Friday, January 30, 2009

Restaurant Review - Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show (inside WonderWorks), 9067 International Drive, Orlando, FL

Long name for a fun dinner showInside the WonderWorks attraction on International Drive is the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show. Having tried most of the dinner shows in the area, I was intrigued by this offering because of the relatively low price ($24.95 per adult, and $16.95 per kids and seniors), and because it offered all-you-can-eat pizza, which is my kids’ favorite meal. Plus, my kids like magic shows so we decided to give it a try.

There are two shows each night at 6 pm and 8 pm. The woman on the phone suggested I arrive at WonderWorks by 5:30 pm at the latest for the 6 pm show, as there are no assigned seats and the first in line get the best seats at the front of the stage.

WonderWorks is located right next door to The Pointe shopping area on I-Drive so we parked in the parking garage there. I didn't find out until I got inside WonderWorks that they do not validate Salty popcorn... in a hat!parking at The Pointe garage so factor in another $3 or so for parking. We arrived at the Will Call window at 5:15 pm, picked up our tickets, and found there were already several people in line in front of us. As Tom Petty says, "the waiting is the hardest part", especially with two active boys like mine. The doors to the showAverage tossed salad didn’t open until 6 pm sharp so we had 45 minutes to try and distract the boys while we were waiting. As the doors opened, hosts took each group separately to sit at long family-style tables set perpendicular to the stage, so you will be seated directly next to another group as each table holds about 18 people. We were lucky and were seated at the first table, in the middle. Already on the table was popcorn in upside down magician's hats so the boys dug in. A server came around asking for our drink orders. Choices are Pepsi soda products, along with fruit punch, or beer and wine, all unlimited. I ordered a white wine while BB had Sierra Mist and LB had just water (he doesn't like soda). As we received our drinks, servers began coming out with big bowls of salad, just a regular iceberg blend, with bottles of creamy Italian dressing. Again, this is family style, so we waited while the group in front of us scooped out some Cheese or Pepperoni pizzasalad and then they passed it to us. By now, the show area was almost full and it was getting close to the 6:30 pm show time.

As the show was starting, servers came out with the pizzas and placed them down approximately one pie per every six people. The six-slice pizzas were half pepperoni and half cheese and were pretty decent with a crispy crust and melted cheese. The servers checked back periodically throughout the show to refill drinks and bring more pizzas. BB ate a couple of pepperoni slices and then started on a cheese slice. LB had one cheese slice and was done as I think he ate too much of the popcorn.
Tony Brent performing his soda can illusion
The show magician is Tony Brent and I have to say his entire act was just amazing. We didn't really know what to expect and I was even thinking it might be magic that the kids would enjoy but that I would think was a little cheesy. It was incredible all the way. The tricks were outstanding and something that everyone could enjoy. The whole hour-long show included a lot of audience interaction, as well as comedy, card tricks, optical illusions, and all set to an 80's soundtrack. Who wouldn't love that?

Yum! Chocolate fudge cake!Right towards the end of the show, the servers came out with slices of chocolate cake, the kind like those square chocolate cakes you find in your grocer's freezer. You know the ones -- slightly cool cake interior with thick fudgy frosting. My kids and I thought it was great but several of the other folks around us passed on dessert. Oh well, more for us!

As the show ended, it was time to tip the servers so don't forget to bring cash with you to do so. All in all, this was a fantastic show, truly all ages family entertainment, and all-you-can-eat pizza and popcorn, too. What's not to like?

Find out more at: Outta Control Magic Comedy Show

Outta Control Magic Show on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quick Bites - Grow an Avocado Plant, Courtesy of Chevy's Fresh Mex

Our plant is doing well! Easy instructions are on the bag To prove that they use real avocados in the preparation of their guacamole, Chevy's Fresh Mex restaurants have started a promotion that offers the pit of the avocado to guests to "grow their own". The pit comes in a bag with instructions on how to start growing the avocado plant by placing toothpicks in it and suspending it in a water glass. My kids were very excited by this so we took home a bag and tried it. They watched as the roots and stem started to break out of the pit and we followed the instructions to prune the stem back when it was high enough. Once it was

Pick up a bag like this and have fun!
big enough, we transferred it to a pot and it is now sitting outside our front door and growing very well. So next time you are at Chevy's, don't forget to stop by the entrance and grab a pit in a bag.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Restaurant Review - Hagan O'Reilly's Irish Pub, 16112 Marsh Rd, Winter Garden, FL

Hagan O'Reilly's Irish PubI guess Winter Garden must be emerging as some sort of urban hotspot now. There is the new Winter Garden Village and now, Winter Garden's very own Irish Pub - Hagan O'Reilly's, at the intersection of 545 and Stoneybrook West Parkway/Hartwood Marsh Rd. The space is beautifully and fSee the Ireland map on the ceilingully decorated with an intricately carved indoor wood bar, a large outdoor patio with it's own bar, a main dining area with a large map of Ireland painted on the ceiling, small rooms with their own themes such as Cassidy's Cottage with stonework and a fireplace hearth, and then stained glass windows all along the front. We sat in the main dining room which is bright with small 4-person wood tables and an alcove for live Irish entertainment. Although it is a pub, kids are invited to come until 10 pm and they even have a kids menu.

