Guest Review: Disney’s Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast with Darth Vader

Are you ready for an out-of-this-world guest review? Join me in welcoming guest author Miranda Roberts! She’s sharing her experience at the Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World!

My husband and I are not morning people. Not remotely. We are the people who are last out of the park at night, and stay sound asleep until late morning. We love cocktails and fireworks and chilling out by the pool.

But we could not pass up the chance to eat breakfast with Darth Vader! So, despite not really knowing anything else about the set up of this event, we took a chance and made a rare breakfast reservation. We were super excited about this meal!

Atmosphere

As we approached the Sci-Fi restaurant on a very sunny morning, there were friendly cast members waiting to direct us to the check-in desk, and they had added special signs to the front of the restaurant. Having extra cast members with directional arrows helped us overcome our bleary-eyed morning confusion about where we were heading.

Cast Member directs guests to the galactic breakfast!

Cast Member directs guests to the galactic breakfast!

Outdoor waiting area

Outdoor waiting area

Check In here!

Check In here!

This is the line for Vader!

This is the line for Vader!

Once we had checked in, we were told to wait near the entrance until we were called. We only had to wait around five minutes before a server came looking for us “To join the rebellion”.

We joined a short line of about 6 people at the restaurant entrance to have our PhotoPass picture taken with Darth Vader and Boba Fett. The price of this was already built into the meal. Then a server showed us to our seats and explained a little about the restaurant to us.

Shaun and Miranda with Boba Fett and Darth Vader

Shaun and Miranda with Boba Fett and Darth Vader

Special Event PhotoPass

Special Event PhotoPass

If you have dined at the Sci-Fi before, the set-up is exactly as normal with a couple of extra signs outside to advertise the event. For those who haven’t eaten here before, the restaurant is one large room made up like a movie set to look like a drive-in movie theatre from the 50’s. The lighting is very low, to make it seem like evening, and there are stars twinkling in the night sky around you.

Interior restaurant

Interior restaurant

The tables are mostly cars that have three rows of seats. Each row seats 2 adults or 3 kids. Since my husband and I were alone on this trip, we were seated in the back row of a car, and the family in front were told they had picked us up as galactic hitch-hikers!

Movie Screen

Movie Screen

All the cars face the big movie screen at the front, which was showing a series of clips from Star Wars and related spin-offs. There were clips from all the different episodes, plus some cartoon adaptations and some spoof adverts and posters. The Cantina band also had a segment, which was really cool.

Jawa warning!

Jawa warning!

The twilight setting and movie clips set a great atmosphere for the event. Throughout the meal, characters circulated that included Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Greedo. They were all pretty playful, with a Stormtrooper trying to steal my chocolate milk, and making guests kneel like prisoners for photos! It’s worth noting that we only saw bad guy or neutral characters – there were no “hero” characters at this meal.

Watch out for stormtroopers!

Watch out for stormtroopers!

But with the dark lighting in the restaurant, most guests were having problems taking pictures with the characters. With a flash, faces were too over-exposed, and the backdrop looked weird. Without the flash, you can barely see who is in the photo. You’re going to see I struggled with the same problem for these food pictures too; sorry :-(

To help you time your FastPasses, it’s worth saying that we were seated at 9:40am and we left the restaurant at 10:50am. There is no way we could have eaten faster, so this was one of the longer Disney meals we have shared based on our experience that day. Other people might have quicker days, but it would be a shame to rush it with so much to see on the screen and around you.

Now let’s talk about the food!

Eats

The menu and our server explained that we would automatically be brought a selection of pastries. These would then be followed by our choice of fruit salad or yogurt parfait, and then we had a choice of entrée. The meal would then end with a “sweet surprise”.

Food Menu

Food Menu

Beverage Menu

Beverage Menu

She started us off with a choice of drinks, and there was a very wide choice of refillable drinks -– tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juices, sodas, chocolate milk, and a fun Blue Milk (like Luke Skywalker drank in Episode 4 at home on Tatooine).

Blue Milk

Blue Milk

It was blue raspberry flavored and my husband enjoyed the fun and novelty of it, but switched to Coke after one glass. There were also a couple of cocktails, but not being morning people, that was too much of a stretch for our systems. We stuck with soft drinks!

