Kouzzina Dinner Review

After reading about and looking at photos of everyone’s meals at Kouzzina by Cat Cora, I’m thrilled to say that I finally had the chance to dine there myself!

Kouzzina

We arrived a few minutes late for our 7:30 reservation and were seated immediately. The Boardwalk was pretty deserted, except for a small crowd watching a magician do a few fun tricks. The lobby of Kouzzina was even more deserted; my guess is that folks haven’t yet heard about this place, so they’re not storming it at the moment.

But that meant that I got to take some really interesting photos of the lobby, including Chef Cat Cora’s family pictures on the wall and her shelves of cookbooks and wine.

Lobby shelves

Lobby shelves

Cat Cora's Pappa at age 8

Cat Cora's Pappa at age 8

More of the Cora Family

More of the Cora Family

Wall Map

Wall Map

The staff at the restaurant were wonderful — extremely welcoming and attentive. We were quickly led to our table through the large, open dining room. It’s still reminiscent of the Spoodles “farmhouse” feel, with the light wood plank floor and big, hardy dark wood tables and chairs. But Cora’s added softness with the use of delicate, mismatched chandeliers and effusive ironwork curly cues as accents.

Dining Room

Dining Room

There is some booth seating around the perimeter

There is some booth seating around the perimeter

Cora has written on and signed some of the artwork

Cora has written on and signed some of the artwork

We passed the open show kitchen, in which I found some very kind and patient chefs (I took a LOT of photos later in the evening!), and the big, farmhouse tables set for what must be very extended families!

A proud Chef watches over his fires

A proud Chef watches over his fires

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

The kitchen staff yells Opa! when the saganaki flame goes up

The kitchen staff yells Opa! when the flame goes up

Staff and Chef Dee Foundoukis are eager to show off the restaurant

Staff and Chef Dee Foundoukis are eager to show off the restaurant

We went very light on lunch today so that we could order and taste lots tonight, which we certainly did! Once presented with the menu, I quickly ordered my Ouzo-tini and two appetizers: Spanakopita and Saganaki.

The Ouzo-tini, “Cat’s personal recipe features Absolut Vodka, Metaxa Ouzo, Pineapple Juice, fresh Lime Juice, and Pomegranate served in a Sugar-rimmed Martini Glass Shaken and served table side. I loved all of the flavors, and the licorice-like taste of the Ouzo was very present. My first thought? “This tastes like a Good -n- Plenty!”

Ouzo-tini

Ouzo-tini

The Spanakopita — Traditional Phyllo Pie of Spinach, Feta, Leeks, and Dill — was…fine. Maybe we were having an off night, but the heavy spinach taste wasn’t much to our liking (and my companion usually LOVES spinach). It’s hard to say that, as I know this is a traditional item on the menu. I can give very high marks to the phyllo pastry… .

Spanakopita, Bread, and Butter

Spanakopita, Bread, and Butter

Spanakopita

Spanakopita

The Saganaki — Seared Haloumi Cheese with Lemon and Oregano — was my favorite of the two appetizers. It’s basically the Greek version of fried cheese, so why wouldn’t we like it? The cheese is firm — almost rubbery in texture. It’s quite salty, and the tang of the lemon adds an interesting layer. Although the cheese is a decent taste alone, it’s much better when eaten, as presented, with the soft, crusty oil-and-herb brushed bread. One more tidbit — originally, the saganaki was to be flambeed table-side. Due to dangerous conditions (not the least of which are kids + fire), the flames stayed in the kitchen; but the whole kitchen staff yells, “Opa!” every time the fire jumps feet into the air.

Saganaki

Saganaki

From there, we moved on to our entrees. I had been fantasizing about the Pastitsio since the Kouzzina menu was released way back when, so I ordered that. We also ordered the Flank Steak and a side order of herbed Orzo.

The Pastitsio — Greek-style Lasagna with Bucatini Pasta, Cinnamon-stewed Meat Sauce, and Bechamel — looks gorgeous. With a brown, crusted top and layers of rich bechamel sauce; thick, spaghetti-like bucatini; and spicy (as in cinnamon-spice) meat sauce, it looked heavenly. But the taste was…I hate to say it…a bit bland. I looked around for salt. There was none on the table, which was according to Cat Cora’s instructions, said my waiter. He brought me the salt and the Pastitsio got better, but it’s not something I would order again. My companion (a more adventurous eater than I) felt the same.

Pastitsio

Pastitsio

Pastitsio Inside

Pastitsio Inside

On the other hand, the Wood-grilled Flank Steak with fresh Herb Saltsa and Kouzzina Potatoes was rockin’! Grilled perfectly and settled on those beautiful little smooshed garlic potatoes, it was the hit of the evening.

Flank steak and crushed garlic potatoes

Flank steak and crushed garlic potatoes

We also sampled the Herbed Orzo side dish with Greek Olive Oil and Kasseri Cheese. This was light, fluffy, and had a stunning flavor — salty again, with that slight zing of lemon. The cheese in no way weighed this down. We enjoyed it.

