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A Disney Recipe to Celebrate National Fresh Fruit & Veggie Month

posted on June 3rd, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


June is officially National Fruit & Vegetable Month (June 17 is “Eat All Your Veggies Day”), so we’re sharing this super-easy recipe that uses one of summer’s best vegetables.

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Cucumbers are best gussied up with a little sweet, a little hot, and this recipe from Nine Dragons Restaurant at the China Pavilion at Epcot has been a favorite for years. The Sichuan peppers add heat to this side salad that goes well with just about anything.

If you’re in the Disney parks, it’s easy to eat your fruits and veggies with plenty of “good for you” kiosks offering whole and cut fruits, fresh veggies and dip, baked potatoes, smoothies, no-sugar-added strawberry bars. Quick-service locations at Disney resorts have also been beefing up their “grab-n-go” sections, making fruit and veggies an easy snack on your way to the parks. We’re satisfied to know that we can spend a day in any of the parks at the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort and fresh, whole food is never more than a few steps away.

Diao Yu Tai Cucumber Salad
Serves 2

  • 2 Kirby cucumbers, about 4 to 5 inches long
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 dried red Sichuan peppers
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of sugar
  1. Thoroughly wash unpeeled cucumbers and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove seeds if desired.
  2. Toss cucumbers with salt in a colander. Place colander over bowl and let stand 20 minutes. Drain cucumbers and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat oil in wok over medium-low heat. Add peppers and stir-fry until pepper darkens to deeper red, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add vinegar and sugar; bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour mixture over drained cucumbers in a medium glass bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
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First Look at 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on June 3rd, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Get ready for an exciting 53 days for the 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, celebrating two delicious decades from September 25 – November 16.

Now noted as one of America’s top food festivals by the Travel Channel, the 20th rendition promises plenty of celebrity chefs and new marketplaces, but also traditions that guests look forward to each year.

First Look at 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Look for favorite chefs such as Cat Cora, Jamie Deen, John Ash, Robert Irvine and Buddy Valastro onstage for demos and premium events (John Ash was at the very first Epcot fest back in 1996, and returns for 2015.) In all, more than 270 Disney chefs and culinary stars from across the U.S. will be showcased.

And for those who can’t wait to take a trip around the world at the 25-plus Marketplace kiosks, look for both new dishes (pepper bacon mac ‘n cheese at Farm Fresh Marketplace, seared venison loin in New Zealand) and returning classics (yes, the pierogies are still there in Poland, as well as Belgian waffles and kalua pork sliders in Hawaii). Wines, beers, Champagne, cocktails and mocktails are paired with good eats at each stop.

Eat to the Beat concerts are already lined up (see Charles Stovall’s blog post last week) with favorites such as Tiffany, Chaka Khan, Boyz II Men and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. And the favorite Party for the Senses grand tasting events are back every Saturday night in October featuring more than 50 wines and beers with tempting bites from eminent chefs.

Other fun stuff: the Ocean Spray cranberry bog is back. And Chase cardholders can chill out, grab a complimentary soft drink and try some interactive fun at the Chase Lounge in American Adventure. For kids of all ages, Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak takes you on a scavenger hunt for little Remy statuettes (maps, stickers and prizes are involved). New premium events includes “French Family Meal Traditions” lunches on Fridays and Saturdays, a “Rockin’ Burger Block Party” on select dates, and new beverage events including “Exploring Wines from 1996 to Now.”

Happy 20 years, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival! We can’t wait to celebrate. More details to follow. When a reservation booking date is announced this summer, you can call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378) and get details at epcotfoodfestival.com.

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Six Scrumptious Desserts Debut for Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration

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


It’s a party, so you’re allowed to eat dessert first. For the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, here are six new sweets for 60 years, and they’ll stay on the menu throughout the celebration.

Disneyland Park Diamond Lemon Cupcake at Jolly Holiday Bakery Café – This lemony cupcake has white chocolate crunchy pearls, strawberry filling and is topped with white chocolate Champagne mousse, blue buttercream decoration, blue chocolate curls, silver coated white chocolate pearls and a chocolate “D.” Almost too pretty to eat!

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Disney California Adventure Park Diamond Orange Cupcake at Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café – If you prefer orange, try this cupcake with chocolate crunchy pearls, mixed berry filling and a topping of cream cheese Bavarian mousse. The decoration is pretty silver dust pearls, blue buttercream trim and a chocolate diamond. Yum!

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Diamond Tiramisù at Wine Country Trattoria, Disney California Adventure Park – This is a fancy sweet ending: layers of tiramisù made from sweetened Italian mascarpone, Marsala wine and espresso-soaked ladyfingers topped with cocoa powder and finished with chocolate curls and espresso sauce.

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Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart at Blue Bayou Restaurant, Disneyland Park – Tangy and creamy Meyer lemon crème brûlée in a crunchy sweet tart shell topped with blueberry compote and a sparkly silver chocolate diamond – eat it or Instagram?

