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August 2011 Archives

August 1, 2011

What’s New (and Different!) at Disneyland Paris

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My family and I had an opportunity recently to visit the Disneyland Paris Resort for a day on a day trip from Paris. We planned to spend the whole day visiting both parks -- Disneyland Park and the Walt Disney Studios. Our last visit to Disneyland Paris was in the spring of 2008, so I thought it would be fun to focus our short visit on new attractions, and attractions that are unique to Disneyland Paris.

We took the RER A from Central Paris using multi-day Paris Visite passes. The passes that we purchased (more information can be found at www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21894/paris-visite/) included Metro fare within Paris and the RER to both Marne la Vallee (the stop for Disneyland Paris) and to Versailles on another day. The Paris Visite passes also got us a 20% discount on 1 day, 2 park tickets at Disneyland.

We started our day at the Walt Disney Studios.

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The park's newest attractions are located in the Toon Studio section of the park, in an area called "Toy Story Playland."

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The whole area is themed around toys from the Toy Story movies, and includes three attractions: the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

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The Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin

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RC (as in Radio-Controlled) Racer

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The resort was CROWDED (the wait for this ride was actually closer to an hour),


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so this was the only one of these rides that we actually rode. It was a lot of fun, and was similar to those big boats at amusement parks that swing back and forth, and basically make your stomach float up into your throat.

We also rode my absolutely FAVORITE ride at DLP: Crush's Coaster!

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There was a very long wait for this ride, as well. There is no FastPass, so if you want to ride, there is no other choice than to wait. The ride vehicles look like clam shells, and are set up in a similar manner to those for Toy Story Mania at Disney World, with two people on each side, facing away from each other. The coaster is mostly inside a building, as you fly through Australia's Humboldt Current, spinning unexpectedly as well as going up and down as on a traditional coaster. I have never laughed harder in my life as on the first time I rode this ride.

After lunch, we rode the Studio Tram Tour, a very pared-down version of the attraction at Disney World's Hollywood Studios (without the special effects pre-show)

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then headed over to Disneyland Park.


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The resort is having a "Festival of Magic Moments" celebration, which I think includes some new shows and character meet and greet opportunities, but unfortunately we never saw anything related to this.

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At Disneyland Park, we passed Sleeping Beauty Castle (one of the prettiest of all of the parks, in my opinion)

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then headed straight for Discoveryland, which is Disneyland Paris' version of Tomorrowland. I love the Jules Verne theming!

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We grabbed Fast Passes for Space Mountain: Mission 2, then went over to stand in line for Star Tours. When we were in Disney World last month, we got a chance to ride the new Star Tours, so it was fun to ride the "old" version here, even if most of the dialogue was in French!

Finally, it was back to Space Mountain. I think that the best way to describe this version is that it is a combination of the indoor, dark Space Mountain, with a bit of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster thrown in.

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We then swung through Fantasyland, riding "it's a small world" (with a unique section devoted to America)

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then heading for Le Pays des Contes de Fees, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland Paris. This ride is similar to the Storybook Land Canal Boats at Disneyland in California, but has a faster-loading ride system, so the lines don't get so long.

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We left Fantasyland and walked over to Adventureland, then Frontierland. By this time the crowds were so large (90 minute wait for Pirates!) that we only rode one more ride, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, which is a roller coaster, not a ride similar to the Indiana Jones and Adventure at Disneyland or Dinosaur at the Animal Kingdom.

I wish we had had time for some of my other favorites at Disneyland Paris

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but jet lag was setting in, and our group was ready to head back to Paris. Another time perhaps . . .


August 6, 2011

Narcoossee's Brunch

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger


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On Sunday, July 10, 2011, Tables in Wonderland hosted a Sunday Brunch at Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The featured wines were from Domaine Chandon, the highly regarded winery in Yountville, California Domaine Chandon is especially known for its sparkling wines, of which we had two. We were also treated to a chardonnay, a pinot meunier, and a pinot noir. Why those three in particular? That's the answer to a trivia question! Read on....

Narcoossee's sits on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, and sometimes seems kind of forgotten amidst the fame of both Victoria & Albert's and Citricos, which are next to each other on the second level of the main hotel. You take a little stroll out to the lagoon to get to Narcoossee's, but once there the dining room offers a great view toward the Magic Kingdom. You can see the top of Cinderella Castle and almost all of Space Mountain, as well as a view of the monorails coming and going. It's a lovely view; if you haven't seen it, you should.