Herbed Orzo with Cheese

Herbed Orzo with Cheese

For dessert, I knew we had to try the Loukoumades — Greek doughnuts drizzled with warm honey. I was also in a chocolate-y mood, and although I’m not usually that impressed with Disney World’s standard chocolate desserts, I ordered the Chocolate Budino Cake with a warm molten center and whipped sweet cream.

The Loukoumades came highly recommended by a food blog reader, and we’re big ol’ doughnut fans, anyway. They looked puffy and yummy and fried, and you can’t beat that. Better yet, they were delicious. The honey drizzle feels and tastes like a glaze, and after a quick crunch as you bite, the Loukoumades melt in your mouth. Add the tangy berry dipping sauce and you’ve got a jelly doughnut right there at your table. A truly clever, “interactive” dessert that the whole family can enjoy together.

Loukoumades

Loukoumades

The Chocolate Budino Cake looked innocent enough, and I almost discounted it as being another of the bland, (seemingly) mass-produced Disney World chocolate desserts. But I would have been wrong. The aroma when I cut into the cake was the precise one I smell when my Dad adds the butter to a bubbling pot of dark chocolate fudge at Christmastime. Every bite of this dessert was delicious.

Chocolate Budino Cake

Chocolate Budino Cake

And the inside...

And the inside...

I didn’t get the chance to try Cat Cora’s Greek Cookies, but I did get to take a photo for you!

Kouzzina Cookies

Kouzzina Cookies

Overall, I enjoyed the feel and service of this restaurant. And while the dishes (except the steak and dessert) weren’t spot on for my palate, I really do look forward to returning and trying some of the other items on the menu.

As with several of Disney’s newer restaurants, this menu has some adventurous dishes, such as the traditional whole fish entree. But it is actually more populated with more familiar items — such as the burger, steaks, fried cheese, and lasagne — that have been given Greek and Mediterranean twists. Overall, you (and your kids) are probably going to find something you like here, even if you’re picky eaters, but check out the menu to be sure you’re comfortable. It’s well worth the visit to the Boardwalk, and can offer a delicious and interesting evening out for the family or a romantic evening for date night.

Try it and let me know what you think via facebook, twitter, or email!

You can find other posts on Kouzzina here:
Kouzzina Grand Opening
More Kouzzina food photos, including the Whole Fish entree.
Kouzzina menus

New Dishes at Liberty Tree Tavern (And We Tried One!)

We were over at Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch today and found out about two brand new dishes: Chicken and Dumplings and Salmon Cakes!

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

The chicken and dumplings was not what we expected, and almost tasted like a very hearty, peppery chicken soup. A bit too homogeneous a taste for an entree (we like some sides with our meals), but not a bad dish.

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Unfortunately, the pasta dish has been taken off the menu.

Tokyo Dining in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

Special thanks to Christina Relacion, who writes Scenes From the T and recently contributed several photos for the food blog’s Best Restaurants for Thanksgiving post. She and her husband put together this great guest post about Tokyo Dining in Epcot’s World Showcase!

Tokyo Dining

Have you ever gone to a place numerous times and then found a hidden gem? Tokyo Dining inside the Japan pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase is one of those diamonds in the rough.

My husband and I are WDW veterans and hadn’t even ventured inside the walls of the pavilion until our most recent trip. But being huge sushi fans it amazed us that we had never had an experience at Tokyo Dining.

Judging by the low number of crowds in the pavilion, it seemed that others were also not as adventurous to wander past the iconic pagodas, koi ponds and faux Shinto shrine gate. But inside the pavilion’s massive structures are the most mouth-watering and delectable sushi, sashimi and other Japanese delights.

Gate Outside of Japan Pavilion

Gate Outside of Japan Pavilion

When we first entered the second-story restaurant in the Mitsukoshi-owned building, Cast Members dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos greeted us. They all graciously welcomed us into the restaurant making us feel like visitors to someone’s home instead of guests at a theme park eatery.

We were swiftly taken to a table overlooking the World Showcase lagoon. The view was spectacular! We mentally took note that this would be a fabulous spot to enjoy Illuminations in the future. A large patio wraps around the second-story giving you an enhanced view of the evening fireworks show.

Dining Room at Tokyo Dining

Dining Room at Tokyo Dining

Tokyo Dining’s menu is comparable to other sushi restaurants. It includes the typical California roll (avocado, cucumber and crab wrapped in seaweed paper and rice) and other favorites such as Spicy Tuna and Salmon rolls, and tempura (battered covered vegetables or meat). One of the first things we noticed were the prices were right in line with other sushi restaurants we have visited (prices begin around $4).

Tokyo Dining Sushi Chefs

Tokyo Dining Sushi Chefs

The menu has enough variety that we were each able to order something different, whether it was a selection of sushi and sashimi or pre-selected meals such as a Bento box.

