Dine with an Imagineer Review

Disney's Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant

Disney's Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant

Brad at StitchKingdom.com recently did a fantastic review of the Dine With a Disney Imagineer experience, and I hope you’ll click on that link and read all about it.

Personally, I’ve never had the chance to take part in this cool opportunity, and I’m so glad to be able to share the details with you through the insightful description (and food photos!!) on StitchKingdom.

From the Disney Website:
Dine with an Imagineer at Walt Disney World Resort offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to enjoy engaging conversation with a Disney Imagineer as you savor a delectable lunch at the chic Bamboo Room of the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

Up to 8 Guests join in stimulating discussion with one of the incredibly creative artists who bring the magic of Disney to Walt Disney World Resort attractions and entertainment. Feast on a 4-course meal and receive a souvenir plate designed exclusively for this experience that can be personalized by the Imagineer!

Price: $60.99 Guest 10 and older; $34.99 Guest 3 to 9; (6.5% tax and 18% gratuity will automatically be added to the check)
Call (407) 939-5665 to book.

Photo Credit: CP via flickr

Goofy’s Candy Company

Whether you call them candy or sweets, when you’re on Disney property they’re going to have Goofy’s stamp of approval! Gummies, sour balls, gumdrops, and more — Goofy’s got them all.

Candy Company Product Example

Candy Company Product Example

Goofy’s Candy Company was developed as Disney’s own candy brand (why pay someone else when the profit could be your own?), which is sold throughout the parks, resorts, and Disney properties worldwide. The story behind this brand is that Goofy, the beloved best pal to Mickey himself, owns and operates a colorful candy company; he even has the credentials to prove it!

Goofy's Candy Expert Credentials (Note the cool hidden Mickey in the woodgrain above!)

Goofy's Candy Expert Credentials (Note the cool hidden Mickey in the woodgrain above!)

Sour Apple Eating Contest: First Place!

Sour Apple Eating Contest: First Place!

And in Disney World’s Downtown Disney, Goofy’s newly renovated candy wonderland opened its doors in 2005.

Downtown Disney Candy Company Entrance

Downtown Disney Candy Company Entrance

Formerly Goofy’s Candy Kitchen, the need to popularize and promote the Goofy’s Candy Company product fostered the renovation — and movement into a much larger space — of the store. And while the kids who went to Wonka’s had to take what they could get, the folks who go to Goofy’s have the opportunity to dream up and create anything they want!

Make-Your-Own "Glacier"

Make-Your-Own Glacier

That’s right! Goofy’s created an interactive paradise for sugar-fiends! There are two ways to “have it your way” at Goofy’s: Glaciers and choose-your-own-toppings treats.

Glacier Goofy

Glacier Goofy

Glaciers (which are, basically, slurpees) come in eight flavors, including gawrshly berry blue and pucker purple, but the fun part is that you get to customize your cup! Purchasing the souvenir container allows you to choose a “hat” and “feet” (think “Mr. Potato Head”) for your Glacier cup in addition to your flavor (or flavors!). You can have a Mickey cup, a Minnie cup, a Goofy cup, a Stitch cup, a Princess cup…. .

And on the other side of the store, you can order your choose-your-own-toppings treats! Here, you choose a “base” item, e.g. an apple, a rice krispie treat, pretzel rods, marshmallows, and Mickey-shaped gingerbread cookies, which you then get to cover with two layers of toppings. The first, a “sticky” topping, includes choices like milk chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel. The second, a “stick-on” topping, includes options like butterfinger or oreo cookie crumbles, chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, nuts, and sprinkles.

Vat-o-Goo Candy Apple Maker

Vat-o-Goo Candy Apple Maker

Now, don’t forget, this is Disney, so every other sweet food item you’ve seen on property is available for sale here, too. Cookies, biscuits, bulk candy (sold by the pound), tinned candy, Goofy’s Sour Powder — even a few items that aren’t exclusively made by Goofy (that’s right — Goofy even sells competing companies’ candies once in a while). So this is a great place to come to pick up a gift to bring home for the office mates.

Goofy's Sour Candy Powder

Goofy's Sour Candy Powder

Jelly Bellies

Jelly Bellies

And once you have your creations ready to eat, wave goodbye to Goofy on your way out!

