bluezoo (for more lamb)

This dining experience took place on September 26, 2014

We continued on our quest for lamb at bluezoo. Nevie had never been, we started going to bluezoo a few years after her last visit. Again, most of the evening was spent just enjoying our dinner and the company – so no copious notes or tasting report.

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Our friend Kristi sent an arrangement of orchids to us, to bring extra smiles to our night out

Chef Jimmy sent out a new side dish that he’s contemplating for the fall menu – mushroom macaroni and cheese. This was very good and quite rich – very filling.

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Mushroom Macaroni & Cheese

We ordered two starters to share – the heirloom tomato salad and the beef short rib and scallops. Nevie liked both of these and as you know by now, these are our two favorites.

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bluezoo heirloom tomato salad

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hay smoked lamb loin with lamb belly – the presentation is more robust and rustic than previously… Nevie loved this dish

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Nick ordered the Opah with roasted potatoes and other vegetables – it was extremely rich, later we remembered that in the past we had opah crudo (not cooked opah)

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I ordered the simply fish, tonight’s choice was amber jack

The food was excellent, by this point in Nevie’s visit, we were becoming a bit over-food-ed… we couldn’t finish all on our plates, but we tried!

Thanks to Tony et al. for great service. Thank you to Chad and Gary also.

I think that Nevie will happily go back to bluezoo any time we want to go :)

Lunch with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge

This experience took place on September 27, 2014

This has become a favorite of ours – typically the Animal Specialists are enthusiastic about their work at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the food is very good (a wonderful way to get a great sampling of the food at Sanaa). Since Nevie is now a practicing veterinarian, when we were planning her visit, we really wanted to make sure that we did this.

Nevie and I had wine with our lunch – we looked at the menus and picked wines that were paired with various items. She started with a glass of Spice Route Chakalaka (South Africa) on our suggestion; after spending a week learning about her wine preferences, we were fairly certain she’d like this one… and she did. Her second wine was Spy Valley Pinot Noir (New Zealand)… she liked this one too. I had the Brampton Unoaked Chardonnay (South Africa) – quite nice but my second was my favorite, Solena Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley, Oregon) – I have a preference for Willamette Valley wines and this didn’t disappoint.

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Chef Cory and Chef Michelle (she’s from South Africa) and Mary Ann (our animal specialist)

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Chef Michelle was very enthusiastic, she was knowledgeable and passionate about the food at Sanaa

Mary Ann was our Animal Specialist today. She’s been in the zoo field for 12 years and she’s been at Animal Kingdom Lodge since February 2014.

  • birds are banded based on gender (one right leg and one left leg)
  • ear notching is used for identification
  • rails and doors are used to move the hoof stock down hallways and corridors
  • “tamers” are also used for some examinations and such (the floor drops away)
  • she talked about the stud book keepers – they’re volunteers, they have to be accepted and take special classes, there are some stud-book-keepers at Walt Disney World

Nevie really enjoyed this experience because she was able to ask all sorts of detailed questions about behaviors, colic, feeding, vetting, etc… She said this was her second favorite event of the trip. Her first favorite was the Wild Africa Trek.

I’m skipping photos of the bread service, needless to say (again), this is delicious and Sanaa is understandably famous for it.

Nevie comments: We ate at Sanaa and started off with the bread service. It was delicious all the different sauces were amazing. My favorites were the cucumber raita, garlic pickle and spicy jalapeno-lime pickle.

Salad service was the same as it’s been at our other Lunches with An Animal Specialist…

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

Tomato and Paneer Salad (I didn't care much for the paneer today)

Tomato and Paneer Salad (I didn’t care much for the paneer today)

Cucumber, Fennel, and Watermelon Salad (probably my favorite)

Cucumber, Fennel, and Watermelon Salad (probably my favorite and definitely Nevie’s favorite)

Our entrees were the same as on our previous two lunches …

Nevie comments: The entrée was two different types of curry with rice. The seafood curry was amazing and the chicken curry was not far behind. Both had great spice and a nice heat. I love the food here because the hot is not “just hot”, it is flavorful as well.

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Butter Chicken

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Seafood Goan Curry

The dessert course included a selection of three…

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Chocolate Mouse with salted caramel sauce, Banana Cheesecake with cookie crust, and Strawberry Kofi with berry sauce

Nevie comments: Dessert was a trio of deliciousness. It was beautifully plated with a chocolate butterfly to adorn the desserts. The sorbet was so creamy and delicious. The banana cheesecake was my favorite.

Afterwards, we went out on to the savannah for a demonstration with the storks (they don’t look anything like the storks who bring babies)…

storks are stationing

storks are stationing

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this is one of the birds’ keepers, they’re getting enrichment (mealy worms) and training simultaneously…

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Mary Ann explaining a bit more about the animals on the savannah

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these birds are ugly, true… but they’re very entertaining…

Now… I’m going to hush up and let Nevie talk…

There are three different Safaris at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Each safari houses a different variety of animals. There are two group of Antelope that they had to separate, they had a safari between them because they kept fence fighting and causing all the animals to become stressed! Disney is great about taking into account what needs to be done to keep all the animals as relaxed and calm as possible. No wonder they have an animal that is 19 years old (average life span of 10). Also, she told us there are three Zebras breeds (? species maybe?) and that two of them don’t get along at all and one that gets along with everyone. Obviously they cannot put the two that don’t get along together, so they rotate who is out every day. The one that gets along with everyone gets to go out every day (smart Zebra!). I wasn’t surprised when I asked her what the most difficult animal to work with was and she replied “Zebras” after hearing how stubborn they are with each other.

