Dining Archives

March 19, 2018

Flora Springs Winemaker Dinner - 2018 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

2018 Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Flora Springs Winemaker Dinner
Steakhouse 55, March 15, 2018

Amuse Bouche
Golden Ossetra Caviar
Rosemary Waffle Crisp, Green Apple Gel, Creme Fraiche
Flora Springs, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 2016

1st Course
Sweet Butter Braised Lobster
Local Cauliflower, Sunchoke Puree, Coquito Froth, Kaffir Lime Powder
Flora Springs, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 2016

2nd Course
Muscovy Duck Breast
Fromage D'affinois, King Trumpet Mushroom, Cured Egg Yolk, Black Truffle Coulis
Flora Springs, Merlot, Napa Valley 2015

3rd Course
Snake River Farms Wagyu Beef Tenderloin
Parisian Mustard, Roasted Wild Ramp, Lavender Smoked Beet, Bearnaise Gelato
Flora Springs, Trilogy, Napa Valley 2014

4th Course
Chocolate Cherry Vacherin
Chocolate Mousse Meringue, Brown Butter Creme Anglaise, Brandied Cherry Gelee
Flora Springs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014

Steakhouse 55 Chef: Marcel St. Pierre
Flora Springs General Manager: Nat Komes

One of the Signature Events that Lee and I have enjoyed during past Food and Wine Festivals has been the Winemaker Dinners, which feature a multi-course dinner and wine pairings from a visiting winery. They were not part of the Festival's return in 2016, and we weren't able to attend any of them last year. In 2018 there are three Winemaker dinners, showcasing wines from Flora Springs, David Arthur, and the "Disney Family of Wines" (multiple wineries with a Disney connection. This year all of the dinners are in a different location: Steakhouse 55, Carthay Circle Restaurant, and Napa Rose. Quite a difference in pricing, as well: the Flora Springs dinner is $175, Disney Family of Wines is $250, and the David Arthur is $300 - though it's limited to just 24 guests. (Prices do not include tax and tip.)

We chose to attend the Flora Springs dinner. We have visited the winery and are familiar with, and enjoy, many of their wines. I was surprised that the event wasn't sold out. It might be due in part to Flora Springs' participation at one of last year's Winemaker dinners, so it wasn't a "new" offering. Also, the price was $25 higher this year.

The dinner started at 6:00 at Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel. We arrived about 5:45 and checked in - I had made the reservation and had to show a photo id...which I almost hadn't brought with me.

We received a card with our table number on it, and waited in the lounge until someone came to seat us. They were a little late in doing that - we weren't seating until about 6:10. At each place setting was the menu, so we had a preview of the courses and wines for the evening.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

It's always somewhat "luck of the draw" as far as dining companions go at these events, but this time we were fortunate, and our four tablemates were interesting and engaging. We had a good time, and I hope that they did also.

Not long after we were seated the servers brought us our first glass of wine: Flora Springs 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoy this wine, though I'm not sure I'd tried the 2016 yet. It's crisp and acidic - nice and clean. I didn't get a lot of flavor out of it this time, though - it was more the feeling of it.

The presentation began when Nat Komes (it's pronounced KO-mes) introduced himself. He is the General Manager for Flora Springs, and the grandson of the original owners. The winery is named for his grandmother Flora, and for the natural springs on the property. He also introduced us to Marcel St. Pierre, the executive chef at Steakhouse 55. These two have worked together before and seem to have a lot of fun together.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

But unlike previous winemaker dinners we've attended, the chef didn't talk very much to us about the food courses as they were served to us - I've had a lot more information on the food in the past. Especially what it was about the wines that made him choose that type of food to go with it.

Our amuse bouche was golden ossetra caviar on a rosemary waffle crisp, with green apple gel and creme fraiche. A lot of different flavors there, but I don't know that I really tasted any of them specifically. Not even the rosemary, which is typically a strong flavor for me. The course was good, but not especially memorable. For me personally, it was not a very successful pairing with the wine.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

The wine for the 1st course was another glass of the same sauvignon blanc we'd received with the amuse bouche. This surprised me - Flora Springs has a much more extensive selection of wines available, and they make a wonderful pinot grigio. I was hoping for a glass of that. (When I asked Nat Komes about it later, he said they don't make much of it, and almost all of it goes to the Wine Club members. Mea culpa.)

The first course was Sweet Butter Braised Lobster with cauliflower, sunchoke puree, coquito froth, and kaffir lime powder. Almost everyone at our table really enjoyed that.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

Due to some kind of misunderstanding I did not get the lobster, and instead got a roasted sunchoke. It was actually really good, and I enjoyed it - a lot more than the taste I had of Lee's lobster, to be honest. I don't know why, but I just don't care for the flavor of lobster.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

With the second course we received a glass of 2015 Flora Springs merlot. I don't remember having their merlot before, and it was very good. Lots of fruit and very smooth.

The second course was Muscovy Duck Breast, with D'affinois cheese (similar to Brie), mushrooms, cured egg yolk, and black truffle coulis. The duck was rolled, with something like duck confit in the center. I thought it was a little tough, but it paired very well with the wine. Lee commented that it's the most extensive preparation of duck he's ever had. When the chef came by our table one of our tablemates asked about the cured egg yolk. It was soaked in sugar and vinegar for several days, then put in a food dehydrator for six hours - just enough so that the middle was still slightly soft. It had a pretty odd consistency and flavor, though. It was an interesting dish, and a very attractive plate, but it was our least favorite of the evening, though it paired well with the wine - the wine was the best part of that particular course.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

The 2014 Flora Springs Trilogy was poured for our third course of the evening. This is an estate grown Bordeaux blend - Lee really likes this one. An excellent pairing with the accompanying food course.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

The third course was Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Parisian mustard, wild ramp puree, lavender smoked beet, and bearnaise gelato. It was a hit at the table - Lee said it was "awesome." (I don't know what the wafer thing is.)

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

I received a vegetarian dish - ratatouille on puffed pastry. I also had the wild ramp puree which was very good. None of us were sure what it was until we asked - it didn't have any sort of onion-like flavor at all. Very mild, but good.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

Dessert was the final course. Typically at a winemaker dinner we've received a dessert wine, but instead it was a 2014 cabernet sauvignon. I think this pairing would have been more successful if dessert had been a rich chocolate creation, but it wasn't.

There were three components to the dessert course. A chocolate cherry vacherin, which was a chocolate meringue topped with a cherry mousse; a brandied cherry on a square of cherry gelee with a crisp cookie-like layer on the bottom; and a chocolate mousse meringue. The latter was the smallest, but was my favorite - it was like a bite of a rich s'more. The desserts were beautiful, and showed lots of technique, but except for the chocolate mousse meringue they were not anything I would order - and I don't think the wine really worked with them.

Flora Springs Winemaker dinner

It was a long evening - we didn't leave the restaurant until after 9:30. Not to say that the evening dragged, because it didn't. The courses were paced well - we had enough time to enjoy each one before the next one was served.

For me dinner was good but not great - there was nothing I had that I thought was exceptionally good. This is the first meal I've had from this particular chef - I suppose his style does not appeal to me as much as others. The wines were excellent, but I didn't feel that most of the courses complemented the paired wine very well. That was a surprise, and was quite disappointing considering our previous experiences with these types of dinners.

Still, we had a good evening - we enjoyed the dining experience. Was it worth $175 per person? No, not really. That doesn't mean that I won't do another winemaker dinner in the future, but I might make sure that it's a different chef.

March 18, 2018

Splitsville Luxury Lanes Grand Opening at Downtown Disney


Splitsville Opening

Splitsville Luxury Lanes officially opened its Anaheim location in Downtown Disney on Thursday, March 15. The location had been in "soft opening" since January. The two-story bowling alley, bar, and restaurant complex is located near Tortilla Jo's in the space formerly occupied by House of Blues.

Splitsville Opening

Splitsville owners Guy Revelle and Mark Gibson, along with Splitsville cast members, celebrated the opening with a little help from Goofy. (Love the Mr. Announcer voice).

Though there are 20 bowling lanes at Splitsville, most of the space is dedicated to dining, either in one of the dining rooms or one of the bars. The menu features up-scale versions of bowling alley favorites such as burgers, sliders, nachos, and fries, but also includes hand-tossed pizzas, a large selection of sushi, and a variety of salads, sandwiches, and entrees.

Splitsville Opening

Hand-crafted cocktails are available from the bars, and some popular cocktails are on tap. Beer selections are on draft as well as by the bottle, and feature some local craft brews in addition to macro brews. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. Coca-Cola Freestyle machines are available upstairs and downstairs, with the option of a souvenir bowling pin sipper for an additional charge.

Splitsville Opening

Splitsville bowling pin sippers

The decor is mid-century modern with brick, stone, and wood. The spaces feel light and open and not like a typical bowling alley. There are lots of grays and blues, designed to look very Californian, specifically Palm Springs. Splitsville co-owner Guy Revelle had his own joke about the idea behind the design: "If Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra went out to a bar and started drinking some cocktails and decided they wanted to open up a bowling alley, this is what they would open."

Splitsville Opening

I asked him how they came up with the concept. "We treat bowling as a game, not a sport. We don't do league play. We're all about having fun. That's the reason you see the little sign 'Etiquette, Schmetiquette.'"

Splitsville Opening

"We said how can we create energy pockets, how can we create a place for food and beverage...usually when you go to a bowling alley they're all side by side by side...[here] I'm sitting in the lounge, having a cocktail, hanging out, and you've got an energy pocket of people over here giving high fives, yelling, having just gives you that energy and makes for a fun time."

Splitsville Opening

I mentioned that there are 20 bowling lanes. Rather than 20 lanes side-by-side, they are in sets of 2-4 lanes, and placed in multiple areas on both floors.

Splitsville Opening

Each lane has its own seating and table area.

Splitsville Opening

The separation of lane areas allows for some privacy for those who wish to book multiple lanes for a special occasion such as a birthday party. (There are specific birthday party packages which include food and beverage as well as bowling lanes.) Lane reservations are available in advance by calling Splitsville directly - there's no on-line reservation service. Those interested in dining reservations only can book on-line through Disney Dining or OpenTable.

Splitsville Opening

The length of a lane reservation is determined by party size. An hour for 1-2 people, increased in 15-minute increments for every two additional people. All lanes can accommodate up to 8 bowlers. Walk-ups are welcome, pending availability. Whether reserved in advance or as a walk-up, everyone using a bowling lane receives a Lane Concierge who will help them get set up with shoe rental, lane assignment, and scoring setup, as well as introduce them to their food and beverage server.

Splitsville Opening

Current rates are $19/bowler Monday-Friday from opening until 4 p.m.; $24/bowler from 4 p.m. until closing; $24/bowler on Saturday and Sunday. Shoe rental is included in the rate. Bowling balls are also provided.

And I must mention the bowling balls - the "small" bowling balls feature Mickey and Minnie.

Splitsville Mickey Minnie bowling balls

Annual Passholders, DVC Members, and members of the military receive a 10% discount on food and non-alcoholic beverage. That discount also applies to walk-up bowlers, but there's no discount on bowling if an advance reservation is made (food and beverage discounts still apply).

One of my favorite spaces was the large outdoor bar area. It's covered, but open on the sides with a variety of seating options, from bar stools to tables and chairs to comfy sofas and chairs. There's live entertainment there every evening, and also in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday.

Splitsville Opening

Splitsville Opening

There's even a fireplace, with seating on both sides of it.

Splitsville Opening

Upstairs there's another bar and dining area with floor to ceiling windows that overlook Downtown Disney.

Splitsville Opening

Splitsville Opening

For those familiar with the location in Disney Springs, this one differs in a few ways. It's a bit smaller, and there's 20 bowling lanes rather than 30. No pool tables, and no sushi bar. The colors are different - Florida is more bright blues and reds. The menus are quite similar - I found it amusing that Florida offers a Southwestern Salad and California offers a Southern Goddess Salad.

Speaking of food...I'm sure some of you are interested in that. At a media reception I had the opportunity to try a few of the food items.

The pizzas are hand-tossed, with dough that's made in-house each day. The Fig and Prosciutto pizza was excellent. I couldn't have told you that there were figs on it - all the flavors blended together and it was simply delicious.

Splitsville Opening

I also tried a couple of pieces of sushi, which I believe were from the Ninja Crunch and Fantasy rolls. So fresh and so good.

Splitsville Opening

There were also samples of their Filet Sliders and Cheeseburger Sliders. (All burger patties are certified Angus beef, arriving fresh daily, never frozen.)

Splitsville Opening

Splitsville Opening

The Cone of Fries is crinkle-cut fries with house seasoning and a house-made chive dressing. Also very good.

Splitsville Opening

I'm looking forward to returning and sampling more of the foods and beverages. The assistant general manager told me about a "fig and berry" cocktail that sounds wonderful.

While it might be called "Splitsville Luxury Lanes", it's really much more about the experience and the food than it is the bowling. Said Guy Revelle:

"We want [people] to walk through the door and say: 'Wow, never seen a bowling alley like this before.' Then they're going to get great customer service, have a great food experience, have a great drink experience. When they talk to other people what we want them to say is: 'We did this and this and this, and oh, by the way, we bowled.'"

Disclaimer: I was an invited media guest to the opening of Splitsville Luxury Lanes. My opinions are my own.

August 21, 2017

Some Disneyland Dining Experiences


I've tried a few new (to me) items at Disneyland fairly recently - some that I simply haven't tried before, some that are new offerings at established restaurants, and some that are limited time specials.

Flo's V-8 Cafe in Cars Land offers several dishes that feature REAL oven roasted and sliced turkey. I ordered the Kid's Turkey Sandwich meal. It was really good! Lots of moist, flavorful sliced turkey breast on a very tender bun. It was served with baby carrots, a small fruit cup, and a kid's beverage (I had a small bottled water. I was very happy with this, especially for the price of $6.99.

Flo's V-8 Cafe Kids Turkey sandwich

My dining companion ordered the Citrus Turkey Salad. Lots of slices of tender turkey breast along with lettuce, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and dried cranberries with citrus-tarragon dressing. It came with a bread stick, also. It was a very generous serving - she wasn't able to finish it.

Flo's V-8 Cafe Turkey Citrus salad

At Smokejumpers Grill, also in Disney California Adventure, I sampled the adult Chicken Breast Nuggets meal. It comes with choice of zesty slaw or French fries. Nothing exciting or different about it, but it was lots of nice white meat chicken, and was quite tasty. Smokejumpers has a toppings bar with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, etc., so you can build yourself a little salad if you care to - I've certainly done that in the past.

Smokejumpers Grill Chicken Breast Nuggets

While I've been to the Carthay Circle Restaurant a number of times, I'd never eaten at the Carthay Circle Lounge. There are lots of interesting cocktails available there, though we didn't order any of them. (For several of them the bartender uses this device to create a sphere of ice from a large cube of ice. It's pretty "cool" to watch.)

My companion tried the Flatbread, with heirloom tomatoes, pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted garlic, and spinach. Lots of toppings, and it was good, but at $18 it's pricey.

Carthay Circle Lounge flatbread

I was in the mood for dessert, so I ordered the California Rocky Road, a chocolate brownie with marshmallow ice cream, caramel sauce and some crunchy graham-cracker like bits. Very chocolatey and good. And also pricey at $14.

Carthay Circle Lounge California Rocky Road

There are a lot of new menu items in the Hollywood Land area for the Summer of Heroes promotion. Most dining locations have completely new menus, like Schmoozies and the two bar locations. There's even a temporary food booth called Nowhere Eats, with different kinds of tacos and nachos.

Nowhere Eats

The food truck, Studio Catering Co., also has a new menu, which includes a "Super Hero-Sized Sub" and a "Multiverse Parfait".

Studio Catering Co

There are also two kinds of falafel pita offerings. The Savory Strength is chickpea fritters with spinach, cucumber-mint slaw, and yogurt sauce. I tried the Promising Future, which is fritters with pickled red cabbage, yellow peppers and charmoula sauce ($8.99). I think the fritters were a little overcooked, but the rest of it was good, and I particularly enjoyed the charmoula sauce. Slightly spicy, but a really good flavor.

Summer of Heroes Falafel Pita

The bar closest to the Backlot Stage is serving hero-themed shave ice, with names like Smash Ice, Spinal Fluid, Ice Reactor, and I am Shave Ice. I tried the Spider Venom, which is flavored with blue raspberry and cherry, and topped with condensed milk. Shave ice is $5; add an extra $2.75 if you want a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mine was pretty good, but the ice was not packed together tightly (they should've sent them to Hawaii for proper training in handling shave ice). It fell apart quickly and I ended up wearing part of it on my white shirt. Good thing the tie-dye look is in again...

Summer of Heroes Spider Venom shave ice

Award Weiners has a few items like a Galactic Dog and an Angry Little Pudding Cup. I tried the Quiver of Funnel Cake Fries ($5.99). I think they had been sitting around for a while, so they weren't warm, and they were kind of tough - not crisp and crunchy like I expected. At the bottom of the cup were both raspberry sauce and mango coulis, with whipped cream on top. If they had been fresh I think they would have been much better, but as they were I was disappointed in them.

Summer of Heroes Quiver of Funnel Cake fries

Bengal BBQ in Disneyland has undergone a few changes this summer. One most welcome change is that the merchandise shop next to it was turned into a dining area.

Bengal BBQ seating area

In addition to tables and chairs there are standing tables. There are also still a few tables right outside the restaurant.

Bengal BBQ seating area

Some new menu items were also added, and Lee and I sampled all of them. The Specialty Skewer right now is BBQ Pork Belly served on a lettuce leaf with hoisin sauce, pickled carrots, daikon, and cilantro for $5.99. Yummy.

Bengal BBQ Pork Belly skewer

There's also a new Hummus Trio: black bean hummus, red pepper hummus and cilantro hummus served with lettuce, cucumbers, carrot chips, cherry tomatoes and broccoli. I thought it was a nice healthy option for $6.49.

Bengal BBQ Hummus Trio

A Spring Roll ($6.99) is also new on the menu.

Bengal BBQ Spring Roll

Ahi tuna, cilantro, shredded carrots, and cucumber in a rice wrapper. It was served with a dipping sauce. Very refreshing and I really enjoyed it.

Bengal BBQ Spring Roll

Tiger Tails are not a new menu item, but I think this is a new version of them. Essentially a cheese breadstick. In the past I think they were lightly grilled. A sauce with it would have been nice. $3.99.

Bengal BBQ Tiger Tail

The new beverage is a Jungle Julep. No alcohol, but a frozen combination of juices like pineapple, orange, and grape. Pretty sweet, but a little bit of a tang. $4.39.

Bengal BBQ Jungle Julep

July 24, 2017

Fantasmic! Dining Package

Fantasmic 2017

Fantasmic! is back at Disneyland. It was a lengthy absence due to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge construction (so nice to finally have a real name for that project!) which required re-routing the Rivers of America and closing all of the water-related attractions, as well as the Disneyland Railroad.

Jeanine saw the premiere of the new version of Fantasmic! on Monday, July 17. You can read about the changes and see a full video of the show in
her blog.

Access to the viewing areas for Fantasmic! that are right along the Rivers of America requires a Fastpass, though there are standby viewing areas on the upper tiers available on a first come, first serve, basis. Fastpasses are available to anyone at no charge (note that you can NOT use the MaxPass feature to book Fastpasses for Fantasmic! or World of Color). The Fastpass kiosks are next to the Mark Twain dock along the Rivers of America. These still deliver a paper Fastpass that must be presented for access to the Fastpass viewing areas. The area to return to will be identified on the ticket, e.g. Mark Twain Dock.

For those who wish a premium viewing experience, there are several dining packages available at various price points. These packages include access to what are arguably the best viewing areas for the show. Both Blue Bayou and River Belle Terrace offer a three-course prix fixe menu. They share the premium viewing area: in the center, in the first tier along the water. Blue Bayou is $65 for adults and $25 for kids 3-9. River Belle Terrace is $45/$25. River Belle offers a premium option: for an additional $15 guests can dine at 8:00 and watch the 9:00 show from their tables at the restaurant. This option can only be booked by calling Disneyland Dining.

Hungry Bear Restaurant offers an on-the-go option. Meals are packaged in a box and include a bottled beverage. Guests can choose to dine at the Hungry Bear's seating area or take the meal with them. A ticket for the preferred viewing area will be provided at time of pickup and payment - at this writing it is to the left of the premium viewing area. The price is $29.99 for adults and 19.99 for kids 3-9.

Blue Bayou Fantasmic! Menu
River Belle Terrace Fantasmic! Menu
Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! Menu

Lee and I tried the River Belle Terrace package on Friday night. We did not opt for the premium option. While it would be nice to have an actual chair to sit in for the show, the viewing from River Belle is somewhat obstructed, and not nearly as close as being right by the water.

When I made the reservation on-line at I was automatically assigned to the first show - which was what I wanted. Reservations can be made starting at 4:00 p.m., our time was 5:10. We arrive at the restaurant about 15 minutes early, but they were able to seat us right away. The hostess verified that we were there for the package and for the 9:00 Fantasmic! show. She gave us a choice of inside or outside seating - we chose to sit outside in the shade. It's really quite lovely being outside in the shade on a warm summer evening! Much quieter than sitting inside.

River Belle Terrace

Our meal was a modified version of the regular River Belle Terrace menu. Soft drink was included. As a starter we had a choice of the House Salad or Corn Chowder. I had the salad, which normally is served with Gorgonzola, but I requested that be left off. It had arugula, shredded apple, dried cranberries and candied pecans. It was a generous serving, and I enjoyed it.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Salad

Lee tried the Corn Chowder. Lots of kernels of fresh corn in it. He said it was very good, and that the peppers on top were a garnish and there weren't more in the soup. (I don't like peppers.)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Corn Chowder

Most of the entrees from the regular menu were available to us. I ordered the Oven-Roasted BBQ Half Chicken. It came with baked beans and my choice of another side: seasoned tater tots, potato salad, green beans or tangy coleslaw. I asked our server if "tangy" meant the coleslaw had peppers, but she didn't know, so I went with the tater tots. The chicken was nicely cooked, though it needed more BBQ sauce, which our server brought out as a side. The tater tots were lightly seasoned - they could have been hotter. My favorite part was the baked beans - there were black beans mixed in with them, as well as bacon. Lee thought they were a little too sweet, but I like them that way.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic BBQ Chicken

Lee tried the Pork Spareribs. I thought the dish was nicely presented. The ribs were very tender and easily came off the bone. I didn't care for the spice rub on them, but Lee enjoyed them. He ordered the potato salad as a side. Neither of us liked it - the potatoes were a little firm, and there was something in the dressing that gave it a slightly reddish tint and an odd flavor.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Pork Ribs

For dessert I ordered the Maleficent Dragon. That dessert was the reason I'd chosen River Belle Terrace instead of Blue Bayou. :-) Crunchy milk chocolate base with caramel mousse and a spiced dark chocolate-blackberry ganache center. The "flame" sauce was orange-vanilla. It was very good, and surprisingly complex for a mass-produced theme park location.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

The ganache in the middle WAS spicy - but we didn't taste it immediately, it was pretty late on the palate. A little too spicy for me, though I still really enjoyed the dessert.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

I had fun playing with the white chocolate pieces. :-)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

Lee chose the Strawberry Shortcake. It was good but not exceptional...he liked my dessert better - he finished off my ganache. :-)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Strawberry Shortcake

The service was good, except it seemed like they were in a hurry to get us out of there. They brought our entrees just a few minutes after our appetizers - we were no where close to finished with them. Our server was going to bring the desserts soon after clearing the entree plates, but we asked for a few minutes to digest first. So that ended up being the right amount of time between courses.

Our server brought us our Fantasmic! tickets when we paid for the meal. The viewing area opens an hour ahead of the show; she recommended getting there at least 30 minutes in advance.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Fastpass ticket

We received a 15% annual passholder discount on the meal, but with tax and tip it was still about $100 for the two of us. Given what a three course meal, plus beverage, would have cost us on the regular menu, we only paid about $5 for the Fantasmic! ticket. Now, on a normal evening would we have dined at River Belle Terrace? No, but we did it to get the premium viewing of Fantasmic!

We went back to the Rivers of America area about 8:30. It was pretty crowded, though there was still a fair bit of standby area available - Jason was able to get a good spot at almost center stage at 8:30. Our server had told us there would be a sign near Haunted Mansion telling us where to go, but we didn't see any signs at all. We asked a cast member in the area and she directed us - the entrance was down near the water close to the Harbour Galley.

There were two entrances there: one for "regular" Fastpasses, and one for those with Premium viewing. Our Fastpasses were checked several times as we made our way along the river before we were directed into a viewing area near center stage. I was surprised to see that people who had the Blue Bayou package (identifiable because they were given seat cushions as part of their package) were sitting in the same section with us. It seems like they don't distinguish between Blue Bayou and River Belle in the preferred viewing areas.

Everyone had to sit on the ground in the preferred viewing area, with the exception of some people in ECVs who were allowed to sit on their vehicles at the back. A few people had been smart enough to bring blankets, and of course the Blue Bayou guests had their cushions. We were quite envious. :-)

The show...Wow. The projection system was updated and the projections on the mist screens were so much clearer, brighter, and more vibrant than they have been in the past.

Fantasmic 2017 Magic Mirror

In addition, the stage area on Tom Sawyer Island was digitally mapped. Projections are used to great effect to add depth and interest to the background area.

Fantasmic 2017

The fountains were also upgraded - it seemed to me like they featured more movement and color, a la World of Color.

Fantasmic 2017

This is a new version of Fantasmic!, and as you would expect, there are some new elements to the show - which means the removal of some older elements. The most controversial, I think, was the decision to remove Captain Hook and Peter Pan from the Sailing Ship Columbia and feature Jack Sparrow instead. I missed the charm of the Peter Pan version, though there is non-stop action and some fairly impressive stunts in the new one.

Fantasmic pirate ship

There are a number of new animated scenes featuring characters from "The Lion King", "Finding Nemo", and "The Little Mermaid".

Fantasmic 2017 Lion King

The movie "Aladdin" is featured prominently: Mickey interacts with a mist screen Genie to "Friend Like Me", and Aladdin and Jasmine float on their flying carpet to "Whole New World". I was a little disappointed in that scene: early press releases had described them as floating over a bed of fog, but there was little fog to be seen, and in fact we could see the support of the carpet.

Fantasmic 2017 Aladdin Jasmine

Flynn Rider and Rapunzel replace Snow White and her prince in the princess sequence. I thought the background of the island with the lantern projections worked very well there. Though that's not exactly new - it seems like every current Disney show has that particular scene and song from Tangled.

Fantasmic 2017 Tangled

Other than the Magic Mirror, the animation of the villains sequence looked basically the same - a little shorter. The quality of of the projections seemed noticeably inferior to me compared to the newer segments. I was surprised that they weren't upgraded. Nice to see the huge dragon back - though now it's Sorcerer Mickey that battles her rather than Brave Little Tailor Mickey.

Fantasmic 2017 dragon

Mickey is quite a bit more present in the new show as a live figure on stage, though he also appears in animation.

Fantasmic 2017 Sorcerer Mickey

I really liked the new show. Overall it looks so much better than it did before. Since it's so much brighter I hope it will be easier to view even for those guests who don't have the prime viewing spot that we did.

Since we saw the early 9:00 show, we were able to stay in the viewing area to watch the Remember, Dreams Come True fireworks show. Disney added projections on the Rivers of America mist screens for the 60th anniversary Disneyland Forever fireworks, and there are projections for the Remember show, also.

Remember Dreams Come True Fantasmic 2017

Different than what we would see on the castle if we were on Main Street, though much clearer and more visible than they are on the castle.

Remember Dreams Come True Fantasmic 2017

If you want a guaranteed good viewing location for Fantasmic!, then I think reserving one of the dining packages is an excellent option. Choosing River Belle Terrace and Blue Bayou will give you equally good viewing, so I think it's a matter of the price and which menu you prefer. The Hungry Bear viewing area will not be quite as good, but still better than you're likely to get with a regular Fastpass ticket, and that dinner package is certainly cheaper than the other two. But there's less food included with the Hungry Bear option, so in some ways it's a lesser value.

August 12, 2016

Review: Frozen Pre-Show Plus Lunch Dining Package


Following the success of the new Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater show, and the corresponding demand for seats, Disney was quick to introduce three dining packages which offer premium viewing experiences. At various price points.

The most inexpensive option is the Frozen-Pre-Show for $49/person. It starts 90 minutes before show time in Stage 17 in the Hollywood Backlot and includes:

    -- Event credential lanyard with collectible pin
    -- Frozen shave ice treat
    -- Beverage station with soft drinks, beer, and wine
    -- Three photo op locations, one with a character
    -- Crayons and coloring sheets for the kids (or kids at heart)
    -- Gallery of original art designs
    -- "Magical Snow Moment"
    -- Priority admission to the Orchestra section of the Hyperion Theater and choice of seats

The latter is the most important feature, I think.

The Frozen Pre-Show Plus Lunch Package includes all of the above plus a four-course lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. It is $99 for adults and $79 for kids 3-9, plus tax and gratuity. (Annual Passholder discounts apply.)

And the final package is the Frozen Signature Dining and Behind-the-Scenes Package. This one is $299/person. In addition to the pre-show, guests receive a guided tour after the show where they will be taken on-stage behind the curtain for a look at some of the show's costumes. They can also have their photo taken on-stage. In the evening they will sit down for a five-course meal at the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

The Pre-Show and Lunch packages can be booked on-line, but the Behind-the-Scenes package can only be booked by calling Disney Dining. At this point it appears that the packages will no longer be offered after September 5 - they are not available for booking on the on-line dining site after that date.

On a recent visit we tried the Lunch package. It seemed like not such a bad deal considering what the price of a four-course meal would be at the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

I made reservations several weeks in advance but that wouldn't have been necessary - there was still availability for both the lunch and pre-show packages the same day. (The Behind-the-Scenes package is not available on-line, so I was not able to check availability for that one.)

Our lunch reservation was at 11:30, which was when the restaurant opened. There were a few other Frozen lunch diners, but most of the people around us were doing the World of Color package instead. (That one is $43/$23 for lunch.)

We received a very different menu, though. Unlike the World of Color menus, the Frozen menu is customized for Frozen and features items that are not on the regular Carthay Circle menu.

Frozen Lunch Package Menu

The appetizers and dessert are set, and there is a choice of entree. Soft drinks, coffee, or tea are included in the price.

I started off with a cocktail (extra charge for that) called a Sparkling Mare. Iron Horse sparkling wine, Elderflower liqueur, and Aperol Orange. It was very good - maybe just a touch too much of the orange.

Carthay Circle Sparkling Mare

Our meal began with a bread service. It was a whole wheat bread - warm and very good.

Frozen Lunch bread service

"Act One" of the Frozen menu is Stone Trolls - a Norwegian meatball inside a baby Portobello mushroom, topped with lingonberry jam. I thought it was a very clever idea. Lee said it was pretty good.

Frozen Lunch Stone Trolls

Since I can't eat beef, our server brought me the opening course from the Kid's menu instead: Watermelon with Mango Sorbet. Not as interesting as the other, but it was fine. I was surprised that the sorbet held up on a skewer - it actually didn't disintegrate instantly. It was small, but tasty.

Frozen Lunch watermelon and sorbet

"Act 2" was a combined soup and salad course, featuring Carthay Circle Citrus Salad and Summer Yellow Tomato "Sopa de Ajo". The soup was similar to tortilla soup, with thin crisp tortilla strips and some chunks of avocado, chicken, and tomatoes. It was not overly spicy - really delicious. I would've enjoyed a larger serving!

Frozen Lunch Citrus Salad and Sopa de Ajo

The salad was not as successful. I forgot to request the dressing on the side as I usually do and thought it was overly dressed, though at least it was a relatively light dressing. It had pieces of strawberry and green beans in it in addition to the greens. It also had pieces of orange - with the peel still on them. We asked our server about the oranges and she said it was the chef's intention that the peel be eaten too. I tried it but found it bitter and not a pleasant taste in what was otherwise a nice salad.

Frozen Lunch Citrus Salad oranges

We had a choice of three entrees. I selected the Sustainable Fish of the Day with summer peach almond gazpacho. The fish was halibut (l got one of the last servings of that - later diners received swordfish), and it was hands down the best entree I have ever had at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. The sauce was so flavorful - I can't even tell you what all of the flavors were, just that they were delicious. Lee had a bite and said the fish didn't seem like fish at all - much more meaty. The peaches had a nice sweetness but didn't overwhelm the dish. Underneath the fish there were some pea pods and red onions. It was all excellent.

