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July 2009 Archives

July 1, 2009

Picnic In The Park - Animal Kingdom

by AllEars® Team Member Jack Marshall

I have always thought that Disney's Animal Kingdom had some of the best food available in any of the parks. Picnic In The Park (PITP) is no exception.

First offered back in April, PITP is definitely a trailblazing meal option for Disney. The basic idea of the program is to select from two tiers of healthy food selections - tier 1 is sandwiches and tier 2 is meats. Details on what the selections are can be found on our Picnic In The Park page.

The process starts when you place your order at the Desk located to the right of the Island Mercantile building.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Orders must be placed a minimum of one and one half hours prior to picking up but you can order your picnic anytime between park opening and 1:30 p.m. for pick up anytime between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The food is prepared in the kitchens of Tusker House. Pick up is done at the window of the Kusafari Coffee Shop and Bakery.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Recently, I dined with two friends and we selected the rotisserie chicken option for three people. The bill came to $29.99 ($31.94 with tax). We ordered our picnic at 10:15 a.m. and picked it up at 12:45 p.m. There are 16 suggested picnic spots throughout the park. We chose the Dawa Bar for its accessibility, closeness to Kusafari Coffe Chop and Bakery and the umbrella tables that kept the spot cooler and dry.

The meal comes in a green reuseable cloth bag.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

The tier 2 meal for three consists of your entree, two sides to share, a dessert for each diner and a water for each.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Our rotisserie chicken was supposed to include 6 pieces but we got 8. I don't know whether it was a mistake or not but it was definitely not wasted.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Four our two sides, we chose mashed potato and gravy and macaroni and cheese.These came in pint containers (16 ounces).

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

We all selected different desserts. Shown here are the cornbread and the brownie.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

The final dessert was a crisped rice treat.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

The drinks were 12 ounce bottles of water and were the only option. Additional items like soda could be purchased individually if desired.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Finally, all the necessary plates, napkins, plastic utensils, mayonaisse and mustard were included as well.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

I found the meal to be very good. It was heavily seasoned and was quite hot when we sat down to eat it. My dining companions also enjoyed their meals. We did notice that several things were lacking, notably butter or margerine for the cornbread and wet naps to clean up after eating the chicken. But these were minor things.

As of June 27th, 2009, Picnic In The Park has expanded to offer meals for two. Previously, meals for three were the smallest meals you could get.

The Disney Dining Plan is accepted for this but it will take one adult quick service entitlement for each meal ordered. In other words a meal for two would take two counter service credits while a meal for three would take three, etc.

I have to admit that this is an item that I most likely would not have purchased for myself but I am very glad that I had to for this report. I know I will be doing this option when my family returns to WDW later this year.

Be sure to visit out Rate and Review Area to share your experience and see what others have to say as well!

July 9, 2009

A Tribute to Austin Wuennenberg

AllEars® Team Member Jack Marshall shares his thoughts about monorail pilot Austin Wuennenberg:


How difficult an undertaking is it to write about someone that wasn't famous and you never even met? I wondered that as I sat down at the keyboard to write this. I'm speaking of Austin Wuennenberg, the monorail pilot that lost his life last weekend in a monorail accident
at Walt Disney World.

Austin worked in a place he loved doing a job he loved - monorail pilot. How do I know that? Because no one who deals directly with the guests as Disney calls them does it for the money. There isn't much of that involved with working for Disney. They do it for the love of the job, for the chance to make the guests happy and for the good feeling they get inside when they have done their job well.

He had tremendous success as a monorail pilot, becoming a role model to the many children that had the privilege to ride in the front of his cab. His position demanded that he explain the same things over and over to nearly everyone who rode in his cab. He never complained and treated every question he was asked like it was the first time he heard it.

I watched the video that the Orlando Sentinel has put online that was taken by Diane Cimino of Briton, CT earlier in the week that the accident happened. Watch Austin and you can plainly see how well he interacted with the guests. And he knew his stuff, too. How many of you could rattle off the 12 colors of the WDW monorails without pausing?

