The American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

More Cupcake Fun for Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Through June 15

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


Immerse yourself in a galaxy far, far away – and don’t miss two more over-the-top cupcakes created by the pastry chefs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios just for Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World Resort.

Available only at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and only through June 15, chocolate fans will have a hard time deciding between the two (you can always buy one of each and share). The chocolate Darth Vader cupcake also has a little peanut butter in the topping, while the chocolate Yoda cupcake features a rich hazelnut buttercream frosting with a sprinkle of crunchy chocolate-toffee.

More Cupcake Fun for Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios Through June 15 More Cupcake Fun for Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios Through June 15

You’ll find the Darth Vader cupcake at Rosie’s All American Café, Fairfax Fare, Starring Rolls Cafe, ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Pizza Planet, Studio Catering Co. and Darth’s Mall. The Yoda cupcake is at Starring Rolls, Backlot Express and Darth’s Mall.

Both cupcakes are $5.19 and on the Disney Dining Plan.

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Dazzling Array of African, Indian Flavors at Harambe Nights Street Party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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


The countdown has begun to Harambe Nights Street Party, kicking off June 7 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – a spectacular nighttime addition in the park’s Harambe Village. With a never-before-seen performance in the new Harambe Theatre of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” that includes a live orchestra and choir, dancers, lots of drama and celebrity guest narrators (see Shawn Slater’s earlier post on the Disney Parks Blog), the evening’s culinary experience is like rich icing on the proverbial cake.

Shortly after arrival, you’ll nosh on appetizers like Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, pickled fennel paneer cheese with tomato, Durban-spiced chicken bites and a safari cheeseburger slider with tomato curry aioli. Pair with African-inspired wine and beer and get the party started. Be adventurous – the chefs have had great fun crafting a menu that introduces new flavor sensations. If you’re a fan of Jiko—The Cooking Place, Boma—Flavors of Africa or Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, chances are you’ve tried some of the fantastic global flavors on the menu. We have, and we can’t wait for the butter chicken with warm naan bread (a Sanaa favorite), or the spicy veggie samosa with mango chutney.

After the Welcome Reception, the food never ends – you even get a “Lion Chow” snack for the show – a salty-sweet combo of sea-salted pretzel chips, benne (sesame) crumbles, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger.

The curtain closes and the street party opens, with live music, characters, live performers and dozens of savory dishes. We caught up with Chef Robert Gilbert for a little insider info:

Chef Robert, tell us about the menu.
When we began working on this menu it was all about harmonizing the Harambe Nights’ experience with the exquisitely refined influences of Africa’s diverse cuisines. We tried for balance, for seasonality, for local ingredients – and most of all an authentic experience.

What was your inspiration?
Disney isn’t just a theme park or resort, it evokes a feeling, and we tried to capture that feeling through an immersive food experience – it was a strong collaboration with Chef David Njoroge at Sanaa, a native of Kenya who embraces true African-style cooking.

How long did it take to develop the menu?
We did four tastings before the menu got the green light. And we had some of our chefs and cast members work with the Sanaa team to truly appreciate and understand what goes into African-style cooking. It took us more than a month to get it right.

What are some of the unique African ingredients in the dishes?
We use paneer, an Indian cheese similar to queso blanco, in the appetizer with pickled fennel. The kachumbari salad – kachumbari is a Swahili name for fresh tomato and onion salad – is a popular food in East Africa. We use masala spice blend. And, of course, the traditional naan bread with chutneys and pickles is a favorite of guests.

Do you have a favorite dish?
That’s easy – the butter chicken with basmati rice – you can’t eat just one piece, it’s that good.

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Chef Robert shared the menu with us, subject to tweaks, but here’s a look at the dazzling array of flavors:

Fresh Cooked Breads, Salads and More
Watercress, melon, feta and berry balsamic onion salad
Kachumbari salad with tomato, paneer, carrot and cilantro
Roasted beetroot salad with sunflower seeds
Creamy mac ‘n cheese
Spicy vegetable samosa with mango chutney
Traditional naan, onion kulcha and pappadum breads
Roasted pepper hummus, raita and garlic-ginger pickle

Surf and Turf
Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad
Watermelon, cucumber and fennel salad
Coriander chutney roasted potatoes
Line-caught corvina filet with goan curry sauce
On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce

Slow-cook Action Stations
Fork-tender peri barbecued pork
Vegetarian eggplant tikka masala curry served over creamy goat cheese pap
Butter chicken thighs
Vegetarian legume wat served over basmati rice

