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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!

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 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.

Disney Springs Entertainment
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.






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!

August 20, 2013

Allergy Friendly Dining in Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

EDITOR'S NOTE: In 2015, the allergy free menu items were moved to the Discovery Island Kiosk, located on the right just past Pizzafari.

I think most of us with food allergies or special dietary concerns would agree that Walt Disney World is more accommodating than most places outside of Mouse World. Now, the folks at Walt Disney World have taken another step to reach out to those with concerns with more accessible information.

Animal Kingdom recently introduced a new kiosk that focuses on Allergy Dining Tips. When I first heard about it, I was quite excited. In addition to having a shellfish allergy, I am also a Type 1 insulin-pumping diabetic, which means I really have to watch what I eat.

So, I made a visit to Animal Kingdom to learn for myself. The kiosk is located to the right of the Tip Board toward Asia, just before the new Mickey and Minnie meet-and-greet location. At park opening, a cast member was standing outside the kiosk. Later in the day, I saw a different cast member inside.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Outside the kiosk is a display of various snacks that you can purchase right there -- many gluten-free and some vegetarian. I wonder how many folks see the Allergy Dining Tips sign and stop. While I was there, though, I only saw one family inquire about gluten-free options.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

If the words Allergy Dining Tips don't get your attention, perhaps the display of non-typical snacks will. In addition to the fresh fruit, there also are fresh gluten-free and vegan offerings from Downtown Disney's babycakes, packages of gluten-free rice chips, cookies, popcorn, and even beer.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

The cast member working at the kiosk was friendly, knowledgeable and eager to answer my questions. I asked if she was a dietician or had nutrition training, but she had not.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

At the kiosk, there is a huge binder for each section of Animal Kingdom. Inside it, each dining location has its own tab.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I decided to check out Flame Tree Barbecue, one of my favorite places to enjoy lunch. Usually I order the turkey sandwich on multigrain bread, sometimes with beans and sometimes with cole slaw, so those were the foods I checked out.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Each page is full of information, ingredients and food labels. (Who knew Disney used Ken's Dressings?)

To help you focus on your "need" there are small yellow boxes that highlight "wheat," "corn," "egg," "soy" and other allergens you may want to be aware of.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

You can see which products are used and exactly what the ingredients are, even for things like the "dry rub" Flame Tree uses.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom


Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

There also is a pamphlet you can take with you called "Allergy Friendly Dining Tips." Inside, three dining locations are highlighted with "allergy-friendly" notes to help guide your decision on what to eat.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I applaud Disney World's Food and Beverage team for taking the next step in helping folks with food allergies and dietary needs enjoy their dining experiences in the park! As I said in the beginning, there are few regular places that go the extra mile like Disney does. (Try asking for a no-sugar-added or sugar-free dessert sometime!)

I was, however, disappointed to see how many times the words "high fructose corn syrup" jumped out at me. But perhaps that's a conversation for another day!

The one thing I really hoped for, as a diabetic, is to see the actual nutritional information. How many calories, carbs, grams of fat, fiber, etc. make up each item? I realize this is difficult to do for products made from scratch by Disney chefs, but for prepackaged items it would seem to be easy enough to include.

That said, I encourage those of you with allergy or dietary concerns to stop by the kiosk in Animal Kingdom and ask questions. Also let Guest Services know what you think of the information. If all goes well with this Animal Kingdom trial (no idea how long it will be here) the other parks will be getting similar kiosks, too.

Let me know what you think of the new allergy-friendly kiosk and share your experience if you are able to stop by.

(Click on any of the photos for a larger image.)

September 22, 2012

Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge Lunch Review

Deb Wills

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A few days ago, Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge introduced new menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I stopped by on Thursday to get the new menus and also to have lunch!

Special thanks to our server, Cajun Chad, and Chef Junior for their great service during our lunch!

Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

Several important notes about the menu changes before I get to the actual review...

Breakfast is basically the same as it has been.

The biggest lunch change is that the All You Care To Eat Skillet is gone! The breakfast and dinner "All You Care To Enjoy" skillets are now called "Platters".