One Version of a Final Product -- Rice Krispie Treat 'n' Stuff

One Version of a Final Product -- Rice Krispie Treat 'n' Stuff

Exit

Editor’s Note: I’ve never been able to visit Goofy’s Candy Company without incurring a massive stomach ache within 3 hours of leaving. This is just a warning. Carry on and good luck. ;)

Photo Credits: JoshMcConnell via flickr
Photos 3-7, 9, 11
Photo Credit: J&E’s Photos via flickr
Photo 1
Photo Credit: _aurora1982 via twitpic
Photo 10

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: July 19

Animal Kingdom eat here
So MANY fantastic food posts this week…you’re in for a treat! Here we goooooooo!

Deb Koma at All Ears interviews Marianne Hunnel, manager of culinary programs for the 2009 Food and Wine Festival: Hopefully I’m hiding my jealousy…is it working? ;-) Read this if you’re planning on heading down to the festival in Sept/Oct/Nov! There’s also a prelim lineup of events so you can get an idea of how you’re going to have to work your current dining plans around the Food and Wine collection of seminars and events.

Disney Geek Dad discusses his Top Seven Favorite Snacks at Disney World: A great list, including some you wouldn’t find on typical lists — anyone up for some Figaro Fries?

Main Street Gazette highlights A Recipe from Epcot’s France Pavilion: But they didn’t find it in any restaurant… . A heartwarming and interesting post; just what you’d expect from this fantastic website.

SoloFriendly visits Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney Hollywood Studios: Continuing the string of great Disney food reviews by SoloFriendly; you won’t be disappointed this week either.

Kati’s Kupcakes shares photos of her Alice in Wonderland Cupcakes: An adorable group of cupcakes, including the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and, of course, the Queen of Hearts. You can see more of Kati’s Kupcakes on her website.

DVCbyResale highlights the Boardwalk’s Flying Fish Cafe in this week’s “Main Course” segment: Some delicious food photos from a restaurant that’s often overlooked.

All Ears makes the list twice with this review of the Kidani Village Poolside Dining service: One of the first of its kind on Disney property, I hope it continues! I love the idea of room service by the pool…

Disney Food Recipe: Pop Century’s Tie-Dye Cheesecake

This cheesecake was a hot topic when POP Century Resort first opened in 2003 (do you remember?), and it’s still as weird, wacky, and delicious as it ever was.

Disney's Pop Century Resort

Now, Disney’s got some “pricier” cheesecakes around property, but it’s tough to beat this one for outright fun. This’ll be a great alternative to standard birthday cakes for those old hippies in your life ;-)

Recipe:
Red Velvet Cake (“crust” portion):
1/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 ounce red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 c buttermilk
1 c flour
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.

Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Add the paste to the creamed mixture. Mix salt and vanilla in buttermilk and add alternately with the flour. Mix soda and vinegar separately, add last, folding in. Do not beat after adding soda mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake in pan.

Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Cheesecake Filling:
1 1/2 lb. Cream Cheese
1 1/3 c Sugar
5 Large Eggs
16 oz. Sour Cream
1/4 c Flour
2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 teaspoon Lemon Juice

NOTE: All above ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin.

Preparation:
Start by beating the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Keep the mixer on a low setting throughout the beating and mixing process. Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat after each egg. When eggs have been mixed into the cream cheese add flour, vanilla and lemon juice, mix well. Add the sour cream last and beat well.

Divide the batter into 6 bowls and color each one:
red, purple, yellow, light blue, green, orange

To assemble, drop large spoonfuls of the colored batters randomly on top of the red velvet cake still in the pan. Swirl each layer slightly. Place on the top rack in the middle of a 325 degree preheated oven for one hour and 15 minutes. When time is up, prop open oven door and leave the pan in the oven for one hour. After one hour, remove from oven. Let cool enough before the cheesecake is put into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Thanks to the Pop Century Fan Site for the photo!

Paradiso 37 Photos

Pinvestigator Cody, as many Disney fans know him, writes the Global Disney Pinvestigation blog and recently had the chance to dine at Disney’s newest restaurant, Paradiso 37 in Downtown Disney. He was kind enough to share with Disney Food Blog readers his mouth-watering pics of the meal!

Macaroni and Cheese Balls

Macaroni and Cheese Balls

Tacos

Tacos

Burger and French Fries

Burger and French Fries

Beef and Cheese Quesadilla

Beef and Cheese Quesadilla

Ice Cream Cone Dessert

Ice Cream Cone Dessert

This restaurant, operated by E-Brands, opened last month in Downtown Disney. Its tagline, “Street Foods of the Americas,” indicates this new venue’s menu, which includes items from the 37 countries of North, South, and Central America. But it’s the tequila bar that’s exciting a lot of foodies; Paradiso 37 features more than 50 kinds of tequila and 10 signature frozen margaritas.

