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November 1, 2011

Breakfast at The Wave: A Healthier Way to Start the Day

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to dining at Disney's Contemporary Resort, there are two venues that immediately come to mind. The first is the California Grill. Located on the top floor of the resort, this restaurant offers stunning views of Bay Lake, the Seven Seas Lagoon, and the Magic Kingdom. As one of Disney's Signature dining locations, the allure of the California Grill is not limited to its location, but also its exquisite gourmet food. Another extremely popular dining location at the Contemporary is Chef Mickey's, possibly the most popular character dining experience in all of Disney World. With its dramatic setting in the Grand Canyon Concourse, with monorails passing overhead, this restaurant delivers great food and fun for the entire family.

When compared with these two dining locations, many guests tend to overlook another of the Contemporary's restaurants. Tucked away at the back of the resort's lobby The Wave of American Flavors is the Contemporary's newest restaurant, having opened in 2008, and while it may not have the name recognition of California Grill or Chef Mickey's it still delivers a high-quality dining experience worthy of the Contemporary Resort.

The Wave Entrance

Overview:
The year 2008 was a time of great change at the Contemporary Resort. The lobby area was updated and modernized, guestrooms were renovated, and changes were made to the resort's dining offerings. All this was done to help the Contemporary Resort feel more contemporary. Many were disappointed when it was announced that the popular Concourse Steakhouse was being closed to make way for a new quick service dining option (the Contempo Café). To make up for the loss of the Concourse Steakhouse, however, the resort did add a new table service dining option known as The Wave of American Flavors.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner The Wave offers a menu featuring American cuisine. Since America is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, the restaurant's dishes reflect the influence of these different worldwide flavors on American cooking. One of the things that makes The Wave unique is that its menu focuses on food that is locally grown, organic, and sustainable. Whatever time of day you chose to dine here you will find a slew of healthier meal options, with the restaurant placing an emphasis on serving great tasting food and drink that is both satisfying and environmentally friendly.

While I had never been to this dining location before, I have heard many good things about it and the restaurant seems to be growing in popularity since its opening roughly three years ago. For my first experience at The Wave I chose to go for breakfast and was treated to a meal that presents a refreshing change of pace from many of the other breakfast options found across Disney World.

Atmosphere:
With its sleek, modern feel, The Wave fits perfectly with the theming of the Contemporary Resort. This feel is established as soon as you enter the restaurant, walking through a steel-arched tunnel to the check-in podium. Once inside, the restaurant's décor is very simple with few decorative elements. It is an atmosphere that relies more on colors and shapes, rather than intricate details, to set the mood. Holding true to the restaurant's name, a wave motif is predominant throughout the restaurant. With no windows, the restaurant's lighting and coloring take up an even greater role in establishing the atmosphere and help contribute to a markedly different feel in the bar and dining room sections.

Once you enter the restaurant you a greeted first by a large bar area. The dark blue walls, upholstery, and carpeting of the sitting area combine with the blue ceiling over the bar give this section of the restaurant a constant nighttime feel even in the middle of the day.

Bar Seating

Enhancing this is the lighting over the bar which gives the appearance of stars twinkling in the night sky.

The Wave Bar

The bar and the adjoining seating areas are fairly large, almost the same size as the actual dining room, and I can picture these areas becoming very crowded at night and especially popular among the resort's convention guests looking for a place to relax, socialize, and enjoy a sporting event on the bar's big screen television.

Another interesting feature of the bar area is along its back wall, which is made entirely of glass and showcases The Wave's large wine collection. What makes this wine collection unique is that it is comprised almost entirely of screw-topped bottles (as opposed to corks), which is in keeping with the restaurant's commitment to being environmentally friendly.

Wine Wall

In the main dining room, the dark blues of the bar are replaced by earth tones, featuring a color palette of orange, brown, green, yellow, and bronze.

Dining Room Color Scheme

This coloring gives the dining room a very natural feel, but one that is still distinctly modern. It is a décor that is extremely simple and streamlined, featuring a contrasting style between the straight lines found on the curtains and carpet and the wavy lines on the chair backs and ceiling panels.

Dining Room3

While the dining room's sleek appearance gives it a more elegant feel, I found the color scheme to actually be a little dull and dreary. With no real decorations to speak of and no windows to look out, there is very little about the restaurant's atmosphere to keep you entertained and engaged during the course of your meal.

Dining Room1

The most interesting aspect of the décor would have to be the modern-looking light fixtures and wave-shaped ceiling panels which help tie in the restaurant to the overall contemporary theme of the resort.

The Wave Ceiling

While the restaurant's feel is not so upscale as to deter families with small children from eating here, there is really nothing about the restaurant's atmosphere that would make it interesting for children. I was not so surprised that, when dining there at breakfast, I found only groups of adults. It is a restaurant I would recommend more for couples looking for a more romantic meal or guests visiting the resort on a business trip rather than families traveling with children.

