WDW Moms Panel: Good Eats When Going Solo at Disney

Earlier this week, we had a guest post giving some tips and tricks on dining solo in Disney World. Today, in our fifth post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series, I asked the moms what they would eat in Disney World if they were blissfully alone for a whole day. Get ready for some delicious answers!

From Mom Anna S.

Without children in tow, I would start my day off at the Grand Floridian Café for some lobster eggs Benedict. This is about the most delicious and indulgent way to start your day at Walt Disney World! Although I will admit, my sweet tooth would be crying out for the stuffed croissant!

Kaki Gori from Epcot's Japan

Kaki Gori from Epcot's Japan

It’s off to EPCOT to explore the shops that my children usually are too bored to enjoy, and lunch at the best location on the planet for “fast” food – the Yakitori House. A Japanese Curry for lunch, followed by a Kaki Gori at the shaved ice stand, is a perfect balance of flavors and textures – sort of a fire and ice combo.

After an exhausting day shopping, I am off for my favorite meal anywhere on Walt Disney World property – the filet mignon and macaroni and cheese at Jiko. Arguably the best meal I’ve had anywhere, my mouth waters just thinking about the level to which the Jiko chefs have elevated this simple meal.

The day does not end until I swing back into the Magic Kingdom, where I’ll enjoy my dessert – the world famous Dole Whip with fresh pineapple spears on the side. Although, with no children tagging along, I’ll have a WHOLE Dole Whip to myself, and I may not have room for the sweet juicy pineapple!

From Mom Erin F.

I’m lucky enough to go on an annual solo vacation to Disney World; I’ve been three times so far, with the fourth trip coming up in January. My dream breakfast is beignets at Port Orleans Resort French Quarter — calories don’t count on vacation! Then it’d be anything hot and fried –- mini donuts at Blizzard Beach, fried dough, etc.

One thing I really enjoyed on my last solo trip was going to the Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge — I got a raspberry mojito and the flatbread from Artist Point.

My dream dinner? Jiko!

From Mom Jennifer W.

If left alone for one day at WDW the choices for incredible food would be endless. It’s funny to think that when I first started going to WDW I thought the only meals available were character meals! However, over the years I have learned that there is so much more!

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

But with that said, I honestly think I would start my day at one of my favorite breakfast spots … the Crystal Palace at the MK. It just does not get any better than biscuits and gravy, potatoes, eggs, and sausage, and of course if there is room, how can one resist the Mickey Mouse waffles?

I would then need to walk some distance before enjoying lunch! I think this would be eaten at the Cantina de San Angel in Mexico. Just a quick lunch where I would enjoy a wonderful taco salad and perhaps a tasty margarita as well. And no afternoon at WDW is complete without a Mickey Mouse ice cream. Frozen to perfection, I truly can say I love these.

Okay now dinner? Ohhhh that is so incredibly hard to choose! I think for this particular day I’m going for a fantastic meal at Jiko! On my last visit there, I was amazed by everything I tried. The seafood and steak dishes were by far my favorite. As I walked home completely full and satisfied I think I would call this a great day, but wait – on the way out of the park there are those darn Rice Krispy treats with chocolate on them! Oh well, everyone needs a midnight snack!

From Mom Jodi G.

I’d go with a light breakfast, and then have lunch at the Brown Derby. The grapefruit cake and the Cobb salad are my favorites.

For dinner, I’d just roam around the World Showcase eating the best from each country – crepes, funnel cakes, pretzels… etc.

From Mom Kara B.

After much thought, I decided the California Grill would be a great way to celebrate ME! I could spend as much time as I wanted leisurely enjoying an elegant multi-course meal with no little kids bugging me to eat fast so we can go back to the Magic Kingdom.

Goodies at the Wishes Dessert Party

Goodies at the Wishes Dessert Party

The views there are worth a million bucks, so I’d have to have a window seat so I could soak in all beauty of the Seven Seas Lagoon and its surroundings, especially the Magic Kingdom. And then there is the outdoor balcony areas, which before the fireworks are so wonderfully peaceful looking out at the entire WDW resort area; a true moment of zen to gather one’s thoughts and think of all the good in the world.

I also have to admit I was tempted to put down the Wishes Dessert Buffet, which I have yet to try. I think it would be a great way to socialize and meet people, indulge on sweets, and catch a premium seat to watch Wishes.

PS: I’d also love to have room service in Cinderella’s Castle Suite.

From Mom Joanne M.

Oooh, fun question. I would head to (or hopefully I’m already staying there) Stormalong Bay at the Beach and Yacht Club and start with a delicious cocktail at the poolside bar. Then I would head over to the Flying Fish on the Boardwalk. I have to be honest and tell you it’s not because it has my favourite dish, but because we had to cancel our August reservation because my daughter was sick. It’s long been on my list to try, and I would love to enjoy it at a relaxed pace.

From Mom Heather R.

Alone – I can’t even imagine it!

I’m not generally a big breakfast gal, so anywhere I could grab a decent cup of coffee an everything bagel with smoked salmon would make me happy. I used to say Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios, but unfortunately the last time I was there the lox was no longer an option.

The Famous Flying Fish at Flying Fish Cafe

The Famous Flying Fish at Flying Fish Cafe

For lunch, a bowl of clam chowder at Columbia Harbor House always makes me happy.

Dinner is always my biggest meal of the day, and what a tough decision! I think I’ll go with the Flying Fish, a perrennial favorite. I’d start with the Chardonnay-steamed Maine Coast Blue Hill Bay Mussels. Although I’m not always a huge fennel fan, these are delicious. Strange as it sounds at a seafood restaurant, the Char Crusted New York Strip Steak there is fantastic and in my opinion, among ofthe best steaks to be had in Disney.

I don’t usually indulge in sweets, but if I were to make an exception, the beignets at Port Orleans are really yummy.

And a drink/treat? Definitely a Grey Goose Slush from Epcot.

Gosh, I just realized I’ve spent my whole hypothetical day running back and forth to different eateries! Now that really IS blissful!

From Mom Whitney P.

I’m always on a quest to try something new when I’m at Disney, rather than visiting old haunts, so I’d probably make a bee-line to the new Kouzzina, showplace of fellow Mississippian Cat Cora.

The Birth of a Dole Whip Float

The Birth of a Dole Whip Float

Even though I’m not much for eating table service alone (although some of my fellow Disney Panel Moms–and Dads–do), I’d have to make an exception for this restaurant. I love to make meals out of an array of appetizers, so I’d probably order her Kouzzina spreads of Chickpea Hummus, Kalamata Fig, and Harissa Yogurt along with the Spanakopita! (And that’s what I’m planning on doing when I go with my family in October!)

My favorite drink? Hands down Disney’s Pina Colava, a raspberry sauce-laced pina colada. It’s a given when I’m at Brown Derby, but I’ve also enjoyed it at Sanaa and Teppan Edo. It tends to be seasonal, but if it’s not on the menu, I’ll ask anyway!

And no visit to Magic Kingdom would be complete without a Dole Float, a favorite of mine and fellow Disney Mom Margaret.

From Mom Beth C.

I would go during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and sample all of the treats from around the world. I did this last September and really enjoyed myself. I finally had the opportunity to eat at the Tangierine Café in Morocco. I had been wanting to try this restaurant for years but my schedule when touring with my family never worked out. This was the perfect opportunity to try this cafe. The food was delicious and fresh and eating it out side listening to the Moroccan music was a perfect way to enjoy a lunch alone.

From Mom Jo Y.

Well first I’d have to have a funnel cake, we don’t have them here in the UK so I have to have one every single trip. Just plain though, no strawberries or ice-cream.

Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich

Counter Service would have to be Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney; I would order The Full Montagu with beef, turkey, cheese and salad followed by a delicious cupcake.

Whilst in DTD I’d nip over to Goofy’s Candy Company to make my own rice crispy treat. I would cover it in milk chocolate, rolled in choc chips and drizzled in caramel.

