Snack Series: The Chocolate Raspberry Mickey Tart at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

OK, I’ve got a special treat for you today!!!

I first saw this little guy at The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on a trip to the World in February, and I couldn’t wait to try it!

This counter service spot is a great place to grab really interesting and healthier-for-you quick options, like the Chicken Pita or African Stew.

But they offer some pretty amazing sweet treats as well! The legendary Zebra Domes are well documented, but I’m pretty sure this one will catch some serious fans as well. I thought it was my beloved Mickey Ganache Tart, but I was in for a surprise…

The Chocolate Raspberry Mickey Tart

I was seriously over the moon about the Mickey Ganache Tart the first time I had it while visiting Jolly Holiday Bakery in Disneyland. It quickly became one of my all time favorite Disney sweet treats!

So I was super excited when I started seeing similar tarts pop up in Disney World bakery cases as well — including here at The Mara.

Cute Mickey Tarts at The Mara!

This seemed to be a slight variation on the original. To begin, there was no adorable little white chocolate Mickey face, but that wasn’t a deal breaker. And the star-shaped sprinkles provided a whimsical touch.

Chocolate Raspberry Mickey Tart

The most striking difference at first glance, however, is the crust. While Jolly Holiday’s version is [Read more…]

The Most Popular Disney World Restaurants (and Alternatives When They’re Full)

Many Disney guests agree that the most important Disney Dining Tips lists include one specific piece of advice:

Making Advance Dining Reservations is an absolute must when it comes to planning.

While many seasoned Disney travelers are aware of this, there are lots of folks who visit the parks and are stunned to find no tables available at their top restaurant choices. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us at one time or another…and we’ve got solutions for you!

Today, we’ve updated our list of the most popular Disney restaurants, and terrific alternatives if you can’t score a table at your coveted spot!

Let’s take a look at the most elusive restaurants to book these days…

Dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant

Scoring an advance dining reservation at Be Our Guest Restaurant for their table service dinner can be a daunting task.

Be Our Guest Restaurant Ballroom Dining Room

From the time that they first announced the restaurant’s soft opening until now, we have heard from many readers who haven’t been able to secure a spot at Magic Kingdom’s newest restaurant. Here are a couple of reasons why:

Newness: The biggest reason for this remains the novelty of the place. Be Our Guest and all of New Fantasyland is still the hottest ticket in Walt Disney World since its grand opening in December 2012.

Incredible, Immersive Themeing: The impeccable themeing means that stepping into Beast’s Castle is truly like climbing through a portal into Beauty and the Beast. You almost expect to look down and find your food animated!

The Grey Stuff -- It's Delicious!

Novelty: The French-inspired cuisine that’s served at Be Our Guest is unlike anything else available in all of Magic Kingdom. In addition, there is huge novelty surrounding the fact that you can now order beer and wine in the formerly dry Magic Kingdom (for dinner only).

So, what to do if you can’t [Read more…]

News! Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Unveils New Lunch Menu…With Some Surprises!

The Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa has debuted a new lunch menu! And we have all the details and a few pics courtesy of guest author Julie B.!

You all know how much I LURVE Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village (BUTTER CHICKEN!!!). And I’m excited to share that there have been some interesting changes made to the lunch offerings since our recent Sanaa lunch review.

In fact, it’s the most dramatic menu makeover since the restaurant opened.

Let’s take a look at what’s been updated…

Bread Service

The Sanaa bread service has been a major fan favorite for years. Basically, you’ve always been able to get a choice of three breads (including the gorgeous and buttery Naan bread) and three accompaniments for $8.99.

A Few Bread Service Choices -- Naan - Onion Kulcha - Paneer Paratha

Now, Sanaa diners can pay an additional $2 to receive all nine accompaniments with the bread service! Just two bucks and NO MORE CHOOSING!

Bread Service Menu.

You’ll get all those delicious sauces and chutneys for $10.99! Seriously good deal.

All nine bread service accompaniments!

Appetizers and Salad Sampler

The Appetizer Sampler for Two has changed its offerings.

OLD Appetizer Sampler for Two -- Potato and Pea Samosas - Lamb Kefta - Roasted Cauliflower

NOW, instead of samosas, lamb kefta kabobs, and roasted cauliflower, it features samosas, lamb kefta sliders, and a choice of Seasonal Soup or Chana Tikki (a new appetizer described as Spiced Chickpea Cakes with Tomato Chutney).

Appetizers and Salad Sampler.

