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January 6, 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Special Member Event Part 1

D23 Magic & Merriment Credentials

Guest Blogger Cedric Ching is back! This time he has an extensive review of the D23
"Magic & Merriment" event held at Walt Disney World
. The first two D23 events at WDW were the "Flowers & Fireworks" in May and the "Sip & Stroll" in October.

D23's "Magic & Merriment" celebrated their first holiday season with two days of exclusive festivities.

Among other things, these festivities included the following:

-- a special "Holidays Around the World" presentation to start off the weekend (Saturday)
-- guaranteed seating for the 5pm Candlelight Processional (Saturday)
-- a private dinner on the set of Lights! Motors! Action! with dessert at the Studio Catering Company (Saturday)
-- a private presentation of the history of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Saturday)
-- lunch and entertainment at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon (Sunday)
-- a tour of the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite (Sunday), and
-- entry into Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and access to a D23 Hospitality area (Sunday)

blue line

D23's Magic & Merriment


Check-In for the Magic & Merriment was a two-step process. Guests first stopped by Will Call window just out and to the right of Epcot's main gates to received our complimentary park tickets, as well as an itinerary for the weekend and complementary Disneyquest tickets. Then, it was over to the Odyssey Center, inside the park, where D23's Jeffrey and Joanna handed us a large envelope with everything else we would need.

Inside the Odyssey Center, we signed up for our Cinderella Castle Dream Suite tours on Sunday and were offered the option to purchase a special carrying case for our Twenty-Three magazines (offer not available online). We were also given a copy of Pam Brown's "Culinary Confessions of the PTR Divas" cookbook, just like at the Sip & Stroll event.

D23's Magic & Merriment


The room was set up with rows of chairs in the center and large tables along the sides. In the back there were multiple beverage stations -- this time offering hot cocoa in addition to water, sodas, and coffee -- along with some decorations.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Before the presentation, I was able to spread out the contents of our envelopes:

D23's Magic & Merriment

-- our D23 Magic & Merriment lanyard/credentials
-- a welcome letter from Steven Clark, Head of D23
-- an itinerary of the Magic & Merriment activities
-- biography sheets of each of the morning's speakers
-- a Holiday Services trivia sheet
-- a set of park maps and event programs
-- our complementary 1-day, 1-park theme park passes and Disney Quest tickets

Vanessa Rosas, one of the two 2009 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, welcomed all of the guests to D23's Magic & Merriment to start off Saturday morning's "Holidays Around the World" presentation. This was fitting, as her counterpart Clay Shoemaker had opened the D23's Sip & Stroll event.

D23's Magic & Merriment

First, Vanessa introduced Becky Cline, the Manager of the Walt Disney Archives and part of the development team for D23. Becky sent greetings from Steven Clark, who had family commitments (read: "triplets")., then joked that while Steven was often referred to as the "Father of D23", she had become known as its Fairy Godmother, a title she quickly demonstrated as she surprised everyone with Mickey Santa hats. She then quickly shared that her favorite Christmas tradition was the Candlelight Processional and that she has been able to participate in the event on both coasts.

Next, Jeffrey made some quick Mousekeeping announcements which included the note that the guests for this event represented 25 states plus Canada.

Lisa Borotkanics, Manager of Disney's Holiday Services, was the next to present. She had a slideshow with trivia about the holiday decorations found around the parks and resorts areas.

A couple items she focused on were the large Mickey Mouse wreath at the Contemporary Resort and the concept of "Icon Trees". The wreath on the side of the Contemporary measures 31' tall and 38' wide, making it the largest wreath on property (Note: the smallest wreath is 8" wide and can be found on an igloo at Winter Summerland). As for the "Icon Trees", these are trees put out by Holiday Services that are at least 18' in height -- there are 27 Icon Trees on property. The Contemporary not only has the distinction of being the only resort to host an icon tree but also of having the tallest at 70'. Because this pole tree uses LEDs, lighting it requires no more energy than three household hair-dryers. Also of note, all of the trees her department puts out are artificial and are recycled after their 5-6 year lifespan. And before she was finished, Lisa surprised each guest with a packet of Epcot and Magic Kingdom FastPasses.

Next, Vanessa introduced a couple guys with "sweet" jobs, Stefan Riemer, Master Pastry Chef at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club, and Erich Herbitschek, Master Pastry Chef at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Each chef talked about the gingerbread display at their respective resorts -- Chef Stefan described the Gingerbread Carousel at Disney's Beach Club Resort, and Chef Erich, the Grand Floridian's Gingerbread House -- and while one chef was presenting, the other decorated a small gingerbread house.

