Disney World Online Dining Reservation Info

Disney Online Dining Reservations System

Disney Online Dining Reservations System

Keith at MouseMisers has posted his experience with the new Disney Dining Reservations system, currently available only to Travel Agents:

Walt Disney World launched the long awaited online reservation system for dining reservations. Originally due in 2008, it was launched late last night, currently for Travel Agents only. No indication was given when the tool will be made available to the general public, but my guess is 2 weeks of testing should do. Currently, only reservations May 26, 2009 and after are available in the system, so the logical launch date would be May 26, 2009. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Read more of his experience–and see screen shots of the system–on his blog.

Mid-Century Nostalgia

One of the Waiting Area Living Rooms

One of the Waiting Area Living Rooms

One of the unsung heroes of dining at Walt Disney World is the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, a diner where the food is decent, the servers are funny, and the decor is the real reason you’re there.

Reminiscent of their youth for those over 50 and the Wonder Years for those under 40, 50’s Prime Time takes pride in its less-than-chic furnishings. Knick Knacks prevail in colors like cornflower blue and avocado, and, more than once, you’ll hear “didn’t Mom used to have one of those?”

A Coveted TV Table

A Coveted TV Table

Arrive early and request a “TV Table.” This is a table for four or five that has a TV right next to it, so that you can watch the loop of black-and-white show snippets that includes The Mickey Mouse Club (what’s more fun than an egg race?), Spin and Marty, I Married Joan, The Dick van Dyke Show, and others.

The food here is less than stellar, usually on a par with a bad Denny’s, but you can score some pretty good fried chicken, chicken pot pie, and meatloaf. They recently took the best dish off the menu–a fried boursin cheese served with toasted baguette slices and grapes–but the atmosphere is almost enough to keep me coming back. Service is inconsistent and based largely on your waiter–who happens to be playing the part of your Aunt, Uncle, cousin, or brother and is at liberty to force you to eat your vegetables…no kidding. Be sure to ask if you can see the photo albums!

Chocolate Malt and Dessert Viewfinder

Chocolate Malt and Dessert Viewfinder

Dessert is another good reason to visit this restaurant. Again, the quality isn’t great, but Disney comes through on the themeing! Your dessert menu is a Viewfinder, and you get to feel like a kid all over again when you click through the enticing photos to “choose your poison.” FYI: the milkshakes are great, and the s’mores have a good reputation.

So, if you’ve got one of those free dining slots open, I suggest you pop on by 50’s Prime Time Cafe for lunch. While the food could be better, the experience can be a true Disney highlight.

Cheese Plate Series: Citricos

Citricos Cheese Plate

Citricos Cheese Plate

Ah, another cheese plate post (you can see the first in the series, Narcoossees, here). Let’s stick with the Grand Floridian and head to a restaurant that I truly love and think is one of the best in Walt Disney World.

Citricos has exceptional food and wonderful service. It’s consistent, which we always like. The cheese plate isn’t one of my favorites, unfortunately. There were other appetizers that were just as good, if not better. But the waiter this trip mentioned that they change out their cheese menu often, so perhaps it will improve in the future (this plate is from February 2009).

Lemon Ricotta (Cow’s Milk; upper right hand corner of photo)
Yours truly is NOT a big fan of ricotta, and this was probably my least favorite cheese on the list. I think the lemon taste, along with the texture, was what I least enjoyed. This was the only local cheese on the list and is from central Florida.

Corsu Vecchiu (Sheep’s Milk; lower right-hand corner of photo)
Anything they serve with honey is always going to be my favorite; I’ll just get that out into the open right now. This was the “moderate” cheese on the plate and was undoubtedly our favorite. This is imported from Corsica.

Oregon Blue (Cow’s Milk; lower left-hand corner of photo)
The strongest cheese, as usual, was a blue. From the Rogue Creamery in Oregon, this is an award-winning blue that’s aged for 90 days in Roquefort modeled caves. We enjoyed this–especially with the raisins. It’s one of the weakest blues I’ve had recently.

Citricos Cheeses

Citricos Cheeses

Jungle Juice vs. Frunch

Jungle Juice at Tusker House

Jungle Juice at Tusker House

Jungle Juice and Frunch are very often mistaken for one another, so I figured I’d try to clear up the whole specialty breakfast juice question.

