Saturday, August 26, 2006

Restaurant Review - Mama Fu's Asian House, Mall of Millenia, Orlando, FL

UPDATE 12/23/06 - Well, the Mama Fu's outside of Millenia Mall has bit the dust - completely gone and already replaced with another store. However, as far as I know, the Lake Mary Mama Fu's is still open.

Today for lunch we ate lunch at Mama Fu's Asian House at the strip mall directly outside the Millenia Mall. We actually ate there about a year ago, I believe the first few days the restaurant opened, and I wasn't that impressed. But, I decided to give it another try since they were new when I first went.

Mama Fu's is in the same tradition as Doc Chuy's (near Florida Mall) and Pei Wei - kind of fast casual Asian fusion cuisine. I've never tried Pei Wei but I really like Doc Chuy's. Both Doc's and Mama's offer counter service for lunch and then table service for dinner. Since it was lunch time, we stepped up to the counter to order our food. Mama Fu's has a beautiful decor, rich reds and golden yellows, with fountains and Asian touches for accents. The menu is on a board to the left of the ordering counter. Lunch offers appetizers (a large selection), soups (Thai coconut or wonton), entree salads, signature dishes where you choose your meat and then how you want it cooked (teriyaki, honey seared, red Thai curry, etc), and noodle bowls (Pad Thai, Lo Mein, Thai Fun Noodles, and Spicy Basil). For the dinner menu, steak, grouper, and baby back ribs get added as well as desserts.

I have to tell you that one of the reasons I didn't like Mama Fu's the first time I went was because I ordered two of my favorite Thai dishes - Thai Coconut Soup and a Pad Thai Noodle Bowl with chicken. They did not taste anything like what I would get at a Thai restaurant. Not exactly bad... just different. So I decided to stay away from the Thai dishes this time. One of the dishes I had liked last time was an appetizer that Grandpa had gotten - the Dynamite Shrimp. It is shrimp coated in a spicy crispy topping and then drizzled with a creamy sauce, served on top of Asian slaw. So, I got that as my main lunch meal - in Big Mama size for $7.99. All of the appetizers come in either Mama size or a bigger Big Mama size -- nice if you want to share. I also got the wonton soup for $1.99. For the boys, I ordered off of the kids' menu. There are three choices, all for $3.49 and come with a drink and a chocolate chip cookie - Dragon Tails (chicken fingers with mac-n-cheese), Scooby "Fu" (honey garlic chicken with mac-n-cheese), and Ninja Noodles (Teriyaki chicken over noodles or rice). I got both of them the Dragon Tails. I thought it was a nice touch to serve chicken fingers with mac-n-cheese -- two of my kids' favorites in one meal. Grandma and Grandpa were not too hungry so they chose off the appetizer menu as well. They order the Mama size Beef Curry Rolls for $3.99 and each got a soup - Grandma got the wonton as well and Grandpa decided to try the Thai Coconut. After paying, the cashier gave us a number to put on our table and said the food would be delivered when it was ready.

We got our drinks (they offer a selection of hot teas or they have Blackberry Jasmine and regular China Mist iced tea at the drink station) and sat down. Grandpa noticed the condiment bar and came back with soy sauce, hot mustard, and hot sauce, all in nice little glass containers for our table. In a few minutes, our soups showed up and the kids' food as well. Everything was served on real plates in a fun, colorful pattern. My wonton soup was fantastic! It came with two shrimp and pork wontons and the broth was very flavorful and filled with scallions, carrots, and baby spinach leaves. Grandma liked hers as well. Grandpa didn't so much care for the Thai Coconut soup. I tried it again - yep, I still didn't like it. It was too coconutty and just didn't taste right. Plus, it had tomatoes in it - not a typical Thai soup ingredient. The boys got three small strips of chicken and a small portion of mac-n-cheese -- however, with the way my kids eat, it was just right. When I was about halfway through my soup, my Dynamite Shrimp and the Beef Curry Rolls arrived. Yummy! My Dynamite Shrimp was as tasty as I remembered. I must have had about 10 small-to-medium shrimp on top of the slaw. The spice is slow to gather so it wasn't until I was almost finished that I started to feel the hot spices. The slaw really helped to cool it down. Grandma and Grandpa also liked the Beef rolls - although Grandma declared the sauce that accompanied it was too spicy. The boys did pretty well, finishing most of the macaroni, and each a finger of chicken and then started begging me for their cookies. I finally gave in - the cookies were nice and big with hunks of chocolate chips. The servers were very nice and kept checking back with us so I asked for a to-go box for the leftover chicken fingers. They brought back a very cute mini Chinese to-go carton to put them in. What was the best part? We got to leave the table as is as they come and clean up your table as well. So, I would go back, but I'd still avoid all of the Thai dishes. I'll have to try Mama Fu's for dinner one time as well.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sharing True Life Fast Food Toys Article

