Sunday, October 18, 2015

PCH Grill - beach side bonfire buffet dinner review

There was a time when we enjoyed having various meals at the Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort.  We were pretty sad when they closed Yamabuki's because we'd enjoyed the couple meals we'd had there.  (And why hasn't another restaurant opened in that space since that restaurant closed?  The lounge area of the hotel offers a couple of food items for lunch but PCH Grill seems to be the only food choice in the hotel and there's nothing else nearby.  Seems to be a disincentive (yeah, I know, that's not a word) to stay there.)  We've looked at the PCH Grill menu over the last multiple years, and the menu just has not appealed to us.  One time, it was all just sandwiches, nothing too inspiring.  Other times, it was weird ingredients in food, and this coming from someone who enjoys many different kinds of cuisines and eclectic food.

Then I saw this post, and the menu offerings looked interesting.  We finally had a chance to visit last night with friends, so here's my review with pictures.  It looks like a few items have changed since it first opened, but that's probably expected.

Mostly familiar items on the menu but done pretty well.  I commented to a friend last night that it was PCH Grill's way of saying "sorry for the weirdo crap we've tried to get you to eat before".  :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

There, and Back Again OR Once More, With Feeling

It's been a year since my last entry, so I guess it's appropriate that I was back in the same race.  Rock n Roll San Diego 2014 was my first half marathon, and Rock n Roll San Diego 2015 was the first time I was doing the same half marathon for the second time and my seventh half marathon over all.

So much has changed over that year, some good, some bad.  And I could definitely feel the change with regard to the race this year compared to last year.

I had picked Rock n Roll San Diego as my first half marathon partly because it wasn't too far to go from home but mostly because of the four-hour time limit to finish the race.  In my training, I had determined that I could do a half marathon in that time period, and as I was training for the 2014 Avengers half marathon at Disneyland, which has a shorter time limit, I wanted to get experience in doing races first.  I had been to Rock n Roll San Diego in 2013 to cheer on two different friends who were running the marathon and half marathon, and I'd talked to my friend about the half marathon course, and it seemed like a good race to run.  I was still nervous about the race.  What if something went wrong?  I didn't know what to expect out of the race.  Luckily, the friend who'd done the half the previous year was also doing the race this year, and she stayed with me during the entire race, giving me little hints and encouragements, and it was a great way to experience a first half marathon.  I was pretty excited about finishing.

This year, it was a very different feeling.  I knew that I'd have no problem with the time limit, and it was the first half marathon where I knew I wasn't going to be swept.

It's definitely a much more freeing feeling, one I hadn't experienced before, and it freed me to enjoy the race, which I did.  My husband was doing the race this year as well, but we don't run races together, so after the race started, I wasn't going to see him again until after the finish line.  I found myself waving to so many of the spectators who lined the streets of the course, and I even talked to a few fellow participants during the race.  I enjoyed the scenery and was also able to look at the various businesses that were along the course, trying to make note of the ones I wanted to come back and visit when I wasn't just running past them.

It wasn't nearly the struggle it was last year, and I wasn't counting every mile.  I noticed most of the mile markers (I missed mile 2), but it wasn't the countdown to 13 that it sometimes is - it was just information.

There was one very big difference at this year's race, though.  Last year, after I'd posted on my Facebook page that I was doing this race, that it was going to be my first half marathon, my friend Robert called me within about half an hour to tell me his travel plans from Northern California, when he'd be arriving in San Diego, where he'd be staying, etc.  He wanted to be there to see me finish my first half marathon.  I was pretty happy about that, and we enjoyed spending the weekend with him.  At the time, we didn't know it would turn out to be one of the last weekends we'd spend with him.  Robert passed away from lymphoma on August 7, 2014.  I knew that going back to San Diego for this race this year was going to have its difficulties, especially since this race is specifically to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  We had a bit of a different schedule this year, which helped some, but I did find myself often thinking about what I was doing at that time last year.

I was running my race, and things were ok.  Then about half-way through the race, thing changed.  Last year, my husband and Robert were there after the finish line.  I knew that my husband would be there this year as well, because when we run the same race, he always finishes before me, but waits for me after the finish line but still in the racers area, so that we can get pictures together.  But this year, Robert wasn't going to be there.  He wasn't following my progress this year through runner tracking.  I wasn't going to see him after I finished my race.  And the thought was just overwhelming.  I spent about half a mile crying as I thought about that, and try as I might, I couldn't stop crying.  I can't imagine what spectators must have thought as I ran past in tears.  I eventually managed to pull myself together and proceeded with the rest of the race.

