Disney’s ‘Be Our Guest’ Restaurant


The Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that opened its doors in the fall of 2012, is truly a must-dine experience for all visitors but especially for die-hard Disney fans who enjoy themed dining.
Our son is a huge Beauty and the Beast fan so we decided to surprise him and take him there one evening to celebrate his birthday.

Know before Booking

Highly popular with diners, this Magic Kingdom gem needs to be pre-booked and is done so up to 180 days in advance because of its popularity.
If you have your heart set on dining there and didn’t make a reservation, you might just have a small chance to snag a place by checking the online bookings daily for cancellations or even asking the hostess. at the entrance

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant knights

Checking in

The location for check-in was a bit confusing to us, as the signage wasn’t clear, but we were pointed to the area in front of the castle near the drawbridge. We checked in, got a beeper and waited about 20 minutes until they were ready for us.

Arriving guests can choose to dine in one of three dining halls – the Rose room, Ballroom or the West Wing;  and staff members will try to accommodate them depending on availability.
Our son was over the moon when we were assigned to the West Wing room as he had previously requested.


As a tribute to Lumiere, the restaurant greeters let a guest from every party lead the way to their assigned table holding the lighted candelabra.In our case, it was our son who got to do so, while the greeter described the other rooms we could visit after our dinner.


The elegant restaurant makes visitors feel like they have just stepped into the enchanted world of Belle and Beast from the moment they cross the drawbridge. The attention to detail is impressive; from the sophisticated chandeliers, grand columns and painted ceilings, to the elaborate use of digital electronics depicting snowfall in the ballroom window, and paintings that change features in the West Wing.
Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant tapestries

The Ballroom that also serves as the main dining room is a replica of the ballroom shown at the end of the movie; complete with painted cherub ceilings, grand chandeliers and picturesque snow-capped woods in the window.

The Rose Room, brightly lit, filled with artwork and boasting a giant music box of the Beast dancing with Belle in its center, is the quietest of the three rooms. and is best suited for sensitive noise patrons.

The West Wing is the most detailed by far but dark and somewhat loud, which might be frightening for younger kids. This room has the most artifacts to explore including the glass with the rose petals falling off and the slashed portrait of the Prince that reverts into the Beast every time lightning strikes.

The Library, filled with books and movie memorabilia, is the area where the Beast greets his guests. Guests wishing to get a picture should be prepared to sit and wait in line, albeit a short one, since he is the only character that consistently makes an appearance every night.

Our son loved all the rooms but spent most of his time in the West Wing mesmerized by the portrait changing every fifteen minutes.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant magic

So how was the Food?

Since we had dined in other Disney restaurants before, our expectations were not too high, so we were pleasantly surprised by the quality.

The menu is French and offers an excellent assortment of appetizers, soups and entrees along with wine or beer – the only food venue in the Magic Kingdom to do so!
My son and husband ordered the French Onion soup topped with a crouton and gruyère cheese which was a bit salty, while I got the seasonal salad trio with three individual bowls: roasted beet, raisins and orange salad, green bean with roasted shallots, and watermelon, radish and mint salad.
My husband and I each enjoyed a glass of wine while my son opted to get a natural fruit punch – sweetened with organic cane juice and wild berry extract topped with, in his words, “The best!” lemon-lime foam in a lit-up cup that became his souvenir.
For the main course; we all opted for the sautéed shrimp and scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce, which proved to be wonderful. We were all happy with this choice.

But the best was yet to come in the form of dessert!
We had heard about that ‘grey stuff’ that Lumiere recommends in his song and were eager to try it.

We didn’t have to wait long as the waiter brought over some for my son’s birthday, along with a candle and a signed card from Beauty and the Beast.
And yes, it turns out Lumiere was right ,is was delicious!


