As you know, I discussed my past cake creations earlier and it was within the comments of that entry that the suggestion came in from my good friend Luis to make an Xbox controller cake. I instantly agreed that would be the perfect idea for my Xbox Live-addicted 11 year-old. It also seemed like it could be do-able with some fondant and a little creativity. So last night, I embarked on the journey to create the ultimate Xbox 360 controller cake! (Thank goodness I had the help of my husband or I’d still be working on it now.)
11 years ago, I wasn’t exactly partying like it was 1999. I had high blood pressure, swollen ankles and was pretty much done with being pregnant. It had been a rocky start due to severe morning sickness that left me unable to even keep water down. Typical first-time mom-to-be worries kept me on edge most of the pregnancy and after being told it was a girl for almost 5 months only to discover in the ultrasound it was a boy, I was always expecting the unexpected. So perhaps I should’ve known in the morning when I went in for my 37 week check up on that last Friday in January, that I’d be admitted to the hospital by that night.
Actually, I kid. A lot. Charm City Cakes, Buddy from Cake Boss and any other bakers, with or without tv shows, have absolutely NOTHING to worry about. However, I am in need of their creative thinking right now. I’ve sort of built up a reputation of making fun and exciting cakes for the two big kids birthday parties and now that I’ve sent out invitations for my baby’s 11th birthday party (I still remember MY 11th birthday like it was yesterday…how can I have an 11 year-old son?!), I am drawing a blank as to how to compete with prior years’ creations. I took a year off for C’s last party because I was still adjusting to having a baby around and the place we had the party offered ice cream cakes, so it seemed to work. However with S’s last party, I upped the ante with the famous Spaghetti & Meatballs Cake for her Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movie party, so I feel it’s only fair I get back on track for C’s party in 2 weeks.
Antelope, Giraffes and Zebra, that’s who! And that is just a few of the many animals you can see right from the windows of Sanaa (pronounced Sah-NAH) the newest restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Sanaa is located in the Kidani Village section of Animal Kingdom Lodge, a new area built for Disney’s Vacation Club members. Kidani Village contains studio, 1 or 2 bedroom villa suites. This area has its own lobby and check-in area, its own pool and recreation area and its own savanna, viewable from many of the villas as well as Sanaa itself.
While the lobby area is not as breathtaking as Jambo House (the original Animal Kingdom Lodge section) it is still quite beautiful. It is more cozy. However, you will still be in awe as you walk down the spiral staircase to Sanaa and get your first glimpse of the savanna. The staircase itself is beautiful, and the thatched roof above this area is amazing. After you check in for your reservations at Sanaa, feel free to explore the hallway directly behind you. It is beautiful on its own and you can see the animals from all the windows. There is a viewing area outside, where you can walk out and see the animals closer without glass to get in the way. There are cast members out there to ask questions and a firepit for late night story-telling.
As we were brought to our table, we were told that Sanaa was meant to represent a marketplace – the decor is to look like the trees of a village and a colorful marketplace within it. We were lucky enough to be seated right at a window. Our server welcomed us and carefully explained how the menu at Sanaa worked, with its special entrees and drinks. We instantly felt special and taken care of with the patience and attention we received. I would add that this was because we were celebrating a birthday there, but I was actually quick to notice that all the tables around us, with the same and different servers, received this same incredible and attention. Our server brought over a covered cup with a glowing ice cube in it for the baby, to keep him entertained. The server next to us knelt down to explain to the 4 year-old at the next table which animals were out there and what they liked to eat. Our server later explained to my son the process of making naan bread, and how his pizza was made from that bread. “That must be why it was so good!” he replied to her. That is just part of what made Sanaa stand out as a truly “Disney” experience.
We ordered the Indian Bread Sampler, where you pick 3 types of breads and 3 accompaniments. The bread choices are Naan, Roti, Paratha, Paneer Paratha. We chose all but the Roti. The accompaniments to choose from are: Mint and Onion Raita, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Garlic-Ginger Pickle, Mango-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Tamarind Chutney. Your server can explain better than I the differences between all of these choices, but we went with the Cucumber Raita, Hummus, and Garlic-Ginger Pickle. We loved them all. I highly recommend this sampler, because there will be something for everyone and at the very least, you can share plain naan with your picky eaters.
We also ordered the Mustard Seed Crusted Scallops with a coconut cream sauce. I am a sucker for all things coconut, but even if you are not a fan, it’s not an overpowering coconut flavor. These scallops were perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten. They were perfection on a plate. I would go back and order 2 orders for an entree, they were that good! I definitely want to try the Samosas next time though, because I’m sure they are delicious too.
For an entree, I ordered the Tandoori Chicken. I have had Tandoor chicken many times before, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with it. To my surprise, it came already off the bone and in fork-sized pieces. Perfect! It came with your choice of Basmati rice or 5-grain Pilaf. “From the Tandoor Ovens” also has a shrimp or lamb chop option rather than the chicken.
Other menu options include slow-cooked meats, or a vegetarian option as well, including chicken or shrimp curry, paneer cheese and spinach, or beef short ribs. Also available are African Cooking with Indian Flavors, which feature Cornish Game Hen, Strip Steak, Dum Biryani and a Sustainable Fish, which changes nightly.
Our meals were just fantastic, and though were worried about my picky 10 year-old, as you read, he loved his naan pizza. My daughter enjoyed her Meaty Macaroni made with ground turkey as well. The problem with dinner was that we were so full from the delicious appetizers and entrees that we had no room for dessert, which, if you know me and my family at all, is shocking.
As we dined, various animals strolled past, stopping to eat some strategically placed hay, or hanging out by the trees further back. We loved watching the Antelope *right* outside our window. Soon many friends joined and later the far-off Giraffes came by to say hello. In the distance we could see Wildebeests, Zebras, and the long-horned Ankole Cattle. We saw Ostriches off to the side and Red Crown Cranes came up closer than any other creature, since they could fly around the little unobtrusive barriers set up so you don’t end up having Wildebeest for dessert. Even the server remarked that there was an unusually large turn-out of animals that night.
While we were enjoying the view, we started to hear drums from the front of the restaurant. I thought they must just do a musical presentation, but as we continued to watch, the drummers paraded through the restaurant and over to a table where they sang a Sanaa version of Happy Birthday. I thought that was really impressive, but then they came over to our table for my mom’s birthday. They sang the song again and it was SO moving! Way different than a plain ol’ Happy Birthday by weary servers that you usually see in restaurants. Everyone was clapping along to the beat and looked genuinely excited for your celebration. After the song, a hostess handed my mom the Disney birthday card that you usually get, signed by various characters. However – this card was signed by every member of the front of the house staff, with wishes in their native language. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. As a result, I *highly* recommend Sanaa for a birthday celebration. I know that’s where I’m headed for MY birthday this year.
All in all, our experience with Sanna was a marvelous one. I have been singing its praises ever since to anyone that’ll stand still. I loved it there, and so did the whole family. It is not just a place to eat…it is an experience – one which you’ll likely treasure for years to come. If you are planning a trip to Disney World, include Sanaa in those plans. If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh! I almost forgot – on our way out we stopped at the restroom. I’m not sure I’ve ever said this about a restroom or not, but it was GORGEOUS. Beautiful dark wood and stone…just beautiful. Make sure you make a stop there before you go! 😉
All photos are ©Zanna DiMarzio under Creative Commons license – more photos available at Flickr.
One of our family’s traditions since living in the backyard of Walt Disney World is celebrating birthdays in the parks. We also have a tradition of spending Mother’s Day at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, and of course enjoying the holiday decorations in December. However there is little that can compete with the magic of being at Disney for your birthday. Our upcoming trip will combine celebrations for my mother – turning 70 this week (and I don’t worry about sharing her age because she doesn’t look a day over 55!) and my daughter will be turning 9 on the last day of our vacation.
There are several things you can do to make your birthday more special at Disney, including ordering gift baskets, flowers or balloons to your Disney resort, or special ordering a small cake ($21) to be delivered (with song of course!) as you dine in a Disney restaurant. In addition, there is one very important, completely FREE thing which you should do first and foremost upon arriving on Disney property: Tell EVERYONE it’s your birthday!! Tell the front desk when you check in at your resort, tell them at the ticket sales booth, guest relations or City Hall at the parks, and tell them at every Disney restaurant at which you dine.
When you tell them at the ticket booth or guest relations of a park, you will be given a free button proclaiming to the world that it is your birthday. A cast member will write your name on the button and once you put it on, the magic begins. Cast members will pass you by and say, “Happy Birthday!” Perfect strangers walking past or waiting in line with you will say, “Happy Birthday!”. Your server at a Disney table-service restaurant will even bring you a special Disney cupcake with a candle and sing to you!
We told the front desk at Disney’s Beach Club Resort it was our daughter’s birthday and she was greeted with a nice surprise one day as we were relaxing in the room. This is not guaranteed, but worth a try, tell everyone!!
If you are getting a special Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique make-over on your birthday, you will receive a special “Birthday Princess” sash. I’m not sure what is available at the new Pirate League in Magic Kingdom, but I’m sure they do something special as well. Part of the fun is finding out the little surprises and treats Disney has in store for birthday boys and girls (no age limit to that title! 😉 )
Of course this year is the Free Admission on Your Birthday promotion at the Disney Parks, which is a wonderful way to celebrate! And if you have annual passes or admission tickets already, there are other options that ensure you receive some Disney magic on your special day. Whether or not you make visiting Disney on your birthday an annual tradition, don’t be shy and enjoy celebrating YOU in the Happiest Place on Earth!