Dining in Disneyland: Seasonal Treats at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

The Disney Holiday season is in full effect at the Disneyland Resort!  I love that the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe is always introducing us to new seasonal items.

In fact, because I never know what I’ll find, I’ve make it a point to check in on nearly every visit to Disneyland!

Jolly Holiday Bakery

Jolly Holiday Bakery

On my last trip there were a handful of new items that are special for the Disney holiday season.  Also in the bakery cases were some returning favorites. 

Eats

The popular Santa Mickey Candy Cane Cupcake is back.

The cupcake is chocolate, topped with a mound of red & green “sure to stain your teeth” frosting, and finished off with a candy cane.

Mickey Holiday Cupcake

Mickey Holiday Cupcake

I’ve actually never tried one of these because 1) I’m not a huge chocolate fan and 2) it looks way too messy for me to deal with in public!

Close Up

Holiday Cupcake Close Up

There are also Snowman shaped [Read more…]

Review: Lunch at Crystal Palace in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Welp, boys and girls — it’s time to head into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and take in lunch at Crystal Palace! This is a beloved character spot for many Disney fans, and a must-do character experience for lots of you.

Me? I hadn’t been to Crystal Palace in foreva…not since an ill-fated late-night visit a couple of years ago when the food was AW-FUL! Yep, it was the end-of-the-night dregs of the buffet and we were pretty much just grossed out. (Have you ever seen a buffet about 15 minutes before a restaurant is about to close? Not pretty.) We ate very little and left as soon as we could. Sad, since we do love dining with Pooh and friends.

But it was time to revisit the 100 Hundred Acre Wood — after all, we’d had lots of great meals here previously — and I made reservations with some friends for lunch.

We have tons of shots to show you, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

You’ll find Crystal Palace to the left of Main Street USA’s end, just as you approach Cinderella Castle. The beautiful glass building, inspired by ornate conservatories of the late Victorian Age, is a slice of Disney history as well. The restaurant has been around since opening day in 1971.

Entrance to Restaurant

Entrance to Restaurant

And here’s a tip if you’re looking for an extra-special experience during your Disney vacation: try and book Crystal Palace for an early breakfast. You’ll be one of the first guests into the Park when you do this, and visiting a nearly empty Magic Kingdom is an event to remember.

Once you step inside, you’ll see whitewashed walls that carry the bright, light decor throughout. Artwork depicting inspiration for the architecture as well as photos of lush palms cover the walls.

Artwork and Framed Photos

Artwork and Framed Photos

The soaring atrium above is gorgeous — especially on a sunny day!

Crystal Palace Atrium

Crystal Palace Atrium

After you check in, you’ll wait for your table outside on the shaded veranda. But once you step in, pause a moment to take it all in.

Dining Rooms

Dining Rooms

Tons of windows and glass domes allow for plenty of natural light in the two dining areas.

Dining Room from Another Angle

Dining Room from Another Angle

And really — look up. Because the windows are really stunning. I love the beautiful stained glass detail.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

The decor puts you in mind of a Victorian conservatory, with its outside-but-inside feel. Lush flowers and what reminds me of patio furniture finish the area.

Evening Light

Afternoon Light

Crystal Palace is, of course, a character dining experience, and you’ve stumbled onto a party!

Center Atrium -- Up Close

Center Atrium — Up Close

In fact, visit here, and you’ll take part in a Friendship Day Celebration with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Banner -- Up Close

It’s Friendship Day!

Just check out these gorgeous flower topiaries of the whole gang!

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Eeyore Topiary

Eeyore Topiary

The sweet little figures appear to be made of dried roses, and foreshadow the characters you’ll meet while you dine.

Piglet Topiary

Piglet Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

And beautiful hanging arrangements of tropical flowers complete the classic conservatory feel.

Fresh Flowers

Fresh Flowers

Seating is standard and fairly comfortable. Heavy, padded chairs share the space with booths, but some tables are situated a bit too closely for our comfort.