We started with a reception, which (as you might expect) featured a variety of hors d'oeuvres, plus sparkling wine (Moet Chandon Extra Dry Riche) and Bloody Marys. The Bloody Marys were made with Belvedere Bloody Mary Vodka. Belvedere combines separate vodkas that have been flavored with seven different ingredients, including black pepper, lemon, horseradish, and tomato The resulting vodka is very spicy, and all you do is add tomato juice.

If you're a Bloody Mary fan, I definitely suggest you try this vodka for an easy and fabulous drink. The bar had quite a selection of garnishes for our Bloody Marys. No plain old celery stick here! There was a skewer that held a single jumbo shrimp, one that held three kinds of olives, one that held bites of roasted garlic and sweet pickles, one that held a whole roasted/smoked pepper, and finally one that had little rolled up slices of flatbread, cheese, and ham. At least I think that adequately describes it all. One could have made a meal just out of these treats. And all of it just to garnish your Bloody Mary!


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Hors d'oeuvres-wise, we had a selection of three delightful choices. We had a Spiced Shrimp Skewer with Horseradish Foam (I didn't detect much foam, but come on, why be picky when there's this much good stuff?), Caviar on Potato Cakes with Lobster, Crème Fraiche and Chives, and Smoked Salmon with Haas Avocado and Mascarpone Cheese on Romaine Hearts. All three were, as they say, to die for. The salmon was especially wonderful.

Following the reception, we were all seated at tables and Mike Ehrbar of Moet Hennessy talked about the process of making sparkling wine. Mike is the Training and Development Manager for the Moët Hennessy Brand. Domaine Chandon is a French-owned partnership between the famous Champagne producer Moet & Chandon, and the equally-well-known cognac producer Hennessy. Mike tossed out trivia questions, and the first person with the correct answer received a bottle of sparkling wine. Here's a sample question: Name the three grapes that go into making sparkling wine. Pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier. Here's another: the formula for sparkling wine is "blank plus blank equals blank plus blank." The answer will come later.

Our first course, the appetizer trio, was a beauty. Tuna Niçoise with a Poached Quail Egg, Seared Scallop with Basil-Citrus Emulsion, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Remoulade Sauce. Dazzling. Paired with these three ocean-going delights was a mouth-watering Domaine Chandon Chardonnay.


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The salad course was beautiful to look at, and a treat to eat. Roasted Beet Salad with Watercress, Frisée, Goat Cheese, Candied Pecans, and Orange-Honey Vinaigrette. The beets were golden beets, not the red beets most of us are more familiar with. I'm still swooning over the flavors. Paired with the salad was a Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier. You don't see too many pinot meuniers on menus, or in wine stores, at least not here in Central Florida. Pinot meunier is a red grape, and it's mostly used in the production of sparkling wines, not so much as a still wine grape. But I'm here to tell you, this California pinot meunier was a stunning red wine. A little lighter than pinot noir, both in color and flavor, it was full of cherry, lavender, and plum. I would highly recommend finding a bottle of it if you can and giving it a try. I knew almost nothing about it, and I was very impressed.


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On to the main course. Let's see, we've had two kinds of shrimp, some lobster, smoked salmon, tuna, crab, and scallops. Not bad so far! The main course was a choice between Maine Lobster Frittata, Potato Crust, Chorizo, Asparagus, and Brie...or...Steak and Eggs with Crabmeat, Grilled Asparagus, and Bearnaise Sauce. Can I have both?

I went with the lobster frittata, my three tablemates all went with the steak. The steaks were full-sized filet mignons (or is that filets mignon?), and they were big enough to take some home for dinner. The lobster frittata? Awesome: rich and delicious. Problem was, everyone was so full, there was no way to finish either the steak or the frittata. Beautiful presentations, both of them. The artistry with which the Disney chefs can present food is something to behold.


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The wine we were served was the Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir, Carneros. If you need to find a wine that goes with both steak and lobster, pinot noir is a good choice. Most pinots are light enough to complement all but the simplest seafood dishes, but they do have some of those earthy flavors to them, which pairs just fine with beef. Really good pinots are delicious (and usually expensive), and this one was wonderful.

Take a deep breath, it's time for dessert. Almond Crusted Cheesecake with Lambert Cherry Sauce. I need a thesaurus to find adequate superlatives. Rich, decadent, delectable, scrumptious. I'm sure I saw a few eyes rolling back in a few people's heads. This is one of Narcoossee's Signature Desserts, and rightly so. The recipe can be found HERE.