The Menu:
The main reason that I wanted to try The Wave for breakfast was because its menu features some intriguing options that cannot be found at other breakfast locations in Disney World. Just as with its menus at lunch and dinner, breakfast at The Wave offers an array of healthier, organic options, making it a very refreshing way to start the day.

While the manu features several traditional breakfast items, they are severed in a more natural, healthy way. For example, The American ($11.99) emphasizes that it is served with two "naturally raised" eggs along with breakfast potatoes and a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage. Other healthier versions of breakfast favorites include a Multigrain Waffle ($9.99) served with fruit compote and a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage and Multigrain French Toast ($10.99) which comes with the same accompaniments.

Among the other choices on the menu are a Ham and Cheese Omelet ($11.49) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit, Classic Smoked Salmon ($9.99) with tomato, cucumber, red onion, olives, and dill cheese, Eggs Benedict ($10.99) featuring two "naturally raised" eggs poached and topped with key lime hollandaise, an Egg White Frittata ($10.99) with spinach, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and cheddar cheese, a Spinach, Tomato, and Onion Omelet ($11.99) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit, Sweet Potato Pancakes ($9.99) with a pecan-honey butter, Make Your Own Wave Muesli ($9.99) with seasonal fruit and house-made granola, and Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Cheese Scrambled Eggs ($8.99) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit.

The Wave has also recently started offering a breakfast buffet that features a wide assortment of items found on the menu in addition to a selection of pastries, cereals, and fruits. The all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet is $18.50, which also includes your choice of coffee or juice.

Breakfast Buffet

I had basically already decided what I was going to order before even setting foot into the restaurant. Upon first ever seeing The Wave's menu I knew that I wanted to try the Sweet Potato Pancakes and they did not disappoint. The pancakes themselves were soft and moist in consistency, much different in texture than a regular pancake. The pancakes were certainly sweet, but I did not find their flavor to be overwhelming or sickening in any way. My server commented that I would not need any syrup to go along with the pancakes and she was definitely right as they were flavorful enough to stand by themselves.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Topping the pancakes was a honey-pecan butter, which added some additional sweetness to the dish. However, I did not find the flavor of the honey to be too strong and it provided just a little extra flavor that paired very well with that of the sweet potato. My only complaint was that I wish there had been more pecans mixed in the butter as their texture proved to be a nice contrast to the softer pancakes and really added some flavor the dish. The pancakes also came served with a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage. I chose the pork sausage and there was really nothing special that made it stand out. If anything, it could have been cooked just a little bit longer as I like my sausage to be slightly on the crispy side.

As a side dish I ordered the Cheddar Cheese Grits ($4.99), which provided a striking contrast to the pancakes. While the pancakes were sweet and light in texture, the grits were a much heavier and heartier option, especially with the stronger flavors of the cheddar cheese and the smoky-saltiness of the bacon bits. I was hoping that the cheese and bacon would come mixed in with the grits, but instead they were served on top; while I was able to mix them in myself, it still was not quite the same. The serving size was very generous, not only in the amount of grits, but also the large portion of bacon bits on top.

Cheddar Cheese Grits

The grits were certainly very filling and when combined with the large portion size of the pancakes I was not even able to finish all of them. While the grits may not have been anything to write home about, I would go back to The Wave in a heartbeat just to order the pancakes again.

Service:
I found the service at The Wave to be very attentive. It certainly helps that the restaurant was not very crowded and each server only had one or two tables at a time, but the service provided by the waiters and waitresses was very good. I found my server to be very friendly and she took a good amount of time explaining some of the items on the menu and offered her own recommendations. Throughout the meal my server was constantly checking in on me to make sure I was enjoying everything and was continually refilling my drink. Since she was only serving one other table it was almost like having my own private waitress.

What impressed me most about the service at The Wave was actually a conversation that I heard between a server and the couple sitting at another table. After they had finished eating their breakfast, the server went over and asked the couple if they had enjoyed everything and then proceeded to ask if they had questions about anything in Disney World that they wanted to know more about. I was astounded because I had never heard a server ask this before. The server and this couple had a nice conversation about Epcot and what his must-do attractions were.

For me, this is what makes Disney restaurants so special. Not only to the restaurants at Disney World offer unique dining experiences, detailed theming, immersive atmospheres, and great food, but they also feature servers who truly care about the guests that they are serving and seek to make their meal (and their vacations) truly special. This server at The Wave was really going above and beyond with helping this couple and it was something very refreshing to see.

Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to trying to save money, many people will see The Wave's breakfast buffet and immediately think that it is the best option. This is true in some cases. If you are looking for a big breakfast and want to try a lot of different things, then the breakfast buffet is a great value at $18.50 (far cheaper than the prices at other breakfast buffets with character dining). The buffet features many of the items offered on the menu, in addition to an assortment of pastries and fruits, and also includes a drink. However, if you are not a big eater or have your heart set on one specific dish, it would actually be cheaper just to order off the menu. In this way, The Wave's breakfast buffet will be a better value for some than others and it is up to each individual to decide what would be the most economical option. If you are not getting the buffet, the prices on the menu are fairly reasonable (by Disney standards), especially considering the generous portion sizes of the dishes.

