Today’s dining article comes to us from Emily Woesthoff, General Manager of BabycakesNYC, a vegan, gluten-free bakery in Downtown Disney Marketplace.
Walking into the Grand Floridian, I felt a little bit like Kobayashi. Was I supposed to have prepared for this? Was I maybe going to vomit from eating so much? Should I pre-soak my courses in water to help the marathon of eating on which I was about to embark? No, it was going to be fine, it’s just dinner… a really fancy dinner that I’ve been wanting to eat for years. No big deal.
We arrived promptly for our 5pm seating and waited to be escorted to our table. Some of the gentlemen in our party needed to borrow jackets, including a certain co-author I know. Once we were there, the guys were then told they could remove their jackets, as the Chef’s Table boasted a relaxed atmosphere, and was very different from the main dining room (phew). Get this, I was even given an extra-special fancy stool for my camera. Yup, they brought me a stool for my camera. That and a three car garage are the epitome of class. Our waiter also let the ladies at the table know that there were shawls available should any of us get chilly. At this, I promptly hid my sweater so I could request said shawl a bit later during the meal.
The table was set up a mere 5 feet from where all of the action was going on in the kitchen. There was hustle, there was bustle, and most importantly; there was a mirror for those who were seated with their backs to the kitchen so they could see the goings on as well. Our waiters made introductions, and then Chef Scott Hunnel came out to speak with us. He was very cordial, and asked about any food allergies at the table along with food preferences. I was all ready to recite my I’m-vegan-no-I-don’t-eat-fish-or-butter-or-eggs speech when, to my relief, Chef Scott let me know he had a vegan menu planned for me (and no, it wouldn’t contain a drop of honey!). I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical. Was my special menu going to be a lot of tofu on tofu action? Was it going to be very salad and pasta heavy? Ladies and gentlemen, I was about to find out. Let the feasting begin!
The table kicked everything off with a champagne toast. I, on the other hand, prefer to kick things off like a 10 year old on New Year’s Eve, with a sparkling apple cider! The first dish arrived, and I was extremely stoked because, despite the fact that there were four separate articles of food on the plate, they were all kept to their respective corners, like the beginning of a four person boxing match (I like that). This course is called the “amuse-bouche” (which I believe roughly translates to “something to amuse the bouche”) and featured one of my favorites of the evening, a Consommeé with a strong, biting mushroom flavor that was reminiscent of the best French onion soup broth you have ever tasted. Also included on the plate were Salsify with Olive Oil and Capers, Vegetable Roulade with Pickled Ginger, and Gold Beet Carpaccio. Do I know what a lot of that is? No. Did I Google it later? Yes!
If the nine courses to follow would be anything like the first, I was ready for them! I really found the Heirloom Tomatoes with Lentils Charmoula Sauce to be delicious. You may not know this about me, but boy do I have a thing for lentils, especially when they are served a la revenge. Seriously, eat with me at Boma sometime, I tend to go back to the buffet for cold lentils a third and fourth time. Those lentils, however, have nothing on these lentils. The Charmoula Sauce was flavorful, but light enough that it did not overpower the lentils or heirloom tomatoes sharing the plate.
At some point in my meal, I was served the second-place winner of the evening. It is called Potato Cannelloni with Arugla and Spinach, White Truffle on the menu, but really, they could have summed it up as Freaking Magic on a Plate. The Potato Cannelloni was like eating mashed potatoes enveloped in a soft shell of deliciousness, with the most amazing mushroom gravy on the side. I swear, I understand the purpose of blogging, but words can not describe how amazing this tasted. Anyone planning to have the vegan menu at V&A (we’re on a first initial basis now) in the near future, please sneak one of these into your purse-on-a-stool and bring it back to me. Seriously.
I was blown away, course after course, but I’m sort of really into vegan desserts so I was really excited to be served three amazing dessert courses during this meal. That’s right, three desserts! One featured three flavors of sorbet, Pear-Ginger, Spiced Apple, and Red Currant. The pear flavor was fantastic because the ginger was so understated, but the Spiced Apple was the winner. It tasted like a small scoop of chilled autumn with just a hint of spice. There was also a Tofu Cheesecake which was divine. It was served topped with a raspberry glaze and ribbons of chocolate. The best of the three, however, was the Apple Crisp. You know when you get to the bottom of a box of cereal and all of those delicious clusters remain? That’s what I was reminded of eating the this dessert. It was like a mini pie, the top was full of crunchy clusters covering warm spiced apples and cranberries with complimentary sweet and spicy flavors. I was really impressed with all three of the vegan dessert options and the Tofu Cheesecake was one of the prettiest dishes I have ever seen.
The grand prize winner of the evening, though, was only part of a course. Served alongside Vegetable Ratatouille in Calamarata Pasta, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you 100 Year Balsamic. When I got over the fact that I was dipping my pasta in something that had been aged 100 years, I was able to appreciate the divine, almost maple syrupy taste of the balsamic. It was so good that I pretty much made all of the other six people at the table try some. Some of us swiped our fingers in it, others dipped it into Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek’s Austrian Bread; but we all agreed that it tasted amazing.
Flavor aside, at this point, I realized just how specialized and rare some of these ingredients actually are, and how this menu is so carefully thought out. I was taken aback to think about how much preparation had gone into this meal, and felt so grateful for the experience and the rare opportunity to eat such an amazing meal. It was truly an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime-unless-you’re-really-lucky type of experience. I still can’t get over how wonderfully my vegan diet was accommodated, and how welcoming the staff at Victoria and Albert’s was. They gave the everyone at the table printed, personalized menus to help us all remember the evening (as if we would soon forget). The ladies at the table also got a red rose to take home as a souvenir. And despite my best efforts, no, I was not able to keep my eating-shawl as a parting gift.
I feel confident in officially naming this the best vegan meal on property, in the Orlando area, anywhere ever. If you’re a regular at V&A’s, and you’ve already tried the regular menu, I would highly recommend branching out and trying the vegan options. I swear, it’s very far from ten courses of tofu.
Victoria and Albert’s is located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa next to Citricos. It offers regular dining room seating, the Queen Victoria’s Room, and the Chef’s Table. The restaurant does not accept the Disney Dining Plan (the Platinum Plan is accepted for the regular dining room). Tables in Wonderland is accepted only at the regular dining room, not the Chef’s Table or the Queen Victoria’s Room. Children under 10 are not allowed at any Victoria and Albert’s seating.
All menus are prix-fixe:
Regular Dining Room – $125, wine pairings an additional $60.
Queen Victoria’s Room and Chef’s Table – $200, wine pairings an additional $95
Wines are also available by the glass.
Have you dreamed of eating at Victoria and Albert’s? Are you are vegan looking for a meal ne plus ultra? Talk about it in the comments!