My only goal before the race started was that I wanted to finish with a faster time than I'd had last year.

Because it was my first race last year, I don't really remember too much about the course, but as I ran it this year, some things did look familiar to me and brought back some memories of last year's race.

I'm not really a fan of the course itself partly because there are quite a few hills.  Up and down both took their toll on my legs and knees since I don't have many inclines on my normal training routes, so I don't get nearly enough hill training.  The streets themselves also aren't in particularly good condition, so you have to pay a lot of attention to where you're going so that you're not stepping in potholes or uneven parts of the street.  But the absolute best thing about this race, and probably one of the reasons I plan to keep coming back, are the residents.  Their support is amazing.  They're on the streets in the business areas, and they're in front of their homes in the residential areas, and they are cheering and offering support and encouragement.  There are people of every age out there, from older people who are sitting in their wheelchairs smiling and waving at the passing racers to little kids out with their families.  Some are cheering for specific people but many are cheering whoever comes by.  Some offer assistance in the form of little snacks and treats, like pretzels and candy.  A couple of women on one street had rolls of paper towels and were pulling off sheets to people who wanted them to wipe down a little from the humid morning.  A couple of families were giving out little slices of oranges.  There are school cheerleaders along the way as well, and while I will admit that I normally don't pay that much attention to them, these particular groups of girls seemed different.  They were doing cheers of encouragement specifically aimed at the racers, and they really had just so much energy that you couldn't help but feel uplifted from it.  And those little boosts help to sustain you during the course.  The various bands I heard along the way were fun to listen to as well.  I think my favorite entertainment on the course, though, were the taiko drummers.  Love them.

And this year, I even interacted with the group of men who were in wigs and endowments, who showed up twice on the course.  They provided an energetic boost and quiet gentle encouragement, whatever was needed by the particular runner.  I particularly enjoyed getting the latter from them, just a nice quiet word and a pat on the shoulder as I ran past.

As I mentioned, the resident support is fantastic on this race.  Special shout out to the residents on the stretch of the race from about mile 4.5 to mile 5.  I really appreciated the special fuel you provided, and all with good humor.

I was definitely tired by the end of the race and feeling the hills along the course, but it was a good finish.  I did meet my goal of having a faster time than last year's race, so I was pretty happy about that.

I'd carried a reminder of Robert with me during the race, my way of taking him with me this year.  Robert and I met because of our mutual love of Disneyland, and Robert's favorite character was Sorcerer Mickey, so I had a little one with me during the entire race.  Some people saw him and commented on him, and he's in all of my pictures for this race.

Thanks to Rock n Roll for a great race.  It's incredibly well organized, especially when it involves being able to transport thousands of racers to the start line area.  Thanks to all of the volunteers.  You are very much appreciated.  And thanks again to the residents of San Diego.  You are awesome.

See you next year.

Monday, June 9, 2014

13.1 Thoughts on Being Half Crazy

(car magnet from

1.  October 14, 2012 - It all started that day when I did my first 5K, CHOC Walk in the Park, and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to make it through the untimed, leisurely stroll through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

2. January 5, 2013 - New Year's Race 5K - 1:01:33
    February 10, 2013 - Live Ultimate 5K - 51:51.80
    March 10, 2013 - Knott's Coaster Run 10K - 1:40:39
    August 31, 2013 - Disneyland 10K - 1:44:11
    January 18, 2014 - Tinker Bell 10K - 1:39:04
    April 5, 2014 - Hollywood 10K - 1:37:12.5

3.  Things that only make sense during a race - Random people standing in front of their houses offering food (like bacon and fruit and pretzels and water) to strangers, and the strangers gladly and thankfully accept the offerings, no questions asked.

4.  That moment when you're watching one of the spectators standing on a lawn, and you wonder why a guy is wearing a big scarf wrapped around his neck during an already-warm morning, and you suddenly realize that it's not a scarf, it's a giant snake, just as you hear the people behind you remark on it.  And just as you're moving further into the middle of the street, away from the man, your friend has noticed the man also and is right next to you telling you not to look and shielding the view from your eyes.

