Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 2 with Catal Review

Rich: After the requisite rest in our Disneyland Hotel room, we headed out to Downtown Disney. First stop was World of Disney to browse and shop. We found an adorable Lion King stuffed toy and a 16-month Disneyland calendar.

We strolled around Downtown Disney some more, and then headed to Catal for our 8 PM dinner reservation.

Kathy: We chose to have the birthday dinner Saturday night, because for Rich’s actual birthday, we would be in the parks and didn’t want to spend park time at a lengthy sit down meal.

Rich: Since we had a reservation, we headed to the second floor via elevator and checked in at the hostess desk. We were soon led to a cute, round tower room and seated at a 4-top by the window. We had a great view of Downtown Disney that only became better as the sun set.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Chicory Lettuce, Blue Cheese and Peppered Sherry Vinegar

ENTREES
Kathy:
Traditional Paella
Mussels, Shrimp, Clams, Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, and Peas

Rich:
Chicken Paella
Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, Peas, and Saffron Aïoli

WINE
Ercavio Tempranillo Red Blend, Spain 2015
Expressive aromas of dark fruit: black cherry, plum and blueberry mixed with a pleasant minerality, hints of cedar, vanilla, licorice, spice and espresso. Medium bodied, yet dense, this wine offers ripe tannins under a complex blanket of black fruit. The acidity is well balanced and the finish is long and velvety.

The service started out nicely with our server showing up quickly to review the menu and the wine list. He took our food order and suggested a nice red blend wine for us. Unfortunately, after that, we hardly ever saw him again.

Kathy: The wine turned out to be a really good choice — the best thing our server did to add to our meal.

Rich: We were served the appetizer, but the wine had not been served. We waited for a while until I finally got the attention of another server and asked him to find our server and have him serve our wine. Before long, our server sheepishly showed up with the wine, making some excuse about how he forgot about it.

Kathy: I had been waiting for the wine to present a birthday card to Rich.

Rich: But to the food, wine, and atmosphere — these were all lovely. The room we were in had a limited number of tables, plenty of windows, and a soft undertone of enjoyable music. And the food and wine were superb.

Kathy: The music, view, and overall atmosphere was special.

Rich: The bacon wrapped dates appetizer was a wonderful combination of sweet and smoky, and the blue cheese created a nice balance to the other flavors. Kathy gave me a beautiful (and truthful) “Happy 29th Again” birthday card that graced the table for the rest of the meal.

It is rare to find paellas on a menu (we’ve seen them at Jose Andres’ Jaleo here in Las Vegas too), so had to order them. Kathy had the traditional with fabulous seafood. I had the chicken (would have had the traditional, but I’m allergic to shrimp). Both were amazing. They were served in hot cast iron pans right out of the oven. The rice was perfectly cooked with a light glaze of tomato/saffron sauce.

The flavors were so well crafted. The chicken was nicely cooked, served in two large pieces that had to be cut. I would have preferred already-cut chicken, but it was delicious. For Kathy, everything was tasty, although the shrimp were a little bland.

The wine was a perfect pairing for the appetizer and the entrees. Overall, the food and wine were excellent. It’s too bad that the service was a bit lacking.

Kathy: We were a bit disappointed in the service – not the usual “Happy Birthday from Disney” and inattentive, but it was a busy Saturday night. We were too full to finish the Paella and this was when we were missing staying at our usual Residence Inn where we could have taken the leftovers and heated them up the next day. Oh well, we’ll have to return to Catal when we can take the leftovers.

Rich: We finally got to see our server again when he threw a dessert menu on our table. When we told him we were too full for dessert, he grunted, returning with the check which he once again threw on the table.

Kathy: I was oblivious to this – too busy enjoying the view out the window.

Rich: The tip was small, but the dinner was otherwise incredible. The location was romantic and quiet with a great view of Downtown Disney. We will return when the time is right.

Downtown Disney Magician Jumps in for Photo Op


View of Catal Bar in Downtown Disney from our Upstairs Window Seating as sun sets and lights turn on

Rich Peruses the Menu

Kathy Smiles but Secretly Waiting Impatiently for the Wine

The Bacon-Wrapped Dates

The Wine Arrives

Time for the Birthday Card

Kathy’s Classic Paella

Rich’s Chicken Paella

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 2, Part 2: Napa Rose

We left Huntington Beach around 5PM heading to the Grand Californian for our 6PM Napa Rose reservation. About a half hour later, we pulled into the valet parking lane of the Grand Californian.

