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February 9, 2014

Liberty Tree Tavern: A "Revolutionary" Dining Experience

Andrew Rossi

As soon as you set foot in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom you feel as though you have been transported back to 1776. Although it is the smallest of any of the Magic Kingdom's lands, it may be the best themed of them all. From its replica of the Liberty Bell to its colonial architecture, wooden stockades, and even smaller details such as a window with two lanterns signifying the "two if by sea" of Paul Revere's midnight ride, Liberty Square provides a view into what life was like in the thirteen original colonies. If Walt Disney were around today, Liberty Square would probably be his favorite place in the Magic Kingdom as he was once noted as saying, "If you could see close in my eyes, there's an American flag waving in both of them."

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Liberty Square features a little bit of everything. It has two of the most classic Disney attractions in the Haunted Mansion and Hall of Presidents, various little shops such as Yankee Trader and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, as well as a number of dining experiences, such as Sleepy Hollow for snacks and the counter service restaurant Columbia Harbour House. Even though Magic Kingdom has a limited number of sit-down restaurants, Liberty Square's Liberty Tree Tavern still tends to be overlooked by many as they make their way past toward Frontierland. However, this restaurant provides Guests a tremendously themed dining experience that helps make it one of the best dining options at Magic Kingdom.

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Overview:
The Liberty Tree Tavern's very name is one filled with history and heritage befitting of Liberty Square. In 1765 the British government imposed a Stamp Act on the American colonies. It required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. In August 1765, a crowd gathered in Boston under a large elm tree to protest this hated tax. Patriots who later called themselves the Sons of Liberty hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the colonist chosen by King George III to impose the Stamp Act, in the branches of the tree. It was the first public show of defiance against the Crown and spawned the resistance that led to the American Revolution. A sign saying "Tree of Liberty" was later nailed to the trunk of the tree and soon other cities and towns across the thirteen colonies began creating their own Liberty Trees with lanterns hung amongst the branches. As resistance to the British grew, flags bearing a representation of the Liberty Tree were flown to symbolize the spirit of liberty. Liberty Square features its own Liberty Tree and the restaurant that bears its name pays homage to several of the Founding Fathers who played a major role in the creation of the nation.

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Atmosphere:
One of the most endearing characteristics of the Liberty Tree Tavern is how well it carries the overall theme of Liberty Square inside the restaurant. Every element of the restaurant, from the lighting to the furniture to the costumes worn by the servers, all contributes to the Colonial/Revolutionary Era feel. One of the first words that comes to mind to describe the feel of the restaurant is quaint, with a tremendous level of detail and authenticity that give it an old-world charm. The restaurant is divided into a series of smaller rooms, giving it a much more intimate feel. As you walk through the dining area you feel as though you are passing through different rooms in a house, each having a different look and feel in terms of décor, color, and architecture.

Each of these rooms, in fact, is specifically themed to one of the Founding Fathers and the architecture and décor of each reflect their different backgrounds and the roles they played in gaining American independence. Among the Founding Fathers honored are Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, as well as Betsy Ross.

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In addition to featuring their portraits, each room features various themed elements that help to tell the story about that particular person.

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It comes as no surprise that the John Paul Jones room has strong nautical influences with model ships, navigation equipment, and nautical knots. Both the Jefferson and Washington rooms on the other hand have a decidedly more upscale feel, reflecting their well-to-do Virginia lifestyle.

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Meanwhile, the Paul Revere room has a much more simple appearance reflecting his humble occupation as a silversmith.

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The level of detail found throughout the entire restaurant is outstanding and there are probably many elements that go unnoticed by most Guests. While larger objects such as the faux fireplaces, portraits and paintings of the Founding Fathers, and colonial-era muskets all contribute to the overall theme of the restaurant, it is really the smaller items which greatly add authenticity to the dining experience.

