Posts Tagged ‘dining’

Highway In The Sky Dine-Around: A Memorable Monorail Meal

by on December 6, 2016

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Last week, Disney announced a new upscale special dining event modeled after the popular “monorail crawl” many Disney fans love, called the Highway In The Sky Dine-Around progressive dinner. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with a short break for the holiday season), this event highlights dining offerings at Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resorts in a four hour experience priced at $150 plus tax per person (gratuity included, no discounts of any kind offered).

I was lucky enough to book a spot for the first night of this event last Friday on a whim. As it turns out, there really was a bit of luck involved here, as the event is already nearly sold out through the initial booking period currently running through March 2017 (sporadic parties of 1 and 2 are available on select dates as of the date of this article)! Here, I’ll walk you through the logistics and food/beverage I enjoyed during the event, which I’m sure will change over time as this event settles into permanent status, but it will give you a good idea of how it all works and whether it would fit your dining preferences.

Booking and Arrival

First, a few notes about booking: Many guests attending Friday’s dinner noted that some Cast Members assisting in booking by phone had no clue what the event was (which can sometimes happen with new events). I was able to book online directly through the Disney site without hassle (by searching for the Highway in the Sky event page). On Thursday, I received a call from a Cast Member confirming my attendance and checking if I had any food allergies or accessibility concerns, as the event includes a set menu and several sets of stairs and standing throughout. I was also reminded that valet parking was included at the Contemporary Resort. All of these items were touches I’d expect of any upscale dining experience, so I was happy to see they hadn’t been lost in the shuffle of it being a new event.

I was told to check in to the podium at The Wave… restaurant around 6:30 PM (event start times will vary based on the time of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks on any given night). Several Cast Members were around to welcome me, and once all the business was settled, I was led into the lounge area in The Wave’s lobby, where one of the blue alien-spaceshippy trippy rooms had been reserved for our group. If you’re acquainted with these lounge areas, you’ll know they aren’t particularly huge, so I was curious to see how big our dining party would actually be. As everyone filtered in, the group grew to about 25 guests – a reasonable size that seemed intimate but not so small that you couldn’t socialize with lots of different people.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

PizzeRizzo: Classic Disney Pizza Under New Management

by on November 30, 2016

Neon and classic pizzeria signs welcome you to PizzeRizzo.I have a secret. It’s kind of shameful in the eyes of many Disney fans. It’s definitely shameful in the eyes of those who enjoy good food.

Are you ready?

I was really sad when Pizza Planet closed earlier this year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, because I actually liked the pizza there.

I’m sure many are now completely questioning any dining reviews I’ve ever written, but it’s true! It’s not the best pizza at Walt Disney World (which I’ll rank in an upcoming post), but it served its purpose – fast, relatively cheap, and meets the cheese-sauce-bread ratio that qualifies it as “pizza”. I wondered, therefore, whether changes made in the transformation of the Toy Story-themed Pizza Planet to the newly opened Muppets-themed PizzeRizzo would also affect the pizza.

In short: no, it’s still the same pizza (and side salads, and meatball subs). For many of you, that’s probably enough of a review to know what you’re getting into (same food, new themed area surrounding The new ordering area at PizzeRizzo is much bigger than before.your dining table). I will say, though, that a few things about PizzeRizzo pleasantly surprised me, which I’ll share below.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney World Swan and Dolphin: A Foodie Paradise

by on November 11, 2016

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a resort that evokes lots of curiosity. It is unlike any other resort on Disney property because it straddles the line between being a Disney resort and being a Starwood property. Its history is rich and intriguing, but this post is not about the ins and outs of this whimsical resort. Besides the architecture, décor, and infrastructure there is something else that really sets this resort apart from all of its neighbors: the food and beverage.

30644722065_0029ca95a0_k

Photo by Brandon Glover

The quality of their food and beverage operation is not just evident in their variety of restaurants and dining options, but also showcased once a year on a grand scale. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is an incredible event that puts this resort at its best. I’ll share some of my experience at this magnificent event as well as an overview of the variety of dining options found at this resort.