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White Chocolate Bavarian Diamond Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake at Carnation Cafe, Disneyland Park – A little old-fashioned, a little upscale, this is smooth and creamy white chocolate Bavarian mousse shaped like a diamond resting on vanilla cake finished in a plate with a rich fresh strawberry-rhubarb sauce.

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Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Chocolate Cake – This crowd pleaser is found at Plaza Inn, Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante and French Market Restaurant in Disneyland park, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at Disney California Adventure park. Chocolate layer cake with caramel ganache, chocolate crunchy pearls, fleur de sel, apricot compote, Pabana mousse (banana, passion fruit, mango, lemon) and chocolate truffle mousse is topped with chocolate ganache and a sparkly silver chocolate diamond. Celebrate and share it with a friend!

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Suggestions for Late-Night Snacks at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on May 23rd, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


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We’re taking a late-night (or early-morning) snack break, and several locations are still open! The Plaza Restaurant is open till 3 a.m., offering their all-day menu. If you’re craving a sweet snack, Sleepy Hollow is still serving up the Nutella and Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich. If you’re in the mood for breakfast bites, try a Cinnamon Roll from Gaston’s Tavern or the Breakfast Platter at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café piled high with sizzling bacon, scrambled eggs and herb-crusted roasted red skin potatoes. Main Street Bakery, Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Casey’s Corner and The Lunching Pad are all still open if you’re looking for a snack!

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Special Menu Items Available at The Lunching Pad at Magic Kingdom Park

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


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Are you having fun kicking off the Coolest Summer Ever at Magic Kingdom Park? Why not take a break to refuel at The Lunching Pad. What’s on the menu? A specialty hot dog topped with pulled pork and slaw, refreshing watermelon lemonade and a crisped rice treat adorably shaped like a flip-flop.

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Where to Find Special ‘Frozen’-Themed Treats at Magic Kingdom Park Today

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


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Some of our favorite food and beverage offerings have turned blue today – like the cotton candy and lemonade – to help us kick off the “Coolest Summer Ever.” Don’t forget to try the specialty cupcake, topped with blue buttercream and the 24-Hour Kickoff to Summer logo, available at Main Street Bakery and Gaston’s Tavern. Guests love the Olaf-shaped sipper, too!

‘Frozen’-Themed Treats at Magic Kingdom Park for the 24-Hour Kickoff to Summer Event ‘Frozen’-Themed Treats at Magic Kingdom Park for the 24-Hour Kickoff to Summer Event

What treats are you looking forward to trying today?

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Favorite Recipe from New Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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


Harambe Market opens May 23 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and if you can’t be here for the debut, we’re sharing one of our favorite recipes from the new location.

This chickpea salad, which will be served with the Karubi Ribs from Harambe Market, features distinctive African flavors like tamarind paste and chaat masala. Give the dish plenty of time to marinate before serving.

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Chickpea Salad
Serves 8 as a side dish or appetizer

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water
1/4 teaspoon chaat masala, optional
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large tomato, seeds removed, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed, minced

  1. Heat oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno; cook until garlic is lightly golden. Set aside until mixture is room temperature. Whisk in tamarind paste and chaat masala. Stir in onion. Refrigerate until cold.
  2. Add chilled spice mixture to chickpeas, tossing to coat. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Just before serving, add cucumber, tomato and cilantro. Add remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, if desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Cook’s notes: Tamarind paste has a distinctive, tart flavor. It can be purchased in Asian and Latin-American grocery stores or online. Chaat masala is a spice blend available in specialty food stores and some grocery stores or online.

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California Grill Celebrates 20 Years at the Top at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

posted on May 15th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Has it really been 20 years since California Grill put Walt Disney World Resort dining on the culinary map? May 15, 1995, the date that the beautiful space was unveiled on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort with stellar cuisine and an equally spectacular bird’s-eye view of Magic Kingdom Park and Walt Disney World Resort. Reimagined in 2013 with new interiors and a new onstage kitchen and menu, the restaurant has not rested on its laurels.

View of Magic Kingdom Park from California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort

While there’s no big ta-dah planned for the turning 20, Chef Brian Piasecki focuses on beautiful produce, so spring is one of his favorite times of the year. “Soft shell crabs, local heirloom tomatoes, Delta asparagus, spring onions, West Coast halibut, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, baby artichokes, Zellwood corn, fava beans, English peas,” says Chef Brian, ticking off the list of amazing ingredients he’s working with in the kitchen for the 20th anniversary.

Copper River Salmon at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort Chocolate Pudding Cake at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort

“And don’t forget Copper River salmon season opens May 12,” he says. “We’re serving the salmon ‘a la plancha’ [grilled on a metal plate] with Zellwood sweet corn yeast cakes, baby shiitake mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and pickled ramps, topped with spiked milk-stout maple syrup.”

Then there’s more fresh seafood, the BLT heirloom tomato flatbread with house-smoked bacon, and more local sweet corn, says Chef Brian, who has been at the helm at California Grill since 2009.

“To create the wow experience is the greatest feeling,” he says. “I have the opportunity to create amazing food with an incredible team.”

