Christmas at Disney’s Yacht Club

We knew we wanted to spend Christmas Day at Disney World (outside the parks for crowd and AP blockout reasons) and have Christmas dinner at one of the restaurants. We couldn’t decide which, though, so we changed our ressies several times. But when we read about the new Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club, we settled on that the day before. And we were so glad we did.

Of course we love the Yacht Club – it is our home resort at WDW ever since our first stay there back in 1999 (the Contemporary was Kathy’s first back in 1982). We were very impressed with Ale and Compass – the decor, the food, and the service.

Christmas Lunch
by Rich

Starter (Shared)
Oven-roasted Oysters
with Spinach and Creamed Kale, White Cheddar, and Cornbread Crumbs

Entree – Kathy
Maine Lobster Roll
with choice House-made Vinegar Chips

Entree – Rich
Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich
with Caramelized Onions, Poached Egg, Fennel, Watercress, and Tomato Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette

Wine – Kathy
Domaine Savary Chablis, Burgundy

Wine – Rich
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley

The oven-roasted oysters were fabulous, just the right start to the meal. The breading and accompaniments to the oysters were in perfect proportion to the oysters.

Kathy’s lobster roll was wonderful – not over-dressed, just delicious chunks of lobster on a nicely-sized roll. Kathy enjoyed an ideal pairing of hard-to-find Chablis.

Rich’s medium-rare skirt steak was incredible – tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The caramelized onions and truffle vinaigrette were especially nice touches. The Syrah was a splendid pairing, achieving a lovely balance between blackberry fruit and sweet smokiness.

After our meal we walked the Boardwalk, stopping at our usual kissing spot, and popped into the Boardwalk where we were each offered a complimentary peppermint sugar cookie. We continued our walk full circle to the Yacht Club – Rich even skipped his usual Boardwalk skip – and two stools at the Hurricane Hanna pool bar called our names and we each had a Margarita.

We chatted with other guests from St. Augustine, noting that this is the real replacement for the Trout Pass Bar at Wilderness Lodge. It has the same vibe that Geyser Point sadly does not quite have with so many families gathering there.

After our cocktails and conversation (love this about Disney World), we were in search of coffee before we hit the road and ended up at Beaches and Cream where Rich got us two coffees and two ice cream sandwiches (huge but yummy – lol) while Kathy grabbed us a table overlooking Stormalong Bay.

We stopped in at the gift shop where Yacht Club coffee cups captured our attention, made our purchases and then we drive back to the beach.

It was a gorgeous day out – low 70s compared to mid 50s at the beach. What an awesomely perfect Christmas! Disney for the day was even better being able to return to our new home at the beach.

Aunt Catfish’s on the River ala Art Smith

We took some time out from packing up the resort to scout out some of the neighboring beach cities and when we spotted Aunt Catfish’s on the River in Port Orange, we knew we had to stop there for lunch.

We asked to be seated on the porch (inside they were serving a brunch buffet) but we were able to order off the regular menu. Looking for something reasonably healthy, I was dismayed to notice that everything cane with a hush puppy and their “famous” cinnamon roll.

I don’t usually eat cinnamon rolls unless they’ve come highly recommended and I had determined I would ignore it when it came with my sautéed shrimp and cucumber/tomato salad. But as soon as I saw it I knew I would have to taste it.

OMG (I also try to avoid that, too, but trust me – it was definitely OMG-worthy)!! The most amazing cinnamon roll ever!! We’ve since learned you can get boxes in different sizes to go and that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

The hush puppy was special, too, with a crusty outside and soft flavorful with a hint of sweetness inside – they can sometimes be a bit bland. Best hush puppy ever and I go back to Biloxi, Mississippi in the 1980s for my first hush puppy.

Rich had the Catfish with grits lunch and we both had a Bloody Mary, creating our own brunch. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after church? I’m already thinking about the Fried Green Tomato BLT.

This is the old Florida experience Chef Art Smith is going for at Homecomin’ at Disney Springs, which is a favorite of ours, but at about a third of the cost and a whole lot closer to home, we might just stick to the real deal.

Thanksgiving at Sanaa

We tossed around many ideas for Thanksgiving, made and canceled a few ressies  and settled in Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was a very good choice!

Some of you may recall our first Sanaa Thanksgiving meal back in 2011. The African flavors offer a tasty twist to what could be a boring traditional turkey dinner. We asked our server for a wine recommendation and we went with the Black Pearl Mischief Maker, which paired very well with the turkey dinner.