Chef Stefan told us how European traditions have influenced the way they build gingerbread today. For one thing, both he and Chef Erich take after the Europeans, who prefer to use honey in their recipe, which makes their gingerbread more moist, while Americans prefer molasses, resulting in a crispier cookie. Also, Europeans typically start making gingerbread right after Easter, and both chefs start their gingerbread preparations in early summer.

This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the Gingerbread Carousel at Disney's Beach Club Villas, and to reflect the year and the anniversary, Chef Stefan used 2009 gingerbread pieces on the carousel and placed ten hidden mickeys in and around the 8-foot-tall display. Chef Erich and his team at the Grand Floridian begin preparations in June, not only to cover their 17-foot-tall gingerbread structure, but to provide the over 36,000 baked items they sell each season, which are all hand-made. Another mentioned, was that each year, each Resort Gingerbread House had their own character pin -- Beach Club (Chip and Dale), Boardwalk (Stitch), Contemporary (Mickey), Grand Floridian (Minnie), and Epcot [American Adventure] (Goofy) -- I believe all of these pins were sold out by the time of this event.

At the end of their presentation, all of the M&M-ers were treated to either a gingerbread cookie or sugar cookie. The back of one of the cookies was marked with some stars; that person got to take home the gingerbread house Chef Stefan and Chef Erich had been decorated.


D23's Magic & Merriment

The chefs were the last presenters, but before the morning session came to an end, D23's Fairy Godmother had one more surprise for us -- with a "Mele Kalikimaka", Santa Stitch came running up the aisle. Guests were able to get their picture taken with him before heading out to roam the parks, and that was the end of the morning session. The next scheduled M&M event was the Candlelight Processional at 5pm.

I didn't immediately head out. Instead, I stuck around the Odyssey Center and took some pictures of Holiday Stitch with the D23 Team.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, I left with Sandi (a D23 member I met during the Sip & Stroll) towards Disney's Hollywood Studios. She was trying to catch a Disney artist signing while I wanted to check out the holiday displays at the Epcot Resorts, so I accompanied her as far as Disney's Boardwalk. Here are some pictures from the resorts:

D23's Magic & Merriment

With the rest of the free time, I made a tour of the World Showcase. I also walked to the parking lot to drop the cookbook off at the car (quite a number of M&M-ers had the same idea). And I went back to D23 Hospitality Suite (Odyssey Center).

D23's Magic & Merriment

For the Candlelight Processional, D23 had reserved the last two rows for M&M-ers. It was truly a luxury not having to stand in line, which would've been quite considerable. Chita Rivera was wonderful as the guest narrator. Her love for this tradition was apparent as her face would light up at certain songs.

D23's Magic & Merriment

There was no mention of "D23" or "Magic & Merriment" at this performance, but I suppose that was understandable given the season. Still, D23 was represented as Mark, an M&M-er who is also a Disney cast member, made it into the show, which was cool to see.

D23's Magic & Merriment

After the show, we waited until most of the theatre cleared before we were led behind the American Adventures to a fleet of buses waiting to take us to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the rest of Saturday's M&M activities.


D23's Magic & Merriment

The buses dropped us off beside Walt's private jet on the Backlot Tour, and as we walked underneath the bleachers, excitement filled our eyes as the Lights! Motors! Action! set came into view -- the red carpet rolled out, tables and chairs set up, and a bright D23 welcome on the large billboard television screen.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Dinner was presented in buffet style to offer us more variety and to let us eat as much as we cared to eat. There were identical selections on each side of the set plus a carving station towards the center. The food was an array of hot meats and savory seasonal sides:

Buffet Line:
- European Greens with Heirloom Tomatoes, Euro Cucumbers, Carrots and Olives
- Yukon Gold Potato Crusted Lobster and Crab Pie topped with Aged Cheddar
- Sage Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy
- Sweet Potato Mash with Toasted Marshmallows
- Carrots with Dill (actually, some sort of delicious, moist chicken breast)
- Hot Grilled Seasonal Vegetables with Acorn Squash
- Thyme Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Dressing and Cranberry Jus
- Balsamic Roasted Beets with Citrus and Arugula
- Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Stilton Blue Cheese Dressing, Watercress Ranch Dressing
- House-made Bread of the Day, Butter

Carving Station:
- Crushed Peppercorn Strip Loin of Beef with Sundried Tomato Tarragon Sauce


D23's Magic & Merriment

In addition to the usual beverage station, there was an open bar (which again, was very good deal for those who can and choose to partake). The food really showcased what Disney catering was capable of, and the food that I had was absolutely delicious.

