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9 Jan 2011

Sanaa at Kidani Village near AK Lodge

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Its always exciting when booking your ADRs to be adding established destinations you have never visited for various reasons or in the case of Sanaa, a totally new establishment.  Sanaa actually opened May 1st 09 in Kidani Village, a DVC property that's part of the Animal Kingdom Lodge compound but for some reason we missed it last time probably as the Wave seemed to be being pushed more as the new restaurant of the year. Using the Disney Transportation System it should be a reasonably easy place to get to. Technically a bus to any park will do then change for AK Lodge. Its quicker to go straight to AK itself though as the Lodge is only a few minutes away and the bus will stop at Kidani Village first anyway.

I say should because I'm not sure whats going on this year but so far the buses seem to have been rather poor compared to previous trips; sporadic, infrequent and in typical British style you wait for what seems an age in freezing conditions only for three to turn up at once. However once we arrive at Kidani Village the restaurant is easy to find and we are checked in and given the usual vibrating buzzer. You can walk out from the restaurant's lobby to a large outdoor grazing area where thougthfully a large fire is roaring and African CMs are on hand to point out the various animals on the plains.



It's not too long before something's buzzing in my pocket and our hostess is taking us to our table. I like Sanaa straight away, the lighting is atmospheric and well designed and the whole place is just beautiful. Chris our server goes carefully and in great detail through all the menu choices which is a fusion of Indian and African cuisine with more emphasis towards the Indian side. To be fair coming from a country where Indian cuisine is almost the national dish it's all quite amusing, but Chris delivers his knowledge with real enthusiasm.

A selection of breads and pickles are selected to accompany the meal and poppadoms to start; though oddly the breads are listed as a starter which seems a little strange to me. At home Indian cuisine in our town is in general dominated by a couple of established restaurants and countless others who specialize in takeaway only. My simple rule with an Indian restaurant is consistency and it's here I find they always let themselves down. Good one week, the same dish can be poor the following week as if the chefs making it up as he goes along. One other key element is the quality of the Nan breads out of the tandoor. Beautiful thin and light one week, a lump of dough the next.


A beautiful Imagineered restaurant with windows looking out over the wildlife savanah. Food was superb.

At Sanaa the breads arrive and we are transported to Nan bread heaven. Light and thin with just the right balance between the crisp outside and fluffy interior. The Paratha is also a joy though I would have preferred the Paneer cheese to be more "lumpy" rather than blended into the fried paratha bread as the whole point of Paneer is the cheese can stand the cooking process without melting. Poppadoms which are probably the same the world over are fine but here its the pickles that are the revelation. I will never now be able to have mango chutney from a Pataks or Sharwoods jar again without thinking of the utter delight that was served to us in Sanaa. Beautiful soft fresh mangoes diced with a subtle spice mixture and a good amount of freshly chopped chili for heat has now spoilt us for life.

Sanaa has quite a good menu system in which you choose either Tandoor dishes or assemble a selection of curries. On top of that there are fish dishes in spiced broths. I decided to try the curries and selected two from the choices that had very different styles. On the left we have a more Thai than Indian or African influenced Shrimp dish in a green curry sauce; well spiced with a good amount of heat, very fresh in the mouth with coconut, coriander and chili being the prominent flavours. The Beef dish on the right was more unusual and probably not something I would choose again. The beef was cooked beautifully, real slow pot stuff that melted away in the mouth but the sauce was a little on the sweet side for me. Fluffy Basmati rice, Tusker Beer and Mango Lassi completed the whole dish.


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Jackie chose what is described on the menu rather simply as "Todays Sustainable Fish". To be honest Chris described this so well I almost had it myself. It consisted of piece of Arctic Char imported from Iceland, a salmon like fish that tastes very like sea trout and will probably be the big new sustainable hit of the next few years. This is served with scallops and shrimps in a lightly spiced curry broth with vegetables. The broth is described as a blend of white wine, fish stock, citrus with light thai curry spices. Its absolutely divine, has just the right amount of kick so as to give slight heat but not overpower either the fish or the scallops and shrimp and was the star dish of the night. Casa Grand Pinot Grigio washed it down for Jackie with a Mango Lassi on hand for cooling purposes.