Frozen Lunch Halibut with Peach and Almond Gazpacho

Lee ordered the Herb Crusted Petit Filet of Angus Beef with blue cheese risotto, spinach, and wild mushrooms. He ordered it medium, but it was a little past medium. Still nicely prepared and he cleaned his plate.

Frozen Lunch Herb Crusted Petit Angus Filet

The third entree is Roasted Breast of Chicken with heirloom tomatoes, avocado and poblano-lime vinaigrette. That sounded really good also - tomatoes and avocados are two of my favorites.

The dessert is called Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation. (This same dessert is served to the kids, also.) As you can see - it's Olaf. And it's entirely edible.

Frozen Lunch Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation

Olaf's body is made of two cream puffs, with chocolate arms and a white chocolate head. The "icebergs" are made of meringue - very light, but crunchy. We found the cream puffs were a little bland - I think if they'd used some coconut on the outside they would have been much more flavorful and interesting. Still, the dessert was really adorable - and it was a lot of dessert.

Frozen Lunch Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation

As I mentioned earlier, soft drinks, coffee, or tea are included in the package. We had alcoholic beverages and water with our lunch, so choose coffee and tea with our dessert as our included beverage. They brought me my own individual tea pot so that I could serve myself. I had Mad Hatter Tea, which was very good initially, but after it had steeped for about 10 minutes the tea that was still in the pot started to get bitter. I'll have to keep that in mind should I order it in the future.

When I saw the size of the first two courses I was concerned that the meal might be a little skimpy, but the entree and dessert more than made up for it and we went out of there quite pleasantly full.

I should mention that we had a really wonderful server (Beth) and assistant server (David). Beth brought us a menu signed by the chef, and she and David signed it, too.

Before we left Beth brought us our Frozen Pre-show tickets and told us where we should check in. There seem to be two pre-shows each day, and we had the second one. Our pre-show experience would begin at 2:35.

Frozen Pre-show tickets

About 2:30 we went back to Stage 17 in the Hollywood Backlot (between Sunset Showcase Theater and Monsters, Inc.). Cast members were already checking people in.

Frozen Pre-show check-in

Unfortunately we were told that the 4:00 show had been canceled, so we would be seeing the 5:50 show instead. ("This has never happened before!") But our pre-show would still be from 2:40-3:40.

Frozen Pre-show

We received drink coupons which would allow us one alcoholic beverage each - the choices were red wine, white wine, and Stella Artois.

Frozen Pre-show drink vouchers

When we turned in our tickets we received a wristband and a lanyard credential with a "Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater" pin on it.

Frozen Pre-show lanyard

Frozen Pre-show pin

We came back at 2:40 but it was closer to 2:45 by the time we were allowed in the building. Both the wristband and the lanyard were required for entry. The pre-show takes place in Stage 17, between the Sunset Showcase Theater and Monsters, Inc. It's the same place that the "Olaf's Snow Fest" took place, and it's still decorated to look like Arendelle on a wintry day. No snow hill, though. :-)

Frozen Pre-show interior

There are three different photo backdrops, each staffed by a PhotoPass photographer.

Frozen Pre-show troll photo backdrop

Frozen Pre-show photo backdrop

After about 15 minutes Olaf came in to pose for photos. He was there about 30 minutes, I think. There weren't that many guests, so he spent a lot of time interacting with the photographers.

Frozen Pre-show Olaf meet and greet

There were some tables set up with crayons and coloring pages featuring Frozen characters.

Frozen pre-show coloring table

Frozen pre-show coloring

Along one side of the room was a display with information on the making of the musical - who was involved, costumes, etc.

Frozen Pre-show display

Frozen Pre-show creative team

Refreshments were included. Kristoff's Ice Shack served shave ice. You could have as many as you wanted.

Frozen pre-show Kristoff's Ice Shack

There were three different versions - this one is Elsa's Blue Winter Blast, with blue raspberry flavor.

Frozen Pre-show shave ice

There's also Olaf's Summertime Dream, with orangesicle, and Sven's "Root Deer" Float.

Frozen Pre-show root beer and creamsicle ice

Oaken's Tavern served freshly-popped popcorn in small bags. We were encouraged to take bags of popcorn with us when we left. This is also where the adults could redeem their beverage coupons for wine or beer.

Frozen Pre-show Oaken's Tavern

Sparkling cider was also available at Oaken's - no coupon required for that.

Frozen Pre-show apple cider

This pre-show was pretty lightly attended - there were almost as many cast members as guests. And to be honest, even though we only had an hour there really wasn't that much to do - get shave ice, popcorn, and a beverage and have photos taken. There were a number of people (adults, too) who engaged in the coloring activity. If it had been a hot summer day it would have been a nice place to just get out of the heat for a while.

There was supposed to be a "Snow Moment" that concluded the pre-show, and signaled that it was time to walk to the theater. Though because we weren't walking to the theater the cast members weren't sure if we would still experience that. ("This has never happened before!")

But at 3:35 there was an announcement about Elsa's winter magic or something like that, and it started to snow. It only lasted a minute or two, but it looked pretty good.

Frozen pre-show snowfall

Once that finished we were encouraged to exit the building. Normally we would have been walked over to the side entrance of the Hyperion, but instead we were reminded to meet over by the red truck by 5:30.

We returned as scheduled and waited along with, oh, maybe 50 other people to be admitted to the theater. We were on the opposite side of the theater from where the crowds of guests were waiting in the queue. I had an idea of where I thought we wanted to sit but I asked one of the CMs what he would recommend - and that was the same area that he recommended.

Frozen Hyperion package entrance

We were admitted to the theater first, and had our choice of seats in Orchestra. Well, almost our choice - there were about 20 seats that were reserved for VIP guests. In the Orchestra section there is a section of seats that's a couple of steps up behind a wide aisle. It's not under the Mezzanine, so there's an unobstructed view of the higher show elements. And the extra elevation meant my view wasn't blocked by a taller person in front of me. And what do you know...the very center of the first row in that section was blocked off for the VIP seats. :-) We sat right next to them, though, so we were almost center stage in that first row. And they were GREAT seats.

Frozen Hyperion stage view

After we were seated the parties with wheelchairs/ECVs were admitted, and then the rest of the guests came streaming in. While that was happening there were vendors in the aisles selling popcorn and candy - that only seems to take place in the Orchestra section. There were quite a few people buying it, too.

Frozen Hyperion stage view

And somewhere in there the VIP guests, who had at least two tour guides with them, were seated. I believe that they were the guests who had purchased the "Behind-the-Scenes" package, but I'm not sure.

The show itself was wonderful. It went off more smoothly than the two that I'd seen before. We missed a line or two of Anna's because her mike didn't get turned on. And the "troll" that's supposed to roll across the stage during the Elsa's Palace - Troll home scene change didn't appear. That scene change also seemed longer than usual. I've seen the show three times, and I've seen three different Anna and Elsas, three different Olafs, three different Svens and three different sets of parents, but I've seen the same Wesselton, Hans, and Kristoff each time.

Frozen Hyperion Kristoff Sven

I mostly enjoyed our Frozen package experience. The show cancellation was obviously unforeseen - but at least Disney tried to do the right thing and we were still able to see the later show. Lunch was really good, and exceeded my expectations. I was a bit disappointed in the pre-show aspect, but I'd been warned in advance that it was underwhelming.

If you're really a big fan of Frozen, and want to make sure that you have really good seats for the show, then you might want to consider one of the pre-show packages. That benefit of "choice of seats" in the Orchestra section is very nice. It also means you avoid waiting in line outside for a long time to try to get decent seats which is the way the current Fastpass system operates.

Frozen ice staircase and chandelier

I was surprised that there weren't more people. But at $49/person for just the pre-show and $99 for the lunch package, that's a lot to add on if you've already paid over $100 for a park ticket. It's probably more attractive to Annual Passholders who aren't purchasing separate admission.

I personally think that if they did away with the pre-show aspect and offered a dining package (which still included the priority seating) for the same price as the World of Color packages that it would be much more successful.

July 25, 2016

Dining Review: Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans

I mentioned in a previous blog that my favorite Disneyland table service restaurant is Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square. I hadn't actually eaten there in several years, though, so I wanted to try it again to see if it was as good as I remembered.

I made a reservation just a few days in advance, and was able to get the time I wanted. As it turned out the restaurant wasn't that busy, and walk-ups were being told it was only about a 15 minute wait.

We waited 5-10 minutes after I checked in. While I was waiting I looked around the nearby Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie shop. I'd read a little bit on-line about this shop recently. Supposedly Lillian Disney chose the name and the crystal chandelier inside was a gift to her from Walt. The mirrors were painted with a technique called "reverse painting".

Mlle Antoinette's Parfumerie

The shop carries five perfume brands: Guerlain, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Acqua di Parma and Fendi. There are selections for men and woman, and exclusive fragrances that can only be found at Disneyland.

Mlle Antoinette's Parfumerie

It's really quite a lovely space.

Cafe Orleans has seating both inside and outside. I said we'd take first available, but I was really hoping for outside, and that's what we got. It was a very nice evening, and the dining area was mostly shaded. Though as the sun went down it descended below the level of the awning and both Lee and I had sun in our eyes for a while at the end of the meal.

Cafe Orleans Seating

The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, and offers New Orleans-inspired dishes such as gumbo, a muffuletta sandwich, and savory crepes. The famous Monte Cristo Sandwich is also available. There are two versions: the classic with ham and cheese, and a vegetarian three-cheese sandwich. I personally find these to be belly bombs, and haven't had one for years.

Cafe Orleans Lunch/Dinner Menu

Our server was on a break, and it took a few extra minutes before the server filling in for her arrived to take care of us. In addition to soft drinks we wanted to start off by sharing an order of Pomme Frites. These are garlic French fries with Parmesan cheese, served with a Cajun-spiced remoulade. I'd forgotten how large the serving was - it was plenty for four of us to share. They were just as good as I remembered, and were a big hit.

Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites

Instead of ordering an entree here, I usually order the French Onion soup and the La Salade de Maison. And that's what I did. The soup is up to $10 now, but it's still very good, and pretty filling.

Cafe Orleans French Onion soup

The salad is always nice and fresh, with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and candied pecans, and a raspberry vinaigrette. I find it to be a good-sized serving for $6.

Cafe Orleans La Salade de Maison

Lee ordered a cup of the Chicken Gumbo. He said it was very good. $7 for a cup or $10 for a bowl.

Cafe Orleans Chicken Gumbo

For an entree, both Lee and Kristin ordered the Braised Beef Crepe - braised beef in a Bordelaise sauce with Cremini mushrooms and pearl onions. In the past the crepes were flat, but this time they were rolled. It was a very attractive presentation. They were served over a pea puree. I was surprised that the pea puree didn't have any additional flavors or spices - it really was just pureed peas. It needed something else. Lee was disappointed in the beef - it wasn't bad, but the flavor was different than what he expected - he thought there would be more spice.

Cafe Orleans Braised Beef Crepe

Matt ordered the Chicken Gumbo Crepe - chicken, Andouille sausage, tasso ham, and Creole gumbo sauce with sauteed Cremini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. It was also served with pea puree. He said it was good, and I think he enjoyed it more than the others did the beef crepes. Both crepes were $20, and we all agreed that for that price the portion size was a little small.

Cafe Orleans Chicken Gumbo Crepe

For dessert we shared an order of Mickey Beignets ($9). There were five of them, and we all enjoyed them. They were warm and slightly crisp on the outside with plenty of powdered sugar and fried dough goodness! Matt and I both liked them with the raspberry sauce that came with them - Lee and Kristin tried the vanilla anglaise, also.

Cafe Orleans Mickey Beignets

I think I was the one most pleased with my meal - but I stuck to the menu items that I knew I liked. Still, I think everyone had a good experience. It's always very nice to be able to sit down for a meal after a busy day in the parks. We all especially liked the pommes frites and the beignets.

After this most recent dining experience Cafe Orleans still holds its position as my favorite table service restaurant in Disneyland. It's especially nice to be able to sit outside on a pleasant afternoon or evening and enjoy NOT being out in the crowds.

July 4, 2016

Dining Review: River Belle Terrace

River Belle Terrace

Earlier this year the River Belle Terrace restaurant in Frontierland was converted from a counter service restaurant to a table service restaurant. As a counter service restaurant breakfast service was offered in addition to a lunch/dinner menu, while the table service restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner.

Many of us have enjoyed eating breakfast at the River Belle Terrace over the years - the outdoor patio offered a lovely overlook of the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island in the morning. And it was the only place around to get a Mickey Mouse pancake!

Mickey Mouse Pancake

Fortunately, the Mickey Mouse pancake and most of the other breakfast items live on at Rancho del Zocalo, which has now picked up the morning breakfast service. Unfortunately my personal favorite, the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, did not make the move, and is no longer available.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Recently we had the opportunity to try dinner at River Belle Terrace. We arrived at the podium about 5 minutes before our priority seating time. Our party of three was seated about 10 minutes later. We chose "first available" and were seated inside, though I was hoping for an outdoor table. It's a pleasant dining room, though very simply decorated.

River Belle Terrace Table

The menu is Southern inspired. It is the same for lunch and dinner and features sandwiches (fried chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket), pork ribs, fish and several entree salads.

River Belle Terrace Menu

We shared one of the appetizers: Creamy Pimento Cheese Dip, served with toasted bread and crispy celery for $10.00. This was actually quite tasty, and there was quite a bit of it. We quickly ran out of bread, but our server brought us more.

Creamy Pimento Cheese Dip

I tried the Grilled and Chilled Shrimp with house-made BBQ cocktail sauce and lemon. At $12.00 I thought this was a little pricey. Still, I enjoyed the shrimp and the sauce.

River Belle Terrace Grilled Shrimp

Lee ordered the House Salad with arugula, apple, Gorgonzola, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and apple vinaigrette for $6.00. Much more modestly priced, and a nice serving.

River Belle Terrace House Salad

As an entree I ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich - BBQ sauce and tangy coleslaw served on toasted ciabatta. The pork was not fatty and had a good flavor, though it could have used some more BBQ sauce. I was happy that they stuck with a traditional coleslaw and did not put peppers in it.

River Belle Terrace Pulled Pork Sandwich

All of the entrees come with their Signature baked beans and choice of an additional side: coleslaw, potato salad, seasoned tater tots, or seasonal vegetables. I ordered the tater tots and they were the clear winner here - we all really enjoyed those. They tasted really good dipped in the leftover pimento dip.

Lee tried the Beef Brisket Sandwich with smoked Provolone and fried onions served on toasted onion hoagie roll with steak sauce-mayo. He was very pleased with that.

River Belle Terrace Beef Brisket Sandwich

Our friend Michelle ordered River Belle's Chopped Salad with Romaine lettuce, black beans, garbanzo beans, pickles, roasted corn, red bell pepper, and tomatoes topped with fried onions and served with BBQ ranch dressing. It's served with choice of chicken, grilled shrimp, brisket or BBQ tofu. She had the tofu. I tried a bite of the tofu and I enjoyed it - it had a good flavor and a nice texture.

River Belle Terrace Chopped Salad w/Tofu

Other entrees include Fried Chicken Sandwich, Pork Spareribs, Oven-roasted Sausage Link Combo Sustainable Catch of the Day, BBQ Tofu, and Roasted Half Chicken.

For dessert Lee and I split the Maple, Apple, and Bacon Bundt Cake, because that sounded really interesting. It was an apple bundt cake with a hint of maple flavoring and some candied bacon. The bacon mostly just tasted sweet and added a crunchy element - I didn't really taste any bacon flavor. The other two desserts available were a Butterscotch Pudding Parfait and Fried Cheesecake.

Maple, Apple, Bacon Bundt Cake

Our server was good but not exceptional. Our meal was nicely paced, she kept our drinks refilled and brought us extra bread for the dip.

For what you get I thought it was overpriced, especially compared to options like Cafe Orleans and Carnation Cafe. The menu seems to be a combination of the (closed) Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and River Belle's former counter service menus. I'm glad we tried it, but I'm in no hurry to go back. My favorite Disneyland table service restaurant is still Cafe Orleans.

May 16, 2016

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, The Food

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

I'd say that we didn't eat like pixies this weekend...except that I really don't know what pixies eat! :-)

Thursday evening after the Expo we visited one of our favorites: Earl of Sandwich. Even when it's busy the lines are never as long as they are at the one in Florida. I had my favorite Holiday Turkey Sandwich with turkey, cranberries, stuffing and gravy. So good.

Earl of Sandwich Holiday Turkey

Lee had the All-American, a turkey sandwich with cranberries, cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Earl of Sandwich All-American

Last time we were here we'd really enjoyed the brownie bites. I went looking for them while we were standing in line. There was one container left, and in the time that that I traveled the length of the counter looking for more, someone came and grabbed them! Argh! So we had one of the regular brownies instead. It was pretty good.

Friday morning after the 5K we had breakfast at White Water Snacks at the Grand Californian. It was fairly busy since it had just opened and there were a number of other 5K runners with the same idea. At WWS you order any hot dishes at the register, and they give you a number, then deliver it to your table. It can sometimes be a very slow process, but it went pretty quickly that day.

I had the Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and red bliss potatoes. It was quite good, though it didn't come with any salsa, and all that was available was bottled hot sauce. I appreciated that it came with fruit.

White Water Snacks Breakfast Burrito

Lee tried the Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich with fried eggs, smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. The "biscuit" was more like a burger bun - not really very biscuit-like. But otherwise he enjoyed it, and it was very filling.

White Water Snacks Breakfast Biscuit

Lee had to participate in a conference call for work, so I went to DCA by myself for a while. It was a coolish drizzly morning, and when Ghirardelli opened I went there to try their Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa. It was good - I got a medium, but I would have been satisfied with a small.

Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa

We had lunch at Rancho del Zocalo in Disneyland. I tried something different this time: Chile Verde, chunks of pork braised in a tomatillo sauce, served with rice and beans. It had a really good flavor, but I thought the pork was a little dry. It wasn't really tender at all.

Ranch del Zocalo Chile Verde

Lee had the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter - carne asada and two cheese enchiladas with tortillas, rice and beans. He always enjoys this.

Rancho del Zocalo Carne Asada and Red Chile Enchilada

That evening we had an early dinner at Al Fresco Tasting Terrace at DCA. We split the Flatbread Two Ways - it has fig, apple, and arugula on one side and tomato, olives, and pancetta on the other.

Al Fresco Terrace Flatbread

Lee enjoyed the Beef Tenderloin Sliders.

Al Fresco Terrace Beef Sliders

I had the Bruschetta, which is one of my favorites.

Al Fresco Terrace Bruschetta

Since we only had a 10K the next day we enjoyed some wine, too. :-) I had a glass of the Silverado Sauvignon Blanc. Lee tried the Red Blends Wine Flight. The wine flights are not presented as nicely as they used to be - they used to bring a carrier with all three glasses, and include a card that had information on the three wines. This time the server simply brought the three glasses and told Lee what they were.

Al Fresco Terrace Red Blends Flight

The Terrace is really a lovely area - it's always very peaceful and relaxing up there. The Pixar Play Parade was going on during part of the time we were there, but it was still very easy to tune it out.

Saturday morning we went to Disneyland for Extra Magic Hour which started at 8:00. After the park opened at 9:00 we went to Rancho del Zocalo for breakfast. Several months ago it replaced River Belle Terrace as the breakfast location in Frontierland, and we had tried it yet. Most of the breakfast menu is similar to the one that was offered at River Belle - in particular the Mickey Mouse Pancakes - but Mexican-inspired entrees like Chilaquiles , Fajitas, and a Chorizo and Egg Burrito, are also available. But the item that didn't come over from River Belle was my favorite: the Cinnamon Roll French Toast. I missed that.

Lee had the Tamales for breakfast. Two pork tamales with rice and beans.

Rancho del Zocalo Breakfast Tamales

I ordered the Kid's Fruit Plate, which came with sliced fruit, a mini oat bran muffin and vanilla yogurt. I also ordered a side of scrambled eggs. The fruit and muffin were quite good, but the yogurt is that artificially sweet yogurt. It's too sweet and leaves a funny aftertaste.

Rancho del Zocalo Kid's Fruit Plate

The "American" selections are served at one counter and the "Mexican" selections at another. The Mexican selections didn't seem to be nearly as popular, so I wonder how long they will be available. The kitchen area is larger than in River Belle and there seemed to be more people working so the lines moved a lot faster than at River Belle. And at Zocalo the beverages are self-serve, so that seemed to help, also.

Rancho del Zocalo

Other than the absence of the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, we thought Zocalo's breakfast offerings were very good. While there's no indoor seating, there is quite a bit that's covered, in the event of rain.

We had lunch with friends at Carthay Circle Restaurant. Our server, Melynda, was a hoot, and really played well with us. One of the guys asked that there be at least 42 grains of rice with his entree. She explained, with a perfectly straight face, that it only came with 41, but that she would personally talk to the chef and see what she could do. :-) (She really exceeded herself - there were at least 200!)

There are a few set items on the Carthay Circle Restaurant menu but there are always seasonal specialties, too, especially the soup and salad. I ordered the seasonal soup and salad in lieu of an entree. The soup was Spicy Tropical Sun Gold Tomato Broth, with jerked pork shrimp, mushrooms, pineapple, and mango. It had a very pretty color and a good flavor - it was a little bit spicy.

Carthay Circle Spicy Sun Gold Tomato Broth

The Carthay Circle Escarole Salad salad was also very nice. It had strawberries, tangerines, and jicama with citrus vinaigrette. I particularly enjoyed the vinaigrette, as it wasn't overly citrusy.

Carthay Circle Escarole Salad

Lee had the Tangerine Ginger Grilled Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad. It had all kinds of things in it: edamame, cucumber, macadamia nuts, heirloom tomatoes, mint and cilantro. He enjoyed it.

Carthay Circle Soba Noodle Salad

The friends we were with tried the Meyer Lemon Custard Tart for dessert. The white squares on top are made of crispy meringue. It was a beautiful dish and they said it was very good.

Carthay Circle Meyer Lemon Custard Tart

That evening we met a friend for a pre-half marathon dinner at La Brea Bakery Cafe. I'd never considered this for a pre-race dinner, but they had several pasta choices in addition to the usual salads and sandwiches I associate with this restaurant.

I had the Mixed Greens Salad, and I had them add pan fried salmon to it. It was a very nice salad. The salmon was a little underdone in the middle, but I didn't bother to send it back.

La Brea Bakery Mixed Greens Salad

Lee had the Kabocha Squash Ravioli. He really enjoyed it. I tried some and it was very good - just a little hint of sweetness.

La Brea Bakery Kabocha Squash Ravioli

Our friend Jill had the La Brea Bakery Burger with sweet potato chips. She said it was really good. I tried a couple of the sweet potato chips and they were very tasty.

La Brea Bakery Burger

Sunday morning after we'd finished the race and showered we went into Downtown Disney to have breakfast at the UVA Bar and Cafe (our friend Eddie had clued us in to this place!). There was a line, but we only waited about 10 minutes for a table.

We both wanted celebratory glasses of bubbly! They have a very nice prosecco here. But I was very surprised when she brought it in stemless wine glasses...there had been a big demand for sparkling wine that morning (go figure) and they were out of clean flute glasses! This photo just doesn't have quite the same impact without a champagne flute in it.

UVA Bar Prosecco

On race mornings they do a subset of their regular breakfast menu, because they are SO much busier than usual. I had the Farm Fresh Eggs - scrambled and served with country potatoes (but no peppers!), choice of bacon or sausage, and choice of white/wheat toast or English muffin. Nothing fancy, but it tasted good.

UVA Cafe Farm Fresh Eggs

Lee had the Chilaquiles. He was very happy with this. I tried a little bit, and it was quite good.

UVA Cafe Chilaquiles

Think he was hungry? :-)

UVA Bar empty plate

That was our final meal for this trip. It was nice to try some different places, but we enjoyed visiting some of our favorites, also.

February 5, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 4 - Dining


During our three days at Disneyland for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, we tried a few different dining options. We (gasp!) did not have any meals at our usual pre-race favorite, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta!

Friday evening we were tired after a long week at work, driving in traffic to Anaheim, visiting the Expo, and checking into our hotel. So we wanted something fairly easy, and went to Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. It was about 6:00, and we were surprised that the line wasn't very long.

They have some new items on the "Get the Skinny" menu, which are under 400 calories. There's a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, Quinoa Chicken Salad, and Turkey Wrap. They looked interesting but I opted for one of my favorites: The Holiday Turkey, with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, and gravy. Yum.

Earl of Sandwich Holiday Turkey

I also had a cup of the Chicken Noodle soup. It was good, but it was a small serving - they didn't fill the cup very full.

Earl of Sandwich Chicken Noodle

Lee had The Original 1762 - roast beef with horseradish sauce.

Earl of Sandwich Original 1762

Lee also picked up a container of Brownie Bites. These were surprisingly good! Moist and chewy and very chocolaty and satisfying. We really enjoyed these - we still had a couple left on Monday, and even then they were still very good!

Earl of Sandwich Brownie Bite

Earl of Sandwich Menu

On Saturday morning after the 10K and Kids Races we went into Disneyland - I wanted to try the breakfast menu at the Galactic Grill, which has Star Wars-inspired menu items.

I tried the Bantha Blue Milk Bread. This was essentially French toast, served with bacon and fresh fruit. It was pretty good.

Galactic Grill Bantha Blue Milk Bread

Lee went with the Darth Tamale. A blue corn tamale with scrambled eggs, chorizo, red chili sauce and tomatillo salsa. I had a bite and found that the chili sauce was pretty spicy. I couldn't have eaten this but Lee really enjoyed it, enough that he recommended it to several other people. Though with the caution that it was for people who like spicy food.

Galactic Grill Darth Tamale

Galactic Grill Breakfast Menu

That afternoon we had something from Lucky Fortune Cookery. I like the idea of rice bowls and veggies with choice of meat and sauce, but they use peppers in the veggie mix, which makes it inedible for me. But on the kid's menu there's a chicken and brown rice offering, served with oranges and carrots - but no peppers. So I tried that. It was a good-sized serving and I liked it. The oranges were on top of the chicken, and the carrots were in a bag. There was a mild teriyaki type of sauce on the chicken. I'd get that again.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Kids Chicken and Rice

Lee ordered the beef bowl with teriyaki sauce. He liked it.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Teriyaki Beef

Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu

That evening a group of us went to Naples in Downtown Disney for dinner. We had a reservation for 5:30. As you might expect, it was a popular choice on the night before a race, and there was a long line to check in. Some in our party knew from previous experience that it was for walk-ups, and that those with reservations checked in at the podium inside. Once our fearless leader did that, we were soon seated at an outside table.

It was coolish evening, but there were gas heaters around us, so that was fine - until they ran out of propane. And then apparently there were no additional gas canisters to be had, so it got a little chilly by the time we left.

Unlike our experience at Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World, Naples had a couple of "runner's specials" in addition to their regular menu. These included salad as well as pasta choices. We didn't go for any of those, though.

Our server (Amazing Amanda!) brought us fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Must...Not...Fill...Up...On...Bread....(But it's sooo good!)

As an entree I ordered Agnolotti - housemade cheese ravioli with fresh tomato and basil sauce. I requested marinara rather than basil sauce - I love pesto, but it can be too garlicky the night before a race. It was very good.

Naples Restaurant Agnolotti

Lee tried the Lasagna, a traditional eight layer lasagna with Bolognese meat sauce, béchamel and Parmesan cheese. He enjoyed it.

Naples Restaurant Lasagna

Some of our dining companions ordered the Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Naples Restaurant Spaghetti and Meatballs

The restaurant was quite busy, but we didn't feel rushed to finish, and had a very nice meal. Naples is not my favorite restaurant but this was a very nice experience.

Naples Restaurant Menu

Sunday morning after the half marathon and a hot shower we met friends at the UVA Bar for breakfast. Lee and I had never had breakfast here before, but our friend Eddie really likes it - and he had already gotten a table for all of us. It's outdoor seating, but there was a heat lamp nearby (that had plenty of propane ;-) ) and we were warm enough. It was fun to people-watch and see all of the runners coming by in their medals and costumes. We saw several people we knew.

We started with celebratory mimosas, and then ordered breakfast. :-) I went with "2 Organic Eggs", served with potatoes and choice of toast. Thankfully there were no peppers in the eggs! Nothing fancy, but it was nicely prepared.

UVA Bar Two Organic Eggs Breakfast

Lee went with the Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, mild red chile sauce, and aged cheddar. This looked very good, and he liked it.

UVA Bar Breakfast Burrito

Eddie tried the Buttermilk Pancakes, and enjoyed those.

UVA Bar Buttermilk Pancakes

Phill ordered the Steel Cut Oats, which was served with honey, raisins, and almonds. I didn't get a picture of that - oatmeal is just not very photogenic. :-)

We enjoyed the food and ambiance and especially the company - definitely a place we'll consider returning to for breakfast on a future Disneyland trip.

UVA Bar & Cafe Breakfast Menu

We didn't really have lunch - we had an afternoon snack at Ghirardelli. :-) I had my new favorite Nob Hill Chill, though it wasn't quite as thick this time as I like it.

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

Lee had the Sea Salt Caramel Sundae.

Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Sundae

For dinner, we joined several friends at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. Lee and I have eaten here several times before and have always enjoyed the food, and there's a lot of variety on the menu. Our friends told us later that it was the best meal they had on their visit - and they'd eaten at several other Disney table service restaurants.

We had an early reservation, and were seated in the corner of the big room upstairs. That was nice and out of the way. It was quiet when we arrived, but it got a lot noisier as the place filled up. Oh well...we enjoyed it while we could.

There were several specialty cocktails on the menu. This is The Blue Marquise, in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary. The color apparently came from 44th North Huckleberry Vodka. It was very pretty and quite tasty.

Ralph Brennans Blue Marquise

Lee and I shared an appetizer: Boudin Balls. Slow roasted cochon pork, dirty rice, Creole mustard aioli with Tabasco pepper jelly. They were deep-fried, and they were really, really good.

Ralph Brennans Boudin Balls

Another couple shared the Louisiana Crab Cake - with fire roasted corn cucumber salsa and Creole mustard drizzle. They liked it.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake

Since I knew I wanted dessert, I didn't order an entree, and instead ordered soup and salad. The soup of the day was tomato and artichoke, and it was excellent.

Ralph Brennans Soup of the Day

I ordered the house French Quarter salad - mixed greens, candied pecans, cherry tomatoes and cider vinaigrette. Not too exciting, but it was a nice salad.

Ralph Brennans French Quarter Salad

Lee ordered the classic BBQ Shrimp and Grits with barbecue sauce and andouille-parmesan grits. Very good.

Ralph Brennans BBQ Shrimp & Grits

Other entrees:

Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese - Applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes, baby arugula and rosemary garlic ciabatta bread.

Ralph Brennans Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese

Grilled Medallions of Beef - Filet mignon, crawfish mashed potatoes, bacon & pecan-crusted green beans and a zinfandel reduction.

Ralph Brennans Grilled Medallions of Beef

Gumbo Ya-Ya - Chicken, andouille sausage, dark roux, Creole seasoning and rice.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake Gumbo Ya-Ya

Southern Fried Chicken - highly recommended by our server, and a winner. With smoked gouda mac & cheese, bacon braised turnip greens, lemon-pepper gravy.

Ralph Brennans Southern Fried Chicken

As I mentioned, I didn't order an entree because I knew what I wanted for dessert: Double Chocolate Bread Pudding. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and should be pre-ordered - the servers should ask about it in plenty of time so that you don't end up waiting for it. It's served with dark chocolate and white chocolate sauce - use one or the other or both. This is a dessert for two (or more) people to share...Lee and I only got through about 2/3 of ours. Really good.

Ralph Brennans Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

This was a wonderful meal with great company, and we really enjoyed it.

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Dinner Menu

Monday morning a group of us did early entry at DCA. After two rides on Radiator Springs Racers (for our first ride we were in the first group of cars for the day!) and a wrist and arm workout on Toy Story Midway Mania, we went in search of breakfast.

Pacific Wharf Cafe is no longer serving breakfast, and neither is Cozy Cone #3. :-( That left Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe (Starbucks) and Flo's V8 Cafe as our only options. So we went to Flo's. I decided I wanted some Churro Bites from Cozy Cone #1, but when I got there was very disappointed to find that they no longer serve Churro Bites - just regular churros. Not what I wanted.

