Fireworks at the Matterhorn at Disneyland Resort

Stellar Wine Cellar at Napa Rose at Disneyland Resort

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


Walking through the door at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, you know you’re in for a treat with all five senses engaged. Dining is about so much more than taste.

The restaurant’s show-stopping wine cellar is part of the experience – just past the check-in podium, glimpse inside the on-stage room where the wines are stored, about 1,000 bottles in all, mostly from California’s Napa Valley. You’ll see an entire wall of magnums, and dozens of uncorked bottles of reds that are served by the glass. (And check out the cool Fender Guitar that’s part of the décor.)

In case you can’t make it to the restaurant, here’s a quick video of the wine cellar. And if you’ve got a dinner reservation at Napa Rose, a staff of sommeliers will make choosing wines easy.

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A Year in Dining: The Top Five Milestones at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 30th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


With culinary triumphs big (another AAA Five-Diamond award for Victoria & Albert’s) and small (the recent croissant-donut debut at Epcot), there’s been plenty to blog about the wonderful world of food at Walt Disney World Resort. Here are five standouts:

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  1. California Grill: Nothing quite surpasses the re-imagination of the sleek California Grill high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort. New menu, expanded sushi bar, 80 wines by the glass – and the spectacular view is still part of the show.

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  1. Major makeover at France Pavilion at Epcot: On the heels of the opening of Monsieur Paul restaurant in December 2012, the makeover continued with the opening of Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles, a bakery 10 times the size of the old one at the pavilion. Best of all, the bakery opens at 9 a.m., so you can sip a latte with a warm croissant before the rest of World Showcase opens. Next door to the bakery, the new L’Artisan des Glaces Artisan Ice Cream & Sorbet is making ice cream all day long in the true French tradition (simply milk, sugar, cream, eggs and fruit).
  2. Food marketplaces at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: The farm-to-table trend made its way to the festival with “festival farms” around each of the dozen Garden Marketplaces to show how the plants grow that are part of the food and beverages served at the festival. And they’ll be back in 2014.
  3. Disney Food Trucks: Four fun new trucks are now parked at Downtown Disney West Side serving everything from pierogies and kielbasa and tandoori spiced shrimp. Superstar Catering (“favorite of the stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Namaste Café (“tasty exploration from Disney’s Animal Kingdom”), Fantasy Fare Truck (“delightful dishes from Disney’s Magic Kingdoms around the world”), and World Showcase of Flavors (“the best of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival”) offer something for every taste Wednesday through Sunday.

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  1. Starbucks: The iconic American coffee company debuted in the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom and at Fountain View at Epcot.

There were plenty of little gems, too: more “better for you” goodies in all four theme parks, the al fresco lounge at Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant, all those designer cupcakes, wine in kegs at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival . . . the list goes on.

And 2014 promises lots of big stories that we can’t wait to share.

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Sneak Peek: Tasty Dishes at Spice Road Table Coming to Morocco Pavilion at Epcot World Showcase

posted on December 17th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


We got a lucky sneak peek at a few of the delicious new tastes for Spice Road Table, opening its doors in early 2014 at the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot World Showcase.

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Take a look – from lamb sliders to rice-stuffed grape leaves and mussels tagine, Spice Road Table will be a wonderful spot for a bite along the waterfront. Inspired by the outdoor cafés along the Mediterranean, the whitewashed façade of Spice Road Table is accented in icy shades of blue from the famous “Blue City” of Chefchaouen in Morocco’s Rif Mountains.

With 120 outdoor terrace seats, the inside will seat 60 with cozy booths, Moroccan light fixtures, tilework, tapestries and art representing Morocco’s indigenous Berber tribes is showcased.

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Holiday Goodies and Menu Changes in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort

posted on December 16th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


From little joys of the season to big menu changes, here’s what’s new in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort.
Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort

A sweet seasonal treat that won’t be around much longer is the Eggnog Jubilee at Jamba Juice. We love it because it’s low-fat and only seems indulgent.

Other holidays goodies include special menus at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, Catal and Uva Bar and Café, plus a New Year’s Eve party at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.

Start with Catal, where you can enjoy three delicious courses for $32 (plus tax and gratuity) now through December 30 – except on December 25, when they will offer an extra-special prixe fixe menu. The three courses include a generous wedge salad, a 10-ounce prime rib with cheese mashed potatoes and warm apple cobbler or chocolate ganache cake for dessert. On December 25, the menu switches to three courses for $55 (plus tax and gratuity) starting with crispy lobster arancini (rice balls), followed by a savory braised lamb shank with winter squash risotto and bourbon chocolate pecan tart for dessert. A kids’ menu will be available on Christmas Day.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen has a special menu December 24-29, that includes New Orleans classics such as sweet potato-andouille bisque, tasso- and chestnut-stuffed Gulf shrimp and “turducken,” a boneless chicken stuffed inside a boneless duck stuffed inside a boneless turkey (if you haven’t tried, it’s a must).

