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6 Tips From Disney Chefs for National ‘More Herbs, Less Salt Day’ Aug. 29

posted on August 28th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Who knew there’s a national day to remind us to step away from the salt shaker, meant to encourage us to reach for herbs instead of salt? The Disney chefs love the idea, and we’re sharing a few of their favorite tips.

Chef Christian Rumpler, Trattoria al Forno, Disney’s Boardwalk: “You could always liven up a dish with fresh parsley and oregano, but acidic flavors like lemon balm, lemongrass or something cool like lemon thyme are at the top of the list,” says Rumpler. He also recommends a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and flavored vinegars like apple cider vinegar. “Those flavors give you a punch of flavor without the salt.”

Chef Marcel St. Pierre, Steakhouse 55, Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland Resort: “Sorrel is my favorite substitution for salt, and one of my favorite perennial herbs,” says St. Pierre. “It adds a lightly sour taste with a little acidity to any dish.” He uses it at Steakhouse 55 to finish the fresh pasta tagliatelle. “It adds a surprising, refreshing lemony flavor, reducing the amount of salt needed to finish the dish.”

Executive Chef John State, Disneyland Resort: Cilantro is State’s favorite herb when there’s a need to cut salt. “Cilantro is bright and complements multiple cuisines, from Thai and Mexican to Indian and Middle Eastern.” It’s the acidity and fragrant aroma that are so appealing to the taste buds, says State. “Cilantro is rounded in flavor with lemony, floral, balanced acidity – and you can use it all, even the stem,” explains State.

Chef Dee Foundoukis, Le Cellier, Canada pavilion, Epcot World Showcase, Walt Disney World Resort: Foundoukis will give up her fleur de sel or truffle salt for a combination of fresh thyme and oregano. “That earthy feel-good adds so much flavor, it makes me forget about the salt – for a while,” says Foundoukis.

Chef Tim Keating, Flying Fish Cafe, Disney’s Boardwalk, Walt Disney World Resort: “That’s an easy one for us at Flying Fish,” says Keating. “We utilize classic French ‘fines herbes’ to amp up flavor and easily displace salt in salads, vinaigrettes, vegetable sautés and to crust our fish.” You can buy it dried, but their fresh, house-made mixture is a combination of half Italian flat-leaf parsley and half equal amounts of tarragon, chervil and chives, all finely chopped.

Chef Brian Piasecki, California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World Resort: “If I am making lighter foods like salads, flatbreads and appetizers, I like basil, cilantro, oregano, Italian flat parsley, onion sprouts and tops and even finely chopped radish tops (micro radish or wasabi),” says Piasecki. “These are great raw and delicate in flavor.” For cooked dishes, Piasecki goes for something heartier such as rosemary, thyme, and sage. “These hold up to the heat of cooking and are a bit stronger in flavor and infuse the food,” he explains.

Do you have a favorite herb to recommend when you’re cutting back on salt?

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Some Favorite Ways to Experience Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept. 25-Nov. 16

posted on August 25th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


We’re counting down the days and deciding the best ways to take advantage of all the food, wine, celebrity chefs, live music and more at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

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Looking ahead, here are three ideas to maximize your fun. We love the idea of the new 20th Festival Tasting Sampler that gives you a credential (and a cool collectible pin) to taste your way around the fest. For $59 you get your choice of eight tastes of food or beverages at all of the 30 marketplaces plus priority seating at the nightly Eat to the Beat concert.

Your credential will include ideas for pairing a dish and a drink at the marketplaces – we’re excited to try some of the new dishes such as the pepper bacon mac ‘n’ cheese paired with a hard cider at Farm Fresh Marketplace (both new); lamb meatball with spicy tomato chutney and a pinot noir at New Zealand (both new), and the butter chicken with naan bread with a chenin blanc in Africa. There are 29 new dishes this year, and 72 new cocktails, beers, wines and ciders!

We’ve always had fun at Eat to the Beat, and this year’s dining package includes lunch or dinner at 13 different restaurants from Coral Reef Restaurant and The Garden Grill in Future World to France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Morocco and United Kingdom. This is a nice “plan ahead” experience.

Price varies by restaurant, starting at $34.99 for lunch and includes appetizer, entrée, dessert and drink or buffets. And then you get guaranteed seating at the 5:30 p.m. Eat to the Beat concert for lunch reservations, and the 6:45 or 8 p.m. show for lunch or dinner.