Our server was attentive and very patient with our son who does take longer than most, to decide what to order.
She also asked us whether any of us had any food allergies since she said the cook could prepare gluten-free dishes upon request.
As this is a popular sit-down restaurant and tends to be busy especially at dinner time, guests should expect a meal to take anywhere from an hour and a half to two.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant dessert

Autism Travel Tips


  •  I highly recommend watching “Beauty and the Beast” movie before you go as it will help you remember the details and compare the restaurant to what is shown in the movie
  • Bring electronic devices to occupy the kids while you wait outside for your table.
  • If your reservation is for an early dinner, you might want to bring an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun since there is no shady area to wait in.
  • Make sure to mention to the hostess if your child has noise sensitivities and ask to be seated in one of the quieter corners away from the commotion.
  • If you choose to dine in the West Wing, be aware that there is quite a bit of noise – thunder sounds and announcements about the arrival of the host (the Beast) every fifteen to twenty minutes.




Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World

A long time Disney aficionado friend of mine, Nancy Pistorius, had recommended that we give celebrity chef Cat Cora’s Greek-inspired restaurant a try, so on an evening last May, while staying at the Boardwalk Hotel, we wandered into Kouzinna.
Greek for ‘kitchen’, Kouzinna is decorated in dark brown artisan furniture. The open-concept restaurant makes you feel right at home before you even taste anything. We appreciated that the tables are set far enough apart from each other eliminating the crowded feel, and the noise level was minimal which is important as our son is noise sensitive.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World inside


After seeing us come in, exhausted  from a fun-filled day at Epcot, the attentive staff was more than accommodating; seating us at a quiet, corner table in really good time. That was just the beginning of our wonderful experience.

The service

Our server was really patient; not only spending time explaining each dish to our son with autism, but helping him customize his order exactly the way he liked it: little cream, sauce on the side and no dill or mint on absolutely anything!

The food

My husband and I shared the Kouzinna Spread Sampler. It consisted of hummus, charred eggplant, similar to the Romanian Zacusca my mom used to make, and Tzatziki with warm pita bread slices. I ordered the Avgolemono, which is an egg and lemon soup, that had the right amount of flavoring and texture without being too sour or thick.
My son ordered his favorite dish,fried Calamari, that he fondly nicknamed ‘mini Ursulas’ in reference to the octopus in his favorite movie The Little Mermaid and he had no problem polishing off his plate.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World foodWhile waiting for our main course, we got a kick out of watching the chefs in the restaurant’s open kitchen prepare othepatrons’ dishes in flaming copper pans and wood burning ovens. Our main dish was the Kouzinna sample trio of char-grilled lamb burger, mini Pastitisio, which is Greek lasagna, and cinnamon stewed chicken with orzo. So tasty!

Though we were pretty full, we did not leave without trying freshly made Loukomades (Greek donuts) drizzled with warm honey and cinnamon. They not only turned out to be a perfect way to top off a good dinner but left us craving more.

So, come back we did-the very next morning for breakfast.

Once again, there was a minimal wait for a table without prior reservations. The morning staff were just as friendly and accommodating for our son with autism as those from the previous day.

The breakfast

After reading the menu twice because it was that hard to make up our minds, we all ordered their ‘breakfast pizza‘. Picture a warm pita bread with a thick layer of house-cured salmon and soft scrambled eggs topped with capers, bacon and dill over a thick layer of Tzatziki sauce. Delicious! We were so impressed because it took less than fifteen minutes to arrive at our table!

As we waited and gazed out the window at the people passing by on Disney’s Boardwalk, my husband and I slowly sipped our Bloody Maias  (spin off  the traditional Bloody Mary)– a heavenly blend of vodka, honey, lime juice, Bloody Mary mix and dill, while our son savored his all-natural lemonade topped with wild berry foam.

As this was our very last day in Walt Disney, we decided to end our vacation on a sweet note with a dessert and ordered a classic golden waffle topped with mascarpone cheese, honey and chopped pecans.


Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World drinks

But it turns out the sweetest treat was yet to come. You won’t believe what was waiting for us when we asked for the check!
The Maitre d’ and server had heard our son rave about the food and lemonade and decided to surprise him with a parting gift – a beautiful hardcover celebrity recipe book signed by Cat Cora!


Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World book

Talk about great customer care!

Sadly, the contract between Cat Cora and Disney is slated to come to an end on the last day of September 2014. We are very sad to see this chapter come to a close.