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen will host the N’Awlins Masquerade bash, including a three-course dinner plus party hats, feathered masks and beads, and a Champagne toast. There will be live music and strolling jazz musicians, a complimentary photo booth and a balloon artist (kids are welcome). Cost is $99 (plus tax and gratuity), $20 for kids 10 and under.

Beyond the holidays, check out the new menu at Crossroads at House of Blues created by celebrity Chef Aarón Sanchez. Look for new dishes like his kicky Bolognese pasta with ground veal and pork. Don’t worry – the Juicy Lucy stays on the menu. House of Blues has also amped up its craft beer menu with nearly three dozen unique brews, many in limited quantities.

Also beyond the holidays, look for the next new burger and beer of the month at Uva Bar and Café – this month, it’s a tuna burger with ginger-spiced fries, and crisp Cismontane “The Citizen” craft beer from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Which holiday treats and new menu items will you be trying at the Downtown Disney District?

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Is It a Croissant? Is It a Donut? Try a Taste at Epcot

posted on December 16th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


The celebrity sweet of 2014 is yours for the tasting at Epcot – the hot, fried sensation that’s a cross between a croissant and a donut, this version from the talented pastry chefs at Epcot.

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“It’s sweet, it’s warm, it’s deep fried and topped with cinnamon and sugar,” says Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann. “Simply delicious.”

Grab a hot cup of coffee or tea for dunking. Cost is $4.49 (and counts as a snack on the Disney Dining Plan), and they’re only available at one spot – Refreshment Port, on the right side as you enter World Showcase. And this isn’t just a holiday sweet, Dahlmann says they’ll be on the menu indefinitely.

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Sweets, Libations for the Holidays at Disneyland Resort

posted on December 13th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


‘Tis the season for goodies, and Disneyland Resort has fun new cocktails and a sweet treat for just a few more weeks.

Mad T Party in Disney California Adventure park has three special holiday drinks through January 5: the Holly Berry, a strawberry wine-based liqueur; the Hatter’s Holiday Cocktail, eggnog with rum, brandy and blended whiskey with a red or green glow cube; and the Zombie Frost, a frosty blue concoction of rum and fruit juices. Sip and dance the night away at Mad T Party to remixes of popular holiday tunes in the wintery wonderland (and the Mad Hatter is predicting snow!).

Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure Park

Also in Disney California Adventure park, the mixologists at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge have created the Poinsettia, a cool glass of Cointreau, cranberry juice and Champagne garnished with a twist or orange zest. Or you can sip a California craft seasonal beer.

In Disneyland park, we like the idea of decorating our own Mrs. Claus Cookie at Jingle Jangle Jamboree in Frontierland – you get to pick a snowman or Mickey sugar cookie to decorate. Sit at the picnic tables and pile on the icing and sprinkles . . . then devour! Jingle Jangle Jamboree is open until January 6, with characters, games, holiday photos, crafts, live music and Santa Claus (until he disappears Christmas Eve).

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A Little Gem of a Find, Big Parties for New Year’s Eve Dining at Epcot

posted on December 13th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Yes, restaurants book up quickly for New Year’s Eve, but we discovered when we dined at Monsieur Paul this week that there still are a few reservations available for noon, 12:30, 2:30 and 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve – the perfect time to leisurely dine, then stroll the World Showcase Promenade all evening.

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The sweet little restaurant on the second floor of the France pavilion at Epcot is a lovely respite from the bustle of the world outside the windows. They’re serving a three-course menu for $75 (plus tax and gratuity). The restaurant features an extensive French wine list, and servers are happy to help pair with any course. So, if you’re looking for a spot to relax and regenerate for midnight, Monsieur Paul is parfait!

Here’s the menu for noon-6:30 p.m.:

Appetizer:
Raviole d ’escargots, crème au persil
Escargot ravioli, cream of parsley
Or
Soupe de moules safranée, crème légère aux fenouils
Mussel soup with saffron, light fennel cream
Or
Salade au Bleu
Blue Cheese Salad

Entrée:
Blanc de volaille farci duxelle des champignons, sauce blanche
Chicken stuffed with mushroom duxelle, white sauce
Or
Homard avec un velouté et ses petits légumes
Maine lobster, veloute and baby vegetables
Or
Ribs braisés, purée de carottes
Beef short ribs slowly braised in red wine, served with a carrot purée

Dessert:
New Year’s Eve dessert

Also at Epcot, from 4:30-10:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve, Fantasia 2013 celebrates the close of the year at Epcot World ShowPlace with a tribute to “Fantasia,” Walt Disney’s unique fusion of sight and sound. Inspired by memorable scenes from the classic animated feature films “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000,” the delightful party offers fun for everyone in the family.