Fan favorites are back on the America Gardens Theatre stage, including Wilson Phillips, Smash Mouth, The Pointer Sisters, Jo Dee Messina, Boyz II Men and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. And there are four new acts in the concert series lineup — Tiffany, Everclear, Maxi Priest and Chaka Khan.

For a really special treat, set aside a week for the Food & Wine Premium Package that gives you VIP treatment from noon- 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the festival. Eleven shaded “Premium Package” areas are reserved for a spot to eat, drink and relax, and you get to choose an IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party to attend, as well as a Festival Center culinary demo or beverage seminar.

Cost is $199, and you also get a gift bag with your own wine glass, a bottle of 20th celebration festival wine, a Food & Wine Fest-themed MagicBand and four food tickets for food or beverage from festival marketplaces.

For reservations, call 407-939-3378. Admission to Epcot is required.

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Favorite After-School Snack from Tony’s Town Square in Magic Kingdom Park

posted on August 24th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


It’s a blast from the past with an updated twist – most grown-ups still consider tomato soup and grilled cheese a favorite comfort food. The Disney chefs took this classic and made it a healthful finger food that’s perfect as an after-school snack (or supper for everyone).

In less than hour you’ll have freshly made tomato soup (forget the canned version). Cut grilled cheese into strips that are perfect for little hands – and dipping in the soup is the fun part. Add crunchy apple wedges on the side for a satisfying crunch.

You’ll find it on the menu at Tony’s Town Square in Magic Kingdom Park, but here’s a version for you to make at home.

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Tomato Soup, Cheese Dippers and Apple Slices
Serves 4 to 6

Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups tomato puree
1 sprig each fresh thyme, rosemary, basil, and tarragon
2 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Multigrain Cheese Dippers
8 slices multigrain bread
16 thin slices provolone cheese
Olive oil spray

Green Apple Wedges
3 Granny Smith apples

For tomato soup:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomato puree; cook 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in herbs and water; turn heat to low and simmer 30 to 40 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Strain through a medium strainer set over a bowl, pushing soup through with a spatula. Whisk in tomato paste, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

For multigrain cheese dippers:

  1. Make 4 sandwiches, each with 2 slices of bread and 4 slices of provolone.
  2. Spray tops and bottoms of sandwiches with olive oil spray.
  3. Heat sauté pan over medium heat and grill each side 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden.
  4. Cut each sandwich into 4 equal strips. Serve hot.

For apples:
Core and slice each apple into 6 wedges.

To serve:
Evenly divide dippers and apples slices with 3/4 cup soup.

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Tickets Going Fast for Rockin’ Burger Block Party, Yelloween Masquerade Party

posted on August 22nd, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


While it’s still summertime, tickets are selling fast for special events at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, opening September 25 for 53 days of fun, through November 16.

If you’re picking and choosing from the hundreds of special events and culinary demos, here are two all-new parties for 2015 – and tickets are going fast.

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If you love a designer burger, the Rockin’ Burger Block Party in World ShowPlace lets you pick and choose from more than a dozen sliders at each party – where to begin? How about a coffee-crusted beef short rib burger topped with smoked Gouda, garlic potato string and sangria ketchup? Or a spiced lamb burger topped with feta, pickled watermelon rind and za’atar aioli. Go all out with the mixed grill burger topped with fried egg, bacon grease fries and nacho cheese sauce.

If you’re not a meat fan, there’s still plenty to choose from, such as a shrimp and scallop burger topped with spicy Thai slaw and cilantro-lime mayo (with a side of smoked sea-salted fried edamame), or a grilled grouper patty topped with butter lettuce, vine-ripened tomato and lime aioli.

Along with the burgers, there are finger foods like spicy-sticky pig wings, veggie pot stickers and cheeseburger spring rolls. Mini-rolls, perfect for a bite or two, include moonshine barbecued meatballs, chickpea and roasted corn fritters and Caribbean spiced seafood cakes.

Sweet endings are over the top, too: cinnamon roll fireball bread pudding with cream cheese glaze, snickerdoodle-crusted apple custard crisp and Valrhona chocolate ganache brownies.

It’s an all-you-care-to-eat affair, with burgers paired with craft beers, wines, cocktails and more. And you can burn a few calories – there’s a DJ, so you can shimmy or quick step your way to the next gourmet burger station. (A fun twist: you get to vote on the best burger of the night.)

Dates are September 25, October 8 and November 6 from 7-9 p.m., with hosts of ABC’s “The Chew” joining the fun on October 8. Cost is $99; $119 for reserved table on main floor, early admission at 6:45 p.m., and a specialty cocktail; or $199 for Nosh Pit seating with a private reserved table, early admission at 6:45 p.m., specialty cocktail and premium bar.

