Kakigōri & Michael Flatley

June 6, 1999

The girls and I headed to Epcot at Walt Disney World, me in an Electric Convenience Vehicle… an ECV… and they walking.

ECV

I always had my camera equipment and we carried our yellow Mickey ponchos for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms.

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As we wended our way around World Showcase, we went inside The American Adventure to listen to the Voices of Liberty, an amazing a Capella group that sings beautiful songs about America… and a couple of Disney tunes thrown in. (Not quite sure where the other voices are coming from, but they vanish around 2 minutes in.)

America Gardens Theater

When you walk out of the The American Adventure (which we had been in dozens of times so did not go this day), across the way, is the America Gardens Theater. I have to show you several pictures because they will be relevant later in the story.

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America Gardens Theater, Epcot, Walt Disney World

It’s a wonderful theater with great acoustics.

The day we were there, Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance was performing. I had never seen them before so was really excited.

Because I had the ECV, we were led to the Handicapped Section. It was about 8 rows from the stage and I was on the far left of the benches.

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This is the handicapped row. I was sitting on the other side by the man walking in the blue shirt. You can see how close we were to the stage.

Kakigōri

It being June in Florida, it was damn hot. I tend to get to places early (movies, shows, parties, etc.) and this was no exception. Waiting, it was suffocatingly hot. While we always carried water, that Kakigōri booth in Japan, which is next to The American Adventure, beckoned. We needed something cold!

Kakigōri, a Japanese treat, is a sort of snow cone, or if you know Hawai’i Shave Ice, it is similar to that as well. Besides the syrups they add (your choices), some people enjoy cream in theirs. (Blech!)

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Not long after we were sitting in the flippin’ hot sun, the girls were sent on a mission to get the Kakigōri cones. I love cherry, and when they have it, grape. Yum! We three sat eating our snow cones, waiting for the show to start.

It finally did.

Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance

The show began with an amazing display of Irish dancing, men and women, moving in unison, the legs kicking while the tops of their bodies were stock still. It was delightful fun!

Midway through the show, a soloist came out and began singing the most lovely ballad… her soprano voice soaring into the air around us.

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Feedback

Then the feedback started. A blaring eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee that was the strangest thing ever! Disney is meticulous with their sound systems, it was bizarre having feedback.

People were looking around. Why hadn’t the sound people fixed it yet? Crazy!

Then I see a Cast Member wending his way through the crowd… in a hurry… was everything okay? Holy crap, he was heading… towards… me?

“Ma’am, can you get off the ECV’s horn?”

I looked down and my bulging fat belly was leaning on the red horn button, causing the horrid “feedback.”

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I leaned back and, miraculously, the feedback stopped.

People everywhere were staring. Right at me. I was filled with embarrassment.

And then I started laughing.

The girls and I got the sillies, thinking about me causing all that ruckus. It took every bit of control to not howl with laughter through the rest of the performance.

We’ve continued laughing for almost 20 years now.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Potatoes in Tacoma

The US Army Sends Us Packing

The kids’ dad and I moved to Tacoma with an Army transfer. We were at the bottom rung of the pay scale. Poor. Poorer than poor. Tristan was 16 months old and I was several months pregnant with Meghann. It was a wrangle to get a lease on a house, but we did it.

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8 Rips Lane, Tacoma, WA

(I swear the house did not look like this when we rented it. This is the new & improved exterior.)

Our Household goods were super-slow getting to us, so we were given a few things to tide us over… one of which was a crib mattress for me to lay on. Tristan slept in the playpen and the kids’ dad slept in a sleeping bag (if I recall correctly).

One middle of the night, I heard something skittering above me, in the attic. Humorously, my former husband put his boots on (and nothing else) and grabbed a trenching tool and stomped around looking for the noisemakers. He didn’t find anything, but I laid there listening to the scratching far after he fell back to sleep.

When our household goods still hadn’t arrived a month later, the Army bought us a bed. A waterbed. How time-warp is that?!? We had those rainbow sheets on it.

