Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quick Bites: Churros from La Cantina de San Angel.




Want to save yourself some time (reading this article) and money?  The churros from La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot's Mexico pavilion are bad. It's that simple. You really don't need to continue. Still there? Okay.  My goal on my last trip was to try snacks I'd skipped in the past. Some were hits, some were misses. This one?  Soggy, limp, lifeless circles of dough that had been fried and left to sit. I doubt they ever had any crispness or texture to speak of, but sitting around under a heat lamp certainly didn't help matters. A definite miss.

Perhaps if they'd had an interesting taste the texture would have been forgivable, but sadly, there was little there to offer as well. The dipping sauce, a thin dulce de leche, was boring and insipid, almost without flavor and so runny that it barely stuck to the churro. Even though calories don't count in Disney World (this is a verifiable fact), these still aren't worth the energy it takes to chew them.

At around $4 per serving and with so many great options in the World Showcase, you'd do well to keep walking at least until Norway. Or, you could just throw your money into the World Showcase Lagoon. Your stomach will thank you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Be Our Guest Restaurant Opening Rumor!

Why aren't those people jumping over the fence?!?!
Chris was talking to a cast member on Sunday about the opening of Fantasyland and has this tasty rumor to share:
Here's some gossip regarding the fantasyland expansion. Rumor has it that the Be Our Guest restaurant will open sometime this summer, possibly late July. The gift shops in that area will open then as well. You'll be able to access that area only.
As a reminder, this is only a rumor. We have also heard that you might be able to make Advanced Dining Reservations this July for sometime in Fall 2012.

Check out the post that we wrote about trying to nail down the dates for the Fantasyland Expansion.


You can see the other posts we have done about the Fantasyland Expansion by clicking here.

Quick Bites: Strawberry Chicken Salad at The Plaza.



This won't come as a surprise to anyone reading here: Salads, as a general rule, are not exciting. Still, sometimes you just want a light, healthy meal that doesn't make you feel stuffed, one that gives you a nice mix of veggies and protein.  If you're at a Disney quick-service location, your choices can be somewhat limited and often uninspiring, but if you happen to be in the Magic Kingdom, check out The Plaza restaurant.

At the Plaza, $14.99 gets you a big bowl of garden greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, cucumbers, and Gorgonzola cheese, all tossed in a white zinfandel vinaigrette dressing. It's a healthy alternative to burgers and fries that will leave you feeling so virtuous that when you order one of The Plaza's delicious shakes, you won't feel guilty at all.  After all, everyone knows ordering a salad cancels out your dessert.


As always, we don't recommend using a dining credit at this location unless you're on the deluxe dining plan and you have credits to burn.  Pay out of pocket and save your credits for a more expensive meal.  The Plaza is located at the end of Main Street, to your right as your looking at the castle.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Disney's Hollywood Studios Through the Eyes of a 10 Year-Old


In 2008, I gave my (almost) 10 year-old my old camera during a family trip. As part of the International Studios Appreciation Week at StudiosCentral, I wanted to share some of the unique images that he took. I have loved giving my kids cameras in the parks because the photos they take a so different from what I take.



We celebrated his younger brother's birthday that week and here is a shot of him with a citizen of Hollywood.


He took a lot of photos of the queue for Toy Story Mania. A lot.





This one made him laugh!




Not sure what the younger brother is doing...





He kept trying to get pictures of hidden Mickeys. I never told him what a decorative Mickey was.


We ate at the Sci-Fi Dine In and we were seated at one of the tables in the back.


Yes, it is a Fantastically Fuzzy Photo. 


Not sure if this was a photo of the chair or the car.


Even though I tried to hold still, it was still too dark for a photo at the Sci-Fi.


He took a photo of the screen and it actually came out well!


He's checking out the details all around.


It's the underside of an AT-AT!


The Ewok Village.


The Starspeeder 3000.


He loved the droids!



I never would of though of taking a picture from this angle.



He wanted to capture a souvenir photo for his little brother.


He was helping me capture some of the details of the parks that you might not notice. I was very proud of him for that shot!

Giving your child a camera at Walt Disney World is just another way to create and share some great memories.

Have you ever done this?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Narrowing Down the Date for the Fantasyland Expansion Opening.


Impatient?  Who, us?

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm fairly obsessed with trying to determine when the Fantasyland expansion (FLE) is going to open and I'll often drag Bob and George into these discussions where we could easily opine for hours on when we think it will happen.  Today we decided to narrow it down to two dates when we think it will open.  To sweeten the deal, we're each throwing in $10. The one of us with the dates closest to actual opening wins the pot.  I know, $30! It's like we're crazy!

So grab your prognosticator cap and think like Tom Staggs.

When Would You Open the Fantasyland Expansion?
Chris: 

My first choice is Monday, November 4th and my second is Wednesday, November 14th.  If it doesn't open either of those dates, it won't open until January.