Sweets
Golden pineapple with toasted coconut
Apple slices with Amarula caramel sauce
Ripe melon with minted lime yogurt dip
Rice pudding, dried fruit compote and pistachio gremolata
Caramel salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite
Chai cream with zebra stripes
Ice cream bars

Harambe Nights is every Saturday from June 7 – August 9, with the Welcome Reception starting at 7:00 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., it’s show time. Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Tickets with premium floor seating are $134 for adults, $94 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Capacity is limited. For tickets, Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

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Handy-Dandy Guide to Disneyland Resort Eats You’ll Only Find at Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Event on May 23

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


We’ll be on the lookout for pirates, princesses, villains and party animals at the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Event on May 23, but most of all we’ll be scouting for all the tastes we don’t normally find on any Disneyland Resort menu. We’re pacing ourselves from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m.!

At Disneyland park:

Table-Service Options (Make your reservations now!):

  • Carnation Café: Fried Sampler Plate with crispy fried zucchini, crunchy onion rings, and those addictive fried pickles.
  • Blue Bayou Restaurant: Pan-seared New York pepper steak topped with asparagus, poached egg, lump crab meat, Cabernet and Béarnaise sauces with potato galette.

Quick-Service Options:

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  • Plaza Inn: Fried Chicken and Waffles
  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Café: Super Sub Sammie with salami, cappicola, prosciutto topped with kicky arugula salad, whole-grain mustard and citrus aioli on a French roll.
  • Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor: Black and White Ice Cream Sandwich with hand-scooped vanilla ice cream between chocolate chip cookies with a white and dark chocolate drizzle and mini chocolate chips.
  • Rancho del Zocalo: Street Taco Trio with beef, chicken or carnitas on corn tortillas with cilantro and onion and topped with salsa casera or salsa verde. Also lightly fried sopes (fried masa cakes) with refried beans, beef, chicken or carnitas, shredded cabbage, cotija cheese and drizzled with salsa casera or salsa verde. Or pozole, a mild chile and pork stew with hominy, garnished with shredded cabbage, julienned radishes and oregano.
  • French Market Restaurant: Shrimp Po’ Boy with crispy popcorn shrimp, mayo, sliced tomato and shredded lettuce with oil and vinegar, served on a toasted potato roll with house-made potato chips and fresh fruit.
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  • Village Haus Restaurant: “Pastram’boli” Flatbread: cheesy roasted garlic flatbread with beef pastrami, caramelized onions and pickles and topped with a Dijon mustard sauce. Also try the apple berry flatbread with poached apples on sweet cream cheese topped with fresh berries and mint.
  • Hungry Bear Restaurant: Sweet and Spicy Hot Dog on a jalapeño cheddar roll with honey mustard and sautéed onions and peppers.
  • Harbour Galley: Turkey Tortilla Soup with roasted corn and black beans, garnished with sour cream, pico de gallo and fried tortilla strips.

Sweet Snacks:

  • Stage Door Café: funnel cake fun with red velvet funnel cake with cream cheese frosting, raspberry and mango funnel cake a la mode and blueberry and kiwi funnel cake a la mode.
  • Bengal Barbecue: two sweet skewers – brownies and crispy cereal squares.
  • Mint Julep Bar: Super Power Punch with sprite, a shot of cotton candy and Dessert Pear gourmet syrup.

Breakfast Bites:

  • Café Orleans: Bananas Foster French Toast made with thick-cut brioche that’s battered and grilled then topped with caramelized bananas and caramel sauce. Bacon on the side. Also a Mickey-shaped mushroom-and-asparagus frittata and slow-braised short ribs with ñora pepper sauce.
  • Tomorrowland Terrace: Breakfast Burrito with eggs, chorizo, pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, queso fresco and black beans in a flour tortilla with fresh fruit.

At Disney California Adventure park:

Table-Service Options (Make your reservations now!):

  • Wine Country Trattoria: Surf & Turf featuring roasted lobster tail and grilled sirloin with mac ‘n cheese croquet and a lemon beurre blanc and blue cheese demi-glace.

