2011 United Way Chef’s Gala To Be Held in Epcot on May 21st

Benefiting Heart of Florida, The United Way’s Chef’s Gala will be held in Epcot’s World Showplace on Saturday May 21, 2011. The 19th annual Chef’s Gala touts the event as “A Tasteful Way to Make a Difference” which raised almost $170,000 last year! Walt Disney World has hosted the Chef’s Gala since its inception with over a million raised in that time!

Chef's Gala

Specs
The festivities begin at 6:45 pm. with a cocktail attire dress code.

6:45 – 8:15 pm Champagne Served and Martini Bar Opens
7:30 – 10:00 pm Chefs Begin Serving

Guests will enjoy a silent auction and wine reception. This tasteful event continues with a scrumptious tasting featuring over 20 top chefs (and restaurants) from Central Florida. There will also be paired fine wines, desserts and specialty coffees. For questions about wine and wine pairings, Sommeliers will be on hand.

Participating restaurants include: Artist Point, Kouzzina by Cat Cora, La Luce by Donna Scala, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant, Sanaa, Todd English’s bluezoo, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, Tusker House Restaurant, The Wave…of American Flavors, Disney’s Contemporary Resort Bakery, Epcot Bakery, Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company.

Ticket Info: [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: August 8, 2010

Via Napoli Dining Room

It’s been another news-filled week for the Disney food world! Here’s the latest:

Also, a quick reminder for those of you coming back from Disney trips: we’d love to see your pics over on the Disney Food Blog flickr page! And now, on with the round-up!

Future Probe reviews Epcot’s Coral Reef Restaurant.

Disney Parks Blog reports on a new brunch and Bloody Mary bar at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney.

Designing Disney takes us back to the Cafe des Visionnaires of yesteryear in Disneyland Paris.

Disney Daddy shares the details from his Lunch with an Imagineer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These days you can experience Lunch with an Imagineer at Flying Fish Cafe!

All Ears‘ Deb Martin Koma interviews Marianne Hunnel about this year’s Food and Wine Festival.

Main St. Gazette takes an in-depth look at a fun vegetable garden in Epcot from the 2010 Flower and Garden Festival, which happens to include eats like Ursula’s Onions, Peter Pan’s Peas, Mickey’s Beanstalk Beans, Kanga’s Purple Kale, and Stitch’s Strawberries!

Makin’ Memories Photo Blog showcases dessert pics from the recent Tables in Wonderland Great Movie Ride dinner.

A Taste of Disney shows us how to make Jiko’s filet mignon with mac and cheese and red wine sauce.

Chip and Co looks at Disney World restaurants from a senior citizen’s perspective.

Of course there are lots of reports from Via Napoli‘s early days! Check out Mousesteps, Jeff Lange, WDW Radio, Jack Spence’s Report, Zannaland, Disney Every Day, The Daily Disney, Laughing Place, Theme Park Insider, WDW News Today x2, Orlando Attractions, WDWMagic, and Inside the Magic for even more pics and reviews.

“The Best Thing I Ever Ate in Disney!” Entrees

Here’s the next post in our series based on the Food Network’s (very cool) show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. As many of you know, due to some keen suggestions from readers we’re splitting our series up into different sections: breakfast, appetizers & side dishes, snacks & drinks, entrees (lunch & dinner), and desserts.

Today, we’re taking a look at entrees! I’ve done my favorite brand of informal polling (i.e. posted questions on twitter and facebook ;) ) to find out others’ experiences of the “Best Thing They Ever Ate” in Disney parks and resorts.

The following are the answers received from our readers about their favorite main courses and entrees! If your favorites aren’t here, please add them in the comments section below!

Steaks

It’s no secret that Disney World does steak well. You’ve seen my votes for Five Best Steaks in Disney World, and a lot of these made the list in our poll as well! Here are the top contenders according to our facebook and twitter readers:

Mushroom Filet Mignon with White Truffle Butter Sauce and Micro Chevril.

Le Cellier:

  • BBQ Filet Mignon: This steak, recently pulled from the menu, was the restaurant’s signature filet served with cream cheese mashed potatoes and doused in barbecue sauce.
  • Filet Mignon with Mushroom Risotto: The current incarnation of the filet is this version. Situated on a bed of delicious mushroom risotto and covered in a white truffle-herb [Read more…]

5 Best “One-Credit” Disney Dining Values

UPDATE: Please see our Best “One-Credit” Disney Dining Values for 2012 here! Please note that Le Cellier is 2 credits for dinner in 2012, and 2 credits for both lunch and dinner in 2013.

OK, you’ve booked this Fall’s free dining package and now you’re not so sure which table-service spots deserve the credit (pun intended!)? Below are my top picks for best value in the “one table-service credit” realm of Walt Disney World restaurants.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Disney World offers a vacation package add-on called the Disney Dining Plan. This works a lot like your meal plan when you were back in school — you pay a set price in exchange for a certain number of credits. Each table-service restaurant meal in Disney World is worth a certain number of credits, the vast majority of them being worth one credit. In this post, I’m describing my picks for one-credit table-service restaurants that offer the most bang for the Dining Plan buck*.