30344966040_d7aacdd0f0_k

Photo by Brandon Glover

Variety of dining options

In the beginning the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin operated as two separate hotel companies. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton. During the first years of operation these two brands were separate entities, not part of the same parent company like they are now under the Starwood Hotels banner.

Model of the vast resort - photo by Brandon Glover

Model of the vast resort – photo by Brandon Glover

This initial separation between the two hotels helped set the foundation that the Swan and the Dolphin could be complete destinations on their own and thus provide enough dining variety among themselves. Each wing has at least one quick service option, one casual sit down restaurant, and one signature restaurant. Plus there is in-room dining and a personal pantry delivery service, oh and don’t forget the authentic sushi restaurant with a lively late night karaoke scene.

The best dining options

The signature dining at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is bar none the standout experience of the resort. Each restaurant is distinctly different from the next. It’s hard to decide which of the signature restaurants is best for a romantic date night or an impressive night with colleagues.

Todd English's bluezoo's creative cocktails - photo by Brandon Glover

Todd English’s bluezoo’s creative cocktails – photo by Brandon Glover

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

What makes I-Drive 360 and Tin Roof worth a visit?

by on November 2, 2016

I-Drive 360 will soon enter its second year in operation, but what makes it worth a visit? There are some hits and misses here, that’s true. The misses, like a gift shop selling the same mugs and t-shirts you can find along less desirable strips of highway, make it difficult to be on the level of Universal Orlando’s CityWalk or Disney Springs. The hits, however, make it a worthwhile destination.

30014239170_a2b66d448a_k-1

Photo by Brandon Glover

The hits

Though Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figures don’t appeal to me all, not a day goes by that I don’t see someone in my social media feed posting selfies with their favorite wax celebrities. It looks to be a fun, inexpensive attraction. Secondly, SeaLife Aquarium appears to have some beautiful settings and lots of great photo opportunities.

Combine these two attractions with a breathtaking ride aboard the Orlando Eye and now you’ve got a great afternoon mapped out. I’ve been aboard the Orlando Eye twice. I felt a swell of pride as we rose above and gazed out over the attractions area. On a clear day, Fall is a great season to hop on board and enjoy the views from the Orlando Eye.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

I-Drive 360’s best feature is actually their dining offerings. I appreciate that there is a range of options to fit practically any budget. Most of the restaurants are popular chains, but there is one in particular that is my favorite reason for visiting I-Drive 360. Tin Roof is the place! Every night live music can be heard pouring out of this place. It is vibrant and friendly. Best of all, the food is fantastic and a new menu has elevated Tin Roof to an even higher level, making it a must-visit for anyone who likes good music and great food.

Tin Roof’s new menu

Let me first say, I enjoyed Tin Roof’s previous menu so when they announced that a new menu was coming I got a little worried. Thankfully the revamp has taken a good thing and made it great! A group of local social media and blogging enthusiasts were invited to try out the new menu, but many of us were already regulars at Tin Roof, so this was a real treat!

Appetizers

On a night out, especially with friends, I tend to gravitate towards ordering 2-3 appetizers and sharing them as a group. So it’s important to me that this part of the menu have some stand outs. In fact, one of the items has now become something I crave on occasion.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Dixie Biscuits ($9.00)

These little bad boys became the hit of the table. Love at first bite! Three sliders are presented on the plate and I would have a hard time sharing them. A new star of the menu is the house smoked beef brisket. It is served in a few ways, but in this case it is sandwiched in between a deep fried biscuit – yes, that’s right a deep fried biscuit, then topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and peach jam. Everyone at the table loved these!

