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January 30, 2017

The Plaza Restaurant at Magic Kingdom REVIEW

Deb's Digest Blog
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The Plaza Restaurant, located just off Main Street, U.S.A., has been a long time favorite of many Disney fans. I had not been in several years, so I decided to try and get a lunch reservation. Well, I might as well been trying to get a table at Be Our Guest. In fact, that choice came up every now and then as I attempted to secure one for the Plaza.

I found myself in the Magic Kingdom one day and thought I would try a walk up at the Plaza around opening time. I politely asked the Hostess if they had a walk up table for 1. She looked and looked and finally said, Yes!

I explained how I had tried and tried for a reservation and couldn't get one. She told me it is because they only accept reservations for the first hour they are open and after that it is all walk-ups. I found that odd. While I was waiting to be seated, a different hostess came to the podium and I asked the question again and received the same response.

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Soon I was on my way to a small table right outside the kitchen door. I gave my server my beverage order and looked at the menu.

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I decided to get an appetizer, entree and dessert for the full experience. When my server, (Nour - who was excellent by the way) returned I asked him about the reservation policy. He confirmed what the hostesses had told me. I don't usually ask 3 different cast members, but I thought the policy was so odd, I wanted to make sure I had it correct.

The restaurant was full of mainly families and the servers certainly were hustling. Sudden the Fire Chief came in and announced he was there on the Mayor's behalf to appoint the Citizen of the Day. It was a cute, brief bit and the child selected received a ribbon. From what others have told me, this happens on a fairly routine basis. It was a nice, magical touch. However, no, I have no idea how they select the person.

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By now my food began arriving. For an appetizer I selected the Wedge Salad: half wedge of iceberg lettuce served with tomatoes, onions and cucumbers and topped with Gorgonzola and ranch dressing for $8. I asked for mine without onions. While it did not have the depth of lettuce a wedge usually has, it was average and about what I expected from this restaurant.

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Up next my entree, a Grilled Reuben. The reuben has been a signature item for many years so I thought it was time to try it. Grilled Reuben - thinly sliced corned beef on grilled marble rye with sauerkraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing for $15. Instead of Thousand Island dressing, I asked for mustard.
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I was disappointed. The sandwich had little flavor. There was a very thin layer of sauerkraut that melded into the Swiss Cheese, had little flavor and the portion was small. Overall, it was not very good, and I only ate half of it and a few of the chips.

Finally, dessert. I normally do not eat dessert at lunch, but ordered it to get the full experience.

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I selected the Signature Chocolate Cake - four-layer chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate ganache for $9. Oh, and the ice cream was $2 extra. This cake was the best part of my whole meal. I wanted to devour it, but I used restraint and only had about half. But it was delicious!

So, let's add it all up.

Wedge Salad $8.00
Reuben with Chips $15.00
Chocolate Cake with Scoop of Ice Cream $11
Diet Coke $3.49
Subtract 20% For a Tables in Wonderland Discount and it comes to $29.99

Add in 18% gratuity and tax for a grand total of $38.69 for a full service lunch in the Magic Kingdom. I don't know about you, but I think that is quite expensive for a mostly average lunch.

I'm glad I had the experience, but won't be heading back there anytime soon. So what do you think about the Plaza Restaurant? Let me know in the comments section.

You can find the full adult and kids menus, photos and links to reader reviews HERE.

January 8, 2017

8th Annual Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic Dates Announced

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Dates have been announced for one of my favorite Food and Wine events -- the 8th Annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. This year it will be held on October 27-28, 2017.

[Press release information begins]

Join us for a day, or the weekend, to sample wines from around the world and savor culinary artistry from pastries to pasta. Enjoy unlimited food and beverage samples (with purchase of a ticket), live music and our Oktoberfest-inspired beer garden!

** Stroll the causeway and be tempted by delectable delights prepared by our talented award winning chefs.

** Savor the Flavors - Sample fine wine, beer and spirits from around the world. This is a great opportunity to sample beverages you may not have thought to try before.

** Learn to Impress - Expand your knowledge of wine, beer, spirits and sake. Learn how to choose the right beverage and how to pair it perfectly with your meal.

** Special packages are available for overnight guests, and tickets are available for purchase for individual events and seminars.

** Event and Seminar tickets - Regardless of where you are staying, you can still purchase causeway event tickets, seminar tickets or even a la carte tickets and have a great evening with us!

** Sunday Brunch - Can’t get enough of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic? Join us on Sunday, October 29 for our Sunday Bubbles Brunch!