Dinner would be at Narcoossee’s, where I’d dine on filet mignon with potato gratin followed by key lime crème brulee. If I still had room after that I’d visit the Magic Kingdom for a pineapple Dole Whip float from Aloha Isle, and then waddle back to my resort!

From Mom Kim L.

I would begin with breakfast at Boma. I’d request a cozy table near the window. Afterwards, I would walk around the resort.

For a mid-day treat, I am heading to the Grand Floridan for afternoon tea in the Garden View Lounge. I would choose strawberries and cream along with lemon pound cake. I highly recommend the Princess Breakfast tea.

My evening would end with a delightful meal at The Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. Dim lighting and delectable food provide a perfect way to wind down.

From Mom Kay B.

If traveling alone I would definitely choose spots that not only have great food but also good entertainment. Top spots that I would head to include 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios, where I would not be able to pass up their pot roast, milk shakes, and s’mores for dessert!

Teppan Edo's Sake-Rita

Teppan Edo's Sake-Rita

There are two EPCOT restaurants I would head to and those are the German Biergarten, where I can get my schnitzel and spaetzle, and of course good beer, while watching the show.

Teppan Edo is my other choice for this park since you can watch dinner being prepared right in front of you. I love all the food, chicken, and steaks and seafood, so anything goes here, but it must be accompanied by one of their specialty “umbrella” drinks to make it complete!

In the Magic Kingdom I would head to Casey’s Corner and enjoy a good dog and fries while watching the people on Main Street and listening to the piano player……all the time hoping the ducks won’t take a nibble out of my leg. :)

Absolute snack musts are a bag of popcorn and a hunk of peanut butter fudge from any of the Disney fudge spots!

From Mom Amber V.

If I had a day at Disney World all alone to enjoy my favorites, I would start with Tonga Toast for breakfast at the Kona Cafe. I would be sure to get all of my favorite snacks — dole whip float, popcorn, and Mickey Bars at some point throughout the day.

My choice for lunch would be something quick like a hot dog at Casey’s or a BLT salad from Columbia Harbor House, because I would want to save room for a fabulous dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant — Jiko. Barbecue chicken flatbread, filet mignon with macaroni and cheese, and the pistachio creme brulee is my idea of the perfect meal to end a fabulous day at Disney!

From Dad Doug I.

I do this often, as work travel and book research trips leave me solo in Orlando.

Nothin' like a little popcorn on a Solo Disney Day

Nothin' like a little popcorn on a Solo Disney Day

Typically I seek out whatever is new, but while I love many of the character meals and some of the ones that involve a show (like 50’s Prime Time or Whispering Canyon Cafe), many are ones where going solo just makes me feel a bit out of place. So some of my favorite solo dining places that I like to frequent include:

Breakfast: Kona Cafe at the Polynesian (Strictly for the Tonga Toast!)
Lunch: Flame Tree BBQ or Tangierine Cafe
Dinner: California Grill
Snack: Popcorn from the carts as you enter the Magic Kingdom. Walt would have wanted it that way!

Dirty Little Confession: While I like all that, I have to confess that I have dined, on more than one occasion, at “Snackapalooza!”. Don’t waste your time searching for it on a park map. I coined this phrase for those times where instead of going to a restaurant, I ‘surf’ the World Showcase promenade, getting a few different nibbles from the national pavilions. I love getting a bite here, a bite there, and sampling cuisines from around the globe!

From Mom Margaret F.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a few solo trips to Disney world, and while I was first worried that I would be lonely or look out of place, I quickly discovered how much I have still missed while rushing after my children on our family trips.

The Porch at Tony's Town Square

The Porch at Tony's Town Square

I love eating at Tony’s Town Square and sitting on the outside porch. In an odd way, with all the crowds passing by, it is remarkably peaceful to me.

While the food is delicious, it is such a great place to watch the excitement and joy of the guests as they first enter Magic Kingdom, or to listen to the recaps of their amazing day as they exit the park. Watching the kids (and mom and dad) jump in glee at the sight of Main Street and Cinderella Castle continues to remind me why I love Disney so much.

One of my favorite treats is to grab a Dole Whip Float and sit on a bench near the Castle hub and watch all of the guests stop for a picture by the Partners statute. As I enjoy the best treat on property, it makes me smile to see so many guests stop and admire Walt and Mickey hand in hand, and hopefully Walt knows how much joy he continues to bring to so many everyday.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”

Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 2: Suggestions from the WDW Moms Panel

Hooray! Our fourth post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! Thanks to all the moms for their fantastic stories, tips, and insights.

Today, this post also serves as Part 2 of our Disney Food Blog Dining in Disney World With Kids series, in which the moms share their top picks for age-appropriate dining experiences. Take it away, Moms!

From Mom Erin F. — Kids’ Ages: 10-13

I’ve got the tweens and young teen segments. The 10-yr-olds love Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s. There are so many choices at the buffets (breakfast pizza is a favorite!).

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

I also enjoy the Grand Floridian tea. So much of the dining at Disney is the experience, not just the food. Part of that experience is allowing kids to learn and experiment in a safe arena. When working in New York City, I was invited to tea at the Waldorf, and I was completely freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. This type of experience can help kids to learn how to handle fine dining situations that they might encounter in the future.

Finally, there are some spots that the kids like, which offer great vegetable options. Garden Grill at Epcot offers fresh veggies from the Land, and Teppan Edo includes veggies mixed into the chicken. So you can get slightly healthier food.

From Mom Amber V. — Kids’ Ages: 0-5

My kids are 4 and 16 months. Obviously we’re in the character dining phase right now, and there are definitely character meals that are better than others! Probably my favorite character breakfast is with Lilo and Stitch at ‘Ohana. I have to say that while I enjoy the wider variety of foods available at a buffet, there is something to be said about the food being delivered to your table. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run up to a buffet to grab something and missed seeing my kids with one of the characters. At ‘Ohana you don’t have to worry about that, and the food that they bring to you is quite good. I’m a big fan of the breakfast potatoes. They are seasoned with just the right amount of salt, and your server will always bring more! We enjoy this breakfast from start to finish – the welcome bread and fresh fruit are a great way to start. Also, Mickey waffles . . . enough said!

Another favorite character meal is the Garden Grill at Epcot. Again, served family style which makes the whole experience so much more relaxing and enjoyable for Mom and Dad! My four year old daughter got a huge kick out of the fact the restaurant slowly rotates and just loved watching the changing view. The food is great and I like how the menu changes based on the season and what types of fresh fish and vegetables are available. They bring out food for the adults and the basic kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and fries for the kids who may not be so adventurous. The Garden Grill is another great meal from start to finish, and currently the only character meal to meet Chip and Dale!

From Mom Anna S. — Kids’ Ages: 4-18

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

I have kids that range in age from 4 through 18, so we have to work with a huge range of tastes and entertainment preferences. My oldest daughter has the most adventurous palate in the group, and at 18, she thinks she’s worldly and sophisticated. She loves places like Sanaa, can’t wait to try Kouzzina (Christmas week, I hope!), and raves about Restaurant Marrakesh.

The two little ones wouldn’t think a trip to Disney World was complete without a visit to Crystal Palace or Chef Mickey’s, but they are old enough now to really enjoy the entertainment at Whispering Canyon Cafe and ‘Ohana. The one place the whole family loves and returns to often is Boma. The kids are comfortable there, they love visiting the savanna before and after dinner, we enjoy the story tellers and the parade in the lobby, and the food is amazing.

From Mom Kara B. — Kids’ Ages: 7-14

We cherished the chance to bring my father with us to 50s Prime Time Cafe. He pretty much sat there talking about the shows he had watched that were on the TV as well as all the little knick knacks and decor he remembered. An absolute nostalgic moment for him.