A generous buffet sweeps around the room with soups and salads; barbecued beef, smoked pork, mahi mahi and red wine-braised chicken; side dishes from pasta and sweet corn polenta pudding to baby green beans and saffron rice. The dessert station offers cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, turnovers and fresh fruit – plus the decadent salted caramel milk and Morello Cherry dark drinking chocolate. Cost is $68.67, $44.37 for ages 3 to 10 (including tax and gratuity).

And if you’re looking for a spot to dance in the New Year, there’s still space at Atlantic Dance Hall on Disney’s BoardWalk from 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. December 31 for guests 21 and older.

A big dance floor, video DJ, party favors and complimentary Champagne toast at midnight guarantee a lively start to 2014. Cost is $37 (plus tax and gratuity).

For reservations for any of the New Year’s Eve dinners or parties, call 407-WDW-DINE.

Happy 2014!

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A Holiday Indulgence from Pastry Chef at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

posted on December 10th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Just in time for the holidays, here’s a decadent sweet ending that you can make with just four ingredients (plus water). This Chocolate Pudding Cake is on the menu at California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and they serve a fancy version you can check out in the video that’s adorned with Nutella, silky ganache, mint whipped cream, and mini house-made marshmallows and chocolate meringue kisses. Watch Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes work his magic!

This recipe is simply the dense chocolate cake. You could add the extras, but we love it with nothing more than a generous scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Pudding Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray with flour; set aside.
  2. Combine water and 1/3 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar melts. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; slowly add chocolate, stirring until completely melted. Stir in butter, a few pieces at a time, until completely melted.
  3. Combine eggs and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl; beat with an electric mixer until pale yellow and very frothy.
  4. Slowly stream chocolate-butter mixture into egg mixture, stirring until smooth and satiny.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan inside of a larger roasting pan; pour hot water around cake pan until water reaches halfway up sides of cake pan. Carefully transfer pans to oven.
  6. Bake 28 to 30 minutes until just firm.
  7. Remove cake pan from roasting pan and let cool 30 minutes. Carefully invert cake onto a large plate before serving, or serve directly from pan.

Cook’s note: Cake can be served with mint flavored marshmallows, chocolate meringue kisses, a spread of Nutella, or mint whipped cream.

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Special New Year’s Eve Celebrations at Disneyland Resort

posted on December 9th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


From a New Year’s Cupcake at Jolly Holiday Bakery in Disneyland park to the Napa Rose New Year’s Eve Bash, the Disneyland Resort will ring in 2014 with something fun for everyone.
Special New Year’s Eve Celebrations at Disneyland Resort

We’ll start with the Napa Rose celebration. Actually, there are two: an early seating from 5:30 – 7 p.m. with a four-course dinner (think grilled hand-harvested sea scallops and 28-day-aged prime New York beef … Chef Andrew Sutton’s fabulous Wine Country Feast of seasonal classics) and festive decorations. Cost is $125 plus tax and gratuity. The perfect way to start the party early when you have plans later in the evening.

The late seating commences with bubbly at 8:15 p.m. and a dinner dance party with live music – they’re adding a dance floor in the lounge area with hundreds of silver, gold, red and black balloons to create a magical party. Plus hats and party favors, of course.

Start with honeyed profiteroles with goat cheese and cranberry jam, followed by imported Osetra caviar parfait layered with Skuna Bay salmon tartare, cucumber pearls and crème fraîche. You’ll move on to three more courses before a 30-minute “intermission” for dancing, followed by two more courses (including dessert). It’s all perfectly timed to take you to midnight. Dancing goes ‘til 1 a.m.

The five-course tasting menu is $220 plus tax and gratuity (no children’s pricing), plus $65 for a flight of world-class wines for pairing. Chef Sutton also has a delicious vegetarian menu.

For reservations, call 714-300-7170. Valet is complimentary.