At dinner, there are no more entrees to select from, everything is a Build Your Own All You Care To Enjoy Family Platter at $32.99/per person. The platter includes choice of 3 items (ribs, chicken, beef strip loin, fish or sausage) along with sides of fresh vegetables, Yukon gold potatoes, baked beans and corn on the cob. A dessert sampler is also included in the price!

One of the new menus items is the Fried Fish and Country Chips. With my shellfish allergy, I had to ask about the fryer oil. Unfortunately, everything fried (spring rolls, french fries and fish) is now done in the same fryer oil. I was assured there was no shell-fish in that oil, but there was fish. If this presents an issue for you, upon request, the chef can heat up a separate pot of oil for your food. However, it was explained this would take extra time.

For the kids, not much changes. There is a new item "Multigrain Grill Cheese Dippers" which turns out to be what was described to me as a grilled cheese sandwich on multigrain bread and a small serving of tomato-like soup.

Vegetarians and those with special dietary requests should make notation when you make your reservation and speak to a chef upon being seated. A few options may be available including the off menu entree Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes. Also, at the time of this writing, the restaurant was still working on its vegetarian options.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Now, on to our review :

We wanted to try several different items in each category, so in addition to those, we also requested take home containers (which nicely provided us dinner).

New starters on the menu include the Yukon Potato Leek Soup and Flash Fried Navajo Bread. Now gone is the Cheddar Cheese Soup, Citrus Brine Oak-smoked Trout, and Venison Chili.

Yukon Potato Leek Soup - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Yukon Potato Leek Soup - topped with candied smoked-bacon $7.49

The Soup was yummy! It was creamy, almost thick, with a slight smokey flavor. Both of us really enjoyed it. Sometimes soups are over-salted for our tastes but this one wasn't. It was "bowl-lickin" good.

Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls Sweet Chili dipping sauce $11.49

We found the pork spring rolls to be a disappointment. While they certainly looked like there was pork inside, we never tasted any. Dipping it in the accompanying sweet chili sauce did nothing to enhance the pork flavor. This starter was more like crispy spring roll (minus the filling) dipped in the sauce. If there had been more pork, there hopefully would have been more flavor.

The new sandwich on the menu is the Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon and Egg" Burger. New entrees include the Western Salad, Fried Fish and Country Chips, Tuna Melt, Smoked Salmon Quesadilla and the Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs.

Gone are the Grilled Barbeque Chicken and Field Greens Salad , Griddled Meatloaf Sandwich and Whiskey Maple-Glazed Trout

Our Selections:

Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich - Cowboy Beans, Cucumber Salad $12.49

We both really enjoyed the pulled pork. It was slightly sweet, but not too much. Very lean (little fat) which is a huge plus for us. The one thing the menu didn't say was that the pork came topped with cole slaw with a kick! So, if you don't like spicy heat, ask for the slaw on the side or not at all. The pork sandwich also came with Cowboy beans - nothing of note to report here expect there were not overly sugared (yea). The cucumber salad was a pleasant surprise, sweet, tangy and flavorful. Almost like being bread and butter pickles.

House-smoked Turkey Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
House-smoked Turkey Sandwich - toasted Multigrain bread with arugula, Tomato and cranberry mayo $12.49

When the sandwich arrived I wondered, where is all the turkey You'll understand why when you see the next photo. It's the Turkey and Swiss sandwich from the Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakery that I enjoyed last week!

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Turkey and Swiss Sandwich - Main Street Bakery - Magic Kingdom $6.99

Needless to say, before I even took a bite, I was quite disappointed. I found the smoked turkey was not at all tender and for me, the smokey flavor was overpowering. I eat smoked turkey sandwiches at lots of places, but this one just didn't do it. That said, the sweet potato fries were great!!!

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla - with arugula, frisee, tomato, goat cheese, mozzarella and a side of pepper jam $16.99
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

The salmon quesadilla was very rich with lots goat cheese -- it was very filling and went a long way. The pepper jam jelly was not spicy and nicely complimented the quesadilla It would actually make an excellent breakfast or brunch dish.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - The winner on this dish is really the edamane salsa - it is full of flavor! Just the right mixture of edamane, corn, red pepper, cucumber, and onion. The sauce was a little spicy with a bit of heat and that enhanced the flavor of the quinoa cakes. I had this item when it was first introduced some time ago. I give kudos to the chefs for creating an entree that is not the normal vegies and pasta or vegies and tofu. Even as a non-vegetarian, I really enjoy it! I was glad to learn while not on the menu, it is usually available upon request.

