Sunday, October 28, 2012

California Consuming

Part of the challenge with a family vacation in and around Disneyland is eating properly and within a budget.  Although most amusement and theme parks have come a long way from their 'deep-fried everything and little else' and now have somewhat more balanced options, eating three meals a day in the Magic Kingdom can be a daunting proposition.

Thanks to having a Target store across the street from our hotel, we would normally breakfast in our rooms or at the Del Taco kitty corner to our parking lot.  We would also carry some lunch items into Disneyland, like fruit, beef jerky, cheese strings and yogurt tubes, that sort of thing.  We would also take in a bottle or two of water, but eventually stopped doing that in favour of refilling the collapsible water bottle Audrey had brought along.  This little item fit in the pocket of my cargo shorts when empty, could be filled from one of the many water fountains on the grounds, and then made tastier with a squirt from the sweet tea flavoured Mio I brought with me.  It was hot while we were there (35 degrees Celsius for 3-4 days) so staying hydrated was of critical importance.

Cheaping out on a couple of meals like this made it far easier to rationalize the few food purchases we did make while in Disneyland, because fun food is supposed to be part of the experience too.  We tried churros, and soft, Mickey-shaped pretzels, and treated ourselves to cold sodas after particularly grueling line-ups. In the California Adventure, I had a beer inside a Disney park for the first time ever (a Karl Strauss Oktoberfest), and let me tell you, I have never appreciated an ale more than at that particular moment!

I'd had a few people mention the smoked turkey legs before we went down, but I was completely unaware to how much a part of the fair food culture they had become.  We saw t-shirts and sweatshirts adorned with the legendary turkey leg long before we glimpsed the culinary item itself.

For $10 there is a lot of eating to be had from one of these Flintstone-sized poultry offerings, the girls split one, Audrey made a dent in hers, and I was barely able to finish my own; two of them probably would have satiated the four of us.  Heavily smoked, and I think perhaps brined as well, the turkey leg tastes almost more like ham than turkey, but as far as tasty, real park food goes, it is hard to top.  Plus, there is the whole Henry VIII appeal to be considered.  On other nights we had generous helping of soup (clam chowder or steak gumbo) in a bread bowl, but while hearty, they are nowhere near as fun.

Universal Studios doesn't let you bring in food beyond bottled water and fresh fruit, so we enjoyed our yogurt tubes and beef jerky on the bus ride there, which was about an hour and a half.  We enjoyed a late lunch at the Flintstone's BBQ, where Fenya and I enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches while Glory and Audrey shared a rack of ribs of a more reasonable size than the car-tipping variety from the opening credits.

Very close to our hotel was Oggi's Pizza and Brewhouse makes a great pizza, an award winning stout they brew themselves called Black Magic, and a pot roast sandwich which may have single-handedly changed how I define comfort food.

We also had the chance to eat in a couple of themed seafood restaurants: Joe's Crab Shack and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  These are both loud and lively places with great seafood and charismatic service, and the joie de vivre they can restore to an exhausting day is well worth the premium you can end up paying.

At Bubba Gump, Glory's kid's meal came in a box shaped like Forrest's boat, the Jenny.  She also got a drink in a collectible glass with a bottom full of flashing lights which appears merely distracting when viewed fromt eh side, but looking in from the top reveals a mesmerizing lightshow reminiscent of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Louie (get it? Shrimp Louie?), the Bubba Gump mascot
Even more enjoyable was Joe's Crab Shack, where we enjoyed prodigious amounts of shellfish served in galvanized washtubs with ears of corn and whole potatoes eaten with the hands.  Since Joe's was in the same parking lot as our hotel, Audrey and I felt emboldened to have some tropical drinks, like the Category 4 Hurricane I had (which the menu made very clear that they were only permitted to serve two of to any one guest), and Audrey's novelty drink, the Shark Bite.  Our server was a real dynamo, who even hummed the appropriate John Williams score before plunging the shark into Audrey's glass.

We had such a great time that Glory and I both got tie-dyed t-shirts from Joe's as souvenirs, but they let us keep the shark for free.

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