Review: California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

On my recent visit to Walt Disney World, my husband and I made it a goal to carve out time for a date night at California Grill.

If you love signature dining at Disney World, then you probably know the Grill well. Perched atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the spot has Disney history on its side. After all, Top of the World, which originally occupied the fifteenth floor, dated all the way back to Disney World’s opening. California Grill opened as its replacement in 1995, and brought with it a new emphasis on market fresh ingredients and California fusion flavors.

It was more than just another new Disney restaurant. It, along with Victoria and Albert’s, paved the way for a more refined dining experience at Walt Disney World.

My recent experiences have been a little uneven, however. (Even California Grill isn’t immune to the Disney restaurant curse of inconsistency.) So it’s always good to check in on an old favorite. After all, this was our first visit after the departure of Chef Brian Piasecki, so we had to see what was happening in the kitchen. And that view makes it easy to take a chance with the Grill.

Let’s head to the second floor.

Atmosphere

Why the second floor you ask? Because if you want to go California Grill, your journey begins here. You’ll check in at the podium before you’re escorted to the elevator that takes you to the fifteenth floor.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

Once you arrive, you’ll step into California Grill’s sleek environment. [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: French Family Meal Traditions Luncheon

This is an exciting time, my friends. The Watch and Wait Season has officially arrived for all things 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Logo Official Disney

What do I mean by that? Well, this is the time of the year when details begin to emerge for all of the events, menus, and more for our Favorite Event of the Year!

If you’re a festival fan, you’re gonna want to pay close attention in the upcoming weeks, as we provide you with all of the updates FIRST. Better yet — subscribe to the DFB Newsletter, and we’ll bring all the news directly to you!

In the meantime, as we await all of the latest as well as the start date — the festival will run from September 14 through November 14 — we love looking through some of the fun that we had last year.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at one of the NEW Special Events we attended in 2015 — French Family Meal Traditions. And I’m gonna get a little ahead of myself: this was so fabulous that we totally expect it to be back again this year.

There’s lots to see, so let’s get started!

Ready to Plan for Your Epcot Food and Wine Festival Trip?

The DFB Guide to the 2016 Epcot Food & Wine Festival e-Book is now available for pre-order! This 250+-page guide to the Festival offers insider tips and advice as well as all of the details you need to know to plan your best Festival visit ever.

2015 DFB F&W Guide Cover

Your purchase includes several bonus items as well — including a full daily schedule of events at the Festival and a printable World Showcase Booth Menu Checklist to carry with you as you Eat around the World!

Order your 2016 edition today and we’ll immediately send you the 2015 edition for FREE to get started on planning right away! Don’t miss a moment of the fun!

Use code Chefs at check-out for a 20% off the cover price!

Atmosphere

One of my favorite things about Special Events that take place in Epcot’s World Showcase Pavilions, versus events in World ShowPlace, is that you often get a chance to see inside a restaurant that you may not have experienced before. Both French Family Meal Traditions and The Parisian Afternoon: Sandwiches, Macarons, and Bubbles! take place at Monsieur Paul.

Monsieur Paul Entrance

Monsieur Paul Entrance

If you haven’t had the chance to dine at Monsieur Paul, you may not be familiar with it. It’s the fine dining option in Epcot’s France Pavilion. You’ll find it by heading back through France as though you’re getting a Macaron Ice Cream Sammie at L’Artisan des Glaces. :-) But hang a left before you get to the boutique ice cream shop. Go through the door with the awning, past the hostess stand, and you’ll spy this beautiful art nouveau staircase leading up to the second floor restaurant. [Read more…]

Review: Updated Menu at Chefs de France in Epcot

Bonjour from Chefs de France!

Chefs de France is located, of course, in none other than Epcot’s France Pavilion. If you’ve been reading the DFB for any length of time you already know that France is a must-visit Pavilion when it comes to dining options in the World Showcase, what with Counter Service and snack showstoppers like Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie and L’Artisan des Glaces, as well as signature drinks like the Grand Marnier Orange Slush.

But the longtime favorite we’re visiting today is one of the Pavilion’s two Table Service restaurants (the other being Monsieur Paul, the signature dining option). And “longtime” is definitely the operative word, as Chefs de France has been welcoming guests since the park’s opening.

But that doesn’t mean things have stayed exactly the same over the years. In fact, our recent visit was due to some changes at Chefs de France that we wanted to check out for ourselves.

