Continuing my ever so long-winded (detailed!) account of my recent trip to Disney, I thought we’d dedicate this installment to nearly everybody’s favourite subject matter, food! Which we actually ate precious little of; save two special meals, we subsisted on park food and many, many, many bottles of Dasani (Florida water: Don’t drink it!) Pretty sure we both ended the first 14-hour day at a calorie deficit, between the seven-plus miles of walking and the all-Mickey pretzel diet.
The night we arrived we took a boat from our resort, the Port Orleans Riverside, to Disney Springs, Disney’s shopping and entertainment promenade, for late night dinner reservations at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’. Homecomin’s cuisine is classified as Southern-Floridian. I’d just call it delicious – think light and crispy fried green tomatoes, fried chicken and biscuits, mac and cheese, moonshine. Homecomin’ actually makes their own, and I enjoyed a rather potent cocktail that left me feeling 12 shades of plastered for precisely 23 and a half minutes before all whoopsy effects dissipated completely. It was the most bizarre buzz I’ve ever encountered. Must have been offset by all the fried chicken and mac and cheese I put on top of it.
Yes, we sat on the same side of the table like a couple of boners! It was unseasonably cold the night we arrived, and we had to huddle together for warmth! This restaurant was so lovely and cozy, though, with a big, roughhewn bar looking out over the artificial – though no less lovely for it – springs of Disney Springs, as twinkling lights reflected off the gently moving water. Though I did not try them, Mr. Finger Candy assures me the deviled eggs were delicious. Here he is providing a bit of impromptu dinner theatre for our fellow diners.
Entre-park, we ate quite a few Mickey pretzels. I mentioned before that I had a rough flight experience on our way in; that nauseous feeling stayed with me for about the first 18 hours of our trip, and Mickey pretzels seemed like a nice, plain, safe food to soothe the savage tummy beast. They’re also low in fat, though loaded in salt (flick it off if you must, though I just shoved it back and then chased it with a litre of Dasani.) Also a classic, iconic Disney snack, and a first for both Mr. Finger Candy and I. Looking like a wiener while eating in public is NOT a first for him, as evidenced by the last two photos! Also please note that he is wearing a Beauty and the Beast bandage. His choice.
Another item we went back for multiples of was LeFou’s Brew, an apple juice-based beverage served at Gaston’s Tavern. I quite hilariously attempted to make my own version of LeFou’s Brew last year during the Fall Fun Series, and it was an unmitigated disaster – deeply unpalatable. And what was I thinking; I hadn’t even tried one yet! Having now enjoyed a couple of these delectably refreshing treats – icy apple juice enhanced with toasted marshmallow, topped with a mango-passionfruit foam to mimic the creamy head on a pint of beer – I can tell you that I had it wrong, oh so wrong. Legit LeFou Brews are SUBLIME – they hit that lemonade sweet spot without, you know, actually being lemonade.
And not for nothing, but you can only find LeFou’s Brews at Gaston’s Tavern, which is more than all right with me – behind the Haunted Mansion, it’s my second favourite spot on Disney property. We spent so much time there, it almost started to feel like “our place”!
Part of the joy of Gaston’s Tavern – aside from the many, many, many mounted deer heads and antlers, which the Man of the Tavern really does use in all of his DE-CO-RA-TING – is that it’s dead quiet. Tucked down in a little alcove between Be Our Guest and the Journey of the Little Mermaid, few people seem to know about this charming little spot. We nabbed the same corner table both visits and had plenty of time to goof around in Gaston’s gigantic, pelt-covered chair and worship at the portrait of the big lunkhead himself.
Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, a major highlight of our trip was an early morning breakfast at Be Our Guest to celebrate our Halloween anniversary.
Housed in the rock facade beneath the Beast’s forced perspective castle, Be Our Guest is an interactive restaurant in every sense of the word. And it runs like the talking furniture-staffed, well-oiled machine that it should thanks to the wonder of those ubiquitous MagicBands that seemingly control all aspects of your Disney experience. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve made my peace with Disney’s surveillance state oversight. We’re all going to be owned by a major corporation one day (brought to you by Carl’s Jr.) – why not one dedicated to the pursuit of childlike fun and impeccable service?