Btw, she gave us a very generous poor but the photo was taken well into the meal. 🙂

For dessert we shared the African Spice Cake,

(This year Sanaa also offered a couple of alternatives to turkey,)

And the atmosphere at Animal Kingdom Lodge in general! Dark, cozy, inviting, peaceful all decorated for Christmas with traditional Christmas music sung by beautiful African voices.

And tne there’s the service – so very warm and friendly. Simply superb!

We were seated at a table for two next to a large window overlooking the Savanna. It was feeding time for the animals and we spotted quite a few. Afterwards, we stopped by Jambo House for shopping and atmosphere soaking.

We just may make Sanaa our annual tradition.

 

First Look at JBs Post Irma

JBs Fish Camp in New Smyrna Beach, with the ocean on one side and the intracoastal on the other, didn’t fare well with Hurricane Irma. In fact, the inside portion of the restaurant, including kitchen, is all being rebuilt. The outside bar with picnic tables is still there and we stopped in last week to get one of their Salted Sea Dogs, my favorite drink. Right away we saw how the parking lot and stage area is still a bit flooded.

The restaurant should reopen in 2 or 3 weeks.

Anniversary Celebration at Morimoto Asia

By Rich

After driving through a huge Florida rain storm to get to Disney Springs, we were pleased that the weather had cleared as we arrived for our anniversary dinner at Morimoto Asia. This restaurant has been on our list of must-dos since we first heard about it.

We checked in at the front desk at 7:10 for our 7:30 reservation. We were seated immediately at a table for two upstairs along the glass railing overlooking the downstairs dining room. This was a great location. It was less crowded than downstairs, and we had a great view of the whole restaurant.

Before arriving, we had reviewed the menu and selected what we wanted to eat and drink. However, when we looked at the menu, and then talked with our server, we found out that the drinks we were expecting to order (Singapore Sling for Kathy, a Morimotini for me) were no longer available. Instead, we both chose the Momo Mai Tai. It was a very tasty, and potent, choice. We did manage to order the four appetizers we had planned.

Menu

Drinks

Momo Mai Tai

Wicked Dolphin Dark Rum, Cruzan Light Rum, Passion Fruit, Blood Orange, orgeat, Pineapple

Appetizers

Rock Shrimp Tempura

Signature tempura rock shrimp, spicy gochujang aioli

Tuna Pizza

Crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeño, anchovy aioli

Morimoto Spare Ribs

Pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze

Kakuni Pork Bao

Steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo

Dessert

Cream Caramel

Yuzu caramel sauce, black sesame whipped cream, black sesame air cake

The architecture and atmosphere at Morimoto Asia is amazing. Well-conceived modern Asian design with interesting seating and decorations. It was fun just to look around at everything. The ambiance created a perfect setting for us to share our celebratory anniversary experience.

After we sorted out our drink order, we ordered the first three appetizers (minus the Pork Bao). Once the other appetizers arrived, we realized we wanted the Pork Bao too and added that to our order. Sharing small plates over a couple yummy drinks is one of our favorite ways to dine. And this was the epitome of this kind of dining.

I could not share the shrimp, but Kathy was blown away by the great flavors of this signature dish from Morimoto. The tuna pizza, another signature dish, was full of flavor and texture, enhanced even more when our server brought us some soy sauce to drizzle on it. Wow!

The spare ribs were the ideal sticky, Asian-style ribs we love so much. We could have eaten more of these. And the savory steam buns were filled with flavorful pork belly and a mayo with some kick.

Kathy asked me which appetizer was my favorite, and I didn’t have an answer. They were all incredible.

We were unsure if we wanted dessert, but since we wanted to linger, we decided to share an order of the cream caramel. We had a bit of a wait for the dessert to be delivered. The cream caramel itself was rich and delicious. The black sesame whipped cream and air cake added a bit of an odd savory flavor, but nonetheless, this was a nice ending to a marvelous anniversary dinner.

We’ve had some incredible dining experiences in our 21 years of marriage, and this ranks up there as one of the best.

Thoughts by Kathy:

As fans of all those cooking shows on TV, we were really curious about Morimoto’s food. And then when Deb Wills talked about the new late night cocktail menu and how, in her younger days, she might have downed them all – lol – well, we just had to experience this. And I know exactly what she means. Really cool vibe – kind of like an updated contemporary 70s Disco – at least like the one I used to frequent several nights a week. All that was missing was the dance floor. Oh, and maybe some disco balls.

The food was amazing and even the Mai Tai had a special flavor of its own. Rich couldn’t help me with the Shrimp so I took some of it home and had it for lunch the next day – yum!