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Our dessert wine was the exotic Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose, Napa and Sonoma. We started with a sparkling wine three hours ago, and this was our sparkling exclamation point. A small amount of pinot noir and pinot meunier are added to the chardonnay to get the distinctive salmon color of a rose. The winery's web site suggests you 'try this on a romantic picnic.' Yes, that would be quite the thing to try.

The only downside of the event was that it lasted a bit long. It was originally scheduled to last from noon until 2 p.m., but it was between 3 and 3:30 when we finally finished. A minor quibble, really, when you're being treated to such fine food and wine.

Narcoossee's has had some highly favorable publicity recently, and it is one of the very few restaurants at Walt Disney World that merits a 'Signature Dining' experience. Like Disney's other top tier restaurants, it isn't inexpensive. However, you get a beautiful view of Seven Seas Lagoon, a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks if it's that time of the evening, and certainly wonderful food. Dining there, I think, has always been very enjoyable.

And the answer to that trivia question? Yeast plus grape juice equals carbon dioxide plus alcohol.

Cheers!



August 7, 2011

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

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Recently, Tinker Bell and her friends moved to the Adventureland Veranda at Magic Kingdom. Just after you come over the Adventureland bridge from Main Street, it's to the right (next to Aloha Isle).

A sign "marks the spot" and gives the current wait time.

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Some pictures have been hung on the walls.

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Pictures

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There's even an enchanted picture.

Before we made the turn to meet Tinker Bell and her friend, a Cast Member asked that we have our leaf books (autograph books), light boxes (cameras) and Pixie Passes (PhotoPasses) ready. He told us when we went through the portal, we would become 5 inches tall.

Portal

The meet-and-greet area is a visual treat- everything is very large because, remember, you're 5 inches tall now.

Flowers

Pearls

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When we were there, Vidia was the first fairy we met. She was a hoot!

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Tinker Bell was next.

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Tink spent a couple of minutes showing me her lovely lamps and explaining how she sometimes catches fireflies for them so she can work at night.

Lamps

Here's a last look at the room before we headed out.

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Room

August 8, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next August 5, 2011

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Things have changed quite a bit since my last visit in early July.

The exterior of the tunnel on the right side of the train station is under scrims.

Tunnel

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room (formerly Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management) is still being worked on.

Tiki Room

The new sign for the attraction is out.

New Tiki Room sign

In Frontierland, Pecos Bill's is under scrims.

Pecos Bill's

The Frontierland Shootin' Arcade is also under scrims.

Frontierland Shootin' Arcade

The Fantasyland Skyway station is gone and walls are up.

Skyway station

The rock work around Maurice's cottage is progressing quickly.

Rock work

The rock work is also progressing quickly on the Little Mermaid attraction's building.

Little Mermaid rock work

The top of the building is looking great.

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Building

In Fantasyland, Enchanted Grove is behind scrims.

Enchanted Grove

The Tangled meet-and-greet features Rapunzel only now.

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There's been a lot of progress on Storybook Circus.

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Storybook Circus

The Firehouse has closed.

Firehouse

We met friends for lunch at Downtown Disney. We had every intention of walking around but the heat and humidity drove us out after lunch. We did see, though, that the Harley Davidson store has moved into the space formerly occupied by Little Miss Matched on the West Side.

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That's all for this update. Have a great day!


August 10, 2011

Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian’s Garden View Tea Room

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My two teenage daughters and I recently had a "girls only" trip to Walt Disney World, and I thought it would be fun to try something new, that Dad might not necessarily be upset about missing out on (it turns out that I was wrong about THAT assumption!), so I booked us for Afternoon Tea in the Grand Floridian's Garden View Tea Room (Garden View Lounge).


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The Tea Room is located on the first floor of the Grand Floridian, just off of the lobby.
It has lots of windows and is full of light and comfortable seating.

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As you enter, be sure to look down to see the lovely mosaics in the floor.


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Afternoon Tea is served daily from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. I decided that we would make the tea one of our main meals of the day, so I booked our Advance Dining Reservation for 4:30 p.m.
We arrived at about 4:15, because we had had a light early lunch, and we all very hungry. Although the Tea Room was not full and there were a number of empty tables, I was surprised when the hostess asked us to take a seat and that it would be a 10 to 15 minute wait. About 10 minutes later, we were escorted to a lovely round table near the window. The table could have seated up to six guests, and I could see that the reason for our wait was that the folks at the smaller tables in the room were still lingering over their tea and goodies. Because we were the last party seated for the day, I am not quite sure why this was a problem.

In any case, we WERE seated, and after a short wait, were handed our menus. I must say that it took some time to read through the menu to decide what we wanted to order, as it is extensive.

