CULINARY CREATIONS AT THE CRYSTAL CIRCUS
December 17, 2014
First off, let’s just take a look at that fine alliteration in the title. It doesn’t get much better than that, am I right? Ok, moving on…
This past weekend, my fantastic friend Jeanine invited me to be her date to her company’s Christmas party in Orlando, Florida. “There will be food, drinks, and dancing” she teased. “I’ll be there,” I told her. “You had me at ‘there will be food’.”
THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:
Saying this weekend was great would be a huge understatement. Aside from a trip to Florida and a beautiful hotel room on Walt Disney World property, I was also granted free admission to both the Disney and Universal parks. Without missing a beat, we headed to Epcot on the first night to drink around the world. In case you have never been to Epcot or you are a recovering alcoholic, let me just say
this is the best thing to do at Disney (minus Thunder Mountain). At
Epcot World Showcase, there is a gigantic loop consisting of over ten
countries. From France to Africa, you can travel the world in just
under one hour.
One of the best things about the Epcot World Showcase is that you
can try food and drinks from each country. We had a grilled ham and
cheese sandwich from Norway, a bratwurst from Germany, a funnel
cake from America, and many shots of Tequila from Mexico.
The first night of my trip was a success!
The next morning, we ventured over to Universal Studios to check
out the new Harry Potter attractions at Diagon Alley. Now, if you are
not familiar with Harry Potter, first shame on you. Second, there is a
drink called Butter Beer and it is phenomenal. It is a tad bit sweet –
and nonalcoholic – but it is an excellent refresher for a hot day at
the theme parks.
Later that evening, Jeanine and I got all dolled up and ready for the Christmas party, located at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. The theme of the party was Crystal Circus, so, as you can see, we dressed appropriately.
(I'm the one in the top hat)
After a brief Cabaret, magic show, and award ceremony, the curtains raised and we were shown the grandeur of the dining room. With a live band, acrobats, and an open bar, this is what I imagine heaven to be like.
In lieu of a plated dinner, there were four food stations set up around the ballroom and waiters walking around with appetizers. Here is a look at the menu:
Everything sounded fantastic, but I was desperately in search for the fried chicken.
Our first stop was the Yukon Gold Potato Angolotti, potato stuffed pasta topped with carrots, carmelized salsify, and beurre monte (whatever that is). It was so delicious, but the only problem was they only gave you two tiny pieces of angolotti. By the time I reached my assigned table, I was already finished and craving seconds.
The next station we visited was the Calotte De Beouf, which I think is just French for steak (is it? I don’t know. I took Spanish in high school). The dish was seared beef rib cap, creamed spinach, roasted parsnip and truffle veal jus. It was delicious as well, but again, the serving size was for a baby hamster. This time around I pretended I was getting food for my pregnant wife, so I swiped three more plates.
Back at the table, with two vodka tonics staring at me, all I was concerned with was the fried chicken. I went up to each cocktail server and waitress, inquiring about the only thing I was excited about.
“Oh, it should be coming around…I’ll go check in the kitchen…Should you really be eating friend chicken..?”
The third station was directly behind our table, so Jeanine and I wandered over. It was called the “Anti-Griddle” station where they were serving tomato soup, lobster bisque, and gazpacho. But there was a twist – it was frozen in the shape of a tiny popsicle. Apparently they put the soup in nitrogen or something (I failed chemistry. And, well, Spanish…)
Realizing my chicken dream was never going to come true, Jeanine and I headed to the other end of the ballroom to check out the last of the remaining stations. By the time we reached it, I had already finished my third vodka of the evening and my stomach was beginning to growl. I looked at the menu and saw “Seared Black Sea Bass” and immediately got upset.
I don’t eat fish. I’ve only eaten fish once, and it was by mistake (read about it here!) But, like I said, I was starving, so I took a plate and headed back to my seat. Maybe it was how hungry and drunk I was or maybe it was my taste buds finally appreciating fish, but the sea bass was actually really good. It didn’t taste like fish at all, it tasted more like chicken.
WHICH REMINDS ME…
Finally, around 9:45pm, I saw the chicken man and called him over. I asked him if he could bring us some chicken. He responded saying that he had been trying to bring our table chicken the entire evening, but on his way, people would stop him and grab the chicken and he would run out. This went on for about an hour. I handed the man a 10$ bill and assured him
that he was allowed to elbow patrons who got in his way. Five minutes later, he came by with a tray of chicken just for our table. I was the hero of table 26.
(In reality, the chicken was basically buffalo chicken bites that you can by in the freezer section of your local grocery store. But, it did the trick).
Once dinner was finished, they brought out the most delectable dessert table, filled with macaroons, homemade ice cream, tiramisu and all different kinds of pastries. I had one of each and then ran to the open bar for a few more vodkas.
The rest of the night is kind of a blur. I remember dancing a lot. I remember doing a tequila shot in the bathroom. And I remember eating pizza at 3am. Which I think are all fantastic ingredients to a great night.
So, while the food was sparse and light, it was all incredibly delicious and savory. The presentation and the entire menu concept was really out of the box and inventive. “They don’t plate food like this at The Outback” I kept repeating all night. In any event, it was such a great weekend away where I got to see one of my closest friends, make some new ones, and enjoy a bunch of good food!