Review: Tutto Gusto in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

It’s time once again to look in on one of my favorite “hidden” spots in Epcot — Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar!

Tutto Gusto, located on the left as you travel through the Italy Pavilion toward Via Napoli at the back, hasn’t been open for very long. But in the short span of three years, Tutto Gusto has become a part of the fabric of World Showcase.

With its commitment to offering small plates that feature authentic Italian cuisine, Tutto Gusto has continued to be a DFB favorite. But you know me — I’m never content to continue recommending a spot unless I know for sure that it still  deserves to be recommended!

So, in the name of research, a friend and I headed there to grab a light dinner during a recent visit to Walt Disney World. We tried some new things and revisited some favorites. Let’s check it out.

Atmosphere

Although the sign for Tutto Gusto is perched high and prominent, it’s still sort of easy to miss it if you aren’t looking for it. You may mistake it for another entrance to neighboring Tutto Italia, if you notice it at all.

Tutto Italia and Gusto Wine Cellar

Tutto Italia and Gusto Wine Cellar

The entrance sits back a little, but Cast Members are usually flanking the door, and you’ll also notice the menus posted outside. Pay attention and you’ll find it.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Walk in and (after your eyes adjust to the darkened area) you’ll notice that the bar is front and center, serving as the small venue’s main feature.

Gusto Bar

Gusto Bar

Wine is king here, but you’ll also find an increasingly interesting array of Italian craft beers. Tutto Gusto also offers a full liquor bar. Check out the Italian-inspired cocktail menu, or order your favorite. Whatever you’re looking for, they can make it.

Gusto Bar

Gusto Bar

Because this is a wine bar, however, much of the real estate is given over to vino. Amuse yourself as you wait by checking out the ever-changing variety of Italian wines that are available by the glass or bottle.

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

But Tutto Gusto has more to offer than just beverages. From the get go, I prized this spot for their amazing array of small plates. There’s a display of some of the offerings to whet your appetite.

Antipasti Showcase at Tutto Gusto

Antipasti Showcase at Tutto Gusto

As is usually the case when you’re dining anywhere in the Disney universe, be sure to look up! The details of a spot usually include some really cool lighting, and Gusto is no exception.

Wine Bottle Lighting

Wine Bottle Lighting

You will find that Tutto Gusto can reach capacity rather easily — hence those Cast Members stationed at the doors. There isn’t a ton of seating here, but what you do find is rustic, cozy, and fairly comfortable. It is a little “close”, however, so if you prize privacy or personal space, you may want to look at the couch options.

Gusto Table

Gusto Table

Speaking of…you’ll find more comfy seating flanking the fireplace, another nice focal point in the small space.

Gusto Fireplace Area

Gusto Fireplace Area

Tables and stools here are low and well padded. It’s a great place to relax and catch up with friends, or to just take a breather from the bright sunshine.

Fireplace Area Seating at Tutto Gusto

Fireplace Area Seating at Tutto Gusto

And it truly is a beautiful location. Personally, I think they hit the themeing out of the park. Don’t you love the brick ceiling?

Tutto Gusto Seating

Tutto Gusto Seating

Having shown you around, I’m ready to get down to the serious business of [Read more…]

DFB Exclusive! 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Recipe: Sweet Corn Cheesecake from the Mexico Marketplace

AAAAAH!! I am so excited to share this DFB exclusive!

We may have closed the books on the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, but we’re still reliving the memories of one of the best Festivals we remember from recent years! And, NO JOKE, I get emails, tweets, facebook messages, what-have-you EVERY SINGLE DAY from readers asking me for the recipe for the Sweet Corn Cheesecake, the dessert item featured at this year’s Mexico Marketplace Booth.

Sweet Corn Cheesecake

Sweet Corn Cheesecake

The sweet, rich, creamy dessert was the perfect marriage of the familiar and the unexpected for our readers, and everyone’s all about figuring out how to make it at home.

Sweet Corn Cheesecake -- Cross Section

Sweet Corn Cheesecake — Cross Section

Well, the wait is over! Thanks to the super generous and ever accommodating Chef Gerardo Gonzalez (a.k.a. Chef Jerry), who oversees all of the restaurants in the Mexico Pavilion (and who I may have bugged a little incessantly about giving me this recipe…and the one for the amazing Crema de Elote at La Hacienda de San Angel…still waiting on that one, Chef Jerry…), for sharing it with us and allowing us to print it for you lot!

Sweet Corn Cheesecake

2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Mexico Marketplace Booth

Serves 8-12

Ingredients:

[Read more…]

Review: Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pecan Pie Tart at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Autumn waning, and the Winter Holidays just around the corner, we couldn’t resist offering you one last beautiful, delicious look at this colorful season.