We were a little early for dinner, so we walked around the Grand Californian lobby and peeked into Hearthstone Lounge, noticing the new chairs in our favorite spot (replacing the ugly chairs that had replaced our favorite chairs), ending up in the gift shop browsing for gifts for ourselves. Kathy spotted some great Grand Californian mugs while we were browsing.

Near 6PM, we entered Napa Rose and checked in. In a few minutes, we were seated at a table for two near where we sat for Kathy’s birthday meal last July. Our server greeted us and reviewed some of the menu items. She mentioned the prix fixe menu, but we were aiming for a smaller, simpler meal this time. Maybe next time.

We ordered our wine as we reviewed the menu. When the wine was served, we ordered.

Wine
Malbec, Bodega Viamonte, Montevia, Argentina

Appetizer (Shared)
Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks
with Forager Mushrooms and Baked Herb Dumplings

Entree Salad (Kathy)
Smiling Tiger Salad
with Spicy Beef, Asian Greens, Lobster Shrimp Fritters, and Coconut Vinaigrette

Entree (Rich)
Salmon (Sustainable Fish of the Day)
with Roasted with Thyme, Lemon and ‘Nduja Clam Broth, Tender Potato Gnocchi, and Forager Mushrooms

The food, as always, was incredible. The appetizer came in a little iron pot.

The beef cheeks were tender and paired perfectly with the mushrooms and dumplings.

The entrees were just as delicious. Every part of Kathy’s salad was flavorful, including the greens. My salmon was cooked perfectly and the flavors blended beautifully. There were clams alongside my salmon that made the dish all that much better.

We skipped dessert because we were headed to Downtown Disney for dessert and shopping.

The food and atmosphere were fabulous. Napa Rose never fails on those counts. Unfortunately, the service was uneven. This has happened before at Napa Rose. The entrees took forever to come out from the kitchen, and the server was nowhere to be found most of the time. But we can overlook the service faults because the food Andrew Sutton creates is so amazing.

After dinner, we exited through security and into Downtown Disney. We headed for Salt and Straw where we got a scoop of Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons ice cream in a cup and shared it. Wow! This is the most amazing caramel ice cream we ever tasted. Tasted just like eating caramel candies, but better.

(Salt and Straw)

We strolled Downtown Disney checking out some of the restaurants for another visit, listening to live music, and browsing the World of Disney store.

Finally, it was time to leave, so we went back to the Grand Californian where we purchased the Grand Californian mugs using our Disney Reward points, returned to the valet, and headed back to Huntington Beach.

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Three, Part Two: Chef’s Table

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

We requested our places at the Chef’s Table before the cruise, but we didn’t hear whether we were included until we got a call in our stateroom on Thursday. Originally, they told us the Chef’s Table would be Saturday night, a disappointment for us since we wanted it to be on Kathy’s birthday.

Thankfully, they called us back that night and informed us we would be seated at the Chef’s Table Friday night. The next morning we received a letter in our cabin inviting us to meet at the Lobby Bar at 6:00 PM Friday night.

We arrived in the Lobby Bar a little early to find a large group of people mingling as if they knew each. One of the group, Steve, was kind enough to let us know that 300 people from their Orange County company were onboard and 10 of them were attending the Chef’s Table. There were 17 of us altogether, and while we anticipated having an awkward night with so many people who knew each other, it turned out to be a very pleasant group.

Just before 6:00 PM, we were each given a glass of champagne, and at 6:00 PM, our Chef’s Table host, Eduardo the ship’s sous chef from the Philippines, welcomed us and led us to the kitchen for a tour. We stopped in the middle of the kitchen to meet the Pastry Chef who demonstrated the preparation of the famous Carnival chocolate melting cake.

We were then led to another section of the kitchen where we were served four enticing appetizer bites:

Mango Sphere, Rosemary Biscuit
Salmon Tartar Cornets, Sesame Seeds
Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow, Chocolate Bacon, Apple Ribbons
Double Cooked Lamb

The mango sphere exploded flavor in our mouths and was quite surprising. The salmon was delicious and fun in a cone. One of our favorites. The beef carpaccio was served on a parmesan-filled air pillow. This was my favorite appetizer, although the best part was the air pillow. The lamb was served as a small meatball in pastry and was quite good. All the appetizers were delightful, and it was fun having our nibbles in the kitchen.