I don't like the scrambled eggs at Flo's - they are baked or steamed or something and have a weird texture. I had the fruit plate, which came with yogurt and a mini oat bran muffin.

Flo's Breakfast Fruit Plate

Lee had the American Breakfast, with the aforementioned weird eggs, potatoes, bacon and a biscuit. That's another thing I don't like about Flo's - the potatoes have peppers in them.

Flo's American Breakfast

Kim had the Kids Waffles - this came with turkey bacon and fruit. It's a pretty decent-sized breakfast, I think!

Flo's Kids Waffle Breakfast

Someone else had the Chicken Tamale, topped with scrambled eggs and salsa verde. This is pretty good, except that I think the tamale has too much masa and not enough filling. It's very attractive, though.

Flo's Chicken Tamale

Flo's V8 Cafe Breakfast Menu

By lunch time almost all of our playmates had departed for the airport, but there were still four of us left, so Dave and Holly and Lee and I all went to Trader Sam's. We were just in time to get a table inside as another party was leaving. It's noisier in there, but more fun. The one bartender was really into all of the special drink effects, and that made it a lot more entertaining.

Trader Sam's

I had a Passionate Python, with a couple different types of rum, passion fruit juice, and other tropical juices.

Trader Sam's Passionate Python

Lee went with the Piranha Pool - Strawberry vodka blended with pineapple juice, cream of coconut, strawberry puree, and blue Curacao. This is a good one.

Trader Sam's Piranha Pool

I think Holly has not yet forgiven me for suggesting the Murky Mojito to her. :-) Rum, fresh lime juice, mint and agave nectar topped with Angostura Bitters - she said it was really strong.

Trader Sam's Murky Mojito

We had food, too. I tried the Shrimp Tacos, which were new to me. They were quite good.

Trader Sam's Shrimp Tacos

Lee and Dave both had the Kalua Pork Flatbread, which I did not photograph, but you can see the corner of it in the Piranha Pool photo above.

Holly had part of Dave's flatbread, but also ordered the Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans, which she shared with the rest of us - those are so good.

Trader Sam's Panko-Crusted Long Beans

Trader Sam's Menu

That was our final meal for this particular trip. It was fun to have some new experiences this time, and especially to share a number of meals with good friends.

January 29, 2016

Disneyland Update - 1/22/16


For a change Jason didn't go to the parks, so you get a Disneyland update from me instead. :-) It won't be as thorough or have nearly as many photos, though. I didn't make it to DCA since I was with a friend who didn't have a park hopper ticket.

We arrived at the Toy Story lot about 11:40. I was surprised that we were still able to park in the "Woody" section - though we were in the last row. While I would rather park in Mickey and Friends, I have found that when coming in from Ball Rd. I more often than not am diverted south on Disneyland Drive over to parking at either Garden Walk or Toy Story, so I just go straight to Toy Story now. I avoid a lot of traffic and aggravation that way.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no line at the security checkpoint. We presented our bags and breezed through. We were not randomly selected to walk through the metal detector.

A number of Disneyland attractions were closed - the Rivers of America attractions will be closed for an extended period of time (at least into spring of 2017) because of Star Wars land construction:
Disneyland Railroad
Mark Twain Riverboat
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
Sailing Ship Columbia
Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
Jungle Cruise

Tomorrowland was the most crowded area of the park - Season of the Force is still very popular. Still, we were able to get a Fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain with a return time of 3:15 - a little over three hours later.

Hyperspace Mountain

We walked into Path of the Jedi just a couple of minutes before the show started. Kristin was happy for the refresher, since she was planning to see "The Force Awakens" two days later. And she's told me since then that seeing Path of the Jedi helped her enjoy the movie more.

Star Tours had a standby wait of 50 minutes, but we were able to pop across the way and blast some astros at Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Though it's not running, the Mark Twain was at the Frontierland dock and open to visitors, though apart from wandering around on board there wasn't anything to do. I heard later that there are sometimes characters on board for meet and greet opportunities, such as Princess Tiana and Louis. On other days the Sailing Ship Columbia is at the dock instead.

Mark Twain Riverboat

Big Thunder Trail is now closed. On the Frontierland side it's closed just beyond the exit of Big Thunder Mountain.

Frontierland closed

Frontierland closed

Outside the Jungle Cruise there are skippers who interact with guests and pose for photos. They also conduct Skipper School several times a day.

Jungle Cruise Skipper School

When Lee and I were there a couple of weeks ago we had more of an opportunity to talk to the skippers about this and what's going on with the attraction. Guests who participate get to tell a Jungle Cruise joke and receive a Skipper certificate. When the attraction reopens (April?) you can bring your certificate to the attraction exit and use it as a Fastpass.

And, again according to the skippers, among the changes being made are modifications to the load/unload process. Instead of using ropes and "skipper power" to hold the floating boats next to the docks, the boats will go into some kind of dock container that will compress and hold them in place for loading and unloading. This should be safer and hopefully speed up the process.

Part of the Adventureland bridge/walkway was closed though the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Dole Whip stand were still accessible from the Main Street side.

Adventureland construction wall

Here's a look at attraction wait times at 12:50.

Disneyland wait times

By this time we needed to head over to the Disneyland Hotel for our Classic Afternoon Tea (follow the link to read my review on that). It was a lovely experience.

Practically Perfect Tea

After tea we took the monorail back from Downtown Disney - I haven't done that in a long time.

You can see the train pulled up at the Main Street station - although the railroad is closed, Disneyland has a train available at the Main Street station where guests can talk to one of the engineers about them.

Disneyland train

First stop was to get Fastpasses for Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear. The Fastpass machines for those two attractions are co-located. Since the Buzz Fastpass machines are not linked to the rest of the system, you can get a Fastpass for Buzz even when you have a Fastpass for something else!

It wasn't quite time for our Hyperspace Mountain Fastpasses, so we went on Holiday "it's a small world". This was the final weekend before the short refurb period to remove the holiday overlay. I was surprised that it was a very short wait - 5 minutes, maybe.

small world holiday

After that it WAS time to ride Hyperspace Mountain! It was great - I really enjoy this attraction and all of the new visuals, and especially the music. I think you really want to be in rows 4-6 and not 1-3: there are a few effects that you don't see very well if you're in the front.

Hyperspace Mountain

We went from battling one evil empire to battling another, as we then used our Buzz Lightyear Fastpasses to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg.

The Haunted Mansion had just reopened that day after the holiday overlay was removed. I always find it strange to ride this attraction when it's not in holiday mode. The Fastpass machines were in use, which is unusual, as they are typically only used during the holiday period. The Standby line was posted as 20 minutes, but I don't think it took that long.

Haunted Mansion

We wandered back to Critter Country. The Hungry Bear restaurant is surrounded by scrims and looks closed. But there's a cast member out in front with menus so that guests will know that it's open.

Hungry Bear construction walls

Splash Mountain was basically a walk-on - I haven't decided whether it's because no one wanted to get wet (it had been a sunny day, though by then the sun was behind clouds and the temp was around 66) or if people thought nothing back there was open because so much of the Rivers of America area is closed. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a walk-on for us. We both love Tigger.

Tigger, Rabbit, and Pooh were outside Pooh's Corner greeting guests, and there were quite a few guests waiting in line. So at least there was something in the area that was drawing more of a crowd. Otherwise, Critter Country seems a little sad right now.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had been down earlier, and now had a long standby line, but we could get a Fastpass with a return time of less than an hour later. We still had an hour to go before our Star Tours Fastpass was valid, and we went to Redd Rockett's Pizza Port for dinner. I wanted to try one of the Season of the Force specials - the Dark Side Chicken Curry Pizza. It had curry chicken, roasted cauliflower, Gouda and mozzarella cheese, cumin, pickled vegetables and fried beans. The sauce was a little too spicy for me, which is unfortunate, because otherwise I enjoyed it. But because of the spice level I wouldn't get it again.

Dark Side Chicken Curry Pizza

There are a couple other Season of the Force specials: The Fields of Naboo salad and Forest of Endor pasta. There's also a Chewbacca Cheesecake. And this is one of the locations where the BB-8 beverage container is available for purchase.

Redd Rockett's Pizza Port Menu

Chewbacca cheesecake

I liked the Season of the Force posters in the dining area.

Season of the Force posters

Time to take a trip on Star Tours! During Season of the Force most of the random elements have been removed and the first planet visited is always Jakku, and BB-8 is the holographic character in the next scene. All three times I'd done it before I'd seen the security droid as the first scene, and Naboo as the final scene, so I was wondering if that was the only configuration. But this time Vader was the opening scene and Coruscant was the final scene, so I saw something a little different.

For our final attraction of the day we used our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses. This ride is so much more fun at night!

We had a great day. Even though we didn't arrive until noon, and had a two-hour break, we still managed to get four Fastpasses and experience 10 different attractions before we left at 7:00. It's always fun for me to visit Disneyland with someone who isn't a frequent visitor and experience it through their eyes. Even with all of the construction and closures there's still a lot to do, and there were a number of other things we would've done if we'd had more time.

January 25, 2016

Afternoon Tea at Steakhouse 55


I recently read in the Disney Parks blog that Disney was going to start serving afternoon tea at Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel. I love afternoon tea - and I fondly remember the "Practically Perfect Tea" they used to serve at the Paradise Pier Hotel, which included an appearance by Mary Poppins! (This photo is from 1997!)

Practically Perfect Tea

"Classic Afternoon Tea at the Disneyland Hotel" was scheduled to begin on Friday, January 22, so I made a reservation for that day and invited my friend Kristin to join me, so we could celebrate her upcoming birthday. Tea is served from 12:00-3:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Though no ending date has been announced, "through spring" is what Disney has stated.

We checked in a little early at Steakhouse 55, but were seated after just a short wait. Only about 2/3 of the tables were occupied, and there were empty tables, almost like a buffer, between most of the tables. Of course those tables were nicely set with tea cups and china, also.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

There are three different tea services on the menu: two for adults, and one for kids. I'll warn you that it is fairly pricey. The Classic Tea Party ($50) and Premium Tea Party ($65) offerings for adults both include scones, tea sandwiches, desserts and as many different teas and herbals as you wish to sample. The Premium also includes salad, a glass of Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, and a farewell gift of truffles. (If you're familiar with my blog, then one guess as to which one I chose. :-) )

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

The Kids Tea Party ($35) includes chocolate chip scones shaped like Mickey's head, tea sandwiches, and desserts. In addition to tea, kids can also choose juice, milk and hot chocolate.

A selection of aperitifs, wines, ports and sherrys is available by the glass (additional charge).

Classic Afternoon Tea at the Disneyland Hotel Menu

Our tea began with our glasses of the Fairy Tale Cuvee. Kristin hadn't tried it before, and really enjoyed it.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

Our server asked us what teas we might be interested in, and offered some recommendations. She explained that we could try as many as we liked, and we could each have our own teapot, or share one. We initially chose the "house" tea: Perfect Afternoon, a blend of Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon. The teapot was smaller than those you usually see in tea rooms - but that was fine, since we wanted to sample, and the smaller pot meant we wouldn't waste a lot.

The first course was the salad. Baby lettuce with mint leaves, orange segments, sliced grape tomatoes and radishes, with Green Goddess dressing. I found the mint leaves odd, and after the first bite I put them aside, but Kristin liked the taste.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea salad

To go along with our tea, we had a selection of sweeteners - including rock candy sticks - as well as lemon wedges and honey.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

The tea was fine - not the best black tea I've ever had. It didn't have a very strong flavor.

Once we were done with our salads, our server brought the tiered plate server with all sorts of beautiful goodies on it.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

There were two different kinds of scones: currant scones, and blueberry scones with an orange glaze on top.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea scones

We had Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam to go with them. Kristin preferred the currant scone, and I liked the blueberry, but they were both very good.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

For tea sandwiches, we had cucumber and water cress, deviled egg salad, salmon gravlax, and mozzarella, basil, and tomato. Cucumber is not my favorite, but this was sliced very thinly. The water cress leaves were large! The mozzarella tomato was my favorite, but the egg salad and salmon were also very good. All were served on a different type of bread.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea sandwiches

We ordered a second pot of tea - we went back and forth between the Chakra Silver Tips (a white tea) and the Redbush Caramel Velvet, and decided on the latter. It was a rooibos tea (no caffeine) with a dulce de leche flavor. Very nice - just needed a bit of sweetener to bring out the caramel flavor.

We were starting to feel a little full, but we still had a plate of desserts to go! There were two chocolate-covered strawberries: one white chocolate, one milk chocolate. Also two mini fruit tarts and a selection of macarons. There were two chocolate, a strawberry, and a pineapple. The pineapple one tasted like caramel and not pineapple. The chocolate ones were my favorites.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea desserts

We asked about coconut macarons and our server said they had some, and brought us an extra plate. I didn't taste coconut in them - they had a passion fruit filling.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea macarons

Our server told us that we could request that any of the teas be iced - and that we could get some to go. So we tried a third tea iced to go: Mountain Berry a caffeine-free herbel tea. It was very refreshing.

Last but not least we received a little packet with two chocolate truffles in it, to eat later. Because we were certainly too full to eat them at that time! It was a reasonable amount of food, plus it was on the rich side, and very satisfying. We saw a number of people taking "to-go" boxes out with them who obviously had not eaten everything.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea truffles

The tea was nicely paced, and we never felt rushed at all. It took about an hour and 15 minutes. The restaurant was quiet and it was a very relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. As I mentioned before, they did not seat all of the tables, which helped keep it quieter. I asked if there were two seatings, and was told it's about a seating and a half. So they'll turn the tables seated within the first hour or so, but not all of them. If you wanted to make it a special event such as a birthday party or bridal shower, there were some larger tables available.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

Some people dressed up for the occasion, but I'd say that the majority were in park attire as we were. We certainly did not feel at all uncomfortable.

The service was excellent. The servers were excited about this new offering, and eager to answer any questions we might have. A manager came around and asked us about our experience.

As I mentioned it's rather expensive. Annual passholder discounts are available, but even so it was over $140 with tax and tip. My opinion: it's worth paying the additional $15 for the Premium Tea Party since it offers several additional items. It also includes salad, truffles and the glass of sparkling wine (the wine alone would be $17 if you purchased it separately).

I think Classic Afternoon Tea is an excellent special occasion type of experience, though at this price it's not something I would do very often.

July 8, 2015

Disneyland Trip Report - July 3, 2015


Lee and I visited Disneyland on Friday, July 3. We hadn't been able to get to the parks since the end of May. Our main goal for the day was to see the All-American College Band. We were hoping that some of the 4th of July festivities might also take place on July 3 (that's happened in the past), but not this year.

We arrived at the Toy Story parking lot about 9:45. I've given up trying to get into the Mickey and Friends parking lot when coming from the south - if I get re-routed, it adds an extra 20-30 minutes to the whole parking experience. In addition to the parking ticket, the attendant also handed us this pamphlet. In nine different languages it says that Selfie Sticks are not allowed in the parks, because they "have become a growing safety concern for both our Guests and Cast." There were also signs at the tram stops and outside the bag check tents. I don't know if it was because of the selfie sticks or for some other reason, but the bag checkers were doing a more thorough job, so that process took a little longer.

Disneyland 070315

We went into Disney California Adventure first, though at that point (10:00) neither park had much of a line at the turnstiles. We met up with Jason and his family and went to Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe - aka Starbucks. In case you didn't realize it, they serve one version of the special Diamond Anniversary Cupcakes here. :-)

Disneyland Anniversary Cupcake

This one is the orange cupcake with berry filling. In the name of research I tried it, even though I think orange as a cupcake flavor is just wrong. The sacrifices I make! :-) For a flavored cupcake it was pretty good, though I prefer the lemon version that is available at Disneyland (and I still can't believe they didn't make a CHOCOLATE cupcake!).

Diamond Anniversary cupcake

In addition to the berry filling (which there wasn't much of) there were little bits of fruit in the cake, which I think were currants. The cream cheese icing was very tasty but there was a LOT of it - Lee used some on his scone and there was still a lot left. The "pearls" were interesting - we never really figured out what they were. Some kind of candy-coated crispy thing. And the blue icing is very blue, and it will dye your tongue and your fingers, and anything else it comes into contact with.

Diamond Anniversary cupcake

Also offered here was a 4th of July cookie. I didn't think there was much of a 4th of July presence in the parks this year - usually there are banners on Main Street and Buena Vista Street, but this year it's all of the Diamond Anniversary stuff instead.

Disneyland 4th of July cookie

In addition to the band, the other group we wanted to see was the United States Air Force Honor Guard. For July 2-6, there were several different military groups that were performing in the parks, and on Friday it was the Air Force group. We saw their first set in Disney California Adventure (Jason also saw them later in Disneyland).

U.S.  Air Force Honor Guard

They did some really well-choreographed and synchronized routines. Jason has more in his blog, but here is a short video he put together of some clips. They told us that those rifles they are flipping around to effortlessly weigh 13 pounds!

While it wasn't a hot day, it would have been very warm standing in the sun in those dark uniforms. I'd find it very challenging to never change expression or scratch an itch or wipe my face, but they did it.

U.S.  Air Force Honor Guard

A sneak peek of the upcoming Ant-Man movie is showing (appropriately) in the "It's Tough to be a Bug" theater. Where it takes advantage of all of the special effects used for the regular show. :-)

Ant-Man sneak peak

The Ant-Man suit was on display outside. I can't say that seeing the preview really gave me much desire to see the movie. But there were quite a few people in the theater. And there were Disney survey takers outside afterward asking about the experience.

Ant-Man suit

For lunch we went to Flo's in Cars Land. It had been quite a while since we had eaten lunch/dinner there - much of the menu has changed since the last time we ate there. I had the Spit-Fired Rotisserie 1/4 Chicken served with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. The chicken was ok - the roasted vegetables were actually very good.

Flo's Rotisserie Chicken

Lee tried the BBQ Pork Ribs with Coca-cola barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. Lee enjoyed them, and said the sauce was very good. I thought the ribs were a little dry.

Flo's BBQ Ribs

Flo's offers their Pie-o-Rama for dessert. Mud pie and apple cheddar are always available, but there is a seasonal, which was coconut cream. That's Lee's favorite pie, so we tried it. But it was disappointing - the filling didn't taste much like coconut at all. Most of the coconut flavor came from what was sprinkled on top.

Flo's Coconut Cream pie

We didn't really have any plans until 3:00, so I suggested the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony at Redwood Creek. It was very exciting - we learned the Wilderness Explorer Oath, the Wilderness Explorer Call. Ok, so apparently I was the only person in our group who was excited. :-)

Wilderness Explorer ceremony

There was our senior scout, and Russell, and we even saw Kevin! I don't remember Kevin's appearance from the last time I saw it (which admittedly was a number of years ago).

Wilderness Explorer ceremony

We made a short detour into the Grand Californian Hotel to see the Sleeping Beauty Castle Cake in the lobby. It's very pretty. Lots of marshmallows, white chocolate, rice cereal, and fondant.

Sleeping Beauty Castle Cake

The 2015 All-American College Band's first performance of the day was their jazz set at the Hollywood Backlot stage. This is their 45th season - 45 years of bringing together some of the best college musicians to perform at Disneyland during the summer. These kids are so talented. This set even included vocals - one of the guys sang "Zero to Hero" from Hercules.

College Band Jazz set

Time for a snack - so we went to Ghirardelli. I had my new favorite Nob Hill Chill. The hot fudge sundae you can drink. :-)

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

Over in Disneyland we checked out the second of Enchanted Windows on Main Street. This one switches between Cinderella's transformation and dancing at the ball. The reflections make them very difficult to photograph, especially during the day.

Cinderella Enchanted Window
Cinderella Enchanted Window

We continued to stalk...I mean follow...the College Band, as they performed during the nightly Flag Retreat. There's only 21 of them, but they put out a lot of sound!

College Band Flag Retreat

The parks were surprisingly not that busy, especially considering that it was a holiday for many people. Maybe most were waiting until July 4 to visit. The line for Splash Mountain was over an hour, but all of the other big attractions were less than an hour. Peter Pan just re-opened after a pretty lengthy refurbishment and it was very popular, with a 50-minute wait. Lee and I didn't get there but Jason did, and he has video and photos in his blog.

At 6:15 we watched the band perform their set at Sleeping Beauty Castle. Their medley of music from different Disneyland attractions is always very popular.

College Band Sleeping Beauty Castle

They marched down Main Street, stopping to perform a couple of different songs.

College Band Main Street

The band didn't have much of a break before their next set in front of the train station. This year they are performing a Stevie Wonder medley, as well as their Earth, Wind, and Fire finale. They are so talented and so much fun to watch!

College Band Train Station

I'd hope to eat dinner at the Plaza Inn, but the line was way out the door. Lee suggested Jolly Holiday Bakery. I had the Artisan BLT. I'm not exactly sure what was "artisanal" about it. :-) But it was tasty. I really like the house chips they serve here.

Jolly Holiday Artisan BLT Sandwich

Lee suggested the Bakery because he recalled the excellent Oven-roasted Turkey Sandwich he'd had before, which is what he ordered this time. It's REAL turkey breast, and that makes a huge difference.

Jolly Holiday Turkey Sandwich

I wasn't paying attention to the drink menu, and missed my opportunity to try another of the specialty tea beverages that are available during the Diamond Anniversary. Jolly Holiday offers the Frozen Pomegranate Silver Sparkler, which I really like, but there's also another one I hadn't seen before: Very Berry Diamond Tea. It's $3.59, or $7.59 with a diamond glow cube.

Jason texted us to tell us there were still spots for Paint the Night where he was standing on Main Street. We hadn't planned to stay for the parade and fireworks, but at this point the start of the parade was only 30 minutes away, so we figured we should grab the opportunity. While we were in the back of the section, it was still a really good view of the parade.

Paint the Night Tinker Bell and Peter Pan

And this is still a spectacular parade. This was only the second time we'd seen it, so I'm still seeing and especially hearing new things. I really like the music.

Paint the Night Cinderella float

The dancers' costumes are fantastic, but they are in almost constant motion so it's very hard for me to get good photos of them.

Paint the Night Coral Dancers

As soon as the parade ended we rushed into the street to get in place for the fireworks. We were next to the Crystal Arcade, so we had a fairly clear expanse of buildings on either side of us. The immersive effect of being on Main Street is something you really have to experience with this show.

Disneyland Forever Tangled Projection

The crowd really gets into it when they hear The Lion King music begin.

Disneyland Forever Lion King Projection

The search lights overhead are interesting to watch, also.

Disneyland Forever

Oh, and there are fireworks, too. :-)

Disneyland Forever Mermaid fireworks

While roaming around the parks earlier in the day we had picked up this S'mores Mickey Crispy Treat. We tried it the next day at home. It was just ok. The graham crackers had gotten soft. If they had been crisp it might have been better - but I still don't think it would have made much difference.

S'mores Mickey Crispy Treat

We had a wonderful day at the parks - the weather was great, and the crowds weren't bad at all. Though we didn't really experience the crowds that much since we weren't trying to do attractions. We can have a good time just wandering around and taking advantage of all of the entertainment options.

June 3, 2015

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Dining - Fantasmic! and World of Color Dining Packages


Disclaimer: This blog really doesn't deal with dining that is specific to the Diamond Anniversary - just dining that I did when I was there for the opening weekend of the Diamond Anniversary. Though we did two dining packages that gave us preferred viewing for two of the new shows: World of Color - Celebrate!, and Disneyland Forever (from the Rivers of America).

We began with a quick-service dinner the night of the World of Color premiere. We wanted something fast. The line for Earl of Sandwich was out the door (as usual), so we went to Jazz Kitchen Express. I ordered the BBQ Pork Po-Boy with Southern Coleslaw. I was wearing a white shirt, but fortunately I managed to eat it without incident. It was ok - the BBQ sauce was a little too sweet for me. The coleslaw had red peppers in it (WHO puts peppers in coleslaw?), which made it inedible for me.

Jazz Kitchen Express Pork Po-Boy

Lee tried the Classic Red Beans & Rice. I tried some of it - it had a bit of a kick to it. I don't remember that when I've had it before. He liked it, though.

Jazz Kitchen Express Red Beans and Rice

On the 24-hour day, we didn't get our first real meal until that evening. About a month before I'd booked a Fantasmic! dinner package at River Belle Terrace for that evening. I had a couple of reasons: first, I wanted to see what the Disneyland Forever fireworks looked like from the Rivers of America, second, I wanted to try the River Belle Terrace in its table service incarnation, and third, I wanted to be sure that we actually had a meal and an opportunity to sit down and relax for a while that day.

On days when Fantasmic! runs, River Belle Terrace doesn't serve the usual lunch/dinner menu. Instead, breakfast is served until 2:00, and then the dinner service starts at 4:00. The restaurant becomes a table service restaurant, using the tables inside and those outside on the patio above the walkway that connects Adventureland and New Orleans Square. The outdoor tables on the Frontierland side are still available to anyone as seating for Stage Door Cafe or any of the nearby food carts.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Dinner

Our reservation time was 5:20. We arrive a few minutes early and had a very short wait before we were seated. We opted for an outside table rather than inside. The restaurant was an oasis of calm on a very busy day. It was really nice to sit down and relax and enjoy a good meal!

The Fantasmic! menu is a three course table service meal. It includes rolls and beverage. The price is $41.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids. We had a very nice server who quickly brought us our bread and beverages and took our order.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Dinner

For my first course I ordered the Fresh Mixed Greens - served with tomatoes, crostini and shaved Parmesan cheese. It was a really beautiful salad, and very nicely presented. I enjoyed it.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Salad

Lee had the other appetizer choice: Creamy Corn Chowder with bacon and chives. He really liked this - it wasn't totally pureed, and had a lot of corn kernels in it. That made it too "corny" for me, but that was one of the reason he enjoyed it so much.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Corn  Chowder

For my entree, I ordered Rosemary-marinated Chicken Breast with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. It came with a lemon thyme sauce which I asked for on the side. This was perhaps one of the best pieces of chicken I have ever been served: it was moist and flavorful. Just excellent.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Chicken

Lee had the Slow-roasted New York Strip and a Cajun Shrimp Skewer, also served with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. The meat is not cooked to order - it's all cooked medium. Lee said it was good but not great - he really enjoyed the shrimp, though.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Steak

The other entree choice was Hand-tossed Cavatappi Pasta Primavera served with seasonal vegetables.

For dessert I ordered Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Sauce. It was just ok - the chocolate on top tasted like Hershey syrup, and there were little bits of gelatin in it.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Mousse Cake

Lee tried the other dessert option, Caramel Apple Pie with Streusel. That was served warm and it was very good, and a generous portion. Both of the desserts were good-sized.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Apple Pie

We were able to get an Annual Passholder discount on dinner. Our server asked us which show we wanted to see. That surprised me - I thought that we'd have no choice but to go to the first show based on our reservation time. I'm sure it's based on availability, and we wanted the first show, but it was nice to have the option.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Fastpasses

The Disneyland receipts all have the Diamond Anniversary logo at the top now - I thought that was neat.

River Belle Terrace Diamond Receipt

Our server told us to show up at Harbor Galley at 8:45 for the 9:00 show, and the ticket said to show up at 8:30. We arrived closer to 8:30, and there were already lots of people in our section - there were maybe a dozen who arrived after us. The viewing area was just to the left of center stage - it was really a great location. We all had to sit on the ground but there was plenty of room. We were in the third row of people. I wished that we had remembered to bring the Fantasmic! seat cushions we'd gotten in January when we did the dining package at Blue Bayou - it's the only restaurant that offers those.

Fantasmic! was terrific, as always, but the real reason we had come was to see the new fireworks show, and to see how the projections would look on the mist screens. We were in the perfect spot - the fireworks were almost centered over the mist screen in front of us. And in addition to the fireworks over the park, there were also some fireworks that were local to Rivers of America.

Disneyland Forever Rivers of America

We weren't as immersed in the projections as we were on Main Street, but on the other hand, everything was right in front of us, and we didn't miss projections because we were looking at fireworks or vice versa. And while the projections on the mist screen weren't as clear as they are on a solid surface, though we could still see them pretty well.

Disneyland Forever Rivers of America

These are the only two locations I've seen the fireworks from so far, and I thought they were both really good experiences, though they are different.

Disneyland Forever Rivers of America

In Disney California Adventure, the former Condor Flats area has been re-themed to Grizzly Peak Airfield - extending the national park look of the rest of the Grizzly Peak area. The Taste Pilot's Grill restaurant is now the Smokehouse Grill, though the menu is similar - still essential a burger restaurant. We hadn't eaten there in its new incarnation, so tried it for lunch one day.

I ordered the veggie burger. All burgers come with choice of fries or zesty slaw, or for 50 cents more you can substitute onion rings. I chose the onion rings. They were really good! The burger was just ok - I believe this is the "Garden Burger" patty, and I don't like it very much because there are peppers in it. The restaurant still has the toppings bar with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, etc., so I can make it the way I want. Sometimes the patty is superfluous, and I make more of a "salad burger". :-)

Smokehouse Grill Veggie Burger

Lee ordered the bacon cheeseburger. It was a fine cheeseburger, but nothing special. He had fries with his, and they were also very good.

Smokehouse Grill Bacon Cheeseburger

Later in the afternoon we visited Ghirardellis. I tried something new called a Nob Hill Chill. Oh my. I have a new favorite! It's like hot fudge sundae meets milkshake! A dark chocolate sundae that you can drink. It was thick and chocolatey, with hot fudge along the sides and the bottom (as well as mixed into it), and little bits of chocolate.

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

That evening we went to Ariel's Grotto to try the World of Color Dining Package there. It had been several years since I'd been here, and the menu has changed slightly - not quite as much seafood as in the past (and really, Ariel shouldn't be serving up her friends!!!).

I celebrated surviving the 24-hour event by ordering the Magical Star cocktail which had a glow cube in it. Very tasty.

Ariel's Grotto Magical Star

Our meal started with a sourdough bread service - the bread loaf was quite pretty!

Ariel's Grotto sourdough bread

This is also a three course meal, with choice of appetizer and entree, and then dessert is a sampler platter. I started with the green salad. Nice mixed greens, though it came with blue cheese on top, which I didn't realize, as it wasn't listed on the menu. When our server came back I mentioned that to her and she quickly brought me another one with no blue cheese.

Ariel's Grotto green salad

The other appetizer choice was Butternut Squash Soup. Lee ordered that. It was very thick and really tasty.

Ariel's Grotto butternut squash soup

My entree choice was the cider-brined pork chop, which I believe has been recently added to the menu. It was served with mashed potatoes and seasonal greens. The pork chop was excellent - perfectly cooked. The mashed potatoes were also good, but I didn't care for the greens - wilted beet greens or something like that.

Ariel's Grotto pork chop

Lee ordered the Sustainable Fish, which was macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi. He enjoyed that, though he also didn't like the greens that accompanied it - baby bok choy in his case.

Ariel's Grotto Macadamia crusted mahi

While the first two courses had been quite good, the best part of the meal was dessert. We each received a sampler dessert platter with creme brulee, a S'mores cake and a chocolate covered strawberry. Best dessert platter I've ever had! The S'mores cake was especially good - I would be happy to get that for dessert in ANY restaurant. Really a wonderful way to end the meal.

Ariel's Grotto dessert platter

At the end of the meal we received our World of Color Fastpasses for the Preferred Viewing section. We arrive about 30 minutes before the 9:00 show, and there were already lots of people there. We had a great spot right in the center, and even though there were two rows of people in front of us they were fairly short and didn't block our view or put kids on their shoulders, etc. We still really enjoyed the show - second viewing for Lee and third for me - and I continued to catch details that I had missed before. Like during the theme park section, we see Neil Patrick Harris in familiar scenes or situations. Fun.

Neil Patrick Harris Tiki Birds

On our final morning we had breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. I ordered the breakfast burrito without the chorizo. But it still had eggs, cheese, black beans, and salsa in it. Very filling. And it came with a side of fruit.

Tomorrowland  Terrace  Breakfast Burrito

Lee ordered the Breakfast Platter with eggs, bacon, biscuit, and potatoes. Interesting that the potatoes looked like Yukon gold potatoes, rather than the standard russets. This was pretty much your normal American breakfast, but it was good.

Tomorrowland  Terrace  Breakfast Platter

There are a number of special food items for the 60th anniversary, but we have not had a chance to try any of them yet. I'm sure we'll have a few more visits to Disneyland coming up, though. :-)

May 25, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, The Food, etc.