The Four Seasons Food Truck is back!

Food Trucks, or roach coaches as they were fondly known, have been indispensable American dining venues for years.
With no food ratings back in the day, they were staples next to offices, construction sites, and college dorms. One of my early food memory is of my mother warning me against their foods as she was convinced the hygiene would be lacking or worse.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -hotel
In an incredible reversal of fortune, the last few years have dramatically improved the industry and food trucks are now synonymous with clean, budget-friendly and even gourmet dining.
The factors leading to this were the ongoing recession, chefs being laid off and diners wanting affordable and quality food on-the-go. Chefs started providing their cuisine out of these mobile kitchens, advertising their daily location on places like Facebook and Twitter.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -parking
Nowadays, you will find elementary school kids along with high-ranking managers and partygoers patronizing these vendors!
In the major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, some dedicated fans will drive across town daily to a Food Truck just to get their favorite edible fix.


It, therefore, came as no surprise when the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel announced that it was joining the fad, rolling out its own Food Truck.
Last year it drove around California, Arizona and New Mexico for two months, stopping at eight of their properties, serving dishes with produce from local farms, and contributing to the ‘Chefs to End Hunger’ charity.

After reading the press release, we decided it was time to take the proverbial plunge and finally eat off a food truck!


The Four Seasons Food Truck jeff
We caught up with the Truck when it came to Los Angeles from Northern California after driving down the West coast. Out of all the LA slated locations, we chose to go to the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village as there was plenty of parking and less traffic at lunchtime.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -dining area
As we pulled up, we were thrilled to discover that they were just opening and setting makeshift tables in the front of the hotel which meant people could sit down if they desired instead of standing and eating their food.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -menu

My son with autism was fascinated with the Californian-Canadian Fusion menu while I waited excitedly in the short line to sample food truck food for the very first time in my life.

The menu included three types of burgers: a  Mac Cheeseburger,  Veggie Burger, and the more popular Billy Burger while the Braised beef short rib tacos garnished with Salsa Verde and Jicama slaw represented Southern California’s cuisine.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -poutine
Since the Truck’s visit coincided with the traditional Oktoberfest the Enegren Beer Brat garnished with blonde ale mustard and sauerkraut in a pretzel bun was added to the menu.

The sides offered were a strawberry and kale salsa with Manchego cheese, shallots, cactus, and a tarragon yogurt ranch dressing, and a Tater Tot Poutine, a nod to the chain’s heritage which are cheddar cheese curds, generously topped with cilantro, and house bacon gravy.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -food
For dessert, the Truck menu offered what they called a BOB-bag, which was a bag of mini beignets dipped in cinnamon sugar powder and the drink choices were waters, sodas, coffee or  Hadrishi iced tea.

The Four Seasons Food Truck -taco
We opted to split an excellent melt in the mouth beef taco, a sweet and flavorful Billy Burger with CAB beef, bacon, gruyere and arugula in a brioche and a bag of beignets that were unfortunately on the dry side. The highlight of our truck meal was the sinfully addictive Poutine which we regretted not having the insight to order a second portion to bring home!


The Four Seasons Food Truck -burger
Overall, we loved the quality food and the unique truck experience, and we were very much looking forward to a repeat visit this coming year.


The Four Seasons Food Truck -jeff eating

We were a bit disappointed to learn that the program is indeed continuing this year but will switch to traveling from Boston to Miami instead. The good news is that our friends on the East Coast will get a chance to enjoy the delicious street food.

The Truck is scheduled to stop in nine cities between September 15 and November offering local specialties like crab cake sandwiches and pit beef tacos.

If you are interested in sampling the food, and I highly recommend that you do, follow the Four Seasons Truck’s hashtag on Twitter to discover the specific daily locations, or check the truck’s website for additional information.

The ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour


It is no secret that my son with autism has two favorite past times: movies and food.
So when I found the Goldstar.com deal for the Hollywood Sites and Bites Tour with Trish, I hurried to book it for his birthday.

Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour stairs

The Tour

Our six-person tour started at the iconic Roosevelt Hotel that was built in 1927 and according to our guide, Trish hosted the first ever Oscars in its Blossom Room.
She told us how the late Marilyn Monroe had her first ad gig at the pool at the age of eighteen and that the hotel even has a suite named after her.
We looked around the hotel lobby to discover where scenes of ‘Catch me if you can ’ were filmed, and our son got quite the kick out of hopping up and down the very same staircase Shirley Temple practiced her dance moves on.

As we crossed the street, we stopped by the newly renovated TCL Theater for a glance at the sidewalk in front covered in celebrity hand and footprint before making our first stop at ‘Crumbs’ the famous cupcake store to enjoy a mini cupcake.

Fortified by the sugar rush, we continued to our next stop, the Dolby Theater, of Academy Awards fame with its outstanding Babylon Court based on Griffiths’  famous movie ‘Intolerance’.
I have to admit I had passed by the theater on numerous occasions but never actually stopped to see what was inside.
Trish filled us in on informational tidbits we found interesting: the nominee staircase was built to resemble a woman’s silhouette while the rotunda is supposed to look like a camera lens (I still didn’t see it after staring at it for five minutes, but never mind).

While the rest of our group got a good gawk at the iconic Hollywood sign as seen from the second story balcony my son (the Wizard of Oz aficionado) traced the movie quotes on the court’s bottom.
By then everyone in the group was tired from the walking in the hot LA sun and thrilled to be escorted to the well-chilled minivan waiting to take us to our next destination.
Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour theater
Having been on many tours before I was impressed that Trish’s took the time to explain where the van exit doors and seat belts were while her driver AJ handed out cold bottled water.

After driving down Hollywood Boulevard (caught a glimpse of Capitol records and Raleigh Studios ), we stopped at Grub restaurant located on Melrose Boulevard.
We got to try their tomato bisque soup and crack bacon quesadillas (both excellent) along with their homemade berry lemonade (a bit too sweet for me.)

In less than 20 minutes we were out the door and on the way to Mozza2Go where we were treated to a slice of Mario Batali’s thick crust pizza (choice of Margherita or Garlic–Oil).
The pizza was top notch but a bit hard to enjoy while standing up especially for my special needs son.

With the third spot down we raced to the fourth up on Sunset Boulevard where we stopped to sample Greenblatt’s Deli’s pastrami sandwich accompanied by the obligatory coleslaw and pickle spears.
My son looked distraught, as he abhors pastrami.
Here again, I was impressed with Trish’s professionalism and autism awareness when she immediately suggested substituting Jeff’s sandwich portion for a potato pancake complete with sour cream & applesauce!Review of our ‘Hollywood Sites & Bites’ Tour grub

We were all starting to move a bit slower from the excess of calories we had just ingested and debating whether we still had any place left for dessert when we reached our next spot –John Kelly Chocolates.
Here, the owner took us for a quick tour of is the facility to showed us how his chocolates were made and treated us to slices of their famous truffle fudge.

Our last stop, almost four hours later, was Mashti Malone the friendliest and most sample generous of all the venues we visited.
Jeff asked to try most of the Middle Eastern flavors displayed, and the girls serving were only too happy to oblige. He enjoyed their ice cream so much we ended up ordering two full sized cones to eat there as well as and two containers of cucumber ice cream for home.

All in all, we both had a good time!

Between Trish’s entertaining stories and the introduction we got to food venues we hadn’t known about before the tour, it was a fun way to spend a summer morning and bond with each other.


Autism travel tips

Bear in mind, though the actual tour doesn’t involve much walking, it can include some periods of standing and it can get hot in LA especially during the summer

If your child is a picky eater or on a special diet, you should contact Trish in advance and hear her suggestions since she is quite flexible and accommodating to special needs clients.

Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream, Hollywood

We were first introduced to Mashti Malone’s ice cream in Hollywood during a gourmet tour of Hollywood last September.
I have to say we’ve found it hard to stay away ever since!
The ice cream shop is run by two brothers from Iran and serves classic flavors as well as more unique ones like Rosewater Sorbet and Cucumber Ice cream that are a refreshing, less sweet contrast to some other commercial brand tastes like Ben&Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood entrance

Who is Mashti Malone?