We were then led through the dining room and into the Library where our long table was set up. First, we posed for a group photo, and then we found our places at the table marked by name cards. We were seated near six people from the company group and Kathy was next to April and her friend from Phoenix.

They gave us a choice of wine, Zonin Pinot Grigio or McGuigan Australian Merlot. We both chose the Merlot. They refilled our wine glasses throughout the meal.

We each had a menu that detailed the seven-course meal to be presented to us, starting with bread service.

Bread Service

Beef Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea
Asparagus Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel
Comments: The grape tea was especially exciting and enjoyable.

Beef Blanket Before Spiced Tea

Beef Blanket After Spiced Tea

 Crab Stack
Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar
Comments: I am allergic to crab, so they substituted chicken. Unfortunately, that pretty much made this course disappointing.

CT_chickenstack_orig
Rich’s “Crab Stack” ala Chicken

Kathy’s Crab Stack (delicious!)

Duck Textures
Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus
Comments: The duck was very rich, and we didn’t finish this course.

Duck

Bisque Our Way
Two Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip
Comments: They served the soups separated in the bowl, and then had us mix them. A fascinating and tasty dish.

Soup “Dry”

Soup “Wet”

Sea Bass
Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaroon, Lobster Foam
Comments: This was one of my favorite dishes. So flavorful. They omitted the lobster foam due to my allergy.

Waygu
Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp
Comments: Wonderful Waygu beef. Very rich. Couldn’t eat all this.

Waygu Beef

Pastry Chef
Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream
Comments: We were so full by the end of the meal, but we managed to eat most of the dessert plate.

Dessert Plate

As you can see, we were served a lot of food, all of it well thought out, well prepared, and full of interesting flavors. After the dessert course, Eduardo brought out two birthday cakes with candles for Kathy and another guest who were celebrating birthdays. Everyone sang Happy Birthday. And the birthday cake was fabulous.

Eduardo was a superb host. We gave him the highest ratings on our post-cruise survey. The conversation around the table was enjoyable, although, with the long table, we really only interacted with half of the group. One of the company guys had an allergic reaction in the middle of the meal and had to leave mid-meal with his wife. We later heard he collapsed but was recovering well by the time we finished.

At the end of the meal, we were each given a packet that included a copy of the group photo and the recipe for the chocolate melting cake.

The food and service were amazing. We were quite impressed with the quality of everything. This was very good food served interestingly. Eduardo and his team prepared the dishes in the Library and then served them to us. Very impressive.

There were only two things I would critique. First, in the middle of the meal, we took a break from eating to be “entertained” by a magician. Neither of us cares for magicians, and this one was no exception. Boring. The other critique is that they only offered us one wine from a choice of two for the whole meal. We would have preferred several wines served throughout the meal to pair with the food. However, these critiques are minor. Overall, it was a marvelous and memorable experience. It was a 9 out of 10 for us, and an amazing way to celebrate Kathy’s birthday.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Three: Napa Rose

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Birthday Dinner at Napa Rose

We were enjoying sipping our Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge when a server came by, told us our table was ready and carried our wine as she led us to our table. We were seated at a table for two near the open kitchen where I could watch Andrew Sutton cook. If you’ve read our prior Napa Rose reports, you’ll know I am a big fan of Andrew Sutton and his food.

Our server, excellent throughout our meal, took our order and brought us a basket of delicious breads, including tasty rosemary rolls and delightful parmesan crisps.

MENU

Appetizer (Shared)

Barbequed Bristol Bay Diver Scallop
with Forager Mushrooms, Apple Bacon, and Summer Peaches

Entree (Rich & Kathy)

Grilled Creekstone Farms “Prime” New York (Medium Rare)
Bone Marrow Fritter, Onion Fondue, and Mustard Crème

Wine (Rich & Kathy)

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

Dessert (Shared)

Valrhona Blond Chocolate Crunch Covered in Dark Chocolate Ganache
Caramelized Bananas and Honey Sauce

We always wanted to try the diver scallop appetizer at Napa Rose, and we finally got our chance. Andrew Sutton changes the preparation often, and this preparation was exquisite. This has to be the best scallop we’ve ever had. Amazing!