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Bacon Mason ($5.00)

For those that enjoy the simple things in life, this one’s for you. A nice stack of crispy bacon is served alongside peach preserves. The end. For $5.00 this is a quick and easy snack to share.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Poppers ($7.00)

Confession: I love pimento cheese. It is a slightly spicy creamy, cheese spread that nearly every Southerner knows from their childhood. These little croquettes are filled with peppadew and pimento cheese, then wrapped in bacon. My one qualm with these poppers is they can be difficult to eat without being messy.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Sanaa Breakfast: A Solid Addition To Disney Dining

by on October 27, 2016

Hot grab-and-go options are available, in addition to standard cold fare.Recently, Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa added a new breakfast service to supplement their already great lunch and dinner offerings. In a resort without a quick service immediately available for breakfast (at least without taking the shuttle to Jambo House to hit up The Mara), it seems like a smart move. Families in search of something more substantial to eat than what’s available in Johari Treasures’ refrigerated section can now wander just downstairs from their room to sample Sanaa’s options (both hot and cold, grab-and-go or not). It’s rare we see a new addition to resort dining that sticks around for very long, so I wanted to give this meal a shot in case it’s short-lived (though, based on how good it was, I hope it’s here to stay!).

Standard hand fruits and muffins/bagels/toast available for purchaseAll in all, Sanaa breakfast is a pretty simple set-up: once you arrive downstairs to the restaurant (anytime between 7am-10am daily), you’ll be greeted by a Cast Member with a menu of offerings, and led to the front dining room just to the right of the restaurant’s entrance. Here, all of the hot and cold grab and go options are available to peruse and purchase, along with bottled juices, milk, water, and sodas, plus disposable cups for coffee. Once you decide on your items, or choose from the menu, you just let the cashier know, where they’ll ring you up and give you a number to place on your table (painted on a cute wooden animal carving).

A variety of bottled drinks and cereals supplement your meal. When I arrived towards the end of breakfast hours one day recently, the grab and go area wasn’t super well-stocked – a few of the items had run out, but Cast Members refilling items let me know that I could just ask if I wanted anything that was missing. Notable options include a beautiful fresh fruit platter, muffins, hot oatmeal, and slices of bobotie pie (African-style quiche). One other note – I was a little sad that you couldn’t get a fountain drink or cup of water here, like you’d find standard at a normal quick service. Be prepared that if you want water, you’ll have to pay for one of the small bottles that comes with the kid’s meals. Coffee was the only self-serve drink available. I realize this is a result of a restaurant not necessarily equipped for this kind of service, but it was still a little bit of a surprise to me, and different from what you’ll see elsewhere.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Nomad Lounge is now better than ever before

by on October 5, 2016

Nomad Lounge, along with Tiffins Restaurant, is the place that Disney’s Animal Kingdom needed. It is casual yet sophisticated, incredibly detailed and inviting, and offers a great selection of inventive cocktails. And now, Nomad Lounge is even better with a new menu that is more approachable and provides better value.

I recently visited with my parents, who hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom in a few years. We sat at the bar, soaking in all the details, discussed the past and the future of this, my favorite park. We made a meal out of four of the dishes on Nomad Lounge’s food menu. Here’s a quick review of some of the new menu items.

img_4328

 

img_4308

img_4329Wagyu Beef Sliders ($14.00)

Sliders are a popular small plate on many a lounge menu. Easy to share, easy to eat, and typically satisfying, they make a great choice. Two sliders are presented with a handful of small roasted potatoes. The patty is seasoned well and very juicy and tender. A rich tomato jam is spread on the top bun, adding a savory flavor, and an inexpensive way for Disney to add a vegetable element to this slider without the cost of actual fresh veggies. The bun is dense, with a sweet flavor.

These three flavors: the seasoned beef, the tomato jam, and the sweet bun come together to make a nice blend. However, I would prefer the patty to be regular ground beef rather than Wagyu because to me this high quality blend of beef gets lost in slider form, and I’d rather pay $10 – $11 for two sliders as opposed to $14.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Top 6 Overlooked Restaurants

by on September 23, 2016

One of the toughest choices to make regarding a Walt Disney World vacation is deciding where to eat. With all the options available at this amazing resort, it’s overwhelming for anyone planning their trip, whether they’re first-time visitors, or seasoned annual passholders. If you’ve done your research, you’ll see the pattern of some of the same names coming up over and over again in reviews and recommendations (Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, Le Cellier, etc).