And now dessert.............

Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - with candied jalapeno $6.99

When it appeared in a short mason glass and not the traditional wedge on a plate we were surprised. Creamy, thick with real pieces of jalapeno inside. Tangy but not hot. The brownie on the bottom was hard to get to but complimented the cheese cake nicely.

No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - $6.99

The no sugar added berry mouse is by far one of the best I have tasted. Actually, both of us really enjoyed it! Full of flavor, not overly sweet, and the berries were fresh and tasty!

All You Care To Drink Milkshakes are still available!

Overall we really had a fun time at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. There was lots of ketchup shuffling going on between tables and folks seemed to be having a good time.

Remember our taste buds are not yours and experiences vary. I would recommend giving lunch a try!

December 29, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites

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It is time for another Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites. Hopefully, now that we live in Florida, I'll be able to do these more often.

Last week Linda and I stayed two nights at the Contemporary Garden Wing (AP Rate which we got just 10 days prior) and spent both days in the Magic Kingdom and MK resort area.

This segment contains a quick service, theme park full service and signature dining.


CONTEMPO CAFE - CONTEMPORARY

Chicken Chop Salad $7.69
Deb: I have not been a fan of the Contempo Cafe, my previous 2 dining experiences were not so great. However I must say the Chicken Chop Salad was very fresh and perfect for lunch. It had the right balance of veggies, protein and carbs! I always ask for dressing on the side and was glad I did. The mayo based dressing really had little flavor and the vegis more than made up for it! I would have this again and would also recommend it to you!

Contempo Cafe


Chicken Spinach and Artichoke Flatbread $8.79
Linda: This was disappointing as the description of the flatbread did not jive with what I received. The spinach and artichoke appeared to be a creamy dip spread on the flatbread - not a chicken, spinach and artichoke flatbread that was advertised. There were VERY little actual spinach or artichokes. Plus the sauce was VERY thick and not at all appetizing. I was expecting fresh spinach and chopped artichoke therefore would not order again nor recommend it.

Contempo Cafe

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CALIFORNIA GRILL - CONTEMPORARY

Heirloom Apple Salad - winter greens, aged Gouda, dried cranberries, pumpkin-apple dressing $14
Deb: I love when greens means something other than Romaine or Iceburg lettuce and I would expect nothing less from a signature restaurant. The selection of greens were crunchy and did remind me of "winter". I loved the aged Gouda sprinkled on the top. If there was a slight disappointment with the salad it was the dressing. I felt the pumpkin-apple dressing was on the bland side and did not have the flavors I expected. That said, it was still a great salad and I would order it again!

California Grill


Creamy Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup - apple gastrique, truffled goat cheese gougere $11
Linda:
Yum Yum! Sunchoke was described as a cross of the edible parts of a sunflower and an artichoke. Seasoned perfectly, not over salted, and had a savory and sweet flavor (sweet coming from the small bits of apple). The goat cheese was in a puff pastry you can see on the side of the soup in the photo. I highly recommend and I'd order again!

California Grill


Triple Cheese Flatbread - pecorino, asiago, and provolone, sun-dried tomato and arugula pesto $12
Deb: I didn't want a full, heavy dinner and so opted for the salad above and this flatbread. I'm not much of an adventurous eater so this fit the bill for me perfectly. I'm a big fan of flatbreads from the signature restaurants with Jiko and California Grill making some of my most favorites!

California Grill

Dragon Roll - spicy and tataki tuna, shrimp tempura, bell pepper, avocado, chili soy glaze $28
Linda: Another Yoshi (Sushi Chef Extraordinare) Winner! A superb and very filling entree. If shared would make a great appetizer for 2. The only thing I didn't care from was the red bell pepper. Highly recommend and I'd order again.

