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Photo Diary July 2015 Part 1

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Disney World 2014 Bonus Food Pics Part 1

magic kingdom main streetAt this point, I think we all know that I’m way behind when it comes to posting about recipes and bonus food pics. Case in point? Here’s a whole bunch of pictures from early February when my parents, wife, daughter and I spent a delightful week in Disney World. I had a good time going through our meals day-by-day when we went last spring, but since we’re so far out, I figured a pair of recap posts about all the delicious food we had while in the Happiest Place On Earth would still be fun and hopefully helpful if you’re on your way to Orlando. One quick note before jumping in, on this trip we didn’t opt in for the Disney Dining Plan like last time. While it worked pretty well that time around, we realized that we were eating way more dessert than we would have normally just because it was there. I’m not much of a sweet fan, so I was glad to have more options.

chef mickeys

We all got into Disney World on February 1st and went right to the Magic Kingdom as is our custom, but I didn’t take any photos, so I can’t remember what we ate. On the 2nd, we went back and I did a better job of documenting meals. For lunch we had seafood at The Columbia Harbor House. Again, no pics, but I remember the fried food being nice and crisp without being too heavy. For dinner we hopped on the Monorail to have dinner at Chef Mickey’s, a buffet style place inside the Contemporary that features characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto (sorry Daisy fans) walking around taking pictures with the kids. Lu loved the place and I’ve got to say that we were all pretty impressed with the food. You might think something like that would offer the lowest common denominator because you’re already there and it’s aimed at kids, but it was one of the better buffets I’ve had in recent memory. tutto italia

Again, I don’t have documentation of what we ate for lunch on the 3rd, but we did spend most of the day at Epcot. For dinner we went to Italy in the World Showacse where we had reservations for Tutto Italia Ristorante. There I had the Gnocchetti which is described as Cavatelli pasta, sweet sausage ragu, tomato and Pecorino. This was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time. It might seem simple — and it was — both it tasted like each of those simple ingredients was the best it could be and combined for an excellent, rich dish. 1900 park fare cinderella dinner

Finally (for this post, come back tomorrow for the rest!), on the 4th we spent most of the day at Animal Kingdom where we had Pizzafari for lunch. I have a picture of the tiny, tasty pepperoni pizza I had along with the Cesar salad, but I compared photos and it’s almost the exact same as the one I took several months earlier. That night we headed back to our hotel, The Grand Floridian, where we went to the Cinderalla-themed character dinner at 1900 Park Fare. I don’t remember this meal, another buffet, for the food nearly as much as I do for watching our daughter show zero interest in Cinderlla’s stepmother, warm up to the very funny stepsisters and glow when Cinderella came around. I gotta give it to those step sisters, they were pretty funny, tossing tame insults and one-liners across the room at one another and convincing the kids (and me to a lesser extent) that they were the evil, mean, awful creatures seen in the Disney classic.

Pizza Party: Luigi’s Deluxe & Hawaiian Pies

luigi's deluxe pizza

For the second half of last week and part of this week, my wife, daughter and I spent some nice time in Michigan hanging out with my parents at their cottage. We ate a lot of food on the grill which I forgot to snap pictures of, but there was one meal I absolutely, positively needed to let the world know about and that’s the pizza from Devil’s Lake’s Luigi’s Pizza. I almost wrote that it’s the one and only pizza joint up there, but it’s been a long time since I was a regular and don’t know that for sure. I do know that for a long time as a kid, it was one of the few food options that offered carry out food you could run up and get in your bathing suit and not get funny looks. It also happens that it was my favorite pizza before I moved out to New York.

Above you can see my favorite pie from them, the Deluxe which includes pepperoni, ham, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives and, before moving to New York. I feel like it used to include green olives at one point, but memories get fuzzy. The beauty of this pie is just how much they cram on there. You can get deluxe-type pizzas a lot of places and this one probably isn’t super special as far as toppings go, but the key to Luigi’s greatness is the crust. The crusts on these pies have a garlucy, salty quality that made this the only crust I bothered eating for a long, long time.

luigi's hawaiian pizza

We also got a Hawaiian pie which featured pineapple, ham, green peppers and extra cheese which we tried to get with bacon instead of ham (highly recommended), but they were swamped leading into Fourth of July and didn’t get the custom portion of the order. Still, this is a solid, delightful Hawaiian pizza, which is something you can’t always get easily in my area. The extra cheese really makes this pop. Man, it would have been rad with bacon.

