News: “Disney Family Culinary Adventure” Cooking Class Now Open to All Disney Guests

We recently told you about new cooking classes at Walt Disney World that take you behind the scenes and into the kitchen with Disney Chefs for a family cooking adventure.

And today, we’re back with tons of details about this hands-on learning experience.

Even Younger Guests Get in on the Action

Even Younger Guests Get in on the Action

The Disney Family Culinary Adventure takes place in the giant catering kitchens of [Read more…]

News: Disney World Testing Free Taxi Service to Signature Restaurants

Disney is currently testing a new transportation method — complimentary direct taxi service — for guests dining at select signature restaurants while staying at Walt Disney World monorail resorts!

Monorail Orange at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Monorail Orange at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Until June 30, 2015, some guests at the monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary) will be selected to participate in this Disney dining test. Those invited to participate will receive complimentary round-trip vouchers delivered to their room.

Participants will have the option of enjoying direct taxi transportation to [Read more…]

Review: California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Time to check in on one of Walt Disney World’s most popular signature dining spots — California Grill.

Located atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Grill has become nearly as well known for its stellar views as its market-inspired food. And those two factors can make this a tough table to book.

My last visit here, however, when the restaurant had just reopened after an in-depth refurbishment, was somewhat disappointing. At the time, I chalked it up to the kitchen having an off night; after all, I had enjoyed incredible dining here many times before.

I decided it was time to check in again. So we booked an early Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) on a recent visit, and up we went.

Atmosphere

If you’ve never visited California Grill, then there’s one thing you should know: you don’t just head to the 15th floor. Your journey actually starts on the 2nd floor of the Contemporary where you check in. Even if you’re just heading to the first-come, first-served Lounge, this is your first stop.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

You’ll then be escorted via a private elevator to the 15th floor. In this way, staff act as gatekeepers for the popular spot. If left unattended, it would get pretty busy up there, especially around Wishes-at-Magic-Kingdom time.

Once you make your way upstairs, a bank of Wine Fridges greets you straight ahead.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Entrance and Wine Fridges

You walk through the Lounge and Bar to get to the restaurant’s main seating area. That sounds as though these are different spaces; they aren’t. Basically, with the exception of a few private dining rooms, the restaurant features an open floor plan, accentuating the sweeping views and retro-meets-modern vibe.

California Grill Bar

California Grill Bar

If you find yourself without an ADR, there’s still hope. You can sit in the Grill’s Lounge and order from the menu, or just enjoy Drinks, Sushi, and Appetizers. Be forewarned, though: it’s not uncommon for this area to reach capacity as the night goes on. Here at 5PM, though, it was pretty bare.

California Grill Lounge

California Grill Lounge

Wrap around to the main seating area, and you see that nearly every table commands an excellent view of the surrounding landscape, including Magic Kingdom and the Resorts situated around Seven Seas Lagoon.

Seating varies here and includes both tables and chairs and booths.

Seating

Seating

There are also a selection of tables that mix banquette and chair seating. Note that white tablecloths and cloth napkins are the norm here, lending to the upscale air of sophistication.

Table for Two

Table for Two

Booths are somewhat unique in that they are located in the middle of the floor. That means that you can enter from either side, and there will be traffic on both sides of your table, similar to what you find at Jiko. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it does mean that your booth won’t be as secluded as you might like.

But the view outside of the windows isn’t the only thing you have to look at.

California Grill Kitchen

California Grill Kitchen

The well-orchestrated, professional hustle and bustle that’s happening behind the counter in the on-stage kitchen can be fascinating as well.

Prepping for Dinner Service

Prepping for Dinner Service

Although we will focus today on the food here, the sweeping, panoramic vistas certainly bear mentioning. You can see for miles!

The View

The View

And that’s one of the biggest draws of California Grill — this view, especially when it comes to [Read more…]

What’s New Around Walt Disney World: May 20th, 2015

Sure, we may have said “So long” to the Flower and Garden Festival for this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to look forward to at Walt Disney World! Springs moves to summer as Disney World gears up for the busy vacation season, otherwise known as the “Coolest Summer Ever”!

©Disney

©Disney

And since it’s a very special time of year for Star Wars fans in particular, why don’t we start our ‘round the World tour at Hollywood Studios to see What’s New!

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Star Wars Weekends kicked off on May 15th!

Star Wars Weekends 2015

Star Wars Weekends 2015

The excitement! The pageantry!  The CUPCAKES! The Jabba the Hutt Cupcake has joined the Darth Vader and Yoda Cupcakes this year.

Jabba the Hutt Cupcake

Jabba the Hutt Cupcake

Jabba the Hutt Cupcake

Jabba the Hutt Cupcake

It can be found at counter service locations such as Starring Rolls, Backlot Express, The Trolley Car Cafe, and Tusken Fridge Raiders — the premiere Star Wars snack stop, located inside Darth’s Mall.

Tusken Fridge Raiders

Tusken Fridge Raiders

Tusken Fridge Raiders

Tusken Fridge Raiders

But cupcakes aren’t all that’s in store…

Star Wars snacks for Star Wars Weekends

Star Wars snacks for Star Wars Weekends

Like last year, several temporary pop-up bars can be found all over the park for the weekend events.

Star Wars Weekends Pop-up Bar

Star Wars Weekends Pop-up Bar

However, they feature all-new drinks this year. Each bar serves two out of of four drinks: The Mustafar and The Tatooine, or The Endor and The Alderaan.

Star Wars Weekends Specialty Drinks

Star Wars Weekends Specialty Drinks

Star Wars Weekends Specialty Drinks

Star Wars Weekends Specialty Drinks

We’ll be taking a closer look at those beverages soon, but once again this year, it’s ALL about the souvenir glow cubes: drinks come with either a Millennium Falcon glow cube or your very own mini Death Star.

Millennium Falcon Glow Cube

Millennium Falcon Glow Cube

The Jedi Mickey Character Dinner at Hollywood and Vine and Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast returned to Hollywood Studios earlier this month (on May the Fourth Be With You, naturally). But brand new to Star Wars Weekends this year is the Rebel Hangar — A Star Wars Lounge Experience, which has effectively converted half of Backlot Express into an abandoned spaceport in the Sullest system.

Entrance to Rebel Hangar

Entrance to Rebel Hangar

Chips and Sith at Rebel Hangar

Chips and Sith at Rebel Hangar

Blue Milk!

Blue Milk!

You can read all about this special month-long dining event featuring small plates and specialty cocktails in our full review of the Rebel Hangar!

Believe it or not, though, it’s not all Star Wars at Hollywood Studios… we’ve got some regular ol’ menu changes at some favorite Table Service restaurants to report as well. Sci-Fi Dine-In has added the Sci-Fi Popcorn Treat to the appetizer selection. It’s popcorn soup (for watching those old movies, of course!) with buffalo popcorn chicken and celery sticks, drizzled with blue cheese dressing.

Sci-Fi Dine-In

Sci-Fi Dine-In

New entrees include Grilled Marinated Salmon, while the Veggie Burger got a [Read more…]

News! Chef Mickey’s Brunch to Begin May 31; Reservations Open May 22

Fans of Chef Mickey’s — get ready for a whole new meal option!

The SUPER popular (and we are not even exaggerating a little there) character dining experience at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort has always offered breakfast and dinner. But now, it’s expanding to offer brunch daily!

Get ready to dial — Advance Dining Reservations will open on Friday, May 22. Seating for brunch at Chef Mickey’s will begin on Sunday, May 31.

But I think the really cool thing here is that this is brunch, rather than lunch. Fans of Chef Mickey’s breakfast spread can continue to dine on all of their favorites, like Mickey Waffles!

Mickey Waffles!

Mickey Waffles!

But the menu will also include lunch goodies such as soups and lots of salad options. In addition, look for Seafood Étouffée, Barbecued Ribs, and Baked Salmon. The sweets team will also feature [Read more…]

Easter Treats and Spring Break Eats Around Walt Disney World

The 2015 Chocolate Easter Egg Display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort isn’t the only sure sign of spring around here these days! Easter treats have been “hopping” up everywhere around Disney World Resort to celebrate this weekend’s holiday — not to mention the remainder of the Spring Break season through the end of next week.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday at Disney World without all sorts of specialty cupcakes, and Easter is no egg-ception. (I. Can’t. Stop. Doing. That!). At Epcot, a Chocolate Cupcake with marshmallow filling and marshmallow buttercream frosting can be found at Fountain View from now through April 11th, and at Sunshine Seasons for a very limited run on April 4th and 5th.

©Disney

©Disney

This beauty of a Carrot Cake Cupcake topped with a mini Bunny Macaron will be at the Contemporary Resort only through April 5th! The inside has a pineapple-coconut filling and it’s all topped with white chocolate buttercream frosting along with toasted coconut and — hooray! — jelly beans!