Chefs de France

Chefs de France

The change includes a new menu, and we made a midday Advance Dining Reservation to scope out the situation. [Read more…]

Recommended Disney Dining Plan Two-Credit Restaurants

We get a lot of questions from readers here at DFB asking if the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal. One part of answering this question is doing the cut and dry calculations based upon a restaurant’s offerings. But the other part is determining if the restaurant is a good fit for your family. (For example, if Yachtsman Steakhouse offers a great bang for your buck when using the Dining Plan, but you’re a family of vegetarians, it probably isn’t the best choice! ;-D)

We were curious to determine which Disney Signature Restaurants offered the best deal or value pricewise — but also could be recommended by the experts here at DFB for atmosphere and food quality.

Disney Dining Plan 2 Credit Restaurants

Here are our picks for the restaurants that offer the best value for your 2-credit Disney Dining Plan slots.

[Read more…]

Top 5 Must-Try NEW Restaurants in Walt Disney World for 2014

Happy New Year to all of our wonderful Disney Food Blog Readers out there!

Chocolate-Macaron-ice-cream-sandwich-600x471

Whether you’re busy getting started with those resolutions, or recuperating from the big party last night, we thought we’d take a few minutes and discuss some fun new options that you’ve just gotta try in 2014!

True, there wasn’t nearly as much expansion in Disney Parks in 2013. It’s hard to measure up to New Fantasyland and Cars Land, after all! But there are still some fun new spots to check out.

So if you haven’t had the pleasure, allow me to introduce our picks for the Top 5 Must-Try New Walt Disney World Dining Spots for 2014!

L’Artisan des Glaces

Who knew that you could make Ice Cream even better? We were a little sad to hear that one of our favorite destinations for ice cream, Fountain View Cafe (hand made ice cream sandwiches!!!) would be converting to a Starbucks. But our blues faded away the very first time we stepped foot into L’Artisan des Glaces.

L'Artisan des Glaces Moved into the Former Boulangerie Patisserie Space

L’Artisan des Glaces Moved into the Former Boulangerie Patisserie Space

The tiny sorbet and ice cream parlour has tons of Old World charm — quite a feat since it opened, brand-new, in 2013! Occupying the space that was previously home to Boulangerie Patisserie in Epcot’s France Pavilion, the shop gave us lots of reasons to venture off the beaten path in search of a refreshing treat. (Bakery fans, not to worry. The très popular bakery and pastry shop was rechristened Les Halles, and expanded to the back of the France Pavilion.)

Inside L'Artisan des Glaces

Inside L’Artisan des Glaces

On any given day, the scoop shop plays host to 16 varying flavors of ice cream and sorbet, made from scratch right here in the France Pavilion.

A scoop of the good stuff

A scoop of the good stuff

And the flavors aren’t your garden variety vanilla. They’re European-inspired flavors, with exotic names like Caramel Fleur de Sel, Coco-White Chocolate, and Profiterole. Okay and yes — there’s Vanilla, too. :-) They’re all made in house (I’ve actually seen the ice cream machines in the back!!), and the flavors absolutely pop.

L'Artisan des Glaces Ice Creams and Sorbets in Epcot's France

L’Artisan des Glaces Ice Creams and Sorbets in Epcot’s France

But that’s only part of the story. Because if you’re looking for something a little more interesting than just another scoop of ice cream (really, really incredible ice cream, mind you), then L’Artisan des Glaces is for you. They’re pushing the envelope with not one but THREE fun ice cream snacks that ensure I pop into the shop nearly every trip.

In the category of frosty drink treats with a grown-up twist, we have this gorgeous [Read more…]

Review: Les Chefs de France in Epcot’s France Pavilion

Bonjour, Mes Amis! We are heading to the City of Lights today for a luncheon at one of Epcot’s most iconic eateries, Les Chefs de France!

The bistro, located in the France Pavilion, has been a fixture of World Showcase since Epcot’s earliest days. It’s served thousands of meals to Epcot guests, and you’ll still find its tables full if you visit today.

Les Chefs de France has had the happy distinction for me of providing consistently decent food and friendly service — something that can’t always be said about Disney restaurants. Since I’ve had some truly fine meals here, I was ready to head back for lunch with AJ’s Mom and Dad (whom many of you know!).

Atmosphere

The food has been good to great during every visit that I’ve made in recent years to Les Chefs de France — but that’s only part of the story. Because I would be in love with this restaurant based upon looks alone.

Menu and Place Setting

That’s because I personally think that Les Chefs de France represents some excellent restaurant themeing. If it weren’t for the kid in Mickey ears at the next table, it’s very possible that you’d forget you’re actually in Florida.

We visited during the day, but I just couldn’t help but show you this gorgeous view of Les Chefs de France at night.

Front of Les Chefs de France at Night -- My Favorite View!

It reminds me so much of my first trip to Paris that I wanted to share it with you.

And that’s the beauty of this restaurant. If you’ve had the pleasure of a trip to Paris, you will probably have eaten in (or at least seen) a spot that looks Just. Like. This.

