Disney Dining – Try This Not That

RM-Yak-&-Yeti-Restaurant-ExteriorDisclaimer:  I’m the least picky eater I know.  I like nearly all foods.  I shy away from fried foods as they tend not to agree with me (although I think they taste great), I’m not eating tuna-noodle-casserole or black licorice – not really a problem since I can’t think of a single person I know who would happen to accidentally serve those to me should I be a guest in their home.  I suppose, actually, under those circumstances, I’d give the consumption of my personal culinary kryptonite my best try so as not to be considered rude.  My mom taught me better than  that.  And back to the point of this post.

Disney Dining – Try This Not That

Let’s assume for the purposes of today’s sharing-of-Disney-advice that we’re all adults.  I’m talking to you as a grownup, not to those of you trying to please little ones with park food, okay?

  1. Try the Roasted Pork Shank (NOT the Turkey Leg) – What they have in common:  fatty, roasted, savory meaty goodness.  What the Pork Shank has over the Turkey Leg is that it’s texture is better, its seasoning is more delicious, and Gaston’s Tavern (Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland) is far superior in atmosphere than anyplace offering the Turkey Leg.  You’ll still feel like Medieval royalty, don’t fret.RM-Gaston's-Pork-Shank-and-Lefou's-Brew
  2. Try the Jalapeno Cheese Pretzel (NOT the plain Mickey Pretzel) – Oh, stop it!  Mickey is cute and iconic and delicious, I’ll give you that.  The Jalapeno Cheese Pretzel is just SO much better (and unique versus what I can get in my local mall’s food court).  If you like a little spice in your snack, this one’s for you.RM-Jalapeno-Cheese-Pretzel
  3. Try Italy or France for Ice Cream (NOT the ubiquitous ice cream cart) – I’m not saying you should go an entire Disney vacay without a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar or your beloved Dole Whip.  I’m just saying, give the “Gelati” gelato stand in Epcot World Showcase’s Italy Pavilion a try (our favorite: Espresso Gelato “Affogato”).  Or the L’Artisan de Glaces shop in France – YUM!  The beauty of these more exotic frozen treat options is that they have something for everyone.  You will not be disappointed.RM-Epcot-Italy-Gelato-Affogato
  4. Try Yachtsman Steakhouse (NOT Le Cellier) – Both are beef-lovers’ hot spots in the Epcot area.  Yachtsman’s is a short walk from Epcot via the International Gateway (a.k.a. the backdoor) at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.  Le Cellier is in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion.  The problem with Le Cellier is that it’s overcrowded and overrated (our opinion, which is heartbreaking since in the early years, this was a must-do for us).  For the price, Yachtsman’s menu, atmosphere, and service are superior.  Both restaurants are considered “Signature Dining” locations – so if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, they’ll cost you TWO Table Service credits.RM-Yachtsman-Filet
  5. Try Il Mulino (at The Swan) (NOT any other Italian restaurant on Disney property).  We loved everything about this place and can’t wait to go back.  It’s not Disney-owned, but IS easy to get to – and worth the effort and the price.  You can read my full review here, but let me just say – if you’re looking for a casual, grown-up evening out without pressure to eat quickly and leave and you want delicious food, great service, and a complimentary swig of limoncello to top off  your meal…this is the place for you.RM-Il-Mulino-Interior

What are your best suggestions for an eat-this-not-that Disney food or restaurant?  Would you choose Kona Café over ‘Ohana?  Sanaa over Jiko or Yak-n-Yeti?  School Bread over a Croissant Doughnut?  Tell me!  I’m 92 days away from needing to know!

Disney Dining and the Two-Strike Rule

RM-French-Regional-Lunch-DessertI believe everyone deserves a second chance, including restaurants.  With Walt Disney World dining, if my first experience in a restaurant isn’t all I’d hoped for, I’ll gladly give the place another try.  I have come to realize though, that two tries is my limit – if a table-service eatery cannot make me happy after a couple of meals, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever darken their door again.  I’ve come to think of it as the Two-Strike Rule.

I am not a picky eater and I don’t think my restaurant requirements are all that stringent.  All I want is a decent table location (not near the kitchen and a window seat is a nice bonus) and a server who paces the meal well and is attentive without hovering.  I’m usually not in a hurry and prefer a leisurely dinner.  The food has to be fresh and well prepared – hot foods hot, cold foods cold; and I’m hoping for a good, moderately-priced red wine selection, but will make do with beer if necessary.  I don’t have any allergies or special dietary needs and will eat nearly anything but black licorice and tuna-noodle casserole.  See?  It’s really not hard to make me a happy restaurant consumer.RM-Brown-Derby-Outdoor-Seating

When we ate at Disney Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Brown Derby the first time, the service was poor and slow (we were basically ignored except when our order was taken and our food delivered).  The food was good and we loved the Derby’s atmosphere, but strike one.  Poor service has a major impact on overall dining satisfaction!  The next time we ate at the Brown Derby we were on the patio for wine and cheese and loved everything about it.  SAFE!  We’ll be going back!RM-Kona-Entrance

I fully expect the next time we eat at Kona Café (Polynesian Village Resort) to be a better experience than our first.  All the components of a great meal were there, but the execution left us dissatisfied.  I’m also willing to give Tutto Italia (Epcot’s Italy Pavilion) another try, but not for a LONG time since we used to love it, but found our last meal there to be a disaster on every level.

