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May 2009 Archives

May 1, 2009

More on the What's New Presentation

A few (ok, actually a LOT) more details on the What's New presentation last week.

The presentation began with our host Russ Marchand introducing Summer Nightastic! - Disneyland will be the hottest place for kids and adults this summer. (All of the nighttime activities described below start on June 12.)

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Jill Estorino, Senior Vice President of Marketing was the first guest. This summer Disneyland wants to make the night sparkle even more - "when the sun goes down, things light up." There will be new glow-in-the-dark merchandise and even glowing drinks. The TLT Dance Club at the Tomorrowland Terrace will feature entertainment 7 nights a week, with dance club DJs Monday-Thursday and live bands Friday-Sunday. Trivia games and other activities will offer something to appeal to the whole family.

She also spoke about the new Summer Fun Pass for Southern California and Northern Baja residents. This is a three-day park hopper for only $99. It is valid for 45 days from first use (a LOT longer than the usual 13 days!), which must occur between June 1 and August 23, 2009. The pass is available to residents in zip codes 90000-93599 and 21000-22999. Proof of residency is required for purchase. The tickets will be available at Disneyland.com, Disney Stores and the Disneyland ticket offices, and also at Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, Stater Bros., Food 4 Less, Gelsons, Dearden's and Toys 'R' Us. (It's highly recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance either on-line or at one of the above-mentioned outlets to avoid lines at the ticket booths.) $33/day for a park hopper? That's a great deal!

The lights dimmed in the room, which was suddenly filled with the sounds of the Baroque Hoedown. One of the spinning turtles from the Electrical Parade came into the room, as did several of the light-costumed lords and ladies from the parade who posed artfully on the steps leading up to the stage. As the lights came up the "lord" on the top step removed his glowing jacket - and it was our next speaker, Denny Newell, Senior Show Director.

Disney's Electrical Parade is being spruced up for the summer, with some new elements added, and some older elements that are returning. The Baroque Hoedown music has been enhanced - it's mixed better with deeper lows and higher highs.

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A new Tinker Bell float will now lead off the parade - "a fairy's Magic lights the way." The float has state-of-the-art LED lighting, with 160 dimmers on that float alone to provide all kinds of different lighting effects. There are new LED lights on all of the floats, and also on the costumes. This new technology gives them more control over the lighting to better choreograph it to the music.

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The Cheshire Cat on the Alice in Wonderland float has been redesigned, and now he can really disappear. He's obviously a cat now instead of a "pink...pile".

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Captain Hook's Pirate Ship is a foot-and-a-half taller, and the skull on the front of the ship glows with internal LED lights.

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Updated versions of three floats are returning to the parade - Snow White's Diamond Mine and the two Pinocchio Pleasure Island floats. They were part of the parade when it left Disneyland in 1996 but did not return when it came back to Disney's California Adventure in 2001.

Denny Newell also spoke about Pixie Hollow Enchantment.

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Normally Pixie Hollow closes in the evening, but during the summer it will be open, as the fairies transform the queue area and pond into a Festival of Pixies. The "Light Talent" fairies will light up the trees while the "Animal and Garden Talent" fairies light up the grounds, and the "Water Talent" fairies light up the water with fountains and pop jets lit with fiber optic lights. There will be a 90 second show choreographed to music about every 15 minutes.

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Next up was a short skit on the two big summer vacation specials - the $99 Park Hopper I mentioned above, and the "Two Nights Free" vacation package. Those who purchase vacation packages including lodging and tickets at the Disneyland Hotels and selected Good Neighbor hotels will get two additional nights and two more days of park hopper tickets for free. This offer is good for stays at the Disneyland Hotels starting immediately, and for stays at the Good Neighbor Hotels starting on May 1. It's valid through 9/26/09, and packages must be booked by 8/11/09. I checked, and these are the "Select" Good Neighbor Hotels:

Anaheim Marriott
Best Western Pavilions
Best Western Raffles Inn & Suites
Best Western Stovall's Inn
Carousel Inn & Suites
Clarion Hotel
Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim
Fairfield Inn Anaheim
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
Hotel Menage
Jolly Roger Hotel
Marriott Suites
Motel 6
Portofino Inn
Red Lion Anaheim Maingate
Residence Inn Anaheim Resort
Staybridge Suites

The agent I spoke to said things are booking quickly, and you'll pay less if you book a Monday-Friday stay and avoid the higher weekend prices.

The lights dimmed again, as the psychedelic glow-in-the-dark monkeys from Fantasmic! made their appearance, ushering in Carla Carlile, Show Director who spoke about the updated Fantasmic! show.

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All of the animation on the water screens has been converted to high-definition and will be projected with HD digital projectors.

There's a new crocodile that will be swimming along behind the pirate ship - he is more animated and will be able to jump toward and snap at Captain Hook.