We both ordered the New York Strip. Sometimes a steak is just a steak, but not at Napa Rose. Cooked perfectly, the steak was luscious, juicy, and seasoned splendidly. The accompaniments were good, but the steak was the star.

Since it was Kathy’s birthday, our server offered her a free dessert from the menu. She chose the Valrhona chocolate dessert that we shared. What can we say? YUM! That about sums it up. It was rich, chocolaty, and, well, incredible.

This was our best Napa Rose experience, even better than the Chef’s Counter. The service, food, and atmosphere were delightful. This was a fantastic way to start the celebration for Kathy’s birthday and kick off her birthday trip.

Bread Service

The Amazing Scallops

Awesome Steak

Complimentary Birthday Dessert

Kathy’s Comments: Looking at the photos, it might seem as if we were skimping but neither of us could finish our steak – Rich left a couple of bites on his plate and we took about half of mine back to the hotel, stored it in the fridge, and the next morning heated it up with the hotel eggs and had Steak and eggs for breakfast, which was absolutely scrumptious the next day.

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part Two

Lunch at Skipper Canteen

We were ready to eat, but it was about half an hour before our Skipper Canteen reservation. We decided to check-in at the restaurant anyway, and we were seated in about 10 minutes. We had a cozy table for two in the main room, the Crew Mess Hall.

The theming of this restaurant is fantastic. It starts with the perfectly-themed outside covered reception/waiting area and extends through the whole restaurant, although we were glad we were seated in the Crew Mess Hall since the other two rooms were small and not as well themed. But, in the middle of a busy, crowded park, it really feels like you’ve been transported to the jungle. Absolutely wonderful!

Note from Kathy: And, for the first time, we ordered an alcoholic libation in the Magic Kingdom! This is what Blue Bayou at Disneyland needs – if you’re going to pay those prices, you should be able to have a glass of wine or beverage of your choice with it.

Our Menu

Drinks

Kathy: King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (King Estate Winery, Eugene, Oregon)<

Rich: Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale – Draft (Concrete Beach Brewery, Miami, Florida)

African-inspired deep amber ale, brewed with a special blend of spices.

Appetizer (Shared)

Jungle Green Salad

Iceberg Wedge with Shishito Peppers, Radish, Hearts of Palm, Cucumbers, and Pistachios, Aji Pepper-Yogurt Dressing

Entrees

Kathy:

Perkins Thai Noodles

Chicken, Tofu, Seasonal Vegetables, and Rice Noodles, Tossed in a Spicy Soy-Chili Garlic Sauce

Rich:

Hardy Har Char Siu Pork

Char Siu Marinated Pork With Seasonal Vegetables and Jasmine Rice

Dessert (Shared)

Kungaloosh!

African-inspired chocolate cake with caramelized bananas served with cashew-caramel ice cream topped with coffee dust.

Let me say, as perfect as the themed atmosphere was, the food and drink were even better. Every bite was exquisite.

I had to have a Kungaloosh beer (on tap). It was a medium-bodied beer, expertly spiced, well balanced and refreshing — especially since we just escaped from the heat and humidity.

For an appetizer, we shared the Jungle Salad. I love iceberg wedge salads, and this was one of the best. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the other ingredients played ideally with it. This salad was so good, we created our version of it at home.

The entrees were just as good. Kathy’s Thai Noodles were flavorful and abundant. My pork was tender, somewhat sweet and sour, and a perfect match to the jasmine rice.

As we got the check, Kathy mentioned that she was craving chocolate to counteract the spicy noodles she had. We asked our server if there was a chocolate dessert we could have. Of course, there was — the Kungaloosh! This was a rich, sumptuous indulgence, and the perfect ending to our incredible meal.

As you may be able to tell, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Skipper Canteen. Its theming, food, drink, and service are fabulous. It’s the perfect respite in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, taking you to whole new, delicious world.

Skipper Canteen Ceiling and Wall Decor

The Kungaloosh tasted as good as it looks

Rich enjoying his Kungaloosh Beer

Kathy’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Wedge Salad

Rich’s Entree (Pork and Rice)

Kathy’s Entree (Pad Thai)

Kungaloosh Dessert – yum!