Anyway, if you’re in the Manitou Beach, Michigan area and haven’t tried Luigi’s go do it. If you’re somehow driving through (it’s not exactly close to any highways, which is by design as you might imagine) get over there and try some of this goodness.

Pizza Party: Giada’s Carmelized Onion, Sausage & Basil Pizza

I had such bad results last time I made pizza that I not only didn’t bother posting about it, but also haven’t attempted to make any since then. That was a few months back. I was feeling adventurous a few weeks back, though, and decided to give Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Carmelized Onion, Sausage and Basil Pizza a try. I think one of the problems I had when I made pizza on my own is that I put too much stuff on the dough as it cooked. The somewhat wet ingredients got the dough moist and it didn’t cook all the way through, plus there were some structural integrity issues.

The beauty of this recipe is that it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients AND it’s easy to put together. You do need a little time, though, because you’ve got to carmelize the onions. After that, though, it’s just cooking the Italian sausage (I went with sweet instead of hot) with the onions and that part’s done. Since I bought dough instead of making it, I just had to roll that out into the desired shape, load up the pie with the meat/onion mixture and the blue cheese and pop into the oven on top of the pizza stone. That cooked for about 16 minutes and we had dinner after throwing basil on top.

In addition to the ease of cooking, I also really liked the taste of this pizza. I really like cooked sweet sausage and it mixed super well with the sharpness of the blue cheese. The basil hung around offering little fresh bursts of goodness that really rounded everything out. Next time I make pizza, I’m going to do the dough as well, either following Giada’s recipe or the one that’s in Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio. Should be fun!

Pizza Party: Mama Theresa’s Eggplant Appetizer & Greek Pizza

This past Sunday, after attempting to hit up a few other places, we found ourselves at Mama Theresa’s for dinner. Since we didn’t order ahead of time and wanted a full pie, we decided to eat there and actually sat in the really nice back room that we’d never been in. As always, the food there was excellent. We started off with a special eggplant appetizer whose name I can’t quite remember, but think it might have been something like Eggplant Pie or Eggplant Stack or something along those lines. Basically, among slices of cooked eggplant there was also healthy doses of mozzarella, pesto, their awesome red sauce and prosciutto. It was all around delightful, the kind of thing I’d like to figure out how to make myself.

Of course, that was the opening act to the main event: pizza! When my wife first suggested getting the Greek Pizza, I vetoed that because I was thinking it would focus on the somewhat overpowering combination of feta and olives that mark such things when cooked by people without much knowledge of Greek cooking. I decided to give it a try and it was delish! The key here was not using too many olives or too much feta, but there was also great grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, onions and yellow peppers that weren’t too hot for my wussy tongue.

Pizza Party: Prima’s Shrimp Scampi & The Cowboy SomethingOrOther

Last weekend, my inlaws came into town which usually means a trip to a local pizza joint. This time we headed over to Prima’s in Cornwall one of the best places around. We decided on ordering a pair of pies, the one on the left is Shrimp Scampi and the one on the right is…well, I don’t quite remember. It’s a new one on their menu and my wife and I both think it has “cowboy” in the name. I’ve never had shrimp scampi because I don’t really like shrimp, but it’s a testament to Prima’s that I really dug this pizza. I’ll assume it’s an exemplary version of scampi and say that it’s worth a try. The unnamed cowboy pizza was a beast of fantastic-ness featuring barbecue chicken, bacon and a drizzling of ranch dressing. This is the kind of pizza that was created just for me, I’m convinced, though I could have actually done with a little more ranch as the given amount was a bit lost in the other strong flavors.

Pizza Party: Pizza Mia’s Pesto Chicken & Sicilian Slices

I know these aren’t the prettiest looking slices of pizza in the world, but it just goes to show how good pizza in our area is. Those look a little limp (and had most likely been sitting for a while), but they tasted awesome! On the left you have Pizza Mia’s pesto chicken slice which had a really great pesto sauce and their Sicilian. I’m in awe of Pizza Mia’s sauce which is just so sweet and zingy that I want to eat it every day.

