Disney Restaurant Reviews: California Grill, Trattoria al forno, Narcoossee's and much more! #foodblogforum

Recently I attended the Food Blog Forum at Disney World in Orlando. It was a conference for food bloggers and we got to go to Disney for 4 days - it was pretty awesome. While there - they TOTALLY spoiled us when it came to food. 

Saturday was the day of our conference and our lunch was a surprise - they took us upstairs at the Contemporary Resort to the California Grill for a chef's tasting. It was pretty amazing - we had 10 chefs from across all of the Disney properties lined up with their favorite dishes. Um #drooling.

The day we were there - it was POURING - which was kind of nice since we weren't missing any great weather. Unfortunately my pictures of the view from the California Grill suffered because of it. It's pretty awesome - you can see everything from there. Here is THE castle on the left and the Grand Floridian (where we stayed) on the right.

I also met new friends - my first buddy was Shannon from Cozy Country Living. She is dealing with feet and feet of snow up in Buffalo - so she was super excited to be in Floriday. We had so much fun throughout the weekend - please check out her blog and her recipe for Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Chip Cheesecake (um wow).

Once we were all introduced to the chefs - the eating frenzy began. The restaurants were set up in stations around the dining room. We started with Braised Beef Bolognese with house-made cavatelli from Trattoria al forno. This was a popular one at our table but not my favorite. It was fine - the beef was tender but the pasta was a little too al dente for my taste.

If you ever go to a tasting like this - pace yourself - we went four plates at a time and just took our time. Also - you're going to get full - so if you try a bite or two of something and don't love it - let it go. Save that belly space for the stuff you LOVE!

Next up was something amazing - Spicy Tuna Tartare with cucumber and radish salad, avocado Wasabi sauce and Lotus Root chips from the Hollywood Brown Derby. Okay - I had no idea what I was eating really with the Lotus Root chips but man were they delicious! The tartare was also fantastic - spicy but not too much so and so refreshing!

Hollywood Brown Derby on Urbanspoon

Next up - we lightened up with a Roasted Baby Beets with Pear, Goat's Milk Feta, Toasted Pistachio and Petite Greens from Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot. Shannon wasn't a beet fan so I she shared her beets with me. Beets are so funny - when I was a kid - I ate so many of them I overdosed. For years they repulsed me. Now - I'm finally ready for them again and these were great - but when you put cheese on them - how can they go wrong. Very springy!

Le Cellier Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

This dish doesn't look super appetizing but sounded great - it was Local Wild Ocean Shrimp with Risotto di Carnaroi alla Frutti de Mare from the Flying Fish Cafe on Disney's Boardwalk. I'm not a big risotto fan - I always expect pasta and get rice - just not my favorite. The shrimp and fruit were delicious.

Flying Fish Café on Urbanspoon

Next up - we visited Africa with Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Their dish was Lamb Potjie with basmati rice and a minted lemon pickle. This was my least favorite of the day. The lamb was cold and that pretty much killed it for me. Other folks liked it - but I think the temperature was a big barrier for me.

Sanaa on Urbanspoon

We were staying at the Grand Floridian and they have a beautiful restaurant on the lake called Narcoossee's. They served us Wild Striped Bass with tiny potatoes, sweet corn puree, romanesco, shitakes and warm tomato-pickled mustard seed vinaigrette. This was delicious on paper but it was just okay. I'd say top half of the menu (there was so much great food) - but not my favorite. I loved the freshness and the variety - so I would definitely check out the restaurant.

Narcoossee's on Urbanspoon

Next up was a dish I took a bite of - just for good measure. It was the Power Salad from Sunshine Seasons at Epcot. The Power Salad has kale, chard, chicory, radicchio, broccoli, brussel sprouts, quinoa, goat cheese, toasted sliced almonds and dried sour cherries witha  spiced honey vinaigrette. There was so much indulgent food that a power salad wasn't at the top of my list. But I will say this - for a salad - it was really good. If I was ordering dinner and this was my dinner salad - I would definitely be a happy camper!

Sunshine Seasons on Urbanspoon

Another dish I thought I would love was from Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. Chef Norberg brought us Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in a puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce. I think the tasting hurt the temperature on this one too - I'm sure if it was hot - it would have been great. The scallop was cooked perfectly but the puff pastry was just a bit bland.

Be Our Guest Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It was time for dessert and the Contemporary Resort has a Bakery inside and brought us two delightful but very different desserts. Oh my Lord - this is why I only took a bite of the Power Salad and the Lamb - need. room. in. belly!

This was a Florida Strawberry-Orange Cake with Champagne Sorbet. Unfortunately we didn't love. it tasted like the desserts you get at a casino buffet. The cake and the gelatinous filling were all sort of a strange texture. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't really good either.

Then - there was their specialty Chocolate Pudding Cake with chocolate-hazelnut sauce and mint cream. When they said Chocolate Pudding Cake - this isn't what I was picturing - but wow - just WOW. It was so dense and so rich but still light in a way. It was thicker than mousse but not "cake" like I was expecting. There was a little homemade marshmallow with it as well. It was a big wow for sure. People were so full and I told them - just try a bite - you can fit in one bite. Then the plate was empty. :-)

There's one more dish that I saved for last - brought to us by the host restaurant California Grill. Chef Piasecki brought us a Braised Pork Belly with goat cheese polenta and country applesauce. I have to fess up - this is my 2nd picture - because I ate two of them. I was so full - but we were right next to their station and they had pork belly left - just staring at me - calling to me..."Heather - we're right here - don't leave us!"

The fun part was I had a little menu on my table and was making notes throughout the lunch so I would remember when I was writing this post. Chef Piasecki stopped by our table and saw my notes - his pork belly had a silver shooting star doodled next to it - so he was happy. He then picked up my list and started to walk to the other stations - but then just smiled and gave it back. Whew! 

This dish was completely amazing - I was so full but so happy with all that pork belly in my belly. 

California Grill on Urbanspoon

So that was my lunch - omg - it was a total food coma when we got back to the conference but it was worth it. :-)

And never ever forget - the 3 rules of a food tasting:

1. pace yourself
2. don't eat it if you don't love it
3. always get seconds of pork belly. 

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