Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 6, 2017

We visited Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and set out to explore the world of Avatar. Our entrance into this magical land took us past a lounge that looked inviting.

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We skipped the new rides, not having fast passes and not caring to wait two hours in the standby line. It was delightful to stroll around and view the amazing flora and fauna. Disney did a wonderful job making you feel you’re on an alien planet.

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Mountains rise in the distance, past this floating masterpiece, while musicians welcome visitors to their land.

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Hungered by our journey, we entered the canteen where healthful choices tempted us. I had the chicken bowl with rice and vegetable slaw. Others in our party had cheeseburger pods or vegetable curry pods. My non-alcoholic drink, a Pandoran Sunrise, was green and tasted like melon juice.

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Inside the gift shop, you can buy all sorts of theme-related wares. It was fun to browse although we left with our wallets intact.

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It took us a couple of hours to stroll around. If you go on the rides, allow more time. You’ll still have the rest of the day free to explore the Animal Kingdom. I love the lush greenery of this theme park anyway, and the new addition adds to the allure.

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Disney Ramblings

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 5, 2017

We visited Epcot at Disney World again for the annual Flower and Garden Festival. The colorful flower displays were as beautiful as always.

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Bypassing the crowds at Future World, we strolled around World Showcase to sample the foods in the various marketplaces. We headed right toward Canada, stopping by to get the beef tenderloin tips in a flavorful mushroom sauce along with mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. The meat was a bit chewy for my taste. Cost $6.50 for a generous portion.

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We moved on to the United Kingdom for the corned beef and cabbage which my husband ate. It’s a dish he likes at any time. Cost $5.50 per portion.

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At France, we noticed the fast-food café had moved toward the back while its former space is now occupied by an ice cream shop.

Next on the menu were the potato pancakes with applesauce from Germany. These are always good. Cost was $3.75. Dessert was the winner: blueberry buckle with pepper berry sorbet at The Berry Basket. $4.25 each. Well worth the visit!

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As if this wasn’t enough eating for the weekend, we took a walk the next day at Disney Springs. Planet Hollywood has reopened since our last visit. The dome looks a lot better without its prior garish colors. The Edison is still under construction but looks to be a big themed restaurant when it’s finished. Not much else had changed that we could notice.

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We ate lunch at the Boathouse, where I dined on this delicious crab and avocado dish. Fully sated, we returned to our condo to rest for the afternoon.

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Food Fun at Epcot and West Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 18, 2016

Besides attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World this past weekend in Orlando, we tried a couple of new restaurants. Friday night, we ate at Longhorn in Winter Garden. This wasn’t new to us, but I ordered the grilled shrimp and enjoyed this dish with rice, a baked sweet potato, salad, and bread.

On Saturday, we ate brunch at Slate. This trendy establishment is located by Trader Joes on West Sand Lake Road. Weekend brunch menu items are reasonably priced and varied in selection. Our family shared the deviled eggs appetizer, and I had the toast points with smoked salmon for my meal. This wasn’t lox like I’d expected but real pieces of cooked salmon in a tasty mixture. While pricey for dinner, the restaurant is open during weekdays for lunch.

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Since we weren’t too hungry for dinner, we took a walk around Disney’s Riverside Resort that is close to our condo. Then we settled into the lounge for drinks and appetizers that would serve as our meal. I enjoyed the cheese fritters that were fried cheese balls in a sweet red pepper sauce. My Mai Tai had lots of fruit juice but seemed to be light on the rum. The guys had the hearty gumbo soup.

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Sunday we went to Epcot for a stroll around World Showcase. Here we turned right and stopped first at the Caribbean marketplace. I passed on their seared grouper with pigeon peas and rice in coconut sauce, deciding to wait for further fare. One member of our party tried their Quesito puff pastry stuffed with sweetened cream cheese and guava sauce. At Patagonia, our son had the grilled beef skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.

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My first taste was the mushroom beef filet mignon at Canada ($7.25). At Scotland, I had one of my favorite dishes, the crispy potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream ($5.00).

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After getting my protein, I was prepared to saunter along in the ninety-degree heat toward France. They always have dishes I like but the portions are generous, and I decided to save my appetite. The guys each had the Beef Bourguignon, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes ($6.25). I’ve had it before, and it’s very good but filling. And it was too hot for their onion soup with gruyere and cognac. Nor was I ready for dessert, or I’d have had the caramel chocolate crème brulee. Don’t these descriptions make your mouth water?

Belgium had a dish I might have tried if I hadn’t already eaten meat. The beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes sounded good. Next time. Of course, you can get Belgian waffles here, too.

