DFB Reader Questions Answered: Best Restaurants to Celebrate a Grown-Up Birthday at Walt Disney World

Today, we’re pulling another great question out the Disney Food Blog mailbag. You guys ask some great ones, and lots of times, we’ll get several emails and inquiries about the same subject.

Spontaneous Birthday Treat at Citricos

Spontaneous Birthday Treat at Citricos

Today, we’re going to delve into the wonderful world of birthday celebrations for grown-ups!

Celebrating Grown Up Birthdays in Walt Disney World

Our DFB reader asks:

We will be vacationing at WDW in May. My 25-year old son will have a birthday while we are there. We would like to have a special meal to celebrate, something fun but also really good!

I love this question! Disney brands itself a great place for all kinds of celebrations. And when it comes to birthdays, why should kiddos have all the fun?

When planning a special meal to celebrate a birthday at Walt Disney World, the most basic advice is probably a great starting point: what does the birthday boy or girl enjoy?

Birthday Dessert

Birthday Dessert

Does he like fine dining, or would he prefer a great night out at a sports bar? Does she like a quiet, elegant setting, or a spot with intricate themeing? Or are they a kid at heart who can Celebrate Mickey with the best of them?

Fantastic ideas abound for fun birthday celebrations at Disney World, but let’s go with my three favorite ideas. At the very least, it might lead to some good brainstorming when it comes time to plan your own special dinner party!

Signature Dining

For the Disney fan who enjoys a fine dining experience, there would be no other place to celebrate a birthday than where these two things meet — Disney’s signature dining restaurants.

If you’re looking for the pinnacle of fine dining, consider booking a table at Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

Victoria and Albert’s Main Dining Room

The ultimate in Disney fine dining, this relaxed, refined restaurant has won countless awards for its upscale take on modern American fare and its stellar wine menu. To make it an even more special experience, book the Chef’s Table!

Another great option is California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The restaurant sits atop the hotel, and boasts panoramic views. It’s a great spot for viewing Wishes, Magic Kingdom’s fireworks spectacular!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli is as Good as Ever

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli at California Grill

Food here is always fresh and inventive, celebrating the farm to table movement and the Asian fusion style that placed California on the culinary map.

For something a little off the beaten path but no less delicious, check out Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

In a relaxing atmosphere that mimics the [Read more…]

News! Disney Adds Premium Event “Villains’ Sinister Soiree” to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Lineup

If Fall and Halloween are your favorite Disney times of the year, you’re going to LOVE what we have to share!

Mickey Lantern!

Mickey Lantern!

We’ve seen hints that Disney will be offering some new premium enhancements to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This hard-ticketed, after-hours event takes place at Magic Kingdom on select evenings September through November. The party features trick or treating, your favorite characters dressed up in their Halloween costumes (so cute!), the Boo-To-You Parade (with the Headless Horseman!), and Happy HalloWishes Fireworks. It’s a whole lot of fun!

But if you’re looking for an extra special way to enjoy the holiday, you’ll want to check out this news!

Villains’ Sinister Soiree at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Lady Tremaine and Friends are taking over the Castle! Join her at [Read more…]

Review: Lunch at Le Cellier in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion (With the NEW Filet!)

UPDATE: The Mushroom Filet is back at Le Cellier as a seasonal dish. (A photo is provided in the text below.)

We finally got to head over and try the new menu at Le Cellier Steakhouse!

Yep, you heard me right. A new menu. And while the menu changes up regularly here now that it’s a Signature-restaurant-all-the-time-forever-always, we weren’t expecting the news that the beloved filet with mushroom risotto and truffle butter sauce was getting a makeover.

As soon as we found that out, we had to make an ADR. And, yep — we ordered the replacement. Along with a lot of other goodies.

Let’s go see how it all turned out!

Please note: in addition to the “update” notice above, we’re also posting this menu shot confirming the current presence of the Mushroom Filet. Due to its status as a signature restaurant, menu options change here more frequently than most Table Service restaurants, but we’re happy to see this one back on the menu for the time being!