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

Meanwhile, my kids were, of course, totally absorbed by the TV shows (they are such zombies if anything is playing on a screen) as well as all the antics of the cast members. So much giggling, and I didn’t have to ask them to finish their veggies or keep their elbows off the table! The funniest thing was my son disappeared into the bathroom for a suspiciously long time — he had been washing his hands thoroughly in case they checked beforehand.

Similarly, I think Whispering Canyon Cafe is a hoot! We ate there with my family, my brother’s family, and my parents. Immediately, the cast members placed bandanna hats of various shapes on all of our heads, so we were all laughing at one another (forgetting we each had hats). Then all of those mischievous antics of the cast members; we all laughed and laughed and laughed. The kids all enjoyed the pony races, too. And I come a family of huge carnivores (I’m constantly mocked, sadly, since I prefer soybean curd), so the endless platters of meat were perfect for them.

From Mom Joanne M. — Daughter’s Age: 9

There are really too many, so here are my nine year old’s current faves. Last month we visited the 50’s Prime Time Cafe for the first time, and she still hasn’t stopped talking about it. The decor is totally cool, with old fashioned TVs and furnishings. The service totally makes the experience! You really do feel like you’re in your granny’s kitchen, and the best part was when the server fed Nicole her veggies.

Whispering Canyon Cafe has been our must do for the past several years and remains in my daughter’s top two! The food is consistently good, but we go back for the activities, antics and excitement. Be forewarned, it’s LOUD! But guests of all ages get up and dance the hokey pokey, sing happy birthday to fellow diners, and participate in wooden horse races through the restaurant. No matter what you order, be sure to ask for ketchup!

From Mom Whitney P. — Kids’ Ages: 4-13

Because we have four children, from age four to 13, three girls and a boy, I am always on the hunt for restaurants with BROAD appeal both on the menu and in the experience. ‘Ohana’s all-you-can-eat fare fills up my growing 9- and 12-year-old boys, and is varied enough for my picky 4-year-old.

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

The coconut races and limbo are fun for everyone, even hula lessons for my teenager girl. If you’re not able to time your reservation just right to watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the restaurant while they pipe in the accompanying music, you can always head down to the Polynesian’s beach for the view!

Biergarten has become a perennial favorite because my kids love the buffet that’s heavy on meat and potatoes fare with familiar flavors. It’s the floor show that can get folks out of their seats, though, especially for the Chicken Dance!

If I could add a third, it would be Teppan Edo. The chefs do a fantastic job of slicing and dicing as entertainment, and with grilled chicken, meat, or seafood on the menu, there’s something for everyone.

From Mom Jo Y. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

My girls are aged 11 and 13 and every trip they request the same 2 restaurants. Their favourite character spot is the Crystal Palace as they both adore the Winnie the Pooh characters. They also love all the food on offer; the choice is huge so everyone will be able to find something they like.

For fine dining they love Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian; they enjoy the fact that it’s a more grown up restaurant and it serves “posh” food. They also like a reason to dress up!

From Mom Kim L. — Son’s Age: 9

I went straight to my 9 year old to answer this question. My son says his two top picks are Chef Mickey’s and San Angel Inn. Chef Mickey’s is a hit because it’s fun with the characters and your family can ride the monorail after dinner. San Angel Inn is a top choice because if you request a water table, then your child is entertained by waving at people as the boats float by.

From Mom Kay B. — Kids’ Ages: Adult; Grandkids’ Ages: Toddler

First I will speak about my grandkids (toddler age): The top restaurant experience for this age is Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue in Fort Wilderness. Toddlers are hard to keep in their seats and here is a great spot where you can get them to eat some good food (same as you would get at the Hoop De Doo Revue) and where they can dance their evening away with the characters and the live country music band. This is the best up close and personal character opportunity as well, since they can choose the character to dance with and be with him/her for as long as they want. There are always a couple of characters who stand quietly off to the side for those who are more shy. Parents can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or beer while their kids are happy and letting loose all their energy so they can go home and sleep well!

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Second choice is the Chef Mickey character dining at the Contemporary resort. This is just a great place to see all the major known Disney characters all at once, and the food buffet is outstanding. You will often see more adults taking food from the “kids” section, and I will admit I have snagged some of the great mac and cheese myself. The dessert choices are wonderful, and the kids love making their sundaes topped with all kinds of unhealthy things!

Now for my kids’ age (young adults): My children have always enjoyed the opportunity to get dressed up and head out for some special dining experiences, so Victoria and Alberts is a top choice for this and especially the Chef’s Table opportunity. But for families watching their budgets this spot becomes more exclusive. So the other choices would be Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian, as their menu is sophisticated but still in touch with a young palate. It is off the beaten path for many guests and can tend to be a little more quiet then some of the other restaurants.

For entertainment purposes I have two second choices and those would be 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios and the Hoop De Doo Revue in Fort Wilderness. Primetime is a classic spot to remind your teens or young adults of their often forgotten table manners. They soon realize if they don’t heed your advice they could be singing “I’m a Little Teapot” to all the other guests and making that a stepping stone for their next Idol audition! Hoop De Doo Revue is just a fun and rowdy place for all ages to let down and get into the moment. If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a participating part in the show it is even more fun. Young adults can enjoy humor too!

From Dad Doug I. — 2 Princesses (not sure of the ages, Doug!)

The first is Chef Mickey’s. It has some of the best buffet-line foods, and the setting and character experience are ideal for younger children. The second is 50’s Prime Time Cafe. I think that the kids enjoy a bit of sassy fun, and the food is always great.

From Mom Heather R. — Kids’ Ages: 2-6

My daughters are younger — 6.5, 4, and 2.5 — so character meals and buffets are perfect for them right now. One of our favorites is the Play and Dine at Hollywood & Vine character meal in Hollywood Studios. It’s a buffet, so the kids can dig in immediately, which at this age is often very important so they don’t get restless waiting for food to arrive.

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Breakfast there is good, but we prefer lunch. There are a wide variety of dishes to choose from (my girls adore the seafood pasta) and Jo-Jo, Goliath, Leo, and June (Little Einsteins) keep the kids entertained. The children are periodically invited up front to sing and dance along with their favorite characters, which is fun for the kids and gives mom and dad a chance to eat un-interrupted, if only for a moment. The only downside to this restaurant is that it shares restrooms with the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, and there is always quite a wait. I’d recommend taking your children for a potty break in the park just before you have your meal.

A fun, non-character meal for kids is dinner at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian resort. While not a buffet, the food is served family style so it arrives quickly, and service is always very attentive. You’ll also find a strolling ukulele player, leis for the kids, and fun games like coconut races and hula hoop contests to keep little ones entertained.

From Mom Jodi G. — Kids’ Ages: 3-5

My kids are age 3 and 5, and I recommend ‘Ohana (for breakfast) and the Garden Grill (for dinner) for families like mine.

From Mom Beth C. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge is one of my family’s favorite restaurants! This little restaurant tucked in the Wilderness Lodge has a simple, down home menu. Ribs, chicken, and pork chops are done with a northwestern flair. They have amazing all you can drink milkshakes. However, the fun at this restaurant is why we make it a regular on our trips! The jokes, the pony races and ketchup – trust me to ask for ketchup – make this a fun place to dine! You can be loud and get a great meal. It is near the Magic Kingdom via a short boat ride, and the Wilderness Lodge is a beautiful hotel. After a day in the park, it is nice to go somewhere else to eat. You can then go back to the park or head home for the evening.

California Grill Sunset

California Grill Sunset

Also, when my family goes on vacation, we like to treat ourselves. We do things that we would not do at home. It is also an opportunity to get dressed up and eat at fancy restaurants. While we live just outside Manhattan and have amazing restaurants near home, it is not something we do except on vacation. My husband, Jim, and I really believe that our girls will never know how to appreciate fine dining if they do not experience it. With this in mind, I would recommend the California Grill. We first visited this restaurant alone and then again when Jess and Nicole were three and five. We rediscovered it last year when we were looking for a special night out. The food is always different and seasonal – pumpkin raviolis are yummy in the fall. You can see the chefs preparing the food, which I think helps children appreciate the hard work that goes into the meal. The pastry chef even explained his dishes to my girls. The atomosphere is great, especially if you have an Advance Dining Reservation which overlaps the fireworks. Watching the fireworks from the top of the Contemporary is so cool. My husband’s only disappointment is that they no longer make the most amazing lemon chiffon souffle!