You can find Jungle Juice at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom (and sometimes at Boma). You can find Frunch at Boma breakfast (at least you used to be able to…the last time I was there, the juice looked a lot like jungle juice, so any confirmations would be helpful!). Also, remember that jungle juice is commonly known outside of the Disney Character Breakfast crowd as alcohol-based…so, definitely don’t add that to you 5-year-old’s morning meal…

Jungle Juice Recipe
1 part Orange Juice
1 part Passion Fruit juice
1 part Guava juice

Frunch Recipe–serves 12
One 8 ounce can Lemonade, frozen and canned (follow directions on can to dilute)
One 8 ounce can Pineapple Juice, frozen and canned (follow directions on can to dilute)
One 8 ounce can Orange Juice, frozen concentrate and canned (follow directions on can to dilute)
12 ounces Mango Juice
6 ounces Grenadine

“Book Early” Series: California Grill

California Grill Logo

California Grill Logo

I’m sorry, but it has to be done.

I know it’s redundant, expected, and utterly stereotypical (three things I try to avoid), but I have to give props to the California Grill.

The General Overview (e.g. My Opinion)
I have had good meals there, and I have had not-so-good meals there. There’s been good service and bad service. And the tables that aren’t window tables make the dining experience decidedly “less than.” But, all in all, California Grill–sitting high atop the Contemporary Resort in Disney World–is essentially a great, expensive restaurant with good food worth paying for. And while you might expect the atmosphere to be a
little “nose-in-the-air,” the staff, in my experience, have been knowledgeable, down-to-earth folks who just want you to have a great time and enjoy yourself. For this, I love the California Grill.

Sunset at California Grill

Sunset at California Grill

Booking Early and Watching the Fireworks from California Grill
So why do you need to book early? Well, most of the time, you don’t. But I put it in my “book early” series
because one of the much-touted experiences in Disney World is watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your table at California Grill. This makes the reservations around the fireworks hour go quickly–you’ll need to book the full 180 days in advance to get a table during the fireworks if you’re headed to Disney World in a busy season, and at least a month ahead to get one during the slower months. That said, fireworks-view
tables aren’t guaranteed–all you can do is request a window table when you check in for your meal.

And if you don’t care whether you’re there for fireworks or not, you should be able to get a table at California Grill realtively easily, as long as you’re willing to eat at unpopular times.

Potato Celery Soup

Potato Celery Soup

I will say that I actually don’t enjoy watching the fireworks from California Grill. The vantage point of the restaurant is too far to the right of the castle, giving you a rather skewed view of the show (many of the fireworks are actually set off about a half mile behind the castle–being able to see this distance could essentially ruin the show for some people). Nope–I don’t care about the fireworks; but one of my absolute favorite Disney World experiences is watching the sun set from my table at California Grill. It sets behind the Grand Floridian, and the resulting skyline reflecting off of Seven Seas Lagoon is phenomenal. This I can highly recommend!

Soup Ingredients

Soup Ingredients

Finally–the FOOD!
California Grill food is amazing. Now, I’m not a food critic by any stretch of the imagination; I have a 12-year-old’s palate at best and still LOVE me some chicken fingers and fries. But the fact that California Grill can please the food critics AND me has to be saying something!

On my most recent trip, I fell for the new potato-celery soup. It was so delicious that I asked our server for the recipe and, unable to do so, kindly brought me a list of the ingredients. California Grill’s market inspired menu means that the soup and other highlights change frequently, but I can only hope they’re all as wonderful as this.

Cheese Board

Cheese Board

My other favorite (as you know if you’ve been following the food blog) is the cheese plate. California Grill has a lovely one, and every time I’ve tried it (it changes occasionally as well, of course), I’ve been pleased. I’ll do a blog in the near future highlighting the plate here.

My companion and I also tried the famous (it’s been on the menu since California Grill opened in 1995) Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, shiitake mushrooms and basil. This was superb. Along with the interesting (and surprisingly light) flatbreads, you could easily make a meal out of the appetizers at California Grill.

But why would you want to?!? From there, I indulged again in the always delicious Oak-fired Filet of Beef with cheesy Yukon gold potato mash, sautéed broccolini, and teriyaki barbecue sauce. Yes, it’s 44 bucks. But if a meal is going to be worth 44 bucks, it’s this.

One of the Many Flatbreads Available

One of the Many Flatbreads Available

Desserts are never the highlight at Disney’s “signature” restaurants (and nothing’s going to come close to ‘Ohana’s bread pudding), but California Grill is quite famous for its butterscotch and banana creme brulee.

Of course, with a theme like California, the Grill is known for its wine list (and extremely knowledgeable accompanying staff). And the restaurant also has a selection of sake to accompany its sushi bar.

Just Go. You’ll Be Glad You Did.
My parents recently asked me to suggest a “signature” restaurant where they could celebrate their anniversary in Disney World, and I immediately settled on California Grill. Although I do enjoy most of the

Filet of Beef and Cheesy Yukon Potatoes

Filet of Beef and Cheesy Yukon Potatoes

other “high-end” restaurants in Disney World, one of the most celebratory and beautiful–not to mention delicious–in my estimation is easily the California Grill.

