I was in Orlando just before Thanksgiving for the annual meeting of the National Writing Project. My home for the meeting was the Disney Contemporary Hotel--which was actually pretty cool with its mid-century modern design and indoor monorail track. There were about 11 of us from the Fresno area who attended, so one night we all went out to dinner at Iron Chef Cat Cora's Kouzzina, one of the few places we could get a table for a large group. The restaurant is family friendly with an open kitchen and lots of shouts of "opa!"

As I do frequently, I ordered from the appetizer menu. I couldn't decide on just two, so I ordered an extra appetizer to eat as breakfast the next morning. The avgolemono, a creamy lemon chicken soup, was divine. Months later, I can still taste that soup. I also really enjoyed the saganaki, seared Haloumi Cheese with oregano and a grilled lemon to squeeze on top. Yes, the cheese and bread were breakfast, but I also tried it that night so I could taste what it was like fresh from the grill.


The other dish I ordered was Beets with skordalia (in this case, garlicky potatoes). Oh, yum.

Although these dishes seemed designed for a more mainstream crowd, I was glad to try a couple of new-to-me Greek dishes . . . I think now I need to try the real thing.

And Disney World? Well, let's just say that, although the conference was great, I grew tired of having everyone tell me to "have a magical day!" Good thing for those rollercoasters at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studio--those rides took my breath away, made me hang on tight, and provoked all kinds of screams and laughter.

Disney Boardwalk, Disney World

Recently, I made a quick trip to New York City, a city I love and a city I love to eat in. One evening, I had vouchers to see A Winter's Tale at Shakespeare in the Park. I traded my vouchers for tickets, sat in the park awhile, and then decided it was time for dinner.

I have a lot of favorite restaurants in New York, but none are on the Upper West side, so I used the Yelp application on my iPhone to explore nearby eateries. One looked especially intriguing to me: Kefi (which, according to the restaurant website, means "bliss" in Greek). It was relatively close, so I dashed through the rain that began en route and took shelter in a bright, inviting restaurant. There were many, many things that looked interesting on the menu, but one thing in particular sounded so appealing: sheep's milk dumplings with tomatoes, pine nuts, and spicy lamb sausage. I don't really eat lamb, but I decided to go outside my comfort zone and try this dish out.

I was so glad I did. The dumplings were so smooth and delicious which counteracted the delicious sausage's spiciness. And the pine nuts were an enjoyable addition to the meal. I think the dish also had spinach in it--which added a pleasing flavor. I ate every bit of this dinner; it was so delicious I couldn't stop myself. I so recommend this charming restaurant.

P.S. Just found a recipe for this dish:

Sheep's Milk Dumplings with Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Spicy Lamb Sausage

Yield: 6 people

Ingredients for Gnudi:

1 lb of sheep's milk ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1/3 cup of pecorino Romano
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, salt, pepper and pecorino and mix well with a spatula. Beat egg and add to ricotta, folding in well. Sprinkle a third of the flour onto a clean, flat working station. Transfer ricotta onto flour. Begin to incorporate flour until it pulls from the surface. Let rest for 10 to 15 min. Cut into 4 equal parts. Dust the station with flour and begin to roll into logs ½ inch in diameter. Using knife, cut logs into ½ inch long dumplings. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper, dusted with flour. Continue until all dumplings are complete. You can freeze dumplings for 3 to 4 days. Wrap in plastic on the tray spaced far enough apart so air can flow in between.

Ingredients for the Sauce:

1 lb. Loukanika Greek sausage (Sweet or hot Italian sausage can substitute)
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 shallot chopped
3 Tb. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + 1 teaspoon
1 Cup tomato sauce
1/2 Cup chicken stock
4 oz. triple-washed fresh spinach, shopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 Cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 Cup sliced sundried tomatoes marinated in extra virgin olive oil

Remove the sausage from its casing and crumble. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat brown the sausage lightly in the olive oil. Add garlic and brown lightly, then the shallots. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add the tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes and the spinach. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gnudi for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked gnudi to the pan of sauce, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Plate the dish, sprinkle with crumbled feta, drizzle with one teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

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