The way I figured both of these dates its this: 
  • It can't be on a special party day, so it won't open on the day of a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The 12th makes more sense from the perspective of giving Disney more time, but it doesn't work because of the party. 
  • Nothing can happen until after November 2, which is the last night of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party. Why? Because they'd have to open a newly opened land with Halloween decorations and then decorate it all over again for Christmas. That's just crazy.
  • It can't happen on a race day/night, so that means it won't happen November 9th. In fact, I think that entire weekend is out for an opening.
  • A surprise opening in October doesn't work because you'll have to compete with Food and Wine and all those special events plus slightly higher crowds.
  • November 4th is one of the least crowded days of the year and you don't have a Christmas party until November 9th.
  • Again, November 12th makes sense, but it's a party night. November 13th is not good-too superstitious. That leaves the 14th.

Bob: 

My first choice is November 12th. Disney doesn't need a huge amount of time for a soft opening, but they do need some -mostly for figuring out the flow of the crowds at Beast's Castle for lunch and dinner.. This will allow them time to work out any kinks, and still be able to have it decorated for Christmas in time for the taping of the Christmas parade. Even though November 12 is also a Christmas party night, they could still do a soft opening and when word gets out, if the expansion is going to be open for the party, chances are a lot more tickets will sell for that night.
 
If Disney misses the November pre-holiday window, then I don't think we'll see it open until January 7th, 2013. This gives them time for the last of the holiday guests to clear out, and still time to open before the marathon weekend and Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday which brings in slightly heavier numbers.

George:

I don't think that the Fantasyland Expansion is going to open until January 2013.

If it does open in 2012, I bet it will be in time for the Christmas Parade. At least the taping day. Granted, they can just throw a few celebrities in the rides with some cast members and they have ready-made video to show on Christmas Day. It makes a lot of sense to me to do a HUGE promotion of the expansion during the  parade show. That is the perfect venue to get people really excited about traveling during 2013 and booking vacations.

Chris has told me that I have to pick two dates. I am going to stand behind my claim that we won't see the area open until January 2013.
  • Monday, January 7, 2013
  • Wednesday, January 23, 2013
My biggest issue with opening Fantasyland before Christmas is that Disney loves to decorate everything. Will they have the chance to decorate a brand new land that isn't open? Also, this will be the first time that the world sees the Expansion. If it is all gussied up for the Christmas season, then you are not going to get a full sense of the area and the fabric of the new Fantasyland. Imagine if Storybook Circus had partially opened with Christmas decorations strung everywhere. People would have been put off by the simple fact that they would want to experience Storybook Circus without the addition of the Christmas decorations.

My real reason for the January dates is that I had a lunch meeting with Tom Staggs and he told me that construction was delayed slightly and even though the Little Mermaid was ready, it would be too difficult to create a pathway through the construction to get people safely on the ride. Plus, he likes making Disney bloggers endlessly debate the opening dates.

With all of the media and press for Carsland, wouldn't it make sense for them to do a big, splashy opening since it is an almost complete overhaul of Fantasyland? If you watch the Disney news sites, you can't help but smirk at all of the blogging media that was invited to the opening of the Art of Animation resort.

Disney will pull out all of the stops for this opening, so it will be sometime in January!

But wait, there's more:

Today I noticed that Disney still hasn't set an opening day for Casey Jr. It's supposed to open in July and you'd think by now, they'd have a definite date. After all, it's only a few weeks off.  This tells me the opening is still up in the air. And if they can't decide on when a small section of the attraction is going to open, this doesn't bode well for something as large (and as AWESOME) as the entire expansion.  So don't expect a definite date for the FLE anytime soon.

Truthfully, we've been hearing gloomy news from our sources in Burbank, who are telling us that "holiday 2012" does  not mean before Christmas, but the people we know in Orlando are saying it's going to happen before then unless things don't go as planned. Well, when in life do things go as planned?  So really, who knows?

All I know is that when it does happen, I'm going to be there. How about you? Are you planning a trip?


Monday, June 11, 2012

Recipes from Disney's Hollywood Studios


Disney's Hollywood Studios has some great eateries. The Hollywood Brown Derby, Sci-Fi Dine-In, Hollywood & Vine, Mama Melrose's and 50's Primetime Cafe all offer something for every taste and budget. I've reproduced some of the menu recipes that are available in Chef Mickey: Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites and Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs. I love collecting cookbooks for different reasons, including having family meals where you enjoy your favorite recipes from the parks. It is a great way to relive a great trip or plan for your next one!

On with the recipes from Disney's Hollywood Studios!