This was a short trip for us - just two nights, but we still had the opportunity to try out some thing that were new to us.

Friday after we visited the Expo we had dinner at Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. When it originally opened it had the touch screen ordering kiosks, but now you order your food at the register.

I had the Teriyaki Chicken Breast Sandwich with caramelized pineapple, havarti cheese, lettuce and tomato. For sides I had my choice of regular French fries, sweet potato fries, tropical slaw or tropical fruit. The latter was a new choice since the last time I'd been here, and that's what I chose. I really enjoyed all of it - the sandwich was really good with the pineapple and chicken. And it had the right amount of sauce - a little drippy but not overly sloppy. The fruit was good, too.

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich tangaroa terrace

Lee had one of his traditional favorites: Kalua-style Pork Flatbread. Pulled pork, barbecue sauce, red onions, cilantro and mozzarella.

Kalua pork flatbread tangaroa terrace

While we were eating, we saw several of the Disneyland cats lurking in all of the greenery in that area. Though one of them sat on a low wall right near our table. It wasn't particularly shy like most of them are. Pretty cat, but we did not attempt to pet or feed it.

Disneyland cat

Later in the evening we were in Tomorrowland, where Red Rockett's Pizza Port has some special menu items inspired by the new Avengers Age of Ultron movie. There's this Iron Man Refillable Mug:

Iron Man mug Age of Ultron

And a Black Widow Parfait.

Black Widow Parfait Age of Ultron

We tried the Iron Man Red Velvet Waffle. I wouldn't have called it waffle - more like a flat cupcake. But it was pretty good.

Iron Man Waffle Age of Ultron

There's also a cookie shaped like Captain America's shield. This was just ok.

Captain America Shield Cookie Age of Ultron

Saturday morning after the 10K we went into Disneyland for breakfast at River Belle Terrace. We arrived just after park opening at 9:00, and it was already very busy. They didn't seem ready for it, and the line moved very slowly - it was 25 minutes before we had our food! By the time we finished eating the line was out the door, so it got worse.

I had my usual Cinnamon Roll French Toast with scrambled eggs and bacon. It's always good.

River Belle Terrace Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Lee had the Mark Twain - the classic American breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, and a biscuit.

River Belle Terrace Mark Twain Breakfast

That afternoon we had a late lunch at the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian. We were there with a group of Mickey Milers. We've been there before with groups...the lounge really doesn't seem to handle groups very well, and the service is slow. A few members of our party bought drinks at the bar instead of waiting for our server - that was a lot faster.

Anyway...we were the only people who ordered food. I had the Chicken Quesadilla, and it was very tasty. The guacamole was especially good - it had chunks of avocado and was served in an avocado shell.

Hearthstone Lounge Chicken Quesadilla

Lee tried the Robusto Flatbread with chorizo, potatoes, and Burrata cheese. It took a lot longer for his food to come out, but he enjoyed it.

Hearthstone Lounge Robusto Flatbread

Since we had a half marathon the next morning we went with our traditional pasta dinner at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta that night. We both had the Five Cheese Ravioli.

Boardwalk Pasta Five Cheese Ravioli

We had an adventure finding a place to eat after the half marathon on Sunday. We met friends at the Uva Cafe at 10:00, but they were slammed, and were no long serving breakfast. Most of the places in Downtown Disney were busy, especially the counter service locations. Eddie recalled that Trader Sam's was supposed to open at 10:30, so we went there. There were several other parties also waiting for Sam's to open.

We were able to get drinks, but the kitchen didn't open until 11:00. (There were a few breakfast items we could've ordered, but by then we wanted the "real" menu.) We sat inside, and it was a lot of fun seeing all of the effects when people ordered the specialty drinks. There were a lot of shipwrecks. :-)

Trader Sams Shipwreck

And lots of volcano eruptions, too - I caused one of those with the Krakatoa Punch.

Trader Sams Krakotoa Punch

Lee and I ordered the Pu Pu Platter, which comes with Asian wings, Portuguese sausage, tropical slaw, and (the best part) panko-crusted Chinese long beans.

Trader Sams Pu Pu Platter

We also had the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. These are do-it-yourself wraps: you get a bowl of butter lettuce leaves, and a plate with chicken, crispy rice noodles and hoisin sauce, and make your own. Yum.

Trader Sams Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Lee had the Kalua Pork Flatbread again - the same thing he'd had at Tangaroa Terrace on Friday (they share a kitchen with Trader Sam's). It was all a really good meal.

Trader Sams Kalua Pork Flatbread

That's it for the food...but we had some time to wander around the parks a bit, too. The Diamond Anniversary Celebration starts soon, and decorations are going up all over the park.

Diamond Anniversary Decorations

On Friday evening we went to see the preview of the new Tomorrowland movie. It was very different than any of the previews I'd seen on-line or in a theater. Looks very intriguing. In the former Starcade location next to the theater is the Hall of Inventions with props from the movies, like the jet pack.

Tomorrowland movie Hall of Inventions

Saturday was the day that the Hatbox Ghost returned to the Haunted Mansion. There have been rumors of this for months, and since Disney finally confirmed it a couple of months ago fans have been anxious awaiting his "reappearance". The Fastpass machines were actually in operation, and that usually open happens during the holiday season. We got a Fastpass and then stood in the Standby line, which was about 25 minutes long at that point.

Haunted Mansion

The Hatbox Ghost is placed between the attic and the graveyard. We were able to see it long enough to see his head go from the hatbox back to his shoulders. It's a pretty well-done effect.

Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost

We were passing through Tomorrowland as a Jedi Training Academy session was starting. This is the first time I've ever seen a female Jedi master. She had a couple of new "Jedi jests".

Jedi Training Academy

March 22, 2015

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos taking a quick look at the he Smokejumpers Grill which opened on Friday March 20, 2015.

I have an extended look plus my full pictures set on my site. This dining location replaced the Taste Pilot's Grill. The full project Grizzly Peak Airfield conversion from Condor Flats is not scheduled to be completed until summer. They will be opening pieces as they are finished.

Approaching the new grill from Carthay Circle.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Heading toward the front door.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A menu preview posted outside.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

The board on the opposite side of the entrance (this would be the left side as you enter)

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A closer look at what is posted.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Heading inside. Looking toward the ordering area. The configuration is the same as before, just new props, paint, etc... so seating is to the left and right. Cash registers and food pickup straight ahead.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Looking to the left some of the props above the seating area and on the wall.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

The menu is more or less the same. Some new names and a couple tweaks but your standard burgers and chicken remain.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Thought the True Life Adventure movie posters were great.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

The seating area to the right of the registers

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

The Bearpaw Basin patches and logos are throughout

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

The outdoor dining on the Soarin' side is still being worked on. So the door and windows are covered.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Walking outside. This is where the engine used to be.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

I walked by again after dark to see the lights and get some more detailed shots of the interior.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A closer look at some of the props around the dining spaces.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

I thought the model planes were a great touch.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

A closer look at the boards in the back of the seating area.

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Hope you enjoyed this first look at the new Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

February 22, 2015

Disneyland Food Reviews


I wanted to share some of the dining experiences Lee and I have had at the Disneyland resort over the last few months. The big one was the Blue Bayou Fantasmic! Dinner Package, but you can read about that HERE.

We tend to go more for quick service dining than table service...while we have some favorites, we try to sample some different things sometimes...though in looking back over the past few months I see we've mostly stayed with the tried and true. :-)

If you read this blog before, then you probably know that we are really into running Disney races. And of course what we eat before (and after) the races is very important! :-)

Our favorite "night-before-the-race" dinner is the Four Cheese Ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at Disney California Adventure. This restaurant tends not to be as crowded as Redd Rocket's in Disneyland - and the latter doesn't offer ravioli. :-) The ravioli is served with pesto sauce and topped with chopped tomatoes and pine nuts. The cast members serving ask if you want the tomatoes and nuts, so it's easy to omit them. I find this to be about the right portion size for me. I do wish that bread came with it. I have sometimes purchased a loaf from either La Brea Bakery or Pacific Wharf Cafe and brought some pieces with me to dinner.

Disneyland Food Reviews

One note on Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta: it used serve individual flatbread pizzas, but around last September switched to more traditional pizza slices with a thicker crust. Lee was very disappointed in that - he really liked the flatbread pizzas.

But you can still get flatbread pizza at one of our other favorite places: Trader Sam's. Or Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, to give it the full name! It's located at the Disneyland Hotel next to the pools in a building shared with the Tangaroa Terrace quick-service restaurant. Trader Sam's has seating both inside and out on the patio. To really experience all of the fun things you have to be inside, but there's often quite a line for indoor seating. It's usually faster to eat outside.

Trader Sam's is known for its specialty beverages that are served in various different souvenir tiki glasses (you have the option to purchase the glass to take home if you wish, but you don't have to). I love the names - things like: Hippopoto-Mai tai, Uh-oa (pictured below), Shrunken Zombie Head, and the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum. (Some of the servers will make you say all of that last one when you order it. :-) )

Disneyland Food Reviews

The food is good, too. Some of the items are the same as those at Tangaroa Terrace next door, but some are only at Trader Sam's. One of my favorite Trader Sam's exclusives is the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. This can be most of a dinner for me. The sauce is spicy (but not hot-spicy) and flavorful. You put it together yourself - it comes with 4-5 butter lettuce cups and then you spoon in the chicken, crispy rice noodles, and sauce and roll it all up. It's messy, but good!

Disneyland Food Reviews

Lee's favorite is the Kalua Pork Flatbread, with pulled pork, red onion, and bbq sauce. I agree that this is very tasty!

Disneyland Food Reviews

We also enjoy the Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans. I had no idea what these were the first time we ordered them, but they are really good.

Disneyland Food Reviews

Trader Sam's is a table service location. Our experience is that service is often slow, but it's also been very busy when we've been there, and they always seem to be understaffed. I've had good service when I've been able to sit right at the bar.

Once we've finished one of our Disney races we get cleaned up and are ready for a good breakfast. Our favorite park breakfast is Cinnamon Roll French Toast from River Belle Terrace at Disneyland. It's served with scrambled eggs and choice of bacon or sausage. It's really a good amount of food and it tastes great after running a race!

Disneyland Food Reviews

Another popular choice at River Belle Terrace is the Mark Twain: scrambled eggs, potatoes, biscuit, and choice of bacon or sausage. I don't like the potatoes because there's peppers in them, but they'll substitute extra bacon or sausage for the potatoes.

Disneyland Food Reviews

Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land offers some different breakfast items. It's not my top choice, but if we're eating there I usually get the Chicken Tamale with scrambled eggs, salsa verde, and pico de gallo. The tamale is good but the eggs at Flo's have a weird consistency - they seem to be cooked in big casserole pans and they don't really seem like scrambled eggs.

Disneyland Food Reviews

The Brioche French Toast is more like a bread pudding. It's served with salted caramel sauce and bananas, and it's very sweet - too sweet for me.

Disneyland Food Reviews

There's also the traditional American Breakfast with scrambled eggs, potatoes, biscuit, and choice of bacon or sausage. Again, the eggs are a bit odd, and they also put peppers in the potatoes. This is a decent-sized breakfast, at least, whereas I find the tamale and French Toast to be not quite enough food for me.

Disneyland Food Reviews

I really like sandwiches, and Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney makes some very good ones - including breakfast sandwiches. I really enjoy their seasonal holiday turkey sandwich, with cranberries, stuffing, and gravy. Earl of Sandwich is a very popular place and the line is usually long, though they move people through pretty efficiently.

But we were talking breakfast. The last time we were there we both ordered the bacon, egg, and cheddar breakfast sandwich (though I requested Swiss instead of cheddar). The sandwich was good but not great. It's also about half the size of their regular sandwiches, so keep that in mind. Of course the price is lower, too - $3.99.

Disneyland Food Reviews

One of our favorite afternoon spots is the Alfresco Tasting Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery in Disney California Adventure. It's open very limited hours, though - doesn't open until 2:00 in the afternoon, and sometimes is only open on the weekends. The seating area is outdoors, and while it's covered with an open lattice-style patio cover, it's not totally shaded, and can be very warm. There's really a wonderful view from some of the tables, though, and it's a very relaxed and quiet spot.

Disneyland Food Reviews

The Disney Family of Wines is featured there: all of the wines that are offered are from wineries with some kind of Disney connection. So that includes wines from Diane Disney Miller's Silverado Vineyards, Kurt Russell's GoGi, the Lasseter Family Winery, and Fess Parker Winery, among others. Wines can be purchased by the glass or as part of designated wine flights (no substitutions in the wine flights).

They also serve a selection of appetizers inspired by wine country. These are upscale offerings, things like Beef Tenderloin Sliders and a Charcuterie and Cheese Board.

Disneyland Food Reviews

One of our favorites is the Aged Cheddar Risotto Bites. Balls of risotto and cheese, rolled in something crunchy and deep-fried. Not at all healthy, but SO good! They come with two dipping sauces - a garlic-herb aioli and a marinara. The marinara is more like a very flavorful tomato chutney. I love it - I'll eat it by the spoonful after all of the risotto bites are gone.

Disneyland Food Reviews

Our other favorite is the Flatbread Two Ways. Have you noticed the flatbread theme in our dining choices? :-) I think this is supposed to be seasonal, but we've had it three times over the last 6 months and it's always been the same - not that we're complaining, because we like it! It's a half-and-half - one half is fig, arugula, and apple sticks, drizzled with balsamic, and the other half is tomato, olive, and crisp prosciutto. Really good.

Disneyland Food Reviews

While the wines and beverages are served quickly here (the bar is on the terrace), the kitchen tends to be very slow. The last time we were there our order got messed up - another table, who had arrived after us, but apparently ordered the same thing, received it. Our server wasn't paying much attention to us and didn't know it until we asked her what was taking so long. We got lots of apologies, and one of our appetizers was comped, but it was not a very good experience. Had it been our first time there, we might not have returned.

Also at the Golden Vine Winery is the Mendocino Wine Bar. Lots of different wines available by the glass - a much larger selection than at the Alfresco Lounge upstairs. If I'm indulging I usually order one of the sparkling wines, like a prosecco or the Rosa Regale. A somewhat small (and I think overpriced) cheese and fruit box is the only food option. There's some outdoor seating available there on the patio between the Wine Country Trattoria and the Blue Sky Cellar.

Disneyland Food Reviews

If I'm just looking for something sweet...Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop is my first choice. You get a chocolate sample just for walking in, though lately they've switched to their "minis" rather than the full-size chocolate squares. Of course there's all kinds of treats on the menu here - ice cream sundaes, cones, milkshakes and floats, cookies and brownies, hot and cold coffee beverages, and several types of hot cocoa, too. My favorite is the Midnight Reverie sundae: chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate fudge sauce, semi-sweet chocolate chips, whipped cream and a cherry. Oh, and a dark chocolate square on top. Heaven if you love dark chocolate! I've always found the service here to be pretty quick. The only time it wasn't was a very cold evening when almost everyone was ordering hot coffee and cocoa, and they just couldn't make them fast enough.

Disneyland Food Reviews

Another sweet indulgence is the Mickey-head Beignets from the Mint Julep Bar in Disneyland. The regular ones are good, but I prefer to get them in the fall when there are usually pumpkin or gingerbread beignets available. The last time we got these we had a long wait - we were in line for 10 minutes just to order, and then had to wait another 10-15 minutes for our beignets. They were really good, but maybe not quite worth that much of a wait. One word of warning: Do Not Inhale! You can't actually breathe powdered sugar. :-)

Disneyland Food Reviews

One snack item that I haven't tried but I have to mention: the Crunchy Snowman Veggie Cup, available for $3.99 at some of the fruit stands. It's got slices of jicama, black olives, carrots, and celery, and a cup of ranch dressing.

Disneyland Food Reviews

I had an early dinner at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe in Disneyland recently. I tried their Specialty of the House - Jolly Holiday Combo - a toasted cheese sandwich with tomato basil soup and a small side salad. Now, when you call something a "specialty of the house", I have higher expectations, so I was very disappointed in this. The sandwich was only barely warm and the cheese was definitely not melted - just a little bit soft. I enjoyed the soup and the salad was also very good - it had feta, spiced pecans, tomatoes, and craisins on top of the greens.

Disneyland Food Reviews

We had lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant a couple of months ago. The menu there changes seasonally, so what I enjoyed is probably not still on the menu, but is still an example of the types of selections that are available. I started with the Carthay Autumn Salad - mizuna, pears, spiced pecans, and a charred orange vinaigrette. It was very good.

Disneyland Food Reviews

I also ordered the Carthay Soup of the Season - roasted apples with wild rice, kohlrabi, Nueske's ham and duck confit. I couldn't tell you what kohlrabi is, or what it tastes like, but I really liked the soup. Lots of interesting flavors, so maybe one of those was the kohlrabi. :-)

Disneyland Food Reviews

Lee ordered the Carthay 8 oz Angus Burger - with cheddar cheese, pepper bacon and grilled onions. It's served with French fries. Lee says it was a really good burger - and I thought the fries were excellent.

Disneyland Food Reviews

It was a very nice dining experience - it's a beautiful restaurant, and doesn't feel like it's in the middle of a theme park.

If you've dined at these or any other Disneyland Resort restaurants, please share your experiences in our Rate and Review section.

February 12, 2015

Disneyland - Fantasmic! Dining Package

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Back in December, the viewing procedure for Fantasmic! changed - instead of first come-first serve, where people could stake out spots hours in advance (and many did just that), it changed to a Fastpass system, similar to the way World of Color is done at Disney California Adventure. There are different viewing areas set up around the Rivers of America, and a Fastpass allows access to one of them.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Fastpasses are distributed along Big Thunder Trail, near the exit of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. You can only get one per day, but they do not count against any existing or future Fastpasses, so you can get another attraction Fastpass immediately, or if you hold an attraction Fastpass already you don't have to wait until it's valid to get a Fantasmic! Fastpass.

There are also Fantasmic! Dining Packages available, which offer premium viewing options. Participating locations are Blue Bayou and River Belle Terrace (dinner), Aladdin's Oasis (Grab and Go meal), and Hungry Bear Restaurant (dessert).

We had wanted to do the dessert package but it was not available because the Hungry Bear Restaurant is closed for refurbishment, so we chose to dine at Blue Bayou. There were five of us, and we made a reservation (credit card guarantee required) several weeks in advance. Our restaurant seating time was 8:00, which meant we'd be seeing the 10:45 show. Most of us had run the Star Wars half marathon that morning, so we were a little tired and a little concerned about staying awake. :-)

Blue Bayou offers a three-course menu for the dinner package for $61, plus tax and gratuity. Choice of appetizer (soup, salad, or shrimp cocktail), entree and dessert, plus beverage. A bread basket with sourdough dinner rolls and cheese biscuits is also included. The entree choices are the same as those on the regular dinner menu.

Our meal began with the bread basket. The "cheese biscuits" were quite popular at our table. I wouldn't call them "biscuits", though - they were still more like bread.

As an appetizer I ordered the Blue Bayou Salad with tomatoes, caramelized pecans, and cranberries. It also comes with blue cheese, but I requested that it be left off. While nothing special, it was still a very nice salad.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Lee and most of our tablemates tried the New Orleans Gumbo with chicken, Andouille sausage, Tasso ham and served with Cajun-style dirty rice. Everyone enjoyed that.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

As an entree Julie and I ordered the Herb Panko-crusted Rack of Lamb. I thought the serving of lamb was small, and mine was a little tough, even though it was not at all overcooked. I probably would not get it again.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

I was surprised that the Surf and Turf was available as part of the dinner package menu. Lee and Mike both ordered that and said it was very good - the lobster was tasty and the steak was well-prepared.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Joelle had the vegetarian option: Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Macque Choux , which she really enjoyed. She likes mushrooms, and there were a lot more of them than she was expecting, which made her happy.

My dessert was excellent- I had the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. One of the best chocolate desserts I have ever had in a theme park. Creamy, chocolatey, but not too rich - it was very good.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Lee loves Creme Brulee, so ordered that for dessert. It must have been pretty good, because I was never even offered a bite. :-)

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Mike tried the Apple-Cranberry Galette, and also gave it a thumbs up.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Lee and I hadn't dined at the Blue Bayou in a number of years, but this was a much more pleasant experience than we'd had the in the past. We had good service, and the food was significantly better than on previous visits. It's still very expensive, but at least this time I felt that I received value for my money. Considering the normal menu prices, the $61 wasn't really that bad a deal for the Fantasmic! package, especially if you ordered the Surf and Turf.

After we paid, our server gave us our Fantasmic! Fastpasses.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

We also received a Fantasmic! seat cushion - the Blue Bayou dining package is the only one that includes these. Since the viewing area for Blue Bayou requires sitting on the ground (and I believe the viewing area for all of the dining packages is that way), this was a very nice added benefit.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

Our Fastpass ticket advised us to arrive between 10:15 and 10:45 for the 10:45 show. By then the crowds from the first show had cleared out. Plus, it didn't appear there were really that many people waiting to see the second show anyway. It was a little unclear where we were supposed to go to enter the viewing area. Though once we got there, we were really pleased to find that we were right at the center, looking straight at the stage area on the island. There were just a couple of rows of people seated in front of us, and as the viewing area is on a slight incline, we had no problems seeing anything. As it turned out, the area we were in never filled up - there were maybe another dozen people who came in after we did, and our section was less than 1/2 full. I don't really think that's right - I would've had no problem with allowing standby people in once it got close to showtime.

Because of the previous hassles in getting a spot for Fantasmic! we hadn't seen the show in a couple of years, and we'd never seen it from such a prime location! It was really great to be able to see everything so well. Usually my view of the smaller floats (the monkeys and princesses) has been obstructed, but I could see all of that this time. This was much better than the viewing that they had for the old dessert package, which was more off to the side. Though with the dessert package we had real chairs to sit on.

Disneyland Fantasmic! Dining Package

My understanding is that the viewing areas for River Belle and Hungry Bear (though that one is not currently offered, as the restaurant is undergoing refurbishment) are to either side of the Blue Bayou, so viewing from those areas should be excellent as well. Guests are required to remain seated for the show in those areas, though some of the other Fastpass viewing areas are standing only.

Mike, who is not local, and therefore not a frequent visitor to Disneyland, had these thoughts about the Dining Package:

I think it was worth it, especially if you don't make it to Disneyland very often. First of all, eating at the Blue Bayou, the food was good and it was a very iconic experience. Along with that you get to see Fantasmic! in its original park, without the hassle of worrying about a Fastpass. And, you get the cushion as well as great seats. Sure people have to balance out budgets when going to a place like Disneyland, but in my mind, the value is there.

And Julie commented:

I found the meal to be a little pricy for what I got, but I'm a quick service kind of gal.

Overall I found this to be a positive experience, and I would do it again, though I'd really like to try the dessert option once it becomes available (hopefully in April). But I will bring my Blue Bayou seat cushion. :-) Because we saw the second show I'm not sure that our experience was typical, as I believe there's much more of a demand for the first show. And many guests who do not have Fastpasses are in the area trying to determine where they can go to watch the show from a Standby area. Jason tried that recently, and describes it here:


I finally made it out to the Rivers of America to experience Fantasmic with the new Fastpass system in place. I did not have a Fastpass since they were already distributing for the late show when I passed by the machines so I had to use the Standby area for the first show.

The Rivers of America area had no signage or indicators of what was going on. Guests seemed confused. Some were trying to go under the ropes as they used to and cast members were spending their time moving them out. From what I saw there were no signs to help guide you to a spot. For example the Standby area I used had nothing at all. There was a barrier set up and a cast member standing there checking Fastpasses. If you had a Fastpass you went down the walkway on the right. No Fastpass and you could go on the left to Standby but this was not well-communicated.

I was disappointed to see so much open space in the Fastpass and Reserved areas. Many areas looked to be less than 3/4 full. I am really curious how attendance has been at Fantasmic! with the new system. It appears to me that fewer people are seeing the show now, but this is based on a couple walkthroughs and seeing a lot of open spaces.

The Standby area I used was on the far side and stretched from the exit to the smoking area toward the Harbour Galley. This is just down from where I frequently used to watch the show from - near the Tom Sawyer Island dock. The view from here is extremely poor. You are way off to the side. The Fastpass area next to me had quite a few openings so it was frustrating to have a poor view and see a lot of open space with a better view.

About half way through the show I decided to go for a walk and see what else I could see. I was surprised to see a large of guests being allowed to stand in the walkway in front of the Haunted Mansion. The view from there was better than the Standby area I was originally in. I also walked around to New Orleans Square and there was a small Standby space there too. As I walked I took a look into the reserved and Fastpass areas and many had quite a few spaces available.

Overall my first impression was not positive. I hope to get there early enough some day to try Fastpass to see if that improves the experience. I do not see myself shelling out the money for the reserved spaces though, so guess my chances of seeing the show from a prime location have gone down substantially for the time being.

Since neither Jason nor I have experienced Fantasmic! using a regular guest Fastpass, we can't comment on whether or not there is still excellent viewing available to guests who do not purchase an additional package. I hope that it is. I like the fact that there are packages available now, since it gives more options to people who are not frequent visitors, and doesn't require them to spend several hours of what might be their only day at Disneyland staking out a spot for Fantasmic!. I don't think that the packages should be the only way to get a decent viewing spot, though.

If any of you have experienced Fantasmic! at Disneyland under the new system, please let us know what you think of it by leaving a comment using the comment form below.

February 6, 2014

Earl of Sandwich: New Menu Items--Limited Time!

"I mean it's crazy..."
"We finish each other's..."
--"Love is an Open Door," Frozen


Recently, Downtown Disney's Earl of Sandwich updated its menu for the winter with two new sandwiches, a side dish, and a dessert.

BBQ Chicken...


Philly Cheesesteak...


Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese...


And Brownie Bark.


These items join an already diverse and varied line up of healthy options such as salads and wraps...


P1110182.JPG well as a wide alternative selection for people entirely uninterested in healthy options.


But let's be real here: There's a reason this isn't called "Earl of Salad." The sandwiches are the star here, made to order and baked through a special oven, with all meats and cheeses prepared fresh daily.


As part of their regular clientele, I've had the opportunity to try a number of different sandwiches there, and they've all been great in both taste and value. Disney food being what it is, it's nice to be able to find a reliable meal that won't hurt your credit rating at the end.


Of course the main difficulty is prying yourself away from your regular favorites to try the new ones--but don't wait too long...


...Because Love may be an Open Door, but this one is shutting in a couple of months. Also, a Princess may rank an Earl, but at least an Earl gets to finish his own delicious sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich is located in Downtown Disney, 1565 S. Disneyland Drive, #102, Anaheim, CA 92802. More information can be located at

October 15, 2013

Disneyland Dining Notes - October 2013


I wanted to share some dining notes and experiences from a recent trip to Disneyland. We tried the new breakfast menu at River Belle Terrace, and the updated Autumn lunch menu at Carthay Circle Restaurant.

First off - Disneyland has finally given us the ability to book Disneyland Dining reservations on-line! On the Disneyland web site, go to the "Things to Do" tab, and under "Dining" there's a "Make Reservations" selection. Once you've selected a restaurant and time you'll have to provide a credit card to confirm the reservation. Reservations can be canceled up until the night before with no penalty - cancellations can also be made on-line.

Disney has added new menu items or completely modified restaurant menus at several of the park restaurants over the last few months - it's nice to see some of these changes.

Ariel's Grotto
There are new breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus at Ariel's Grotto at Disney California Adventure. Breakfast and lunch are still character meals featuring the Disney princesses, while dinner has no characters, but offers the World of Color ticket. (I was told that the menus are still being tweaked, so there may still be some changes to come.)

For breakfast, instead of shared platters of food as in the past, there's a shared pastry/fruit platter, but then everyone gets to order their own breakfast entree, such as a spinach frittata, American breakfast, Belgian waffle, or tri-tip and eggs.

Adult Breakfast Menu
Kid's Breakfast Menu

The lunch and dinner menus are very similar, and feature choice of entree with either soup or salad, and a shared dessert platter. The entrees are all new - shrimp and pasta, BBQ tri-tip, fish of the day, etc. Looks good, but I haven't had the chance to try it.

Adult Lunch Menu
Adult Dinner Menu

The kid's menu is the same for lunch and dinner (just a $2 price difference). It starts with choice of veggies and dip or popcorn soup (I wonder how popular the latter will be with kids). The entrees have fun names, like Ursula's Octo-Dog, Whozits and Whatzits Fries and Nuggetz, and Angel Hair Pasta a la Dinglehopper.

Kid's Lunch Menu
Kid's Dinner Menu

Sonoma Terrace
When Disney stopped offering the World of Color picnic meals last summer the distribution area at the Sonoma Terrace began offering wines and a selection of beers, including craft beers, instead. This is a really nice, out-of-the-way area to sit and relax. There's quite a bit of seating, much of it in the shade, and it's a really pleasant area to relax and unwind. In addition to the beer and wine selection they offer cheese or cheese/meat plates, and (my favorite), freshly baked Bavarian pretzels. These are quite large, and served with either spicy mustard or sweet mustard, for $5.00. It would be nice to see soft drinks on their menu, though.

Sonoma Terrace Menu

Disneyland Dining Notes

River Belle Terrace
At Disneyland, River Belle Terrace has updated their breakfast and lunch/dinner menus. We had breakfast there recently. The classic Mark Twain, Steamboat and Mickey Mouse Pancake items are still on the menu, but there are some new items, like Country-Style Biscuits n'Gravy and "Build Your Own" Yogurt Parfait. The biscuits are different than they were before - a skillet biscuit rather than a square biscuit.

Disneyland Dining Notes

I tried another of the new menu items, Cinnamon Roll French Toast, served with scrambled eggs and choice of bacon or sausage. It was really, really good, especially when I got a piece with some of the ooey, gooey cinnamon filling. I will definitely order this again!

Disneyland Dining Notes

The regular menu still offers some of the sandwiches and salads it did before, but there are new menu items, also, such as a turkey dinner, carved roast beef, catch of the day, and black bean cakes. There's also new dessert choices: red velvet cake, cafe au lait cheesecake, key lime pie, and minty grasshopper pie. All are $5.19 each.

Disneyland Dining Notes

River Belle Terrace Breakfast Menu
River Belle Terrace Menu

The Market House
The Market House on Main Street has recently re-opened as a Starbucks location. It expanded into the space next door formerly occupied by the Disneyana Store, so it's quite a large and nice area now. It's very popular, but Disney kept that in mind in the design, and it has a built-in queue and multiple ordering stations and registers so the line moves quickly.

Disneyland Dining Notes

There's also a seating area, which includes some of the old-fashioned elements that were in the original Market House location.

Disneyland Dining Notes

The menu features the usual variety of Starbucks beverages. There's also a wide selection of pastries but no hot foods or sandwiches.

Carthay Circle Restaurant
On our recent visit we had lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. I was the only one in our party who had eaten there before, and it had been over a year for me. The Carthay Circle Restaurant menu changes seasonally, and they had recently introduced their Autumn menu. Most of the menu items don't change much, but there are always a few new items introduced which highlight the freshest seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant itself is quite beautiful inside - in some ways it seemed a shame to be wearing our theme park clothes in such an elegant setting. But there's not a dress code, so it's not an issue. In a recent blog entry Jason talked about the History of the Carthay Circle Restaurant Tour he took recently, so there is some additional information and photos there if you are interested.

Disneyland Dining Notes

There were four of us, and we were seated near the kitchen at one of the corner tables that features the image of the Evil Queen in the wood. Being seated near the kitchen is actually kind of interesting, since the kitchen is somewhat open and we could see what was going on in the dessert prep area.

Disneyland Dining Notes
Disneyland Dining Notes

We started our meal with the Carthay Signature Fried Biscuits. These are stuffed with cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapeno, and are served hot - hot enough that the middle was still liquid - it was like cheddar cheese soup inside! They are served with apricot honey butter. That combination didn't do much for me, but others enjoyed it.

Disneyland Dining Notes

For my meal I ordered two of the appetizers, including the seasonal soup, which was Pumpkin Tortilla Broth with chicken, tortilla strips, and cream fraiche. Pumpkin soup meets tortilla soup. It was very good, but be aware that it's a little bit spicy.

Disneyland Dining Notes

I also ordered the Heirloom Tomato Salad, with several different colorful tomato varieties, shaved parmesan, basil, olive oil and parmesan aioli.