Le Cellier Menu (update)

Le Cellier Menu (update)

Atmosphere

Because we had a busy day and the lunch and dinner menu are now the same, we decided to opt for a lunch advance dining reservation.

Le Cellier Steakhouse -- Outside View

Le Cellier Steakhouse — Outside View

When we arrived, we only had to wait for a bit before we were shown to our table. The very slight delay gave us a chance to check out once more the addition of several paintings by The Group of Seven, which were recently installed to honor this important Canadian school of painters.

Description of Lobby Paintings

Description of Lobby Paintings

The seating in this tiny waiting area is of the outdoor bench type, which makes it not all that comfortable. But, honestly, most of the waiting area seating is usually taken up whenever I get there.

Seating and Paintings in the Lobby

Seating and Paintings in the Lobby

Nameplates beneath each painting give you more information. If you have a few moments, be sure to check them out. They really are beautiful.

Lobby Decor -- Up Close

Lobby Decor — Up Close

As you’re shown to your table, you’ll wave goodbye to sunlight for a little while. Le Cellier really is, well, in a cellar.

Le Cellier Entryway

Le Cellier Entryway

And you get a sense of that as soon as you turn the corner into the restaurant. The feeling is at once warm and cozy, yet elegant.

Le Cellier Dining Room

Le Cellier Dining Room

The rich detail lends itself to the feeling that you’ve stepped into the wine cellar of a grand chateau. Beamed ceilings and stone arches fit right in!

Le Cellier Ceilings and Chandeliers

Le Cellier Ceilings and Chandeliers

The room seems to be lit primarily by candles. These are electric, of course. But they lend a soft light to your surroundings. Bad for reading your menu and photographing your food, but good for setting the right tone. :-)

Wall Sconces

Wall Sconces

En route to your table, you’ll also see

[Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Via Napoli

We are less than one month from the start of the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and it will be here before you know it!

food and wine festival logo

Today, we are anticipating some of our favorite Special Events. While we love the Marketplace Booths and Low-Cost Demonstrations and Seminars, it’s fun to splurge once in a while on a few of the Special Events, culinary experiences that take place throughout the festival.

Much is made of wine — after all, this is a food and wine festival. But in recent years, Epcot has expanded its offerings to lovers of cocktails and beer as well.

The opportunity to try craft beers and brews from all around the globe is especially exciting. So let’s take a closer look today at one of the events that is especially geared toward beer lovers — The Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch.

Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Epcot’s Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

I attended this event during its inaugural year. While the food was delicious and the beer servings were generous, we were disappointed by the event format. It was basically a luncheon with none of the presentation or explanation that we’ve come to expect with these types of events.

We were anxious to try again though, and last year I was able to attend the event again.

Italian Beers and Bottles

Italian Beers and Bottles

We arrived at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria a little early for the event. That’s always a good idea so that you can scope out the venue — especially at a place that is still functioning as a regular restaurant while the event is going on. It’s not always easy to find the registration desk for the event versus the regular check-in line for the restaurant!

While I’ve had trouble with this particular distinction at Via Napoli before (they usually have people check in for the Food and Wine events at the regular check-in desk), on this visit they had the registration desk separate.

Arriving for the Event

Arriving for the Event

That said, the sign was a little confusing. Apparently, it’s doing double-duty for both the Beer Pairings and the Wine Pairings. Our event included only beer; there isn’t a combo event, for those of you who are wondering. :-)

We were greeted by one of the managers, who showed us to the area where the event would take place.

Presenter Guy

Via Napoli’s Manager Greeted Guests

We found our tables set with all of the glassware that we’d need for four courses. There was also fresh Bread with Olive Oil for dipping to get us started. Note that seating seemed to be assigned at this event. I’ve found that to be the case at more and more food and wine events these days.