CEC8898471LARGE-613x409

©Disney

While there, be sure to check out the Contemporary Resort’s display of Chocolate Bunnies and decorated Easter Eggs presented by the Resort’s pastry chefs on the fourth floor!

BoardWalk Bakery boasts its own Easter Cupcake: vanilla cake filled with raspberry panna cotta, topped off with a coconut nest filled with jelly beans.

makmak868775-613x409

©Disney

And, of course, you can check out spots at [Read more…]

Tips from the DFB Guide: Off-The-Radar Disney World Bars and Lounges

Walt Disney World is supa fun, but it’s also go-go-go-go. Sometimes ya just gotta relax.

dfb2015_guide_3d

Of course, there’re all kinds of ways to accomplish that. But after a long, hard day of Disney touring, I love to head to one of my favorite Disney Bars and Lounges.

“Bar” might not be the first word you think of when you picture Mickey Ears and Pixie Dust. But actually, these are some of my favorite spots on property for a number of reasons.

And I know you agree, because when I first published the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, a comprehensive Index of Disney World’s Bars and Lounges was one of our readers’ top requests.

Well — we heard you! And I’m happy to let you know that the DFB Guide includes reviews of every Bar and Lounge in Walt Disney World!

Let’s dive into the Index and take a closer look at a few. You know my favorites, like Territory Lounge and the Dawa Bar. But today, I want to take you on a tour of a few places you may not have discovered yet.

And if you find this information helpful, then be sure to pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code “2015” right here!

Ready to grab a drink?

A Niche Menu and Free Beer: The Wave Lounge at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary resort is a great place to take in a relaxing breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Seldom crowded, the restaurant, located in the quiet back corner of the hotel’s lobby offers a market-inspired menu at a much lower price point than you’ll find at Disney’s suite of signature restaurants. You’ll also find some delicious breakfast options.

But in addition to interesting eats, you’ll also find a pretty cool bar and lounge area.

The Bar at Disney's The Wave Restaurant

The Bar at Disney’s The Wave Restaurant

While the food menu is market-driven, the drink menu features some specialties, too. The Wave’s wine list features New World Wines, primarily from the Southern Hemisphere. And nearly all of the wines featured have one thing in common — screwcaps! Sealing wines with screwcaps is a way to battle cork taint, an unfortunate chemical reaction that can ruin a good bottle of wine. So don’t be put off by screwcaps the next time you see one; many quality New World wines, especially those from New Zealand and Australia, are sealed this way.

Wines at the Wave

Wines at the Wave

Do your tastes run to beer rather than wine? The Wave also features a nice selection of Organic Beers. In fact, if you’re a guest staying at the Contemporary or Bay Lake Towers, you can enjoy a Complimentary Organic Beer Tasting on Saturdays from 3-4PM. (Remember, this is JUST if you’re staying at the resort.)

Beer Flight at The Wave

Beer Flight at The Wave

Just stopping in for a drink? Try the Beer Flight. The presentation is pretty impressive.

A Bar That Switches Things Up: Kona Island Coffee/Sushi Bar

Another favorite stop of mine certainly lives up to the name “bar” — but for completely different reasons. In this case, we’re (mostly) trading cocktails for java and some interesting eats.

New Tiki Statue in Lobby at the Polynesian!

New Tiki Statue in Lobby at the Polynesian!

The Polynesian Village Resort has just undergone a major facelift. We’ve welcomed new spots, like the Pineapple Lanai (the resort’s purveyor of Dole Whips these days) as well as the crazy popular Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (waiting times have been up to 6 hours during its soft opening!)

Trader Sam's door sign

Trader Sam’s Door Sign

But with all of the changes, the resort has maintained most of its beloved eateries, including [Read more…]

News: “Frozen Fever” Sweet Treats at Disneyland and Disney World

So… Frozen Fun ends in Disneyland on May 15th, and Frozen Summer Fun LIVE won’t return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios until June 17th. That’s one full Frozen-free month… What’s an Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf fan to do?!?

What will we do when there's no Frozen Fun?!

What will we do when there’s no Frozen Fun?!

Fret not, Frozen fans! In the downtime between the two events, Disney is releasing a few treats in honor of “Frozen Fever,” the film short that can currently be seen on the big screen prior to showings of the live-action “Cinderella” film.

As in the film short, these treats go about the task of celebrating Anna’s birthday… and what’s a birthday celebration without a little cake? Anna’s Happy Birthday Cupcake is a vanilla cupcake with blue buttercream frosting, topped with marshmallows, snowflake candies, and a white chocolate Olaf.

