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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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Disney Parks After Dark: Fireworks Brighten Hong Kong Disneyland

posted on April 23rd, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Tonight’s “After Dark” image was shot at Hong Kong Disneyland of the park’s nighttime fireworks spectacular, “Disney In The Stars.”

The show is an illuminating celebration that combines music with fireworks that brighten the sky above the park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Favorite Disney character images and lighting effects are also projected across the castle’s walls and turrets during the show.

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Have you seen “Disney In The Stars”? Tell us what you liked about it in the comments section below!

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PHOTOS: Dockside Margaritas Opens Today at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 23rd, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


Last week, we shared that Dockside Margaritas would be opening soon at Downtown Disney. Today is opening day, and we’re sharing the first photos of the cool, laid-back new location. Sit back and enjoy the relaxing things in life — Florida style — while you take a look through the gallery below.

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Show your #DisneySide at the Final Expedition Everest Challenge at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Aubrey Hang, Sports Marketing Community Manager, runDisney


On Saturday, May 2 runDisney will host its final Expedition Everest Challenge. This exciting nighttime 5K through Disney’s Animal Kingdom includes obstacles throughout the course and is followed by a scavenger hunt making it the ultimate adventure.

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Get prepared for this final run on the wild side by showing your best Everest #DisneySide. Check out this gallery of some of my favorite outfits spotted during previous races.

To get you ready for the journey, Leslie Kay of DisneyBound put together this male look with pieces from Champion and New Balance.

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Yeti or not, I can’t wait to see your wild outfit choices and share with you highlights from this year’s race in my next post. Good luck to all participants!

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Princess Perfection at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 21st, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Two years ago when I was new to the Downtown Disney team, my family visited with my then 2-year old niece. One of my first Disney Parks Blog stories was “Big Fun For Little Ones at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort.” Twenty-four months and two more kids later (my sister now has a 6 month old and an 18 month old, too!), I’ve seen hundreds of little princesses come out of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, but recently, it was finally MY little princess — my now four-year-old niece, Harper.

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As excited as Harper was about picking out her dress (she went with Princess Anna), she was equally as nervous about having someone brush her curly hair. For a minute, I thought we might have to cancel our appointment, and then we met her Fairy Godmother-in-training, Lydia. She was amazing! Before Harper got into the makeover chair, Lydia did a practice run to show Harper how gently she would brush her curly locks. To Harper’s surprise, it didn’t tug at all.

During her princess transformation, Harper got to pick out her hairstyle (I was thrilled that she went with the ever-classy “Fairytale Princess” option), choose her nail polish color, and select her make-up shades. The finishing touches were a shimmering princess jewel for her face, a rhinestone crown for her head, and a pink Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique sash to complete the look. When it was all over, she was invited to sign the “Princess Autograph Book” – she left her signature “H,” taking up a full page.

Later that afternoon, when I asked Harper what her favorite part of the day was, she said “being with my Fairy Godmother. I hope she will always be my Fairy Godmother.” I also caught Harper looking at herself in the full length-mirror, doing a twirl, and whispering to herself “today is my princess day” when she thought no one was looking. (This is a true story. And it was as adorable as it sounds.) Finally, on our car ride home, after a full day in the parks, she told me that when she grows up she wants to be a Fairy Godmother, too.

Harper left Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique with a princess backback filled with her remaining make-up and polish, which came in handy, because she wore her Princess Anna dress three days in a row! More importantly, she left with memories that will last for years to come and pictures that will always make me smile.

Have you taken your princess to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below – I hope it was just as magical as ours was!

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This Week in Disney Parks Photos: The BOATHOUSE Docks at Downtown Disney

posted on April 18th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


The BOATHOUSE, the newest eatery to open at Downtown Disney here at the Walt Disney World Resort, officially opened its doors on Monday.

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The restaurant offers a one-of-a-kind waterfront dining experience that includes a menu of steaks, chops, fresh seafood and much more. The BOATHOUSE also showcases a must-see display of rare watercrafts from the 1930s – 1950s, plus a special fleet of 1960s Amphicars. (Check out Darcy’s original blog post to learn how you can take a ride in one of these beauties).

The BOATHOUSE is so unique and visually compelling that we had to share more images with you. Be sure to check out the gallery below.

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Disney Parks After Dark: Astro Orbitor Revisited at Disneyland Park

posted on April 16th, 2015 by Paul Hiffmeyer, Chief Photographer for Public Relations, Disneyland Resort


For a photographer, Astro Orbitor is one of those Disneyland park attractions that just keeps giving. I have photographed it many times – shooting photos for use in the media and riding the attraction while photographing celebrities, which is very exciting. But honestly, the most fun is when I’m photographing it for the Disney Parks Blog.

These first two photos are from previous Disney Parks Blog posts, and show motion blur and excitement.