Fortunately, a trip to The Mara provided a couple of great options to celebrate the season.

Autumn Chocolate Pecan Tart

Having enjoyed lunch in the Parks, I decided to drop by The Mara and see what was new in the pastry case. I was excited to see lots of Fall colors and flavors! The first sweet that caught my eye was this Autumn-Themed Chocolate Pecan Tart.

The bold colors of the Chocolate Garnish were the perfect complement for the season. And I was intrigued by the obvious color in the Whipped Cream that topped the Tart.

Autumn Pecan Tart

Autumn Chocolate Pecan Tart

Cutting into the Tart, it was obvious that this was a rich, moist pecan pie filling — nothing dry about this!

Pecan Tart -- Cross Section

Chocolate Pecan Tart — Cross Section

And the cinnamon-y and buttery flavors were perfect together. I think the whipped cream was [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: New Treats at the Jolly Holiday Bakery

Spending some time at Disneyland?  Head on down Main Street USA and take a pit stop at Jolly Holiday.  There are some delicious new treats that have been recently added the bakery case.

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

Mary Poppins and her penguins have obviously been busy in the kitchen.  There are several new baked goods in the case, all which look practically perfect in every way.  Most of these new treats are fruity flavors, which are my biggest weakness. I’d choose fruity over chocolate any day (GASP, I know!)…  I ordered 5 different new treats and hope to go back soon for the ones I missed. But for now, here’s a little sampling of the new offerings.

New Treats in the Bakery Case

New Treats in the Bakery Case

Let’s start with the Mickey Macarons.  These were rumored to be hitting Disneyland quite some time ago and appear to be very different than the macarons featured at Walt Disney World.  (Note that in Disney World, the signage on these was Mickey “Macaroon”; yes, we’ve had the “macaroon vs. macaron” definition discussion on the food blog many times before and it just doesn’t seem to be consistent across the Disney parks ;-D.) I’m not sure why it took so long, but HERE THEY ARE!  Priced at $4.99, the Mickey Macarons are very generously sized.  As of now they come in two fruity flavors; Passion Fruit and Raspberry Rose.

The Passion Fruit Mickey Macaron was very sweet; passion fruit cream sandwiched between two super soft Mickey Macarons.  I love the metallic purple swipe across the top.  I know it’s just decorative, but I’m a sucker for shine and sparkle. Especially purple shine and sparkle AND especially when it’s edible!

Passion Fruit Mickey Macaron

Passion Fruit Mickey Macaron

The Raspberry Rose Mickey Macaron was

[Read more…]

Guest Review: Dinner at The Wave… of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Join us in welcoming back Guest Author Paul Kuconis! His latest review features dinner at The Wave… of American Flavors located at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World.

When I think of Contemporary Resort-based restaurants, California Grill and Chef Mickey’s immediately come to mind. It’s hard to miss the glass dome sitting atop the Resort — ‘Oooh, there’s California Grill!’; and Chef Mickey is always in sight from the monorail.

But there is a hidden gem neatly tucked away — The Wave…of American Flavors — and entering through the front door makes it easy to miss. We always arrive by boat from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge so we walk by it often. Well, we finally decided to stop ‘passing by’ and made reservations during our last visit.

Atmosphere

The first thing I saw was a video marquee highlighting the culinary options presented inside. To me this presentation is very much in keeping with the ‘contemporary’ theme of the resort. OK, now I know what they serve, so let’s head inside.

Video Marquee

Video Marquee

The entrance is rather neat. First, it establishes the stainless steel theme I noticed throughout my meal, and the tunnel takes me to a different place — that of sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients.

Entrance to The Wave

Entrance to The Wave

As we approached the reception desk, I noticed the earth tones in keeping with the sustainable theme. Also, the wall partition presents the wave theme.

Reception Desk

Reception Desk

We had nice wall art to look at while we waited for our table. A very contemporary rendition, in keeping with the resort.

Wall Art

Wall Art

Even the ceiling features carry the wave theme with contemporary light fixtures. It all works well together as the earth tones carry throughout the restaurant.

The Wave Themed Ceiling

The Wave Themed Ceiling

A nice touch, and a very subtle one, is the wave embroidered on the linen napkin.

Themed Linen Napkin

Themed Linen Napkin

Eats

After we sat down and perused the wine list, we decided on a bottle of Bonterra Chardonnay 2012. I enjoy a nice chardonnay and this wine fits the bill. It’s from Mendocino, one of California’s better known wine regions with predominant vineyard acreage in chardonnay.