The Wave is on the Disney Dining Plan, but I would not want to use one dining plan credit for breakfast as it would not be the best value for your money. For dinner, however, it does become a much better value to use the dining plan. The Wave also features a 10% discount for Annual Passholders for breakfast and lunch, a 10% discount on breakfast and lunch for Disney Vacation Club members, and offers the 20% Tables in Wonderland Discount.

The Overall Experience:
Sometimes breakfast can be the overlooked meal when vacationing in Disney World. With everyone in a rush to get to the theme parks in the morning, most people just grab a quick bite to eat at their resort's food court or bring some snacks with them to have en route. What breakfast dining locations do receive attention are generally the character dining experiences like the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom or Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary. The reality is that there is actually a variety of different breakfast dining locations across Disney World for those looking for a nice, calm, relaxing way to start the day. These restaurants, like The Wave, tend to get overlooked and are generally easy to get a table at in the morning.

While its atmosphere may not be the most impressive, I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast at The Wave. It delivered a meal that was not only unique, but also extremely tasty, generous in portion size, and reasonable in price. This is a great option for breakfast if you are staying at the Contemporary Resort or even if you are looking to have a nice sit-down meal before heading into the Magic Kingdom. It may not be the best known restaurant, even at its own resort, but it is certainly worth a visit if you are looking for something a little different, and a little healthier, for breakfast.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of The Wave and post your own too!

November 4, 2011

A Little Taste of Food & Wine

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival is one of my favorite times of year at Disney World; there is so much to do, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. One of the things I enjoy most about the Festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of so many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The Festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. Epcot is always my go-to park when it comes to great food and this is all the more heightened during the Food & Wine Festival.

Festival Signage

This year's Festival features twenty-nine international marketplaces ranging from Singapore to Portugal to the Caribbean Islands and with so much good food to be found it can sometimes be very difficult to decide which dishes to try. As you walk around World Showcase and look at various menus you quickly find yourself wanting to try everything, the pleasant aromas filling the air only adding to the temptation. Of course, it would cost far too much money to try every single item that the Festival has to offer and so here I present a few of my favorites in the hope it will help you decide which dishes might interest you most.

We will start with Morocco. Although the Moroccan pavilion features both a full service restaurant and quick service eatery, the country's Food & Wine marketplace presents some different offerings.

Morocco Marketplace

Here I decided to try the Kefta Pocket which was described on the menu as ground seasoned beef in a pita pocket. I likened the beef to a spicy hamburger. While the beef did have a very distinct spiciness to it I did not find its flavor to be overwhelming and, even though the beef was a little on the dry side, this did not take away from the flavor. Accompanying the beef in the pita was a type of cole slaw that provided a light and refreshing accompaniment that paired very well with the stronger flavored beef. For $5.00 this is one of the more expensive items throughout the marketplaces, but the size of the dish makes it a good value.

Kefta Pocket

The Hops and Barley marketplace features foods and beers from the United States. Although I like to use the Food & Wine Festival as a way of sampling the cuisines of distant countries that I may not be as familiar with, I could not resist trying a new item on the menu here this year.

Hops and Barley Marketplace

The Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins and Orange Sauce immediately jumped out at me because I am a huge fan of all things pumpkin and I am happy to say that it certainly lived up to my expectations. The pumpkin mousse was very smooth and creamy and had a flavor similar to that of a pumpkin pie only a little more on the sweet side. To be honest, the only flavor that I really noticed was that of the pumpkin and could not really pick out the orange sauce (which I was glad because the combination of pumpkin and orange seemed a little odd to me). The mousse came topped with chopped nuts and craisins that added a nice contrast in texture to that of the mousse. For $1.50 this is one of the best valued items in the entire Festival.

Pumpkin Mousse

Scandinavia makes its return this year after a brief hiatus and may have one of the best themed exteriors of any of the marketplaces.

Scandanavia Marketplace

Here I chose the Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries. While this may not be the most visually appealing dish at the Festival, it certainly has great taste and flavor. The meatballs themselves were very moist and tender and were somewhat different in consistency than the meatballs you would get if dining out at an Italian restaurant. Accompanying the meatballs was a lingonberry sauce, which to me tasted very similar to cranberry sauce. I found the lingonberries to be very strong in flavor, and while they did provide some sweetness to the dish and a nice contrast to the flavor of the meatballs, they were a little too overpowering. The meatballs were just as good without the sauce as they were with it on them (and without the sauce you could actually appreciate the flavor of the meatballs more). For $3.50 I found this to be a good sized portion and a good value.

Swedish Meatballs

Argentina is a marketplace that always stands out, not only because of its bright yellow color, but also because of the tremendous aromas wafting from the food being cooked inside.

