Dining in Disneyland: Storytellers Cafe and the Happiest Haunts Tour

Dining in Disneyland columnist Heather Sievers reviews a fun Halloween-y evening: dinner at Storyteller’s Cafe followed by the Disneyland Happiest Haunts Tour!

Located inside The Grand Californian Hotel, Storyteller’s Café is usually one of our go-to breakfast/brunch stops. This trip, however, was for dinner. With tickets to the Happiest Haunts Tour in hand, we needed an early, low-key meal. We wanted to take care of business and get out of there so we could get over to California Adventure’s Tower of Terror to start our “haunting.”

Eats

Storyteller’s is known for its buffets. They have a breakfast/brunch buffet as well as a dinner buffet. But we opted for the menu/table service action this time around.

Dinner starts off with a bread basket overflowing with freshly baked cornbread muffins and loaves of white bread. And if you’re sitting at our table, there are usually mojitos involved. Our party included 3 adults and 2 children, so there were quite a variety of dishes to examine!

Mojito

The menu options are not aplenty, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t a bad one on the list. As a starter, I had the Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder. This soup is one of my favorites. It’s creamy, sweet and savory, full of chicken, and topped off with bacon. Yum!

Nebraska Corn Chowder

For my entrée, I chose the Margherita Flat Bread with grilled chicken. I do have to say that [Read more…]

Wild Africa Trek: Snacking on the Savanna

Update: Current pricing is $189 – $249.

Disney Food for Families columnist Erin Foster finds a surprising end to her recent Wild Africa Trek in Disney’s Animal Kingdom…

I signed up for Disney’s brand new Wild Africa Trek at the Animal Kingdom because I wanted to check out the nifty new rope bridge and get up close and personal with crocodiles and hippos; I wasn’t in it for the food. The booking agent on the phone mentioned something about a snack, but that barely registered with me. I had taken other backstage tours at the Animal Kingdom and the snack was serviceable but unremarkable granola bars and pretzels.

Atmosphere
Because of this, I was taken by surprise when we arrived — after two hours of hiking and animal observation — at the tour break point and found a meal being set. We were on a new boma (not to be confused with the restaurant Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge) constructed in the middle of the African savanna, in full view of the Kilimanjaro Safari jeeps. The boma is a covered, stage-like private animal viewing area with bathrooms, comfortable chairs, binoculars, and best of all — amazing food.

The new boma on the Kilimanjaro Safari savanna

The presentation couldn’t be lovelier. Our wonderful tour guides (thank you Megan and Laura) set our chilled metal camp cups and carafes of cool water and tropical juice. I believe this is the same blend they [Read more…]

Epcot Twinings Tea Tour

Tea Tour Times

Tea Tour Times

I’ve long wanted to take part in the Twining’s Tea Tour in Epcot, and I finally got the chance over Memorial Day weekend. This tour seems to pop up during the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring and during the Food and Wine Festival in the Fall, and takes place several times per day (Friday/Saturday/Sunday while I was there) in the garden of the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot. If you’re lucky enough to have the time, stop by the UK pavilion, and get your name on the list for the tour time of your choice.

Our guide, a CM from the UK pavilion who’s been “tea-trained,” led us through a shockingly informative and enjoyable tour of the tea (and, mostly, tea-flavoring) plants in the UK garden’s many teacup planters. I mentioned that I’d wanted to take the tour for a couple of years, but I never expected that a no-cost experience could be so well-done. The guide was quite knowledgeable about the history and art of tea-making and answered each question very well (including a few toughies); I left feeling like I’d really learned quite a bit.

Tour Guide Discusses Camellia Sinensis

Tour Guide Discusses Camellia Sinensis

Twinings of London
The guide began by tell the group a bit about the exhibit’s sponsor, Twinings of London. The original Store, which can be found on the Strand in London near The City (the eastern financial district of London), was actually a coffee shop bought by Thomas Twining in 1706. Twining was the first to sell the newly-imported tea in his coffee shop, giving him a competitive advantage against the city’s coffeehouses. 40 years later, tea became one of England’s significant exports to the American colonies. Today, Twinings offers 300 varieties of tea and exports around the world.

Camellia Sinensis Info

Camellia Sinensis Info

The Tea
The guide spoke first about the Camellia plant, of which there are two versions: one from China and one from India. This is the plant from which all teas, excepting herbal teas, is made. Whether you’re drining green tea, oolong tea, black tea, or white tea, it all comes from the Camellia plant. So how do you make it different? Leaf picking, oxidization, and infusions:

–Black tea, which is what we western hemisphere residents largely consider “regular tea,” gets its name and dark brown color because it’s been fully oxidized. These teas have a deeper flavor, often described as “burnt caramel.” These teas have the fewest antioxidants, though there is still a larger concentration than in a large serving of carrots.

Tour Guide Discusses Tea Making

Tour Guide Discusses Tea Making

–Oolong tea, made from leaves that have been only partially-oxidized (usually only the edges of the leaf are oxidized), has a medium flavor that varies between those of black and green tea; it can be made to carry both lighter and bolder flavors depending on leaf treatment.

–Green tea, which is consumed most often in eastern cultures, has been picked early and is steamed or pan-fired to stop oxidation, leaving its green color and lighter flavor.

–White tea is harvested only once per year, as it takes the first bud and top leaf of the plant. These are withered and dried, with no oxidation. These teas have the most antioxidants of all.

Oolong Tea

Oolong Tea

Our guide went on to explain how teas are flavored with leaves and blossoms of other plants as well as herbal infusions; Twinings’ 300 tea varieties are the work of master blenders who undergo 5 years of training. He also briefly discussed herbal teas, which are made solely from herbs with no inclusion of the Camellia plants.

And a Few Other Fun Facts
The tour was rounded out with some great tips and facts about tea blending and brewing, including how to make DIY decaffeinated tea; the history behind America’s best-loved tea, Earl Grey; and why Irish Breakfast tea is so much stronger than English Breakfast tea.

All in all, it was a highly enjoyable half-hour. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to stop by the next time you’re in Epcot while the tea tours are offered!

The Tea Walk

The Tea Walk