Inside Les Chefs de France

Photos of the original “Les Chefs de France” team — Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenotre, and Roger Vergé — line the walls. These days, Chef Bocuse’s son, Jerome Bocuse, runs the France Pavilion restaurant empire. (Check out the photo of Chef Bocuse on opening day in front of Les Chefs de France that hangs upstairs in Monsieur Paul. You can see it in our review here.)

Decor Featuring Photos of the Founding Chefs

The color palette in Les Chefs de France tends toward [Read more…]

Review: Cinderella’s Royal Table Dinner in the Magic Kingdom

Gather, Subjects of the Royal Kingdom! It’s time to head to the castle for the dinner feast at Cinderella’s Royal Table!

Eating INSIDE Cinderella Castle is a quintessential experience for guests who visit Walt Disney World. After all, the castle has served as the icon for Disney itself in the past, and is the symbol for Disney World’s flagship park, Magic Kingdom.

Any guest visiting Magic Kingdom, whether they are 4 or 94, has dreamed of seeing inside the majestic building. Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table gives you the best taste of the royal residence itself. Plus,  you get an audience with Cinderella herself as well as her Princess friends.

This is the type of experience that Disney dreams are made of. As such, an advance dining reservation here continues to be a tough one to score. While it may be a little easier to get now that Be Our Guest Restaurant is open and pulling lots of guests in, you should still plan to call 180 days out if you hope to secure a table.

We thoroughly enjoyed breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table a while back. Time to see if dinner still measures up to that experience (I hadn’t been here for dinner in ages)! But first, let’s take a look around.

Atmosphere

Inspired by some of Europe’s most beautiful castles (plus the fortress from a certain animated feature film we all love), the interior of Cinderella Castle is every bit as grandiose as the outside.

The Grand Hall

The Grand Hall and waiting area lends a great deal of happy anticipation to the experience. Only guests with advance dining reservations — apologies, but no prying eyes permitted — are allowed beyond the heavy double wooden doors that lead into the Grand Hall.

And once you’re there, you’ll have an opportunity to visit with Cinderella for a bit as she welcomes you into her home.

We were really fortunate to capture some great shots of the hall while it was empty. Here, you can see the weaponry and shields that adorn the stone walls. Heavy chandeliers and Gothic arches punctuate the scene. Seating in the hall is available while you await your visit with Cinderella and your admittance into the dining room.The low benches are plush and comfortable.

Entry Hall Seating and the Elevator to the Dining Room

Here’s your chance to [Read more…]

DFB Challenge: 2012 Walt Disney World Cheese Crawl

We’re sending our courageous (and hopefully hungry) readers on another crawl.

Not surprisingly, this one is all about cheese! ;-) (You asked for it…and we thought it was an AWESOME idea!!) The best part? You’ll visit mostly counter-service and/or grab ‘n go locations on this cheese crawl, so no Advance Dining Reservations required! (Of course, if you want table-service cheese options, check out our Disney World Cheese Plates here!)

Some of you have attempted the 2011 Disney cupcake crawl and the 2012 Disney cupcake crawl and now it’s time to tackle another DFB favorite…

The Disney Food Blog’s “Walt Disney World Cheese Crawl” Strategy

Gear up for tasting cheese selections on menus all over Walt Disney World. Your challenge is to sample these sweet and savory items, hopefully in a single Disney World vacation.

Follow the crawl step by step, or opt to select the items that you find most appetizing. You’ve reached the Cheese finish line when you’ve visited at least seven locations and sampled at least seven different cheese items.

Remember that Disney World menus have a way of changing, so if you need to substitute out new options for the ones below, we won’t deduct any points! Depending on your level of tolerance, you may want to split this crawl up over a couple of days. Either way, we won’t judge!

Tutto Gusto Cheese

Some of these items can be purchased for a Disney Dining Plan snack credit, so save up those snacks!

EPCOT: Cheese required = 2

Depart your hotel for a morning in Epcot’s Future World. At 11am, make your way to World Showcase! Your first stop is the Rose & Crown pub in Canada.

Rose & Crown Pub
Rose & Crown pub in United Kingdom is an awesome spot to hang with friends over drinks and apps. Be sure to say hi to Carl for us!

  • Cheese Plate: Here’s an updated cheese plate with layers of flavors. Which cheese will be your favorite — Cotswolds Cheddar, an aged

    [Read more…]

Review: Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table at the Grand Floridian Resort

Today, we travel up the elegant stairway to the pinnacle of fine dining at Walt Disney World, Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Join me for an unparalleled experience as I take you behind the opulence to the excitement and camaraderie of the Chef’s Table! And let me tell you… it’s AWESOME!!