The most-ordered dish on the menu is the fork tender, oak-grilled filet of beef, right now paired with heirloom tomato risotto, a rich tomato-butter sauce, micro basil and a dash of aged balsamic vinegar. But if you ask Chef Brian for his favorite dish has says he’s partial to the tempura-fried soft shell crab with an espelette (red pepper) aioli and local red watercress salad.

And the beverages are as finely tuned as the food, thanks to area manager Michael Scheifler, who keeps a close eye on trends. “For spring and summer was are rolling out a seasonal beer menu, including the new Napa Smith Cool Brew from the only brewery in Napa Valley” says Michael. “We’re also adding a ‘Super Premium Spirit Page’ with offerings such as Bunnahabhain Single Malt Scotch, Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and Hennessy Richard.”

So raise a glass. Happy 20th, California Grill, cheers to 20 more!

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Chef Mickey’s Opens for Brunch Starting May 31 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

posted on May 15th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Reservations open May 22 for what promises to be a popular new addition to Walt Disney World Resort dining – mid-day brunch daily at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

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The popular restaurant, with the Monorail breezing by overhead, has been open for breakfast and dinner, and is one of the very best spots for an audience with Chef Mickey and his pals, who make a stop at each table during dining service.

For brunch, the menu of breakfast favorites expands with soup; salads including Caesar; seafood, fresh broccoli, antipasto, chicken and Caprese, and hot dishes such as barbecued ribs, seafood étouffée and baked salmon. (And, yes, the famous Mickey waffles are on the brunch menu.) The ice cream bar and Contemporary bakery sweets also will be part of the expansive buffet.

Hours for brunch are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Breakfast is still 7-11:30 a.m. and dinner 5-9:30 p.m.) Meals are one table-service entitlement on the Disney Dining Plan. For reservations, visit www.disneyworld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE.

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Top 10 Disney Salads, Coast to Coast

posted on May 6th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


May is National Salad Month (who knew?). One of our favorite ways to eat is with a big bowl of deliciousness that doesn’t always involve romaine.

Here are 10 of our favorite salads from the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Salad bars don’t count – we love the ways the chefs create a taste sensation with a little bit of this and that.

The Caesar Salad at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante at Disneyland Park 'Smiling Tiger Salad' at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

At Disneyland Resort:

  1. “Smiling Tiger Salad” at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. What’s not to love about Chef Andrew Sutton’s tempura fried lobster, spicy beef, Asian greens and a drizzle of coconut-lime vinaigrette?
  2. Relax over lunch with the Roasted Chicken and Strawberry Salad at Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure park, a mélange of warm asparagus, avocado, arugula, toasted ancient grains and roasted chicken breast filled with strawberry butter.
  3. Also at Disney California Adventure park, we discovered the Greek Salad at Paradise Garden Grill – grab a seat in the shade and dig in to this generous bowl of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, pepperoncinis, marinated olive and feta flavored with a lemon-oregano dressing and pita bread for scooping. You might want to share.
  4. Over at Disneyland park, a longtime favorite is the Caesar at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante. This is the real deal, as the Caesar was invented in Mexico City – though a staple in Italian restaurants, the Caesar generally is attributed to Caesar Cardini, an Italian who created the salad at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, where it became a hit with Hollywood stars. Rancho serves the Hacienda Caesar, romaine tossed, sweet peppers and cotija cheese in housemade dressing with pepitas seeds, radishes and crisp tortilla chips. Top it with grilled chicken or carne asada.
The Power Salad at Sunshine Seasons at Epcot The Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios

At Walt Disney World Resort:

  1. Heading to the East Coast, The Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort has an entrée salad that’s never left the menu – the chicken strawberry salad with greens, grilled chicken breast, cucumbers, fresh strawberries and gorgonzola tossed in a lightly sweet white zinfandel vinaigrette. A classic.
  2. Over at Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, try the trendy Power Salad – a bowlful of protein with quinoa, oak-fired chicken, almonds and honey vinaigrette. You’ll have plenty of energy to power walk World Showcase Promenade.
  3. Quinoa is the star of another favorite at ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – the Couscous Quinoa & Arugula Salad, tossed to order. We top it with grilled salmon for extra protein and Omega 3s.
  4. Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, who doesn’t love the Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby? Chopped delightfully small and tossed tableside, it’s a classic with ham, bacon, turkey breast, egg, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado and chives, all mixed with dressing still made from the original recipe when the salad was invented in Hollywood in the 1930s.
  5. Delightfully different is the Jiko Salad at Jiko—The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. A lovely plate of poached pears, heirloom spinach, kabocha squash in a pear vinaigrette topped with a brittle of pumpkin seeds and black lentils. Instagram worthy.
  6. And finally, another longtime favorite we always have to order: the Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This one stays on the menu, though Chef Brian Piasecki may mix up the ingredients. Right now it’s crispy rock shrimp (a Florida delicacy) with spicy baby greens, Subarashii pear, red onions, soy reduction and addictive wasabi cream. You won’t want to share this one.
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