After lunch, we were ready to leave the MK and check into the Dolphin for a much-needed rest before heading out for the evening. We definitely needed a break from the heat, humidity, and six miles we walked – always more challenging when it’s hot. This time we took the monorail and enjoyed sitting next to a cute family from Illinois. The little girl was the one to speak up to tell me I could sit next to her. :)<

Anniversary Celebration at Morimoto Asia

By Rich

After driving through a huge Florida rain storm to get to Disney Springs, we were pleased that the weather had cleared as we arrived for our anniversary dinner at Morimoto Asia. This restaurant has been on our list of must-dos since we first heard about it.

We checked in at the front desk at 7:10 for our 7:30 reservation. We were seated immediately at a table for two upstairs along the glass railing overlooking the downstairs dining room. This was a great location. It was less crowded than downstairs, and we had a great view of the whole restaurant.

Before arriving, we had reviewed the menu and selected what we wanted to eat and drink. However, when we looked at the menu, and then talked with our server, we found out that the drinks we were expecting to order (Singapore Sling for Kathy, a Morimotini for me) were no longer available. Instead, we both chose the Momo Mai Tai. It was a very tasty, and potent, choice. We did manage to order the four appetizers we had planned.

Menu

Drinks

Momo Mai Tai

Wicked Dolphin Dark Rum, Cruzan Light Rum, Passion Fruit, Blood Orange, orgeat, Pineapple

Appetizers

Rock Shrimp Tempura

Signature tempura rock shrimp, spicy gochujang aioli

Tuna Pizza

Crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeño, anchovy aioli

Morimoto Spare Ribs

Pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze

Kakuni Pork Bao

Steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo

Dessert

Cream Caramel

Yuzu caramel sauce, black sesame whipped cream, black sesame air cake

The architecture and atmosphere at Morimoto Asia is amazing. Well-conceived modern Asian design with interesting seating and decorations. It was fun just to look around at everything. The ambiance created a perfect setting for us to share our celebratory anniversary experience.

After we sorted out our drink order, we ordered the first three appetizers (minus the Pork Bao). Once the other appetizers arrived, we realized we wanted the Pork Bao too and added that to our order. Sharing small plates over a couple yummy drinks is one of our favorite ways to dine. And this was the epitome of this kind of dining.

I could not share the shrimp, but Kathy was blown away by the great flavors of this signature dish from Morimoto. The tuna pizza, another signature dish, was full of flavor and texture, enhanced even more when our server brought us some soy sauce to drizzle on it. Wow!

The spare ribs were the ideal sticky, Asian-style ribs we love so much. We could have eaten more of these. And the savory steam buns were filled with flavorful pork belly and a mayo with some kick.

Kathy asked me which appetizer was my favorite, and I didn’t have an answer. They were all incredible.

We were unsure if we wanted dessert, but since we wanted to linger, we decided to share an order of the cream caramel. We had a bit of a wait for the dessert to be delivered. The cream caramel itself was rich and delicious. The black sesame whipped cream and air cake added a bit of an odd savory flavor, but nonetheless, this was a nice ending to a marvelous anniversary dinner.

We’ve had some incredible dining experiences in our 21 years of marriage, and this ranks up there as one of the best.

Thoughts by Kathy:

As fans of all those cooking shows on TV, we were really curious about Morimoto’s food. And then when Deb Wills talked about the new late night cocktail menu and how, in her younger days, she might have downed them all – lol – well, we just had to experience this. And I know exactly what she means. Really cool vibe – kind of like an updated contemporary 70s Disco – at least like the one I used to frequent several nights a week. All that was missing was the dance floor. Oh, and maybe some disco balls.

The food was amazing and even the Mai Tai had a special flavor of its own. Rich couldn’t help me with the Shrimp so I took some of it home and had it for lunch the next day – yum!

We didn’t announce our anniversary, unlike our birthdays. Last year was the big 20th anniversary cruise and we wanted to play it a little more low key this year.

This was our first time at Disney Springs at night and it is so fabulous – very Vegas in a good way and now trumps Downtown Disney at Disneyland.

We stopped by Art Smith’s Homecoming, which we’re hoping to check out later this fall when we might be more in the mood for a bigger meal. It looked quite inviting and I’m sure it’s delicious, but I don’t really eat fried chicken any more. Still, we do want to try it.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming

Outside seating for street fare, Morimoto’s

Entrance to Morimoto Asia

Floating staircase leading to upstairs dining

Table for two seating along the upstairs rail

Morimoto’s Mai Tai – delish!