The menu includes the Tea Room's tea selections (green, white, black and infusions), selections for "full" afternoon tea service (including a savory selection like tea sandwiches or cheeses and pates, scones, jam tarts, pastries, tea and an alcoholic beverage, priced from $23 to $38) and a la carte items (scones, jam tarts, strawberries and cream, tea sandwiches, etc. priced from $3.50 to $14.50). We decided to go for the full service, since this would be an early dinner for us.

For our tea selections (which, a la carte, are $6.25 per person), I chose the Gardenview Blend: "A signature blend made exclusively for Gardenview Tea Room. It was a lovely, traditional black tea. Daughter Number 1 (DN1) chose the Nobo Whole Fruit: "Full bodied and rich in sweetness. An array of berries and apple, accompanied with hibiscus, rose hips, and cornflowers, and Daughter Number 2 (DN2) chose the Harmony: "A tranquil blend of sweet chamomile blossoms, peppermint, allspice and orange blossoms for a mild and sweet taste."�

It appeared that the other diners were being served their tea from traditional ceramic pots covered with velvet tea cozies to keep the tea warm (sorry, I wanted to get a picture of those, but somehow didn't). They must have run out of the ceramic pots, as our tea was served from glass press pots.


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I chose the Prince Edward's Tea: "A delicious array of assorted pates and English Blue Stilton, the "King" of English cheeses, served with marinated fresh berries, and Cumberland sauce. We then offer our delicious freshly baked scones served with rich Devonshire cream. Served with your choice of tea and a glass of our Fonseca Bin 27 Character Port. $24.50 per guest. Cockburn 20 yr Tawny Port $2.00.

Yummy! I love Stilton, and it, the pates and the berries did not disappoint. I had to Google Cumberland sauce when I got home: "Cumberland sauce is a fruit-based sauce, usually used on non-white meats such as venison, ham, and lamb. Created sometime in the late 19th century, the sauce was named after the Duke of Cumberland who had ties in Hanover, Germany, where the sauce was invented. Who knew? Anyway, it tasted great, and really worked well with all of the items on the plate.


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DN2 chose the Princess Kate Tea: "A Spring tea served with a classic dish of potted shrimp followed by a medley of cheeses, an array of seasonal fruits, and cheddar cheese biscuits. A scone, jam tart, and a selection of delicate pastries is accompanied by a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne and your choice of tea. $38.00 per guest.


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Since DN2 is not of an age to appreciate (nor legally imbibe) a lovely Veuve Cliquot, the waitress was nice enough to serve her glass of champagne to me


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and to substitute the port that was supposed to come with my meal for a nice glass of Martinelli's sparkling cider for her. DN1 decided that she would like a glass of sparkling cider too, please, thank you very much.


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The potted shrimp were to die for. DN2 usually won't touch shrimp, but she devoured these, and only shared one very small bite with her mother!


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DN1 decided that she "only" wanted the British Cheese Plate: "A selection of traditional British cheeses, served with an array of seasonal fruits. $14.50. As you can see, there were plenty of wonderful cheeses and fruits on the plate, including the wonderful Stilton (which DN1 doesn't really like, so I got even more for myself!).


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Once DN2 and I finished our first courses, we were each served a scone with clotted cream and jam, and DN2 also got a jam tart, and some pastries. I think that it is a very good thing for my waistline that I cannot get clotted cream at my local grocery store, I love it SOOO much! The girls didn't quite get it.


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At the end of the meal, we were each brought a lovely, long-stemmed rose.


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Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?

Alice: Well, I haven't had any yet, so I can't very well take more.

March Hare: Ah, you mean you can't very well take less.

Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing.

Note: The Tables in Wonderland card can be used for a discount for tea in the Garden View Tea Room. There are no other discounts currently available, and the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted.


Garden View Lounge Afternoon Tea Menu

Rate and Review the Afternoon Tea


August 13, 2011

A Quiet Meal at the Turf Club Bar & Grill

Andrew Rossi

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort is a little bit of upstate New York in the middle of Florida. The resort's theme seeks not only to transport guests to entirely different part of the country but also a completely different time period, with its Victorian architecture reminiscent of the heyday of New York's countryside retreats in the late 1800s. Closely tied into this theme is the historical significance and influence of horse racing; the resort's motto is actually "Health, History, Horses." There are numerous locations throughout the resort that incorporate the theme of horseracing. Guests check-in at the Carriage House and may have a room in the Paddock or Grandstand sections of the resort. It comes as no surprise that this theme is carried into one of the resort's restaurants.