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We also had satin hearts in a swirly mobile hanging over the bed.

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Meghann & Me

I had Meghann at home, in an Unassisted Birth (called a UC or “freebirth”)… the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life. You can read her story here if you are interested: Meghann’s UC Birth Story.

Relevant to this story, however, is my never-ending time breastfeeding.

I’d nursed Tristan for a mere 4 months and had big expectations to nurse until Meghann weaned herself (which she sort of did at 2.5 years old). So I was a nursing zombie. I was so tired, but then we got our tv and (we had to have gotten) cable because voila! there was MTV.

Meghann was born May 27, 1984. MTV had been around since 1981, but it was really in its heyday during the time I was watching it in the middle of the night, baby at my breast. In fact, the first Top 20 Video Countdown began in March 1984 (and it SUCKED! Watch it on YouTube!), so right before Meggie was born.

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The songs that stood out most for me, the ones I waited for with baited breath:

Cyndi LauperGirls Just Want to Have Fun – (WOW! The people in it are incredibly diverse for that time period. I never noticed before.) Tristan loved this video, especially the part where the girls are floating in the bubbles/circles and going around. I can see him as if it was yesterday, in his footie pajamas, dancing and pointing at the TV.

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Michael JacksonThriller

Because Thriller was so so long, it came on rarely. I would nap with one eye open so I could catch it. The dancing still is amazing, even 30 years later.

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MadonnaBorderline

While Holiday was Madonna’s first hit, her first video hit was Lucky Star. From the first moment I saw her, I was enamored. She came out with a string of hits in 1984, but when Meghann was a newborn, Borderline was the video I salivated for. (Clearly, I know wayyyy too much about Madonna’s early career!)

Madonna In New York

The Couch

We’d inherited a sofa bed from the kids’ dad’s parents, a little larger than a loveseat, with two big square pillows to sit on. I’ve scoured my thousands of pictures and the Net looking for the sofa. This is the best I could find.

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Here is how the sofa opened into a bed.

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I sat on the couch on the right side. Every time. Before Meghann was born. And after she was born. That was my spot. I plopped a feather pillow with the rainbow pillowcase under my right arm, holding up my elbow, and I would nurse for hours. Sitting on that right side of the couch.

At night, we just sat nursing by the light of MTV. We kept the volume low for her dad who had to work the next morning, but we still bee-bopped to whomever MTV put on in the wee hours.

One dark early morning, I was nursing on the right side of the couch and out from behind the huge square furnace we had in the living room, came a rat. Then another rat. Then 3 baby rats.

I screamed bloody murder and the kids’ dad ran out, scaring them so they skittered back from whence they came.

How to Kill a Rat

When the Landlord finally came over, he gave us some mouse traps and rat food. He walked around showing us where they were getting in. One place was behind the toilet which freaked me out every time I had to use the bathroom. Picture fat pregnant me with my legs raised while I did my business. Ugh.

The landlord gave us the perfect solution to keeping the rats out.

Crush some glass and sprinkle it where the holes are.

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I stood there blinking.

“Uh, I have a toddler! I cannot have crushed glass around the house.”

“Well, that’s the best idea I have.”

We checked the traps and poison a few days later and the bait had all been taken, the poison eaten… and the rats twice their size and twice as active.

We had to move.

By the time a solution appeared, Meghann was 4 months old.

The Apartment

Some friends of the kids’ dad were managers at an apartment complex and said they had a place we could move into. The challenge was we did not have the deposit, so they said they had not cleaned it yet and if we were willing to clean it ourselves, it was ours.

Done.

We headed over right away to go clean, taking some more friends from the military. When we opened the door, ghastly smells wrapped around us; cigarette stench was the main foulness, but there were others we could not parse out.

The walls in the living room were vile. Drips of nicotine painted them.

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Where the previous tenants removed photos, we could see what the once pristine white walls had looked like.

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Looking at the white areas, we saw we really had our work cut out for us.

We set to cleaning.