Quick-Service Options:

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  • Lucky Fortune Cookery: Steamed Chicken and Veggie Dumpling Bowl with rice and rice wine vinegar dipping sauce.
  • Award Wieners: Raven’s Feast hot dog with barbecued pulled pork and seasoned red cabbage slaw on a garlic-chive brioche bun. Also the Dragon Storm with lemonade and grape syrup topped with Sprite and a green glow cube or Maleficent stir stick.
  • Taste Pilots’ Grill: Sweet and Spicy Chicken Sliders – one with teriyaki glaze, the other with Cajun seasoning and spicy Buffalo sauce. Served with combo of fries and onion rings.
  • Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill: Chicken Mole Plate with grilled half chicken topped with a spicy, smoky mole negro and served with rice, beans and a side of tortillas.
  • Pacific Wharf Café: Green Chile Corn Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.
  • Flo’s V8 Café: Beef and Cheddar Sandwich; breakfast menu during regular breakfast hours and again from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.
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  • Paradise Garden Grill: Mediterranean Angus Beef Pita Wrap – beef is drizzled with feta pepperoncini hummus and comes with Greek salad in a warm pita. Tabouleh on the side.
  • Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta: Mac & Cheese Flatbread with sun-dried tomato sauce, crispy bacon, mozzarella, and basil pesto.

Sips and Snacks:

  • Mad T Party: two rum cocktails – Hurricane and Mai Tai.
  • Boudin Bread Cart: Captain American Shield-shaped sourdough bread.
  • Clarabelle’s: S’mores Bar dipped ice cream treat.
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Our Top 10 Delicious, Healthful Bites at Disneyland Resort

posted on May 13th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Okay, so you’re on vacation, and “healthful” may not be at the top of your to-do list. But we’re often asked for our favorite healthful eats at Disneyland Resort. Here is our Top 10 list, from quick bites to table service:

  1. Start the day at Carnation Café in Disneyland park with the spinach and tomato egg white frittata with a side of fresh fruit for breakfast (skip the potatoes). Later in the day, we like the new spinach salad with grilled chicken, which includes boiled eggs, Portobello mushrooms, feta cheese and pickled onions tossed with a golden balsamic-mustard seed dressing.
  2. Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Disneyland park is a longtime favorite, but you can skip the hearty burritos and opt for the citrus fire-grilled chicken, marinated in cumin, garlic, cilantro, lemon and lime before it hits the fire. Add a side of sautéed veggies or beans and rice.

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  1. At Blue Bayou in Disneyland park, try a taste of Louisiana with the portobello mushroom and couscous macque choux. The mushrooms are marinated in balsamic vinaigrette, then broiled and served with the macque choux, a combo of roasted corn, sweet peppers and couscous with a side of sautéed spinach.
  2. For a quick, light bite, head to Jolly Holiday Bakery Café in Disneyland park – ignore the pastries and quiches and order the grilled vegetable and whole grain salad with seasonal vegetables, mixed greens, barley, and spelt tossed with basil vinaigrette.
  3. Village Haus Restaurant tucked in Fantasyland in Disneyland park has a high-energy, healthful meal in a bowl: Apple & Cheddar Salad with chopped red and green apples, Cheddar cheese, fresh greens, Craisins dried cranberries, golden raisins, toasted walnuts and honey-yogurt dressing.

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  1. Heading over to Disney California Adventure park for a quick bite it’s the tofu rice bowl at Lucky Fortune Cookery. Add a side of edamame or fresh mango slices.
  2. Another quick bite at Disney California Adventure park is the roasted veggie soft tacos at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. Add a dollop of fresh guacamole and skip the sour cream.
  3. We love the fresh Mediterranean flavors at Paradise Garden Grill. It’s a toss-up: the lemon oregano chicken with chimichurri sauce (a delicious blend of fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil). Sometimes we prefer it with that chimichurri with the grilled steak.

Trattoria-Broccolini

  1. For a more leisurely meal, head to Wine Country Trattoria and order the Broccolini Aglio Olio, a delicious bowl of egg-free pasta with fresh spinach, arugula, tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes and olive oil. If you prefer seafood, the pan-seared salmon with sautéed fingerling potatoes and yellow and red pear tomatoes with a side of arugula salad and sun-dried tomato pesto fits the bill.
  2. For super-fast snacks, fruit carts in both carts are the easiest way to fill up and avoid temptation. Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, watermelon, trail mix, coconut water and more – and the fruits change with the seasons, so there’s always something delish.
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Disney Culinary Story Expands With Golden Oak

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


Ever wonder what’s behind the gates at Golden Oak?