My husband, Brett, enjoyed a Spicy Philadelphia Roll (a spicy tuna mixture with cream cheese, green onions, and sesame seed, $7.50 for a roll of 5-6 pieces) , yellowtail sashimi (fish with no rice, $9.95 for 5-6 pieces) and salmon roll (salmon wrapped in seaweed paper and rice, $6 for a roll of 5-6 pieces). The Spicy Philadelphia Roll was a pleasant surprise of hot and cool contrasting tastes. The cream cheese nicely followed the tang of the spicy tuna mixture. This roll is one we had never found at any other sushi restaurant.

Sushi Selections

Sushi Selections

On the other hand, I enjoyed a Bento box. A pre-selected concoction of beef teriyaki, seaweed salad, tuna sashimi and tempura vegetables served with Miso soup (a clear broth with tofu) and a Japanese-style side salad with ginger-infused dressing, all for $23.50. I was a bit apprehensive of the seaweed salad, but it was one of the best parts of the meal. It had a sweet flavor with a little crunch.

Bento Box

Bento Box

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

To end the meal, our server brought out a special First Anniversary dessert for us. The chocolate-ginger cake (normally $5.50) is comprised of layers of ginger-flavored cake with chocolate mousse and a dark chocolate glaze. It was the perfect ending to our meal.

Chocolate Ginger Cake

Chocolate Ginger Cake

Although some people are apprehensive about eating raw fish, there are many items on the menu for vegetarians and those who are picky eaters. A great rule of thumb: tempura-battered items are generally fried. You can also select sushi rolls that are made of items such as sweet potato, cucumber, asparagus and other tasty veggies. For sushi rookies, we recommend trying something such as tuna for your first raw experience due to its taste and texture.

The service and quality at Tokyo Dining is some of the best in WDW. Cast members go out of their way to make your experience pleasurable. If you decide to make this your first sushi experience, you won’t be disappointed.

WDW Moms Panelists on Best Dining Values in Disney World

I’m really excited about this 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, but today we get into the nitty gritty of Walt Disney World planning: what restaurants offer the best value for the money?

Looks from the answers that the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom, the Flame Tree Barbecue, and Teppan Edo were big winners in this category, along with Whispering Canyon Cafe’s skillet!

From Mom Erin F.

I’d suggest any of the buffets – particularly if you go for lunch. Have a bagel or coffee breakfast, and chow at a buffet lunch; that will get you through the day. For counter service, I’ve had good experiences with Tangierine Café – you get a variety of food and great vegetables. And my kids love flame tree barbecue.

From Mom Anna S.

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

Good food at a worth it price for table service is Teppan Edo. Plus you get the show the chef performs in front of you to boot! We’ve always gotten very generous portions here, more than enough to share with each other without feeling like you’re sacrificing half the meal for the kids to each have a taste, and I can’t remember a time when we’ve eaten here and not had something leftover!

I’m not sure this technically counts as counter service, but I could talk all day about the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom. My husband and I went with our two younger children, ordered the rotisserie chicken for three, and left with our desserts in the nifty bag they give you, we were so full! This was an awesome Disney dining experience, and we can’t wait to do it again!

From Mom Kara B.

I’m totally cheating here and going for the non-counter/non-table service restaurant: the picnic in the park at the Animal Kingdom. What a smashingly brilliant deal. We had a TON of food for a family of 5 — so much so that we brought nearly half of it home with us (glad we were at a resort with a fridge) and were left with a shopping bag that I still use all the time. I love having comments about it as clerks bag my groceries. The park is filled with all sorts of fun places to picnic; we opted for the secret path by the Tree of Life and nearly had the area to ourselves (just a few people walked through). Not to mention, ordering the picnic is simple and with little to no wait.

From Mom Joanne M.

Hands down, for me the best counter service for taste, selection and value is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. The menu selection has something for everyone, from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. The food and service are consistently excellent. We often stop in on our last day and pick up a pizza for the flight home!

If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavillion at Epcot (I’m really not biased) offers one of the best deals for one dining credit. The mushroom filet absolutely melts in your mouth, and similar meals are two credits at some of the other resort restaurants. And the chocolate moose dessert is super cute
and soooo good!

For overall value, I always recommend going to some of the more expensive restaurants for lunch. This way, you get to experience the finer restaurants at reduced prices. One of my new favourites is Epcot’s Chefs de France in France. They currently have an awesome table d’hote special for $20, which includes decadent
lobster chowder or the best French onion soup ever, a main course selection (including a rich quiche), and dessert. Service is fabulous, and the setting is very francais!

From Mom Amber V.

I think a great table service that offers good food at a value is the Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Granted, the food is nothing fancy, but the portions are plentiful and we have always enjoyed excellent service here. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches, and there are occasionally chef specials as well. The desserts alone are a reason to visit the Plaza, and they are definitely
large enough to share!

For a great counter service value we go to Cosmic Rays at the Magic Kingdom. Their combo meals are absolutely large enough to share. I also love Columbia Harbour House. It is one of my favorite counter service restaurants at Disney. I feel that the menu selection is diverse and the food is good quality and decent portion sizes.