From Mom Margaret F. — Kids’ Ages: 6-12

Our top two locations to dine with our children are easily:
1. Chef Mickey’s: what could be better than dining with the big cheese himself? The location is fun and lively with the open area to the Contemporary resort and the monorail zipping though, it just has such a fun happy feeling to it. Of course the added bonus of Mickey and his pals can’t be beat, and my kids love the “dance parties” throughout the restaurant. There is a great selection of salads, fruits, vegetables, meats, and desserts, so even the pickiest eater should be able to find something to fill their stomachs. This is a great location to celebrate a birthday with the children and just enjoy the magic of Disney.

Teppan Edo Chef

Teppan Edo Chef

2. Coral Reef (and a close second Teppan Edo): While both of these locations may seem like they are better suited to an adult guest, they are very kid friendly. There are delicious choices on the kids menu, and personally my husband and I never have a problem finding an entree here. These two spots are all about the setting for our family. There is a great entertainment value here and my boys have always been mesmerized by the scenery and the “show”. Coral Reef offers an amazing view of the floor to ceiling aquarium that runs the entire length of the restaurant. My kids love watching all of the fish, sharks, and turtles (with an occasional scuba diver) swim by. It is like a science class while we eat. Teppan Edo offers a table side show performed by the very talented and entertaining chefs. The boys love watching them chop, dice, and grill our meal right before out eyes. At both locations there is never a cry of “How much longer”, or “I’m bored,” and that is priceless to us.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews! Be sure to check out the first post in this series if you missed it: Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 1.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 11, 2009

Hi all! The top story in Disney dining this week is that Disney World is trying out a new seating system at four Magic Kingdom counter-service restaurants.

Disney has been restricting seating to groups who have already received their food, hoping to cut down on the amount of people “saving tables” while the rest of their group is still ordering food. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. In the meantime, Robert Niles at Theme Park Insider has discussed the issue in his blog post: Pecos Bill and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

But while that debate rages on, there’s still plenty of other great Disney food writing going on. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival continues, brand new hotels have opened (which means brand new eating establishments!), there’s a new food spot for the Alaska cruises, and more! Here we go!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival News
Attractions Magazine takes a look at Epcot’s Party for the Senses, including photos and a video! Haven’t had enough? Laughing Place adds their Party for the Senses photos as well! This is one event I would LOVE to attend someday.

Etckt stopped by the Food and Wine Festival to sample some dishes from the International Marketplaces. He’s an incredible photographer, so be sure to check this one out!

And the Disney Parks Blog posted some great videos and recipes from celebrity chef team The Deen Brothers and Food Network’s Dinner Impossible Chef Robert Irvine. The blog also posted their highlights from the Wine chat with Gary Vaynerchuk.

Other Disney Dining News and Web Posts
Orlando Sentinel’s The Dish columnist Heather Mcpherson reports on honors received by Central Florida’s authentic Mexican restaurants, including two in Disney World!

Disney and More reports and comments on an expansion at the Last Chance Cafe in Disneyland Paris’ Frontierland.

Mouseplanet contributor Chris Barry discusses his Top Five Dining Moments in Disney World.

Main Street Gazette highlights some great themeing by Magic Kingdom imagineers via the Popcorn Kiosks in the park.

Scott Joseph Orlando gives us a first look at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando bars and restaurants.

Stuff From the Park shares a Golden Horseshoe menu circa the late 1970’s — back when there were waiters here! Hmm… that’s the first time I’ve seen Pepsi listed on a Disney Park menu…

Stitch Kingdom shares some photos of the construction of the Outlook Cafe on the Disney Wonder. The Cafe is being built in preparation for the upcoming Alaska cruises.

Thanks for all the great dining news and updates this week, all! We’re grateful for all the great writing you do!

WDW Moms Panelists Consider: What Are Some Underrated Disney World Restaurants?

Here’s our third post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! You’ve met some of the moms and heard about their most magical Disney dining moments and their thoughts about the best dining values in Disney World. Today we get to hear what restaurants the moms think might not grab the spotlight as much as they should…

From Mom Erin F.

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave – really nice stuff and good wine flights. Good tasting desserts, and they have really lovely food.

Another one that I tried – Raglan Road – had really delicious food. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the food on the plate (I had shepherd’s pie). The Strawberry Salad was poppin’ in your mouth delicious. If they can make a basic green salad so tasty, they’ve got something good going on.

From Mom Amber V.

The two places that come to mind are the Grand Floridian Cafe and Maya Grill. I think they both get lost in the shuffle, especially if you aren’t staying at the Grand Floridian or Coronado Springs. When we ate at Maya Grill, we were able to walk up and get a table without an ADR, which was a surprise. We found the menu, service and atmosphere to be really wonderful. The Grand Floridian Cafe is a great choice for a refreshing, light lunch and is also a nice respite from the parks.

From Mom Anna S.

It seems to me that the one restaurant I can ALWAYS get a reservation for is Restaurant Marrakesh at EPCOT, and I love it there. We have had some of the best, most attentive servers of our Disney dining experiences there, and there is never the feeling that you are being rushed so they can turn the tables over. The kids enjoy the music and dancing, and the food is delicious. We eat here at least every other visit.

From Mom Jennifer W.

Flying Fish Cafe! I rarely hear anyone talking about makings ADRs here, and it is one of the best restaurants at WDW! It is a bit on the pricey side but worth every dime. The chef will even come to your table to personally discuss your order if you like. The atmosphere is a calming change from the hustle and bustle of many restaurants and the food is top notch. I highly recommend The Flying Fish to all my friends who are looking for something different at WDW.

From Mom Kara B.

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Disney provides a chance to experience something new and exciting around every corner, so often for us a magical Disney experience may be more about the experience rather than the actual food. For example, Sci-Fi is an absolute must see for us every trip, regardless of the constant criticism regarding the food. Stick with hamburgers and milkshakes and all is good (I’ll gladly share that their tofu entree is de-lic-ious!). However for us, it is clearly the atmosphere that makes this restaurant a must-do. In the middle of a hot trip (we visit in June), escaping into the cool “night” air is so relaxing. The kids sit in the front seat; my husband and I sit in the back. We feel like we are on a date because the kids are shockingly silent watching those campy movies. In fact, the entire restaurant is eerily quiet. Again, total relaxation. And of course, we all get those silly drinks with light-up ice cubes and use them at home for a fun souvenir.

From Mom Joanne M.

1. Fulton’s Crab House, Downtown Disney. Awesome view, fantastic food, and great selection. We love going there for lunch before heading to DisneyQuest. It’s not on the Disney Dining Plan, so we’ve never had a problem getting a table.

2. Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. The food is great, and where else can you simply turn your head and watch Wishes?

3. Kona Cafe – I have to say I’m not sure that this one is underrated, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the dining experience I have to mention it. The service was fabulous and attentive, menu varied, and great food! And the Kona Kone is the coolest dessert on Disney property!

From Mom Heather R.

In the Magic Kingdom I think the Plaza Restaurant is a real hidden gem. The location is quite convenient, and while the menu is somewhat limited, the food is excellent and the portions are quite large. My Chicken Strawberry Salad was not only delicious, but HUGE – easily shared between two people.

At the Fort Wilderness Resort, the Trail’s End Restaurant serves up home cooking style food at a very reasonable price, and since it’s a buffet (and a reasonably priced one at that!) it offers a good bang for your buck.