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There are two new Cast Members - during the Ursula portion, Flotsam and Jetsam will make their debut. They will appear to slither on the water. Each has a Honda personal watercraft inside so they are quick-moving and maneuverable. Designed by Michael Curry, they are partly automated, partly manual: their eyes and heads move and their mouths (with all of those pointy eel teeth!) open and close.

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And there is a new 3-D dragon - a dragon that finally looks like the dragon we've been seeing on the Fantasmic! logo all these years. 40 feet tall and fully automated, it weighs 10,000 pounds. Some of the pieces had to be air-lifted into place with a helicopter.

More on the What's New Presentation

More on the What's New Presentation

She showed stop-animation sequence of the maquette as it flapped its wings, drew up to full height, and then leaned down to breathe fire on the water. I thought it was pretty impressive when the dragon puppet did this before, but this is going to a whole other level. As Carla said: "HD means Huge Dragon!"

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Our final speaker was Steven Davison, Vice President of Parades and Spectaculars. (And that has got to be one of the coolest job titles ever!) He made his entrance to a burst of fireworks from either side of the stage.

Magical is the name of the new fireworks show. The score is by Greg Smith, who also did the score for Wishes, and features an 80-piece orchestra and a choir. Eden Espinosa, who was a featured performer at Disneyland prior to her appearance as Elphaba on Broadway, is the featured soloist.

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The show is divided into six different sections. Tinker Bell flies over the castle to lead off the show in the Neverland - The Magic of Childhood opening accompanied to the music of "Second Star to the Right".

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Gepetto wishes upon a star and Blue Fairy pyrotechnics light up the sky in the Pinocchio - The Magic of a Wish section. Musical selections include "An Actor's Life for Me", "Give a Little Whistle", and "I've Got No Strings". Eden sings the following lyrics at the end:

"Make a wish on a shooting star
Wish for magic and see who you are.
Because if you don't believe
That things that you see are so unbelievably
Magical, wonderful
Wishes make your dreams come true."

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Mary Poppins and The Magic of Imagination follow, with the music of Chim-chim-chirree, Jolly Holiday, Step in Time, Let's Go Fly a Kite, and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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In the following video clip, Steven Davison acts out part of the Mary Poppins segment. When he refers to the "9-line", he's talking about the 9-position launchers behind ToonTown. And "the castle" refers to the launchers there.

Don't you feel like you've seen part of the show now??? Is this a man who loves his job or what?

In Dumbo - The Magic of a Mother's Love, Eden sings "Baby Mine" as Dumbo himself flies slowly over the castle. He is a fully-articulated character created by Michael Curry, and will be highlighted by search lights that have been added to the castle. It sounds like this part of the show will bring tears to most eyes.

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More on the What's New Presentation

The first finale is called The Magic of a Kiss and features the songs "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes", "So This is Love", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Once Upon a Dream".

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The real finale features the original song, Magical, sung by Eden and the choir, with Tinker Bell making a final appearance. And for the rest of it, well, I'll let Steven describe it for you:

Whew. He had to be exhausted after that!

In the audience we got a confetti shower, and the presentation ended as our presenters took their bows.


It was really a great show - I'd have to say it was definitely the highlight of my day. Lots of "WOW" moments!

I know where I'm going to be on June 12!

May 6, 2009

A Day at the Food and Wine Festival

On Sunday Lee and I spent a day at the Disney's California Food and Wine Festival, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on that experience.

Our day began with the very first Sweet Sundays event at the California Food and Wine Festival - Festival director Jim Ames attended one in Florida and liked it so much that he wanted to bring it here. I was very happy to see it on the schedule this year because it's always been one of my favorite events at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. (Apparently I'm not the only one, since these are the only events that sold out even before the Festival started!)

I've posted a Sweet Sundays Review, but here's a few thoughts and comments. The event was held outside at the Lower Patio of the Golden Vine Winery - the same venue they use for the wine tastings. It's not very big, and only accommodates 60 people when they set it up with tables for dining instead of tasting. They had a buffet breakfast for us, but because it was outdoors the food had to be covered except when it was being served, so Cast Members served it to us. It's a little odd telling someone else exactly what pieces of fruit you want! ("I'd like two strawberries, some blackberries, a piece of honeydew...")


There are trees over part of the seating area, and they were shedding some seed pods - most of us were covering our wine glasses to keep the debris out. But really, for the most part it was very pleasant being outside. They had set up big umbrellas so that most of the tables were in the shade.

They had two different sparkling wines available to us - the Fairy Tale Cuvee, which we like, and another Disney-exclusive wine called Magicale. This is a lightly sparkling refreshingly sweet red wine from Italy - very similar to the Rosa Regale that we have enjoyed at Epcot (and at home!). They were really generous with both, and kept filling our glasses throughout the presentation.

We had two guest pastry chefs from Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. in San Diego, and they demonstrated three different desserts - and we received three full-sized servings of each one. Oh my. (They had to-go boxes available at the end!) There was the Tosca Cake, which was sort of a pound cake with a caramelized almond topping, a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin with cream cheese frosting, and a banana cake with chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse. Two of the three were very good - unfortunately I don't care for bananas or peanut butter, so the last dessert was disappointing to me, but Lee said it was excellent. I wish there had been more chocolate desserts, though!



