Dining

Epcot Premieres New IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party

by on March 12, 2014

IlluminationsToday Epcot introduced a brand new offering called the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party.

Here, guests are able to partake in a complete selection of desserts and sparkling wines in a prime reserved location for viewing IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. The dessert party location is Showcase Plaza, which is along the water between the Friendship Boat docks nearest Future World, facing the American Adventure Pavilion. (This dessert party is similar to the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Party that’s currently being held in the Magic Kingdom.)

Dessert options include tiramisu from Italy, vanilla pot de crème from France, shortbread cookies from the United Kingdom, baklava from Morocco, sugar-dusted cronis (croissant doughnuts) with strawberry sauce from America, and a selection of delicious ice-cream treats.  Also available for guests will be lemonade, coffee, teas, sparkling wine from Washington State and Prosecco from Italy.

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Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney Starbucks Opens March 10

by on March 8, 2014

Attention caffeine cravers: the new Disneyland Resort Downtown Disney Starbucks will officially open on Monday, March 10, 2014. The Anaheim resort’s newest Starbucks franchise joins the ones at Market House on Main Street, U.S.A. and Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe on Buena Vista Street. You can read the details on the Disney Parks blog.

Here are a couple photos of the shop under construction late last month:

Disneyland Downtown Disney Starbucks

All photos by Seth Kubersky


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Pollo Campero/BabyCakes NYC to Close in Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney

by on March 5, 2014

BabycakesDisney Springs construction is currently going on everywhere at Downtown Disney, and one area that’s been on the demolition list has been the Pollo Campero building (which is the former location a McDonald’s at Downtown Disney). This building not only houses this Latin-inspired chicken restaurant, but also Bodie’s All-American and BabyCakes NYC.

It appears that things must progress with Disney Springs, so these three restaurants will be closing. Their last day of operation is scheduled for March 19, 2014.

To many, the biggest loss will be BabyCakes NYC, which is a gluten-free, vegan, organic, and diabetic-friendly bakery that bakes fresh products daily. BabyCakes will continue to provide gluten-free products to select Walt Disney World Resort food courts and restaurants. These include:

  • The Beach Club Marketplace at Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  • The Boardwalk Bakery at Disney’s Boardwalk
  • The Gardens Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • The End Zone at Disney’s All Star Sports Resort

There is no sign of whether any of these three establishments will return when Disney Springs officially debuts.

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In the Parks with Morgan: Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine

by on March 2, 2014

DSC_0033Back in January, with not too much fanfare, Hollywood & Vine, the character dining staple at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, added Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins to its character dining lineup. A lot of you had questions about the new characters and the experience, in general, so I hope this answers them.

With their shows on Disney Junior riding a huge wave of popularity, it’s unlikely that Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First will be going anywhere any time soon. And while Sofia has a meet and greet a short walk away in the Animation Courtyard, Hollywood & Vine is the only place you’ll be able to say hello to Doc.

Hollywood & Vine is an buffet-style restaurant that serves American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Below are some of the breakfast selections.

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Characters for breakfast and lunch (dinner is not character dining) are Princess Sofia, Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, and Jake the Pirate. The buffet is extensive and, as compared to similarly-sized buffets on property, is reasonably priced, especially for breakfast. Guests are seated at tables around the dining room and attended to by a server who brings drinks and any extras. All every meal there are kid-friendly buffet items like french toast, mickey waffles, pizza, and chicken nuggets. During breakfast and lunch hours, characters work the room in circuits, making sure each table is greeted and has a minute or so to take pictures and get autographs, and there’s a fun dance party each time a new circuit starts. Don’t worry if the characters have to leave your table for a song – their attendants know just where they left off, and they’ll be back to meet and greet at your table when the performance is over. If you do happen to miss a character while you’re fetching puffed french toast, let the character attendants know rather than trying to track that character down. Characters meet and greet in pairs and switch when each side of the dining room is covered, so be patient and enjoy your meal; eventually they’ll all make it around to your table.

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SATURDAY SIX: Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras

by on March 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras. Last week we wrote about the reasons we think Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration is one of our favorite events on the theme park calendar. Great live music, a terrific parade and a fun party atmosphere combine to make a unique experience at the park, but we here at the Saturday Six look forward to one thing more than anything else….the food! This week we’re going to look at six of our favorite snacks that come out during the party.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version. Also, for a comprehensive run-down of the event and a list of all the upcoming dates, check out Seth Kubersky’s Complete Guide to Mardi Gras 2014. But enough of that jibber jabber, on with the food!

# 6 – Beignets

Beignets

Beignets

If you are going to do a New Orleans-style party right, you better have beignets. Topped with enough powdered sugar to put you straight into a diabetic coma, this Mardi Gras offering brings a little bit of deep fried Louisiana love to Orlando. If anyone tells you there is something better than snacking on beignets while watching the Mardi Gras Parade, they’ve clearly been bewitched by Dr. Facilier. ($4.25)

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What’s Up With Walt Disney World’s Rapid Fill Mugs?

by on February 23, 2014

Walt Disney World’s refillable mug program has always been a strange beast to me. At the start of my vacation I always find myself standing in the resort food court in front of the refillable mugs asking, “Will I drink almost $20 worth of soda, only at my resort?” In 2013 Disney made this situation even more complicated with its new “Rapid Fill” system.

What is Disney’s Rapid Fill?