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Everywhere you look throughout the restaurant your eye always seems to pick out some new detail, with many of the items looking as though they could belong in a museum. Some of the more interesting items included ceramic pipes, a copper tea kettle, maps of the thirteen colonies, an old-fashioned flat iron, a butter churner, and an alphabetical list of members of the Sons of Liberty.

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Whether it be maps, lanterns, blankets and quilts, cooking utensils, or pewter dishes, all these little details complete immerse you in the overall theme of Liberty Square and make you feel as though you are dining in a colonial-era home. This level of detail and theming found in the Liberty Tree Tavern is definitely Disney Imagineering and storytelling at its best.

The Menu:
The Liberty Tree Tavern is a restaurant that gives you a totally different dining experience depending on whether you go for lunch or dinner. Lunch offers an al a carte menu featuring an array of classic Americana cuisine. Meanwhile, dinner is an all-you-care-to-eat meal served family style that includes roast turkey breast, carved beef, smoked pork loin, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb bread stuffing, and macaroni and cheese. Given the choice between the two, I prefer lunch over dinner because the lunch menu has a number of interesting choices and at a cheaper price than the family-style dinner. While the menu features nothing overly exotic or elegant, it does offer many traditional Americana favorites.

For lunch, the appetizer offerings include the Crab and Spinach Dip for Two ($10.99) featuring blue crab combined with spinach and cream cheese served with warm flatbread, Declaration Salad ($5.49) combining field greens and vegetables tossed with your choice of tavern-made dressing or roasted garlic buttermilk dressing, Tavern Fried Cheese ($5.99) served with marinara sauce, New England Clam Chowder ($7.49), and Today's Soup Kettle ($5.99), which happened to be chicken noodle on the day I was dining there.

The menu also features a good array of entrée offerings ranging from New England Pot Roast ($18.99) with braised beef in a cabernet wine and mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and garden vegetables to Freedom Pasta ($19.99) featuring fusilli pasta with sauteed chicken, seasonal vegetables, and mushrooms tossed in a cream sauce, The Liberty Boys BLT ($13.99) topped with slow roasted pork, fresh greens, and tomatoes on house-made bread with caramelized shallots and a mushroom-mayonnaise spread, the Pilgrims' Feast ($15.99) which combines traditional roast turkey with herb bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and garden vegetables, the Colony Salad ($14.49) featuring apples, sweet pecans, applewood smoked cheddar, dried cranberry craisins, and grilled chicken tossed with field greens in a honey shallot vinaigrette, an Angus Chuck Cheeseburger ($13.99) topped with bacon and cheddar or mushrooms and provolone, and the Vegetarian Burger ($11.49).

There are also several delectable desserts available. Among these are the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake ($7.49) featuring a vanilla cake with a toffee filling, caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream, Martha Washington's Cake ($7.99) which is a slice of rich chocolate cake, layered with a chocolate coffee icing, Fruit Crisp ($5.49) combining baked seasonal fruits with a crisp streusel topping and homemade ice cream, and Johnny Appleseed's Cake ($7.49) filled with apples and craisins and topped with ice cream.

For my entrée I decided upon the New England Pot Roast, which happens to be one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. After sampling just a few bites I could see why this dish came so highly recommended by my server. The braised beef was cooked to perfection and so tender that it fell apart at the touch of my fork. Alongside the beef were a generous portion of carrots, celery, mushrooms, and onions all atop a heaping helping of mashed potatoes, which had a smooth and fluffy consistency. Topping it all off was a rich cabernet wine and mushroom sauce that provided a tremendous flavor that soaked into the beef and potatoes. This is the type of home-style comfort food that you can expect at the Liberty Tree Tavern and was the perfect meal to warm up on a cool January afternoon.

