UPDATE: New California Grill Menu with Photos

As we mentioned in our update on the California Grill renovation, this popular restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be unveiling new dishes when it reopens.

California Grill is expected to start taking reservations within the next few weeks for its end of August opening. But right now, in an off-site kitchen, California Grill Chef Brian Piasecki is creating delicious new dishes!

In our earlier post, I reviewed the three-meat meatballs — a new addition to the appetizer menu at the restaurant. They were delicious…

Oak-Fired Three Meat Meatball.

“We’re really trying to think of creative new ways to use our wood-fired oven,” says Piasecki. Those meatballs are one way, with pork, lamb, and veal spiced with house-made harissa.

An oaky, crispy crust makes them perfect for dredging in Meyer-lemon-scented chimichurri with a side of marinated picholine olives and a little orzo. “Perfect for sharing,” says Piasecki.

Three Meatball Appetizer.

Sourcing as much as possible locally is a priority for Piasecki. The Cape Canaveral prawns are a great example. He roasts them head on in the wood-fired oven and serves with oven-roasted tomatoes, charred lemon, and a handful of peppery baby arugula. (And he’s using the shells to make prawn oil.)

Prawns.

He’s also creating house-made duck charcuterie – prosciutto, sausage, rillettes, butter, and mousse, all made with duck and served with [Read more…]

News! First Look at the New California Grill Menu at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

We previously brought you the news that California Grill, one of Disney World’s most popular dining spots, will be closing for a major renovation on February 1.

The signature restaurant, located high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, will be closed until late summer. In the meantime, Chef Brian Piasecki is already busily creating a new menu that blends classic dishes with fresh updates. Thanks to Disney Parks Blog, we’re getting a few first looks at a few of the creations. First up: sushi!

Although Yoshie Cabral, the restaurant’s beloved sushi chef, is retiring, sushi will continue to play a big role on the menu.

New Sushi Creations

Some of the new items aren’t fish at all, but take their inspiration from traditional Japanese dishes, like Japanese-style Bone Marrow with Crunchy Panko and Sweet Onion Jam and Beef Tartare. I can’t wait to try these!

Traditionalists will also find Sea Urchin Nigiri with Mamanori (soybean paper), Salmon Roe and freshly grated Wasabi Root.

More New Sushi Options

Meat lovers will find plenty to tempt their palates, too. The 24-hour Braised Beef Short Rib with Truffle Whipped Potatoes, Vol-au-Vent (puff pastry) with Roasted Vegetables and Natural [Read more…]

Review: Tokyo Dining in Epcot’s Japan

Craving sushi or just need a relaxed and elegant spot for lunch or dinner? It’s time to book Tokyo Dining!

Although we have recommended Tokyo Dining a number of times as a decent spot for catching Illuminations, I’ve never posted my own review of this restaurant. So we made it a priority to head over and dig in — for the sake of the blog. ;-)

This spot is located on the second floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store building in Epcot’s Japan, adjacent to the Hibachi-style Japanese steakhouse, Teppan Edo.

And while we know it’s a terrific place to stop by for sushi (and it’s rarely crowded), they’ve got plenty on the menu for non-seafood palates as well. Let’s take a look!

Atmosphere

Like a growing number of World Showcase restaurants, Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo now have an outdoor check-in area for busy days. On our visit, it wasn’t that crowded; so the cast member told us to head on upstairs to check in.

Check-in Desk Outside Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining

We were met by two very gracious Japanese cast members, signed in, and directed to wait in the lobby of the two restaurants.

The quiet, sleek, and spacious waiting area is a welcome respite from the relative activity of the theme parks. It’s very restful.

Waiting Area

Once your name is called to be seated, you’ll be directed to one of two main dining rooms at Tokyo Dining.

The first room features an on-stage sushi kitchen, where you can watch chefs as they prepare dishes for guests.

Additional Seating and Open Sushi Kitchen

The other dining room features some seriously cool indirect lighting, plus plenty of natural lighting and panoramic views of World Showcase.

Here’s a weird tip: the tables by the windows have super cushy padded chairs, while the others are less comfortable. Just an FYI…and one good reason to request a seat by the window.

Another good reason? Illuminations. Yep; you really can see the fireworks from here (albeit they can be slightly obstructed by trees or people standing on the balcony outside).

Dining Room Seating

We were here during the day, however, so I was happy to take in the views from my cushy window seat. ;-)

View From Dining Room

We had lots of items to choose from, so after taking in our surroundings, it was time to settle down and decide [Read more…]

Review: The Causeway at the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Just in case you didn’t know, TONIGHT begins the Third Annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic right outside of Epcot! This year’s event will be held October 12-13 (tonight and tomorrow night) from 5:30-9:00 pm, and I think it’ll be even better than last year!

Swan and Dolphin Causeway

If you’re not familiar with this event, let me tell you a bit about it. The Food and Wine Classic is a fun companion event to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and features seminars and tasting stations from Swan and Dolphin chefs and restaurants as well as other culinary and beverage superstars. Seminars are beverage-related and feature everything from Wine Blending to Modern Mixology (check out our review here!).

But the centerpiece to the Food and Wine Classic is the tasting booths on the Causeway. To whet your appetite for the 2012 event, we have this review from last year’s Causeway. Be sure to check out this year’s menu selections to see what awesomeness is in store for 2012 guests!

Tables and Set Up

And stay tuned all the way to the end of the post, where we have special rate codes for DFB members to turn their Food and Wine Classic experience into a fun-filled weekend!

Atmosphere

This year, guests will choose from over 30 different tasting stations featuring dishes from all your favorite Swan and Dolphin eateries, including Todd English’s bluezoo, Shula’s, and others.