5.  You wonder why you're walking funny all of a sudden, like you're having trouble keeping balance without situating your feet oddly, and your friend points out that the street is sloping downward and suggests moving toward the middle of the street where the road is not slanted.

6.  At one point, there was a little girl, maybe 5 or 6, who was standing with her family, presumably in front of their house, cheering on the race participants.  I could see her looking at the people individually, and then she saw me, and she came up to me as I went past her.  "May I run with you for a little bit?" she said to me.  "Sure," I said, "but I think you might be faster than me."  She did run but kept right beside me for about half a block, and we chitchatted a bit.  When we got to the end of the block, she stopped, and I said thank you and goodbye to her.  It was so sweet, and it definitely gave me a boost for a little while.

7.  A hill after mile 10 of a half marathon is just mean.

8.  Thank you to Jen for doing the entire race with me, for sharing the experience with me, for helping me navigate my first half marathon, for giving me tips on how to handle certain obstacles and for making it all so much more fun.

9.  Thanks to God for giving me a good race day on my first half marathon.  Many physical challenges have arisen, and some days, even walking half a mile would be impossible.  But so far, a bad day has never fallen on a race day, and this was no exception.  The two weeks prior to the race were very challenging, and I was concerned how that was going to affect me during the race.  But come race day, I felt ok, and during the race, I battled "I don't want to", and while that has its own challenges, it was something I could overcome, whereas "I physically cannot do this" is not.  I put off doing CHOC Walk for a year because I was worried.  What if one of the really bad days happens on race day?  What if I sign up and then that day, I can't even get out of bed?  And I finally decided, if it happened, I'd deal with it, but putting it on hold for "what if" meant it was never going to happen.  Thank God for taking care of me on my race days, no matter the obstacles that might arise beforehand.

10.  Thank you to Robert for coming down to San Diego to cheer me on.  I was so happy and shocked and grateful when he first told me he was coming, and for a multitude of reasons, it was so nice to be able to spend the weekend with him with us, and to see yet another friendly face after the finish line.

11.  June 1, 2014 - Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon - 3:41:37

12.  Thank you to everyone who worked to put together Rock n Roll San Diego, and a special thank you to all the people who worked and volunteered during the event, and an extra special thank you to all the spectators who stood in front of their houses and on public streets giving out support and cheers and encouragement.  Thanks to all of you.

13.  Special thanks to everyone who has given me encouragement and support from one race to another, from one difficult training outing to another, in every victory that has occurred and in moments when I wonder why I'm doing this and am discouraged beyond words.  Every little bit has helped, believe me, in ways I can't properly express.  Extra special thanks to everyone who has patiently helped me by answering the many questions I've had, and especially for those times when I've been offered unsolicited advice and tips, because I don't even know enough to ask the right questions yet.  Your sharing of your knowledge and experience with me is greatly appreciated.

13.1  I did it, Margaret.  I did it!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten

A little over three weeks ago, I received a phone call early in the morning.  The call was from the family member of a friend (M), telling me that M had unexpectedly passed away the night before, and he'd wanted to let me know before I read the news on Facebook where the news might be posted by mutual friends.  I spoke to him for a bit, and I spoke to another mutual friend afterward as well.  My first concern was for M's family and in particular her daughter.  And I thought of all the people M had touched in one way or another.  M and I met due to circumstances vaguely related to our mutual love of Disney and Disneyland.  We didn't live near each other, and I saw her periodically when she'd come down for a visit to Disneyland, but we mostly kept in touch through Facebook.  The news didn't really start to process until the day progressed, as I saw posts from mutual friends and others about the impact that M had on their lives.

Because I'm fortunate to live in relatively close proximity to Disneyland so as to be able to make frequent visits, I often post pictures of food items, merchandise and random other things that I find interesting (partly because I have friends who are Disney fans who don't live locally), as well as non-Disney-related updates on my Facebook page.  I've continued to do that the past several weeks, but something seemed off.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something was missing.  And then I realized what that was.  I was used to seeing M "like" my posts and pictures or making a comment here or there or sending me a private message.  When I'd check my page to see if anyone had responded, I realized I was looking for a response from her, a response that was no longer forthcoming.