And for one night only, we’re planning our chic yellow and black costume for the elegant Yelloween Masquerade Party, a very special Party for the Senses from 7-9:30 p.m. Octpber 31 in celebration of Halloween. “Yelloween” is a reference to the night’s top pour – golden Champagne. Think elegant, and plan to eat, drink and party the night away with special entertainment. Cost is $169 plus tax general admission; $199 plus tax for a reserved table on the main floor with specialty cocktail toast, and $319 plus tax for a private reserved table, early entrance at 6:45 p.m., specialty cocktail toast, artisanal cheese station and more.

For reservations to these and other special events, call 407-939-3378. Admission to Epcot is required.

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Reservations Open August 17 for New Happy HalloWishes Dessert Party for 2015

posted on August 17th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


This year’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Magic Kingdom Park debuts September 15 (on select dates through November 1), and a new Happy HalloWishes Premium Dessert Package is part of the fun.

Enjoy Ghost Meringues During the New Happy HalloWishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom Park Enjoy Halloween-Inspired Treats During the New Happy HalloWishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom Park

This premium offering includes viewing a Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade from the reserved location in the center flag pole area of Town Square on Main Street, U.S.A., followed by sweet treats at festively decorated Tomorrowland Terrace where you have a cool view of Cinderella Castle during the Happy HalloWishes Nighttime Spectacular.

Enjoy Mummy Cupcakes During the New Happy HalloWishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom Park Enjoy Candy Corn Cupcakes During the New Happy HalloWishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom Park

Tables are laden with goodies such as Halloween-themed chocolate-dipped strawberries, adorable ghost meringues, candy corn panna cotta, peanut butter-chocolate pretzel “witch fingers,” spiced pumpkin cheesecake brownies, peanut butter “spider” whoopie pies, seasonal fruits and cheeses, hot chocolate, signature lemonades and Halloween specialties, and coffee and tea. Little ones will love mummy cupcakes, candy corn cupcakes and “worm and dirt pots.”

Have a toast with family and friends with sparkling cider! And a skull mug filled with candy is your very own trick-or-treat takeaway.

Cost is $69, $39 ages 3 to 11. For reservations visit DisneyWorld.com/DINE or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. The standard Wishes Dessert Party will not take place on nights the premium HalloWishes package is offered.

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More Delicious Details for Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Opening This Fall at Downtown Disney

posted on August 11th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With an aviation theme (Jock was Indy’s frequent pilot in the “Indiana Jones” films) and a primo waterfront location, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar will feature food and drinks inspired by Jock’s globe-trotting to all continents – everything from a Hovito Mojito to Dr. Elsa’s She-Deviled Eggs. Details follow.

Dr. Elsa’s She-Deviled Eggs Coming to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort Fried Calamari Flatbread with Spicy Harissa Coming to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Guests will get a kick out of the salvaged equipment, spare airplane parts and mementos from Jock’s travels that decorate the 150-seat lounge located between Paradiso 37 and The BOATHOUSE restaurant. Outdoors, his old steamboat (now in dry dock) is a fun place for watching the sunset.

At the core of Walt Disney Imagineering is great storytelling: as the tale goes, Jock made a home at this waterfront property in the 1940s after discovering this charming little town while flying Indiana Jones over the Sunshine State in search of the elusive Fountain of Youth in 1938. As a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, Jock often welcomed his globetrotting friends to his hangar for a drink and fun times.

Now Jock and Indy may be gone, but his legendary adventures live on at this exotic watering hole. And that’s what gives the place its charm – and a creative menu of adventurous tastes.

Along with beer and wine, start with clever cocktails such as Reggie’s Revenge and The Fountain of Youth featuring Florida vodkas; Hovito Mojito and The Bitter Barkeep with Peruvian Pisco; Anything Goes with an Asian spirit that packs a little heat; The Aviator’s Flight and The Scottish Professor, and that Cool-headed Monkey with African spirits.

Pretzels With House-Made Mustard and Beer-Cheese Fondue Coming to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort Rolling Boulder Sliders Coming to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Each of the small plates has a delicious twist, and they’re great for sharing. Dr. Elsa’s She-Deviled Eggs are brined in beet juice with lump crab filling. “Good” Dates feature goat cheese-stuffed dates with Marcona almonds and pickled veggies. Snack of Ra gives a taste of Africa with salads and dips served with injera (bread) and naan crisps. Tanis Tacos are filled with falafel, shredded lettuce and cucumber-tomato salad. The pretzels come with house-made mustard and beer-cheese fondue.