Rich enjoyed his Mai Tai

Kathy enjoying her Mai Tai in lieu of Singapore Sling, which is no more

 

Signature dish – tuna pizza

Signature dish – shrimp tempura

Ribs, appetizer portion

Bao buns

Cream caramel

After our meal, we strolled around Disney Springs to take a look after dark, stopped to listen to a band, and then a night time view of Morimoto’s all lit up – really cool!

Evening entertainment Tuesday-Thursday

Amphicar

The Boathouse at night

Morimoto’s all lit up

Rich’s Birthday Celebration Part 2: Citricos

By Rich

The Grand Floridian is a beautiful place to celebrate, and Citricos was the perfect restaurant for my birthday dinner.

We were seated in an excellent location at a table for two near the exhibition kitchen and the private wine room/dining room. Our server, Naow, was very good. He was attentive and helpful, with some humor too.

The bread basket was first. It included some warm, delicious kalamata olive bread. A very tasty start.

Menu

Amuse-bouche
Rich & Kathy
Watermelon and Goat Cheese<

Entree

Kathy

Bell & Evans Chicken
Fregula Pasta, Mushrooms, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Chicken Jus

Rich

Wild-caught Halibut
Saffron Jasmine Rice, Clams, Calico Scallops, Chorizo Vinaigrette

Dessert

Birthday Dessert
Custard in a Cone with cream and chocolate

Rich & Kathy

Florida Key Lime Pie
Baked in a Graham Cracker Tart Shell served with fresh Strawberries and a Quenelle of Sweet Mandarin Sorbet

Wine

Kathy: Lafond Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, CA

Rich: Kurt Russel’s GoGi “Goldy” Chardonnay

The amuse-bouche was a fresh start, well balanced between the sweetness of the watermelon and the tanginess of the goat cheese.

Kathy had the chicken. Who knew chicken could be so good? I had a taste with all the accompaniments, and it was amazing. Full-flavored, juicy, and smoky. The sun-dried tomato pesto was a perfect match.

I had the halibut. I love well-prepared fish, and this was no exception. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The rice was creamy with the lovely semi-sweet taste of the saffron. Of course, I also love clams and scallops, and they paired splendidly with the fish. The chorizo vinaigrette tied it all together.

We both selected the suggested wine pairings for our entrees, although we were actually thinking of getting the opposite. In the end, the suggested pairings were perfect. Kathy’s California Pinot Noir stood up nicely to the rich chicken, and my Chardonnay added a brightness to the fish without overpowering it.

For dessert, we ordered the key lime pie (one of our favorite desserts) to share. Before we could eat that though, Naow brought out a birthday dessert for me — custard in a cone with rich cream and a chocolate that said “Happy Birthday” on it. Kathy and Naow serenaded me with a much-appreciated rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

The key lime pie was fantastic — just the right touch for ending a fabulous meal.

It was a fantastic birthday meal. The food, the service, the atmosphere, and the company of my beautiful wife made for a memorable evening. We will definitely be back to enjoy Citricos again.

Thoughts from Kathy:

After dinner, we sat down in Mizner’s but it was crowded and noisy and didn’t have the vibe we wanted that night. So we got up and walked over to the Poly, for old times’ sake. It was a very romantic stroll and, as usual, we enjoyed the grounds. However, the inside “renovation” – oh dear, it was pretty bad, in our opinions. We doubt we’ll be back there. It just looks so tired and why don’t they add a nice adult, upscale restaurant? It’s even more family friendly (family exclusive?) than before.

Even Trader Sam’s was in an odd location. We peeked into that, too, but the one at Disneyland is far better. So we headed back to the GF, picked up our car parked halfway between the two (or at least, it seemed) and drove home remembering every bite of the amazing food and awesome service. We’d put Citricos on the same level as Napa Rose at the GC.

Mizner’s Orchestra on the Mezzanine

Kurt Russell Chardonnay

Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Watermelon with Goat Cheese Amuse Bouche

Bell and Evans Chicken

Halibut with clams and scallops

Complimentary Birthday Custard

Key Lime Pie

The Grand Floridian

The Polynesian Village

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville: Day 4, Part 3: Artist Point

We checked in at Artist Point close to our 5:45 PM reservation. We were seated at a table for two near the windows overlooking the walkway down to Roaring Forks. We had never been seated here before, but we had always noticed it. It turned out to be a very nice location, secluded and quiet with a nice view of the rest of the dining room.

