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August 2007 Archives

August 5, 2007

Disney's California Adventure Attractions

Don't ask me why this occurred to me in the shower the other day, but I started wondering about which Walt Disney World park Disney's California Adventure most resembles, at least in terms of the attractions.

With Animal Kingdom, it shares "It's Tough to Be a Bug".
Walt Disney World Attraction
Disney's California Adventure Attraction

With Epcot, it shares Soarin' Over California and Turtle Talk with Crush.
Soarin at Walt Disney World
Soarin at Disney's California Adventure

With Magic Kingdom it shares...hmmm...nothing at all! (Though they both have a carousel...)

With Disney-MGM Studios, it shares MuppetVision 3D, Playhouse Disney, and Tower of Terror. Also the High School Musical Pep Rally. The Animation Buildings at both parks offer similar activities, too, such as the Animation Academy and the interactive Ursula's Grotto/The Sound Stage and Beast's Library/You're a Character stations.
Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World
Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure

Well...I guess that answers that question. :-)


August 12, 2007

Attraction Comparison: Splash Mountain

Continuing my series of attraction comparisons...I decided to stick with the mountains, and compare the Splash Mountain attractions at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (MK) and Disneyland (DL).

Both are located in about the same area of the park - though at MK this area is in Frontierland, and at DL it's in Critter Country. Since it's inspired by characters from Song of the South, placing it in Frontierland seems a bit odd - I think DL's Critter Country is a better fit....though since MK doesn't have that, I guess Frontierland works better than Adventureland or Liberty Square!

DL's Splash Mountain opened first, in July 1989, while MK's attraction opened in October 1992. The distinctive outline of Chickapin Hill is quite visible in both parks. One other thing both attractions have in common is a VERY long queue that winds around and around and back and forth and inside and around some more. Before Fastpass (which both attractions have) I've stood in those lines and wound around and around...

(Below: MK's Splash Mountain, DL's Splash Mountain)

Splash Mountain Walt Disney World Splash Mountain Disneyland

Upon reaching the loading area you'll notice differences in the "log" vehicles. In DL's there are six "seats" (riders actually straddle a bench) per log - the last seat is larger and can accommodate a parent and child). At MK there are four rows of two seats so people can sit side-by-side - it's a lot more comfortable. Though the MK logs always seem to have a musty/mildewy smell - yuck.

(Below: MK's logs, DL's logs)

Splash Mountain Walt Disney World

Splash Mountain Disneyland

The layouts of the ride are similar - each culminating in the drop down Chickapin Hill at the end - but the scenes inside the ride are pretty different. I really prefer MK's Splash Mountain - it actually has a much more coherent storyline about Brer Rabbit leaving home in search of adventure, and outwitting Brer Fox and Brer Bear before deciding that home isn't so bad after all. I've never quite figured out what the storyline is at DL - or if there even *is* one...mostly it just seems to move from scene to scene, each featuring many audio-animatronic characters recycled from the America Sings attraction (which I loved - pop goes the weasel!).

Anyway...I think the MK version is a lot bigger and brighter, and I love the jumping fountains in the cavern. You see a lot more of Brer Rabbit, too - I think he makes two or three more appearances at the MK than he does at DL. Though one thing I prefer about DL's version - as you begin the final ascent to the "Laughing Place", the tone changes, and the mood becomes ominous as Mama Mole sings: "What can poor Brer Rabbit do, to keep from becoming rabbit stew", and then Mama Rabbit joins in with: "Stay away from the Laughin' Place, you must beware, the fox is there". And then there's the two vultures perched overhead who also have less than encouraging things to say. It sure enhances the whole "I have a bad feeling about this" atmosphere.

While both attractions have the potential to get you pretty wet, in general I find I stay drier at DL - especially if I ask to sit in the back of the log (which I always do). And I make sure never to sit on the right side of the log at MK, because that's the wetter side. :-)

Everybody has a Laughin' Place - what's yours?


August 14, 2007

A Summer Night at Disneyland

Last Friday Lee and I drove to Disneyland in the afternoon (took us about two hours from San Diego, which wasn't nearly as horrible as it can be at that time of day) and spent the evening at DCA and Disneyland.

I was pleasantly surprised at how *un*crowded it was - on a Friday night in the summer I was expecting it to be very busy, but it really wasn't bad. Waits in the Paradise Pier area of DCA were 30 minutes or less for most attractions - I don't think California Screamin' was even that long - maybe 20 minutes.

