Friday links

I don’t care what the calendar says, it is SUMMER! My running training has been a struggle from the sun, heat and humidity. I don’t want to cook or eat anything warm. And all I want to do on my day off is grab a drink with an umbrella and sit by the pool (because the sand at the beach is already too hot!). In honor of the warmer months, this Friday links is dedicated to summer and vacations.

This week I took a staycation to Miami Beach and watch the Miami Marlins at their new stadium. While on the beach I went to Yardbird, an amazing Southern restaurant named one of the best new restaurants by the James Beard Foundation.

Amazing food and drink from Yardbird, all made from scratch (including condiments and pickling food!). Clockwise from top: “Porkchop” drink, po’ boy, mac ‘n’ cheese, blackberry bourbon lemonade, vegetarian salads and melon soup, biscuits.

  • While on vacation, 24 tips for a fitter, happier time. I know I love walking a lot on vacation to take it all in and end up eating a lot of small meals to try as much food as I can.
  • Tips on eating vegetarian while traveling. My tricks are packing snacks and the HappyCow.net app on my phone.
  • I always swoon over the New York Times interactive food features. Mix the perfect summer drink by picking a drink modifier, a liquor and a garnish. Check it out, it’s fun to play!
  • If you find yourself around a campfire (something I love but don’t do in Florida), learn how to get the perfectly toasted marshmallow.
  • If you are planning a vacation to Disney (you know I’m always up for one!), here are great places to grab a beer at Disney.
  • And the next time you grab a keg cup: I can honestly say I didn’t know this was a thing. Did you?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Around Disney, May 2012

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In addition to my amazing vegetarian meal at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion, we saw, ate and drank some other great things.

  • While in Epcot, we walked around enjoying the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. We saw plants, flowers and produce from around the world, flower sculptures, a butterfly garden and lawn ornaments and accessories.
  • At La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico Pavilion we had a passion fruit margarita. Already fans of this bar, I’ve seen the menu enough to realize they are always rotating margarita flavors and coming up with unique combinations. It was a refreshing treat on a hot day.
  • No stop at Disney is complete until we have been to Babycakes. And I may have had one of my favorite bakery items yet. The chocolate cupcake with mint frosting was amazing, with the cupcake being dense and not overly sweet.
  • We checked out Animal Kingdom, the first time for both of us. And when Bill spotted the jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel, we had to stop and try it. Chewy pretzel, gooey cheese and a hit of spice!

What is your favorite thing to do at Disney?

Vegetarian at Le Cellier Steakhouse

Stop me if you have heard this one: A vegetarian walks into a steakhouse and thinks, “What have I done?!?”

Except that wasn’t the setup to a joke, that was me Wednesday as I walked into Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion.

Since purchasing my Disney pass, I’ve started to follow Disney food blogs and pay attention to what people are saying. Already a fan of Epcot and after a great dining experience at Teppan Edo in Epcot’s Japan, I got braver and suggested to Bill we try Le Cellier. It seems to be one of the highest-rated and hardest-to-get-into restaurants in all Walt Disney World. I had the confidence that even a steakhouse could accommodate a vegetarian, so I looked at the menu, was pleased and booked a reservation. For the day we wanted (two months out) there was one seating time for dinner.Yeowza!

Ten days before our reservation I called the Disney dining hotline to confirm there would be something for me, and was assured there would be, but they noted it on my reservation. When I walked up to the host stand, the woman confirmed that one person in our party is vegetarian, telling me they have great vegetarian food. I was excited.

Then I walked inside and it hit me, “I’m a vegetarian and am about to sit in a steakhouse for an hour or so.” (Although I am a vegetarian, my husband and family are not, so I’ve been around meat-eaters my entire life. Although I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons and would love to help anyone become a vegetarian, I understand it is a very personal choice and I’m not going to judge those who eat meat.)

As we walked in, the host took us by the dessert table. The selections looked great, but we aren’t dessert people. We walked into the small dining room (which explains why it’s hard to get reservations) and sat at our table. Le Cellier is French for the cellar, and the dining room does look like a wine cellar.

Our server arrived and went over the entire menu with me and said if I wanted to, she could bring out the chef to talk about off-the-menu options. I said no thank you, the main dish option sounds delicious, and I went with it. A vegan dish, I had a quinoa and potato cake with royal trumpet mushrooms, baby beets and wilted ramps. I’m not sure if it was all in olive oil or what spices were in it, but it was so flavorful and cooked perfectly. And I think the vegetarian option changes with the seasons, which is always a good sign meaning the chef is picking the freshest ingredients and wants to try new things.

Quinoa and potato cake with royal trumpet mushrooms, baby beets and wilted ramps.

Before the meal, we ordered a whisky flight and a beer flight. The whisky flight included Crown Royal (harsh), Pendleton (smooth) and Forty Creek (bold). The beer flight was a selection of three Unibroue beers: Éphémère Apple (nice, light apple flavor), Blanche de Chambly (wheat) and Trois Pistoles (light tasting for a dark beer with a nice carbonation to follow). Each beer sample was 4 ounces, I would guess, a good amount for both of us to get a sample and see what we think.