Make your reservations up to 90 days out by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Don’t forget that California Grill has a dress code (no ripped jeans, bathing suits, flip flops, etc.), and that the check-in desk is on the 2nd foor of the Contemporary Resort while the restaurant itself is on the 15th.

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffle

Mickey Waffle

Every time I visit a Disney message board, the restaurant posts are always filled with questions about Mickey waffles. I thought I’d stick up a picture and give a little info about these yummy little guys.

Disney restaurants have “waffled” through the years, and many have gone back and forth in recent years between serving them and not serving them. For example, Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom served square waffles with Pooh characters on them for a long time, and have now switched to Mickey waffles. Also, Wilderness Lodge’s Whispering Canyon Cafe and private dining served waffles shaped like pinecones for many years, and have in my recent experience served Mickey waffles. I have no idea whether this is because they run out of their original waffles, or if Mickey waffles are in such high demand that all restaurants are beginning to carry them as a staple.

Here’s where you can safely rely on Mickey waffles for breakfast. Please send me an email at webmaster@disneyfoodblog.com with your updates!:

  • Chef Mickey’s: Contemporary Resort
  • Donald’s Safari Breakfast: Tusker House in Animal Kingdom
  • ‘Ohana and Captain Cook’s: Polynesian Resort
  • Crystal Palace: Magic Kingdom
  • Cape May Cafe: Beach Club Resort
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe: Wilderness Lodge
  • Food Courts: Most food courts at the value and moderate hotels
  • 1900 Park Faire: Grand Floridian

Most folks recommend that the “secret ingredient” in Mickey waffles is Carbon’s Golden Malted Flour. Here’s a good recipe to use for Mickey Waffles:

4 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
2 cups flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light. Add cooled melted butter, milk and vanilla extract. Add flour, baking powder & salt, beat well. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into batter. Bake and serve.

Purchasing your own Mickey Mouse waffle maker is proving to be a bit difficult these days. The maker that produces waffles that most resemble those served at the parks and resorts is uniformly out of stock or not sold anymore online. The next best version was recalled in 2007 for bad wiring causing risk of shock. Of course, you can buy it on ebay if you want to take the risk.

So, my friends, your options for make-at-home mickey waffles are reduced to: the Mickey Then and Now waffle maker and the Disney Mickey and the Gang 5-in-1 Tasty Baker and Waffle Maker.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

Picnic Under the Tree of Life

Picnic Under the Tree of Life

September 2012 Update: Picnic in the Park in its original format stopped being offered in 2010. After, a grab-and-go option was offered from Beastly Bazaar in Discovery Island. The Grab and Go meal came with a reusable bag. Meal choices for two ($17.99), three ($24.99) or four ($32.99) persons. Meals included: choice of sandwiches, chips, desserts, plus a bottled water. Guests with the Disney Dining Plan could use quick-service credits.

Beastly Bazaar closed in August 2012. Therefore, we are unsure if the grab and go picnic option was moved to another merchandise location. Stay tuned for more information.

May 2010 Update: Picnic in the Park has been downgraded to a grab and go area in Discovery Island’s Beastly Bazaar. Head there for sandwiches, chips, and drinks. The latest info can be found here in our Picnic in the Park Updates Post.

New options everywhere, yes indeed. The Animal Kingdom is now offering a way to make use of all of those beautiful “spots without use” throughout the park!

NOTE: See November 2009 Changes to Picnic in the Park as well as photos of the meal here

Here’s the “skinny:”

UPDATE: As of 6-27-09, Picnic in the Park is also offering meals for two people. Tier choices are the same.

Tier One features sandwiches:

Meal for Three – $24.99 + tax
3 Sandwiches, 1 Large Gourmet Side, 3 Desserts or Fruit, 3 bottles of
Dasani water

Meal for Four – $32.99 + tax
4 Sandwiches, 2 Large Gourmet Sides, 4 Desserts or Fruit, 4 bottles of
Dasani water

Meal for Five – $40.99 + tax
5 Sandwiches, 3 Large Gourmet Sides, 5 Desserts or Fruit, 5 bottles of
Dasani water

Meal for Six – $48.99 + tax
6 Sandwiches, 4 Large Gourmet Sides, 6 Desserts or Fruit, 6 bottles of
Dasani® water

Gourmet Sides (16oz)
Chips, Mac & Cheese, Fruit Salad, Coleslaw, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Tomato & Cucumber, Corn Medley, Orzo Pasta Salad, Green Beans, Oven-Roasted Potato Wedges

