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August 8, 2017

Orlando's Magical Dining Month - Part 2

Deb's Digest Blog
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Here we are again talking about eating during Orlando's Magical Dining Month. Previously, we went over the Walt Disney World restaurants that were participating this year, including those at Disney Springs and the Four Seasons.

In this blog we travel outside the Disney bubble! Are you ready?

IMPORTANT: Be sure to read Part 1 for our TIPS and SUGGESTIONS

Magical Dining Month offers a great chance to try new things. With 80 restaurants representing a wide variety of cuisines you are sure to find something you like. So come on -- get OUT of the Disney bubble! Here are places we have tried -- many we've enjoyed, a few we haven't.

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DOWNTOWN AREA

These are great places to try especially if you have tickets to Dr. Phillips Arts Center! Make it a real date night!

The Boheme at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando - Get an early reservation if you're going to an event at Dr. Phillips Center afterward.

Le Coq Au Vin - South Orange Avenue in Orlando - Get an early reservation if you're going to an event at Dr. Phillips Center afterward.

UNIVERSAL CITY WALK

Mama Della's Ristorante - Portofino Hotel at Universal -- We love eating at Mama's. Reminds us of an Italian restaurant in New York during the '60s! Mama wears her housecoat and musicians entertain.

The Kitchen - Hard Rock Cafe - We dined here once and didn't have a very good experience so haven't returned.

RESTAURANT ROW

Eddie V's Prime Seafood - West Sandlake Rd

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar - Orlando

Seasons 52 - We've been here several times and have never been disappointed.

Urbain 40 (Chef Tim Keating, formerly of Disney, is here now and recently debuted a new menu.)

Vines Grille & Wine Bar -- We tried this last year during Magical Dining Month and the food was delicious, service was great, with good selection of wines.

SURROUNDING AREA

1921 by Norman Van Aken - Mount Dora - Go for an afternoon of walking around Mount Dora and then grab dinner before heading home.

Cafe D Antonio (Celebration) - Great Italian food just outside Disney property.

David's Club (Omni) Champions Gate - One of our favorite places, but we always get the delish burger! This time we will go and try the steak!

SUGGESTIONS

Deb: Wow, it's hard to choose a favorite, so I'll just share the spots where I had my most memorable experiences over the last year: Mama Della's, 1921, Le Coq Au Vin, and Urbain 40.

Linda: I agree with Deb that it is hard to pick just a couple places. Her choices are also my choices.

Go and enjoy Magical Dining Month in Orlando!

Let us know about your experiences! Bon Appetit!

August 7, 2017

Orlando's Magical Dining Month - Part 1

Deb's Digest Blog
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It's that time of year again -- the time when a number of Orlando-area restaurants band together to offer patrons a chance to experience fine dining at a bargain price while benefiting a good cause, or causes. Yes, it's time for Orlando's Magical Dining month, and this year we get a bonus preview week, too! The eat-fest begins August 25 and ends October 1, with more Walt Disney World restaurants participating this year than ever before.

You might be wondering: Just how does Magical Dining Month work? It's really quite simple. You book a reservation at a participating restaurant, enjoy three delicious courses and pay only $35 (plus tax and tip) per person.

The Magical Dining website provides a listing of the restaurants (by area/district) and cuisine. You will be able to see the actual Magical Dining menu and also make a reservation through OpenTable.com. When booking through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal sold will benefit Freedom Ride and BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation.

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WHY WE LOVE MAGICAL DINING MONTH!

-- It's a deal! Who doesn't love a deal?!

-- Food! Who doesn't love food?!

-- Encourages us to get out of our rut and try new places to eat.

-- Makes a great night out.

-- Raises money for charity.

This year 20 restaurants in the Disney/Lake Buena Vista area are participating. In Part 1 of this blog I'll discuss the Walt Disney World dining participants, including those located at Disney Springs. In Part 2, I'll step outside the Disney bubble to look at other dining opportunities in Orlando.

Ok, now for the participating Disney restaurants, of which there is an interesting mix. A combination of what I would call "middle" tier dining and then "signature" dining. So I'll offer opinions on both categories.

I also have to admit, we used to dine at some of these places often, but since the wide variety of options have opened at Disney Springs, we haven't really been to the "middle tier" resort dining as much.

