Aug 09

Frontera Cocina – Best Restaurant in Disney Springs

Laurie went to visit Frontera Cocina a few times.  Her review makes me want to get over there and try this out.  Have you been?  What are your thoughts?  What makes this the best restaurant in Disney Springs?  Find out.

I am not concerned about prices and bang for the buck, I prefer comfort and good food. This restaurant is well lit so you can see the food, menu, bill, and loved ones face. They have booths and armless seats with moveable tables for us who have a hard time standing up. There is no carpet, so I am very happy. I love the decor and artifacts on the walls. Most of the place has ample space so that one doesn’t have to hear about the lives of others.

The menu has changed so my report is a tad bit late. I went for the iced tea with hints of mango. The shocking part of the restaurant is their bar menu and the main dinner menu. Instead of mixes from cans they use fresh ingredients like agave nectar and lime juice. Their Latin bar menu features tequila, sotol, mescal, and Mexican beer. They feature margaritas such as the Watermelon Pink Flamingo with tequila, watermelon juice, lime, and orange liqueur.

The kitchen uses free range cattle and all meat comes from farms that they will tell you about. No agar, preservatives, artificial stuff, and soy oil is used. The only items with gluten are flour tortillas, desserts, and an onion topping. The menu mentions seeds and allergens. Their recipes make it easy to substitute or hold an item. This is why I love Rick Bayless and this restaurant.

This report is from several visits. I started off with guacamole and chips which are meant for sharing but I wasn’t sharing because it was so good. They offer atomic, bacon, and verde styles. Another time it was a fresh shrimp cocktail with jicama (mild crunchy root), mango, avocado, and cilantro. It is a symphony of flavors from sweet to spicy and textures of crunchy jicama, soft avocado, and succulent shrimp. Someday I will try the Caesar salad or the cheese fondue.

I had to have the carnitas, beans, and rice with pickled onions. Tender juicy pork with herbs and garlic that rivals the Los Angeles carnitas I grew up eating. I grabbed a corn tortilla and piled it high with rice, salsa, beans, and pork for the ultimate taco. Another time I tried the delicious carne asada with beans, rice, and plantains. Calabacitas is another delicious side dish. I was a kid again at home eating steak tacos that I made myself. They offer a mushroom torts, shrimp, chicken, and enchiladas. They do offer mashed potatoes besides rice and beans. Chihuahua cheese was first made by Menonites who came from Germany to the USA then to Latin America.

The grand finale was boxes because I ate too much. I had a vanilla ice cream sundae topped with in house made cajeta (caramel), fried plantains, and pecans. The plantains had the feel of apples baked in a pie. The rich caramel sauce had strong notes of dairy. This is the best sundae I have had in years. Sheer decadence that needs to be shared because the sundae is huge. They offer tres leches and a pecan pie bar dessert that my friends love.

I went home full and happy. I had no food reactions beyond gluttony. I felt comfortable with the staff and believe they cared about me. I never needed more tea and the servers knew why their food was special. I feel safe in recommending Frontera Cocina to people with dietary limitations. It can seat large groups as well as a cozy table for two. I watched a little girl be treated like she mattered. They were patient with me as I slowly waddled to my seat.

Jul 28

Best Restaurants in Disney Springs

Find out which restaurant won in Laurie’s book for dietary requests, menu, disabled guests and more.

One man’s treasure is another man’s junk. I chose 5 table restaurants as my top not because I love them but based on my criteria for a near perfect dining experience.

• Top priority is requests. It hurts when staff ignores requests, act like the request is too much bother, or make a guest feel like they are not wanted. When a guest is celebrating a first tooth then celebrate with them. Someone wants a bench seat because of her back which makes her comfortable when they work to accommodate her. Dining out should be worry free while offering a comfortable, stress free meal. At Homecomin’ they gladly gave me a two top with a bench seat. Bongos gladly met my dietary requests.