The rather small and plain shop tucked away in a nondescript mini-mall in Hollywood, Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream at 1525 North La Brea Avenue, owes its moniker to the fact that the owner Mashti, did not have enough money to remove the previous owner’s name Malone, and just added his own to the existing sign .
The name adds to the novelty and the sparse 1960’s style décor doesn’t seem to deter clients who focus on the icy treats that are on offer.


A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood parking

The venue

The day we last visited we lucked out and pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We enjoyed the full attention of the friendly staff that let us sample multiple flavors before deciding on the one we wanted to buy.
Since this place is popular with the locals during the late afternoons and evenings, visiting during the day is better especially for families with kids that don’t wish to wait long in line.
I was told that Mashti’s tends to get busy in the evenings when people wander there from nearby Hollywood eateries to get dessert after dinner.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood tastes
The Masti ice cream

Mashti’s offers an impressive assortment of ice creams and sorbets that according to their website contains no preservatives, eggs, refined sugar, corn syrup, trans fats or artificial colors or flavoring.
Of course, for less gastronomically adventurous clients there are the usual chocolate, vanilla, and fruit sorbets to choose from, but Mashti’s forte is their Middle Eastern selection.
They feature unique flavors like Saffron Rosewater, Ginger Rosewater, Orange Blossom, Lavender, Ice Tea and  Cucumber. There is Green Tea, Lavender, Turkish coffee and more.
All the samples we tasted were creamy, not too icy and what was best is that they are not overly sweet but rich in texture, quite unlike American commercial brand ice creams.
It is a cultural experience in Persian desserts.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood noodles
Our son, Jeff, enjoyed the Saffron Rosewater made with creamy distilled rose water blended with pistachios and herbal snow (Faloodeh).
He had a blast customizing his ice cream with a generous portion of the lemon or raspberry/ pomegranate syrup they put out on the entrance table.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood sauces
I settled on a “Mashti” – a scoop of ice cream between two wafer discs. It was a very generous portion and relatively reasonably priced for such a delicious summer treat.
Since last summer, we have meant to venture back into Hollywood for more, but the occasion has proved elusive.

We were about to despair when we discovered that some selections of Mashti’s ice cream are now available in more than 200 restaurants and whole food stores in and around the LA area!!
What a treat!

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood scoop
Autism travel tips

Avoid peak hours so your child can get multiple samples and have time to choose the tastes he/she likes most without pressure.

A taste of Paradise - Mashti Malone’s Ice cream in Hollywood boxes

Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?


This week we got to visit the newest addition to L A’s restaurant scene – The Magic Restroom Cafe.
Modeled after  Taiwan’s Modern Toilet restaurant chain, the owner, Yo-Li, decided to open the first toilet-themed eatery in the US.Unlike some readers’ remarks on social media who expressed disgust with the idea of mixing potty and food; my son with autism thought it was ‘ totally cool’ when I asked him to tag along and check the venue out.

The drive

The restaurant is located in a suburb shopping mall in the City of Industry, about 25 miles from downtown, away from the major tourist attractions. So, unless you happen to be in the immediate neighborhood, travelers can expect a bit of a drive getting there.
In the hour or so it took us to get there, Jeff got the chance to sharpen his map reading and navigation skills on the busy L.A freeways.


Magic Restroom Cafe:Outdoor Shopping Area



Magic Restroom Cafe:Entrance 2 Cool Cafe



The decor

As the name suggested; the central theme of the eatery was restrooms, so we weren’t expecting to be surprised by the decor but still curious to see how it was all put together.
The first thing visitors see as they enter four commodes on the side and four urinals in front -all with their respective plungers making it an ideal area for antsy kids to play in.
The restaurant’s interior decor can be described as minimalistic and edgy with vibrantly colored walls, showerheads in place of pictures and ample seating on latrines and benches.
In our case, after trying to sit with the lid up and then down  Jeff decided he preferred it up as it felt more ‘authentic.’

