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.

McDisney

UPDATE: I had a horrible revelation as I walked down the street to Tower of Terror that my french fries are now gone. They have been replace with a turkey leg stand. Alas. Are McDonald’s french fries a thing of the past throughout Disney World? I do believe so. Oh well, continue on and read–it’s a good point, regardless.______________________

Our stake-out in DHS

Our stake-out in DHS

It’s fine if you disagree. You can perch on your high horse, peer down from your ivory tower, stand slick on your soap box if you wish. You’re welcome to save your tastebuds for the maximum in culinary virtue and purity. Go ahead and preserve that appetite for the masterpiece cuisine that graces tables at the most expensive of Resort restaurants.

I’m gonna go ahead and have me some McDonald’s french fries instead.

Now, seriously, folks, you know I love the pricey places, too. I’d eat at Citricos every night if my wallet allowed it. But for some unknown reason–some shift in the earth’s crust, maybe, some crop-dusted Disney magic drug, perhaps–those McDonald’s french fries that you find in a few of Disney’s parks (we’ve sadly lost our stake-out in Frontierland) taste better than any McDonald’s french fries I’ve ever gotten at an actual McDonald’s.

Just goes to show that setting DOES make a difference. Restaurant architects and designers of the world unite! (And meet me for some fries later.)

Epcot Food & Wine Festival Countdown



The Epcot Food & Wine Festival is one of the premier foodie events in the nation, welcoming specialty chefs, wineries, breweries, and other food professionals from around the globe to showcase their talents in an extravaganza of cultural tastes and experiences.
Food and Wine Festival

No. Disney did not pay me to write that. But if they want to use the text, they can send me an email.

This year, the Food & Wine Festival is scheduled for September 25-November 8, 2009.
The festival will share tastes from several countries through over two dozen kiosks set up around Epcot’s World Showcase. Kiosks serve tapas-sized portions of regional specialties for between $2 and $5 each, and recommended wines and beers for pairing.

The event also features several special dining events and culinary programs; you’ll have to make reservations for these and pay for them separately and in advance. These will (likely) be announced sometime in July 2009 and be up for booking starting in August 2009 by calling 1-407-WDW-FEST. (All bookings are non-transferable and non-refundable.)

For those of us who can’t wait the three months until the 2009 agenda comes out (and for those of you who want to see an idea of what you might be able to expect from the festival this year), here’s the 2008 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Guide.

Free Dining at Walt Disney World–The Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of this offer are different for everyone, so I thought I’d take a minute to give you my specific “set of learnings” from my previous free dining experiences:

  1. Free dining means I get to use up all of my table service credits in three days by eating at California Grill every night
  2. Free dining means that Yachtsman Steakhouse stops serving Ribeye because it takes up too much space on the grill
  3. Free dining means I leave for the airport with about 20 bottles of water because I wasn’t able to use all of my snack credits (blame California Grill)
  4. Free dining means I get to discover that Casey’s Corner hot dogs and french fries are the best hot dogs and french fries in Disney World, and that’s that.
  5. Free dining means I should leave more tummy room to use snack credits on Dole Whips!
  6. Free dining means I have to book my advanced dining reservations even earlier than before!
  7. Free dining means that the ghost town that was September in Disney World has now turned into a literal free-for-all! Use fastpass!
  8. HAVE FUN!

Tusker House Breakfast (or…Duck a l’Harambe)

I hadn’t had Tusker House breakfast in years. I had great memories of going to the little counter-service eatery right after the park opened, getting my breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, shredded potatoes, and a biscuit, and sitting out at one of the tables, lazily watching commando dads and exhausted kids taking “monster steps” toward the Kilimanjaro Safari queue line. Sigh. Those were lovely mornings.

The Duck of the Hour

The Duck of the Hour

No sooner had I developed a routine, however, when Disney pulled the rug out from under me and established Tusker House as a table-service buffet rather than my beloved counter-service stop. They moved the Duck Breakfast there, too–no longer dubbing it “Donald’s Breakfast-o-saurus,” as was it’s name when hosted by Dino-land’s Restaurant-o-saurus, but “Donald’s Safari Breakfast,” implying its new home next to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.

Tusker House Buffet Area

Tusker House Buffet Area

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love ducks as much as the next guy. And I love having breakfast with ducks…and mice, and dogs, and chipmunks, too. But I was a little perturbed that my slow, lazy, relaxing Tusker House breakfast was about to be turned into a typical loud, crazy, take-a-buzzer-and-hope-to-get-a-seat-within-an-hour character buffet meal.