Argentina Marketplace

I had heard great things about the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée last year and this year decided to give it a try. The chimichurri sauce gave the dish a very strong and distinctive flavor, but it really made the dish what it is. I can best describe the chimichurri sauce as being a slightly spicy pesto and its taste was the dominant flavor in the dish. This is definitely a dish with a kick to it and not for the faint of heart. The boniato puree had the texture and flavor of mashed potatoes that was really enhanced by the chimichurri sauce. The beef itself was tender and juicy and while its $5.00 cost makes it one of the more expensive items it is most definitely worth the price. This is a very high quality and great tasting dish and I would not hesitate to say it is my favorite among the dishes I have sampled so far.

Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce

Hawaii is a new addition to the Festival this year, helping to draw attention to Disney's new Aulani resort which just recently opened.

Hawaii Marketplace

Here I ordered the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. I did not expect the slider to be as spicy as it actually was. The mayonnaise provided a definite kick to the dish and even the pineapple chutney was more on the spicy side than the sweet side. That being said, the pineapples did provide a sweeter, refreshing accompaniment to the flavor of the pork. Overall, I thought that all the varying flavors of the dish blended together very nicely. The pork came served on a soft roll, although I wish the roll had been more crusty because it would have made an already good dish even better. For $3.00 this was a very good value in terms of both portion size and quality and one of the better new items at the Festival this year.

Pork Slider

No trip to the Food & Wine Festival for me can be complete without a stop at the Ireland marketplace because it features my favorite dessert.

Ireland Marketplace

The Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Ganache is something that I order every year and keep wishing that there was someplace at Disney that served it all year round. This is definitely a sweet, rich, decadent dessert and, even though it is small, it is still very filling. The chocolate cake comes served warm and is extremely moist, but what truly makes the dessert is the Bailey's ganache that is served on top. While the sauce does have a distinct Bailey's flavor, I did not find this to be too overpowering. Rather, there was just enough taste of Bailey's to give the dessert a little bit of a kick. I was disappointed to find that the price had increased from $2.75 last year to $3.00 this year, but it is still a good value even though the portion size is exactly the same as it was last year.

Lava Cake

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 13.

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

November 13, 2011

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2011

Ashleybanner.jpg

Disclaimer: As an invited media guest, AllEars.Net's tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party were provided by the Walt Disney Company.

We were able to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) on November 11, 2011 (click the link for dates and ticket prices). The event is an annual "hard-ticket" event (a separate ticket must be purchased to attend the event) at the Magic Kingdom.

A few things before we begin:

*You MUST have a ticket and a wristband to enjoy any of the party events. The park closes at 7 PM to day guests.

*You may enter the park beginning at 4 PM with your party ticket. If you are at Magic Kingdom before 4 PM, keep an eye out for wristband stations. They will scan your ticket and give you your wristband.

*Magic Kingdom's Christmas tree was not up on November 11. I wasn't able to find out when it would be going up.

*Here's the Christmas Party Guide Map, showing which attractions are open and where various special treats are located:

-- Christmas Party Map Side 1 (large .jpg 436K)

-- Christmas Party Map Side 2 (large .jpg 390K)

On to the fun...

When you approach security at Magic Kingdom, there are signs out for the party.

Sign

Banners are hung across the tunnels leading to Main Street.

Banners

Main Street looked gorgeous at dusk. (Keep an eye out for a new "What's New, What's Next" blog that will have more pictures of the holiday decorations around the parks.)

Main Street

The logo was visible in Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland

The stage was decorated for a Totally Tomorrowland Christmas.

Stage

Space Mountain was decked out for the event.

Space Mountain

Phineas and Ferb greeted guests in Tomorrowland. They are where Buzz Lightyear is during the day (between Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress).

Phineas and Ferb

Snowflakes were projected onto the pavement in Tomorrowland.

Snowflakes

Stations were set up for complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.

Cookies

In Fantasyland, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella greeted guests.

Cinderella

Main Street looked beautiful.

Main Street

The soldiers are around the flagpole.

Soldiers

Santa is greeting guests at the flagpole this year. Duffy the Disney Bear was supposed to be at his old location near City Hall, but I never saw Duffy greeting guests.

Santa

These trees were near Santa.

Trees

The parade begins in Frontierland and makes its way to Main Street.

Parade

Duffy joined Mickey and Minnie in the parade.

Mickey and Minnie

The skiers were also new this year.

Skiers

Chip and Dale

Dwarves

Carriage

Cinderella

Princesses

New to the parade (or new to me, at least, since it's been a couple of years since I've been) are Princess Jasmine and Aladdin.

Jasmine

Toy Soldiers

Here's a quick video of the Toy Soldiers marching down Main Street.

Santa's reindeer have slightly different costumes this year. Apologies if this picture is too dark -- my attempts to lighten it weren't very successful.

Reindeer

Santa

Just before the fireworks, The Magic, the Memories and You is shown. It has a special holiday segment. The castle turns into a gingerbread castle briefly (and I mean BRIEFLY -- have your cameras ready! I missed getting a picture of the candy cane overlay) and a present and... well, you'll have to see it, but I think you'll like the segment.

