Guest Review: Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot’s Morocco

Today, Disney Food Blog welcomes back guest author Joey Beyer with another “hidden gem” review of dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot’s Morocco pavilion. Man, I think it’s time I went back to this place!

While I am always excited to write a piece for the Disney Food Blog, this review is particularly special for me because I get to write about one of my absolute favorite restaurants: Restaurant Marrakesh.

Nestled in the very back of Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion, Restaurant Marrakesh is a truly unique and authentic experience. An argument could easily be made that Morocco is the most authentic and immersive World Showcase pavilion.

As a result of the restaurant being somewhat hidden at the very back of the pavilion, there is a kiosk right on the promenade where interested parties can make a reservation and look at the menu. There are always cast members at this kiosk to answer any questions people may have.

In addition to these amenities, there is a book containing pictures of most of the menu items. This same book can be found on a table outside of the entrance to Restaurant Marrakesh.

Marrakesh Sign and Menu Book

Many people seem to be a bit apprehensive towards Moroccan cuisine, and for that reason it is usually possible to walk up [Read more…]

African Inspired Meals in Walt Disney World — Tusker House

Jambo! Join me in welcoming Disney guru Mary Jo Collins and Disney World Moms Panelist Bernie Edwards back to the blog! In this article they’ll share with us various locations to enjoy an African Inspired Meal at Walt Disney World. We also get a close-up look at the Tusker House restaurant. Twende! Let’s go!

Theming Outside Animal Kingdom's Tusker House

Visiting the Walt Disney World Resort has become synonymous with the enjoyment of great dining at restaurants both inside and outside the theme parks. For many of us, these meals lend us the opportunity to experience exotic foods from exotic places.

African Food in Disney World
Fortunately for guests of Walt Disney World, African cuisine is showcased in a variety of table service restaurants offering a peek at the food that has been influenced by the marinade of cultures, colonies, trade routes and history of this land. To describe or categorize what African food is in a few words would be impossible.

The cuisine is as varied in Africa as the cuisine of any large continent. The continent’s regions each have significant differences in their own distinctive dishes and preparation techniques. However, in Africa the various cuisines traditionally combine [Read more…]

Managing Your Diet Plan in Disney World: Low-Carb Diets

One thing I haven’t been able to master is staying on a specialized diet plan in Disney World. Luckily, I have a few friends who have been able to be diet plan superstars while on vacation, and they’ve agreed to share some of their secrets with you! This series will include information about vegetarian, vegan, and low-carb dining, as well as dining in Disney World after having weight loss surgery.

Today, we welcome guest author Christina Relacion again to the food blog. She’s been successful with the South Beach low-carb diet in Disney World and has some great tips and tricks!

Good vibes -- Posted in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Healthy dining at Walt Disney World. That sounds like an oxymoron. With fried foods, hamburgers and devilish desserts around every corner, it must be impossible. I’m always trying to watch my weight, and being a foodie, that can be hard with all the great choices at home and on the road, especially at a place like Walt Disney World.

Fruit at Boma in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Last year, I started on the South Beach Diet, a diet plan created by Arthur Agatston that helps you determine good carbs from bad carbs and good fats from bad fats. One of the first things I thought of when beginning the diet was: [Read more…]

Restaurant Marrakesh Review

I took the opportunity to do a wine pairing dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh during the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, which was a nice introduction. We decided to give it a try for a full meal on a recent visit.

Restaurant Marrakesh is the prize at the end of the Morocco maze in Epcot‘s World Showcase. Once you wind your way through the gorgeous alleyways, museum, and shops of the pavilion, you end up at [Read more…]

Dinner and a Show at World Showcase

We talk a lot about food around here (can’t imagine why), but we don’t pay nearly enough attention to some of the great entertainment that Disney provides in and around its restaurants during mealtimes. I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at a few of the Epcot World Showcase restaurantsChefs de France, Restaurant Marrakesh, Biergarten, and Teppan Edo — that offer not only great food, but also fun entertainment!

Chefs de France
One of my favorite “acts” in World Showcase is just outside Chefs de France in the France Pavilion. This hilarious duo has a couple of different “schticks” — one in which the acrobat is dressed as a tourist and comes into the act from the audience, the other in which he’s dressed as a Chefs de France server as he is in the photos below. The basic gist is that he’s just trying to clean the chairs, but the Chef continues to push him into climbing higher and higher onto the balanced mountain of furniture! The finale is breathtaking!

[Read more…]

A Trio of “Traditional Desserts”

One of my never-ending quests as a food blogger is to make sure everyone saves room for dessert! So, to forward that goal, I’d like to tempt you with three World Showcase desserts that are often considered to be, in a way, “food ambassadors” from their respective countries.

When you’re dining at Chefs de France, the Rose and Crown Restaurant, or Marrakesh, these are some of the desserts that are on the menu to represent their national cuisine:

Chefs de France: Creme Brulee
Creme brulee is a dessert made of a baked and cooled vanilla custard topped with sugar, which is rapidly melted (usually with a blow torch or broiler) to form a caramel-y, candied top crust. One of the most fantastic things about eating creme brulee is that first “crack” of the sugar crust crunching when you dive in with your spoon! The earliest known reference to Creme Brulee — which means “burnt cream” — is in a 17th century French cookbook.