Other celebrations, special tastes for New Year’s Eve:

  • Look for menu specials in Disneyland park at Carnation Café on Main Street U.S.A. (surf and turf with shrimp and sirloin steak); at French Market (roasted pork chop with Calvados applesauce, braised greens and sweet potato soufflé); at Blue Bayou (a seafood pot pie); and Cafe Orleans (flat iron steak with bone marrow demi-glace, garlic mashed potatoes and acorn squash).
  • Flo’s V8 Café at Disney California Adventure park will offer meat loaf with Coca-Cola barbecue sauce and two sides.
  • Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel has a prixe fixe, three-course menu for $65 that includes spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, filet and lobster and chocolate paté.
  • Storyteller’s Café at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has a prixe fixe two-course dinner with with porcini-rubbed rib-eye with scampi-style prawns, mashed potatoes and Cabernet demi-glace, and a duo of dark chocolate and Bailey’s crème brûlée with espresso cookies for $29.99.
  • And who can resist a New Year’s Eve cupcake? Especially the New Year’s Cupcake with dark chocolate cake, Nutella filling, Belgian white chocolate frosting with black and silver decorations, silver disco dust, a chocolate Mickey, chocolate truffle and bow tie? That’s a party on a plate! Look for it at Jolly Holiday Bakery, Fidler, Fifer & Practical Cafe and Pacific Wharf Café at Disney California Adventure park, and White Water Snacks at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Happy 2014!

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Latin-Inspired Tastes for Disney ¡Viva Navidad! At Disney California Adventure Park

posted on December 5th, 2013 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Music, dancing and Disney characters are front and center at Disney ¡Viva Navidad! in the Paradise Gardens area of Disney California Adventure park – but it’s the zesty new dishes that we can’t wait to try!

Part of the holidays at the Disneyland Resort through January 6, you can try some new Latin-inspired tastes and be entertained by a lively mix of Mariachi and Samba musicians, folklórico and carnaval dancers and 12-foot-tall mojiganga puppets in a high-energy street party several times each day. The party is led by the “Three Caballeros” – Donald Duck and his life-long amigos Panchito from Mexico and Jose Carioca from Brazil, plus Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse!

Here are just a few of the delicious tastes – have you tried any yet? Do you have a favorite?

Homemade Pozole

Homemade Pozole: Pozole is a special occasion stew from Guerrero State, Mexico, where it once had ritual significance. This traditional pre-Columbian dish is made from pork, tomato, hominy and cumin. Available at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camaron): This refreshingly spicy appetizer is popular throughout the coastal regions of Mexico. Typically served with diced avocado, sea salt, cilantro, Serrano chili, hot sauce and a twist of lime. Available at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

Torta al Pastor

Torta al Pastor: Spanish for “shepherd style,” torta al pastor is a dish developed in Central Mexico with spit-grilled meats (with pork in place of lamb) due in part to a Lebanese influence in this area. Available at Paradise Garden Grill.

Sopes

Sopes de Barbacoa: A sope is a traditional Mexican dish originating in the central and southern parts of Mexico made up of a thick fried tortilla with both vegetable and meat toppings. Highlighting this dish is the barbacoa oxtail along with a flavorful salsa. Barbacoa is believed to have originated centuries ago in Barbados, where meats were marinated in tropical herbs and spices, preserving them as well as enhancing their natural flavors. They were then slowly cooked in a “barabicu,” or “sacred fire pit.” Available at Paradise Garden Grill.

Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole: Legend has it that the nuns at Puebla’s Convent of Santa Rosa combined an assortment of ingredients including unsweetened chocolate, roasted chili peppers, walnuts, stale breadcrumbs and chicken, resulting in the dark mole sauce known today. Available at Paradise Garden Grill.

Mahi Veracruzano (Pescado Veracruzano): The coastal Mexican state of Veracruz is known for its abundant seafood. This regional specialty is a fine example of its rich, 500 year old culinary history. Available at Paradise Garden Grill.

Champurrado: Traditional Christmas time Mexican hot chocolate is a combination of chocolate, milk and masa harina (corn meal), heated and slowly whisked with a molinillo (a Mexican Whisk). Available at Paradise Garden Grill.

Bunuelos with Cajeta: These light, crispy sweet treats are deep-fried and sprinkled with a cinnamon-sugar mix and drizzled with cajeta originated in Spain – now popular throughout Mexico at holiday time. Cajeta, a rich caramel sauce, is a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelized milk. Available at Bayside Brews.

ChocoFlan

Chocoflan: A new holiday favorite found throughout Mexico and the United States. In some circles it’s known as the “impossible cake” for its unique and “impossible” combination of classic Mexican Flan atop chocolate cake. Available at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

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Sweet Pineapple and Golden Raisin Tamales: This traditional holiday favorite dates back to the days of the Aztecs and is made from scratch with masa (corn meal), pineapple and golden raisins. Available at Bayside Brews.

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