Being fat and not able to climb, I chose the kitchen. Kitchen HELL I should say. Not only were there nicotine streaks, the people before us cooked with grease. A lot of grease. A lot of spattering grease. Within 5 feet of the stove, the grease and yellow cigarette goop challenged each other for dripping space.

The only way I could think of cleaning this disgusting mess was with SOS Pads. Steel wool with soap on them if you aren’t familiar. I set to wetting the SOS pad, then  scrubbing the wall, that blessedly, had glossy paint. Small favors.

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I was cleaning madly (literally, not very happily doing this hard work) and got right there around the plastic plate where the plugs go in the wall when suddenly there was a huge -POP- and a giant blue flash that zipped up my arm and threw me against the refrigerator across the kitchen. People ran in to see what happened and I innocently told them what I was doing and their eyes all bugged out.

“THAT’S METAL AND WATER YOU PUT IN A LIVE SOCKET!”

I didn’t know!

What I did know was my right arm felt like it had been smashed with a baseball bat from fingers to shoulder.

I was banished to the couch that had just been brought in. I quietly smiled, grabbing Meghann and sitting on my side, nursing not only my baby, but my really hurting right arm.

Potatoes

We cleaned as best we could, the place looked normal again, but there were lingering smells we just couldn’t seem to get rid of.

One night, while I was sitting on the right side of the couch nursing Meghann, Tristan playing on the floor, their dad had had enough of the growing stink. I told him it smelled like rotting potatoes and maybe we accidentally left some in a box somewhere in the closet.

He set out to find the horrid stench and pulled the boxes out, throwing stuff wildly around the room. I yelled asking if he couldn’t please be neater? He did not answer. I just heard him as he went from room to room, under the bathroom sink, into the kitchen, under the cabinets… digging digging… and throwing things, many of which ended up on the hall floor.

He came up empty. Then looked at me menacingly.

“Get up.”

“What?” I was still nursing Meghann.

“GET UP NOW!!!!”

I jumped up, Meghann  still attached and he pulled off the cushion I always sat on and there, on top of the mattress mechanism, was a rat. A dead rat.

A SQUISHED FLAT AS A PANCAKE DEAD RAT.

It had been under my ass! FOR MONTHS!

My former husband began laughing his head off. Reliving the rat’s last moments.

“I can see him! ‘Oh, some peanut butter and jelly leftovers!’ Then SQUISH, you flattened A LIVING RAT!”

He jumped around the room, doing the killing-the-rat routine half a dozen times.

Yeah. Me and my fat ass had killed a rat that had been 3 inches from my lap and my baby. I started crying which made him laugh even harder, telling me how funny it was.

Then he said he was going to get something to get the gross flat thing off our sofa. I begged him to throw the couch away. He refused, loudly reminding me we had no money for furniture and it was the only place I could nurse. He came out of the kitchen with Playtex yellow gloves on and a spatula. I could not watch.

He laughed and laughed as he scraped the disgusting animal off our couch’s pull out bed top, then danced outside to the dumpster and threw it all in.

The room still reeked and he looked in the kitchen, finding the Carpet Fresh. He came back and sprinkled the carpet fresh where the rat had been squished to death by my flopping-on-the-couch butt.

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To this day, the smell of Carpet Fresh reminds me of that horrid stench. The smell that lingered until we were able to throw the couch away a year later.

Potatoes Revisited

As you can imagine, I hate rats. I can barely write it without shuddering with revulsion. Because of my rat-phobia, everyone in my life has agreed to call them “Potatoes.”

And damned if that flat rat didn’t smell like rotten potatoes.

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Our Trip to Lubbock (food is involved)

Heading to Lubbock

Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.

But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.

The Stop

We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.

He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.

It was revolting.

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We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.

Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)

Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.

When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

BBQ in Lubbock

Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.

Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.

We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.

We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!

The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.

It seemed more than worth it.

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Photographer: Kyle Polzin

 

 

Napa Rose at Disneyland

Ahhhh, Napa Rose at the Grand Californian at Disneyland/Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California.

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Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

So Many Stories

Napa Rose is my absolute favorite Disney restaurant. Besides the exquisite food, the staff is one of the most unobtrusively attentive.