Over the past 15 months, I've gotten involved in doing races (walking, not running), and in about 3 weeks time, I will be participating in my first official half marathon race.  M had been very supportive of my efforts, and she knew what personal difficulties I had along the way, and she was always encouraging.  She found out that I liked the Sport Beans from Jelly Belly as a way to maintain energy during training and races, and one of the times she was down here, she brought me a bunch of different flavored Sport Beans for me to try.  She said that once I figured out what I liked, I should let her know, and she'd get me more, because she had the ability to get them at a discount.  I thanked her for them, and a few weeks later, she asked me about them.  I told her that I hadn't quite figured out the fueling thing yet, and that the supply she'd gotten me would last for a bit and I'd let her know after I'd figured everything out.

Last week, I was in a Sport Chalet browsing for some accessories.  I walked by the little section with the various energy refueling options.  My first inclination is always to go by to take a look, followed quickly by the realization that I didn't need any new stuff and would only need more Sport Beans, followed even more quickly by the further realization that M would be very upset with me if I bought them myself instead of letting her know what I wanted, as she'd asked me to do.  This time, that last thought stopped me in my tracks.  I realized that I'd be buying my own Sport Beans in the future, and that I wouldn't be able to tell M which ones I preferred.  And I burst into tears.  Odd how seemingly random things can bring about such strong emotions.

M completely believed in the concept of Ohana, and there were so many people that she counted as a part of her family as a result of that.  I'm glad to have been considered family by her.  When I do races and do my training, I often think of her.  And I'll continue posting pictures and updates on my Facebook page, and I'll know in my heart that she's reading them and hitting "like".

Thursday, November 14, 2013

World of Color - Winter Dreams at Disney California Adventure, 2013

Disney California Adventure's nighttime entertainment World of Color is getting its first full make-over.  World of Color - Winter Dreams is set to debut to the public on Friday, November 15, 2013, but the show had its premiere performance (at least that's what Disney called it) on Thursday, November 14, 2013.  The Disney Parks Blog had conducted a contest about a week prior for a chance to preview the show, and I was lucky enough to get in and to bring one guest.  The day before the show, Disney also announced a special opportunity for annual passholders to attend the preview.  The evening turned out to be the media event for the show as well.

There was a set registration time, and with work and traffic and such, we literally made it to registration with seconds to spare.  As soon as we turned in our completed likeness waivers and received our wristbands, they closed the ticket booth window.  We rushed through the gates and to the designated meeting place, walking past long lines of annual passholders along the way as they waited to be let into the show as well.  We were let into the viewing area and then the annual passholder line was let in after us.

The wristbands were much different than for other events.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were all being given a pair of the Glow with the Show ears.  We'd previously received a pair when they'd debuted them with World of Color but the batteries had run out on them, and we hadn't replaced the batteries yet.  As we headed to a viewing section (not too close because we didn't want to get too wet), we noticed they were handing out programs so picked up one of those.  We were thrilled to discover that the program was like a Playbill that you get when you attend a live play or musical.

A lovely CM was kind enough to hold the program for me to photograph.

We found a spot in the upper section, dead center looking at Mickey's fun wheel, and there was only one sparse row of people in front of us.  I positioned myself so that I was looking through the space between two not-very-tall people, so I had a pretty good view.  As annual passholders were let into the viewing area, our section started to fill up.

Waiting for World of Color - Winter Dreams with a sea of Glow with the Show ears in front of us.

After about a half-hour wait, it was showtime!  Steve Davison, Disney entertainment guru extraordinaire, did an introduction for the new show and was joined by none other than Josh Gad himself, who voices the character of Olaf in the upcoming Disney animated film "Frozen".  Olaf is the main character who takes the audience on the journey through World of Color - Winter Dreams.

No spoilers for the show itself (I'm sure you can find pictures and videos galore on the internet if you're so inclined).  I enjoyed the show, and there was a lot of different things to see, and I know I missed some of them with just the one viewing so far.  Lots of nifty new effects - the technology and technique has definitely been upgraded, and it was fun to see how the Glow with the Show ears are utilized in this new production.

Below is the full program that was given to us for the evening's performance.  Click on the image to get a larger version of each picture.