From Mom Heather R.

The Plaza Restaurant and the Trail’s End Restaurant both fall into that category. Really, any buffet will offer bang-for-the-buck, particularly if you have big eaters (or teenage boys!) in your family.

While not the least expensive option out there, I’d highly recommend the Canyon Skillet at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. It’s a family-style meal that is both delicious and bottomless! If you’re watching your budget, consider booking a late lunch for a $9 savings over dinner price.

At that same price point, for dinner I really like the clam bake at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club resort. It’s a buffet so you can eat till your heart is content, and I’m particularly fond of their miniature desserts (so yes, you finally can sample one of each!)

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

For counter service, I think that the Bacon Double Cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom is a very good value. It’s served with fries and is really quite large, easily split between two people. Although the price point is higher, the 1/2 chicken and BBQ rib combo there is also a large meal, and a step up from typical counter service restaurant offerings.

I also found that I was unable to finish my counter service lunch of Honey Chicken from Yak and Yeti, as the portion was larger than I was expecting. When eating there the next time I’ll plan on sharing it with one of my children so we don’t have as much waste.

From Mom Whitney P.

I see “value” through two different lenses: the food plus experience and just the food. If we’re talking food plus experience, three top my list:

If you’re a parent, you may have been urged by friends to seek a Character Dining meal while at Disney. I’ve seen many parents get stressed over these meals, especially with the inability to get advanced reservations for last-minute trips. A comparable memory-making dining experience for many children can be found, however, at the animatronic restaurants of T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe. In fact, Rainforest is probably the most-requested restaurant by my kids! PLUS: the menu is more affordable than the Character Dining buffets.

A close third is Sci-Fi Dinner Theatre. It gets panned by many who are on the dining plan, and rightfully so, because you could spend that same dining credit on more expensive fare. But when I go to Disney without the dining plan, and I’m looking at paying for both the experience as well as the food, Sci-Fi fits the bill for creating a memorable theme with food that’s comparable in price to some counter-service combo meals! My husband loves the Reuben.

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

If we’re talking food value sans experience, I tend to lean toward the counter-service restaurants. Again, three come to mind, all in different parks:

1. Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom: Our family of six can order two 1/2 slabs of ribs and the 1/2 chicken combo and we’re good. Top this off with a seat under the tree canopy down by the water behind the restaurant and you’ve got my number one value for food and experience for family-eating in the parks.

2. We can do the same thing at Cosmic Ray’s with its 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combo, but because the food is so similar, we usually don’t eat at both Flame Tree and Ray’s on the same trip. (By the way, while my family is gorging themselves on the ribs, I’m eating all the delicious green beans–YUM!)

3. Sunshine Seasons, Epcot: What I call their “blue-plate special” line (The Grill) offers up some pretty hefty
meals that can satisfy big appetites for under $10! The rotisserie chicken can be split between two of my boys. The seared-tuna salad is large enough to share, also!

From Mom Jo Y.

We are normally on the DDP so don’t tend to choose restaurants for the best value, rather where we’d like to dine. Saying that, though, for counter service I would say Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney offers great value for money. Although you need to stand in line to order your food like
at a regular counter service a waiter actually brings your food to the table, so it feels like a table service. The portions here are huge and the choice is extensive!

For table service I’d choose the Cape May Clam Bake; for under $30 adults can eat as much as they want from a large selection of foods including soups, salads, prime rib, shrimps, clams, vegetables etc

From Mom Kay B.

My husband insists the answer is Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner, since they will keep bringing the platters of food until you say no more! He loves the turkey and roast beef and all the “fixins” that go with that! I think there are several spots in EPCOT where you get a lot for your money and those are Nine Dragons in China and Marrakesh in Morocco.

For counter service spots, Flametree Barbecue comes to the front, and then also Cantina De San Angel in Mexico….good portions, full meals, decent pricing.

From Dad Doug I.

For table service I actually think you get a lot of good food for your money at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge.

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

You have to be hungry to take advantage of it, but the Skillets really work out to be a decent deal in the world of Walt Disney World dining.

For counter service I think there is no better choice than Flame Tree BBQ at the Animal Kingdom. The BBQ is fantastic, and the seating area, down in the riverside grottos complete with a dense, jungle-like tree canopy, is a real treat. I think it is a better dining experience than many table service restaurants!

From Mom Jodi G.

I think the Tangierine Cafe [in Epcot’s Morocco] is a great value — my personal recommendation for those who want to try out some new foods and fill up at a great price. As for table-service, I love the Crystal Palace buffet (especially dinner) because the buffet has some great food at a good price.

From Mom Beth C.

Teppan Edo in Japan is my choice for the best value for its price. The food is fresh, delicious and cooked to order. The food is served as soon as it is cooked, which is awesome. You have a lot of food for a reasonable price and you get a “show” for free. This is also one restaurant where everyone eats everything and we have no room for dessert (and we love dessert).

