Full Review: The NEW California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Update: Scroll to the end of the Eats section (yep, waaayyy down there!) for a mini-review of opening night, courtesy of one of our favorite DFB guest writers, Julie B!

We are headed back to the fifteenth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort today, as we take a closer look at the brand new California Grill!

The outpouring of Disney food fan love has just been astounding throughout the last eight months as we’ve continued to watch the newly re-imagined California Grill take shape. Folks who love the restaurant and its amazing menu have been anxious for news. Would it retain its panache? Would beloved dishes from the old menu make the cut? How would we survive with no Yoshie??

We are happy to report that, if possible, California Grill is even more spectacular than before. We were happy to show you a first look at all that was new after last Thursday’s media event. Today, we’re unveiling more details. If you haven’t already, get ready to make those advance dining reservations. I think you’re going to like what you see.

Menus

Settle in. This is going to be a long one!

Atmosphere

Immediately, as you step out of the elevator onto the fifteenth floor, you are enveloped by the cool vibe of California Grill. You know at once that you’re in for a special experience.

If you weren’t aware of it already, now you know: wine matters in this restaurant. A lot. Wine coolers aren’t dressed up to be anything else; they’re unapologetically part of the decor here. This makes sense, as the restaurant now boasts 1,600 bottles of wine in the state-of-the-art wine display.

You’ll find around 250 wines on the list, with 80 available by the glass. And with more than 20 sommeliers on staff, you are literally enveloped in a wealth of wine knowledge.

Wine, Anyone?

Straight ahead, you’ll find the trademark view of Seven Seas Lagoon. With any luck there will be a spectacular sunset over the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa during your visit like there was for ours.

This area continues to serve as the lounge for the restaurant. You can still score a table here with no advance dining reservation, and the full restaurant menu is available for ordering.

Entrance and Bank of Wine Fridges

The bar area continues to be highlighted by the ceiling’s circular cutout. While the shape is the same, the whole bar has been overhauled with new finishes. Comfortable seating beckons you to relax and have a cocktail or two.

Bar

To quote one of my Disney friends, nothing here is the same as it was! The lights are wonderfully whimsical. While modern, there’s still a retro feel here. In fact, the lights remind me a lot of old pictures I’ve seen of the Contemporary from the 1970s.

Seating Area is Ready for Guests

Tables are set for service. I was glad to see that the [Read more…]

New! Chocolate Cherry Cupcake and Root Beer Float Cupcake in Disney World

We’re always on the look-out for new treats at Walt Disney World. Courtesy of our readers, we have new Disney cupcakes to share with you today! Which cupcake will be your new BFF?!

Chocolate Cherry Cupcake

Debuting at Starring Rolls Cafe and Fairfax Fare at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Chocolate Cherry Cupcake can be yours for a Disney Dining Plan snack credit or $5.19 (yup; those prices continue to soar).

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes in case.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new, non-seasonal cupcake introduced at the studios! I can’t wait to sample this one since you know how much I love cherry pie filling!

Chocolate Cherry Cupcake!

DFB Reader Hannah (Thank You, Hannah!!) tweeted her thoughts on this new cupcake: Cake part was a bit “muffiny” but filled with cherry filling. The frosting [Read more…]

First Look! The NEW California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Oh my goodness, you guys! We got a chance to check out the newly revamped California Grill last night and IT. IS. AMAZING!

The popular restaurant, which sits high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is the one that started it all. It was Disney World’s first foray into sleek, signature dining.

But even the most contemporary California vibe can become outdated. And so it was time for a little freshening.

Last night, we got a first look at the brand new re-imagined California Grill.

We’ll have even more pics for you later today — and a longer review for you next week! But I couldn’t wait to share these initial pics of the transformation! Come with us and take a look!

New California Grill Atmosphere

The facelift is evident before you ever set foot on the fifteenth floor. The check in desk, located on the second floor, has also received an updated look.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

A new font and background replace the signature cursive. Colorful stripes in warm colors replace the painted tile background.

After a quick trip up in the elevator reserved for California Grill guests, we stepped out into the entrance. A right turn, and we were greeted by a gorgeous, post-storm sunset.

California Grill view

Sweeping vistas have always been a hallmark of California Grill, but they’ve been made even more stunning with the introduction of floor to ceiling windows, which allow for plenty of natural light and incredible, 360-degree views.

California Grill New Dining Room

California Grill New Dining Room

Previously, the space was dominated by bright, bold geometric patterns. In re-imagining the space, Imagineers decided to look to the Contemporary’s mid-century roots for inspiration.

Taking elements from the work of iconic Disney artist Mary Blair, the entire space was [Read more…]

News! California Grill Opens September 9th; Reservations Available Monday, August 26

Circle this upcoming Monday, August 26, Disney Food Fans! That’s the day when we will finally be able to begin booking advance dining reservations for the newly renovated California Grill!

The NEW California Grill!

The signature restaurant, which sits high atop Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort, has been closed since early 2013 as it underwent a complete makeover.

It’s scheduled to open on September 9th, and will feature a new menu — including some awesome desserts!

Sundae Sampler Dessert Trio at California Grill!

Look for the new menu to continue to feature seasonal ingredients, but with a somewhat lighter hand.