It had been a warm day (in the low 90s) but by the time we arrived it was mid-80s with a nice breeze and very comfortable. Even as the evening wore on it was great - often times it gets a bit chilly at night and you need a light jacket, but I was comfortable even at 11:00 that night in shorts and a sleeveless shirt - and for those who know me, you know how unusual *that* is! :-)

We went to DCA first and watched a bit of the Miner 49ers who were performing near Grizzly Peak, and then went to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area, because I wanted to see the "The Magic of Brother Bear" show. It was predictably corny and mildly entertaining. The Challenge Trail play area was uncrowded, and we took the opportunity to play around a bit ourselves - Lee traversed the rock climbing wall with ease and we both went into Kenai's Spirit Cave to place our hands on the glowing paw print and find out what kind of animal spirit lives inside us. On Lee it couldn't make up its mind...the display started off with a moose (dependable, honest) and ended up as a skunk (curious, adventurous). And the second time he tried it he was a wolf (wise, loyal). I was a beaver (hard working, industrious).



We had a wonderful dinner at the Vineyard Room (more on that in a future blog entry) before wandering over to Disneyland for the rest of the evening. I can't remember the last time I was there in the evening when the crowds were that low. I didn't check the board for wait times, but at 8:15 we only waited 10 minutes to get on Buzz Lightyear and Astro Orbiter was only using about 1/4 of its queue. The line for Nemo only went back to Fantasia Freeze - and it was only a single line (no switchbacks) until it reached the area near the seagull buoy. Which I'm sure means it was still close to 90 minutes, but that's better than 2 or 2-1/2 hours!

Our objective for the evening was to *finally* see the Remember...There's Magic in the Stars fireworks show. We've tried to see it four times - once we couldn't find a place to stand and ended up wandering around and around in the "you must keep moving" pathways, once we saw it from the balcony of the Disney Gallery after we'd done the Fantasmic! dessert buffet, but it was an obstructed view, and twice we've been on Main Street, with a good viewing spot, and the show has been cancelled due to high winds. Sigh.

This time we got a spot near the hub about 25 minutes before the show started and the show went off at 9:25, just as planned. It was incredible!!! Wonderful fireworks, so well synchronized to the music. It's even better than Wishes at the Magic Kingdom (though the two share a lot of music). But Wishes doesn't have the tribute to the different "lands" that Remember has. And Tinker Bell's flight is amazing - she flies not just once but twice, AND she circles around the castle instead of flying in just a straight line. I have no idea how they do that, but it looks great.

We'd planned to go home after that, but decided to stay for the 10:30 Fantasmic! instead. We wandered over to the Rivers of America area about 10:10. There were still lots of viewing areas open, but we scored a prime spot just behind the light tower at center stage. This looks like a horrible spot initially, because you can't see the stage through the light tower, but we knew that about 10 minutes before the show the light tower is raised into the air, so those behind it have a great view of the river and the stage on Tom Sawyer Island. That's also where the sound booth is - we were behind that and could watch the sound engineers at work. I can tell you that the running time of the show is 23 minutes and 37 seconds because I could see the show clock. :-)

Again, the entire area really wasn't very crowded - I've been in New Orleans Square packed like a sardine and unable to move after Fantasmic! ends, but on this night we could move around pretty easily. Even when we got out to the parking lot trams the crowds weren't bad - we could've caught a tram with only a short wait, but we decided to walk back to the parking garage instead.

It was really a great evening - we'll have to do that again sometime - there's lots of restaurants at the Disneyland Resort that we haven't tried yet! And I want to see Remember from a place where I can see the projections on the castle walls and the Matterhorn - those were blocked from our viewpoint.


August 18, 2007

Dinner at the Vineyard Room

The Vineyard Room is the "fine dining" table service restaurant at Disney's California Adventure. It's located on the second floor of the Golden Vine Winery and is an open-air/patio restaurant - most of the tables are under a roofed area, but there are no walls. (There's also an uncovered patio area.) There are views of the park from most of the tables, either looking out towards Paradise Pier and the Pacific Wharf or "a bug's land" with the Tower of Terror in the background.

Vineyard Room Exterior   Vineyard Room Patio

The restaurant was not really that busy - we arrived about 10 minutes before our 5:50 Priority Seating Time (which I'd just made that morning!) and very few tables were occupied. The restaurant wasn't full at any time during our leisurely dinner, though about 75% of the tables were occupied by the time we left.

In addition to the regular menu items, the restaurant offers a three-course prix-fixe menu - on past menus this has looked pretty intriguing, but the current offerings of Watermelon Soup and and Filet Mignon just didn't sound that appetizing to me.