Our pastry platter had six pieces, with three different offerings. All these came automatically, almost as soon as we had sat down.

Star Wars Pastries

Star Wars Pastries

The swirl pastry, that our server said “looks like Princess Leia’s hairdo”, was an almond pastry, the C3PO chocolate one was a mini double chocolate muffin, and the one with Darth Vader was a mini vanilla cream puff. All three were really delicious.

The almond swirl kind of reminded me of frangipane (which I know is popular with the DFB team!) and the chocolate muffin was very moist with good chocolate chunks, but we both liked the Darth cream puff best. It had a really delicious sweet vanilla custard inside, while the pastry was crisp and flaky.

For our next course, my husband had the fruit salad and I had the yogurt parfait. Both came with adorable [Read more…]

Guest Review: Califonia Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

The California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort has re-opened with a new menu and revitalized decor. This week, guest author Paul Kuconis returns with a review from this Walt Disney World restaurant.

My daughter and I last ate at California Grill in May 2012, seated in the Wine Room overlooking Wilderness Lodge and Epcot in the distance. The meal, as usual (and expected) was superb! Soon after this the restaurant was closed for a remodel. And the wait began.

When I found out (in early September, I believe) that California Grill was accepting Advance Dining Reservations I thought I would give it a shot for our October visit. I was able to grab the date and time I wanted. AWESOME!!

So off we head on the boat from Wilderness Lodge to the Contemporary.

From the Boat Dock

You can’t beat this view of the Contemporary right around dusk! Red sky at night, Sailor’s delight. We are in for a nice day tomorrow.

Atmosphere

The reception desk is now on the right of the elevator banks, moved from the left.

Reception Signage

Right off the elevator — the first new element I saw was the immense wine cooler.

The Wine Cooler

As we waited for our table we took in the sights.

A Nice Spot to Watch the Fireworks

The results of the remodel look fantastic and the contemporary theme was carried throughout. The bar has a nice clean look to it with illuminated shelving and neatly arranged bottles.

The Bar

The open concept seating remained, providing good views out all the windows.

The Dining Area

Even the light fixtures carry the ‘contemporary theme’, right down to different colored globes!

Contemporary-Themed Light Fixtures

It was nice to see that the open kitchen concept was maintained through the remodel. I enjoy watching the chefs prepare the offerings. And it is done with Military precision. No ‘Hells’ Kitchen’ theatrics here!

Open Kitchen

You can’t beat white tablecloths and sharp, branded linen napkins. Classy!

A nicely set table

OK, enough of the Atmosphere. We came to eat!

Eats

Now the fun begins. The menu logo mirrors the signage we saw at the reception desk.

The Menu

My daughter and I selected a bottle of Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay. The vineyard is located in Kenwood in the heart of Sonoma (along with Napa and Mendocino) in the North Coast wine region of California. Also in keeping with the California theme.

Chardonnay Choices

We made a nice choice. We noticed aromas of dried pit fruits, melon, honey, and tarragon. It was very fruity, with a nice finishing warmth and lingering spiciness.

The Wine

A Nice Pour

Luckily we got rolls and butter and that gave me something to eat while I perused the menu.

Rolls and Butter

As usual with Disney, they are not just ‘rolls and butter’. We had a choice of sourdough rolls (my favorite and a staple of San Francisco) and focaccia. The butter was topped with sea salt and a lavender blossom. Visually, perfect! This is important as we ‘see’ the food before we eat it.

The crunchiness of the salt worked well with the butter and spread that on the sourdough roll — it doesn’t get any better. At least until the appetizer arrives!

Appetizer and entrée selections proved to be very difficult. To me, that is the sign of a well thought out menu. So many choices, so little time!

I like to try items I have never had and the [Read more…]

News! Star Wars “Feel the Force” Dining Event and Dessert Party in Walt Disney World NOW BOOKING

Have you experienced a galactic Star Wars Weekend day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Yep, me too. Although there’re plenty of Stormtroopers to keep order in the universe, the park can still get rather chaotic.

Feel the Force

Feel the Force

Well, now there’s an event (in addition to the New Star Wars Character Meals) that will help make your Star Wars Weekends visit a little easier. And yes, there’s food at the Feel The Force VIP Dining Event! The Feel the Force Premium Package is available every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May 16 – June 15, 2014.