Whisky flight and beer flight

Along with our drinks, our server brought us a selection of rolls: pretzel(!), sourdough and multigrain. And when we were getting low on bread, Linda (the manager, I believe) asked if we wanted more (yes!) and how we liked out drinks. She mentioned they just added the beer flight around Christmas and it was so popular they kept it. They also have samples of ice wine (a dessert wine) and martinis. We wanted a full drink each after, but between dinner and eating and drinking elsewhere around Disney that day, it was just too much awesomeness and we were full!

All in all, as a vegetarian I felt very comfortable and the staff was helpful and knowledgeable. This really was a great experience and we had a great time eating here. I would believe the hype that it is worth the wait to get in and eat here. And being vegetarian didn’t make me feel as if I was missing out on any of the experience or getting short-changed at a steakhouse.

Have you been to Le Cellier or another table service restaurant at Disney? What did you think?

Beer bracketology

 

It’s that magical day for college basketball fans: The day to fill out brackets for March Madness!

Seeing as I’m not a college basketball fan, last year was my first year filling out a bracket. Granted, it was a ton of fun and I will be filling out one (or two or three, perhaps) brackets in the next few days. But after taking an early lead in the bracket standings last year, I quickly fell off the chart due to my lack of college basketball knowledge. But this is my year, I can feel it.

What I lack in basketball enthusiasm and awareness I make up for in beer knowledge and interest. Therefore, I’ve always been a fan of The Washington Post‘s annual Beer Madness bracket. The brackets are divided into styles of beer and the page gives descriptions of each beer. So even if you don’t fill out a bracket, you might find a new beer to try. It’s just fun because it’s silly and somewhat arbitrary.

And being the new Disney fan, I have to pass this bracket along: The Beers and Ears blog bracket of beers available at Walt Disney World. How fun! I am partial to this, as there are some I love that are hard to find and I must have every time (Altenmünster Oktoberfest at Epcot’s Germany Pavilion) and some I probably wouldn’t touch if they were giving it away (no comment).

However, not everyone is in love with this fun alternative for us non-college basketball gambling types. Esquire magazine says it’s time to put an end to all these March non-basketball brackets, yet has its own non-basketball bracket. I say not all of us live and breathe March Madness but we endure it. If you think a beer or burger or cartoon or whatever bracket is lame, look the other way.

Meantime, I’m going to pour a cold beer and pore over my (drink and otherwise) brackets.

Do you fill out any brackets?

My February 29: One More Disney Day

To celebrate that extra day we get every four years, Disney decided to open Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland for One More Disney Day from 6 a.m. February 29 to 6 a.m. March 1. Since this had never been done and I have a pass, I checked it out.

I figured since it was the middle of the week and the middle of the night it would be pretty relaxing and a different atmosphere. And that’s where I underestimated people’s love and dedication to Disney.

It wasn’t like the one time I went in the summer, but it’s not the out-of-season midweek trips I’m used to. In fact, as I was heading to Magic Kingdom at 9 p.m. (along with everyone else as the other parks closed) I was worried it might get to capacity before I got there from what I was hearing a photo I saw. It wasn’t crazy getting in but it was busy inside the park. Everyone was lined up all up Main Street for the Electrical Parade. I grabbed a spot at the castle and watched it with the visual display and upbeat song on repeat. It really was great.

View from the castle

Then I walked to some rides and that’s where the craziness really began. There were people everywhere. People were still in the park from the day, people were coming in just for the night, it was crazy. But it was fun to be a part of that, and it was following a full day at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. In total I hit three parks in 14 hours.

But how do you fuel such a trip? With a solid breakfast. And I did that by hitting up Babycakes at Downtown Disney. If you are a regular to the blog, you know I’m becoming a big fan of this vegan bakery, and it’s a must-stop on every trip to Disney (and New York, it’s home base). I got the amazing waffle sandwich filled with frosting and cookie crunch and topped with maple and vanilla sauce. So good, yet so sugary. (Pro tip: Don’t go on Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror right after eating this. Trust me.) I also got a slice of banana chocolate chip loaf, which was actually better because it was a perfect balance of bread and sweetness.

Such a good way to start the day: Waffle sandwich and banana chocolate chip loaf.

Later in the day I hit up La Cava del Tequila in Epcot’s Mexico Pavillion. This is becoming another can’t-miss spot on any trip to Disney. I wanted an afternoon snack and drink. I got an avocado marg (so creamy and satisfying, like drinking guacamole but in a really good way!) and some chips and salsa. The salsa is more of a sauce, but has a kick to it and they give you a big plate of chips. Aaaaand it was free since I follow them on Twitter (@cavadeltequila). Great way to rest and recharge on a long, hot day.

From top: Classic margarita, chips and salsa, avocado margarita.

Another spot I have to visit each trip is the Germany Pavillion, where I grabbed a pretzel, Altenmünster Oktoberfest and a German peanut snack with a hard cheesy and spice coating, NicNac’s.

Pretzel, beer and NicNac’s

While on the trip I hit up two breweries, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse the first night, where I had dinner and sampled some beers. About 10 minutes east of Disney, it is a cross between Cheesecake Factory (for the food) and Rock Bottom (for the drinks). Good food and good beer. While at Disney I tried the sampler from Big River Grille and Brewing Works. The beer was decent but the food choice and atmosphere were just ok. If you want to check out one of these, my vote is for BJ’s.

It was a quick trip to Disney, but I successfully packed a lot in.

How did you spend your extra day this year?