Gingerbread

Holiday Wishes was incredible, as always. There's one segment that always makes me tear up.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Here's a brief video of the fireworks:

Fireworks

Fireworks

Unfortunately, the cold and crowd drove us out after the fireworks. We had a great time.

Depot

A few more notes:

*The princesses and the princes as well as Mickey and Minnie were greeting in the Town Square Theater.

*Donald and Pooh and friends were greeting guests in Fantasyland. The pictures were too dark and I couldn't lighten them up at all.

*Tinker Bell and her friends were greeting in Adventureland.

*The character meets were very, very busy, especially the indoor locations.

*The party we attended was sold out.


November 14, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Disney World - November 10-11, 2011

Ashleybanner.jpg

There's a lot going on at Disney World! The holidays have arrived.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The entrance to Epcot has garland up.

Epcot

The tree is up at the entrance to World Showcase.

Tree

Tree

The Canada pavilion is still being worked on.

Canada

France is decorated for the holidays.

France

Work is still ongoing at Yakitori House at Japan.

Yakitori

The American pavilion has their tree up.

Tree

Some turnstiles at the entrance at Epcot were walled off.

Turnstiles

The tree at Disney's Hollywood Studios is up.

Tree

The light poles at the entrance at Studios were also decorated.

Light poles

The stars are out on Sunset Boulevard.

Sunset Blvd

There's a sign up for the Osborne Lights near the Great Movie Ride.

Sign

Santa is arriving near Pizza Planet.

Santa

We went over to the Streets of America to see the Osborne Lights display during the day.

Santa- Osborne

Signs like this one are up and down the street with fun facts and trivia about the Osborne Lights.

Sign

The library has their tree out.

Library tree

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid has some decorations up as well.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

After dinner, we made our way to the Streets of America so we could watch the Osborne Lights be turned on for the first time this year. The lights are turned on at dusk -- the ceremony started at approximately 6:10 the night we were there.

Dusk

The Lights were, and always are, gorgeous. They have switched out a lot of the strands for LED strands and they were much brighter than last year. Also, they shimmer this year which I don't remember them doing last year.

The Lights danced immediately after being turned on. Later in the evening, there was a song dedicated to Jennings Osborne who passed away this year. I thought the song they chose was very appropriate.

Also, the Halloween cat is very well hidden this year. If you're unfamiliar with the story: When the Osbornes donated the Lights to Disney World, they accidentally included their black Halloween cat. The Imagineers hide the cat every year in the display. It's become a tradition for many to try to find it.

There's a window near the New York facade that shows some of the history of the Osborne Lights. Here's a quick video:

Enough talk and on with the pictures! :)

Lights

Osborne

Mickey and Goofy posed for pictures with the family selected to help turn the lights on for the evening.

Mickey and Goofy

Globe

Canopy

The Osborne family has stockings in the display.

Stockings

Street

The windows on this building are screens for the Osborne Lights. The images that go across are very neat to watch. We spent quite a bit of time standing off to the side to watch them.

Windows

Tree

Santa and Mickey

Canopy

The Minnie window is up at the Celebrity 5 and 10.

Minnie window

The Studios tree is very pretty at night.

Studios

Friday, November 11, 2011

Downtown Disney has a new tree this year.

tree

Festival of the Masters was going on at Downtown Disney. Check out Jack Spence's blog on it here.

The walls were down around the exterior of World of Disney and the Lego Store.

World of Disney

Lego Store

This tree near Portobello's is new (or new to me):

Tree

The tennis courts at the Grand Floridian have been completely torn up.

Tennis courts

Signs are out near the monorail beams for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

MVMCP

The train station has been decorated for the holidays.

Train station

Some work is being done on the top of the Newsstand.

Newsstand

Main Street looks beautiful.

Main Street

Light pole

Main Street

The side of Crystal Arts is being worked on.

Crystal Arts

Main Street

Every time I see the progress on Storybook Circus, I'm amazed at how quickly it's coming together.

Storybook

Storybook

Enchanted Grove has been renamed Cheshire Cafe. I knew something was different, but didn't realize they had painted it until I got home and looked at my pictures.

New sign

Work on the rest of the expansion is also coming along nicely.

Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast

A photo-op with the soldiers and the castle has been set up near the flagpole.

Photo op

Emporium

Candy Cane Garden

We saw Cinderella's Holiday Wish from Main Street. It was difficult to get pictures of the characters so I concentrated on the castle.

Holiday Wish

Castle

The castle does change colors periodically.

Castle

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

November 27, 2011

Have a Jolly Good Time at the Rose and Crown

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to truly immersive dining experiences, Epcot's World Showcase offers a tremendous variety of restaurants to try. While each country's restaurants offer something a little different for guests, they share a common thread in that they all strive to achieve a level of authenticity that helps immerse guests into that country's cuisine and culture. The restaurants in World Showcase are among the most unique in all of Disney World. These are restaurants that are about so much more than just the food they serve; it is truly about the complete dining experience.