WINE

Rich & Kathy
Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills

ENTREES

Kathy
Chinook Cedar Plank Salmon
Baby Sweet Potato, Chicory Greens, Forelle Pears, Yogurt, Lemon Vinaigrette

Rich
Seared Diver Sea Scallop Paella
Little Neck Clams, Mussels, Carolina Gold Rice, Tomato Broth, Petite Fennel

DESSERT

Rich & Kathy (Shared)
Cobbler
Seasonal Berries, Black Raspberry Ice Cream

Our server Rae was wonderful. Before long, she was pouring us huge glasses of Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir. It is one of our favorite Pinot Noirs. We have visited the Sokol Blosser winery many times and were members of the wine club.

We skipped the appetizers so we could save room for the cobbler for dessert. The menu was much different from the last time we were here, and Rich was happy to see that there was a paella that did not contain shrimp, which he is allergic to. The combination of scallops, clams, and mussels was a perfect blend. And the rich, thick paella was creamy and delicious.

Kathy’s salmon, the signature dish of Artist Point, was spot-on, with rich, deep flavors and a wonderful blend of accompaniments. We tasted each other’s entrees, and we enjoyed everything.

Kathy’s comments: It was really a classic Artist Point menu, but I could have done without the extra greenery on top. In fact, the couple who were seated behind us after we were seated had obviously enjoyed Rae’s service before and the woman told her to skip the greenery on her plate. Disney seems to be getting carried away with what they think is healthy eating. I enjoy veggies but this was ridiculous. lol! Still, they were tasty.

We had to have the cobbler, something we were looking forward to for so long. And it didn’t disappoint. Warm, yummy, and comforting, it was the perfect end to the meal. We shared the cobbler, and even then we were quite full from the scrumptious meal.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the incredible atmosphere and the memory of the delightful meal, but alas we had more adventures ahead.

Kathy’s comments: Rich started talking about how tired he was and he didn’t think he was up for the drive back to Clearwater Beach. He mentioned something about checking to see if we could get a room at Wilderness Lodge. I wasn’t quite sure he was serious at first – this isn’t like him. But he kept mentioning it.

I was thinking it would be nice to boat over to Ft. Wilderness and we could do that if we were staying over. But being the budget keeper of this trip. I was a bit concerned about WL as a choice, so I suggested we stay at the nearby Residence Inn, which was $99 per night. We knew that because at one time we’d planned to split the trip. So we booked the room and boated over to Ft. Wilderness and back. More about the room in tomorrow’s post.

img_7626Waiting for our table

img_7627Enjoying our wine

img_7630Rich’s Paella with fennel moved

img_7628Kathy’s salmon with greens moved

img_7632Ah… the Cobbler!!

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 2: Tampa

After touring our old neighborhood of Grand Oaks, we then drove back on 54 to 41 and up to Connerton. This was the newest community being built and we wanted to see a “New Jersey” plan Lennar was building up there. William Ryan Homes also had a Juno plan we were interested in. We feared this location would be way too far north and it was just as bad as we expected. It was a very nice community but located in the boonies. And the goofy salesman didn’t have a model of the plan we wanted and tried to sell us one we did not want.

Then we drove down 41 to Dale Mabry, right on Linebaugh to Westchase where we had lunch at Tijuana Flats, one of our favorite standbys in Central Florida. As soon as we walked in the door we heard “Viva Las Vegas” playing on the sound system. Isn’t that wild?

Kathy stopped in at the restroom and Rich ordered Dos Tacos, beef and bean, for Kathy and Carnitas Burrito for him. Coke and Diet Coke to drink. We sat outside and enjoyed the Tampa weather.

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After lunch, we headed back to our beach cottage via Tampa Road, pass our Palm Harbor apartment to get back to 19 and 60 to Clearwater Beach. It was so much fun visiting our previous homes – we’d so longed to see them again. But it did feel a bit like watching a movie – something from the past and not the present or future.

After a nap, we drove to the beach and watched the sunset. It was quite chilly so we had to bundle up but it was a beautiful evening.

Next we stopped at Walgreen’s for more snacks and supplies. Dinner was crab sushi with siracha for Kathy and a beef and cheese sandwich for Rich. We enjoyed sipping our Cupcake wine and talking deep into the night.