Chef Jamie Gwen was the host of the event, and she was really good - really a lot of fun. And the two guest pastry chefs were interesting as well - though to look at them you'd think they were aerobics instructors and not pastry chefs! :-)


The event ended about noon, and we met up with two other friends - ASK and CL, who had flown in earlier in the week just to attend the Food and Wine Festival. (A couple of you have asked me about the World Celebration dinners this year - ASK attended the Lafite Rothschild event and enjoyed it - it was similar to the Winemaker dinners in that it was a multi-course dinner with wine pairings. Sounds like they had an amazing dessert course for the kickoff dinner: "Chocolate Around the World", with multiple small chocolate desserts. I'm sorry I missed *that*!)

Chef Jamie had invited all of us at Sweet Sundays to come and see her cooking demonstration at 12:30. Since it was already 12:00 we figured there was no way we would get in but that we'd check anyway - and yes, we were right. They had run out of tickets a while before - I think that on weekends you have to be there at least an hour in advance to make sure you get a ticket, and longer than that for one of the celebrity chefs - ASK and CL had waited for two hours to see Cat Cora on Saturday. (Which they said was great - she demonstrated and served three different things!)

While we were over there by the demonstration area we saw this duck family in the Sunshine Plaza fountain - dad had taken several of them swimming, but most of them were napping with mom. So cute!


We wandered over to the Pacific Wharf where Lee did the Beer Walk. For $10.88 (including tax) he got a "passport" entitling him to tastes of 5 different beers. They had beers from all over the world - France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Singapore, the UK, Mexico, and the U.S.


While he was doing that the three of us got in line for the Remick Ridge wine tasting at 1:15. We were in line about 35-40 minutes prior to the start, I'd say that anyone who arrived 10 minutes after us was turned away. We ran into Sean and Pamela from RADP on the way there, and they kept us company for a while while we waited.

Remick Ridge is owned by Tom and Marcy Smothers (yes, as in the Smothers Brothers). Marcy Smothers was the presenter. They produce certified organically grown grapes and use only their own grapes to make their wine. Their wine is 100% of the varietal, rather than a blend of different grapes. So, at this point they only make one wine, the Remick Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, so that's what we had to taste. Their winemaker is Richard Arrowood, who was featured at the Winemaker dinner that Lee and I attended the week before. It was an interesting presentation since Marcy was an animated speaker with lots of good stories, but it was disappointing to only have one wine, since usually there's three or four at these things.


Afterwards we went up to The Lounge to get something to eat. There were quite a few people up there, but no tables in the shade, and even though it wasn't an overly hot day it was still pretty warm to be sitting in full sun. Finally someone left and we were able to get their table. At The Lounge there is table service, and our server moved one of the umbrellas so that we were all in the shade. It was really a very nice and relaxing experience to be there (once we got into the shade!). Our server kept our water glasses filled and we tried some different foods and drinks.

CL had the Flight Around the World, which included four different wines from Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina. And I had the Riesling Flight, which included two different German rieslings and a third from Washington state. It was kind of comical having 7 glasses on the table, though! :-) I really prefer white wines to red wines, so after having so much red wine over the last week or so between the various wine tastings and the Winemaker dinner it was VERY nice to have something that I really liked.


We tried several different food items on the menu. Since the Lucky Fortune Cookery is closed, the offerings at The Lounge this year are really the closest that this year's Festival comes to having the more unusual "tapas" kinds of foods that many of us have enjoyed at previous Festivals. Though they are higher-priced than I'd like. But it is table service, and everything is nicely plated and presented on real plates with real stainless flatware. CL had been looking forward to the Kimchi Bulgogi Tacos (Kimchi and BBQ Beef Tacos), and she was very pleased with them. They were served on warm tortillas with fresh Cabbage, Korean Hot Chili Sauce, Kimchi, Mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses, and she said they were quite spicy, which she really liked. I think her only "complaint" was that for $11 they could have been a bit larger.

ASK tried the Succulent Shrimp Flatbread, which was Artisan bread topped with shrimp, cheese, onions, and capers. She liked it.


I tried the Cheese Plate, which came with smoked cheddar, Camembert, Manchego, and Gorgonzola, though I requested more cheddar in place of the Gogonzola. It also included about half a loaf of sliced bread, some pecans and a raisin and currant conserve. A little pricey at $15, but it was pretty filling.

Lee arrived later - he had been attending the World Beer Styles demonstration, which he enjoyed. They sampled two beers, a Stella Artois from Belgium and the Kona Firerock from Hawaii. He finished off my cheese plate, and then he ordered the Duo of Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Sliders for $12. One was topped with a roasted red pepper aioli, and the other with blue cheese and fried onions. They were both good, but he really enjoyed the blue cheese and onion slider.