As for entertainment, there was a photo op with Santa Mickey.

D23's Magic & Merriment

But for the most part, everyone was just walking around the LMA set taking close-up pictures of Everything.

D23's Magic & Merriment

When dinnertime was over, we were all escorted from the LMA set, through the backlot, to Toy Story Midway Mania! for some exclusive ride time. While in line, we shared strategies for unlocking easter eggs, and many of us were able to ride twice before it was time to head over to the dessert event.

Our private dessert party was at the Studio Catering Company (the counter service area beside the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground). There, an array of mousse-filled chocolate shell cup desserts and an impressive selection of gourmet cheeses were laid out -- not to mention the couple bread pudding options!

Desserts:
- White Chocolate Cups filled with Dark Chocolate Mousse with Chambord Drizzle and Lady Finger
- Pumpkin Mousse with Rum Drizzle and Sunflower Seed Brittle
- Variety of Artisan Cheeses served with Chutney, Dried Fruit, Berries and Breads
- Pecan Honey Granola Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel
- Butterfinger Bread Pudding


D23's Magic & Merriment

This was a quick stop, as our next activity was around the corner, the Osborne Lights presentation.

John Phelan, Show Director at Walt Disney World, was told us the story of how The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights came to be. Asides from what Disney fans already knew...

from the Disney World website:

"The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights started modestly in Arkansas as a single home's annual display. Every year, Jennings Osborne and his family set up an elaborate collection of holiday lights and over the years, the collection of lights grew, and grew... and grew!"

... we got to learn about Jennings Osborne's generosity and excitement with sharing this magic: "He didn't want any money. He was just tickled to death to be there," John mentioned. John described Jennings as a "quiet and reserved man but he loves to do things in giant and grand ways," and gave us the example of when he and his men made their initial visit to Arkansas, and Jennings had a limo waiting at the airport and then at dinner, treated them to literally everything on the menu.

A couple of extra note-worthy pieces of trivia from the presentation:
-- There is "Halloween cat" display that Disney workers initially found mixed in with the Christmas lights; as tradition, it's relocated to a different part of the street each year.
-- The nativity scene (found next to the Monsters Inc Meet & Greet entrance) is a set that the Osbornes actually purchased at Epcot years before the ideas of the Osborne lights came about.

Here's a picture of John Phelan (right) with his crew chief John Wright:

D23's Magic & Merriment

John's presentation ran a little long, so we were only treated to a couple musical selections, but we all still had a spirited time wandering the lighted streets with the falling "snow" and looking for hidden mickeys and the Halloween cat.


D23's Magic & Merriment

[To watch John Phelan's presentation, you can check out Jeremy Marx's YouTube videos (4 parts):


Before boarding the buses back to Epcot (and Downtown Disney for guests staying at Disney resorts), each of us was handed an exclusive D23 ornament.

D23's Magic & Merriment

And with that, Day 1 of D23's Magic & Merriment came to an end.

January 7, 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Special Member Event Part 2

D23's Magic & Merriment

D23's "Magic & Merriment Part 1

Sunday, December 13th, 2009 was Day 2 of D23's Magic & Merriment. I, like many other M&M-ers, got to the park early to catch an attraction or two before our first scheduled event, which was the luncheon at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon at 11am.

An easy-paced morning, I first made a stop at the Polynesian Resort to grab a sticky bun and coffee at Kona Island.

D23's Magic & Merriment

At the Magic Kingdom bag check, I recognized another M&M-er, and we decided to go to Tomorrowland together and ride Space Mountain. We were able to ride it twice -- once on each side -- before we decided to head over to the Diamond Horseshoe, where the line was just starting to form. Everyone was comparing Day 1 notes and anticipating our upcoming tours of the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite.


D23's Magic & Merriment

Inside the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, we found a buffet line stacked with an array of gourmet sandwiches and a food station off to the right with some of Walt Disney's comfort foods featuring the heavenly Monte Cristo Sandwiches (yes, á la Disneyland) and a couple of soups, including Walt's own chili. The saloon's bar hosted desserts and beverages, and this time, the desserts offered were a combination of tarts and cake bars. Below is the menu with a selection of food pics.