The Astro Orbitor at Disneyland Park The Astro Orbitor at Disneyland Park

The next three photos of the Astro Orbitor show the beauty of the attraction at rest, as opposed to its thrilling side.

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The BOATHOUSE Makes a Splash at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 13th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Over the past year, The BOATHOUSE: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats has been hoisting up along the Downtown Disney skyline. The venue, open today, is the first of several new restaurants coming to The Landing, a new neighborhood that will be part of Disney Springs.

The BOATHOUSE is an upscale waterfront dining experience showcasing steaks, chops, fresh seafood and a raw bar. Built over the water, the 600 seat nautically themed restaurant also features a display of rare dream boats from the 1930s – 1950s, a beautifully crafted water taxi and a fleet of amphibious autos, called Amphicars.

I had the chance to talk with Theron Skees, executive creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering to learn more about how The BOATHOUSE charted its course. Theron shared “It’s been such a team effort between WDI and the Schussler design team; to see Steve’s dream come to life is awesome. It’s been a true collaboration. Guests will experience rooms that represent different time periods in the history of the building, with a focus on a view of the water. Each design element: the height of the restaurant ceiling, the width of the deck, the transparency of the railing, it was all considered so guests would have maximum visibility to the water.”

I got to tour The BOATHOUSE recently, and if stunning water views and impeccable attention-to-detail were what they were aiming for, well, they nailed it!

Earlier today, Pam Brandon shared details on the menu, so now I’m giving you an early look at what else you can expect at this unique location:

Amphicar Rides – Is it a car? A boat? Yes. And yes! Guests can experience the thrill of a Captain’s guided tour aboard a rare Amphicar that drives on land and floats in the water. The $125 price tag includes your own Car Captain and seating for up to three guests. Along the way, you’ll have a great view of Downtown Disney, direct from the water. I tested the Ampihicars last week and had a blast; you literally drive into the lake with a splash – plus, I felt like a celebrity, waving to all the curious guests onshore! This is the only place in the world to ride in these vintage vehicles. Tours are available daily from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., weather permitting, and will be available soon.

The BOATHOUSE Is Set To Make a Splash at Downtown Disney In Florida

Italian Water Taxi Cruise – The Venezia, a breathtaking 40-foot wooden Italian Water Taxi also offers a Captain’s guided tour of Downtown Disney; this one is complete with live music, chocolate-covered strawberries and a champagne toast. Tours will be offered hourly from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., weather permitting, starting soon, for individuals and groups of up to 20. The cost is $75 per person or $50 per child under age 13. (Want a more private tour for two? Ask about the Antique Steamboat Tour aboard Lady Rose; the cost is $150 per couple.)

“Floating Art” – I knew they were beautiful, but I had no idea I was looking at a multi-million dollar fleet of rare boats. Gathered from museums, private collectors, and boat shows from around the world, be sure to take some time to stroll the marina. Photos are not only allowed, but encouraged, so have your camera handy.

Interior Décor – Boat motors mounted on the wall. Trophies from regattas of days gone by. Stunning photography and artwork, some historical, some richly modern. It’s all incredible. But perhaps my favorite décor element is the brand-new boat that the team modified so it could include a dining table. (I’ll just say it now, everyone will want to sit there, me included!) Of course, the true visual hero, even from inside the restaurant, is the water. The good news is that every single table has a great view, so there’s no such thing as a bad seat.

Entertainment – Harbor Master festivities take place throughout the day and evening, with flag ceremonies and lively musical performances of beloved bugle songs, performed aboard Lady Rose. Inside, live entertainment takes center stage with a variety of musical styles – during my “sneak peek,” familiar songs were floating through the restaurant.

Check out the gallery below for a glimpse of what you can expect when you visit.

It’s hard to guess what guests will love most about The BOATHOUSE. What are you most excited for? Tell me in the comments below – I’d love to know!

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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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First-Ever Disney Cruise Line Meet-Up Showcases Exciting New Entertainment

posted on April 10th, 2015 by Jonathan Frontado, Disney Cruise Line


Yesterday we hosted our first-ever Disney Cruise Line meet-up! This special event was a sneak peek at exciting new entertainment coming to our ships, and meet-up guests got to go behind the scenes with the creative team who develops our onboard entertainment.

We heard from three show directors about our new series of “Frozen”-inspired experiences, Star Wars Day at Sea and “Tangled: The Musical.” The event was packed full of fun with special appearances by Disney friends like Anna, Elsa and Olaf. We also got a first look at our “Tangled: The Musical” in production, including this never-before-seen artwork of one of the show’s spectacular scenes . . .

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I loved the opportunity to meet hundreds of Disney Parks Blog readers. There were some familiar faces there, too, including friends from “Frozen,” Star Wars and “Tangled.” To be expected, Olaf gave out plenty of warm hugs!

Check out the video and photo gallery below to see highlights from this incredibly fun event. Thanks to all of you who made Disney Cruise Line’s first meet-up a great one!

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