We wandered around the Paradise Pier area of DCA. There have been big changes in the Bay area even since last week. Looks like they have put the fountain heads for the World of Color show in place, though CL took a look and said "What's with all of the Ewoks?" :-) We'd thought about riding something, but the park was crowded and the lines were long - 40 minutes for California Screamin' and probably closer to 50 for Toy Story Mania. They were actually running all three towers of the Maliboomer, and even had a queue set up for the Orange Stinger! I guess all of the various ticket incentives they have been doing this year (the 2fer ticket, everyone plays for the kid's price, get two days free) have been very successful, because the parks have been VERY busy the last two weekends. And it certainly didn't look like the Swine flu threat had any affect on attendance.


The other three had never visited the Blue Sky Cellar preview center, so we went there. It's in need of some updating, since there are a few things in there (like Games of the Boardwalk) that are now open, and I think dates have changed on some other things.

We tried to get into the "Celebrate Scotland" cooking demo, but it was only 30 minutes away and it was already full. (Who knew that haggis was so popular? ;-) ) So we went to see the Aladdin show instead. I've never seen such a huge line for that - we arrived about 20 minutes before the show and ended up on Standby. We did get in, but were up in the balcony on the far left - not the best viewing. But we were mostly there to see if the Genie had any topical comments - and he did. :-) Bailout money and the swine flu.

After the show we said goodbye to ASK and CL - it was fun spending part of our day with them! They headed back to their hotel and we went to the Pacific Wharf Cafe to try the Festival menu item there - the White Cheddar Cheese Soup in a Bread Bowl. This has been a very popular item at past festivals when it was served appetizer-sized in a small bread bowl. I think it's a lot better in the small size - it's so rich. Lee and I split this one, and we still didn't finish it all. It was good, but as I said, it's just too rich for me to eat very much of it. It was very popular, though - we saw lots of people ordering it.

As usual at Pacific Wharf Cafe the line was to the door (though better than at lunch time when it was out the door!), but it moved pretty quickly - still took about 15 minutes, though. We found a table outside, and we could see the Pixar Play Parade going by in the distance. I noticed when Deb and I saw the parade last week that the Ratatouille float is gone, and it was still missing - apparently it's been gone for a while.

Lee had talked to a Cast Member earlier about the construction at the former Lucky Fortune Cookery - the plan is for Cocina Cucamonga to move into that space. Since it's larger, that will allow for an expanded menu - they are talking about bringing some menu items similar to those at Rancho del Zocalo to the new location. I hope they will keep those yummy Chicken Tamales (the Festival food item) on the menu! Eventually an Asian-themed quick service restaurant will move into the former Cocina Cucamonga space. It will be nice to have some other food options in the Pacific Wharf area - the lines get so long now! (I do have to say that the lines at Cocina Cucamonga seemed to be a lot shorter and moving a lot faster than they did when I was in line for 30 minutes last weekend, so hopefully they addressed whatever issue they had.)

We went into Disneyland after that to do a little shopping at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - our niece has a birthday soon and is crazy for both princesses and pink. So where else would we shop for her? :-) In the Boutique we saw a couple of older ladies getting their own Boutique makeovers - so it's not just for little girls, but also for big girls who are young at heart! :-)

What's wrong with this picture???


Yes, no Astro Orbitor! Looks more like they are removing it than refurbishing it.

There were lots of people over at Disneyland, too, though we were only there to shop and didn't even try to go on any attractions. We did see the 40-minute line for Buzz Lightyear, though interestingly enough Star Tours only had a 10-minute wait.

It was a great day, though it would have been nicer if the parks hadn't been so crowded! I'm disappointed that I still haven't been able to attend a cooking demonstration - maybe this coming Friday when I visit with my friend Kristin.

May 11, 2009

New at DCA: UP Pre-Parade and Mickey's Fun Wheel

As part of the big DCA Expansion project, there are a number of attractions around Paradise Pier that are being re-themed. Mickey's Fun Wheel opened on Monday, May 4. The former Sun Wheel attraction received several changes during the re-theming project, including an actual facelift -- the sun face on the wheel has been replaced by a classic "pie-eyed" Mickey face. The attraction also received a new paint job with a new color scheme and the cars feature the faces of different Disney characters.




The Up pre-parade opened on Friday, May 8. This float promoting the upcoming Disney*Pixar movie precedes the Pixar Play Parade. We saw the preview for Up when we saw the new Star Trek movie this weekend (which we really enjoyed!) and it looks very entertaining. Carl Fredricksen (check out the tennis balls on the legs of his cane) and Russell wave to the crowd from the front of the float.


And shaggy dog Dug waves from the back of the float.


May 14, 2009

A Friday at the Food and Wine Festival

I visited the Food and Wine Festival on Friday with my friend Kristin - yes, that is my third visit in as many weekends to the Festival. :-) We had a wonderful day - the weather was just about as perfect as it gets in southern California, and the crowds were a lot more manageable than on my recent weekend visits.

