Saturday, August 09, 2008

Citricos Floor Show

Disney World is known for its dinner shows, primarily the Hoop Dee Doo Review and the luau at the Polynesian, although Mickey's Backyard Barbecue has its charm too. I thought we were familiar with all of them, but the other night I discovered a show at a restaurant where I would never have expected it: Citricos at the Grand Floridian. From what I could tell it was mostly a comedy, somewhat interactive, and we ended up with a front row seat.

First, a little background on Citricos and the hotel. It's one of the signature restaurants, and for good reason. The food is absolutely to die for, and the ambiance is generally lovely. The whole Grand Floridian hotel looks like something out of Mary Poppins, and Mary herself appears there at a character meal. There's an elegant staircase where countless wedding photos have been snapped and a live band to serenade strollers. My favorite time to visit is around Christmas, when chestnuts are literally roasting and a huge gingerbread house imparts a tasty cookie smell to the entire lobby.

We usually eat at Citricos early in the day, around the time they first open (5:30ish). It's still light out, and we generally get seated in the back dining room which has a pool view. That in itself can be a bit of a show; we once saw Cinderella's carriage, drawn by white ponies, go by on its way to a wedding. But for the most part it's quiet and low key, especially for a Disney restaurant where fussy, wailing kids are often the norm even at the fanciest and priciest places.

It's hard to describe the food, but if pressed I would say that it's fru fru Italian fusion. That doesn't really do it justice; there's a wide variety and it often changes weekly depending on what fresh ingredients are available. I'm a huge fan of their appetizers, especially the goat cheese truffles and what I call risotto mc nuggets, a name that doesn't do them justice (but I can't think of the real name right now). Basically they are deep fried balls of risotto, and they are so good! They also had an heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad imported straight from Heaven, but sadly it's off the menu at the moment.

The entrees are no slouch either. The rotisserie pork is my favorite, although hubby loves the short rib. The various fish dishes are tasty, too, if you're into seafood. For dessert, there are homemade gelatos that rival the godly concoctions I get in Palo on the Disney cruise ships, and the chocolate banana tort is amazing.

All in all, Citricos is among my top three favorite Disney restaurants, with Jiko and Artist Point holding the other two slots. Its only drawback is that the Grand Floridian's parking lot is located across the street vs. right by the hotel like Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Actually, I suppose that the extra walk is a plus, since it burns off a couple of the calories packed in those scoops of gelato. In the worst case, if I want to be supremely lazy, valet parking is included free with the Disney Dining Experience card, but I usually don't resort to that unless it's a stormy day.

The Floridian is generally viewed as a hoity toity hotel, and Citricos has a matching classy ambiance. Nothing at Disney is too formal, since lots of people roll in fresh from the theme parks sweaty, ruffled and jeans clad. But Citricos is still upscale, so I never expected to have a show like we had the other night. On this occasion, we got there much later than usual because my husband had flown in from Chicago and his plane was delayed. I suspected there would be a delay when I made the reservation, so I'd managed to time it pretty close to his actual arrival. At opening time the restaurant is practically a ghost town, but at this later hour it was jam packed with diners. Instead of being seated in the back dining room, we ended up at a table in the one closer to the front.

We settled in for our meal and had just finished our appetizers when the entertainment arrived. It was a group of several adults and a troop of eight kids, none over the age of 12. They were brought to a table across from us, where the adults began arguing animatedly with the hostess. The argument went on for quite some time, and at first I couldn't decipher it. Soon I realized that the parents were demanding a table far, far away from their little darlings. Yes indeed, they were seating the kids in our dining room and demanding that the adults be seated in the back one! We saw this happen at Denny's once, when the parents insisted on sitting across the dining room from their rampaging kidlets, but it seemed a bit out of place at Citricos. It was quite a sight to see one of the adult men fuming with his hands crossed over his chest, his face pulled down in a pout as he waited to see if a table could be found. I half expected him to melt down into a tantrum and beat his fists on the floor.

One of the kids appeared to be almost comatose. I felt rather sorry for him, as he was slumping over the table with his head down, nearly asleep. It was probably around 9:30, so he was no doubt exhausted from a day of theme parking. The pouty man descended on him like an avenging angel, pulled him up, boxed his ears, and marched him out of the restaurant, apparently all for the crime of nearly nodding off. A few minutes later they returned and the man shoved him back in his seat. At that point a table at the other end of the restaurant had been found for the adults so they marked away from their spawn as quickly as possible.

With the first act over, hubby and I turned to our entrees which had just arrived. Shortly thereafter I noticed that the kids' table received some food, and they fell to devouring it like hungry, crazed wolves. For a moment I almost wondered if the parents were only going to let them have bread. It reminded me of a fateful visit to the Weber Grill back in Illinois. Like Citricos, Weber Grill is rather upscale and has wonderful food (virtually all of which is cooked in some manner on the namesake grills). One day we were eating there when a family with a huge gaggle of kids trooped in. They were seated and said they didn't want to order till their friends arrived, but they asked for bread. When the bread basket arrived, the kids fell to like they hadn't seen food in a week. They went through three bread baskets, and their supposed friends never materialized. All of a sudden they got up and trooped out, never to be seen again, although one of the adults did toss a dollar on the crust and crumb strewn table.