At a recent Tables in Wonderland dinner, we got a peek at the beautiful new Markham’s restaurant at Golden Oak, the first private community at Walt Disney World Resort.

Chef Christian Rumpler and Golden Oak Food and Beverage Manager Melissa Schreiber welcomed Tables in Wonderland guests to the exclusive dining room where “Disney takes service to the next level,” says Melissa.

Chef Christian has his own garden just outside the kitchen door with herbs and seasonal veggies (with a Disney horticultural intern to tend the healthy gardens). The kitchen cures its own charcuterie, makes fresh pasta, even the sauerkraut for the pastrami sandwiches. Lettuce comes from their own garden and from The Land Pavilion at Epcot. Just imagine the perfect BLT: bacon cured in the kitchen, tomatoes from the garden and lettuce from The Land. “We source locally when we can, and focus on sustainable ingredients,” says Chef Christian.

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Golden Oak is named for a scenic ranch in California’s Placerita Canyon where Disney filmed segments of “The Mickey Mouse Club” TV show in the 1950s. Walt Disney Productions purchased portions of the property in 1959 and, over the years, acquired more than 900 acres for TV and movie productions and protect its harmony with nature. Walt Disney and his family spent time relaxing and playing on the ranch. (Some say golden nuggets were found under a tree on the property in 1842, thus the name.)

Markham’s was inspired by “Spin and Marty,” the popular series of TV shorts that aired as part of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Adjacent Tyler’s Lounge was inspired by the 1960 movie “Toby Tyler,” also filmed at Golden Oak Ranch. Both rooms are upscale and inviting, with warm wood, brick accents and golden tones.

Here’s a recipe that illustrates the Golden Oak culinary team’s level of detail – even for a cocktail. For more information on Golden Oak, disneygoldenoak.com. For information on Tables in Wonderland, visit tablesinwonderland.com.

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The Floridian Peaches and Cream
Serves 1

  • 2 ounces house-made Florida peach vodka (recipe below)
  • House-made cream soda, to taste (recipe below)
  • Florida peach pinwheel, for garnish
  1. Fill Collins glass halfway with ice cubes. Add vodka, then cream soda. Garnish with peach.

House-Made Florida Peach Vodka

  • 1 Liter Ciroc vodka
  • 8 fresh Florida peaches, washed and left whole
  1. Combine vodka and peaches in glass container that can be sealed. Place in dark, cool place for 3 to 5 days, shaking daily. (The longer it sits, the more peach flavor will develop.)
  2. To use, strain liquid and refrigerate. For extra flavor, juice peaches, strain and add to vodka.

House-made Cream Soda
For this recipe you will need a soda charger and soda gas canisters. You can substitute canned cream soda, which will produce the same taste but not the froth.

  • 1 quart cold water for charger
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cooled vanilla syrup (recipe follows)
  1. Add all ingredients to a soda charger and add two gas capsules to carbonate liquid. Keep cold.

Vanilla syrup

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cool.
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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Anniversary Cupcake Available Only May 1

posted on April 29th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Walt Disney World Resort guests love the designer cupcakes that the chefs create for special occasions and holidays – and we usually can’t pry away the recipe. But good news: if you can’t make it to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 1, this is one special treat you can (mostly) re-create at home.

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Celebrating 25 years, this anniversary cupcake is a delicious combo of chocolate cake with a rich hazelnut-buttercream frosting. The chefs at the theme park add a little chocolate ganache, chocolate sprinkles and colorful Mickey Mouse candy confetti, then top it with a chocolate “25th Anniversary” disk of chocolate.

If you’re at the park, the cupcakes will be available at Fairfax Fair, Rosie’s All American Café, ABC Commissary, Starring Rolls Cafe, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co., and Pizza Planet. Cost is $5.19 and the cupcake counts as a snack on the Disney Dining Plan.

If you’re too far away to make the May 1 celebration, get out the mixer and create your own fun!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Hazelnut-Chocolate Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Hazelnut-Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk

For chocolate cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in large bowl, whisking to combine. Add oil, coffee, and milk; beat with an electric mixer 1 minute until well combined.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat 2 minutes until very well combined. Batter will be thin.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

For hazelnut-chocolate buttercream:

  1. Combine shortening and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until creamy. Beat in hazelnut-chocolate spread and vanilla extract until smooth. With mixer running at medium speed, add confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well to combine before adding the next cup.
  2. After all sugar has been added, beat in 3 to 4 tablespoons milk, just until frosting is light and fluffy.
  3. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip and pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Alternatively, frost cupcakes with an offset spatula or a butter knife.
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Florida Produce, Seafood on Walt Disney World Dining Tables

posted on April 28th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Walt Disney World Resort may serve more than 54 million meals every year, but rest assured, attention to detail isn’t lost as chefs look for new ways to wow their guests. And the trend for sourcing locally brings beautiful tastes to fine-dining restaurants.

Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s BoardWalk heads to local farms for veggies and pork, and to both coasts for seafood. “Beets, turnips, radishes, kale and chard from Palm Beach County, citrus from local groves, tiny greens from a farm in Mt. Dora, tomatoes from Florida – we love our local growers,” says Chef Tim Keating. Chef Tim serves pork from Ocala, clams from Cedar Key and Royal Red shrimp from the Atlantic.

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California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort reaches out for local pork, seafood, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Chef Brian Piasecki serves Atlantic flounder with Florida citrus and tomatoes, and his Gulf Coast white shrimp dish includes local arugula, watercress and tomatoes. “Local sourcing means we get ingredients at their peak of flavor,” says Chef Brian. “And we love to share with our guests the great diversity that Florida has to offer – and, in turn, we feel more connected to our community.”

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Also at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Frank Brough at The Wave … of American Flavors features products from 21 local and regional farms, such as their rock shrimp and blue crab cake using Florida seafood, eggs, avocados, sweet peppers, corn and micro greens. Over the last three years, The Wave … of American Flavors has hosted more than 20 local farmers in monthly farm-chef dinner.

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At AAA Five-Diamond Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Chef Scott Hunnel features a poached local chicken egg wrapped in fresh pasta, garnished with lardons from local pork. “Sourcing local is important to sustain our farmers and our community,” says Chef Scott. “And it’s wonderful to be able to visit the farm and discuss what produce we can showcase.”

Next door to Victoria & Albert’s, Chef Phillip Ponticelli at Cítricos sources Florida pink shrimp and local tomatoes for his signature shrimp with feta and tomatoes appetizer. “Fresh shrimp is abundant in Florida, and we’re supporting our local fishermen,” says Chef Phillip. “And the fresh shrimp is tender as butter.”

Also at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Chef Dennis Thompson at Narcoossee’s is using Florida sweet corn with both the halibut and lobster, and wild Florida shrimp is the star of Chef Dennis’ shrimp and grits with cherrywood smoked bacon and a green tomato chow-chow made with Florida tomatoes. Local citrus goes with poached shrimp, and pairs with local berries in the Plant City strawberry salad.

“It’s such a pleasure to cook with Florida seafood and produce,” says Chef Dennis. “We buy local whenever possible.”

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Less Than a Month Left to Savor Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on April 28th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Time for another lap around World Showcase to taste more of the creative flavors in the Outdoor Kitchens – with 11 different stops, it’s nearly impossible to get a bite of everything before the festival ends on May 18.

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We caught up with Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann for the 411:

We had to try the turkey rib – what, exactly, is it?

Chef Jens: The turkey rib at The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews [at American Adventure] is a brand-new item, and we’re pleased to be the first to feature it at Walt Disney World Resort. It’s actually a turkey wing that is split in half, dry rubbed, slow cooked in the oven for about two hours, then slightly smoked in our on-stage smoker for another 45 minutes. The meat is moist, tender and full of flavor.

Which new dish has been the hands-down crowd favorite?

Chef Jens: It has to be the Piggylicous Bacon Cupcake with maple frosting and pretzels, also at The Smokehouse. It was a big hit from day one and a true must-try. Second would be the Ghost Pepper-Dusted Tilapia at Urban Farm Eats.

Which returning dish is the biggest hit?

Chef Jens: This is a three-way tie between the Pulled Pig Slider at The Smokehouse, Shrimp and Grits at Florida Fresh and the Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare at Buttercup Cottage in the United Kingdom.

Any surprise favorites?

Chef Jens: The Eggplant Scallop at Urban Farm Eats is popular, as guests seem to enjoy the meat-like texture of slowly cooked eggplant with classic Romesco (sweet red pepper) sauce and spaghetti squash.

Marianne Hunnel, the festival’s libations expert, chimed in with the most popular drinks this year: Watermelon Passion Fruit Slush and Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria at Florida Fresh, the frozen Desert Violet Lemonade in Pineapple Promenade and the Chilled Rose Blush Lemonade in the Buttercup Cottage.

