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Hard Rock Cafe – For Serious

It’s hard to believe, but I’m not allowed to say that I’ve never eaten at a Hard Rock Cafe anymore. When a team dinner calls, you must go eat. We were staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, so the cafe at the CityWalk was just a quick walk away. It’s pretty ginormous. In fact, it’s the largest Hard Rock Cafe in the world. Wow. Yes, there’s music memorabilia everywhere. There are even these pretty cool stained glass windows. There’s also some kind of convertible that’s spinning around above the bar. It’s a spectacle.
I wasn’t up for drinking that night so I got a smoothie of some kind. It came in a giant glass and it was quite enjoyable.
Here’s M’s hickory-smoked pulled-pork sandwich. He got his with the Hickory BBQ sauce and not the carolina vinegar-based kind. The sandwich is topped with marinated slaw and also served with seasoned fries, ranch beans and fresh coleslaw. This was pretty decent. The best things were the beans!
I got the anti-cobb salad.  Basically, it was a bunch of fruit on top of lettuce, and I loved it! It was a bunch of mixed greens topped with dried cranberries, fresh Granny Smith apple slices, fresh strawberries, diced grilled chicken breast, fresh orange segments, avocado, and mango served with a tangerine balsamic dressing. This was a spectacular salad! I loved all the fruit and the dressing was just awesome. And you got a heap of protein with the grilled chicken so it wasn’t just fruit only. I really did love it so, I could have eaten this every day! Our server did a great job putting up with us. And for such a large party and a large restaurant, the food came out pretty quick. The kitchen and staff must be massive!

Hard Rock Café on Urbanspoon

Trade Show Eats

I was in Orland to work a trade show with my company. This particular trade show is the BIG one of the year and well, it was rather overwhelming. The space at the Orange County Convention Center was absolutely ginormous. I’d never experienced something of its sheer vastness. The thought of feeding this number of people all day long is kind of mindboggling. There was hot breakfast, but I never made it to that as I was on my feet and working from very early in the day. Luckily, there were stations all around the main show floor with breakfast snacks. I think I took all of the bananas near me and took full advantage of the fruit cups. I only wish they had some yogurt.

The proper lunches were hot and served in the official dining area, which was huge. There were three stations: mediterranean salad, italian, american carvery. And for the three days, it was the same food, every day. Same three options, same dishes at each station. It was disappointing, to say the least. I ended up eating at the italian pasta station every day. The other two stations just did not appeal to me at all. So it ended up being pasta with red sauce and sausage. I wasn’t very impressed. The sausage was ok, but the pasta was overcooked, which tends to happen when you’re cooking for thousands.

In the afternoon, they tended to set out several snack options at various stations. There would be chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate. Sometimes, they had donut holes. They didn’t particularly care to have healthy snacks.

On one of the nights right towards the end of the day, they had a little reception thing and offered more snacks as well as beer, wine, and cocktails. More donuts, sweets, chocolates, mini salads, fruits and cheeses, and shrimp cocktail.

I liked these little mozzarella and tomato shooters. I’m a big fan of food shooters it seems!
They even had sushi, fried rice, and pad thai, and takeaway containers, which made it all kind of cute. But overall, it was just ok. The lunch was the biggest disappointment. Keep the same three stations every day, I can understand, but mix the options up a bit. Is it that hard to come up with different pastas for 3 days? I think not!

Bubba Gump’s Orlando

After the company event, we did need to have a proper dinner. So we walked over to the Bubba Gump at Universal CityWalk. Yes, it’s a chain. Yes, it’s based on Forrest Gump. Yes, it’s a tourist trap. It’s decorated with all types of Forrest Gump related kitsch, and they even play the movie on tv’s.

Some restaurants have a green side / red side system. Some have buzzers. Bubba Gump has these little “Run Forrest Run” and “Stop Forrest Stop” signs if you need to fetch a server for any reason. It works!

Ok, so there were a bunch of us there and we were still waiting for more, but didn’t want to wait. So we ordered up a bunch of appetizers. Shrimp cocktail! Who doesn’t love shrimp cocktail? Well, people that don’t like shrimp, I suppose. Boo to those people! Oh, and I had a strawberry lemonade, which was delicious!

A freakin tower of onion rings! Yes, I can see how this would definitely be fun, especially for kids. Lucky for Bubba Gump, they taste pretty good too! I like onion rings in general, but I prefer to eat the onion, with very little of the batter. But it was hard to remove the batter with these ones.

Cajun shrimp! These little suckers were sauteed in a spicy cajun butter sauce. These are deceptively spicy! They were very good.

This is a shrimp restaurant so we really did stick with shrimp dishes. We got 3/4 lb of the Shrimper’s Net Catch Garlic Spice peel-n-eat and another 3/4 lb in Cajun Spice. These were so good! If you don’t like peeling your own shrimp, then obviously, avoid these. But these were quite good. Both the garlic ones and the cajun ones were good. It was actually best to mix the two together. After everyone else showed up, we did also order the steamed shellfish, which was a mix of mix of steamed mussels, clams, snow crab, lobster claw, and shrimp. It was also served with jasmine rice, cole slaw, and garlic bread. I immediately absconded the rice and cole slaw. M was nice enough to peel me some random things and give them to me, so I didn’t even have to do any work! Thanks M!

So you know I avoid chains as much as possible. But there are times it’s unavoidable. I enjoyed my meal here, I know, it’s surprising. But it was fun. So now I know that I can always have Bubba Gump’s in my back pocket as a decent chain option. Thanks Forrest Thanks!
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Restaurant & Market on Urbanspoon

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