I found this article on Chief Marketer at This is exactly what my life is with Fast Food toys so I thought I'd share! This was written by Beth Negus Viveiros on

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
By Beth Negus Viveiros, from Chief Marketer
Most likely, someplace that sells chicken nuggets.
So how do you choose where you go out to dinner? Maybe you look for a cozy little bistro with a nice wine list? Or you ponder whether to nosh on upscale Italian or sushi?If you're dining with a small child, chances are your criteria runs more along the lines of "What toys do they have this week? Does Burger King still have 'Superman Returns' stuff? Which 'Pirates of the Caribbean' thing does McDonald's have? Is it the sword? He really wants the sword. Wendy's has what? Six Flags toys? What the heck are they, action figures of the bald dancing guy?"We've got oodles and oodles of this crap lying around our house. I shouldn't say crap. Well, some of it is crap. But a lot of the toys are quite nifty.Burger King seems to come up with the most quality swag. Last summer's "Star Wars" movie may have been kind of lame, but the little wind-up toys are still a big hit around our house, particularly the cute little Stormtrooper, who pals around with the wind-up "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" characters we got at BK a few months ago.McDonald's comes in second. Since my toddler is obsessed with the commercials for the movie, the recent "Pirates" toys were a hit (even if the inflatable sword did pop a couple of hours after he got it). The "Cars" vehicles were also enjoyed. He's also keen on a "Power Rangers" motorcycle his grandmother got him when she ate a Happy Meal. (Hey, who says folks over sixty can't be happy too?)Third is Wendy's, even if they do have the best fries and offer kids oranges as a side dish option (very popular in our household). More often than not, when we go to Wendy's the toy being given out doesn't match what's being advertised in the restaurant's display case nor what is featured on the bag.This can cause quite a panic when you're dealing with someone who (literally) has the emotional maturity of a three-year-old. One time at Wendy's, we saw toys from the PBS cartoon "Maya & Miguel" on display. My son doesn't watch the show, but nonetheless quickly picked out which piece of junk he would like to get. We get the meal, and it comes in a "Teen Titans" bag, which is even more exciting, as that's one of his favorite cartoons. The toy inside? A stuffed mouse from a long ago "Stuart Little" promotion. He was not amused.Does this stuff have a marketing impact? Heck yeah. The toys often determine which fast food place we dine at, and you bet your nuggets my kid watches the commercials and knows which place has which toy.And while some might think these toys are disposable, if they don't break, they're around our house to stay. I'll occasionally try to thin the herd and retire a few premiums, but I'm smart enough to store them away in a closet and not throw them out. I can't. My son has them mentally cataloged better than the most anal historian at the Smithsonian.Will he remain a loyal fast food customer over time? Or, will he switch to salads and tofu when he starts elementary school? The former is more likely than the latter. Of course, if the tofu joint had some cool Spider-Man toys…

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Restaurant Review: RedBrick Pizza, S.R. 436, "Uptown Altamonte", Altamonte Springs, FL

RedBrick Pizza is a new restaurant in the "Uptown Altamonte" section of Altamonte Springs, located right next door to the Altamonte Mall. Uptown Altamonte is a brand-new area of restaurants and retail shops, with more to come. The boys, Grandma M., and I arrived for lunch on a recent Saturday, eager to escape the food court at the mall, where we had been back-to-school shopping. RedBrick's eating area is very open with various types of seating including booths along one wall. I immediately noticed that each booth had a small flat-screen TV so I made a beeline for one of those. BB, my seven year-old boy, grabbed the remote (yes, each TV had its own remote!) and started searching for Spongebob Squarepants. He quickly found it (I believe Spongebob is on 24 hours a day, you just have to keep switching channels to find him) and he and LB sat quietly entranced in the booth while Grandma M. and I perused the menu.