A little more substantial are the Rolling Boulder Sliders with three spice meatballs on mini-buns with yogurt sauce. Or Brody Brats, grilled bratwurst with mustard and pickled cabbage. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar’s take on chicken wings features spicy Asian wings (called “Lao Che’s Revenge”). And “Squid! Why’d It Have to Be Squid” is fried calamari flatbread with spicy harissa.

Get ready for some very fun Disney moments at this new location coming to Downtown Disney!

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Our Top 5 Walt Disney World Resort Favorites for National S’Mores Day Aug. 10

posted on August 10th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Ah, summertime, the perfect excuse to celebrate the ultimate campfire dessert: delectable layers of crunchy graham crackers, warm chocolate and roasted marshmallows. In honor of National S’Mores Day on Aug. 10, we’ve chosen our Top 5 creative takes on this ooey, gooey treat.

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  1. Gibson’s S’mores Baked Alaska at The Boathouse, Disney Springs. This newcomer features a ginormous dessert – chocolate ice cream studded with marshmallows in a graham cracker crust, frosted with marshmallow cream. This hybrid sweet feeds a family of four. Or more.
  2. This one has a lot of fans – the Wagon Wheel Chocolate S’mores from Whispering Canyon Café with warm dark chocolate sauce and marshmallow gelato. If you prefer to sip your s’more, step next door for a S’mores Latte from Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge – a marshmallow-chocolate drink you can order hot or over ice.
  3. Campers are only steps from the Trail’s S’mores at Trail’s End at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, a creation with warm chocolate cake, graham cracker crumbs and marshmallow gelato – but you can only get it at lunch. (Or make your own s’mores with supplies from Chuckwagon near the Meadow Swimming Hole around the campfire when the sun goes down.)
  4. The S’mores Chocolate Tarte from Captain’s Grille at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort takes a simple approach with a chocolate tart, graham cracker crust, a dab of marshmallow and chocolate sauce.
  5. Just for little ones, Savanna S’mores are a favorite on the kids’ menu at Sanaa at Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: layers of chocolate pudding, marshmallow fluff and toasted graham crackers. Oh to be young again.

Share your favorite Disney s’more!

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Top 5 Picks for Lunch on the Walt Disney World Monorail

posted on July 28th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


A lunchtime getaway on the monorail is one of our favorite tips for Magic Kingdom Park guests – take a leisurely mid-day break, then return energized to the park for more fun and fireworks.

Here are our five favorite stops, where you should be able to grab a seat without a reservation (though it’s nice to plan in advance).

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  1. Kona Cafe, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Just steps from the resort’s monorail station, this casual spot is the quickest getaway for a table-service lunch. This might be the biggest challenge without a reservation, so best to call ahead (sometimes early or late lunches work best without a reservation). The dish to taste: fish tacos with seared tilapia, tomato salsa and mango mayonnaise, also a great selection of hand-crafted sushi made to order. And, yes, the legendary Kilauea Torte is still on the menu.
  2. The Wave… of American Flavors, Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Jog downstairs to the first floor from the monorail station to this casual table-service restaurant. Again, reservations are nice, but not always necessary. Dish to taste: the build-your-own burger with Florida-raised and grass-fed beef. Add a little candied bacon, caramelized onions, guacamole – lots of delicious toppings. Organic draft beer too.
  3. Grand Floridian Cafe, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The monorail stops on the second floor, so make your way to the lobby to this airy, pleasant cafe where you reservations are preferred but not necessary. Dish to taste: the tuna Niçoise salad with a medium-rare tuna steak with greens, eggs, fingerling potatoes, green beans, Kalamata olive and tomatoes, served with fresh black olive bread. You can always add a glass of wine.

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  1. Contempo Cafe, Disney’s Contemporary Resort. No reservations necessary, and it’s just steps from the monorail station of the resort’s fourth floor. Contempo Cafe is quick service, and a fun diversion from Magic Kingdom Park. The specialty cupcakes and desserts are not to be missed. Dish to taste: the hot smoked turkey sandwich with Brie, arugula, green apple slices, apple butter and honey mustard on challah bread. Fries on the side.

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  1. Epcot. So it’s impossible to choose just one restaurant, and this requires a much longer departure from Magic Kingdom Park, but it’s doable, and reservations are best. While it’s a hike from the monorail stop to the World Showcase restaurants, a quicker stroll is Coral Reef Restaurant in The Seas with Nemo & Friends – and you get a dazzling live show from the fish, sharks, turtles and rays in the giant aquarium. Dish to taste: the divine lobster bisque with tarragon and brandy has been on the menu since Day 1, but the grilled New York strip steak is a crowd pleaser.

