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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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New Beach Side Bonfire Dinner Buffet at Disney’s PCH Grill at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort

posted on July 14th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Do you know what “PCH” stands for? Most folks think it’s for Pacific Coast Highway – but at Disney’s PCH Grill they’re now saying “Pure Culinary Heaven.”

With a riff on the picnics, barbecues and bonfires that happen often at Pacific Coast Highway beaches, the team at Disney’s PCH Grill has created a new nightly buffet starting on July 17 with tastes inspired by all of California’s coastline, from the southern San Diego shores all the way to the northern redwoods.

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Start with a carving station with dry-rubbed smoked tri-tip beef and baby back ribs, or the seafood sauté station with shrimp Alfredo with cavatappi pasta, or littleneck clams, chorizo and potatoes, cooked in broth with a roasted garlic-herb crostini. Then there’s wood-fired pizzas, mini taco station (beer-battered sustainable fish or veggie tacos), spice-rubbed pork shoulder, and sides such a roasted potato salad, heirloom tomato-mozzarella salad, deviled eggs and a build-your-own salad bar.

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Add kid favorites like a mac ‘n’ cheese bar, fried chicken, seasonal veggies, whole-roasted salmon, smashed potatoes, cheeseburger sliders and mini hot dogs.

Dessert at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort Dessert at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort Dessert at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort Dessert at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort

Dessert is mostly in your hands: a s’mores bar or build-your-own strawberry shortcake, fancy ice cream cones filled with vanilla bean, passion fruit and strawberry mousse. Or there’s a brioche fresh fruit pizza (made in the wood-burning oven), seasonal berry crisp and milk chocolate caramel tart (with sea salt and bacon brittle!). Add a little taste of the islands with creamy haupia pudding with layers of coconut and mango.

Party Wave Lemonade at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort Peach and Blood Orange Tea at Disney’s PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort

Sip a Party Wave Lemonade – we won’t spoil this deliciously sweet surprise by telling you what’s in it – but it could be dessert. Or enjoy peach and orange tea or watermelon lemonade (all three cost extra).

Cost is $27.99, $13.99 ages 3 to 9. Hours are 5:30-9 p.m. nightly. For reservations, visit Disneyland.com/dine or call 714-781-DINE.

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20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Expands for First Time into Future World

posted on July 13th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


For the first time ever, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is stretching into the park’s Future World with four new food and beverage marketplaces.

The festival opens September 25 and runs through November 16, and will feature more than 30 global marketplaces for sipping and noshing throughout the park.

20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Expands for First Time into Future World

Along the walkway toward Future World West, the new Artistry of Wine & Cheese festival area will feature the Cheese Studio (offering a cheese sampler served on an artist’s palette to pair with wines) and the Wine Studio with premium wines on tap – each keg keeps the wine super fresh and holds the equivalent of 26 bottles, eliminating bottle, cork, cardboard and paper waste. Bottles, corks and materials from other marketplaces are recycled.

Then, near the Epcot Character Spot, the new Next Eats area will debut with Sustainable Chew and Chew Lab marketplaces inspired by ABC’s Emmy-Award® winning lifestyle series “The Chew,” starring co-hosts Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz. Sustainable Chew will feature three dishes, and Chew Lab will show off hot culinary tech trends like a Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel.

Beginning July 15, you can go to epcotfoodfestival.com for more details. Booking for premium events like the new Rockin’ Burger Block Party (details soon!), Party for the Senses and Signature Dining Experiences will begin July 30 at 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378).

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My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party a Special Treat for Little Ones – and Parents, Grandparents

posted on July 9th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


What little girl wouldn’t love to be Princess for a day? We had the very special treat of a Sunday morning at the My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, accompanying two very special little girls, Hazel and Lucy, to experience first-hand the joys and sweetness of an old-fashioned tea with a little pixie dust.

Little Princesses Enjoy My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Little Princesses Enjoy My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

The room was full of little princesses ranging in age from 3 to 9, some in princess attire, and the very fancy party was thoughtfully geared toward every little girl (no boys attended, but they are most welcome). From the regal welcome by Rose Petal, a magical rose from Princess Aurora’s garden that comes to life, to the final farewell parade through the elegant lobby of the hotel, the children, parents and grandparents are charmed. It’s a non-stop hour of live music, dancing, storytelling and even a fun lesson in Sign Language. The children gather round Rose Petal for singing, and on our special day, Princess Aurora was the icing on the cake when she arrived to the delight of each little girl.

Princess Aurora Meets Guests During My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Rose Petal Meets Guests During My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Both Rose Petal and Princess Aurora make a stop at each table to talk with the children and pose for photos, and gifts are delivered nearly non-stop throughout the hour, starting with a tiara from Rose Petal as they enter, and a Princess Aurora doll awaiting each girl at the table. There’s also a charm bracelet, friendship necklace, fresh pink rose and a knapsack to carry it all home. For our little friends, all the surprises and royal treatment made it feel like a party just for them. So many photo ops! There is even a Disney PhotoPass photo opportunity to capture the magic.

