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An outpost at the intersection of Life and Disney

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Charming Cave, A Valuable Lesson

Greetings Adventurers!

I'm reporting to you at the start of Day Three of our "personal food & wine festival" here on the shores of Crescent Lake.

I don't know if any of our previous reports have successfully made it back to the Veranda (we had high hopes for the passenger pigeons, but in retrospect I'm starting to wonder).  Suffice it to say we've found some rousing successes, and are accumulating invaluable field notes to be properly compiled and cataloged when we return.

Until then, here's a tidbit from Day One:

La Cava del Tequila is an exotic oasis hidden in a sweltering tropical furnace.  We secured a charming nook and tucked in for some chips, Queso, and a pair of the local beverages:

WDW 2012 Sept 75
I believe the drinks are called "Margaritas"

The food and drink were an unqualified success, but next came an important Life Lesson - when travelling, allow yourself time to adjust to the local climate.  Braced by our success at La Cava, we naively ventured forth out of the cave to discover new horizons, and that is when it hit us. Chips, Queso, and margaritas are one thing when safely ensconced in a cool, comfortable, cave - but when combined with the steamy tropical sun they certainly pack a wallop!

Cucumber margarita
These are cool and refreshing, but they are not for lightweights!

Perhaps the indigenous population find warm cheese and tequila to be just the thing to prepare one for the afternoon heat and humidity (or perhaps that's why they kept saying something about "siesta").

We managed to execute a recovery of sorts (the details are fuzzy, but I believe we found soft pretzels and bottled water to be a helpful remedy), but we spent the balance of the day in something of a heat-induced stupor.

But fear not, even under those circs we found some delightful snacks, and a good night's rest put us right. The next day we set out both refreshed and wiser in the ways of the world.

More updates later,

- The Management

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Humble Beginnings

As it turns out, our expedition to Crescent Lake included a stop-over at a rustic nearby village.  The hour of our arrival was late, so quickly after receiving a warm welcome, we toddled down to the cooking fires to see what food could be found.

And what did we find?  Well, one doesn't want to sound ungracious, so let's just say the options were limited. However, we Adventurers are accustomed to the vagaries of travel and quickly made our selection (Angus cheeseburgers with bacon) and trundled to our rooms:

A humble, but satisfying dinner
Modest Beginnings

Fortunately, we had arranged to rendezvous with some dear friends that night, and they had the foresight to bring along a bottle of wine -  an appealing 2009 Reserve Cab Franc from Virginia:

2009 Cab Franc Reserve
A bit of the grape can add life to even the simplest of meals

Taken as a whole, the dinner wasn't half bad. The burgers were satisfying, and the wine added a touch of refinement to the humble surroundings.  Afterward, we settled down for the night, confident that better times awaited us on the morrow.

More updates are forthcoming,

- The Management

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Food & Wine - Native Guides

The caravan is packed, and the expedition is under way!  In less than 24 hours, our "personal Food & Wine Festival" will commence.

Although some of our members prefer the mad spontaneity of "winging it", it is rarely a good idea to venture into the field totally blind.  So, in addition to our (ahem) not inconsiderable experience with eating and drinking in the vicinity of Crescent Lake, we also consulted the following invaluable travelogues from renowned Native Guides:

Timon the Server
Looking for some Grub(s)? 

As promised, we will attempt to send periodic dispatches from the field (there is still some internal debate about the relative merits of messenger pigeons, smoke signals, notes-in-a-bottle, and jungle drums - but I'm confident we can make something work).

Bye for now,

- The Management

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Food, Wine, and Festivities


Our next Disney trip is just around the corner, and we've decided to try something different this time.

Here at the veranda, we believe in Leisure With Dignity - and in that spirit my wife and I have decided to conduct our very own "private little food and wine festival for two." The plan is to dedicate four nights and three leisurely days to food, beverages, and exploration at Epcot's World Showcase and the adjacent resort area.

EPCOT Nov2005 392

I'm sure we are not the first to pass this way, but this is something that's been on our minds for a while now, and we're excited to give it a try.

We really like the official Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, but having done that a few times, we've reached some conclusions:
  • In years past, some of the items we enjoyed the most were available year-round (like the soft pretzels at Germany).
  • Juggling snacks and drinks while standing around  is not our favorite pastime. Finding a place to sit, with a table (or at least a place to put our comestibles), gives us a better opportunity to appreciate what we eat.

