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Fun New Tastes at Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 30th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


The much-anticipated Harambe Market opens late May at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where food plays a starring role with African-inspired street food at four walk-up windows and plenty of shaded seating – 200+ seats.

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Built around a Colonial-era train depot design complete with a 1960s water tower, the marketplace re-creates a bustling center of commerce where guests are welcomed from around the world who have come to visit the little seaside town and venture out to the reserve to observe Africa’s animals.

Chef Lenny DeGeorge led the Food and Beverage concept development team, and tells us it’s the sort of food you’d find in a street market in Africa. “The menus reflect the unique personalities of the establishments’ owners,” says Chef Lenny.

New Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

“Kitamu Grill” offers skewered chicken and a kabob flatbread sandwich. “Famous Sausages” features a corn dog, inspired by a South African sausage called a boerewors, dipped in curry-infused corn batter. “Chef Mwanga’s” serves a spice-rubbed karubi rib with green papaya-carrot slaw.

“With three meaty ribs, the karubi rib is our version of the giant turkey legs served in the Disney theme parks,” says DeGeorge. We give two thumbs up to the curry corn dog, made with a special spiced sausage inspired by the traditional boerewors.

A fourth window, called Wanjohi Refreshments (“wanjohi” means “brewer” in Swahili) offers beverages including six South African wines by the glass; Safari Amber Lager and Orlando Brewing I-4 IPA on draft; red sangria with Van der Hum tangerine liqueur from South Africa; The Starr of Harambe, a frozen drink with Starr African rum with mango puree in a souvenir mug; non-alcoholic tangerine lemonade, and fountain beverages including Sparberry from Zimbabwe and Bibo from South Africa.

With shaded tables and merchandise shops, the new market, together with the recently opened Harambe Theatre (home to “Festival of the Lion King”) doubles the size of the original Harambe Village.

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Copper River Salmon is Back on Menus at Artist Point, Flying Fish Cafe and California Grill at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 29th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


One of our favorite times of year – Copper River Salmon has made its way back to menus at three Walt Disney World Resort restaurants: Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Flying Fish Café at Disney’s Boardwalk area.

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It’s so special because this prized salmon is available for a very short window of time – mid-May to mid-June. Every year those beauties travel up the Copper River in South Central Alaska, covering a distance of about 3,200 miles to their spawning ground. All that hard work means fish that is flavorful and full of goodness. The Alaskans call them Chinook or Tyees, and the largest on record is a whopping 126 pounds.

Keep an eye on the menus, but the best way to serve Copper River Salmon is simply grilled. Artist Point used cedar planks, and California Grill is planning “a la plancha” style, or grilled on a metal plate. Chef Brian Piasecki at California Grill says he’s hoping that local Zellwood corn will accompany in some form or fashion. And we’ll wait to see what the chefs at Flying Fish Cafe create.

Make your reservations now – 407-WDW-DINE.

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Behind the Scenes: Inside the Bakery at Epcot’s France Pavilion

posted on April 28th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


You smell it before you see it – that unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread hot from the oven. As you enter Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in the France Pavilion at Epcot, all five senses are awakened when you smell the bread, see the beautiful pastries, hear the lilting sound of French, touch, then taste your favorite. Maybe a crisp baguette or buttery croissant. Or a Napoleon or macaron or éclair … maybe a jambon beurre sandwich or quiche Lorraine. So many choices, so little time.

Every single item in the bakery case is made by hand – in the on-stage bread ovens or in the bustling upstairs bakery where the crew arrives before daybreak to make buttery croissants, dense quiche Florentine and parfaits almost too pretty to eat. You’ll be hungry just looking at these delicious photos by Disney photographer Matt Stroshane.

We got a special behind-the-scenes peek at the expansive upstairs bakery that’s as big as Les Halles below, with cooks busy making crème brûlèe, slicing fresh Napoleon, piping éclairs and putting the finishing touches on chocolate mousse and strawberry tarts. A tray of freshly baguettes with ham and cheese with Dijon mustard butter, a classic Parisian sandwich, was readied for the first guests of the day. Freshly made macarons in jewel tones, light as a feather, were gently placed in little boxes.

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Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie opens at 9 a.m., ahead of World Showcase, and is a wonderful little hideaway for breakfast. The pastry team of 30, under the direction of Pastry Chef Olivier Saintemarie, starts their day at 5 a.m. and rotates throughout the day until 11 p.m. to make sure guests have the freshest taste of France.

We headed back downstairs to chat with Chef Baker Matthieu Cabon from Brittany, France, who, with his team of six, turns out 700 to 800 baguettes every single day, along with specialty breads such as brioche and croissants. He started baking at age 15, and studied only bread making for four years – “I mastered bread the old-school way … no shortcuts,” he says. It was the aroma that determined his career, he says, as well as the quiet of early-morning hours when bakers do their best work.