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The tea service and apple juice tea for the little ones with heart-cut jelly sandwiches and ham-and-cheese sandwiches was followed by a generous slice or cake with pink strawberry icing. Grown-ups have a lovely plate of tea sandwiches, fruit and cheeses with herbal tea, beautifully served on china.

It’s a very special moment to see a little one immersed in the magic of fairytales, especially a 3-year-old who knows the Disney princesses by name. And days after to hear a little voice singing, “Hail to the King, Hail to the Queen, Hail to the Princess Aurora,” accompanied with a princess wave. The experience made a lasting memory for our little guests.

Children must be accompanied by an adult, and the price, $334 including tax and gratuity includes one adult and one child ages 3 to 9 (additional guests are welcome to join for $235 per child and $99 per adult). Boys receive a royal Knight’s sword and shield, Disney Trading pin and a Duffy the Disney Bear. Merchandise gifts are available for guests up to age 12, by paying an additional fee at the podium upon arrival. For reservations, call 407-WDW-MYTEA. The parties are on select days at 10:30 a.m.

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New 10-Course Menu at Victoria & Albert’s Expands Exquisite Dining Experience

posted on July 9th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With the distinction of being the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Central Florida (and one of only three in the state), Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa continues to raise the bar.

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The award-winning dining room is adding a new Chef’s Degustation Menu, a series of 10 small courses featuring some of Chef Scott Hunnel’s favorite dishes inspired by the seasons and by his world travels to Asia, Spain, Italy and France. The seven-course Chef’s Tasting Menu will remain, and the kitchen will continue to meld tradition with innovative cuisine “for an avant-garde culinary journey,” says Israel Perez, maître d’hôtel.

Other big changes include a focus on food-and-wine pairings in the adjacent Queen Victoria Room. With just eight seats, diners will be offered Chef Hunnel’s 10-course menu paired with exclusive wines from Victoria & Albert’s impressive wine cellar. “The wine pairings will be exclusive to the private room, and we want to enlighten our guests about how the chef and sommelier work together to perfectly pair food and drink,” says Perez.

Adding the 10-course menu in the main dining room creates a more leisurely dining experience, and other special tableside touches have been added, such as a cheese trolley, tableside butter carving and a custom chocolate box for selecting post-prandial sweets.

The popular Chef’s Table, tucked in a cozy kitchen alcove with a front-row seat for watching the action in the kitchen, continues to offer 10 to 13 courses, small tastes of everything from caviar to Japanese Wagyu beef, paired with wine and spirits. The dinner lasts nearly four hours, the time filled with delectable tastes and conversations with the chef and his team.

“Diners now have a choice of three distinct dining experiences with food-and-wine pairings in Queen Victoria Room, two menus in the main dining room and the Chef’s Table in the kitchen,” says Perez. “Whichever they choose, they will enjoy the finest quality ingredients and impeccable service.”

The seven-course menu is $185 ($250 with wine pairings); the 10-course menu is $235 ($340 with wine pairings). Dinner in the Queen Victoria Room is $340, and includes 10 courses paired with wine. The Chef’s Table in the kitchen is $250. The restaurant is open daily for dinner. For reservations, call 407-939-3862.

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Your Chance to Sip a Rare Wine at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

posted on July 8th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


A state-of-the-art WineStation by Napa Technology is the newest “toy” for the sommeliers at the award-winning Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort.

“The WineStation lets us open four distinctive bottles of wine to give our guests a taste of something extra special,” says Eric Quezada, area manager and sommelier at Napa Rose. “We’re offering older vintage wines, cult wines, bottles you won’t find every day.”

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The WineStation offers 1-ounce, 3-ounce and 5-ounce pours so that guests can sample vintages like a 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico Tempranillo from Spain that sells for more than $400 a bottle. “Every time we pour, it tastes like we just opened the bottle,” says Eric.

There are always four offerings, usually a Pinot, two Cabernets and a Spanish wine, he explains. Bottles are listed on the menu with ratings. “Not everybody wants to spend $300 for a bottle of wine, but now they can have a glass for dinner,” says Eric. “Our guests are really excited to discover a variety of premium wines that they don’t find on other by-the-glass wine lists.”

The focus is on “big-name” vintners, and not all wines are at the top of the price range. Depending on what’s in the Napa Rose cellar, the prices are based on the bottle and how rare it is – but there also are fun and affordable tastes.

You never know what wine you’ll find, but you know it will be very special – just like the Napa Rose Vintner’s Table, where the menu changes every Friday based on seasonality. “We showcase dishes by our chefs that are not on the regular menu,” says Eric. For instance, right now there’s a duo of prime New York beef and a braised beef short rib with morel mushrooms, sweet onion puree and black plum relish; and a dessert tart made with Robiola cheese, cashew frangipane and Black Mission figs with a mint and Port reduction. Cost for the Vintner’s Table menu is $100, $45 for a wine pairing.