Enjoy the show!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Carthay Circle Restaurant - dinner - March 23, 2013

Our last visit had been in July 2012, so we finally had a chance to go back to the restaurant.  We were seated in the Hollywood room, where there are pictures of various Oscar winners for Disney films.  I was pleasantly surprised that our table ended up being right across from my favorite picture in that room.

The husband and I perused the menu and had a difficult time deciding what to have for dinner as there were many items to choose from.  We finally made our selections with our server, and bread was brought out to the table.  It's always nice to have fresh sourdough bread.  We'd tried the signature fried biscuits on our previous visits, and while we like them, we're not crazy enough about them to order them on every visit.  We'd probably be more inclined to order them if we were there with people who hadn't visited the restaurant before so they could try them.

For a starter, the husband had the warm artichokes tart.  He enjoyed the dish, and he especially enjoyed the blood orange vinaigrette, though when I had a bite of it, I agreed with him that the pastry wasn't as flaky as it could have been.

Warm Artichokes Tart - Redwood Hills goat milk cheddar, baby spinach and a blood orange vinaigrette

For my starter, I'd known what I was going to have before I'd even gotten there.  On my previous visit, I'd had a chance to try the fire cracker duck wings.  Oh my goodness, were those delicious.  I've been wanting more ever since.  So as much as I was tempted by the seasonal soup (Thai lemongrass squash broth, accented with ginger, coconut and cilantro glazed chicken), I had to have the duck wings.  They were every bit as delicious as I had remembered - tender meat and wonderful flavor with a nice kick from the sriracha.  I asked the server what kind of sriracha sauce was used in the dish, and she confirmed that it was "rooster sauce", the best and most popular brand of sriracha chili sauce.  (She also mentioned that they had a bottle of it at the servers' station, so if you want some as a condiment to any other dish, it's definitely available.)  I was amused that the Disney Parks Blog this week published the recipe for the duck wings.

Fire cracker duck wings - soy, lime and sriracha chile sauce.

For an entree, the husband ordered the short rib raviolis.  He very much enjoyed the dish and said it was the perfect serving size.  I had considered ordering that myself, so I was happy to just have a taste of the ravioli.  The meat filling was delicious.

Short rib raviolis sauteed in sage brown butter, with portobello mushrooms, sprouts and butternut squash.

For my entree, I had decided on the tiger prawns.  They were nicely cooked with good texture, and the small potatoes made a nice accompaniment, and of course, the sauce was wonderful.

Tiger prawns on a broth of fingerling potatoes, leeks, applewood bacon and thyme.

We perused the dessert menu and noticed that while the regular menu had been changed to the spring edition, the dessert menu was still listed as the winter menu.

The husband chose the lemon pound cake, which he enjoyed.

Toasted lemon pound cake with fresh marinated blueberries, lemon curd cream and Tahitian vanilla chantilly.

For my dessert, I chose the pear pie.  I liked the pear filling, but the crust was a bit more dense than I had expected, so it was very filling, and I didn't end up having much of it.

Warm winter pear country pie with salted caramel ice cream.

Overall, we very much enjoyed our dinner.  Our server was very friendly and helpful, and we ended up chatting with her at various times throughout dinner.  (She even relayed a story about someone who had recently been introduced to the sriracha sauce and loved it but who found out the hard way that sriracha sauce by itself does not make a good spaghetti sauce.  [Sriracha sauce added to tomato sauce, however, is wonderful.]).  Hopefully, another eight months won't have to pass before our next visit.

(Right click on the menu and open as a link for a larger version.)

I'd noticed several weeks ago in looking at the menu outside the restaurant that a new tasting menu had been added.  I'm told that it started in February, and the current plan is to change the tasting menu every couple of months.  Note that you can't order any of the items off the tasting menu a la carte - they are only available as part of the tasting menu prix fixe.

(Right click on the menu and open as a link for a larger version.)

Here's my review of our dinner at Carthay Circle Restaurant on opening night.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue - Disneyland - January 19, 2013

Disneyland recently announced that there would be a limited run of A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue at its Golden Horseshoe venue.  In addition to regular shows during the day, they were also going to have a separately-ticketed 6:30pm show only for annual passholders.  For a cost of $35, APs would get to see the show on a guaranteed date, and they would also receive dinner and a souvenir.  I'd heard a bit about the show that used to be at the Golden Horseshoe but didn't really know much about it.  A group of friends wanted to attend a show, so the husband and I decided to join them.

