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Wine and Dine Weekend – FINALLY! Some Dining!

So, we’re in warm, sunny Orlando, and it’s time for lunch.  That can only mean one thing.  What’s that?  A Dole Whip?  I wish.  No, for us, it’s off to the Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to see our oldest daughter at work!  She is in the Disney College Program, and quick service is her area of expertise.

So, I walk in with the other two girls, and Brighid is busy with customers.  You can see in the photo that she is cleverly disguised as, well, Brighid in her work costume, but for some reason, that little beanie on her head totally threw Granuaile off.  Word of advice to police agencies throughout the country – do not rely on this child as a witness in any criminal investigation.  Her powers of observation leave much to be desired.  I have to almost shove Granuaile under Brighid’s nose before she realizes, “Hey, that’s my SISTER!”, at which point, she ran over, disrupting the guest Brighid was helping.  Dear Brighid’s Boss, If Brighid’s cash register was off today, it’s totally my fault.  Signed, Brighid’s Mother.

Lunch at the Mara was mac and cheese for Granuaile, a burger for Eilis, and the African stew for Jim and I to share.  I love this stew, with it’s combination of flavors.  It’s a great autumn food, even if autumn is in Florida and it’s 88 degrees outside.

No meal at Animal Kingdom Lodge would be complete without a zebra dome.  Yeah, I’ve had gastric bypass.  Yep, done the diabetes thing.  But how can you resist?  I had one.  And a half.

I’d love to stay and chat here at the Mara – or at least wait until Brighid is done work, but I have to go.  Eat.  Again.  I am meeting some of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel BFFs at Via Napoli, and I can’t wait for some Moms Panel hugs!

McCormick & Schmick’s Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

McCormick & Schmick’s

941 Haddonfield Road

Cherry Hill, NJ 

Ya gotta love the new Garden State Park shopping area in Cherry Hill.  It has brought to the area a group of restaurants that you always hear about in other markets, such as the Cheesecake Factory, Brio, and McCormick & Schmick’s.  We were determined to try them all, so when we found McCormick & Schmick’s open recently on our way to Brio (one of our new favorites), we decided to head in and try the place out.

If you are cruising online, hoping to check out a menu from McCormick & Schmick’s to get an idea if you’ll find anything there you want to eat, don’t sell yourself on any particular dish.  This restaurant boasts the freshest seafood from various parts of the world, and the daily menu tells you which fish are fresh from what country or state.  For example, on our visit on April 10th, They had Massachusetts Bay Scallops; Kona, Hawaii Yellowfin Tuna; and New Zealand Cockles.  They use the fresh catches in the meals for the day’s menu, which is heavy on the seafood.

They offer a selection of light entrees and sandwiches, which are really well priced for a late evening snack or late lunch.  Starting at just $7.95 for a Classic Reuben sandwich, the lighter fare goes up to $13.95 for a crabcake sandwich.  Each sandwich comes with fries, and there are a few salads on the light menu as well.

The appetizer section of the menu is really the first place you’ll come to that features the freshly caught seafood.  We ordered the Fried Point Judith Calamari, which was lightly battered and served with three dipping sauces.  The sauces were fair – nothing special about them, and this particular dish just lends itself well to a good, fresh marinara sauce, so the other sauces were really unnecessary.  The appetizer was $10.95, and there were plenty of crispy calamari rings to justify the price.  Just beneath the appetizers on the menu was the “on the half shell” collection of shell fish, and for $12.95, Jim got a sampling of 6 different oysters, but the waiter went over the variety so quickly, it was hard to know which one Jim actually liked the best.  Included in the sampler were Imperial Eagle Oysters, Wianno Oysters, Sarah’s Creek Oysters, Cape May Salt Oysters, Duck Island Oysters, and Ship Point Oysters.  All were deemed tasty, but by the time he finished the dish, he couldn’t remember the names of any of them, nor had he put aside the shells he favored most highly.  They also have a larger sampler of oysters, featuring 2 each of their top 6 oyster varieties.

