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Hail to the Chef

April 11, 2013

As is my way when on vacation, I eat. I eat a lot. It’s no secret that I rejoice in American cuisine.

First night there, I wanted something simple and inexpensive. I had eaten very little for fear of turbulence making me sick on the plane. (And there was a whole mess of turbulence on the plane. I was also seated behind the engines so the flight was already bumpy.) To say I was hungry was an understatement. So why waste super-hunger on the best food when most any food will do?

T.G.I. Friday’s – I’d always seen commercials for this chain bar and grill. Looked like any other bar and grill. But by being an American restaurant, it already trumps every Canadian competitor. Jack Daniels glazed chicken breast with some rice. It was yummy. I also had some tortilla chips with salsa, hummus and queso cheese for dipping. I skipped the hummus because, although it’s got garlic, it’s still hummus. The salsa was simple but very tasty. Not too tangy. The queso cheese was a big tub of melted gooey cheese. Fuck the chips, hand me a spoon! The chips weren’t bad though.

The first full day was rainy, very rainy. I drove down to Sarasota to go back to Yoder’s.

Yoder’s – Traditional American home cooking at it’s finest. The bread brought to the table with butter was just sliced bread like Wonder Bread or something, except it was fresh bread made with an unbleached wheat flour. And still warm fresh bread. For an appetizer, I nibbled on the potato pancakes. Unlike the common potato pancake around here (a big hash brown), at Yoder’s, the potato pancake was soft and fluffy like a buttermilk pancake only with the potato and oniony flavour. They were not only tasty, but comforting to eat, like a pillow of potato. For lunch, I ordered the famous fried chicken. A quarter chicken. White meat. The breading was simple. No fancy spices or flavourings, just good breading. The chicken itself was juicy and tender and oh so delicious. I had it with a side of mashed potatoes with white country gravy and green beans in butter. Did I mention this chicken was some sort of giant chicken? I didn’t. Okay, here I go. This was a giant chicken. I just ordered the breast and wing of a chicken and I was given something that was large enough to have swallowed a turkey whole. It was huge! It was so big I couldn’t even eat a whole slice of pie for dessert. And Yoder’s makes the best pie in the world. The best. I had half a slice of Yoder’s key lime pie. The whip cream on the slice was fresh whip cream. Trust me, once you’ve had fresh whip cream, that crap in the can or tub will never do. Oh, it was so good.

Yoder’s Market – Beside the restaurant is a little grocery market. Almost like a farmer’s market. I bought some snickerdoodles. A simple cookie that for some reason, nobody in Canada sells. Nobody. Look in my eyes. I can’t find them in Canada. Nobody sells them. And they’re so good. And these were baked on premises snickerdoodles. Even better than the Pepperidge Farm snickerdoodles. (I later bought four packages of those at a Publix supermarket.) Also at the market, I bought two jars of jam. One jar cherry which I had last time. Killed it in a week. So good this cherry jam. The second jar, loganberry jam. Yeah, you read that right. Loganberry jam. I know you just rubbed your eyes thinking you weren’t seeing that properly. That’s what I did in the middle of the market. Loganberry jam. I’ve had this jar for a week now and I still don’t believe it’s real. I’m afraid to open it and have spring snakes leap out at me.

In Downtown Disney there are plenty of dining establishments. They’re just all really busy. I opted for something simple.

Bodie’s – A double cheeseburger, cooked well with some bacon and lettuce. Then I put some barbecue sauce on it. Good. Bodie’s shares it’s condiments table with a Latin-American chicken place. I snagged some tomatillo sauce to put on the burger too. It was good. Pricey and very very messy, but good.

The traffic on Friday was absolutely insane. Driving back from Sarasota should have only taken two hours or so. Once I got within smelling distance of Lake Buena Vista on Interstate 4, traffic went to a complete stop. I was doing 70 miles per hour, minimum all the way up I-75 and across the I-4 but once I got near LBV/Orlando, cars just magically appeared on the highway and I stopped moving altogether. I never saw any accident or pulled over vehicles, it was just a heaping mess of cars. I got off the I-4 and all of the alternate routes where just as bad or worse. The traffic stayed that bad all Friday and Saturday too. Fearing getting stuck in traffic on the way to a restaurant, I decided to stay close or in the hotel for dinner on Friday and Saturday.