Bonterra Chardonnay 2012

Bonterra Chardonnay 2012

A very nice wine. An initial impression of rich, buttery cream quickly turns to aromas of honey and lightly toasted almonds, followed by tropical aromas of pineapple, citrusy lemon and crème brulee. The wine is refreshing on the palate, with a minerality that is both bright and clean, drawing you into a vibrant tartness and lemon zest.

Although that description sounds very complex, it’s not. Bottom line for me is, does it have a nice flavor? And yes, this one does! Notice the stainless steel wine cooler.

A Nice Pour

A Nice Pour

After we ordered we were served bread and butter — Multi grain bread with ground flax seeds and butter with Hawaiian sea salt. (Notice the stainless steel bread bowl.) The bread was nice and fresh and the butter was just soft enough to spread easily and allowed the salt to mix in giving each bite a nice crunch. The ground flax seeds provided a visual balance to the sea salt atop the butter. Nicely done!

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

I always look for menu offerings that I haven’t had before. The Sustainable Fish Taco fit the bill. To me, it also fit the theme of the restaurant, sustainable and locally sourced. I’ll try that!

Sustainable Fish Taco Menu Item

Sustainable Fish Taco Menu Item

Oooh! Very nicely plated with a stainless steel taco tray! The fish used were Snapper and Swordfish and fit nicely with the Apple-Jicama slaw and a mild white sauce drizzle, topped with micro greens.

The apples used were Pink Lady (a trademark and the variety is more correctly known as Cripps Pink). Cripps Pink apples are a cross between the Australian Lady Williams and the Golden Delicious. At any rate, this variety was new to me and had a very nice flavor and texture.

The slaw and sauce complemented the mildness of the fish and made for a nice bite. Providing a contrast in textures; the crunch of the apple and jicama worked well against the smoothness of the fish.

Sustainable Fish Taco Appetizer

Sustainable Fish Taco Appetizer

Yuzu Gelato was served providing a palette cleanser and a nice finisher. Yuzu a citrus fruit, originates in East Asia and looks like a very small grapefruit. The yuzu’s flavor is tart, closely resembling that of a grapefruit with hints of mandarin orange. A very nice way to end an awesome appetizer!

OK, how can my entrée top my appetizer? A tough task indeed.

I settled on the [Read more…]

Review: Green Tea Cheesecake at Katsura Grill in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

We’ve been enjoying snack time at Walt Disney World as we launched our Disney Food Blog Guide to Epcot Snacks e-Book, 2014 Edition earlier this week!

To continue the celebration, let’s check out one of my favorite spots in World Showcase. And while we’re there, we’ll sample a never-featured-here-before snack today!

I think Epcot’s Japan Pavilion boasts some of the loveliest landscaping in Epcot, and a lot of it can be enjoyed from an outdoor seat at Katsura Grill.

Katsura Grill

Katsura Grill

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

The greenery, the paper lanterns, and waterfall all contribute to a sense of beauty and peace — even on the busiest of park days — so I’m always looking for reasons to spend more time in this spot.

A view from Katsura Grill

A view from Katsura Grill

Lanterns

Lanterns

Waterfall

Waterfall

One of those reasons, recently, was to try the Green Tea Cheesecake. I adore cheesecake, but have had both good and bad experiences with green tea infused food, so I was curious about what I might discover.

Upon receiving my slice, the first thing my eyes took in was the color. As expected, it’s rather green :), but a very light hue.

Green Tea Cheesecake

Green Tea Cheesecake

Green Tea Cheesecake

Green Tea Cheesecake

The portion size, I must say, seemed [Read more…]

Snack Series: Chocolate Covered Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake at Walt Disney World

So, I’m strolling through Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation during my recent Walt Disney World trip. I can never pass up a visit here!

Now, remember when I told you about the shockingly yummo Strawberry Cheesecake at Electric Umbrella? It’s part of the “dessert in a cup” genre of counter service desserts you’ll find throughout the parks. But it’s actually pretty good.

AND…do you remember when I told you about the Frozen Cheesecake on a Stick in Disneyland? Just when I didn’t think they could make cheesecake any more interesting or delicious, they popped it on a stick and gave it the deep freeze — perfect for a stroll-and-eat treat.

Well…Walt Disney World has obviously gotten the memo. Because check out what I just found!

Frozen Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake on a Mickey Straw

Yep — you guessed it — they’ve taken the Strawberry Cheesecake, popped it out of the cup, and made something altogether new. It’s Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake, Dipped in Chocolate, and served on a Mickey Swirly Straw.

Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake on a Straw

Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake on a Straw

So there are a few positives about this. [Read more…]

Top 7 Must-Try Disneyland Frozen Treats

Summer is right around the corner!!

Top 7 Disney Frozen Treats

And when the mercury climbs, there’s no better way to cool off at Disney than with one of their top-notch frozen treats!

But how do you choose just one??? Well, let’s be honest. We don’t. We choose, you know, seven.

Today, we’re taking a look at a few of our favorites, all in the name of helping you decide! Aren’t we nice like that? I don’t know about you, but I’m already feeling refreshed!

Hand-Dipped Ice Cream Bars at Clarabelle’s

One of my favorite frozen treat genres is the ice cream bar. After all, there are several foods with sticks on this list!

But one of the best, hands down, is the Make Your Own Ice Cream Bar at Clarabelle’s in Disney California Adventure.

Choose your Bar — Vanilla, Chocolate, or Mixed Berry Sorbet. And then choose your Dip from Milk or Dark Chocolate. After that, play with toppings by adding one, or all of them! And you walk out with the ice cream bar of your dreams.

Hand Dipped Ice Cream Bar -- You Create It!

Hand Dipped Ice Cream Bar — You Create It!

The only way they could improve on the concept is by offering [Read more…]

Review: Tony’s Town Square at Magic Kingdom

Time for a visit to a great little table service stop in the heart of all the magic — Tony’s Town Square in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

This spot has it all — Disney history, beautiful themeing, and if you play your cards right, some of the best views in the entire resort!

But while I love the restaurant itself, the food hasn’t always been the main draw in the past.

We’re checking in today for lunch to see what’s new, and if my love affair with that the patio seating remains firmly intact!

Atmosphere

Tony’s is located right on the Town Square (natch) of Magic Kingdom — as soon as you pass below the train station and enter Main Street USA. You can’t miss it.

Tony's Sign

Pass by the Town Square Theater where you can meet Mickey, and you’re there!

Tony's Entrance

Inside, you’ll check in at the hostess stand and await your table. While a walk up spot isn’t unheard of, it’s best to make an advance dining reservation here — especially if you’d like to take advantage of Tony’s biggest draw. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Tony's Check-In

The waiting area was given a bit of a refresh last year, when the Town Square Theater opened as the new spot for Mickey’s meet-and-greet.

The space retains its turn-of-the-century charm, but the finishes are newer. You’ll also get your first dose of the restaurant’s star characters and theme! The animated classic Lady and the Tramp plays continually on the flat screen television.

Tony's Waiting Area

Once your table is ready, you’ll be shown to one of three main seating areas. The restaurant is [Read more…]

Review: Lunch at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So, it had been far too long since I’d been to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, and it was high time to head back.

Located in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mama’s is a hodgepodge, with all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia smooshed into an old fashioned Italian restaurant.

The food here can be inconsistent (surprise), so you never really know what you’re going to get. But my past two visits have been great, so I was excited to check it out again.

Let’s take a look at my most recent lunch here, and see where this meal falls on the Disney Restaurant Continuum. (Wait til you see the picture of the STEAK!!!)

Atmosphere

Mama Melrose’s is, well, a little strange. At first, it appears to a typical old-fashioned family restaurant that might be found in any large city’s Little Italy section.

Dining Room View From Outside

But once you move beyond the brick facade and really start to look around at the curious surroundings, you might inquire about the backstory to clear up the confusion.

The story behind Mama Melrose’s is a little “We Made This Story to Fit the Space.” But here goes.

A young girl from Italy with stars in her eyes makes her way across the US, in hopes of finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. But during her starving artist days, she found that her cooking was more successful than her acting.

Dining Room Inside

And so, she opened a restaurant at the urging of her friends in a vacant warehouse that had previously been used to store film equipment. Nicknamed “Mama Melrose” by her patrons, she gained the fame she was looking for — but it came via her authentic Italian cooking.

Since Mama was a poor, struggling actress — and a recent immigrant to boot — the dining room is set up with what she could find to make it cozy and comfortable. Low lighting from strands of lights give it a soft glow. (And who doesn’t love those little white lights?)

And chandeliers are mismatched — sometimes, right down to the glass globes around the bulbs.

Mismatched Shades

Quirky Lighting

Wall hangings celebrate Los Angeles, Mama’s new home, and her roots in Italy.

Wall Hangings

Of course, it is an Italian restaurant, and so you’ll also see foods — dried and cured sausages, cheese, pasta, and fruits and veggies — hanging around as well.

Food Decor at Mama's

Walls also hold pictures of [Read more…]