Our server started us off with some excellent (and very chewy!) sourdough bread, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in. I would've preferred warm bread, but this was still pretty good. They have a very nice wine list, with a fairly large selection of wines available by the glass - I recognized many of the labels as wineries that have appeared at the Food and Wine Weekends the past two years. We both ordered a glass of the Miner Rosato Sangiovese. It was served chilled, and was quite refreshing on a warm summer evening. A member of the wait staff brought us an appetizer "compliments of the chef" - this was goat cheese and candied nuts and some minced herbs atop a thin slice of toasted bread. It was very good - we'd have been happy to have the chef serve us appetizers all evening! :-)

We saw Executive Chef Gloria Tae at one of the Food and Wine Weekend cooking demonstrations several months ago. Interesting background - she actually did not attend a cooking school, but started working in an entry-level position at the Vineyard Room back when Robert Mondavi ran it when DCA first opened. She stayed after Mondavi pulled out and has worked her way up to her current position. She seems to be very creative in the ingredients she combines together, and everything has a lot of flavor.

Flatbread appetizer For our appetizers, I ordered the Smoked Chicken Flatbread, and Lee ordered the Soup of the Day - mushroom soup. The flatbread was absolutely incredible - smoked chicken with small dices of spinach and pieces of braised radicchio, with ricotta and fontina cheese, all atop an excellent crispy crust. We both really enjoyed it. Lee's mushroom soup was in a light broth rather than a creamy soup - it looked like the mushrooms had been sauteed in the broth and then lightly pureed - there were still small pieces of mushroom in it. He said it was very good - I tried it, but I'm not a mushroom fan, and it tasted like mushrooms. (There's no picture of it because, to be honest, it doesn't look very appetizing in a photo - looks like a bowl of mud!)

Lee ordered the Rib-eye Steak, which was served pan-roasted with sweet corn gratin, balsamic onions and haricot verts in a cabernet reduction. While not quite as tender as the tamarind beef filet that California Grill used to serve, he said it was really good. I had the Roasted Vegetable Fondue. This was a plate of nicely roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, red and white onions, asparagus, eggplant, green and yellow squash and red peppers) that came with a white cheddar fondue, which was served in a toasted brioche box. There was also a bit of apricot mostardo sauce drizzled on the plate. It was really good - the veggies were so nicely prepared that they didn't really need to be dipped in the fondue, but tasted very good with the cheese, and once most of the cheese was gone, the brioche box itself was excellent - Lee helped with that.

Rib-eye steak   Vegetable fondue

Chocolate Variations For dessert I had the Chocolate Variations. This was a sampler of three different desserts - orange milk chocolate creme brulee, guanaja chocolate turtle ice cream, and manjari chocolate hazelnut torte with cherry coulis. That wasn't quite what I received, though - the creme brulee was milk chocolate and hazelnut, while the torte was chocolate and orange. I detest chocolate and orange together, so I knew I wouldn't like that part, but the creme brulee and ice cream were good. (My chocolate creme brulee is better, though - I use the recipe from Fulton's Crab House which I found on AllEars - it's HERE, though I use dark chocolate and not milk chocolate, and bake it at 325 for about 30 minutes. It's really easy!)

Crostata Lee had the Apple Blueberry Crostata - roasted Granny Smith apples and blueberries, Drambuie caramel sauce and vanilla bean gelato. He enjoyed it, but said the berry crumble I made recently was better. :-) The pastry had an interesting texture - not quite as crisp/flaky as puff pastry, but crisper than pie crust.

It was an excellent dinner, leisurely paced - we were there for about an hour and a half. Our server was just ok - he didn't ask us if we wanted more wine, nor offer us coffee or after-dinner drinks with our dessert. The rest of the wait staff was pretty good, and kept our water glasses filled, though one of them was in a bit of a hurry to remove Lee's dinner plate when he still hadn't quite finished eating!

Two thumbs up from us - we'd definitely eat there again.

The menu is available HERE.

Bon appetit!

August 22, 2007

Cooking with Disney

I don't know if you've noticed, but AllEarsNet has an extensive collection of recipes from many of the WDW restaurants - you can find the list HERE.

I don't care much for cooking but I love to bake, and I love desserts (especially chocolate) so I've tried a few of these. I thought I would share some of my experiences - things I've learned, and what works and doesn't work, and whether or not I think it's worth the effort.

I'm starting with the Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee from Fulton's, since I mentioned that in a recent blog entry.