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For dessert I chose the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake, which has become one of my favorite desserts in all of Disney World. One of the things I like most about this dessert is the mixing of so many different flavors. The chocolate, caramel, toffee pieces, and vanilla ice cream all have their own distinct flavors, but combine together deliciously. The cake itself was served warm with the appearance and taste of a big, thick chocolate chip cookie. Topping the cake is a large scoop of vanilla ice cream whose refreshingly light taste provides a nice compliment to the more rich and heavy cake. The toffee pieces that top the dessert give added flavor and texture along with a healthy amount of chocolate and caramel sauce. It is certainly a filling dessert and can easily be split by two people, but it is so good that you might want to eat the whole thing yourself.

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Service:
I was very impressed by the efficiency of the service at Liberty Tree Tavern. Even though the restaurant was a little crowded during the lunchtime rush, I was still seated very quickly and, upon placing my order, the food was brought out in a very timely manner. However, the meal did not progress so fast that I felt like I was being rushed. I also noticed that the restaurant had good number of servers, which gave each a smaller number of tables to wait upon and allowed them to offer more attentive service to their Guests. My server frequently checked in on me to make sure that I was enjoying everything and to see if he could get me anything else that I might have needed. In fact, he was so attentive that never once did my glass of water get more than halfway empty before he came around to fill it back up. My server was also very helpful in pointing out several of his favorite items on the menu, which dishes were the more popular choices, and provided a little description of each.

Dining on a Budget:
If you are looking to save a little bit of money, then lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern is definitely the way to go rather than dinner. Not only are the lunch prices more reasonable, but you also get a fairly wide selection of choices on the menu and portion sizes that are generous. One of the best values on the menu is probably the Pilgrims' Feast, which gives you a full Thanksgiving dinner for just $15.99. Other economical options would be the Colony Salad for just $14.49 or the Liberty Boys BLT that costs $13.99. Seeing other people get these I noticed that the portions are likewise a very good size, but if you still wanted a little something more you could always split an appetizer or dessert. Speaking of appetizers, the Tavern Fried Cheese is a great value at just $5.99.

The Liberty Tree Tavern is on the Disney Dining Plan and worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. Thus, if you are on the Dining Plan, you would actually get a better value for your money by going here for dinner, which regularly costs $34.00. While the restaurant does participate in Tables in Wonderland, there are no further discounts for either Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members.

The Overall Experience:
While Magic Kingdom may not have many sit-down restaurants, this lack of quantity does not necessarily mean a lack of quality. I highly recommend the Liberty Tree Tavern because it is truly the type of dining experience that you expect to get from Disney. It all starts with a great theme which is carried throughout the restaurant in the tiniest of details and creates a fully immersive dining atmosphere. This combines with food that may be simple and traditional, but is also extremely tasty and generously portioned. Along with efficient service and reasonable prices, this all helps to create a memorable dining experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Next time you are at the Magic Kingdom and are looking for a little break from all the hustle and bustle, lunch (or dinner) at the Liberty Tree Tavern is a great way to relax, refresh, and get reenergized for the rest of your day.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Liberty Tree Tavern and post your own too!

February 12, 2014

Jim's Attic: The Walt Disney World Time Capsule That Never Was

The Walt Disney World Time Capsule That Never Was
By Jim Korkis

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

One of the hardest things for me over the decades is having someone tell me a great story and then immediately make me promise never to tell the story because they intend to use it in a book that they are going to write some day. My frustration comes from the fact that the book never gets written.

Over a decade and a half ago, Disney executive Ron Heminger made me promise not to tell all the stories he shared with me. Heminger began his Disney career in 1955 as one of the dancers at the Indian village in Frontierland where his father was a chief. He worked his way up into managerial roles, finishing out his decades with Disney working at Epcot which is where I first encountered him.

While he freely told terrific stories to those of us interested in listening, he warned each of us that he was going to write a book about his experiences and didn't want any of us telling some of the great stories before the book came out.

He had boxes and boxes of 8mm home movies, memos, memorabilia and more that he had gathered in half a century to use as a resource. There is no indication he ever started writing his book. He disappeared and is supposedly happily living in a trailer somewhere out West where even his closet friends and family members have not been able to locate him.