At Japan, our daughter had the spicy sushi roll ($5.75). I couldn’t resist the garlic shrimp and rice ($6.95). It’s as good as it sounds, although if you eat all the rice, you might get too stuffed for anything else. As it was, I’d wanted to try the smoked beef brisket and pimento cheese at the American Adventure, but was already getting too full. Their lobster roll and carrot cake sounded tempting, too.

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We dipped into the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at Italy to share a bottle of wine and to cool off in the darkened interior. It’s a quiet place where you can relax and recoup your energy along with your appetite.

Unfortunately, I didn’t recoup my hunger enough to try the Korean BBQ beef, the Chinese roasted duck with hoisin sauce or the chicken pot stickers, the Mexican chocolate flan, or the lamb chop at Australia. Next time, we’ll have to start to the left at World Showcase and go around in the opposite direction.

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Toward the end, I stopped at Farm Fresh for their savory mac and cheese dish ($4.50) that came with bacon bits and chopped green onions. It was my favorite taste of this visit. Their stewed chicken with mushrooms and spinach sounded good, but I couldn’t eat anymore. Or drink anymore. I might have liked to try the Mai Tai or pineapple wine at the Hawaii marketplace.

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Meandering past the Caribbean site again, we visited the new additions on our way back to Future World. We couldn’t resist the Chocolate Studio where we sampled the red wine chocolate truffle ($2.25) and the chocolate raspberry torte ($4.00).

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Note that vegetarian, gluten-free, and kid-friendly items are marked in the Festival Passport booklet. The Food and Wine Festival is open until mid-November. It’s especially pleasant once the season’s first cold front moves in and cools the air. Meanwhile, be prepared with umbrellas for the passing showers. And now that I’ve reviewed all these treats available there, I’m ready to go again.

That night, we didn’t feel like eating a heavy dinner, so we ventured to 33 & Melt, a grilled cheese emporium only open past 4:00 pm in the Summerport area of Windermere. It’s located amid townhouses in a residential district at a recreated town square. A few other shops are sprinkled in here with a lake toward the rear. I had the grilled brie with raspberry preserves sandwich. Entries come with salad greens tossed in champagne vinaigrette; a dipper of very tasty tomato soup, and a couple of pickle slices. It’s a small neighborhood place with a bar serving beer and wine, but it’s family-friendly and the food is good.

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Look at what waited by our doorstep on our return home. Was he out looking for a meal, too?

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STK Restaurant Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 7, 2016

We wanted to try the newly opened STK Orlando restaurant at Disney Springs, and Magical Dining Month gave us the perfect opportunity. Reservations are definitely recommended for this popular dining establishment located by the bridge between the Marketplace and the West End. Inside, thumping music from a DJ’s selections greeted us as we were seated. The dimly lit interior was pleasantly designed in black and white colors. Here are the dining room and the bar area.

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Evidently, lunch is served on a second level, and there’s a rooftop location as well. As it was raining out, we did not go up for a view after dinner. We ordered a glass of wine each. They did not have the bottle we wanted for fifty-some dollars and instead said the least expensive bottle of wine was sixty-eight dollars. A glass of wine costs thirteen dollars and up. So be prepared to spend some bucks on your liquor. Beer is less costly. The pull-apart bread comes with some kind of flavored olive oil dip.

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I chose the beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts for my starter dish. It was unusual and delicious. Tomato soup or a Romaine salad were other choices.

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Since we’d had fish last night, we all chose the petite filet that came charred on the outside and tender pink on the inside. This came with a mildly spicy sauce and a few waxed beans. We ordered a dish of sautéed mushrooms on the side. The meal was so good that none of us had leftovers to take home.

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The men in our party chose the orange dream cheesecake for dessert while we ladies had the chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The large inflated cookie was the crispy variety and not too soft. We preferred the lava cake from the night before. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a crumb left on our plates.

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Now that I’ve probably gained back the couple of pounds I’d lost before this trip, we are ready to return home and eat more mundane and healthful choices.

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Coca-Cola at Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 5, 2016

We saw Star Trek: Beyond at Disney’s AMC Dine-In Theater at Disney Springs in Orlando. I liked the film and would rate it five stars. The galactic scope isn’t as broad as the Star Wars universe, but Star Trek focuses more on characters. I thought this movie did a good job with the character interactions among the crew and the personal journeys of Kirk and Spock. The villain’s motivation seemed plausible. His weapons were immensely powerful compared to Federation defenses, and action scenes were plentiful. I had a good time and will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out.

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The Coca-Cola Store had opened since we’d been here last, so we had to visit. I was suitably impressed by the array of merchandise offered at the two-level shop inside. The variety exceeded my expectations. Up on the third level, we stopped by the outdoor bar to try their combo sampler of sodas and floats. Be prepared for a sugar high after you try all these drinks. Dinner was at The Melting Pot on West Sand Lake Road. Good for a fondue experience but no leftovers.

