Momma Told Me: October 2012

Blog Archive

Medieval Times: Dinner And A Tournament Experience and Giveaway~ 11/8

Momma Told Me: At least, if the food is awful, there's entertainment!

When I was young my parents went on a second honeymoon. Never really having a first, it may come as no surprise that the second was more of a weekend vacation. (Hey, you're often lucky to get that, once you have kids). I recall this event not for the lavish overindulgence, as I was much to young to venture to Vegas and had been left with Grandma and Grandpa near Reno, but for the traumatic events that followed. You see, the family had gone to Nevada and I had been passed off to the grandparents, after one night in a hotel with Momma and Papa. Somewhere in this transition, and their 2 night stay at the Excalibur, my beloved Flipper plushie was 'lost'. Looking back, I speculate if this event had been intentional, as my old stuffed dolphin had been quite tattered and stained; and Momma had resurfaced with a much more vibrant dolphin in red crown. There were tails of knights jousting, a giant moat, and how my 'new' Flipper had met the old Flipper on his journey to a permanent 'vacation' at the 'castle'. I was in tears for days, and, needless to say, it was a very long ride home. My distaste for dinner theater began then and there.
As silly as it sounds, I have been genuinely disenchanted with the entire concept of 'dinner theater', to the point of going an entire quarter century without visiting either of the main attractions, just under 2 hours down the road. Here, in Southern California, one has plenty of options for recreation and entertainment. My family is 30 minutes down the coast from Santa Barbara, full of arts and music exhibitions, and less than 2 hours outside of Los Angeles, host of the Staples and Honda Centers, and just as close to 4 major amusement parks, including Disneyland. In fact, it seems like everyone who journeys for a weekend trip to Knott's has inevitably stopped in at Medieval Times for Dinner and a Tournament. And, until a week back, I was the only one in my circle of friends and family who had not been at least once, many of whom had been yearly to catch the varying shows.
Traumatic childhood dolphin-napping aside, I am certain I had previously fallen into the polar category; the dinner theater skeptics and nay-sayers. While I'm colorful, quirky, and always up for something new, there has simply been a stigma, a sort of unfair prejudice in my mind, when it came to Medieval Times. I don't want to sound too negative, though I know I am not alone, but the concept of sitting around a dirt arena cheering for costume clad horse riders, while waving a rib, seems kind of cheesy. I can see bringing the family for a day of loosely educational fun and fare, but 2 adults attending, that was a bit far fetched. So, when we arrived at our local Buena Park location, just one of 9 locations nationwide, I was a bit surprised to see the parking lot quickly filling for the afternoon show. And, while there were quite a few families, attendees ages ranged vastly from seniors to young couples, and tourists. Maybe there was something to this after all!
The exterior wasn't as elaborate as some of the other locations, as I had seen online, but the layout was certainly reminiscent of castle, with several minor attractions to pass the time, while waiting for your show. I'd suggest you show up at least an hour early to check out your particular locations' offerings. Here at Buena Park our visit began with a snapshot alongside the Princess and an optional visit to the mini-Museum of Torture (just $2 extra). From there we continued into and through the beautifully landscaped courtyard, past the bar and into an equally elaborate souvenir shop. Merchandise seemed to sprawl from one wall to the next, ranging  from small trademarked trinkets to replica swords and stuffed fantasy characters. I could certainly see myself coming her a few times a year and building a period wardrobe from the various corsets, sinchers, and braces. Off to the left of all the souvenir counters was yet another functioning bar and throne room, where first time visitors were 'knighted'. And, just beyond that was a beautiful room adorned with the knights' crests and windows offering a view of the horses in their stables.