Main Buffet Line:
- Bibb Lettuce with Mandarin Oranges with Pink Lilly Vinaigrette
- Kansas City Pulled Pork with Mini Buns and Sweet Cream Slaw
- Grilled Vegetable and Piquillo Pepper on Foccacia Bread
- Smoked Turkey Leg Salad on Brioche with Lettuce
- Slow Cooked Midwestern Shaved Beef and Cheese Sandwich

Side Station:
- Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Blackberry Preserves
- Elias Irish Canadian Cheddar Soup with Pretzel Crisps
- Walt's Own Chili with Crackers

Dessert Bar:
- Carrot Cake Bars
- Chocolate Pecan Tarts
- Butterfinger Tarts
- Tart Lemon Bars


D23's Magic & Merriment

While we ate, we learned that the Diamond Horseshoe was a replica of the saloon in Calamity Jane movie -- designed by Disney Legend Harper Goff (Nautilus submarine, Jungle Cruise). He had used virtually the same blueprint for the construction of the restaurant interior for both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

For our entertainment, the Dapper Dans took the stage and performed a few numbers, and we all really enjoyed them, especially their nod to "it's a small world".


D23's Magic & Merriment

Then, D23's Fairy Godmother, Becky, took to the stage, invited a little girl to join her, then had everyone to check under their seats for an envelope; the lucky guest and their family were invited to be grand marshals of the 3 o'clock parade.

D23's Jeffrey then again made some general Mousekeeping announcements then told us we were on our own for the rest of the day. There were castle tours starting, plus a couple opportunites schedule for reserved parade viewing. For us guests with later tours, we hung around the saloon for a little longer and enjoyed more food before heading out.

For this break, a couple other M&M-ers and I used a couple of our General MK FastPasses for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. It was in line for Big Thunder that I got a text from another M&M-er saying that their family was selected to be on the boat for Tiana's Showboat Jubilee at 2pm. Awesome! So we got in place early and were able to take some pictures of them during the show.


D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, it was time to head to the front of the park for the 3pm Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. D23 had reserved a viewing area for us in front of Exposition Hall. The parade route wasn't particularly crowded, but it still felt nice to all be together.


D23's Magic & Merriment


After the parade, M&M-ers were given their wristbands for the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and it was nearly time to check-in for my castle tour.

Check-in for the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite Tour was at the collection of tables near the Sleepy Hollow food service in Liberty Square, U.S.A. The tours were scheduled in 20-minute increments throughout the entire afternoon, and tour groups were limited to ten guests.


D23's Magic & Merriment

When it was our group's turn, our guide started us off with a brief introduction out and to the side of the castle.


D23's Magic & Merriment

Our guide then led us to the private room inside the Castle Breezeway (across from the 5-panel Cinderella mosaic) that housed the entrance to the elevator to the Dream Suite. In this small welcome room contained a clock whose hands pointed to 11:59pm -- one minute before midnight.

When the elevator reached the third floor, we entered a small but very ornate foyer which featured a display case with Cinderella's only remaining glass slipper (the other one had shattered on the ground... remember?). The case also held Cinderella's coronation crown and scepter from when she became a bonifide princess, and "some of her favorite pumpkins".


D23's Magic & Merriment

The floor of the foyer featured a mosaic of Cinderella's carriage, and above was a beautiful chandelier; also, the framed artwork in this area were original Mary Blair concept art taken from Disney Archives.

Next, we stepped into the suite and were like kids in a candy shop with our cameras. The suite was actually quite small -- only 160 square feet. It consisted of a lounge, a bedroom, and a bathroom, but was given a slightly larger feel by the creative use of mirrors. And honestly, trying to describe each room, it would be difficult to give them the proper justice -- one could spend hours or even days looking at all of the details. So instead, I offer some images from our time in the suite:


D23's Magic & Merriment

One really interesting piece of trivia from the tour: Because the "Year of A Million Dreams"' was a federally regulated sweepstakes, the suite, for legal reasons, had to be designated as a hotel room. So, it is technically Room 1010 at the Contemporary.

When it was time to leave, we went back into the elevator to the first floor where our guide handed each one of us a [blank] Cinderella Castle Suite key card and wished us well.


D23's Magic & Merriment

The tours were running around 25 minutes, so the tour schedules were gradually slipping back, but I didn't hear complaints from anyone. It was truly an item many of us will have checked off our bucket lists. Anyways, I hung around Sleepy Hollow to wait for a couple friends to finish their tour, then we went to ride a few more rides and grab some dinner.

To me, the transition to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was seemless, not having left the park; it felt more like one long day at the Magic Kingdom.

The 8:15pm Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade was the last scheduled M&M event, and we had viewing areas again reserved in front of Exposition Hall, charmingly labeled.


D23's Magic & Merriment

After the parade, we just walked up Main Street U.S.A to get situated on the bridge for the 9:30pm Holiday Wishes Fireworks.