While fan favorites like the flatbreads will continue to be around, Chef Brian Piasecki also plans to utilize the wood-burning oven for new dishes. These include Baked Local Prawns with Charred Lemon, and Savory Meatballs with Herbed Orzo.

Read our review of these [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…]

News! Update on Disney’s New Rapid Fill Refillable Mug

According to sources, Disney World will soon be bringing the new Disney Rapid Fill Refillable Mug program to Disney resort hotels.

Tested at All-Star Sports Resort a while back, and much like the process currently in use at Disney’s Water Parks, the new system would use an RFID bar code on each mug to give Disney guests access to refills for a pre-purchased period of time. The mug will then deactivate itself at the end of the purchased time frame.

But as of today, it’s looking more and more like the rumors may be true. Although at this time the Rapid Fill Refillable Program has not been confirmed by Disney, we have news today that the fountain machines at some beverage refilling stations at Walt Disney World resorts have been replaced with new machines that resemble those in a demo video by the company ValidFill.

The first set of photos are from the Beach Club Marketplace, where the machines were installed earlier this week.

Newly Installed Beverage Refill Station at Beach Club Marketplace

Newly Installed Beverage Refill Station at Beach Club Marketplace

In this photo, you can see the small screen that provides the customer detailed information about their refill as it dispenses, as well as the trays below the fountain taps that reads the cup’s sensor.

New Beach Club Marketplace Refill Station -- Up Close

New Beach Club Marketplace Refill Station — Up Close

The same set up is in place at All-Star Music Resort’s beverage refill station. The screens here are [Read more…]

Disney Popcorn Gallery

We always love adding to our Disney food galleries!

From Margaritas to Ice Cream to Creme Brulee and more, we’re always collecting options and photos to share with you. And we quickly realized that there was one salty snack missing from our gallery list! What’s a trip to Disney without at least one bucket of Popcorn?

I think Disney popcorn is some of the best popcorn anywhere, and while newfangled snacks and treats will come and go, the classics will never go away.

You’ll find carts selling popcorn all over Walt Disney World and Disneyland, as well as in some of the resorts that also draw visitors, like Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. But there’s even more variety to it than that, so we’ve put together this handy gallery to showcase all the great popcorny options available!

You Never Get Tired of Disney Popcorn!

We’re going to share with you some of our favorite popcorn and popcorn-related goodness, but be sure to let us know your favorites or anything we don’t mention in comments below! Also, please keep in mind, especially in regard to menu items that include popcorn, that menus are constantly changing, so you may not always see these items when you visit a restaurant.

Disney Popcorn: A Classic

In need of some popcorn at Disney? You never have far to look. In fact, if your first stop is Magic Kingdom, you encounter a popcorn stand as soon as you set foot onto Main Street USA! Some of our readers say that Disney popcorn is the best-tasting in the world — and who am I to disagree?

Disney Popcorn!

And another great bit of news — Disney popcorn is vegan and gluten-free! Popcorn is naturally devoid of gluten. But the kernels are popped in a combination of coconut, corn, and canola oil, and are seasoned with kosher salt, so there are no animal products used. (Disney cautions that because the popcorn is prepared in outdoor locations, there is potential for cross-contamination. When in doubt of a food’s ingredients, be sure to ask for an ingredient list.)

Souvenir Buckets

If you think the fun stops with the snack, well…then let me show you something completely awesome. In addition to the crunchy goodness, you can also amass a completely fabulous collection of souvenir buckets should you be so inclined.

Collect different ones from each Disney park! Here’s one from Animal Kingdom, [Read more…]

New Breads and Desserts Will Debut on the California Grill Menu in Disney World

While we anxiously await the California Grill re-opening at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World (which is looking like late August or early September!), we can’t help but tempt your taste buds with some new menu items!

The NEW California Grill!

For starters, two new breads have been created including a whole-grain sourdough roll and a lavender-infused focaccia.

And there’s more! Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes has created new desserts with a playful theme. “You’re going to see a big change with some new concepts,” says Chef Jeff. “This is our chance to create a new menu with a fresh infusion of California, and it’s coming together nicely.”

Artful dessert presentations include a Sundae Sampler featuring a trio with a Coke float, strawberry sundae, and caramel corn sundae.

Sundae Sampler!

Or you might want to sample [Read more…]

Guest Review: Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake at Disney’s Contempo Café

Welcome back Guest Author Wendy, with a review of the NEW Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake at the Contempo Café in the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. Coconut fans — you’ll adore this one!

On a recent stop at the Contemporary Resort, I paid a visit to the Contempo Café bakery case in hopes of spotting a new Disney cupcake gem.

My search was rewarded with the Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake!

Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake in Bakery Case

Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake in Bakery Case

I was waiting in line for my opportunity to grab one when a man lined up behind me with a Protective Cupcake Dome (cupcake to-go case ;-)). He shared these words of wisdom: “You may want to grab one of these boxes. I learned the hard way.”

Grab a protective cupcake dome!

Grab a protective cupcake dome!

I feel sad for that cupcake because it didn’t get to live out its flavor-filled destiny. I feel sad for us all that there is one less Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake in the world… because this thing is AWESOME!

Chocolate Covered Coconut Cupcake

It’s chocolate cake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting and a coconut center; there are [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…]