“Bread is limitless, it just takes imagination,” says Matthieu.

And, really, it’s just four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, but you must add “know how,” says the chef. Everything at Les Halles is made from scratch, and it takes two days, start to finish, to produce a perfect baguette. His bakers make all the breads for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, Chefs de France, Monsieur Paul and brioche for the pavilion’s ice-cream shop.

“For baguettes, day one is slow fermentation, then the dough sits overnight in a cooler to coax out the flavor,” says Matthieu. “Day two we divide it, shape it and bake. That’s it.”

But it’s the artisan touch that makes a perfect baguette. “Bread is all about feeling, but the real boss is the dough, which can be temperamental with temperature, weather and humidity,” he says. “Dough follows nature, and a good baker knows just by touching whether it’s right.”

For a perfectly flaky croissant, the chef explains that the folding process is a science. “It takes six hours to shape, then it’s baked the next day,” he explains.

And for tartines, which Americans call “open-faced sandwiches,” the bakery makes a rustic loaf with blistered, rugged crust and tangy soft inside – Chef Matthieu knocks on the crust and knows by the sound if it’s perfect.

All told, they turn out eight different kinds of bread: baguettes, croissants, tartines, whole-grain loaves, pain de mie (a type of sliced bread), brioche, focaccia and walnut-raisin bread.

He and his team also make exquisite, smaller breads for Monsieur Paul: whole-grain loaves, rustic baguettes, poppy seed “epis” (a type of artisan French bread) and a mushroom, bacon and cheese bread that’s a guest favorite.

Matthieu deftly inserts a shovel-like peel into the hot oven and slides out a dozen or so crackly loaves. From the hint of a smile on his face, you know it’s a good morning.

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Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Officially Opens Today at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

posted on April 27th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


The collectible souvenir mugs are in at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and the doors officially open today.

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Those coveted cups include the Uh-Oa!, Krakatoa Punch, Nautilus, Polynesian Pearl, HippopotoMai-Tai, Rum Flight shot glasses in the three colors and the Shrunken Zombie Head – all available only at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

It’s a pretty popular spot, with waits some evenings up to two hours at peak times as guests ooh and ah over more than 1,200 pieces of memorabilia and have a good time with the staff. The handcrafted cocktails are delicious, and just order an Uh-Oa! and see what happens with the special effects.

If you want a table and there’s a wait, Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace is almost as cool as the lounge, with a lava rock waterfall and live Hawai’ian-themed entertainment every night with the gorgeous backdrop of Seven Seas Lagoon and a seat for the Magic Kingdom Park fireworks.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts recently won a VIBE VISTA Award in the category of “Best Spirits Program in Hotels.” The award represents “exemplary creativity, execution and results in an extremely competitive field,” as judged by the faculty at Johnson & Wales University. And Trader Sam’s helped land the prestigious award.

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Another Disney Cruise Line Chef Receives Top Culinary Honor

posted on April 25th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Disney parks, resorts and cruise ships have continually been recognized by both consumers and industry experts for the exceptional, innovative and fun dining experiences. Today, we congratulate Disney Cruise Line Chef Patrick Albert, executive chef of Remy restaurant on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, recently named a Master Chef of France after being inducted into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious culinary society and one of the highest honors in the country.

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Master Chef of France is a coveted title, dedicated “to preserving and perpetuating the tradition of great French cuisine.” At Remy, inspired by Disney’s animated hit film “Ratatouille,” Chef Patrick showcases French-inspired cuisine featuring superior seasonal ingredients from around the globe.

Tomato Tart – Parmesan Foam (Chef<br />
Arnaud) and Smoked Bison (Chef Scott) at Remy on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream with Disney Cruise Line Entree at Remy on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream with Disney Cruise Line Wagyu Beef (Chef Scott) at Remy on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream with Disney Cruise Line

This honor adds to a growing list of awards for the chefs onboard Disney cruise ships and at our parks and resorts around the world. Chef Arnaud Lallement, advising chef at Remy, received a third Michelin star for his restaurant in Reims, France. Chef Scott Hunnel, who collaborates with Chef Arnaud, is a 2015 James Beard Award semi-finalist and at the helm at AAA Five-Diamond Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Louis XV in Remy

Since launching in 1998, Disney ships have been the place where guests can connect with the stories and characters they cherish most, and dining has always been an important part of that story. From quick-service to fine dining, the chefs focus on exceeding guest expectations – and keep adding innovative new ideas that help move the culinary industry forward. All told, Disney Parks and Resorts has nearly 300 top-notch chefs, many of whom are graduates of prestigious culinary schools. A great meal awaits!

Do you have a favorite onboard dining experience?