We had a lot of children at our table and I was concerned they were going to ask silly questions that no one really cared about, but surprisingly they didn’t really ask a lot of questions. The questions they did ask were actually interesting ones. They wanted to know how they got the animals to the vets’ office. The answer was a bit lengthy surprisingly. If it is something they can do at the barn, they have a hydraulic shoot that the animals go into and get squeezed (restrained). This shoot can also tilt, so if the animal needs hoof work performed, they just tip them over and do the work, then tip them back and out they go. If it is something they actually have to go up to the clinic for, they load the animals into trucks and take them to the vet clinic. To get the animals to move along where they want them to go, they have a metal shield that helps push the animals down the hall. I wish I had one of those in vet school!

We talked about the giraffes for a bit since they are one of her favorite animals. They are treating one right now for lameness but she wasn’t sure what they were using to control his pain. I asked if they allowed him to breed since he has joint issues and she said no. There is a lot of paperwork and genetic testing before they allow any of their animals to breed. Someone’s job is to make sure they are not breeding animals with genetic issues, inbreeding, and not over breeding, which is really cool. Disney does a great job making sure they have room for the animals and that they receive the best possible care. The specialist wasn’t too happy with the strict diets when having to give them pills. The places she worked before they could hide it in a certain treat where as Disney wants the animals to take their medicines without extra treats.

It was such a great experience overall. The only thing that ruined it was they sat a huge table of kids right near us that were obnoxiously loud and made it hard to hear our specialist talk. After lunch, we went out to the viewing area and got to see a demonstration of enrichment with the storks. They already knew the drill and as soon as they saw their stumps over a certain line they ran over and jumped on them. They got their meal worm treats and waited patiently for their turn to get another mouth full.

Culinary Demonstration with Emily Ellyn – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

This Epcot Food & Wine Experience took place on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This was Walter’s first ever Culinary Demonstration. We expected beef but instead discovered that we were going to get chocolate! Again, the protein was changed but this time it morphed into sweets – wow.

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Our Celebrity Chef was Emily Ellyn

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“Pumpkin” carved with Emily’s likeness

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hey! there’s going to be some real cooking/baking going on here

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finished product, chocolate cake, looks pretty good!

So, Emily Ellyn (from Orlando) is going to be our chef today. We heard while waiting in line that she did a great job at the 3:00 Culinary Demo and we remembered her from Next Food Network Star (we had hoped she’d win) – so we were thinking that Walter would have a good time along with us. I’ll cut the suspense, he did.

When I saw “chocolate tea cake” on the standing board in the Festival Center, I was expecting what we call tea cakes in the South, a sort of sugar cookie. When Nick told me it was real cake (he had gone up to the stage and taken photos while Walter and I got settled) and I saw that there was tea in the cake, I got a bit more intrigued.

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Recipe

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more recipe

The culinary demonstrations always start with the host greeting everyone and the wine representative talking about the wine. John Ekin, the host, happened to ask if anyone has been to any other events at Food & Wine, I said “Tequila Lunch”…. He then asked who had been and how many times. Guess what, we won that contest (ha ha ha)… After that, he just called our table the Tequila Table whenever we had questions and such.

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Sharon McCarthy and John Ekin

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the wine was Rosa Regale (in our experience this is often served at Culinary Demos with sweets)

Rosa Regale – well, it seems that everyone just loves this wine. It smells like roses. It’s pretty and pink and sparkling. Honestly, we aren’t that impressed. Walter (the non-drinker) smelled his before turning it over to us to drink – his comment? “Smells like booze”

I got a lot of alcohol and citrus on the nose and Nick said “not much of anything”

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Sharon was a good wine representative and she has a storyteller in her “It’s said that this wine was enjoyed by Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.”

It’s said that this wine was enjoyed by Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. The warm days and cool nights in the Piedmont of Italy lead to good acidity and residual sugar. It pairs well with spicy foods and Sharon said that it holds hands with chocolate. John Ekin said that he could actually taste the grapes which is a rare character in wines.

The wine was okay to our palates, not bad, not great either. Walter observed “their glasses are more full than ours!”

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Emily was really pleased with the wine, she wants enough to fill her bathtub! So she can bathe in it!

Walter observed “Emily’s glass is REALLY full”

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chocolate + roses + wine = very sexy

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Emily was just as bubbly and fun in person as she was on television

Emily’s been cooking since she was three years old. She made scrambled eggs and burnt the hell out of her mom’s countertop when she put the hot pan directly on the counter. She said that she thinks her parents have recently replaced the burnt countertop.

