Dining at Disney, Part II

Last we broke the Disney fast, I was regaling you with tales and blurry photos of the equally blurry, margarita-enhanced evening we spent drinking and dining our way through Epcot, and before that, two stupendous feasts at our favourite Magic Kingdom restaurant, Be Our Guest.  I mentioned in my last post that my husband and I were fortunate enough to enjoy fantastic meals virtually every time we put fork to plate, a complete rarity when you’re on holiday.  There’s always inevitably that one meal where afterwards you think to yourself, “I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money and calories on that.”  Also, vacation food – particularly theme park vacation food – is frequently terrible.  But save maybe one or two snacks that didn’t quite live up to the hype (Dole Whip, what weird animal are you anyways?) we enjoyed some wonderful – and wonderfully delicious – meals.  Here are three more of my favourite dining experiences.

Midday Break at Gaston’s Tavern

Gaston's Collage

Yes, that is Mr. Finger Candy, just sitting there in a tri-cornered pirate hat, unironically.  As you do. 😉

No trip to the Magic Kingdom would be complete without a stop at Gaston’s Tavern.  I love this charming little spot; tucked into a nook between Be Our Guest and Journey of the Little Mermaid, it’s typically quite quiet, even during the busy midday rush (I say “typically,” as Christmas morning the 50-strong lineup stretched clear across the bridge.)  LeFou’s Brews are the non-alcoholic specialty of the house, a sweet-and-sour concoction of frozen apple juice and fruity, foamy topping.  They are sooo yummy; a lighter, more refreshing alternative to lemonade.

But on the subject of the man after which the tavern is named, I regret to inform you that the big, throbbing tool was once again absent.  We are now 0-4 on meeting Gaston, and to be honest with you, my feelings are a little hurt.  I’ve now traveled all the way from the Canadian wilderness to France (by way of Orlando) twice, I’ve visited his tavern – scene of the rehashing of all his greatest victories – four times, and I was deeply sympathetic upon discovering that his absence our first day was due to his need to nurse his emotional injuries following a humiliating trouncing at arm wrestling (so we were informed by a bemused cast member.)  But to leave me hanging four times in a row?  Why, Gaston, that’s positively primeval.  All the same, I still struck a fetching pose outside by the fountain bearing his bulgy likeness.

Gaston Pose

Dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe

Hands down, this was the most fun I’ve ever had while dining.  Possibly some of the most fun I’ve had EVER, actually!

Prime Time Collage 1

A meal at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a bit like 1950s LARP-ing, with pot roast!  After checking in with an earnest-looking young man in a crisp soda jerk uniform, we were invited to take a load off in Dad’s adjacent rumpus room while Mom put the finishing touches on our meal.  We were ambling about the lounge gawping at all the linoleum, naughyde and zebra print – and at this time of year, silver tinsel – when an older gentleman dressed like every photo of my grandfather ever stepped forward and barked, “FINGER CANDY KIDS!  Finger Candy kids, put your toys away, wash up and get inside, it’s time for dinner!”  As we followed our Pops-for-the-night through the restaurant, which is sort of laid out like the world’s largest, most ambling mid-century bungalow, I could hardly tear my eyes away from my surroundings.  The entire place is an absolute marvel of 1950s design; I could have spent hours just walking around, taking in every last harvest gold canister, blown glass ashtray or rabbit ear’d TV.

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Upon being seated in what I think was the breakfast nook, we were introduced to our waiter (an “exasperated” baby-sitter type who immediately dubbed us Uncle and the Princess) and another table of heretofore unknown relations.  We were also reminded of the house rules, which include such tidbits of mannerly wisdom as “Hey kids, no lids!” and “No elbows on the table,” which is helpfully printed on the top of the menu.  Here is my husband flouting both of those rules simultaneously, which prompted our waiter to swing by, tap his arm and say, “The only elbows allowed on this table are the ones in the macaroni.”  Busted!

Prime Time 7

Also, someone has clearly never heard of the “snitches get stitches” edict, because here’s my beloved attempting to rat me out for taking pictures with my phone (which I had hidden under a stack of napkins!  Modern tech is not verboten at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but you will get some righteous, all-in-good-fun crap from your distant relations about your reliance on modern conveniences.) 😉

Prime Time Collage 2

Dinner itself was way, way yummier than I was expecting.  It has been my unfortunate experience that these sorts of themed restaurants often trade style for substance – I’ve had some seriously dodgy (and expensive) meals from a number of places that have prioritized their memorabilia collections over the food served therein (Planet Hollywood and any and all Hard Rocks, I’m looking at you.)  But dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe was the perfect combination of both kitsch and delish.  My pot roast was a particular standout, and who’s going to say no to a neon purple cocktail?  Not the Princess!