Some of Heminger's stories were about the building of the Magic Kingdom. Since Coors Beers was only available on the West Coast and it was a favorite of some of the California people working on the Magic Kingdom in Florida, they arranged for it to be shipped out in boxes from the West Coast marked as equipment for the Peter Pan's Flight attraction.

"Yeah, Ron was right," Disney Legend Bill "Sully" Sullivan who was also there at the building of Magic Kingdom told me with a laugh. "This guy brought out Coors Beer in boxes marked 'small tools and parts.' He almost got fired because he had used company trucks. We also had things like refried beans shipped out so we could have good Mexican food. Ron took that package that the company offered years ago and he is now in some double wide trailer in Colorado or somewhere. He was half-Sioux, you know."

One of my favorite Heminger stories is about the Walt Disney World Time Capsule That Never Was. Several years after Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, he was walking with his supervisor through the theme park and reminiscing about the frantic time of opening the place on time.

"One of the things I really regret is that we never did the time capsule," Heminger shared. "We prepared the spot but just ran out of time."
His supervisor, who was not there in those months of construction, laughed and told him that it was just an urban legend and that there were never any plans for a time capsule.

Heminger knew better and insisted that it was true and that a place had been prepared at Cinderella Castle. The discussion started to escalate and Heminger finally told the supervisor to meet him at Cinderella Castle a few hours after park closing, after the guests and maintenance staff were not there.

When the park closed, Heminger and one of his cohorts went to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and took a full skeleton. Then they went to Cinderella Castle and carefully removed a plaque. There was a hollowed-out hole behind the plaque. It was clear that a space had indeed been prepared for something. They dressed the skeleton in a WED (Walt Disney Imagineering) hard hat and vest, stuffed it into the opening and then replaced the plaque.

Later that evening, Heminger met his supervisor and gave him a flashlight. With some theatrical difficulty, Heminger removed the plaque while he told how things were so hectic in the final days of building the Magic Kingdom that they basically spent their energy during the last few days just making sure everything was covered up for the guests until they could get to it again.

The supervisor was surprised to see a wide hole hidden behind the plaque. Turning on the flashlight, he curiously stuck his head deep inside and peered below".where he saw the supposed remains of a hapless WED employee inadvertently trapped and forgotten for years. I am sure the readers of this column can imagine the reaction much more effectively than I could ever describe it.

I hope Ron, wherever he is, gets a laugh out of this story and forgives me for sharing it in hopes that it will motivate him to start writing that book about his time at Disneyland and Walt Disney World because his stories were great.

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

====================
Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


February 17, 2014

Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - February 2014

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® Bits and Bites issue, our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design. The puzzles have some sort of Disney theme, of course, but will not be restricted to the Disney theme parks. The type of puzzle is up to James. Also up to him? The bestowing of a prize -- a collectible Disney pin from his extensive collection.

Around the middle of each month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting a puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog. Again, the subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

Here's the link to this month's puzzle:

http://allears.net/ae/mb021714.pdf

So... Think you know Disney inside and out? Put on your thinking cap!

Continuing with the animated character's series, this month we take a closer look at Mickey's lovable friend, Goofy!

There is a word bank for this particular puzzle, but beware, not all of the words in the word bank are used in the puzzle.

The object is to have fun, of course, but if you want a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, arrange the letters that are circled in the puzzle to come up with the answer to the bonus question, which relates to the puzzle theme. Send your resulting answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com. Send the bonus term or phrase no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on March 5, 2014. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog, along with a new puzzle, in mid-March.

Can you believe it's been one year that we've been doing this already? Thanks everyone for playing!

And GOOD LUCK!