Seating for Two

Seating for Two

Seating along windows gives you a glimpse of guests waiting to be seated! But beyond them, you’ll also see a beautiful view of [Read more…]

Review: Peanut Butter and Candy Bar Brownies at The Mara in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Not so long ago, I took a trip to The Mara, the Quick Service location at Animal Kingdom Lodge to check out the Giraffe and Zebra Cupcakes. But when I posted my review, we also shared pics of a couple of delicious looking brownies that we’d seen at the bakery… .

Peanut Butter Brownies in bakery case

Candy Bar Brownies in the bakery case

I guess they grabbed the attention of a few DFB Readers as well :), because when I read over the comments on that article, several went something like this:

“Yep, the cupcakes look great. But, ummm… HELLO! What can you tell me about that Peanut Butter Brownie?!?” (And THIS is exactly why DFB Readers are So. Great. :) )

So, with that… it’s back to The Mara we go!

Atmosphere

Located on the ground floor of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Mara is one of the more interesting quick service locations in Disney World.

The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Mara offers unique eats in a unique setting. From African Stew and a delicious variety of soups to something on the menu called an “African Chili Cheese Dog” (Note to self: find out what that’s all about), there is so much more here than your standard cheeseburger.

The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge

What I most appreciate about the atmosphere is that it has a more “grown-up” feel for a Quick Service location, with its nods to the majesty of nature. Yet it’s still completely comfortable and approachable, in large part due to the whimsical artwork on the walls.

Part of the wall mural at The Mara

Part of the wall mural at The Mara

For this visit, I took my goodies to the outdoor seating area.

Outdoor Seating at The Mara

Outdoor Seating at The Mara

It’s lovely and [Read more…]

Review: 1900 Park Fare Dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Today, we’re back at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to take in dinner at 1900 Park Fare!

You  may remember that the last time we were here, we were…nonplussed…unimpressed…frustrated…should I go on? Basically, we really didn’t have a great experience. But, as I always say, the only consistent thing about Disney restaurants is that they’re inconsistent. And some guests think this restaurant is fantastic — a great alternative to hard-to-get advance dining reservations like Cinderella’s Royal Table.

So we’re back at this character buffet for another try… . While breakfast at 1900 Park Fare left us flat, this time around we’re checking out the dinner spread and hoping for the best!

Atmosphere

You’ll find 1900 Park Fare off of the ground floor lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort. As you walk in the hotel’s front doors, the restaurant is located to your left, just past the Concierge desk.

1900 Park Fare Sign

The antique carousel decor flows with the Victorian feel that you encounter throughout the resort. While you can’t see the individual items on this menu board that’s displayed out front of the restaurant, you can definitely see the attention to detail when it comes to theme.

Menu Board Outside of 1900 Park Fare

When you first arrive and check in for your reservation (you DID make a reservation, right?), you’ll be given a pager and told to wait in the Grand Floridian lobby to be called when your table is ready. Note: this often takes A. LONG. TIME. In my experience, I’ve never been seated at this restaurant within 10 minutes of my reservation time. I’m always waiting quite a while to be called to the table. So if you’ve got little ones who are starving, bring some snacks to tide them over just in case.

Once you’re called, you’ll be told to get in line to have your picture taken with this mural. No…you’re not getting your photo taken with a character. Just with the mural. This can be a fun memory for families, but you might want to skip the pic and head straight in for your meal. Be persistent and make sure they know you don’t want to take the photo. They’re pretty serious about getting you into that line.

Trompe l'Oeil Mural Outside of 1900 Park Fare

Once you head into the massive dining room, you’re greeted with more Victorian charm in pastel shades. Even without windows, the sheer size of the dining room makes it feel airy.

There is a main area with high ceilings in front of the buffet, and some smaller dining rooms surrounding it with lower ceilings. I prefer these areas for seating, since they tend to be slightly quieter.

