Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disney's Animal Kingdom

When it comes to vacation my motto is go big or go home. The Tour de Florida is still alive and well and has a few Disney theme parks left! The largest one offers lots by way of adventure and discovery through expeditions and safaris. The focus is on nature and of course animals who are among you in the plush surrounding park habitats. Our total time in Disney was limited to two and a half days. With Magic Kingdom under our belt, the full second day slotted for Epcot and the third day (where we needed to be at the airport around 4:30) was left for Hollywood Studios. We decided to fit Animal Kingdom in on the morning of the second day before Epcot, taking advantage of Magic Hours (extra time extended to guests staying in the park) which began at 8am. The park opens to the general public at 9am so we had a free hour to basically do one thing before the masses arrived: ride Expedition Everest.
Yes my friends, that Himalayan mountain in the distances houses a roller coaster. At Expedition Everest you board a high speed train and zip through the misty unknown. But beware of the Yeti! You never know when the fierce legend might appear on your expedition. This must ride coaster is located in the Asia section of the park. Walking the streets of Asia definitely transcends time and place. I love the outdoorsy scene combined with the oriental Coca-Cola advertisements, among other appropriately themed architecture and signage.With an under 5 minute wait we managed to ride Everest three times in a row! Since we had plans for one other ride in Animal Kingdom, we picked up a Fast Pass knowing we'd want to return afterward to seek one more thrill line free, before we left for the day. In the meantime was off to DinoLand U.S.A.The other must ride in Animal Kingdom for us was Dinosaur. Aboard terrain vehicles you blast back 65 million years to save the last dinosaur!
The park has a lot more to offer if you can dedicate a full day, from The Kilimanjaro Safaris to the Wildlife Express Train, to the It's Tough to be a Bug 3D Show housed in The Tree of Life. I have experienced most of these on a past trip, so I didn't mind passing this time around. I wouldn't have minded riding the Kali River Rapids, except for the fact that it was a chilly morning and whitewater rafting in turbulent waters would have proved for a miserable start to the day. Adventure awaits at Animal Kingdom so be sure and check it out if you plan a trip!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Caffe Nuovo

The North End needs a quality brunch spot like the majority of America needs their morning coffee. The basic concept of eggs and bacon in this neighborhood leaves a lot to be desired. I was eager to discover if Caffe Nuovo, the breakfast eatery opened just last month at the longstanding vacant corner of Salem and Stillman Streets could fill the niche. As Adam and I entered the small modern space we were greeted by a host who I recognized as Frank DePasquale, the Chairman of the North End Chamber of Commerce and local restaurant entrepreneur (Mare, Bricco, Trattoria Il Panino, Umbria Prime). When I inquired about the restaurants ownership he explained this is not one of his own, he is just helping out the owners and hoping to see this spot succeed.
The brightly lit restaurant was bustling with clientele. Window seats overlooking the street prove a serene spot for solo diners. We were seated downstairs where the decor remained clean and simple, if not somewhat bland, with woven vinyl placemats, white linen napkins, dark hardwood floors, exposed wood beam ceilings and delicate light fixtures. A hi-def plasma TV on each floor stood out with the channel set to the local news.Coffee and water were offered right away and refills were prompt throughout. The speed at which our brunch was delivered was slightly less than prompt, but nothing to look down upon, especially since we felt well taken care of while we waited. I was beyond impressed with the menu as a whole. Caffe Nuovos dishes appear to remain true to Little Italy's Italian roots while satisfying classic American brunch cravings. Scali is the toast of choice and from the delicious sounding truffle scrambled eggs to the Italian vegetable fritatta, to the French toast with brandied pear compote, to waffles with fresh fruit and creme fraiche, they appear to know breakfast. If you're the pancake type, take your pick from apple, blueberry, banana or chocolate. If you're the lunch at brunch type, they offer a Spaghetti Carbonara, a Caprese salad with pesto and scrambled eggs, and a Milanse style veal or chicken cutlet topped with 2 eggs any style. The marriage of favorite Italian dishes with eggs is intriguing, but not as much as the Eggs Benedict served with your choice of lobster, grilled shrimp or lump crab.
Hell-o and welcome to the neighborhood.
A huge sigh of relief followed as I noted the reasonable prices. Dishes average between $7-$10, with the basic egg breakfasts beginning at $3.95 and the steak and eggs clocking in at the standard high of $14.95. Our Seafood Eggs Benny seemed reasonable at $12.95. Adam chose the lobster and it was the shrimp for me.
Three jumbo shrimp were served alongside the Benedict as opposed to on top of them. I was partial to this method of plating as it provided the freedom to drench in as much or as little egg yolk as desired. This also allows them to serve more shrimp (or lobster - Adam's had a significant pile) than might traditionally fit on two English muffins. The shrimp on their own were flavorful and succulent, the texture firm to the knife and tender to the bite with just the right amount of crunch in tact. A delicate dusting of paprika over joyously runny eggs and soft pillowy English muffins were completed by a side of savory homefries laced with sweet onions.Located at 76 Salem Street, the caffe is open seven days a week from 7am-2pm. They also offer breakfast and coffee to go.
They are slated to serve dinner in the near future. I'm just happy they got the ball rolling with breakfast.
Caffe Nuovo fills a neighborhood void by offering North Enders an affordable sit-down brunch. With an impressive classic-Italian-meets-well-rounded-American menu, all they need now is a cocktail counterpart. Perhaps a liquor license is in the works? For their sake and mine, I sure hope so!
Caffe Nuovo on Urbanspoon

Scenes from Thanksgiving

The Beginning
Organic Free Range Bell & Evans Turkey
Eastham Heirloom Turnip
Orange, Cinnamon & Candied Ginger infused Yams
Pinot Grigio spread
Cauliflower, Potato & Dill soup
Warm brie cheese & Cape Cod Cranberry DrizzleShrimp Cocktail
Mrs. Pootie aka Saidie

The Kitchen
The Bird
The Dining RoomWine that goes with Turkey
The Feast
Turkey & GravyStuffing
Clockwise top to bottom: Heirloom Turnip. Blueberry Balsamic Salad w/ Pear, Gorgonzola & shaved Almonds. Butternut Squash. Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Peace Song & Cranberry Bread. Yams
Warm Brussel Sprout & Fuji Apple Salad w/ Pine Nuts & Goat Cheese
My SpreadMy PlateThe Aftermath
The DessertPumpkin Pie with fresh whipped cream & ground nutmegRed Velvet Cake
In light of this special day of giving thanks, I wanted to thank all of you for reading this blog.

Hope you had a great holiday.