The 20th Anniversary Celebration Continues on the Fun Ship: Day 7

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera
What: Carnival Miracle
When: August 13-20, 2016
Why: The 20th Wedding Anniversary Celebration Continues

Another sleepy morning at sea relaxing in our cabin. We finally made our way out of our cabin around 11 am and checked out the formal photos from last night. There was a very good photo of Kathy that we purchased.

We walked the promenade briefly and then headed to the atrium lounge for a couple glasses of Domaine Chandon Brut for sipping while we relaxed.

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At lunchtime, we headed up to the Lido pool where we got lunch from the poolside grill. Kathy had a cheeseburger and fries and Rich had a couple hot dogs with sauerkraut and fries. We listened to the DJ music as we ate.

We made a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and received a t-shirt for Rich.

Then it was time to head away from noise and crowds of the last day at sea and head back to our cabin for a rest. The debarkation information was waiting for us in the cabin — we’ll meet in the Bacchus Dining Room on Deck 3 at 7:45 am to be the first off the ship tomorrow morning.

We had a long rest in the cabin. Finally it was time to pack and then get ready for dinner in the buffet. Kathy had salad, jambalaya, and a bite of pizza. Rich had jambalaya, cornmeal chicken, ricotta ravioli, and a couple slices of pizza. A few bites of carrot cake ended the meal.

Back in the cabin after our last turn down service, we poured the last of our Merlot and sipped it while sitting on the balcony watching the ocean go bye. 8:00 pm was time for our movie, St. Vincent, and then bed time to rest up for debarkation tomorrow.

Disembarkation and Final Thoughts

Carnival had a nice setup for the walkoffs who were either Platinum or who had Faster to the Fun. We got to wait in the dining room with coffee, juice, and pastries, while we waited for the all-clear. We didn’t have to wait long and then we were back in the parking lot to pick up our car, load our bags, and drive the 4 hours home to Las Vegas.

We made really good time – it might have only taken 3.5 hours to reach home. The kitties were happy to see us and we were happy to be home. Unfortunately, during our first night home, we woke up sick and called 911. Kathy was taken to the emergency room and as it turned out, we both had pneumonia. We’re both much better but still recovering.

We may have had enough cruising for now – tired of getting pneumonia after cruising even though we got our flu shots and pneumonia shots and wash our hands religiously. I guess all it takes is somebody sneezing or touching something to get sick in these tight quarters.

But as we put together the trip diaries and some of our photos, we recall what fun we had, and we’ll probably cruise again.

In the meantime, it’s time for some Disney!

20th Anniversary Cruise Part 2: The Fun Ship, Day 6

This morning’s breakfast was some coffee from the Lido and breakfast bars we brought from home.

We relaxed in the cabin until 10 am when we went to the Bacchus dining room for Seaday Brunch. Kathy had eggs over-easy, hash browns, and bacon.

Rich started with the Flaming Tomato Soup and then blueberry pancakes with a side of corned beef hash.

soup

Then it was to shop. We found a pink cap and t-shirt for Kathy and a dressier hat as well.

pinkstuff

We stopped briefly back in the cabin on our way to the Serenity Deck for some reading and the drink of the day, Mai Tai.

maitai

After sweating too much, we headed back to the cabin to finish our drinks. Then Rich went up to the Lido buffet to make a salad for Kathy and get some Caribbean food for himself.

We enjoyed our shady restful cabin with a little time on our balcony where we spotted our one and only dolphin of the cruise. We rested in our cabin until 5 pm when we got ready for our final formal night dinner.

We arrived at opening and requested a booth for another anniversary dinner celebration.
Kathy had Chesapeake crab cake appetizer and terriyaki salmon. Rich had clam chowder (not very good) and the salmon.

For dessert, we both had a few bites of the Grand Mariner soufflé. Kathy had a decaf coffee, and Rich had another Limoncello.

We each enjoyed a glass of Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina.

A photographer stopped by to take some pictures, and then the wait staff surprised us with an anniversary celebration — chocolate heart cake with a macaroon and a candle. They sang Hoppy Anniversary to us. Very lovely.

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We strolled the promenade deck briefly before heading to our turned-down cabin, a little time on the balcony, and then a movie, The Imitation Game, which was very good.