Jennifer is a one in a million stay-at-home mom. (More like one OF a million stay at home moms!) She graduated from a liberal arts college but there is nothing liberal OR artsy about her. She is married to Kevin Fischer of This Just In, and together they have a beautiful young daughter Kyla Audrey. In no particular order she loves dogs, wine, a good bargain, her family, pizza, and entertaining. Follow her blog of all things miscellaneous including but not limited to cooking and baking, entertaining and party planning, being a mommy, and homekeeping.
Do you have favorite restaurants? Of course you do. Do you have favorite dishes at those favorite restaurants? Again, of course you do. Are there places where, no matter how many times you’ve been there, you’ve only ordered one particular dish? Hmmm… perhaps.
For some diners, variety is the spice of life. While you might have favorites, that list might at least rotate a bit and leave room for some experimentation or willingness to try a “chef’s special.” For others there might be locations that (despite their best efforts) would never get you to order anything but “the dish.” I fall into the latter group.
It’s not that I’m hesitant to try new foods. There’s very little that I won’t eat. It’s not that I don’t trust the kitchen staff to make something “just right.” And no, I’m not like Rain Man who needed to eat his fish sticks cut in half and served with a tooth pick.
For me, there are restaurants that my taste buds are emotionally attached to. Even though I’ve been here or more times than I can count I look at the menu for only one reason: to see what other people might eat. It would be a gastronomic and sentimental sacrilege for me to request anything other than what I “always order.”
I’m a romantic, through-and-through. I save mementos, remember dates, and can get tears in my eyes just by looking at a favorite photo. For me, ordering a particular dish every single time on our Disney vacations isn’t a form of epicurean O.C.D. It’s a way to travel back in time to “the first time.” It’s a way to savor moments, past and present, in a way that is difficult to put in to words.
Before our trip last fall there were rumors about the California Grill closing. I couldn’t begin to imagine a vacation without at least one meal there. Kevin proposed to me there; Kyla had wonderful experiences there. I was shocked. And I was determined that I would order “my meal” one last time and relish every single morsel. It would be an appetizer of Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli followed by Pork Tenderloin with Polenta. Dessert would most likely be crème brulee but that’s one course I’m willing to be flexible with.
Once we were there and talked to our long-time friend and cast member Nancy, we learned that California Grill was closing only for refurbishment and would reopen by the time we would visit. My heart leapt with joy. They could install new windows, replace the light fixtures, choose a new color scheme. We were reassured that while the menu would undergo some updates as well (expanded sushi menu, new desserts, etc.) we would happily find our favorites when we returned.
As the grand re-opening drew closer, food blogs were buzzing about the improved & updated California Grill. Here and there, we got glimpses of what the revamped menu offered. Quite frankly I only cared about one thing: my sacred Pork Tenderloin. When the official list of entrée items was revealed I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or devastated.
My Grilled Pork Tenderloin with crispy sage leave & Zinfandel glaze with Creamy Polenta got a makeover. Already garnering rave reviews is Pork Two Ways: grilled tenderloin with creamy goat cheese polenta and mushrooms, and lacquered pork belly with house made applesauce.
In all honesty, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole pork belly thing. Kevin is already trying to convince me that A) it is delicious and B) I still need to order my beloved dish. To make matters worse, a new entrée seems to be calling out, “Jennifer, please try me! You know how you feel about short ribs!” What’s that line from the old song? “Tempted by the fruit of another…”
Perhaps the time has come for me to start some new traditions. We are fortunate enough to have reservations for TWO evenings at the California Grill this November. I can celebrate the return to our favorite Disney restaurant on the first night by ordering my revamped favorite. At the close of our vacation we’ll have dinner there again and somehow I’ll manage to break a culinary cycle that’s lasted more than ten years. I’ll try their 24-hour short rib “filet” and will be incredibly happy that I did. Truly anything that comes from that beautiful open kitchen is going to be a masterpiece.
While the entrée itself is a part of the memory, it’s the experience in its entirety that makes a mark on my heart. It’s seeing our friend Nancy again. It’s being with my husband (who was “merely” a boyfriend the first time we went there) and precious daughter. It’s being present in the moment while reminiscing about all the other wonderful times. It’s understanding that memory-makers can be evolutionary – things don’t have to be exactly the same to be exactly incredible.
Being open to new interpretations of an old favorite, no matter how challenging it seems? I have to admit, it’s a Culinary Yes Yes.
And by the way, settle in with a favorite beverage and snack (you’ll be hungry by the time you’re done) and then read the entire, detailed review here.