Victoria and Albert’s is the crown jewel in Disney’s culinary offerings. And while it is certainly expensive (that might be an understatement), I aim to show you that for the true food lover, the Chef’s Table experience is worth every penny.

By the way, if you read through this review and decide the Chef’s Table is not for you, you can also dine in the Dining Room to the more intimate Queen Victoria Room.

Victoria and Albert's Plate

Reservations for Victoria and Albert’s go quickly. It is recommended that you book as close to 180 days out as possible. As for cost, the menu is prix fixe, meaning that you pay a set price for the meal. Expect your meal to begin at $135 per person for the Dining Room, with an additional charge of $65 for wine pairings. That price includes six courses. Queen Victoria’s Room and the Chef’s Table menus may include up to thirteen courses, and prices start at $210/person for dinner and $105 for wine pairings. Keep in mind that these prices do not reflect tax or gratuity, so be prepared.

While Queen Victoria’s Room offers the height of elegant dining, the Chef’s Table provides interested guests full access to the restaurant’s culinary team in a meal that is as much performance as it is sustenance.

Atmosphere

Once you check in for your reservation at the Chef’s Table, you are escorted through the well appointed (and very quiet!) main dining room. You’ll notice low light, beautiful fresh flowers, and the strains of harp music. The whole effect is quite romantic and very formal. There is a strict dress code here, and men must wear jackets.

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

The Dining Room consists of a mere fourteen tables, beautifully set with spotless crystal and china. Very chi chi.

Victoria and Albert's Seating

We followed the debonaire Maître d’hôtel, Israel Perez, through this space and into the brightly lit kitchen. At that time, we were informed that Chef de Cuisine Scott Hunnel would not be joining us because of a conflicting event. In his place, Sous Chef Aimée Rivera would guide us through our meal.

Maître d'hôtel Israel Perez and Chef Rivera

Both Mr. Perez and Chef Rivera were phenomenal, and it’s clear that their passion and driving force is the comfort and enjoyment of their guests. Chef Rivera invited us to interact at will with the kitchen staff, and suggested that we voice any and all questions that we might have (Mua ha ha ha!!! She didn’t know just how annoying I can be!).

An interesting fact: once you are seated, you can’t [Read more…]

Review: Citricos at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort

Come along with us on a great date night destination at Walt Disney World — Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa!

If you haven’t had the pleasure, there are so many reasons to give this wonderful restaurant a try. It’s a little easier to get an Advance Dining Reservation here than other, more popular spots in the Magic Kingdom area.

But with food that rivals the hottest spots at Disney World — and a quiet, comfortable atmosphere — this has become a restaurant we return to again and again. Does it continue to wow? We shall see…

Atmosphere

Citricos is tucked back behind Victoria & Albert’s (another review we’ll be treating you to soon!) on the Grand Floridian’s second floor. And with that “hidden” location, Citricos is often the overlooked signature dining spot here in the Magic Kingdom resort area. Diners often gravitate to California Grill or Narcoossee’s over Citricos in favor of spectacular fireworks views.

But don’t underestimate this place. While the fireworks viewing potential is pretty small here, sometimes being the “odd man out” can make a restaurant even more compelling. Citricos’ strengths come in the form of warmth, elegance, and a very quiet, comfortable atmosphere. I keep saying “comfortable” over and over again, and I’m pretty sure it’s because these dining chairs are some of the best on property! No kidding!

Seating Area

Warm light, sunny colors, and copper details make this an inviting space. (And did I mention the chairs? They’re comfortable.) A full bank of floor-to-ceiling windows lets in plenty of natural light during daytime hours.

Seating Area Near Windows

I like the whimsical, colorful glass touches on the tables. The candle holder and bread plates really add a pop of color to the formal place settings.

Table Setting

It’s always fun to watch the action in the open kitchen. The setting is beautiful, and the staff is poised and professional as they go about dinner service. (Don’t forget to take a peek as you walk to your table to see what items you might want to try!)

Exhibition Kitchen and Expediting Station

Off to the side of the restaurant — just next to the kitchen — is the Chef’s Domain. I’ve had the pleasure of eating in this private dining room recently for a good friend’s birthday dinner, and it’s very nice. You can order from a specialized menu or stick with the regular offerings. For events ranging from a private dinner party to a more elaborate affair, this is a great spot. This must be booked well ahead of time, and there’s a food and beverage minimum cost.

And as a bonus, you can get a really good view of the pastry specialists working at their craft – yum!

Pastry Chef Preparing Desserts

Now, back to our regular old dining room experience! Just walking to our table was enough to excite us about the meal! We were ready to get started.

Eats

The menu at Citricos focuses on [Read more…]