Disney Dining DonaldBut hopefully, after reading this article, I can introduce to some of Walt Disney World’s unsung restaurant heroes. I have selected my own top six overlooked restaurants at Walt Disney World. Each of these offers great food, value, and even atmosphere but somehow seem to get left out of the top popular recommendations. The plus side, is that because these are often overlooked, that means they are often less crowded and have open reservation availability. These aren’t ranked in any particular order, and range between table service and quick service, but you’ll find one selection from each park, a resort, and Disney Springs.

 

 

Animal Kingdom

First up, the overlooked restaurant in Animal Kingdom, Yak and Yeti. With all of the publicity of the newly opened Tiffin’s and the standing popularity of Rainforest Café, Yak and Yeti often gets forgotten as a wonderful table service option. As far as atmosphere, there are two levels to the restaurant with multiple rooms on each level, and each room is adorned with unique, ornate decorations. Every detail leaving the guest of an experience of actually eating in a quaint restaurant in Asia.

As for the menu, it definitely offers some unique Asian fusion options that you find everywhere. Some guests may pass by Yak and Yeti because the menu seems too ethnic or daunting for their taste buds. Any guest who does venture in will be richly rewarded.  I can honestly account that the Kobe Beef Burger I had here was the best burger I’ve had anywhere. So, if you’re in Animal Kingdom, or looking for a fun and rewarding dining experience, be sure to not to overlook Yak and Yeti.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Every New Dish at the 2016 Epcot Food And Wine Festival Reviewed!

by on September 16, 2016

Food and Wine 2016 EntranceThe 2016 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is finally here! I was lucky enough to spend festival kick-off day sampling every (yes, I tried them all!) new and modified dish at the festival this year, to see which dishes were must-dos or must-skips for all of you. Here you’ll find photos and my thoughts on all of these new items, organized as you travel around the world (in the same order they are listed in the festival passport). Below my reviews, you’ll see a few hot takes – I’ve ranked all of these new items based on whether I’d try them again this festival season. As always, click on any photo to see the larger version of each dish. Don’t forget, you can check out full menus and prices from every booth here to start your planning now.

The Dishes

  • Craft Beer's Piggy WingsCraft Beers: Piggy Wings – Fried Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds ($4.25)

Sticky, sweet, and sour, these are definitely good BBQ wings, but you’ll only get to taste two of them per order. Perfect with a beer (or three in a flight), these are worth the purchase if you need a snack to munch on while enjoying a little free air conditioning, but I wouldn’t make a special stop here just to try them.

  • The Chew Collective: Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots, and Feta Cheese ($5.00)

At the end of the day, this dish is exactly as billed: it’s a few pieces of grilled steak on a salad. The apricots and feta bring some necessary freshness and texture, but ultimately, this dish needed a sauce to make it all come together. The Chew Collective's Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse (L) and Grilled Beef Skewer (R)Kids who like plain steak may want to steal a bite from mom and dad on this dish.

  • The Chew Collective: Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle ($5.00)

This dish tastes exactly like someone crushed up a package of Nutter Butters (which is definitely a good thing, to me). Rich and slightly salty from the peanut butter, the white chocolate and caramel provide a bit of offsetting sweetness. Everyone (who can eat this) will love this dessert, and though it’s a small portion for the price, it’s worth a shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Quick Picks for the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on September 13, 2016

It’s almost Christmas… well, *my* Christmas. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival opening day is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start strategizing how to tackle all of the great eats during your trip around the World (Showcase). To do that, I’ve made “quick pick” lists full of my favorites from past years in a few categories: classics (great for festival first-timers), dishes that are great for families with kids or picky eaters, dishes for adventurous eaters, vegetarian picks (that even carnivores will love), and of course, a few drinks. I’ve included new picks in some of the categories that I’m looking forward to, and also some tips and tricks for making the most of your time (and finding the shortest lines!) at the festival booths.

