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Ready, Set, Dial! Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Premium Event Reservations Open July 31

posted on July 16th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


First, go to epcotfoodfestival.com on July 24 when the new premium events will be posted and take a few minutes to plan ahead – because at 7 a.m. July 31 you can call 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378) to book your spot at some of the most coveted events for this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Dates are September 19 – November 10, and while there’s plenty of fun included with park admission, you won’t want to miss some of the top-tier experiences that require a separate ticket.

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Here’s what’s new this year:

  • Dining Through the Decades, A Tribute to Walt Disney (October 24) $99 pp or $119 pp
  • Experience Puerto Rico – The All Star Island (September 20) $99 pp
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival — Boot Camp Series interactive epicurean adventure (September 21, October 5, 12, 19, Nov. 2) $119 pp
  • Food for Thought (Fridays, plus Saturday October 11) $169 pp
  • Mediterranean Food & Wine Pairing (Wednesdays) $55 pp
  • Italian White Truffle & Wine Pairing Dinner (October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30) $295 pp

And here are some of the most popular events making a comeback:

  • Parisian Breakfast (Saturdays) $39 pp
  • “3D” Disney’s Dessert Discovery (October 3, 10 and 17) $59 or $99 pp – this also can be booked at epcotfoodfestival.com
  • Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining 
(more than 20 dinners throughout the festival; prices vary)
  • Shake and Indulge Like the French Featuring Grand Marnier (Saturdays beginning September 27) $55 pp
  • Cheese Seminars (Saturdays) $79 pp
  • Party for the Senses (October 4, 11, 18 and November 1) $149, $189 or $299 pp – this also can be booked at epcotfoodfestival.com
  • Party for the Senses Featuring Disney Chefs from Around the World (October 25) $149, $189 or $299 pp
  • Food & Wine Pairings (Tuesdays and Thursdays) $55 pp
  • Sunday Mornings With … (Sundays) $99 pp

There’s more, like Italian and French pairings and lunches, a Japan “Hibachi Experience” and a Mexican tequila lunch. You can also book the popular Culinary Demonstrations ($15), Mixology Seminars ($15) and Wine Seminars ($15).

See you soon at Epcot!

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First Peek at Trattoria al Forno, New Restaurant for Disney’s BoardWalk

posted on July 15th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With opening planned for December, we’re sharing the first details for Trattoria al Forno, the new restaurant for Disney’s BoardWalk.
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A “trattoria” is an Italian restaurant serving simple food, and “al forno” is Italian for “food baked in an oven,” and this new spot will showcase Old World techniques, including handcrafted mozzarella made daily, cavatelli (small dumpling-shaped pasta) and a variety of Neopolitan-style pizzas baked in wood-burning ovens. Neopolitan pizzas, by the way, are pizzas in the classic style of Naples, Italy, with simple tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.

A beautiful Italian flywheel slicer slices paper-thin Italian meats, served with a variety of olives and caponata. Satisfying pastas, velvety seasonal risottos and fresh seafood and vegetables will celebrate the delectable diversity of Italian cuisine with authentic ingredients and recipes from Italy’s various regions.

Italy is just half the size of Texas but has wonderfully diverse cuisine, and Trattoria al Forno will showcase dishes from Italy’s various regions – for instance, braised beef Bolognese with house-made cavatelli from Bologna, semolina tagliatelli carbonara from Latium (more specifically Rome), pork chop alla Milanese named after the city of Milano. And you’ll find classic Italian favorites: chicken breast alla Parmagiana with tagliatelle pasta; shrimp with garlic, capers and anchovy butter with polenta; whole roasted fish with roasted vegetables; baked lasagna; grilled steak; slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta; and eggplant rollatini.

A seasonal risotto will always be on the menu, and vegetarians will appreciate the ruffled campanelle pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes and Genovese pesto.

Add a classic Italian dessert with an after-dinner cappuccino for a perfect ending. Look for tiramisù, lemon panna cotta with almond crunch and berries, gelatos, and the signature bomboloni (Italian donut holes) with dark chocolate and vanilla gelato.