Trains and monorails capture little boys imaginations early in life. For them to actually meet someone who runs one is better than meeting the President or even Mickey Mouse. The joy and amazement that Austin brought to that little boy in the video was only the tip of the joy he brought to so many others. Often times, a person does not intend to be a role model for someone. It's usually the last thing on their mind. But those are the times that end up being most indelibly seared into a child's memory, an event that will live in the child's mind for decades. Austin never got the chance to be rich and famous. But he had the position of role model down pat. He was a cast member that Walt himself would have been proud of. Sure he had problems of his own and wasn't perfect but he had the ability to put that all aside when he went on stage.

Your family and friends will miss you dearly, Austin. There is another group who will miss you as well - the children who never got the chance to ride with you. And I guarantee that there is at least one little boy who will never forget you.

So here's to you, Austin. I salute you. I didn't know you at all but I knew you well. And now a few other folks do, too.

July 18, 2009

A Conversation with Marianne Hunnel: 2009 F&W Festival

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor


The other day, I had the chance to speak with Marianne Hunnel, manager of culinary programs for the upcoming Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. I asked her if she could "spill the beans," so to speak, about what we can expect at the annual 45-day eating and drinking extravaganza, which runs this year from September 25 through November 8.

"I'm really excited about this year's festival,"Hunnel stated. "We have such an exciting lineup of chefs and programs."

Hunnel, who, along with her husband, Victoria and Albert's chef Scott, just celebrated her 20th year with Disney, noted that they are still adding the final touches to many of the events scheduled for this year's festival. She did, however, share many, if not all, details of what's to come.

What's New?

"We're going to have three new kiosks around World Showcase," Hunnel said, referring to the international food booths scattered amidst the country pavilions around World Showcase Lagoon. "The first will be right as you enter World Showcase, and it will feature desserts and champagne. You can arrive at the festival and toast the day along with maybe a Grand Marnier parfait. Then if you're hungry for real you can move to straight to another new kiosk -- Rio de Janeiro, from Brazil."

The other new kiosk this year is Thailand, featuring samples of savory Thai food paired with, not wine, but beer.

"We've found that in many countries wine isn't necessarily as popular," Hunnel noted. "And it's sometimes not the best pairing with the food."

While there won't be any big "experiences" around World Showcase, like last year's Louisiana or Australia exhibits, there will be several additions that offer more than just the samples you'll find at the food booths. For example, the Edy's Ice Cream Experience will offer a variety of flavors and interactive activities. The Italian region of Puglia will also be represented for all 45 days of the festival. Located near the Italy pavilion, of course, you'll find demonstrations there on pasta-making and tastings, including tastings of Puglia-produced olive oil, which Hunnel claimed is "incredible in flavor -- fruity, sweet, the aromas." My mouth was watering as she waxed poetic -- I do so love food.

Hunnel also said that by the time the festival starts the new lounge, Cava del Tequila, will be open in the Mexico pavilion, and it will be the site of tequila tastings each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Spirits seem to be making a comeback," she noted. "There's a timeless tradition, obviously, of people enjoying spirits, but it seems that they are gaining in popularity again. Some guests at the festival like to explore different tastes like this, particularly when the people who crafted the beverages are present. It's an educational journey."

Also in Mexico, at least for part of the festival (the specific dates have yet to be determined) there will be chefs and demonstrations courtesy of the Mexican Tourist Board.

One program the Hunnel said she was very excited about is the new Celebrating with Family and Friends in the Kitchen. The concept is that a celebrity chef will prepare a three-course lunch for the audience, alongside one of their friends, another chef, or perhaps even a family member. The tentative schedule of these lunches is listed below.

What's Returning?

Although last year's experimental venture City Tastes is not returning, the ever-popular Party for the Senses will again be featured every Saturday, adopting at least one aspect of City Tastes -- a weekly theme.