Uno’s Pizzeria – Another chain restaurant but this one focused on pizza. I didn’t order pizza though. I had a buffalo chicken quesodilla that was alright. The sauce wasn’t too tangy like most buffalo chicken sauces. The wrap was crunchy so it held the quesodilla together after each bite. Then I had some more chicken, a grilled chicken breast with the usual herbs and spices. Nothing fancy with this meal, just good food cooked right. I would compare Uno’s to the Canadian equivalent, Boston Pizza (yup, there’s a Canadian pizza restaurant chain named Boston Pizza). The food was fine, the service was prompt and friendly. When I go out to eat I expect a relaxing, tasty meal for a reasonable price. Uno’s gave me that experience.

Evergreen Cafe – Doubletree Suites by Hilton never offers a super restaurant, but never fails to produce a good meal. I had these chicken-stuffed rolls and a roast beef sandwich with a french dip. The chicken roll appetizer was basically a tubular, crunchy chicken quesodilla. Very tasty. The sandwich was simple and great. Good meat, good au jus sauce, good cheese and the right amount of mushroom and onion. The bun was toasted just right. This was a good meal. And I didn’t have to leave the hotel.

Sunday night I ventured up International Drive to a something called The Pointe. In The Pointe, there is an Italian restaurant with some banquet hall rooms.

Maggiano’s – Two years ago, I went to this restaurant. I really enjoyed my meal and experience at this restaurant two years ago. I went back hoping for, well, not the same, but damn near close. Never have I felt more unpatriotic than I did as I finished my meal at Maggiano’s. This meal, this experience was so wonderful it had me hating my home country because I cannot get this meal, this service, this price in Canada. Do Americans realize how great they have it in their country? Do Canadians realize how much better it is south of the border? Do you know why America has an obesity problem? Because they have the best damn food and restaurants in the world.

I ate some fried zucchini that was delicious. I ate a flatbread that was basically a pizza without tomato sauce. Really good pizza. I had a lasagna that was the best lasagna not made in the kitchen of an old mama bravo Italian lady. I had some gnocchi that was so soft and coated with a great cheese sauce mixed with the best Italian sausage I’ve ever tasted. The quantities of these foods were comically large. And to top it all off, I had to add up the numbers on the bill to make sure the total was correct. It was too low. This much food at that quality should not cost so little! I felt bad being charged so little for this meal.

Why is a dining experience like this simply not available in Canada? Last winter, I went to a hoidy-toidy expensive Italian restaurant in Toronto’s Distillery District. I ordered the twenty dollar gnocchi entree and was served five gnocchi. Okay, maybe not five, maybe somewhere around ten, but definitely less then twenty. Gnocchi should never be more than a dollar each. And that was just gnocchi in sauce. Maggiano’s gnocchi with Italian sausage entree was 18 bucks or so. It was enough food to feed two of me. And let me repeat, at Maggiano’s it was the best Italian sausage I’ve ever had. I don’t know what the locals think of Maggiano’s but if I lived anywhere in Central Florida, I’d be there once a week.

For those who know me well, I often speak lovingly of an Italian restaurant called Dante’s. If Maggiano’s was in my town, I’d never return to Dante’s and I love Dante’s. Yes Bob. YOU read that right. Maggiano’s is better than Dante’s by that much.

Monday night was my last night there. I wanted something vacationy for dinner on my last night. I found this place called Bahama Breeze. Never heard of it but I gave it a try.