We were given wristbands to allow us entrance into the show, and we lined up to wait to be let in.  They let us in around 6pm, and we made our way into the theatre.  A cast member asked how many were in our party, and when we said 8, we were directed to 2 tables which each sat 4 people.  We were about half-way back from the stage and still had a pretty good view.

The tables were already set up with the souvenir plastic boots (filled with corn chips), a small bottle of water and plastic cutlery and a napkin.

Table set-up.  Our table was missing a boot, and when we informed a cast member, she brought us another one.

The tables are pretty small to accommodate four people, but we managed to squish everything together enough to make it manageable.

Cast members then came around to hand us our packaged meals.

Meals consisted of half a black forest ham sandwich, a "slider" sandwich of roast beef, mustard and horseradish sauces in little containers, shaved carrot salad with raisins and nuts, small fruit salad, and potato salad.

Dinner is served.  (This is a better view of the boot as well.)

I thought both sandwiches were pretty good.  The sauces were ok, though they were pretty mild.  I'm not particularly fond of shaved carrot salad or raisins, so I only picked out a few of the nuts to eat, but I did very much enjoy the potato salad and the fruit salad.

The cast members also told us that if we wanted mint juleps or soft drinks, we could just go get them from the bar with no added charge.

We had a bit of time to eat, and then at 6:30, the lights dimmed and the show started.  The small band that accompanies the performers was seated right in front of the stage.

I very much enjoyed the show.  I have nothing to compare it to as I'd never seen the original show and don't know much about it at all, but I did enjoy the show they presented, and I love the costumes.  Another friend and I agreed that we wished the show was longer, but then, I could have sat there for an hour watching the dancing and the singing and been very happy.

One of the lead performers comes out to interact with the audience.  (I know, she has a name, but I can't remember what it is.)  She was terrific, just the right mix of funny, sweet and flirty.

Dancing girls!

At the conclusion of the show, they invited everyone to share a slice of cake like the cake that Walt and Lillian had to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  Cast members then came around to pass out little cakes to everyone.

The cakes had a picture printed on top.  I haven't eaten my cake yet, but my friends who had theirs said it was a white cake with berries - likely raspberries.

After we were all finished, we gathered up our things and got ready to leave.  It seemed odd that there was a slow-moving line to exit until we realized they were passing something out at the exit.  We were each given a CD of the old Golden Horseshoe show labeled as a gift to APs attending these shows.

Front and back of the CD.

I had a wonderful time, enjoying the food, the show, and sharing the experience with friends.  Based on the reaction of the audience, everyone seemed to have a good time.

There's always the age-old question of "was it worth it?"  I had a good time and enjoyed myself, so it was worth it to me.  But paying the extra price for the extra amenities is certainly not necessary to enjoy the show itself.

Performances of the show currently run Thursdays through Monday, ending February 4, 2013.  The 6:30pm show is the only one reserved for APs and the dining package.  The rest of the shows during the day are open to all visitors for no extra charge, and refreshments can be purchased.  I'd like to be able to see the show again during one of the open performances, but I'm not sure I'm going to get a chance to do that.  I would definitely recommend trying to catch the show if you can.  I hope that the show gets a positive enough reaction that Disney will decide to bring the show back, so that the Golden Horseshoe stage can be shared between this Salute and Billy Hill & the Hillbillies.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Napa Rose - dinner - December 27, 2012

Had dinner with a friend at our normal seats at the Chef's counter.  We hadn't seen Chef Sutton in a while since he's been busy with the new Carthay Circle restaurant at Disney California Adventure.  (I noticed that the chef's jacket he was wearing this night was his jacket from Carthay Circle, not his old jacket from Napa Rose.)

I sat down while my friend went to the ladies' room, and I was greeted by a few of the staff that we've gotten to know, as well as Chef.  Chef offered us a glass of champagne to start off the evening, which I accepted, and he told the server to add a touch of Grand Marnier to the glasses as well.  Merry Christmas!

We both decided to let Chef choose our dishes for us, though my friend requested venison in her meal, and I requested a taste of the goose in mine.