The Lamb Kefta Sliders have replaced the former kabobs, and a seasonal soup is now a regular feature on the menu.

Never fear, the totally awesome Tomato Soup with Paneer Cheese is still there!

Tomato Soup with Paneer Cheese is safe on the menu!

Two new salads have appeared on the salad sampler – Kachumbari (didn’t get a detailed description, the Cast are still getting used to everything, too) and Mango salad. These replace the Golden Lentils and Tomato Salad, and the Roasted Beets salad.

Slow-cooked in Gravy

Another menu change Julie got to sample personally was the different variety of “Slow-cooked in Gravy.”  She says:

You can sleep soundly tonight knowing your beloved [Read more…]

Guest Review: Seafood Dine-Around at Walt Disney World

Join us in welcoming guest author KJ Simpson with a Walt Disney World Seafood Adventure!

Crab Cakes at Narcoossee's

A recent trip to Walt Disney World opened up a whole new world of culinary delights for me: seafood!

In my many previous visits, I had never tried any seafood dishes. This year, for a variety of reasons, I began incorporating seafood into my diet. As part of this new culinary adventure, I decided to sample some of the many dishes from the sea that are available throughout the parks and resorts.

If you’re curious about some of the offerings that can be found throughout Walt Disney World, read on as I embark on this seafood adventure…

And don’t forget to share your favorite Disney seafood dishes in the comments below!

Yorkshire County Fish Shop

No seafood tour would be complete without a stop at the very popular Yorkshire County Fish Shop, in the United Kingdom area of Epcot’s World Showcase, for an order of Fish & Chips.

There’s often a line at the Yorkshire County Fish Shoppe- this is a popular spot!

It’s a classic — two pieces of battered fish, served in a quick-service style over chips (also known as fries, here on this side of the pond). It’s even wrapped in faux-newspaper to give it a whimsically authentic appearance.

While not the healthiest of seafood meals, it was certainly one of the tastiest! There’s not a lot to go wrong here, and this was a perfect afternoon snack to share. The malt vinegar — a traditional accompaniment to the English fish fry — added the perfect tang and gave a whole different taste dimension to the fish.

The classic - Fish & Chips.

Sharing this while sitting in the seating area off to the side overlooking World Showcase Lagoon was a splendid afternoon respite! If you eat outside here, be forewarned: enjoy the view, but beware of the aggressive birds, ducks, and squirrels. They apparently love the food here as much as we do, and are not shy about wanting you to share.

Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie

Next was a visit to the newly-refurbished bakery in the France pavilion, Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie.

The expanded menu has a new seafood offering: Bisque de Homard, or Lobster Bisque.

Les Halles

This was a satisfying soup, smooth and creamy without being too heavy. Tomato was the more dominant flavor here, but the seafood added a richness and [Read more…]

News! Jiko Wine Dinners in May at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you’re a fan of Jiko – The Cooking Place AND wine, plan to attend a wine dinner this May! These exclusive dinners come around rarely, since Jiko actually arranges for winemakers to come directly from South Africa to present to guests.

On May 4th, Jiko will present a South African Winemakers Tour. And The Wines of Warwick Estates will be presented on May 16, 2013.

South African Winemakers Tour

Who: Abrie Beeslar, Kanonkop; Peter De Wet, Excelsior; Gavin Slabbert, Raats Family Wines
When: Saturday, May 4th; 6:00pm
Reception Location: Arusha Terrace

Reception Menu:
Spinach and Mushroom Dumpling, Paneer Cheese, and Harissa Sauce
Fire Roasted Corn Cake with Applewood Smoked Bacon
Braised Beef Short Rib, Cracked Pappadom, and Peppadew-Cucumber Raita
Excelsior Chardonnay, Robertson

South African Wine at Jiko

First Course
Grilled Moroccan Spiced Quail, Chickpea Puree, and Wilted Greens
Side By Side Chenin Blanc Tasting
Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region
Raats Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region

Second Course
Tunisian Olive Oil Poached Butterfish, Chorizo Bobotie, and Crispy Okra
Side By Side Chenin Blanc Tasting
Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region
Raats Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region

Salad
Watermelon and Tomato Salad, Sherry Vinaigrette
Kanonkop Kadette, Stellenbosch

Entrée
Ostrich, Herb Pasta, and Spring Vegetable Medley
Kanonkop Pinotage, Stellenbosch

Dessert
Chocolate Chile Molten Cake and Drunken Cherries
Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, Robertson

Wines of Warwick Estates

When: Thursday, May 16, 2013; 6:00pm
Reception Location: Sunset Lounge

Reception Menu:
Braised Curried Tomatoes, Toasted Millet Bunny Chow, and Gooseberry Marmalade
Rooibos Honey Smoked Quail, Compressed Orange, and Sweet Potato
Cinnamon-Dashi Oysters and Chili Pearls [Read more…]

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder Dining Discount Program Adds New Restaurants

Disney World Annual Passholders visiting the Walt Disney World Resort can now enjoy a Disney dining discount at additional restaurants!