And our new finds:

  • The divine duck confit at Fleur de Lys in France, a stack of buttery duck, potatoes and caramelized onions;
  • Lemon scones with strawberry preserves and crème fraîche at Buttercup Cottage (swirl the two toppings together and dip in the scone);
  • Beijing-style Candied Strawberries at Lotus House in China;
  • And, perhaps our most favorite, the Sweet Potato-Cinnamon Waffle with Pineapple Soft Serve at Pineapple Promenade. Perfect serving size – a warm waffle with ice cream. Now that’s a happy ending.

For more information about the 21st Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or visit www.epcotinspring.com. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

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15 Years in a Row: AAA Five-Diamond Award for Victoria & Albert’s

posted on April 26th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Only 15 restaurants in North America have this distinctive honor: 15 consecutive years as AAA Five-Diamond Award winners. And Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa is in one of those coveted spots.

For 2015, just 59 restaurants made the Five-Diamond list – 47 in the U.S., six in Canada, four in Mexico and one in the Caribbean. Each year AAA reviews nearly 30,000 restaurants, but just 0.2 percent make the AAA Five Diamond. Victoria & Albert’s is the only one in Central and South Florida, and one of only two in Florida.

So we again congratulate Chef Scott Hunnel, Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek, Maître d’Hôtel Israel Perez and their team for earning the coveted award for the gem of a restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Chef Scott is in his 20th year with Victoria & Albert’s, Chef Erich has been there for 19 years, and Israel is starting his 10th. And the rest of the team gets kudos, too: Chef Aimee Rivera, Chef Tom Hill, Chef Mathew Sowers, and Manager Vivian Altesor.

“The backbone of Victoria & Albert’s continues to be the wonderful, loyal culinarians, dedicated servers and devoted reservationists,” says Israel. “They are the pillars that support our uncompromising commitment to greatness.”

AAA Five Diamond restaurants reflect the ultimate in luxury and sophistication. Add cutting-edge menus, the finest ingredients and “food prepared in a manner that’s highly imaginative and unique” and you’ve got the extraordinary combination that defines a winner. But beyond the kitchen, the maître d’ must lead an expert service staff “that exceeds guest expectations by attending to every detail in an effortless and unobtrusive manner.”

15 Years in a Row: AAA Five-Diamond Award for Victoria & Albert’s

Victoria & Albert’s wows guests every single night of the year with a fabulous “Contemporary-American” menu and refined touches such as Italian Sambonet silver, fine Bernardaud china, and Italian Frette tablecloths (hung, not folded, to avoid creases). Women get a small stool for handbags – and if you’re chilly, they’ll offer a cashmere wrap.

The restaurant offers three dining experiences: the dining room, the elegant Queen Victoria’s Room and the Chef’s Table in the kitchen.

For reservations, call 407-WDW-DVNA (939-3862). Visit Victoria-Alberts.com for more information. Dining room is $135 per person for six courses and $65 for wine pairings. Chef’s Table and Queen Victoria’s Room are $210 for 10 courses and $105 for wine pairings.

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‘Feel the Force Dining Event’ Offers More Fun for Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

posted on April 24th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


UPDATE 5/7: This event has sold out for 2014. For more Star Wars Weekends fun, click here.

During Star Wars Weekends, fans will be immersed in a galaxy far, far away. And now, a special Feel the Force Dining Event gives you VIP status for viewing for the Star Wars “Legends of the Force” motorcade plus a nightly dessert party (featuring the event’s popular Darth Vader cupcakes) and up-close viewing of the “Symphony in the Stars” fireworks spectacular.

The Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade viewing experience is at 11 a.m.-noon each day. Soft drinks, water and a snack will be provided. The dessert party is 9-10 p.m., with fireworks starting at approximately 9:45 p.m.

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To keep it extra special, capacity is limited. Along with the VIP viewing for the motorcade and entry into the “Symphony in the Stars” Fireworks Dessert Party, you’ll receive a special souvenir Disney PhotoPass card that can be linked to your Disney account and include a series of Star Wars Weekends photos.

The Feel the Force Dining Event will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 16-June 15, 2014.
Cost is $54 for adults, $32 for ages 3 to 9, including tax and gratuity. Walk-up sales will be available until Feel the Force Premium Package is sold out. To purchase the packages, go to disneyworld.com/spring or call 407-WDW-DINE.

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort