While in Orlando at the end of April, we spent three days visiting Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure. Here are my posts so far on our trip: Epcot, Downtown Disney, and Magic Kingdom.
While Orlando is known for its afternoon thunderstorms, we had all day showers during two of our visits to Universal. It was a welcome change to the heat wave that plagued us at the beginning of the week and kept the crowd levels down, but the second day greeted us with a continuous torrential downpour. We were only able to push through it until lunch, then called it a day and went back to the hotel. Even with one of the days cut in half, we still had plenty of time to see everything we wanted at both parks.
I have been to Islands of Adventure a couple of times, but this was my first time visiting Universal Studios. We avoided most of the larger rides due to my motion sickness and Evan not being tall enough.
We began the day at Fievel’s Playland. All of the slides were closed due to the rain, but Evan still had a great time exploring. He loved all of the over sized objects.
After Fievel’s Playland, we walked over to Curious George Goes to Town. Evan loves the Curious George books and recognized him immediately. He loved playing in this detailed splash area and so did Chad! “Traps” were scattered throughout the buildings and Chad set almost all of them off (buttons, levers, flaps). They also enjoyed the water guns on the top floor.
The Ball Factory directly behind the splash area was a favorite for Chad and Evan. They could have easily spent most the day there. I practically had to drag both of them away kicking and screaming when it was time for lunch.
I didn’t make any prior decisions on where to eat lunch while we were at Universal Studios. Mother nature seemed to pick for us by releasing a sudden heavy thunderstorm while we were in the Springfield section. The closest building was Fast Food Boulevard and we were lucky enough to barely beat the large crowd that began to form behind us. Fast Food Boulevard is themed after the Simpsons with a large mural in one of the dining areas, Moe’s Tavern, and a food court sporting familiar names from the show. You can take your pick or mix and match from the following eateries: Flaming Moe’s (non-alcoholic signature drink, juice, Duff beer), Krusty Burger (burgers and hot dogs), Cletus’ Chicken Shack (chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, chicken wings), The Frying Dutchman (fried seafood), Luigi’s Pizza (meat, cheese or vegetarian pizza), and Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror (more healthy options- from salads to sandwiches and fruit cups).
Evan and I shared a Basket O’ Shrimp from The Frying Dutchman. It was coconut crusted fried shrimp with tater tots. Overall, it was pretty good, but the shrimp was fried a little dark for my tastes. Chad ordered a Krusty Burger- a 6 ounce burger assembled with secret sauce, cheddar cheese sauce, tomato slice, and lettuce.It was actually quite delicious. I also got a Caprese Salad from Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror- sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella over a bed of lettuce and served with a balsamic vinaigrette.
I was quite sad that I missed the opening of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express sections by just a few weeks. I only got to see a glimpse of the construction, but it looks like it is going to be amazing!
We also spent a good bit of time in Islands of Adventure, but I’m only going to post about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade here and save the rest for Universal Studios Part 2.
I was completely mesmerized the first time I saw The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade. It was even better this time due to the smaller crowd. While the narrow areas outside and in the shops help add to the atmosphere, they also make everything very cramped when crowd levels are heavy.
Honeydukes offers an assortment of sweets and a bakery area. They sell many sugary items mentioned in the books, from Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to Chocolate Frogs and much much more. It was attached to Zonko’s (joke shop) on our last visit, but Zonko’s has since disappeared and Honeydukes has expanded into that area. Items available at Zonko’s will become available at Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes shop in the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley. The larger space for Honeydukes has helped a little with the cramped feeling inside the store, but I imagine it still becomes packed on heavy crowd days.
I didn’t get a chance to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey on our last visit to Universal due to pregnancy, so we took advantage of child swap to try it this time. We were so lucky with the crowd levels and only had a 15 minute wait for the ride! I loved the ride overall, but got a little motion sick from the screen. Even if you get stuck in a long line, there is plenty of Hogwarts detailing to take in while you wait.