Just before the show was to begin seating we were all  told to gather around the castle herald for a brief rundown of the courtesy rules (one of which a request not to bang the pewter dishes, which could spook the horses). Then everyone was seated by color section, according to the paper crowns we had been handed upon arrival. Once inside we proceeded down towards the front row of our (Red) section to collect our complimentary program and seats, as we had received our FREE Royalty Upgrade, thanks to the current Buena Park promotion. While there were many wenches bustling back and forth, we had a male server, who immediately requested our choice of beverage from a selection of minimal choices. We were also instructed that we could not cheer for the knights whose colors were seen on the opposite side of the arena, but that we should feel free to get involved and cheer any of the 3 on our half. A hearty portion of  'Dragon's Blood' (tomato) soup, and a wedge of bread, was served and the lights soon dimmed to signal the start of the show.
I was happy to note that there was a bit of pageantry at the beginning of the show, from the parading of the mystical white steed, to the court falconer.  The show also seemed to be ingeniously timed to allow for ample serving and digesting periods between courses and action sequences. Medieval Times stories rotate annually, at a minimum, though I am told the formula is kept much the same. Our tale informed us that the Princess was holding a grand feast in the King's honor, at which the 6 great Knights of The Court were to perform in an exhibition of games and good natured jousting.  Just as the games were beginning our server brought around the utensil free main course, 'Baby Dragon' (a half chicken), 2 potato wedges, and a single rib. The food was delicious, though the potatoes could have used some seasoning, or a little sauce; my only complaint was for more ribs. I could have eaten an entire rack, they were so tender and flavorful! I also found it odd that the server was forced to limit us to just 1 refill; though it's best to keep in mind that they do have to make a considerable amount of trips up and down steep stairs with large trays. Always tip your wench/server well, I say!

Just as my plate was beginning to empty the plot, so to say, began to thicken. The games were interrupted by an unwelcome visitor, demanding the hand of the fair princess as an offer of peace, to unite their realms. Truth be told, I was far more entertained by the jousting, and action than the actual plot, but noticed several of the crowd getting fairly invested in the honor of our fair Princess and her father, the King. The games themselves were actually rather exciting, with a rally of horseback runs that had the trained knights genuinely competing against one another for precision and timing tasks. At the end of each pairing the knights would approach the Princess, who would toss down earned carnations, as a token of her admiration. The knights would then return to their color sections and engage the crowd, tossing them out to the fairest patrons. It's here where I note that there was a generous variation of knights, the majority 'authentic' in appearance (save the suspiciously hairless Green Knight). In any case, it's this maiden's opinion that we had the most strapping of the 6, the Red Knight with his long flowing mane, and unmatched affection for his steed. (He was also quite good at the games!)
Moving towards dessert, an apple filled pastry, the token villain resurfaced  again, and the protective nests were cast down, as the knights began to fight one another (first on horse, then on foot), for the right to defend the princess' honor. I recall I scoffed the first time I'd heard a past visitor recollect their visit with the term 'sparks fly', a response I now feel foolish for. There were several sparks flying as steel met steel, clanking from sword to mace to shield, to armor! By this point it was hard not be invested in the outcome, involuntarily cheering, and waving my fist with jeers, when our knight seemed to take a fall. Not only was the action exciting, but the knights really utilized the majority of their space, leaping and rolling from one end of the arena to the other; the majority of the action fairly centralized.

After the last knight had fallen, the Green standing victorious, it was time to take down the formidable, yet shaggy, villain. I'll be honest, I was less invested when I saw it was not our knight, defending the court's honor, but this was perhaps the most nail-biting match of all. I can only imagine the number of practice hours and choreography these actors must go through to hit timing marks, and stay safe while entertaining. There were several 'close calls', where the match could have gone either way- but I'm certain nobody was surprised to see the 'good guy' emerge victorious. Yes, Medieval Times certainly provided that satisfying feel good ending. Best of all, I found myself at the end of the show fairly refreshed- the time had flown by, only dragging in the very beginning as pageantry and exhibition passed time during serving.
In all, I think I'd love to attend Medieval Times in a group, where we could truly get invested in our 'color' and cheer together for our knight. The food was rather delicious for a static menu that remains standard year round, and the experience itself was much more than a meal and a show. Our local Medieval Times offers plenty to do and see, outside of the paid admission, just beware of the fluffy and shiny baubles that will bleed your wallet within minutes. It's hard not to buy souvenirs with such a large variety! Right now you can take advantage of a free Royalty Upgrade, with preferred seating and a program ($20 value), with each paid adult admission to the Buena Park location. This really extends the value of your visit, and is a great addition for newbies, like me! We even got to take home a 'behind the scenes' DVD, where we could get an inside look into the production of a Medieval Times show. The memories you'll make, and the fun you'll have, will last long after your visit; if only the food could come home with you too!

