting around waiting for someone to tell you that you cannot eat there. If someone does not have my list they might end up going to Hawai’i, Japan, China, and Terra to be told then cannot eat there and have sat around waiting for nothing to eat. France, China, and Japan are harder to understand and are not run by Disney.

TIPS: Recipes change, cross contamination happens, and staff at times does not know basic kitchen safety. Do not assume that a drink or dish is made with the same ingredients as grandmother, chefs, and cookbooks use. The Belgium booth uses beer in their batter and wine in the compote topping. Some booths use margarine or butter blends so you have to check those for soy and other oils being used. Canada’s cheese soup has chicken stock, bacon, flour, worchester sauce (fish and citrus), and beer so not vegetarian, not Halal, and worst is the worchester sauce which may have soy, wheat, and fish in it depending on the company. Cookbooks are designed for home cooks who are cooking for the family of a dinner party. Festival dishes are designed to be made for thousands of guests which may change how a recipe in a cookbook is used at the Festival.

UPDATES: I went back again to speak with chefs. Here is the list of updates so far that I have, some good and some downright scary. Florida – The beef slider without a bun is soy and gluten free but there is risk of cross contamination both on stage and backstage in the kitchen. Hawai’i – The poke salad is made backstage so it is contaminated by soy and wheat. Ireland – The soy and wheat are in the bread of the cheese plate but they can hold the bread. New Zealand – The mussels are soy and gluten free BUT the garlic butter is a soy blend and there is wheat bread topping. Hold butter for soy free or hold bread for gluten free. Refreshment Port – The fritters have both soy and wheat in them. Hops & Barley – The lobster tail is gluten free BUT they use soy blend butter so not soy free. CHEESE – SCARY NEWS is that they use a spray that contains soy on the almond crusted souffle and dust it with wheat flour. I spoke with two chefs and the second one was way more savvy. The cheese plate is soy free and gluten free if they hold the bread. Germany – The bread is made offsite and comes with a warning about soy.

DELIGHTS – SCOTLAND, the cauliflower is just like a mashed tater dish in texture tiny bits of cooked tender cauliflower. The salmon comes with malt vinegar which helps cut the fish instead of lemon. IT WAS AWESOME, flaky, moist, with skin on, you can smell it being cooked fresh right there in the booth.  It is awesome perfect salmon that rivals the best restaurants in America. Cannot forget the cute sprig of microgreen topping the cauliflower. The best part is that it is soy free and gluten free.

GREECE, The Griddled Greek Cheese is a half inch slab of cheese that is mild enough not to overpower the dish. The pistachios an obvious welcome crunch and there are sweet notes of honey that accompany the cheese in a positive way. To have it soy free and gluten free you have to hold the pita bread. I folded mine over and ate it with glee. The Chicken Gyro without pita with tzatziki sauce has grilled chicken seared with a nice brown crust. It is a good flavored meat topped with lettuce, tomatoes and raw red onion pieces. The tzatziki sauce had hints of cucumber and was rather light, very close to real tzatzik. Major problem was the raw red onion made me stop and I am a raw onion eater. VERY strong.

ARGENTINA, Beef Skewers with a boniato puree. The chimichurri sauce has soy so I skipped it. I ate three of them because tho boniato puree was so much liked whipped potatoes and the beef was lightly spiced, flavorful, and tender. I am going there regularly since I did not have a reaction and it is as close to comfort food as one can get. I think Scotland and Argentina are awesome and worth repeating.

RFRESHMENT PORT – the orange Dole whip was a nice treat.