I didn't get a picture of the amuse bouche, but it was chickpeas mashed and then deep fried, with an apple salsa on top.  Tasty, even for my friend who doesn't like chickpeas.

For my first course, Chef gave me the salmon from the evening's vintner's menu.  He had mentioned the dish as we were initially talking, and I expressed an interest in it.  The glaze gave the salmon a nice crunchy exterior texture, and tempura asparagus is always welcome.  Chef said he doesn't normally include peanut products, but he just felt like it this time, and we noticed another dish that had peanut sauce as an ingredient as well.

soy glazed Skuna Bay salmon with Vietnamese peanut crab salad, tempura fried white asparagus and tangerine vinaigrette

My friend's first course was the sauteed sustainable fish, which was sea bass on this night.  The "couscous" (which Chef said a few times because he said it was a fun word to say) isn't really couscous - the cauliflower is grated so that they come out like pearls and resemble couscous.

sauteed sustainable fish of the day (sea bass), roasted golden cauliflower couscous and cranberry-walnut pesto

Chef had mentioned a dish he'd made that wasn't on the menu, and after he described it, I expressed a definite interest in it.  My friend wasn't quite as enthusiastic but she was game.  Chef said he'd give us the dish to share.

The mussels were steamed in a delicious broth (some of which was at the bottom of the cup), and on top was a calamari stuffed with chorizo that included serrano ham. There's a cilantro sauce in the middle, and a piece of toasted bread on the right that had olives and such on it.  It was a delicious dish.

chorizo-stuffed calamari on top of steamed mussels


My next course was the goose I requested.  The normal entree portion comes with a few slices of goose on the side in addition to the terrine.  The taste I got was enough to satisfy my annual goose craving.

signature holiday goose with braised winter cabbage, apple chestnut puree and merlot essence

For my friend's next course, Chef gave her the second course from the evening's vintner's menu.  She had mentioned that she was feeling adventurous and ready to try whatever Chef might toss her way, even if it was something like sweetbreads, which she doesn't normally like.  Taking her on her word, Chef indeed gave her this course.  She blanched a little when Chef used the word "offals" (I might have giggled at her a bit at that point.), but she had both the sweetbreads and tongue and liked them.

braised veal sweetbreads with oregon truffle chianti sauce and crispy corn meal fried beef's tongue

We were already pretty full by this point, and my friend didn't really believe me when I said that we hadn't even gotten the entree yet, until our server put down the knife and fork for each of us.

My entree was from the vintner's menu, which was New York steak.  Chef mentioned the housemade steak sauce, which included tamarind and "a million other spices".  The dish was very tasty, but I was too full to finish it.  I had one slice of the meat and the sides and took the rest home.

28 day aged prime beef New York steak with butter poached fingerling potatoes and wine country steak sauce

For her entree, my friend received her requested venison.  She was hesitant to eat it because she was already full and wanted to save room for dessert, but I told her she had to at least try it since she'd asked for it.  She had a few bites and seemed to like it.

roasted red deer venison with chipotle roasted sweet potatoes and orange rosemary chimichuri

I didn't take pictures of dessert, but I had the "best hot chocolate", which is a little thick but still yummy, accompanied by some tasty donuts.  My friend had the peppermint chocolate sorbet (which she loved) and a couple of the donuts on the side.

As usual, it was a lovely dinner all around.  The staff was busy, but not so much that they weren't available to answer our questions on the various other dishes we saw being prepared as well as other random questions.  Over the course of dinner, we were able to chat with Chef, a few of the other chefs, and a few of the runners as well.

Here's the current menu.  The vintner's table is new every week starting on Friday, so this would have been the last night of the current vintner's menu.

starters, starters to share and salads & soups

main courses, sides and vintner's table

Monday, November 12, 2012

first Christmas in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

When Cars Land opened in Disney California Adventure this past June, many of us were also looking forward to seeing how it might be decorated for various holidays.  There were no special decorations for Halloween, but they really went all out for Christmas.  It actually reminds me a lot of all the little details that used to decorate Toontown in Disneyland.  While Toontown is still decorated for Christmas, it doesn't have all the subtleties that it used to, but the details are in full force in Cars Land.

First, though, we did notice some holiday merchandise specifically themed to Disney California Adventure, and not just the entire Disneyland Resort, as is usually the case.