Apple, Brownie, Cookie, Cornbread, Crisped Rice Treat, Orange

Tier Two offers a choice of rotisserie chicken or ham

Meal for Three – $29.99 + tax
6 Pieces of Rotisserie Chicken or 1 lb. of Ham, 2 Large Gourmet Sides,
3 Desserts or Fruit, 3 bottles of Dasani water

Meal for Four – $38.99 + tax
8 Pieces of Rotisserie Chicken or 1 1/4 lb. of Ham, 3 Large Gourmet Sides,
4 Desserts or Fruit, 4 bottles of Dasani water

Meal for Five – $47.99 + tax
10 Pieces of Rotisserie Chicken or 1 1/2 lb. of Ham, 4 Large Gourmet Sides,
5 Desserts or Fruit, 5 bottles of Dasani water

Meal for Six – $56.99 + tax
12 Pieces of Rotisserie Chicken or 1 3/4 lb. of Ham, 5 Large Gourmet Sides,
6 Desserts or Fruit, 6 bottles of Dasani water

Gourmet Sides (16 oz. container)
Chips, Mac & Cheese, Fruit Salad, Coleslaw, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Tomato & Cucumber, Corn Medley, Orzo Pasta Salad, Green Beans, Oven-Roasted Potato Wedges

Apple, Brownie, Cookie, Cornbread, Crisped Rice Treat, Orange

Picnics can be picked up (and paid for) at a pre-set time at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery in Harambe Village (it’s hooked into the Tusker House), and can be eaten in one of 14 designated picnic spots in the park. You’ll get a plates, utensils, and a map of picnic spots when you pick up your grub.

Guests on the Disney Dining Plan will use counter service points for this meal.

Ten Commandments of Disney Dining

Casey's Corner

Casey's Corner

I. Thou shalt not think thou is better than the turkey leg

II. Thou shalt use up every single snack credit, even if thou thinks thou’s stomach lining has probably already burst

III. Thou shalt not feel in any way juvenile for eating things shaped like giant mouse heads

IV. Thou shalt forget about thou’s diet and just order the No Way Jose already

V. Thou shalt gladly again pay too much for a funnel cake even though it made thou sick yesterday because it’s just that good

VI. Thou shalt take pity on the ‘Ohana cast member and stop asking them when the potatoes are going to come back. There have trans fats, people. They’re never allowed to come back. Sniff…

VII. Thou shalt not build thou’s entire trip around maybe, just maybe, getting a table on the patio of Rose and Crown for Illuminations

VIII. Thou shalt eat at at least one restaurant where thou gets to use chopsticks and potentially eat something that isn’t a hamburger

IX. Thou shalt eat in the castle. Thou just has to. It’s the law.

X. Thou shalt not even tell thou’s daughter that dining with the princesses even exists until thou has secured the ADR. It’s just not worth the pain.

(Thanks to Caitiesus on the WDWForGrownups.com forums for inspiration!)

Cheese Plate Series: Narcoossee’s

Narcoossees Cheese Plate

Narcoossees Cheese Plate

One thing you will quickly discover is that I LOVE CHEESE PLATES. Cheese plates–especially at Disney World–are truly what I look forward to. Even more than steak and dessert most of the time.

I wanted to do a series on these because they’re beautiful, but also because I think they’re a good opportunity for the restaurants to do a nice little piece of branding. They usually serve cheeses that reflect the ethnicity and geography of their menu, and therefore what they want to be known for.

I’ll start with Narcoossees because it’s one of my favorite restaurants and serves one of the tastiest and most beautiful cheese plates I’ve seen at the World:

Extra Old Black Diamond White Cheddar, Cow’s Milk: This is “the official cheddar of Disney World” as far as I’m concerned, and since tillamook has been so conspicuously lessened on Artist Point‘s menu lately. You get Canadian Black Diamond just about everywhere cheddar is required (Le Cellier and Yachtsman to name two), and I like to believe that’s because Black Diamond is simply the best of the best. Black Diamond on a crisp with honey is absolutely delicious.

California Humbolt Fog, Goat’s Milk: This is a mild and tangy cheese. It’s got a cream cheese-like texture and an edible rind. Most distinctive is the thin layer of ash running through the wheel (don’t worry, you can eat this, too). Narcoossees serves it with dried cranberries, which I greatly enjoyed.

Rogue River Blue Cheese, Cow’s Milk: You see this in one or two other places in the land of Disney cheese plates, and it’s meant to be one of the stronger cheeses served. The wheels are hand-wrapped in grape leaves soaked in Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy, which helps to maintain the cheese’s moist texture. This is a straightforward blue cheese–you’ll have to remind your kids that eating mold is OK sometimes.