There are so many wonderful aspects of the Harry Potter universe -- duh, there's magic! -- but one of the most satisfying things is the food.
Throughout the novels, author J.K. Rowling fabricates her fair share of magical creatures as well as delectable wizarding food. We can't naturally concoct any fantastic beasts, but with a little imagination and some flour, sparks can fly in the kitchen.
When planning the latest expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, senior vice president of revenue operations Ric Florell and executive chef Jayson worked together to conjure up dishes that are both authentic to wizards and delicious for muggles.
Holding up his battered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Florell explains how he and his team are driven by authenticity. "We do our research within the work of fiction and make sure it fits. Just to give you an idea, this is one of my seven books," he says, showing how the pages bleed with colorful tabs.
Every tab, every marking, every dog-eared page "is everything that was a potential food item [or] a potential beverage."
"When we sat down to talk about what we were going to serve, we went straight to our books," Florell says, adding how they used a combination of food references in the books as well as the films.
Eight new dishes were created exclusively for the Leaky Cauldron, the new restaurant in Diagon Alley. During our visit, we sampled the toad in the hole, which is basically a sausage baked into a pretty little pie crust, and chocolate cherry pudding called "chocolate potted cream."
Other notable new dishes to expect include the classic British meal bangers 'n' mash, fisherman's pie, and an assorted plate called the ploughman's.
Aside from the sit-down dining offered by the Leaky Cauldron, guests walking around Diagon Alley can get a quick drink at either the Hopping Pot or Eternelle's Elixir Refreshment. A special beer inspired by the scaly dragon perched atop Gringotts bank can be found at the Hopping Pot. Or you can settle for something slightly less buzzing and more fuzzing with a tongue-tying lemon squash (basically a really sour and sweet lemonade).
At Eternelle's Elixir, "wizards" in pointy hats mix colorful "elixirs" into Gillywater to revitalize you from the draining Florida heat. These flavors -- the typical cherry, green apple, and blueberry -- have funky-cool names like Draught of Peace, Wideye Potion, and Fire Protection Potion.
While some of the food and drink items are winks to the Harry Potter franchise, it is beyond magical when they pull out a direct reference. For instance, remember in the books when Harry, Ron, and Hermione went to Diagon Alley and ordered strawberry peanut butter ice cream? Or when Harry and Hagrid first arrived at Diagon Alley and Hagrid bought Harry some chocolate and raspberry ice cream?
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Well, now you can skip into Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour and feel like Harry and the gang by ordering your own strawberry peanut butter ice cream (totally delicious) or chocolate and raspberry ice cream. Wicked cool.
Diagon Alley is not only equipped with plenty of eye-popping storefronts and two new rides, but there's also enough to satisfy hungry bellies craving some enchanting fare.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley opens July 8, 2014. Vacation packages are available now for travel beginning June 29. Visit universalorlando.com.