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.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Potty Time at Disney World

I was perusing a Disney forum that I frequent, and someone posted a question about the cleanliness of the theme park restrooms. In days gone by, the Mouse had a reputation for being squeaky clean. In those days, you could always count on pristine potties. But nowadays, I'm sorry to say that gross restrooms are the norm. It's not Disney's fault so much as that of uncaring guests, but they're usually pretty filthy lately regardless of the reason.

Interestingly enough, there were a spate of responses praising the spotlessness of Disney johns. Of course, these were from occasional visitors who come maybe once a year and whose last visit might have been years ago. As someone who visits the parks once or twice a week and who downs copious amounts of water to stay hydrated in the Florida sun, I know very well how dirty the restrooms have become.

It's become a bit of a running joke between hubby and I as to how many stalls I have to peek into before a find one clean enough to rest my fussy butt. Many are the recipients of a golden shower, speckled with pee from a careless squatter who was too lazy to wipe off their mess. Those are nasty enough, but the worst are the stalls where you encounter a couple of chocolate logs floating on a nest of tissue. Nothing makes me back out quicker than that nasty present left by the last occupant.

For those latter disgusting circumstances, I blame the automatic flushers. People have become conditioned not to notice whether the flusher actually worked, or perhaps they just don't care. Problem is, lots of parents have kids who hate those things, so they put a sticker over the sensor to spare the trauma for Juniorette. Of course, they don't bother to remove it, and now you've got a sullied stall.

You've also got the guests who think that just because one Disney restroom has automatic flushers, that means that all of them do. Sadly, they don't and the ones with old-fashioned manual handles tends to contain some of the worst toilet bowl surprises. You've got the self centered sorts, too, like the woman who told her companion as she exited a stall with her leavings prominently floating, "I never touch toilet handles."

Disney tried to keep up with mess; almost every time I'm in a restroom, I see a poor, long-suffering Cast Member trying to clean up the chaos. Problem is, as soon as they scrub out one stall, there's someone slipping inside to sully it again.

Fortuntely, my regular visits to the park have endowed me with a near encyclopedic knowledge of the location of every restroom and the usual condition of each. Those on the main drag or near popular rides tend to be among the worst. There are a few that are tucked away in "hidden" areas, and those are usually tolerable. On average, I end up having to check three stalls before finding one without a pee spray or filled bowl. My world's record is a whopping seven stalls; it happened one peak season evening at Epcot, and I was almost ready to despair before I finally found an acceptable potty place.

This neverending quest for the Perfect Potty has even invaded my subconscious. When I'm sleeping but need to wake up to go to the restroom, I'll dream that I'm in a public potty searching futilely for a stall. Unfortunately every one of them is useless. In Dreamland it's not just because of filth. Some might not have a door on the stall, while others are missing the seat. Regardless, I search in vain till I finally slog back from sleep to consciousness and drag my carcass to the bathroom. I live in fear of what might happen if I actually find a useable potty before I wake up!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

If I Have to Suffer, So Do My Readers

Once again, Fox Orlando has broken into programming twice. Their big news story? Crime scene investigators have visited the Anthony home yet again. I'm not sure what is newsworthy about that, but I have to keep reminding myself that it's not about the's about the news department's desperate need for airtime. Really, I think it would be more newsworthy if crime scene investigators weren't at the Anthonys' house.

This seems to be a strictly Florida obsession for the Fox network. I watched a lot of Fox in Chicago, and I can't remember any break-ins except for perhaps the occasional tornado warning. Living in an area on the fringes of Tornado Alley, I was able to agree that a giant, swirling funnel cloud bearing down on my 'burb was a worthy reason to interrupt my court shows. But even that was somewhat needless, as we had tornado sirens that wailed a warning whenever meteorlogical danger lurked in the skies.

The absence of tornado sirens was one of the strangest things I noticed when we first moved to Florida. Even though hurricanes are our major foe, those provide lots of warning so sirens would be pointless for those. But our vicious summer thunderstorms are perfect tornado spawners, so it seems like the sirens would still be of use.

Nope. None. Nada. If you want a warning, you have to get a weather radio. I'd like to think that Fox would break in to warn me, too, but if a tornado was bearing down on Celebration at the same time that a member of the Anthony family burped, I know they'd cover the burp instead even as we all got whisked off to Oz.

I supposed it doesn't matter much anyway, since virtually no one in Central Florida actually has a basement. If a tornado bears down on our happy little down, the most that you can do is kneel down on the floor and kiss your butt goodbye. Supposedly a bathroom is the safest room, but two of our bathrooms at Duloc Manor are upstairs and liberally dotted with windows. The downstairs powder room is located, Harry Potter-like, under the stairwell, which is probably a good spot. Only problem is, I don't know how well two humans, three cats and a bird would actually fit inside. Maybe we'd be better off not knowing as Death in the Sky bears down.