Disneyland Dining Notes

Lee tried the Angus Beef Arugula Salad, which included radicchio, and a gorgonzola crostini with Cabernet vinaigrette. It was topped with onion straws. He said the beef was good but he wouldn't order it again because he found the arugula very bitter. It was a very beautifully presented dish.

Disneyland Dining Notes

My brother ordered the Mediterranean Grilled Eggplant Sandwich - this was a real winner. It included artichokes, marinated tomatoes, greens and melted cheese. I tried a bite and it was very good, really great flavors, crisp and toasty bread. It came with French fries, which were also very good. I'd order it in the future.

Disneyland Dining Notes

My sister-in-law tried the Carthay Strawberry Chicken Salad. I think initially it was because she was so intrigued by the "lacquered bacon" in the description: "Lacquered bacon, Avocado, Haricots Verts, Cherry Tomatoes in a Fresh Strawberries and Thyme Vinaigrette". But she said it was excellent. (The "lacquered bacon' was caramelized bacon strips.)

Disneyland Dining Notes

We didn't have room for dessert, but our choices were:

Warm Rocky Road Brownie - Toasted Macadamia Nut with Coconut Shavings, Caramel Sauce and Marshmallow Ice Cream.

Warm Apple Pecan Pound Cake - Salted Carmel and Green Apple Sorbet.

Cordillera Chocolate Decadent Layer Cake - Classic Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Raspberry Sauce.

Warm Autumn Pear and Dried Apricot "Pie" - with Old Fashion Vanilla Ice Cream.

They all sounded really good, and we saw a lot of the chocolate cake come out of the kitchen.

It was really a very nice meal, and we enjoyed having a relaxing break, since it was a very warm day in the parks. But not something I'd do all the time - it was expensive, and there's a lot of other foods in the parks I enjoy just as much as what we had.

The Carthay Circle Restaurant has a fairly new prix fixe World of Color menu now - it used to be that diners could get a World of Color Fastpass just by ordering an entree and either an appetizer or dessert. Now there are three-course lunch and dinner menus - $39 for lunch and $59 for dinner. (That's actually a pretty good deal if you look at the regular menu prices!)

Carthay Circle Restaurant Menus
Carthay Circle Lunch Menu
Carthay Circle World of Color Lunch Menu
Carthay Circle Dinner Menu
Carthay Circle World of Color Dinner Menu
Carthay Circle Kid's Lunch Menu
Carthay Circle Kid's World of Color Lunch Menu
Carthay Circle Kid's Dinner Menu
Carthay Circle Kid's World of Color Dinner Menu

October 8, 2013

Halloween Time - Spooky Treats on the Menu!


It's Halloween season - time for tricks and treats, right? The Disneyland Resort chefs have had a few tricks up their sleeves, and have rolled out a huge line-up of special menu items for the season, both savory and sweet. (Though admittedly there's a lot more of the latter!). Some of these items are available at only one location, while others are available at multiple locations in the parks.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pastry Chef Christina Oregel about some of them.

(Warning: If you're hungry, you might not want to read this blog right now - or else have a napkin handy. I am not responsible for keyboard damage due to excess drool. Nor is this blog equipped with Just a Taste technology.)

I'm not even sure where to begin! But let's start with treats inspired by our favorite Halloween decoration: the pumpkin. Did you even know that pumpkin could be used in all of these forms?

At the Mint Julep Bar and Cafe Orleans you'll find Mickey-shaped Pumpkin Beignets. I first tried these on September 13 and enjoyed them - they were puffier and lighter than I expected, with an interesting pumpkin/spicy flavor. They were a little heavy on the nutmeg, but they have since tweaked the recipe and they aren't as heavily spiced. They are $4.19 for three or $7.19 for six.

Halloween Time

Another fried pumpkin offering is the Pumpkin Squash Fritters at the Royal Verandah. ($3.69) These were really good - I liked them better than the beignets. I only wish that they were served warm. They are more like doughnut holes rolled in cinnamon sugar. Some of them had chunks of cooked pumpkin in them - that may not sound appetizing, but I really enjoyed them.

Halloween Time

At various bakeries throughout the resort you'll find Pumpkin Streusel Muffins, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Loaf, and Pumpkin Pie. I had one of the muffins and it was really good - not too overwhelming on the pumpkin/spice flavor, and topped with a few crunchy pepitas. Yum. (Prices for these items range from $2.79-$5.19)

Halloween Time
Halloween Time

Jolly Holiday Bakery has its own version of the pumpkin muffin, which is filled with cream cheese frosting. It's pretty good, but I preferred the other one.

Halloween Time

There's also a Pumpkin Halloween cupcake with chocolate mousse, topped with "worms and dirt" and other fun decorations as you see below. I liked this a lot - the chocolate mousse frosting tastes very good with the pumpkin cake. ($5.99)

Halloween Time

This year's "demitasse" dessert, served in a Minnie pumpkin demitasse cup, is a flourless chocolate cake topped with pumpkin and chocolate mousse. Again, the pumpkin and chocolate pair nicely, but you have to dig down deep to get cake AND mousse together. It's available in most bakery and buffeteria locations. ($7.49)

Halloween Time

Rancho del Zocalo is offering Dia de Los Muertos Dessert Pumpkin Flan with Orange Cake for $5.19. This looks good, but I haven't tried it.

Halloween Time

If you prefer to drink your pumpkin there's a Pumpkin Spice Latte, available at the Market House, Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe, Jolly Holiday Bakery, Mint Julep Bar, and Royal Street Verandah.

But it's not (quite) "All Pumpkin, All the Time".

Another seasonal beverage is the Spiced Caramel Apple Cider at the Jolly Holiday Bakery.

There's an Oreo Mousse Coffin at the French Market. ($5.19)

Zombie gingerbread cookies are available at several locations. It's kind of fun to be eating the zombie, instead of the other way around. I've always liked Disneyland's gingerbread, and these are soft and chewy and spicy, though they aren't actually made by Disney - they come pre-packaged from Selma's Bakery.

Halloween Time

Other sweet treats include Mickey Bat cookies, seasonal Crispy Treats, and candy corn cotton candy.

Halloween Time

At the Candy Palace, Pooh Corner, Trolley Treats, and Marceline's there's various types of Halloween-themed caramel apples, cake pops, chocolate-covered marshmallows and pretzel rods and other candies.

Halloween Time

Pumpkin fudge is usually available also, though it was sold out on my recent visit. :-(

One unusual item I found: Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle. This is available in bags at the candy stores - it's brittle with pepitas instead of nuts, and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It's addictively good. A six ounce bag is $4.99.

Halloween Time

There are some other interesting packaged treats in the candy stores also, like Gummy Body Parts and Gummy Candy Corn. The latter are larger and puffier than regular candy corn, with a softer texture than regular gummy candies, but they have that buttery candy corn flavor. Pretty sweet, but I enjoyed them.

Halloween Time

It's not ALL sugar, though. There's some special food items, also.

Pacific Wharf Cafe offers a pumpkin loaf - sourdough bread in the shape of a pumpkin. :-)

Halloween Time

Rancho del Zocalo features a Holiday Chicken Tamale Plate for $9.99 and a Holiday Chicken Tamale and Carne Asada Plate for $12.99.

The French Market offers a Muffuletta Sandwich for $13.29, served with Cajun chips.

Halloween Time

Tomorrowland Terrace features a Monster U Style Cheese Burger, served with fries that are covered in a blue parmesan-ranch ooze. I'm not sure if this is available for the season, or only on days when there's a Halloween Party.

At Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta there's the Anti-Vampire Chicken Flatbread Pizza with roasted garlic sauce, chicken, smoked gouda, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, harissa, and fresh chives.

Halloween Time

The Carthay Circle Restaurant's seasonal soup is Pumpkin Tortilla Broth. Chunks of chicken and crisp tortilla strips in a pumpkin broth (which has a kick to it), drizzled with cream fraiche. I didn't taste pumpkin - mostly it just added some thickness to the soup. It was very good.

Halloween Time

I haven't had a chance to try everything, but so far I'd have to say that the Pumpkin Seed Brittle is my favorite, though I also really enjoyed the Pumpkin Streusel Muffin and the Pumpkin Fritters.

What are your Halloween favorites?

Halloween Time

October 1, 2013

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates


I've been updating the Disneyland and DCA park menus, and thought I'd share a few things that I've noticed...

As you might expect, prices have increased, though that's mostly at the counter service locations - the table service restaurants in the parks had few/no price increases.

The price of a regular fountain beverage has risen from $2.99 to $3.19, though the price of a large remains $3.49. The prices of juice, coffee, hot tea, milk, bottled water, and cocoa have remained the same. Price for a souvenir cup is up $.50 to $6.99, and that for a souvenir travel mug has increased from $5.69 to $6.29.

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates

Most entrees at the counter service locations have seen a 30-cent to 50-cent price increase. If it has the word "salad" in it, then it's gone up 50 cents. Does anyone else find that odd? I always thought meat was more expensive than vegetables, but salads are usually the same price as burgers or other entrees!

Most of the desserts that used to be $4.99 (pies, cakes, tarts, etc.) are now $5.19.

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates

The prices for the kid's meals are unchanged this time (most of them went up 50 cents earlier this year, though). Mickey Check meals are available at most restaurants - according to Disney, these are: "Choices that receive the Mickey Check must meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines that limit calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar...."(Kids' Complete Meals must be ordered without substitutions and include at least three of the following food groups: fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy; whole grains or lean protein, beans, eggs and nuts.)" Some examples: Seared Salmon at Blue Bayou, the Kids' Power Pack, available at many counter service locations, and Turkey Meatball Sandwich from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.

Rancho del Zocalo has added two new menu items: Pollo en Mole and Burrito Guadalajara. The former is 1/2 chicken with a spicy chocolate/peanut sauce for $13.49. The burrito is filled with carnitas, refried beans, rice and cheese, topped with tomatillo sauce. Also $13.49. They both sound pretty good to me! Another change - the fish tacos are now baked fish tacos.

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates
Disneyland Fall Menu Updates

Rancho del Zocalo Menu

Harbour Galley has a new menu, also. They now serve a seasonal soup in a bread bowl in addition to clam chowder and broccoli and cheese (the chili and steak gumbo are gone). The salmon salad has been replaced by a shrimp salad with chilled poached shrimp, bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes, egg, avocado and green onion over shredded romaine ($10.49). And they've added a lobster roll to the menu, served in a brioche roll with Old Bay seasoned chips for $13.99. (The lobster roll doesn't do much for me but the chips sound good!)

Harbour Galley Menu

The baked potato menu has been tweaked and features barbecue chicken & slaw or bacon & sour cream for $6.39, or a shrimp salad baked potato for $6.99. I tried the shrimp salad baked potato and it was very good. Covered in chilled poached shrimp, arugula, and a white sauce. I'd order that again.

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates

At Paradise Garden Grill in Disney California Adventure there's a Beef Gyro on the menu: sliced beef with cucumber salad and tzatziki sauce, rolled in a warm pita bread and served with tabouli for $11.99.

The Sonoma Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery now serves a varied selection of craft beers. Also on the menu are California wines, Bavarian pretzels, and meat/cheese plates. I haven't tried this yet, but I plan to do that soon! That's the area where they used to offer the World of Color picnics, and it's really a very nice and relatively quiet area to relax and hang out.

Sonoma Terrace Menu

As part of Limited Time Magic this year there have been various limited time food items offered. My favorite so far has been the English Toffee Caramel Apple, which was available in September. I'm going to be very sad not to be able to buy one (or two) to bring home like I have on previous visits!

Disneyland Fall Menu Updates

Right now there's a lot of seasonal menu items available, but I'll have a separate blog on that! Can you say: "pumpkin"? :-)

One more dining note...On October 3 Disneyland will (finally) offer us the option of making dining reservations on-line. I'm really happy to see this - I have spent far too much time on hold when calling to make dining reservations. But we'll now be required to provide a credit card, and a $10 charge/person will apply for no-shows who don't cancel at least 24 hours in advance - though cancellations can also be done on-line. I don't have a problem with that.

September 10, 2013

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013 - The Rest of the Weekend


Believe it or not, we did things OTHER than run for the three+ days we were in Anaheim over Labor Day weekend. :-) Here's some highlights.

We stayed at the DVC Villas at the Grand Californian. At first I wasn't too thrilled with our room's a view from outside the elevator lobby of the DVC wing. See the door that's just past the lobby? That was our door. I was concerned that it would be noisy, being so close to the elevator, but we never heard any noise from the hallway. It was on the ground floor, so we didn't have a view, but it was ok, and it was VERY convenient to not have to take the elevator to get to our room.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

The Grand Cal's entrance to DCA is very convenient - we entered that way even when going to Disneyland because it was shorter than going out through Downtown Disney. Be aware that before 11:00 or so this entrance is for the exclusive use of Disneyland Resort hotel guests, and you must present a valid room key from one of the three hotels in order to enter. We saw them turning people away on Saturday morning.

We spent some time enjoying attractions in the parks on Saturday after the 10K and on Monday morning.

It was very warm, so on Saturday morning we went on several rides that had mostly indoor queues! Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye underwent a refurb earlier this year - we hadn't been on it since it re-opened. There's some new lighting effects, especially in the first room with the face of Mara (which of course you aren't supposed to look at!). But we noticed different lighting in other places, too, like on the snake heads and the skeletons. We also went on Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters. Over in DCA we saw the Aladdin show, which featured one of the funniest Genies I've ever seen - lots of zingers including a mention of Miley Cyrus and twerking.

That evening we went back to DCA for dinner and then walked onto Voyage of the Little Mermaid and had a very short wait for Luigi's Flying Tires. I wasn't very impressed with the flying tires the first time I tried it, but it takes a little practice to learn how to fly the tires, and after that it's a lot more fun. We try to find some clear space where we can get a pretty good run going and bounce off the walls. :-) We saw a beautiful sunset over Radiator Springs.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

We met a few of our fellow Team AllEars members back at the Mad T Party - that version of Wonderland looked a lot different from the one we had run through that morning! :-) In addition to the band we saw a dance group and the aerialists. But we didn't stay late since we had to get up and run the half marathon the next day!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Sunday night after dinner we saw World of Color. We didn't have Fastpasses for it so we watched it from the area under Silly Symphony Swings. You can't see much of the projections from there, but it's a very interesting perspective of the fountains. You get a much better look at everything that they can do and how the lighting works. And it got REALLY hot when they turned on the flame fountains!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Monday morning we went to DCA for Magic Morning and rode Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania (which we WALKED onto), and California Screamin'. Then we went over to Disneyland with our teammate Eddie and his daughter, because I wanted to get a photo of us riding Dumbo wearing our Dumbo medals. We also went on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the Carrousel, made a wish at Snow White's Wishing Well, had breakfast at River Belle Terrace, and sailed on the Jungle Cruise - all by 10:10 in the morning!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

For Limited Time Magic the only thing we experienced was the special caramel apple that is being offered in September...and it really WAS special! An apple dipped in caramel and then covered with crushed English toffee and drizzled with chocolate. Oh. My. It was sooooo good! Even Lee really liked it, and he's not really into sweet things. They are available at Trolley Treats, the Candy Palace, and Marceline's. I wish I'd gotten another one - you can be assured that I will be getting one on my next trip! I hope they will keep this one around. Or maybe I hope that they don't so I won't be tempted!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

And a mini food blog...

Friday evening we ate at Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. I had the Crispy Tofu Salad, which I really like except for all of the red and green peppers, which I pulled out and gave to Lee. The tofu is coated with panko and fried - it actually had more of the consistency of fried mozzarella, and it was really, really good.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee had the Kahlua Pork Flatbread, and enjoyed that.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Saturday morning after we'd raced and showered we walked over to Disneyland and had breakfast at River Belle Terrace. It's a buffeteria and not table service, but I think they do a nice breakfast there. We sat outside, which is usually a nice setting close to the Rivers of America, but it was a little bit steamy that morning. Speaking of steamy...I had the Steamboat - three pancakes, scrambled eggs, and choice of sausage or bacon. It was more than I could eat - Lee ate most of my pancakes.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee had the Mark Twain - scrambled eggs, potatoes, biscuit, and choice of bacon or sausage. He said the potatoes were especially good. (We went back to River Belle on Monday morning and we both had the Mark Twain - I don't like the peppers in the potatoes, but I'd rather have the biscuit than the pancakes.)

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Our usual dinner spot the night before a Disneyland race is Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, and we didn't see any reason to change that. It wasn't as busy as it often is before a race, though we still had to wait a short time for our food. We both had our favorite Four Cheese Ravioli with pesto sauce. I brought my own bread, since they don't serve it there.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

After the race on Sunday went to Storyteller's Cafe at the Grand Californian for the breakfast buffet, as we usually do. It's always very busy on race morning, but it was really slammed and way, way overbooked on Sunday. I had a reservation and we STILL waited over 40 minutes to be seated! The buffet line was also very long - you really didn't want to go through it more than once. It's a character meal - Kenai and Meeko came to see us, but Chip and Brer Fox completely bypassed us. It was not a very good experience, especially given the cost, so this is probably the last time we'll do that.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Sunday evening we had dinner with our friends Mike and Joelle at Napa Rose. As an appetizer we split the Signature Pizzetta, which was basically a Margherita pizza (really good).

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee and Joelle split the Truffled Mac and Cheese. I had a bite - it was very rich, and they enjoyed it.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Mike and Joelle are vegetarian, and they each received a Vegetable Stack, customized with the types of veggies that they liked. They said it was very good.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

I had the Dove Breast, which was good, though I think the accompanying vegetables were my favorite part.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Lee ordered the Short Ribs, which he said were tender and delicious.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

We were a little too full for dessert, but they brought us three scoops of the Honey Peach Sorbet to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I would have called this ice cream and not sorbet, but it was very good, especially the marinated chopped peaches that came with it. It was a very nice dinner with wonderful dining companions and an excellent server.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend 2013

Looking back I'd have to say the highlight of my food experiences for the weekend was the English Toffee Caramel Apple. :-)

And that does it for our Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. We came, we ate, we ran - not necessarily in that order. Thanks for reading!

September 8, 2012

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012 - Part 3, The Food


It wouldn't be one of my Disney trip reports without a blog entry on the food, right? :-)

Friday night we had dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. We don't eat here very often, and I don't really know why, because we always look at the menu and have a hard time choosing - there are so many things that look good! I had made a priority seating for 8:00, and we were quickly seated at an outdoor table on the ground floor right against the railing, so we had a great spot to people-watch those going by.

We started with the Bourbon Street Sampler. The items on this change periodically - this time it was fried calamari, coconut shrimp, parmesan artichoke hearts, and meat pies, with three dipping sauces. We substituted more shrimp instead of the calamari - they are happy to do that. It was all good.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

I had one of their specials as my entree - it was a blackened shrimp and fried green tomato salad with avocado, radishes, bacon, and dijon-ranch dressing. It was really delicious! The fried green tomatoes were breaded and nicely cooked. The shrimp had a little bit of a kick, but not too bad.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Lee ordered the Pasta Jambalaya - Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, roasted chicken and spinach fettuccine. He also enjoyed that, and couldn't finish it.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

We ordered a side of Cajun Corn Bread. It was good - not too dry like corn bread often is. It had some peppers in it - Lee got the bite with most of the heat in it. :-)

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Their signature dessert, the Double Chocolate Bread Pudding Souffle, takes time to prepare so they ask that you pre-order it. We asked to look at the dessert menu just in case there was something else we wanted...and there were other interesting-looking desserts but we went with the bread pudding. It comes with white chocolate sauce and dark chocolate sauce - our server cut a chunk out of the middle of the souffle and poured both sauces in then replaced the chunk...and then we dug in. Mmm...this was really good! When he first brought it out it seemed a little small for two of us, but it was very filling and satisfying - and I was glad that it wasn't any bigger. There were chunks of chocolate baked into it in addition to the chocolate sauce - I think the secret is to dig down to the bottom so you get some chocolate sauce with every bite.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Saturday morning we tried the La Brea Bakery Express - we hadn't eaten here since it was remodeled. It's a lot bigger now with a more extensive menu, but they need to do something about the line, because it moves incredibly slowly. They need more cashiers. I was boring and had oatmeal (though it was good oatmeal), though I bought a box of their fruit/granola/nut clusters and added some of that to it. Lee had one of the breakfast sandwiches, and he enjoyed that. They have a good-sized outdoor seating area and it was a very pleasant morning to sit outside. I'd eat here again as long as there weren't more than 3-4 people in front of me in line - otherwise I'd try elsewhere.

That afternoon we had a late lunch at Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel. We were lucky to be able to find a table inside for the five of us - it's not a very big place. It has lots of atmosphere - like thunder, lightning, and erupting volcanoes... :-) (There are certain special effects that happen when people order several of the drinks.)

We ordered a couple of the non-alcoholic brews, since we were still in training. I had the Jungle River Sunset - soda water with OJ, falernum (whatever that is), and hibiscus grenadine. It was very colorful but very sweet - less ice and more soda water would have been good. Lee had the Schweitzer Falls - Sprite with tropical juices and Sam's Gorilla Grog. That one isn't quite as sweet.

We ordered the Chicken-Lettuce Wraps. This is a "do-it-yourself" - they bring a platter with lettuce leaves, chicken, rice noodles, and hoisin sauce and you make your own. The chicken was very good, and we enjoyed these.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

We also had the Fish Tacos. Three smallish corn tortillas with grilled mahi-mahi, and a pepper slaw on the side. They were very tasty, but pretty small.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Our tablemates had the Kahlua Pork Flatbread and the Cheese Flatbread. Judging by how fast they disappeared, they really enjoyed them. :-)

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

It was the night before a race, so of course we went in search of pasta. :-) Last year there was no one in Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta but this year the word has gotten out about that place and there was a line - we had to wait 5-10 minutes to get the Three Cheese Ravioli. It's very good.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

We also split a Boardwalk Field Greens Salad - a little too much dressing and bleu cheese for me, though.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

And Lee had the BBQ Chicken Flat Bread Pizza. He really likes that, but I don't like the flat bread crust.

After the race on Sunday we rewarded ourselves with the breakfast buffet at Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian. The breakfast buffet has just about all of the items that are on the a la carte menu, and doesn't cost that much more. It's a very nice spread - fresh fruit, yogurt, lox and bagels, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, hot and cold cereal, pastries, eggs Benedict, and, my favorite, made-to-order omelets. Pancakes and Mickey waffles are also available - just ask your server, and they are served fresh and hot to your table! Hot beverages and juices are also included. Not surprisingly it was VERY popular with runners, and the line at the buffet was longer than I've ever seen it. :-( If you want to do this on race day, make reservations at least a couple of weeks before - they were still taking walk-ups, but they were being told it was a 45-minute wait, and we got in with about a 5-minute wait.

It's a character meal, though as character meals go it's fairly calm. We saw Dale, Terk and Kenai, but Koda and Chip didn't make it to our table. In the past I've seen Rafiki and Meeko, too.

That afternoon we met up with members of Team AllEars at Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream in DCA for ice cream (though a couple of people opted for Starbuck's beverages from the Pig Cafe next door instead). I had the Mocha Sundae - mocha almond ice cream, caramel sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry in a waffle cup. Yum.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Lee had the Strawberry Sundae with vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, whipped cream and a cherry in a waffle cup. He enjoyed that, too.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

We had dinner that night at Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel. We'd never been there for a "regular" dinner before - our other dinners were Winemaker dinners during the Food and Wine Festivals. We've had breakfast there several times, and enjoy that. Overall it wasn't a great experience - the food was good, but our server was a little odd. He didn't welcome us to the restaurant or ask us if we were celebrating anything (which we were), didn't really tell us about the menu, didn't ask Lee if he wanted anything on his steak - really didn't interact with us very much at all and it was kind of uncomfortable.

Lee started with the scallops, and really enjoyed them.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

I had the Spring Greens Salad with raspberry vinaigrette - and to my surprise it was freshly made raspberry vinaigrette with real crushed raspberries in it! It was very good.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Oh, the bread service was really good, too - a loaf of fresh hot sourdough bread. I would've been very happy with just bread and salad. :-)

My entree was Pork Chops with Roasted Apples. The pork was moist and flavorful and especially good when eaten with a bit of the applesauce that came with it.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

As a side I ordered the Potato Stack Au Gratin. Oh my...that was SO good! Cheesy but with a bit of a crust on top. I loved it.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Lee had the New York Strip Steak. Since our server didn't ask him if he wanted anything on top of it he used some of the butter that came with our bread instead, and enjoyed that.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

He had Macaroni and Cheese as a side. It was good, but the potato stack was better. :-)

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

Nothing on the dessert menu really appealed to us - while I was intrigued by the 24-layer chocolate cake, they ruin it by using Grand Marnier in it. (That violates Laura's First Chocolate Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Mix Chocolate and Citrus.) So we went to the Cupcake Store in Downtown Disney and had cupcakes instead - Pure Chocolate for me and Coconut for Lee. Not quite as good as a great chocolate dessert would have been, but still satisfying.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012
Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

On Monday morning they had Magic Morning at DCA for hotel guests. After we'd ridden Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi's Flying Tires, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Toy Story Mania, we had breakfast at Flo's V8 Cafe. We both had the Chicken Tamale Breakfast - a chicken tamale with scrambled eggs, salsa verde, and pico de gallo. This was just ok...the tamale was good, but the eggs were more like chunks from an egg casserole, and the whole dish was not overly warm. I probably would not get it again.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

I also tried Mater's Tulsa Tea - this was green iced tea with a tropical fruit foam on top. It was a little too sweet for me, though not as sweet as I thought it might be. It did have a pretty good flavor apart from the sweetness.

Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

It was a great weekend, and nice to have some new dining experiences in addition to some familiar favorites.

February 27, 2012

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!


For those not familiar with it, Napa Rose is the signature restaurant at the Grand Californian, with dishes featuring seasonal ingredients inspired by the wine country. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, with lots of wood and interesting light fixtures. I find it elegant but comfortable. There is an open show kitchen, and guests can book dining at what they call the Chef's Counter, which overlooks the kitchen. There are eight seats available, with two seatings per night.

Lee and I have dined at Napa Rose a couple of times before, but this time I was able to book seats for us at the Chef's Counter for the 5:30 seating. We arrived a few minutes before 5:30 and took a seat in the lounge until someone came to take us. We were seated at the right end, which gave us a great view of the pastry chef's work area as well as one of the stoves where the sous chefs were hard at work on entrees.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

It was really fascinating to watch them work - and the flames were always exciting. :-)

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Executive Chef Andrew Sutton was off for the evening, and Chef Alex was in charge of the kitchen. Soon after we were seated he came over and asked us if we wanted to order off the regular menu, or if we wanted to do the "tasting menu" where he would come up with dishes for us. We definitely wanted to try the tasting menu, and he took note of our dislikes. (I have to admit that my list was longer than Lee's. :-) )

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

We also opted to add the Wine Pairings with each course. Our server quickly came around with our first wine - a flute of Scharffenberger Brut sparkling wine, which he said cleanses the palate. (I wish all cleansers were so tasty!) I had no idea Scharffenberger made wines - I was only familiar with their chocolate. (Interestingly, the chocolate brand is Scharffen Berger, and the wine label is Scharffenberger Cellars.)

Served with the wine was the amuse bouche - this was mascarpone cheese, herbs and ham in a little sesame cone. Very tasty.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Our first course came fairly quickly after that. I had a variation of the Smiling Tiger Salad: no beef, and it came with tempura shrimp instead of tempura lobster. The tempura was so light, and the greens and vinaigrette very fresh. It disappeared quickly. (Lee and I did share our dishes - but maybe only a bite or two. ;-) )

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Lee was presented with the Artichoke Pesto Crusted Pacific Yellowtail - Potato Gnocchi, Artichokes and Laughing Bird Shrimp in a Lemon Broth. This was one of the items on the Vintner's Menu (which changes weekly), that looked really interesting, and I was very glad we were able to try it. It was really good - other than dessert this was my favorite course of the evening. OK, so maybe I had more than two bites of this one...

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

I'm afraid I didn't take any notes on the wines other than the first one. Other than this first wine and the dessert wine we each had something different each time - two whites and two reds. (Yes, I managed to drink most of six glasses of wine and could still walk straight at the end of the evening!)

We had quite a long wait for our second course - the kitchen was very busy, and they had an incident with a broken plate where they had to redo everything that was nearby. We think our second course got caught up in that. I was trying very hard not to fill up on the yummy bread and cracker bread that we had been served. But in the meantime we were really enjoying the "show" in the kitchen. At one point we watched them plate a whole bunch of the same Black Angus New York Steak dish.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Second course for me was another salad (that's ok - I love salad). This was the Honey Roasted Pear and Brie Salad with Frisee, Endive, Upland Cress and Cranberry Honey Vinaigrette and a polenta-crusted piece of brie. The pears were just wonderful - sweet but not overwhelming, and the roasting gave them a very nice texture. The brie was a little crunchy on the outside but soft and creamy in the middle - yum. I enjoyed the greens, and loved the cranberry honey vinaigrette, which had real fresh cranberries in it.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Lee had the Pan Roasted Diver Scallops with a lemon and lobster sauce. He really enjoyed this, since he really likes scallops. I tried a bite, but scallops always taste fishy to me for some reason. As you can see it was a really beautifully presented dish.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

My third course was something I never would have ordered myself, but it was good - the Rabbit Meatloaf with mushroom ragu and carrot puree. It was different, though I couldn't tell you how - but it definitely did NOT taste like chicken. :-) Probably not something I would go out of my way to order, but I wouldn't refuse to eat it, either.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Lee's dish was also a "game" dish: Smoked Pheasant Dumpling with Cranberry Lemongrass Glaze. I would have called this an empanada or turnover rather than a dumpling. It was very good - the smoky flavor of the pheasant was very nice. Having tried it, this is definitely something that I would order for myself in the future.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

The fourth course was our main course. Mine was the Roasted Venison Loin with Sage & Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Black Trumpet Mushroom Essence. (If you've been paying attention, yes, I did in fact eat Bambi and Thumper. ;-) ) I've had venison before and this was good, very tender and not gamey at all. It was a little too rare in the middle for me, so I didn't finish that part. Though to be honest, the part I enjoyed the most of this dish was the whipped sweet potatoes. Mm, mm, good!

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Lee's entree was the Pan Roasted Petit Filet Mignon with roasted parsnips, served on a white cheddar fritter. I didn't get to try the parsnips, but the fritter was very good. And he enjoyed the filet.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

Dessert was the only course where we were asked what we wanted. We'd been watching Jasmine, the pastry chef, make various desserts all night, and the one that really intrigued Lee was something that had some freshly made fritters. It was called Best Ever Hot Chocolate, and came with a cup of very rich hot chocolate in addition to the hot and fresh fritters. He loves fried dough, so really enjoyed the fritters. Each had different fillings - fruit fillings in two and custard in the other. The hot chocolate was flavored with orange, which ruined it for me, but he liked it, though I think it was richer than he prefers. (As you can see, we were celebrating our anniversary - #25!)

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

For me there was one obvious dessert choice: Scharffen Berger Chocolate Pate. And I was not disappointed. This was rich but not heavy, creamy and smooth and melted in the mouth. Makes my mouth water just remembering it! My plate was pretty clean - I even scraped off and ate some of the anniversary chocolate. :-)

Napa Rose Chef's Counter - A Dining Experience!

We were served a small glass of what I think was ice wine with dessert. I know some of you find that much too sweet but I enjoyed it.

It was really a wonderful dinner and very entertaining to watch the kitchen at work in front of us. It was definitely a leisurely dinner - just about 2:45 from the time we sat down until the time we left. Although we had five courses (plus the amuse bouche) they were of a size that I wasn't just stuffed when I left - I was pleasantly full but not uncomfortable. While I wouldn't want to eat like that all of the time it was a wonderful treat and a great way to celebrate our anniversary.

The price for the "tasting menu" is $90/person - the same as the four-course Vintner's Menu. The wine pairings are $45/person.

To book the Chef's Counter you must call the Napa Rose restaurant directly. Though in my case I called Disneyland Dining to book another reservation and they transferred me to Napa Rose. I believe you can book at least 60 days in advance, though I booked less than 30 days prior.

Napa Rose Menu

July 25, 2011

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2


A new restaurant complex opened in the Paradise Pier area of Disney California Adventure at the beginning of July. Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta serves flatbread pizzas, salads, and several types of pasta, while Paradise Garden Grill serves Mediterranean-style skewers, with choice of meat or tofu, and choice of sauces.