Bahama Breeze – A bar and grill that tries of offer a taste of the islands. I’ve never been to the islands. I don’t know what they taste like. I perused the menu. After pages of fruity cocktails and martinis and the like, I found a page titled “Snacks.” Looked like appetizers. I tried the yuca fries in truffle oil, chicken empanadas and something else that amounted to be little corn bread pucks. Both were quite tasty. The page after snacks was titled “Appetizers.” Huh? Those snacks weren’t appetizers? Sure looked like appetizers to me. I ordered two appetizers. Pulled pork with barbecue sauce and buttermilk fried chicken sliders. These so-called appetizers were what Canadians would expect from an entree. This was plenty of food. Sure, some of the entrees on the menu looked rather tasty but I passed. The snacks and appetizers were plenty of food for me. Everything tasted great. The yuca fries were a nice variation from the usual french fry. Thick and chunky, almost like a wedge, cooked just right, not to greasy. The corn bread pucks had niblets of actual corn. The chicken empananda was a small but tasty empanada. Meat-filled pastry, can’t complain there. The pulled pork wasn’t the best pulled pork or anything but was still tasty. The sauce, I’ve had better, but there’s nothing wrong with this one. The chicken sliders were good pieces of white meat, fried just right. They came with a citrus dipping sauce. Too citrusy for me, but at the right amount, really made for a tasty slider. Usually when I order sliders, I get three sliders. This place gave me four.

For my breakfasts, I hit a grocery store in the area and bought some stuff to eat in my hotel suite.

Publix – I’m guessing this is a higher-end supermarket. About the same size as my nearby Loblaws or Fortinos or Longos or Metro or Sobeys supermarket here in the GTA. But somehow, in roughly the same amount of square-footage, this Publix place managed to double the selection of foods. Next time you’re at a Canadian grocery store, look at the cereal aisle and count the number of Cheerios variations. Three kinds: Cheerios, Honey Nut and Multi-Grain. In the States, I lost count: Chocolate, Banana Nut, Cinnamon, Tartar Control… Do you know there are four different kinds of Cap’n Crunch? I didn’t! I thought there was just Cap’n Crunch.

To sum up my point, the food selection, quality, quantity, cost in the United States of America is unbelievable to me, a visiting Canadian. Whenever I hear anybody bash the US of A, I will tell them to go fuck themselves. I love America because America fed me better than I’ve ever eaten.

It’s not like a put a huge amount of research into Zagat’s guides and reviews of restaurants. Most of my dining was just “Hey, that place looks nice. I’ll give it a try.” I was never disappointed. I was continuously amazed and satiated.

If you’re reading this and not an American, I suggest going to the US for your next vacation. Just go there for a week and eat. Sure, you might gain a few pounds, but you’ll love each and every pound you gain.

But if you’re an American reading this, why don’t you come up here to Canada and visit me once in a while. And bring me some snickerdoodles.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob permalink
    April 11, 2013 11:52 am

    I want to vacation in the US. Bobette needs to make sure her job is permanent first.

    Did you see Peanut Butter Cheerios? I found them here. Not as great as they sound.

    Next time we go to a Jay game, we need to go to the Loose Moose. I need to show you the fried chicken there.

    ——–

    Didn’t I already tell you to honeymoon in Disneyworld but nooooo, you didn’t listen to me.

  2. April 11, 2013 7:29 pm

    Glad that you got a lot of good eating in. Sounds awesome.

    I had some really great food when I was last in the US (DC). And I love all of the junk food in US grocery stores.

    ———–

    It’s just so much better there.

  3. April 13, 2013 11:52 pm

    I’m so glad your tummy found such awesome satisfaction! You made it all sound so wonderful. :)

    I’ve been to the original Uno’s in downtown Chicago, years before it was a chain. The pizza there was pretty good, but I have no idea if the chain compares to the original.

    One reason why prices might be so great where you were is because FL doesn’t have a state sales tax. I bet those meals would cost considerably more if you were to get them in say, Chicago or NY, which have much higher state and city sales taxes.

    So any of those places you mentioned have web sites that will deliver? Heck, I’d make fresh snickerdoodles for you if you paid for it. :)

    Awesome review, as always.

    ——–

    There was sales tax on most stuff. It’s half of what it is here in Ontario.

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