JANUARY SOLUTION:

Here is the answer key to last month's Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler:

http://allears.net/ae/mb011614-key.pdf

As many of you knew (93 of you, in fact!), "Working for Peanuts" was the title of the Donald Duck 3-D cartoon that came out in 1953, and could be seen at the Magic Kingdom along with "Magic Journeys" from about 1988-93.

The winner of this month's random drawing from all the correct responses was Jeff B. of Florida, NY, winner of a collectible Figment pin.

As always, James would love to hear any feedback, or any ideas for themes you'd like to a see covered. Drop James a line at dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

February 23, 2014

A Taste of Northern Italy on the High Seas at Palo

Andrew Rossi

The Disney Cruise Line delivers the same high quality, service, and entertainment that you would expect at one of the Disney theme parks to help create a truly magical experience at sea. Although the Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy share some common traits, they each have their own unique style and charm and offer different experiences for their Guests. Being newer and larger ships, the Dream and Fantasy were able to improve and expand upon many of the features of the Magic and the Wonder.

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Having just recently cruised aboard the Dream, I am continually amazed by the sheer size of the ship and yet attention is still paid to the tiniest of details. Whether it is the staterooms, shops, clubs, or restaurants, everywhere there are examples of the great theming and storytelling that make cruising with Disney so special.

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Of course, no cruise would be complete without food and the Disney Dream offers plenty of options to choose from. One of the unique features of Disney Cruise Line is the concept of rotational dining. Rather than having just one main dining room, aboard the Disney ships each night offers something different as you move between three completely distinct dining experiences. Aboard the Disney Dream, the first of these restaurants is Royal Palace, which draws its inspiration from classic Disney films such as Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, and offers diners a French-inspired fare.

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Next is Enchanted Garden, which takes its cue from the beautiful gardens of Versailles and features a menu of continental European cuisine in a setting that magically transforms from day to night throughout the course of the meal.

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Finally there is Animator's Palette, which may provide the most unique dining experience of them all. Unlike its sister ships, the Magic and Wonder, Animator's Palette aboard the Dream does not transform from black and white to color during the course of dinner. Instead, the dining room is magically submerged under water and throughout the meal Guests have the opportunity to interact with Crush the sea turtle from Pixar's Finding Nemo all while enjoying a menu of Pacific Rim cuisine.

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If you are looking for something a little more special, however, the Disney Dream also offers two additional dining experiences for an extra cost. While Palo (an additional $25 per person) highlights the elegance of northern Italian cuisine, Remy (an additional $75 per person) provides diners with an array of gourmet French-inspired dishes. Both of these restaurants are the equivalent of a Signature restaurant at Walt Disney World, providing unparalleled service in an upscale atmosphere with beautifully-presented dishes made with the freshest ingredients. While I have yet to try Remy, Palo is an absolute must-do whenever I am on a Disney cruise.

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Atmosphere:
Located high above the sea on deck twelve, Palo offers tremendous ocean views in an elegant setting. The name Palo actually refers to the long poles used by gondoliers in Venice and it is easy to see this Venetian influence throughout the restaurant.

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The dining room features a warm color palette of gold and red highlighted with subtle touches of blue and green.

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As soon as you enter the restaurant your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the magnificent light fixture hanging overhead, which has a look reminiscent of the iconic glass creations of Murano (a small island less than a mile north of Venice).

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One of the most distinctive features of Palo are the beautiful paintings of Venice that adorn the walls, all of which were custom-made for the restaurant.

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The painting help add a splash of brighter colors that really make them pop against the more subdued tones throughout the rest of the dining room.

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The low-light of the dining room combine with the richly upholstered furniture, lush carpeting, and warm dark wooden paneled walls to create a very upscale and romantic setting. Although larger than its counterparts on the Magic and Wonder, Palo aboard the Dream still has a limited seating capacity with tables that are spread out to make for a quiet and more intimate dining experience. On a cruise ship that certainly caters to families and children, Palo proves that it can appeal to adults as well.

One feature on Palo aboard the Dream that is not found on the Magic and Wonder is a private dining room that even includes a window into the restaurant's kitchen.