On to desserts and I opted for the sampler (there being no cheese and I suppose chewing on an uncooked lump of Paneer may be taking my obsession a little too far). Whilst good I felt one of the problems with the sampler was it was hard to pick out individual flavours in the dishes. For instance the Chai Cream was really overpowered by that dark side on the flavour spectrum, cinnamon. A small criticism, as its not a place I would visit with a high expectation for fab desserts although Jackie's Mango pudding was excellent, a light creamed mango 'fool' layered with fresh mango coulis on top accompanied by a coconut macaroon. Just the thing after a spice fest.

All in all this was one of our favourite meals of the week. Great atmosphere, superb food and such a wonderful setting. Can't wait to return.

Narcoosees Dec 26th 2010

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Narcoosees is one of the Restaurants that has been a regular stop on our list for many years. We love the setting, the menu and the ambiance. Timed correctly a meal can have an interlude on the jetty for the water pageant and for the first MK firework display. On top of that we simply love seafood , though it has to be said Narcoosess offers quite a lot more than that.

The original plan had simply been to cross over from Epcot where we had spent an EMH day to the MK on the Monorail and from there take the launch across the lake which conveniently disposes of you on Narcoosees doorstep. However with this being our first full day combined with a 5.45am Stitch wake up call for the EMH we came back to the resort mid afternoon to recharge our batteries.

Getting back to the Narcoosees on Disney Transport proves to be a bit of a chore, especially with a wind chill that's almost freezing. We have to wait what feels like longer but must be the full 20mins for a MK bus to turn up only to find when we arrive at the MK that the launches are not running to the Grand Floridian (probably because the lakes frozen up :) ). This means taking the monorail the wrong way around the lake and getting dropped off at the wrong side of the Grand Floridian.

Eventually we arrive 25 mins late but are soon seated. I'm not sure if Narcoosees has a heating problem tonight or its interior design simply makes it difficult to keep warm when its cold outside (which seems to be when we come at Christmas). A CM has actually been placed on the door to ensure it remains shut but shes fighting a losing battle against the icy wind.

Our server sorts out the drinks and wine and food is ordered, Jackie orders the Crab crusted Mahi Mahi, served on a bed of crushed potatoes with french green beans and a meyer lemon sauce.

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The fish is well cooked, just on the point and the crust is well finished with a proper crisp texture rather than something to wet that's trying to slide off and its well seasoned with a good crab flavour coming through. The potatoes are a good accompaniment keeping the dish well balanced and grease free. However its the sauce here that's the real star, those meyer lemons really making a difference. A meyer Lemon is a completely different beast to the acidic beauty you use to put in your G&T; its soft full of lemony buttery depth (is that a word) but with none of the harshness or bitterness. This simple sauce brings the whole dish together. 

On the last trip I seemed to recall looking longingly at the table next to ours as they tucked happily into a surf and turf and I'm torn between it and the full Maine Lobster which I was watching the chef prepare with robotic precision as  we waited for our table. In the end I go for the classic surf and turf a) Because I have never had it here before (in fact I don't think I have ever had a meat dish here before) and b) because I need a bottle of red wine to warm my bones up rather than the chilled sauvignon Jackie is drinking and it will go nicely with the fillet steak.


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I do have one immediate issue with this dish as its presented in front of me which is that for a $59 entree (before we have even started adding tax and tips on top) presentation for a signature restaurant leaves a lot to be desired.To me it needs a rectangular plate not a round one with the elements arranged in a straight line also the sprouting broccoli looks rather over steamed. Still the truth is in the tasting.

Whilst those two medallions of filet mignon may look on the small size they are very very rich, nicely tender and cooked exactly how I asked (rare). To be honest I find that fillet is more about texture than taste and would much prefer a piece of good sirloin if I was after taste but the rich onion demi glaze served with the fillet is an excellent accompaniment to that buttery texture adding that depth of taste I always find this cut of  meat lacks.