We didn’t announce our anniversary, unlike our birthdays. Last year was the big 20th anniversary cruise and we wanted to play it a little more low key this year.

This was our first time at Disney Springs at night and it is so fabulous – very Vegas in a good way and now trumps Downtown Disney at Disneyland.

We stopped by Art Smith’s Homecoming, which we’re hoping to check out later this fall when we might be more in the mood for a bigger meal. It looked quite inviting and I’m sure it’s delicious, but I don’t really eat fried chicken any more. Still, we do want to try it.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming

Outside seating for street fare, Morimoto’s

Entrance to Morimoto Asia

Floating staircase leading to upstairs dining

Table for two seating along the upstairs rail

Morimoto’s Mai Tai – delish!

Rich enjoyed his Mai Tai

Kathy enjoying her Mai Tai in lieu of Singapore Sling, which is no more

 

Signature dish – tuna pizza

Signature dish – shrimp tempura

Ribs, appetizer portion

Bao buns

Cream caramel

After our meal, we strolled around Disney Springs to take a look after dark, stopped to listen to a band, and then a night time view of Morimoto’s all lit up – really cool!

Evening entertainment Tuesday-Thursday

Amphicar

The Boathouse at night

Morimoto’s all lit up

Rich’s Birthday Celebration Part 1: Na-vi River Journey and Nomad Lounge

One of the fun things about living here is checking for FastPass+ for some of the more popular rides in the 30-day window – you never know what you might find. We’d heard about the craziness of Pandora’s opening day (just entering the park had to be scheduled), and thought we might not be able to ride either of the two new rides until after the summer crowds were over.

But I happened to notice an opportunity for the night before Rich’s birthday and thought what a fun birthday kickoff that would be. Besides, he was taking his birthday off so it would be okay if we were out late on a work night. This was also the first time we’d experience Animal Kingdom at night since they started extending the hours. For most of its history, it would close around 7 pm or so, and we had only experienced it during the morning hours.

We arrived at the park at around 6 pm or so (I think our FP was for about 7 pm), parked, and trammed to the entrance. We noticed right away that there was a lot of shade at this time of day, which was a relief because AK can be very hot. It was busy but not unpleasantly so. We stopped off at Guest Relations so Rich could get his birthday button. He got a lot of happy birthday wishes. We even stopped at PhotoPass, the first we’d done that since we got our APs.

We explored Pandora and were very impressed with it. Animal Kingdom used to be somewhere we’d go about every 5 years – lol! But now it may be our second favorite park, although it’s certainly giving Epcot a run for its money.

We enjoyed the ride so much, we’ve made another FP and can’t wait to return. (Besides, we need to see the rest of the park because we really didn’t see much other than Pandora).

Afterwards we stopped in at Nomad Lounge and peeked into Tiffins. We were quite impressed with both. But with birthday dinner the next day, we were there for appetizers and drinks. It was a bit warm outside so we found a nice air-conditioned table and chairs inside and ordered our drinks.

Rich got the Lamu Libation, a Rum Runner type drink, and I got the Hightower Rocks, a watermelon Margarita – so refreshing! Then we ordered the Florida LionFish Tacos and Pork Ribs. The tacos were refreshing, although the shell was too dainty and broke, making eating it a bit difficult. But the ribs, oh my goodness, absolutely delicious!

Afterwards, we walked around outside the lounge, making plans to return next time after dark when it’s a bit cooler out there. The tables for two are a bit small so that might be best saved for drinks only, although there are couches and tables for larger parties.

We headed back to Pandora to take another look around in the dark – the atmosphere is so amazing. We’d skipped dessert at Nomad Lounge (Churros was the only choice), so we picked up some dessert at a walk-up – some kind of cream cheese pineapple eggroll, I think. It was tasty, although the filling squirted out and got a bit messy.

Anyway, we then headed back to our “resort,” which is about 45-minutes to an hour away, depending on where we are in the park and traffic. But, having lived 2 miles from WDW for a year, we know the back roads pretty well.

It was really a wonderful way to kick off Rich’s birthday. Unlike my birthday when we did a morning activity, back to the resort, and then back to Disney for dinner, we split it up – evening activity the night before, back to the resort for a restful morning, and then back to Disney for birthday dinner.

The lush Pandora grounds

The ceiling in the Nomad Lounge (while there we chatted with a couple who lived in Windermere, where we used to live). They were staying onsite for the wife’s birthday.

Lamu Libation

Hightower Rocks

LionFish Tacos

Pork Ribs


Looking back at Nomad Lounge