Tower Bars

Tower Bars

Live entertainment is offered Sunday – Thursday 6pm to 11:30pm, and Friday and Saturday 6pm to 12:30am. For reservations please call 407-934-3700.

Rumors, Rumors, Everywhere…

Rumor Touring Plans is floating a few fun food rumors, including an extension through December of the free dining offer (some twitter-ers are reporting receiving email pin codes for free dining extensions through October), and a return to the 180-day booking window for advanced dining reservations!

Also, we’re hearing little birdies talking about some exciting details regarding the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival! Info should be out soon! (Remember to save August 11th — that’s when you can book the special events!)

Fingers crossed!

Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing: Part II

World Showcase

World Showcase

Here’s the second in our series of Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing! Today, we’ll discuss the restaurants with the best views for Illuminations fireworks viewing. (The previous blog post, Part I, has information about Wishes fireworks viewing.)

Illuminations, Reflections of Earth, is shown at Epcot at 9:00PM every night, Saturday-Thursday. Friday nights vary between 9:00PM and 8:00PM depending on Epcot’s schedule.

Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room, patio table
Rose and Crown in Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion is the quintessential dining and viewing spot for Illuminations. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the coveted tables out on the covered patio, Rose and Crown’s view of Illuminations will offer you one of best experiences in Walt Disney World. There’s simply nothing like it.

Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room

That said, the fierce competition for these tables has made me forego even making a reservation for dinner at Rose and Crown over the past few visits to Disney World. While Rose and Crown cannot guarantee their ability to grant requests for patio tables, hopefuls begin crowding the podium before 7:00PM each night, willing to wait as long as it takes. The line of patrons waiting to check in can stretch all the way to Tudor Lane. As a result, Rose and Crown has instituted a policy (in my experience) that those checking in at the podium may wait only one hour for a table request; after an hour, they must take the table offered, or choose not to dine at Rose and Crown.

Patio View

Patio View

How can you improve your chances? Visit Disney World during a slow season (e.g. Winter or early Fall), book your reservation for around 7:30-7:45pm (it’s simply not fair to the servers to book earlier; unless, of course, you’re willing to pay three times the tip!), and tell the cast members when you check in that you’re willing to wait the hour for a fireworks-view, patio table.

Back Patio

Back Patio

Note that the Rose and Crown patio stretches around the Rose and Crown, meaning you might be seated at the side of the restaurant. You can still see the fireworks here, but the view will not be as good as from the back patio, directly next to the lagoon. You can specify that you’re requesting a back-patio, fireworks-view table, but patio is patio… .

Side Patio

Side Patio

Rose and Crown is a casual restaurant; park-wear is acceptable. No reason to dress up. By the way, the potato and leek soup is to die for!

La Hacienda de San Angel
One of Epcot’s newest restaurants, La Hacienda de San Angel, offers — for the first time in Epcot history — an Illuminations view rivaling that at Rose & Crown! While many of the tables offer excellent views (the windows are expansive), those that are right up against the windows will be highly prized.

View from Our La Hacienda de San Angel Window Table

One of the Main Dining Rooms at La Hacienda

Bistro de Paris
This high-end restaurant located on the second floor of the building housing Les Chefs de France in Epcot’s France pavilion has excellent Illuminations viewing. Again, you’ll want to arrive early and request a window table, but a steep price and nearly hidden entrance (the entrance to Bistro de Paris is hidden around the back of the Le Chefs de France building) mean that competition for seating is limited compared to Rose and Crown.

Fireworks from Bistro de Paris Window

The dining here is top-notch, but the view from the second story windows can’t be beat. Dress up for this one and make it a celebration.

Cantina de San Angel
The Mexico pavilion’s counter service dining option has been touted by some, panned by others, but everyone agrees that it’s a good option for watching Illuminations…assuming you can commandeer a table and stand your ground!

Cantina de San Angel

Because the tables are lined up along the World Showcase Lagoon, patrons have complained about kiddos squeezing themselves between tables and fence to get a better view. Also, folks who might not have as much need for personal space as you do may invite themselves to infringe upon yours by “sharing” your table.

This spot might be more hassle than it’s worth, but it’s an inexpensive way to get one of the best views in the park. And the food’s tasty, too!