[End of Press Release Information]

One of the things I love about the classic is that prior to the event, the food and beverage menus are all online so you can see what will be served!

The live entertainment is awesome! After a few hours of noshing and drinking you can walk where the music is and enjoy up close and personal, even dance if you are so inclined.

It is a fun party atmosphere and hope to see you there in October!!!

Read Kristin Ford's blogs about the previous festivals!

DISCLAIMER: AllEars has been invited the last 2 years to attend a media preview of the Classic. I have paid every year out of my own pocket to attend this event, it is that good. Sometimes AllEars receives a pair of comp ticket as local media, I pass them along to a member of AllEars for reporting. Those perks do not affect my review, and my opinions are my own.


December 28, 2016

"New" Way to Start Your Magic Kingdom Day

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Beginning January 9th, guests will be allowed to enter Main Street U.S.A. earlier than the park's stated opening time.

Then at the official opening, a new welcome show will open the park for the day. A Royal Herald will appear and deliver a proclamation welcoming everyone including a few characters to the stage.

December 23, 2016

Time to Select the 2016 Photo of the Week

Deb's Digest Blog
pw012814.jpg 2014 Photo of the Year
Every issue of the Free AllEars Weekly Newsletter includes a "Photo of the Week" section.

Every December we ask our readers to select the Photo of the Year! It's that time again!

Which AllEars.Net Photo of the Week was the most magical for YOU in 2016?

Cast your vote and let us know!

~Visit the 2016 photo gallery here.

~Choose your favorite photo.

~Visit our online poll to cast your vote for your favorite:

~Please submit ONE vote only!

~Voting ends at 11:45 p.m. Eastern on Monday, January 2, 2017!

We'll post the results in an upcoming issue of the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter!

The regular Photo of the Week resumes in January 2017!

Thanks for your input!

November 14, 2016

Temporary Parking Change at Kidani Village Animal Kingdom Lodge

Deb's Digest Blog

This past weekend I was at a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was quite surprised that the "short term parking" area at Kidani Village was closed and blocked off. This parking area has always been convenient for check-in parking or getting something from Johari Treasures which has groceries and sundries.

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Cast members told me this is "temporary" but gave no dates for how long this will be in place. I was informed that if you are checking in, tell the Valet and they will hold your car for 30 minutes for "free". After 30 minutes your car will be automatically valeted and you will incur a charge. The reason I was given for this change is that people were abusing the "short term parking" area.

The self-parking alternative is the underground parking garage. While there is a huge sign indicating Elevators to Lobby, unfortunately there are only 2 parking spaces in that immediate area. The other spaces are reserved for WDW Official Vehicles. The next closest parking area would be the Timon area.

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November 10, 2016

Vivoli Gelato - Hidden Gem at Disney Springs

Deb's Digest Blog
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Did you know you can get real Italian Gelato in Disney Springs?? Well, you can and it's wonderful!

Vivoli Gelato is located in The Landing section of Disney Springs, diagonally across from the Hangar Bar. You may not have even realized it is there because the building and signage is understated. However, bright orange tables and chairs recently have been added outside for guests to relax and enjoy their Italian goodies.

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Founded in 1932 by Raphael and his two brothers, Vivoli Gelateria started out as a dairy. At that time, it was not easy to find raw materials such as milk, eggs and sugar, and there were no gelato machines and freezers. After World War II, technology enabled the brothers to follow their passion and produce gelato every day –- a far cry from the early recipes that relied on barrels filled with ice and snow from the nearby mountains to keep their concoctions frozen.

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Silvana Vivoli, the granddaughter of Raphael Vivoli, one of the company’s founders, was recently at the Vivoli Gelato to introduce four new fall flavors: Tiramisu, Apple Pie, Pecan, and Pumpkin.

It was clear at the start that Silvana Vivoli is quite passionate about her family business. She stressed to us how important it has been to remain dedicated to creating pure gelati and sorbetti with fresh, high quality ingredients and family crafted recipes. There is nothing artificial! The store uses local and seasonal products, with cocoa powder, hazelnut and pistachio imported from Italy.

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As you peruse the showcase of gelatos you will notice both white and blue spoons. The blue spoons represent items that are vegan.

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I had observed while in Italy that some gelato stores (and also those in the U.S.) have mounds of gelato in their showcases and in others, the gelato is flat. She explained it has a lot to do with temperature and quality. "If you see big mountains, no," she said. If the colors are flashy, no again. "Most people are attracted by bright color and form, but that is gelato you should stay away from." This was the same advice my Italian Street Food Guide gave us in Rome.

