Disney World Dining – I Love Appetizers!

Given the choice between appetizer and dessert, I’m choosing the appetizer every time.  That may be hard to imagine for those of you will a sweet tooth, but I’m all about the starter!  Be it soup, salad, cheese plate, or something more exotic, the way I kick off a Disney table service dinner makes all the difference to my meal enjoyment.

Disney World Dining – I Love Appetizers!

It doesn’t much matter where we go.  My eyes are drawn to the top of the menu and the appetizer section.  I tend to avoid heavy-sounding, fried items and favor more unusual choices.  I want to kick off a good meal while not completely ruining my appetite.  Sometimes Raymond and I order and appetizer or salad (or both) to share.  In cooler months, I’m a sucker for a soup or bisque.  The perfect appetizer takes the edge off my hunger while leaving me wanting more (and I’ll have room for my entrée!).

Here are some of my favorites…

The Wave (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) – Seasonal Soup.  When I last had the soup, it was a heavenly sausage, gnocchi, and spinach concoction with a cheese crust on top.  I reproduced it at home and have enjoyed it many times since.  My friend Gaylin recently told me about another Wave appetizer called “Bacon and Eggs” (“Maple-lacquered Pork Belly with Perfect Egg and Tillamook Smoked Cheddar Grits“) and now it’s on the top of my must-try list.  I hope it stays on the menu long enough for me to get there!

Shula’s Steak House (Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort) – Sure, everyone goes to Shula’s for the beef, but before I slice into that perfectly cooked filet, I’m opting for the “Barbequed Shrimp Stuffed with Basil” (“Stuffed with Basil, wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon tossed in a Tangy BBQ Sauce“).  Disney World Dining - I Love AppetizersIt’s the perfect combination of flavors and the sauce is fantastic.  Share it with a friend so you have room for that steak.  Check out the full menu here.

Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – Everything’s been delicious, but the soup is my favorite.  It’s currently “Curried Butternut Squash Bisque” with Duck Confit and Quince Marmalade and I know it’s 500-degress outside right now, but you should run try it before the menu changes.  It’s SO good!!!  And the presentation is fancy too.

So much to eat, so little time…

Kona Café (Polynesian Village Resort) – There are a couple of things we really like to kick off dinner at Kona.  The Sticky Wings and the Pot Stickers.  Both are tasty options, good for sharing, and not too filling.  If you love sushi, the menu offers a nice variety.  We generally enjoy sushi as a meal versus appetizer and I’m guessing that’s why we rarely order it at Kona.

Sanaa (Kidani Village) – The famous Indian-Style Bread Service!  It’s several different flavors of naan bread served with a variety of dipping sauces that range from savory to sweet to spicy.  Fresh, exotic, and delicious.  Disney World Dining - I Love Appetizers!I can totally see why lots of folks make a reservation just to enjoy the bread service as a snack or light meal all by itself.

Il Mulino (Walt Disney World Swan Resort) – My favorite restaurant for pre-runDisney event carbs!  Starters on the menu come in a huge variety from cheeses and meats to salads, clams and heavier fare.  The most delicious item to me is the Arancini, which is “Italian Rice Balls over Spicy Marinara Sauce”.  I never order it for myself because it’s a lot for an appetizer.  Those delicious servings of rice are fried and very filling.  However, if someone at my table is kind enough to share a bite or two with me, whoa momma!  Deeeelish!

Raglan Road (Disney Springs) – Considered by many to be overrated, Raglan Road has been the source of many a delicious family meal for us throughout the years.  Their menu has a ton of appetizer options.  I’ve tried several appetizers including the dicey-sounding Crock o’ Pate (cold chicken liver spread), which wasn’t bad, actually.  The best thing (to me) by far is the “Rack of Heaven” – “Slow roasted Guinness glazed full rack of baby back ribs.” (Plenty to share.)      THOSE babies are fantastic.  Even if I’m just in Raglan Road for a drink at the amazing bar, I’ll order those ribs.  They make me happy.

Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – Don’t laugh, but there’s one simple salad on Boma’s extensive buffet that stays on my mind long after I’ve eaten there.  It’s the Watermelon Rind Salad.  Sounds potentially boring and awful, doesn’t it?  It’s bright, sweet and tangy, and absolutely perfect to start off a meal full of unusual flavors.  Fear not if you or anyone in your travel party is a picky eater, Boma has plenty of dishes to satisfy everyone.

Are YOU an appetizer or a dessert fan?  Both?  Neither?  What’s your favorite part of Disney dining?  What’s your favorite dish?

 

 

Disney’s Victoria and Albert’s – Big Decision

Raymond and I are planning a quick trip to Disney World for the Food & Wine Festival this year.  We’re going the weekend before my birthday which made Raymond start to think about planning something special to celebrate, I guess, because he asked me if I wanted to go to Victoria and Albert’s.  Yes!  Wait!  Maybe.  I don’t know, to be honest.  I’m pretty decisive, but this one’s got me waffling.  Do I want to find out first hand exactly what it’s like to dine in a restaurant that’s received AAA’s Five Diamond Award (every year since 2000) and is currently ranked by Trip Advisor as the #2 restaurant in Orlando?  Do I?

Disney’s Victoria and Albert’s – Big DecisionCalifornia Grill won out over Victoria and Albert's for our 25th anniversary

Back in 2014 when we celebrated our 25th anniversary sans kids at Disney World, Raymond suggested Victoria and Albert’s then too.  I chose California Grill instead.  I can’t pinpoint my hesitation for not jumping on board with this idea.  If I put my thoughts on it here, maybe you will help me make a final decision?  WHY is this even difficult?  Poor Raymond’s been asking me, “Well?” with eyebrows raised every few days.  I guess it’s pretty clear which way he hopes I decide.Dressed up for Dinner at Remy. Would Victoria and Albert's be as good?

The closest we’ve come to a Victoria and Albert’s experience was when we dined at Remy on the Disney Dream.  Multiple courses, haute cuisine, excellent wine, impeccable service.  We loved both dinner and brunch.  Certainly Victoria and Albert’s would be similar…better maybe.  Chef Hunnel from Victoria and Albert’s is responsible for half of the menu items served at Remy.Dish served at Remy. Would Victoria and Albert's be similar?

IF we were to book a reservation at Victoria and Albert’s, I understand we’d have three options:

The Dining Room Sounds like the most economical and low frills experience.  That’s unflattering and selling it short and I’m sure it’s beyond amazing, but The Dining Room is the most basic option.  We can choose a 7- or 10-course meal and add wine pairings for a hefty upcharge.  While the restaurant’s menu changes daily, I found this example of the 7-course experience.

Queen Victoria’s Room – This room only seats eight and only offers a 10-course meal.  For wine enthusiasts like us, this experience sounds mighty tempting.

“Behind closed doors, elegant, intimate Queen Victoria’s Room seats just eight guests for a ten-course dinner with French gueridon service and wine pairings exclusive to the private room. Guests learn how chef and sommelier work together to identify the chemistry of each amazing dish paired with the perfect vintage.” – Victoria and Albert’s website.

Chef’s Table  – What if, by some miracle, two seats were available for the date we wanted to go?  As the most expensive option of all, this experience would also be exceptionally appealing to me since I love to cook and am not afraid to try new recipes and food prep techniques…the stuff I could learn!  I could see this leading to bankruptcy via Williams Sonoma by uncovering previously unknown kitchen gadget needs.  Culinary foam is all the rage and there’s a tool for that.  Bet I could make some awesome desserts with a kitchen torch.  Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table…a double-edged sword.

