Farm Industry News Blog

An oasis of flavor

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Iowa farmer Jeff Ryan takes a trip South to Disney World's Epcot and has a Moroccan culinary adventure.

With that, we were taken back to what had now become our "usual table." Zineb already knew what we wanted for drinks and headed out to get them while we looked over the menu again. We quizzed her on a few other items when she returned and she blew us away again with her knowledge of each dish and each ingredient in it. This was almost a Food Network-quality conversation she was having with us, especially with Sherill. It wasn't just a matter of what was in everything, it was as much about how those particular spices work in different foods and what they work well with as accompaniments.

On this visit, we decided to mix up the variety a bit from our last trip. We went with Spicy Garlic Shrimp and the Hummus and Imported Olives plate. Of course, because we showed up hungry, we went with a Mogador Sampler plate. I hated to run short of mussels.

This time, we left room for dessert, too. (I didn't get in to Iowa State University just on good looks alone, you know!) A guy can't run short on carbs and end up with a hypoglycemic episode at Disney World. The obvious choice to me was the Saffron & Lemon Custard. It was sort of a creme brulee with a great touch of lemon, which is one of my favorite flavors. It did not disappoint.

Zineb had made several more stops at our table as we ate. She had a bit more time to visit. We told her about our experiences at Food & Wine Festival and how we had been waiting to come to Spice Road Table after hearing great reviews and buzz about it ahead of time. Just before we left, Zineb had one other item for us. She wanted us to meet her boss.

Moments later, she returned with a gentleman in his late 40's or early 50's, I would guess. He didn't just run the restaurant. He was actually the general manager of the entire Moroccan presence at Epcot! This was the guy who started the whole works when Morocco first appeared at Epcot years ago. Zineb had worked in the retail side of the marketplace store across the street and assumed she didn't have enough experience to be a server at Spice Road Table when it started. It usually takes a couple years of experience as a server to be chosen to work in a Disney restaurant. Zineb only had a few months worth at the time she applied. A friend of hers told her that she should at least apply, so she got in touch with the general manager and asked about being a server. The fact that she is actually a Moroccan native may have helped her get the job, but I bet it had more to do with her personality and outgoing nature.

We told her boss that we were certainly glad they had hired her. She is far and away the best server we have ever had at any of the parks, and we've had a lot of great ones. The manager was also quite outgoing and grateful for our time and our business.

Before we left, Zineb grabbed a notepad and gave us her email address and phone number. It is entirely possible she may make her way to the Midwest at some point. (Probably during warmer weather!) If and when she does, I think she may end up having as much fun as some folks do when they visit Disney World!

We got another server to do us a favor on our way out. She took our picture with Zineb on both our camera phone and Zineb's.

Don't be shy about talking to the people who serve you. The really good ones will be more than happy to engage you. More importantly, if you ever find yourself at Epcot, please stop by Spice Road Table for some great flavor. Be sure to ask for Zineb as your server. Tell her Guy No. 2 sent you. (Thanks, Jill!) She's probably the best part of the flavor package.

Guy No. 2 

Jeff Ryan is Guy No. 2 in the operation of Two Guys Farming, Inc., near Cresco, IA.

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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