Saratoga Springs Resort

The Turf Club Bar & Grill is centrally located right by the High Rock Spring Pool (the resort's feature pool) and is adjacent to Artist's Palette (the resort's food court), but it is tucked out of the way and can sometimes be overlooked by guests. It is here that the theme of horseracing combines with the flavors of New York State in a quiet and relaxed setting that offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.

Turf Club Signage

Overview:
As I have noted in the past, many restaurants found at Disney's resorts are usually far less crowded than those at the theme parks, but this does not necessarily make them inferior in terms of quality. The Turf Club Bar & Grill certainly fits into this category. This restaurant is probably not known by many of the guests staying at Saratoga Spring let alone those staying at other Disney resorts. With Saratoga Springs's close proximity to Downtown Disney, many of the guests staying at this resort probably opt for a meal at one of the restaurants there. It is this lack of publicity and hype that makes the Turf Club so appealing because you can expect a calm, quiet, and relaxing meal whenever dining there. While dining reservations are always recommended for Disney restaurants, the Turf Club is the type of dining location that you can most likely get a table without having to plan it out far in advance.

If staying at Saratoga Springs, the Turf Club is the perfect restaurant to go to if you are looking to just spend some time at the resort away from all the crowds and craziness of the theme parks. Also, located right next to the clubhouse of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, it is a great place to relax after a round of golf and enjoy a good meal. While it might not deliver the unique type of experiences you can find at other Disney restaurants, the Turf Club's tranquil setting and out-of-the-way location make it the type of care-free, stress-free dining experience that you sometimes need on vacation; it is a nice change-of-pace from many other Disney dining locations.

Turf Club Exterior

Atmosphere:
While centrally located at the Saratoga Springs Resort, the Turf Club can be difficult to locate. To get there, you need to walk through the Artist's Palette food court and then down a long entrance corridor.

Entrance Corridor

Once at the end of the corridor, you enter not into the restaurant but into a little lounge area with a bar. The lounge includes a seating area with couches and chairs, a television, and even a pool table. This hidden area is a great place to come and relax and enjoy a drink or a game of pool even if you are not planning on eating at the restaurant.

Lounge

The Turf Club dining room itself is actually fairly small. The dining room's shape is long and narrow and its small size combined with the dark-paneled walls and ceiling give the restaurant a very intimate feel.

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While the restaurant does feature large windows that allow in some natural light, the amount of sunlight entering the dining room is largely blocked by the canopy on the patio. Combining this with the low-level lighting inside, the dark-wood furniture, the dark-colored upholstery and carpet, and the stained glass along the upper edge of the windows all help to give the restaurant a more upscale and refined feel. It is a throwback to the kind of upscale clubs you would find at horseracing track around the turn of the century.

Indoor Seating2

The theme of horseracing is certainly evident, but by no means over-the-top. As one enters the restaurant you are greeted by a variety of vibrantly colored jockey jerseys (including one featuring a familiar shape).

Mickey Jockey

Inside the restaurant there are old black and white photographs of jockeys and their horses, antique racing equipment, and framed newspapers featuring stories and photographs about horseracing. These touches are just enough to solidify the restaurants theme and tie it in with the rest of the resort, but this restaurant's atmosphere is more about its calm, relaxing feel than its theme.

Jockey Photograph

Framed Newspaper

The real allure of the Turf Club is its outdoor dining. The restaurant features a huge covered patio and probably has just as much seating outside as inside. Even though I went in the middle of a hot July day, the patio's awning and fans created a shady and comfortable dining atmosphere. I can imagine this area being even more appealing on balmy summer nights.

Outdoor Seating1

Outdoor Seating2

Seating on the patio offers beautiful natural views of flowers, trees, and even a little glimpse of the lake and Downtown Disney on the opposite shore. Its secluded location makes for a quiet meal (there is not even any background music playing) and can really almost make you forget you are in Disney World altogether.

View from Patio1

View from Patio2

The Turf Club's calm and quiet atmosphere might not make it the best restaurant when dining with children, but it is not so formal that families would be uncomfortable dining here. That being said, if planning on dining here with children I would suggest going for lunch as the restaurant offers a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. I would suspect the restaurant to become much more intimate and refined at night (as evidenced by differences in the menu which I will talk about next), making dinner here a great option for couples looking to spend a little time away from the kids and have a romantic night out.