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Of course, one of the aspects of Palo that the restaurant is best known for is its tremendous ocean views. Throughout the dining room, every table has tremendous view. This is thanks not only to the floor-to-ceiling windows, but also tiered seating that places diners at the back of the dining room on a higher level than those closer to the windows.

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No other dining location aboard the Dream, save for Remy, can match the majestic vistas offered at Palo. This setting alone really helps set the tone for a truly memorable dining experience.

The Menu:
Palo specializes in fine northern Italian cuisine, featuring classic dishes presented with a bit of a contemporary twist. There is certainly no shortage of options on Palo's menu. In fact, the most difficult decision you will have to make is which of the delectable dishes you want to order. This starts with the appetizers which include Tuna Carpaccio brushed with the chef's special lemon olive oil, Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes topped with balsamic dressing, Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp served atop a mussel, crab and cherry tomato ragu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom served over polenta and topped with a roasted shallot sauce, Fritto di Calamari served with deep fried cherry peppers, a Fresh Arugula Salad with choice of Palo's dressings, Tuscan White Bean Soup with prosciutto and parmesan cheese, and Cioppino, a traditional Italian tomato fish stew with calamari, clams, shrimp, and halibut.

The next course is the pasta dishes as well as risottos. First is the Risotto di Mare featuring a saffron risotto served with fried zucchini, shrimp, mussels, and clams. There is also the Wild Mushroom Risotto topped with freshly-shaved parmesan and a chianti reduction. For pasta there is the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli with a light white truffle sauce, Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli tossed in a rich red wine reduction, Gnocchi con Gorgonzola e Asparagi served with gorgonzola sauce and asparagus, Pappardelle con Aragosta featuring lobster, parsley, and fennel with chili and a fresh tomato sauce, and Penne Arrabbiatta with a spicy fresh tomato and basil sauce topped with grilled shrimp.

Then, after all this, come the entrees. For Pesce (seafood) dishes there are the Grilled Sea Scallops accompanied by borlotti beans and pancetta topped with a tomato sauce, Rombo al Finocchio, a pan seared turbot served with fingerling potatoes, porcini, pancetta and fennel with walnut butter, Branzino in Cartoccio featuring sea bass with spaghetti-cut vegetables and a ginger-orange glaze, and Grilled Tuna Piemonte atop a truffle-infused potato risotto with garlic marinated artichokes. The Carne (meat) offerings include Pan-Seared Calves Liver served on a polenta cake with caramelized apples and onions, Fagotti di Petto di Pollo, a baked chicken breast filled with ricotta, basil, and red peppers served with a pinot grigio reduction, Osso Buco, a slow roasted center-cut veal shank with risotto Milanese, Oregano and Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb with roasted shallots, baked Roma tomatoes, potato pave, and herb jus, and the Beef Tenderloin Palo topped with either melted gorgonzola cheese or Palo's signature red wine sauce (or with both served on the side).

With all this food you might find it difficult to save room for dessert, but you definitely want to make sure that you do in order to try Palo's signature dessert, the Chocolate Soufflé. In addition to this, other desserts include Palo's Homemade Tiramisù, Panna Cotta with strawberry-basil sorbet, Pistachio Cake with amaretto cream and hazelnut meringue, Layered Chiffon Cake glazed with ganache, and Zabaglione with berries.

For my meal I chose to start with the Cioppino. With so much food to come, this fish stew was a nice lighter option to start the meal. Although Italian in name, this dish actually originated in San Francisco. It was the creation of an Italian immigrant fisherman who made it from whatever seafood was leftover when the boats returned from sea. The presentation of the dish was absolutely stunning and the amount of seafood very impressive. The stew included shrimp, calamari, halibut, clams, and mussels. It was not a stew in a traditional sense, but rather more like seafood garnished with a light broth. The broth itself was tomato-based, its flavor enhanced with garlic and basil. Although light in consistency, it provided a tremendous amount of flavor that paired perfectly with the fresh seafood.