The Grand Floridian Cafe (guess where?) is also a real hidden gem. I can’t recommend any one particular standout menu item, but I know that every meal I’ve had there has been very good, service was attentive, and I leave intending to visit again. In a way I like it when that happens, because if I eat somewhere and have a particularly fantastic dish, I’m very likely to never try anything else! It’s good to branch out. :)

From Mom Whitney P.

Where do I begin? The Boardwalk Pizza take-out window is one of the best values, with a pepperoni pizza slice at $3.99! Its crust is like no other pizza on property! My indulgence is opening packet after packet of parmesan cheese and topping it off. I like to eat it outside at one of the nearby tables and people-watch. That, with a view of the water, is a great dining experience whether you’re alone or with your family.

If you’re looking for night-life, I recommend Kimono’s at the Swan. I’m a fan of karaoke and can sing with the best of them–from the comfort of my seat! It has the most extensive sushi menu on property, in my opinion, and if no one has the guts to get on the small stage and belt something out, you can sing along with the evening’s hostess.

From Mom Jo Y.

My family love Kona Cafe at the Poly, last trip I had the most delicious steak there, I much preferred it to Le Cellier and recommend it to everyone. I love how they have sample desserts on show as you enter the restaurant and if you time it right you can wander down to the beach afterwards to watch Wishes!

From Mom Kim L.

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

My family loves to eat at the Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when we are looking for a counter service meal. There’s always a quiet corner with fascinating props to view.

Also, Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West serves wonderful dishes in a relaxing atmosphere. This is a hidden gem.

From Mom Kay B.

I think one of the most underrated food spots is Citricos. This is an unbelievable restaurant that is constantly being overshadowed by Victoria and Alberts at the Grand Floridian. It is family friendly yet can still be a romantic spot with a table in the inner room by the windows. The food is excellent from appetizers through desserts and the service has always been outstanding. They also have a nice wine room that can be reserved for a little more intimate dinner opportunity.

Another table service restaurant that is often forgotten and shouldn’t be is Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. This is another outstanding location for food, service and ambiance.

In the counter service category I would say that Flametree in the Animal Kingdom park is not remembered and this is the one place we will go and not try to get dining reservations because we would all rather just eat at this counter service location. The barbecue is excellent, served in large portions, and then the area to sit in is quiet and relaxing. We take the path down to the lake and sit under the cool trees to catch a breeze on a hot day.

From Dad Doug I.

I think that Biergarten does not get it’s due as a fun dinner venue. While I can think of a few German classics that should be added to the menu, the buffet combines a lot of great choices, as well as some americanized selections for choosy kids. And the entertainment value is a nice plus. Finally, I love that you can meet people in their long table seating arrangements.

I also like San Angel Inn more than most. Having grown up in Mexico City, I think that some of the selections there are more authentic Mexican than you can typically find in the U.S., but it seems to get panned for cuisine, often by guests looking for more Tex-Mex style choices (which I love too!).

From Mom Jodi G.

I think sometimes the resort restaurants are overlooked, and the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge are top-notch.  Jiko, in particular, is my favorite restaurant on property.

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

From Mom Beth C.

The Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom is a great spot to grab a treat. They have homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. You can watch them bake the cookies right there! Sleepy Hollow is located right over the bridge as you cross into Liberty Square. It is a great place to get a snack before the parade or fireworks or if you are walking to the other attractions in this area.

From Mom Margaret F.

One location that our family really loves and I think misses some of the spotlight is Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios. While it is often crowded, I think it often does not get the attention it deserves. We love the feel of the restaurant, with the warehouse setting and open kitchen. It is very family friendly and comfortable. The menu slection is top notch. The flatbread choices are delicious, and the bruschetta is superb. The pasta choices have a perfect blend of herbs and spices. My favorite here is the sirloin with grilled asparagus and red wine sauce. Mouth-watering for sure!

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 4th, 2009

Eat here
I hope you’re staying up to date on the goings-on at the 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on our index page! This week, we looked at the newest booths — Rio and Bangkok, the Taste of Puglia Seminars, and the Pruem Wine-Tasting Seminar.

But while I’ve been covering the Festival, there have been some other great food posts from around the globe. Check out these great sites and their “tasty” posts!

The Daily Mickey takes a look at Quick Service Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.

Orange County Register reports that a new bar is opening in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney. Stop by for a Margarita!

The Disney Chick has compiled her list of tested Disney recipes, including Princess Cake from Akershus and Dulce de Leche.

All Ears’ Jack Spence reviews Epcot’s Bistro de Paris and includes some wonderful photographs!

DF ’82 discusses Au Chalet de la Marionette in Disneyland Parc, Paris.

The Daily Loaf gives some basics on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

The W.E.D. Page steps back in time to review the Diamond Horseshoe Revue.

Main Street Gazette analyzes the lives and times of the Dinoland USA students based on their treatment of Restaurantosaurus.

Finally, join Lou Mongello as he interviews Gary Vaynerchuk from WineLibrary.tv at Epcot’s World Showcase.

Interview: National Pie Champion and Orlando Chef, Dawn Viola

I’m thrilled to be able to write up a quick profile and interview of Dawn Viola, a first place winner at the 2009 Crisco National Pie Championships and a past volunteer sous chef at Disney World’s Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses!

Dawn's 1st Place Apple Pie

Dawn's 1st Place Apple Pie

A nationally recognized artist, competitive cook, and food writer from Central Florida, Dawn has worked in the design and marketing industry as a creative director and copywriter for 18 years. In addition to food writing and recipe development, Dawn is a marketing manager with The Walt Disney Company, where she produces mini documentaries on how Disney runs its business.

Dawn’s work has been featured in Bride’s Magazine, The Knot, Weddingbells, The Wall Street Journal, and the Orlando Sentinel. She has also been featured on Orlando’s Mix 105.1 Scott and Erica Show and Martha Stewart Radio.

Pies and Parties
As a competitive cook, Dawn was recently awarded first place in the 2009 Crisco National Pie Championships, Apple category – Professional Division, for her Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie recipe. The competition aired in early September on Food Network as part of the Food Network Challenge series. To read more of Dawn’s thoughts and ideas, check out her blog, Wicked Good Dinner.

DisneyFoodBlog: How many versions of the Apple pie recipe did you try before landing on the winning version?
Dawn Viola: The pie crust was the first part of the recipe I developed, and the most challenging part of the development. About two years ago I discovered I had a food allergy to soy that prevented me from using vegetable shortening. This lead me on the path of creating an all-butter pie dough. Test after test, I failed to duplicate the flaky texture I was able to achieve with shortening, until I started incorporating an acid into the dough mixture. I think I made a pie about once a month for two years until I was happy with the texture of the dough. All of my hard work paid off at the Pie Championships!

DFB: What are the ingredients/techniques that made yours different from the other entrants’ recipes?
DV: I make my own butter from local cream. European style butter is listed in the recipe, which is the closest texture to making it yourself. My dough is slightly sweeter than most – somewhere between a pate brisee and pate sucre dough. I add vanilla bean and vanilla powder to the dough, and vanilla bean to the apples. I broil the apples with a little bit of sugar, which adds another dimension of flavor to the filling. The dough also contains an acid in the form of apple cider vinegar. Any acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, or even vodka, will help to shorten the gluten strands during the mixing process and contribute to the flaky texture.

The other secret to flaky dough is the mixing process when cutting in the butter. It’s imperative that the ingredients stay cold to keep the butter cold and solid. The cold butter should be in chunks varying in size from a nickel to a dime.

DFB: Have you entered the contest before? What prompted you to enter this year?
DV:This was my first year entering, but I had been preparing for an entire year. I didn’t feel my dough was ready in 2008, so I continued to test and entered the recipe in 2009.

DFB: Was it difficult to prepare and bake the pie with all of the cameras and commotion, or was the set relatively quiet during baking?
DV: It wasn’t difficult to cook with the cameras there – the crew stayed on the other side of our work tables so we had a bit of breathing room. The challenging part was trying to smile, cook and talk at the same time, explainig what you were cooking to the cameras. It’s not as easy as it looks. Everyone was completely focused, so there wasn’t much noise or talking going on unless we were talking to the camera.