Tokyo Dining
Tokyo Dining, in Epcot’s Japan pavilion, was recently renovated and re-opened in 2007. Specializing in sushi and tempura, the restaurant shares the second floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store building with Japan’s other table-service restaurant, Teppan Edo.

Tokyo Dining

This might be your best bet for getting an advanced dining reservation less than 90 days out, as many folks don’t yet know about Tokyo Dining, aren’t sure where it is, or simply don’t want to try the food. Luckily, this means that the floor-to-ceiling window views are up for grabs!

Dining Room

Dining Room

As with the other restaurants, make a reservation for an hour or so before Illuminations and arrive early. Request a window table (tell them you’ll wait if necessary). Once seated, enjoy your meal leisurely until the show begins.

View of World Showcase Lagoon

View of World Showcase Lagoon

Note that there is an outdoor, public walkway along the windows at Tokyo Dining. If people notice it’s there, they may crowd it before the show. You’ll still be able to see the fireworks, but this could possibly block the view a bit.

Outdoor Walkway

Outdoor Walkway

Tokyo Dining is a more casual restaurant; park-wear is acceptable.

Other Potential Viewing Spots With Dining
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend either of these spots for Illuminations viewing, Tangerine Cafe in Morocco and Liberty Inn at the American Adventure might offer a decent place to sit to see the higher-up fireworks. At Tangerine Cafe, even if you’re sitting outside (the windows are too opaque to see from the inside), the crowds will likely mar your view of the action on the water. At Liberty Inn, the American Gardens Theater tends to block out the lagoon view. But both offer spots to sit, take a load off, and nosh a bit while you listen to the music and enjoy at least some of the show.

If you have other ideas and options, be sure to let me know in the comments section below!

Check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” in our series!

Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing: Part I

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening is with dinner at a great restaurant followed by a beautiful Disney fireworks display. The best way to spend an enjoyable evening is to have the great dinner DURING the fireworks display!

There are several Disney restaurants from which you can see either Magic Kingdom’s Wishes or Epcot’s Illuminations. Here in Part I of our “Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing” series, we’ll look at restaurants from which you can see Wishes.

Wishes is the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks display. It usually takes place at 9:00PM, but can be earlier or later depending on time of year and the MK’s schedule of special events. The Wishes soundtrack is piped into the restaurants, so hearing the accompaniment to the fireworks will not be a problem.

BEST RESTAURANTS FROM WHICH TO VIEW WISHES

‘Ohana
‘Ohana, one of the two table-service restaurants at the Polynesian Resort, has arguably the best view of Wishes from any restaurant. With a wall of windows facing the castle, directly across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Polynesian, the view of Wishes is head-on — just as you’d see it on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (only farther away).

'Ohana Sign

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

The second picture isn’t the best — the castle looks a million miles away — but trust me that it’s a great show from ‘Ohana. Definitely worth booking. And speaking of booking, you’ll want to book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled time for Wishes. When you arrive at the podium, request a “Fireworks view” table. They cannot guarantee it, but they’ll do their best. If you happen to be seated in one of the few tables from which you can’t see the fireworks, you’re free to move during the show to stand in an area of the restaurant offering a better view.

Also, note that if you don’t get a reservation for around fireworks viewing time, the Polynesian Beach is another great spot to view Wishes.

‘Ohana is a casual dining establishment; standard park-wear is acceptable here.

Narcoossee’s
Narcoossee’s, in the Grand Floridian Resort, sits over to the left-hand side of the Magic Kingdom. Several window tables offer a great view of the Wishes fireworks show.

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

Narcoossee’s also has an outdoor viewing area along the railing outside of the restaurant. This will offer a great view if you’ve not yet been seated at your table. Again, book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled start time for Wishes.

Narcoossee’s is a bit fancier than ‘Ohana; you might want to dress up a bit.

California Grill
California Grill, on the Contemporary Resort’s 15th floor, is often thought of as the quintessential Wishes viewing spot. The restaurant offers its outdoor viewing deck in addition to the views from the wall of windows in the restaurant.

California Grill Sign

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

That said, California Grill isn’t my favorite location for Wishes viewing, as the vantage point is strongly to the right of the castle. As a result, many of the fireworks launched from a mile or so behind the castle are skewed and don’t appear as they would when watching the show from directly in front. However, California Grill definitely has my vote for best food of the three!