Magic Restroom Cafe:Bathroom Drawings

Magic Restroom Cafe:Jeffrey Sees Around Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

The food

The menu (not on toilet paper like we envisioned) includes an array of Taiwanese-Chinese appetizers and entrees like fried tofu and mango katsu fish. However, the restaurant’s real highlights are the gargantuan desserts and assortment of green and black lattes.
My son decided to skip lunch altogether and ordered a magic rainbow ice cream after seeing one served at a nearby table. Staying true to the restaurant’s theme all food items are served in super cute porcelain dishes resembling either western (chair) or Asian (squat) commodes.



Magic Restroom Cafe:Real Cool Bathroom Signs


Magic Restroom Cafe:Restraunt Cool Decor


Biggest disappointment

They don’t sell the commode dishes as souvenirs-Jeff who was eager to add to his vast collection of tchotchkes did ask the staff repeatedly.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Rows Of ToiletsIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

Magic Restroom Cafe:Seats & TableIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

In case, you were wondering

Yes, we did stop to use their facilities before heading back for the long drive on the freeway.I’m happy to report they were clean and had nothing unusual about them except the eco-friendly murals advising the patrons to save toilet paper and water.


Magic Restroom Cafe:Dessert In The Toilet


Magic Restroom Cafe:Is That Fried Rice In The Toilet?


Autism Travel Tips:

The restaurant has padded bench seating for those who find sitting on the commode uncomfortable.
Most tables are pretty close to each other so should you and your family require a more private setting ask your server for a separate table.
Parents to antsy kids should bring electronics as there is free Wi-Fi.We didn’t see any coloring pages or crayons available.
If your kid doesn’t like spicy food make sure you mention that to your server when you place your order.
For picky eaters spaghetti and chicken wings are an option offered.
No Gluten free options available at this time.

Magic Restroom Cafe:Flushing The Meal Down! Is the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?
Magic Restroom Cafe:Fried Food In The CanIs the Magic Restroom Cafe Fun for Kids with Autism?

Introduction to Kurdish Cuisine at Niroj Restaurant

Have you ever felt like taking a break from your current career and starting over?
That’s what Niroj’s owner Luqman Barwari did. After a lifelong career as a scientist, he decided he would open the restaurant he’s been dreaming of, for years. Barawi’s concept was to offer Kurdish food in a home-like atmosphere -and Niroj in Agoura Hills  (New Beginnings in the Kurdish language) does just that.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant decor


I have to admit we knew almost nothing about Kurdish cooking before visiting Naroj. After traveling to several countries in the Middle East we had become acquainted with most Levantine dishes, so we were curious to compare the Kurdish food to the Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisines.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant table


We chose to dine in what the owner describes as the traditional Kurdish room on the left side of the restaurant. Original Kurdish paintings adorn the deep brushed tan walls. Turkish rugs cover the floor, and the custom-made benches make you feel like you should ‘kick back’ and relax. The food is served on the low brass tray tables and like in most Middle Eastern restaurants you are welcome to eat with your hands though silverware is supplied. The restaurant also has a larger hall decorated with kilims, old-fashioned champagne racks and brass teapots that can accommodate larger-sized parties.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant room

The menu is quite extensive and includes multiple crowd-pleasing cold and hot appetizers. At the owner’s recommendation, we opted to try two mezze platters along with and a cup of Dhew (a typical Kurdish drink made of thinned Labane and cucumbers on ice.)

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant labanee
The food

Our cold platter contained some of our favorite items like Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), Humus (garbanzo bean dip), Babaganoush, (roasted eggplant dip) and Tabbouleh (cracked wheat salad).We were introduced to two new delicious surprises-Hesandin (roasted red peppers, carrots, and walnut dip) and Heyderi (a form of Hesandin mixed with yogurt and feta cheese.)