"Each week, we'll be celebrating something," Hunnel noted, "from Comfort Foods with a Twist to Classical Cuisine presented in a new way." (Hunnel detailed the themes for each weekend, which I've listed at the end of this blog, along with other info she shared with me about other programs.)

The Party will, however, feature a new twist this year -- an exclusive Wine View Lounge, available for an additional fee, will give a limited number of guests the chance to partake of special amenities: a secluded area; private, reserved tables; and special menu items.

"Guests have expressed a desire to have an exclusive area like this," Hunnel noted. "We think this will be the place to see and be seen."

Also returning are the popular Sweet Sundays brunches, during which a celebrity chef prepares a variety of desserts after guests have a light brunch. Programs like Authors without Borders, the Wine School and other signature dining events, will also return. The Cheese Tastings are being offered again as well, although they'll be starting a little earlier than in previous years -- 10:30 a.m. Hmm, wine and cheese first thing in the morning -- Breakfast of Champions? Could be, could be...

Hunnel said that the final schedule, complete with dates, times and prices, should be available online at disneyworld.com within the next 5-10 days, but here are some specifics that she could share with me:

Celebrating Friends and Family in the Kitchen

" September 26 The Deen Brothers (Jamie and Bobby, sons of Food Network's Paula Deen)

" October 2 Suvir Saran

" October 9 Patti LaBelle (yes, the singer -- she has a cookbook out!)

" October 16 Dean Max and Paula DaSilva

" October 23 Alan Wong with Art Smith

" October 30 Cat Cora (possibly with her mother)

" November 6 Andrea Immer Robinson, M.S. - With husband John Robinson

Party for the Senses

" September 26 - Spanish cuisine/wines (chef Douglas Rodriguez will be on hand this week)

" October 3 - Comfort Foods with a Twist (think macaroni and cheese made with artisanal cheeses and homemade pasta)

" October 10 - South American (including chef Jeff Tunks)

" October 17 - Classical Cuisine presented in a new way

" October 24 - Asian (including chef Alan Wong)

" October 31 - Fall Harvest (including chefs Cat Cora and Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace in New Orleans)

" November 7 - Italian

Sweet Sundays

" September 27 Andrew Shotts
" October 4 Warren Brown & Mary Meyers
" October 11 David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA
" October 18 Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
" October 25 Clair Clark from The French Laundry
" November 1 Geraldine Randalsome
" November 8 Jacques Torres

My mouth is watering already! I'll be covering the first weekend of the Festival and returning again later in October with my family for our annual visit. If you have any suggestions of things I should try specifically, drop me a note here and I'll make the supreme sacrifice of "researching" these fun food and wine events for our readers!

July 22, 2009

Mike and Michelle Meet in the Magic Kingdom

On a recent trip, All Ears team members Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean held a small meet in the Tomorrowland Noodle Station. About 30 friends gathered to meet, take some photos, and chat about all things Disney.


There were even a few surprises. The newest All Ears team member, Mike Bachand (a.k.a. Dizney Mike) showed up to say hello.


WDW Today and Studios Central host, Matt Hochberg, popped in with his lovely wife, Marissa.


One of the special surprises was that three members of Team All Ears running team showed up to meet Mike and Michelle, who are serving as co-captains of the team. Amanda McKittrick Gonzales and Tracy Hughes Sabotin made it to the Noodle Station and Holly Aulen met us earlier in the day for a Dole Whip.



These ladies are part of our 50-person team who are all running a Disney race in January to raise money for Deb Wills' Avon Breast Cancer fund. The team meets virtually via a Facebook page, but it was a real treat to meet them in person.

Thanks for coming to say hello, everyone!!

July 28, 2009

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure

By Michelle and Liam Scribner-MacLean

Kim Possible Logo

SPOILER ALERT: We share some of the hidden surprises in Germany and Japan, so if you haven't embarked on this adventure and want to save the surprises, you might want to read this later.

As veterans of Walt Disney World, we know that there is always something more to do".some other adventure hidden around the corner, so on a recent trip, we decided to try something new just to see what it was like: the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. For us, Disney rarely disappoints, and this was no exception.