California Grill

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LIBERTY TREE TAVERN - LUNCH - MAGIC KINGDOM

Colony Salad - Washington apples, sweet pecans and applewood smoked cheddar, dried cranberries Craisins, and grilled chicken tossed with field greens in honey shallot vinaigrette $14.49
Deb: I love lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The Colony salad is a wonderful blend of flavors accented with the apples. I forgot to order the dressing on the side so it was a bit "soupy" for me, but that was my error. I've had this salad before and I'll have it again - try it next time!

Liberty Tree Tavern


Pilgrims' Feast - traditional roast turkey with herb bread dressing, mashed potatoes and a garden vegetable $14.99
Linda: This hit the spot. I debated between this and the Tri-Corner sandwich and the server recommended the turkey - Spot on! Some of the most moist and tender turkey breast I've had in a long time. Green beans cooked just right, dressing was yummy - I joined the Clean Plate club for this one! Highly recommend!

Liberty Tree Tavern



Post Your Reviews and Read what Others Say about:

Contempo Cafe
California Grill
Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

That's it for this edition of WDW Dining Bits and Bites!


October 23, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites

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During my stay in Walt Disney World earlier this month, I was able to visit many restaurants and experienced many delights... and the occasional low-light. These bits and bites are based mainly based on this trip only, your experience or even mine in the future may be different.

To try and sum it up for you, here are my Dining Bits and Bites!

BEST NEW ITEMS

Kouzzina Breakfast Skillet! Savory eggs on top of sweet potato hash and topped with arugula salad - Super Yummy. The funny thing was I had been to Kouzzina early in my trip and breakfast was the menu I had grown to know and love. When I went back several days later, I couldn't figure ou what had happened to the menu! Finally asked the server and she explained it was brand new. While I will miss the breakfast flatbread and open faced omelet, the new breakfast skillet is a winner! I will be back next trip.


Whispering Canyon Café - Cheddar Cheese Soup $6.99 - with candied bacon and popcorn - wow!!!! We got to sample a small portion of the soup while dining at Artist Point and all 4 of us LOVED it!

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PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

Looking for a last-minute dinner can be very difficult, even for two. But in the Epcot resort area, we knew someplace had to have a table open.

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I have often gone to the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club for lunch, but finally tried out dinner. We had a great meal. Linda had the Grilled Rib-eye which she said was tender and flavorful. I had the Pan-Seared Chicken with white beans and smoked bacon - it was yummy! The only odd thing was that both of our knives seemed incredibly dull. We talked to the manager and he assured us the knives are sharpened on a regular basis. We suggested he take a look at the two we were using. The server was great and overall we were pleased! We will return!



BIGGEST SURPRISES

Biggest Surprise #1 - Dinner at Boatwrights Port Orleans Riverside.

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While we got off to a slow start with our server, eventually everything picked up and we had a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed the Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99), Tenderloin Medallions ($27.40), and the Prime Rib ($27.99).

I suggest making an evening of it - dine here then go see the YeeHawBob's show!


Biggest Surprise #2 - Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge has a flight of SAKE and it's $15! Believe it or not, a place in Oregon makes SAKE!

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LOVING MORE AND MORE

Il Mulino (Swan) - best Italian food on Disney property! The Carpaccio Di Tonno - Thinly Shaved, Center-Cut Tuna served with Arugula, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Lemon Juice $14 - melts in your mouth! Really enjoyed the well aged Parmigiano Reggiano (listed as an appetizer), or as I like to say dessert, for $8.00. If you are looking for a great red Italian wine, try: Antinori guardo al tasso - Brusciato with cabernet, merlot and syrah 2008 for $79.



BEST OF THE BEST

Flying Fish (Boardwalk) continues to provide an outstanding dining experience in terms of service and food. Fresh Breakfast (Dolphin) wonderful, Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge), Jiko - awaiting a new chef (Animal Kingdom Lodge) !



DISAPPOINTMENT

Coral Reef - I so wanted to have a great experience here. The reviews we get are always mixed. Our food was good, however the server was far below average and made a couple huge mistakes that put a damper on the whole experience. The good news - there was a sea turtle was swimming by and hanging out through most of our dinner. You can't beat the atmosphere.