Wines will be 100 percent Italian from historic wine regions including Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont, with over 60 offerings by the bottle and more than 25 wines by the glass – Chiantis, Super Tuscans and fine Italian white wines such as Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Moscato. Signature cocktails and Italian beers and sodas round out the drink menu, with a signature-blend Italian coffee roasted just for Trattoria al forno.

We can’t wait to share more information and photos, stay tuned. Reservations will be accepted in several weeks – we’ll be sure to let you know the date.

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‘Frozen’ Summer Fun Includes Treats for Cooling Down at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

posted on July 8th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With a nod to the blockbuster animated film “Frozen” but also some icy cold beverages just for grown-ups, “Frozen” Summer Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a little something delicious for everyone.

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Start with the adorable Olaf, Elsa and Anna cupcakes ($5.19) – almost too cute to eat, but they’re delicious too. Olaf’s is carrot cake (of course) with cream cheese icing and a white chocolate Olaf. The Elsa and Anna cupcakes, vanilla for Elsa and chocolate for Anna, are topped with a cascade of buttercream frosting to create the girls’ dresses, and a white chocolate topper.

You’ll find the cupcakes at Studios Catering Co., Pizza Planet, ABC Commissary, Rosie’s All American Cafe, Fairfax Fare (Anna and Elsa are there only on July 5), Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Funland, Starring Rolls Cafe and the coffee cart.

If you prefer a keepable souvenir, the cute Olaf sipper cup comes filled with all sorts of icy concoctions, from a blue raspberry milkshake at Min & Bills’ Dockside Diner ($9.29) to strawberry lemonade at Backlot Express ($9.49) or frozen blue raspberry slush or strawberry lemonade slush at Oaken’s Frozen Funland ($10.25).

More “Frozen” goodies can be found at Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Funland – the new place to keep cool this summer located inside the Soundstage One building toward the rear of the park with a frozen pond for ice skating, open daily from park opening to 8 p.m. Along with the cupcakes and slushie drinks, you’ll also find an Anna & Elsa cookie ($5.25), plus hot cocoa, churros and Mickey pretzels.

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Just outside the Premiere Theater, where the popular “Frozen” sing-along happens daily, you’ll find more “Frozen”-themed goodies, including the Anna & Elsa cookies, Anna & Elsa or Olaf crisped rice treat ($4.25).

At Hollywood Scoops on Sunset Boulevard, ice-cream fans will appreciate the blue sugar cookie ice cream sandwich with your choice of hand-dipped ice cream ($4.19).

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Three fun “Frozen” summer cocktails are available at the Animation Bar and Idol Bar daily from 4-10 p.m. The Let It Glow ($6.49) is non-alcoholic, with pineapple juice, grenadine, ginger ale and a glow cube. There’s also a Summer Berry Margarita ($11.75) and the Blue Dream with citrus vodka, blue curacao, peach schnapps, sweet-and-sour mix, pineapple juice and a glow cube ($11.75).

All the “Frozen” goodies are available through September 1. Most of the sweet treats (excluding alcoholic beverages) are on the Disney Dining Plan.

For more information about “Frozen” fun this summer, see the posts below:

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New Summer Dinner Menu at Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on July 3rd, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Such a treat, elegant Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure park, where you’re whisked upstairs for lunch or dinner in the beautiful dining room, inspired by Hollywood’s Golden Age, or on the two open-air terraces. Sipping a craft cocktail, it’s hard to imagine you’re in the middle of a bustling theme park.

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To take advantage of the amazing summertime produce, Chef Andrew Sutton has added creative seasonal dishes to the dinner menu, with two new starters: an heirloom tomato and avocado salad with baby arugula, fresh basil and yellow tomato vinaigrette, and roasted chicken broth with basil and fava beans, fresh peas, carrots, ham and grilled chicken. Pair that with the signature fried biscuits stuffed with White Cheddar, bacon and jalapeño, and you’ve got a meal.