When you book the NEW Feel the Force Premium Package, you’ll get to view the celebrity motorcade in the afternoon — and the evening fireworks from a reserved premium viewing area with refreshments!

You’ll be treated like a VIP with beverages and snacks while watching the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade. At night, the fireworks viewing area showcases a Star Wars themed dessert party!

Cost: adults $54, children $32 (per day, tax and gratuity included). Full payment is due at booking.

Celebrity Motorcade Viewing: 11AM to noon with the motorcade starting at 11:30AM.

Symphony in the Stars Fireworks Dessert Party: 9PM to 10PM with the fireworks beginning at approximately 9:30PM.

Parade Check In Location: Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner starting at 10:30AM.

Dessert Party Check In Location: Guests will receive a wristband during the motorcade viewing that will allow entry into the evening fireworks dessert party. If you are unable to attend the motorcade viewing, please check in at Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner starting at 8:30PM.

Beverages: Include soda, water, tea, and coffee. The fireworks dessert party includes a specialty beverage with an alcoholic option.

Notes: Seating is not available. Discounts do not apply.

Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade

Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade

Participants receive a special souvenir Disney PhotoPass card with a [Read more…]

Guest Review: Dinner at Palo Aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Fantasy Cruise Ship

Ahoy to Rachel Gardner! She brings us a delicious review of the exclusive table-service restaurant, Palo, aboard the Disney Fantasy.

Atmosphere

Warm tones of reds, greens, and taupes; elegant wood paneling; large spacious dining rooms with sweeping ocean views; the smell of Italian food wafting from the plates around you as you make your way to your table: this is Palo.

A warm chandelier welcomes diners!

Meaning pole in Italian, Palo is named after the pole to which the gondoliers tie up the gondola when docking.

Palo’s Dining Room

Sweeping ocean views create a serene [Read more…]

Disney World March Dining Events: The Wave Discovery Dinner and Jiko’s Wine Dinner

Disney fans, check out The Wave Discovery Dinner (for Tables in Wonderland members only) and a Wine Dinner at Jiko — both events will be held in March at the Walt Disney World resort!

The Wave Discovery Dinner

Tables in Wonderland has announced a January Discovery Dinner at The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary Resort for January.

Discovery Dinner Details - click image for larger version

Discovery Dinner Details – click image for larger version

The Wave Discovery Dinner Details

Here are a few details for ya…

Location: The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 6:30PM Reception; 7PM Dinner
Cost: $110 per person includes tax and gratuity
Dress Code: Casual Evening Attire

To celebrate Central Florida’s strawberry season, this event will feature family-owned Lott Farms. Tim Mahr (Vice President of Sales for the Southern Division of Martin Ray Winery) will be the wine speaker.

Menu

Welcome Reception
Strawberry Tequila Shooter with Lime Caviar
Strawberry Sweet Tea Braised Short Rib Slider
Kumamato Oysters in Strawberry Gelee with Micro Wasabi
MARTIN RAY CHARDONNAY, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

First Course
U-12 Scallop Crudo with Strawberries Five Ways and McGregor Farms Opal Basil
MARTIN RAY SAUVIGNON BLANC, NAPA VALLEY

Second Course [Read more…]

Disney Recipe: Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli from the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Today, I’m excited to share with you a recipe for one of my all-time favorite Disney dishes from the California Grill!

I enjoy going to this posh restaurant when I’m celebrating a special occasion, or just meeting friends for an extra special evening. And anytime I visit California Grill, you can bet that I’ll order the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli! In fact, I ordered it during my most recent visit (it’s still there after the menu revamp!) and it never fails to impress.

The smooth, creamy, and slightly tangy filling of the house made ravioli is the perfect combination with the vibrant tomato broth. So it’s awesome to know that if I find myself with a craving for it between visits, I have a great recipe to fall back on!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

And now, you can whip up a batch, too!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Serves 4 to 8

Ingredients:

Clear Tomato Broth: [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Sushi!

We are back with another fun series of food photos, courtesy of Disney Food Blog Readers! That’s right, we love to show off the talents of folks who post their gorgeous photos on Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group!

As you know, Sushi continues to be popular at Disney and everywhere else! Let’s take a look at some of the beautiful and fresh options for this Japanese delicacy that you’ve captured on film around Walt Disney World.

