For videos of our most recent time living in Central Florida, check out our 18-Month Florida Vacation Playlist on our new YouTube Channel.
Today we meet with the new pet sitter for our upcoming trips to WDW and Disneyland. I couldn’t help but browse the photos from this time last year and saw this, dated one year ago today:
Wow! It truly has been one crazy year. Our heads are still spinning from all the changes!
We knew we wanted to spend Christmas Day at Disney World (outside the parks for crowd and AP blockout reasons) and have Christmas dinner at one of the restaurants. We couldn’t decide which, though, so we changed our ressies several times. But when we read about the new Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club, we settled on that the day before. And we were so glad we did.
Of course we love the Yacht Club – it is our home resort at WDW ever since our first stay there back in 1999 (the Contemporary was Kathy’s first back in 1982). We were very impressed with Ale and Compass – the decor, the food, and the service.
with Spinach and Creamed Kale, White Cheddar, and Cornbread Crumbs
Entree – Kathy
Maine Lobster Roll
with choice House-made Vinegar Chips
Entree – Rich
Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich
with Caramelized Onions, Poached Egg, Fennel, Watercress, and Tomato Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette
Wine – Kathy
Domaine Savary Chablis, Burgundy
Wine – Rich
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley
The oven-roasted oysters were fabulous, just the right start to the meal. The breading and accompaniments to the oysters were in perfect proportion to the oysters.
Kathy’s lobster roll was wonderful – not over-dressed, just delicious chunks of lobster on a nicely-sized roll. Kathy enjoyed an ideal pairing of hard-to-find Chablis.
Rich’s medium-rare skirt steak was incredible – tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The caramelized onions and truffle vinaigrette were especially nice touches. The Syrah was a splendid pairing, achieving a lovely balance between blackberry fruit and sweet smokiness.
After our meal we walked the Boardwalk, stopping at our usual kissing spot, and popped into the Boardwalk where we were each offered a complimentary peppermint sugar cookie. We continued our walk full circle to the Yacht Club – Rich even skipped his usual Boardwalk skip – and two stools at the Hurricane Hanna pool bar called our names and we each had a Margarita.
We chatted with other guests from St. Augustine, noting that this is the real replacement for the Trout Pass Bar at Wilderness Lodge. It has the same vibe that Geyser Point sadly does not quite have with so many families gathering there.
After our cocktails and conversation (love this about Disney World), we were in search of coffee before we hit the road and ended up at Beaches and Cream where Rich got us two coffees and two ice cream sandwiches (huge but yummy – lol) while Kathy grabbed us a table overlooking Stormalong Bay.
We stopped in at the gift shop where Yacht Club coffee cups captured our attention, made our purchases and then we drive back to the beach.
It was a gorgeous day out – low 70s compared to mid 50s at the beach. What an awesomely perfect Christmas! Disney for the day was even better being able to return to our new home at the beach.
We took some time out from packing up the resort to scout out some of the neighboring beach cities and when we spotted Aunt Catfish’s on the River in Port Orange, we knew we had to stop there for lunch.
We asked to be seated on the porch (inside they were serving a brunch buffet) but we were able to order off the regular menu. Looking for something reasonably healthy, I was dismayed to notice that everything cane with a hush puppy and their “famous” cinnamon roll.
I don’t usually eat cinnamon rolls unless they’ve come highly recommended and I had determined I would ignore it when it came with my sautéed shrimp and cucumber/tomato salad. But as soon as I saw it I knew I would have to taste it.
OMG (I also try to avoid that, too, but trust me – it was definitely OMG-worthy)!! The most amazing cinnamon roll ever!! We’ve since learned you can get boxes in different sizes to go and that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!
The hush puppy was special, too, with a crusty outside and soft flavorful with a hint of sweetness inside – they can sometimes be a bit bland. Best hush puppy ever and I go back to Biloxi, Mississippi in the 1980s for my first hush puppy.
Rich had the Catfish with grits lunch and we both had a Bloody Mary, creating our own brunch. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after church? I’m already thinking about the Fried Green Tomato BLT.
This is the old Florida experience Chef Art Smith is going for at Homecomin’ at Disney Springs, which is a favorite of ours, but at about a third of the cost and a whole lot closer to home, we might just stick to the real deal.
We tossed around many ideas for Thanksgiving, made and canceled a few ressies and settled in Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was a very good choice!
Some of you may recall our first Sanaa Thanksgiving meal back in 2011. The African flavors offer a tasty twist to what could be a boring traditional turkey dinner. We asked our server for a wine recommendation and we went with the Black Pearl Mischief Maker, which paired very well with the turkey dinner.
Btw, she gave us a very generous poor but the photo was taken well into the meal. 🙂
For dessert we shared the African Spice Cake,
(This year Sanaa also offered a couple of alternatives to turkey,)
And the atmosphere at Animal Kingdom Lodge in general! Dark, cozy, inviting, peaceful all decorated for Christmas with traditional Christmas music sung by beautiful African voices.
And tne there’s the service – so very warm and friendly. Simply superb!
We were seated at a table for two next to a large window overlooking the Savanna. It was feeding time for the animals and we spotted quite a few. Afterwards, we stopped by Jambo House for shopping and atmosphere soaking.
We just may make Sanaa our annual tradition.
As the Festival progresses, the weather cools and the crowds heat up. We’d heard how much more crowded it is now than 5 years ago and now we’ve seen it for ourselves. Next year we will stay onsite during the week. Circumstances did not allow it this year.
Still, we enjoyed ourselves, returning to some old favorites like Mexico (loved the Apple Margarita) and China (the Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles is to die for) and new favorites like Thailand and Brazil and the Italian Margarita (with Lemoncello) in Italy, Scotland, and Belgium (Belgium Waffle with chocolate sauce).
We’ve planned a third visit in the evening for atmosphere and live music but are unsure about it because the crowds will be unbearable then. And we’d like to get to the Holidays Around Epcot or whatever it’s called this year and must save some of our stamina for that.
It’s difficult to find a time when Epcot is not having a food festival, yet my favorite moment is when we’re relaxing with a regular Margarita al fresco in the Cantina. No Festival necessary.
So we finally made it to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year. Actually, it was the traditional kickoff weekend, as well as our tradition, too. And it also aligned with the 35th Anniversary of Epcot’s Opening Day.
In spite of the crowds, we managed to sneak off early and catch a few booths before the rest caught up with us. Everything we tried was tasty, but Rich’s favorite was the chicken with peanut sauce from Thailand. It reminded me of my trip to Thailand several years ago.
We plan to drop in on Epcot a couple of evenings to taste some of our other favorites, to try some new offerings since our last visit, and to enjoy the nighttime atmosphere and live music.
More tasty treats from Africa, Germany, Mexico, Thailand and New Zealand.