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Middle Tier Dining

Overall our recommendation for the restaurants in the "middle tier" is to only go if you were planning to dine there anyway. For the same $35 you can experience a signature dining experience (perhaps for the first time) and in our opinion get a much better value for your money.

The links below go to our Rate and Review Section so you can see reviews about the restaurants.


Boatwrights at Port Orleans Riverside

Grand Floridian Cafe - Grand Floridian

Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West

The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs

The Wave at the Contemporary

Out of these Linda and I agree our recommendations are The Wave and Grand Floridian Cafe.

Signature Dining

Il Mulino New York Trattoria at the WDW Swan Hotel. This is one of our favorite places to go, either for a full dinner or just sitting in the bar/lounge with a beverage and appetizer. Great opportunity to try someplace new.

Jiko the Cooking Place - Animal Kingdom Lodge - Another favorite of ours. In addition to the great food they boast one of the largest South African wine lists in the US. Be sure to check out the Magical Dining menu and if it appeals to you, go for it.

Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs - This is one of Linda's favorite places to dine. Need I say more?

Paddlefish at Disney Springs - We have not dined there so can't advise you either way.

Ravello - The Four Seasons - another place we have not dined, but we've heard good things. If the offerings on the menu appealed to me, I would try it out during Magical Dining Month, but I'll be waiting a bit longer. However, if the menu presented makes you drool then by all means go for it!

STK in Disney Springs - We are big fans of the food at STK and dined there several times. The only hesitation in recommending it is the loud music the DJ plays. "It's Not Your Father's Steakhouse" is their tag line.

Todd Englishes Blue Zoo - Another of our favorites -- I've become a fan of their Chicken Francese entree, which happens to be on the magical dining menu.

Linda and I don't think you can go wrong with any of the establishments we have been to.

TIPS

MY BIGGEST TIP: I can't stress this one enough -- Make sure to check out the menu on the Magical Dining website before making a reservation.

-- Reservations are a must!

-- For those with dietary needs, CALL the restaurant and inquire before you go.

-- Parking - If you dine at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, use the valet parking and get your parking ticket validated by the hostess in the restaurant!

-- In our experience, sometimes we are served the full portions,as if you were a regular diner, and sometimes it is a smaller portion. No matter which, we have always felt like we got our money's worth!

BOTTOM LINE: Orlando Magical Dining month provides a great opportunity for you to explore new dining experiences. Linda and I try to use it at least twice each year to discover new favorites! Leave a comment below about your experience!

Next blog I'll be talking about the restaurants outside the Disney Bubble... check back!

The Magical Dining Website has an FAQ section you should read!

July 26, 2017

Updates for 2017 Holiday Season at Walt Disney World

Deb's Digest Blog

Walt Disney World released a few details on the upcoming holiday season at a special media preview.

Let's start with Disney Springs! The Holiday Tree Trail will return with even more trees than before. The trees are 10' and 12' tall with a 10' backdrop for a guest photo op.

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A new Disney Springs Logo Tree will feature custom ornaments for Disney Springs Operating Participants. This will be followed by trees themed to variety of characters and Disney films: Mickey and Minnie, Pluto (devoted to pets), Sleeping Beauty (new), Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog, the Little Mermaid, Frozen, Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio (new), 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia (new), Villains, Lilo and Stitch, Dumbo (new), Tangled, Robin Hood (new), Peter Pan (new), Jungle Book, Muppets, Mulan, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland.

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Santa's Chalet will be located at the end of the trail with snow and music. Each tree will have a signature ornament and as you exit the trail, there will be one final tree displaying what's at the Disney Store for the holidays.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! returns on November 7. The show will be updated with a few different sequences and new characters, along with more integration of fireworks.

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There will also be one or two additional "holiday" offerings at the Studios this year, details will be announced soon!

Moving now to Epcot. The Candlelight Processional is the premiere holiday show with celebrity narrators. This year, Disney is making an extra effort to find celebrity talent that speaks to all of our diversity. Already announced are Trace Adkins, CCH Pounder, Jaci Velasquez and favorite Neil Patrick Harris.

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Joyful! A Gospel Celebration is also returning.