• Kitchen and menu are next on my criteria list. Parents can’t force a kid to vary from its limited diet. There are kids who only eat one brand of a food and only a dozen items. Vegans and religious people choose their diet but please don’t expect us to eat just a baked potato. Those of us with pharmaceutical, medical, and food reactions also don’t want just a plain piece of fish, carrots, and white rice. Staff should try hard and not make guests feel like they are unwanted or a burden because of their diet. Chefs should train the kitchen how to meet dietary requests before the requests come in. They should immediately know how to prepare vegan dishes. Chefs should have dishes for that oddball who goes with friends to a restaurant even if they don’t like the menu. At a seafood restaurant have a meat and taters dish for the oddball while the rest of the group eats lobster.

• Disabled guests can have their dining experience ruined when they are forced to walk to their seat, are squished into a booth, or can’t see what they are eating. Visually impaired guests need good lighting to see the menu and food. Anxious people or people with PTSD may prefer a quiet corner. I hate carpets as they slow down my scooter and collect germs. I need a bench seat due to damaged knees and large midsection. Please don’t squish me into a seat with arms or narrow booth. I like tables that move because it is hard for me to stand. Access and comfort is one of my top priorities because I can’t enjoy the perfect meal if I am in pain, can’t see the meal, or am overwhelmed by the noise.

• Decor, theme, staff, management and many other things are also on my list. Sitting next to an aquarium is awesome until the tenth guest has leaned in to see the fish. Please, don’t cram into a room, so many tables that guests have no privacy and waiters have their rump in your face. I was at a defunct DLR Latin restaurant, where the whole meal was the waiter scooting past me to get to other diners.

 

Chef Robert Irvine and myself are renown for hating dust collections. The hanging baskets full of dust, shelves that never are dusted, and memorabilia glued to shelves. I have watched the chef rip out carpets that are filthy. When was the last time someone cleaned out the banquet seats? I hate when a busser does not completely clean a table and seats. Management should act on complaints and check the guest to see how they are doing. I love the gorilla animatronic until it goes off for the umpteenth time. There are so many factors but time for my top five Disney Springs restaurants.

 

• The winner is Frontera Cocina with a perfect score. They use free range beef and can tell you where the meat comes from. No soy, agar gum, and other chemical are present. Food is made the old fashioned way with fresh ingredients, no artificial stuff, and lots of knowledgeable cooking. I was soaked in a rainstorm so they brought me guacamole and chips plus a stack of cloth napkins. They are eager to please and they are disabled friendly. I wish my boss could pay me as I’d ask for carnitas, rice, beans, and a caramel and plantain sundae as pay. They are gluten free except flour tortillas, tortas, and desserts.

• The four runners up have issues though minor. I couldn’t choose one.

•. Bongos has all my requirements. Their take out window could not do my diet and sent me into a crowded restaurant. Overall I would go back anytime. Real Latin cuisine, disabled friendly, and great staff who works around any menu limitations. Could they please make a GF Cuban sandwich, please?

Homecomin’ had the most awesome Chef Art Smith. They meet all my criteria except food. Good lighting, a patio, a bar, staff who works hard to please guests and the best burger in Disney Springs. They use a shared fryer so no fried foods for me. Chicken is brined in buttermilk but they can make one that isn’t brined. Then it is fried with oil used for regular chicken. They did an awesome job when I was there but I wish they had gluten free fries and hush puppies.

Paddlefish is a very old building designed like a steamboat. She has been stripped down and turned into a classy coastal cruise ship. They try hard to make guests feel welcome. The would have won first place but they do seafood boils. The air is filled with seafood, potatoes, celery, old bay seasoning, and corn. I loved their shrimp cocktail and was very happy there. They can do vegan and special diets with ease.

• Last and not least is BOATHOUSE. I chose 4 restaurants and couldn’t decide who was best as each has limits and all have made me happy. Boathouse has some special diet limitations and needs gluten free bread. The area I was in was a little too close to other guests. I loved the swordfish. Perfect, nearly, and eager to make every diner a satisfied guest.

Raglan Road was my favorite restaurant. The place is packed tight, after 9 pm drinks rule, loud at times, and it was too dark to see a menu or the food. I have had to send back raw scallops and over breaded onion rings. The staff is awesome, as is the entertainers. I recommend them because they usually do awesome with special diets and offer a great experience. Splitsville fails on attitude toward special diets and the fajitas were NOT fajitas. They can be very loud. Service was on point. I won’t go back probably, but will recommend them with the diets and noise warning.

