Emerils TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando

Emerils TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando

Filet mignon with mashed potatoes, braised short ribs or teriyaki chicken?

And that’s just on the kids menu at Emeril’s TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando’s Royal Pacific Hotel.

For the grownups, we had our pick of Hot Iron Seared Yellow fin Tuna Steak with Thai Sticky Rice, Chinese 5 Spice Braised Lamb Shank or Pan Roasted Duck Breast, with assorted wines and signature cocktails.

If you think all Orlando food is turkey legs, burgers and churros, think again.  Sure you can get all that but you have plenty more choices—and healthier options—for the kids as well as the adults (of course indulgences too like the brownie sundae eight year old Hannah Sitzman ordered for dessert).

A real pasta machine: in the charming village of Grazie

At Confisco on Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, we started with Hummus and fresh baked pita bread and had Greek and Caesar salads while Hannah chose pasta from the kids’’ menu.

Of course Orlando now has a thriving dining scene but many people don’t realize that extends to hotels—the executive chef at the Hilton is all about farm to table—and the theme parks.

At Mama Della’s Ristorante at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, we’re serenaded by strolling musicians and “Mama” comes by to give us a hug.  The kids menu includes fettuccine alfredo, while we have our choice of  pan seared branzino, veal scaloppini or salmon with fennel —A long way from burgers and fries

We snagged the hottest reservation in town – to Be Our Guest restaurant in the new Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom—the first Magic Kingdom restaurant ever to serve liquor—in the Beast’s castle no less.  The place looks exactly like the Beast’s castle—complete with snow falling outside the window and the magic rose losing petals.  The Beast is on hand too for pictures and hugs—for those that dare.

The menu is French inspired—ratatouille, French onion soup, mussels, salmon on leek fondue, cream puffs for the dessert.  In keeping with Disney’s healthier eating initiatives for kids The Kids menu features Mickey Check Meals that are lower in fat—grilled fish with whole grain rice pilaf, turkey meatloaf with broccoli and orange dipping sauce,  Our eight year old opted for whole-grain macaroni.

At the Hyatt Grand Cypress just outside Disney, the “for kids by kids” menu has been very popular, according to executive chef Kenneth Juran. The kids like that they can build their own pasta, sub sandwich for lunch or egg taco for breakfast.  At night at the Cascade Bistro, they can snip their own herbs that are placed in small pots on the tables from the garden outside.  “Adults love it too,” he said.

“People are surprised at the quality of food,” he said.  “People come here and they think it is all theme park food.”  instead it is “thoughtfully sourced” from local farms—everything from chicken and duck to lettuces to cheese and vegetables—with hearth-baked bread, spinach and kale and house potato ships, line caught halibut, local seafood pasta, lamb burger…

Kids can order a shaken chopped salad with chicken and brown rice, create their own pasta (penne or spaghetti, tomato or cheese with turkey meatballs or chicken breast, broccoli, carrots or zucchini) as well as a small steak, sustainable fish or veggie and sesame rice noodle dish.  There is also a three course all organic menu developed by Alice Waters

The breakfast buffet has more than 60 items, including an egg white scramble with spinach and low fat cheese and an Asian noodle soup bar.

“It’s nice to see the kids choose the unusual items,” Chef Juran said, like the Chinese steamed buns.

“Kids are 100 per cent more sophisticated eaters,” he said.  “Food is more fun and it is cooler to be in touch with food.  It’s like being in the in crowd.”

I like being part of that crowd.