Space Monkey
Sci-Fi Dine-In
Serves 1
Put all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Serve in a tall glass
  • 1 ounces chocolate milk shake
  • 3/4 ounce coconut rum
  • 3/4 ounce creme de banana liqueur

Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake
50's Primetime Cafe
Serves 1
  1. In a blender of food processor, blend ingredients until smooth
  2. Add additional peanut butter or jelly to taste
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons grape jelly
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup milk


Creamed Corn Spoon Bread
Hollywood & Vine
Serves 6 to 8
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish; set aside.
  2. heat milk in the top of a double boiler over high heat.
  3. While milk warms, mix together the buttermilk and cornmeal in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal mixture to the hot milk in the double boiler, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook for 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens.
  4. Stir in butter, corn, and baking powder, continuing to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the double boiler and pour into baking dish. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the center is slightly firm.
  6. Remove from oven and spoon the heated creamed corn over the top. Serve hot.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 cups creamed corn, heated.

Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
Sci-Fi Dine-In
Makes 1 1/2 cups
In a blender or food processor, combine vinegar and mustard. Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream, then basil. Stir in blue cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Image courtesy http://www.disneytouristblog.com/   




Panzanella Salad
Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano
1 serving

  1. Place tomatoes, arugula, cucumber, and onion in a mixing bowl, then add oil and vinegar. Toss well, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place one crostini in the center of a plate; top with half of the salad
  3. Place the second crostini on top; top with the rest of the salad mixture.
  4. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1/2 cup medium diced, vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup julienne red onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon aged red wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 slices of your favorite bread toasted (heart country bread works well). The toasted bread is called crostini


Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Serves 4 to 6



Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches
Backlot Express
Serves 4
For Sandwiches:
  1. Heat a stovetop grill over medium heat. Spray the grill and zucchini slices with non-stick spray and lightly season zucchini with salt and pepper. Grill zucchini  until tender and browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Spread bottom halves of each ciabatta roll with 1 tablespoon pesto. Top each with two slices tomato, then add 1/4 of the roasted mushrooms, 1 slice cheese, a few slices of grilled zucchini, and a few strips of roasted red pepper. Top with a second slice of cheese.
  4. Place sandwiches, open faced, on a cookie sheet, and bake for 8 minutes, or iuntil cheese is melted and lightly browned around the edges.
  5. Remove from oven, and divide watercress evenly among sandwiches. Top each with top halves of rolls, and serve immediately.
For Roasted Mushrooms:
  1. Place mushrooms in a medium bowl and add oil; gently toss to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper, then toss until the seasoning is distributed evenly.
  2. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are browned and all liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool before serving.
Vegetable Sandwich:
  • 2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4 -inch-thick slices
  • Course salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 (6-inch) black-olive ciabatta rolls, halved horizontally
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pesto, divided
  • 8 (1/4 -inch-thick) slices fresh tomato
  • Roasted mushrooms
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, well-drained and patted dry, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 4 ounces baby watercress
Roasted Mushrooms:
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Are any of these recipes favorites?


Which Disney's Hollywood Studios restaurant is your favorite?







Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Resort Review: The Polynesian.


The Polynesian Resort has been a a favorite since it opened with Walt Disney World on October 1, 1971. The lush tropical grounds, low-slung buildings and meandering walkways create one of the most inviting resorts at Walt Disney World.
About the Polynesian:
  • 847 Rooms in 11 Longhouses.
  • Each room has two queen-size beds or one king-size with a day bed (and can sleep up to 5 per room).
  • The King Kamehameha Club level offers concierge with personal service, continental breakfast, snacks, evening wine, hors d'oeuvres and desserts.

Resort Rooms

Notice the Mickey?
The resort went through a major renovation in the 2000s and all of the furnishings and decorations were updated in the guest rooms. Large flat-panel televisions were added, as well. The guest rooms have several drawers and ample closet space for storage, a mini-refrigerator and a safe. At 404 Square Feet, the Polynesian rooms are above average size for deluxe accommodations.


The restrooms are well appointed with a dark gray-green marble sink and a shower/tub combination. The toilet is located in an alcove behind the sink and offers a little privacy.


The buildings and rooms offer different types of views. Some overlook Seven Seas Lagoon and the Castle while others feature courtyard views. One side of the Fiji building offers a marina view with a standard view price. Not every room has a balcony; some rooms offer a French balcony.


I'm Bringing Nerdy Back!The Polynesian Resort was built and manufactured by US Steel using a rather unique and forward thinking method of modular construction, but it just never took off. The 1500 guest rooms of the Contemporary and Polynesian were built in a plant three miles from the hotels and trucked to the hotel site. They were then lifted by crane and slid into their spot. Wall paper, bath fixtures, lights and mirrors were all installed at the assembly plant and were ready to go when the room was slid into place. http://www.imaginerding.com/2011/02/celebrating-40-years-of-walt-disney.html
Moving the rooms from the US Steel assembly site to the hotels.  © Disney.