Coral Reef Turtle

SAME OL'

Big River Grille on the Boardwalk
- Nothing fancy or special here. Consistent average pub food. The highlight is the microbrews and the option to dine outside and watch everyone strolling the boardwalk.



BEST KEPT SECRET

Best Kept Secret: Garden Grove (Swan) for non-character breakfasts and lunch. Food was consistently above average as was the service.

The breakfast buffet including Strawberries and Blueberries - my favs! Also, eggs made to order plus yummy bran muffins with raisins. Of course, all the usual breakfast foods are here as well.

Garden Grove at the Swan

Garden Grove at the Swan

For lunch, try the French Dip OR Mahi Fish Tacos.

FUTURE DINING

I'm in search of an excellent theme park dining experience that combines food, theming, and service on a consistent basis. What do you recommend and why??!! Leave your comment below.

Photos from the DisneyFoodBlog.com are here with permission.

January 18, 2011

The Contemporary's Wave Tests a Breakfast Buffet

During December 2010, the Wave restaurant, in the Contemporary Resort, tested out a breakfast buffet. Guest feedback was very positive so the trial run will continue through January 2011.

Cost is $18.49 for adults and $10.99 for children and includes non-specialty beverages.

Almost ever\y item on the regular menu is on the buffet, even Eggs Benedict. About the only thing not on the buffet are omelets.

Laura, Mike and myself dined there and found the food hot and yummy. Don't miss the cheese grits :)

The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary


Classic Salmon with egg, capers, onion and tomato
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Seasonal Fruit - Citrus and Strawberries
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Cottage Cheese, fruit, jams
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Bananas, Grapes, Muesli
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Assorted Pastries
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Assorted Pastries
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Pork Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, Biscuits and Gravy
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Mickey Cinnamon Buns, Ham and Cheddar Quiche, Cheese Grits with Bacon, Breakfast Potatoes, Applewood Smoked Bacon
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Mickey Waffles, Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecan Butter, Eggs Benedict
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

Dried Cereal
The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Contemporary

February 10, 2010

California Grill Sushi

Since opening May 1995, the California Grill has been an amazing signature restaurant. Featuring California Fusion cooking, the menu changes regularly to bring diners the freshest produce and entrees!

California Grill


While some people come to enjoy the creative flatbreads, Sonoma goat cheese ravioli, teriyaki barbecue beef filet and oak-fired pork tenderloin and polenta, others come for the view. In fact, it's arguably the finest view in Walt Disney World especially at sunset.

On one side is an amazing view of the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, incredible sunsets and Wishes fireworks.

California Grill

California Grill


On the other side of the restaurant you can see Epcot's fireworks high in the sky, along with views of Disney's Wilderness Lodge and other Disney buildings.

California Grill

Recently I had the good fortunate to dine at the Sushi Chef's table. Among staff there since the beginning is Yoshie Cabral, one of just a handful of female sushi chefs in the United States. Her creations are one of the most-requested menu items -- on a good day she'll make more than 2,000 pieces of raw fish and rice into pristine morsels for diners, and train her protégés to slice and dice.

Watching Sushi Chefs
Sushi at California Grill


I had a great time watching all the sushi become masterful creations! This video will give you a small taste of their food artwork :)


My thanks to Jack Spence for the video editing and Jeff Onorato for some of the photos!

July 31, 2007

2008 Dining Plan Changes

UPDATE INFO: 7/31/07
1) The Deluxe Dining plan still does NOT include gratuity. It DOES include the appetizer.
2) No word on DVC member pricing.

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There has been lots of internet chatter about changes coming to the 2008 Magic Your Way Dining plans. AllEars now hears the following is scheduled to be announced in August:

1) Automatic Gratuity will be removed from all 2008 packages that include dining. Tax will still be INCLUDED, but the gratuity will not.

2) The Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan as we know it today will change for 2008. Gone will be the appetizer from the Table Service meal. The full service option will consist of entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. The price goes down just $1 per person per day to $37.99 for those 10 and older. $9.99 for those 3-9.