Spicy Kazan at California Grill

Fans of sushi who are also lovers of Disney dining know that one of the most awesome places to get sushi in Walt Disney World is California Grill. This uber popular fine dining spot, located high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is known for fresh, seasonal ingredients, Pan-Asian influences, and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. And don’t forget to stay for the fireworks!

But when it comes to eats, this Spicy Kazan Roll looks pretty awesome. And if you’re a sushi-nonconformist like me, be sure to try the Pork Nigiri!

Photographer: Natasha Joyan

Spicy Kazan Roll from California Grill

Spicy Kazan Roll from California Grill

Tuna at Flying Fish Cafe

The Flying Fish Cafe remains one of my top choices for dining when I’m in Walt Disney World. I never pass up a chance to eat at this stellar restaurant. With food that’s always something special and a whimsical, carnival-like atmosphere, it always rates highly in my book.

One of the most popular appetizers that you can get here is the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and Crispy Tempura Tuna-Vegetable Sushi Roll. We’ve tried it and it’s awesome!

Photographer: Stan4dSteph

Tuna at Flying Fish Cafe

Tuna at Flying Fish Cafe

Sushi at Wolfgang Puck Cafe

Another great spot for California cuisine is Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Dining Room at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney WestSide. And along with other house specialties like their [Read more…]

Guest Review: ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Join us in welcoming guest author Kevin Carpenter with a dinner review of ‘Ohana. This Polynesian Resort restaurant at Walt Disney World is popular for its all-you-care-to-eat fare served family-style. Aloha!

Dining at ‘Ohana is not an experience entered into without expectation. The restaurant regularly claims a spot among the best table-service venues on Disney property and it enjoys word of mouth that is nothing short of exemplary. As such, reservations go quickly.

After years of close calls and near misses, I finally secured a dinner reservation – for a party of nineteen, no less – and my hopes were sky high for my first visit to ‘Ohana.

The Entrance to ‘Ohana

As we arrived at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a large crowd already milled about outside ‘Ohana’s entrance. Seeing this, I feared our large group would be in for quite a wait. After all, our party – extended family members enjoying a Disney vacation together for the first time in many years – was well used to lengthy waits for tables. And this night looked to be no different.

We checked in and, much to my surprise, were immediately whisked to our table. I should have known that there is very little the Cast Members of Walt Disney World are not prepared to handle.

Atmosphere

From my very first steps past the Tiki idols guarding the entranceway, I was impressed by ‘Ohana’s ambiance. In true Disney style, the interior theming strikes a fine balance between subtlety and traditional Hawaiian decor.

Tiki idols stand watch as you enter ‘Ohana

As we reached our long table, one thing became abundantly clear – we had made the perfect choice for our trip’s centerpiece meal. The word ‘Ohana, meaning family, would prove to be more than simply the name of the restaurant. Everything – from the unending salads and appetizers to the main course and dessert – would be served family style. Even the servers are considered honorary “cousins”. What place could be better for a large family meal?!

While we had many cousins gathered around our table, it was our server, “Cousin” Candy, who stood out the most. She may have been a member of the family for just this one evening, but she fit right in with remarkable warmth and attentiveness.

Where all the magic happens – ‘Ohana’s grilling area

Eats

We had scarcely taken our seats before the table was filled with the incredibly tasty Welcome Bread and bowls of salad with passion fruit dressing. I could have been quite content to savor the bread’s rich tones of pineapple and coconut all night, but the few ‘Ohana veterans among us had warned not to fill up on the bread.

Welcome Bread

Salad with Passion Fruit Dressing

Next came plates of honey-coriander chicken wings and pork dumplings. These were labeled appetizers, but they could have sufficed as meals unto themselves. Especially as everything was all-you-can-eat!

Tangy and delicious, the trays of wings and dumplings demanded refilling several times. Thankfully, my seat at the end of the table afforded an excellent view of the grilling area, where skewers upon skewers of meat and shrimp delivered a firm reminder that the best was yet to come.

Chicken Wings & Pork Dumplings

Several of us requested drinks from the bar, including one who chose to fully immerse himself in the evening’s Hawaiian spirit by ordering the Lapu Lapu. This blend of rum and fruit juices comes in extravagant style – served inside a hollowed-out pineapple.