I’ve eaten at Napa Rose with my family (several times), just Zack and I (several times) and by myself (a few times). I can remember almost every dinner, too. That’s gotta say something.

Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier

The very first visit, Zack and I were in awe. The decor of the restaurant, how it overlooked Disney California Adventure… and then there was Michael Jordan.

Jordan isn’t at Napa Rose anymore, but we were blessed to experience him during his 8-year tenure. He’s a Master Sommelier, 1 of 15 in the world!

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Master Sommelier, Michael Jordan in the Wine Room at Napa Rose.

When we were seated, we studied the wine list, then decided to ask Jordan for his recommendation. He came up, a delightful smile on his face… one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. We talked for a long time and when he learned I was a midwife, he said his mother was a midwife and she’d delivered Frank Sinatra (who was 13.5 pounds and had an incredibly difficult birth) in Hoboken, New Jersey. Apparently the birth was so difficult, they called in a doctor who used forceps on the baby Frank Sinatra, scarring him for life. And then he said that Dolly Sinatra delivered him! What a fun story that bonded Jordan to us within minutes. And he did, indeed choose an awesome bottle of wine for us. That night and every other night we ate there.

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Napa Rose interior, overlooking the wolf (or bear) inside Disney California Adventure.

Mushroom Soup

After my gastric bypass in 2001, a woman in Anaheim wanted to meet to talk about my experience. I was eating tiny bits of food at the time and did worry about what I was going to eat. I didn’t need to! The chef blended up some of their mushroom soup for me and I took my first slurp with him standing there, loving the soup so very much.

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Napa Rose Mushroom Soup

About 10 spoonfuls in, I began to feel ill. The mushroom soup was incredibly rich with cream and my new gastric bypass body could not handle it. I began to dump (when the body cannot process sugar or fats and floods it with insulin to try to metabolize the offending food… called Dumping Syndrome).

I excused myself from my new friend and hightailed it to the bathroom so I could moan in peace. The hypoglycemia was so bad (and I did not recognize it at that time), all I could do was lay on the cool floor, curled into a ball. Someone heard me and went to Jordan who called EMS. They got there fast, while I was still clinging to the ceramic floor and kept asking me if they could give me an insulin shot. I was in a daze, but haltingly explained the gastric bypass and the dumping that comes from it. After 30 or so minutes on the floor, the distress slowly lessened. EMS stayed to take care of, or transport, me. I remember when I could sit up again, realizing I was laying on a bathroom floor… one of the grossest places on earth. Blessedly, the restaurant had just opened so at least it was still clean and I wouldn’t have nightmares about acquiring germs and laying in filth.

I said goodbye to my friend and drove the hour back home.

Dining with the Kidlets

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I can see us eating at Napa Rose right this moment… as if it was yesterday.

The 4 kids (Zack’s son included), Zack and I and Napa Rose. Michael Jordan would choose us a nice bottle of wine and we would settle in for some great food and fun conversation.

One particularly hilarious conversation occurred when I was on-call as a midwife. San Diego was 90 minutes away, so when I went, I asked my ladies to give me an earlier heads-up than they might have otherwise. So when one of my moms called, I excused myself and went to talk in the bathroom, away from the table.

When I came back, the kids started peppering me with questions: Did her water break? Does she have gloppies? (Gloppies are when women are getting ripe, losing their mucus plug, etc.) Is she engorged? (If she was nursing.) I could hardly talk from laughing so hard at how my entire family knows so so much about childbirth and breastfeeding… through osmosis!

Our Favorites

We ate here so often, we all had our constant favorites.

Zack’s son loved the Sizzling Beach Rock Appetizer.

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Sizzling Hot Beach Appetizer

The rock under the shrimp was hot as fire and the food on skewers would be laid on the rock to cook. It really was an awesome display of creativity.

My favorite was the Lobster Martini. I can taste it right this second.

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Lobster Martini

Lobster, avocado, mango and a pinch of something spicy combined to delight me every time. If I went to the restaurant and it wasn’t on the menu, the chef would make it for me anyway. I sure would love one now!