Interestingly enough, the commonality of thunderstorms in Florida has the definition of "severe" for both hubby and I. Since he still goes back to Chicago semi-regularly, he can still compare the storms there vs. what we have in Florida. Recently his co-workers were lamenting on the ferocity of a storm, and he shrugged and rolled his eyes...compared to our tropical blasts, with their walls of rail and serial lightning strikes, a Windy City storm feels like God is barely spitting down from the heavens.

When we first moved to Celebration, I remember the sheer panic of being caught in one of those blinding water walls while driving. I'd inch along in the "tourist lane," terrified that I was going to rear end an invisible car, while the locals all whizzed by at insane speeds, nearly oblivious to the nasty conditions. Now, while I'm not as brave as a true native or long-time resident, I no longer go into a panic attack and say non-stop prayers as I precariously guide Kitt through the monsoon. Instead I proceed with resignation, knowing that it's a fact of Floridian life and much better than driving in a blizzard.

As I end this blog post, there has been yet another break-in on the television to remind me that the crime scene people are still at the Anthonys' house. Somehow, knowing that makes me feel so much better...I would be very upset if they had left and I had to wait all of 45 minutes for the 5 o'clock news to find that out.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Desperation Continues

Fox Orlando has once again broken into the court shows with the following stunning news that Central Florida surely could not have waited for:

1) Casey Anthony (mother of the missing child in the ongoing case mentioned in my other blog post) was not visited by her mom! Wow! Her mother opted to not visit her in jail today! I am so glad that they interrupted "Judge Mathis" to tell me because I wasn't able to pay attention to the show anyway. My mind kept whispering, "Well, Casey's mother visits her a lot, but what if she decided not to today? That would be such a major development, and I wouldn't know about it!"

2) Casey has had some formal charges filed against her. No new evidence and no actual murder charges, just a dull assortment of obstructing-type things. Ho hum.

It makes me wonder, is the Fox news team really so deluded that they think anyone actually gives a flying flip about that crap? Or are they so hungry for air time that it's crossed over into some scary sort of mental disorder that will cause them to grasp at even more desperate straws when this case is finally over? Does it feed their ego deficits to feel that they are more powerful than poor Judge Mathis and able to knock him off the air at their whim?

Even as a mental health professional, I have a hard time making sense of it. We're back to the court shows now, and I'm a little uneasy because I'm afraid that Casey might pick her nose or bite her fingernail and I won't know about it. Silly me, I'm watching Fox Orlando...they would never deprive me of news of that magnitude!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Recurring Dream

The Year of a Millions Dreams at Disney World became a recurring dream for hubby and I today. Last month we won Dream Fastpasses at Disney Hollywood Studio in the One Man's Dream exhibit, and in June on a solo visit I won a Dream Fastpass at Soarin'. Today we went over to Animal Kingdom, planning to do a safari and grab a few Single Rider runs on Expedition Everest. If the crowds were thin enough, we figured we'd do Dinosaur too. Then lunch at Yak and Yeti and we'd be out by a little after noon. Little did we know that we were about to have a recurring dream.

We arrived shortly after rope drop (I like to let the crowd disperse a bit) and headed to the safari ride to get a Fastpass. Then we figured we'd kill time on Primeval Whirl, since it rarely has a line in the morning, till it was time for another Fastpass. We'd get one for Dinosaur, then trek over to Everest. After some roller coastering, we'd do the safari with our first FP, have lunch, do Dinosaur with the second one, and then bail.

Primeval Whirl is the world's wickedest wild mouse coaster/tilt-a-whirl combination. Just as we'd suspected, there was no wait. I approached it somewhat apprehensively, since massive spinning sometimes gives me a whanging headache. I didn't have any after effects last time I rode it, so I was hoping that my resistance was building.

Each ride is different, depending on the weight distribution in the car. On our ride, the spinning was so mild that I agreed to do it again. The next time around, it was the Spinning Ride From Hell! Somehow we were perfectly space so that it whipped wildly in a circular frenzy. Even when it finally stopped, my head still felt like it was spinning. Fortunately it wore off quickly, with no headache after effects. That ride looks deceptively simple, but it has a wicked bite.

Since it was time to get another Fastpass, we started on our way to Dinosaur. As we passed Triceratops Whirl (basically the Dumbo ride with dinosaurs instead of elephants), hubby noticed there was literally no wait. We'd never ridden it before, so he suggested, "Let's do it" and I figured "What the heck?" That turned out to be a very good move!

We had our ride, then continued on our way. We noticed that Dinosaur actually had a very short standby line, so we decided to just ride it then and there. We joined the line, and as we threaded our way to the pre-show room, my keen eyes spotted a member of the Dream Team standing near the door. He was wearing a white vest over his blue shirt, which means one very important thing: Prize mode! I nudged hubby, but with his pessimistic nature he figured that the pre-show group before us were probably the lucky ones.