These are all restaurants help to transport guests, introducing them to cultures that can sometimes be very different from our own. They are able to do this not only through their unique cuisine, but also through tremendously detailed decors and servers who are actually from that country. My next few reviews will highlight several of these restaurants beginning here with the Rose and Crown, a restaurant that will truly immerse you in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the United Kingdom.

Rose and Crown Entrance

Overview:
When it comes to all the various cuisines found around World Showcase, the United Kingdom is probably not on the top of many lists. Overshadowed by the more well-known foods of other countries such as Italy, Mexico, and France people might tend to overlook the Rose and Crown or dismiss it for one of these other options instead. It is true that the United Kingdom is probably known more for its beer than its food, but a meal at the Rose and Crown will certainly help to open your eyes to the different dishes and flavors of English cuisine.

Here in lies one of the great values of World Showcase, and specifically its restaurants: the ability to allow guests to experience cultures and cuisines that they may have never experienced before. It is restaurants, like the Rose and Crown, that allow guests to step out of their comfort zone and be adventurous, trying new foods and experiencing new flavors that they may never have tasted before. If you have never really sampled English cuisine, the Rose and Crown is certainly worth a visit, delivering a truly authentic and immersive dining experience unlike any other in Epcot.

Atmosphere:
The Rose and Crown's high degree of immersion and attention to detail start before you even set foot inside the restaurant. Even though there is just one restaurant inside, the building's exterior has the appearance a several different structures. The varying architectural details and designs found on the building's facade are meant to reflect four distinct pub styles found in different areas of the United Kingdom (and each is also reflected with a corresponding room inside the restaurant as well). The first style is the "city" or "street" pub that dates from the Victorian era of the 1890s and is distinguished by a facade of brick and wood paneling.

City Pub Exterior

Next comes the Dickensian pub, its Elizabethan-styled exterior includes the restaurant's large brick-walled, flagstone terrace, a slate roof, and a timbered facade. Also featured is the "waterfront" or "river" pub. Located on the rear of the restaurant, facing the water, it is a modest stone building with a clay tiled roof and decorative doorways.

Waterfront View

The final section of the building's exterior is the "country" or "provincial" pub found in the suburbs of the 17th and 18th centuries, featuring a slate roof and plaster facade with stone-quoined corners.

Provincial Exterior

The Rose and Crown is unique among World Showcase dining locations because it functions as both a sit-down restaurant and a walk-in pub. If you enter Rose and Crown through its front entrance you will find yourself in the pub, featuring a large bar as well as some additional seating that is available at a first-come-first-serve basis. Guests can order drinks at the bar to either to have inside the pub or take with them to go. This pub section of Rose and Crown can become very crowded, especially at night and on weekends, and its boisterous, lively atmosphere is carried throughout the rest of the restaurant. This really helps to give Rose and Crown a lively and energetic atmosphere that really makes it feel like an authentic English pub.

As with the pub section of the restaurant, the main dining room (which is actually entered into through a side entrance) features a decidedly laid-back, relaxing feel. In fact the motto of the Rose and Crown, as seen on the restaurant's entrance and on the menu, is "Otium cum Dignitate," Latin for "Leisure with Dignity," which perfectly describes the overall feel of the restaurant.

Rose and Crown Signage

The dining room, just as with the restaurant's exterior, is divided into a series of smaller rooms and as you pass from one to another you are transported to a different styles of pubs found in various part of the country. Each room has its own distinct feel and character along with a wide array of tiny details and theming that help to truly immerse you into different aspects of British culture from different time periods.

The first section is reflective of the Victorian era "city" or "street" pub, the likes of which would have been found in London. This is the grandest and most elaborate of the restaurant's rooms, featuring a large mahogany bar, etched glass, and a molded plaster ceiling.

City Pub1

City Pub2

The next room is far smaller and is reminiscent of the "country", "provincial" pubs of the English suburbs. This section has a far more intimate and modest feel. Here you can find many more outdoor, rustic touches such as antlers, a hunting horn, as well as pewter cups and teapots. This part of the restaurant actually feels more like an English country home than a pub.

Provincial Room1

Provincial Room2

Moving through the restaurant you next come to the room representing the Dickensian pub of the Elizabethan era. This room is not only larger in size, but also features more elaborate and intricate decorative elements. One of the main features of the room is its wood-paneled walls that really help to give the room more of an upscale feel.

Elizabethan Room

Adding to this is the room's large fireplace (although this is just decorative in purpose).

Elizabethan Room Fireplace

Along the tops of the wall are numerous porcelain dishes of various colors and styles, their intricate details adding a sense of refinement to the room.

Porcelain Dishes1

Porcelain Dishes2

The final room is reflective of the "waterfront" pub and has a distinctive inn-styled feel. Here the walls are completely covered with various knick knacks that reflect the pub's river locale, such as black and white photographs of sailboats, knots, compasses, and other seafaring items. Also adorning the walls are framed newspapers that lend an even greater sense of authenticity to this section of the dining room.