Dining Area

Seating itself is fairly standard, with cushioned chairs and nondescript tables.

Seating

The main dining room makes the best use of the carousel theme. There are several large statues of fantasy carousel animals situated atop half walls and surrounded by plants. You should take a moment to look at these, because they’re really beautiful.

Calliope in the Background and Carousel Horse Statue

The wall overtop the entrance to the restaurant plays host to an enormous calliope, reminiscent of the intricate musical instruments that you find on antique carousels. This [Read more…]

Review: Vanilla Ice Cream Brownie Sandwich at Downtown Disney’s Earl of Sandwich

The Earl of Sandwich is still one of the most popular “non-Disney” food destinations in all of Walt Disney World — and now in Disneyland as well.

But you may be surprised to learn that they also have some killer desserts — which take the form of sandwiches, naturally!

A while back I told you about some of them. My first discovery was the Brownie Creme Sandwich. Two of the most amazing brownies ever are stuck together with some rockin’ vanilla frosting. This was Nirvana enough. But then, I tried two more versions of the treat — the Chocolate Creme Brownie Sandwich and the Peanut Butter Creme Brownie Sandwich. Even. Better.

And when I heard about the EoS ice cream sandwich…it was time to return… .

Earl of Sandwich Vanilla Ice Cream Brownie Sandwich

Sure, the brownie sandwiches have been outrageously good up to this point, but they’re about to get even better. Enter, the Vanilla Ice Cream Brownie Sandwich.

It comes to you much like the other brownie sandwiches — nestled in a plastic clamshell.

Brownie Sandwich Earl in its Clamshell

Also just like the other brownie sandwiches, this one is [Read more…]

Review: Chef Mickey’s Dinner at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

It has been too long since I’ve taken a trip to Chef Mickey’s in Disney World’s Contemporary Resort!

We’ve shared with you our review of their breakfast buffet. But today, we’re heading there to see what’s new for dinner!

When many people think about a Disney character dining experience”, they immediately think of Chef Mickey’s. This one has it all — the Fab Five, a sprawling buffet of family-friendly foods, regular raucous celebrations, and monorails whizzing by.

But in the past, the food has had a reputation for being a little lackluster. Time to see how things are looking these days… . We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

One of the coolest things about Chef Mickey’s is its location. You’ll find this well-known character meal at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Chef Mickey's Sign

This place is a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, which makes it a great place to stop and eat before heading into the park, or after a long day of rides and attractions.

Once you enter the hotel’s main floor lobby, take the elevator to the fourth floor. Chef Mickey’s is located on the south end of the concourse, right below where the Disney World monorail enters the building. (You can also arrive at the Contemporary via said monorail, of course — in which case you’d take an escalator down to the 4th floor).

The Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary

Head to the central desk to let the hostess know that your party has arrived. You can’t miss it — Mickey is smiling down with his fork and spoon, ready to greet you!

Central Desk Check-In

If your table isn’t quite ready, you can wait until your party is paged in this comfortable seating area. This spot features a view of Bay Lake and the resort’s pool patio — and offers plenty of room for running off excess energy.

Waiting Area

Before you’re seated, your party will [Read more…]

Review: Dinner at Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma…Flavors of Africa is a tried-and-true Disney fan destination.

Many guests number it among their must-have advance dining reservations for it’s fun atmosphere, unique menu, and cult favorite dishes.

On a recent visit to Walt Disney World, we had the pleasure of eating at Boma not once — but twice…in the SAME DAY! Yep — we had breakfast and Boma AND dinner at Boma!

While I’ll be sharing the details of our Boma breakfast in a later post, today we’re taking a look at the rockin’ spread available for dinner.

Atmosphere

Located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boma is just one of three incredible restaurants at this resort — it’s a true food-lovers haven here.