On this trip I was finally able to attend some of the cooking demonstrations since we didn't have to arrive so early to get a spot! In fact the Cake Monkey Bakery demo, which was at 10:30 on Friday, was only about 2/3 full. Which was a shame, since it was an excellent demo! Pastry chef Elizabeth Belkind made a rocky road type of cookie - a chocolate cookie with chocolate chunks, homemade marshmallow, pecans, and caramel. It was really good, and it was a very good demonstration. I'm sure her Sweet Sundays session that weekend was awesome.



After the demo Kristin and I did a couple of rides - Toy Story Mania had only a 25-minute wait posted (and it was shorter than that) and California Screamin' was about 20 minutes - we waited a little extra so that we could ride in the first row. That was a lot of fun, it's a much different ride especially when going over the tops of the hills because you hang there for a second before you start down, and you can really see the steepness of the track in front of you.

Mickey's Fun Wheel opened earlier in the week but we didn't ride that.


I was really missing the appetizer-sized food items of previous Festivals at that point - we both wanted a little something to eat before we went to a wine tasting session, but weren't ready (and didn't have time) for lunch. So we went to the Mission Tortilla Factory and got free flour tortillas instead. :-) I know this "attraction" is usually maligned, but I find the video of the kids doing their report on the history of the tortilla to be very entertaining and it always makes me smile.

We arrived about 25 minutes early for the wine tasting session because it was on Iron Horse sparkling wines, and we wanted to make sure we got in. And sometimes you gotta take time to smell the roses. :-)


As it turned out we didn't need to be there that early (though it was a full session by the time it started), but by arriving early we had front row seats. Winemaker David Munksgard was the speaker, and he was really interesting, and told us a lot about how sparkling wine is made. Oh, and did you know that Dom Perignon, whose name is practically synonymous with champagne (though he did not invent the process), actually spent most of his career trying to figure out how to eliminate bubbles from wine?


We had the 2003 Blanc de Blanc, the Fairy Tale Cuvee (made by Iron Horse exclusively for Disney) and the Wedding Cuvee. Unfortunately they had been poured long enough before we sat down that they had lost a lot of their effervescence. I liked the Fairy Tale Cuvee the best, and Kristin preferred the Wedding Cuvee. I wouldn't turn any of them down, though!


After wine it was time for lunch! We both had the Chicken Panzarotti, which is the Festival food offering at Pizza Oom Mow Mow. It was chicken ravioli Ravioli in Taleggio-Parmigiano sauce topped with sun dried tomatoes and basil. The breadstick was dry and seemed stale and the dish could have been served hotter, but otherwise it was very tasty and we both enjoyed it.


So what to do after lunch...how about more eating!!! There was a Celebrate India cooking demo at 2:30. We arrived about 2:15 which was plenty early - we had seats about halfway back. The chef, Paul Okamura, works at Club 33, and he prepared Coconut Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice. This dish had an amazing number of ingredients (as you can see in the photo) - there are: coriander seed, serrano chiles, coconut milk, cloves, cinnamon sticks, onions, curry powder, garlic, ginger, chicken stock, potatoes, brown sugar, lime juice, cilantro, yogurt, and chicken legs.


It really didn't take too long to make - though of course it helps if all of the prep work is already done! Even with the serrano chiles it wasn't spicy at all. The samples served to us were very nicely presented.


After the demo it was time for more wine, so we tried one of the Wine Walks. These are new this year - there is a California Wine Walk and an International Wine Walk. For $10 ($10.88 with tax) you get a wine glass and a "passport" allowing you to taste four different wines of your choice from the available selections (or the same wine four times if you like!). The Cast Member stamps your passport after each pour.

We did the International Wine Walk, which featured wines from South America, New Zealand, Italy, and the "Old World" (France and Spain). There were three wines at each station - generally two reds and a white - for a total of 12 in all. I think we both tried different wines. My favorite was the Trumpeter Torrontes from Argentina, and I also had the Vin Rusco Rosato from Italy, the Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and the Chateau de Jau Grenache from France. There's not a lot of room at each station - enough for one party at a time, really. And there's no place to sit down or even much of a place to stand, so it's not really something you linger over, which I think is a little unfortunate. One of the servers told us that they have been busy on weekends (and that's been my observation when I've passed by) but not busy during the week. Though there were three other parties in there when we were.


I had noticed last weekend that the California Wine Walk had been relocated - the first weekend of the Festival it was next to the Bountiful Valley Farm stage, where it was very out-of-the-way, and now it's been moved to the Pacific Wharf area, in the walkway between the Tortilla Factory and the Boudin Bakery. They have wines from Napa Valley, Monterey and Sonoma.

We arrived only 10 minutes early for the Celebrate Greece cooking demo, but still got in easily. Chef Julio Castillo prepared dolmas - grape leaves stuffed with chicken, veggies, and couscous. These were really good, but it's obviously a very labor-intensive process, so I don't think I'd ever do it myself.