For counter-service, Animal Kingdom offers the All American Family Picnic. This is a unique idea on an American classic. Guests can preorder their lunch at Island Mercantile Shop before 1:30. You have a choice of sandwiches or roasted chicken. Everyone recieves their own sandwich, dessert and drink. The sides and roasted chicken are portioned to the number of people in your party. You pick up your lunch at the Tusker House in a reusable tote you get to keep. You can then take it to one of the many picnic spots located throughout Animal Kingdom. We ordered sandwiches for four and we had food leftover. The food is from Tusker House which buffet is very good and the picnic lunch is just as yummy.

From Mom Kim L.

We get the best value at the Boma breakfast buffet. Great food, awesome atmosphere and no one leaves hungry. For counter-service, I think Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney provides a great meal at a value price.

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

From Mom Margaret F.

I think the best deal for counter service on property has to be Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. For approximately $10, each guest can choose an individual pizza, salad and drink and for just a few dollars more a yummy dessert,. The pizza is a great portion size and easily fills us up, plus it is actually very yummy. My kids love the salad and t is just the perfect size.

For table dining locations, we love the value of the Liberty Tree Tavern lunch menu. The menu offers a great selection of hearty home cooked favorites like pot roast, the pilgrim’s feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and the catch of the day all under $20 and most around $15. The food is delicious and quite filling. The dinner menu is also a great selection of turkey, roast beef, potatoes, vegetbale and dessert served family style at approximately $30 per guest. Still a great price compared to some of the menu prices at other Disney dinner locations and my kids never leave food on the plate here.

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

Best Restaurants for Thanksgiving at Disney World

It’s time to talk turkey!

A reader comment recently prompted me to put out the feelers for the best spots to celebrate Thanksgiving in Disney World. Not surprisingly, Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tree Tavern was suggested by most folks who responded.

Liberty Tree Tavern, in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, is set up to resemble a fine patriot’s home in the 18th century.

With dark woods, vintage paintings, and even a coat and tri-cornered hat hanging by the door, you’ll feel right at home!

Liberty Tree Tavern

Now that setting might be enough to spur people to suggest Liberty Tree Tavern for Thanksgiving dinner — the atmosphere is certainly ideal for celebrating that holiday.

The (false) doorway to the Liberty Tree Tavern Home

Seating and Waiting Areas

Seating and Waiting Areas

But, the better reason to recommend it is that Liberty Tree Tavern essentially serves Thanksgiving Dinner every night! With all-you-can-eat platters of turkey, brisket, pork, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies, and macaroni and cheese served family style, you certainly can’t go wrong here.

Rolls and Honey Butter

Salad

Roast Pork, Turkey and Beef with Cornbread Stuffing and Chutney

Close-up - Roast Pork, Turkey and Beef

Mashed Potatoes

Carrots

Beans

Mac and Cheese

Johnny Appleseed Cake with Craisins and Ice Cream

And although the Thanksgiving-specific offerings change each year at Disney World, here’s a photo of one reader’s Liberty Tree Tavern Thanksgiving meal:

Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Meal

You can book now for Thanksgiving evening, but I haven’t yet seen any specifics of the Thanksgiving offerings at Disney World come over the airwaves. Most table-service restaurants do offer some sort of special Thanksgiving meal.

Other Suggestions
While Liberty Tree Tavern was the most-suggested restaurant, the two runners-up were Artist Point, at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, and Germany’s Biergarten, at Epcot’s World Showcase.

Other restaurants that were mentioned include: California Grill, Crystal Palace, ‘Ohana, Le Cellier, Jiko, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Garden Grill, ESPN Zone (for the Game!), and Akershus.

Be sure to check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” posts in this series!

Thanks to T Holland for sharing her photo!

New Menu Item at WDW’s Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe

Pecos Bills New Menu Item

Pecos Bills New Menu Item

You can now get Fried Chicken…with gravy…and mashed potatoes…and corn on the cob over at Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland! I’m so excited! Sounds like the perfect dinner for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, hmm…? (Jan ’10 update: Word is that the chicken fried chicken is only being served on certain days at Pecos Bill’s.)

Thanks to Amanda Tinney for the photo!

Moms Panel Magical Memories, or “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul”

For this first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series, I wanted to introduce the panelists to you in a really fun way — storytelling. I asked the moms about their most magical dining memories at Disney World and got some heartwarming, funny, and informative responses (who knew you could rent out Beaches and Cream?!). I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did; maybe they’ll even give you some great ideas about things to try next time you’re at Disney World! And be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of the Moms Panel Mini-Series, coming up later this week on the Food Blog!

In the meantime, if you’ve got a great Disney dining memory to share, please send it my way via the “Contact Me” button above. Once I have a good collection, I’ll post “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul, Part II!”

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

From Mom Kara B. (Thanks to Kara B. for sending the great photos as well!)

