Posts Tagged ‘food’

Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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PotterWatch: London Waterfront Lighting, Diagon Alley Return Tickets, Hogsmeade Transition, & Leaky Cauldron Food Preview

by on June 2, 2014

PotterWatch London Waterfront lighting Diagon Alley return ticket kiosks Hogsmeade transition

Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where time has turned purple… (photos by Seth Kubersky)

We’ve passed an important PotterWatch milestone this week: we’re most likely less than one month away from the public premiere of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. This update will examine some new lighting along the London Waterfront, the newly revealed Hogsmeade transition area outside the original Wizarding World, and some recently revealed Leaky Cauldron food and beverage details.

 

London Waterfront Lighting

I took a stroll along the London Waterfront outside Diagon Alley at “magic hour” to capture some of the lighting features throughout the area. Let’s start with a panoramic overview of the construction area:

 

This purple illumination on the King’s Cross clock tower confuses me. Perhaps it is some sort of magical effect, or an unfinished test? Time will tell…

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PotterWatch: London Lampposts, Honeydukes Expansion, Merchandise and Food Preview

by on May 2, 2014

PotterWatch lampposts merchandise and food preview

Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade is approaching the finish line at Universal Orland (photos by Seth Kubersky)

April has turned to May at Univeral Orlando, and progress marches on towards the debut of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Attraction employee training begining later this month, and it’s rumored that contractors must complete their work by the 20th. As work accelerates towards the finish line, we can see new features — like some stunningly detailed London lampposts — and finishing touches appearing daily. Meanwhile, over in Islands of Adventure, Honeydukes has expanded into Zonko’s space next door. Most excitingly, we have the inside word on a recent employee-only Harry Potter merchandise and food preview, unveiling brand new items that will be offered in the expanded Wizarding World.

 

Diagon Alley London Waterfront Lampposts

Here’s a recent look at progress on Diagon Alley and the London Waterfront:

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Epcot After Hours Wind Down Review: La Cava del Tequila and Spice Road Table

by on April 25, 2014

Epcot After Hours Wind Down Review

You can see Epcot from a unique perspective — for a price — at the new After Hours Wind Down.

Recently, we brought you the first word on Epcot After Hours Wind Down, a brand-new after hours program that began on April 17 at World Showcase in Walt Disney World’s Epcot park. Because we are will to sacrifice almost anything — including sleep, brain cells, and our livers — to bring Touring Plans readers complete coverage, my wife and I volunteered to be opening-weekend guinea pigs for this new food and alcohol tasting adventure (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…). Now that our hangovers have cleared, enjoy this exclusive in-depth Epcot After Hours Wine Down review, covering the experiences offered at Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila and Morocco’s Spice Road Table.

 

La Cava del Tequila Wind Down Review

Since I developed a new appreciation for tequila while reviewing Universal CityWalk‘s Antojitos, I chose to attend the Wind Down tasting at Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila, long one of my favorite bars inside any theme park. The tasting sessions are scheduled to begin at 9:20 p.m., but because we watched IllumiNations before from near Morocco (on the opposite side of the World Showcase lagoon), I didn’t arrive until approximately 8 minutes into the session. I suggested that they hold the start time until at least 15 minutes after the closing fireworks, but until that change is made I strongly suggest watching the show from a spot nearby your selected tasting venue.

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PotterWatch: Hogsmeade Station Construction, Zonko’s Still Open, Leaky Cauldron Food

by on March 5, 2014

Welcome back to the latest irregular installment of PotterWatch, our mostly-weekly series of photo updates observing Universal Orlando‘s progress on their Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansions. I’ve been off for the pass couple weeks exploring some attractions on the opposite side of the country, but I’m happy to be back in Florida with a few exciting advancements in the Potter universe. This first PotterWatch of March 2014 features Hogsmeade Station construction, the continued existence of Zonko’s, and yet another look at Diagon Alley’s London facade, plus some tasty new Leaky Cauldron food photo leaks.

Hogsmeade Station Construction

In the last edition of PotterWatch, I shared the first photographs of Island of Adventure’s Lost Continent carnival games buildings after the games had been removed. Shortly after that posting, the buildings themselves were removed, and the entire area immediately outside Hogsmeade Village was more or less demolished.

Hogsmeade Station construction PotterWatch leaky cauldron food

Hogsmeade Station construction continues near where the Lost Continent games were demolished. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Now, the entire entryway to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Lost Continent has been walled off, turning Sindbad stadium into a cul-de-sac. Guests wishing to enter Hogsmeade must traverse through Jurassic Park, just as they did during 2010 when the area was first under construction.

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Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 Parade Video and French Quarter Food Photo Gallery

by on February 19, 2014

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 parade food (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Fat Tuesday may not arrive until March 4, according the the Catholic calendar, but Mardi Gras is already in full effect at Universal Studios Florida. Opening night on February 8 of Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014 celebration included a concert by American Idol star Daughtry, and the premiere of new Jules Verne-themed floats in the 2014 Mardi Gras Parade. Even intermittent rain didn’t diminish the considerable crowds who came out for Mardi Gras 2014‘s damp debut, though slick streets did ground the stiltwalkers.

Derek Burgan will be back in the coming weeks with a couple Mardi Gras-themed “Saturday Six” columns, but until then I wanted to bring you a virtual taste of the festivities.