Pizza Party: Mama Theresa’s Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I’ve talked about how much I like Mama Theresea’s pizza before, but here we are again. The other night, the missus and I found ourselves hungry and lacking leftovers so we decided on a pizza. We didn’t do the usual back and forth trying to decide because my parents got us a gift certificate a few weeks back and we put that to good use with the above Buffalo Chicken pizza accompanied by an order of Fried Mozzarella (which was awesome, though I forgot to take a photo).

When it comes to buffalo sauce, I have a bit of a strange relationship. I actually really like the beginning of the flavor, but not the heat that tends to follow it up. I also did a wing eating contest in college where I ate 40-something of the little buggers, so that kind of put me off for a while. But, my wife loves the sauce and I was feeling a bit adventurous, so we gave it a shot. And it was great. They’ve got a solid buffalo sauce that had that trademark flavor without getting too, too hot. Kudos to them.

Pizza Party: Painter’s Wild Mushroom Ricotta Focaccia

I’ve been trying to cook a lot more, so you probably won’t be seeing as many Bonus Food Pics on here, but we do tend to get around on the weekend to a few places. At around 3:00PM last Saturday, we headed over to the wonderful Painter’s in Cornwall. Thanks to the hour, we got there before the lunch menu turned into the dinner menu and were able to nosh on a smaller portion of their epic nachos and then a few of their focaccia pizzas. I went with the Wild Mushroom Ricotta one which also included caramelized onions, spinach, truffle oil and smoked Gouda. This was a darn good pizza (I almost said pie, but I guess that’s not really appropriate). I don’t think I’ve ever had Gouda on a pizza, but it was a wonderful addition I’d like to experiment with in my own pizza making. The flavor combinations were great and tasted as good the next day when I ate it for breakfast.

Pizza Party: Tarantella’s

Tarantella’s
128 Main St.
Nyack,New york 10960
(845)358-3583

Sometimes you love something because it’s the best and sometimes it’s because you have a sentimental attachment to it. I’d like to say that I love Tarantella’s in Nyack for both, but who can tell after a while? When I was an intern working for Wizard, we would spend many nights in Nyack. Several of my fellow interns lived in the Hudson River town along with some of the actual employees and just about everyone lived nearby. So, on Fridays, you would be hard pressed to not find a Wizard employee in one of the town’s many bars. Our usual hang out was Olive’s, though we also frequented Bruxelles and stopped in plenty of other places, but Olive’s was usually the final destination. This continued to be the case when I got an actual job at Wizard several months later. As it happens, Tarantella’s is a mere block away from Olive’s and is open very late, so it was a frequent stop during our walkabouts.

But, I’m glad to say that the food is good even when you don’t have a buzz on as I was reminded of a few weeks back when a group of friends–some of whom I met at Wizard–returned there for food after a joint birthday party my wife and I planned. Unlike our usual outings, we actually sat in the place’s big back room and had a waitress waiting on us instead of ordering slices and sitting at one of the tables up front or just cramming it down our gullets while walking around. As such, I actually looked at the menu instead of pointing at slices and asking for those. I wound up with a meat slice and a chicken parm one, both of which were fantastic. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food which makes me think it actually is good and not just the remnants of drunken memories. For my money, it’s the best place around, I just wish there was one closer.

Pizza Party: Pizza Mia’s

Pizza Mia
176 Windsor Hwy #600
New Windsor, NY 12553-6975
(845) 563-9100

I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember which pizza this is from the wonderful Pizza Mia (yet another fantastic pizza place within ten minutes of our place). I think it’s the Margarita Pizza because it had the basil and fresh mozzarella on it, but I snapped this picture a week or two back, so the details are fuzzy. The point is that the missus and I were looking for a fresh, light pizza and this was the perfect pie. Pizza Mia is a place that we usually hit up when we want slices, but this pie with their awesome sauce (it’s kind of sweet and always tastes like it was just made right before you got in), fresh basil and mozzarella was perfect for us. If you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and try them out. Between the pizza, the jalapeno poppers and salad we ordered, this was a great meal. Maybe not as light as we originally thought with the poppers, but still awesome. The great thing about this pie is that it tastes just as good if not better the second day. Awesome stuff.

Pizza Party: Domino’s

When it comes to pizza, we live in a pretty fantastic area. I’ve had the best pizza of my life out here in New York, no doubt about it and that’s just in counties like Orange and Rockland, I’ve never even really jumped into the whole NYC pizza scene. But, sometimes you just want something familiar. That was the case a week or two back when the wife and I both had a taste of a very simple pizza. That’s how it started at least. I suggested getting a pie or two from Domino’s since we both had the taste for pepperoni because there’s one nearby.