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Heirloom Tomato Salad

Michael Jordan had an enormous garden at his home and when the heirloom tomatoes came into season, he harvested them and brought them to work. Organic, so so so sweet, with a light mango dressing. Delicioso!

While the desserts at Napa Rose were amazing, sometimes I wanted the Cheese Plate. Exquisite cheeses and breads, always something new each time I went.

Diligently Selected Cheeses @ Napa Rose Lounge
Cheese Plate

As I said, the desserts were amazing.

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Dessert Sampler

This Sampler Plate has 3 of my favorite things at Napa Rose: the Vanilla Crème Brûlée, the “World’s Best Hot Chocolate” (at $13 a cup!) and the crunchy lacy thing standing up on the Chocolate Mousse in the back.

I loved the crunchy lace cookie-like treat and would ask for a big bowl of them. Yum! Especially with the Hot Chocolate!

Zack, on the other hand, liked some dark chocolate while he finished off our delicious red wine that Michael Jordan had chosen for us.

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Dark Chocolate Discs

heavy sigh

I would love to visit Napa Rose again. Tonight! Instead, you go for me!

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Reviewing Disney Dining (for a book)

Back a long time ago….

Food Writing

I’d been writing reviews of meals for a long time, publishing them on Disney websites (for free). I got great feedback, so kept going.

One of the folks that read my writing was Susan Shumaker. She and her partner Than Saffel were working on a book on vegetarian dining at Disney World and surrounding areas. They asked me if I would like to collaborate by eating in a slew of restaurants they couldn’t get to because they didn’t live in Orlando and had to make trips back and forth to taste test for themselves. I jumped at the chance!

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The end result!

Dining Partners

I was in a poly relationship at the time with a woman and my former transman partner (who had not yet come out). We scheduled 3 weeks to hit all the restaurants on our list, staying in different Disney Luxury Resorts chosen randomly. Even though I was the one reviewing/writing, all three of us were fed for free. And, except for breakfast, also given fine wine, per course, at lunch and dinner.

I was the only one of us three eating vegetarian or vegan; they were meat eaters… and were served meat dishes throughout the tastings.

All of us loved red wine and drank copious amounts. (A separate post in the works.)

Memories! Like the corner of my mind.

Meeting the Chefs

It was a matter of course for the chef to come to the table to ask what my food preferences were. (No green/yellow/orange/purple/jalapeño/etc. peppers. Not terribly spicy. Love mushrooms.) We 3 had eaten (and paid for it) in most of the restaurants, so knew many chefs ahead of time. Sometimes, they’d sit with us and we’d talk about food and wine. Fun!

Sitting here almost 20 years later, I cannot recall even one time I was disappointed by food made by a Disney chef… on either coast. And I’ve eaten in Disney’s Fine Dining easily 200 times.

Restaurants We Visited

We did not just eat in fancy restaurants and I did not eat just at Disney restaurants. We ate at restaurants in different Disney Resorts, from Value Hotels to Moderate ones, and of course in the Deluxe Resorts. When I ate off-property, those places were ghastly! No vegan food at all and Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna was almost always the meal I was given. I ate at about 8 different locations off-property, but close to Disney World. I got to see some fun shows the tourists flock to, but the food sucked.

Where it did not suck was at Walt Disney World!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Whispering Canyon, Wilderness Lodge

We had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. Endless family style food. I was a vegetarian, so didn’t want the sausages. It was no problem at all. They asked what each person wanted to eat and if they wanted meat but were sitting with vegetarians, the meat was served on a separate plate. The food at that restaurant was yummy!

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Whispering Canyon breakfast, Wilderness Lodge

Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

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Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

Besides being a lovely restaurant, food at the Flying Fish was awesome. I wish I had a picture of the foods I’d eaten at each place, but I do not.

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At a separate time, one of my friends having dinner with us was a Supertaster. He sat naming the ingredients in his dish… spices, too! We asked the chef to come over and test him. Amazingly, he was spot on with everything that was in his meal. The chef was impressed. I was stunned.

Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

Artist Point was my go-to restaurant, even having my entire family eat there with me several times. The food was fantastic and their wine list was a delight. I remember sitting in Artist Point for hours, slowly eating course after course, then having a dessert made especially for us. One of our favorite desserts was dark chocolate wafers with a dry Cabernet.

Mmmmm!

The chef got to know my poly partners and me and never made the same vegetarian dish twice. Always delicious! When I was eating for the vegetarian book, the chef made especially awesome dishes for us all. (One thing I remember about almost all of my meals was the pine tree-like rosemary sticking up from one mashed food or other.)

I haven’t been to Artist Point in at least 10 years, but know if I sat down there tonight, the meal would be amazing.

Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

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Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

Kona Café used to be the best place to get coffee at Disney World. The coffee beans were from Kona, Hawai’i and they really did make the most delicious coffee.

Researching right now, the space is actually a “casual dining” restaurant! With a sushi bar! The coffee is all but a footnote on the menu. I am sure it is still the best coffee in the World.

Cítricos, Grand Floridian Resort

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Cítricos Restaurant, Grand Floridian Resort

I’ve been to Cítricos only a handful of times. They serve seafood and Tuscan Italian food, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with great service and am sure my veggie dish was good (as I said I can’t think of one meal I didn’t like anywhere on Disney property.) and I don’t remember anyone complaining about their food but me. I do remember having Italian wine and missing the California wines I was used to.

Yachtsman Restaurant, Yacht Club Resort

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Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort

The Yachtsman Steakhouse, obviously, serves steaks. Huge, giant slabs of beef. I cannot remember what I had, but do remember using a menu to hide Zack’s plate that had a pool of blood underneath his steak. Blech. Carnivores love the place and I might even like it now! I do have my steak medium well and eat it with ketchup. (I know… why bother?!? Kind of what I said for a long time as a vegetarian!)

Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Resort

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Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Result

I loved Maya Grill! And had a crush on Beatriz, the chef at the time. Beatriz took me back in the kitchen a couple of times, letting me photograph her hands as she prepped for the dinner crowd. One of the things she made was chimichurri, a dip I slurped up hungrily… until I saw it was made with green peppers. Then I couldn’t eat it anymore. Isn’t that silly? I know! But it just messed with my world view of hating peppers.

Mexican food is easy to make vegetarian and when we were food tasting for the book, my dinner was delicious… and very different from the other restaurants.

California Grill, Contemporary Resort

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California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Ahhhh, now the California Grill. I’ve eaten there dozens of times… as a vegetarian, vegan and carnivore. Never ever ever have I had to send something back. As the name suggests, the cuisine is California-oriented, and it is delicious.

If you are lucky enough to eat here, you must ask for Walter. He opened the restaurant and is still there 22 years later. He is worth waiting for, I promise.

Besides the food, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. In the picture above, you can see the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and how lovely Space Mountain is covered in lights. While watching fireworks from inside is nice, I prefer the catwalk outside. In the olden days, very few people knew about that 15th floor perch and I took friends out there to impress them. And they were impressed!

Used to be you could just go up for the fireworks, but now you must have reservations to be allowed on the elevator up. So, make reservations! Eat dessert and coffee if your budget is on the small side (you do not have to tell the podium folks what you are going to eat… keep it to yourself!) or dinner if you’re wanting to spend some money on magnificent food and wine. Reservations around firework time are harder to get, so we usually made reservations either far far in advance or about 6pm and just eat several courses slowly. Tip your waiter damn good if you stay at the table for 4 hours!

There was a Dessert Chef we knew up there at one time and we’d sit at the small area overlooking the making of the desserts. Watching them being made is magic! Incredible soufflés, wondrous crème brûlée and then the most creative desserts for kids! From rice cereal sushi to bowls of dark cookie dirt with gummy worms hidden inside.

For the food review, I know we had an amazing time, a window table overlooking the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, with peeks at the Polynesian. That meal I can remember like it was yesterday. Exquisite.