• AMC has full service in the lobby. I had a cheeseburger on corn tortilla twice. I think they are needing more attention. Great service in tall tables and lounge seating. I haven’t tried the rest of the menu so still waiting to see how they do.

Jul 20

WDW Water Parks and other Water Parks – Tips and Advice

Laurie gives us advice and tips for visiting the water parks – at Disney and beyond.

You are in charge of this trip. Explain to your group what is allowed, what can’t be done, rules, itinerary, and what to bring. You don’t want Uncle Harry grumbling because the slides don’t allow rivets on clothes. Don’t dash the hopes of kids who are too short at the park. Talk about limits, as I did 2 laps too many recently.

•Rules

Rules can be government mandated, insurance mandated, or be made by staff. Some rules are firm while others are not enforced. It is up to you to make sure that your family knows the rules and the park rules are obeyed.

Casts, amputees, medical devices, and weight are covered at many parks. All parks will remove a rider who can’t use their feet to balance, can’t hold on, or can’t sit up. Whether written or unwritten, most Water Parks prohibit horseplay, diving, and interfering with the safety of others. Water Country bans hookahs. Smokers at Disney parks have designated areas.

Aquatica prohibits cotton board shorts. Baby swim diapers are required. Do not wear jewelry, scarves, or anything that could be caught on slides and rides. No plastic or metal rivets, buckles, studs, or decorated clothes that could harm slides. Appropriate attire is required.

•Food and Beverages

WDW is very lenient about bringing in coolers stocked with food. Most parks prohibit glass and food that needs heating. Most, if not all parks, prohibit bringing in alcoholic beverages. Florida weather makes picnics risky due to the heat. It is best to save up shelf stable packets of mayonnaise and salad dressing. You can bring unopened small jars of mayonnaise and salad dressing then trash them when done. Spam, cashew butter, tuna, bread, and canned corned beef are some shelf items you might want to bring. You can buy food from your hotel to bring, but again, remember that Florida is hot and food spoils easily. Plan on having a designated person to watch your stuff if you camp out. The lockers are not big enough for a family picnic.

WDW water parks have one main kitchen that does allergies. TOUGH! That is the attitude I received when I tried to get something gluten and soy free. Another issue is getting from where you are camped out to food. Last time I packed in ice, soda pop, salad, cooked hot dogs, buns, and snacks. Read the menus as some folks will find it hard to find something they like.

•Weather

Most amusement and water parks will close outdoor activities when lightning is nearby. I recently visited Blizzard Beach. I drove my van while wearing wet clothes. At the parking garage’s bathroom I changed clothes. 10 minutes in the rain and I was wetter than at the water park. Chills can set in when the high winds kick in. Air conditioned buses will feel like a deep freezer. When Disney closes the lazy rivers they don’t let you wait to get to your camp or the front. You might have to walk halfway around the park. Tampa storms are eastbound and extreme. If a storm is coming out of the west (Tampa) GET OUT! Sometimes waiting an hour will change things. Storms out of the east (Miami) are lightweight, usually, and tend to do little damage.

•Fun, entertainment, and tips

Having read the rules, told the group the rules, and packed for a week trek, should make this a fun outing. Check the schedule as there are events during the year such as the Olympics themed bash. There is usually one character per park with limited hours and they don’t come out during storms.
There are many things to do at Disney water parks. The short kids can start off in a safe play area with splashing features, slides, activities, lifeguards, and shallow entry kiddie pools. Disabled guests might be able to get a water wheelchair that requires someone to push them. There are bump steps at the creeks and the main pool is shallow entry. There is a gondola on the ski lift for wheelchairs and disabled guest who can’t use the ski lift. There are single and double tubes as well as toddler tubes with a solid bottom.

•Cabanas

There are private umbrellas with a couple of towels, umbrella and chairs for at least $40. Save your money!