The Rapid Fill refillable mugs have replaced the old refillable mugs at all Walt Disney World resort hotels. Disney advertises the new program as more flexible, which is true, but it’s still expensive. The mugs are now equipped with an RFID chip. This chip tells the soda machine how many days you purchased, and the machine features a screen that displays information about when you are next able to refill your mug.

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Rapid Fill screen showing the wait time between refills. Photo courtesy of Donald Clarence

It still has unlimited refills, right?

Yes, but you will have to wait between refills. Thankfully that time is only a couple of minutes. A screen on the soda fountain will show you the exact amount of time until you can fill up your mug again. Some people have a problem with this, but I can’t imagine drinking 16 ounces of soda in less than 2 minutes. I do see this being a problem if you fill up and then find out the soda was flat, or if some other malfunction has occurred. Your option at that point is to wait the couple of minutes or find a Cast Member to help you out.

Which resorts sell Rapid Fill mugs?

Rapid Fill mugs are sold at all Walt Disney World resort quick service locations. The mugs are not sold at any any of the theme parks, nor can they be refilled in the parks.

How much does a Rapid Fill mug cost? 

Unlike the previous refillable mugs that had a flat rate cost for no matter how long you stayed, the new Rapid Fill mugs have variable pricing depending on how many days your vacation lasts.

Current Rapid Fill prices:

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Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchen Menus

by on February 17, 2014

Disney

Disney

They’re here! The menu offerings for this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchens have been released! This year there are some fantastic new dishes, mixed in with some favorites from last year.

For those who don’t know, this is the Outdoor Kitchens’ second appearance at the Flower and Garden Festival. They were introduced last year under the name, “Garden Marketplace Kiosks.” These Kitchens serve up delicious, fresh food and beverages that gather their inspiration from springtime flavors.

Earlier, Disney told us which booths would be at the Festival. This year, a new booth known as Urban Farm Eats will debut, and it appears that the Intermission Cafe in the Festival Center is officially included in the fun. It will offer up quite a few tasty treats, too!

Here are the full menus for each of the Outdoor Kitchens:

Jardin de Fiestas (Mexico Pavilion) – this booth offers tapas that are spring light and cooked just right.

  • Tacos al pastor – Corn tortilla filled with achiote-marinated pork, garnished with grilled diced pineapple, onions and cilantro
  • Quesadilla de hongos con queso – Flour tortilla filled with mushrooms and cheese
  • Flan de chocolate Abuelita – Mexican chocolate custard
  • Tecate draft beer
  • White Mexican sangria
  • Franbuesa (raspberry) margarita on the rocks
  • Tequila flight – blanco, reposado and añejo
  • Dasani bottled water

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant

by on February 15, 2014

DSC_1118This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant. With the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train inching towards completion later this year, today we’re going to look at what can be considered the “E-Ticket” of New Fantasyland, Be Our Guest Restaurant. While the Magic Kingdom is the gold standard of the theme park world for meet and greets, dark rides, parades, night time spectaculars and even themed bathrooms,  one area that we all agree needs some improvement is the quality dining. Be Our Guest not only starts to fill that void, but you could make a strong case that it is the best themed restaurant inside any theme park. The Beast’s castle “weenie” can be seen from far away and the closer you get the more impressive everything becomes.

Today we’re going to look at six reasons we love Be Our Guest and why it’s our favorite restaurant experience in WDW. We should add that this article represents the dinner experience, as the lunch experience can be quite different. Some would argue you can get much better value with the lunch menu, but we’ll save that debate for another day.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

# 6 – The Beast

Our host for the evening is Beast himself, and throughout the night he does a walkthrough of the three dining rooms (always to a round of applause), and is afterward available for pictures at his study when you’re done with your meal. The design work on this character is impressive and watching him walk through the restaurant is fun. The photo-op at the end of the meal is a nice cherry on top of the sundae and like many of the recent Disney meet n’ greets, the setting for the picture is gorgeous.

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Universal Dining: Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort

by on February 11, 2014

TchoupChop_SignI’m a big fan of all three of Universal’s on-site hotels but the Royal Pacific Resort is definitely my favorite. Even though I have been going to the hotel for years, I have always eaten my meals at the parks or at CityWalk. After having a terrific breakfast buffet experience at the Islands Dining Room earlier last year, I realized I needed to start checking out all the eateries at the Royal Pacific. First I tried lunch and drinks at Jake’s American Bar, followed by the Royal Pacific’s Character Breakfast (also at Jake’s). In January of this year, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop made some major changes by bringing in a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, and completely updating their lunch and dinner menus. Seth Kubersky wrote an article on the TouringPlans blog recently that explored the new menu, and that sealed the deal for me. I needed to try Tchoup Chop ASAP.

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Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos Review

by on February 9, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos review

Our Antojitos review is in, as Universal Orlando CityWalk’s newest restaurant opens its doors.

After months of construction and speculation, and a week of soft-opening service, Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant officially opened to the public on February 5, 2014, as the newest dining upgrade in Universal Orlando’s ongoing CityWalk overhaul. I was among the few journalists invited to taste-test the menu last month, and since the first public seating I’ve dined there three times, including the grand opening media party. While I haven’t yet eaten everything on the menu, I have sampled enough to provide this preliminary Antojitos review, which we’ll refine as the restaurant finds its rhythm.

Atmosphere

As you’ll instantly notice from the photographs, Universal’s replacement for the former Latin Quarter restaurant isn’t some sedate hacienda.

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