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In addition, the Mexico pavilion will feature an enhanced holiday celebration titled La Posada, with authentic Mexican with mariachi, dancers and music similar to a festival.

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Let's go now to the Magic Kingdom!

NEW this year: The Main Street Trolley will have a new Christmas show, and the Move It Shake It Dance and Play it! parade will have a holiday finale. A Frozen Holiday Wish will return once a night on non-party nights and twice a night during the Party. Usually you have to attend one of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties to see the special shows and happenings exclusive to the event. This year all guests will see the special entertainment during the week of Christmas.

Last, but not least, is all the new holiday merchandise coming to Walt Disney World later this year including new Dooney and Bourke bags, many new ornaments, themed stockings and much more.. Here is Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager to tell you more:

First Look -- Disney's Minnie Van Service

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney's Minnie Van Service

At the 2017 D23 Expo in July, Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced: “Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do.” The Minnie vehicles will take you everywhere you want to go at the Walt Disney World Resort, and you’ll ride in Minnie’s classic style.

Disney's Minnie Van Service

A Disney Cast Member will be your driver.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


If this type of transportation service sounds familiar to you, it is the Disney version of Uber and Lyft transportation services, but limited to Walt Disney World property.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


Disney's Minnie Van Service is now in "soft opening" at select resorts. At this time the cost is a flat fee of $20 per trip -- drivers do not accept gratuities. The vehicles are 2017 Chevy Traverse vans and each seats six.

Disney's Minnie Van Service

There are one or two child car seats available in each vehicle.

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When asked about Disney touches inside of the Minnie Vans, the Cast Members smiled and politely did not answer the question.

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Disney's Minnie Van Service


The hours of operation have not yet been set, but currently the service seems to be available beginning around 6:30 a.m. and through the evening. An app to order your car is coming -- once the service is fully launched you'll be able to summon the car via an app -- details as they are released.

June 26, 2017

Morimoto Asia Summer Forbidden Lounge Late-Night Offerings

Deb's Digest Blog

by AllEars.Net's Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth

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Morimoto Asia is a beautiful two-story restaurant in Disney Springs with a variety of options for your dining pleasure. There is the full-service dining room on the first floor (though there are some full-service tables on the second floor). Also on the main floor is one of the two bars. Upstairs not only has a sushi bar, but the Forbidden Lounge, a wonderful place to hang out and relax with craft cocktails and great food.

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Morimoto Asia recently debuted its new summer additions to the Forbidden Lounge late-night menu. We were able to sample the new cocktails and also the late-night food offerings. (Be sure to read my recent blog "Noshing at Disney Springs," which includes the Forbidden Lounge.)

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Here is my take on the new craft cocktail offerings:

Here are Linda's thoughts on the new craft cocktails:

I tasted all five of the new beverage offerings, and I think there is one that will appeal to just about every palate. All were refreshing and had a different twist on a classic cocktail. There were sweet, smoky, citrusy, tart and aromatic offerings. I do not particularly care for sweet or smoky drinks, so while the Yuzu Sidecar, Kunsei Smoked Coconut, Kyuuri Gin Blossom Martini and Watermelon Soyokaz were enjoyable, my favorite was the Tequila and Tonic. This was very refreshing, aromatic, and had a hint of citrus. Plus, there was no strong alcohol flavor.

A number of new small plates/appetizers created by Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinaga were also introduced for late-night noshing in the Forbidden Lounge.

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Since I have a rather "limited" palate, I asked Linda to elaborate on the food offerings, each of which costs $8.

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Next up were the new food items for summer. My two favorites were the Blistered Shishito Peppers served with Wasabi Creme Fraiche and Yuzu Salt. The peppers were full of flavor, not very spicy, although every once in a while one had a bit more heat. The peppers went really well with my Tequlia and Tonic. I did not try the wasabi creme fraiche. I thought they tasted just fine on their own.

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My other favorite was the Shichime Spiced Edamame. These were prepared with sesame and Japanese 7 spice. Now, these had much more heat than the Blistered Shishito Peppers. Again, very flavorful and a nice change from plain edamame with salt. Again, I enjoyed them with my beverage, but I think a nice cold beer also would go nicely with this dish.