I have tried Butterbeer a couple of times now and always go for the frozen version. I love it, but it is soooo sweet. I was only able to finish about half the drink (I also don’t recommend guzzling butterbeer right before boarding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey- this may or may not have attributed to my dizziness).
We went to the Three Broomsticks, a counter service restaurant offering British cuisine, one day for lunch. We tried the lunch here once before while I was pregnant with Evan, but I was right at 12 weeks along and still quite morning sick. I didn’t get to thoroughly enjoy the meal, but made up for it this time. Even though I didn’t really get to eat last time, I was completely entranced by the level of detail put into the dining area. It still blew me away on my second visit. Hog’s Head is tucked in the back of the restaurant and offers Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, and alcoholic drinks (including Hog’s Head Brew).
Chad got the Shepherd’s Pie- ground beef and vegetables topped with potatoes. I ordered the Cornish Pasties with Garden Salad. The crust was flaky and encompassed a ground beef and vegetable filling. They were mini-sized- perfect for a certain pair of small hands across the table from me to steal one. In addition to stealing my Cornish Pasties, Evan also had a child’s portion of macaroni and cheese with grapes and applesauce. If you have a family of four, you can always order The Great Feast. This 50 dollar platter for four features garden salad, rotisserie smoked chicken, spare ribs, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes.
I first tried Cornish Pasties while at The Three Broomsticks. I researched a bit and decided to make them myself. Cornish Pasties are a British dish (from Cornwall) made by filling a flaky, buttery crust with beef and vegetables. It became especially popular in the 1800s with miners and farmers as a convenient lunch or snack. Beef, potatoes, and onions are the traditional ingredients. Swede (rutabaga) and carrots are also sometimes added. While the The Three Broomsticks version is miniature sized and uses ground beef, I went more traditional and diced all the ingredients into about 1/3rd inch pieces.
More information on the history of Cornish Pasties.
The original recipe creates 6 large Cornish Pasties. While I didn’t make them as small as The Three Broomsticks, I did divide the pastry dough into 12 pieces to make medium sized pasties. This made them a little easier for Evan to handle.
On one baking sheet, you can fit about 4 large or 6 medium pasties. I only baked one tray and froze the remaining on another tray for a future snack. If you cook both trays at once, make sure you switch and turn the trays about halfway through cooking.
Cornish Pasties (Cornish Pastry filled with Beef and Vegetables)
Adapted from Farmgirl Fare
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) chilled butter, diced
3/4 cup ice water
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
12 ounces raw skirt or chuck steak, diced into 1/3 inch pieces
2 cups diced 1/3 inch (~7 1/2 ounces) yellow or white onion
2 cups diced 1/3 inch (~11 ounces) red or yukon gold potatoes
2 cups diced 1/3 inch (~8 ounces) carrots
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a blade or a large bowl, add flour and salt. Pulse or mix to combine. Add the diced butter and pulse until the pieces are no larger than a pea. If mixing in a bowl, use a dough blender, forks, or your fingers to cut in the butter. Slowly mix in water just until dough comes together. All the water may not be necessary and do not overmix.
Wrap the dough in plastic and gently flatten into a large rectangle. Make sure it is completely covered and refrigerate until chilled, 30 minutes to overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease. In a small bowl, beat the egg with milk to form egg wash.
In a large bowl, toss together diced beef, onion, potatoes, and carrots. Stir in the salt, pepper, olive oil, thyme, and rosemary.
Divide the chilled pastry dough into 6 (for large) or 12 (for medium) equal pieces. Place half of the pieces back in plastic and refrigerate to keep chilled as you work on first few pasties. Roll one of the remaining pieces into a thin circle, 9 inches wide for large or about 4 inches for medium. Spread 1 cup for large or 1/2 cup for medium of the filling over one side of the circle, leaving enough room around the edges to seal. Brush the edges with the egg wash and fold the pastry over to cover the filling. Press around the edges to seal. Use a fork to crimp the edges or pull and roll the edges inward with your fingers to create a rolled decorative pattern. Place on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
Brush the tops of the prepared pasties with egg wash and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.