You’ll begin your evening at the check-in table on the Causeway. Here, your reservation will be checked and you’ll receive tickets or a wristband, as well as a plate and glass.

Check In for the Causeway

The Causeway takes its name from the location where the [Read more…]

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria and Albert's Plate

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

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

Atmosphere

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

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

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

Victoria and Albert's Seating

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

Maître d'hôtel Israel Perez and Chef Rivera

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

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

Splitsville: Opening Fall 2012 in Walt Disney World

We’re looking forward to the Fall 2012 opening of Splitsville at Downtown Disney! With food and bowling, who could ask for anything more? ;-)

Splitsville Concept Art

This games-meets-food “lounge” will be a great family dining spot, I’m sure. We’ve got the menu from the Tampa location below, and — from the looks of it — the Orlando menu will be very similar (of course, it’s subject to change).

Splitsville Tampa Menu -- Click to see larger version

Come on — filet mignon at the bowling alley? 60-ounce alcoholic drinks? Awesome. I’m pretty excited to try those Firehouse Sliders and the Kool-Aid Bowl myself…

Since it’s not quite open yet, though, here are a few pics we snapped on a recent visit to the construction [Read more…]

News! Epcot’s Katsura Grill Grand Opening and Menu Announced

As reported in August, counter-service restaurant Yakitori House is being transformed into a new restaurant in the Japan Pavilion. The new Katsura Grill is set to open its doors on December 7, 2011, to Epcot visitors.

The Yakitori House in Epcot's Japan Pavilion

Taking inspiration from the Katsura Imperial Villa of western Kyoto, Katsura Grill will reflect the Japanese architecture and incredible gardens of this Imperial Family villa.

The menu will include [Read more…]

Review: California Grill

When planning meals for our October trip to Walt Disney World, I realized it had been a LONG time since we’d visited California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort! And I haven’t reported on it here on the blog for over a year, so I figured it was time to get a little updating in!

Let’s head over to the check-in desk, shall we…?

Atmosphere

To access California Grill, guests need to head to the 2nd floor of the Contemporary Resort and visit the restaurant’s check-in desk (you can get here by elevator, or by taking the stairs/from the back of the lobby).

Once you’re checked in, you’ll be waved over to a special elevator — one used only for California Grill guests — and taken up to the restaurant itself on the 15th floor of the hotel!

Entry from Elevators

I’m always immediately impressed by the nearly 360-degree view of Walt Disney World. The gorgeous, sprawling Grand Floridian Resort in front of you; the spires of Cinderella Castle, Big Thunder mountain, and Space Mountain to your right; and the Wilderness Lodge and Epcot to your left will make it difficult for most folks to tear themselves away from the walls of windows to take a look at the menu!

When you walk in, you’ll be greeted at the podium and (likely) handed a pager. No worries; there’s lots to do while you’re waiting. Start walking toward the windows and you’ll pass the California Grill Bar and head into the lounge area.

California Grill Bar

California Grill Bar

California Grill Lounge

Here’s a tip! If you don’t have a [Read more…]

WDW Foodie Fest Countdown! One Week to Go!

Our second annual WDW Foodie Fest in Walt Disney World is only ONE week away! (And we just ordered extra Mickey Bars and Mickey Rice Krispie Treats for our October 2nd Main Event, so you gotta come help us eat ‘em)!

Whether you stop by to participate in the scavenger hunt, or to just hang out with food and fellow foodie fans, it’s sure to be an awesome time!

Scavenger Hunt Specs

The focus (besides the food!) at the Foodie Fest Main Event on October 2nd will be our 2011 scavenger hunt through Epcot and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. You will need Epcot admission to participate in this hunt. Those who finish will be eligible to win a prize!!

How It Works
You’ll be able to pick up your scavenger hunt pages at the Foodie Fest Registration Tables. Both hunts will require participants to find answers to clues. Use those answers to discover the [Read more…]

WDW Foodie Fest Scavenger Hunt Sneak Peek!

Only 18 days until our second annual WDW Foodie Fest in Walt Disney World!!

As you know, we’ve already announced two more WDW Foodie Fest events (for a total of four!), but we’ve got more news today on our Main Event!

WDW Foodie Fest Main Event

Taking place on October 2, 2011, from 11am-1pm at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, the WDW Foodie Fest Main Event is an Open House full of food (just ordered even more Mickey Bars and Mickey Rice Krispie Treats for the menu!) and games (should you have the inclination). All are welcome!

But for those of you who are a bit more adventurous, we also prepare a WDW Foodie Fest Scavenger Hunt through the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! (Guests will need Epcot admission if they’d like to take part in the Scavenger Hunt.)

Scavenger Hunt Sneak Peek

Similar to last year’s Hunt, we’ll have two options: the “Grown-Ups” hunt and the “Family” hunt. Usually, kids over the age of 8 should be able to handle the “Grown-Ups” hunt — it’s just a bit tougher than the “Family” hunt, which is designed for younger kids to enjoy.

When you arrive at the WDW Foodie Fest, grab a Mickey Bar and head on out to Epcot with your Scavenger Hunt clues. Those who finish and get the correct answer to the master clue at the end of the Hunt will be entered in our drawing for prizes!!

Could ice cream be the answer?

This year’s Scavenger Hunt is nearing completion, and we wanted to give you a sneak peek at a couple of the questions! Do you know the answers…?

What is the street address number of La Hacienda de San Angel?

What Funnel Cake topping in the American Adventure pavilion costs just $1.00?

What animal can be found above the [Read more…]