You will also find an assortment of pastries at Vivoli Gelato. These are made by Chef Vincenzo, the pastry chef at Tutto Italia at the Italy Pavilion in EPCOT.

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Stop by Vivoli Gelato on your next visit to Disney Springs. You can even ask for a sample spoon of the gelato or sorbet.

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DISCLAIMER: I was invited to Vivoli Gelato to sample the fall flavors and meet Silvana. This did not affect this blog; my opinions are my own. In fact, after spending time in Italy last year, I got to enjoy the real Italian Gelato and this is it!

October 10, 2016

Pin Palooza How It Works!!! Read Carefully

Deb's Digest Blog

Greeting Everyone.

First and foremost - Please remember this is a fundraiser not a flea market :)

Your ENTIRE purchase price is a direct donation to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer ! I WILL accept Paypal for payment and then make the donation on your behalf. Please let me know in your confirmation email you will pay via PayPal.

Here's how it works. READ CAREFULLY

** The pins are offered for sale at the stated price.

** You leave a comment below stating the ITEM number of the pin(s) you wish to purchase.

** I will go through the comments in the order they ARE received. This will take some time because they come in fast and furious!

** I will then put a SOLD with your first name and first initial last name just after the pin number.

** Within 72 hours I will send you the link information with instructions and you will have 48 hours to make your donation. Once that happens Avon will send you an email confirmation. Forward me a copy of the donation receipt along with your shipping address -- pins will be mailed in approximately 3-14 days I will pay US and Canada shipping of pins.

Your ENTIRE purchase price goes directly to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Account. I pay postage and WILL SHIP TO CANADA AND US. You get pin(s) you want and a charity deduction too! I raise money and reduce my pin collection.

Thank you PinPics.com - Links on the pin names go to the PinPics.com website (with their permission) so you can learn more about the pin. Also PinPics.com has given me permission to use photos and/or descriptions.

PLEASE refresh your browser to make sure you have the most current page. I have been known to discount pins remaining at the end of the sale so check back!

SALE ENDS AT 3 p.m. Eastern Time October 15, 2016

October 8, 2016

Pin Palooza Tips

Deb's Digest Blog

Pin Palooza is a week away (October 15) and thought you might want some helpful tips!

** The Link to the Live Pin Palooza will be on the AllEars Home page: http://allears.net

** As you are scrolling through the list and selecting your pin wishes (comments), so are a couple hundred other folks. I go through the requests in the order they are received.

** In the comment box, simple put the number of the pin(s) you are interested in:
EXAMPLE: 2, 33, 95, 200

** Once I get to your request I will publish your comment with notations of what is already sold and what is yours.
EXAMPLE: 2 Gone, 33 Yours, 95 Yours, 200 Gone

** I will also update the blog to show you have pledged for that pin.
EXAMPLE: Item # 95 SOLD DEBW

** It takes time to go through each comment and respond what is available and adjust the spreadsheet.

**Patience is the key!

** I will continue to update the main Pin Palooza Page during the day and announce when things have concluded for the day.

** On Sunday I will offer the remaining pins for a few hours.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

October 4, 2016

Pin Palooza Preview!

Deb's Digest Blog

Greetings Everyone!

My next Pin Palooza fundraiser is fast approaching (October 15th). This is a great win -win opportunity for both of us. You get some great pins AND your entire purchase price is a direct donation to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I pay for mailing to US and Canada.

Pin Palooza - How It Works!

Pin Palooza TIPS

Here is a look at what's to come:

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OVER 300 Pins in this fundraiser:

Cast Member
Walt Disney Imagineering
Attraction Openings
Limited Edition
Adventures by Disney
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Auctions
Press Events
Japan
Food and Wine
WDW Tour pins
Flower and Garden
Annual Passholders
Anniversary Pins for Parks/Attractions
Euro Disney and Disneyland Paris
Special Cast Lanyards

Characters include: Mickey, Stitch, Figment, Tink, Chip and Dale, Olaf, Dreamfinder, Pluto, Goofy, Mr. Smee, Donald's Nephews, Lady and the Tramp, Tigger, Anna, Elsa, Belle, Beast, and more!

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Mark your calendars for October 15th at 1pm Eastern Time!

Join the Facebook Page!

September 27, 2016

Brunch at the Top - California Grill

Deb's Digest Blog

Late last year, the Disney Parks Blog announced that a new "Brunch at the Top" dining experience would be starting at California Grill in February 2016.