Jiko Dining Room

Additional restaurants now offering a 10% discount include:

The discount can not be applied on the following 2013 dates:
January 1; February 14; March 31; May 12; July 4; November 28; December 24; December 25; and December 31.

For more information about Annual Passholder Disney World Dining Discounts, see our Disney Dining Discounts Page!

Where do you use your Annual Passholder dining discount? Let us know [Read more…]

Review: Sanaa at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

On a recent whirlwind trip to Disney World, I planned to get together with friends for lunch. I had a hankering for the totally incredible Butter Chicken at Sanaa, so I couldn’t wait to head over there for lunch!

This wonderful restaurant, located at Animal Kingdom Lodge‘s Kidani Village, still flies under the radar. However, in the past, it has been the location of some of my very favorite meals.

And, let me tell you dear DFB readers, it is going to be VERY difficult to edit this review considering how much I want a big ol’ plate of that Butter Chicken right now. I had half a twix bar in preparation, but I don’t think it’s going to do the trick.

That said…we’re off to the races!

Atmosphere

You’ll find Sanaa at Kidani Village, the portion of Animal Kingdom Lodge that’s a Disney Vacation Club property.

Outside of Sanaa

The same care and attention to detail that went into the decor of Animal Kingdom Lodge is at play here as well. The soaring lobby greets you with colorful African decor and a thatched roof! I love it!

Kidani Village Lobby

Once you get to the restaurant downstairs, you’ll see why they chose the name. The word “sanaa” is Swahili for art, and is the perfect description of this beautiful spot that marries handcrafted artisan touches with food that’s prepared with care and tradition.

Sanaa is open for lunch and dinner. We suggest lunch or an early dinner for first timers — more about that in a minute.

Sanaa Hours

The entrance features some beautiful, handcrafted African artwork. The beads that line the podium are gorgeous.

Entrance

Look closely at the mats on the wall and you’ll likely spy a Hidden Mickey! We have two more hidden mickeys for you in this post — can you find [Read more…]

Best Disney World Restaurants for First Time Disney Visitors

Everyday we receive lots of mail from you, our awesome DFB readers, asking for restaurant suggestions and recommendations. And while we certainly have our favorites, we know that you do, too!

So when a Disney first-time visitor recently asked what restaurants we would recommend for their upcoming trip, we couldn’t think of a better panel of experts to ask than YOU!

When I put the question out on the Disney Food Blog Facebook page, I was overwhelmed by the huge and immediate response that I got!

Let’s take a look at your recommendations for the restaurants first timers must experience on that inaugural Walt Disney World trip!

If you have other thoughts or ideas — or, better yet, stories of your favorite restaurants during a first-time visit — please share them with all of us in the comments section! More suggestions are always better!

Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

When it comes to first time Disney dining, the winning restaurant recommendation is, hands down, Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Many of you agree that anyone visiting the Happiest Place on Earth for the very first time MUST experience a buffet that includes lots of character interaction.

Chef Mickey's is highly recommended by our DFB Readers!

But the suggestion is practical, too. Readers pointed out that a character dining experience offers terrific value for your Disney dollar, with an all-you-care-to-eat option.

A View of the Castle from Chef Mickey's

And with the addition of characters, you have a less rushed (and air conditioned!) meet and greet opportunity that guarantees you’ll see lots of characters without waiting in long lines in the parks.

Also, don’t forget that Chef Mickey’s is walking distance from the Magic Kingdom. This is a great
place to start or end your Magic Kingdom day!

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland

Judging from the reader response, we’d say that Disney definitely hit the mark with one of its newest restaurants, Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland.

Be Our Guest Restaurant Bridge Entrance

Set in Beast’s Castle (from Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast), the huge eatery is a counter service location for lunch and table service location for dinner (see our “Everything on the Menu!!” Review Here!).

Be Our Guest Restaurant Ballroom

The menu has a French flair — and chefs worked hard to create tasty, interesting meals for the younger set as well.