But the Citricos gaggle did receive actual food, and once they had consumed it they launched right into Act Two. Now re-energized by their repast, they took to literally chasing each other around the dining room, while one child entertained us by doing gymnastics using two chairs as parallel bars. With no parental figure in sight, they were obviously taking full advantage of their freedom. I could see why the adults had insisted on eating in a separate dining room; they were no doubt tucking into a relaxing meal while strangers were dealing with the antics of their spawn.

At one point the young uns regrouped at the table and began spiritedly throwing some food remnants at each other in a manner that would have made John Belushi proud. I noticed that a couple at a nearby table had called a manager over and were in the midst of a spirited complaint. I'm not sure if it was related to the Von Trapp Family From Hell, but that's where I'd lay my money since they were closer to the kids' table than we were.

By the time we were ready to go, I don't even think the kids were using the table as a home base anymore. They had pretty much dispersed around the restaurant and appeared to be playing some form of tag, except for one toddler who was sprawled out on the floor and rolling around like log. We shook our heads as we headed out, amazed that we had learned something new. I never would have pegged Citricos as having a floor show, but on this night they most certainly did and we'd been front and center to see it.

Oh well, I guess that after the antics of the wild kid troop anything else will be tame. Our previous award winner for Most Interesting Disney Dining Experience happened recently at Jiko. We were seated across from a family that was rather unremarkable for most of the meal. At dessert time they all abandoned the table, leaving one member behind...a grandmotherly looking type who proceeded to whip out a cell phone and weld it to her ear. Okay, not the best of manners but rapidly becoming a norm so it still wasn't all that remarkable...until the bodily function conversation began.

In a loud Boston accent, she proceeded to yelp into the phone about a friend of hers whose medication was making him "puke his guts and pee like a racehorse." Those were her exact words, repeated several times for emphasis at a decibel level that invited everyone around her to share in the visualization of her graphic description. Thankfully we were already on dessert or I would have asked the manager to have a discreet word with her. She yammered on about the peeing for another 10 minutes, then loudly began boasting about her disability card. "I just give it to the rest of the family and relax in the room while they use it," she bellowed. "It's great because they don't have to wait in the long lines and I don't even have to be there with them. I just love spoiling them when we're at Disney World!" I'm not sure what her disability was, but my money was on Chronic Diarrhea of the Mouth. As we walked out, she was babbling on inanely about her dog sitter.

Most of our meals at Disney are rather mundane, with only the occasional screaming baby or kid using a buffet serving spoon to sample the wares. But every now and then you get the Ditch the Kids Family or Horse Pee Lady, and that's the stuff that memories are made of.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are very funny!! You should do a stand up comedy routine, I am sure you would get lots of laughs!!

gpiltz@yahoo.com said...

Barb,

I have continued to enjoy your blog for some time now, and am pleased to see such a humanizing and honest look at the world's first fully developed new urban community. You are doing a great service to all who are interested in your amazing town.

That being said, I must ask the following very silly, mere trivia question. Do you have any idea what music is played downtown in the planter speakers. I'd love to bring some of that ambience home.

I hope to come visit your lovely town again soon. One has to respect a place with a full compliment of human activites. Take that Seaside, FL! Cheers and thank you.

Geren

Dimples and Stars Race Cars and Guitars said...

Hi Barb...So excited to find someone in Celebration with a BLOG on BLOGGER!!! Just wanted to introduce ourselves and see if you would mind emailing me....since we are soon to be your neighbors...we hope! Well not like your exact neighbors but we are calling our little dream Celebration Or Bust...and yes I a starting a BLOG about our dream and journey. We knew when we got married that someday we would move and we have been trying to figure out WHERE for 7 years. My best Friend lives in The Woodlands TX and it is a planned community and we like so much about it...yet we just are not sure its where we are supose to be. My husband was at a business meeting when someone told him about Celebration. We actually only started researching it about a month ago. It did not take us long to figure out that we at least wanted to come for a visit...and now we are planning on leasing a house there for at least a year to, I guess you would say test the waters...wait if I am talking FL...I mean Swamps...HA! Not so much test the town...but more like a test of CHANGE for me. I was born a raised in a small town in OK...I now live in the city and I miss so much a sence of community, but all my family is still in OK...and my childrens grandparents...who my children ADORE. We are heading to something called GuatoctoberFest at Myrtle Beach SC in OCT(a adoptive families get together that some of my friends are putting together...our children are adopted from Guatemala)and we have decided to extend our trip and come see what Celebration is all about. I have now read two books about the town....but they seem to be about the first few years on Celebration. I can find nothing about Celebration now. I really want to know more and I am going to read throuh your BLOG more tonight. Thanks so much for your time reading this comment that sounds a little CRAZY...By the way hate to admit it but I have that fisrt day of school excitement....about our journey to make a life for our family in Celebration!

Hugs
Candy, Kya Blu, and Jagger Jett
cmurnan@itxnetwork.com

Bob@thenest said...

Uh oh. I just got off the phone and made reservations for our 40th anniversary there this coming Sunday. THEN I read this in your blog....

Gonzo Teacher said...

Barb:

This is the first time I've read your blog. My family has been thinking about relocating to FL from Oklahoma, and I found your blog when I was searching for information about Celebration.

You have some wonderful observations on kids at Disney. We make an annual pilgramage to the World, and I have one whole page in my scrapbook every year, dedicated to pictures that I've taken of kids who are acting like butt-heads.

I would consider moving to Celebration just to have coffee with you and make fun of the heathens.

And by the way, I have an 11 year old daughter. The only disturbance she had ever caused in a restaurant is when they tried to serve her overcook salmon.

Lilsa