DFB: Would you recommend this competition to other amateur and professional bakers? Why?
DV: If you love to bake, this competition is highly recommended. It’s well organized and so much fun. There is a friendly competition among entrants, which keeps everyone on their toes, but there is also a lot of camaraderie and support. Many of us have become good friends and keep in touch through Facebook and email.

DFB: How early in advance do you suggest working on a recipe for the competition?
DV: It’s never too early to start testing recipes, but it should always be fun, and never a chore. And you’ll be surprised at how many “taste testers” step forward when they hear you’re testing pie recipes!

DFB: What lessons were you able to take away from the competition?
DV: It’s impossible to guess what the judges will enjoy and mark with high accolades. I talked with a lot of bakers who were extremely disappointed because they created recipes specifically for the competition, with the intent to win. Bake for the joy of baking, bake for yourself, not just for the judges, and you’ll never be disappointed.

DFB: Now on to Disney food! When have you had the opportunity to volunteer at the Party for the Senses and other Disney events?
DV: As a Disney Cast Member, I have volunteered with the catering and events team during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival for the past two years.

DFB: What was the experience like?
DV: Volunteering has been a wonderful experience, and an exciting opportunity to meet Disney’s world-renowned chefs and connect with visiting top chefs from around the world. Last year I had the privilege of meeting Daniel Boulud, Patrick O’Connell, and Paul Bocuse during the Bocuse d’Or competition — an experience I’ll never forget.

American Pie CouncilFinally…The Recipe
Many thanks to Dawn Viola for sharing some of her insights into her volunteer work and competitive baking experience! If you’d like to compete in next year’s National Pie Championship (which takes place April 23-25, 2010, in Orlando, FL!), check out this information on the American Pie Council website. And if you’d like to try your hand at Dawn’s award-winning Vanilla – Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie, here’s the recipe!:

Dawn Viola's Apple Pie, Step by Step Photos

Dawn Viola's Apple Pie, Step by Step Photos

Ingredients:
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups Organic all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting/rolling
2 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Vanilla powder
3 tablespoons Organic sugar
1 Vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 1/2 sticks unsalted Danish butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tablespoon White vinegar, chilled
6 – 8 tablespoons Ice water

For the filling:
4 tablespoons Danish butter
12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced in large chunks
1 Vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
1 cup Organic sugar
4 tablespoons Organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Apple cider
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon of cream
Coarse sugar

Directions:
Measure out all ingredients and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Place the food processor blade and bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Make the dough:
Place the food processor bowl back on the motor with the blade, as directed by the manufacturer. Combine flour, salt, vanilla powder, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in the food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter cubes and pulse 10 times, or until the mixture begins to resemble coarse meal with pea-sized pieces.

Add the vinegar and pulse to mix. Add one tablespoon of water at a time, pulsing to incorporate, until the mixture begins to clump together. Pinch some of the dough in your hand. If it sticks together, the dough is ready. If the dough does not stick to itself, add another tablespoon of water, pulse, and pinch the dough together again. Repeat until the dough holds together without being overly wet. Dough should be slightly crumbly, but hold together when pinched.

Remove dough from the food processor and transfer to a work surface. Divide the dough into two equal parts and gently shape into two flat round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare the apples:
Preheat the broiler. Add apples, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the sugar to a roasting pan; toss apples to coat. Broil until the tops of the apples begin to brown. Apples can burn easily under the broiler, so don’t walk too far away. Toss apples as soon as you notice browning. Once apples are caramelized (but not cooked through), remove from heat and add the remaining sugar, the flour, vanilla extract and salt.
Add the apple cider and cream, stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning – add additional salt, sugar, vanilla or cinnamon to taste.

Finish the pie:
Place a 9” pie plate into the freezer. Remove one dough disc from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 – 10 minutes, or just long enough for it to become easy to roll, but still chilled. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out to a 12” circle. Place in the bottom of the chilled 9” pie plate. Return to the refrigerator to chill. Remove after 5 minutes and add apples.

Remove second dough disc and roll out to a 12” circle on a lightly floured surface. Place on top of the apples and pinch the top and bottom dough edges together to enclose the apples. Add decorative edge if desired, and slice 1” air vents around the top of the pie.

Make the egg wash:
Beat the egg in a small dish and mix in cream. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of the pie and along the edges. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake:
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Cover edges with aluminum foil if browning too quickly. Turn the pie in the oven, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook for 7 minutes, as needed, until the crust is golden brown and flakey.

Cool:
Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least two hours before cutting and serving

Moms Panel Magical Memories, or “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul”

For this first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series, I wanted to introduce the panelists to you in a really fun way — storytelling. I asked the moms about their most magical dining memories at Disney World and got some heartwarming, funny, and informative responses (who knew you could rent out Beaches and Cream?!). I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did; maybe they’ll even give you some great ideas about things to try next time you’re at Disney World! And be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of the Moms Panel Mini-Series, coming up later this week on the Food Blog!

In the meantime, if you’ve got a great Disney dining memory to share, please send it my way via the “Contact Me” button above. Once I have a good collection, I’ll post “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul, Part II!”

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

From Mom Kara B. (Thanks to Kara B. for sending the great photos as well!)

Last year, my middle son was to come with me to WDW for the Toy Story Mania opening for his birthday, but 2 days before going he came down with the chicken pox (seriously, who gets that anymore — especially having had the vaccine?). Fortunately, we were returning as a family within a month, so we decided to go to town celebrating his birthday and these have become the most amazing memories for us. First, at the Coral Reef Restaurant, which I think is one of the prettiest restaurants at WDW, I had arranged for a diver to come down with a happy birthday sign. He was absolutely taken by surprise; I never saw him with such a big smile. We also had a specialized cake made for him; it was pure Disney magic. It had Chicken Little on it with the message “Good Bye Chicken Pox, Happy Birthday Mark.”

Similarly, at Whispering Canyon Cafe, the cast member had all the girls under 14 come up and sing Happy Birthday to him. He was mortified, but there was a little smile on the inside I’m sure to have been treated like such a prince.

From Mom Anna S.

We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, new teeth, new shoes – just about everything happy at Walt Disney World restaurants, but I have to tell you, the most magical Disney dining memory is the one I share with the other members of the 2009 Moms Panel. On one of our nights at training, the whole group went to Jiko. We had gotten comfortable with each other pretty quickly, so by the time our dinner at Jiko rolled around, we were feeling like best friends. The meal was phenomenal, the wine was outstanding, but as the realization of the amount of Disney “magic” that had been sprinkled on all of us started to set in, the feelings that came over me surprised me! It was like old friends, sharing sips of drinks and tastes of food, talking about our kids, our vacations, our jobs and things at home. You know the feeling you get on a cold winter’s night, when you come in from a long day, slip into your flannel jammies – you know, the plaid ones with Mickey on the pocket? – wrap yourself up in your fuzzy bathrobe (or your Snuggi, if you’re so inclined), toast your toes in a pair of the ugly crocheted slippers your grandmom made for you, and enjoy a steaming hot cup of cocoa with your feet up in front of the fire place? THAT’S the magical feeling that came over me that night at Jiko. I will never forget it.

From Mom Amber V.

My favorite Disney dining memory was during my daughter’s first trip. We had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and she was wide eyed and in awe. She was dressed up in her own Cinderella gown and so proud to have her very own wand and wishing star. The pictures we have of her sitting in the castle during that meal are some of the best of our vacation. While the food was good – we have certainly had better meals at Disney, but it was the experience and atmosphere that makes it such a fond memory for me. When we got home, eating in the castle was the thing that stood out most for our daughter from her first trip and for that reason I will always consider it an absolutely magical meal.

From Mom Joanne M.