RedBrick is a "fast-casual" restaurant meaning you have to order at the counter but then they deliver the food to you at your table. Options are Pizzas (of course), Chopped Salads, and Fhazanis (pretty much a pizza folded in half to make a sandwich). There is also Gelato (Italian ice cream) for dessert. I liked how each pizza came in Small (for 1), Medium (for 2), and Large (for 4-6 people), with the same size options for the salads. Some of the featured "Gourmet Favorites" pizzas are traditional such as Four Cheese, Margarita, and various meat combos. Others are more in the vein of California Pizza Kitchen such as BBQ Chicken pizza, Thai Chicken, and Greek. Small pizza prices average $7, Medium are about $11, and Larges are about $17 (just cheese is around $14). Salad options are Caesar, regular green, Chinese Chicken, Greek, Italian, and a Salad of the Day - all for $4-$9, depending on the size. To keep it simple, I went up and ordered a medium Margarita pizza and a medium Caesar for us all to share. There's also a Kid's Meal available for the under 10 crowd - cheese or pepperoni kid pizza, small soda, and a small gelato for $6. But, I figured sharing would work out better as I never know if the kids are hungry or not. I also got each of us a medium drink for $1.50 a pop.

When I returned to the table, the boys were still deep into Spongebob and Grandma M. asked me which type of crust I had chosen for our pizza. Huh? I relooked at the menu and saw that in one corner it listed different flavor crusts such as Parmesan, Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper, and others. It's less than $1 to go with one of these "gourmet crusts". I guess they didn't train the employees about upsell here because no one mentioned these flavored crusts to me when I was ordering and they are not that prominent on the menu. At that moment, our Caesar salad arrived. It was the perfect size for the four of us as LB doesn't like lettuce and BB loves it. It was just your basic Caesar but was a nice appetizer as we waited for the pizza. The pizza came shortly after we finished the salad. It had nice big chunks of tomato on it, as a Margarita pizza should. And, the medium definitely would have fed just two as it came in four slices. Since we had already had salad, though, one slice a piece was fine. The pizza was nicely done, with a crispy crust that was doughy in the middle. Both boys ate every inch of their slices which means they must have really liked it.

I must mention a strange thing about the medium drinks - the lids don't fit on the cups properly. After getting lemonades and iced teas, I tried my best to put the lids on but they each had one little spot that didn't completely get covered. Why do I bring this up? Well, halfway through lunch, when BB reached for his drink, he tipped it a bit and SPLASH - it went all over him. I quickly jumped up and grabbed some napkins and told the employee filling up the straws that there had been a spill and can he get a towel or something. Apparently, RedBrick has a lot to learn as far as customer service goes, because he came to our table and handed me a paper towel to clean the spill up with. Yeah, I guess all spills are do-it-yourself here. Just so you know it isn't just me, another customer also spilled her medium drink while carrying it from the counter to her table, about 10 minutes after our incident. She also complained about the poor-fitting lids. So, you have been warned - you may want to bring your own drink containers!

Since the boys had done such a good job with lunch, I decided to treat everyone to some gelato. I wasn't really impressed with some of the flavors - a lot of fruits when I am all about chocolate - but the Bon-bon flavor looked like chocolate so I sampled some. Okay, even better, it was hazelnut gelato - hello! I got a small cup (and they ARE small) for us all to share for $2.50. Remember, gelato is very rich and is a lot thicker than ice cream so a little goes a long way. It ended up being a perfect size for the three of us to share - Grandma M. passed as she said she was full.

From a family point-of-view, I thought RedBrick was a great place to take the kids for pizza and to get a healthy dose of salads thrown in there as well. The employees have a lot to learn about taking care of the customer but they were never rude, it just seemed like they were not trained about how to treat the customer. The TV in the booth was a big winner as well... as long as your kids like to watch the same program. The menu noted that another RedBrick is going to be opening in The Loop, the new shopping area in Kissimmee so those of you in the southern part of Orlando can try it as well.

Copyright © by Restaurant Mom. All rights reserved.