Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Great New Diet

Warning! Not a blog entry to be read before eating!

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that my husband and I love to support the restaurants in and around Celebration. Even when we were still tourists and didn't rent a car, we ate our way around Disney World property. In a decade or so, we managed to sample virtually every restaurant at WDW. One of our favorite treats was to book an all-inclusive package. The name seems to change every year, but the package benefits are always similar. You can choose from a variety of dining locations, including some of the pricey ones like Yachtsmans Steakhouse and the eateries at the Grand Floridian, and the meal is included in your package. You pay one fee up front, and then you stuff your gullet with as much fine dining as you can handle.

Depending on the plan specifics, you might be eligible for two or three meals a day. You typically get to choose an appetizer, main course, side dish, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. Since the tip is also included, based on what your meal normally would cost, many of the servers are expert in helping you maximize the dollar amount. Whenever we vacationed on "The God Package," as we called it, we were never happy unless we saw Mickey crying as we pulled away from the hotel at the end of our trip.

Now that we live in Celebration, we obviously don't do vacation packages anymore. But we purchased the Disney Dining Experience card, which offers a 20 percent discount at virtually all WDW restaurants. It even provides a lesser discount at Max's in Downtown Celebration, which can be combined with the Market Street Cafe VIP Rewards Card (as you might have guessed, I'm a money-saving fanatic). Now we eat out at Disney World a couple of times a week; we try to vary our routine, but we seem to end up at Jiko, Artists Point, or Ohana most frequently.

Since we are residents, we have a car, so we've expanded our dining horizons to the whole Orlando area. We tend to gravitate to the Crossroads, Sand Lake Road (Dr. Phillips area) and I-Drive, where Chevy's, Bahama Breeze, Melting Pot, TooJay's, and Cage Tu Tu Tango are favorites. If we feel like staying closer to home, Logan's Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Perkins, Friday's, Bennigan's, and Cracker Barrel can all be found (often in duplicate and triplicate) right out on 192.

Due to all the temptation, it's been a constant struggle to eat healthy most of the time and to keep up a regular exercise schedule. But this week, I discovered a wonderful way to diet: simply visit the WFTV website at http://www.wftv.com/money/4467314/detail.html (link will open in a new window) and watch the video about restaurant sanitation. UGH!!! When viewed shortly before going out to eat, it's a very effective appetite suppressant.

A fellow resident posted the link on Celebration's Front Porch intranet, since some of the restaurants featured are pretty close by. Fortunately, I have never patronized any of them, as I was ready to toss my cookies by the time the clip was done. There is a restaurant called China One in Champion's Gate that I've actually heard good things about. But when I saw the food stored on the floor and the loosely wrapped, bloody pork resting right on top of an open bowl of pineapple chunks, any chance that I would ever try their cuisine flew right out the window. The mold in the ice machine was unappetizing, too, but I eat blue cheese and the "blue" is mold, so I supposed it would be contradictory to have a problem with "blue ice." Perhaps it actually has antibiotic properties that protect diners from illness that could be caused by the pork-tainted pineapples.

There was another restaurant where the clean pots and pans, as well as food, was stored outside in a wide-open shed! Dead and live roaches were found everywhere, including actually crawling on the workers.

But what I found most amazing about the whole sequence was not the atrocious violations but the fact the restaurants involved actually allowed a camera team inside. WFTV hired a professional inspector and asked permission to enter the businesses. To me, that says these places are so clueless that they don't even know that they're doing anything wrong.

After watching the video, I searched the internet, trying to find online restaurant inspection reports for the places that I regularly patronize. I found a link for District 4 (Osceola and Orange counties) on the official FL government website, but all it did was run some weird executable file that has probably placed my laptop under the control of Governor Jeb.

The restaurant that I most wanted to look up was the IHOP across from Celebration on 192. Of all the places where I've dined in Florida, that's the only one where I actually feared for my health. The dust was half an inch thick on the ledges, and the few glimpses that I got of the kitchen while waiting nearly an hour for my food were enough to turn my stomach. But if I needed to be sick, I would have been out of luck. I had dared to attempt to visit the restroom, and the toilet was missing its tank lid. Worse yet, the bowl was filled completely with paper, and someone had simply "let go" a nice, big pile on top of the mess. By the time our food arrived, I don't think I ate more than a few bites.

Now I know how to curb my appetite when needed. Simply follow the link to the WFTV website before every restaurant visit...safer and more effective than diet pills. Plus, it gives me a reason to stick to stick to two of my favorite restaurants. Both are rather pricey, but now I have justification. At the Melting Pot, you cook your own food. At Jiko, you can view the kitchen from the dining areas. No food on the floor or bloody pineapples there, thank goodness.

Learn more about Celebration on my website: www.celebrationinfo.com

1 comment:

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