I last ate at the California Grill with my daughter Meghann her family and my mama. We had a beautiful time! And yes, Walter was our waiter. As he was for Meghann’s honeymoon meal 10 years earlier and the server for many, many of the great meals I had on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort.

Serendipity

It was pure luck that I was able to go around the World and eat and drink so well for 3 weeks. We had so much fun! I think everyone should be able to do the same.

It’s your turn!

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Vegetarian Dish at California Grill

Food Memory: Frozen Orange Daiquiris

When I was 16 years old, I used to wander over to the Contemporary Resort at Disney World to lay out in the sun on their beach, something that isn’t possible anymore because of alligators. But, then, Disney was still young and the gators hadn’t yet infiltrated the lakes.

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Back of the 1978 Contemporary Resort. Note the beach on the upper right… this is where I would lay out in the sun.

I was fat, but wore a tube top and a bathing suit bottom that went up to my belly button, keeping my midriff exposed to the sun.

These were the days before we knew about skin cancer and using sunscreen. I had my trusty bottle of baby oil that I slathered on every couple of hours. (Tanning at home, I used Crisco.) Just reading it, I’m checking all my freckles and moles!

No one ever checked to see if I had a room key or asked if I belonged on their beach. That would never happen today. Because no one cared, when I got hot, I’d dive into one of their two pools, swim around (I’m a great swimmer), get cool, then go back to my spot on the beach.

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One time when I was in the pool, there was a woman sitting on the side hollering, “Barbie! Barbie!” and I answered her, asking, “Yes?” I swam over to her and she was calling one of her twin daughters, also named Barbie… we laughed, then introduced ourselves. It took less than 2 minutes before we were fast friends. After we were done swimming, I took them on a guided tour of the Magic Kingdom (the only park open then) and they took me to dinner. Barbie’s mom and I corresponded for 10 years, talking on the phone a lot, too. They lived in Canada, so never saw them again. I think about the family often wondering whatever happened in their lives.

Frozen Orange Daiquiri

But, what about that Frozen Orange Daiquiri?

While I lay on the beach, servers wandered around asking if people wanted something from the bar (including snacks!). Can you imagine that happening today? No way in the world would they traipse in the sand selling drinks. But then, it was awesome.

The first time I had enough money to buy something to drink, I asked if there was a virgin anything cold and the server said, “We have Frozen Orange Daiquiris,” and I probably said, “Yes!” way too loud, but she toddled off to the bar to get me that drink.

I swear she floated back, my drink balanced on her tray, my mouth watering as she came upon me like an angel of Frozen Orange Daiquiris.

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It was served in a clear plastic cup with an orange slice on the rim.

It was exquisite.

Sipping the thick icy treat, I found using the orange slice as a scoop to be more efficient as well as yum-MEEEE! I asked the server for a few orange slices when I ordered the next drink and she brought me a bowl of them!

orange slices

This became my special treat and even when I didn’t feel like laying out in the sun, I’d go to the Contemporary Resort, sit at the Sand Bar and order one Virgin Frozen Orange Daiquiri after another. With a pile of orange slices to dip, use as a scoop, then peel the orange from the rind with my teeth.

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I can taste it even now, feeling the searing sun on my back, slurping the icy drink off the orange slices.

Where Are They Now?

I have not figured out why, but no one seems to make Frozen Orange Daiquiris anymore. They make Peach, Mango, even an Orange-Banana, but where are the unadulterated Orange ones? I’ve ask experienced bartenders to make me one and usually get a look of confusion. I’ve probably only had 5 in the last 40 years. And even those didn’t taste like I remembered.

Yes, I am aware that the atmosphere of the burning sun, the white sandy beach, being on Disney property, the server wending her way through the lawn chairs, the piles of cold orange slices create a memory that can never be recreated, that no matter how many Frozen Orange Daiquiris I have, none would ever taste the same.

I’m salivating remembering the tart sweetness over the decades.

Let’s bring the Frozen Orange Daiquiri back to a drink everyone asks for!

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