Karibuni!! Welcome to Harambe Nights!
We were so excited to attend a “sneak peek” of this all-new hard-ticket event, debuting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Saturday, June 7, and running every Saturday evening through August 9th.
While the centerpiece of the evening will be the brand new show, The Lion King –A Concert in the Wild, Harambe Nights will also feature a Welcome Reception, a street party, and an all-inclusive and wide-ranging selection of food.
Guests at Harambe Nights will be welcomed into Harambe Village, and into its traditions as reflected in music, story-telling, and cuisine. The primary story will be that of Simba, the Lion King, as it is told by the people of Harambe Village, allowing this well-loved story to be told in a whole new way in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.
This event promises to be a full sensory experience, engaging sight, sound, smell, and taste. Since we here at the DFB are all about taste , allow me to share a few of the culinary highlights in the order that they will be experienced in the event.
Harambe Nights will begin with a Welcome Reception where guests will have their first chance to sample the cuisine with an assortment of appetizers.
I was able to sample two of the four appetizers, including the Safari Cheeseburger Rolls with Tomato Curry Aioli. The playful presentation helped set a celebratory tone.
I also enjoyed the Moroccan Beef Kefta Meatball with Tamarind Glaze.
Of-age guests can pair with African-inspired wine and beer. I particularly liked “Goats do Roam” white from the popular South African Vineyard.
Jungle Juice — that refreshing mix of passion fruit, guava, and orange juice — was available as well.
Unfortunately, I missed the Pickled Fennel Paneer Cheese with Tomato and the Durban-spiced Chicken Tenders… but there is much more to come!
The Lion King — A Concert in the Wild
After the Welcome Reception, guests will proceed into the brand new Harambe Theater to enjoy The Lion King – A Concert in the Wild. Prior to the show, attendees will be given a special treat.
This snack is seriously one of my new favorite things on earth… LION CHOW!
This mix is much more complex than it appears. The sesame bits, candied pecans, raisins, dried fruit, and spiced toasted chips offer a full and surprising range of flavors. It’s sweet, salty, and mildly spicy all at once (I think it’s the candied ginger that delivers that bit of kick).
I’ve got half a mind to start a petition for a Lion Chow kiosk in Animal Kingdom – it’s seriously addicting!
Guests will be able to enjoy their Lion Chow during the performance. We were given the unique opportunity to see three numbers that will be performed in the show. Understandably, we were not able to take photographs or record this portion of the evening.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the power and beauty of the performance even if cameras had been allowed. I can only say that it was a truly special experience watching these performers bring the story of “The Lion King” to new life with such talent and passion. Marsha Jackson-Randolph — the production’s director — called the production an “endeavor of love,” and it shows.
Having seen the numbers in rehearsal clothing, I can only imagine what amazing things are in store when the entire concert is presented in full costume with a 25-piece orchestra, 16-voice choir, celebrity narrator and co-narrator, 8 dancers, and pivotal moments of the film presented on screens during select moments throughout. I am sincerely excited for those who get to enjoy it.
Once the show ends, the night continues on! Harambe Village will invite guests to join in the Harambe Nights Street Party, which will feature (among other things) live music as well as sound by DJ Khalifa, dance, street performers, glow-in-the-dark face painting (yes!), and a few of your best Disney friends.
It will also feature African-inspired food, presented at stations throughout the Village.
We’ll start with the Breads and Salads Station. Fans of Sanaa’s bread service will appreciate the assortment of Naan, Onion Kulcha, and Pappadum breads.
Accompaniments include Roasted Pepper Hummus, Garlic-Ginger Pickle, and Cucumber Raita. At Boma, I always love the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, but I really enjoyed that Raita as well.
The salads were simply gorgeous. Even better, they were fresh, flavorful, colorful, and original.
Choices include a Watercress, Melon, Feta, and Berry Balsamic Salad and Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds. My favorite was the Kachumbari Salad with Tomato, Paneer, Carrot, and Cilantro.
