Friday, July 12, 2013

Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando Summer 2013

Two Saturdays ago, we departed for Fort Lauderdale.  We spent most of the day driving during which I occupied myself with The Anthropology of an American Girl, a Rolling stone article on upcoming author Tao Lin (I couldn't resist someone who could give Brett Easton Ellis a run for his money), and "Frasier" streaming on Netflix.

We spent our first day at the beach, conveniently located across the street from our hotel.  We lounged and played in the waves until it was time for lunch.  We went to this wonderful beachside eatery, The Oasis Cafe, famed for being "home of the swings."  All of the booths and tables were built on gliders which swayed back and forth as we ate.  I had a mussels dish which was to die for.

We spent our evening doing dinner and a movie at the Aventura Mall.  Our film for the evening was "The Bling Ring" which we were all kind of disappointed by.  The story is interesting and the direction is beautiful but the acting was a little subpar.

Monday we dedicated to shopping and came across a couple of really interesting malls.  The first, the Oasis at Sawgrass Mills, is home to a life size replica of the Barbie Dream House, one of only two in the world.  All four of us were very enamored by what went on inside, and well there was only one way to find out.  We went on a tour of the pink palace.  There is really no way to describe it, except fun.  Morgan and I were the oldest "kids" there, the rest were between four and ten and accompanied by their moms.  I don't think there was one person in the tour who was not enjoying themselves.

We spent the latter portion of our day back at the Aventura Mall.  And this was a really great mall with some awesome stores, but their real crowning achievement was their all eats.  This wasn't just Sbarro, Great American Cookie, and soft pretzels.  Morgan had a crepe at Crepe Maker and there was a stand dedicated entirely to caviar, but my favorite was The Cheese Course.  This is a shop that sells cheese by the pound but also a restaurant which specializes in custom cheese boards.  We got a three cheese board which featured three cheeses of your choosing, two accompaniments (nuts, fruits, etc to compliment the cheese), and French bread.  We had Roquefort Blue Cheese, Beecher's Reserve Cheddar, and Red Dragon and for our accompaniments we had candied walnuts and mixed olives.  I paired it with a glass of Chardonnay and immediately was in heaven.

Tuesday was spent having a Miami adventure.  Caroline was there for the day so we met for lunch at Havana 1957 for some cuban food.  The stars of the meal had to be the red sangria and fried plantains.

We walked down the street some and wandered into Momo Cha Teahouse.  I had an awesome Taro Bubble Tea.  I had only ever had Taro frozen yogurt, but I really enjoyed the tea variety.  I think I have finally learned to love the tapioca bubbles.

We spent the rest of the night traveling to Orlando and slept in the next morning.  Our first order of business was to find somewhere to get fresh gel nails since mine and Mom's were both looking a little shabby.  We found Image Nails and they did not disappoint.  I fell in love with the OPI color You're Such a Budapest.

From there we went to Whole Foods.  Living over an hour away from one, this is always a fun adventure.  We got a build your own six pack, I mixed my own granola, and we left with many treats from the bakery.  We got this really great beer, Key West Sunset, which was brewed locally by the Florida Beer Company.

We spent our evening at Downtown Disney seeing "Monster's University."  We all loved it.  It is just as delightful as the original and with some great new voice actors including Charlie Day and Beth Behrs.

The next morning Dad, Morgan, and I got up and went to the Magic Kingdom when they opened.  We went to Ariel's Grotto for the first time since they opened new Fantasyland and we enjoyed a cinnamon role in Gaston's Tavern.  It still amazes me how much the tavern looks like the movie.

We got our picture with the kookiest of Peter and Wendy's and played the new interactive pirate game in Adventureland.

For lunch we ate at Burger 21.  My family had eaten there before and I had heard much talk about how good it was.  I had the ahi tuna burger and the milkshake of the month, this month's flavor being chai tea.

Tonight for dinner we ate at the Palm.  We started the meal with calamari and lobster bisque.  Then we feasted upon steak, half & half (Half onion rings, Half potato chips), brussels sprouts, and potatoes au gratin.  Mom and I split a bottle of Erocia Riesling, which we both agreed was the best wine we'd ever had.

We spent the next morning in Hollywood Studies, the highlight of which was meeting Ralph and Vanellope from "Wreck-It Ralph."  They have an adorable permanent venue in The Magic of Animation made to look like you're in the Sugar Rush video game.  The queue to meet them looks like you are in Game Central Station looking out of games and into the arcade.

We stayed in on Saturday morning and watched a delightful episode of "Barefoot in the City" in which Ina learned how to prepare the perfect bagel and sent Jeffery to a spice store to pick up the perfect seasoning mix for her sweet potato fries.  I could not find any videos to attach from this particular episode so I have left you with one of my favorites, Ina's Fresh Whiskey Sours.

Dad, Morgan, and I went to Universal to ride the new Transformers ride.  It was a lot of fun, very similar to Spiderman but more Michael Bay with car chases and explosions.  While in Universal, we also walked through the new Springfield expansion.  The highlight of this expansion had to be Moe's Tavern.  It is an exact replica of the bar where Homer and the gang hang out.  They even serve Duff beer brewed exclusively for the parks.

We ate dinner at what has quickly become one of our Orlando favorites, Hot N Juicy Crawfish.  We ate there last summer after having purchased a coupon and could not wait to go back.  You pick your seasoning and spice level and then can get all sorts of seafood boiled--shrimp, crawfish, crab legs, etc.  We got shrimp, crawfish, sausage, potatoes, and corn in the medium level Hot N Juicy Special Seasoning and it was wonderful.  The perfect meal to pair with an ice cold Budlight.

We headed over to EPCOT to spend our last day at Disney.  I started the day right by having my picture taken with my favorite princess, Belle.

We stopped in Italy for lunch at Via Napoli.  We enjoyed delicious calamari and pizza and had the two most adorable waiters.  It was great getting to talk to them about their homes in Italy and experience working with Disney.

Of course we stopped in Japan for some of our favorite shopping and Morgan and I came home with new friends, Chococat and Rilakkuma.

Before leaving, we stopped in the new ice cream shop in France.  I had some of the best pistachio ice cream.  It was really almost too pretty to eat.

For our last dinner in Orlando, we decided to try something new.  We had a coupon for the House of Blues and they had great review son Urbanspoon and Yelp! so we decided this was our place.  Honestly, after walking past the House of Blues dozens of times and even having gone to a show there, I had no idea there was a restaurant.  The decor was great.  Folk art covers every inch of the walls and we even found some works from our personal favorites, Sam the Dot Man and Georgia's very own Howard Finster.  The beautiful bar in the back of the main dining room was completely "Blues Brothers" themed (John Belushi and Dan Akroyd were two of the founders of the original House of Blues).  The food was just as great as our surroundings.  We started the meal with divine BBQ Chicken Flatbread.  I had grilled Mahi Mahi with what had to be the best mashed potatoes I've ever eaten.  We closed the meal (and our trip) with scrumptious key lime pie and bread pudding.

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