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There are four new summer entrees: a generous lamb porterhouse with Parmesan gnocchi, lamb shoulder, asparagus and preserved lemon; chicken and spinach ravioli in summer corn broth with crimini mushrooms and Applewood bacon; summer garden risotto with peas, Portobello mushrooms, braised radish and spinach; and sustainable fish of the day with braised fennel, artichoke hearts and Sun Gold tomato essence. (We’re happy to report that the delectable Skuna Bay salmon stays on the summer menu, with a sesame soy glaze and red Thai curry.) A summer side dish addition is succotash, that combo of fresh corn and lima beans that reminds everyone of home.

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Save room for the new Valrhona caramel-chocolate turnover with house-made marshmallow and Carthay Theater popcorn ice cream. We may just eat dessert first.

We put Carthay Circle Restaurant at the top of the “must-do” Disneyland experience – beyond Chef Sutton’s amazing cuisine, it’s a slice of Disney history, with the décor inspired by the original Carthay Circle Theatre, built in 1926, that played a significant role in the life of Walt Disney. His first feature-length film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” premiered there in 1937, and the restaurant features cels from the film. Check out the great vintage photos lining the hallway into the restaurant, and look up – the vaulted ceiling is painted with enchanting pastoral scenes from the movie.

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Happy July 4 Week! Our Top 10 All-American Eats at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on July 1st, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


July 4 is all about celebrating the red, white and blue. If you’re spending July 4 at Walt Disney World Resort, here are our Top 10 All-American eats:

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  1. We’re starting with a cocktail, as it’s only available on July 4 – “red, white and blue” mojitos (red berry, classic and blueberry-lemon). You’ll find them at bars throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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  1. Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can order the Famous All-American Picnic Burger at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. It’s an Angus burger topped with a grilled hotdog, sautéed onions, sauerkraut and a pickle. Yum!
  2. Head to Casey’s Corner in Magic Kingdom Park for a hit list of American baseball favorites: hot dogs, nachos, corn dog nuggets, French fries, cotton candy and Cracker Jacks. Grab a seat outside and listen to the all-American ragtime piano player.
  3. Step back to the days of Colonial Williamsburg at Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom Park. For lunch, try the Liberty Boys BLT with slow-roasted pork, fresh greens and tomatoes on house-made bread with caramelized shallots and a mushroom-mayo spread.
  4. Sip a Liberty Swirl Slush (Fanta Strawberry and Blue Raspberry) at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square, or maybe an All-American Sundae at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor – vanilla and chocolate ice cream with hot fudge, peanut butter drizzle, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

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  1. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, what’s more all-American than a half slab of St. Louis ribs from Flame Tree Barbecue, served with baked beans and cole slaw – picnic tables and lots of napkins make it easy to be messy.
  2. The New England-style lobster roll at Captain’s Grille at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (and check out the new red, white and blue costumes the servers will be wearing, just in time for the holiday). On a butter-toasted Parker House roll, it’s a classic New England recipe.
  3. Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is our go-to for fancy, super-fresh all-American seafood. Tuck into a 2-pound steamed Maine lobster, crispy Rhode Island calamari, pan-seared George’s Bank day boat scallops, and/or Alaskan wild-caught halibut.
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  1. For a taste of the South, it’s Olivia’s Café at Disney’s Old Key West Resort: shrimp and grits or a shrimp po boy are our favorites.
  2. And just one more burger – the All-American Bacon Cheeseburger at ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill. Nothing fancy, just Cheddar cheese and bacon on an Angus burger. Add a draft beer, and you’ve got the quintessential July 4 meal.
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New ‘Disney Family of Wines,’ New Menu at Alfresco Tasting Terrace at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on June 27th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Just in time for summer, the pretty Alfresco Tasting Terrace on the second floor of Golden Vine Winery at Disney California Adventure park is debuting a new menu and a very cool wine list. There are just 40 seats and you don’t need reservations, so it’s perfect for a small Mediterranean-inspired plate and a delicious sip of wine on the open-air veranda.

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The unique wine list is the only one at any Disney Resort to feature all eight wineries of the “Disney Family of Wines,” a diverse collection that has a personal connection to the Disney name: an artistic talent, a sense of what makes for good storytelling, quintessential family DNA . . . all of the wineries display qualities long identified with Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company, carrying on the Disney legacy and typifying the passion, innovation and quality that the name Disney symbolizes.