Waterfront Dining Room1

Waterfront Dining Room2

No matter what section of the dining room you are seated in there are large windows that let in ample amounts of sunlight during the day and offer tremendous views of the World Showcase lagoon.

Outside View1

Outside View2

One of the main allures of Rose and Crown is its tremendous location and the ample outdoor seating found on its patio. The restaurant's patio is fully covered and wraps around the entire side and rear of the building; it is a great place to enjoy your meal with a great view.

Patio Seating

The covered seating along with the breeze coming off the lagoon means that, even during the hottest months of the summer, the patio is a relatively cool location to enjoy your meal. The patio seating is in high demand during the day, but even more so at night when it is a prime viewing location for Illuminations. While outdoor seating cannot be guaranteed when making reservations at the restaurant, you are able to request a table outside.

Of course, no English pub would be complete without some live entertainment and at the Rose and Crown this is provided by the Hat Lady. With her numerous, crazy, colorful hats, the Hat Lady performs at select times throughout the day in the pub entertaining guests with jokes and encouraging everyone to sing along to well-known songs. One of the loudest moments I ever heard inside the Rose and Crown was when the Hat Lady started playing "Don't Stop Believing" and nearly everyone joined in the chorus.

Hat Lady

This entertainment helps provide an added degree of energy and excitement and helps to establish the restaurant's authentic English pub feel. This is not necessarily the type of restaurant to go to if you are looking for a quiet, romantic meal, but if you are looking to have a good time with friends or family the Rose and Crown is definitely a dining location that you want to try and is great for the entire family.

The Menu:
The Rose and Crown features three distinct menus: one for lunch, another for dinner, and a third just for the pub section. The lunch and dinner menus are similar, but have some items that are exclusive to one or the other.

When it comes to appetizers the menus for both lunch and dinner are the same and feature several intriguing choices, some familiar and others unfamiliar. There is a Trio of United Kingdom Pasties ($16.99) featuring a sausage roll, mushroom wellington, and beef pasty, Pan-Roasted Mussels ($10.99) with tomatoes, herbs, and a bass ale reduction, a Trio of United Kingdom Cheese ($9.99), Winter Squash Bisque ($4.99), and Potato and Leek Soup ($3.99), Mary and the Lads ($9.99), shrimp cocktail served with a spicy Bloody Mary mix, and Scotch Eggs ($8.99) which are fried hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat and served with a mustard sauce.

For entrees, the lunch menu includes a Grilled Pork Brisket ($15.99) served with marble mashed potatoes, green beans, and a mushroom ragout, there is also the Sunday Roast ($16.99) accompanied by Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, and seasonal vegetables with a shallot gravy, Bangers and Mash ($14.99), the United Kingdom Pub Burger ($13.99) topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, and crispy shallots, Fish and Chips ($16.99), a Romaine Salad ($13.99) with chicken, bacon, and a mustard vinaigrette served with cheddar cheese scones, Shepherd's Pie ($17.99) with lamb, onions, carrots, and mushrooms topped with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, and a Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99) served on toasted sunflower bread with cabbage, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard.

The dinner menu features several of the same dishes, but also includes some additions as well. There is a Grilled Salmon ($20.99) with caramelized marble potatoes, baby carrots, and a malt vinegar reduction, Grilled Sirloin and Fried Fish ($26.99) served with Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a red wine sauce, Pan-Roasted Cornish Hen ($18.99), and a Pork Duo ($15.99) featuring grilled brisket with a mushroom ragout and braised pork with mashed potatoes and a red wine sauce.

The dessert menu is the same for both lunch and dinner and includes Cheesecake ($5.49) with a Drambuie ganache, Irish Whiskey Caramel Custard ($5.99) a Bakewell Tart ($5.49) with a cherry compote, Sticky Toffee Pudding ($4.99) served with a warm vanilla custard and hot butter-rum sauce, and a No Sugar Added Fruit Tart ($5.49) with layers of yellow sponge cake, fresh fruit, and custard topped with whipped cream.

If you do not have dining reservations and are not able to get a table in the restaurant's main dining room, or if you are just looking for a quick bite to eat, there is the option of eating in the pub section. The pub menu is simple and features items on the regular lunch and dinner menu that pair particularly well with a beer from the bar. There is Fish and Chips ($7.99), Scotch Eggs ($8.99), the Trio of United Kingdom Cheese ($9.99), and the Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99). One item that is unique to the pub menu is the English Bulldog ($6.99), a split banger stuffed with mashed potatoes, chopped bacon, Irish cheddar, and a spicy mustard sauce.

For my entrée I decided on the Sunday Roast. When I placed my order my waitress commented that it was her favorite item on the menu, something she recommends to everyone, and I am happy to say that it lived up to her high praise. When the dish was set in front of me I was first impressed with the large portion size, with a generous helping of roast beef and equally large amounts of potatoes and vegetables. The roast beef was very tender, the meat nice and moist. The flavor of the beef was greatly enhanced by the shallot gravy that complimented it extremely well. I did not find the flavor of shallots to be too overwhelming, but it did add a nice bit of extra flavor to the dish.