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2

There's a separate kiosk called Bayside Brews which serves a selection of beers and soft drinks, and several kinds of Mickey Mouse pretzels.

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2

The entire complex has a very large shared outdoor seating area. There are lots of tables and chairs, and most of it is covered, with ceiling fans to provide air circulation. It's really very nice and it was pretty quiet when I was there - there were quite a few people just sitting and relaxing.

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta has a food court type of set-up. There are different stations inside for the salads, pizzas, pastas, and kid's meals. Food items are pre-plated and self-serve, but if you don't see what you want (or have a special request) just ask the cast members behind the counter.

BW Pizza & Pasta station
BW Pizza & Pasta food station
BW Pizza & Pasta food station
BW Pizza & Pasta food station

There are two self-serve beverage stations, one on each side of the restaurant. Both have soft drinks and hot beverages. Bottled water, juice boxes and chocolate milk are available in cold cases at the registers.

BW Pizza & Pasta beverage station
BW Pizza & Pasta beverage station

Only the hot portion of the kid's meals is available at the kid's meal counter. The packages of carrots/fruit and kid's beverages should be picked up from the cold cases at the registers.

BW Pizza & Pasta checkout

Desserts and side salads are also found in some of the cold cases. After selecting all your foods and beverages, take your tray to one of the registers to pay, and then exit to the seating area outside.

Here is the MENU.

Photos of the food items are below:

BW Pizza & Pasta food
Italian Chef Salad
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Boardwalk Field Greens Salad
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Chicken Caesar Salad
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Pepperoni Pizza
BW Pizza & Pasta food
BBQ Chicken Pizza
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Portobello Mushroom & Spinach Pizza
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Cheese Pizza
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Fruit Pizza
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Chicken Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Five-Cheese Ravioli
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Spaghetti & Meatballs
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Kids' Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Kids' Little Bell Pasta with Alfredo Sauce
BW Pizza & Pasta food
Kids' Cheese Pizza

Condiments, straws, and napkins are available at several stations outside.

BW Pizza & Pasta condiments

Paradise Garden Grill is a traditional counter-service restaurant where you place your order and pay at the register, then pick up your food at the window. The menu is limited - they offer skewers, which come with rice pilaf, cucumber salad and pita bread, and a Greek salad, with baklava available for dessert. The menu is HERE.

Paradise Garden Grill

When it was time for lunch I decided I wanted to try the skewers from Paradise Garden Grill. I opted for the Tofu and Vegetable skewer. Each skewer comes with choice of sauce (Moroccan chili, chimichurri, tandoori yogurt, or tzatziki). I couldn't decide, and the cast member taking my order told me that I could ask for all four. Awesome. I wanted to try the baklava, but they hadn't gotten any yet. :-(

Tofu and vegetable skewer

I was very pleased the the skewer did NOT have peppers on it. There were two kinds of squash, red onions, and tofu. The tofu was rubbery and tough, but the vegetables were nicely grilled. I really enjoyed having the chance to try all four sauces. The chimichurri and tzatziki were my favorites, but they were all good. I'm not sure how well the Moroccan chili or tandoori would pair with the lemon-oregano chicken, though - depends on how strong the lemon and oregano flavors are. I don't think that one container of sauce is enough, so I would recommend that you request additional sauce.

The rice pilaf was very good, but I didn't care at all for the cucumber salad - which contained cucumbers and peppers, neither of which I like.

The grilled pita bread was very good - it was a full piece of bread, though it was folded in half to fit on the plate.

There's a bandstand in the seating area, and the Odyssey group was performing Italian favorites like "That's Amore" and the Tarantella.


The restrooms are located next to Paradise Garden Grill.


This is a very nice area, and the food was good - I was surprised that there were very few guests there at 12:00. Most of the people I saw in the seating area were eating corn dogs from the nearby Corn Dog Castle.

Here are some additional photos of the area. Have I mentioned that there is lots of seating?

Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Entrance near Goofy's Sky School
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Disney California Adventure Updates - Part 2
Entrance near Silly Symphony Swings

Another new food location is Dulce Aventura, a snack kiosk that has opened in the Pacific Wharf area next to Cocina Cucamonga. Dulce Aventura offers sweet treats, like cookies, brownies, candy apples, and chocolate covered Mickey Mouse pretzels.

Dulce Aventura

The menu is HERE. Those Oreo brownies look very tempting!

Dulce Aventura

Next time I'll have photos and info on the two new shows: Wilderness Explorer Ceremony and Phineas and Ferb's Rockin' Rollin' Dance Party.

May 31, 2011

Disneyland Hotel Updates - New Restaurants and Pool


The Disneyland Hotel has been undergoing extensive renovation for a while now. Major facelifts to the three towers, as well as the construction of a new pool area and restaurant complex. The two new restaurants opened last week, and the pool area opened on Sunday, May 29, so I wanted to share some photos from my visit last Thursday.

There's still a lot of construction walls blocking the normal walkways, so there are signs like these directing guests to the new restaurants.


Tangaroa Terrace is a counter service restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

-- Breakfast Menu

-- All Day Menu



Those familiar with Captain Cook's at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World will recognize the order kiosks.


In addition to foods ordered off the menu there is a grab-and-go case with items like salads, sandwiches, and yogurt parfaits, and also a self-serve pastry case. I tried the pineapple/coconut/macadamia nut muffin and it was really good. Beverages are also self-serve. Unlike Captain Cooks, there is not a Dole Whip machine at Tangaroa Terrace.


There is some seating indoors.


There is more seating outdoors.


Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar opens at 11:30 and is open until after midnight. In addition the bar offerings, food is also available, things like fish tacos, wings, and flatbreads. The menu is HERE. Some of the names of the specialty beverages and their descriptions are pretty amusing.



Seating on the patio outside Trader Sam's.


There's a great outdoor seating area below Trader Sam's, complete with huge fireplace (which was lit and burning, even during the day).


The decor inside Trader Sam's is somewhat reminiscent of that at the former Adventurer's Club at Walt Disney World. It's much smaller, though.


Here's what's printed inside the menu:

"Aloha, ahoy, aha! And welcome to the mystery, romance, and adventure of Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. Here, at the edge of civilization, a poison dart's throw from the deepest, darkest, most dangerous region where the hand of man has never step foot, my fearless friend established this happy outpost for all to enjoy!

Who is Trader Sam? Why, he's the head salesman of the jungle, the one who's always ready to trade two of his heads for just one of yours! His expertise in head-shrinking potions grew into an interest in mixology. Bitten by the bartending bug (just one of thousands he's been bitten by), Sam searched the Amazon, Congo, Polynesia, and every tropical locale in-between for magical ingredients to mix into his delectable libations. Along the way he picked up many of the trinkets and artifacts you see around you.

In the tiki bar business, it's a jungle out there. But once Trader Sam began serving his exotic elixirs to tourists, the word really spread! So welcome aboard...ashore...or wherever you are! Cheers! Drink Up! Tulleeho! Kanpai! Prost! Kungaloosh! Ooogy Wawa! And above all, enjoy the time you spend with us at the world-famous Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.

[signed] Skip

founder, Jungle Cruise Navigational Company

P.S. Just so you know - this place isn't called 'Enchanted' for nothing.

P.P.S. If you're wearing yellow, don't act like a banana."

I didn't see any "enchanted" shenanigans going on, but I was there in the afternoon and it was pretty quiet.







I tried one of the non-alcoholic drinks - the Schweitzer Falls. It's described as "Tropical Juices and Sam's Gorilla Grog topped with Sprite". It was good, and refreshing, but it mostly tasted like pineapple juice.

Here's one of the gates into the pool area.


Lots of chaise lounges ready for sun-worshipers!


Like the Grand Californian, there will also be private cabanas available to rent.


The big slide into the pool.


The deeper swimming pool.


There's a splash play area under the slide.


April 6, 2011

Hungry Bear Restaurant Review


The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country re-opened recently with a new menu, featuring some new and rather unusual menu items. Lee and I tried some of them on our visit last weekend.


The previous Hungry Bear menu offered your basic burgers and fries - nothing too exciting. The new menu still has burgers and fries, but the burgers are Angus beef burgers and are served with sweet potato fries. In addition to the regular cheeseburger there is a Pioneer Cheeseburger that is topped with homemade chili and a hand-battered onion ring. Lee tried that and said it was excellent. He took a bite of the burger patty all by itself and said that it was really good - normally theme park burgers are not very tasty. The sweet potato fries were also excellent - they were crisp and flavorful and not soggy at all. Really good. I was never even offered a bite of the onion ring, but it looked wonderful.


The new "signature" item on the menu is the Fried Green Tomato sandwich, and that's what I ordered. It has cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes layered with two slices of fresh tomato with havarti cheese, remoulade, jicama-mango slaw and served on a multi-grain roll. It comes with choice of sweet potato fries or zesty slaw - I ordered the slaw. The fried tomatoes were quite good - didn't taste like tomato at all, though. They were crunchy but not greasy. Unfortunately the jicama-mango slaw contained slices of red pepper, which I don't like - I picked them out and enjoyed the sandwich without them. The "zesty slaw" turned out to be the jicama-mango slaw - so that meant more red peppers. I should've ordered the sweet potato fries. Actually, I should've ordered the onion rings - I found out later that you can order onion rings with your sandwiches instead of fries or slaw. Anyway, the sandwich was good and I would order it again - but request that they leave off the slaw.


Other new offerings on the menu are the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Turkey and Provolone Sandwich, and Big Al's Chicken Salad. That sounded intriguing - it's romaine and iceberg lettuce topped with smoked chicken, dried cherries, candied walnuts, pickled onions, and watermelon, of all things. Sounds like something that would be very refreshing on a warm summer day.

Veggie burgers are still available at Hungry Bear, but take a little bit longer to prepare. But a veggie burger cheeseburger is still an option!

There's two new desserts on the menu - the Lemon Bumblebee Cupcake and Trixie's Blueberry Pie. The cupcake has a lemon cream filling and honey-lemon frosting.


We had the blueberry pie. They actually keep them warm in a warming oven, but of course by the time we finished our sandwiches it was only barely (bearly?) warm. It was filled with lots of plump blueberries - it wasn't just congealed blueberry goop. It was a little bit tart - Lee liked it that way, I thought it could have used a little more sugar. It was really good, though.


The new menu gets two thumbs up from us - we'll be back, for blueberry pie if nothing else. :-) The restaurant's seating area down at the edge of the Rivers of America makes it one of the nicer places to eat at Disneyland - it seems just a little quieter and more out of the way than a lot of the other restaurants.

You can view the menu HERE.

March 22, 2011

Recent Disneyland Meals


Thought I'd write about some of the new (to me) meals I've had at Disneyland over my last few trips.

The Village Haus in Fantasyland re-opened late last year with a somewhat new menu - I have to say I was happy to see a new twist on the the burgers and pizza they served before! They still serve burgers and pizza, but now in addition to the usual offerings they serve a burger with pastrami, horseradish sauce, and caramelized onions, and a BLT flatbread with bacon, caramelized onions, marinated tomatoes and arugula. In keeping with the Bavarian theme of the restaurant they also offer a chicken sausage in a pretzel roll, covered with sauerkraut, which was what I tried. It was pretty good - the sausage was tasty, though the pretzel roll was a little dry. And it needed more sauerkraut. But I enjoyed it and would order it again.


Village Haus Menu

Troubadour Tavern is located next to Disney's Princess Fantasy Faire. Its offerings are more like substantial snacks than real meals. In addition to bratwurst and corn on the cob they offer three kinds of baked potatoes: broccoli and cheese, bacon and sour cream, and barbecued chicken. I ordered the bacon and sour cream potato, which also came with cheese and chives. I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get when I order a baked potato from a fast food place, but the one I had here was hot and fluffy and very good. They were pretty generous with all of the toppings, and it was petty filling for $6.29. I think next time I'd like to try either the broccoli and cheese or the barbecued chicken potato - those look good, too!


Troubadour Tavern Menu

Tomorrowland Terrace has a Mahi Mahi Sandwich on the menu. The mahi mahi is marinated and baked, and served on a bun with cabbage and pico de gallo. I opted for the fruit instead of fries. It could have used something that would have given it a little bit more of a kick, but I'd order it again.


Tomorrowland Terrace Menu

While Lee and I have done the World of Color Picnics several times, we had never done one of the World of Color Dinner Packages. I was surprised when I called on a Thursday and found plenty of availability for the next night - I had my choice of times at both restaurants!. We chose the Wine Country Trattoria - I hadn't been there since they re-opened last summer with the new menu.

There is now seating at the Trattoria both upstairs and downstairs, but the kitchen is not quite as well-equipped upstairs, so only World of Color diners are seated upstairs, since it has a smaller menu. (They also seat World of Color diners downstairs.) We were seated upstairs. The area is a large covered patio, and is open on the sides. It was a little chilly on this January night, but not too bad.

The World of Color Dinners are prix fixe - you have choice of soup or salad, and then a choice of six entrees. Dessert is a shared platter with small servings of four different desserts. It's $39.99, and at the end of dinner you receive tickets to the Reserved Viewing area for the World of Color show.

Since it was a cool evening Lee and I started with the minestrone soup. It's a very acceptable soup, but nothing to rave about.


I chose Today's Sustainable Fish for my entree. I don't remember now what kind of fish it was but it was nicely cooked, moist, and served on a bed of tomato-vegetable ragu.


Lee had the Braised Lamb Shank with polenta and some kind of greens. He really liked it - I had a few bites, too, and it was very good.


I have to say I was disappointed in the desserts: Trattoria Tiramisu, Mini Fruit Crostada,
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruit, and Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse with Lemon Cream. The mousse was pretty good, but the rest were just ok. We didn't finish the crostada or the tiramisu.


I was surprised that there was an annual pass discount on the dining package, but there was, and our server even asked if we were AP holders (which they don't always do). Even with the discount, by the time we added tax, tip, and a couple glasses of wine it was a hundred dollar dinner.

Wine Country Trattoria World of Color Dinner Menu

We had tickets to the 8:00 World of Color show - even though it said to go to the viewing area at 7:30, and we went at 7:30, there were already LOTS of people in there. So, even in the reserved section we didn't get a prime spot, though we had a mostly unobstructed view. Still a great show, though. I hadn't see the Tron tag at the end from the viewing area - only from the side. It looks a lot better from the front.


November 13, 2010

Disneyland Resort Food Bites


I haven't done this for a's a few brief reviews on some new (to me) things I've tried at the Disneyland Resort over the last couple of months.

I'll start with the thing that was my favorite, since it's the most memorable: the mini cupcake sampler. Lee and I shared this one evening. It comes with six different miniature frosted cupcakes: carrot cake, red velvet, peanut butter, chocolate, coconut, and vanilla. The red velvet and chocolate cupcakes were awesome (he almost didn't get any of the chocolate one), and he really enjoyed the carrot cake as well (I think it was good carrot cake - I'm just not a carrot cake fan). The coconut one was also good, with nice moist shredded coconut on top. Lee enjoyed the peanut butter one more than I did. Our least favorite was the vanilla - it just didn't have a lot of flavor and didn't seem as "special" as the others. The box is $6.95. I have seen it at Marceline's in Downtown Disney, at the candy counter in Greetings from California at DCA, and in Pooh Corner at Disneyland.


La Brea Bakery Cafe

La Brea Bakery Cafe has several varieties of sliders on its menu - there are three grilled "mini-paninis" in each order. We tried the Three Cheese (cheddar, mozzarella and parmagiano) and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. I thought the Three Cheese was a bit tasteless but Lee enjoyed them. I really liked the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. They also have ham and gruyere. These are $7.95 for three, for $3.95 more you can add a (large) salad or a cup of soup.



La Brea Bakery Cafe Menu

Rancho del Zocalo

Rancho del Zocalo has added Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos to its menu. The platter of two fish tacos, rice, and beans is $10.49. Each fish taco is wrapped in two corn tortillas, which seems a bit excessive. They were very tasty - just a little bit spicy - but I thought the pieces of fish were very small.


Rancho del Zocalo Menu

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen

I've always thought the appetizers at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen looked really good, so I made a meal out of their appetizer sampler, which comes with BBQ pork sliders, Creole calamari, blackened chicken spring rolls and coconut shrimp. I didn't want the calamari, so our server offered to substitute more of one of the other items - I chose the coconut shrimp, since that's what Lee wanted to "share" with me. :-) I ended up with the appetizer for four people ($24) instead of for two ($15), which was a lot of food - I couldn't finish. Next time I'd do the smaller size, unless I had several people who wanted to sample it.


Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Dinner Menu

Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans recently raised their prices, but the menu hasn't changed - we had a late lunch there. I really wanted the Mickey Beignets for dessert, and since we were also going to share an order of Pomme Frites (best French fries ever!), I ordered just the "La Salade de Maison" instead of an entree. It's quite a large salad, though. And between the two of us we couldn't finish the Pomme Frites. Lee had the Creole Ratatouille, which he really enjoyed - it was a little spicy for me, but the corn cakes were very good. The Mickey Beignets were hot and light and airy - just don't inhale when you take a bite (it's hard to breathe powdered sugar!).





Cafe Orleans Menu

Steakhouse 55

The morning of the Destination 23 scavenger hunt we had breakfast at Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel. If you want a calm, quiet place to have breakfast, this is it. There's usually not very many people, and few children, plus the restaurant is pretty quiet anyways - not too many tables, and the surfaces are more sound-absorbing rather than sound-reflecting. The food is good, too. Lee had the Two Times Four, which was two pieces of French toast, two eggs, and two pieces of both bacon and sausage. The French toast was good.


I had the Sunrise Burrito - a tortilla with eggs, chorizo, potatoes, and cheese. I had them leave out the chorizo. I was disappointed in this - the cheese was on the outside and not the inside, and there were peppers in the potatoes. Next time I'd get the Huevos Rancheros, which I've had before - or get what Lee had. Still, it was an excellent breakfast and kept us going through the scavenger hunt, since we didn't have time to eat during the hunt.


Steakhouse 55 Breakfast Menu

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August 3, 2010

Cafe Renee - Downtown Disney


Not long ago I read an entry in the Disney Parks Blog ( about the new Cafe Renee in Downtown Disney. This kiosk, located near World of Disney, serves made-to-order crepes. The menu made my mouth water (they serve both savory and sweet crepes), and I knew I had to try it on my next visit!

So Lee and I stopped there on Monday. Though it's called a "cafe", it's really a large food cart. They have two crepe makers. Though the Nutella Crepe looked tempting, we wanted something more substantial, so we tried two of the savory crepes - the Caprese Crepe and the BBQ Pulled Pork Crepe.

It was pretty interesting to watch the guy make the crepes - he poured a small amount of batter onto the crepe maker and then spread it around in a circular motion, till he had a thin, but very even, crepe. After it had cooked for a while he flipped it over to brown the other side, then took it off to add the fillings.

I had the Caprese Crepe, which was filled with small balls of fresh mozzarella, chopped cherry tomatoes, basil, and croutons, with balsamic vinaigrette and topped with shaved parmesan cheese.


It was terrific! The croutons really added a nice crunch to it, and the balsamic vinaigrette complemented the cheeses, basil, and tomatoes. It was really quite filling, too.


Lee tried the BBQ Pulled Pork Crepe, with shredded pork and cole slaw and topped with onion strings and BBQ sauce. He had a choice of spicy or original BBQ sauce and opted for the spicy. His crepe was really good, too.


We were lucky that there was no one in front of us, because this is really not a very fast process, so if there's much of a line you could be waiting a while to get your crepe. They also serve Funnel Cake Sticks, which are deep fried, so those can be prepared much faster.

But we really enjoyed these - I want to try the Nutella Crepe next time!

Cafe Renee opens at 10:00 a.m. daily. Sunday-Thursday it closes at 10:00 p.m., and closes at 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

May 14, 2010

Dinner at Steakhouse 55



Having wound up this year needing to make last-minute reservations for Mother's Day, I settled on Steakhouse 55 for the very good reasons that

a) They give an AP discount,
b) They still had reservations Sunday afternoon.

Steakhouse 55 is located in the Disneyland Hotel, just off the Lobby and next door to Goofy's Kitchen. Renamed from the old Granville's restaurant, the title and decor is supposed to be a callback to 1955, when Disneyland opened and Hollywood was still hanging on to its glamor days.


The lighting is subdued and the walls are covered with large black-and-white photos of famous celebrities laughing and eating at what might be the Brown Derby (you can see the edges of some of the trademark caricatures in some of the photos) or what might be some other posh eatery. The booths are deep with high backs that call back memories of Lucille Ball peering over at William Holden.


The cuisine is straight steakhouse fare, as might have been expected. Nothing too fancy or surprising was served, but what was presented was largely well prepared.

Actually, one of the things I was most impressed about was the bread -- it was served piping hot from the oven and was as soft and crusty as you always hope french bread will be.

A few of us ordered the prix fixe menu, which came with a small, but respectable, Caesar Salad.

The Spring Greens came with candied pecans and a raspberry vinaigrette that was appreciated particularly for the fresh berries that dotted it.

The petite New York Steak on the prix fixe menu was actually the only one that came with its own side dish -- garlic and herb smashed potatoes. It was perhaps a trifle underdone for the medium rare I ordered, but not to the point where I expected it to start mooing and chewing its cud, as is sometimes the case in restaurants.

This was the 12 oz. Roasted Prime Rib -- we couldn't imagine how big the 16 oz. would have looked.

Then we had the seafood--the Broiled Atlantic Salmon...

...and the Halibut Steak.
So the problem with eating in a group is that, unless you're willing to stick your fork into other people's dinner, you're dependent on the input of others as to how the food was. All anyone said about the fish was, "I liked it! It was really good," despite my gentle insistence that it wasn't going to make compelling reading.

In addition to the main dishes, we also ordered sides of sauteed mushrooms, green beans, and broccoli. Of the three, the mushrooms were definitely the best, being a seasonal assortment cooked in a red wine sauce, and the broccoli was definitely the least inspiring, resembling and tasting just like a large, minimally seasoned crown of broccoli.

The desserts came at last -- I thought the prix fixe Seasonal Tart was very good, with rhubarb/strawberry filling and a crisp crust topped with caramel ice cream. The colorful swirls were fruit-flavored, although I always find it awkward to try to scrape sauce like that up off the plate without looking like you may start licking it clean at any time.

The only other dessert we sampled was the creme brulee, which came with collated cookies filed neatly in a candy ribbon. The top might have been harder, but I usually think that unless the sugar is melted into a sheet of glass the width of safety windows.

Ultimately, I think my opinion of the restaurant was that it was a nice place to have a reliably good meal. The menu choices aren't going to wow anyone as they would at Napa Rose, and the steak is probably not quite as good as at the Ruth's Chris Steak House down the road on Harbor Boulevard, but the prices are probably a good $10-$20 cheaper per person. The atmosphere inside of understated elegance and nostalgia is charming, although I can't help but think children might find it a little on the unstimulating side.

With its ties to the Old Hollywood of Walt's time, Steakhouse 55 will make a nice counterpoint to the new and future theme of "Disney's California Adventure." Actually, if they wanted to remake it again into another replica of the Brown Derby, it doesn't seem as though it would take much -- and would provide a themed eating experience that doesn't revolve around Princesses or Characters for a change.

October 29, 2009

Various Restaurant Reviews

We've had a number of Disneyland dining experiences over the last six weeks that I have been meaning to write about...since there's so many of them, this won't be quite as detailed as I would usually do. (What's that I hear? Wild cheering???)

Back to the weekend of D23...

One night Lee and I walked over to the Anaheim GardenWalk - we'd never actually been there before. It's really not far from Disneyland at all - maybe a 10-15 minute walk. There are a lot of restaurants there, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmick's Grille, Roy's and P.F. Chang's. We opted for California Pizza Kitchen, mainly because we could get in immediately. The food was good - the big surprise was that they gave us a 20% discount for being Disneyland Annual Pass Holders! That's a bigger discount than you get at any of the Disney restaurants! Our server told us that most of the restaurants at the GardenWalk offer a Pass Holder discount.

We walked around the rest of the area afterwards - there are a lot of interesting places there, including a place called FiRE + iCE. According to the web site, it "is a smokin' hot dining experience featuring an incredible variety of fresh meats, seafood, vegetables, pasta and sauces cooked on an open grill in a refreshingly fun and colorful atmosphere. Featuring an outdoor patio with a fire pit, it is the perfect destination for those seeking a creative and entertaining dining experience!"

There's also Mrs. Field's, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Cinnabon, Submarina, Johnny Rocket's and Tacone, among others. La Salsa and Auntie Anne's are coming soon. (Love Auntie Anne's pretzels - but I've only ever seen them in airports!)

On another D23 evening we had dinner with Deb and Deb at Catal in Downtown Disney. I'd never been there before, but we will definitely be returning! We had a wonderful dinner - great food, a terrific server, and, as an added bonus, we could see the Disneyland fireworks from our table!

The menu is HERE. Some of the things we sampled were the Compressed Salad, Bucatini Pasta, Colorado Lamb mix grill, New York Steak, and rotisserie chicken. I think I'm the only one who ordered dessert but it was awesome - the Chocolate Flourless Fudge Torte. One of the better chocolate desserts I've had anywhere in a while.


On the first day of Halloween Time, Lee and I had lunch at The French Market, since they were one of the locations that was serving special menu items for Halloween. I love the decor in there at Halloween - they really decorate the place. (I wish they would sell the zombie gingerbread men in the park!) They were supposed to have Zero's Ghostly Goulash, but that was not on the menu, though they had a couple of Halloween-themed desserts.


I should know better by now than to eat there...I really do NOT care for the food. This time I tried the Dixieland Cajun Chicken Salad, and didn't like it at all - the chicken and avocado was soaked in some kind of a citrusy-lime marinade that was overpowering. And once again the so-called "Cheddar Cornbread" was really orange cornbread. Lee had the Chicken & Seafood Jambalaya, which he said was ok - he doesn't like the cornbread, either.



Dessert was good, though - it was four red velvet madeleines served in a plastic coffin. Really very tasty!


The menu is HERE.

That night we ate at the Wine Country Trattoria at DCA. That remains my favorite in-the-park restaurant - I've enjoyed everything that I've had there. This time I ordered something different, the Pizzetta Salad, and I think I have a new favorite dish. It's romaine hearts, roma tomatoes, smoked bacon, crumbled blue cheese and Kalamata olives with a creamy Italian dressing served on a warm pizzeta crust. SO good, and very filling. I ordered the dressing on the side and ended up dipping the pizzeta crust in it. Yum. Lee ordered his favorite, the Lasagna Rustica. I think my only complaint about this restaurant is that they don't serve warm bread.



For dessert we had the Trattoria Chocolate Creme - Freshly baked silky double chocolate creme with a vanilla wafer cookie. Sort of a cross between mousse and pie. It was pretty good, and definitely big enough for us to share! We also treated ourselves to glasses of the Magicale sparkling wine - we love that.


The menu is HERE.

The next morning after we'd enjoyed Magic Morning we had breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. This has got to be the best bargain at Disneyland - for $6.99 you get a nice breakfast which *includes* a beverage (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) - normally the beverage by itself is $2.69! I ordered a vegetarian version of the Breakfast Burrito, which was filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheese (they left out the sausage for me). It was not haute cuisine but it was good and filling - it would have been nice if they'd had something other than little packets of taco sauce to put on it, though.


Lee got the Sunrise Breakfast - your standard breakfast platter of scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes and a mini-muffin. Again, it was just fine. The other $6.99 breakfast specials are French Toast Sticks and a Fruit Plate. (The rest of the day the Fruit Plate costs $6.99 and *doesn't* include a beverage!) Like I said, I think breakfast there is a really good deal!


The menu is HERE.

On the Sunday morning of Columbus Day weekend Lee and I decided to try breakfast at Catal I showed Lee the menu on AllEars to see if he was interested and he said something like: "Wow...I'm not even all the way through the menu and I see three things I'd like to try!" And we had a very nice breakfast, and had the place almost all to ourselves - there were very few parties in the restaurant. We opted to eat outside since it was a very pleasant morning. They offer an express continental breakfast buffet for $7.95 or a full breakfast buffet for $14.95, but we both ordered off the menu. I had the Chilaquiles - Tortilla chips tossed in ranchero sauce with potatoes, cheese, cilantro, fried egg and sour cream. It was quite good, and really a lot of food - I couldn't finish it, and Lee helped too. It had a little bit of a kick, but not bad. I ordered the egg scrambled rather than fried.


Lee was torn between the Malt Waffles and the Wild Mushroom Omelet but eventually decided on the omelet. It came with caramelized onions, thyme and a drizzle of creme fraiche. He said there really wasn't much in the way of caramelized onions, but the mushrooms were very good.


It's Halloween Time...and that means pumpkin muffins! We picked up one of those on our way out of Disneyland on Saturday night. Yummy.

So that catches me up with Disneyland food...just in time to head off to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, where you know you can expect lots more food reports and photos!

This has nothing to do with dining...but Disney Parks has started their own set of blogs, and there's a blog entry which talks about filling the lagoon at DCA. It has a cute video of Mickey and Goofy.
Mickey Helps Fill Paradise Bay Lagoon for "World of Color"

September 10, 2009

The Rest of Half Marathon Weekend - the Food

Of course since we were at Disneyland for two full days we had to eat, right?

After we visited the Expo on Saturday afternoon we had a late lunch at La Brea Bakery Cafe. This is only the second time we've eaten there, but I'm not sure why, because we both really like it - we both look at the menu and say: "Oh, that looks good...but so does that..." and we have a hard time choosing - there's a lot of menus where there's nothing that we really love - just something that we'll eat.

Anyway. It was a warm day, but we were able to sit outside in the shade and that was very pleasant - especially when the breeze blew the cold air from the open doors of the World of Disney store in our direction! :-) One of my favorite things about La Brea Bakery Cafe is their passion fruit iced tea. It is SO good. Lee and I both ordered that, and our waiter did a pretty good job of keeping our glasses filled.

I ordered the Chicken Salad Sandwich. This was thin strips of grilled chicken with shredded cabbage and radicchio, olives, Italian parsley, and roasted garlic on lightly toasted olive bread. It was supposedly tossed in a mustard dressing, but that was very light, and I couldn't taste the garlic, either. But it was still very good - the chicken was moist and flavorful. It came with choice of salad or fries - I ordered the salad. I'd definitely get that again, though I also like their fresh mozzarella sandwich.


Lee got one of their specialty burgers - the Marmalade Burger. This was Angus beef with caramelized onion marmalade, topped with blue cheese crumbles. They were supposed to give him a choice of onion or sesame bun, but he wasn't asked, and it came on the sesame bun. It was served with french fires. He really enjoyed it.


(In honor of marathon weekend they were also offering a couple of special pasta dishes all day Saturday and all day Sunday - lasagna with meat sauce, and spaghetti bolognese.)

La Brea Bakery Cafe Menu

That night we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner before the race. I don't need to do a big carbo-load before a half marathon, but having a good dinner with some carbs and protein is a good idea. We didn't really want to fight the crowds over at Redd Rockett's in Disneyland, and don't think the food at Pizza Oom Mow Mow is that good, so we ended up at the Pacific Wharf. Lee decided to try one of the Asian rice bowls at the new Lucky Fortune Cookery, which had just opened on Friday.

The menu is pretty limited - they offer rice bowls with vegetables, though you have a choice of beef, chicken, or tofu, and then choice of four sauces: Mandarin Orange, Spicy Korean, Thai Coconut Curry, and Teriyaki. He ordered the Thai Coconut Curry with chicken. Like Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom, his meal was served in a take-out food container - veggies and rice on the bottom, then the meat/tofu, with the sauce on top.

It was hot and fresh, and he enjoyed it. I tried it, and thought the sauce was good - though it was very mild - more sweet than anything - and the chicken was flavorful. I didn't care for the veggies, though - there weren't very many and they used largely peppers and celery, neither of which I like. But it was decent, and for the price ($9.49) it was a fair bit of food. I think the menu is a little too limited, though - I would like to see them add egg rolls or something like that.


Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu

I ended up with a Salinas Turkey Sandwich from Pacific Wharf Cafe, which was a big disappointment. Though their soups and salads in bread bowls are made of their wonderful sourdough bread, the "sourdough" bread roll used for the sandwich had no flavor at all, nor the wonderful chewy texture of sourdough. The turkey was bland, and there wasn't much lettuce on the sandwich. And a little more of the tomato and swiss cheese would have been nice. There was no dressing on it, and the only condiments available were yellow mustard and mayonnaise. But at least the green apple I got to go with it was crisp with the right level of tartness/sweetness!