Note that if you can’t book a reservation around fireworks time (these fill up fast) but get a reservation at some other time that evening, you are welcome to return to the 15th floor observation deck to view the fireworks at their scheduled time. Also, James comments below that the bar at California Grill has non-reservation seating, so you might get lucky with a seat at the bar if you hit the Contemporary at the right time. (This seating is first-come, first-served.)

California Grill is another Disney signature dining location, so it’s pricey…and dressy.

OTHER OPTIONS FOR RESTAURANT WISHES VIEWING

While these three are clearly the front-runners in dining reservations, you can also see glimpses of Wishes from Magic Kingdom’s Plaza Restaurant, Crystal Palace, Casey’s Corner, and Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station.

Interesting “views” of Wishes can be had from Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle and Pinnochio’s Village Haus in Fantasyland. While the fireworks are exploding above your head (not necessarily in your view, of course), you can see the flares being released from the tops of Magic Kingdom buildings around you. You won’t be able to truly experience Wishes, but it’s a unique view for anyone who has an interest in pyrotechnics, engineering, or fireworks in general.

Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom from which you can see very little — if any — of the Wishes Fireworks display are: Liberty Tree Tavern, Tony’s Town Square, Columbia Harbour House, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, El Pirata y El Perico, Pecos Bill’s Cafe.

Check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” in our series!

Disney Food Weekly Round-Up: July 12

Eat Here
Some really interesting Disney food posts around the web this week! You’re gonna love ‘em!

SoloFriendly Reviews Spoodles: This restaurant will be replaced by Cat Cora’s Kouzzina this fall, so make your reservations quickly! SoloFriendly writes a glowing review.

PRD3000’s Revenge at 50’s Prime Time Cafe: Finding a way to “fight back” after being stuck in the corner singing “I’m a Little Teapot” for putting elbows on the table. Talk about needing a fastpass for the bathroom… .

WatchMeEat Tries Out Lottawatta Lodge at Blizzard Beach: Most of this post is about Blizzard Beach (which many of you will find interesting, I’m sure), but if you just want to see food, scroll down for pics. Great review of Blizzard Beach, to boot!

Kevin Kidney Details the History of Disneyland’s Birthday Cake Room: While it may be a stretch to include on a food blog, this is a really interesting article for you Disney history nuts out there. At least it has “Birthday Cake” in the title.

Epcot’s Nine Dragons

View from Nine Dragons

View from Nine Dragons

According to most accounts, Nine Dragons in Epcot doesn’t really require an advanced reservation. It’s also considered a very disappointing restaurant for many. This characterization might be somewhat accurate — it’s not a “Wow!” restaurant — but I’ve had a few good experiences there and wanted to share that perspective as well.

Nine Dragons was recently overhauled, and, I think, offers a decent dining experience. While most people are forced into this restaurant by sudden rainstorms and bad planning (i.e. all the other restaurants are full and they couldn’t find Marrakesh), the food is more than edible (sometimes even good!) and the atmosphere is rich. Yes, it’s a bit too expensive for what you actually get, but the service hasn’t been bad in our experience, and we do enjoy the food.

Decorative Glass Wall

Decorative Glass Wall

Renovated Light Fixtures

Renovated Light Fixtures

The restaurant renovation was immediately apparent on our last visit. Gone was the garish, too-opulent decor of the old Nine Dragons. The warm dark woods and interesting colors worked well with the stark, clean table settings. I find atmosphere to be almost as important as food, so being seated in a room that was pleasing to the eye already had the restaurant ranking higher in my mind than previously. Plus, the fun “history of writing” on the place mats was interesting, and any Epcot restaurant gets extra points if I learn something while I’m there.

Dark Wood Decorative Screens

Dark Wood Decorative Screens

History of Writing Place Mats

History of Writing Place Mats

We ordered the Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings, the Spit Roasted Beijing Chicken with Mashed Taro, and the Canton Pepper Beef with rice. Although the food wasn’t “signature restaurant” quality, it was as good as most neighborhood Chinese restaurants and a bit better than some.

Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings

Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings

Beijing Chicken with Mashed Taro

Beijing Chicken with Mashed Taro

Canton Pepper Beef with Rice

Canton Pepper Beef with Rice

Overall, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner, had decent service, and were pleased with the atmosphere (even if the tables were a bit too close together for our liking). There’s nothing wrong with this place, but if you don’t believe me, Marrakesh is at the back of the Morocco pavilion… . ;-)