Sunday Roast

I was surprised to find that the dish came with not only roasted potatoes but also mashed potatoes as well. I was initially a little disappointed that there were only two roasted potatoes, but I actually liked the mashed potatoes more. The mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy and had a decidedly buttery taste. I really enjoyed the string beans especially because they were cooked perfectly so as not to be too mushy nor too crunchy.
What interested me most about the dish was the Yorkshire pudding, something which I had never tried before. I found the Yorkshire pudding to be very similar in flavor, texture, and consistency to a popover. It was a light, fluffy pastry that provided a nice contrast to the heartier roast beef.

For dessert I was very intrigued by the Sticky Toffee Pudding and I will not hesitate to say that it was one of the better desserts that I have had in all of Disney World. This dessert is not the type of pudding that you may be familiar with, but more like a soft, moist cake. This is a dessert with tremendous flavor and I really enjoyed the way that the contrasting flavors of the warm vanilla custard and hot butter-rum sauce combined with one another. I found that there was just the slightest flavor of rum, not overwhelming but just enough to give the dessert a little bit of a kick.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Service:
One of the great things about the restaurants of World Showcase is that you get to interact with people actually from these countries. The Cast Members working at each of the restaurants are more than just servers, but rather are "cultural representatives" who help give us some insight into the lives and customs of the countries they are from. I found the servers at Rose Crown to be extremely pleasant, peppy, and friendly. My server in particular was very talkative. We had a long conversation about how she was making the transition from England and getting used to the different environment and culture of Disney World and the United States.

I also found the servers here to all be very polite and courteous. When I asked my server about the Yorkshire pudding she went out of her way to explain how it was prepared. She also offered explanations of other items on the menu and gave recommendations of her own personal favorites. I found it a little funny at first that my waitress kept referring to me as "hun," "sweetie," or "my love," but then I realized that the servers at other tables were referring to their guests the same way. I found this to be a reflection of English culture and how the servers at Rose and Crown were genuinely concerned with making their guests feel welcome; it showed that they really cared about ensuring their guests had the best dining experience possible.

Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to the sit-down restaurants around World Showcase, Rose and Crown is actually one of the more affordable for both lunch and dinner. The lunch menu, however, does feature some cheaper options. Less expensive items on the lunch menu such as the United Kingdom Pub Burger ($13.99), Romaine Salad ($13.99), and Corned Beef Sandwich ($11.99) are replaced with pricier items at dinner such as the Grilled Sirloin and Fried Fish ($26.99) and the Grilled Salmon ($20.99).

One item I would not suggest ordering at Rose and Crown is the Fish and Chips largely because of its $16.99 price tag. Located just outside of the Rose and Crown is the Yorkshire County Fish Shop which offers Fish and Chips for $8.19. If you are in the mood for Fish and Chips I would go here instead. While the size may not be as large as the one served inside the Rose and Crown dining room, it is still a good-sized portion and filling enough to be a meal unto itself.

In addition, Fish and Chips can also be found on the Rose and Crown's pub menu for $7.99. The pub menu, while not as extensive as the dining room's lunch and dinner menus, is a great alternative if you are looking for an authentic English meal at a more affordable price while still enjoying the immersive atmosphere that Rose and Crown has to offer. In addition to the Fish and Chips the pub menu also features a cheaper version of the Scotch Eggs appetizer for $8.99, the Corned Beef Sandwich for $11.99, and the very intriguing English Bulldog for $6.99.

The Rose and Crown is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one credit for both lunch and dinner. While there are no discounts for Disney Vacation Club or Annual Passholders, the restaurant is a part of Tables in Wonderland and offers its 20% discount.

The Overall Experience:
English food might not be my favorite type of cuisine, but dining at the Rose and Crown has showed me that it can deliver a wide range of great-tasting and flavorful dishes. This is the type of restaurant that is great for trying something new, to break away from foods you are used to eating in your everyday life. The Rose and Crown is a nice change of pace from the other restaurants around World Showcase, not only in terms of the food on its menu but also because of its very distinct atmosphere.

With its pub-like feel, the Rose and Crown is one of the more lively and energetic dining locations in all of Epcot. Combined with its immersive theming and attention to detail, you really feel as though you have been transported to England. Only adding to the restaurant's allure is its tremendous location right on the World Showcase lagoon, offering tremendous views by day and an ideal location for watching Illuminations at night. Dining at Rose and Crown is a fun, laid-back, relaxing dining experience that is great for everyone in the family, kids and adults alike. Not being too familiar with English cuisine, Rose and Crown certainly exceeded my expectations in every facet of my dining experience and I look forward to returning there again in the future.

See past restaurant reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Rose and Crown and post your own too!

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About November 2011

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

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