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Only three of the wines have previously been offered at Golden Vine Winery: MacMurray Ranch, Silverado Vineyards and Lasseter Family Winery. The others are new to the restaurant. The family of eight includes:

  • Fess Parker Winery
  • MacMurray Ranch
  • Silverado Vineyards
  • Lasseter Family Winery
  • Gogi (owned by actor Kurt Russell)
  • Frank Family Vineyards
  • Chappellet Winery
  • Skywalker Vineyards
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Order red, white or rosé by the glass or bottle, or try a featured flight to go with one of these delectable small plates. Guest-pleasing Fritto Misto remains on the menu, a crisp stack of calamari, mussels, green beans, and artichokes with pepperoncini aïoli for dipping. But everything else is new. Try the Aged Cheddar-Risotto Bites with roasted garlic-herb aïoli and marinara. Or the Bruschetta classically topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and Parmesan. The Charcuterie and Cheese board is perfect for sharing and features Gorgonzola blue cheese, Fontina, Prosciutto Di Parma, Spanish-style chorizo, green olives, marinated mushrooms, walnuts, and dry-cured black Beldi olives. Grilled Shrimp gets a kick with Spanish chorizo. Additionally, there’s a filling trio of Beef Tenderloin Sliders with horseradish and caramelized onion aïoli, and an offering of fancy Roasted Duck Rillettes, similar to pâté, and served with crostini, orange marmalade and buttery Castelvetrano Olives.

Sit back, relax, savor and watch the world go by from your second-floor perch. It’s especially delightful after dark, with gorgeous vistas of Ornament Valley inside Cars Land.

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What’s on Your Disney Dining Bucket List?

posted on June 19th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


From dining with a favorite Disney character to a AAA Five-Diamond dining experience at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, what’s on your bucket list? Here are some big ideas at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Palo’s New Tasting Menu: Exquisite Wines, Sublime Tastes with Disney Cruise Line

posted on June 17th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


For the ultimate dining experience, we love nothing more than a savvy sommelier who can pair just the right wine with delectable food. Food and wine pairing is an art, and the new “Esperienza del Vino” at Palo on the Disney Cruise Line is a masterpiece.

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Be forewarned, the six-course dinner should be savored slowly – and though you may want to finish each bite of the lobster and mascarpone ravioli, remember that a buttery branzino, then a rich osso bucco soon will follow. So sit back, relax and let the evening unfold. All of your delicious decisions are already made.

The dinner starts lightly with paper-thin tuna carpaccio with lemon oil dressing served with a crisp, bubbly Ferrari brut ‘11. Next up, grilled Portobello mushroom and polenta, paired with Summus Castello Banfi ’07, a velvety, full-bodied wine with the taste of blackberries and cherries.

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Our favorite course is the lobster and mascarpone ravioli with a glass of Cervaro della Sala Antinori ’09, a cool, flowery white. Perfect branzino al cartoccio (Mediterranean sea bass in parchment) follows, with intense, golden Planeta Chardonnay ’08.

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Just two more courses, and the evening moves at a leisurely pace. The final savory dish is tender osso buco (veal shank) served with a rich, meaty Luce Marchesi Dé Frescobaldi ’09, a robust Super Tuscan that was our favorite of the evening.

You may be tempted, but don’t pass up dessert, Palo’s riff on a classic tartufo – their version made with dark chocolate, hazelnuts and house-made vanilla ice cream. Sip the sweet, full-flavored Passito Di Pantelleria Pellegrino ‘08 and watch the world float by.

There is an additional charge of $59 for the wine tasting menu.

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10 Healthful Choices at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 16th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Even though vacation is a time for indulgence, one of the most-asked questions is “where can I find healthful choices”? Walt Disney World Resort chefs love the challenge of creating healthful bites that taste as good (or better) than we might imagine.

In no specific order, here are 10 of our favorite spots for eating healthfully at Magic Kingdom Park:

  • The fresh roasted corn at Liberty Square Market. And it’s a bargain at $3.79, grilled before your eyes all day long. (We’re told they sell more than 700 ears on a busy day.) And when local Zellwood sweet corn is in season, that’s what they grill in the husk. You can add all sorts of seasonings, but it’s best with just a little salt and pepper.

