Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Sweet Sundays with Celebrity Chef Carla Hall

DFB reporter James Armstrong recently attended Sweet Sundays with celebrity chef Carla Hall (co-host of The Chew and Top Chef Alum) during the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Let’s check out his review!

The two hour event was divided up into two parts: the first hour consisted of the Sunday Brunch and the second was the celebrity chef demonstration. Upon arrival at 9:30am, we lined up for our table assignments. Doors opened promptly at 10am.

Table assignments

Each assigned table sat approximately six guests with seats on a first come first serve basis. The tables were set with pre-made yogurt parfaits and orange juice.

Once most of the guests had arrived, waiters began escorting each table to the buffet in an orderly “one table at a time” fashion.

Buffet overview

Buffet

Sweet Sundays Brunch

The brunch portion of the event started with some standard buffet items — croissants and strawberry cheese danish. They were good but there was nothing exceptional about them. The croissant was flaky and buttery.

Overview of buffet

There was also fresh raspberries and blueberries [provided by Driscoll’s one of the Festival sponsors]. They were very sweet and at the height of their ripeness.

Raspberries and blueberries

A favorite part of the buffet was the [Read more…]

Review: Trail’s End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

It’s been a while since I’ve slept in a camper, cabin, or tent, but that doesn’t stop me from loving Trail’s End Restaurant!

Located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, the down-home spot is one of my favorites for many reasons — but delicious food and reasonable prices top the list.

While I love lunch and dinner at Trail’s End, I hadn’t visited for breakfast before, so I decided it was time to do just that on a recent trip.

Atmosphere

Getting to Trail’s End is half the adventure. It’s located waaaay at the back of the resort, in the area known as the Settlement.

Now, wait. To be fair, adventure is kind of a generous word. It’s actually kind of a pain to get here. Maybe that’s why I like it so much — it’s rarely too packed!

If you’re coming here via bus from a theme park, or via your own car, you’ll park way up at the front of Fort Wilderness and have to take some internal buses to get back to the Settlement. That’s why I prefer to get to Trail’s End and the other Fort Wilderness restaurants via boat from Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge, or the Contemporary — much less intensive on the travel end, and more enjoyable as well.

On this morning we took the bus, so we had some sight-seeing to do on our way from the bus stop back to Trail’s End… .

Welcome to the Settlement!

It’s not uncommon to see horses at Fort Wilderness, where there are carriage and wagon rides available.

Ft. Wilderness Activities

Pioneer Hall shares space with our destination. I love this place! It looks like a giant log cabin. The surrounding by tall pines and live oaks dripping in Spanish moss really give it the feeling of a pioneer settlement.

Pioneer Hall

Pioneer Hall is home to several popular destinations at Fort Wilderness. You’ll find Mickey’s Backyard BBQ close by. But it’s also where you’ll head for an evening of down home fun at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue!

Pioneer Hall -- Up Close

Just past the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue venue, you’ll find our destination for the morning — Trail’s End table-service restaurant. This location shares [Read more…]

Review: Breakfast at Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Mention that you’re looking for a breakfast restaurant during a stay at Walt Disney World, and you are bound to be met with this piece of advice: “You MUST go to Boma.”

It’s true! This buffet restaurant is among the most favorite options for lovers of Disney food, myself included. We’ve even named it as one of our most favorite Disney brunch destinations!

But even though dinner offers an amazing spread, your Disney friends will tell you that breakfast is the “can’t miss” meal here.

It was a shock to me when I realized that I had never actually reviewed this all-important meal on the blog! Time to remedy that right now!

Atmosphere

Boma is located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. You’ll find it below the lobby on the ground floor, adjacent to other AKL restaurants The Mara and Jiko.

There’s one pretty important distinction that sets Boma apart from other very popular buffets at Disney. Many of the others are primarily character dining experiences. But you won’t find any characters at Boma. That’s an important detail to keep in mind when planning your advance dining reservations.

Boma Background Information

“Boma” is actually an African term for a fence made of sticks that forms a safe enclosure for gathering. Throughout the entrance of the restaurant, you see the stick fence motif captured in different materials.

Here, Imagineers used wrought iron to line the bridged walkway leading into the space.

Entrance to Boma

Beautiful statuary decorates the low wall that separates the buffet from the seating area.

Statuary and Decor

Ceilings are lined with large pieces of [Read more…]

Review: Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

We are heading to the quaint New England shore today for a breakfast buffet at Cape May Cafe!

The expansive restaurant, located at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, is a favorite among guests for a couple of reasons: 1.) You get to see Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in their BATHING SUITS! SO FUN! (OK, that sounds weird as I read it over, but you know what I mean, right?), 2.) It’s slightly easier to get an advance dining reservation here than at one of the other, more well-known character breakfasts, like Chef Mickey’s or Crystal Palace.

We hadn’t been back to Cape May for breakfast in quite a while, so on a recent trip, we headed over one morning pre-park with AJ’s Mom and AJ’s Dad to see what was new.