D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, we made our way through the crowds towards the D23's Hospitality Location at the Liberty Belle Steamboat's landing area. There, small tables were setup along with a beverage station that featured coffee, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider. A dessert table was situated on the actual Liberty Belle Steamboat (cool!), and it had sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and Christmas Tree rice crispy treats.


D23's Magic & Merriment

This hospitality area was a nice, quiet oasis for us to relax with other M&M-ers. None of us wanted the night to end.

Many of us kept riding rides until the very end then stayed at the hub at the front of Main Street U.S.A to close the park.

=============
D23's Magic & Merriment event was indeed merry and magical. As guests, we were treated to a full schedule of amazing experiences, some incredible tastes, and nice opportunities to get to know and share stories with other D23 members and staff. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to attend this event and each of D23's previous events at WDW, and I definitely look forward to what is in store for 2010. Thank you to the D23 team and to all of the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet.

January 9, 2010

Captain’s Grille - Yacht Club

Guest Blogger Jeff Onorato is back, this time with a photo blog of the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club!


Try to imagine this scenario, if you will. It's 90 degrees outside and you're walking elbow to elbow with fellow tourists in any given theme park melting under the hot afternoon sun. I have found myself in this predicament on many occasions. Short of calling it a day and retreating to my hotel, I find that escaping to a nearby resort for lunch is a rejuvenating way to spend the afternoon.

I realize that this plan may not be for everyone. Some folks enjoy retiring to their hotel for a quick dip in the pool or an afternoon siesta. Those are great options too, and I often partake in those practices as well. But having lunch at a nearby resort is a nice way to quickly recharge, refuel, and reduce commuting time to and from the parks. Thereby allowing more time to ride the rides and get the most out of your park admission.

One of my favorite hideaways from the excitement is the Captain's Grille, located in Disney's Yacht Club resort. Close proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios make it an ideal candidate for a quick recess. It's just a short walk or boat ride from World Showcase in Epcot.


Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club


The Captain's Grille is located in the lobby area of the resort. The restaurant was formerly known as the Yacht Club Galley, though not much has changed other than the name.

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club


The theme of the Yacht Club is carried out within the restaurant, albeit on a less grandiose scale. Wooden tables and chairs, brass lighting fixtures, blue carpeting, porthole windows, and a "skipper" hanging from the ceiling all help to bring to mind a quaint seaside inn.

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

They are open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Breakfast brings Crab Cakes Benedict, Brioche French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes, and an "all you care to eat" buffet from 7:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Lunch and Dinner offerings include a Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich, Fish and Chips, Grilled Ahi Tuna, Snow Crab Legs, Lump Crab Cakes and Grilled Pork Chops. Is your tummy rumbling yet?

A prix-fixe menu is available at Dinner, which runs from 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. For $27.99, you can choose one Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert. There are 3-4 options to choose from in each category on the menu.

I stopped in for lunch during a recent visit to the World and had a wonderful experience. Reservations are not needed, but I always recommend making them just to be on the safe side. It was fairly busy - about forty percent of the tables were occupied when I was there. This is the perfect place to stop by for an impromptu meal. The atmosphere is very laid back and casual. Park attire (shorts, t-shirts) is perfectly acceptable.

Service at Captain's Grille is generally quick and efficient. Today was no exception. My server was very friendly and made great recommendations upon my request. I never had to wait for drink refills, as they were readily available as needed. I had Coke; however Smoothies, Juices, Espresso, Cappuccino, Bottled Beers, and Mixed Drinks are also available.

To begin my meal, I chose the Spinach Cheese Dip for Two ($9.99). Although I was dining solo, this sounded appealing to me so I decided to give it a try. The flavor of the spinach was not prominent, and the parmesan cheese garnishment was a perfect match. It's served with grilled flatbread which is sliced into tiny pieces for dipping and also topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, and bacon. The flatbread was still warm and crispy. I really enjoyed this, but couldn't finish it. The portion size was huge (as indicated in the name).

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

In keeping with my nautical surroundings, I chose an entrée that included Seafood. I went with the Soup and Sandwich Combo ($11.99). This consists of Tuna- or Shrimp-salad on a croissant with New England Clam Chowder or Soup of the Day. I opted for the Shrimp-salad which was piled high and heaping out of the sandwich. It was garnished with lettuce, tomato, onions and a pickle. The croissant was served on a platter next to the Clam Chowder and a tiny ramekin of Oysterette crackers. The soup was excellent - the clams were tender and not at all chewy or fishy. I would go so far as to say this was some of the best Clam Chowder I have had.

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

For dessert I had the Braeburn Apple Tart ($5.49). The dessert was small, but was the perfect size for lunch. The tiny pastry was topped with a warm baked apple, whipped cream and caramel sauce. The apple was soft and had a nice cinnamon flavor to it. A decorative cookie crowned the dessert and added some crunch to the texture.