The Table is Set

The Table is Set

Individual menus made for handy references throughout the meal and great souvenirs after it was complete.

Place Setting

Place Setting

Before we got started, I had a few moments to acquaint myself with the other guests seated at my table (another good reason to arrive a bit early!). I also had a chance to look over the menu.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

It seems that the Italy Culinary team have gotten the memo; our event included [Read more…]

DFB Reader Questions Answered: What’s a Great Spot for a Disneyland Date Night?

We’re opening our Disney Food Blog Reader Mailbag for another great question from you today!

And wouldn’t you know it? Romance is in the air. Our reader would like to know:

What’s a good idea for a great date night dinner in Disneyland?

What a fun question! And we definitely have some good ideas for this one. But as we all know, budgets vary. Let’s look at several options:

Special Occasion Date: Napa Rose

Looking for an extra special evening? Napa Rose wins our vote for the best dining experience in all of Disneyland.

I Love the Napa Rose Outdoor Lounge Area

I Love the Napa Rose Outdoor Lounge Area

The award-winning restaurant, located in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, offers a warm, relaxed environment. But it’s the food that we absolutely love here.

Chef Andrew Sutton creates a market-inspired menu of seasonal favorites, focusing on the bounty that California offers. And you can pair your meal with their superb list of California wines to enhance each course.

For an extra special treat, reserve the Chef’s Counter, and enjoy watching the staff as they craft your dinner before your eyes.

Veal Filet with Apricot Chutney and Summer Vegetables Entree at the Chef's Counter

Veal Filet with Apricot Chutney and Summer Vegetables Entree at the Chef’s Counter

Want a gourmet experience with a more relaxed vibe? Check out Steakhouse 55 Lounge in the Disneyland Hotel for delicious pub grub, inventive cocktails, and an atmosphere that is sheer Old Hollywood Glamour.

Under the Sea Date: Ariel’s Grotto World of Color Dinner Package

Dinner and a show? What could make for a better date?

If you’re looking for more than just dinner out, we love the World of Color Dinner Package at [Read more…]

Walt Disney World Steak Gallery

It’s time for another fun addition to our Disney Food Galleries!

disney world steak gallery

We just love to share photos of all of our favorite foods — and collect them into galleries for easy viewing! Whether your craving is for popcorn, ice cream, or a cupcake, there’s a gallery for you!

And today, we’re introducing a brand new gallery for all of you red meat lovers out there! Yep, we’ve gathered a whole buncha steaks from around Disney World to help you make your choices on your next visit.

Remember, some of these may drop off menus from time to time or have side dishes or preparation changed, but hopefully this will give you a good overview of what’s available! Here we go!

Yachtsman Steakhouse

Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club is one of my top picks when it comes to steak at Walt Disney World. After all, they decorate with meat — the first thing you pass en route to your seat is the Steak Trimming Room!

Chefs here pride themselves not only on the very best cuts of meat, but appetizers, side dishes, and desserts inspired by market fresh ingredients. Yachtsman combines the very best of seasonal flavors with the traditional steak experience.

My absolute favorite pick at Yachtsman is the 16-ounce Boneless Ribeye. It is always a melt-in-your-mouth choice.

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

But we are also big fans of the 12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak, served here with a rich potato gratin stack.

Strip Steak

12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak

Shula’s

Shula’s at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin is the kind of place that you think of when you envision an upscale steakhouse. As your eyes adjust to the dim lighting and you check out the menu — printed on a football! — you’ll settle into the refined elegance of your surroundings.

When I have the chance to dine here, I almost always go for my favorite, the 22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye (are you sensing a theme?). The Bone-in Steak has been excellent on every visit. The flavor is unbelievable!

Cowboy Ribeye

22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye

Looking for a lighter approach to soothe your carnivore cravings? We’ve also enjoyed the Steak Mary Anne. Delicate by steakhouse standards, the 5-ounce medallions are served with a simple demi glace in this case. It’s the perfect plate for the guest who prefers all the flavor of prime, aged beef in a smaller serving.