The Menu:
Going into my meal at the Turf Club I was not really sure what to expect from the menu, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a wide selection that offers something for everyone. Whether you are in the mood for just a sandwich or salad, chicken, fish, or pasta, the menu at the Turf Club features a variety of dishes ranging from traditional favorites to some more unique items. It should also be noted that the menus for lunch and dinner offer vastly different options. Lunch features primarily a lighter fare of burgers, sandwiches, and salads while dinner features heartier meals.

One thing that stays consistent on the menu for both lunch and dinner are the appetizers. For soups there is a Tomato Bisque ($5.49) topped with herb goat cheese as well as a French Onion Soup ($6.49). Among the salad selections are an Iceberg Wedge Salad ($6.99) with blue cheese, bacon, and cherry tomatoes and the Turf Club's Signature Grilled Romaine Salad ($5.49) which features lightly grilled hearts of romaine with Caesar dressing, balsamic vinegar reduction, and cherry tomatoes. Other appetizer offerings include Fried Calamari ($9.99), Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels ($11.99), Crab Cakes ($10.49), Buffalo Chicken Dip ($8.49), and Onion Rings with Dips ($5.99).

When it comes to entrees, lunch at the Turf Club features several intriguing burger and sandwich options. For burgers there is a standard Angus Chuck Cheeseburger ($12.99) topped with cheddar and applewood smoked bacon, but also a Bacon-Barbecue Angus Chuck Burger ($13.99) topped with smoked bacon, barbecue sauce, crispy fried onions, aged cheddar cheese, and cilantro mayonnaise. For the more adventurous there is the Surf & Turf Angus Chuck Burger ($18.99) which comes topped with watercress, lobster, and bernaise sauce.

Other sandwiches on the menu include the Crispy Chicken Breast Sandwich ($13.99) with herbed goat cheese, balsamic-marinated tomatoes, and onions served on rosemary foccacia, the French Dip ($14.99) featuring shaved prime rib, au jus, horseradish cream, and watercress on a baguette, the Classic Reuben Sandwich ($10.99) with corned beef, thousand island dressing, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on marble rye bread, and a Barbeque Pork Tenderloin Sandwich ($10.49).

If you are not in the mood for a sandwich the lunch menu also includes several other entrée options. There is the Greek Salad ($12.99) with mixed greens with grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, pepperoncini, kalamata olives, feta, and a lemon vinaigrette (substitute grilled shrimp for $15.99), the Turf Club Pasta ($16.99) that comes topped with shrimp, garlic, olive oil, vegetables, and fresh herbs, the Turf Club Fish and Chips ($13.99), and a Spiced Salmon Salad ($15.99) on tossed arugala with vine-ripened tomatoes, smoked bacon, and a roasted garlic mayonnaise.

Dinner at the Turf Club features a more upscale and elegant fare as the burgers, sandwiches, and salads are replaced with more substantial dishes. The dinner menu features Prime Rib ($25.99) served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, Swiss chard, and a red wine demi-glace, a Grilled New York Strip ($30.49) with lump crabmeat, asparagus, bernaise sauce, and red bliss potatoes, Grilled Salmon ($19.99) served with cauliflower puree, fingerling potatoes, fennel, onion, and tomato, Mint-Crusted Lamb Chops ($22.99) with a smoked gouda polenta, a Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast ($17.99) accompanied by a shiitake mushroom risotto and topped with a sweet-and-sour cherry glaze, and a Pork Chop ($21.99) served with a three cheese casserole and red onion jam.

The dessert offerings are the same for both lunch and dinner, although there was nothing that really stood out to me. Among the desserts are Cheesecake ($5.49) with seasonal toppings, a Chocolate Espresso Torte ($5.99) with raspberry sauce and vanilla port wine ice cream, and a Warm Apple Crisp ($6.49) with vanilla bean ice cream.

When perusing the menu there were a couple of appetizer selections that stood out to me, but I decided to start my meal with the Buffalo Chicken Dip ($8.49) which featured pulled buffalo chicken in a spicy wing sauce topped with blue cheese and celery and served with Saratoga chips. As a warning, this appetizer is not one for the faint of heart. I am a big fan of spicy foods and even I considered this to be a very spicy dish.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

First off, I was very impressed by the portion size, not only the amount of dip but also the large serving of chips that accompanied it. The chicken had the consistency and stringiness of a pulled pork sandwich, but was still tender. I am not the biggest fan of blue cheese and there was a layer on top of the chicken that was a little too much for my taste. I felt the blue cheese was too overpowering and ended up picking some of the cheese off the top. Also, once I had mixed the cheese with the chicken it helped to subdue the strong flavor of the blue cheese. The chicken also came topped with shredded celery. While this did provide a light and refreshing contrast to the spiciness of the chicken and the strong-flavored blue cheese, I felt that there was too much of it and I likewise ended up taking off a lot of the celery.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the dip I kept thinking that it would have been nice if it was served with something that would tone down the spiciness slightly; I had to drink a lot of water while eating this appetizer. A side of ranch dressing would have been the perfect compliment. What made the dip even better were the Saratoga chips with which it was accompanied. The chips are freshly made and were served warm. They were cut a little thicker than your average potato chip with made them perfect for dipping. The chips had a beautiful golden-brown color and were not greasy at all. They were also seasoned slightly with salt, pepper, and chili powder to give them just a little kick.