Be Our Guest Restaurant also has the distinction of being the only spot within Magic Kingdom where guests can order beer and wine. While it broke with tradition when Disney announced the decision to offer adult drinks in the otherwise dry park, they felt it was necessary in keeping with the French-inspired menu.

The Beast occasionally greets visitors in his study during dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant

Many guests celebrate special occasions at Be Our Guest Restaurant, and if that’s you, be sure to mention it to your server. He may actually bring you a celebratory taste of “The Grey Stuff” — mentioned by Lumiere in the film!

This cookies and cream panna cotta truly is “delicious!”

The Grey Stuff -- It's Delicious!

Guests seem to be loving this spot for many reasons, and Advanced Dining Reservations for dinner remain hard to come by.

While we’ve tasted just about everything here and agree that the food’s quite good, most of you especially love it for the incredible, immersive themeing. So, remember that even if you can’t get a reservation for dinner, you can still enjoy the restaurant itself — including getting a peek at all three dining rooms — if you dine here for a counter-service lunch!

braised pork -- coq au vin at Be Our Guest Restaurant -- for LUNCH!

Here’s a TIP: if at all possible, snag a table in the West Wing and keep an eye on the [Read more…]

Review: The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Mara is absolutely a “go-to” spot for me at Walt Disney World. It’s a great place to get away from it all and just take a breather in the middle of one of my favorite Disney resorts.

Located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, The Mara counter-service restaurant offers exotic eats inspired by the diverse flavors of the African continent, while also providing more traditional American fare for the less adventurous eaters in your crew.

And don’t even get me started on all of the special Disney food cult favorites that we’ll make a trip here just to snag!

But I just realized that for all of my visits to Mara, I didn’t actually have my own review of the spot up on the blog! Time to remedy that right away.

Atmosphere

Located on the ground floor, The Mara is just a stone’s throw away from Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Uzima Springs Pool. It’s accessible through an outside entrance near the doors to Jambo House’s other restaurants, Boma and Jiko.

Outside Menu and Information Stand

The Mara is named for the Masai Mara National Reserve in North Tanzania, a game conservation area established in 1948.

The reserve serves as home to dozens of native animals and over 470 species of birds, making it an excellent place to observe the big game with which Africa is associated.

The Mara Story

The indoor seating area takes its themeing from the wetlands and grasslands of the Reserve, with colorful murals painted on the back walls, and a canopy of trees overhead. With the predominant background color of blue, the setting is soothing with plenty of natural light flooding in, which gives you the impression of a cool space.

Indoor Seating

There is also ample outdoor seating at tables that are shaded by umbrellas and plenty of foliage and trees.

Outdoor Seating

On your way over to the ordering area, you’ll find last minute pool gear and an assortment of bagged candy available for purchase. This is a great option near the pool since the gift shop, Zawadi Marketplace, is relatively far away if you forget your pool noodle or need some extra sunscreen!

Gifts and Gear

On the day we visited, we found the restaurant to be fairly uncrowded and quiet as we headed to the food area to make our selections. This is often the case with the Mara for me, but perhaps I’m just visiting during “off-hours.”

Eats

You’ll find The Mara open from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mara Menu and Info -- Click to Enlarge

The menu features many [Read more…]

Guest Review: Boma Dinner Buffet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Today we’re venturing to the exotic Animal Kingdom Lodge. Welcome back guest reviewer Katie McFarland with a review of the dinner buffet at Boma.

Boma restaurant is located inside the Jambo House of the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort in Walt Disney World. If you have never been there before, it really is a magnificent lobby with its thatched ceiling, tribal décor, and torch glass sculpture lights.

But beware: the couches are really comfortable –- especially after a big meal! You run a high risk of awkwardly falling asleep in front of total strangers clutching your stomach and begging “whyyyyy did I eat so much?!”

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

If walking in through the main doors, the restaurant is on the right side of the lobby and is accessible by either the stairs or the elevator. If going by stairs, you will walk right past Victoria Falls Lounge, which is an intimate bar that overlooks the Boma “marketplace.”

Stairs to Lower Level

Atmosphere

Boma represents an open-air marketplace with the “huts” of the buffet lines divided almost by courses: salad, hummus and other dips, meats, sides, and dessert.

Looking down onto Boma!

The eating areas have many thatched panels draped across the ceiling with art glass shades supplying the soft lighting. Every location in the restaurant invites the diner to feel as if they’re in an open-air market in Africa.

Boma Dining Room

Boma Ceiling Decor

However, a seat nearest to the buffet line is always a plus! Like in other buffet restaurants, the [Read more…]