The soups tonight are not ones I generally order since my gastric bypass surgery, and the salads are nothing we haven’t seen before elsewhere, so I’m not tempted to let one ruin my dinner.  The first selection of entrees on the menu is the meat and shellfish section, featuring filet mignon, sirloin steak, and a New York strip, along with upscale shellfish dishes like live Maine lobsters ($21.95 per pound) and King Crab Legs ($29.95 per pound).  Also on the menu are traditional seafood offerings like cedar plank salmon, crab cakes, and fish and chips.  I opted for grilled sea scallops, advertised with sauteed spinach and a risotto cake.  Jim went with one of McCormick & Schmick’s specialties, which was a Mahi Mahi grilled over sweet potato crab hash and BBQ butter sauce. 

My scallops arrived piping hot and perfectly cooked, but a little light on seasoning.  The risotto cake is an odd creation.  Part of the thing about cooking risotto is to make it creamy and not sticky, but the risotto cake is just sticky rice that tastes like risotto.  I don’t dislike it, but I find the whole risotto cake to be a bit of an oxymoron.  The sauteed spinach is tasty, and helps boost the flavor of the scallops. 

Jim’s fish is really good, but the rest of the dish is a bit of an odd combination of flavors.  I didn’t care at all for the sweet potato crab hash, although he didn’t think it was as bad as I did.  This was dices of sweet potato with some lump crabmeat and a BBQ butter sauce.  The combination of the potato and BBQ sauce made the dish way too sweet, and when you threw in the butter, it became way too rich.  There were good sized lumps of crabmeat in the hash, but the delicate flavor of the crab was way overpowered by the sickeningly sweet combination of the potatoes and BBQ sauce.  Jim finished most of the fish, and we brought the potato side dish home to eat with the left over scallops, but the flavors didn’t fare any better given time to settle in with each other. 

As far as gastric bypass patients are concerned, there is an abundance of healthy proteins on the menu here.  The seafood is fresh and cooked to order, and there is very little fried fish on the menu, so you will get your fish broiled, grilled, or, in the case of the tuna, seared.  Most of the fish comes with some sort of butter sauce – rum butter; lemon butter; bacon and sherry butter…  You can ask for them not to include the butter on the dish if you are sensitive to the extra fat.  There is a chicken dish – but on the night we were there, there was only one chicken dish besides the buffalo chicken salad.  Ask the waiter if you are not familiar with the fish.  On the night we were there, there was a fish called a Bronzini on the menu.  We would have ordered it, but after discussing with our waiter, we learned that the fish comes out whole, and I am more cautious about fish bones since my surgery.

The prices on the menu are not outrageous, but you will easily spend upwards of $20 – $24 dollars for your entree.  When you compare the meal you get here to the meal you might get at Red Lobster for less money, you can certainly see where the difference in price is, but it’s hard to justify the difference.

We wanted to be blown away by the meal here, and the bottom line is we were not.  For the amount of money we spent, blown away would have been better.  This is a nice only once in a while for an occasion type restaurant.  My kids will probably keep eating at Red Lobster.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine In – a Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

This review actually will cover more than just information for those gastrically altered, and I may be basing some of my opinion on previous visits to this restaurant in addition to the one we made recently.  Your mileage may vary at this point in time, as I found very little on the menu I considered safe for WLS post-ops, and the other food I’ve eaten here before was quite a while ago.

 Disney’s Hollywood Studios – formerly known as Disney’s MGM Studios – is restaurant deficient in my opinion.  I find it difficult to choose places to eat when we go there, but at the insistence of my 7 year old, on our recent Easter Week visit, I made a lunch ADR for the Sci-Fi.  You will not find a better themed restaurant ANYWHERE on Disney property!  You check in at the podium, and then when you are called, you are escorted to a 1950’s style convertible car, which is parked at a Drive In movie theater!  This could not be a more fun premise.  If you go here and eat nothing but dessert, you must go at least once to enjoy the trailers for a variety of B horror movies and commercials you might have seen at Drive In theaters back in the day.

And then they bring you food.  And you wish you were somewhere else.  Like a real Drive In, where you could escape to the snack bar and grab a hot dog or a slice of pizza or a box of popcorn.

 In the past, I’ve sampled the burger and the turkey sandwich.  Both descriptions read well.  They seem like mouth watering tummy pleasers.  But when they are actually delivered, it turns out that the descriptions were really ambitious and the guy in the back assembling things just throws stuff on bread and hopes you like it.  There’s nothing special or spectacular about either the Angus burger or the smoked turkey sandwich, and in the long run, you’ll be disappointed that you spent so much money on such mediocre food.