First, a quick correction to our earlier Complete Guide to Mardi Gras. The original parade route map published on Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras Parade page was incorrect (it has since been fixed). The parade actually makes a loop, entering and exiting at Esoteric Gate near the Horror Make-Up Show. Here is the corrected map (click to enlarge; the Mardi Gras Parade route is the red dotted line):

Mardi Gras Parade Map

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort for December 22, 2013 (Antojitos, Blues Brothers Christmas, NBA City)

by on December 24, 2013

ANTOJITOS

Antojitos concept art

This week Universal NOW‘s Brandon Glover and I went to the Universal Orlando Resort to experience Grinchmas and see the latest construction work at CityWalk and Universal Studios Florida. We also wanted to see the Blues Brothers Holiday Show. We had heard a lot of great things about this show and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. Spoiler Alert: it does, but more on that later. Lastly, we were determined to finally go into NBA City and check out the legendary Towering Cheesecake dessert.

Our first stop was the upcoming Mexican restaurant Antojitos.  Earlier this month, Morgan Crutchfield was at the Universal press event that detailed the upcoming dining venues including Antojitos. Her writeup of the event details all the upcoming restaurants in the massive CityWalk renovation, including concept art for each.

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Antojitos, the former home of Latin Quarter

The above picture was taken on a Friday and the one below was taken on Sunday. Universal is using a lot of color on the outside of this restaurant. I personally don’t like it. The overuse of color is perfect in Seuss Landing, but – to me – just seems out of place in CityWalk.  I think the front of this restaurant looks gorgeous and all the wacky colors just take away from it. Maybe I’m alone on the island on that one though. I am looking forward to trying the restaurant out as I’m a huge fan of freshly made guacamole and quality Mexican food.

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Five Disneyland Holiday Favorites

by on December 24, 2013

Disneyland holiday five favorites

Photos by Seth Kubersky

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (at least according to that ubiquitous song) and there’s no holiday season quite like a Disneyland holiday. In the past, I’ve experienced Disneyland it all its seasonal splendor during Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Fourth of July. But until last week, I’d never visited the Happiest Place On Earth during Christmas time, and as an Orlando resident I was blown away by the quantity and quality of seasonal celebrations. As we enter the final weeks of the peak holiday season, here’s my personal top five favorite aspects of Disneyland’s 2013 special offerings to distract you from the epic E-ticket queues.

Seasonal Sweets and Treats

Christmas is no time to go to Disneyland on a diet, as I discovered an insatiable need to sample the limited-time seasonal snacks offered and nearly every quick-service counter.

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Universal Dining: Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure

by on November 16, 2013

Backwaterbar

Backwater Bar

During my most recent visit to Islands of Adventure a friend and I decided to eat lunch at the Backwater Bar, which is part of Confisco Grille. I’ve eaten there a few times before and wanted to give it another try, as it’s what I consider to be the best bang for your buck restaurant in IOA.  The best part about eating in the Backwater Bar is that you don’t have to wait for a table; you can just walk up to the bar and order food along with a wide array of drinks. Guests can eat at the bar or sit at one of the few tables inside the bar space. There is also a large patio outside with covered tables where guests can enjoy their drinks on days with favorable weather. You may notice the large signage out front that includes what appears to be an ad for the Seagram company. Many guests don’t realize that Seagram owned Universal Studios in the late 1990s, when IOA was built.

Backwater2

The actual Backwater Bar

If you’re looking for a fine adult beverage in IOA, look no further. Backwater has a few draft beers as well as a variety of bottled beers and a full selection of top shelf liquors. There are daily specials on margaritas and other mixed drinks. Whenever I see Shock Top on draft, I have to have it. It has a smooth citrusy flavor and comes with a slice of orange; and because it comes with an orange, that means its good for you, right? Pressing on…

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Overall Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 9, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Overall Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort (UOR). This was a tough list to compile, and after several agonizing hours of internal debate, I had to cut a list of about a dozen eateries down to only the best of the best. It broke my heart to not include The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel, as The Kitchen Sink Challenge just may be my favorite thing I’ve ever done at the UOR. Another tough one to cut was Finnegan’s Bar and Grill in Universal Studios Florida. Finnegan’s has exceptional food offerings with reasonable pricing (the Guinness Beef Stew being a favorite) and great atmosphere. And of course anyone who has heard me on the Universal NOW! podcast knows my love for the NASCAR Sports Grille runs deep, with their pretzel breadsticks possibly being my all time favorite food.

So knowing how hard it was to get to these final six, let’s have a look at those restaurants which rose above the rest…

SS_ThreeBroomsticks

The Three Broomsticks

SS_ThreeBroomsticks2

I use antlers in all of my decorating… wait, that’s a different restaurant.

# 6 – The Three Broomsticks (Islands of Adventure)

In a word? Wow. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is filled with jaw droppers. The Hogwarts castle facade. The Forbidden Journey queue and ride. Butterbeer. The Ollivander’s wand experience. The shop windows in Hogsmeade village. The Three Broomsticks is as good as anything in WWOHP. From the great Sirius Black wanted poster outside, to the wonderful decorating and atmosphere inside, to the peaceful outdoor seating area, and of course the menu.

Whether it’s a “traditional English breakfast” in the morning featuring black pudding and English bacon to the lunch/dinner menu with roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, Shepherd’s Pie, and Fish & Chips, The Three Broomsticks has items that most counter service restaurants at the park don’t offer. It is also one of the only places in WWOHP that you can get a pumpkin fizz, so make sure you add a meal at The Three Broomsticks to your next visit to IOA.

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