Services and Amenities



The Grand Ceremonial House has most of the hotel services: guest check-in, eateries, shops and access to the monorail. It is a very welcoming space with a large garden and mini-waterfall in the center of the two-story lobby. The lower level, also known as the Sea Level Lobby has the check-in desk, Captain Cook's Snack Company, Bou-tiki, Wyland Gallery and Moana Mickey's Arcade.

Quick Service

Captain Cook's Snack Company is the resort's quick-service eatery and is known for being the place to get a Dole Whip when you can't make it to the Magic Kingdom. Standard fare, like burgers, breakfast items and flatbread,  is offered with a lot of self-serve options (cereal, cold sandwiches, fruit, soda) that you can take back to your room. In 2006, Captain Cook's was the first eatery to offer the touch screen ordering system.


Captain Cook's is very small with limited inside seating. There are several tables outside with umbrellas that offer a more exotic dining opportunity (by exotic I mean near palm trees and giant rocks). It also gets very busy when the Magic Kingdom closes--especially after Wishes.


The second floor of the Grand Ceremonial House has the monorail station, Trader Jacks, Samoa Snacks and the table service dining options.

Restaurants
  • 'Ohana-the resort's signature dining experience.
    A family-style, all you-can-eat character breakfast called 'Ohana's Best Friends Breakfast Featuring Lilo and Stitch is offered every morning. The characters lead the kids in parades and coconut races. The food is brought to the table in large  bowls and pans and refilled throughout the meal. Usual offerings include eggs, pork, fried potatoes, bread and fruit.
    In the evenings, 'Ohana still offers a great family dining experience with salad, beef, chicken and seafood served. Check out Chris' review of 'Ohana.
  • Kona Cafe-a more intimate dining experience that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is much more subdued than 'Ohana and offers the delectable Tonga Toast for breakfast. Check out Bob's review of breakfast at Kona Cafe. For lunch, you can expect burgers, chicken, noodles and a few signature dishes based on pork. Dinner offers chicken, shrimp, tuna, steak and pork entrees. You can expect to pay $20 to $30 per entree at dinner.
  • Kona Island-Coffee, tea and pastries in the morning. It is a great place to get something to wake you up on your way to the monorail. In the evening, Kona Island serves sushi, sashimi,cocktails, wine and saki.
  • Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show-Located in Luau Cove (between the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian), this all-you-car-to-eat feast offers enchanting music, authentic dances and costumes. There are two seatings offered and it is usually presented Tuesday through Saturday, weather permitting.
Shopping

Bou-Tiki is located on the first floor and offers Polyneisan Resort-themed merchandise and other items that you could find in the Emporium. It is also the large character and merchandise shop. Make sure to ask a cast member about the Tikis that are playing hide and seek inside (and outside) the store!


Trader Jacks and Samoa Snacks are located on the second floor across the GCH from Kona Cafe. Trader Jacks is more of a quick-service shopping location with smaller trinkets, shirts and collectibles. Samoa Snacks is the place to pick up soda, milk, bread, sundries and alcohol.



Neverland Club

The Polynesian Resort offers supervised child care (even for non-resort guests) every evening from 4 p.m. until midnight. Dinner is available for an additional fee. The Club is for kids 4-12 and costs $11.25 an hour per child

Transportation



One of the more compelling reasons for staying at the Polynesian is that it is a monorail resort and you can quickly get to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot (with a transfer) by the monorail. The Polynesian also offers water launches to the Magic Kingdom (the route goes from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom). Early morning water launches could be full of Grand Floridian guests before it reaches the Poly.


Bus Service to the Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Downtown Disney and Typhoon Lagoon are offered throughout the day based on operating hours of the destination.
You can walk to the Ticket and Transportation Center and take the ferry to the Magic Kingdom (especially if you are staying in Tahiti).

Recreation

Pools

The Polynesian pool was renovated in 2001 and a new volcano was added. It is called the Nanea Volcano Pool and is located between the GCH and Seven Seas Lagoon. The pool is zero-entry and the volcano features a slide and bar.
A quiet pool, even though it is larger, is located in the area bounded by the Hawaii, Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga and Tokelau longhouses. Both pols are heated and offer underwater music!

Marina

The Marina is located on the pier adjacent to the main pool. You can rent various types of craft, including: the zippy Water Mouse, pontoons, sailboats and aquafins.
The Polynesian Resort is well known for its grounds and romantic walkways. There are hidden Tikis scattered throughout the grounds and Tiki torches that are lit every evening at dusk.


If you head towards Luau Cove, there is a walking path that winds along the white, sandy beaches of the Seven Seas Lagoon. It is a five-minute walk that takes you past the Wedding Pavilion and to the Grand Floridian. It is a short and romantic walk if you are visiting Narcoose's or doing a little resort hopping.


Have you stayed at the Polynesian Resort?

Do you have a favorite longhouse that you like to request?