3) 2008 will see the introduction of the Magic Your Way Plus DELUXE Dining Plan. This plan will include: 3 meals a day - your choice of table service or counter service; 2 snacks per day per person; a Resort Refillable Mug for each person on the reservation. Signature restaurants will still count as 2 Table Service meals, but now with the additional table service meals, dinner shows and signature restaurants may be more doable. Price will be $69.99 for those 10 and older and $19.99 for those 3-9.

4) The last major change will probably be the addition of a Magic Your Way Plus Wine package. For $39.99 per night you may order a bottle of wine at your Disney restaurant or from a location on property that sells wine (like resort stores). It can not be purchased separately and may only be an add-on to a Dining Package. There are still a lot of details to work out on this including if there will be a special wine list to order from or a dollar limit. Sounds like if you are at a Signature Restaurant that takes 2 Table Service credits, you will also be charged 2 Wine credits if on the add-on plan.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the 2008 packages and dining options in August.

April 25, 2007

4/25/2007 WDW Almost Live

Evening 4/21/2007

Tonight we dined at Jiko to celebrate our dear friends Tod and Sue's anniversary. Our dinner was simply amazing and highlighted by manager Jeremy who paired each of our courses with a special South African Wine. We actually never did have a "main course" per se... but did manage to have several courses of items from the Cooking Place and the appetizer list. Oh, and dessert.

In this photo, Jeremy is pouring the Chocolate Box red wine for Sue -- it was YUMMMY!!

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Sunday, April 22, 2007
I hadn't spent much time in the World Showcase portion of Epcot so Linda and I headed there on Sunday. What a beautiful weather day... mostly blue skies, mild temps and a small breeze. We strolled from pavilion to pavilion enjoying all the beautiful flowers and topiaries.

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Along the way, we had lunch at the Yakatori House in Japan. It was ok, nothing special, but decent. By mid afternoon we strolled back to the front of Epcot to try and get better photos of the entrance topiaries.

Back to Wilderness Lodge where we spent some time talking with the concierge staff. Lisa, Gerrianne, Jack and everyone was just super!

Sunday evening we dined at Il Mulino in the Swan, the new Italian place. Being such a huge fan of Palio (the former Italian restaurant), I had such high hopes. Alas, I found the place disappointing and way overpriced. Our dining companions, Steve Barrett (Mr. Hidden Mickey) and his lovely wife Vickie, made the evening very special.

Monday morning we were off to the airport at 6:30am for a flight home. A great trip with great memories!

Deb --
Life IT too short!

April 24, 2007

4/24/07 - WDW Almost Live

Well, as you can see, I didn't quite finish the "live" updates from Walt Disney World. Things just got so hectic. Allow me now, to finish up the trip as best I can.....

4/20/07 Evening....
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Dinner at California Grill was wonderful, as it always is for me. We were seating in the wine room in the back and had a great view of Epcot's Spaceship Earth as well as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. As I mentioned, I"ll be doing an article for the AllEars® newsletter on our California Grill experience.

4/21/07
Saturday morning we decided to have breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe. If you haven't been there yet, let's just say is a Wild and Crazy dining experience. Lots of whopping it up... so be ready for noise, even early in the am! The kids all got to ride around on their stick ponies (even some "older" kids) and it was fun to watch. Our server was very into his role and sometimes he couldn't stop himself from laughing. Food was very good but huge quantities and most of us couldn't finish our breakfast!!

The four of us went over to Epcot to see the Flower and Garden Festival. It certainly had more "color" than I remembered from last year.

The Pirate ship at the entrance is just magnificent with Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, the gator and Pirate "Mr. Smee" Stitch!

We rode the new Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico. Certainly more colorful and lively that the former El Rio de Tiempo which definitely needed updating. If I didn't know the story line in advance, I would have been wondering exactly what it was. It wasn't clear to me until near the end that the Caballeros were looking for Donald. Be that as it may, it was cute and a strong "C-ticket" attraction.

There were gorgeous orchids along the path outside of Mexico and we spent a great deal of time admiring and taking photos of them.

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At this point I left my friends and headed off to do some resort research at Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans French Quarter. My friends continued to enjoy the Festival.


Deb
Life -- IT too short!

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the Dining category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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