For my entrée I chose the Barbeque Pork Tenderloin Sandwich ($10.49). Much to my delight, the sandwich came with another health portion of Saratoga chips. The pork itself was basted with an ancho-coffee barbeque sauce, but I did not find the coffee flavor to really stand out. Rather than overpower the flavor of the pork, I felt that this barbeque sauce actually enhanced its flavor; the two paired together very well. The pork itself was extremely tender and was grilled to perfection so that it was slightly charred so as to add just a little extra flavor.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

What made the sandwich unique was that it came topped with coleslaw. I have heard of coleslaw as an accompaniment, but never as a topping for a sandwich. I was pleasantly surprised. The slight sweetness of the coleslaw provided a light and refreshing contrast to the stronger, heavier flavor of the pork and barbeque sauce. The bread that the pork was served on was soft and fresh, but I would have liked it even better if it had been lightly toasted. Nevertheless, this was a very tasty and filling sandwich and the portion size was substantial enough that I was too full to consider having anything for dessert.

Service:
Overall, I found the service at Turf Club to be very pleasant and it started as soon as I entered the restaurant. Everyone from the hostess that sat me at my table to my server and all the other servers I witness all seemed to be in a cheery mood. My server was very energetic and enthusiastic, although not necessarily the most personable. She explained some items on the menu and took my order, but did not really try to strike up any type of conversation. Because the restaurant was not very crowded for lunch, my server did not have too many other tables to wait on and was able to pay close attention to my needs, regularly refilling my drink and checking in on me multiple times to make sure I was enjoying my meal. The meal itself progressed at an efficient but relaxed pace; I certainly did not feel rushed and there was just the right amount of time between courses to enjoy the scenery while sitting on the patio.

Dining on a Budget:
While dinner at the Turf Club can be a little pricey, lunch is very affordable. It starts with appetizers including the Fried Calamari for $9.99, which is an particularly good deal when considering the same appetizer is $14 at both Tutto Italia and Via Napoli and $13 at Mama Melrose's. There is also the Buffalo Chicken Dip for $8.49 and a great value on Onions Rings for $5.99, especially since onion ring appetizers at other restaurants like 50's Prime Time Cafe and Sci-Fi Dine-In cost $7.99. If you are looking for a light lunch, just getting a couple of appetizers to split amongst a group would be a very affordable option.

The rest of the lunch menu also includes several economical choices. The Barbeque Pork Tenderloin Sandwich might be the best deal on the menu for $10.49, but other sandwiches like the Classic Rueben for $10.99, Crispy Chicken Breast Sandwich for $13.99, and Bacon-Barbecue Angus Chuck Burger for $13.99 are also very affordable. Even if you are not in the mood for a sandwich, the Fish and Chips for $13.99 is a good value when you consider that the same dish at the Rose and Crown in Epcot would cost you $15.99 and at Raglan Road at Downtown Disney would cost $17 for lunch and $19 for dinner. They may not necessarily be of the same quality, but it is a viable alternative if looking to save a little money.

The Turf Club is on the Disney Dining Plan, but you would definitely get better value if using the dining plan here on dinner rather than lunch. The restaurant also offers a Tables in Wonderland 20% discount and both Annual Pass holders and Disney Vacation Club members receive 10% discounts for lunch.

The Overall Experience:
The Turf Club Bar & Grill is another one of those resort restaurants that tend to get overlooked because they are removed from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. In the case of the Turf Club, however, that is what makes it so appealing. This restaurant is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a clam and relaxing meal in a tranquil, quiet setting; it is really an escape, a great place to unwind. While you might not want to make a special trip all the way to Saratoga Springs just to dine here, it is definitely worth a visit if staying at the resort. In addition, its proximity to the clubhouse of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course makes it the perfect spot to visit after a round of golf to enjoy a good meal at an affordable price. While this is not a restaurant that may have the same detailed, immersive theming of other Disney dining locations, it still delivers the same high quality food and service that you would typically expect from any Disney restaurant.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of the Turf Club Bar & Grill and post your own too!