For reservations, visit Disneyland.com/dine or call 714-781-DINE.

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ABC’s ‘The Chew’ Will Broadcast from 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival; Also Featured in Two First-Ever Future World Marketplaces

posted on July 2nd, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


We all have a favorite host from ABC’s “The Chew” – superstars Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly, Carla Hall and Daphne Oz each have a special way of sharing their culinary know-how on the Emmy-Award-winning lifestyle series. And for the first time in the show’s history, these dynamic hosts are leaving the Manhattan studio to tape shows October 7, 8, and 9 from the 20th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. The five festival episodes will air October 12-16.

Shows will be taped before a live audience (visit thechew.com for information on how to obtain tickets), and we’re sure the hosts will be all over Walt Disney World Resort discovering remarkable dining finds, getting a taste of innovative, fun and healthful eats – the best the vacation kingdom has to offer.

CLINTON KELLY, DAPHNE OZ, MARIO BATALI, MICHAEL SYMON, CARLA HALL

Along with the taping of the show, “The Chew” will be featured in two marketplaces throughout the festival’s 53-day celebration from September 25-November 16, helping celebrate 20 delicious years. For the first time in the festival’s history, marketplaces will expand into Future World in the new Next Eats festival area with three delicious dishes from “The Chew” in their Sustainable Chew Marketplace: Savory Pork Spareribs with Cheesy Mascarpone Grits; Ricotta & Zucchini Ravioli with Tomato Sauce, and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle. (Herbs and veggies from The Land pavilion will flavor the marketplace dishes when harvested.) The eco-home-inspired marketplace will offer a chance for guests to learn more about how food is grown and the importance of sustainability.

Also in Next Eats, Disney chefs are collaborating with “The Chew” for the Chew Lab, a cutting-edge marketplace inspired by food-science labs and the hottest culinary tech trends.

“The Chew” airs on ABC Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. EST, noon CST. For updates on the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, visit epcotfoodfestival.com throughout the summer.

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Learn Culinary Secrets of Disney Chefs in New Backstage Adventure at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on July 1st, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Ever wonder how to make a buttery pasta noodle or fork-tender filet mignon? Beginning July 8, the new “Disney Family Culinary Adventure” at Disney’s Contemporary Resort whisks guests backstage for a fun, interactive evening that includes plenty of time with the Disney chefs, hands-on cooking and a festive, five-course dinner with beer and wine served in the kitchen by the professional catering staff.

Aimed at guests 9 and older, the evening starts at 5 p.m. with a friendly introduction to the massive catering kitchen. A maximum of 30 guests put on aprons, hats and gloves and are divided into five cooking groups. And every station has a wow technique, from the ease of making homemade butter (equal parts buttermilk and heavy cream) to a fresh pasta with just three ingredients.

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“We want to show them the tricks of the trade,” says Chef Frank Brough. “It’s a guided experience but they do everything from making cheese and butter to rolling out pasta and breaking down a whole beef tenderloin.”

The five stations:

  • Garde manger, is the French term for food produced in the cold kitchen, where guests learn how to make farmer cheese, from-scratch butter, and how to plate a gourmet salad on a rapidly moving electric belt in the professional kitchen.
  • Sushi, with sushi chefs teaching the art of rolling sushi and sashimi. (This station may rotate with other culinary ideas.)
  • Boucherie, or butcher station, where guests learn how to trim a beef tenderloin to make the perfect filet mignon.
  • Pasta, with just three ingredients (semolina, olive oil and egg), guests learn to make tender noodles from scratch, along with fresh basil pesto.
  • Patisserie, or bakery, where guests get to play with chocolate, mousse and other sweet endings.

Once the food prep is complete, guests move freely about the big kitchen to chat with the chefs – no culinary question goes unanswered. It takes about an hour for all the prep work, then everyone is seated at a long table in the center of the kitchen to enjoy the five-course meal they’ve just prepared. (Vegetarian, vegan and selections for guests with allergies are options for dinner.)

Lights are dimmed, background music plays, and a toast begins the special meal, where each course is served with wine and beer. At the meal’s end a special molecular gastronomy demonstration wows guests (we’ll keep that a secret), and they receive a special toque (chef’s hat) to take home, along with a Disney cookbook signed by the chefs.

“We really want them to leave the kitchen with ideas for a spectacular dinner party that they can do at home without opening a can or reaching for something frozen,” says Chef Brough.

The program is planned two evenings a week (days vary), starting at 5 p.m. Cost is $175 plus tax, $125 plus tax for ages 9 to 12. (Younger guests may have their own cooking station.) Complimentary transportation is provided for Disney Resort hotel guests. To book or for more information, call 407-WDW-PLAY.

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