Celebrity chef Cat Cora gets rave reviews for Kouzzina at Disney’s Boardwalk

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora opens first signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort

All photos by Gene Duncan, courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Kouzzina is Greek for “kitchen,” and there have been some great things brewing in the kitchen of Celebrity Chef Cat Cora‘s first signature restaurant, Kouzzina, since its opening in September 2009 on Disney’s Boardwalk at the Walt Disney World Resort. Cora, the first and only female Iron Chef on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, recently hosted Around the World in 80 Plates on the Bravo TV network and has authored three bestselling cookbooks.

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Breakfast and dinner are served daily in this casual family restaurant, where the decor is rustic, with wooden floors and wooden tables, so it feels as if you’re sitting in a comfortable Mediterranean farmhouse. Entertainment is provided throughout your meal via the open kitchen with oak-fired ovens, hanging copper pots, and flaming pans.

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Cat Cora’s Mediterranean family recipes have a prominent place on the menus, as well as other flavorful dishes that celebrate Cora’s Greek heritage. The beverage menu contains Cora’s special cocktail recipes, as well as her private label (Coranation) wines from California.

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora opens first signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort

Kouzzina may be your best bet for tucking into a hearty, flavorful, and interestingly unique breakfast at WDW Resort before spending your day with the Mouse. If you’re staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, it’s right at your front door, but it’s also within easy walking distance of Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotels. When you’re finished with your meal, you can just head for the back door of Epcot, the International Gateway entrance.

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I love the Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast, which features two poached eggs, kalamata olive toast, artichoke spread, and sweet potato hash with your choice of bacon or chicken sausage. All of Kouzzina’s egg dishes are prepared with Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, so you get a real health benefit (especially if you’re watching your cholesterol intake) while indulging in delicious food. The kalamata olive toast is a real standout, especially when paired with the artichoke spread. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the tastiness of the sweet potato hash. The Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast is definitely composed of comfort food, but it has a decidedly Greek flavor, which really livens up each dish.

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Also on the menu is such dazzlingly different breakfast fare as House-cured Salmon, served with capers, pickled sumac onions, feta cream cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, and warm Pita bread; Country French Toast, consisting of grilled fig and anise bread with apple-fig compote; and Breakfast Skillet with eggs, Pequillo Peppers, Nueske’s Bacon, onions, potatoes, Greek cheese, and a topping of Arugula.

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora opens first signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort

Service is warm and friendly, to the point of the servers allowing substitutions to each menu item, so you could customize your meal. You get the feeling that you’re a welcome guest in their cozy home and that, if something were available in the kitchen, they’d be happy to provide it. As is customary with WDW Resort restaurants, careful attention is given to guests with allergies and modifications are gladly made in order to accommodate food intolerances.

Kouzzina’s signature blend of press-pot coffee will perk you up enough to see you and your mouse ears through your morning in the Disney Parks. Tea drinkers will be thrilled to find a nice selection of both black and herbal teas.

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For dinner, don’t miss the Sagnaki appetizer, flamed Greek cheese with lemon and oregano. Not only is the dish a savory delight, but also a breathtaking sight.

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As a piato, or entrée, consider the slowly braised lamb shank served with oven-baked Gigantes Beans and Lamb Jus or perhaps the Briami–oven-roasted vegetables with oregano, topped with Greek cheese and served with herbed orzo pasta. If you can’t decide, maybe you should go with the Kouzzina Trio–tasting-size portions of Greek-style lasagna, chargrilled lamb burger, and cinnamon-stewed chicken with orzo.

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Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of choices on the expansive menu. And, if you have a sensitive palate, you can order your sauces on the side to control the amount of spice on your dish.

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For glyka, or sweet endings, save room for hot loukomades (Greek doughnuts drizzled with warm honey and cinnamon), a slice of baklava, or chocolate Budino cake with seasonal sorbets.

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora opens first signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort

And, of course, there’s also ouzo, the national drink of Greece, to finish off your evening meal. Opa!

The Fine Print: Kouzzina by Cat Cora will be closing September 30, 2014. Reservations can be made up until then. Be sure to try it before it closes! A new restaurant concept, Trattoria al Forno, will open in its place in December 2014, and Disney Mouse Calls will review it then.

 

@ Nancy Pistorius

Healthy dining and fitness options abound at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort

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Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

It’s tough to eat healthily at a theme park or even at a resort connected to a theme park. Time is at a premium and even if you head to the parks with the greatest intentions, carefully planned out healthy meals soon give way to grab-and-go snacks like Mickey ice cream bars (well, they do contain calcium, right?), Dole whip floats (hey, now you’ve got both calcium and fruit juice), and popcorn–who can resist that powerful aroma floating all over the park?

Guests staying at the Walt Disney World Swan have a surplus of healthy dining options available to them throughout the resort and next-door in the Walt Disney World Dolphin (also a Starwood property).

Before you even hit the parks, start your day with a healthy breakfast at the Walt Disney World Swan’s Garden Grove. I had the pleasure of dining there on my last visit to Walt Disney World, and I think my buffet meal there ranked among the top healthiest meals I’ve ever had in my life. One of the buffet stations featured a “Superfoods Collection,” consisting of dishes made from powerhouse ingredients rich in nutrients and antioxidants so diners could feel recharged. Ingredients included blueberries, oranges, apples, tomatoes, spinach, yogurt, oats, nuts, broccoli, dark chocolate, cinnamon and honey. There are also freshly-squeezed “shots” of juice smoothies on the buffet–blended for their detox and antioxidant properties. (All I know is that they tasted amazingly delicious.)

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You can also get a bowl of assorted seasonal berries, a seasonal fruit salad and several different fruit juices à la carte. (Try the fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice–it tastes as if they just picked the orange off a tree that morning in the resort’s grounds.)

Speaking of fresh, you can’t get much fresher food than the sushi at Walt Disney World Swan’s Kimonos, voted the top sushi restaurant in the area by Orlando Sentinel readers. If you’re not awestruck by the freshness of the sushi, then you’ll swoon over the presentation. Each dish resembles a work of art.

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The other 15 restaurants and lounges on property offer healthy options, as well. Even The Fountain at Walt Disney World Dolphin, which specializes in burgers and sandwiches, as well as sweet treats like homemade ice cream, malts and shakes, offers a healthy option as a side dish (a fresh fruit salad) in their Kids’ menu.

If you need extra exercise after hoofing around the parks all day, the Walt Disney World Swan is a fitness fanatic’s dream, with five pools (including two lap pools), two health clubs (containing LifeFitness strength equipment, free-weights, a stairclimber, treadmills, life cycles, and elliptical crosstrainers), four lighted tennis courts and jogging trails. You’ll find that travel needn’t be broadening, after all.

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And if a hectic visit to the theme parks has left you feeling stressed out, relief is just across the way in the luxurious Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. Swedish Massage, Balinese Body Polish, Reflexology, Hot Stone Therapy, Deep Tissue Massage and Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap are just some of the services the Spa offers. I’ve been pampered at the Spa on two different visits, and was very pleased with the caring quality each masseuse brought to my treatment.

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Traveling to Walt Disney World Resort can be more fun than you can possibly imagine, but it can be an overwhelming experience, too. Take a break from the sensory stimulation overload at the restful Spa, fitness centers, pools, and restaurants (with their healthy eating options) at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, just steps away from the magic at Walt Disney World.

© Nancy Pistorius