Boma Sign

You’ll find Boma on the ground floor beneath the lobby level, adjacent to both The Mara and Jiko. (Sanaa is located in nearby Kidani Village.) And while The Mara is the resort’s counter service location, Jiko is a signature restaurant, and Sanaa features a table service fusion of flavors, Boma serves as the resort’s buffet offering.

But while many Disney buffets are more about character interaction than cuisine, a trip to Boma is all about the food. A sign in Animal Kingdom’s lobby provides a little background on the meaning of the restaurant’s name — and encourages you to make your ADR for Boma well in advance!

Boma Background Information

The term boma loosely refers to a fence fashioned of sticks, and you’ll see this motif throughout the restaurant’s interior. A wrought-iron version of a boma borders either side of the wide, winding path into the restaurant.

Walkway into Boma

Here, the fence borders a low wall separating the seating area from the [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Brownies

I always find instant inspiration when I take a look at the reader photos in our Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza on Flickr. We’ve featured our picks for Best Disney Brownies on the blog before, but it’s always fun to see what you guys love the most!

Dad’s Brownie Sundae

Dad’s Brownie Sundae at 50’s Primetime Cafe is an over-the-top treat. Love the caramel popcorn garnish!

Photographer: WinnieAtePooh

Dad's Brownie Sundae at 50's Primetime Cafe

Paw Print Brownie

This fun shot of the adorable Paw Print Brownie at Animal Kingdom’s Kusafiri Bakery makes me want to hop a plane and head there right now!

Photographer: TheAviator1992

Paw Print Brownie at Kusafiri Bakery

Brownie Cupcake with Mint Frosting

Looking for a [Read more…]

New in Disney World: Mickey Ear Hat Brownies, Chocolate-Covered Pineapple, and More!

During my recent Walt Disney World visit, my first stop in the Magic Kingdom was, as always, the Main Street Confectionery.

Most of the usual yummies were right where they should be (I’m talking to you Krispie Mickey Heads and mint chocolate fudge). But I did notice a few recent additions to the Confectionery offerings.

Mickey Ear Hat Brownies

First up in the refrigerator case, I noticed something labeled “Brownies $3.95.”

These cute-as-a-button treats are shaped like little Mickey ear hats. Fun! They come in four flavors: raspberry (red swirl), mint (green swirl), all chocolate (white swirl), or, gasp, English toffee (toffee bits on top). I opted to try the mint version.

Mint ear hat brownie.

As with all Mickey-shaped items, I opted to eat the ears first. Unfortunately, I was so busy eating the ear that I [Read more…]

First Look! Ghirardelli Opens in Disney California Adventure

After a successful week of soft openings, Ghirardelli has “officially” opened its doors at the Disneyland Resort inside of Disney California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf area.

We were lucky enough to be invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony, where Mickey and Minnie helped welcome the park’s first independently owned and operated establishment.

Disney California Adventure Park Vice President Mary Nivan & Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis along with Ernst Tanner CEO of Lindt & Sprungli AG

First, we’ll take a peek inside and try a sundae. Then I’ll show you a very special surprise that makes this Ghirardelli location more incredible than any other in the world… (we even have a little video of what makes it so cool).

The Unveiling!

This Ghirardelli location is the first store to be built inside of a theme park (though there is a location in Downtown Disney in Orlando, that’s not, technically, a theme park). Although the cast members at Ghirardelli have had some Disney cast member training, they are actually employees of Ghirardelli and have been taught specifically by the chocolate company. 

Ghirardelli Entrance with Some Added "Chocolatiers"

After the ribbon was cut, we were invited in to see the gorgeous new Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop! 

As you enter the shop, there are menus to peruse as well as a few registers. You place your order at a register and are then sent to one of the three pick up windows where you will be handed your order.

As a “Grand Opening” guest, I was handed one of these tasty little treats!

Mini Sundaes? Yes Please!

It wasn’t easy to eat a sundae and take photos of the store at the same time, so unfortunately I had just a few bites and then got to work. My favorite thing about a Ghirardelli sundae? Definitely the [Read more…]