I found this Touring Plans article that includes pricing, so now I know what kind of investment this potential dinner will require.  Yikes!  (I know…This from the woman who recently dropped $250 per person for the Wild Africa Trek, but it was for Christmas!)  I though our Remy dinner was crazy expensive (about $400, everything included) and we didn’t even have the wine pairings (just ordered a single bottle).  Is my hesitation simply due to the fear that plunking down possibly $1000 or more for a single meal would be insane?  I’m all for experiences and happy memories, but oh, the stuff I could do with $1000!

Yes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.  Yes, I’ll have a fancy romantic dinner out with my favorite person.  I’m sure many people wish their spouse would ask them to have dinner at Victoria and Albert’s and I should (and do) consider myself extremely fortunate.  But I’m still undecided!

Please, if you’ve been to Victoria and Albert’s or if you’re dreaming of someday going, jump on in here and help a girl out!  Worth it?  Waste of money?  Best pros and cons you can offer would be very much appreciated!

Disney Dining – Adventureland’s Skipper Canteen

“Magic Kingdom’s newest themed table service eatery boasts both excellent service and uniquely delicious fare – in an exotic setting full of humor and whimsy.” – Me (my inner restaurant critic)

We found ourselves in Magic Kingdom with the huge post-Christmas crowds on a gorgeous Monday morning.  While we didn’t arrive for the 7:00 am park opening, we had managed to ride Big Thunder Mountain by FastPass, eat breakfast at Be Our Guest, tour Haunted Mansion on standby (less than 30 minutes), and FastPass Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – all by about 10:45…why not wander over to Adventureland?  Maybe, by some miracle, we could lunch at the new Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen before our last FastPass of the day (Enchanted Tales With Belle)?Skipper-Canteen-Courtyard-Ceiling

Disney Dining – Adventureland’s Skipper Canteen

Once we located the entrance, it was about 11 o’clock.  Two Cast Members were working the podium outside and just a couple of other parties were already waiting in the courtyard.  I was quickly told that our wait would be about 20 minutes and if I provided my cell phone number, I’d receive a text when our table was ready.  We may have just eaten breakfast about an-hour-and-a-half earlier, but I was not missing this opportunity!  Raymond’s pretty flexible and was happy to go along.Skipper-Canteen-Waiting-Area

While we waited, I wandered around taking pictures and, exactly on time, I got the text to tell us our table was ready.  The next step is to go inside to another waiting area.  Skipper-Canteen-interiorOur name was called right away and the hostess escorted us to our table in the large main dining room called “The Mess Hall”.  There are a couple of smaller dining rooms off of the main one – The Falls Family Parlor and the S.E.A. (Society of Explorers and Adventurers) Room.Skipper-Canteen-Mess-Hall Skipper-Canteen-ArtifactsAs one would expect, and similar to the much larger layout of Be Our Guest, each room is fantastically themed.  There are too many details and Jungle Cruise artifacts to take in during a single visit…very clever!  (More on the Canteen’s back story here.)

Bobby was our server and he was excellent!  Passionate about his new Skipper position, he delivered our food and those famous Skipper puns with equal skill.  That’s where this restaurant sets itself apart – the food and service are much better than typical theme-park fare and the theming and back story are so well done – the overall experience is wonderful!  (Seriously – every tiny detail made me happy!)Skipper-Canteen-Menu-ArtSkipper-Canteen-Menu

Bread arrived while we were looking over the menu.  The round loaf of Ambasha bread is accompanied by honey seasoned with a healthy dose of Fenugreek (herb with a maple-like flavor commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine) which made this starter taste exotic and delicious!Skipper-Canteen-Bread

Since we had just eaten breakfast, Raymond and I decided to share three courses so we could taste a whole meal without stuffing ourselves or wasting food.  We started with the S.E.A. Shu Mai (A legendary blend of Pork, Shrimp, Mung Beans, and Spices wrapped in Gyoza Skin then steamed) $10.  This was perfect!  The dipping sauce was exactly right – a little spicy and salty and the perfect complement to the dumplings.Skipper-Canteen-Appetizer