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The Kushiyaki “grilled on a stick” was chicken yakitori, pork skirt steak and miso marinated black cod. The chicken and pork were good but OH MY! The black cod was out of this world. It was light, flaky and melted in my mouth.

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The other two dishes offered have a bit more substance to them. The Beef Bulgogi Nachos were served with wonton chips, thinly sliced soy-marinated beef short ribs, gochujang sauce, jalapenos, cheese and scallions. This dish had some heat, the beef was very tender and the wonton chips held their crunch. It was also a bit messy to eat, but then so are regular nachos.

The Chashu Pork Quesadilla had pulled, braised pork belly, caramelized red onions, spicy mayo and blended cheese. I am not a big fan of pork belly because it can be on the fatty side. This quesadilla was delicious, but I found the pork to be a bit too fatty for my taste.

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Linda's plate of samples:

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We are both fans of the Forbidden Lounge and were excited to have the opportunity to try out the new offerings.

Linda adds: I have always enjoyed the Forbidden Lounge upstairs at Morimoto Asia. The craft cocktails are fun, the “bar food” usually changes with the season, the background music is nice and the bartenders are friendly and attentive. I hope you will enjoy your experience as well.

DISCLAIMER: AllEars.Net was invited by Morimoto Asia to try out its new summer offerings in terms of bar foods and cocktails. Our opinions are our own. Trust us -- we spend plenty of our own money there!





June 22, 2017

Special Character Meets at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Deb's Digest Blog
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One of the fun things about Disney's Hollywood Studios is the unique character meet-and-greet opportunities. Some of the characters are regulars (like Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, Buzz and Woody), but others are around for a very limited time. Recently we headed to the Studios and the first order of business were the special characters! I was very excited that the friends we were meeting wanted to see the characters, too!

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Arriving at 9 a.m., we were expecting the park to already be crowded because resort guests had an Extra Magic Hour morning. However, luck was on our side and the park crowd seemed like any other day.

We headed to Pixar Place to meet the new addition of Cruz Ramirez. Cruz does advance training in the new Cars 3 movie. You will find Cruz on the right just past Toy Story Midway Mania. It appears she may be here for several weeks.

After the meet and greet you can see a sneak preview of the movie until June 25. (By the way, I LOVED the Cars 3 movie!)

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TIPS:
-- Please don't touch Cruz, her paint job is still wet.

-- To get the full photo with the marque, you will need to stand outside the roped area (see the photo above). The PhotoPass photographers will only get you and Cruz (the last photo). P.S. We had a fun surprise when we viewed our PhotoPass pics.

We next decided to head to One Man's Dream and the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 meet-and-greet with Star Lord and Baby Groot. The meet-and-greet is in the back of the exhibit. If you haven't been to One Man's Dream, be sure to fit a visit into your vacation. It is a treasure trove of exhibits about Walt Disney and the parks' history.

I found this meet-and-greet to be awesome. Not only is Star Lord very interactive, Baby Groot is just the cutest! Keep an eye on Baby Groot as he does some fun things!

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Last, but certainly not least, we visited the droid BB-8 from the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. BB-8 is in the Launch Bay.

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PhotoPass photographers were at each location.

Mission Complete! Not rushing, but not dilly-dallying either, this took just under 90 minutes.






June 19, 2017

Noshing Night at Disney Springs

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney Springs Signage


Disney Springs
really has undergone an amazing transformation. We have probably spent more time there in the last couple years than we had the 10 prior. Lots of great places to eat with a variety of tastes and prices. In fact, for several months we have been talking about noshing our way around Disney Springs.

We were staying at a Disney Springs hotel recently, so we decided it was time for Noshing Night! Our criteria was to sit at the bar and order a beverage and appetizer. A progressive dinner without dessert. One important note -- Linda enjoys craft cocktails and I only drink wine (mostly red). Both of us were certain to be drinking lots of water and most of the bartenders were refilling our glasses without asking.

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The sky was clear on this Friday evening as the week of rain had finally ended for a few hours. Still, it was a hot June evening.

Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


We began at Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar, one of our favorite places at Disney Springs.

The Homecoming bar has two options, you can either sit inside the restaurant (in air conditioning) or outside. We spotted two seats inside and sat down. Bartender Doug came over and introduced himself, keeping us happy for the duration.

Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


We perused the beverage menu. Linda feels that Homecoming has one of the best craft cocktail bars in Disney Springs. She chose the Cucumber Cooler, which consisted of Tito's handmade vodka with lime juice, simple syrup and crisp cucumber slices ($11). Linda asked for it very easy on the simple syrup and it came out perfectly. I actually might have enjoyed it on the rocks.

I chose an Alexander Valley Merlot ($12), although I would have preferred a nice crisp white -- but this is a craft cocktail bar, not a wine bar (Winebar George, we can't wait for you to open!)

Cucumber Cooler Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


Drinks having arrived, it was time for food. We ordered the Church Lady Deviled Eggs ($10 for 6). OMG! We order them every visit! I recall the first time we ate there I was thinking, "Why pay so much money for a deviled egg?" But you have to try them! Then you'll understand.

Church Lady Deviled Eggs

Linda then decided some of the Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits ($6) would be great, especially since we were drinking. Another OMG! These were quite different than the ones we had here previously. Our barkeep told us they had changed them and added cream cheese to fluff them up. They were outstanding! Who takes biscuits home in their doggie bag? We did!

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We chatted, noshed and sipped there for about an hour, paid our bill and left to find another spot.

Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

As we walked outside, we talked about where to head next. Linda had a hankering for oysters so off to the Boathouse we went.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

As you might imagine, it was quite crowded over there. There is the Captain's Raw Bar inside, just as you enter the restaurant, but we find it too loud to talk so we opt for the dockside bar.

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Boathouse at Disney Springs


The only outdoor seating was in direct sun, so we walked around a bit in hopes something in the shade would free up. Sure enough, a table for two opened up at the outside bar with our names on it.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

Linda placed an order for oysters along with a Blue Moon Beer. I was still feeling full from Homecoming and wanted something cool and refreshing so I ordered a glass of prosecco.

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Blue Moon Beer and Proseco

We have enjoyed beautiful sunsets at this location before, but tonight that wasn't meant to be. Instead we enjoyed watching folks in the Amphicars. In fact, we even got to see one of them being towed back in due to technical problems. Oops.

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After we had been there about an hour, we felt the temperature had gotten increasingly hotter. Soon we were both feeling sluggish. Time to walk!

Rating: Food 5*, Service 3.5*, Ambiance 5*.

We saw lots of different types of entertainment around Disney Springs, which is always fun. I really like that they have enhanced this aspect since the total refurbishment of the old Downtown Disney. We enjoyed the strolling violinist, strolling piano and singer and a Living Statue. It was very entertaining to watch folks who wanted to get their photo with the Living Statue, but were not exactly sure how to approach him. We even had fun checking out the Lego displays.

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Disney Parks Legos
Disney Springs Entertainment

Our next and what turned out to be our final stop -- Morimoto Asia.

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The downstairs bar was very noisy and hectic so we made our way to the upstairs bar. Ah, the air conditioning felt so very good and soon we both perked up again.

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda loves the Manhattan East here so she ordered one. It is made of hiro sake, Makers Mark bourbon, canton liqueur, and orange bitters ($14).

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs Manhattan East Cocktail

To no one's surprise I ordered another glass of red wine, Antinori Santa Cristina Chianti, Tuscany ($12). I have found this chianti works really well with Morimoto's ribs!

Our two servers, Matthew and Junko, took most excellent care of us. Linda decided the Manhattan that Junko made was the BEST Manhattan East she has had there!

I ordered an appetizer portion of the spare ribs (pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze) for $14. One of my favorites -- three tender and crispy ribs. Be careful of the red threads on top of the ribs, though. They are VERY hot!

Spare Ribs Appetizer Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda got a Spicy Tuna Roll with white rice (you have a choice between white and brown). The tuna, with spicy mayo and scallion, is $13.

Spicy Tuna Roll Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

We were having lots of fun talking with the bartenders and soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Love the background music upstairs -- smooth jazz or New Age, not sure which.

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Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
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Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

Around 9 p.m. we decided to call it a night and walked back to our Disney Springs hotel.

The food of the night award goes to Homecoming! The server of the night award goes to Matthew at Morimoto Asia.