Last year, my middle son was to come with me to WDW for the Toy Story Mania opening for his birthday, but 2 days before going he came down with the chicken pox (seriously, who gets that anymore — especially having had the vaccine?). Fortunately, we were returning as a family within a month, so we decided to go to town celebrating his birthday and these have become the most amazing memories for us. First, at the Coral Reef Restaurant, which I think is one of the prettiest restaurants at WDW, I had arranged for a diver to come down with a happy birthday sign. He was absolutely taken by surprise; I never saw him with such a big smile. We also had a specialized cake made for him; it was pure Disney magic. It had Chicken Little on it with the message “Good Bye Chicken Pox, Happy Birthday Mark.”

Similarly, at Whispering Canyon Cafe, the cast member had all the girls under 14 come up and sing Happy Birthday to him. He was mortified, but there was a little smile on the inside I’m sure to have been treated like such a prince.

From Mom Anna S.

We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, new teeth, new shoes – just about everything happy at Walt Disney World restaurants, but I have to tell you, the most magical Disney dining memory is the one I share with the other members of the 2009 Moms Panel. On one of our nights at training, the whole group went to Jiko. We had gotten comfortable with each other pretty quickly, so by the time our dinner at Jiko rolled around, we were feeling like best friends. The meal was phenomenal, the wine was outstanding, but as the realization of the amount of Disney “magic” that had been sprinkled on all of us started to set in, the feelings that came over me surprised me! It was like old friends, sharing sips of drinks and tastes of food, talking about our kids, our vacations, our jobs and things at home. You know the feeling you get on a cold winter’s night, when you come in from a long day, slip into your flannel jammies – you know, the plaid ones with Mickey on the pocket? – wrap yourself up in your fuzzy bathrobe (or your Snuggi, if you’re so inclined), toast your toes in a pair of the ugly crocheted slippers your grandmom made for you, and enjoy a steaming hot cup of cocoa with your feet up in front of the fire place? THAT’S the magical feeling that came over me that night at Jiko. I will never forget it.

From Mom Amber V.

My favorite Disney dining memory was during my daughter’s first trip. We had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and she was wide eyed and in awe. She was dressed up in her own Cinderella gown and so proud to have her very own wand and wishing star. The pictures we have of her sitting in the castle during that meal are some of the best of our vacation. While the food was good – we have certainly had better meals at Disney, but it was the experience and atmosphere that makes it such a fond memory for me. When we got home, eating in the castle was the thing that stood out most for our daughter from her first trip and for that reason I will always consider it an absolutely magical meal.

From Mom Joanne M.

My then six year-old daughter, Nicole, and I were having our first breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort. The food was delicious, and Alice and the Mad Hatter laughed, danced and joked with Nicole. When Pooh Bear came by, she was struggling to drink her milk. Well, maybe it was actually me who was struggling to get her to drink her milk. Well Pooh stayed with her until she drank every drop, which took at least five minutes. You could see the handlers were eager for Pooh to move on, but he wouldn’t move. It has since become one her favourite character dining experiences that we visit each vacation!

From Mom Heather R.

This is a really hard question to answer, as I’ve been WOWed by Disney dining too many times to count. One such occasion was last summer, when we were visiting with my sister and her family. We elected to have dinner at the Cape May clambake on the evening of my birthday, and as usual it was a delicious meal for a seafood lover such as myself. What really kicked it up a notch were the special arrangements my sister had made with the restaurant to pixie dust my evening. A lovely (and quite large) tray of specialty desserts was brought to the table, complete with personalization and a very pixie-dusted special delivery. (I can’t imagine what the accompanying price tag for her might have been – ouch!) I definitely felt like a princess.

From Mom Whitney P.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue with our extended family of 19: Have you ever spent a lot of money on a meal or a concert and afterward thought to yourself, ‘Boy, it wasn’t worth it.’ ? Well, I’ve never had that thought when looking back fondly on this meal. My husband’s boss recommended we go there and hopes were high. I had encouraged the entire family to spend two of their dining plan credits (and therefore, skipping a meal elsewhere in the week), so the pressure was on. We had the latest 9:15 p.m. seating, and our lot was hungry. But the night went off without a hitch. From the cheerful servers to the finger-licking fare, our meal was a delight. And the show, filled with lots of chuckles, didn’t disappoint. Thankfully during the entertainment, I sat for a moment and just looked at everyone at our two adjoining tables, and savored the moment. All the family–from my then-two-year-old on up to the grandparents–all had smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves. It’s like a mental snapshot for me to look back on happily. The cherry on top is hearing my brother- and sister-in-laws still talk about it and wanting to plan our next reunion trip.

Also, one thing you may not know about me and my family is that we often camp when we go to Disney, and we look fondly at Fort Wilderness as our home away from home…. Some folks don’t like to cook when they are on vacation, me included, but cooking takes on a new meaning when we camp at Disney: My husband takes the kitchen reigns, and I become his sous chef. Last October, we camped at the fort and found that two families of friends would be at Disney the same week. We invited them for dinner at the camper and then afterward to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire singalong. Taco Soup with all the trimmings was served one night and grilled brats the next, followed by our dessert specialty, fried oreos. What made both nights memorable was our introduction of both families to a slower pace at Disney, unknown to many, where you can retreat to the fort while being just a few hundred yards from seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks!