My then six year-old daughter, Nicole, and I were having our first breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort. The food was delicious, and Alice and the Mad Hatter laughed, danced and joked with Nicole. When Pooh Bear came by, she was struggling to drink her milk. Well, maybe it was actually me who was struggling to get her to drink her milk. Well Pooh stayed with her until she drank every drop, which took at least five minutes. You could see the handlers were eager for Pooh to move on, but he wouldn’t move. It has since become one her favourite character dining experiences that we visit each vacation!

From Mom Heather R.

This is a really hard question to answer, as I’ve been WOWed by Disney dining too many times to count. One such occasion was last summer, when we were visiting with my sister and her family. We elected to have dinner at the Cape May clambake on the evening of my birthday, and as usual it was a delicious meal for a seafood lover such as myself. What really kicked it up a notch were the special arrangements my sister had made with the restaurant to pixie dust my evening. A lovely (and quite large) tray of specialty desserts was brought to the table, complete with personalization and a very pixie-dusted special delivery. (I can’t imagine what the accompanying price tag for her might have been – ouch!) I definitely felt like a princess.

From Mom Whitney P.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue with our extended family of 19: Have you ever spent a lot of money on a meal or a concert and afterward thought to yourself, ‘Boy, it wasn’t worth it.’ ? Well, I’ve never had that thought when looking back fondly on this meal. My husband’s boss recommended we go there and hopes were high. I had encouraged the entire family to spend two of their dining plan credits (and therefore, skipping a meal elsewhere in the week), so the pressure was on. We had the latest 9:15 p.m. seating, and our lot was hungry. But the night went off without a hitch. From the cheerful servers to the finger-licking fare, our meal was a delight. And the show, filled with lots of chuckles, didn’t disappoint. Thankfully during the entertainment, I sat for a moment and just looked at everyone at our two adjoining tables, and savored the moment. All the family–from my then-two-year-old on up to the grandparents–all had smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves. It’s like a mental snapshot for me to look back on happily. The cherry on top is hearing my brother- and sister-in-laws still talk about it and wanting to plan our next reunion trip.

Also, one thing you may not know about me and my family is that we often camp when we go to Disney, and we look fondly at Fort Wilderness as our home away from home…. Some folks don’t like to cook when they are on vacation, me included, but cooking takes on a new meaning when we camp at Disney: My husband takes the kitchen reigns, and I become his sous chef. Last October, we camped at the fort and found that two families of friends would be at Disney the same week. We invited them for dinner at the camper and then afterward to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire singalong. Taco Soup with all the trimmings was served one night and grilled brats the next, followed by our dessert specialty, fried oreos. What made both nights memorable was our introduction of both families to a slower pace at Disney, unknown to many, where you can retreat to the fort while being just a few hundred yards from seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks!

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

From Mom Jo Y.

Unfortunately they don’t do it anymore but a few years ago my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary whilst in WDW. We dined at Coral Reef and I surprised him by organising a diver to hold up a banner in the tank wishing us a Happy Anniversary. The diver was fantastic picking up shells and throwing them in the air like confetti and spending time “chatting” with us through the glass, very magical!

From Mom Erin F.

Ours is the iconic family story; it has nothing to do with the food, but instead with the restaurant experience: When oldest daughter was six, we were eating at the Biergarten. She and my husband were fake dancing over by the band, and the MC asked if anyone wanted to lead the band. My daughter sticks her little paw in the air and was chosen out of the group. After a quick chat with the MC, she starts to lead the band and suddenly launches into this whole comedy routine! She was an outgoing kid, but this was our first indication that this was a kid who was a performer! It was a mirror into her soul. People were applauding and laughing, and it was the magical moment of us first seeing who our kid could be. It was a great experience for our family.

From Mom Kay B.

The answer to this is, hands down, Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table. It is an unbelievable experience to be able to sit in the KITCHEN of this great restaurant and not only watch the food being prepared, but also have the chance to talk with all the chefs. It is a small kitchen and to see the group back there working together to make incredible meals is a show in itself. The table setting is beautiful and the service can’t be matched. You experience about 8 courses, during which they serve you their chef choice. If there is a large group, several different choices are served so you can try them all. You can match this with wine servings making this a complete evening. In the past, Mickey and Minnie showed up to say hello, but since they are now at the Contemporary resort you don’t get this treat. You will be given a beautiful red rose when you leave.

I know this is not within everyone’s budget so I’ll also share my son’s and daughter’s thoughts (editor’s note: Kay is the self-professed “grandmom” on the moms panel, and her kids are all grown up now):

Amy says she will never forget her Food and Wine dinner at Citricos during a hurricane watching the wind and rain while eating some of the best food ever! Her second most magical experience was renting out Beaches and Cream at midnight during her wedding week and sharing their “kitchen sinks” with all her wedding party
friends and family.

Rick says his most magical Disney dining memory was enjoying a dinner at California Grill that started with fresh sushi, moving on to the barbecue filet mignon, and finishing with their peanut butter and chocolate souffle (which they don’t have anymore) while watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the background!

From Dad Doug I.

A few days after proposing to my wife (then girlfriend, of course!), we had our first experience dining at the California Grill. Everything combined for a perfect meal. We were given a window seat without asking, overlooking the Magic Kingdom, at twilight. The restaurant was only about 1/4 filled, so it was quiet and we could talk. Well timed, as we were basically planning out our lives together.

Our waiter was a sommelier, and he coached us through a series of wines to match each stage of the meal. He knew when to swing by and recommend something, and when to disappear into the woodwork. The sushi was phenomenal. The pork with polenta was better. We ended our meal with a final glass of wine, catching the fireworks from the outdoor viewing area.

It is, and always will be, our favorite restaurant in the entire world.

From Mom Jodi G.

My most magical Disney dining experience was our first meal as a family at Walt Disney World – breakfast at Akershus. My daughter, then 2, was so wide-eyed and excited. It was so much fun!

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

From Mom Beth C.

I think my most magical Disney dining moment occurred at Whispering Canyon Cafe. I was at Disney World with my family for a trip to watch my daughter Nicole dance in the Magic Kingdom. Besides my immediate family, my parents, mother-in-law, nephew and close friends, whose daughter Brigid happens to be Nicole’s best friend and fellow dancer, had dinner here. Since there were three birthdays in our party, we chose it to be the place to celebrate. The waiter called over all the boys and girls in the restaurant to help Brigid’s siblings, Patrick and Emily, celebrate their birthdays. All the girls lined up in front of Patrick, and all the boys lined up in front of Emily. After we sung “Happy Birthday”, the waiter then instructed the girls to kiss Patrick and the boys to kiss Emily. Well I do not know who was more surprised, the birthday kids or the other children dining that night. I never saw kids move so fast back to their tables and everyone had a great time. Of course, we asked for ketchup, spoons and more soda. But I will save those surprises for your own trip!

From Mom Kim L.

The first Disney restaurant that we ever took my son to was Chef Mickey’s when he was two years old. It was magical to see his eyes light up when Goofy walked by. Goofy was the first character he saw. It’s also where he first met Mickey. Our son danced, waved his napkin and greeted all the characters with a smile. We shared this meal with my son’s grandparents which made for a special family dinner. To this day, when I recall those moments, my heart soars. It is unexplainable because it was pure magic.

From Mom Margaret F.