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Yummy Recipe for Healthy Kids’ Day April 17 from 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

posted on April 17th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


What kid doesn’t love chicken nuggets? And what parent wouldn’t love for them to be healthier too? In celebration of Healthy Kids’ Day on April 17, we’re sharing the recipe for Grandpa’s Crispy Baked Chicken from 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where everything on the menu is inspired by old-fashioned home cooking.

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The chicken is one of four kids’ meals that get the “Mickey Check” – a tool that makes it easier to identify nutritious choices, found on select kids’ meals and fruit carts throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. To receive the Mickey Check, foods must meet The Walt Disney Company Nutritional Guidelines developed by health experts and align to federal dietary guideline recommendations.

So while the kids are having fun at 50’s Prime Time (watching TV and being playfully scolded by the waitresses), they are enjoying good-for-you tastes like grilled salmon, turkey meatloaf, meatless meatballs over multigrain spaghetti and this healthful version of chicken nuggets that is served with mashed potatoes, carrots and fruit salad.

Grandpa’s Crispy Baked Chicken
Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  1. Mix oil and garlic in a large bowl. Add chicken tenderloins, cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Press panko gently against each chicken strip until evenly coated. Lay coated chicken strips on a rack on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and bake 5 additional minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked and crisp.
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New Allergy-Friendly Menus at Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resorts

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


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On April 14, Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts will begin to introduce new allergy-friendly menus at approximately 120 quick-service and table-service locations. The menus provide more convenience and readily available options for guests with special dietary requests.

“Over the years, the number of guests with food allergies and intolerances has continued to grow. In 2013 alone, our cast members assisted with more than 650,000 special dietary requests. These new allergy menus are another way in which we can provide high-quality, safe and more accessible alternatives, and the best possible dining experience for guests with specific dietary needs,” says Gary Jones, chef and culinary dietary specialist for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

The new allergy-friendly menus provide allergen content for each menu item, making informed choices easier. Menu selection includes appetizers (where applicable), entrées, side items, desserts and kids’ meals, and focuses on the most common allergens: gluten/wheat, milk, peanut, tree nut and fish.

Guests are still able to consult directly with a restaurant chef or special diets trained cast member. We also encourage guests to continue to communicate special dietary needs to our restaurant cast members, as this allows our culinary team to take extra measures during preparation to prevent the introduction of the allergen.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is the recipient of a FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Award for dedication to providing a safe and enjoyable dining experience for vacationing families and our chefs have been recognized for their commitment to food allergy awareness, education and management.

The new menus will be introduced in signature restaurants on April 14, then debut at other table-service and quick-service restaurants (including Walt Disney World water parks, Downtown Disney and resort hotels) through September 2015. For more information on special dietary requests, click here for Walt Disney World Resort and click here for Disneyland Resort.

Click here to check out a sample menu.

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The BOATHOUSE Opens Today at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

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


The BOATHOUSE: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats opens today at The Landing at Downtown Disney, the area’s first all-new dining spot featuring spectacular floating artwork: dream boats from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

But of course it’s the food that we want to talk about, so we caught up with Executive Chef Bob Getchell, who’s been on the team more than five months creating the menu for the expansive restaurant that features three distinctive bars and nautically theme dining rooms. The BOATHOUSE restaurant is managed by the award-winning Gibsons Restaurant Group.

“Incredible food with a waterfront view is the focal point,” says Chef Bob. “All of the dining rooms have waterfront views or are on the water.” With 600 seats – 400 indoors, 200 outdoors – there’s not a bad view in the house.

The upscale menu focuses on seafood and steaks, upscale cocktails and a solid wine list. You can get anything from a casual basket of fried clams or big butterflied shrimp to “the best Angus beef burgers in town,” says Chef Bob. (And the fries are hand cut.)

New England Lobster Roll at The BOATHOUSE

Let’s start with the raw bar, serving three to five varieties of oysters on the half shell, colossal wild-caught Baja shrimp cocktail, and the BOATHOUSE lobster cocktail made with a pound-and-a-quarter lobster. Local Anastasia Gold caviar is on the menu from a farm in nearby Pierson, Fla.

Even the salads are notable, like the sirloin steak salad with eight ounces of New York strip steak, seared ahi tuna salad with Asian dressing, and the Buffalo chicken salad with Point Reyes blue cheese and spicy pecans.
The rotisserie chicken is brined 24 hours and stuffed with citrus and fresh herbs, then slow roasted. Cedar plank salmon roasts in an 875°F oven. And you’ll find dayboat fish coming in fresh, like the Cape Canaveral tripletail that’s on the opening day menu, or Florida wahoo.

Back to those steaks – Gibsons sources their meat from small farms in the upper Midwest, and features buttery filet mignon, a 28-ounce Porter house and a 32-ounce long bone rib chop (our favorite).