Much to the chagrin of the one who ordered it, the Lapu Lapu made its way around the table as everyone wanted a taste. It received high marks from all who sampled it. And, honestly, our meal just felt that much more traditionally Hawaiian for having the Lapu Lapu on the table!

Lapu Lapu

One important consideration to note is that it was not only the size of our party that posed a challenge, but that we were a motley crew of adventurous and picky eaters, with a dietary restriction thrown into the mix as well. One family member suffers from gluten intolerance and required special dietary accommodation. The chef came out to speak with her before any food arrived on the table, and he promised to keep her well-stocked with an assortment of gluten-free alternatives (including gluten-free bread, noodles, and dessert).

The ‘Ohana chefs worked hard to ensure that she did not miss out on any aspect of the meal and she could not have been happier with the results.

Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten-Free Dessert

“Cousin” Candy soon delivered [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Soup!

It’s freezing…well, just about everywhere. AND, it’s National Soup Month! So I thought it was time to add some brand new bowls of comfort to our Disney Food Pics of the Week Series.

It’s always so fun to flip through the fantastic photos that our members post on the Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, head over there! It’s great for a virtual trip to Disney, or even some fun inspiration for planning your next trip — or your next meal!

Cheddar Cheese Soup from Le Cellier

Ah, we couldn’t kick off a soup post without sharing a photo of one of your favorites and mine — Cheddar Cheese Soup from Le Cellier! It’s such a luxury to have a whole bowl of it! But it’s also nice to get a taste at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival each Fall. Only ten months to go! Woo!!

Photographer: Nancy RK

Cheddar Cheese Soup at Le Cellier

Cheddar Cheese Soup at Le Cellier

French Onion Soup from Les Chefs de France

There is nothing better than [Read more…]

Review: California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I met a group of friends at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill for what promised to be a memorable dinner.

It was my first trip to the hallowed culinary spot since the dramatic re-imagination of both the restaurant itself and the menu earlier this year. I’m a big fan of Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki, and I was anxious to see what he and his team had put together for the opening.

Having heard mostly good things about the new menu, and lots of raves about the decor refresh (see some breathtaking photos here!), I was really looking forward to this special night out. Would the restaurant deliver on expectations? Well, kind of…and kind of not. Let’s delve into the full story.

Atmosphere

If you’ve never been to California Grill, getting there is a bit of an odyssey. Although the restaurant sits high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll begin your journey on the hotel’s second floor, where the check-in desk is located.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

From there, you’ll be directed to an elevator where a cast member will escort you up to the restaurant. This way, the staff can practice a little crowd control, as the restaurant’s lobby and bar can get quite crowded at times.

You emerge from the elevator and are greeted by sleek design, accented by cool colors and rows and rows of wine fridges. Form follows function, as California Grill’s stellar selection of wines is well known.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Time your visit just right, and another hallmark of the Grill’s atmosphere greets you —

Sunset

— A beautiful sunset through the picture windows directly ahead of you. I was lucky on this visit, as I got to see both the sunset AND the fireworks through those floor-to-ceiling windows!

Sunset

As I mentioned before, California Grill underwent an extensive renovation earlier in 2013. If you haven’t been to the restaurant since then, you will find that almost everything looks completely different from before.

We shared lots and lots of photos with you from the reno in that previous post, including pics of the private dining rooms. Be sure to pop over there if you’d like to see even more decor detail. For now, we’ll just give you a quick tour.

Step away from that glorious sunset, and you realize that you passed the beautiful bar area as you entered. It’s just to the left as you step off the elevators and head into the restaurant.

Directly in front of the bar, there’s also a limited lounge seating area. This means that you can, theoretically, score a table without an advance dining reservation, or meet here for appetizers and drinks on a whim. That said, the lounge is first come, first served, and you can imagine the scramble for seats during the fireworks. So look alive if that’s your plan!

Bar

Where the view is concerned, there are really no bad seats in all of California Grill! But the window seats on the Magic Kingdom side offer the best view if you’re going for fireworks. As part of the renovation, new windows were installed that block ultraviolet light, and electronically-controlled shades ensure that guests are never blinded by that bright Florida sunshine.

Views and Tables

A glance across the seating area gives you a good overview of the [Read more…]