We were at WDW as a surprise trip to celebrate Liam's 10th birthday. Because he did most of the spy work on these cases, I've asked him to join me in describing this experience.

Read on and we'll tell you what we learned.

Why We Chose to Do the Kim Possible Adventure
Liam: Because it looked really fun. I had heard that you get to go around the countries in World Showcase to see these cool things. I've been to EPCOT a lot and I think I've seen everything, but I haven't been there since last August and I'd heard about this and wanted to try it.

Michelle: Liam is like his mom. He loves everything Disney and would opt to go to the parks every day for 14 hours a day, given the option. While he enjoys World Showcase, he's not always enthused about spending lots of time there. I thought this would be a great way to show us some of the many details that Imagineers built into these pavilions.

What We Thought It Would Be:
Liam: I had no idea what it would be. I thought it would be a scavenger hunt, but it ended up being better.

Michelle: I, too, thought it would be a scavenger hunt"and to be honest, I thought it might to be a bit tedious, with us running around from spot to spot, finding minute details and writing them down. However, knowing the way Disney does things, I was hoping for more of an exciting adventure".and it was.

First, we stopped off Innovations and they swiped Liam's park ticket to send us to a country to get us started. We received our Kimmunicator from a Kim Possible cart, which sent us to our first case in Germany. Here is Liam and another spy (he looked vaguely familiar) as we begin our challenge.


What We Liked:
Liam: Disney made things just for this adventure. We did two countries and one of them was Germany. In Germany, we went to the toy shop and I pressed the Kimmunicator and it told me to remember a number and a train came around with three numbers on it.

I liked all of it. I liked how the Kimmunicator worked. You pressed OK and it would make something happen in the countries. In Japan, Bebe came out of the top of the toy shop display.

Bebe - Kim Possible

At the miniature railroad, a church clock lights up.

German Church Kim Possible

Michelle: I agree. Wow! That Kimmunicator was really neat. It was a cell phone which was programmed to introduce the case that we were working on. "Spies" are walked through five or six different tasks around the countries, each of which showed Liam and I things that we'd hardly noticed other times we'd visited the countries.

Here's the thing that was really cool about this little device".Often when you got to a certain area to follow up on a clue, the Kimmunicator will ask you to look at a certain spot and press a button on the phone. In the toy store in Germany, a train drove by with a special code and the little clock lit up at the miniature railroad. We loved it!
This is at the end of the Germany adventure. You'll need to use your communicator to look up at this balcony for a surprise.

Germany Kim Possible

Another thing that I liked was that this was a great way to kids and adults to have fun together. I went into it thinking that I would just let Liam do everything, but after the first few tasks, I was really engaged and interested to see what the next surprise was.

Each adventure took about 30 - 45 minutes to complete, but since we didn't have anything definite on the agenda, it was a great way to spend our time in EPCOT.

What We Didn't Like:
Liam: I liked everything. I thought it was fun.

Michelle: I have only two little criticisms. First, it may have just been my old mom ears, but I had difficulty hearing some of the things that the characters were saying on the Kimmunicator.

Second, the "cases" didn't really flow well in terms of storyline, but the excitement of seeing all the fun things pop up and turn on offset that.

Would We Do It Again:
Liam: Yes! I didn't get to do all of the countries and I'd like to try it again because there were a lot of surprises and things popped out. I think that kids and adults will enjoy it if they do it.

This is a really cool thing that happens in Japan. It tells you to look at a black rock and this appears.

Japan Rock Kim Possible

This is another cool thing in Japan. This lights up when you push the Kimmunicator.


Michelle: Definitely. We did only two of the seven adventures and I am looking forward to taking on more villains and helping Kim Possible solve crimes.

This is a really fun experience for kids and parents alike and a new way to have fun and look at some details you may have missed at World Showcase.

Find out more about the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure!

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About July 2009

This page contains all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in July 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.