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant cold platter

The hot appetizer platter provided an assortment of cigar-shaped Boreks (phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese), Falafel ( fried garbanzo bean ball), Kutilk ( cooked ground beef and cracked wheat ball ) and skewered Kurdish sausage. We voted two favorites here: the deep fried  Boreks that were crisp but not greasy and the flavorful falafel balls with chopped celery that gave them additional texture.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant h breadot food

Next, we had the Lahmajun, which is a type of Kurdish pizza –a combination of finely ground lamb and beef with chopped chili peppers, tomatoes, onions and herbs baked on traditional flat bread. By the time the restaurant’s famous Riha Kebab (grilled spicy lamb and beef kebab) arrived, we were pretty stuffed but still found the kebab impossible to resist.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant

Don’t leave without dessert

The owner insisted we should try his home-made Kunefe -oven baked fresh mozzarella wedged between two layers of crispy thinly shredded phyllo dough laced with homemade syrup and topped with ground pistachio. And he was right. The dessert perfectly portioned in its traditional bowl, is an absolute must- have to complete your meal at Niroj.

Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant dessert

Autism travel tips

If your kid is noise sensitive, you  ask for a table in the back of the large room or the Kurdish themed room.
The restaurant provides children’ portions and can accommodate special diets if notified in advance.
Savory introduction to the Kurdish cuisine at Niroj restaurant lamp

 Have you ever had Kurdish food? If so, what dish did you like best?





Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California

We celebrated our son’s birthday at Scarpetta Beverly Hills last week. It was our first time trying out the restaurant mini-chain with locations in New York, Miami, Washington and Las Vegas.
The brunch usually priced at sixty-eight dollars was discounted down to thirty-nine plus 20% service charge with a Travelzoo.com local deals coupon.
The usual non-alcoholic breakfast drinks like coffee, iced tea, grapefruit and orange juices were included with the brunch package.  They also offered bottomless margaritas or mimosas for an additional 22$ per person.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California seats

Reservations for the restaurant  (located inside the Montage  Hotel on Canon Drive ) were not difficult to procure, and we were happy to be told that casual attire (including shorts) was acceptable for brunch time. since our son with autism loathes wearing long pants

We parked in the public parking next to the Montage Hotel but valet parking at the hotel for an additional $8 can be an option when the parking lot is full, or you are in a rush. When we arrived, there was no wait to be seated, and the Maitre D’  was made aware of our request for a quiet table seated us in the main dining area away from the guitarist playing , as our son with autism is quite noise sensitive

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California kitchen


The decor

The decor of the restaurant was minimalist -open space dining areas with large windows that supply adequate natural light. The wooden tables were set with individual placemats and no tablecloths were placed with enough space to move about without feeling too crowded. There were two main seating areas accompanied with a heated outdoor courtyard area.

For temperature-sensitive diners, I  recommend the bottom or top floor away from the entrance or musician’s post.The Sunday buffet layout was set in the restaurant’s kitchen space, so you almost felt like you are in someone’s home instead of in a commercial kitchen. Equally unique was the fact there was a separate room for desserts which looked like a family’s  dining room.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California shrimp


The Food

The buffet layout was organized by sections which made it easier for our autistic son to be able to find everything quickly. As you entered on your left, the salad stations included a mixed salad with truffle vinaigrette, zucchini with corn, marinated mushrooms,  pearl onion, cauliflower and last (my personal favorite)  quinoa.

The pasta dishes were the most anticipated by my family members given Scarpetta’s reputation. And they did not disappoint! I had the spaghetti was al dente perfect accompanied by classic tomato and basil sauce.  The agnolotti according to my husband was equivalent in quality to ones he sampled in southern Italian eateries. The neighboring carving station had porchetta with a mustard seed vinaigrette as well as a leg of lamb served with a minted salsa.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California breads

On the right, various artisan loaves of bread like  Ciabatta, Rosemary Focaccia, and Stromboli along with pastries were artistically displayed. The signature croissants were indeed excellent and my husband, and I felt guilty about taking a bite and leaving the rest on the plate. I would have liked to have tasted some other bread, but there were no cutting tools, so I assumed their primary purpose was display! There were several types of thinly sliced meats that did not leave any lasting impression.