Prime Time 1

Ordering that drink actually led to some amazing interactions with our waiter and our getting-larger-by-the-moment extended family.  Dropping my glow cube-enhanced cocktail off at the table, our waiter announced to the room at large, “Look out, cousins, Princess found the keys to Dad’s liquor cabinet!”  I assured him that I could hold my own (this was pre-Epcot, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!) and he responded by going over to a girl with purple hair the next table over and remarking, “No, seriously, drink too many of those and your hair will actually turn this colour.”  Ha!  My husband responded by pointing to his own, ah, follicly-challenged head and said, “Yeah, and if you work too hard, THIS is what will happen to your hair.”  That prompted a huge round of guffaws, and an appreciative slap on the back from our waiter, who said, “Listen to Uncle here, kids – he is laying down some TRUTHS.”  Oh my gosh, so good, we’d go back in a heartbeat.  I walked out of there with a giant smile on my face and a happy tummy full of great comfort food – can you ask for anything more?

Prime Time Collage 3

Bar Dinner at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’

The last night of our vacation we stumbled back to our resort following a 12-hour day at the Animal Kingdom.  After having hurt the top of my right foot on Christmas Day (17 hours at the Magic Kingdom will do that to a person) I was actually beginning to question whether my ultra tender tootsie was just flat out broken.  But following a change of footwear and a quick freshening-up, I rallied hard, hobbling and wobbling my way to Disney Springs for one last dinner at our favourite Florida restaurant, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.

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Which was, of course, packed.  Not too surprising given this cozy restaurant’s popularity and the deep chill just beginning to creep into the night air – Homecomin’s scrumptious Southern cuisine really beckons during the colder winter months.  Without a reservation, we were looking at something like an hour and 10-minute wait for a table.  So we pulled up a couple of seats at the gigantic wooden bar, ordered two (later four) fairly lethal moonshine cocktails and some accompanying vittles, and spent an amazing couple of hours watching the bar staff dazzle us with their mastery of the alcoholic arts.  At one point I looked up to see the head bartender muddle some fruit with his left hand, pour two pints with his right, turn off the taps with the side of his head, all whilst kicking something into a ground level garbage can.  It was fairly incredible – Cocktail out in the real world.

And not for nothing, but the drinks were won-der-ful – unique, deftly layered cocktails brimming with high octane, house-made ‘shine.  My husband’s Apple Pie a la Mode tasted like liquid gold – the perfect festive toast on which to end a Christmastime vacation.  My Berry Lavender was flat out spectacular.  I’d seriously drink a barrel of this rosemary and lavender-infused gem, it was that great.  Wowzers, what a cocktail!  And so delicious alongside Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Thigh High Chicken biscuits and Momma’s Mac and Cheese.  I’m so glad we somehow found the energy to go to Homecomin’ for one last special meal; it was a truly wonderful one.

Homecomin

In conclusion, food is good and we ate a lot of it!  But more than that, we’ve returned home, having enjoyed an embarrassment of perfect dining experiences, with tons of fun memories…and plans for next time.  This could be very dangerous!  But at least we know it’ll absolutely be delicious. 🙂

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Disney World Blitz: Parklife Part II

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.

Disney Food Collage

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.

Dinner

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”!

Gaston's Collage

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.

Gaston Worship

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.

Be Our Guest Collage

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.

Be Our Guest Main Ballroom

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.

Enchanted Rose

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.

Beast Portrait

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.)

Pizza Collage

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!

Fall Fun Series: Le Fou’s Brew

lefous-brew-collage

We’ll call this an apple-y addendum to yesterday’s post, which focused on my delicious – but really so very non-edible – scented wax offerings.  One of the Mini Melter blending recipes I featured was inspired by a frozen apple beverage served at Disney’s Magic Kingdom by the name of Le Fou’s Brew.  Served exclusively at Gaston’s Tavern in the somewhat recently revamped Fantasyland, Le Fou’s Brew is a frozen apple and mango slushie topped with toasted marshmallow cream.  Served in a giant (collectible, always collectible) plastic stein, the drink mimics a tall, sudsy flagon of ale (flanked by many antlers and pelts, because you-know-who likes to use antlers in all of his DE-CO-RATING!)

lefauxs

That blend smelled so delicious – always does; that’s how I melted through an entire bag of Mango Sorbet Mini Melters in about two months – I thought I’d try my hand at actually making my own Le Fou’s Brew, except I’m calling my DIY concoction Le Faux‘s Brew!

Which is just as well, because this drink is kind of terrible!  I mean, I absolutely could have gone online and taken a gander at any one of the 8,000 existing recipes for homemade Brews, but I thought it would be more fun to throw total caution to the wind and create my own.  Which was kind of a mistake!

Actually, I’m sort of under-selling this.  The problem with this beverage was not the juice component, which I created by blending one cup of apple juice with half a cup of mango nectar and a whole bunch of ice.  The juice blend was actually quite yummy, and not very sweet (although t’were there to be a next time, I’d toss some frozen mango chunks into the blender and forgo the nectar entirely, which had an odd floral note to it.)

drank

The problem was the marshmallow “head” on the beer, which looked fantastic, but tasted – and behaved – like a wad of plastic marshmallow floating on a cold beverage (the topping on my husband’s sort of shot out on first sip and hit him in the face, and I laughed because I’m kind of a jerk like that!)

So not my finest culinary effort.  Also not my worst (oh, not by a long shot!)  I’d recommend the apple-mango part of the equation, but that’ll be a hard pass on the marshmallow fluff (although I’d welcome any suggestions as to how to make that part more palatable/manageable; what say you all?  How do we improve the Brew?)