You might be asking yourself, "What did all this cost?" The food itself without tax/tip came to $73, divided by two that made it about $37 each. The alcohol without tax/tip came to $78.50, so just under $40 each. All totaled including tip, tax and tags our total price was $185.75.

There were a few discounts available. Homecoming offers the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent discount; the Boathouse offers 10 percent with the Annual Passport (food only), and Morimoto Asia takes the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent.

We certainly won't be doing this often, given the price tag, but it made for a perfect evening out!
It was wonderful and we hope to do it again when the weather turns cooler.

Have you enjoyed a night of noshing at Disney Springs? Where did you go? Tell us about it in the comments.






April 24, 2017

Pandora the World of Avatar Cast Costumes and Training

Deb's Digest Blog

Today, Walt Disney World held a press conference to announce the economic impact of Pandora, the World of Avatar on Central Florida and also to unveil some of the costumes you will find in Pandora, the World of Avatar. (Economic Impact Press Release HERE)

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(left to right) Djuan Rivers, Vice President of Animal Kingdom; Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President Walt Disney World; and, Matt Beiler, producer Walt Disney Imagineering

Here is a close up of a couple of the cast member Name Tags. Note that instead of "earning my ears", these say "guide in training."

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There are three groups residing in Pandora: 1) Alpha Centauri Expeditions, 2) Scientists from the Pandora Conservation Initiative, and 3) EXPAT Community. Each of these groups have specific roles in Pandora and each will have special costumes that reinforce those roles.

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Djuan Rivers, Vice President of Animal Kingdom talks about Cast Member training for Pandora the World of Avatar:


Matt Beiler, producer Walt Disney Imagineering discusses costuming:


April 22, 2017

Copper Creek Villas and Cabins and Geyser Point Bar and Grill

Deb's Digest Blog
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Recently I had the opportunity to take a hard hat tour (no photos were allowed) of Disney Vacation Club's newest property, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Copper Creek is part of the overall Wilderness Lodge property, which, once open, will house guest rooms at the Wilderness Lodge (south side) Boulder Ridge and the Copper Creek cabins.

Ken Potrock, SVP & GM Disney Vacation Club & Adventures by Disney, spoke with a group of local media recently about the new resort: "This will be the first DVC property to have 5 types of room accommodations with studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom villas as well as the new cabins. Our guests have told us they don't want any old hotel, they want themed hotels. They want a hotel that has a back story. They want to hear "is there a connection to Walt Disney?"

And the Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge will do just that -- combining the history of decades of the railroad bringing people west.

I had the opportunity to talk with Imagineer Mitch Mioelli, project manager of Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. He shared additional elements of the theming.

Additional enhancements are part of the new Copper Creek Villas and Cabins including a new swimming area and the recently open Geyser Point Bar and Grill which boasts great views of Bay Lake.

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The unique menu highlights an array of flavors from bison burgers with Tillamook cheddar and a house-smoked salmon BLT with lemon-caper mayonnaise to innovative small plates, craft beers and signature cocktails in the lounge.

During my visit to the Copper Creek Villas and Cabins, I also had the opportunity to speak with Chef Michael Gonsalves and Geyser Point's Proprietor Stephanie about the unique food and beverage offerings.

The official opening of the Copper Creek Villas and Cabins is July 17, 2017. At that time, Roaring Fork and the Trout Pass Pool Bar will reopen as well.

April 18, 2017

Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast - Trattoria al forno

Deb's Digest Blog
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CORRECTION: (4/24) For some reason, I thought this breakfast was $24/per person. It is $34 per person. At that price, this breakfast is not worth the cost until the food greatly improves.

On April 2, 2017, the Boardwalk's Trattoria al forno converted its breakfast offering to a character meal called the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast. Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled and Ariel and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid are the showcased characters. Linda and I have always enjoyed breakfast at Trattoria so we thought we'd give it a try.

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Two of the characters, Ariel and Rapunzel, you can see in the parks, but the big hit of this meal is the ability to see both Flynn Rider and Prince Eric! In fact, in all my visits to Walt Disney World, this may have been my first encounter with Prince Eric (excluding parades, of course).

The breakfast offering takes a few items from Trattoria's former breakfast menu with some twists and new names.

Our server, Mary, was great. She first approached the table and gave each of us an Adventure Journal and a set of character autographs.