Captain's Grille Yacht Club

Other desserts on the menu: Chocolate Profiterole, Key Lime Tart, Double Chocolate Cheesecake, and House-made Gelato (available with "no sugar added"). All are under $6.00.

The Captain's Grille consistently serves-up great food at reasonable prices. It's convenient location, varied menu items and relaxed atmosphere makes it an ideal candidate for a leisurely meal away from the action. I have sought sanctuary here on more than one occasion, only to return to the parks rejuvenated and sailing on my second wind.

Related Links:

Captain's Grille Breakfast Menu
Captain's Grille Kid's Breakfast Menu
Captain's Grille Lunch Menu
Captain's Grille Dinner Menu
Captain's Grille Kid's Lunch/Dinner Menu

Readers Review the Captain's Grille Breakfast

Readers Review the Captain's Grille Lunch/Dinner

About Jeff: I am 33 years old and from Gettysburg, PA. By day I work in the Accounting Department of a Newspaper Publishing Company. My first visit to WDW was at the age of 2, and have been back around 35 times since then. I often travel solo to WDW, as well as with family. I make good use of my Annual Pass, and trek to Orlando about 5 times per year to visit my favorite travel destination. My favorite resort is the Polynesian, but have stayed at all of the WDW resorts at least once. In fact, my favorite aspect of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort is trying out the different Resorts and Restaurants. I also enjoy the many restaurants and sampling different foods that I normally would never try at home! (such as Escargot at the France pavillion).

Read Jeff's other blogs:

Tutto Italia

A review of Bluezoo

A review of Paradiso 37 in Downtown Disney.

January 15, 2010

A Vegan Adventure at 'Ohana

by Kitty Smith

I just returned from a most wonderful Walt Disney World vacation. As a vegan, there were some challenges with meals, but one meal was so amazingly outstanding that it deserves a whole report by itself. On Thursday December 10th, I had the best meal of my life - a seven course vegan feast at 'Ohana.

Other vegetarians and vegans might wonder why I'd even attempt a meal at an establishment known for its meat-fest, but I had heard that Chef TJ (Tjetjep Sudiswa) was now working there - and anywhere he's cooking, I'll be eating. His name alone would have brought me here, but I had also heard that he was making a special effort here to treat vegans to something truly special. Even knowing that, nothing could have prepared me for the meal I was about to enjoy.

We were seated at a table near the window, with an awesome view of the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. Our meal was too early for the fireworks, but I can only imagine how cool it must be to watch them from here. The view was gorgeous! Shortly after we were seated, Chef TJ came to greet me, and after a couple of food-specific questions, he asked me if I was ready for my adventure. And boy was I ever! I had come hungry, and excited, with camera and notebook in hand.

To get me started, Chef TJ brought out a nice large plate of fried Pita chips, with a nice large scoop of red pepper hummus, and Baba Ghanoush. If I didn't know more food was coming, I could have easily eaten this whole plate! It was so good!

vegan2.jpg
Pita Chips with Red Pepper Hummus and Baba Ghanoush

Next came the salad course. Since Chef TJ doesn't do anything simple, this was not your average salad. This one was wrapped in a sesame rice "paper", and served in a wine glass. It was designed to be eaten with your hands, as Chef TJ insisted I do - very unique, and very tasty. I'm not sure of the dressing he used (some sort of vinaigrette, light and full of flavor), but it was wonderful! The only problem, if you can call it that, is that the dressing tended to fall to the bottom, which only meant that each bite was better than the last.

vegan1.jpg
Mixed Greens in Sesame Rice Paper


At this point, Chef TJ (who continually checked to make sure I was happy and that all was well) pointed out that the noodles and broccoli served with the regular meal were also vegan. I tried just enough to tell you that they were also quite delicious. I probably could have made a small meal from that alone, but Chef TJ wasn't about to let me settle! (I'm calling this a seven-course meal, but truly it would have been eight or nine, with the noodles and broccoli.)

vegan4.jpg
Lo Mein Noodles Tossed in Teriyaki Sauce with Fresh Vegetables, and Seasoned Broccoli

Next course, soup. This was quite unusual - a ginger-based broth, with crushed red pepper, watercress and peanuts. The red pepper definitely gave it some kick, and veggies and peanuts made it quite filling. I must confess that, while very tasty, only ate about half of it. This was already one of the largest meals I'd ever had, and I hadn't even got to the entrée yet.

