Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Best Disney Snacks & Treats

SAM 3297 300x400 Top 10 Disney Foods I Never Get Tired Of %tag

Please welcome Melissa from Picturing Disney.
If you are anything like me, Disney food can be as enticing a reason to plan a return trip as the ambiance and the all-inclusiveness of the resort.  I tell people all the time that it's because Disney cooks and bakes some magic right in every dish.

One of the most overlooked and delicious ways to enjoy Disney food is the amazing and unique snacks. Everything has that Disney touch.  Do you have a favorite? I couldn't choose just one so here are my top 10:

1.  Mickey Premium Ice Cream bars.  There are no words for my love for these crunchy, sweet, mickey-shaped ice creams.

2.  Dole Whips.  Obviously, these make the list, but for me its the Dole Whip float that steals the show. What is your favorite treat from Aloha Isle?

3.  Pretzels. I'm a sucker for Mickey Shaped foods and soft pretezels are no exception.

4.  Practically Perfect Punch.  This is availabe at Jolly Holiday in Disneyland and I can't get enough of it  (Jungle Juice and Ohana Juice may be a tie for 4th on second thought).

5.  Mickey Waffles.  I know, again with mickey shaped food! These are just perfect.

6.  Main Street Bakery Cupcakes or Boardwalk Bakery muffins.  When a muffin is a meal that keeps you completely stuffed for hours you know you're in Disney.

7.  Rice Krispy Treats. I love how these come with so many quick service meals and I've sometimes been known to hoard a couple in my room and take them home with me to enjoy Disney magic after the trip.

8.  Cotton Candy/Popcorn.  Even though these are very different I have to group them together because I love them for not just their taste but for the awesome containers they often come in!

9.  Churros.  I adore Disney churros from the Mexico pavillion in Epcot and the carts in Disneyland.

10.  Orange Citrus Swirl.  I had to make this #10 because I know I WILL love it but have not tried one yet.  Wishful thinking?

Whats your most favorite Disney treat? Did it make the list? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to come and check out my photoblog, Picturing Disney!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick Bites: The Pork Shank at Gaston's Tavern.

By now you've probably seen the pictures of Gaston's Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, part of the new Fantasyland expansion, but have you seen the pork shank?  Gaston's Tavern, decorated with comically masculine touches like antlers and pictures of the man himself, has only one real entree, the pork shank. And while it's tempting to compare it to that other theme park staple, the smoked turkey leg, it's so much more than that.

My mission to try the pork shank was a covert one:  My husband had the kids and I was "on my way" to Tom Sawyer Island to meet up with them when I noticed that the Fantasyland expansion was open.  Knowing that the expansion was only open sporadically at the time and that I might not get a chance later, I did what any curious blogger would do and detoured into Gaston's and ordered a pork shank. 

I mean look at this. Can you blame me?

To give you an idea of how large it is, there's more meat here than on a turkey leg, making it a great deal at $7.99 if you're looking for a substantial snack. But then again, you'd expect a manly snack at Gaston's right? The question is, does it taste good? In a word, yes. But you'd better like pork, because this is a lot of porky goodness and, considering it doesn't come with any sides or even a sauce to dip it in, nothing else. 

The pork shank is heavily seasoned with a salt, pepper and garlic-based rub and then slow roasted in a way that keeps it moist and tender.  I caught hints of smoke flavoring as well, but it wasn't as strong as it is with the turkey legs you'll find elsewhere in the parks.  People who complain that the small bones and gristle keeps them from eating turkey legs will be happy to hear that this is mostly just meat (plus a little fat) and one large bone. Coming from North Carolina where we've perfected pulled pork, I thought this meat was somewhat similar in taste, although the texture was very different.

Of course, it's not the healthiest treat, but look at it this way: It's low carb, deliciously greasy, and quite filling. No question, it's high in fat, but you could do a lot worse.  I only wish they offered some sides to go with it.

In the end, my mission to try the pork shank wasn't all that covert after all since I dropped part of it on my shorts, leaving a predictably greasy stain. In my defense, it's really messy and difficult to eat with a plastic fork.  I ended up confessing my mission to my husband, who told me it served me right sneaking off and getting one without him, and I spent the rest of the day with the pork stain of shame on my pants. Next time, I plan on sharing a pork shank with him. Probably.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The New Fantasyland Expansion.

