Thursday, May 28, 2009

Restaurant Musings - Another Orlando area restaurant bites the dust

Well, another Orlando-area restaurant has closed - Amira's kosher deli in Altamonte Springs. We had just eaten there two weeks ago and the boys really liked it! It seems that on a daily basis we are learning about restaurants that are closing because of the economy. And most of these are the mom-and-pop restaurants because they don't have the deep pockets of the chain restaurants to be able to sustain themselves during economic downturns. I shudder to think we might end up with a chain-restaurant only dining landscape soon. That would be a very sad thing.

Here are a couple of restaurants in the area that have closed recently; you can add your own mournings in the comments section.

Amira's: Great place to get a totally stacked corned beef sandwich and potato pancakes. My kids also loved the pickles they serve as soon as you sit down at the table.

Jockamo's: My dad loved the crawfish boils. My kids and I liked the beignets. Where else in the area can you find New Orleans food?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Restaurant Review - Biergarten Restaurant, Germany Pavillon, Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort

Come on in... it's Oktoberfest!After shopping "around the world" at Epcot recently, we stopped in to have lunch at one of my favorite family-friendly eating places -- the Biergarten restaurant in the German pavillon. Part buffet, part dinner show, theRiiiiccollaaaa Biergarten has many things to entertain and feed both kids and adults. For kids, and picky adults, there is macaroni and cheese and roasted chicken on the buffet. For adults, there are 12 ounce beers (yikes!) as well as beer and wine flights if you'd like to try out some new drinks. For everyone, there is the Oompah band that plays for about 20 minutes every hour and includes lots of interactive and fun instruments such as the accordian (a must for the polka dances), cow bells, a wooden xylophone-like instrument, and the huge Alpine horns (think the "Riccola" TV commercials).

The lunch buffet is served from noon to 3 PM at $10.99 for kids ages 3 - 9 and $19.99 for adults (yes, 10 year olds are considered adults at Disney). Prost!

The inside of the restaurant resembles an outside courtyard of a small Alpine village at night. And in here, it is always Oktoberfest! Tables are for eight people so if you have four or less in your group, you might be seated with others. Don't worry, after a few 12 ounce beers, you will be best friends! After being seated at one of the long wooden tables and having the server introduce us to the other family already seated there, our server took our drink orders. LB asked for water while BB asked for sweet tea. Whoops, he forgot that, at Disney, they only have unsweet tea so he asked for a Coke instead. Grandma ordered the unsweet iced tea and I perused the wine and beer menu (alcoholic drinks are not included in the buffet price). What's nice is that all of the servers actually are from Germany so you can ask them questions about their country, or how to pronounce some of the beers or wines. My server, jokingly, wouldPretzel rolls at the topn't take my pointing at the Riesling wine I wanted and instead worked with me until I was able to pronounce it myself. Then, we headed to the buffet!

On one side of the buffet are cold items such as salads, a huge Cold buffet itemsvariety of cold meats such as bologna and sausages, and cheeses. Next come the cute pretzel shaped rolls, which are super yummy, and other types of bread and rolls. The soup was Potato Leek and was hot, very creamy, with soft pieces of leeks mixed in -- it was great to dip the pretzel bread into it. There are several hot selections including meatballs, pork, salmon fillet with a light dill sauce, bratwurst, and an accompanying condHot buffet itemsiment bar with hot mustard, sweet mustard, relish, chutney, catsup, and what became my favorite -- a curry catsup. I also discovered a pork shank gratin that was bits of pork shank (which tasted like corned beef to me), mixed with a light sauerkraut, and topped with mashed potatoes and cheese -- I went back for seconds on that. At another hot station were glazed carrots, roasted potatoes, pork schnietzel with hunter sauce (like a dark beef mushroom sauce), and a carving station with sliced roast pork and meatloaf.

Of course, the challenge with every buffet is who goes up with which child aLoved the potato leek soup and the spaetzlend helps them choose what to eat. LB, my picky eater, just wanted a pretzel roll and mac-n-cheese but I snuck some meatballs on his plate as well and he ended up actually eating them. BB was great, trying a little bit of everything, including a few cold sausage and each of the veggies. Grandma also noshed on a little bit of everything.

Polka time!The Oompah band came on and involved everyone with singing along and dancing. My boys were mesmerized and would quietly sit in their seats and eat. You can't beat that! Then, of course, came the Oktoberfest toast with the band leading everyone to raise their glasses and sing: "Zicke-Zacke-Zicke-Zacke Hoi, Hoi, Hoi! Prost!", which always makes me think of the German guy in the Man Show (remember the Man Show from Comedy Central?).

There are also desserts on the buffet such as Bavarian cheesecake, Apple Strudel with vanilla sauce, fruit salad, a Black Forest cake roll, vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles, and cookies. Grandma ended up making us a "dessert sampler" plate for us with one of each thing and we all shared dessert. It was all really good but my favorite was the strudel with the vanilla sauce.

As it is a buffet, items will periodically change. Again, non-alcoholic beverages are included, and you can even change your drink and get coffee or tea with dessert. Plus, the band will honor any birthdays or anniversaries in the audience, and will sing you traditional German songs to celebrate. At the dinner buffet ($13.99 kids/$28.99 adults), there are additional items such as sauerbraten and herring but based on the large increase in price for adults, we prefer to go for lunch.

It's a great way to relax and have fun and good food at the theme parks, and everyone will enjoy the show.

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