Our entrée selection was the Rice Noodle Bowl with Chicken (Pho Broth served with Jalapeños with mix of fresh Herbs) $22. This sounds plain but was spicy and delicious!  Everything prepared on site from scratch makes this experience extra special.  The flavors and presentation of the food, combined with the atmosphere and service, truly make you forget you’re eating in a theme park.Skipper-Canteen-Noodle-Bowl

We wrapped up our little culinary adventure with the Sugar Crusted Congee Pudding (Caramelized Custard with Millet, Almonds, Apricot, Dates, and Honey-Almond Tuile) $8.  Normally, we aren’t big on dessert, but this sounded unique and interesting and was absolutely delicious.  The combination of flavors and textures was perfect.Skipper-Canteen-Pudding

We did not take advantage of the specialty (non-alcoholic) drink menu on this visit, but opted for iced tea and water.  Our total bill was very reasonable and we walked away completely satisfied.  If Skipper Canteen represents the future of in-park dining at Walt Disney World, we cannot WAIT to see what’s next!Skipper-Canteen-Display Skipper-Canteen-Jungle-Cruise-Sign Skipper-Canteen-Collection Skipper-Canteen-Barrel

Are you adventurous enough to try the new Jungle Cruise Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen?  What would keep you from dining there?

Disney World Breakfasts for Champions

Wheaties may be the “Breakfast OF Champions”, but when you need to fuel up mid-morning on a Walt Disney World vacation, there are a few great places we favor.  You may be asking yourself, “Champions”, Lisa?  Yes!  When we’ve rope-dropped and managed 4 or 5 rides before the first meal of the day we ARE champions…hungry ones.

Five Great Disney World Breakfasts FOR Champions

1. Starring Rolls.  Centrally located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is one of our all-time favorite must-visit breakfast spots.  It’s the convenient location, the ample outdoor seating, and the variety of Danishes, bagels, huge sandwiches, and the latest in magical Disney cupcake-ery.RM-Disney-Olaf-CupcakeStarring Rolls / Red Velvet Cupcake

2. Main Street Bakery.  We like Starbucks and while there are some things we miss (about the pre-Starbucks version) at this Main Street USA location in Magic Kingdom, we can very happily pop in for a great morning meal.  RM-Main-Street-StarbucksWe love the coffee and the wide assortment of baked goods and hot sandwiches.  Seriously, I can even make myself feel like I’m being healthy on vacation with a tasty spinach and feta breakfast wrap.  We’re all about the grab and go here so we can get back out there and ride on.

3.  Sunshine Seasons.  This is a great place to relax in Epcot after Soarin’ and Living With the Land while waiting for World Showcase to open.  Sunshine Seasons BreakfastThe Chocolate Croissant is a perennial favorite, but Raymond and I also love to share the focaccia breakfast sandwich – it comes with fried potatoes and is very delicious…and filling.  Which is why we share it – saving room for lunch!

4. Gasparilla Island Grill.  We ducked in this tidy little eatery at the Grand Floridian after a massage at the Senses Spa there.  We were famished and couldn’t think about continuing on with our day without sustenance.  Our experience (Croissant Sandwich – YUM) made us fans of this underappreciated quick-service location.  While I recommend you do not order the grits here, the rest of our breakfast was delish!

5. Contempo Café (Contemporary Resort).  HERE is where to order grits (best we’ve found at Disney World), if you’re so inclined.  The Contempo offers an impressively wide array of choices for breakfast in a convenient location near Chef Mickey’s.  RM-Contempo-Cafe-Breakfast-SandwichBreakfast sandwiches, platters, Mickey Waffles, even steel cut oatmeal and assorted baked goods – huge menu, certain to please every member of your dining party.

Bonus:  We can and have enjoyed breakfast at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney – but I recommend waiting for lunch.  Lunch is better there.

Where’s your favorite Walt Disney World breakfast location?

Earl of Sandwich Breakfast