As you move further down, you reach the Seafood station which included shrimp,  yellow tail crude and smoked salmon with fennel and oranges. My son was quite disappointed to be told there were no oysters or crab claws that day, especially since the reviews he had read on Yelp all mentioned that.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California meat
For the less adventurous kids, still attached to traditional fast food ‘staples, a small kid section featuring Mac’n’cheese, sliders, with the usual chicken tenders and fries combo was available.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California rice

The different dessert Hall displayed an appetizing assortment of little pleasures like their famous salted caramel Budino, fruit tarts, tea cakes, creme-brulee filled spoons, pannacotta cup-letters, pistachio chocolate cannolis and freshly fried beignets.

My favorites were the French orange macaroons that melted in your mouth.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California desserts

Next to the bar area on the other side of the dining room, ‘The Beverly Hills Cheese Store’ showcased their best-selling cheeses and crackers. Both our kids loved the Pecorino, sharp blue cheese. Chevre and Gouda coupled with the apples and grapes.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California cheese

Besides the spacious buffet layout, brunch patrons were encouraged to try anything off the regular breakfast menu (included in the price) like polenta waffles, Nutella-Ricotta cheese French Toast, and the quintessential eggs either poached or Benedict style. I was pleasantly surprised by the savory polenta waffle (that did not taste like polenta at all) coupled with compote fruit and their mascarpone butter.
My son had two helpings of their egg Benedict and would have asked for a third had I not stepped in and stopped him.

Brunch at Scarpetta Beverly Hills California open kitchen

The Service

The service was impeccable, which helped us enjoy our celebration to the fullest. Our designated server brought our coffees and accommodated our autistic gourmand with a house special hot chocolate with double foam.

He checked on us multiple times during our lunch supplying additional silverware pieces and napkins we needed. Even more appreciated was his gesture to bring me a to-go cup for my remaining coffee after the bill had already been paid.


5 Reasons to Take your Child with Autism to Bubba Gumps

Bubba Gumps is a seafood restaurant chain that was inspired by the 1994 film Forrest Gump..Based in Houston, Texas, it currently operates twenty-nine  US  and twelve international locations. Our first introduction to the chain was in Miami but have dined in their Charleston, Chicago, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Galveston as well as all their  Southern California locations. If you have never been in one of their restaurants you probably wonder why we would go back instead of trying new places; so here are our top five reasons you should take your kid with autism to a Bubba Gumps’ venue near you.

 No Judgment!

The restaurant is one of the least judgemental environment you’ll  find in the food business, after all, this place’s theme is that being’special’ is not only ok but totally cool! So far, every location we’ve dined at, the staff was not only super polite and patient with our son but took the time to chat with him and make him feel welcome.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant table sign


Lots of Paper Towels available

As parents to a special needs son, we’ve had our share of unintentional table spills and messy dining scenes over the years. Generally, patrons would need to flag down a staff member to ask for help with the clean up or, at least, provide the table with additional napkins. But not at a Bubba Gump’s restaurant! Here, the tables are pre-prepared for spills with handy paper towels one can just reach out and grab immediately.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant spills


 Extensive menu selections

Our son, like many other kids on the autism spectrum, is somewhat of a choosy eater. At Bubba Gump’s, there’s a budget friendly extensive menu available with a lot of different choices.Furthermore, the portions are quite generous, so our son gets to take home part of his favorite po’boy sandwich dish and enjoy it the next day.


Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant food


Get your kid excited about healthy choices

We couldn’t get our son to taste any fruit smoothies for years -until we set foot in one of the restaurants and he saw it offered drinks in a light-up cups.Nowadays, he not only loves dining there but orders his favorite the mango-pineapple, as soon as we are seated.

Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant drinks

Fun while waiting for a table

Many food venues can get crowded and busy during the regular lunch and dinner hours. For us, since waiting was difficult for our son we used to walk away and look for an alternative. The only exception so far has been Bubba Gump’s restaurants that have stores too. Walking through the shop, checking out the different trinkets seems to be work well for our son that  loves looking at the all the various items. For kids that don’t like shopping as much, there’s always the option to gawk at the different license plates used as the restaurant decor or take a selfie next to the two statues (one of Forrest on the bench and the other of Forrest standing with his suitcase) right by the entrance.


Five Reasons to Take your Autistic Child to a Forrest Gumps Restaurant entrance

Have you taken your kid with autism to ‘Bubba Gumps’ -how did you like it?

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