We took an amazing family trip to Universal and Disney during the fall and something unexpected happened in Diagon Alley. I fell in love with a bowl of beef stew, Guinness Beef Stew. The Leaky Cauldron was my favorite restaurant that we visited on that trip. And we visited some great ones!
At the other Universal restaurant---The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade---the food and ambiance was awesome, but with two kids and sore feet, I didn't like how they won't let you sit down until you have your food. So, the girls and I just had to stand and wait for Mr. Meaty to come through the line instead of getting a few extra minutes to relax.
At Disney, I loved the look and the princesses at Akershus, but the food was not great. Lunch at the Beast's Castle, Be Our Guest, was amazing and the food was good so that was a definite winner.
The best Disney restaurants we experienced were at Animal Kingdom. Tusker House was our character experience and it was super fun and the food was great. It was a great mix of African-inspired foods and the buffet presentation made it easy for everyone to get something they liked. We got to try a ton of new-to-us dishes. And we met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. Win!
Our other character experience buffet was also fun. We got to see Alice in Wonderland characters, including an amazing Mad Hatter as well as Winnie the Pooh. And the breakfast buffet was pretty darn good at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.
Satu'li Canteen was one of the few places that we just stumbled into. We went to Disney in September, when they do the free Disney Dining Plan. So we had most of our meals planned six months in advance. Crazy, right? But, after going through the super awesome Avatar rides, we were hungry for brunch and saw the Satu'li Canteen had some great vegetarian options for me. So, we popped in and split two meals among the five of us (my mom joined us on this trip). We got a tofu bowl and a beef bowl and both were tasty.
The one restaurant we were disappointed in was Ohana. We stayed at the Polynesian and were excited about the Hawaiian dinner at the hotel's restaurant, but the Brazilian-steakhouse style food (they bring various meats around and ask if you're ready for refills, but it's just beef, chicken and shrimp) was dull. And the service wasn't particularly friendly or exciting. The veggies and the much-lauded bread pudding were the only items I enjoyed and those weren't spectacular. I'd skip this one unless you're heading to the morning character experience with Lilo and Stitch.
Another pop in restaurant we went to was the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. We shared a few things among the five of us here, too. For some reason this restaurant wasn't busy at all. But the atmosphere was fun and the food was great!
But, back to the point. We had a great trip and, overall, loved the restaurants that we experienced. Of those, The Leaky Cauldron was the best, in my opinion. Sure, it didn't have Daisy Duck. But it had that great Harry Potter English pub feel, amazing food and great service. I had the Guinness Beef Stew, the girls and Mom and loved their fish and chips. Mr. Meaty got the Cottage Pie.
And, we went for breakfast another day and had full English breakfasts, which were amazing, too. But the Guinness Beef Stew was so tasty that I've been dreaming of making it myself ever since. And, as luck would have it, Mom got us a great Harry Potter Cookbook for Christmas and there's a Guinness Beef Stew recipe inside! So, finally, here it is. And my, oh my, does it live up to my memory.
Both kids went in for seconds or even thirds. I declared it the best beef stew we'd ever made. Tall Fry declared it the best STEW we'd ever made, no beef qualifier required. The broth is rich and somehow creamy and the vegetables come out perfectly cooked: tender, but not mushy. This is the best beef stew ever. Enjoy.
Guinness Beef Stew
Adapted from Harry Potter Cookbook
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as necessary
1 pound chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or portabella mushroom strips)
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
14 ounces broth (plus more to adjust consistency, if desired)
1/2 cup Guinness (or substitute Mexican Coke, if desired)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped prunes
1 teaspoon ground sage
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dry)
Dutch Oven Method
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the meat in batch and sear on both sides over high heat for 4-5 minutes until crusty brown. Transfer each batch of meat to a plate.
Once the meat is done, add more oil to the pot if necessary.
Add onion and cook over medium-low heat until softened. Scrape up the browned bits, fond, from the bottom of the pot as you cook.
Add flour and stir until combined.
Pour in broth and Guinness (or Coke) and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbling.
Add the meat and any juices back to the pot.
Add tomato paste, chopped prunes, sage, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
Add potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and parsley.
Simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth or water as necessary to keep the Guinness beef stew from drying or burning. (We added about another cup of broth.)
Instant Pot Method
Turn the saute function on medium in your instant pot. When the screen reads HOT, add the oil. Sear the meat on all sides.
Set meat aside. Add onions, adding more oil if needed. Saute onions until softened.
Return meat to instant pot.
Add remaining ingredients.
Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes and let pressure naturally release.