EPCOT Nov2005 476
Not exactly our favorite table...

The world showcase is loaded with wonderful details. Our goal is to "go beyond the promenade", seek out quiet spots, take in the surroundings, and let ourselves be transported to far-off locales.

img.jpg 321

Of course, we will also be investigating some of the Epcot area's more recent additions with great anticipation.

Via Napoli card
Did someone say Wine Bar?

The edible excellence doesn't stop at the turnstiles. Just across the International Gateway, the Epcot resort area also beckons - and that is a call we intend to answer.

Learning to Fly

We will be bringing the cameras along, and our goal is to dispatch updates throughout the weekend.

Stay tuned,

- The Management

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Columbia Restaurant

Greetings Adventurers!

Here at the Veranda, our members believe that a restaurant can be more than simply a place to eat, and that a great meal is more than just tasty food.  We understand there are times when food, friends, and setting come together in a way that turns dinner into An Evening.

Some of our members recently had just such an adventure at the historic (and tasty) Columbia Restaurant in the Ybor City district of Tampa, Florida.

Columbia Restaurant Tampa June 2012 - 1

Founded in 1905, the Columbia Restaurant claims to be Florida's oldest restaurant, and (perhaps more remarkably) has remained family-owned for over 100 years.

It began as a small cafe serving Spanish, Cuban, and Italian immigrants - but today it covers an entire city block and is has been recognized as one of the finest restaurants in the United States (check out their list of awards).

We were impressed with the Columbia's exterior - which features beautiful painted tiles (and historic markers documenting some of Ybor City's rich history).

Columbia Restaurant Tampa June 2012 - 3

Columbia Restaurant Tampa June 2012 - 2 Columbia Restaurant Tampa June 2012 - 6

On the inside, the Columbia consists of multiple rooms.  We dined in the historic "Cafe Room".  This was great because of the historic tile work and pictures on display in the room (and also because of the live piano jazz).  We were also close enough to hear (although could not see) the live Flamenco dancing which the Columbia is also famous for.

We decided to check out their menu online before arriving - which was a good thing, because it is almost a book in itself.  Most of the menu items come with a little story sharing the origins of the dish.  Several of these stories also give glimpses into the storied history of the restaurant.  Their menu is faithfully reproduced on their web site (I encourage you to check out the dinner menu -- it is a good read, but prepare to become famished!).

Columbia Restaurant Tampa June 2012 - 4
The online copy of the dinner menu is worth checking out!

We began by sharing some *tasty* Cuban bread and Tapas:
  • Gambas Barbacoa - Char-grilled shrimp and red onion skewers, seasoned and brushed with chimichuri sauce. 
  • Empanadas de Picadillo - Grandmother's recipie, served with roasted corn and black bean salsa. 

For the main course, everyone at our table decided to order something different.  This was great, since it allowed everyone to sample and share:
  • Pompano en Papillot - Pompano fish with seafood stuffing, wrapped in parchment and baked. 
  • Roast Pork "A la Cubana" - Served with black beans, white rice, yuca and plantanos.
  • Arroz con Pollo "Valenciana" - The best chicken and yellow rice I have ever eaten. 
  • Paella "A la Velanciana" - Seafood, chicken, pork, yellow rice and veg.  Individually prepared in a traditional pealla pan.  Simply magnificent. 
Be Advised - The portions of Arroz con Pollo and the Paella were *each* enough food for two or three people, but it was all so good...

I was particularly impressed by how the Arroz con Pollo and the Paella each had a distinct flavor - even though they shared many of the same basic ingredients.

To accompany our Spanish feast, we selected a bottle of Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec 2009 from Argentina from the extensive and amazing wine list. 

As you may have guessed by now, we were extremely impressed by the Columbia restaurant.  So much so that we left with a bag of goodies from the giftshop, including a very neat cookbook and a sangria-in-a-bag kit (complete with ingredients, a hand-painted pitcher, and a wooden spoon :-]).

Columbia Restaurant Accessories - 1
The cookbook is also available on Amazon.com

In summary, we had a fabulous evening at The Columbia Restaurant, and will certainly be back for more.

We encourage you to check it out for yourself.  Although we suggest you venture to their original location in Tampa's Ybor City, they also have eight other locations throughout Florida (including one in Celebration, FL).

Bon Appetit,

- The Management