What Daughter Says: Medieval Times will have even the staunchest dinner theater skeptics cheering.
One lucky Momma Told Me reader will snag themselves a Family 4 Pack of Tickets to a Medieval Times show at any of the 9 locations nationwide! Check locations here.

Wordless Wednesday: My Tiny Gourd Family

*Left To Right: Truffles, Frankie, Nora

Tasty Tuesday: Candy Corn Oreos- Weigh In!

As I promised, here is yet another seasonal specialty treat; this one just as recognizable as the first (White Chocolate Candy Corn M&M's); Nabisco's Candy Corn Oreos! There was so much feedback from the first post; many of you were torn by a love or intense dislike of Candy Corn. Some were also concerned about the intensity of the flavor, versus my perceived underwhelming presence of it. I still stand by my belief that the Candy Corn M&M's rely mainly on the White Chocolate flavoring, and are a more subtle specialty variety. If you haven't tried them yet, for yourself, be sure to keep your eyes peeled at local Target and National 99 Cents Only Stores!

I found this weeks featured seasonal foodie delight first online; where one blogger was bragging of Facebooking her find before her friends. In truth, these Oreos did require a bit of hunting. Also stocked at Target, 3/4 of the local branches don't seem to have them in stock. Oddly enough, they weren't found with the seasonal Halloween merchandise either- but stuffed on a shelf behind a column! The packaging resembles classic Golden Oreos, in a yellow peel back sleeve, but clearly displays vivid Candy Corn artwork on it's front.

Joining the ranks of Berry Burst, Green Tea, Lemon Ice, Birthday Cake, and Peanut Butter, these Limited Edition Oreos are new for 2012. Replacing the traditional Yellow and Orange seasonal cream filled sandwich cookies, with one that is heavily flavored to solicit a candy corn essence, these just might be my new favorite! Again, I am not a big Candy Corn fan- mainly because the candy itself can often crumble or be tough to chew when old/stale, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the accuracy of the flavoring here.

These Golden Oreo specialty cookies consist of two extra-sweet halves of orange and yellow cream wedged between soft Golden Oreo discs. The filling seems somewhere between double stuffed and classic, not too thin nor thick, and these certainly fall on the more pungent and sweeter scale of seasonal treats. Not only are Candy Corn Oreos tasty, but they're just plain fun to look at. Try scraping the Yellow Cream off first, then tasting the Orange and weigh in on the debate- Are they two flavors, or one? Either way, one thing's for certain, these seasonal beauties go great with an ice cold glass of Milk (Silk for the dairy free, of course)!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday- Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

For those following my updates from our trip to Philadelphia, this was one of my favorite stops- a must for any age or interest; The Philadelphia Magic Gardens. We had stumbled across their website, and discovered this hidden gem on accident- but anyone who lives locally and has not been needs to add it to their list! When we visited it was a drizzly day, but the art and curiosity lovers were still out, despite dangerous conditions (the walls and floors are mosaic). Needless to say, capturing all of the color and wonder was a little rough in the weather, hopefully I've done justice. The Magic Gardens are the result of a 14 year endeavor by eccentric Philadelphia artist and humanitarian Isaiah Zagar, who hand tunneled each walkway, and placed (nearly) every piece of glass/stone/tire/trash? The result is something awe inspiring and humbling!