Steak Mary Anne

Steak Mary Anne

Flying Fish

If you’re a landlubber like me, then finding a great steak at a restaurant known for fabulous seafood is a dream come true. But it’s not impossible if you’re dining at Flying Fish Cafe.

When I visit, I always order the Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip. The creamy Sauce Foyot is such a great accent — and they’re never chintzy with it!

Char Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Can’t decide between surf and turf? You don’t have to! Try the two house specialities side by side with the Entree Duo, which features the Char-Crusted Angus New York Strip Steak and the restaurant’s most famous fish dish, the Potato-wrapped Red Snapper.

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak

Jiko

Jiko offers some of the most interesting food at Walt Disney World.

And while I enjoy the fusion of African, Indian, and Meditteranean flavors when it comes to appetizers and desserts, I rarely deviate from my favorite entree: the Oak-Grilled Filet.

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

Oak-Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

And even when their delicious Mac and Cheese isn’t featured as the dish’s side, you can usually score it as a special request (and I totally recommend that you do). :-)

Liberty Inn

In the mood for steak with no Advance Dining Reservation? Then head to Epcot’s Liberty Inn. Their New York Strip Steak, served with Red Wine Butter, Roasted Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli, is surprisingly good.

New York Strip Steak Meal

New York Strip Steak Meal

Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant

Even though most of my favorite steaks at Disney World are featured at signature restaurants, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good option at moderately priced restaurants, too, like Sci-Fi Dine-In.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: French Regional Lunch

Bonjour! We are taking a tour today of the Culinary Capital of the World — France — as we continue to gear up for the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Okay…well, that may be a little overkill. But there’s no denying that French food is something special.

food and wine festival logo

And we were very glad to hear that French Regional Lunches — aka Frunches — would return once more as part of the festival’s line up of Special Events last year after taking a hiatus in 2012.

And they are back again in 2014! Woo!!!

As we prepare for this year’s festival to kick off on September 19, let’s sit down to a French Regional Lunch from 2013.

Join me, won’t you?

Atmosphere

They’ve made the entrance door a little less secret-looking, but the entrance to Monsieur Paul is still a bit on the understated side. Head for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie and L’Artisan des Glaces, but make a sharp left at the awning. And you’ve arrived!

Monsieur Paul Entrance

Monsieur Paul Entrance

Step inside and you’re greeted by a small waiting area and this elegant winding staircase that takes you up to the second-floor restaurant. (There’s also an elevator if you prefer.)

Staircase in lobby leading up to restaurant Monsieur Paul

That Gorgeous Staircase!

Monsieur Paul is normally only open for dinner service, so it’s a real treat to enjoy lunch here in the recently renovated dining room. During the day, the natural light flooding through the uncovered windows lightens up the formal setting considerably. It’s a nice combination.

There is no assigned seating, so arrive early if you have your heart set on a certain area of the restaurant. Tables are set close together, so it pays to be of a social frame of mind. :-) Most of the time, people respect it if you would rather not chat with strangers. Don’t let this aspect of the experience keep you away. (And, honestly, after the fourth glass of wine, nobody’s a stranger anymore.)

Atmosphere and Seating Arrangement

Atmosphere and Seating Arrangement

You’ll notice in the photo above that there is a “host” for the luncheon. That’s because each luncheon is themed to a different region of France, and wines are paired to complement the flavors of each dish. A principle from a winery will guide you through each course and pairing.

And speaking of wine, there will be lots of it. My advice? Pace yourself. ;-)

Table Setting with Wine Glasses

Table Setting with Wine Glasses

I’m excited to show you the menu — let’s get started.

French Regional Lunch at Monsieur Paul

To me, the most interesting part of the French Regional Lunches is that they are just that — about different regions. Each week, they highlight a different region in France. During my luncheon, we were headed to Bordeaux!