We had Fastpasses for Soarin' so we used those - even with Fastpasses there's sometimes a pretty long wait for Soarin', but it wasn't at all bad - we were at the boarding gate in not much over 5 minutes. We were in the top row, which is always the best place to be, though we were on the left. This is always a great ride - and it was especially fun to go "soaring" over Napa Valley, since the Food and Wine Festival was going on.

Last thing on our agenda for the day was to try another of the Festival menu items - the Driscoll Strawberry Parfait with Ghirardelli Chocolate that is available at the Wine Shop Bistro and The Lounge (though it's $4 cheaper at the Bistro!). It's layers of dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, red velvet cake, strawberries and cream cheese. Oh. My. It was SO good!!! Definitely the best counter service dessert I've ever had in a theme park (and it's better than most table service desserts I've had, too!). It was lick the bowl clean good - but we didn't do that.


We ate it at the Bistro, which is next to the area where the wine tasting sessions were held, and the Sapphire Hills Winery tasting was in progress at the time. We arrived after it started (and the session was full anyways), but we were very entertained by listening to the speaker. I can't remember at all what he said, but he was very funny. Though I do remember one thing he said: "Late Harvest Zinfandel" - which was for sale at the Wine Bistro. I love late harvest wines, so I went and bought a bottle. We'll open it at my annual chocolate party this weekend and I'll let you know what we think.

As we were leaving the parade was about to start - but before that we saw the Up Pre-Parade - in fact we saw that float's maiden voyage down the parade route. But I wrote more about that in this blog entry.

It was another great day at the park with Kristin! Even though it was my third trip to the Festival I was still able to try several new things - the Wine Walk and two different Festival food items - and I finally got to not just one but three cooking demonstrations! Moral of that story of course is: Go during the week!

May 23, 2009

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

DebK and I had the opportunity to eat here as part of the Disneyland media event last month, so I thought I'd share our experience.

This is a new eatery - it opened at the beginning of April at the Big Thunder Ranch area in Disneyland. As you might guess from the name, it serves BBQ - ribs, chicken, coleslaw, beans, corn on the cob and corn bread. There are also vegetarian options - there is a skewer with BBQ veggies and tofu, and the beans and coleslaw are vegetarian. The price is $28.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids 9 and under. That includes drinks and dessert but not tax and tip.

It's an outdoor setting - picnic tables covered with tablecloths. There are awnings above the tables, but depending upon the angle of the sun you might still be sitting in the sun and not the shade. Depending on your party size and how busy the restaurant is, you will probably be seated at a table with other guests.

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

Once seated, the server will take your drink orders - and if you want the vegetarian option, that's when you request it - other than that it's a set menu, and everyone receives the same thing. The meal is served family style and the server brings out buckets of the various menu items, with portions based on the size of your party. If you are seated with other guests each party will receive their own set of food items. The meal is "all-you-care-to-eat", so if you want seconds of anything, just ask your server.


While not labeled a "character meal", this is a character experience - Woody, Jessie and Bullseye from Toy Story roam around the area and interact with the guests and pose for pictures. In addition there is a stage show going on, which might feature Miss Chris (the "owner" of the place), Tex Tumbleweed, a piano player, or skits by the Toy Story characters. It's on-going entertainment rather than a set show with a beginning and an end, so it really doesn't matter when you come into it. Sometimes they attempt to get the audience involved, which can be annoying when you're trying to eat. It can be loud, making conversation difficult, so requesting a table away from the stage might lead to a quieter meal.

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

I tried the vegetarian skewers, and I have to say that they were very good. The rub they use on the tofu and the grilled veggies is the same rub they use on the chicken, and it was just a little spicy - nicely spiced, though and not too hot. This item was apparently cooked to order and was not served with all of the other food - I had to wait about 5 minutes, but that meant it was fresh and hot.

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

The coleslaw was vinegar-based and not mayonnaise based - I liked that, because it had a nice bite to it, but I know some people prefer the other kind. It was very fresh and crunchy cabbage. The beans were quite good, also. I was a little disappointed in the corn bread - it was pretty dry. They had honey for the cornbread in addition to butter though we had to ask for it.

I didn't try the chicken or ribs but Deb did, and says: "The ribs were meaty and the sauce was very good. A little on the sweet side and not too smoky at all, which I prefer. The chicken was good, but I noticed our portion was mostly thighs and wings -- I would have liked more white meat but didn't think to ask for it."

For dessert they brought out the "boing-boing" box, which had Miss Chris' special Cowboy Cone cakes. There were four different kinds, each served in a big waffle cone. There was frosting on top, then a large cupcake, with a fruit filling in the bottom. The chocolate cupcake has cherries in the bottom with chocolate mousse icing on top, and there's a red velvet cupcake with chocolate frosting and raspberries. Also a white cupcake with strawberries and whipped cream, and another white cupcake with lemon and whipped cream. I tried the chocolate and red velvet cupcakes and they were pretty good - the cake was nice and moist, though I can't say the fruit filling (more like canned pie filling) did much for me. Deb enjoyed the cake but found all of the frosting and pie filling to be too sweet. She suggests that another dessert choice, such as a dish of ice cream, would have been a welcome option.