Oatmeal and Mealie Pap

Oatmeal and Mealie Pap

Luckily, my first experience at Donald’s Safari Breakfast was a good one. We were seated after only about a 10 minute wait, and despite the hoarde of cheerleaders occupying an entire section of the restaurant, we were waited on quickly and efficiently and were doted upon by the characters twice during our hour in the restaurant.

Beef Bobotie, Veggie Quiche, Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

Beef Bobotie, Veggie Quiche, Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

The “complimentary” Jungle Juice was also a considerably successful attempt to brighten my experience (I LOVE that stuff!).

Jungle Juice

Jungle Juice

Tusker House is serving some fun, ethnic breakfast items along with the standards, and the massive size of the restaurant keeps the crowds from being unbearable. I think I’ll consider it a must-do character breakfast from here on out–alongside our favorite Crystal Palace!

Go! Enjoy! And say Hello to the duck for me!

Getting It Your Way

Disney is on a customization kick. You can get customized t-shirts, customized park tickets, customized dining plans…you can even customize your Mickey Ear Hats now!

So this is why I insist I should be able to customize my meals as well! I’m one of those picky eaters who never orders directly off the menu. I’m always adding here, substituting there…it’s likely very annoying, yet oddly commonplace for the restaurant waitstaff to have to deal with vacationers like me.

The Perfect Sundae

The Perfect Sundae

But Disney CMs overall are well-trained to endure crazies like myself, and make me feel entirely comfortable to customize my meals willy-nilly. One of my favorite places to do this is Beaches and Cream, where they’ll gladly create for me my very own dessert creation! This is a ginormous brownie topped with ice cream, hot fudge, and peanut butter. C’mon. You know you want it!

Beaches and Cream Counter

Beaches and Cream Counter

Beaches and Cream is located at Disney’s Beach Club resort, in the Epcot resort area. There are only a few tables in this ice cream parlor (which also serves burgers, hot dogs, and the like), and they don’t take reservations, so arrive during off-hours to cut your wait. Open 11am-11pm.

And don’t forget to order the famous Kitchen Sink, made with every flavor of ice cream, topping, and candy they have in the joint and topped with a whole can of whipped cream!

Kitchen Sink (c Rough Guides)

Kitchen Sink (c Rough Guides)

Butterscotch Sundae

Butterscotch Sundae

“Book Early” Series: Le Cellier

Le Cellier

Le Cellier

Lots of folks just glide right by the large, wrought-iron gate leading to the beautiful replica of Vancouver’s Victoria Gardens in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion. They figure it’s just a garden, of which there are MANY in Disney World, so why stop to gawk when you could move on to Soarin’?

Breadsticks

Breadsticks

Le Cellier, that’s why. French for “the cellar,” Le Cellier is the Canada Pavilion’s table-service steakhouse restaurant that’s known for its filet with mushroom risotto,

Cheddar Cheese Soup

Cheddar Cheese Soup

cheddar cheese and Moosehead Beer soup, and delicious breads. Le Cellier has been on top for a while now, and quality and service haven’t seemed to suffer for the many years I’ve been dining there. It’s dark, cellar-like dining room provides plenty of cover for Disney big-wigs who have been rumored to hold business meetings on the premises.

Sausage and Corn Polenta

Sausage and Corn Polenta

Le Cellier is part of our “Book Early” Series, because it’s practically impossible to get a dinner reservation here, and only slightly more possible to get a lunch reservation.

Filet with Mushroom Risotto

Filet with Mushroom Risotto

The place is booked solid six months in
advance, and, in my opinion, Le Cellier could easily pay an extra cast member full-time wages to turn away potential walk-in diners.

When you do get a seat, indulge in that Cheddar Cheese soup, the new sausage and corn appetizer, and the lovely filet mignon (though we like the good ol’ burger, served with black diamond cheddar, just as much). If you still have room

Burger and Fries

Burger and Fries

for dessert the maple creme brulee is wonderful, but I tend to grab the seasonal cobbler most of the time!

Monorail Crawl

Polynesian Signature Drinks

Polynesian Signature Drinks

You’re familiar with the bar crawl and the pub crawl (for our friends across the pond). You may even be familiar with Drinking Around the World at Epcot’s World Showcase. But have you ever done the Monorail Crawl?!?

Disney World’s three monorail resorts–Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary–each have great lounges where you can relax, chat with friends, and experience the theme of the individual hotels. It’s a fun way to resort hop, spend a little non-park time, and have a few fun drinks along the way! See you at Tambu Lounge, Mizner’s Lounge, and the Outer Rim Lounge!

So simply start at one of the resort lounges, have a drink, then take the monorail to the next resort lounge and do the same. Continue all the way around the monorail loop!