Le Cellier Poutine, with gravy on the side

Le Cellier

This one’s a no-brainer. Le Cellier Steakhouse is far and away one of the most popular Disney World restaurants at the moment, its reservations slots are full months in advance, and it offers some incredible food and service.

With dinner entrees running between $20 and $37, and desserts averaging [Read more…]

Epcot Dining Extended One Hour For Limited Time

backlot noticeHeaded to Disney World March 28th-April 10th and still haven’t gotten your Le Cellier reservation? You’ve just won the lottery today!!

Disney Parks Blog has announced it’s testing the idea of an extra hour of dining for three Epcot restaurants for a limited time:

Give it a try from March 28 through April 10, and let us know what you think — you can book your “extra hour” table at Coral Reef Restaurant, Garden Grill or Le Cellier.

Are you interested in taking advantage of this latest test? Let us know where you’re booking, and send a review when you get home! Can’t wait to hear the stories! Fingers crossed this becomes “Disney law!”

For more breaking news, visit our Disney Food News bulletin list.

Healthy Eating in Walt Disney World

A Great Lunch Option at Starring Rolls Cafe

A Great Lunch Option at Starring Rolls Cafe

Some of you listened to the Healthy Eating in WDW episode of the WDW Today podcast last week, but there’s still a lot of information and tips for those of you who’d like to — or have to — start eating a bit healthier while you’re on vacation.

Even if you just want “not to go overboard,” (I feel your pain.) the tips, menu options, and “eat this not that” suggestions will help!

Tips for Eating Healthy in Walt Disney World

General Advice:
First thing first. These are tips everyone already knows, but we sometimes need a reminder or two…or three.

  • Look for fresh, not processed foods: You can find fruits and veggies in every theme park. When you’re in a resort food court, consider a salad, boiled egg, or pita and hummus.
  • Learn to be a “bother:” Order sauces on the side, substitute veggies/fruit for fries, ask that your meat not be cooked in butter, or see if you can order a half-portion of an entree for less money.
  • Watch portion size: Disney likes to give you your money’s worth when it comes to food, so be aware when you order. Make a meal out of an appetizer, and when you splurge on a rich entree or huge dessert, share with someone else at the table.
  • Eat breakfast: Breakfast is going to be one of the easiest and cheapest meals to eat healthily in a restaurant, so book mid-morning breakfast ADRs and fuel up with eggs, veggies, and wheat toast. Plus, there’s no temptation of ordering dessert!
  • Call ahead: If you’re eating at a set-menu restaurant or want healthier, or no-sugar-added dessert options, call or write to Disney ahead of time (SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com, or 407-824-5967).
Sanaa's Menu is Full of Delicious, Healthy Choices

Sanaa’s Menu is Full of Delicious, Healthy Choices

No Matter Where You Eat…
…there’s going to be something there that won’t eventually kill you ;-) Here are a few menu options [Read more…]

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!”

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!

2009 Candlelight Processional Dinner Packages

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Please Note: According to MousePlanet, Disneyland’s Candlelight Spectacular will be a hard ticket event for D23 Charter Members only, with an additional price tag of $275. The following information is rumored for Disney World ONLY.

Stitch Kingdom is reporting that this year’s Candlelight Processional Dinner Package at Disney World includes access to a reserved area to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth! This added benefit might just make it that much more worth it to book a Dinner Package!

The site also lists all of the specifics regarding the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, including costs and times for the different tiers of restaurants:
Tier I: Biergarten and Garden Grill
Tier II: Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose and Crown, and San Angel Inn
Tier III: Chefs De France, Coral Reef, Le Cellier, Teppen Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia

Word on the street (e.g. the message boards) is that booking this year will be on the regular 90-day schedule, and that Processional Dinner Packages will not be available via the online booking system.

As of right now, the Candlelight Processional will be offered November 27 – December 30, 2009, at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 pm.

Good Disney Food Posts Around the Web

Eat HereI’ve come across a bunch of great reviews and photos over the past few weeks and wanted to highlight a few of them. Thanks for all the good food writing, all!

Scott Joseph Orlando’s Chefs de France Review: Highlights the fascinating history of Chefs de France, including its three famous owners, along with Scott Joseph’s excellent food critique. If you’re a foodie and visit Orlando, you should be subscribed to this blog.

Touring Plans’ Research Results on When to Make your Advanced Dining Reservations for Certain Restaurants: Touring Plans releases and analyzes research here about how far in advance you’ve got to book those Disney dining reservations. Find out the theme park restaurants where you can possibly dine as a “walk up” customer, and which you need to book right at that 90-day window.

Etckt’s ESPN Club review: A great writer and Disney afficionado (who’s been quite close to the Mouse in the past) reviews his recent ESPN Club experience at the Boardwalk. Great photos.

SoloFriendly’s Coral Reef Review and SoloFriendly’s BlueZoo review: Excellent, detailed, and honest reviews of a couple of restaurants not everyone who visits Disney World knows about. And these are from the perspective of an adult, solo traveler in Disney World, which makes them even more interesting.

Laughing Place Paradiso 37 Pictures and Review: A good, thorough review of the restaurant’s opening day, including some comments from E-brands Restaurants CEO Rashid Choufani. LOTS of photos, folks!