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

Celebration Roundup and BBQ

I enjoyed the meal but I probably will not eat here again - $30 for BBQ is just too expensive when I can eat at other Disneyland restaurants for less than half the price. But we don't have kids, so the character aspect of it is not a draw for us...for those who do have kids it's cheaper than some of the other character meals. Be aware that there is no separate kids menu - it's the same BBQ selections that the adults receive.

I really did like the food, though - if Disney offered this menu at a price comparable to their other casual dining restaurants we would probably eat here often.

Deb adds: "I agree the price is out of line for what you get -- you're not even inside, it's very casual, I just don't think it's worth that kind of money, especially not for lunch."

May 25, 2009

Disneyland Bits and Bites

A few updates from my visit to Disneyland/Disney's California Adventure on Friday. The Spring Break crowds seem to finally be gone, and crowd levels were more what I would expect on a post-Spring Break week-day afternoon. Nice.

The featured entertainment at Taste, the finale event of the Food and Wine Festival, will be a Korean group called Nanta. Definitely fits in with their World Celebration theme this year! Here's some information on the group from their web site:

'NANTA' figuratively refers to reckless punching as in a boxing match. 'NANTA' is a non-verbal performance of free rhythmical movements that dramatize customary Korean percussions in a strikingly comedic stage show. Integrating unique Korean traditional drumbeats in a western performance style, NANTA storms into a huge kitchen where four capricious cooks are preparing a wedding banquet. While cooking, they turn all kinds of kitchen items - pots, pans, dishes, knives, chopping boards, water bottles, brooms and even each other- into percussion instruments."

Sounds like the "cooking" aspect fits in well with the Festival, also.

Tickets for this year's Mickey's Trick or Treat Party at DCA are now on sale to Annual Passholders. We have information on this year's party, including the dates, on our page HERE.

At DCA, the new restrooms in the Golden State area have opened. They are across the "street" from the old ones, which will be demolished when they start to build the new Little Mermaid attraction. The new restrooms (the womens' side, at least) are huge. And I'm happy to say that the new faucets are the really nice aerated ones - they don't spray water all over the place like most of the other restroom faucets in the park do. (That's one of my pet peeves.) They also have the motion-activated paper towel dispensers, too.




King Triton's Carousel of the Sea has re-opened after a fairly lengthy rehab. I just love all of the colorful and smiling sea creatures on this attraction. And they are all bright and shiny and look like new. It looks to me like the major change was re-theming the top of the attraction.



Work continues in on the World of Color show in Paradise Bay. There's more stuff on on the bottom every time I visit.


They are also working on the amphitheater viewing area.


I visited the Wine Shop again to get some more of the Sapphire Hill Very Late Harvest Zinfandel that I bought a couple of weeks ago - I served it at my Chocolate Party last weekend and we all really enjoyed it.

Over at Disneyland, I was surprised to see the Evil Queen from Snow White greeting guests in Fantasyland. She was appropriately disdainful and haughty - some of the kids didn't quite know what to make of her.


Peter Pan's Flight is undergoing refurbishment and is scheduled to re-open on June 8. There are signs on the walls around it that say "Sorry, no flights to Never Land today". :-)

When writing the blog on the Celebration Roundup and BBQ, one question Deb Koma raised was whether there were food alternatives for picky kids - like mac and cheese. So I asked. Nope, what's on the menu is what everyone gets - no alternatives. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when I was there - there weren't too many people dining there.


Magical, the new fireworks show, actually has its first show on Thursday, June 11 at 8:45. And it has quite a long official name, too - the Disneyland Calendar shows it as: Magical - Disney's New Nighttime Spectacular of Magical Celebrations In the Stars. Wow. That's quite a lot to live up to.

May 29, 2009

Dining at Disneyland

Deb Koma and I ate a number of meals at Disneyland during her visit in April. I have covered in detail already our experiences at the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue and the Arrowood Winemaker Dinner, but here's some mini-reviews on our other experiences.

House of Blues

We ate here on Thursday night - had a 5:30 Priority Seating time, since they don't accept Priority Seating after 5:30. My husband Lee joined us and we had a table outside, which was nice, since it wasn't quite as noisy as it is inside. They had beer-battered onion rings as an appetizer special, so we started with those. They came with ranch and honey mustard dipping sauces, and of course ketchup was available too. They were very good - crisp and hot.

House of Blues has specials each night of the week - Deb ordered the Thursday special, which was Paneed Chicken Breast served on a Bed of Tri-Color Rotini Pasta with a Tabasco Cream Sauce for $16.00. She enjoyed it.


Lee had the Full Rack of "Fall off the Bone" Baby Back Ribs with tangy Jim Beam BBQ Sauce, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Sauteed Vegetables for $28.00. As you can see, it was more than a plate's width of ribs. They were tender and flavorful. The mashed sweet potatoes were very tasty, too.