Here's the recipe:

Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee
Fulton's Crab House
Downtown Disney


2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks, large
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 oz. milk chocolate
2 TB granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

2. Bring heavy cream and 1/4 cup of sugar to a boil in a saucepan.

3. Whisk together egg yolks, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

4. Add this to the heavy cream with the milk chocolate, making sure the chocolate is completely melted.

5. Ladle custard into 6 oz. cups and place cups in large baking pan.

6. Add enough water to the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until set, approximately 45 minutes.

7. Remove custards from water and cool. Refrigerate until well chilled.

8. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle 1/2 TB of sugar over each custard.

9. Broil until sugar caramelizes, approximately two minutes.

Serve immediately.

This is actually pretty easy to make, but it looks and tastes really awesome. I've made a few modifications, though. :-)

I use dark chocolate (Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips, or other bittersweet chocolate) instead of milk chocolate.

The recipe doesn't say this, but once you bring the cream to a boil, REMOVE IT FROM THE HEAT. On a gas stove simply turn off the burner, but on an electric stove you'll need to move it to a different burner or a hot pad.

I add the chocolate to the cream (if you're using a chocolate bar, chop it into 1/4" pieces first) and stir to let it melt before adding the egg yolk mixture. (You don't want the cream mixture to be too hot when you add the eggs or it'll start cooking the eggs and it can get lumpy.) I find a wire whisk works well for getting everything to combine together, but if you use a wire whisk then you need to make sure not to use a non-stick sauce pan.

For the baking cups I've used ceramic mini-souffle dishes as well as small pyrex baking dishes - either one works fine, though the mini-souffle dishes look a little fancier. I can fit 6 of them in a metal 9x13 pan and then pour in the water. It's awkward carrying a pan half-filled with water, so I put the pan in the oven and pull the oven rack partway out and THEN pour in the water.

I found that baking at 275 degrees really *doesn't* work - or if it does, it takes a LOT longer than 45 minutes! I bake it at 325 for 30-35 minutes. I do have to be really careful when taking it out of the oven to avoid sloshing hot water around (water drops mar the nice top of the creme brulee!). I carefully use a pair of metal tongs to pull the custard cups out of the water and then set them on individual serving plates.

We ignore steps 7-9, because rather than chilling it and then caramelizing the sugar on top, we eat it right out of the oven! It's so good that it doesn't need the caramelized sugar, but I serve it with whipped cream and usually some berries on the side.

Ok, now I'm starving...there must be some chocolate around here somewhere!

See you in the kitchen...


August 28, 2007

Disneyland Bits and Bites

We made another trip to Disneyland on the afternoon/evening of Friday, August 17...thought I'd share a few observations...

With the "Year of a Million Dreams" extended through 2008 (doesn't that make it "Years of a Million Dreams?" the banners in the main entry plaza have changed...and the letters in front of DCA that spell out "CALIFORNIA" now have a blue-sky-and-clouds look, like the "Dream" mouse ears.


The waits for most attractions were less than an hour (15 minutes for Indy, 5 for Pirates, 10 minutes for Buzz, etc.), but Finding Nemo was still two hours.

This was a first for us - the standby line for Big Thunder Mountain was shorter than the Fastpass Return line! Since the attraction loads on two sides they send Fastpassers to one side and standby riders to the other, so we got on faster than a lot of people who had Fastpasses!

We saw the Ratatouille "pre-parade" float with Remy and Emile - since it doesn't fit into the Parade of Dreams it gets to be its own mini-parade.


On our raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island at about 4:25 we saw one of the Pirate Stunt Show characters climbing up to the "crow's nest" waiting to make his grand entrance - which was still about 10 minutes away. I recognized this particular actor as one that had been playing Jedi Master Endo Valaris in Jedi Academy...from Jedi Master to Pirate...guess he went over to the Dark side!

pirate_wait.jpg   fightall.jpg

The Disney Gallery (above the Pirates of the Caribbean) is closed, which means no more Fantasmic! dessert buffet on the balcony...but Riverside Premium seating for Fantasmic! is still available.

Disney's new High School Musical 2 movie premiered Friday night, and a new street show at DCA, High School Musical 2: School's Out, opened on Saturday, replacing the High School Musical Pep Rally.

The three towers at the Disneyland Hotel now have signs over the entrances with their new names: Magic (formerly Marina), Dreams (formerly Sierra) and Wonder (formerly Bonita). The hotel map signs scattered around the property have not yet been changed to reflect the new names, though.

We had dinner at Hook's Pointe (review to come) - Lee noticed that there's a map of Never Land on the ceiling.


The Fantasy Waters show at the Disneyland Hotel has been gone for a while, but the fountains and lights still put on a little bit of a show - we seem to have been there at just the right time to see it.


Until next time...


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About August 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in August 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2007 is the previous archive.

September 2007 is the next archive.

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