Thursday, October 27, 2005

Snowbird Season

As autumn's chill sets in across the country, the snowbirds are winging their way back to Celebration. I'm glad because our little corner of East Village feels more complete during snowbird season. We have neighbors who summer in Virginia and return to Florida around October. Our block seems incomplete while they are gone; now, it feels like the "gang" is all together.

Since we keep an eye on their house while they're gone, they rewarded us with dinner tonight. We ended up at Cafe Tu Tu Tango, one of my favorite places on International Drive. I love the I-Drive area; it's easy to get to, especially if you avoid I-4 and take the backroads, and the selection of restaurants is excellent (that is, on the rare occasions that Cafe Tu Tu Tango doesn't tempt me in).

I reviewed Cafe Tu Tu Tango in an earlier blog entry, but for those who haven't read it, it's a tapas restaurant. That means the entire menu is made up of appetizers; it's the perfect place to go with an adventurous group because you can order several items to share.

Tapas are most commonly associated with Spanish restaurants, but Tu Tu Tango is quite eclectic. They have everything from duck and goat cheese salad on flat bread to pizzas, antipasto, empanadas, sloppy joe quesadillas, spinach/artichoke dip, and alligator bites. Each week, the chef creates new specials to complement the regular menu.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango has nightly entertainment, so we tried to get there a bit early to avoid the typical evening crowd. I love the restaurant's's styled after an artist's loft, with artwork cramming every available bit of wall space. There's always at least one talented artisan at work, painting or doing some type of craft.

Since there were five of us (my husband and I, our neighbors, and one of their relatives), we had enough people to embark on a culinary adventure. None of our companions had been to Tu Tu Tango before, so we had the pleasure of describing the delights that awaiting them and working them into a drool.

We started off with a pitcher of sangria and a diverse selection of choices to share: alligator bites, antipasto, empanadas, cuban steak skewers, lobster/bacon pasta and stuffed mushrooms. I also ordered one item to hoard: a bowl of portabello mushroom soup. Soup is rather difficult to pass around the table, and in all honestly it's so delicious that I didn't want to share it. It's a special item that I've only seen on the menu twice, but it compares to the godly mushroom soup that is always available at Artists Point in the Wilderness Lodge. Maybe it's some cosmic law that restaurants that are associated with art must also have mushroom soup to die for.

Dessert was an odd combination: guava cheesecake and poached pear salad. I know that salad sounds like an odd way to cap a meal, but that particular selection is sugary enough to satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. The pears are drizzled with balsamic vinegar and served on shortbread-type cookies. They're surrounded by salad greens and bleu cheese, making an odd sweet-and-salty combination.

By the time we were ready to head back to Celebration, the entertainment was gearing up. A balloon man was creating intricate headgear for the kids, and a fortune teller was reading tarot cards at a table in the front of the restaurant. Both my neighbor and I got our cards read on a large; interestingly, my reading seemed to focus on a recent major happening in my life, even though I didn't tell the card reader anything. Then we paused to watch the belly dancers before finally taking our leave.

When we got home, another neighbor was out in the alley, so we all chatted for a while before hubby and I retired to the confines of Duloc Manor. Inside, Farquaad was waiting anxiously to tell us that it was kitty dinnertime and that he was in imminent danger of starvation...after all, it had been a full 24 hours before he'd had a can of food (in his book, the dry food that is always available doesn't count).

All around Celebration, there will be more and more signs that the snowbirds are returning. More houses will be illuminated, church congretations will slowly swell, and there will be more faces to greet around town. I'm glad it's that time of year again; I enjoy the summertime, but it feels a bit lonely. It's good to know that the East Village posse is complete once again.

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