I had the Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich with a tangy Jim Beam BBQ Sauce, Coleslaw, and Sweet Potato Fries for $13.00. The sauce was good without being overwhelming, the pork had a good flavor, and it was all pork - no fat or gristle. I really liked the sweet potato fries, too.


We had good service, and overall it was a very nice meal. The menu is HERE.

Ralph Brennan's Creole Cafe

Saturday morning Deb and I opted for a quick breakfast at Ralph Brennan's Creole Cafe. They serve fresh beignets there, but we really weren't up for that much sugar and fat so early in the day. I have to say that this may be the least expensive place on property to get a hot breakfast - they offer eggs, bacon, and sausage, breakfast sandwiches and burritos, and french toast sticks. It's counter service, and the tables are outside, though it was a beautiful morning, and very pleasant to be sitting outside watching the people pass by. Deb had the English Muffin Sandwich - scrambled eggs with either sausage or bacon, and a slice of American cheese for $5.99. It was served with "hashed browns" - but this was a pre-made hash brown cake (think toaster hash browns), and not "real" hash browns.


I had the Big Easy Breakfast Platter - Scrambled eggs with English muffin, hashbrowns, and choice of bacon or sausage for $6.99. It was just ok - I like my eggs fully cooked and these were a little runny, and the muffin was hardly toasted at all. I think next time I'll try the Breakfast Burrito instead.


The menu is HERE.

Wine Country Trattoria

Saturday evening Jeanine Yamanaka joined Deb and me for dinner at DCA's Wine Country Trattoria. I think I've mentioned before that this is my favorite table service restaurant in either of the parks. It's just always been a very casual, pleasant, relaxed experience for me, and this meal was no exception. We sat inside this time instead of outside, which was OK since the evening was starting to get a little cool.

I started with the Soup of the Season, which was a broccoli cheese soup. It was served with croutons and had a very nice flavor - and it was filling, too!


For an entree I had the Chicken Bruschetta Salad - Poached chicken, basil, romaine hearts, Roma tomatoes, shaved Romano cheese in balsamic vinaigrette with a garlic crostini for $10.99. It had lots of chicken and lots of fresh lettuce and greens - it was very tasty. I think my favorite is still the Caprese Sandwich, though.


And the Caprese Sandwich is what Jeanine ordered. It's fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, red bell peppers, marinated artichokes, olives and capers drizzled with red wine vinaigrette served on pretzel bread for $9.99.


Deb ordered the Chicken Alfredo Lasagna - layers of pasta, chicken, spinach and cheese with Alfredo sauce for $12.79. Deb was a little underwhelmed by the gluey consistency of the sauce and the absence of chicken. Not the best choice on the menu, in her opinion.


The menu is HERE.

Storyteller's Cafe

Sunday morning Deb and I went over to the Grand Californian to see if we could get in for breakfast even without Priority Seating. It was about 9:00 by then. Sure, no problem - they gave us a pager and buzzed us in less than 5 minutes.

This is quite a large restaurant, and we were seated in a booth back in the corner, which was actually pretty nice - it was a little more out-of-the-way. For breakfast you can either order off the menu or just get the Farmer's Market Buffet for $24.99. Considering the price of the breakfast entrees I think you might as well just order the buffet - you get more of a variety of food (and just about everything on the menu is available on the buffet) and it doesn't cost that much more. Coffee, tea, and juice are included in the buffet, with as many refills as you want.


The buffet includes fruit, pastries, eggs (including eggs benedict), breakfast meats, potatoes, hot and cold cereals, and you can also get tossed omelets made to order - that's where the longest lines were. Though the chef had quite an assembly line going, and the process moved pretty quickly - he was preparing four omelets at once!


Waffles and pancakes are not on the buffet, but simply tell your server you'd like some and they will bring them out, hot and fresh from the kitchen. Everything we had was very good - especially the omelet. They had a lot of different fillings available for those. Deb, throwing caution over cholesterol to the wind, really enjoyed the eggs benedict.

At breakfast this is a character meal, featuring mostly the "forest" type characters like Chip & Dale, Koda and Kenai, and Meeko. And then there was Rafiki - who didn't really fit the "forest" thing, but he was there, too. (I understand Terk makes appearances here as well.) I don't have a lot of experience with character meals, but Deb said that for a character meal this one was pretty calm and laid-back - they weren't getting the kids involved in a lot of noisy games or other such activities. We certainly got our share of visits from them - Meeko was playing peekaboo with Deb at the table when I came back from the buffet. :-)



We had two different servers, since our "real" server was on break when we first sat down. The first guy was just OK - it took him a long time to show up with our beverages, but the woman who replaced him was really good, and came by frequently to check to see if we wanted any more juice, tea, or coffee.

I'm definitely going to be making a Priority Seating here for a late breakfast after we run the Half Marathon in September!

The menu is HERE.

And that does it for this set of dining experiences!

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About May 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in May 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.

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