This design with the characters on and around a red trolley and the Carthay Circle building in the background adorns a nice hooded sweatshirt.

This design more prominently features the Carthay Circle building and can be found on a t-shirt, a mug, a throw blanket and many other items.

The display windows of Elias and Company are decorated with various holiday vignettes.  One window has a very long wish list to Santa, which we had fun reading, but we had trouble making out one item.  On the fold in the middle, a walrus is listed, but what's the next item listed after that?  It looks like "haring" to us, but we figure that can't be it because it doesn't mean anything.

On a tangent, a CD was recently released of some of the music heard in the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge.  It's available in the "men's department" of Elias and Company.

After looking at the Christmas decorations on Buena Vista Street, we headed over to Cars Land to take a look.  The postcard at the front of the land had been changed to reflect the coming season.

Christmas comes to Radiator Springs.

There are lots of details in each part of the sign - the "C" has Santa and his reindeer!

Next to the sign is a Snowman (Snowcar?).  It's a great photo op, and there was a Photopass photographer at the location.

Looking down the main street of Radiator Springs.

A Santa hat and decorations adorn Mater at his Junkyard Jamboree ride.

This isn't Christmas related (at least I don't think it is), and I don't know how long this has been up, but Sarge's is adorned with an array of patriotic colors and lights.  The sparkles at the top are actually bursting fireworks.

I love these decorations over the middle of the street, which are an echo of the Mickey wreaths which hang over Main Street in Disneyland.  The "wreath" is made of a tire and a bow.

The Cozy Cone Motel has stars made of cone shapes.

And of course, the Cozy Cone has a Christmas tree made of stacked cones!

And if you look on the other side, you can see that the Christmas tree gets electricity from jumper cables being attached to a battery.  :)

Each of the Cozy Cones is decorated as well.

The office of the Cozy Cone Motel has a Christmas tree as well.

But the best gem is that inside the office, there's also a gingerbread re-creation of the Cozy Cone Motel!

A closer view of the amazing gingerbread Cozy Cone Motel.

A different angle of the gingerbread Cozy Cone Motel.  It's really incredible.

The Christmas tree outside the Curios store.

City Hall in Radiator Springs is nicely decorated as well.

Of course, there's a beautiful Christmas tree.

The statue of Stanley in front now includes a Santa hat and a bag of toys.

A different look at Santa Stanley.

Christmas in Radiator Springs isn't just visible in the decorations on the buildings outside.  When we ventured into the Curios store, we were thrilled to find that Santa had brought many merchandise items related to Radiator Springs.  Deservedly or not, we are completely taking credit for that!  On opening day of Cars Land, we were surveyed extensively by some cast members, and one of the things we adamantly told them was that as much as we liked the Cars Land merchandise, we were disappointed that there was no Radiator Springs merchandise.  We were visitors to the town of Radiator Springs, and we wanted a souvenir of our visit to this little town, but none existed.  And now, it does!

A selection of mugs are available, showing landmarks of Radiator Springs.

Toothpick holders (or whatever these are) are available as well.

How about postcards to remember your visit?  There are four different sets, and some of the postcards can be purchased individually as well.

The design of the front sign is available on a t-shirt and a mug.  We looked for a postcard with the design but didn't find one - can we hope that's still forthcoming?

This kid's shirt is absolutely adorable.

Love, love, LOVE this ladies' cut t-shirt, which I bought, especially since I'm a fan of the restaurant.  Note, though, that the color didn't come out correctly in the picture - the shirt is actually a pale yellow.  While I love having the shirt in a ladies' cut, it's too bad it's not in a regular cut t-shirt as well, because the husband would have bought one too.

Again, love the ladies' cut.  Yep, I bought this too.  Yep, make this in a regular cut too so everyone can wear it!

A few of the other establishments in Radiator Springs are represented in merchandise as well, including t-shirts and signs.

Since we've talked about a wish list, I also thought it would be so cute to have a little plush of the baby tractor pulling the carts in Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.  There's a die cast of it, but die cast is a little hard to cuddle.  :)

If you get a chance to come out and see Cars Land (and Buena Vista Street) for the holiday season, I highly recommend it.  The pictures above are only a fraction of the amazing decorations and details that you'll see.

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