vegan3.jpg
Ginger Soup with Crushed Red Pepper, Watercress and Peanuts

Ahhh... entrée at last, or so I thought! This next dish was actually my favorite. I believe that Chef TJ called it Tofu chips with Swiss chard. Somehow, he had managed to cut the tofu into small, very thin slices and fried it, giving it the most wonderful chewy texture. Oh what I wouldn't give to be able to do that to tofu! The Swiss chard was the perfect accompaniment. He also included two sauces - one a bit spicy, the other a bit sweet. However, the tofu was so deliciously marinated already that I found the sauces a bit over-kill. I just can't rave enough about this dish! It was heavenly!

vegan6.jpg
Fried Tofu Chips with Swiss Chard

Just as I'm thinking I can now die happy, Chef TJ comes out with yet another appetizer. You mean I haven't gotten to the main course yet?! This one was a wonderfully prepared Bok Choy with mushrooms, some ginger, perhaps some red pepper? It had a little heat. There were also what seemed to be tiny little fried potatoes - like itty-bitty French fries. I like bok choy and was not disappointed with this dish.

vegan5.jpg
Bok Choy Appetizer

Finally, Chef TJ arrives with the entrée - a selection of mixed veggies, tofu, a scoop of white rice, some tempura broccoli and cauliflower, topped with rice straws. He told me that the tempura was coated with just flour, baking soda and Hawaiian beer. Whatever it was, it worked! The whole dish had tons of flavor (most of which I sadly can't identify). It was just the right level of "spicy". Really, it was a wonderful dish and my only disappointment was that I was already too full to fully appreciate it. (For the record, even my non-vegan hubby pronounced it quite tasty. And the woman at the next table was so impressed that she asked if she could take a picture - to share with a vegetarian friend who had declined the invitation.)

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Tofu and Mixed Vegetables, with Rice, Tempura Broccoli and Cauliflower

I have no idea how I managed, but since dessert is such a rare treat for a vegan, I did actually manage to tackle the last dish. I'm sure my description won't do it justice, but I believe Chef TJ described it as "Pina colada, with lychees and mint, and a surprise in the middle". The surprise actually turned out to be chocolate Tofutti. There were also bits of banana and some raspberries. It was quite a medley of flavor, but oh so delicious! It was the perfect ending to the most amazing meal I've ever had.

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Pina Colada with Lychees and Mint and Chocolate Surprise Center

In short, if you're a vegetarian or vegan who's been afraid to try 'Ohana, I suggest you reconsider - and tell Chef TJ his biggest fan says "hi"!

AllEars Note: Every experience at Walt Disney World with special dining is different. Each chef does what they can given the ingredients and time they have at any given time. Please do not go to Ohana expecting this will be your meal if you are vegan.

January 24, 2010

Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Guest Blogger Jeff Onorato is back, this time with a photo blog of Narcoossee's!

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought I would write about one of Walt Disney World's most romantic restaurants. Narcoossee's is nestled behind the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and is docked alongside the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Narcoossee's

Narcoossee's

This fine dining establishment serves exquisite seafood and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom and neighboring resorts as its' backdrop. I had the pleasure of dining there during my recent trip to the World in January and was delighted by the experience.

The word Narcoossee is Seminole Indian for "little bear". With Seafood being a staple of the bear's diet, the restaurant was fittingly branded with the moniker. There is also a Central Florida town of the same name in Osceola County. While I have never visited Narcoossee, I am told the essence and charm of the small town are captured here.

As I approached the restaurant, I couldn't help but notice the tantalizing aromas that fill the air of the resort's surrounding courtyard. As the chefs work hard prepping food and ingredients throughout the day, wonderful scents permeate the air. I would imagine this helps to draw in business from hotel guests hanging out on their balconies.

Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's

Narcoossee's

Narcoossee's is open for Dinner only, which they begin serving at 5:30. I strongly recommend making reservations if you are planning to dine here. They participate in both the Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland programs. Participants in the Disney Dining Plan will want to note that 2 table-service credits are required per person.

When I arrived at my allotted time (5:30), there was already a line of couples and families waiting to be sat. The restaurant was about 80% full at that time of the evening. It appears to be equally popular among couples and families. Kids seem to enjoy the ambiance here too, with passing boats outside serving as entertainment. They offer a children's menu too in an effort to accommodate little ones out for an evening with Mom and Dad.

The motif of the restaurant is that of a traditional Seafood House. As a native Marylander, I am always reminded of seafood restaurants back home when I visit here. Hardwood floors, an open-air kitchen, dark blue linens, and an observation deck overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon help to bring together the mood and elegance.