Pacific Wharf Cafe Menu

On Sunday morning after our run (and a shower!) we met Deb and Linda at Storyteller's Cafe for a late breakfast. Storyteller's offers a breakfast menu, but we all wanted the Farmer's Market Buffet, which includes fruit, breakfast pastries, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, eggs benedict, hot and cold breakfast cereals, french toast, pancakes and Mickey waffles, and omelets made to order. It includes juice and tea/coffee, also. Lee and I were really hungry for some reason. :-)


I think they really do a nice job with this buffet - everything is fresh and good. And I really like the omelets - Deb, Lee and I all ordered one of those. It's fun just to watch the chef make them!

Pancakes and Mickey waffles are not on the buffet - your server brings those. In the past they have asked if we wanted them, but this time our server just brought a plate with several pancakes and two waffles. (I ended up eating both the waffles since my dining companions weren't interested! :-) )

This is also a character meal: we saw Terk (who really loved my half marathon medals!), Chip, Dale, and Koda. Kenai was also there, but passed us by. No Meeko this time, which Deb said was probably a good thing, since he wouldn't have been able to resist all of the shiny medals that so many of us were wearing. :-) For a character meal it's very low key, which I appreciate.


It was a very nice meal, and the four of us sat around talking for quite a while after we finished eating - great to relax with good food and good friends!

Storyteller's Cafe Breakfast Menu

That evening Lee and I had dinner at Napa Rose. This is only the second time we'd eaten here, but it was another great dinner, with an excellent server. Rodney did a great job in recommending wines and taking care of us. We had the early dinner seating - 5:30. We didn't wear our medals, but there were quite a few other parties in the restaurant who were wearing theirs. :-)


Rather than ordering an entree, I opted for a selection of salads, appetizers, and sides, otherwise there was no way I'd have room for dessert (and even with that strategy I was pretty full!).

So my first course was the Summer Garden Tomato Salad - Vine Ripened Locally Grown Heirloom Tomatoes, Rocket Arugula, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Haricot Verts and Roasted Corn tossed with Chardonnay Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese. Linda had this the night before and recommended it as excellent. And I agree - it was really good - my mouth is watering as I'm writing about it!!!!


Lee had one of their signature appetizers, the Sauteed Hand-Harvested Diver Scallops with a Sauce of Lemon, Lobster, and Tahitian Vanilla. He likes scallops and he really enjoyed this. Rodney came back at one point and chastised him for leaving so much sauce and chunks of lobster on his plate, and told him to sop it up with some bread. We didn't think you were allowed to do that at a fine restaurant. :-)


As my "entree" I had the Fried Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, with Sauteed Spanish Chorizo, Summer Onions and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce. This was pretty small, but there was lots of wonderful soft, warm goat cheese in the center, so it was rather filling, and very tasty.


I also ordered a side of Roasted Organic Broccoli with Applewood smoked bacon and tangerine Hollandaise. This was quite large (I shared with Lee!) but it was also very good. I was a little concerned about the Hollandaise - that they might drown the broccoli in a heavy sauce - but I needn't have worried - it was a fairly light sauce and lightly applied. Very tasty. It also came with sauteed onions. Roasting the broccoli brought out a little more sweetness in it, but it was still crisp. Really good.


For an entree Lee ordered the Wild King Salmon with Szechuan Pepper-Sesame Crust, Santa Rosa Plums and Cabernet Sauvignon-Red Miso Glaze. Rodney advised him that this was a flavorful blend of spices and not a hot blend. It had just a little kick, but not much. The plums tasted very good, too. He cleaned his plate. :-)


For dessert I ordered the Scharffen Berger Truffle Cake with cinnamon ice cream. I was a little disappointed in this - it really wasn't that chocolatey, and quite frankly, my chocolate lava cake is better. It was beautifully presented, though.


Lee had the Summer Sweet Peach "Sandwich" - Layered with Homemade Fresh Sebastopol Blueberry Sorbet and Honey Biscuit. This looked very pretty, and I guess he must have enjoyed it, because now that I think about it, he never offered me a bite! :-)


Wonderful dinner, and we were both pretty full when we left, which was about 2 hours after we arrived.

Napa Rose Menu

Monday morning we went over to Disneyland after it opened and had breakfast at the River Belle Terrace. I think the food is about as good as the Carnation Cafe, and it's sure a lot faster - you have to get to the Cafe when the park opens if you don't want to wait for a while. Besides, River Belle Terrace is the only place that you can get Mickey pancakes! And that's what I had.


Lee had the Steamboat, which comes with scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, and regular pancakes.


We ate outside overlooking the Rivers of America - it was very peaceful, and you'd never believe that area had been menaced by a 40' dragon the night before! :-)

Anyway...breakfast wasn't fancy, but it was good, and I know we'll be eating there again on future trips.

River Belle Terrace Breakfast

So this ends my half marathon weekend blogs - now it's on to the D23Expo!

August 16, 2009

Disneyland First Time Visitor - Your Tips

Last month I asked for your tips to help AllEars® reader Nancy plan her first trip to Disneyland this fall. Thanks to everyone who responded. In the interests of length, I have edited and combined similar responses.

Before we start, though, I wanted to mention that AllEars® blogger Jack Spence wrote a couple of blogs sharing his thoughts on Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, and I think those would be helpful:
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 1
Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom Part 2

Several of you commented on preparing yourself and setting your expectations.

From Craig:
I think the most important planning step for a frequent WDW visitor going to Disneyland for the first time is attitude. When you're a frequent visitor to one Disney property, half of the fun of visiting another Disney location for the first time is to see the many similarities and many differences between the two. Be prepared for smaller, but don't make the mistake of equating smaller with not-as-good. I'll allow for one disappointment: arriving at Main Street for the first time, be prepared to wonder what happened to the castle.

From Amanda:
The first thing I would suggest is to go into the trip realizing that DL is a lot different than WDW. Some WDW vets express disappointment when they see DL for the first time, because they expect it to be the same. It isn't, but it's wonderful and so much fun in its own right! :)

From Maureen:
For the first time DL visitor:
-read some history of DL so you can appreciate its past as well as its present
-be sure to do the rides and attractions that are unique to DL
-take time to notice the little things;the shops are filled with wonderful, charming detail
-start planning your next trip because you'll want to go back !

From Dan (a first time visitor last year!):
I would suggest taking two full days (at least) to see the Magic Kingdom. There's just so much packed into the space (yet it doesn't seem cramped).

A number of you mentioned concentrating on the attractions that are at Disneyland but not at Disney World, such as the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, Grizzly River Rapids, and Monsters, Inc.

From Dayle:
Ride the Storybook Land Canal boats - charming and amazing examples of bonsai. Matterhorn Bobsled since this is a Disneyland original. Indiana Jones - much better than Dinosaur. I also think Space Mountain and Autopia are better than the Magic Kingdom counterparts.

From Kameo:
[After arriving at park opening] I'd recommend heading straight to Matterhorn in Disneyland. It is fantastic (though a little rough) and does not have fastpasses. The line can be unmanageable if you wait to ride it later in the day. Also, you absolutely must hit Indiana Jones. It is a great ride (think of the ride vehicle for Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom) and you should hit it or Space Mountain immediately after Matterhorn.

From Dan:
I'd say make sure to take the Disneyland Railroad for a complete circuit of the park, as my suggestion to first timers.

From A.D.:
Others will have plenty to say about attractions - the only one I want to highlight is the Sailing Ship Columbia, a very under-appreciated attraction; don't miss the museum!

From Barb:
Couple of things they really gotta go for in Disneyland. Our Pirates of the Caribbean, just a much better start and finish than WDW, our Peter Pan, for the amazing fiber optic stars :)

From Shirley:
You absolutely, positively, must experience the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. I still do not understand why they don't have this fantastic ride at WDW. The waiting area is not to be missed as well.

The #1 recommendation was the Aladdin show at DCA, where I received several comments such as the following:

From Dayle:
Biggest recommendation for first time visitor to Disneyland Resort is to see the Aladdin show at the Hyperion Theater within California Adventure. This is a Broadway caliber production with fantastic sets and performers.

From Amanda:
At California Adventure, definitely make time to see the Aladdin musical! There is one character especially who makes the experience very entertaining! This is something I would go see multiple times on a vacation because it's that good!

And of course there were lots of recommendations on places to eat! :-) Quite a few of you suggested the Blue Bayou (I have to admit it's not one of my favorites, though).

From Gabriela:
While dining at DLR isn't as big of a deal as WDW, I would suggest at least one meal at the Blue Bayou. The best food may not always be guaranteed, but there's just something about eating right next to PotC.

From Suzie:
I think that the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Blue Bayou restaurant are must dos. The ride is awesome, of course but the eatery is wonderful and themed so well!

There were quite a few other less-well-known recommendations, though:

From Dayle:
In Disneyland, skip the ice cream carts and go to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. For maybe a $1 more, you get a large hand scooped ice cream sundae with the fixings.

From Kameo:
For food, be sure to try the corn dogs! They are in the little red cart just to the right of main street when walking toward the castle. They are the best value in food at Disneyland.

From Barb:
They gotta head to DCA for a swirl ice cream at Catch A Flave- absolutely the best ice cream in the park. We actually will make the drive up from San Diego just to get a taste of it ;)

From Gabriela:
And if you know someone who can get you into Club 33, then go for it!!! Other table service restaurants worth a stop include the Carnation Café on Main Street, and Wine Country Trattoria over at DCA. Great counter service places for me include the French Market at DL (good t.s. food at c.s. prices, mint juleps and live music! what's not to love?), and the choices over at Pacific Wharf at DCA.

From Connie:
If you enjoy character dining, do go to Disneyland Hotel's Goofy's Kitchen. It is one of the best character dining experiences-I have been to many. So many unique characters that you do not usually see or meet. The characters intermingle with the children so well. Another very nice dining experience is at Paradise Pier in California Adventure. It is Ariel's Grotto. Here it is a restaurant, in Disney World it is a meeting area. I would strongly suggest arranging a Fantasmic package with dessert so you can really enjoy the show.

And there were quite few miscellaneous, but very helpful, suggestions!

From Kameo:
As with Disneyworld, always arrive to the parks at open as this is the time you will get on the most rides in the least amount of time.

From Van:
Just returned from DL for the first time with my son. I would recommend going on the welcome to Disneyland Tour if for any other reason than the priority seating to Aladdin and the fastpasses which can be used for any ride, even those that don't normally take fastpasses, like the Matterhorn. It is relatively cheap by Disney standards and you can save money with your Disney Visa Card or AAA.

From A.D.:
For the convenience factor, many of the "Good Neighbor" hotels located near Disneyland are just as close as the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier. (The monorail will save you some walking *if* it's open, but it won't save you much time, especially if you have to wait.) Disney's Grand Californian Resort is the only place that really will save you walking time over the other hotels in the area.

From Shirley:
The New Orleans square is beautiful as well (another "why don't they have this at WDW"). Be sure to stroll through it and grab lunch there as well.

From Brittany - a Jungle Cruise Skipper!:
Ride the Jungle Cruise at night, it's more exciting that way. It is not like the WDW one in many ways! The Celebrate parade is fun, IF you have small children, but please don't wait around for an hour for it, it's good, but not that good. You MUST watch the fireworks in Sept. if Magical is still the show going on then try to stake out a spot before 9pm. The very best spot in my humble opinion would be in the Plaza, which is that little area just after Main Street USA but just before the Hub.


Disneyland AllEars® Meet and Greet!

AllEars® Team members Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lisa Berton and Cathy Bock invite you to come by and say "Hello!" at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 11, 2009, at the Disneyland Plaza Garden Stage.

Directions: Walk down Main Street until you reach the statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. The entrance to the outdoor covered stage with tables and chairs will be up and to the left.

Let us know you plan to attend by emailing allearsnet at yahoo dot com

July 22, 2009

Cocina Cucamonga's New Location and Menu


The Cocina Cucamonga restaurant in DCA's Pacific Wharf area moved to a new location in June, with a new menu. It occupies the space in the Pacific Wharf that used to be the Lucky Fortune Cookery, which has been closed for a number of years. (But a new version of the Lucky Fortune Cookery will be re-opening in the old Cocina Cucamonga location, probably this fall.)

The new Cocina Cucamonga menu looks a lot like the menu at Rancho del Zocalo at Disneyland, except that Zocalo has enchiladas and Cocina has tamales.

Here is the new menu.

I tried the new restaurant on my visit last week. It's still a walk-up counter-service location, but now they serve up the food on real plates with real stainless flatware instead of plastic. I was very happy to see that the chicken tamale special that I had enjoyed during the Food and Wine Festival had made it onto the regular menu, and that's what I ordered. For $9.99 it's two chicken tamales, each wrapped in a corn husk, served with rice and beans, green pasilla chile sauce, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo.


It was really good. The pasilla sauce had a little bit of a kick to it - more than I would normally expect at a Disney restaurant - but it wasn't more than "medium" spicy. I noticed that they have cut down the serving size of the rice and beans compared to what they used to serve at Rancho del Zocalo - but that's not a bad thing. Though if you want to share it's not as much food as there used to be.

You can request sauteed vegetables instead of the rice and beans.

For dessert they offer two kinds of empanadas - pineapple and chocolate. As you might be able to guess, I ordered the chocolate empanada. It was just ok - the pastry was a bit tough and there wasn't that much chocolate inside - but for $4.99 I was expecting something a lot better. Crispitos - those deep-fried sugar and cinnamon tortilla chips - are also available.


July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

54 years young!

This year we've already seen the opening of the updated "it's a small world" attraction, the new Celebrate! A Street Party, the Celebration Round-up and BBQ dining experience, and the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Over at DCA, the Food and Wine Festival returned for a 4th year, Cocina Cucamonga moved to a new location with an expanded menu, Mickey's Fun Wheel opened, and the Blue Sky Cellar preview center just re-opened with updated exhibits on what we can expect in DCA's continuing expansion.

I think Disneyland received some of its birthday presents early this year with the premiere of the new Summer Nightastic! event, featuring the return of revamped favorites like Disney's Electrical Parade and Fantasmic!, and the new TLT Dance Club, Pixie Hollow Enchantment, and the all new fireworks show, Magical, where Dumbo flies around the castle.

The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend returns Labor Day weekend, with events Friday-Sunday - Lee and I will be running the half marathon on Sunday. And the very first D23 Expo takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center September 10-13.

Disney's HalloweenTime returns on September 25, including the popular Haunted Mansion Holiday and the return of Mickey's Trick or Treat Party at DCA on selected nights in October.

Also this fall, the very first DVC resort in California, The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa opens its doors.

The holidays return to Disneyland in November as Disneyland is transformed into the "Merriest Place on Earth", with all of the special decorations, parade and fireworks that go with it.

Next spring the new Disney's World of Color nighttime spectacular opens in DCA and who knows what else Disney might have planned?

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

AllEars pages on some of the events and attractions mentioned above:
"it's a small world"
Celebrate! A Street Party
Celebration Roundup and BBQ
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Disney's California Food and Wine Festival
Mickey's Fun Wheel
Summer Nightastic!
Disney's Electrical Parade
Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend
Mickey's Trick or Treat Party

July 4, 2009

River Belle Terrace - Frontierland Disneyland

When River Belle Terrace reopened after a fairly lengthy refurbishment in December 2007, it opened with a new menu, featuring sandwiches and salads rather than fried chicken and ribs. Though Lee and I have eaten breakfast here several times since then (love those Mickey Mouse pancakes!), we hadn't tried the regular menu until recently.

The meat in the sandwiches (and salads) is either hand-carved turkey or prime rib, or pulled pork. (Vegetarian versions are also available.) Lee and I tried the turkey and pork sandwiches. The sandwiches come with no condiments or toppings at all - instead you help yourself at the toppings bar after you pay. There are selections like lettuce and tomato, onions, pepperoncinis, pickles, and mayo, mustard and bbq sauce. I'm sure there were others that I don't remember.

You get beans and one cold side dish (which you choose yourself from the refrigerated case) with your sandwich. They had pasta salad, coleslaw, lentil salad, and fruit. Maybe potato salad as well.


As you can see from this picture, the sandwich pretty much filled the plate, which made it difficult to pile on the toppings. The turkey was very tasty, though - it was slices of white meat and not at all dry.


The pork came with BBQ sauce already on it, and it was pretty good - but not very spicy or sweet. I would've liked a little more flavor. I didn't detect any fat or gristle in it, though.

The beans were very good, and Lee really liked the pasta salad. They are expensive sandwiches, though - $12.99 each, and they aren't really that big - if we had split one that would not have been enough food.

Would we eat here again? Yes, though only if the lines were too long at the Disneyland restaurants we like better (and where we feel we get better value for the money) - Plaza Inn, Redd Rocket's, and Rancho del Zocalo. Though we'll be still be eating breakfast at River Belle!

You can see the menu HERE.

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!

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."

April 13, 2009

Disneyland: Upcoming Events

Actually the first event is one that's already happened - and that's the opening of the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue at Big Thunder Ranch. We have the menu on-line - it's fixed price barbecue chicken, ribs, beans, coleslaw etc., served family style. There are vegetarian options, also. Though not billed as a character meal, Woody and Jessie make the rounds, and there is a fairly continuous show going on featuring Tex Tumbleweed and Miss Chris, the owner of the place.

I haven't been there yet, but from most reports I've seen people have been pleased with it - the main thing that seems to put people off is the price - $28.99 for adults and $18.99 for kids, not including tax and tip.

Next up is the opening of the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Fantasyland, behind Sleeping Beauty Castle. That will be opening on Friday, April 17. Appointments are already being accepted - call 714-781-STYLE (714-781-7895). We have information on the services available as well as the prices HERE.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival starts Friday, April 24. Deb Koma and I will both be covering the opening weekend. There is still availability for most of the Signature Events - though all but two of the Napa Rose Cooking Schools are sold out. And the new Sweet Sundays event is also proving to be very popular, as four of the six are also sold out. (I will be attending the opening session on May 3.) Sample menus for the World Celebration Dinners are available though to see them you have to get to the actual event sign-up page which means completing the first page of the registration process. The daily event schedule has not yet been published, but I hope that happens soon so I can plan. Deb and I hope to see some of you there!

October 17, 2008

Disneyland Dining: The French Market

The French Market is a buffeteria-style eatery on the edge of New Orleans Square. Disney introduced a new menu over the summer, and we hadn't been there to try it yet, so that's where we went for dinner before attending the Mickey's Trick or Treat party later that evening.

In addition to the new menu, the French Market usually has some special menu items and decorations during the run of Haunted Mansion Holiday. As far as I know, it's the only counter service restaurant that does much decorating. They did a great job again this year - notice the zombie gingerbread man in the window?



And the huge spider web overhead:



One of my complaints about the French Market in the past is that the service is very slow...and unfortunately that hasn't changed. Once you get inside there are two sides to choose from, each offering the same menu items. Cast Members take your order, plate it, and hand you the plate. When we arrived at about 5:30 on a Friday evening only one side was open, and the line was out the door - but it's almost always out the door. They opened the other side and put us in that line, but they weren't quite ready for guests, so it was still slow.

The new menu features items like citrus chicken, four cheese pasta, roast beef, and seafood and chicken jambalaya. Lee wanted to try the jambalaya but was told it wasn't ready, and it would be a 20 minute wait for that. Gee, thanks. (We'd already been in line about 20 minutes to get to that point!) So he had the Herb and Garlic Salmon Creole instead. It was served with wild rice, seasonal vegetables and cheddar corn bread for $13.99. He thought it was fine - not Artist Point quality, but ok.


I had the Four-Cheese Pasta & Vegetable Gratin - A creamy blend of Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Provolone and Asiago surrounding tender pasta and smooth, subtle bites of Shiitake Mushroom and Cauliflower Florets topped with Seasonal Breadcrumbs. Oven-baked to a golden finish. With Seasonal Vegetables and Cheddar Corn Bread. $12.49. It was pretty rich - I could definitely taste the smoked gouda! I ate most of it, but wasn't impressed - I wouldn't get it again. The vegetables were fine, though I received mostly carrots (Lee got more yellow squash and zucchini). The corn bread, though, was inedible. I didn't taste any cheese in it - it tasted like orange to me. And it was dry and tough. Really bad.


Here's a photo I took of the Dixieland Cajun Chicken Salad - I think I would've been happier with that.


There is no indoor seating - it's all outside, though the main seating area has colorful cloth banners overhead that provide shade. Like most of the other buffeteria-style restaurants, your food is served on real plates with real stainless flatware, and that's a nice touch. Disney cast members will clear the table for you when you're done - I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it on the table, but in fact there isn't a place for guests to deposit their used plates/flatware themselves.


According to Disneyland's "HalloweenTime" press release, Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash was supposed to appear at the park this season - and in the past the Mansion-themed menu items have always been at the French Market. No sign of that when we were there, although there was this Haunted Mansion Holiday-themed dessert:


I believe it is the only place in the park to buy the Haunted Mansion Holiday-themed souvenir mug, but I'm not positive about that.


I'm glad we tried it, but it's not something I will be rushing back to try again. The service is too slow and the food is expensive and just not worth it. For my money I'll eat at Plaza Inn or Rancho del Zocalo.

The full menu is HERE.

Speaking of menus - I'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to Mukta, who sent me a bunch of DL/DCA/DTD menus last week. So I've been able to continue to update a lot of the menus on our menus page. There's still some that need updating, if anyone else would like to help.
Thanks again, Mukta!

Disneyland Resort Menus page

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October 2, 2008

An Autumn Day at Disneyland

Warning: This is going to be a rambling collection of various observations.

On Friday, September 26, the first official day of Disney's HalloweenTime, I made a day trip to DL with my friend Kristin(e). (Spelled Kristin, but pronounced Kristine - got that?)


Weather was beautiful and the crowds were minimal - the longest line we waited in all day was 20 minutes for Toy Story Mania. We practically walked onto Space Mountain at 11:30 that morning. And even Soarin' and Grizzly Rapids had less than 15 minute standby lines - we really didn't need Fastpasses, though we used them a few times. (Since it was Friday, I'm sure crowds at Disneyland picked up in the afternoon/evening, but we left at 6:00, so we missed that.)


Disneyland continues to have big problems with the Indiana Jones attraction - it was down when I was there last month, and it was down when we walked by it just after park opening. We went back later and it was up, and we got as far as getting into our jeep and belted in - and then it stopped. And after a few minutes the lights came on. And then they started sending Cast Members into the attraction to walk people out of it (which would have been really cool, but we weren't in the attraction at all!) They gave us a Fastpass to return later, which didn't end up happening, but Kristin gave it to a group of very nice young teenage boys who rode Grizzly Rapids with us. Anyway...seems like Indy is in major need of an extended rehab.

Haunted Mansion Holiday is back, and still a lot of fun, though I didn't notice any new additions to it this year. But I took a few movies inside (movie mode on my camera handles low light a lot better than still photography!) and noticed something I'd never noticed before: the gingerbread coffin on the table in the ballroom scene has a lid that opens and closes, with a gingerbread man corpse that sits up then lays back down! The scent of gingerbread in the air is a nice touch.


Other things that have returned in Disney's HalloweenTime:

The Halloween displays along the tram route.

The huge pumpkins over the Disneyland park entrance, and the large Mickey pumpkin in Town Square.

The Dapper Dans on Main Street in their orange and black striped vests

Woody's Halloween Roundup in the Big Thunder Ranch area, with live shows featuring Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye - and your host, Tex Tumbleweed (and sponsored by Cowboy Crunchies!)


Free coloring crafts for kids at Woody's Roundup, or there are bat and pumpkin-shaped Halloween cookies available to purchase and decorate.

The pumpkin carver at the Roundup

Special menu and food items - especially sweets like Halloween-decorated apples and cookies.


Lots of Halloween merchandise - both quite a collection of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff and Disney Halloween plush, pins, Mickey ears, etc.

Goofy's Candy Corn Acres at DCA, which features character greetings and "corny" shows.


Over at DCA, one thing that is NOT back this year is the Halloween decorations around the Tower of Terror - the last couple of years there has been a glowing-eyed bat banner outside, and decayed Halloween party decorations inside, but those were missing this year. Golden Screams has also not returned.

I collected menus from some of the Disneyland and DCA restaurants, and there have been some significant changes in the Blue Bayou lunch, dinner, and kid menus. Price is up, of course. Cafe Orleans also has a few changes, though mostly in their dessert items and the kid's menu. I think the kid's menus were changed just about everywhere that I looked. More "healthy" options - like a turkey dog, or string cheese, fruit, and yogurt, or a turkey wrap. All kid's meals come with fruit (e.g. grapes or apples) though parents can request chips or fries. Prices have gone up slightly - most kid's meals start at $6.99 now - and the price of the Arroz con Pollo Toddler Meal has gone up from $2.99 to $3.99.

Ariel's Grotto had the most significant changes, though - they have completely redone their menu with more of an Italian theme. It actually looks a whole lot more interesting to me - I might actually consider eating there now. They've also changed their pricing - $29.99 if you eat outside, and $31.99 if you eat inside. (Sorry, I didn't get a kid's menu for Ariel's, but maybe someone has one they can photograph and send to me???)

Some of the updated menus:

Blue Bayou Lunch

Blue Bayou Dinner

Blue Bayou Kids

Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans Kids

Tomorrowland Terrace (updated kid's menu)

Ariel's Grotto

Wine Country Trattoria Kids

(You can always find all the menus on our Disneyland Menus page.)

We had a very nice lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria at DCA - that's one menu that had NOT changed at all. With the demise of the Vineyard Room, that's my favorite park table service restaurant now. Kristin had the Tuscan Salad and I had the Chicken Bruschetta Salad. They were both really good.



An unexpected surprise - I ran into my IRC friend JD in line at Soarin'. I knew he had an upcoming trip to Disneyland, but thought it was in October. After Soarin' we all went to Grizzly River Run - JD and I got drenched, but Kristin escaped most of the water. It was nice to see JD!

Toy Story Mania continues to be way fun - Kristin had never been on it before but she had a good time, and she scored very well - better than I did my first time!


(If anyone would like to help with All Ears menu updates for Disneyland, please let me know - it can be as simple as taking a picture of a menu and emailing it to me. You can contact me at laurag at allears dot net)

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July 26, 2008

Disneyland - Lunch at Blue Bayou

(I started this review at the end of May...I guess it's time to finally finish it, huh?)

Lee and I had lunch at Blue Bayou in May - the first time we'd been there in probably 9-10 years! We had a good-sized group - Deb Wills and LindaMac, Beci and Chris from Mouse Fan Travel, and Panama Canal cruisers and first-time Disneyland visitors George and Ann. Between us we managed to try most of the menu items, I think, except for dessert.

We were in the first seating of the day, and even with our large group we scored a Bayou-side table, where we could watch the "fireflies" as the boats from Pirates of the Caribbean attraction floated by. It's really hard to touch Blue Bayou where sheer ambiance is concerned! But one disadvantage of that - it's DARK in there. The only lights we had were these little flickering candles on the table - and that was not sufficient light to read the menu. Fortunately George had a little pocket flashlight, otherwise, who knows what we might have ended up ordering! :-) That also meant we could hardly see what we were eating - guess that means they can save time and money on presentation of the food since you can't see it anyway...


Beci and I indulged our inner child and ordered the Pirate's Punch - Minute Maid Light Raspberry Lemonade served in a souvenir "pirate" cup, which includes lighted clip-on figurine: Tinker Bell or Captain Hook. I chose Captain Hook, and Beci opted for Tinker Bell. In the dark restaurant you can see them really well!


Our entrees came with choice of wedge salad or gumbo, and most also included choice of two sides. I had the wedge salad, which was quite good - a wedge of iceberg lettuce with goat cheese, a slice of tomato and some rather spicy sausage. As you can see it was sort of one of those "deconstructed" salads, though - some assembly required, or you could eat the individual parts. You can see a couple of french rolls in the picture, and those were really good - warm and crusty. The gumbo was another option, and while I didn't try it, I heard favorable comments from some of my fellow diners.


My entree was the Molasses-Brined Bayou Pork Chop - 10 oz. chop, pan-seared and topped with sauteed Granny Smith apple wedges. Choice of two sides: Blue Bayou potatoes, seasonal vegetables or sauteed spinach. I ordered it with the potatoes and vegetables. The chop was a little bit dry, unfortunately, though the brining and apples gave it a nice flavor.


Lee ordered the Buccaneer's Beef Short Ribs - slow-roasted, then finished in a Zinfandel demi glaze. He chose the seasonal vegetables and sauteed spinach (ewww!) for sides. I think he enjoyed his selection very much - more than I liked mine.


Others in our group ordered the Royal Street Seafood Jambalaya - A robust combination of king crab, jumbo gulf shrimp, mahi mahi, tasso ham, andouille sausage and chicken, tossed with Cajun-style "dirty rice" and also the Tesora Island Chicken - Blackened, roasted and finished to perfection in pan au jus. I think someone chose the Cajun-Spiced Salmon - Blackened, with citrus crawfish beurre blanc as well, but I don't remember now. I don't think any of us had room for dessert, though - between the soup/salad, the bread, the entree and two sides, that was quite a bit of food. If I had to do it again I would probably order just the salad, a side of potatoes, and the rolls, and save room for dessert!

We had decent service - certainly not exceptional, though. The pacing was fine - I hear that sometimes it's very slow, but maybe we lucked out because we were in the first seating of the day.

It was a nice meal (and good company!), and I have to say that the food is a lot better than it used to be. But it was SO expensive - $36/person for lunch NOT including dessert!!! (And that included a 15% AP discount.) For that kind of money I'd rather eat at the Vineyard Room at DCA - or we could *both* eat at the Trattoria.

I know a lot of people really love this restaurant, but it just doesn't do much for me - I think it's too expensive for what you get.

Blue Bayou Dinner Menu
Blue Bayou Lunch Menu
Blue Bayou Kid's Menu

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May 5, 2008

Dinner at Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Disneyland

Ever since the Napa Rose restaurant opened at the Grand Californian in 2001 I think most of us have heard how wonderful it is. Hard to believe, but up until a few weeks ago Lee and I had never tried it - it was one of those things we always planned to do. Since it's only open for dinner, and we so rarely stay up there so that we have the opportunity to dress up a bit for dinner (you'll want to wear something a little nicer than park attire!), we'd just never gotten around to doing it.

You'll definitely want to make Priority Seating in advance to dine at Napa Rose - we had a 7:45 time, and were seated within a few minutes, but walk-ins were told they had nothing available for the rest of the evening.

The restaurant has a very open, but comfortable, feel to it, and it's actually relatively quiet. The furnishings and decorations combine the classic Craftsman style with a very modern-looking bar and kitchen area

Napa Rose - Bar area

Our server was Steven, and he was really excellent. He was knowledgeable and helpful and not at all stuffy or snooty - always ready with wine recommendations that took into consideration what we told him about our likes and dislikes. He was quite generous with the wine, too...but I'm getting ahead of myself. :-)

The Napa Rose menu changes several times a year, but the four-course Vintner's Table tasting menu changes weekly, depending on what the freshest ingredients are for that particular week. We opted to order off of the regular menu, which you can find HERE if you're playing along from home.

For our first course, we decided to share the California Endive and Forelli Pear Salad. As you can see below it was quite beautifully presented, and included the largest dried cranberries I've ever seen, as well as candied walnuts and blue cheese, with a cider vinaigrette. To "pear" with the salad and the appetizer plate we selected, Steven recommended the Forstmeister Geltz Zillikin 2004 Reisling. (A German wine, in case you couldn't tell! :-) ) That was really excellent - just a little sweet and very refreshing. Steven decided there wasn't enough left in the bottle for another glass and left the bottle for us to finish - I think he underestimated a bit because we each got another half glass out of it. :-)

Napa Rose - California Endive and Forelli Pear Salad

Steven also brought us a basket of bread - four different kinds! There was a ciabatta-style bread, a classic sourdough, an olive bread and a crispy flatbread. And Vermont butter to go with it, which really WAS different than normal butter. It was all delicious...I had to really restrain myself to keep from filling up on the bread. Sigh.