With that, I hopped on the Domino’s website on my phone and I’ll tell you what, they make it really fun to order a pizza. You not only order by size and toppings, but you can chose which half of the pie you want particular toppings on. Since I was jonesing for pineapple and my wife wanted pepperoni, but we both wanted bacon, this worked out perfectly. We both got a kick out of the whole left/right decision, but it made sense. After ordering online, you can keep track of exactly where the pizza is at in the process from “firing up” to “ready.”

So, how’d it taste? Pretty good. The reason you go to big chains like Domino’s is because it’s familiar (or because it’s cheap). I’ll tell you what, it tasted just like the pizza I used to get back home which was always a chain of some sort (Dominio’s, Pizza Hut, the slightly more local Little Caesar’s). Plus, pineapple isn’t a very popular topping round these parts, so I’ll take it where I can get it.

At the end of the day, I love how many options we have when it comes to pizza. We know where to go for slices, for pies, for a nicer dinner. The possibilities are endless and that’s the best as far as I’m concerned.

Bonus Food Pic: Numero Uno Deep Dish From Uno

Uno Chicago Grill
20 Centre Drive
Central Valley, NY 10917
(845) 783-6560

You might think that, because I’m from a place that’s not too far away from Chicago, that I would have had more access to deep dish pizza. In fact, that was not the case. Aside from a few local places that did their own thing, we only had access to chains like Little Caesar’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and the like. Later we’d get a place called Cottage Inn that’s pretty good too, but I digress.

I don’t think I had deep dish pizza until I went to my first Uno’s which was either in college or after moving out to New York, I can’t quite be certain. It’s a style and flavor I quite enjoy and would like to try from a non-chain restaurant if possible, but since I live in a pretty intolerant place for alternate pizza styles, Uno’s is the best I’ve got. Thankfully, it seems to be a pretty good source. I’m sure it’s not as good as sitting in a Chicago pizza house, but it tasted pretty good to these untested taste buds.

About a month back, the wife and I felt like Uno’s so we headed down and decided to split a Numero Uno which boasts sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms and chunky tomato sauce with mozzarella and grated Romano on top. As I am a fan of all of those things, having them all together in one place wrapped in that cornbread-like crust was not a disappointment. The only problem? I definitely got some mild indigestion after eating. I’m guessing it was the onions and peppers, but it could have been the whole package. Don’t worry, it won’t put me off of trying more kinds of deep dish in the future!

Pizza Party: Mama Theresa’s Eggplant Napoleon Pizza & Pizza Rustica Balls

Mama Theresa’s Pizzeria & Italian Eatery
Big V Towncenter (in the Kmart plaza)
New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 561-6262

One of the great things about living in Orange County is that we’re never lacking a great place to pick up some pizza. Just off the top of my head I can think of three amazing place, two pretty good ones and one that I’d get if driving by and pretty hungry. The down side is that this embarassement of pizza riches has ruined me for ‘za in pretty much any other place, with few nostalgic exceptions. I don’t want to be a pizza snob, but I think I might be one.

Anyway, Mama Theresa’s is about five minutes from our house in a Kmart strip mall. It’s pretty unassuming, but it’s got some of the best pizza around. It’s our usual go to when we want to eat a few slices in the house (we head to Cornwall if we want to eat out). A week or two back, we tried a few new things from them.

The pizza is the Eggplant Napoleon and is described on the menu as “Mama Theresa’s fried eggplant, fresh mozzarella, fire red roasted peppers and our own balsamic vinegar glaze.” The combination of flavors was fantastic and the balsamic glaze was tangy, sweet and even creamy, I’ve never had anything like it. We also tried the Pizza Rustica Balls: “Ricotta, mozzarella, Roman cheese, salami, prosciutto, ham, cappicola cover with Mama Theresa’s bread crumbs. Fried golden brown. Served with Mama Theresa’s tomato sauce.” I don’t remember a lot about this tasty little morcels aside from the fact that they were full of salty, Italian goodness.

I wish I had taken notes and given a better review, but hopefully if you’re in the area, you’ll give these tasty treats a shot next time you’re looking for pizza!