“We’re famous for our big desserts,” says Chef Bob. Like the S’More Baked Alaska made with one-and-a-half gallons of rocky road ice cream with graham cracker crust, topped with a mountain of meringue and marshmallows, chunks of chocolate on the outside, then torched for the s’mores finish. Meant for sharing, of course. Or the Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake with fresh berries in a whiskey-honey syrup finished with whisked buttermilk cream and whiskey caramel sauce. But Chef Bob admits his favorite dessert is the ice cream float with grape Nehi soda, poured tableside.

Kids’ meals are no afterthought – they’re all homemade, like the Sticks and Stones with chicken breast strips and fish, hand-breaded. Or the Pig in a Blanket wrapped with pretzel dough and baked.

“We’ve got something for everyone on the menu,” says Chef Bob. More than a dining experience, The BOATHOUSE immerses guests with waterfront adventures including live music and romantic Captain’s guided tours aboard The Venezia, a beautifully crafted 40-foot wooden Italian Water Taxi, or the 1800s antique steamboat Lady Rose, both featuring champagne toasts and chocolate-covered strawberries. Or head to the water for guided Amphicar tours where you’ll enter the water with a splash for a 20-minute tour.

Hours are 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.

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Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot Features ‘Disney Family of Wines’

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


Le Cellier Steakhouse is a top pick for guests who love a good steak – the AAA Candian beef tenderloin with truffle butter sauce is a hands-down favorite, but you also can order pan-seared snapper, free-range chicken and Kurobuta pork at this outstanding restaurant in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot.

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Now the wine list kicks it up, featuring six of the eight wineries of the “Disney Family of Wines,” and will be the first restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort to feature all eight, says Rick DeCicco, area manager at Le Cellier Steakhouse. The list includes several Reserve vintages.

“We’re waiting on Skywalker Vineyards and Gogi, and they are on the way,” says Rick.

The diverse collection 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.

The wineries:

  • Fess Parker Winery
  • MacMurray Ranch
  • Silverado Vineyards
  • Lasseter Family Winery
  • Gogi (owned by actor Kurt Russell)
  • Frank Family Vineyards
  • Chappellet Winery
  • Skywalker Vineyards

The restaurant has debuted a beautiful beverage book dedicated to The Disney Family of Wines, and has taken the service staff through training to educate them about the wines and winemakers. “This has a great impact on our guests since they love a great Disney story,” says Rick. Every leader at Le Cellier also has completed the introductory level course of the Court of Master Sommeliers, a feat worth mentioning (and congratulations!).

So, what does Rick suggest? “The Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon with the filet mignon is by far our most popular offering,” he says. “Or the Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon with the Angus strip steak and Cabernet butter.”

For reservations, visit DisneyWorld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE.

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California Grill Salad Celebrates Florida Tomato Month at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 7th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


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April is Florida Tomato Month, a fact that makes our neighbors to the North just a little covetous – as they are getting ready to plant for summer, we’re already harvesting beautiful, juicy Florida tomatoes. So if it’s early for you, stash this recipe ‘til summertime and re-create a divine taste of this California Grill salad that showcases heirloom tomatoes with a snappy vinaigrette and a rich dollop of ricotta cheese.

Chef Brian Piasecki says his restaurant high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World Resort will just have the Florida tomato salad on the menu for a few more weeks. “Later in the season, we get our heirlooms from Ohio,” says Chef Brian. In peak tomato season California Grill serves up to 200 pounds of tomatoes a week – on everything from tomato flatbreads to risotto, salads and other seasonal dishes.
For reservations, visit DisneyWorld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Shisito Pepper Vinaigrette
Serves 4

Shisito Pepper Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup shisito peppers, stems removed and seeded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
  • 1 pint small heirloom tomatoes cut in half
  • 8 slices sourdough bread, toasted and cut into circles with a round cutter
  • 1/4 cup shaved red onion (about a 1/4 of a small red onion)
  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 3/4 cup shisito pepper vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, divided
  • 12 small basil leaves
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For shisito pepper vinaigrette:

  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add peppers and stir until skins are blistered.
  2. Combine blistered peppers, garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  3. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until dressing is thick. Add Tabasco, pulsing to combine.
  4. Transfer to medium bowl and stir in herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For heirloom tomato salad:

  1. Layer 4 tomato slices and 2 bread rounds on each of 4 plates.
  2. Combine halved tomatoes, red onion, arugula, and shisito vinaigrette in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss well to coat.
  3. Divide mixture evenly among plates.
  4. Dollop 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese on top of each salad; top with basil leaves.

Cook’s Note: Shisito peppers are small Japanese peppers that are slightly sweet and mildly spicy. You may substitute poblano peppers for a similar flavor.

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