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  • Columbia Harbor House is a favorite for quick service – a little off the beaten path, and we often find a quiet corner upstairs. Best bets are the Lighthouse Sandwich with hummus, tomato and broccoli slaw on toasted multigrain bread; the broccoli peppercorn salad with greens, veggies, chicken and Parmesan cheese, and, on cool days, the vegetarian chili.
  • In Tomorrowland, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe has lots of healthful choices, like the veggie burger, veggie sandwich and a hearty Greek salad. For something sweet the no-sugar-added mango gelato hits the spot.
  • Southwest chicken salad at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe is a filling lunch. Or the veggie burger.
  • In Fantasyland, Pinocchio Village Haus is a quick stop for the Mediterranean Salad with greens, red onion, black olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and chicken. (They also serve the delish no-sugar-added mango gelato.)
  • For lunch, Liberty Tree Tavern is a table-service favorite. We usually order the Colony Salad with greens, Ocean Spray Craisins, apples, sweet pecans, applewood-smoked Cheddar cheese and grilled chicken with a honey-shallot vinaigrette. And the tavern’s vegan burger is pretty good, made with potatoes and quinoa and topped with a vegan tofu-tzatziki sauce. (Seriously, try it.)
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  • The ever-popular Cinderella’s Royal Table serves a healthful fish of the day, or go with the veggie pick: rice with roasted eggplants, mushrooms, onions and squash tossed with arugula pesto and a splash of aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Plaza Restaurant still serves the Chicken Strawberry Salad, which has been on the menu as long as we can remember, is still just as delicious with greens, cucumbers, strawberries and grilled chicken tossed with a white zinfandel vinaigrette.
  • Last, but not least, Be Our Guest Restaurant has some light bites for lunch, like the tuna Niçoise salad with warm seared tuna, or quinoa salad. For dinner, go vegan with the layered ratatouille: baked zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes and caramelized onions layered on quinoa with a bell pepper sauce. Again, splurge with a happy ending: the no-sugar-added option for dessert, a lemon-raspberry cream puff.

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‘Trucks on the Town at Downtown Disney West Side’ June 21 at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 12th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Get ready to tweet, here’s a brand-new event to share with all your foodie friends: the first-ever food truck festival at Downtown Disney, a mini-theme park for food lovers from 5-10 p.m. June 21. Your biggest challenge will be what to order when you get to the window, as we’ll have 14 trucks dishing out sandwiches, empanadas, pupusas, barbecue, gator bites, seafood, tacos, cupcakes and more.

Presenting the First-Ever Food Truck Bazaar at Downtown Disney

Collaborating with The Daily City.com Food Truck Bazaar, local trucks sharing their delicious tastes at Disney for the first time include:

  • TJ’s Seafood Shack
  • Magic 4 Ur Palate
  • Yum Yum Cupcake Truck
  • Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ
  • La Empanada
  • Philly’s Best Cheesesteaks
  • El Cactus Azul
  • Mayan Grill
  • Med Fresh Taverna

Of course the four Downtown Disney food trucks, along with the ESPN food truck, will be there – Namaste Café with favorites plus some new flavors from Disney’s Animal Kingdom – think butter chicken and tandoor shrimp; Superstar Catering with favorites from Disney’s Hollywood Studios like Margherita flat bread; Fantasy Fare with Magic Kingdom Park goodies like the corn dog and sticky chicken n’ waffles; and World Showcase of Flavors with Epcot tastes from pierogies to grass-fed beef sliders.

A live DJ will create a convivial atmosphere that’s fun for all ages at the event that will be at Downtown Disney West Side on the event lawn near House of Blues and Cirque du Soleil. Best parking is lots O, P and Q behind Cirque due Soleil, via entrance 5. And, sorry, no pets allowed.

Downtown Disney plans to open a permanent food truck park later this summer between Bongos Cuban Café and the new Starbucks at Downtown Disney West Side. Details soon!

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