Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jeff Lange wearing accidental mouse ears at Sweet Tomatoes

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New toy: Disney tram - $17

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Storybook Circus signs now posted at Roontown Fair

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of Columbia Harbour House

Dinner on 2/25/11 was an uncomplicated affair, with short but unfortunately slow-moving lines.

The tuna sandwich ($8) uses albacore tuna (good) and a thin yet crusty multigrain (was it old?). It hinted a but too heavily of onion powder, but otherwise isn't different from what you'd make at home.

The kids Mac and Cheese ($5) is an old standby: very similar to Stouffer's. This batch was too soft - overcooked and sitting too long in the heated serving dish.

The fried shrimp ($10), a previous favorite, has changed it's formula. It's breadier and meatier (read: chewier), and thus not suited for every taste. A disappointment.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Bands, Brew, and BBQ at Busch Gardens Tampa

The Commodores and The Pointer Sisters Move the Body and Soul at Busch Gardens
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 11, 2011) —The Commodores and The Pointer Sisters will mix it up at Bands, Brew and BBQ at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on Sunday, Feb. 27. These two groovy groups will take guests back with their chart-topping tunes. The Commodores are best known for their timeless dance-floor hits and ballads including “Brick House” and “Three Times a Lady,” and The Pointer Sisters are known for turning up the heat with spirited songs like “Fire” and “I’m So Excited.
Continuing every Sunday through March 6, Busch Gardens guests can jam out to award-winning country and classic rock artists, while indulging in savory BBQ from local favorite restaurants and refreshing specialty and craft beers at the all-new Festival Beer Garden.
This year, Busch Gardens introduces the Festival Beer Garden with more than 50 specialty and craft beers. Guests wanting unlimited access to all 14 beer tents can purchase a Beer Festival Wristband for $25, which includes a five-ounce souvenir pilsner to use for unlimited sampling. The Festival Beer Garden opens at noon each day of the festival.
Kick your experience up a notch by purchasing the Bands, Brew and BBQ VIP Ticket to reserve the best seat in the house for your favorite acts. For only $27.95 guests get priority seating at center stage and a meal is included.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lime: Fresh Mexican Grill restaurant review

As former inhabitants of Los Angeles, my wife and I are picky eaters of Mexican food. No one outside CA seems to get it right.

Until now. Lime is located on Sand Lake (one exit south of Universal on I-4, and near the Pei Wei for locals in the know), and it's worth a drive from the Disney area.

Expect to pay $7 for most entrees (it's fast casual service, like Chipotle). The entrees range from big to humongous. But forget size - it's the taste that will stick with you.

We found the best pico de gallo we've seen in years. The best in Orlando, certainly. Refried beans are light, fluffy, and flavorful. Everything is flavorful. My "basic" beef taco salad defied easy description - how could it have so many complex notes in each bite?

Go. You won't be disappointed.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High Speed Rail in Florida cancelled

Gov. Rick Scott is canceling a proposed high-speed train line between Orlando and Tampa, rejecting more than $2 billion from the federal government.
The Republican governor said Wednesday the proposal is too costly for Florida and could put the state's taxpayers on the hook for roughly $3 billion.

Scott said he believes that ridership and revenue projections tend to be too optimistic and would likely require ongoing state government subsidies.

Finally, Scott noted, that if the project went belly-up, Florida would be required to refund the federal government's investment in the project.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pinkberry frozen yogurt to open another location at Mall of Millenia

My family has been big into the resurgence of frozen yogurt (though less me than my wife and kids), so we've seen several stores open recently. Pinkberry is among the best, and there's another one coming.

Here's the press release:

Pinkberry, the number one tart frozen yogurt brand, will bring fashion and good taste together when it opens its third Orlando location at The Mall at Millenia. The store will be located at 4200 Conroy Road at the main mall entrance on the lower level next to Brio Tuscan Grille. The opening is scheduled for early this summer, close to the one-year anniversary of the first Orlando Pinkberry opening at The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.

"Fashion lovers have great taste, so Pinkberry and The Mall at Millenia are a natural fit," said Bill Harmening II, Pinkberry area developer for Orlando. "Whether greeting shoppers with the cool taste of tart frozen yogurt or refreshing them as they leave the mall, Pinkberry is proud to offer our international sensation to visitors and locals alike."