August 20, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next August 18, 2011

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The morning began at Disney's Hollywood Studios to check out the new Cars meet-and-greet. It's located between Mama Melrose's and the Premiere Theater (next to Phineas and Ferb's meet-and-greet).

Cars garage

Cars

At the beginning of the queue, there is a sign that has the meet-and-greet times. Be sure to check the Times Guide and/or the sign during your visit for the most current information.

Cars sign

Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater greet guests. Lightning McQueen occasionally revs his engine.

Tow Mater

Lightning and Tow Mater

On our way to Magic Kingdom, we noticed that work on the Grand Floridian's tennis court has begun.

Tennis courts

The tunnel to the right of the train station is still under scrims.

Tunnel

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki room was finally open! Click here to read Jack Spence's blog about the new/enhanced version of the show. Jack also wrote a great blog on the history of the attraction.

Tiki Room

The rock work for The Little Mermaid's building is still coming along nicely.

Little Mermaid building

Storybook Circus is progressing quickly.

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus

Enchanted Grove is still under scrims.

Enchanted Grove

Beast's castle the village peaks over the walls.

Beast castle

Beauty & the Beast

Beauty & the Beast

A scrim wall is up near Pinnochio's Village Haus.

Scrim wall

Some work is going on near Pinnochio's Village Haus.

Pinnochio's

That's all for this update. Have a great day!

August 31, 2011

Disney Store: New Look, Same Magic

by Emily Owens Pickle
Guest Blogger

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In 2010, Disney launched the new face of Disney Store. Disney Store was launched in 1987 and fall 2011 starts a 25-year anniversary kick-off. One of the redesigned locations opened last week near my home. While running some errands last week, my family and I decided to check out this new and improved Disney Store.

The first thing that catches your eye is a large gazebo placed in the middle of the store. It is lit in bright purple (comment below if you know why designers *most likely* chose this significant color to Disney history) and this structure draws you right into the heart of the shop.

Movie clips play continuously underneath the gazebo and there is a coloring station.

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The path through the store is very dark with glittering detail and is lined with beautifully designed 'trees'. The white trees, which are flat and have projectors mounted above on both sides, fade between projected images of a 'normal' tree, with leaves and bark, to photos of children dressed as Disney characters and the characters themselves.

The effect is wonderful!

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The theme of the store (right now) is 'i am'. It is a great melding of Disney characters and your child's imagination. This is very different from a one-way message that simply has items for sale from your favorite movies. Like the parks, the ambiance of the store was surprisingly immersive and touching.

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A recurring criticism I have heard about Disney experiences and merchandise, particularly in the Magic Kingdom, is an over-emphasis on everything princess, pink, and glittery. At the entrance, the store was halved by a main aisle. On the left was what most would term 'girly' merchandise. There was a large castle display that had a three-way mini mirror inside and the far wall was lined with almost every female Disney character costuming imaginable.

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The right side had many wonderful boys' costumes as well! Lining the far wall of the right side were pirate costumes, Peter Pan apparel and an entire Cars display complete with Lightning McQueen jumpsuits.

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As you moved toward the back of the store, there are many toy displays and fun souvenir items for sale.

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There was an adorable wall of jammies in all characters and sizes.

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The part I most enjoyed about this store was classic Disney Imagineering: magic in the detail. Along the topmost part of the wall lining the entire store, there is a running monochrome mural with many familiar Disney landmarks and figures.

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About every thirty seconds special equipment 'hidden' in the ceiling project fun images on the mural and some of these were very special " and surprising!

I was curious about the quality and uniqueness of the merchandise; would the store offer something different, especially when located so close to the Disney World property? I have spent a fair amount of time in the Disney Parks and can say that I found some very unique items in this shop.

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Prominently displayed was the brand-new Disney Princess Designer Doll. Each doll is portrayed in classic design with a new fashionable twist. Other items part of this line included make-up and china.

If you are at home feeling nostalgic, I think the Disney Store is a wonderful place to spend some time scratching your Disney-itch. Confession: you saw a few paragraphs above I said this store was located "so close to the Disney World property" -- we recently moved to the Orlando area. And though I thought the re-design of the store was great, it is really to be viewed through the eyes of the child.

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Last week when discussing our weekend plans my 4-year-old asked if we could visit the Disney Store.

Yep -- you can't get a better endorsement than that. Enjoy!



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About August 2011

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in August 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2011 is the previous archive.

September 2011 is the next archive.

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