Be Our Guest works a little something like this: Book a reservation through the My Disney Experience app for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three if you’re feeling particularly flush and would like to dine in all three different diningrooms.) If your mealtime falls at the very start of the dining day, the staff will come outside and applaud as you enter the restaurant through the gigantic, lion-guarded wooden doors of the Beast’s castle. “I think they’re applauding our breakfast!” I said to my husband, with no small measure of delight.
Inside you’ll be handed a menu and directed to a cashier to place your order. After you’ve paid and tapped your MagicBand (or paid by tapping your MagicBand) you’ll be directed to sit anywhere you’d like, either the main ballroom, modeled after the ballroom where the Beast and Belle have their grand dance, the library, where statues of the main characters greet your arrival, or the West Wing, where we dined, because it’s awesome. Dark, intimate and atmospheric, the West Wing is where the Enchanted Rose lives, in a little alcove framed in tattered tapestries.
When a petal would fall – and they did – thunder would rumble and lightning would streak across the darkened room. So dark, in fact, I couldn’t take any good photos of our breakfast once it arrived, although there was no shortage of other fantastic things to look at while we dined.
And when our breakfast arrived, after 10 minutes of letting our eyes adjust to the darkness of the nearly abandoned West Wing, it appeared as though by magic, born on a glass covered, wheeled cart by a smartly dressed steward. Ooh, and everything looked so fantastic, couldn’t wait to tuck into the little plate of mini breakfast pastries they dropped off and…but hey, wait, how *did* they know where we were sitting anyways? We were tucked away in a dark little room in a restaurant that seats hundreds with no flag or other table identifier. So how did our breakfast magically find us?!
The answer, of course, is another miracle to lay at the feet of those MagicBands, your one-stop tracking tech. Basically, we were low-jacked from the moment we tapped our Bands to enter the restaurant. That gave them our names and our location, so when our food was zipped straight from the kitchen and directly into the West Wing, the server not only knew where our unmarked table was, but also that we were Sandra and Mr. Finger Candy. This actually happened a few times across the park, most notably on It’s a Small World where one of the end-of-ride signs bid adieu specifically to my husband – notable in that we did not scan our Bands on It’s a Small World, so how did they know to say goodbye to my husband on that particular boat? This is where Mr. Finger Candy points out that the newest generation of MagicBand has a range of 40 feet. The technology behind all this is scary impressive (also kind of scary.)
And how was the food itself? Great! Delicious, actually. I had heard that Be Our Guest was a lot like Planet Hollywood – you go there and get a pool-sized, overpriced drink, maybe a gigantic, pool-sized dessert or an appetizer, but the food is not why you’re there; it’s so you can poke around and gawk at all the fun memorabilia that lines the walls and hangs from the ceiling. But our breakfasts were yummy – something bechamel and cheese sauce-covered for my husband (Croque Madam Without the Ham, as we called it, because Mr. Finger Candy is a vegetarian) and a two-egg, hash brown and all-meat platter for yours truly. Maybe it was the sustenance deficit from the day before, or perhaps it was the heat stroke (I got a terrible, terrible burn on my chest the day previous) but our breakfast at Be Our Guest was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. It was just a really special dining experience (made all the cooler by the cute couple beside us who were also there celebrating their (first) anniversary, the male half of whom was Disneybounding as Ruffio from Hook. They sort of treated us like the elder statesmen of Halloween weddings; it was really charming.)
The third and final evening we were there we had pizza delivered to our room, because sometimes when you’ve been on your feet for 32 out of the last 36 hours, those feet just. stop. working. I couldn’t have dragged myself anywhere. Growing up, room service was something my family never, ever did. As such, my adult adventures in room service dining always feel vaguely illicit, like I’m really getting away with something by eating pizza in the middle of my bed while Hocus Pocus plays on an endless loop on the TV. Actually, I guess that really is getting away with something, at least something very fun.
I hope you enjoyed some of these tasty Disney morsels. I know I certainly did! And please join me next time as I finally discuss the the whole point of a theme park vacation, the rides!