Original Pinkberry

Frozen yogurt for "caviar tastes and Cavalli waistlines," Pinkberry is made with real nonfat yogurt and nonfat milk that is rBST hormone free. Pinkberry is heralded as the company that launched the current tart frozen yogurt craze when it opened its first store in West Hollywood, Calif. in 2005. The premium taste of Pinkberry soon became a celebrity and trendsetter favorite, with Swirly Goodness spreading to now more than 100 locations worldwide.

The Mall at Millenia store will offer Pinkberry's six distinctive flavors and thirty premium toppings, including daily fresh cut seasonal fruits, organic fruity bears and shaved Belgian milk chocolate, as well as Pinkberry Smoothies, Fresh Fruit Bowls and Parfaits and Take Home packs. The fresh, tart taste of Pinkberry served by friendly Swirly Artists will be complemented by the store's clean, contemporary furnishings in hues of orange, blue and green, offering an inviting social environment for the Pinkberry Promise of "20 minutes of fun."

"We are pleased to add this exciting concept to our retail mix," said Brenda Lounsberry, Marketing Director, The Mall at Millenia. "This concept is a perfect match for The Mall at Millenia trend-conscious shopper."

Pinkberry will now have three stores in Orlando, including its original location at The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd. at the corner of Dr. Phillips Blvd. and Sandlake Rd. The original store opened Aug. 20, 2010. A second location at Orlando Premium Outlets -- International Dr. at 4951 International Drive will open this year on April 1.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Great American Pie Festival returns to Celebration on April 9-10

On April 9 and 10, 2011, pie lovers, tasters and bakers will gather in Celebration, Fla., for two very sweet days at the  APC Great American Pie Festival sponsored by Crisco®Now in its ninth year, this pie extravaganza dishes up luscious layers of fun for the young and the young at heart.  Whether looking to enjoy some of the most delectable desserts in America or simply partake in one of the many entertainment and baking demonstrations staged along Main Street in one of America's most charming small towns, attendees are sure to enjoy pure pie perfection.  
Picture of Banner and of Buffet Sign amoungst tents  
A Warm Pie Festival Welcome

From top crust to two crust, juicy to sweet, chocolate to custard all matter of flavors and fillings will flow forth for two full days in April to the delight of an anticipated 28,000 pie lovers from around the world.

Presented by the American Pie Council® (APC) - an organization dedicated to preserving America's pie heritage - the popular festival returns to Celebration with all the activities that have made it a favorite event for families and remains free open to the public. 

Whether bonafide pie lovers or casual nibblers looking for an afternoon of fun, Orlando residents and visitors are invited to stroll through the free-admission festival and enjoy two days of family fun, reminiscent of days gone by. The Crisco® Kids Creation Station will give aspiring young bakers an opportunity to create their own pies or enjoy some fun with pie decorating, pie-scaping, Piecasso tin art and many more activities! The Pietopia Demonstration Stage sponsored by Village Inn and Bakers Square Restaurants will feature entertainment and baking demonstrations with chefs from across the country. Of course, the Great American Pie Festival would not be complete without a Pie Eating Contest, sponsored by Private Selection.  Attendees may opt to dig in and compete or simply sit back and enjoy the show. All festival events will be held both days. 
Children with their faces covered in pie  
Great American Pie Festival's Pie-Eating Contest

As the festival favorite for the past nine years, the Never Ending Pie Buffet will once again feature an all you can eat smorgasbord of 83,000 award-winning pie slices - up from 70,000 in recent years -- as well as ice cream, toppings and beverages from local, regional and national commercial bakeries, restaurants and markets, including Bakers Square Restaurants and Pies, Bonert's Slice of Pie, California Raisin Marketing Board, J. Horner's Desserts, Kroger's Private Selection, Publix Super Markets, Inc., Rocky Mountain Pies, Smucker's Toppings, The Folger Coffee Company, Village Inn, Wick's Pies and Winn-Dixie.   This is the only paid event at the festival.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors over 65 and children under 5 to enjoy all they care to eat and drink.
Girl with cherry pie on her face  
Digging Into Cherry Pie
The 17th Annual American Pie Council/ Crisco® National Pie Championships return to Orlando April 8-10, 2011 expecting a record number of entries across all categories, to top last year's record entries: 417 commercial, 170 professional, 321 amateur and seven junior - totaling an astounding 907 pies!  