My husband, sons and I have been enjoying Disney World for many years, but my grandmother has never been. We decided to take her a few years ago for her birthday. The boys selected Crystal Palace as the perfect place to celebrate. We ordered a cake and had asked the hostess if there was anyway we could celebrate with a special touch. Imagine her surprise as Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet showed up at her table with a birthday card and cake. Our wonderful server had the whole section sing Happy Birthday to her and Pooh took her hand and led her around in a “mini birthday parade.” The boys were so excited to see their great grandmother having such a great “birthday party.” The added touches the restaurant put on her birthday made it so magical and it brought tears to my eyes to see her able to share that special day with her great grandsons in our favorite place. She still talks about her special birthday years later.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

Comin’ Right Up!: Dining Tips and Stories From the Disney World Moms Panel

A New Disney Food Blog “Mini-Series!”
I recently had the great luck to interview several Disney World Moms Panelists about their Disney dining experiences and opinions. They shared some fantastic information, and I’m excited to announce that I get to consolidate all that expertise into several blog posts for you!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share several posts that will include tips and stories shared by the Moms Panelists. These will cover a wide range of topics, including suggested restaurants for kids of certain ages, dining alone in Disney World, and Disney World restaurants offering the biggest bang for your buck, among others!

Thanks to all of the moms (and dad) who were so generous with their time and their wonderful stories (and with their patience — I ask a LOT of questions!).

Mickey With Some 2009 Moms Panelists

Mickey With Some 2009 Moms Panelists

But First: Last Chance To Apply for the 2010 Moms Panel Is Sunday, September 20th!
Before I leap into the first topic tomorrow, I’d like to remind everyone that Sunday is the last day to complete your 2010 Moms Panel Application. And, remember, you don’t actually have to be a mom to be on the panel… . If you’re interested in applying, just click on the link and answer three little questions.

To give you a little better feel of what it’s like to be on the panel, I asked two-year Panelist Erin F. about her experience being a “mom.”

“I was always the ‘go-to’ mom in the neighborhood for Disney planning; my husband used to joke that I should do this for a living! The first year I read about the contest, I filled out the application on a whim. It’s been a life-altering experience: going backstage, meeting incredible cast members, and finding friends on the moms panel who will be dear to me for life!”

And here’s a bit of advice from Erin about applying:

“Be yourself, and mention a niche area you know a lot about, such as traveling with food allergies or visiting with grandparents. Make yourself sound unique in some way. If you have writing, marketing, or communication experience –- demonstrate that. And always check spelling, grammar, and word usage.”

For more helpful hints on applying, check out this post with suggestions from other moms panelists. Good luck with your applications, and be sure to visit the Disney Food Blog tomorrow for the first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series where some of the moms share their most magical Disney dining experiences!

See you tomorrow!

(All images and graphics copyright Disney)

Interview: Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon of Raglan Road

Chef Kevin Dundon

Chef Kevin Dundon

Huge thanks to Chef Kevin Dundon, TV celebrity chef, restaurateur, and Master Chef of Downtown Disney’s Raglan Road, for taking the time to answer a few questions from the DisneyFoodBlog (especially the one about his 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival appearance this October)!

Be sure to stick around post-interview for an information collage about Chef Dundon’s varied career (he’s a young guy, but he’s had some serious culinary adventures!) along with some fantastic recipes from Raglan Road and his award-winning hotel and restaurant, Dunbrody House.

DisneyFoodBlog: What was your culinary vision for Raglan Road (as an authentic Irish pub); has it changed over the 4 years of the restaurant’s existence?
Chef Dundon: I love Raglan Road, because I take Irish dishes and give them a face lift. I can be very creative there; the menu is always changing, which keeps us up-to-date with fresh and interesting new products and procedures.

Raglan Road

Raglan Road

DFB: What factors did you take into consideration when creating a menu for a theme park audience? How did this menu construction differ from those you’ve created for other restaurants and projects?
CD: I had to bear in mind that we would be catering for much larger numbers in Raglan Road. And also we, because of our location, get a large number of families. (Because of this, we have been voted in the top 50 in Open Table Family Dining.) Creating a meal experience for the entire family is our main goal, and the emphasis of our food is on fresh, additive-free food.

DFB: What do YOU order when you go to Raglan Road?
CD: I love the gourmet shepard’s pie; or I sometimes think you just can’t beat the fish and chips. Because everything is so good, it is very hard to select a favorite.

Wildforest Mushroom Chowder

Wildforest Mushroom Chowder

DFB: Raglan Road, Orlando, was your second US restaurant. Since then, you’ve launched a third (with more on the way?). What do you enjoy about working and spending time in the US culinary arena?
CD: Yes — we are hoping to open a new restaurant within the next year! I love spreading the word on great food that originates from Ireland and Dunbrody House. I like to educate people of the great fun and sense of enjoyment that can be achieved through food.

DFB: You’ll be the host chef AND celebrity chef for the Culinary Adventure in Signature Dining at Raglan Road at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival this Fall. Any chance you could share a couple of the dishes the audience will get to taste at that event?
CD: Well, a lot of this is still under wraps at the minute, but I will give you a sneak preview by saying that we will be doing pan-seared Boston scallops and a suckling pig…can’t wait!

Battered Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise

Battered Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise

DFB: Is there a particular person or a memory that inspired your path in the “food business?”
CD: Yes. A chef called Dario Oterello. He was a Spanish chef, and he really gave me insight into flavoring food appropriately whilst letting the individual flavors stand for themselves.

DFB: Do you think your interest in architecture affects your recipe development and cooking?
CD: Yes; food is all about design, creativity, and putting the right “blocks” together.

DFB: Does your family like to spend time together in the kitchen?
CD: We would cook everyday together! I love to get my kids involved in cooking; it gives a very keen interest in food, which is my passion.

Dunbrody Kiss

Dunbrody Kiss

DFB: What’s next up in the queue for you? Any projects coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
CD: Yes, I’m always busy! At the moment, I’m finishing the final stages of preparation on the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival plans. I’m also starting work on my next (third) cookery book to follow on from “Great Family Food.” I’m also looking forward to beginning my own television show.

Chef Dundon’s Accomplishments Reel
Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon has cooked for many well-known celebrities during his career, including Her Majesty, the Queen; President Bush; and Bono. He has spent time in kitchens all over the world, from Switzerland, to Canada, to the US, and back to Ireland, where he served as the Executive Head Chef of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious Chef appointments in the country.

Dunbrody House

Dunbrody House

Today, Chef Dundon is the Chef/Proprietor of Dunbrody Country House Hotel & Restaurant, located in South East Ireland and established in 1997 by Chef Dundon and his wife Catherine. Considered one of Ireland’s Premier Hotels & Restaurants, it has earned many awards, including Andrew Harper’s Grand Award for best Hideaway in the World, Restaurant of the Year, and several Michelin Guide awards.

In addition to his work with Dunbrody House and other projects globally, Chef Dundon continues to film television appearances and documentaries for national and international networks (including The Food Network, ESPN, the Travel Channel, and NBC), write for several culinary magazines and newspaper columns, produce cookbooks (including Full On Irish: Creative Contemporary Cooking, and Great Family Food), and serve as Signature/Master Chef for two other US restaurants in addition to Disney World’s Raglan Road, The Nine Fine Irishmen in Las Vegas, and Raglan Road’s sister restaurant in Kansas City.

Dunbrody Cookery School

Dunbrody Cookery School

When he’s NOT working, Chef Dundon spends time with Catherine and their three kids. The family just put the finishing touches on a brand new home in Ireland (which Chef Dundon’s love of architecture and design keenly inspired).

For more information on how YOU can take master cooking classes with Chef Kevin Dundon, check out the Dunbrody Cookery School.

Also, don’t forget to book NOW (407-WDW-FEST) to attend Chef Dundon’s signature dining experience at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: October 13, 2009, 6:15 p.m., Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. Cost: $115

You can follow Chef Dundon on twitter at @ChefDundon.

Just to finish up, here are a few of Chef Dundon’s original recipes from Dunbrody House and Raglan Road! (You can see photos of these scattered throughout the post.)

Duncanon Seafood Chowder

Wild Mushroom Chowder (Eatin’ and Drinkin’)


Beer Battered Cocktail Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise (Dalkey Duo)

Loin of Ham/Bacon with an Irish Mist Glaze (Kevin’s Heavenly Ham)

Dunbrody Kiss

Bread and Butter Pudding (Ger’s Bread and Butter Pudding)