Atmosphere

You enjoy the same open, airy feeling at Cape May that you sense throughout the rest of the Beach Club Resort. The stick-style architecture (I totally learned that from Samantha Brown back when she was doing “Great Hotels” on the Travel Channel…remember?) brings to mind Victorian beach house themes.

Entrance

Check in at the podium, and soon you’ll be making your way to one of two dining rooms — a large main room, or a smaller one adjacent to the restaurant’s entrance. I much prefer the large main dining room since it has a lot more to look at and has slightly easier access to the buffet. ;-)

Check In Area

The palette is pastel, and vintage-style beach umbrellas and chairs adorn the space to drive home the seaside feeling. The colorful carpet depicts beach umbrellas, too.

Seating

Seating is comfortable, with a mixture of [Read more…]

News! Disney World To Add Cancellation Policy and Fee to All Table-Service Restaurant Reservations

Welp, the days of skipping your Disney dining reservations when you’re stuck in line for Soarin’ may be over!

Remember when Disney started requiring a credit card guarantee — and subsequently charged for no-shows — on signature and character meals back in 2011? We’re hearing that starting on October 31, 2013, that policy will apply to all Disney World table-service reservations.

What are the details of the cancellation policy?

If guests fail to cancel their reservations within one day of the reservation time and then don’t show up at the restaurant, they’ll be charged $10 per person on the credit card used to hold the reservation.

For dinner shows and some character meals, guests will continue to be required to pre-pay for the meal and will forfeit the entire cost should they not cancel within the required window and fail to show up for the event.

Guests planning to visit Cinderella's Royal Table could lose their entire payment should they fail to cancel

What does “within one day” mean?

Well, this is usually defined as a 24-hour window, but many guests have had luck with cancelling by 11:59pm the night before the reservation.

How do I cancel a reservation when I’m in Disney World?

Disney’s tried to make it easy to cancel reservations. You can use the [Read more…]

Guest Review: Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion

A visit to Walt Disney World includes dining at some unique restaurants! In Epcot’s Germany pavilion, the Biergarten is more than a place to eat; it’s also an entertaining venue! Welcome back guest author Rebecca Dolan with a fun review.

Everyone has a restaurant or two that, for them, make a trip to Disney World complete. For me, that’s Biergarten.

This all-you-can-eat smorgasbord in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion is one of the few restaurants I insist on visiting nearly every time I’m in Orlando. Like Rose and Crown, Biergarten was one of those places my mom made me eat as a kid and I hated it. But, now it’s one of the few places where I truly relish getting my meat and potatoes on. And, if you’re a meat and carbs kind of a guy/gal, then this is definitely the place for you!

The back of the Germany Pavilion.

Atmosphere

The Biergarten can be found at the back of the Germany Pavilion, under the big bell. The hostess stand is located outside, under the stone arch to the left.

They’re a bit particular about how things are run here, and you won’t be allowed inside the restaurant until your name is called and your party is complete.

Once you’re party is called, you’ll be shown in through these doors.

Walking inside is actually like being transported back outside, as the cavernous restaurant is designed to look like an Oktoberfest celebration being held in a town square.

A semicircle of Bavarian-style buildings, draped with flags of various German locales, arches around a central stage, while a full moon oversees the action.

Inside the courtyard.

At least once during your seating, the stage will come alive with the sounds of a lederhosen-clad band that plays everything from alpine horns to polka.

The band takes the stage. Make sure to bring your dancing shoes.

Playing the alpine horns.

More cowbell!

It’s important to note that the party atmosphere comes complete with [Read more…]

Review: 1900 Park Fare Dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Today, we’re back at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to take in dinner at 1900 Park Fare!

You  may remember that the last time we were here, we were…nonplussed…unimpressed…frustrated…should I go on? Basically, we really didn’t have a great experience. But, as I always say, the only consistent thing about Disney restaurants is that they’re inconsistent. And some guests think this restaurant is fantastic — a great alternative to hard-to-get advance dining reservations like Cinderella’s Royal Table.

So we’re back at this character buffet for another try… . While breakfast at 1900 Park Fare left us flat, this time around we’re checking out the dinner spread and hoping for the best!

Atmosphere

You’ll find 1900 Park Fare off of the ground floor lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort. As you walk in the hotel’s front doors, the restaurant is located to your left, just past the Concierge desk.

1900 Park Fare Sign

The antique carousel decor flows with the Victorian feel that you encounter throughout the resort. While you can’t see the individual items on this menu board that’s displayed out front of the restaurant, you can definitely see the attention to detail when it comes to theme.

Menu Board Outside of 1900 Park Fare

When you first arrive and check in for your reservation (you DID make a reservation, right?), you’ll be given a pager and told to wait in the Grand Floridian lobby to be called when your table is ready. Note: this often takes A. LONG. TIME. In my experience, I’ve never been seated at this restaurant within 10 minutes of my reservation time. I’m always waiting quite a while to be called to the table. So if you’ve got little ones who are starving, bring some snacks to tide them over just in case.