The Chefs de France Creme Brulee is BIG and beautiful! It’s authentic, and it’s served without the flavor-y flair (pistachio, maple, milk chocolate, etc…) you’ll in creme brulee versions at other Disney restaurants. This is simple, straightforward, rich, and — honestly — luxurious.

Chefs de France Creme Brulee

Chefs de France Creme Brulee

Rose and Crown Restaurant: Sticky Toffee Pudding
Compared to creme brulee, Sticky Toffee Pudding is a relatively new dessert in the culinary world! Said to have been developed in 1907 and refined by a Lake District pub owner in the 1960’s, Sticky Toffee Pudding is a warm sponge cake, often flavored with dates, covered with…well…a sticky, toffee-flavored sauce! Many restaurants serve sticky toffee pudding with ice cream or a [Read more…]

Dining Alone in Disney

I’m honored to bring you a guest post by one of my favorite travel bloggers, Gray at Thanks again, Gray, for sharing your insights and tips on dining alone in Disney World!

Counter Seating at Wolfgang Puck

Counter Seating at Wolfgang Puck

Many travelers, even those who are excited by the prospect of enjoying some alone time at Disney World, get queasy at the thought of having to eat alone. This, despite the fact that Disney has fabulous restaurants and legendary customer service.

Don’t be nervous just because you’re a “party of one”! I have eaten alone in many restaurants in Disney World and 99.9% of the time have received the most exemplary service. Go ahead and eat at Quick Service restaurants if you’re on a budget, but don’t cheat yourself out of the wonderful table service restaurants if you can afford it. A delicious sit-down meal prepared by one of Disney’s talented chefs will certainly enhance any solo trip to the World.

To overcome any solo dining jitters, you need a distraction. This could be recording your day’s experiences in a journal, catching up on a good book, or flipping through the photos you took on your digital camera. Disney even builds in some nice distractions for us solos, you just have to look for them. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of solo dining at Disney World:

  • Have your table service meal during a less crowded time. This could mean eating at an off hour.
    Chefs de France Window Tables

    Chefs de France Window Tables

    Chefs de France, for instance, is far more enjoyable when there are fewer guests in the dining room. It’s quieter and more peaceful, and the odds of scoring a table by the window (for people-watching) are greatly enhanced.

    Resort restaurants tend to be less crowded during lunch, when everyone is at the parks. I had a wonderful meal at Sanaa on my last trip, right around noon, and I was only one of maybe three tables of diners in the whole restaurant. Again, you have a greater chance of scoring a good seat this way, but you also feel less conspicuous.

  • Eat at a restaurant with bar or counter seating. If you are a social person, this affords you the opportunity to interact with other diners.
    Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant

    Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant

    One of my favorite meals at Disney World was at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney, when I sat at the counter in front of the chef’s station and had a lively and friendly chat with the chef while he prepared meals.

    Other great restaurants with bartop dining include
    Bluezoo at the Dolphin resort (a wonderfully grown-up restaurant), the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Flying Fish Cafe on the Boardwalk.

  • Enjoy a dinner show. You have many options at Disney World for dinnertime entertainment, including the Spirit of Aloha Show at the Polynesian Resort, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness, as well as smaller-scale entertainment such as watching a movie at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater or belly dancers at the Restaurant Marrakesh.
  • Go for a great view. The Disney Food Blog recently highlighted the best restaurants for watching the Wishes and Illuminations fireworks shows during dinner; those are great choices.
    Relax with the show at the Coral Reef Aquarium

    Relax with the show at the Coral Reef Aquarium

    You could also grab a water-view window at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants or dine at the Coral Reef Restaurant, where you can gaze upon a living coral reef with 85 species of tropical fish swimming around. (For a more peaceful experience at the Coral Reef, try lunch here, when it’s less crowded; and don’t sit right next to the aquarium, or you’ll find children constantly bumping into you as they run up to press their faces against the glass.)

As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you dine out alone, the more comfortable and enjoyable it becomes.

From the Editor: Thanks again, Gray! DFB readers, if you’re interested in more info about solo dining in Disney, stay tuned for the next post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel Mini-Series where the moms chime in on their choices for meals if spending a day blissfully alone at Disney World!

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!”

2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Marrakesh, Morocco, Food and Wine Pairing

Here’s one I was really looking forward to — the Marrakesh Food and Wine pairing! This was the most expensive event we signed up for, at around ~$60 per person.

Marrakesh Sign

Marrakesh Tables and Pink? Lighting

Marrakesh Tables and Pink? Lighting

There were about 30 people there for the event, and we were seated in an upper corner of the restaurant at about four large tables. Each place setting had a wine-tasting placemat printed with the names of the three wines we would be trying: Les Trois Domaines, Guerrouane Rouge, from Meknes, Morocco; Now & Zen, Alsace White, Alsace, France; and Chateau Trois Moulins, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France.