There are lots of drink options on the menu (naturally since it is a pub) including many Irish and English draft beers and bottled beers, plus American beers as well as combinations such as Half & Half, Gold & Tan, plus wines and whiskeys, and full bar, too! I chose an Irish Harp on draft one time and then a glass of riesling the next time I went.

Mulligan Beef BitsFor an appetizer, we got the beef bits ($9.95) which was tender pieces of beef stewed in an ale gravy with carmelized onions and served with two pieces of bread to sop up the flavorful sauce. Not sure the portion was worth the $10 price but it was very tasty. Boxty!Next time I tried the Boxty potato pancakes ($7.95)... yum! Three large potato pancakes mixed with bits of corned beef and topped with a savory, but not too spicy, horseradish cream sauce. It was definitely delicious and I've ordered it as my appetizer every time since then.

Speaking of bread, we received a bread basket with three types of bread - a pretzel bread, a sourdough dill, and a popover style that had a sweet outer crust. All Dingle Bay Salmonwere delish and were served with cold butter. When I just went again recently, though, they had changed to a brown bread loaf with honey butter instead of the rolls.

Kids menu was well done with picky eater options such as Stuffed Pork Chopbuttered pasta, chicken fingers, or grilled cheese (all $4.50), but also a Jr. Shephard's Pie ($5.95) and Jr. Fish & Chips ($4.95).

I got the Dingle Bay Salmon ($18.95) which was a wonderful dish with dill leaves and a light butter sauce on top of the perfectly cooked salmon and then Champ (mashed potatoes with green onions) and wilted spinach. Grandma got the Fish & Chips ($12.95), which was three large fish pieces and a Fish 'n' Chipsgenerous portion of chips (fries). Grandpa got Hagan's Grilled Stuffed Pork Chop ($15.95) which was stuffed with a very strong bleu cheese filling and came with seasonal veggies and mashed potatoes. I thought it was too strong but he Beef Stew with a lamb chopate every bite - he loves bleu cheese. On another visit, I got Egan's Irish Stew ($11.95) consisting of a hearty beef stew with vegetables and topped with a bonus - a small lamb chop!

LB ordered the buttered pasta (his favorite) and we had to ask for shredded parmesan cheese on the side. He did pretty well but I don't think he was used to the thinner angel hair, preferring Shepherd's Piespaghetti or larger pastas. BB ordered the Junior Shepherd's Pie, which was served in a small ramekin and topped with an artful dollop of mashed potatoes. I tried some of his and it was good, lots of seasoned ground beef with carrots and peas. I might have to get the adult size on an upcoming visit.

For dessert, we had the Nutty Irishman coffee ($6) with Bailey's Irish Cream, Frangelica and chocolate sauce topped with freshly whipped cream. All of the Irish Coffees (and there are Nutty Irishmanabout 6 six of them) are $6 and come with various additives such as Irish Whiskey, or Bailey's Caramel, or Peppermint. On another visit, I got the Leprechaun's Coffee with Bushmill's whiskey and it was a little too much whiskey tasting for me. I'll stick with the Nutty Irishman. We got the Baily's Pot O'Cream dessert ($5.95)which said it was a custard Ashleigh's Chocolate Cake - a must for chocolate lovers!with the "scent" of Bailey's Irish Cream. It must have been a very light scent because it just tasted like vanilla pudding and that's it. Kind of like a vanilla creme brulee but without the carmelized sugar on top. Better dessert choices, that I had on subsequent visits are Uncle Patrick's Bread Pudding ($5.95) with a whiskey caramel sauce -- can still taste the overall bread taste without the whole piece being a big mush, which I like. And Princess Ashleigh's chocolate cake ($5.95) is just incredible, especially if you are a chocoholic. In fact, the menu doesn't do it justice, calling it just a chocolate layer cake. It is not. It is more like a fudge-based hunk of pure rich chocolate served with fresh whipped cream. I'll definitely be getting that one again. I got the kids the scoop of ice cream ($1.95) which was a large scoop with, again, the fresh whipped cream. LB liked his vanilla but mostly ate the whipped cream while BB ate his chocolate ice cream.
Live Irish folk music
There is live music every night except on Sundays and Mondays. There is a bar area inside and a separate bar outside that has live music on two nights of the week. The inside live music is Irish folk music, at least it was the four times I've been there. It was also a different musician each time -- I didn't know there were that many Irish singers in Central Florida!

When you finally step outside of Hagan O'Reilly's, you really don't feel like you are in Winter Garden anymore, but feel like you just travelled across an ocean and had a nice Irish meal and great entertainment.

Find out more here: Hagan O'Reilly's

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