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


A beautiful mural depicting underwater scenery and various marine life graces the high walls above the bar area, which is on the upper level of the restaurant. Sunlight pours through the huge skylights in the center of the turreted restaurant.

Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's

From across the water, the reflecting lights of the Contemporary resort bounce and twinkle off of the lagoon. The spires of Cinderella's Castle can be seen towering high above the trees that surround the park. This is a prime location to view the Electrical Water Pageant, and the Wishes fireworks can be seen in the distance as well. I suggest trying for a 7:30 reservation to allow time for a leisurely paced meal before the shows begin. Show times vary depending upon the time of year, but in general both run around 9:00 p.m. They can also be seen from the observation deck which wraps around the back of the restaurant.


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's

On nights when the Magic Kingdom is offering Evening Magic Hours, I love having Dinner at Narcoossee's as a precursor to a night at the park. The boat launch to the Magic Kingdom is just steps from the doors of the restaurant and the ride is only about 5-8 minutes long.


Narcoossee's


Narcoossee's

Narcoossee's

Service here is professional, friendly, and paced to perfection. I find it to be the optimum place for a relaxed evening of fine food and good company. The wait staff here is also very knowledgeable with regard to the menu. My server offered details on the many ingredients which are used in their offerings. I was quite impressed by the run-through she offered on the various courses.

I started off with the Shrimp and Crab Chowder ($9). While the portion appeared small at first, the bowl was deeper than it looked. It was the perfect way to begin my meal on this chilly January evening. The shrimp and crabmeat were plentiful, as were the chunky white potatoes and onions. Tiny oyster crackers garnished the bowl.


Shrimp and Crab Chowder Narcoossee's

For my second course, I had the Fried Rhode Island Calamari ($12). While this appetizer is fried, it was not at all greasy. It was crispy, hot, lightly salted and served atop a sweet and mild tomato coulis. Pepperoncini Relish and olives were used to top off the dish however I did not find it to be spicy at all. In fact, I was quite surprised that it didn't have more kick to it. The taste of the Peppers was not at all pronounced.


Rhode Island Calamari Narcoossee's

Crab Crusted Mahi-Mahi ($33) was my entrée selection. The fish was served atop crushed fingerling potatoes with a sweet Meyer lemon cream sauce on the side. Their signature crab cake mixture was generously piled on the broiled filet and finished off with al dente haricots verts (French for green beans) and pea tendrils. The pea tendrils had a refreshing taste and helped to cleanse the palette of the richly flavored crab meat and cream sauce.


Rhode Island Calamari Narcoossee's

While most of their menu is seafood based, they do offer several meals that are not. Among those are Grilled Filet Mignon ($40), Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast($29), and the vegetarian offering of Winter Vegetables ($22).

After the meal I was quite full, but the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake ($9) came highly recommended and sounded too good to resist. I caved in and ordered dessert but was happy I indulged. The cake tasted like it had just been taken out of the oven. A rich chocolate sauce poured out of the cake as soon as my fork cut into it. The cake itself tasted like it was made with semi-sweet cocoa. Powdered sugar and orange sauce finished it off. While it may appear to have a poached egg for a garnish, the chefs creatively placed an orange slice inside a dollop of whipped cream. The term Valrhona refers to the French company that manufactures the chocolate.


Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake  Narcoossee's

This was the third time I have dined at Narcoossee's, and my experience has been splendid on each visit. I can not recommend this restaurant enough. I think it's the ideal place to celebrate an anniversary, engagement, or birthday. With Disney's Wedding Pavilion nearby I could see it being popular for rehearsal dinners as well. Children and grown-ups alike will find something to enjoy here.

You don't have to be celebrating a special occasion or event to appreciate all Narcoossee's has to offer. Those in search of a magical and memorable romantic evening will want to make this a destination on their vacation itinerary.

Related Links:

Narcoossee's Menu


Narcoossee's Kid's Menu


Readers Rate and Review Narcoossee's


About Jeff: I am 33 years old and from Gettysburg, PA. By day I work in the Accounting Department of a Newspaper Publishing Company. My first visit to WDW was at the age of 2, and have been back around 35 times since then. I often travel solo to WDW, as well as with family. I make good use of my Annual Pass, and trek to Orlando about 5 times per year to visit my favorite travel destination. My favorite resort is the Polynesian, but have stayed at all of the WDW resorts at least once. In fact, my favorite aspect of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort is trying out the different Resorts and Restaurants. I also enjoy the many restaurants and sampling different foods that I normally would never try at home! (such as Escargot at the France pavillion).

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About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2009 is the previous archive.

February 2010 is the next archive.

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