Once you’re called, you’ll be told to get in line to have your picture taken with this mural. No…you’re not getting your photo taken with a character. Just with the mural. This can be a fun memory for families, but you might want to skip the pic and head straight in for your meal. Be persistent and make sure they know you don’t want to take the photo. They’re pretty serious about getting you into that line.

Trompe l'Oeil Mural Outside of 1900 Park Fare

Once you head into the massive dining room, you’re greeted with more Victorian charm in pastel shades. Even without windows, the sheer size of the dining room makes it feel airy.

There is a main area with high ceilings in front of the buffet, and some smaller dining rooms surrounding it with lower ceilings. I prefer these areas for seating, since they tend to be slightly quieter.

Dining Area

Seating itself is fairly standard, with cushioned chairs and nondescript tables.

Seating

The main dining room makes the best use of the carousel theme. There are several large statues of fantasy carousel animals situated atop half walls and surrounded by plants. You should take a moment to look at these, because they’re really beautiful.

Calliope in the Background and Carousel Horse Statue

The wall overtop the entrance to the restaurant plays host to an enormous calliope, reminiscent of the intricate musical instruments that you find on antique carousels. This [Read more…]

News! Changes to Disney World Tables in Wonderland Dining Discounts for 2014

We’ve got some news about one of Disney World’s popular dining discounts!

Tables in Wonderland, Walt Disney World’s fee-based dining discount program offered to Florida residents, Annual Passholders, and Disney Vacation Club members, is a great way to save money if you are a frequent diner at Walt Disney World.

The program offers 20% savings on food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages, at more than 100 Walt Disney World restaurants.

Today, we’re getting news of an update to restaurants that will either stop offering the Tables in Wonderland discount in the near future, or will be subject to more blackout dates when using the card.

Victoria and Albert’s to Discontinue Offering Tables in Wonderland Discount

According to the Tables in Wonderland website, Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa will continue to honor the Tables in Wonderland discount through July 14, 2014. However, as of August 1, 2014, the ultra-luxurious dining spot will no longer accept the Tables in Wonderland card.

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

Currently, Tables in Wonderland members may still [Read more…]

Review: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion

Ready to meet some Disney princesses?!? We’re headed over to check out lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot!

Akershus offers a terrific alternative to the extremely hard-to-get advance dining reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table. A mainstay of World Showcase’s Norway Pavilion, the grand restaurant offers old world Scandinavian charm and character dining encounters with a cast of Disney Princesses.

You still get to eat in a castle (albeit a much smaller one), and you still get to meet at least five Disney princesses. (Cinderella is usually included.) Plus, the price is going to be quite a bit lower than it is in Cinderella Castle. Time to take a closer look.

Atmosphere

Located to the right as you make your way back through the Norway Pavilion, Akershus is is situated across from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, Norway’s charming counter service location.

Akershus Sign

The inside (once you GET inside…more on that later) offers a welcome respite from the bright, hot Florida sunshine. Immediately upon entering, you pick up on the medieval decor. Heavy, ornately carved wooden “thrones” can be found in the entryway.

Akershus is modeled after a medieval castle outside of Norway’s capital city, Oslo. The fortress was completed in the 14th century, and the interior features the same white walls as the Disney replica.

Entryway

The whitewashed stone walls lend to the cheerful, cool feeling. The low windows look out on the pavilion and allow for lots of natural light to flood the pretty space.

First Dining Room and Seating

In the main dining room, you get a real sense of the [Read more…]

Review: Chef Mickey’s Dinner at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

It has been too long since I’ve taken a trip to Chef Mickey’s in Disney World’s Contemporary Resort!

We’ve shared with you our review of their breakfast buffet. But today, we’re heading there to see what’s new for dinner!

When many people think about a Disney character dining experience”, they immediately think of Chef Mickey’s. This one has it all — the Fab Five, a sprawling buffet of family-friendly foods, regular raucous celebrations, and monorails whizzing by.

But in the past, the food has had a reputation for being a little lackluster. Time to see how things are looking these days… . We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

One of the coolest things about Chef Mickey’s is its location. You’ll find this well-known character meal at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Chef Mickey's Sign

This place is a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, which makes it a great place to stop and eat before heading into the park, or after a long day of rides and attractions.

Once you enter the hotel’s main floor lobby, take the elevator to the fourth floor. Chef Mickey’s is located on the south end of the concourse, right below where the Disney World monorail enters the building. (You can also arrive at the Contemporary via said monorail, of course — in which case you’d take an escalator down to the 4th floor).

The Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary

Head to the central desk to let the hostess know that your party has arrived. You can’t miss it — Mickey is smiling down with his fork and spoon, ready to greet you!

Central Desk Check-In

If your table isn’t quite ready, you can wait until your party is paged in this comfortable seating area. This spot features a view of Bay Lake and the resort’s pool patio — and offers plenty of room for running off excess energy.

Waiting Area

Before you’re seated, your party will [Read more…]