Our next appetizer was really interesting - The Sizzling Beach Rock. It was served in a Japanese-style Bento box. In the center was some white gravel, with a fist-sized black beach rock in the middle. A hot beach rock, as it turned out - one of the shrimp was sizzling on it when it was served. All of the food was already cooked, but Steven told us we could put the individual pieces on the rock if we wanted to brown it a little more. There were two garlic-seared shrimp served over a delicious black bean "soup", two soy-glazed spare ribs served over udon noodles, and, our favorite, two lemon grass chicken skewers served over kimchee. (They called it kimchee, but I think the only relation it has to kimchee is that both are made of cabbage. This was more like a cole slaw with vinegar dressing.)

Napa Rose - Sizzling Beach Rock

After all that we still hadn't gotten to the entrees yet! I had the Cashew Crusted "Tai Snapper" with a large tempura-fried shrimp served over fried Himalayan red rice with pineapple and tangierine-coconut vinaigrette. Oh my...the fish was so moist, with a nice delicate flavor. It was two good-sized pieces also. Steven recommended the Laura Aschero Pigato 2005. And how could I turn down a wine named "Laura?" :-) It was fine, and paired nicely with the fish, but I enjoyed the riesling a lot more.

Napa Rose - Cashew Crusted Tai Snapper

Lee ordered the Colorado Lamb Double Chop, which came with sweet potato raviolis. Underneath the lamb chop there were pieces of braised lamb shoulder and kale, in a Petit Syrah jus. The lamb was excellent, but I thought the sweet potato raviolis were even better - they would make a nice entree all by themselves! Steven had two wine recommendations, and eventually he and Lee decided on the Andrew Murray 2006 Syrah, and Lee enjoyed that. Towards the end of the dinner he also brought Lee about a half glass of the other wine and he was able to compare the two side-by-side.

Napa Rose - Lamb Double Chop

Steven suggested a side for Lee, and recommended, of all things, the Brussels Sprouts. Lee said he didn't like them, but Steven told him that the Napa Rose Chef doesn't like them either, but has come up with this way of doing them which makes them really good. They are shredded like hashed browns and sauteed with garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and chili flakes. They actually were pretty good, but they still tasted "green". Lee enjoyed them, but it was a very large serving, and with all of the other food he couldn't eat very much of them.

Napa Rose - Brussels Sprouts

Unfortunately when it came time for dessert I was too full, which was very disappointing since there were two chocolate desserts I was interested in trying - the signature Scharffen Berger Chocolate Velvet Pate, and the Valrhona Chocolate Truffle Cake. Sigh. But Steven came to my rescue - he brought me a small Napa Rose box containing four different truffles that I could eat later. And I enjoyed them after I got home.

Lee managed to find room for the Warm California Strawberry-Coconut Crisp. He really enjoyed the strawberry-coconut flavor combination.

Napa Rose - Strawberry-Coconut Crisp

It was really an incredible dinner and a wonderful experience - we had a really good time. Dinner was a relaxed affair - we were there for over two hours. While it wasn't something I'd want to do for every meal it would be a great way to celebrate some kind of occasion. We'll definitely return!

April 19, 2008

The PCH Grill

All Ears Picture This! blogger Lisa Berton and I recently had dinner at the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel - it was a first time for both of us.

We arrived at the restaurant at the same time as a large group of cheerleaders...uh oh. But the restaurant actually handled them very well - they were in their own part of the restaurant and were not terribly loud or distracting. The main difficulty is that they took ALL the menus, and we had to wait until some of them were done with them (about 10 minutes) before our server was able to bring us a couple of menus. Our server made sure that our meal orders got into the kitchen before theirs did, though. :-) But even so, the kitchen did a good job of getting the group's meals prepared and served in a reasonable amount of time.

Lisa has some dietary restrictions, and told the woman at the podium that she needed to talk to a chef. No problem - she quickly brought out a chef and our server, and they came up with a meal for Lisa.

The restaurant is casual with a beachy theme (which goes both with the theme of the hotel and the Lilo and Stitch character breakfast that is hosted at the restaurant), but the menu is more classic diner/comfort fare, with selections like patty melts, hamburgers, and a BLT, though they also serve pizzas and steak. On the kid's menu is a "build-your-own pizza" - a pizza crust, tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni are brought on a Mickey head-shaped platter, and the child gets to sprinkle as much or as little as they like on the crust, then return it to the kitchen where it's baked in the wood-fired pizza oven. These seemed to be very popular. :-)

I ordered the Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich - topped with roasted chiles, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and jack cheese. It was a large chicken breast, nicely grilled and not dry, with a generous serving of guacamole on top. The roasted (mild) green chiles were very flavorful. I really enjoyed it - I couldn't eat all of the bun, but the rest of it disappeared. And I have to say that the french fries served with it were maybe the best fries I've ever had - they were peel-on, but were thin-cut and crisp and not at all greasy.


Lisa ordered the Grilled New York steak, which normally comes with green beans, but since she'd just had a big plate of green beans at Goofy's Kitchen the night before she asked if they could give her mixed vegetables instead, and the chef said sure - how about broccoli, squash and carrots? Lisa said great. So when her dinner arrived, guess what...the plate contained a generous serving of green beans. The best-laid plans...our server apologized, but Lisa stuck with the green beans. She enjoyed the steak, though!


We had a very nice meal - nothing fancy at all, but it was very tasty and satisfying. We passed on dessert, but they offer sundaes and banana splits, and a "molten apple pie". If you have a large group (or are really hungry!) you can try The Whole PCH Grill & Kitchen Sink - which is 10 scoops of ice cream and "then tell us what you don't want on it." Wow.

The menu for the PCH Grill is available HERE

If you've dined there, please share your review on AllEars' Rate and Review section HERE

March 13, 2008

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen

In our quest to eat at all of the Disneyland Resort restaurants (all in the interests of research, you know!) Lee and I had dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney last month.

We arrived at 5:30 for our 5:30 Priority Seating. The restaurant was almost completely empty, and the hostess directed us upstairs (there is seating both upstairs and downstairs - it's a big restaurant!). It was a chilly evening, and we were given the choice of sitting inside or out - we chose outside next to a propane heater. Though we didn't have a table right on the wrought-iron railing overlooking Downtown Disney, we could still look out towards House of Blues and Tortilla Jo's.

Our server arrived quickly with the menus, and brought water while we were deciding on wines. Lee had a glass of the Rock Rabit Syrah, while I tried the Columbia Riesling, which was quite good.

For appetizers we split the Soups 1-1-1, which was small servings of three different soups - the Creole Onion Soup, Gumbo Ya-Ya, and the Soup of the Day, which was a Roasted Pepper soup. Surprisingly that was my favorite of the three - it had a really nice flavor and just a bit of a kick, but not too much. We also had the Paneed Eggplant, Spinach, & Goat Cheese Napoleon - Pan-fried parmesan, herb breaded eggplant, layered with spinach and goat cheese, finished with a Gulf shrimp New Orleans bordelaise sauce. It sounds really different, and I thought it was very good. There were actually several things on the appetizer menu that looked good - maybe sometime we'll come back and just order appetizers! (Sorry that there are no pictures of the appetizers - we were so hungry that I forgot to take pictures before we dug into them!)

I ordered the Blue Crabmeat Topped Blackened Salmon as an entree. Blackened salmon topped with blue crabmeat, served with garlic roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh watercress and a green onion herb vinaigrette. The salmon was disappointing - I expected something a bit more "kicky", but the only spice I could taste was chili powder. And once I got about 1/3 of the way into it I discovered it wasn't cooked all the way through. (For some reason that seems to be a problem for me when I order salmon - half the time it isn't cooked through, and I am NOT into sashimi!) Unfortunately our server didn't check back with us until I'd eaten around the edges and had all that I wanted anyway, so by that time there was no use sending it back. The potatoes were good, though...


Lee had the Creole Filet Mignon - a grilled 8 oz filet mignon, dusted with Creole seasonings, served with bacon buttermilk mashed potatoes, fried oyster mushrooms, wilted spinach and Creole mustard bourbon cream sauce. He likes his meat cooked medium well, so he asked to have it butterflied, which was no problem. He really enjoyed his dinner - the steak was nicely cooked and flavorful.


For dessert we knew that Lee was going to want the Double Chocolate Bread Pudding, which requires a 25-minute preparation time, so had told our server about that when our entrees were delivered. It arrived 5 minutes or so after our entrees were cleared. It's a "rich, dark semi-sweet chocolate bread pudding served with white and dark chocolate ganache." Lee really enjoyed it - the chocolate sauce was dark and rich, though the white chocolate didn't have a lot of flavor.


The dessert menu had a lot of interesting-looking choices and I ordered the Fresh Fruit Cobbler, which was supposed to be apple and blueberry. As I started eating it I discovered there were no blueberries - just apples. Had I known that I would've ordered something else. As cobblers go it was just so-so - I wouldn't order it again. I mentioned to our server that the kitchen had deceived him about the blueberries. Given what had already happened with my salmon he was even more apologetic. When our bill came I saw that he had not charged us for the salmon, which was nice.


The "signature" dessert there is the Bananas Foster, which is prepared at your table. We didn't order it, but the table next to us did, so we were able to see the whole production, which towards the end involves both flame and sparks.


By the time we finished our meal and left the restaurant (about 7:00) the place was PACKED - *and* there was a line of people standing outside waiting to get in - all of the Downtown Disney restaurants were busy on that Friday night, and there were 45 minute waits at most places. So I'd advise either eating early or making sure you have a Priority Seating time - and preferably both.

So Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen...would I eat there again? Well...maybe. But I'd probably order just appetizers (since they had several that sounded good) and dessert. Lee was really happy with his meal, though.

March 1, 2008

La Brea Bakery Cafe

I've walked by this restaurant hundreds of times (since it is between Disneyland's tram stop and the park entrance), but until recently I'd never eaten there. I can tell you that I'll be eating there a lot more often in the future!

We had lunch there on a cool winter day - La Brea Bakery Cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating, and we sat outdoors, but right next to one of those propane heaters, so it was very comfortable.

For the most part, La Brea Bakery Cafe's menu consists of soup, salads, and sandwiches, both hot and cold. I LOVE a good sandwich on nice fresh crusty bread, and I was not disappointed. Lee and I actually both had trouble deciding what to order - there were a lot of things that looked appealing. I had the Fresh Mozzarella sandwich - mozzarella cheese, semi-sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and pesto, served on a demi-baguette. It was really tasty. I was not expecting the sandwich to be grilled and warm, but it was, and that worked very well.


Lee had the Turkey Bacon Panini - oven roasted turkey, bacon, and provolone cheese on sourdough bread. That was also excellent - he shared a bite with me.


Both sandwiches were served with a mixed baby greens salad in a light balsamic vinaigrette, and that was also very good. (We could have chosen French fries, also.)

Even though it was chilly we ordered iced tea as a beverage - our server brought us two glasses and a carafe so we could refill it ourselves, which I thought was very nice. It was passion fruit iced tea, and I really loved it - it was unsweetened but had an excellent flavor - it would be especially refreshing on a hot day.

The only thing I was disappointed in was the soup selection - I was looking forward to having a cup of hot soup to warm me up a bit, but the only soup available that day was cream of asaparagus. Ick.

Service was very good - our server arrived at our table promptly, returned quickly with our drinks and some bread (and the ciabatta bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar was also excellent), and got our orders submitted and served in good time. I'm sure it helped that the restaurant wasn't overly busy, but he still took good care of us. .

We declined dessert since we were headed into the parks, but the warm brownie with ice cream and hot caramel sauce was tempting - I'll have to get that next time. And there WILL be a next time - La Brea Bakery Cafe gets two thumbs up from us.

La Brea Bakery Cafe Menu

February 6, 2008

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jim Ames, the producer of Disney's California Food and Wine Festival, about this year's upcoming Festival.

This is the Festival's third year, and it keeps getting a little bigger (and I think a little better) every year. The major change this year is that the Festival will be held daily from April 11 - May 5, rather than just on weekends like it was the first two years. Hence a new name this year - Disney's California Food and Wine Festival.

The Festival will be expanding from the Pacific Wharf and Golden Vine Winery areas into the Bountiful Farm area as well. Among other things, this expansion allows for larger areas for the demonstration kitchens - Jim said they were turning guests away at almost every demonstration last year, and the expansion will allow them to accommodate more guests.

Expanded Festival food offerings will be available - in addition to the Festival Marketplace at the Lucky Fortune Cookery (which will have 9-10 tapas-style items on the menu, plus beer and wine), other counter service restaurants in the park will be serving up special Festival menu items. These items will be in keeping with the existing menu and price point at each location. For example, Award Wieners will be offering a hot dog with peppers and onions and a beer sauce. Other participating restaurants include Corn Dog Castle, Pizza Oom Mow Mow, Cocina Cucamonga, Pacific Wharf Cafe, and Farmer's Market.

Other restaurants around the Disneyland Resort will be offering a special prix-fixe Vintner's Menu during the Festival. These multi-course menus will be available from Napa Rose, Steakhouse 55, the Vineyard Room, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, and Catal.

Also new this year will be the Sparkling Bar, located on the Upper Terrace of the Golden Vine Winery (in previous years the site of one of the demonstration kitchens). At this location champagne and sparkling wines will be available by the glass and various wine country tapas will also be for sale.

The Taste event will be returning on the final Saturday evening (May 3) of the Festival. This year tickets will be available to the general public, and not just to Annual Passholders. In response to guest comments, Jim told me there will be more sit-down tables available this year, but they feel they can do that without making the event feel cramped and overcrowded. That was one of my favorite parts about last year's Taste event - it was easy to move around the room to the various food and wine stations, but we could still always find a table (even if it was a standing table) where we could set our plates and glasses down and eat.

Other "ticketed" events returning this year are the Winemaker Dinners, the Napa Rose Cooking School, the Festival Wine Receptions (which this year include special viewing of the Electrical Parade), and the Taste Wine Like an Expert classes.

Registration for the ticketed events begins on February 15. To register, visit The web site should go-live by February 10, if not before.

More information on the Festival and its events is available on AllEars' Disney's California Food and Wine Festival page, where we'll be adding more information on the schedule, menus, events and prices as it becomes available, and once the Festival starts we'll have event reviews and guest comments.

January 29, 2008

Healthier Snack Options

Last year Disneyland started offering a greater selection of healthier snack options in the parks, and there have been more fruit stands popping up around the parks. Toon Up Treats in Toontown now serves only fruit, drinks, and snacks, and there's a fairly new fruit/snack stand in Tomorrowland at the base of the Observatron. Traditional fruit stands like the Main Street Fruit Cart and the fruit cart in Critter Country have expanded their offerings.

In addition to the old standbys like fresh whole fruit ($1.75) and large dill pickles ($2.50) there's also boxes of grapes ($2.50), sliced apples with caramel sauce ($3.75), mixed fruit ($4.00) and even mango slices ($3.75). There's also pineapple spears ($2.50), organic fruit leather ($1.25) and slices of watermelon ($2.50).

Non-fruit choices include carrots with ranch dip ($2.75), veggie box with ranch dip ($4.00), trail mix ($4.00), and a bag of apple chips ($2.75). Bottles of Simply Orange and Simply Limeade ($4.50) are available, as well as Dasani water ($2.75) and PowerAde Option ($2.75).

Not all of those items are available at each location, but the Main Street Fruit Cart has an especially nice selection, as does Tropical Imports in Adventureland (where in addition to fruit they also carry a fine inventory of rubber snakes). Over in DCA the Fruit Stand at the edge of "a bug's land" has the best selection of healthy snacks, and also offers several types of Boudin sourdough bread - baguette, round loaf (both $5.50), and one in the shape of Mickey's head ($7.50).

Toon Up Treats Menu
Main Street Fruit Cart Menu



January 21, 2008

Quick Trip to Disneyland

I made a quick commando-type trip to Disneyland/DCA on Friday - my objective was to take photos of as many menus as I could since I haven't updated them for AllEars in a while. (And if anyone out there is interested in helping with that in the future, please let me know!) I'm used to sticker shock when it comes to food prices at Disneyland, but I'd just like to say that I find the breakfast menu at Storyteller's Cafe to be ridiculously overpriced. $17.59 for a Mickey waffle????

But back to my day...I took my GPS runner's watch with me, since I was interested in seeing how far I walked - I hit all three hotels, Downtown Disney, and both parks, and covered 6.95 miles in 3 hours and 24 minutes. It was all the pictures that slowed me down! :-)

It was a beautiful, beautiful day - sunny and clear and in the mid-60s. Which isn't warm by southern California standards, but I'm sure most of the rest of the country would be really happy with those kind of temperatures in mid-January! (And no, this picture is not upside-down!)


Despite the awesome weather the parks were quite uncrowded - the only attraction that had much of a line was (what else?) Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage - 55 minutes at 11:00 in the morning.

This is the final weekend for "it's a small world holiday" before the attraction goes into a lengthy rehab - it'snot scheduled to re-open until November. So I guess there's no reason to remove the holiday decorations inside - it'll be holiday time again when it reopens. :-)

Construction on Toy Story Mania at DCA continues - they are working on the walkways in front of the attraction now so you can't walk all the way around Paradise Bay - if you're at California Screamin' and want to ride the Sun Wheel you have to walk all the way around the Bay. No official opening date for the attraction has been announced - still listed as "Coming in 2008".


December 23, 2007

Holiday Treats at Disneyland

What's holiday time without some special treats? The bakers and confectioners at Disneyland have certainly done their best to satisfy the sweet tooth in all of us! There's special cookies at the bakeries, candies at the confectioneries, specialty hot beverages, and most of the restaurants have a special holiday dessert. There's even special hot foods like tamales.

There's no way we could try everything on our recent visit, but we scoped out most of the offerings, and in the interests of research we tried several different things.

At the two bakeries we found star-shaped rice crispy treats, ($3.29) gingerbread men ($2.99), frosted snowman shortbread cookies ($2.99), and holiday brownies ($3.29). The rice crispie treats were also available at a number of counter service restaurants. Lee likes rice crispy treats, so we had to try one of those. It was pretty much what you would expect from a rice crispy treat that's decorated with red and green sugar crystals. :-)


I like gingerbread (the gingerbread men with chocolate mouse ears that you can find in various places around Walt Disney World at this time of year are one of my favorite treats), so I bought one of the gingerbread men to taste. The gingerbread had a pretty good spicy kick to first I didn't really care for it, but it grew on me. It has just a bit of sugar glaze around the edge, so it's not real sweet.


The holiday brownie was quite a large piece (about 2" x 4") of brownie, with stripes of white icing, chocolate chunks, and decorated with red and green sprinkles. It was nice and moist, but not as chocolatey as we expected. Still really good, though.


The confectionary places, like the candy shop on Main Street, and the candy counters inside Greetings From California and Pooh corner, had sugar cookies shaped like trees or snowmen which were covered in white chocolate and other edible decorations ($2.99), and caramel apples covered with red and green stripes, or apples covered in white chocolate with a marshmallow on top, and dressed as snowmen ($9.00). At Pooh Corner they also had white chocolate-covered snowmen marshmallows on a stick ($4.25). Those were really cute, and we tried one of those. A little too sweet for those of us who are not white chocolate fans, but it sure looks good.


At Santa's Reindeer Roundup you can buy a cookie kit ($6.00) which includes a big sugar cookie that you can decorated with the included icing and sprinkles.

Rancho del Zocalo has a Holiday Tres Leches cake - though it looked like regular Tres Leches cake with red and green frosting stripes. :-) And there were holiday brownie funnel cakes ($5.49) at Hungry Bear, Farmer's Market, and the Stagedoor Cafe. I'm sure the other restaurants had special desserts, too (French Market usually has some very clever things), but we didn't visit any of those.

Both Blue Ribbon Bakery and Baker's Field Bakery had some special holiday drinks - Pumpkin Spice Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Hot Spiced Caramel Apple Cider, Eggnog Latte and Eggnog. We tried the spiced cider - I think it would have been better if it was just spiced cider without the caramel flavor, which I thought gave it a weird taste.

There's a cart on small world way at Matterhorn Way that has beef tamales for the holidays, and of course all of the popcorn carts have special holiday buckets.

So are you hungry now? :-)

I'm not sure when this blog entry will be published, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say:
May your holidays be merry and bright - and -
May your 2008 be full of love and laughter.


October 12, 2007

Dining at Cafe Orleans

Last year Cafe Orleans at Disneyland was remodeled, and reopened last summer as a table service restaurant instead of the buffeteria it had been before. We ate breakfast there a few months ago and dinner recently, so I thought I'd post a review of the two dining experiences.

For breakfast we were there on a Saturday at about 8:15 just after the park had opened, and there were only about two other tables occupied the whole time we were there! There is seating inside and outside - we sat outside, in a table up against the wrought-iron fence, where we had a view of the people passing by.

Monte Cristo French Toast You can view the breakfast menu HERE. We both tried the Three Cheese "Monte Cristo" French Toast - "hearty egg bread filled with Brie, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, then grilled and finished with a berry compote and applewood-smoked bacon." I would not order it again - it was just too much cheese, which cooled off and congealed into a sort of disgusting rubbery layer rather quickly. The "toast" part was fairly thin slices of bread - I was expecting something thicker. The berry compote was good - once we finally got it - it didn't come on our plates and I had to ask our server for it.

Considering how un-busy they were the service was not very good, and they seemed rather slow and disorganized.

I wish we'd tried the Mickey-shaped beignets - I've heard those are pretty good. And what's not to like about fried dough with lots of sugar? :-)

I'm happy to report that our dinner experience was a lot more positive. We walked up to the restaurant at about 5:10 on a Friday evening and were seated in less than 10 minutes even though I hadn't made Priority Seating in advance. Had we arrived 30-40 minutes later I don't think that would've worked nearly as well, though. We were again seated outside, which was fine with us, though as it started to cool off I had to put on a light jacket. It took a little while for our server to get to us, but once she did she was prompt with taking our drink and food orders.

French Onion Soup We decided to try a selection of things off the menu. (You can see the menu HERE.) I ordered the French Onion Soup, which was served in a nice personal-sized tureen. It was good - not the best french onion soup I've ever had, but tasty.

Gumbo Lee got a cup of the New Orleans Gumbo - "a rich, flavorful stew with chicken, andouille sausage and tasso ham, served with Cajun-style 'dirty rice'." He really enjoyed it, but it was a little too spicy for me.

Pommes Frites We also tried the Pommes Frites - "Traditional French-fried potatoes tossed with Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley, served with a Cajun spice remoulade." These were REALLY good - evilly good. Nicely crisp but not greasy, with just the right amount of seasonings. Lee didn't care for the remoulade sauce served with them, but I liked it.

La Salade de MaisonI ordered La Salade de Maison as an entree (even though it's on the "Starter" menu). It's your basic salad with baby greens, topped with cherry tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese (I love goat cheese!) and caramelized pecans. It's served with raspberry vinaigrette which I asked for on the side, and I'm VERY glad that I did, because it was way too sweet. Had they poured it on for me, I'm afraid it would've been so sweet as to make the salad inedible.

Salmon Salad Lee decided to try the "Crescent City" Salmon Salad - "Fresh spinach and mixed baby greens, tossed with carmelized pecans, red grapes, navel orange segments, roasted sweet corn, and orange-cilantro vinaigrette - crowned with sauteed and pan-seared Atlantic Salmon." He doesn't care for cilantro so he requested the raspberry vinaigrette instead, which he said went pretty well with the salad and salmon - though he also used it sparingly.

Chocolate Crepe For dessert we split the Chocolate Crepe. Our server told us it would take about 15 minutes for that to be prepared, and she checked back with us a couple of times to assure us that it would be coming soon. (I think it took closer to 20 minutes.) The crepe was apparently cooked and filled and THEN baked - it was certainly very hot when it came out and the filling burned my tongue on my first bite. It was filled with a chocolate and raspberry filling - I don't much care for fruit with my chocolate, but this had only a slight raspberry flavor, so it was quite good. We both enjoyed it.

It was a very nice meal and the service was ok (better than I was expecting, given what I'd heard), though a little uneven. We had a little bit too much of a wait before our appetizers came out, but then our entrees were served to us before we had finished eating our appetizers. And although they came around to refill Lee's iced tea glass several times, no one ever refilled my water glass. I'd heard stories of how a meal can be incredibly slow, but we had appetizers, entrees, and dessert and were paid and out of there just over an hour after we were seated.

I think we'll go back - for one thing we want to try the Mickey-shaped Beignets! :-) And I'm curious about the Creole Ratatouille - it looks intriguing.

Bon appetit!

September 28, 2007

Sweet Halloween Treats

When I was at the Disneyland Resort last weekend, I noticed that a number of shops and restaurants are featuring special treats for the fall season. Some of them are rather cute and clever, so I thought I'd share.

The Blue Ribbon Bakery at Disneyland and Baker's Field Bakery at California Adventure are both featuring these cute Mickey pumpkin muffins and cookies.


I found the Mickey pumpkin cheesecake at Plaza Inn and the Pacific Wharf Cafe.


These candy corn cookies (candy-coated, of course!) and pumpkin sugar cookies were at the candy counter in Greetings From California.


The French Market, the restaurant located closest to Haunted Mansion Holiday, offers several creative desserts with the attraction's theme - like Jack (Skellington)-in-the-box chocolate cake.


And several different desserts served in Zero's food bowl - from a selection of fresh fruit to a piece of blueberry or strawberry cheesecake decorated with your favorite trio of hitchhiking ghosts!

dht_cookie2.jpg dht_cookie3.jpg

They almost look too good to eat! (Notice I said "almost..." :-) )

September 20, 2007

Quick weekend trip to Disneyland

I made a quick weekend trip to Disneyland and actually spent the night up there for a change - mainly because I was doing the Segway tour which started at 7:15 a.m., and would have meant getting up *really* early if I left from San Diego!

I met my friend Patty at my hotel on Saturday (Best Western Park Place Inn - more on that in a later blog), and she surprised me with a Disneyland birthday button! My birthday was the day before - I've never had a birthday button before. And it was fun - CMs at the turnstiles and in the park said "Happy Birthday, Laura!", and so did several guests, and I got singled out for some special attention by the Laughing Stock Company, and the Mariachi Divas over at DCA sang "Las Mañanitas" (the Mexican birthday song) to me and two other birthday people who were watching.

There were banners up at the parks (mostly where you saw them on your way out) advertising this year's Disney's HalloweenTime, which starts on September 21 - a week earlier this year. It was very festive last year, with great decorations! I hope to visit this weekend.

Now that summer is over the park is a lot quieter (even on Saturday it wasn't horribly busy, and it was a beautiful day - sunny and shorts weather, but a lot cooler than it had been in the last month!), and the Nemo line is down to something semi-reasonable - 45-60 minutes most of the time.


I don't think I've mentioned this before - the "yellow submarine" monorail that they premiered at the Finding Nemo grand opening is still decorated and has been in use ever since the opening (though they removed the conning tower!) - it's really cute - we saw it zooming around a number of times.


The construction of Toy Story Mania at DCA is beginning to take a more visible shape - as Patty pointed out to me the facade is taking on more of a Victorian look than the seaside amusement park look of the rest of the area. There's rumors that there are lots of changes coming to DCA (especially Paradise Pier) in the next few years, so maybe this is the start of it?

I saw the Remember fireworks at Disneyland that night from a spot near the castle where I could actually see the projections on the castle for a change. There's some really cool stuff - stars during the Main Street portion, flying spooks and hitchhiking ghosts during the Haunted Mansion section, skull and crossbones for Pirates, a moving duck target during the Frontierland Shooting Gallery bit (that's my favorite - it just quacks me up), crazy swirls for Toontown, "water ripples" for the Submarine Voyage, and a "light speed" pattern for Star Tours. I like that show more each time I see it.







The next morning Patty and I did the Segway tour - but you can read all about that HERE. It was a lot of fun - I liked it even more than the Epcot Segway tour, I think.

While waiting for the tour to start I *finally* got a decent picture of the new cloud-patterned "CALIFORNIA" letters in front of the park - just in time for them to change to the Halloween candy corn, I'm sure!


After the tour I wandered around the Disneyland Hotel taking pictures - and eventually found the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) sales office and models that are way on the far side of the Dreams (aka Bonita) Tower. I asked about the Grand Californian DVC, and they said they had no news on that...but it was finally announced earlier today. The press release is HERE.

Other news bits...

Ariel's Grotto at DCA will be starting a daily character breakfast on September 21, which runs through January 6. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 11:30 - $25.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids. Since the park doesn't open until 10:00, Cast Members will direct guests to the restaurant either from the main entrance or the Grand Californian entrance. Priority seating arrangements can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling Disneyland Dining: 714-781-DINE (3463).

And there's a new tour for the Halloween season - Disney's Happiest Haunts tour runs daily September 21-October 31. It starts at 6:00 at night and visits three attractions - Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Haunted Mansion Holiday. From what one of the guides told us, each tour guide gets to assume the persona of a character of their choice - like a pirate, or a miner or a psychotic actress. The tour includes creepy stories, and it's not for young children or those who might be easily frightened. Lee and I are signed up for the tour on September 28, so we'll know more after that. In the meantime, what we know about the tour is HERE.

It was a short trip but a lot of fun!

September 8, 2007

Dinner at Hook's Pointe

Hook's Pointe is a "casual" table service restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel - as you can tell from the name it has a slight "Peter Pan" theme to it - there's a map of Never Land painted on the ceiling and some of the tables have views of the Never Land Pool area. It specializes in mesquite grilled meat and seafood.

Hook's Pointe dining room

Pomegranate Splash

On a recent Friday evening we had a 6:40 Priority Seating time - we arrived on-time and were seated immediately. Even though the restaurant wasn't crowded (and at no time during our meal were all tables occupied, or even close) we were seated at a table not with a view of the pool, but a lovely(?) view of the Croc's Bits and Bites snack bar next door. Our server Roberta quickly arrived to introduce herself and take drink orders - they have an amazing variety of cocktails (or "foofy drinks", as we call them). It had been a hot day and I wanted something crisp and refreshing and she recommended the Pomegranate Splash - which had pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, grenadine and several other things - and it was excellent.

Though the same could not be said for the water...we both opted for "regular" water instead of Pellegrino or some other fancy expensive bottled stuff - but it really tasted odd. Which is odd in and of itself, since water isn't supposed to have any flavor! It tasted a bit salty to us, though our server assured us that it was filtered.

Our server brought us a basket of warm sourdough bread - it was delicious! Crisp and crusty on the outside but soft and chewy inside with that yummy sourdough bite to it. I had to be careful not to fill up too much on the bread!

Inland Salad Crab dip and pita wedges

For our appetizers we split the Inland Salad - fresh greens with blue cheese, apples and candied walnuts and a delicious apple cider vinaigrette - and Hook's Crab Spread - a crab, spinach and artichoke dip served with pita bread. I'm not a big fan of crab and didn't really care for the latter, since it had a lot of crab, and I would've preferred more spinach and artichokes!

Pork Chop

I selected the River Boat Pork Chop for an entree - Kansas City pork chop grilled with a sweet balsamic sauce, braised cabbage and garlic smashed potatoes. I thought the pork chop was a bit dry and tough to cut, but the sauce was tasty, as were the mashed potatoes.

Mahi mahi

Lee ordered the Fish of the Day - Mahi-mahi that was grilled with Cajun spice and served with a couple of jumbo shrimp, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and a caper sauce. It was very good - the mahi was very nicely cooked and not dry or fishy-tasting (I often find that mahi tastes fishy to me).

Chocolate cake

For dessert I ordered the Year of a Million Dreams Chocolate Cake - this was a chocolate cake with five different layers of cake and filling. It looked delicious but it was strangely tasteless - I could barely discern any chocolate flavor at all in the cake or the fillings. It was pretty disappointing.

Chocolate chip cookie

Lee ordered the Fresh Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie - our server warned us this needed about 10 minutes to prepare since the cookie was baked to order. It's definitely worth the wait, though. Although square like a brownie the "cookie" was crunchy on the outside and still warm and gooey inside just like a fresh cookie should be. Yummy. It was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, with a cookie wafer "sail". And it was quite large - it would easily have been enough for both of us.

Overall I have to say that we were both underwhelmed with dinner - the food was fine, and the service was very good (much better than the Vineyard Room a couple weeks before), but there was nothing very special about the experience - it wasn't really any different than eating at an Applebee's (except for the price!). Actually my favorite thing about the restaurant was something they had for the kids - kids' meals came with a straw that had a light-up figure on it, with their choice of Tink (green) or Hook (red) - I wanted one of those!

There was nothing wrong with the meal, but it's not a place we'll return to anytime soon.

The menu is available HERE.

Bon appetit!


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!

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About Dining

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Dining category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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