On this particular visit, my daughters each chose the kids’ meal burger.  Eilis ordered her’s with a garden salad, and Granuaile got a fruit salad, and then they split the two salads with each other.  They also brought french fries, which I thought the salads replaced, but the kids enjoyed them and after my meal, I was glad to have them as well.  I ordered them each a pirate punch, which is an outrageously priced lemonade, but it comes in a souvenir cup with a glowing Tinker Bell or Captain Hook, and the kids love them.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the kids’ meals – but nothing special, either.  And I wish there were more healthier options available on the kids’ menus!

Now when I looked over the menu for myself, I was stunned by how limited the choices were if you are watching what you eat.  I love salads, and the more packed they are with protein, the better.  The only salad entree offered is the Beef and Bleu – which is a wedge of iceberg lettuce, slices of steak, and bleu cheese dressing, sprinkled with bacon bits.  I can’t always eat steak, so I was afraid to order this particular salad, since iceberg lettuce for a gastric bypass patient is about as helpful as eating a cardboard box, so I skipped the salad.  Next, I tried to avoid anything with bread – so that left out the burger, the turkey sandwich, and the Italian Grilled chicken sandwich.  I was tempted to order the grilled chicken anyway, and just leave the bread off, but having had over-cooked issues here with a burger in the past, I was afraid the chicken would come out dry and inedible. 

At most restaurants, you can usually find SOMETHING you can eat on the appetizer side of the menu, so I browsed there and found a salad and a bowl of chili that sounded good.  The only dressing option on the salad was ranch, which I asked for on the side.  It is touted as a mixed green salad with diced tomatoes and onion, so there was no protein in it, but with the 7 bean and beef chili, I figured I had protein covered. 

The salad and the chili arrive together, to coincide with the arrival of the kids’ meals, and that’s fine.  It looks like a large, hearty bowl of chili, and the only problem I see is a huge pile of fried tortilla strips, which I can easily move off of my bowl, as long as I can find room on the table for the mountain of strips without blocking the view of the cars behind me.  The salad, however, is just ugly.  And the dressing is mixed in. 

Now, part of the problem here today is the service is so GOD AWFUL slow, I could have located one of the few remaining drive in theaters in the country, driven there, eaten something else, and driven back before I was going to see my waitress again.  I held off eating the salad until she came back, but it was getting sadder and sadder looking and I was getting hungrier and hungrier, so I started to pick at it.

You know how when you wash lettuce, it gets wet?  And then if you don’t let it dry – or use a salad spinner – and you pour dressing on it, it thins out the dressing so it’s watery?  And then you serve it and the plate gets filled with a white, watery substance while the lettuce drowns in a slow, wilting, painful death?  That’s what happened with this salad.  It had obviously been prepared WAY before it was served, and left to stew in it’s own juices quite a while.  Had it not been for the diced tomato, floating like jetsam in the watery ranch juice that covered the lettuce, very little of the salad would have been edible. 

That’s okay.  I have my chili to tide me over for the fortnight it might be until we see service again.

I remove a good portion of the Everest size portion of tortilla strips, and dig into the chili.  I want to tell you, the chili is GOOD.  It’s not too spicy – a problem for some people with gastric bypass surgery – but it has a really nice flavor.  There are chunks of ground beef, and lots of beans.  Well, not really lots of beans, because once you remove the very, very, very, very, very, very, very (did I say VERY?) generous portion of tortilla strips and dig your spoon in, you find that the large bowl is about as shallow as a saucer and your spoon hits bottom very quickly.  For about $7, you get half the size portion of chili that you might get in a Wendy’s large chili.  It’s so disappointing, because it does taste good, and my lettuce soup isn’t enough to fill me up, even with my pouched off stomach 🙁  I could have used another bowl.  Or two.

Just as I was getting frustrated enough to leave and ask for my check at the podium, our waitress came over with two ice cream sundaes for the girls.  The sundaes come with the kids’ meal, but they are made in advance and frozen, so you might find it takes a while for your kids to eat the sundaes.  In addition, she brought them two ice cold bottles of water, since they had the pirate punch, because she thought the ice cream might make them thirsty.  She did not charge me for the waters, so I felt awkward complaining to her about the food and the service.  She was trying to be nice, after all.

For the experience of the theming of this restaurant, I would say it’s a must do, at least once.  If you go in expecting crummy food and lousy service, you might be plesantly surprised, but at least you won’t be disappointed!