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Emily’s been cooking since she was three years old. She made scrambled eggs and burnt the hell out of her mom’s countertop when she put the hot pan directly on the counter. She said that she thinks her parents have recently replaced the burnt countertop.

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you just have to imagine a little 3-year-old trying to cook scrambled eggs while standing on a chair pushed up to the stove

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Chocolate Tea Cupcakes with Rose Water Frosting and a Sugared Rose Petal

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“go ahead, eat your cupcake, I’m just going to make a mess and keep talking”  and “recipes are there for framework! changes are good! experiment with your cooking!”

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this is Emily’s Dump It Cake  “sifting evenly distributes the baking powder, baking soda, and salt”

When she was testing the recipe for today, she noticed that she’d forgotten the butter! It was still on the counter and the cake was already in the oven! So she pulled the cake out of the oven, scraped the batter into a bowl and added the butter. Poured it back into the pan and popped it into the oven! Yay! Cake saved. Oops… the butter was for the icing. So the cake came out rather flat – like a brownie – tasted fine but wasn’t what she was going for.

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Nick thought the icing was way too sweet. I’m not a fan of icing. Walter liked it – but then he said that my cupcakes were better. We pointed out that Emily probably didn’t actually cook all these cupcakes….

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“if you bake something and it comes out ugly, cover it up with frosting”

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getting goofy with cardboard glasses – “mix all the dry ingredients together, then mix all the wet ingredients together, then dump the wet into the dry and DON’T OVER MIX IT! That’s the secret to good moist cake”

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pouring rose water icing over the cake on stage – there was a crack in the plate and icing went all over the thermidor stove (uh oh, guess Emily will just have to take it home with her!)

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the cupcake was pretty moist, but I didn’t really taste the spice in it (or the chocolate so much)

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We aren’t amateurs at this! Nick went up and got a slice of Emily’s real cake!

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Night and Day – could taste the spices, the chocolate, and the rose water.

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This cake was fabulous!

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Emily and Walter

A few interesting tidbits…

  • Don’t use bubbly wine or beer in cake, put it on the stove at a very low temperature and stir the bubbles out
  • Emily has two masters degrees and is completing her PhD – you go girl!
  • Walter ASKED to have his picture made with Emily Ellyn – if you know Walter, you know how strange that is – he really enjoyed her personality and the demonstration
  • When we went up to say hello and tell Emily how good her real cake was – she was really friendly and outgoing, I think if we’d have invited her to join us for a margarita, she’d have followed right out of there (she called Nick “Tequila Baby”)

After this demo, I’ll be keeping my eyes open on Emily’s twitter (@Emily_Ellyn) and her webpage (emilyellyn.com) for other appearances that we can attend.

UPDATE – South Korea – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

We revisited the South Korea Marketplace with Walter on October 22, 2014

We stopped in for more Kimchi Dogs with Spicy Mustard Sauce. These were even better than the ones we had a while back (here); more slaw and more mustard sauce. These are very tasty!

The Kimchi Dog is paired

continue reading UPDATE – South Korea – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

Spice Road Table for more lamb!

This dining experience took place on September 26, 2014

If you remember Nevie’s lamb story (here), you’ll understand why Nick tried to think of all the places we could easily get lamb during her visit (other than the marketplace booths during Food & Wine, we hit those up early in the visit). Of course, Spice

continue reading Spice Road Table for more lamb!

Japan – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

Thie Epcot Food & Wine Experience took place on October 22, 2014

There was one item at the Japan Marketplace that we really wanted to try. A couple of reasons: one, the early reviews of it were pretty positive and two, it sounded more interesting to us than the Spicy Hand Roll or the Teriyaki

continue reading Japan – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

Backstage Safari (in Nevie’s own words)

This time the trip report is all Nevie! We did this tour a few years ago with our friends, Asta and Mrs. Asta. No photos in this post because it all happens “backstage” (and no photos are allowed backstage)…

The tour began at the entrance of the park and after checking in, we entered to

continue reading Backstage Safari (in Nevie’s own words)

Hawaii – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

This Epcot Food & Wine Experience took place on October 22, 2014

After our culinary demonstration with Walter (more on that later this week!), we had a stroll around World Showcase and stopped for a few tastes here and there. Our first stop was at the Hawaii Marketplace for Kalua Pork Sliders (the

continue reading Hawaii – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

Spice Road Table – Stuffed Grape Leaves v2

this experience took place on Sunday, May 4, 2014

On Latifa’s suggestion, we ordered the Stuffed Grape Leaves with extra capers and raisins…

These were so much better. The fried capers were a wonderful new taste experience (now we want fried capers on EVERYTHING). The pine nuts added a little bit of crunch

continue reading Spice Road Table – Stuffed Grape Leaves v2

bluezoo with Kristi J

This dining experience took place on September 19, 2014

Our friend Kristi J was in town recently, we returned to bluezoo lounge en masse and tried a few new things!

Chef Jimmy Reyes brought out an amuse bouche for us – this is his take on Thanksgiving dinner… The three of us agreed

continue reading bluezoo with Kristi J

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