Trio of Wines for Tasting

Trio of Wines for Tasting

Once we were all seated, the event began with the Marrakesh chef introducing us to the restaurant, which was fully decorated with top-to-bottom mosaic art by the Moroccan King’s own artisans (as was the Morocco pavilion itself). It’s truly a stunning location for a meal.

The chef has been at the restaurant since its opening, and touched on a few of the differences between the American and Morrocan cultures and foods. He then announced the wine expert and presenter for the afternoon, who proceeded to lead us through the tasting.

Marrakesh Food and Wine Pairing Cast Members and Moderators

Marrakesh Food and Wine Pairing Cast Members and Moderators

Most of the afternoon was about the wines — their origins, geography, and taste profiles. The food, mostly in tapas-sized portions, was largely not discussed. I wasn’t expecting this, and really was quite disappointed that we weren’t talking about the food flavors, preparations, and choices very much. So although I was very interested in hearing about the wine choices, this was a “con” of the afternoon for me.

The Wines
Our first wine, Guerrouane Rouge les Trois Domaines, paired with a delicious, spicy lamb sausage, was from the Guerrouane growing region of Morocco and resembles a Rhone style blend. The primary grapes in this blend are Cinsault, Grenache, and Carignan.

And this wine carries with it a fascinating fact: while the first two grapes are fermented traditionally, the Carignan grapes are fermented through something called “carbonic maceration” fermentation. If you’re a wine gourmet, you’ll probably know what that means, but I was utterly impressed! Carbonic maceration means that fermentation takes place within the grape, and actually makes the grape explode! The result is a light, fruity wine, and the process can increase the alcohol level of the grape’s fermented juice.

This wine’s fruity aromas paired well with the spicy sausage; it was probably my favorite pairing of the day.

Lamb Sausage with Lamb Stock and Tomato Sauce

Lamb Sausage with Lamb Stock and Tomato Sauce

Our second wine, the Alsatian Now & Zen, is made from a blend of Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer grapes, and hails from the long-contested segment of sometimes-France sometimes-Germany, Alsace, located between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine River. The cool climate of this area means the grapes ripen slowly, and, according to our wine moderator, this gave the the wine a wider array of aromas, including citrus and spice (coriander, nutmeg, cumin).

This was the only white that we tried (therefore, it was my favorite wine of the afternoon — I’m a white wine fan), and it was paired with Marrakesh’s delicious lemon chicken and couscous. The dryness of the wine paired nicely with the sweet and tangy lemon flavors of the dish. Overall, this was a more mellow pairing than the first.

Lemon Chicken and Couscous

Lemon Chicken and Couscous

Our final wine, Chateau Trois Moulins of the Haut-Medoc appellation of Bordeaux, is a Cru Bourgeois wine, which essentially means that it’s not classed as highly as some “bigger name” wines, but it is very highly regarded nonetheless. (This is the case for most Haut-Medoc wines, as I understand.) Made mostly from Merlot grapes, with some Cabernet and Petit Verdot as well, this wine has a deep color and flavor, with aromas of dark red fruits and deep tastes, like cassis, blackberry, cigar, and chocolate.

This wine was paired with the darkest meat we were served — a beef shish kabob, which included roasted mushroom. I think the pairing would have gone much more smoothly had the meat not been so badly overdone. The wine alone, though heavy, was tasty.

Shish Kabob with Mushroom

Shish Kabob with Mushroom

Tips on Wine Pairings
We were able to ask questions throughout the pairing, and we received a couple of great “pointers” for pairing food and wine:

  • Make decisions based on body and weight, not on colors, necessarily. Full-bodied and heavy foods and sauces pair well with full-bodied and heavy wines. Wines that feel lighter in your mouth will pair better with lighter foods/proteins. Wines that have deeper, heavier flavors will pair better with heavier foods/proteins.
  • Wines that are higher in acidity will turn up the flavors of other foods. For example, Chianti can be used, essentially, as a condiment to peak the flavors of the foods with which it’s paired.

Hopefully those are helpful to some of you. As I’m a wine novice, I found it extremely useful!

But Was it Worth the Money?
Now, a lot of folks have asked me if the more expensive events at the Food and Wine Festival are “worth it,” and while I can’t speak for every event, I’m not sure I’d do the Marrakesh food and wine pairing again. The food was consistently overdone, the portions were small for the price, and I didn’t find that it was a good representation of the dining opportunities available at the restaurant. Unless you’re a true wine-lover, consider spending the money to have a meal in the restaurant instead.

That’s just my two cents though, folks! I look forward to hearing about your positive AND negative experiences at Food and Wine Festival events.

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

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

From Mom Erin F.

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave Trio of Desserts

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

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

From Mom Amber V.

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

From Mom Anna S.

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

From Mom Jennifer W.

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

From Mom Kara B.

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

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

From Mom Joanne M.

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

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

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

From Mom Heather R.

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

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

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

From Mom Whitney P.

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

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

From Mom Jo Y.

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

From Mom Kim L.

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

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

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

From Mom Kay B.

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

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

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

From Dad Doug I.

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

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

From Mom Jodi G.

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

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

From Mom Beth C.

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

From Mom Margaret F.

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

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

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