Anna's Happy Birthday Cupcake

Anna’s Happy Birthday Cupcake ©Disney

At Disneyland, you’ll want to check spots like the Jolly Holiday Bakery, Market House, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, and The Coffee House.

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

While the cupcakes are already available at Disneyland, starting April 8th, Disney World guests can check various eateries scattered across property, in parks and resorts alike. Altogether, twelve restaurants will carry the cupcakes in WDW, including Main Street Bakery and Gaston’s Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, Starring Rolls Cafe and ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios, and Sunshine Seasons and Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Epcot.

Resort restaurants  that will carry the cupcake include BoardWalk Bakery, Beach Club Marketplace, Contempo Cafe, Gasparilla Island Grill, Landscape of Flavors and The Mara.

BoardWalk Bakery

BoardWalk Bakery

Looking for something a little more frozen to celebrate the cast of Frozen? Olaf’s Perfect Sundae Day features birthday-cake flavored ice cream topped with hot fudge, mint marshmallows, brownie pieces (!), whipped cream, and sprinkles.

Olaf's Perfect Sundae Day ©Disney

Olaf’s Perfect Sundae Day ©Disney

Those mint marshmallows look a lot like the ones currently available to enjoy with your Warm Hugs Hot White Hot Cocoa over at Olaf’s Snow Fest in Disneyland!

At Disneyland, the Sundae is available at Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and Clarabelle’s.

Clarabelle's in Disney California Adventure

Clarabelle’s in Disney California Adventure

 

And again, starting April 8th, Disney World guests will find it at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Hollywood Scoops, and Beaches & Cream.

Beaches and Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort

Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

In a new twist, even a few Table Service restaurants are [Read more…]

Review: Hot Chocolate Cupcake from the Contempo Cafe at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

So, today we’ve got a SUPER cute cupcake from Contempo Cafe at Disney’s Contemporary Resort!

The restaurant, located on the Concourse in the Resort, is one of my favorite stops for delicious counter service eats. It’s just a monorail ride (or quick walk) away from Magic Kingdom, making it a great option if you need a break during a busy Park day.

But they’ve also featured some truly decadent and beautiful Cupcakes throughout the years. I’m always anxious to pop in every time I’m in town to see what Chef Jeff Barnes and his creative team have come up with!

And on a recent visit, I didn’t come up empty handed when I stopped by for an afternoon snack.

The Hot Chocolate Cupcake

Well, the very last thing that you want in Florida 11 1/2 months out of the year is a steaming cup of anything. So this is a fun nod to hot chocolate without getting any of the “hot!”

It’s pretty great that you get so much description here on the sign…and it’s pretty irresistible, eh?

Hot Chocolate Cupcake -- In the Case, with Description

Hot Chocolate Cupcake — In the Case, with Description

I quickly opted to try this new-to-me cupcake, passing by the ever popular Frozen Cupcake and the classic Red Velvet Cupcake.

It’s definitely super cute, with Toasted Marshmallows on top, a Striped Chocolate Straw, Red Sprinkles, and a mound of light Chocolate Buttercream.

Hot Chocolate Cupcake -- Up Close

Hot Chocolate Cupcake — Up Close

When I cut into it, I found [Read more…]

News! Enjoy “Eat Local Week” in Disney World

Fun news for those of you visiting Disney World this week!

EatLocalWeek Orlando Logo

Slow Food Orlando is sponsoring Eat Local Week in The City Beautiful — and it’s happening right now!

While the event showcases eating, drinking, and shopping local throughout the Central Florida Region, there are opportunities to celebrate local growers and producers by dining in some of our favorite Disney Restaurants.

Enjoy menus featuring locally-sourced ingredients all this week, showcasing ingredients from Florida farms, ranches, and fisheries.

And the list of participating Disney restaurants includes some of our tried and true favorites. Choose from The Wave…of American Flavors or California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We’ve enjoyed delicious seasonal dishes in both.

California Grill view

A Beautiful View and the Season’s Best Flavors at California Grill

At Disney’s Grand Floridian, dine slow-food style at the beautiful Citricos. Or hop over to Disney’s BoardWalk for dinner at Flying Fish Cafe — hands down, one of my absolute favorite spots! (Read our latest review of Flying Fish here.)

Crab Cake

The Flying Fish Cafe is Always an Excellent Choice, Especially for Seafood, Like Their Killer Crabcakes

But we aren’t finished! Yachtsman Steakhouse, known for perfectly prepared steaks and seasonally-inspired sides, will also be participating. Finally, end your Eat Local tour at [Read more…]