The lobster has that firm and slightly chewy texture in the mouth you always get with large maine beasts. However the depth of flavour is off the scale with a lovely sweetness in the mouth. I personally would have preferred a little thermidor sauce to complement it rather than the clarified butter Americans seem so fond off - but when in Rome.

The Duchess potato is further enhanced with a little onion and some small ham pieces and is very well seasoned. I could eat this all week given a choice of potato sides.

On to desserts. Jackie has the sweet tooth; my sweet tooth extends about  as far as a bar of good chocolate but does not really get excited at a dessert menu. Last trip I was very disappointed to find Narcoosess had actually removed the Cheese Selection from the dessert menu  but its back this year as the Artisinal Cheese Selection which is basically the same selection the California Grill has always served. A lovely choice of locally produced American Cheeses and thankfully not a lump of Monterey Jack Among them. Jackie tucks into the Ozark Apple and Walnut cake with poached cranberries and ice cream. Must have been good as there's no time to get the camera out before its gone!

All in all then yet another successful trip to Narcoosees.


4 Jan 2011

WDW Christmas and New Year 2010

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Just a link to start with for the photo album from this years Christmas and New Year trip to WDW.  By tonight I will annotate the photos into a trip report and then hopefully  in the next day or two I will start to get the food reports into some sort of order. This year had us choosing quite a few new places on site (places we have previously never tried for one reason or another and places that are themselves new establishments - Sanaa being a particular highlight)

2 Jan 2011

Happy new year from all over the world

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After a very early start in California we had a quick trip to Mars followed by giving some help to General Motors. Later a superb lunch was had in France; the wine was excellent and the food lovely as usual apart from that pesky blue rat appearing during desert :) In England the New year arrived at 7.00pm and was sung in by the Beatles. Later the lake exploded and we had a polite dinner in Japan where the wine was nice and the Saki smooth and then we rocked the house out with Mark Sanchez in Italy and Dominik Morrison in China who likes his guests with a nice BBQ flavour!! Every Pavilion was exciting and the whole atmosphere was electric. A truly wonderful experience. Now whats needed is a nice long rest.

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25 Nov 2010

Motorhead - King Georges Hall

Perfect mix of old & new tracks. First time we have actually seen them and it was great to watch them almost on the doorstep. To say we are not really die hard fans, this was a great gig.. Lemmy is just a great entertainer.

3 Nov 2010

Westminster

A superb weekend in London saw us taking advantage of using our local MP to take a visit inside Westminster. No photos were allowed other than in the old Hall, but we were taken inside the Lords, Commons and stood at the dispatch box (Commons rarely sits on a Friday), The Queens Robing Rooms etc.
It really was a wonderful experience to be in such a historic yet fully working part of out countries working political environment.
The Hall in the picture is the oldest part of the complex and features the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe. This hammer beam roof was commissioned in 1393 by Richard II

Albert Hall - Porcupine Tree

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Highlight of the incident tour this was indeed a special place to see Porcupine Tree close this tour. Its rather odd though, as great as the gig was Porcupine Tree always feel better to me in a smaller venue and they did not seem to make this appearance at such a special venue operatic or special enough in the way I feel Opeth managed it a few months ago (which is odd as I consider myself a lot less a regular listener of Opeths music than I do Porcupine Trees). I think Opeth nailed it on the head by playing an entire album and making it an epic event in such grand surroundings.

Porcupine Tree felt on reflection to much like "an evening with" and the pacing was a little unsettled. That's not to say it was not enjoyable, I just wish they had made more of it.

20 Sep 2010

South West Ireland

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Excellent weather and an enjoyable week exploring the area. Accomodation was fine if a little on the large size.