Rarely do I feel that salads are among the highlights of a meal, but here I did.
I was really impressed with the vegetarian options available – not only at the Bread and Salad station, but throughout the selections. One example is the Spicy Vegetable Samosa (a Mango Chutney was available for dipping).
I neglected to snap a picture of the Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, but I can’t resist sharing some Disney mac and cheese deliciousness with you today!
Moving on to the Surf and Turf Station, there are two other salads to enjoy. Mango, Radish, and Lime with Mustard Seed, and Watermelon, Cucumber, and Fennel Salad.
“Surf” is represented with a Line-caught Corvina Filet with Goan Curry Sauce. It’s not often that I fill up on fish, but I kept going back for bites of this thanks to the lightness of the fish and the tasty curry sauce.
The “turf” option is On-stage-seared Lamb Chops with Tamarind Pomegranate Sauce. I regret that this picture didn’t turn out (my apologies!), because these were fantastic.
As the name implies, the chops are prepared in front of you, and mine turned out beautifully rare in the middle. (I prefer rare, so that was great with me – since these are prepared “onstage,” perhaps you can voice a preference if you prefer your meat more done.)
Both of these dishes can be paired with Coriander Chutney Roasted Potatoes.
The Slow-cook Action Station featured my absolute favorite vegetarian option: the Vegetarian Eggplant Tikki Masala Curry served over Creamy Goat Cheese Pap. In fact, it was one of my favorite options overall.
The eggplant carried a lovely, spicy kick which was mellowed perfectly by the Goat Cheese Pap. I loved the combination, but I could eat a bowl of that Goat Cheese Pap alone. It wasn’t something I was expecting to even enjoy, but oh, my, I did!
The other veggie option available at this station is Vegetarian Legume Wat served over Basmati Rice. Aaah, Basmati…
Butter Chicken is always a favorite of ours here at the DFB, and once again it didn’t disappoint. (AJ’s Note: BUTTER CHICKEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Don’t you just love the sight of all that gravy?
The Fork-tender peri Barbecued Pork earned its “fork tender” designation. I would say that was true of all the meats, though – I was pleased with how tender everything was.
Of course, we still have dessert! Overall, the dessert selections were on the lighter side. Primarily I’m speaking from a texture perspective, but there was also plenty of fresh fruit available in regards to a lighter calorie perspective.
The Ripe Melon with Minted Lime Yogurt Dip was one of three fruit options — the others being Golden Pineapple with Toasted Coconut and Apple Slices with Amarula (!) Caramel Sauce.
I was thrilled to see the Chai Cream with Zebra Stripes, in all its autumnal-spicy goodness.
The Rice Pudding with Dried Fruit Compote and Pistachio Gremolata took a bit of getting used to for me, being less sweet than I anticipated. The desserts seemed to have that somewhat in common, though – nothing was super-sugary, which seemed in line with the more “grown-up” array of choices throughout the event.
I finished with a Caramel-salted Tanzania Chocolate Kenya Coffee Bite. These brownie-textured treats were unique in that it took several bites to taste and experience each flavor present.
While they were not available at the Sneak Peek, I understand that ice cream bars will also be available for the event evenings.
From a cuisine perspective, I thought the food was beautifully prepared and presented. I felt that the flavors were bold, but still approachable for the less-adventurous eater. The choices will be especially appealing to those who enjoy Boma, Sanaa, and Tusker House and appreciate the more unique options available at those restaurants.
For those who have reserved spots at this event, I am happy for you (I am also, frankly, jealous of you… but hopefully that won’t keep us from being friends ). From just this small glimpse I believe that those attending are in for a unique and truly special experience. Because that’s what Harambe Nights promises to be – more than a show, more than an evening of great food, more than a party. It will be an experience, and one that I’m betting will be unforgettable.
Harambe Nights will run each Saturday evening from June 7th – August 9th. Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9 (plus tax); however, the evening of June 7th is already sold out. For more information, or to book tickets, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.
Would Harambe Nights be on your must-do list? Let us know in the comments below!