The Dream Team member smiled as we all filed into the room. Amazingly, I was the only person who realized what was up. Even with constant commercials and banners throughout the park, all of our fellow guests appeared totally oblivious that luck was upon them. As the room darkened for the video, I noticed two Dream Team Cast Members slip over to the exit doors so they could hand out whatever prize we were winning as people walked out to the ride.

When the video ended and the lights came on, two people nearly bowled the poor Dream Team over in a frenzy to rush to the loading area! Obviously they had no clue and didn't mind tackling anyone who got between them and the ride. The Cast Members managed to contain them and asked, "Does everyone here know what the Year of a Million Dreams is?" Mostly they were met with blank stares, but I applauded and a few people joined in, figuring it must be something good. Then they announced that we had all won Dream Fastpasses. I applauded again, but I could tell that most of my fellow guests were still in a state of confusion. Oh well, hubby and I sure knew what was happening! Our spontaneous decision to ride Triceratops Whirl had put us in the right place at just the right time.

We took our Fastpasses and high-fived the Dream Team as we headed out to the ride. Our quick morning trip to Animal Kingdom had suddenly changed course. Now we would get an extra ride on Everest, Dinosaur, and the safari, and we'd even do a repeat on Primeval Whirl since we could do it with no wait.

We had quite a busy day, with an overall total of two rides on Dinosaur, two on the safari, three on Primeval Whirl, one on Triceratops Spin, and four on Expedition Everest, as well as a leisurely lunch at Yak and Yeti. All that in a little over five hours, as we'd arrived at a little after 9 and were out of the park by 2:30. Best of all, I saw the cheetahs both times on the safari ride...they are my favorite animals, but they're elusive little cusses.

As we headed out to the car, we stopped at the coffee stand just outside the park for iced lattes. That's a tradition for me, and the icy cold beverages tasted so refreshing in the oppressive Florida sun. They were a perfect capper to a busy day.

Ironically, although I usually ride Dinosaur when I visit Animal Kingdom, I have a bit of a vendetta against that ride. It uses the same ride vehicles as the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but that's where the similarities end. Dinosaur is a pale imitation of the awesome ride that is Indy. Thus I always remind myself that Florida got stuck with the red-haired stepchild version whenever I ride it.

Now that it was the scene of a lucky lightning strike, I suspect I'll be a little more kindly disposed towards it. No, it's not Indy, but whenever I'm in the preshow I'll have the happy memory of seeing the white-vested Dream Team and getting that Dream Fastpass placed in my grubby little hand.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Awww...No Hurricanes!

Apparently my good friends at Fox Orlando are bored out of their minds with the fact that there has been little to no hurricane activity this year. As I have chronicled previously, they love to break into the afternoon court shows with various non-events. One of their favorite is the weather, since Floridians are quite sensitive to the thought of another killer hurricane brewing ala the Charley/Francis/Jean trio. Thus the bored news and weather forecasters can justify air time, even when the supposed "hurricane" is a breeze caused by a whale fart somewhere out in the Atlantic.

Alas, this season there hasn't even been any sea mammal flatulance to seize up. But recently we've had a newcaster's wet dream in the form of a tragic child disappearance case. Little Cayley Anthony disappeared over a month ago, although her mother and grandmother only got around to reporting it 31 days after she supposedly went missing. The mom is in prison, and the grandparents steadfastly maintain her innocence despite having previously reported a smell of decomposition in their car (which the mom had taken) and other evidence that seems to point to not-so-clean hands on Mommy's part. A cadaver dog hit on the car smell as well as keying in on areas in their yard. There have been searches, digging, and a general media bruhaha but nothing in the way of concrete answers.

Fox has been desperately clinging to any tiny straw as an excuse for a break-in. Cayley's mom made a phone call. NEWS FLASH! BREAK INTO PROGRAMMING! Cayley's mom ate a cantelope for breakfast. BREAK IN IMMEDIATELY! She blew her nose...BREAKING NEWS FOR SURE!

Today was one of the most pathetic examples. Investigators were questioning the grandparents for perhaps the twentieth time and searching their home once again. Yawn. But that was good for a flurry of programming interruptions and face time for the newscaster. Then the sheriff called a news conference to say "Nothing new." In an orgasm of non-news acitivity, Fox televised the boredom while playing a loop of the same old footage from earlier in the day over and over, punctuated with photos of the poor child. Between us, hubby and I counted nine repetitions of the loop of cops carrying bags out of the house. Wow. Scintillating. Once surely wasn't enough.

I feel terrible for that poor little child, and I fear that odds are slim of her turning up alive. But at this point I really don't want to hear another word unless the sheriff is wielding her body at the news conference. Sadly, I suspect that the non-news reporting will continue with unabated enthusiasm unless a hurricane finally whips up.

Can't wait to find out how many times Cayley's mom blinked in prison today and if she burped after her meal.