The new Fantasyland expansion is everything Disney fans hoped for:  Immersive theming that takes you into the story, authentic details, and old-fashioned Disney charm.  Walking past Belle's cottage and into the town, you'll hear forest sounds and then, subtle music from the movie Beauty and the Beast.  From there, you'll walk toward Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Look down and you'll notice that even the ground changes to reflect the move from forest, to village and finally, the seaside.

The smallest details are absolutely captivating. Here, you see a window in Belle's village. Aged plaster, stonework above the windows, and cloudy paned glass add authenticity.

Belle's Cottage, where you'll find Storytime with Belle, an interactive meet and greet.

With so much happening, you might not notice this gorgeous waterfall near Beast's Castle, but it's worth taking in everything.

The gate to Beast's Castle and the Be Our Guest restaurant.

Prince Eric's Castle in the distance, home of Journey of the Little Mermaid.

You can get Gaston's autograph, along with a heavy dose of hubris, just over the bridge leading into Belle's village.

The interior of Gaston's Tavern.  Just as you expected, he uses antlers in all of his decorating.

Even the trash cans are themed.

The details on the wall look exactly like what you would find on centuries old, half-timbered buildings in Europe. By the way, this is the bathroom. Pretty impressive, right?  I love how they didn't have to theme this area so elaborately but they did.

If you've been to Journey of the Little Mermaid in Disney's California Adventure, you know that there is no real queue, but in Disney World, it's practically an attraction in itself.

With so many amazing details it was hard to choose pictures for this post, but I am partial to the water features.

After you ride Journey of the Little Mermaid you can meet Ariel in her grotto.

If you're eating lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant, you'll order in here.

It's the same type of ordering screen as you'll find at other quick-service locations, but in a much more elegant setting.

This sign tells you whether or not the expansion is open the day you visit. Pity the poor cast members who have to turn guests away.

The Fantasyland expansion is open sporadically now until November 19th, the date of the soft opening. The official opening is December 6th.  You should expect weekend closures up until November 17th for cast members, Disney Vacation Club owners, and annual pass holder previews. Other previews will be held during the week as well. What I've seen and have been hearing from other guests is that the expansion is often open before and after these previews, depending on the time of day, as well as during special parties (Mickey's Not So Scary now and Mickey's Very Merry later), so if you're on the fence about purchasing a party ticket, this might tip the scales for you.  If you're visiting during this time and it's important to you to see the expansion, make sure you allow some flexibility in your schedule and be prepared to wait around a bit.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How To: Use a Base Magic Your Way Ticket.

This photo comes from the gorgeous
travel blog Stuck in Customs.

It seems obvious to frequent guests, but I get this question enough that I thought I would address it here. A Magic Your Way (MYW) Base Ticket is the most basic type of ticket you can buy and it's probably what most guests, especially first-timers, should purchase.

Here are a few tips:

1.  Tickets can be as little as one day or as many as ten.
2.  You have FOURTEEN days to use your MYW ticket from the first day of use.
3.  Tickets are valid indefinitely until you use them (see rule above).
4.  You may upgrade and add options as long as you have ONE day left on the ticket.
5.  Don't buy used tickets from off-site sellers. This is a scam and you will likely not be allowed into the park.

Your MYW base ticket allows you to enter one park per day. There is no order in which you have to use the ticket. In other words, buying a 4-day ticket does not mean you have to go to all four parks during your stay; you can visit the Magic Kingdom all four days if you wish.

Now, here's the nice thing. Just because you can't "hop" and visit other parks that day doesn't mean you can't go in and out of the park you're visiting. So you can go into the park for morning Extra Magic Hours and leave when it gets hot or when everyone needs a break, and then come back later that night.

Finally, if you find the base ticket too restrictive, remember that you can add a hopper as long as you have one day left on the ticket, but it's a good idea to start with the base ticket and then upgrade later in your trip unless you're positive you need more.  You can upgrade at any ticket booth, guest services, or resort concierge.