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

From Mom Jo Y.

Unfortunately they don’t do it anymore but a few years ago my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary whilst in WDW. We dined at Coral Reef and I surprised him by organising a diver to hold up a banner in the tank wishing us a Happy Anniversary. The diver was fantastic picking up shells and throwing them in the air like confetti and spending time “chatting” with us through the glass, very magical!

From Mom Erin F.

Ours is the iconic family story; it has nothing to do with the food, but instead with the restaurant experience: When oldest daughter was six, we were eating at the Biergarten. She and my husband were fake dancing over by the band, and the MC asked if anyone wanted to lead the band. My daughter sticks her little paw in the air and was chosen out of the group. After a quick chat with the MC, she starts to lead the band and suddenly launches into this whole comedy routine! She was an outgoing kid, but this was our first indication that this was a kid who was a performer! It was a mirror into her soul. People were applauding and laughing, and it was the magical moment of us first seeing who our kid could be. It was a great experience for our family.

From Mom Kay B.

The answer to this is, hands down, Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table. It is an unbelievable experience to be able to sit in the KITCHEN of this great restaurant and not only watch the food being prepared, but also have the chance to talk with all the chefs. It is a small kitchen and to see the group back there working together to make incredible meals is a show in itself. The table setting is beautiful and the service can’t be matched. You experience about 8 courses, during which they serve you their chef choice. If there is a large group, several different choices are served so you can try them all. You can match this with wine servings making this a complete evening. In the past, Mickey and Minnie showed up to say hello, but since they are now at the Contemporary resort you don’t get this treat. You will be given a beautiful red rose when you leave.

I know this is not within everyone’s budget so I’ll also share my son’s and daughter’s thoughts (editor’s note: Kay is the self-professed “grandmom” on the moms panel, and her kids are all grown up now):

Amy says she will never forget her Food and Wine dinner at Citricos during a hurricane watching the wind and rain while eating some of the best food ever! Her second most magical experience was renting out Beaches and Cream at midnight during her wedding week and sharing their “kitchen sinks” with all her wedding party
friends and family.

Rick says his most magical Disney dining memory was enjoying a dinner at California Grill that started with fresh sushi, moving on to the barbecue filet mignon, and finishing with their peanut butter and chocolate souffle (which they don’t have anymore) while watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the background!

From Dad Doug I.

A few days after proposing to my wife (then girlfriend, of course!), we had our first experience dining at the California Grill. Everything combined for a perfect meal. We were given a window seat without asking, overlooking the Magic Kingdom, at twilight. The restaurant was only about 1/4 filled, so it was quiet and we could talk. Well timed, as we were basically planning out our lives together.

Our waiter was a sommelier, and he coached us through a series of wines to match each stage of the meal. He knew when to swing by and recommend something, and when to disappear into the woodwork. The sushi was phenomenal. The pork with polenta was better. We ended our meal with a final glass of wine, catching the fireworks from the outdoor viewing area.

It is, and always will be, our favorite restaurant in the entire world.

From Mom Jodi G.

My most magical Disney dining experience was our first meal as a family at Walt Disney World – breakfast at Akershus. My daughter, then 2, was so wide-eyed and excited. It was so much fun!

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

From Mom Beth C.

I think my most magical Disney dining moment occurred at Whispering Canyon Cafe. I was at Disney World with my family for a trip to watch my daughter Nicole dance in the Magic Kingdom. Besides my immediate family, my parents, mother-in-law, nephew and close friends, whose daughter Brigid happens to be Nicole’s best friend and fellow dancer, had dinner here. Since there were three birthdays in our party, we chose it to be the place to celebrate. The waiter called over all the boys and girls in the restaurant to help Brigid’s siblings, Patrick and Emily, celebrate their birthdays. All the girls lined up in front of Patrick, and all the boys lined up in front of Emily. After we sung “Happy Birthday”, the waiter then instructed the girls to kiss Patrick and the boys to kiss Emily. Well I do not know who was more surprised, the birthday kids or the other children dining that night. I never saw kids move so fast back to their tables and everyone had a great time. Of course, we asked for ketchup, spoons and more soda. But I will save those surprises for your own trip!

From Mom Kim L.

The first Disney restaurant that we ever took my son to was Chef Mickey’s when he was two years old. It was magical to see his eyes light up when Goofy walked by. Goofy was the first character he saw. It’s also where he first met Mickey. Our son danced, waved his napkin and greeted all the characters with a smile. We shared this meal with my son’s grandparents which made for a special family dinner. To this day, when I recall those moments, my heart soars. It is unexplainable because it was pure magic.

From Mom Margaret F.