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The next course was the pasta dish, for which my server highly recommended the Chianti-Braised Beef Ravioli. I decided to go with his recommendation and I was certainly not disappointed. Whereas the Cioppino was served in a very light broth, the ravioli came in a rich red wine reduction; this is what absolutely made the dish. This pasta dish was just the perfect size since it was a far heartier offering than the fish stew. The ravioli themselves were cooked perfectly al dente and the beef was very tender and flavorful. The red wine reduction stole the show with a rich flavor that really popped, but at the same time still complimented the beef very well. This is a perfect example of how Palo can take a common dish like beef ravioli and give it a completely unique and contemporary spin.

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When it came to the main course I was torn between so many options, but I finally settled on the Osso Buco since it is a dish that I had never tried before. Osso Buco is Italian for "bone with a hole," a reference to the marrow hole at the center of a cross-cut veal shank. The distinguishing feature of this dish was its incredible flavor. The veal shank is slow roasted in white wine and broth so that it absorbs a tremendous amount of flavor. Extremely juicy and tender, the veal literally fell apart at the touch of a fork. The veal was then topped with a tomato sauce that added even more flavor to the dish. Accompanying the veal was a rich and creamy risotto. Risotto Milanese is prepared with beef stock, cheese, and then colored with saffron and its creamy cheesiness was a nice contrast to the veal, but it was also very filling. The hardest part was not eating too much in order to save room for dessert.

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The reason for pacing yourself throughout the meal and saving room for dessert is Palo's signature dessert (if not its signature dish), the Chocolate Soufflé. If you are dining at Palo, this is one dish that you absolutely cannot miss. It is no stretch to say that this is one of the best desserts that I have had in any restaurant anywhere. Upon being seated at your table, you are asked if you will be ordering the soufflé for dessert since each are cooked to order and take the duration of your meal to prepare. Presentation is a major component of this dessert as, at the table, your server will puncture a hole at the top of the soufflé and then pour in the chocolate and vanilla sauces. There is nothing not to like about this dessert. Served piping hot, this is extremely rich and decadent and comes served alongside a scoop of vanilla gelato, which provides a light and refreshing contrast. Even after all the food you have throughout the course of your meal, you cannot help but eat this entire dessert.

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Service:
This is yet another area in which Palo excels. To be fair, no matter where you are dining aboard the Disney Dream the service is tremendous but Palo takes this service to an entirely different level. Your server is always there for you, the smaller size of the restaurant meaning that each server has fewer tables to wait upon. This also means that each server can really take their time to get to know you and get a sense of what types of dishes you would like to try. In the times that I have dined at Palo, I have had multiple servers bring out additional dishes that I did not even order because they thought that it would be something I might like to try. One time I even had a server who said, "Just let me take care of you" and proceeded to bring out dish after dish without me even choosing anything from the menu. Another quality of the service at Palo is that they really allow you to take your time and enjoy your meal at a relaxed pace. It is not uncommon for a dinner here to last anywhere from two and a half to three hours, so be sure to plan accordingly. Dinner at Palo is more than just a meal, it is meant to be an experience and the service and pace of the meal both contribute to allowing you to enjoy every dish and drink to the fullest extent.

The Overall Experience:
With the meals on a cruise included in the price, some might question whether paying the extra $25 to dine at Palo is worth it. My answer to this is absolutely yes. While Royal Palace, Enchanted Garden, and Animator's Palette are all very good in their own right, Palo is at an entirely different level. Everything about the dining experience, from the elegant atmosphere to the northern Italian-inspired cuisine to the attentive service, is of the highest quality. With a prime location on deck twelve, the views are unmatched by any of the other dining locations aboard the ship. Meanwhile, its smaller size makes for a much quieter and more intimate dining experience. If you are looking for a romantic night out or for a little alone time away from the kids, there are few better places to go aboard the Disney Dream. It is unquestionably one of the best dining experiences I have had at anywhere on land or on sea.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of the Disney Dream's Palo and post your own too!