As a side note, if you are a smaller party – like I was with just myself and two little girls – you will likely share a car with another party.  We were in the jump seat of our car, with a family of four in the two rows in front of us.  If you’re not comfortable with that, you might want to just enjoy sitting in the car parked outside the restaurant.

Beef O’Brady’s – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

Beef O’Brady’s bills itself as a “family sports pub”.  I know this is going to be a little off topic for those of you who are only interested in the gastric bypass friendliness of this restaurant, but I want to go a little into the restaurant itself.  First of all, “family” and “sports pub” are diametrically opposed terms.  I am pretty sure that sports pubs were invented by men who wanted to get the hell away from their families and enjoy the football game over a pint or two.  And I don’t know too many women and children who relish the thought of being dragged out to the local bar to sit at a table, eat pub grub, and be ignored by a husband who is risking whiplash by trying to watch the soccer game, the football game, ESPN Sports Center, and a college basketball game all at the same time.  Also, this particular Beef O’Brady’s (on West Irlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee) provided an obstacle course to get in and out of the ladies room – hardly kid or handicapped person friendly, so if your family includes any of these types of people, you might want to go to a different family sports pub.

Okay, off of that soapbox and onto how food friendly it is for Gastric bypass patients.  Um, this is a sports bar.  ‘Nuff said?  You’re going to find the menu here heavy on the fried, greasy, carb loaded types of food.  Feeling like a burger with your baseball game?  It’s here.  Feeling like fries with your football game?  You got it.  Nachos with your NASCAR?  You get the picture.  This is food that’s not really “good” for anyone, but it all tastes good and your sports crazy family will want to eat here, so what options are there for you, my gastrically challenged compadres?  I’ll tell you.

The soup of the day on the day I was here was chicken noodle, and while the noodles were a little bigger than what I usually like in my soup (pasta is not my friend), there was plenty of chicken and a nicely flavored broth.  My biggest complaint is the horse carrots that sank to the bottom of my cup of soup.  They were huge and not cooked all the way, and huge, and too crunchy to be suitable for my digestive system, and huge.  Oh, and they were huge. 

Beyond the soup, the menu options were limited in terms of saving yourself the unpleasant experience of dumping.  Nearly everything is deep fat fried, covered in breading of some sort, heavily decorated with some sort of cheese, and dipped in bleu cheese dressing.  There is a small selection of salads, but if you look at it, it’s all basically a chicken caesar salad – except one is true caesar, one is southwestern, one is chicken with mushrooms, one is chicken with buffalo sauce – and you know, sometimes I just don’t feel like chicken on a salad.  They do offer a chef’s salad, but I didn’t think I’d want that much food with the bowl of soup.

The salad I did get was a small garden variety salad, topped with a little shredded cheese.  It was pretty average – a little onion, a little tomato – nothing out of the ordinary.

As for the other diners at my table – those who are gastrically intact – well, it seemed the food was hit or miss.  My oldest daughter ordered the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, and nibbled her way around the outside of it.  The enormous burger (1/2 pound burgers here at Beef O’Brady’s) had a pretty good sized slice of cheese, a generous slathering of BBQ sauce, and then was topped with a mountain of french fried onions.  It proved to be too much food and too ooey gooey for her liking, and as the BBQ sauce mixed with the french fried onions, she had soggy slivers of BBQ sauce coated onion that she scraped off of the burger and left on her plate.  The burger – and all the sandwich platters – come with a choice of fries, cole slaw, potato salad or a bag of chips.  Since we decided to order a large side of curly fries for everyone to share, everyone ordered chips with their platters.  My mother-in-law had what she called a GREAT sandwich.  The sandwich, called a Watterson, after one of the early Beef O’Brady customers, was roast beef on grilled rye bread, topped with swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle.  It sounds good to me!  But, I can’t do bread, and I’m sure the amount of fat between the mayo and the cheese would have sent me running.  The comments from the rest of the table were that the food was “alright” – nothing to write home about (so what the heck am I doing writing home about it???)

There are definitely better restaurant choices out there for those of you who are stapled.  My advice would be to drink a protein shake before you go or nosh on a protein bar after you leave.  You won’t find many ways to get protein here without dumping.  And let me tell you, dumping all over the guy at the bar with the Guinness in his hand while he’s screaming at the rugby game won’t go over too well.  No, I didn’t try it.  I’m assuming.