Same thing with Le Cellier (Epcot’s Canada Pavilion) – we were, until this year, staunch supporters with years of happy family meal memories there.  RM-Le-CellierSadly, the reports you hear now about it being over-hyped, over-priced, and over-booked are absolutely true.  We ate there in February and I was absolutely miserable.  Bad food, so-so service, and the bill was staggering for what we experienced.  We were crammed in the middle of three tables-for-two, so close to the ladies sitting next to us, we at least had their entire dinner conversation to entertain us – we had no choice but to hear every single word.  We might as well have been sitting at the same table.  RM-Le-Cellier-Entree-2015The servers appear to have a hard time making their way between tables and really have to stretch to deliver plates to some guests.  Now we’ll just leave Epcot and eat at Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club) if we want an excellent steak dinner.  If I hear things have changed for the better, I will absolutely try Le Cellier again.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Waterfall

Has anyone struck out?  Have we tried a restaurant twice and decided we’re through forever?  As a matter of fact, we have.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I believe in total honesty.  I’m allowed to dislike a restaurant and still love the resort where it’s located, aren’t I?  I love Wilderness Lodge!  The grandeur, the beauty, the massive lobby and fantastic details – yes, indeed, Wilderness Lodge is wonderful!  RM-Artist-PointArtist Point?  Not so much.  It’s not for us.  There.  I said it.  Artist Point struck out and we will not be going back.  We tried it for the first time in 2010 and thought…meh.  For the price, we just didn’t feel the love.  Everything was extremely mediocre.  There are so many restaurants at Disney World that we think are extraordinary, we don’t need to spend money on mediocre.  But, the Two Strike Rule, right?  We had to give Artist Point another try.  And we did in February.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Exterior

We arrived at Wilderness Lodge with enough time before our reservation time to stroll around, take some pictures, explore the lobby, and stop by the Territory Lounge for a glass of wine.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Lobby RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Lobby-Totem RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Territory-LoungeSo far, so good!  We soaked up the atmosphere and felt hungry, but relaxed and ready for a great meal.  The dining room was as I remembered it – nothing remarkable, but cozy.  Our server was clearly overworked – we noticed that at once.RM-Artist-Point-Artisanal-CheesesWe ordered the artisanal cheese platter appetizer and a bottle of wine.  After we ordered our entrees, things went downhill fast.RM-Artist-Point-Swordfish RM-Artist-Point-Entree

I won’t bore you with every detail, but I, the non-picky eater, ate about three bites of my burnt, dry fish and was ready to get back to Bay Lake Tower for dessert at the Top of the World Lounge.  You can see in the picture that my fish was black – I don’t mean blackened – I’m from Louisiana and I love blackened fish. RM-Artist-Point-Burnt-Fish I wasn’t going to utter a word of complaint, but the experience was truly awful and we had to wait so long to catch the server’s attention to get our check.  When he looked at my plate and asked me if he could box up my leftovers, I couldn’t be quiet.  I said, “No, thank you, but for the folks that come after me, please let the kitchen know that this was the driest, most burnt piece of fish I’ve ever been served.”  Here’s the key part of this story – he never made eye contact, never said he was sorry, he just mumbled, “I take that off your ticket” and that was it.  He did!  My entrée was not on our bill and it seemed like a normal, regular thing.  THAT, friends, was what caused strike two.

Have you tried a Disney World Restaurant that you want to visit again and again?  What about one that you can live without?  If you have a bad experience, will you return?

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Epcot’s Canada – Le Cellier’s Cheddar Cheese Soup

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 O’ Canada!  What a great Epcot pavilion.  Not just because of the Canadian Beer kiosk out front (Molson or Moosehead, anyone?), or “Off Kilter” the kilt-sporting band that provides “Celtic rock” entertainment (who doesn’t love a bunch of guys in kilts?).  No, it doesn’t have a ride (like Mexico or Norway) or a cool department store (Japan), but it does have Le Cellier Steakhouse.  Scoring a reservation to this cozy (read:  small) table service restaurant takes luck, flexibility and serious planning!  Even at 180 days out, you’ve got to be willing to take what you can get and plan the day around it.

Le Cellier (The Cellar) is designed as a dine-in wine cellar.  Think exposed beams and stone arches.  It’s dark, it’s romantic, and lit by softly glowing candles and chandeliers, serves upIMG_3006 some delicious steaks.  What people really talk about though, is the soup.  The cheddar cheese (with beer) soup is wildly popular – Le Cellier’s signature dish!  We order it every time we go…it’s served with breadsticks and is practically a meal on its own.

As I mentioned last Saturday, the cooler weather has brought on serious soup cravings.  I want Le Cellier’s cheddar cheese soup!  Well….since I’m not going to Disney World, I’ll just have to bring a little Disney World to me and find the recipe!  I started at my premier choice for IMG_2089all Disney food info – The Disney Food Blog.  Eureka!  Sure enough, it was right here.  In the Chef BigFatPanda’s DIY Disney Column.  So, basically 11 ingredients (I’m not counting salt, pepper, or the chive garnish since I – gasp – changed the garnish). 

I like to cook and I cook a lot.  I don’t bake much (yes, there’s a difference between cooking and baking) because my sweet tooth is nearly non-existent and baking generallyIMG_2090 takes more precision with measurements (not my thing).  This recipe was fairly easy.  I served it with a spinach salad (dried cranberries, toasted pecans, feta, balsamic vinaigrette) and some French bread.  Raymond took me shopping and out to lunch today (for my birthday), so soup for supper was just the ticket.  Megan and Grant (her boyfriend of 3 years) joined us for dinner – Megan brought the birthday cake (Thanks, sweetie).  Only drawback was missing Joseph (Expand your mind, Sonny, I’ll see you on Thanksgiving break), but what a great meal (and good company) to end a wonderful day.

IMG_2091How do you bring Disney World to YOU?