Menu for the French Regional Lunch -- Click to Enlarge

Menu for the French Regional Lunch — Click to Enlarge

Our first wine was poured quickly after we were seated. The light-bodied Château Bonnet White Bordeaux was the perfect aperitif wine. It was excellent to sip on its own, but the crisp finish also paired well with our beginning dish, which was very rich.

Chateau Bonnet White Bordeaux

Château Bonnet White Bordeaux

Speaking of, our lunch began with an Amuse Bouche. The creamy dish reminded me of a savory creme brulee, if that makes any sense. No sweetness, but the same rich consistency, with the earthiness of mushrooms.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

The peppery Arugula on top contrasted nicely with the creamy custard in the small starter. It certainly did its work — we were excited to see what would be next.

Amuse Bouche -- Inside

Amuse Bouche — Inside

Fresh Demi Baguettes arrived to the table next, baked in the ovens of Les Halles below. I’m a big ol’ fan of bread fresh from the oven, and they do it perfectly here.

Fresh Baguette

Fresh Baguette

Our next wine was poured in anticipation of our first course. I thought the Château Bonnet Rosé was the perfect segue from the light white we started with into the heavier dishes that would be coming.

Chateau Bonnet Rose

Château Bonnet Rosé

Our first course, Cassolette d’Escargot Cauderanaise — Escargot Cassolette with Bacon — was a twist on a classic. While [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Japan Food and Beverage Pairing

We are ramping up for another fantastic Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Today, we’re reviewing a fun Special Event from the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

We are heading over to Tokyo Dining in the Japan Pavilion for the Food and Beverage Pairing experience. The light meals feature beverages paired with tasting-sized portions of the restaurant’s cuisine.

I’ve enjoyed dinner at Tokyo Dining as well as lots of fun meals at Teppan Edo, so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat! While we’d done the Morocco food and beverage pairing event, we’d not yet experienced the Japan version. Here we go!

Atmosphere

When I arrived for the Food and Beverage Pairing, I checked in at the stand that serves both Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining. The cool, sleek waiting area features simple, modern decor and comfortable low lighting.

Waiting Area Serves Both Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo

This area is also shared by the two restaurants.

Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo Waiting Area from Another Angle

Step into the Tokyo Dining seating area, and the same modern Japanese vibe is prevalent throughout. A sushi show kitchen takes up space along one wall.

Tokyo Dining Seating and Open Sushi Kitchen

The other side of the restaurant is dominated by [Read more…]

Sneak Peek: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort Opening Tomorrow!

Welcome to Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, where “luxury meets magic!” We got a chance to take a look around the hotel before it opens, and wanted to give you a quick peek! (Nope; they’re not paying us to do this. We just figured you’d be interested. ;-D)

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Opening August 3rd, Four Seasons Orlando says they will provide a best-of-both-worlds vacation experience: “easy access to all the area entertainment in a tranquil setting,” at Golden Oak in Walt Disney World, according to Thomas Steinhauer, Regional Vice President and General Manager.

The Disney Help Desk

The Disney Help Desk

Stairwell to the lobby

Stairwell to the lobby

Chandelier

Chandelier

Twenty-six acres will hold [Read more…]

Disney Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese from Jiko at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

I have a super special treat for you today!

I know I’m not the only person in love with the Macaroni and Cheese at Jiko, right? This signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge — and this dish in particular! — regularly tops my list when I’m visiting Disney World.

And when you run into me having dinner here, chances are better than great that I’ll be enjoying their Oak-Grilled Filet with a side of their amazing Mac and Cheese.

While the filet is a mainstay on their menu, the side dishes that it’s paired with tend to change up regularly. But Jiko created a legend with the filet and cheesy goodness combo; it had legions of fans! So normally, even if the mac and cheese isn’t on the menu, you can request it.

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

And now you can make it at home too!

Jiko’s Macaroni and Cheese

Jiko — The Cooking Place, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients: [Read more…]