New this year are three categories created to reflect the signs of the times.  "Gluten-free" requiring a pie that is gluten-free in all aspects including crust, filling and toppings.  "Innovation" sponsored by Crisco in honor of the brand's 100th Anniversary this year.  The "Innovation" category requires a blend of classic and contemporary innovative pie making technique and pie flavor selections.  Finally a "Royal Wedding" pie suitable for a soon-to-be-married Prince William and Kate Middleton is the third new category. The pie's the limit with all three of the new categories as well as familiar favorites.  

It will take a record number of judges - 200 prequalified volunteer pie aficionados - to eat through almost 1,000 pieces to find the crème de la crème of North American pie bakers. It comes as no surprise that the largest number of entries for a single flavor goes to America's collective favorite - apple pie - with 39 entries in the amateur category.           

Entry forms are available online for junior, amateur, professional and commercial divisions.  Entry costs are free for juniors and $15 for amateurs.  APC members receive discounts on entries.

Host hotel Caribe Royale Hotel is offering a special $129 per night room rate for those attending or participating in the Great American Pie Festival or National Pie Championships.  To book this special rate, you must tell the hotel you are with the event.  Call 800-823-8300 to book a room.

The festival will be held at Lakeside Park at 631 Sycamore St. in downtown Celebration, Florida 34747. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, April 10. Admission to the festival is free. Costs for the Never Ending Pie Buffet are: $10 adults, $5 ages 65 and up; $5 ages 6-12.

For more information, visit the Front Porch Celebration Community at or the American Pie Council

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Orlando is the National Leader in Fast Food!

We're number one! We're number one!

Apparently Orlando has the most fast food restaurants per 100,000 residents in the country (at 196.3). We have a total of 463 fast food restaurants, with Subway being the most populous.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

10 Years for DCA

Ten years ago today, I scurried over after work to Disneyland. Wait, scratch that. It was the "Disneyland Resort" for the first time ever, and Disneyland's companion park DCA was open for its inaugural day.

By the time I made it there, it was early evening. The park was, uh, not crowded (it was a Thursday, chosen to avoid the assuredly huge crowds that would come!) The park didn't draw the crowds they expected those first few years.

A lot has changed in those ten years, and even more is in the process of changing. Like many, I felt that DCA took the cheap route in a lot of ways, and the park didn't "feel" like a Disney park. But I also sensed that the basic idea - a park celebrating California - wasn't inherently flawed. The improvements over the years have been beneficial - especially World of Color, Monsters Inc, Flik's Fun Fair, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. They pale in comparison with Carsland and Little Mermaid. So much has changed, and the park marches forward, as we all knew it would. Happy birthday, DCA.

Monday, February 07, 2011

D23 at WDW in May - Scavenger Hunt and Convention

Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th

Tickets on Sale February 24 at 10 a.m. PST; 1 p.m. EST

The Event Offers Members of Disney’s Official Fan Club an Exclusive Look at Walt Disney World and Features Disney Legends, Imagineers, Musical Performances, Entertaining Presentations, Rare Screenings, Special Gifts & More.

Plus: D23’s Great Disney Scavenger Hunt: Walt Disney World Is Ready to Race!

Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and D23: The Official Disney Fan Club is marking this milestone May 14 and May 15 with their highly anticipated member event Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th, another unforgettable experience available exclusively to D23 Members. The event will take D23 Members on a journey from the moment when the first parcels of land in Central Florida were purchased in 1964 through the opening of EPCOT Center in 1982 and beyond.

D23 today announced that tickets will go on sale February 24 at 10 a.m., Pacific Time (1 p.m. Eastern Time). D23 members can purchase tickets to the spectacular two-day event at Last year’s Destination D event was sold-out so fans are encouraged to book early.