February 26, 2014

Jim's Attic: The Hidden Handprints of The Magic of Animation

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The Hidden Handprints of The Magic of Animation

On May 1, 1989, the Disney MGM Studios officially opened with a dedication ceremony led by then CEO Michael Eisner. However, not long afterwards on that same day, there was another dedication ceremony in front of The Magic of Disney Animation building.

Roy E. Disney talked at podium set up in the front of the attraction where he emphasized that hand drawn animation was really the focal point of the Disney Company. He continued that animation was the start of the Disney Company and that with the newly opened Disney Feature Animation Studio Florida "a new day for animation will be dawning".

The Little Mermaid would debut in November, just six months later, proving Roy absolutely correct.

Joining in the dedication were several Disney Legends who had made significant contributions to animation: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Ken O'Connor and Ken Anderson.

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The one snag in the ceremony was a literal snag as the cover over the elaborate animation film strip sculpture at the front of the building did indeed get caught on a pointy outcropping of the sculpture. Amid the fanfare, releasing of balloons and applause, several Disney executives struggled in a tug of war to release the red cover from it entanglement and eventually succeeded.

There was also a ceremony where these six animation legends put their handprints and autographs into cement blocks to be placed in an alcove of the animation courtyard inside the building.

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Originally, the attraction was configured so that guests could not see these three rectangular blocks placed in the ground. However, today, the area (head to the Meet and Greet section and the area is between the Animation Theatre Exit and the Character Department) is open for guests to discover them and take photographs.

While Ken Anderson, Marc Davis and Ward Kimball were Imagineers at the time, they got their starts in the world of animation. Davis was responsible for the design of characters like Tinker Bell and Princess Aurora. Kimball was the animator who designed Jiminy Cricket and the Cheshire Cat. Anderson was the designer of Shere Khan and Pete's Dragon, Elliot. All of them had contributed significantly to many of the Disney animated features.

Ken O'Connor was known as one of Disney's top layout artists and art directors. His work included the magical coach in "Cinderella," the marching cards in "Alice in Wonderland," and the dancing hippos in "Fantasia".

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston stayed in animation their entire career but also collaborated on several books including the definitive book on Disney animation entitled "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life". Their animation began with work on the dwarves in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and continued through The Fox and the Hound where both worked on the young Tod and Copper.

The original intention was that there were would two legends to one block as demonstrated on the one featuring Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, longtime friends as well as co-workers. Their hands and signatures are neatly and symmetrically imprinted, along with an impression of their pencils. This was how all the blocks were to look.

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However, another block features three handprints and signatures: Marc Davis, Ken Anderson and Ken O'Connor, once again with impressions of their drawing pencils. Yet, Anderson's signature seems crowded and his last name curves downward as if squeezed for space or an afterthought.

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The secret is clear on the final block knowing the behavior of the exuberant Ward Kimball, an extrovert known for being an unpredictable maverick. Not only did he make sure his pencil was broken before being imprinted unlike his fellow legends, he also spread his fingers wide so he could make a second impression and close examination will reveal that he has six fingers on each hand, something that most guests miss at a casual glance.

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Also, in a fit of high spirits, he filled the bottom half of the block with a quick drawing of Mickey Mouse's head in the space that was going to be filled by Ken Anderson. Who would be so bold as to wipe out a Mickey Mouse drawing by the legendary Kimball? Apparently, no one. So Anderson squeezed in to a space on another block.

Today, these hidden handprints are available for every DHS guest to enjoy and now, you know the secret behind them.

If you have earlier photos of these handprints to share, when they were much newer, please let us know!

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

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Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


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About February 2014

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in February 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2014 is the previous archive.

March 2014 is the next archive.

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