Tell us your favorite! For reservations visit DisneyWorld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE.

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Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel Presents Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau

posted on July 19th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


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A 60th anniversary celebration like no other is on tap at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar for August 10 and 11 on the Magic Kingdom Lawn at the Disneyland Hotel.

The sessions will include the Tahitian Terrace Tribute Show with Tahitian dancers; a historical overview by Imagineers; and tastes from the original menu of the “gone-but-not-forgotten” Tahitian Terrace tropical restaurant. Guests also receive two drink tickets good for non-alcoholic Tahitian Punch, Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration drink (with alcohol), wine or beer.

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Everyone also gets goodies: a commemorative Tahitian Terrace Diamond luau lei, a special edition diamond Tiki glass and swizzle stick, a Tahitian Terrace print on parchment and a Tahitian Punch recipe card. Guests can also purchase up to two Diamond Tiki glasses.

Pre-paid admission is $150 (with tax and gratuity) for either 5-6:30 p.m. or 7-8:30 p.m. on August 10 or 11. A limited number of tickets will be sold for each session. Reservations are now open. For tickets, visit Disneyland.com or call 714-781-DINE.

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Bookings Begin July 30 for Premium Events for Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on July 16th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


There are more ways than ever to celebrate at the 20th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival September 25-November 16 – and while plenty of events are included with park admission, we look forward each fall to the over-the-top “premium events.”

Get ready to book your reservations when the phone lines open at 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 30: 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378). And while some favorites fill up fast, there are lots of new events to celebrate the festival’s 20 years at Walt Disney World Resort. Some events can be booked at epcotfoodfestival.com: culinary demos, beverage seminars, mixology seminars, general admission for Party for the Senses and general admission for the Rockin’ Burger Block Party. Check out all the events at the website, then get set to dial or book online!

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Beginning today, you can go to epcotfoodfestival.com to choose your own lineup, but here are our top picks:

  • Get a glimpse of the cast of ABC TV’s “The Chew” at a new premium event on October 8 in World ShowPlace: the Rockin’ Burger Block Party, with specialty burgers and sliders inspired by top names in the music industry such as Dave Matthews and his Dreaming Tree Wines and Carlos Santana’s Casa Noble Tequila. (Two additional Burger Block Parties are set for September 25 and November 6.) This one includes VIP seating with a specialty cocktail toast, premium bar and more.
  • One of a series of popular Party for the Senses premium events will be the first-time Yelloween Masquerade Party for the Senses October 31, an elegant, dance-the-night-away, gourmet tasting party with Champagne, wine, craft beers and specialty cocktails paired with food. (You’ll want to masquerade in chic yellow and black.)
  • Another Party for the Senses we don’t want to miss is October 24 with Disney chefs from the United States, Europe and Asia cooking their favorite cuisine that represents their cultures as well as the Disney Parks and Resorts they call home. Additional Party for the Senses dates are October 3, 10 and 17, and each evening starts with a reserved seat at the Eat to the Beat concert series at the America Gardens Theatre. Following the show, head to World ShowPlace for a sensational evening with more than 50 tasting stations. (And Cirque du Soleil is back!)
  • What’s Cookin’ With … begin the morning with a delightful plated brunch and sparkling wine toast. Culinary celebs will demo a favorite dish and then sit down with the emcee to answer questions from the audience and share secrets of their successes. The brunch happens every Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m.

Guests include:

  • September 27: Andrew Zimmern
  • October 2: Amanda Freitag presented by Mylan
  • October 4: Bryan Voltaggio
  • October 9: Jamie Deen
  • October 11: Carla Hall
  • October 16: Gale Gand
  • October 18: Cat Cora
  • October 23: Allen Susser
  • October 25: John Ash presented by Verlasso
  • October 30: Robert Irvine
  • November 1: Erika Davis
  • November 6: Buddy Valastro
  • November 8: David Guas
  • November 13: Alex Guarnaschelli
  • November 15: Sarah Fioroni

Others premium events we look forward to trying: the Mexican Tequila Lunch, Japanese Craft Beer Tasting and the new French Family Meal Traditions.

Included in regular Epcot admission are the new Back to Basics series, special book signings, Eat to the Beat concerts, cultural adventures, Marketplace Discovery Passport and attractions and park entertainment.

Entertainment and Events are subject to change without notice.

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