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The next day, we hung around Millennia Mall and went to lunch at La Madeleine. There’s a coffee place at one end and a restaurant at the other. You order your food, get a table, and wait for your order to be delivered. Crepes, soups, sandwiches, and salads are on the menu along with more substantial entrees. I felt a couple of pounds heavier as we left.

There’s always something new to explore in Orlando. Make it your destination.

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Magic Kingdom Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2016

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 30, 2016

Disney Springs has opened the Lime parking garage and the town center since our last visit. We enjoyed strolling around the new shopping area and eating lunch at the burger place.

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Lots of other new restaurants have yet to open. I’m eager for the Floridian one. The Edison looks like it has a long way to go, and so does the remodel of the old Planet Hollywood restaurant. Our kids liked the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles.

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We saw Independence Day: Resurgence at the theater here. The movie was fun but predictable. It got us out of the heat for a few hours.

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Dinner that night was at Cooper’s Hawk, a popular restaurant on International Drive and Sand Lake Road just east of I-4. I ate braised beef short ribs, very tender meat, and had leftovers to take home.

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Disney Springs is a fun destination with free parking, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It gets livelier in afternoons and evenings, so if you want a quiet stroll, come early.

 

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Epcot Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 28, 2016

We spent last weekend getting our Disney World fix. Early in the morning, we took a walk at Riverside Resort, enjoying the old South ambiance with colonial-style buildings. Every few feet along the bayou were signs warning of alligators and snakes. But it was the tropical foliage and beautifully landscaped grounds that captured our attention. We had breakfast in the food court before heading back to our condo for a rest.

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A short while later, we drove to Epcot for a stroll around our favorite theme park. Here is the water fountain by Imagination. Note the water spraying up rather than down.

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We went on the ride at the Land, always a pleasant interlude especially in the ninety-degree heat. I like seeing how their fruits and veggies thrive in a soil-less environment. The fish tanks are what inspired me to research tilapia aquaculture for Body Wave. Note the baby alligators in the tank on the right.

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The new Frozen ride is open that replaced Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion. We noticed a line at Fast Pass, and if you didn’t reserve a spot there, you had a two hour wait. This was around 10:30am. We refreshed ourselves with free soft drink samples from around the world at the Coca Cola building, ate lunch at a fast food place with indoor seating, and gave up on walking around World Showcase. That’s the advantage of having annual passes. You can come and go without feeling the pressure to stay all day and go on the rides. We’ve been on most of them enough times to conduct our own tour.

 

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Orlando Showtime

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2016

Mother’s Day morning found us picking blueberries at the Beck Brothers farm in Windermere. Their berries stay fresh longer than any store-bought varieties. They’re a bit tart this early in the season but are great on cereal or in pancakes.

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Since we were attending a show (Beautiful: The Carole King Story) at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, we chose to dine nearby at The Boheme Restaurant in the Grand Bohemian Hotel. The elegant red décor matched the elevated prices but we felt the service wasn’t comparable to other upscale places, in our opinion. But you might think otherwise, and it is a mere few steps away from the theater. The food was very good.

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The dazzling Dr. Phillips Center was built in a contemporary/modern style. I felt like I was on a cruise ship during show time. Seats at the orchestra level far back had a good view of the stage. There looked to be four floors maybe, with cafés on each one. Anyway, you could grab a substantial snack here if you’re hungry. You can bring drinks into the theater but not food, and seats have drink holders. We enjoyed the lively show and the music from an earlier era. Now this has made me want to see what’s playing in the theaters at home.

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Disney World Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 16, 2016

We had another enjoyable visit to Disney World, our favorite weekend getaway. Over Mother’s Day weekend, we strolled through Disney Springs, enjoying glimpses of new eateries like The Edison (under construction) and STK Steakhouse. A new section is scheduled to open this month. Planet Hollywood is undergoing renovations as is the old paddlewheel boat restaurant. New shops have also opened up. It’s great that parking is still free, and the garage is a marvel of technology that parking garages everywhere should emulate. The second garage is still under construction.

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At Animal Kingdom, we saw building cranes over where Avatar land is being developed. We didn’t spot much else that was new. It was already crowded when we arrived late morning, so we passed by the rides/attractions and stood in line for lunch. This place could have used more than one cashier. Sit-down restaurants are not readily available in this park, other than the Asian one and the Rainforest Café. The windows at the fast-food places get crowded. Let’s hope the Avatar section will have more dining choices. It’s still pleasant to stroll around the park with the tropical vegetation and authentic-looking scenery.

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