I read the description with great interest, because I love a great brunch. But, I will admit, the $80 price tag had me stop and wonder. It seemed really expensive just for brunch.

Fast-forward to a couple months ago when friends we hadn't seen in a long time invited us to join them at, you guessed it, Brunch at the Top. We thought, "Sure, why not?"

So what exactly is Brunch at the Top? Let me say at the outset that this is a VIP experience. From the moment we arrived at the Contemporary we were treated like extra-special guests, which took us somewhat by surprise. At the security gate, the guard smiled and told us that with this brunch we received complimentary valet parking, and we were to proceed up and to the right. He then instructed us to go to the second-floor check-in for California Grill. Valet parking? Complimentary? At the California Grill? Our eyes lit up and we started to get excited -- not just about seeing our friends, but about what was starting to feel like a very special experience.

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We arrived before our friends, texted them, and headed to the second floor to check-in. The cast member smiled and greeted us warmly. We explained we were early... she quickly said, "No problem, you can wait upstairs for your friends." Sounded good to us.

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Once the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by wonderfully soothing sounds of a pair of musicians, one playing the bass and the other, the keyboard.

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We both looked at each other, smiled and nodded, knowing that we had been right. This was going to be an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

A hostess came right over to assist us. When we explained we were waiting for our party, she said, "No problem, allow me to show you to an area to wait for them." (It was located in between the musicians and the two dining areas.) Along the way, she stopped at the bar and offered us a mimosa. I asked if I could have the beverage without the orange juice, and we were soon handed two glasses of pure bubbly.

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We sat back to enjoy the ambiance and talked about how wonderful it was to be at the California Grill for a more refined, adult experience. In fact, I could feel tension leaving my body and I smiled. The fact that it was a picture-perfect day outside with a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Village Resort added to our enjoyment.

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Soon our friends arrived and we were escorted to our table. There we met Tommy, our server for the brunch. He gave us menus and explained how things would work. I let Tommy know about my shellfish allergy, and he said there were no "hidden" shellfish items, but would have the chef come over to speak with me. It was great to see Chef Jonathon again!

Linda had her eyes on the Bloody Mary bar until Tommy explained that our welcome beverages would be refilled throughout the meal, at no additional charge. It almost seemed too good to be true: complimentary valet parking, bubbly refills during brunch... Yes, this was really going to be fun.

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By now you're probably thinking, "OK, Deb, get to the food!" All right, I will.

The meal is a combination of self-serve selections, entrees and dessert. The self-serve selections, appetizers in a sense, ranged from assorted sushi and smoked salmon to a charcuterie area and salads. We all thought we could have made a meal of those items alone.

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A board of pastries was sitting on the table when we returned from the buffet area. It included a nice selection of Tillamook Cheddar biscuits, caramel-apple monkey bread and gluten-free scones.

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We each made at least two visits to the self-serve selections, all the while chatting over our bottomless drinks. Tommy asked a couple times if we wanted to order and we put him off for a few more minutes. At no time did we feel rushed or pressured to place our entree selection.

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Finally, it was time to decide on our entrees. Among the four of us we ordered:

Lobster Eggs Benedict:

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Shrimp and Grits

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and two of us selected the Grilled Hanger Steak and Eggs.

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You can find the full menu HERE, along with additional food photos.

Our friend Mark savored his steak, but unfortunately I had to send mine back as I had ordered it medium and it was too rare. Tommy took the steak back to the kitchen without issue, and I enjoyed my eggs along with another helping from the self-serve selections. Soon my steak returned and I was satisfied that it was prepared properly.

There was no clear winning entree -- it actually was a tie between the Lobster Eggs Benedict and the Grilled Hanger Steak. Linda also enjoyed her Shrimp and Grits, a dish that seems to be popping up all over Disney World these days. (I'm trying to get her to decide on the top three places for Shrimp and Grits so that we can share that with you.)

We had such fun while noshing with our friends that time quickly got away from us and soon our dessert plate arrived.

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All of us agreed the experience was awesome and we had a marvelous time. Each of us left relaxed and smiling, with our bellies full of excellent food.


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BOTTOM LINE:

COST: Adults $80, children $48, plus tip and tax.

You get complimentary valet parking (which is worth $25, plus tip).
Tables in Wonderland is accepted, which gives a discount of 20 percent.
You receive refills of your welcome beverage.
You have great foods to savor while enjoying the spectacular views.
Return in the evening with your receipt and enjoy fireworks from the outdoor areas.

If you are looking for a wonderful "adult" experience at Walt Disney World this is it.

We found the entire experience lovely and plan to return in a few months.

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