My husband, sons and I have been enjoying Disney World for many years, but my grandmother has never been. We decided to take her a few years ago for her birthday. The boys selected Crystal Palace as the perfect place to celebrate. We ordered a cake and had asked the hostess if there was anyway we could celebrate with a special touch. Imagine her surprise as Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet showed up at her table with a birthday card and cake. Our wonderful server had the whole section sing Happy Birthday to her and Pooh took her hand and led her around in a “mini birthday parade.” The boys were so excited to see their great grandmother having such a great “birthday party.” The added touches the restaurant put on her birthday made it so magical and it brought tears to my eyes to see her able to share that special day with her great grandsons in our favorite place. She still talks about her special birthday years later.

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

Food Post Weekly Round-Up: September 19, 2009

Eat hereLOADS of food posts this week! Everyone must be as excited as I am about the Food and Wine Festival starting on Friday and writing subconcious food posts as a result!

Before we begin, the big Disney Food news this week includes the grand opening of Kouzzina, the Wishes Dessert Party extension through January 2, 2010, and the D23 Expo reveal of upcoming Magic Kingdom Fantasyland restaurants! Be sure to check out these stories if you haven’t already.

And now, here we go!

The LA Times reports a new food stop in Disneyland that will open September 25th, and serve turkey legs, chimichangas, and corn on the cob.

The Orlando Sentinel shares a fantastic grand opening Kouzzina photo gallery and restaurant review.

The Orange County Register reports the resignation of Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier and General Manager of Disneyland’s Napa Rose.

The Touring Plans Blog asks “Does Free Dining Always Save You Money?” and comes up with some intriguing results.

Disney Food Blog facebook fan Scott Dickison posted a photo and some info about the new shrimp platter dish at Columbia Harbor House in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The meal is $9.69, and comes with fries and coleslaw.

The WED Page remembers The Empress Lily Riverboat character meal, complete with great photos!

Main Street Gazette posts about one of my favorite meals in Disney World: Casey’s Corner hot dogs.

Save Pleasure Island speculates about some possible restaurants rumored to be headed for Downtown Disney.

My Disney Mania has a report from Club 33, direct from guest reporter Donald Duck!

Disney Every Day reminds us about Cast Member Day at the Food and Wine Festival — cast member or not, you can sample some of the Festival offerings a day in advance!

Thanks for the great food writing, everyone!

Comin’ Right Up!: Dining Tips and Stories From the Disney World Moms Panel

A New Disney Food Blog “Mini-Series!”
I recently had the great luck to interview several Disney World Moms Panelists about their Disney dining experiences and opinions. They shared some fantastic information, and I’m excited to announce that I get to consolidate all that expertise into several blog posts for you!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share several posts that will include tips and stories shared by the Moms Panelists. These will cover a wide range of topics, including suggested restaurants for kids of certain ages, dining alone in Disney World, and Disney World restaurants offering the biggest bang for your buck, among others!

Thanks to all of the moms (and dad) who were so generous with their time and their wonderful stories (and with their patience — I ask a LOT of questions!).

Mickey With Some 2009 Moms Panelists

Mickey With Some 2009 Moms Panelists

But First: Last Chance To Apply for the 2010 Moms Panel Is Sunday, September 20th!
Before I leap into the first topic tomorrow, I’d like to remind everyone that Sunday is the last day to complete your 2010 Moms Panel Application. And, remember, you don’t actually have to be a mom to be on the panel… . If you’re interested in applying, just click on the link and answer three little questions.

To give you a little better feel of what it’s like to be on the panel, I asked two-year Panelist Erin F. about her experience being a “mom.”

“I was always the ‘go-to’ mom in the neighborhood for Disney planning; my husband used to joke that I should do this for a living! The first year I read about the contest, I filled out the application on a whim. It’s been a life-altering experience: going backstage, meeting incredible cast members, and finding friends on the moms panel who will be dear to me for life!”

And here’s a bit of advice from Erin about applying:

“Be yourself, and mention a niche area you know a lot about, such as traveling with food allergies or visiting with grandparents. Make yourself sound unique in some way. If you have writing, marketing, or communication experience –- demonstrate that. And always check spelling, grammar, and word usage.”

For more helpful hints on applying, check out this post with suggestions from other moms panelists. Good luck with your applications, and be sure to visit the Disney Food Blog tomorrow for the first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series where some of the moms share their most magical Disney dining experiences!

See you tomorrow!

(All images and graphics copyright Disney)

Magic Kingdom Wishes Dessert Party Extended into January 2010

Wishes Dessert Party Buffet

Wishes Dessert Party Buffet

Just confirmed a rumor with Disney Dining that the Wishes Dessert party has been extended through January 2, 2010!

You can see past posts on the Wishes Dessert Party here:

Wishes Dessert Party Announced (includes details of the evening)
Wishes Dessert Party Photos!!
Wishes Dessert Party Extended Through October, 2009

I was told that in November and December, the party will only be held Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Not sure if I’d bet on that, though… . As always, you can book 90 days in advance.

Thanks to reader Psg42 for the tip!
Photo Credit: Zapperz @ MyDisneyMania.blogspot.com