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Despite our group being two adults with no children, we got the full themed treatment from Mary and we really appreciated it. The meal begins with a bowl of pastries for everyone at the table to share. Keeping in the theme, there is a clam shell pastry and also a braided chocolate bread (Deb's favorite). And they are served in a frying pan! She took our beverage orders and left us to decide on our selections.

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You have two choices for a "appetizer": a Fruit Salad or a Berry, Yogurt and Granola Parfait. We got one of each.

For me, the yogurt parfait was way too sweet. I could barely get two spoonfuls down. I typically eat Greek yogurt, and this was MUCH different. Also on top was layer of something sweet, like honey, but wasn't the right consistency. The red item on my yogurt represents Sebastian from Little Mermaid.

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Linda's fruit cup was the standard melons with a couple berries. It was supposed to come with a little crown, which was missing. The melons were good, but the berries were mushy.

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There are seven entrees to choose from, including a breakfast calzone, pancakes and Tangled eggs. You can find the complete menu HERE


Linda chose the Golden Frittata - Prosciutto di Parma, Piquillo pepper, scallions and pecorino Romano Cheese with roasted potatoes. This sounded so much like the fritatta on the old breakfast menu so our taste buds were expecting that. But that was not quite what we got at all. Linda didn't care for all the peppers in her frittata or the strong taste of the melted cheese.

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I ordered the Royale Breakfast which included Oak-grilled steak, cheesy-egg torte, and Fonduta with roasted potatoes and crispy onions. I ordered it without the onions. Our server asked how I wanted my steak prepared, and I said "medium." I didn't want it still mooing!

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The steak was actually good with a nice flavor. However, most of it was on the rare side. The potatoes were great and served hot -- hard to mess those up. Unfortunately, the "cheesy-egg torte" was bizarre and mostly inedible.

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The "Fonduta" was cheesy and almost overpowered the egg torte. The torte was full of red pepper and as I said, not good at all. I barely got my first bite down. Linda tried a bit and totally concurred with my assessment.

At some point, our server came back to explain the Bon Voyage Adventure Journal. It opens up to a cartoon map of Walt Disney World showing all four parks. Kids (or adults) can fill in their "favorite ride", "favorite snack" favorite souvenir, etc. We thought this map was a pretty cool thing that some kids would enjoy.

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Characters are the absolute best part of this experience and make it worth the money.
When we entered the restaurant we noticed most of the characters were up near the entrance. It was a good 20-25 minutes after we were seated that we saw any characters.

An announcement was made introducing the Tangled characters while "I Had a Dream" played in the background. Flynn and Rapunzel made their way partially around the dining area and then disappeared into a portion of the dining room we were unable to see. (We were seated in the far back corner.) We assumed they were dancing. Once the song was coming to an end they came to the back of the restaurant and started meeting with each table. Note that they don't visit the tables together.

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I have to say Flynn was one of the best, if not the best Flynn I have ever met and Rapunzel was pretty fantastic and reminded me of her when I met her a couple years ago at the Magic Kingdom. They were totally in character, playful, personable and in no apparent rush to leave. We had a great time with them.

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Soon thereafter, "Under the Sea" began playing and Eric and Ariel made their way into the dining room. As with Flynn and Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid characters made their way around the dining room. Again, they were very entertaining and interactive with us and all the tables, children or not. That means a great deal to us, as sometimes characters don't see kids and we get a wink and a quick pic and that's it.

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The character attendant working the room did an excellent job making sure the characters flowed through the room and checked back with each table to make sure everyone saw each character.

Please see above correction: At $34 per person this character meal is not worth the cost until the food greatly improves.

For the characters, the experience was certainly worth the cost is $34 per person (not $24 as originally stated: plus tip and tax. However, keep in mind unlike other character meals, this is not an all you care to eat menu. You can apply your Tables in Wonderland card or Annual Passport discount, though.

Go for the fun, not for the food!

P.S. At the podium, the cast members asked each party if they realized this was a character meal. For those who didn't realize that and want to dine without characters, there is a small back room for those folks. The breakfast menu back there is pretty similar to the character breakfast menu and when you add up the entrees and beverages, you are at the character meal price. The traditional breakfast menu is no longer available.

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