Guests may also now register for D23’s Great Disney Scavenger Hunt: Walt Disney World, which takes place May 12 & 13, and will send hundreds of teams across the Resort’s four theme parks in what will be the largest scavenger hunt to ever hit Walt Disney World! Registration for the Hunt is open to both D23 Member and the general public. (Registration for the Hunt is separate from Destination D.)

The weekend’s activities will illuminate the rich history of Walt Disney’s “Project Florida.” Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th will feature a remarkable gathering of Walt Disney World pioneers, retrospectives, screenings of rare and newly discovered film and TV footage and lively presentations that will give D23 members an unprecedented look at this truly spectacular World.

All Destination D guests will also receive a complimentary, limited-edition reproduction of the 1970 “Preview Edition” of the Walt Disney World souvenir guidebook from the Walt Disney Archives Collection. The 22-page, colorful book is just one of the gifts Members will receive. The complete Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th line-up (as well as information about D23’s Great Disney Scavenger Hunt) is available at the D23 Web site and includes:

* Appearances by notable Disney Legends & Imagineers Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Jack Lindquist, Eric Jacobson, Tony Baxter, Charlie Ridgway and Ron Logan, in addition to Debra Browne, the 1971 Walt Disney World Ambassador.

* A special exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives featuring rare items and artifacts showing the creation and evolution of Walt Disney World Resort.

* A multitude of fantastic presentations covering topics such as bizarre and wacky moments in Walt Disney World’s past, Walt’s vision for EPCOT, and even a peek at the Walt Disney World that never was!

* Rare autograph session with Disney Legends and authors.

* An enchanting concert, Magic Journeys: A Flight of Fancy through 40 Years of Walt Disney World Musical Memories featuring Disney Legend and Academy Award®-winner Richard M. Sherman.


Date: May 14 & May 15, 2011

Location: Fantasia Ballroom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Registration: Open Friday, May 13 from noon – 9 p.m. Open Saturday, May 14 at 8 a.m. Registration will be located at the East Registration Counter in the Fantasia Lobby of Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Tickets: Available Thursday, February 24, at 10 am PST (1 pm EST)

Visit to order tickets.

Cost: $175 per person; $215 for ticket plus registration of one Great Disney Scavenger Hunt team (between two and four people)

Read more details, including how to join D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, go to

Sunday, February 06, 2011

El Pirata y el Pericho has been renamed Tortuga Tavern

The operation is still seasonal, but the decor has changed to match the Pirates movies more explicitly.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Star Wars Weekends dates - May 20-June 12

Star Wars Weekends return to DHS every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the May 20-June 12 time frame. Expect lots of guests, though the only ones confirmed so far are Ashley Eckstein and Anthony Daniels.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

SeaWorld's new whale show will not mix humans and orcas

"One Ocean" will open in late April, replacing Believe at SeaWorld Orlando. No longer will animals and humans mix in the water, no doubt in reflection of the death of a trainer last year. Also expect a heavier conservation theme. See more at the Orlando Sentinel:,0,5206150.story

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Busch Gardens Tampa - $60 night safari

Perhaps in answer to Disney's new Wild Africa Trek, BGT has a new safari, with a nighttime examination of animals. Park admission is oddly not required, and it's only $60 per adult (MUCH cheaper than Disney's trek).

From the BGT blog:

Special Valentine-Themed Serengeti Night Safari Showcases Nighttime Behaviors of Animals

It's only two weeks away -- do you have your Valentine's Day date plans in order?

Celebrate Valentine’s weekend with a romantic adventure into the African night, complete with unforgettable experiences and delicious treats on Busch Gardens Serengeti Night Safari.

Venture through Edge of Africa to witness the active nighttime behaviors of hippos, lions and hyenas, lit only by moonlight and handheld lanterns.

Then, on the Serengeti Plain, use night-vision monoculars and special filtered lighting to view free-roaming herds of giraffes, zebra, rhinos and other intriguing African animals. After your amazing animal adventure, cozy up around a roaring bonfire to hear colorful tales of African folklore.

This nighttime experience begins and ends in the exclusive Safari Club. You will enjoy savory appetizers and adult beverages before the excursion, and a special nightcap completes the evening with champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

21 and over only.