24 Jun 2010

South West Wales

A cosy farm cottage for a long weekend break in the South of Wales. The trip down took us through some beautiful scenery but it was good to arrive and let Jackie have a deserved drink. The weather was absolutely perfect; blue skys and fluffy clouds. Did a little research before setting out and have pre booked a couple of restaurants, tonight we are off to Y Polyn which is about 20 minutes away just past Camarthen. Y Polyn was voted one of the twenty best places to eat last year by the Observer. Put simply the food is superb and the setting wonderful. Lunch the following day was at The Shed in Porthgain. An idyllic setting on a sunny day. We then spent time in St Davids and were privileged to watch rehearsals for the festival in the Cathedral. More pictures available in the gallery.

23 May 2010

Update.



Mother and calf spent the morning in the shade of an old tree before both walking of and joining the rest of the herd. A slight delay posting due to the heat practically melting one of the cables inside the PC yesterday. Perhaps we need to move the PC away from the French Windows!!!



Still warm and a little muggy here; the bunnies are not to happy about it preferring to come inside and hide under the beds in the cooler bedrooms.

21 May 2010

Drama beyond the garden fence.



Finally its warm enough to eat outside without a roaring wood fire and six jumpers, but tonight had added drama as well. A lone cow had been standing in the reed bed all evening, still and solitary; unusual behaviour as they usually always travel and move as a herd. Some time later the Farmer arrived in his pickup having spotted her himself as he did his rounds. It soon became sadly apparent that she had given birth in the reed bed and lost the calf. However to our surprise another calf appeared from out of the long reeds, urged on by the farmer to stand and make its way to the mother.
Twin calves; but unfortunately this had led to a problem in the calf's front feet being folded over, making it hard for it to stand and feed from the mother. The farmer left to collect a dry milk mix and we helped him by supplying the fresh water to mix it as we are the nearest house to the field.



Trying to get the calf to feed from the mother was not working so it was time for the bottle, however the mother seemed rather interested in the feed as well which meant the farmers hand had to be called on to keep the mother occupied whilst the calf was given a full bottle...



The area near the reeds is to boggy for the calf to be left out overnight so the farmer decided to move the calf and mother to the higher dry ground. Talking to him afterwards he seemed to think one bottle would be enough to keep it sustained for the night and he would then re check it tomorrow and decide if it would need splints for a while to support the front feet until they strengthened.



To be honest I had no idea that these yearly visitors to the fields actually gave birth freely in the reed beds, but the farmer told us how its a favourite spot for the mothers and they regularly keep calves there for days often without his knowledge. I thought everything was clinical and controlled these days and it was nice to find it isn't.

27 Apr 2010

The Derby Arms - Longridge



A trip out to the Derby Arms last weekend for lunch. A popular restaurant specialising in Game and Fish according to the blurb. Inside it's traditionally decorated with two dining rooms to either side of the lounge. A full menu was available for lunch including a large board of specials and a more traditional choice from the a la carte; a Table D'hote is also available. The wine list is good and varied and is nicely laid dividing the wines into drinking styles.


We both started with the monk fish but cooked in different ways. Jackie's was prepared Spanish style in an oven baked terracotta dish swimming in garlic oil, I went for the beer battered tempura style. Jackie's was far more tasty though I have to say the batter was cooked to crispy perfection (which makes a change). To be fair Monk fish is just a little too bland for this treatment and this needed a dipping sauce of some sort to give it some life.


The main course was one of my all time cheap cut favourites, a slow cooked pork belly roast. A dish that's easy to get so badly wrong this version was as good as any I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, including the 24hour V&A version in Florida. Served as a full slice and with the texture of butter it had a taste depth that's off the scale. It was accompanied by a separate piece of crackling that was so good it could have been marketed as a new luxury snack. The sauce was a Bramley apple and cream jus that had just the right balance between sourness and sweet. Predictably I finished with cheese.
Jackies main was Coquille st Jacques, well presented and well cooked and for dessert she had a rather indifferent Rhubarb pie which lacked a certain something.
All in all a good experience and we will certainly return.