Classics for first-time Food & Wine Festival visitors

  • Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Hawai’i: Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayo

This booth’s menu rarely changes because it’s always consistently good. Definitely stop here early in the day, as it is one of the first booths in World Showcase and lines grow quickly.

  • Australia: grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies

Great walk-around finger food to enjoy while strolling Epcot. Only a few bites, but the potato chip crunchies make this a fun take on a classic dish.

  • Hops & Barley: New England lobster roll

A consistent favorite, usually heavy on the lobster and served on a heavenly butter-grilled bun

  • Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac & Cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and peppers

Who doesn’t like mac & cheese, especially when it has bacon and other toppings? This can be a lighter portion, but one that nearly everyone will enjoy

  • Belgium: beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes

The beer-braised beef returns this year with a new presentation (no more potato leek waffle). This booth can be a little slow, depending on how many are ordering sweet waffles (made to order), but it’s worth the wait for this dish.

  • Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Mexico: Mexican chocolate flan

Mexico is always a must-stop for desserts for me – every year they make something slightly different, but always tasty, and this flan is sure to fit that pattern. A great stop for the very end of the night, when this always-busy booth’s line tends to be shorter.

  • Chocolate Studio: liquid nitrogen chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel

This dish debuted last year and became an instant classic for pretty much everyone. It’s usually rich enough to share, and it’s always a blast to watch them freeze the truffles to order.

Perfect bites for families with kids or “picky eaters”

  • Germany: Schinkennudeln (baked mac and cheese with ham)

Again, who doesn’t like mac & cheese? This rich dish is a variation of the baked mac and cheese found inside Biergarten, and it is just ridiculously heavenly. A good stop if you are worried Farm Fresh’s version is too veggie-heavy, and usually a pretty quick line.

  • Brazil: Crispy pork belly with black beans and tomato

Most kids love bacon, and this is exactly that, just with the addition of a nice stew of black bean and tomato. Full of savory flavor, this dish will be a winner for many, and bonus – there’s a really cool seating area at this booth, too!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Dani’s Best Week Ever September 1, 2016: Halloween Horror Nights Prep and Toothsome

by on September 1, 2016

Fall is finding its way, slowly sneaking out Summer. Yes, we do have a Fall season here in Florida. It is different than the rest of the country, but it is there. Scallop season gives way to snow crab season. Acorns begin to create a blanket on the ground. A short cool snap can be anticipated only to have the heat come back after a few days of relief. But above all this, Halloween begins in mid-September around these parts.

Preparations are underway for Halloween Horror Nights 2016 at Universal Orlando. And now we can prepare our sweet tooth for the treats of Halloween and the Holidays by visiting Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen. I enjoyed one of my best evenings ever at Universal with a visit to Toothsome and a stroll, with an unexpected thrill, through Universal Studios Florida.

IMG_3691

The weather

Summer’s oppressive heat is still upon us despite the signs of Halloween popping up around town. Summer thunderstorms will soon give way to longer, mistier rains, and stronger chances for hurricanes. But alas on this visit, a traditional summer thunderstorm poured itself upon me as I made my way to Universal Orlando.

IMG_3577

Walking into CityWalk there seemed to be a changing of the guards of sorts.  Hoards of guests streamed towards the exit. Meanwhile, just as many guests headed into the parks equipped with ponchos and umbrellas.

With grey skies it was difficult to see the smoke stack effect rising above Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen. With its black, white, and copper color scheme coupled with whimsical details, landscaping, and mechanical details, Toothsome’s facade stands out in CityWalk’s impressive line up.

 

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Kitchen

At first the concept of a chocolate / dessert-centric restaurant at Universal Orlando did not really grab my attention. Although, I really never enjoyed its predecessor NBA City, so anything was an improvement in my opinion. As I arrived to the still-in-preview restaurant, I noticed a large influx of guests. Thankfully, my friends had arrived before me and had secured a spot at the bar.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print