25 Apr 2010

Opeth @ Albert Hall


Please excuse the random ramblings in this blog. Its been a while since I actually put keyboard to screen and somehow this gem of a weekend seems to have passed by despite being a major event in itself.

We changed train companies (as if anyone interested) and slipped down to the city on the Virgin Pendolino service from Manchester Piccadilly instead of our normal Leeds to Kings Cross service. Nice and quick, maybe more uncomfortable but it dropped us in Euston bob on time and with a small walk to the hotel in Russell Square.

Bags dumped we set off on the food part of the day, a lunch at Browns in Mayfair which is only a quick 20 min walk from the hotel.. Lunch was excellent value and the wine a nice "pick me up".

We then headed to Westminster Abbey (unfortunately Daniela Nardini was not there to great us at Westminster despite her interest last time) where we spent the afternoon exploring and following the excellent Audio guide. I fully understand that people do get put off buy the admission prices to these places, but its well worth it..

We spent a full afternoon exploring the Cathedral, I was especially moved by the new post war stain glass windows in the chapter house which shows the horror of the great world wars in such subtle yet once discovered and examined horrific detail.

Then it was time to hit the tube and take the underground walk up to exhibition walk and the Albert Hall.

This is not our first visit. In fact we were here last Christmas Eve for the Candlelight Carols on Christmas Eve and before that a performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony coupled with Stravinsky's manic Violin concerto..

Dinner is prebooked inside the Albert Hall which in effect gives you early admission.. The Elgar restaurant is perhaps on the lower scale of the Leiths offerings inside the Hall, but the mussels are divine as is the wine..

Opeth take to the stage promptly at 7.30pm in a floor of dry ice and with a simple light rig and rear screen. They immediately launch into a uninterrupted first set of Blackwater Park which fill the entire Hall with its entire range and power. Lead singer Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt is sticking firmly to the rule that this classic Album will be played in full with no interruptions as he does not speak for the entire set. It almost works and thats not a criticism, its just the band and its crew cant quite pull off the seamless joins in the album and we end up with a slightly disjointed version of the album with a few gaps where equipment changes are necessary; but, and its a huge BUT; this a very small criticism.. It is seriously one of the most powerful performances I have seen by a band recently.

The second half is a bit of a test for us. One of the reasons we are here is because we came across this band via Steve Wilson, Porcupine Tree and the crossover influences and this caused me to discover the latest Album "Watershed". However it quickly became apparent that Opeth themselves wanted to celebrate a gig at the mighty Albert Hall with a full performane of Blackwater Park and older lesser played tracks. Blackwater Park was quickly purchased. A couple of listens to the latest album "Watershead" had already shown they had a grip for melody and rhythm that stretched from simple folk to hard rock that grabbed you by the neck and refused to let go, but there vast back catalogue would have been impossible to engage in before the date of the concert.

Opeth seemed to provide not only there own solution but did it in the most intelligent and structured way I have ever witnessed at a concert. Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt started at their first album in the second set, explained the history, the band set up and the song and progressed with each song until the current album.. It was a superb history lesson and a superb lesson in there music( as well as proving its possible to speak English as a second language and still be a comic genius).

It also proved what talented songwriting and musicianship has been captured in this band, never - even in moments of the darkest of dark metal - does the folk rhythm or understanding of flow and structure ever abandon this band, it is purely breathtaking; they are so tight together I am reminded of Rush but stripped of the huge backstage technical support. In this truly classical environment they sound stunning yet raw but so tuneful (even in songs I am hearing for the first time ever) its like the Albert Hall itself is singing along.

Please.. If you had pre conceptions about what this band was about , drop them and just listen.

22 Feb 2010

A drive through the Lakes



Just a quick blog update to a gallery that somehow got missed when I was working through some picture folders. Last June took us out to the Lake District and a visit to Hilltop Farm. Had a great Lunch in the NT pub that is next door to the Farm and then we returned via the ferry through Windermere (which is a bit of a tourist dump) at the moment. The rest of the pics can be reached as normal through the gallery button on the right.

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