Cabanas are expensive and worth the cost if you can afford it. They include private locker, towels, table and chairs, waiter who fetches drinks and food (you pay for items), cooler full of ice, and bottled water. This may have changed. 6 people who don’t have to worry about protecting their space and personal belongings.

Jun 11

Menu Changes at Many Disney World Locations

Walt Disney World – FOOD

Mobile Order – available at Satu’li Canteen, Pizzafari, Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Pinocchio Village Haus, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, and Columbia Harbour House.
One must have a My Disney Experience account, credit card attached to My Disney Experience, and notifications on. Expect many more locations to come. Most places will not offer special diets or customizing meals. It is for folks who order right off the menu.

HELLO, GOODBYE

Animal Kingdom

•Smiling Crocodile is offering open face sandwiches that start with a BLT and adds salmon, turkey, or pimento cheese.

Magic Kingdom

•The Cheshire Cafe sits across from the Tea Cups. The menu was stripped down to drinks and a Cheshire Tail which is a Danish twist (pastry) filled with chocolate and topped with blue and pink icing.
•Prince Eric’s Market went from turkey legs to a ham and cheese pretzel. Cookies were added and some items were removed. They have an Under the Sea treat (cupcake).
•Gaston’s Tavern also offers a ham and cheese pretzel as well as offering trios of macarons as a special. Choose from either Pistachio, Raspberry, and Lemon; or Chocolate, Vanilla, and Coffee.
•Tortuga Tavern has a special offering of chocolate almond cake topped a red dome on a blue whipped cream sea.
•Cool Ship has gone from chips and Mickey pretzels to pizza frusta. The proper term is “frusta” which is pizza dough with the sides fold up and around to make like a Hot Pocket. They offer sausage and pepperoni or cheese and tomato.
•Tomorrowland cart sells snow cones.
•The Plaza offers seasonal soup and a honey baked brisket macaroni and cheese entree.

Epcot

•With the Frozen lines calming down it is time to open up the margarita stand. Chosa Tequila will sponsor the stand and also offer tequila, emañadas, and guacamole.
•Taste Track has expanded their dessert menu. Apple pie sundae has caramel popcorn, ice cream, apple pie, and caramel sauce. Berry explosion is ice cream topped with berries, pound cake, cotton candy, and strawberry pearls (molecular science project). The chocolaty churro is a hot fudge sundae with chocolate curls and a churro. Adults can have adult orange soda and root beer soda and these are used in floats. They still have soft serve and ice cream sandwiches.
•Akershus has added a creamy 4 cheese and vegetables pasta called the Fylt Pasta.
•Coral Reef needs a major makeover. She now offers citrus bread pudding, an Asian style tuna bowl, pork chop with braised greens and potatoes, charbroiled octopus appetizer, and a lump crab and watercress salad.

Hollywood Studios

•Sci-Fi diner is tweaking it menu and adds the Drive-In burger and the falafel burger.
•Hollywood and Vine is going into a Summer theme for the Minnie’s Summertime Dine.

All Stars Resorts

The three food courts will now sell alcoholic beverages. Velvet Ropes and Strawberry Fields are two names for a strawberry shake with Frangelica. There is a chocolate shake with candied bacon and bourbon.

Caribbean Beach Resort

Martinique has a well stocked market in a converted hotel room. A buffet and food truck is in the pool area.

Contemporary

The Wave is offering unlimited mimosas for $16.

Grand Floridian

Narcoossee’s now offers lobster tail and steak as its surf and turf entree.

Yacht Club

Fittings & Fairings gift shop is closed until July. Half of the shop is now open as the Market at Ale & Compass. They offer egg white wrap, sticky bun, feta and egg pastry, and a turkey and egg sandwich for breakfast. The rest of the day they offer paninis, ham and cheese sandwich, veggie sandwich, and spinach feta pastry. They have a grab-and-go area with oatmeal, sandwiches, salads, and pastries. They have Larabars, cereal bowls, fresh fruit, ice cream and many items to make lunch with.

Disney Springs

•Wolfgang Puck will vacate his current location in the Westend. This will make room for Paleo. Closing date is August 1, 2017 and all employees have a job waiting for them in the Levy chain of restaurants.
•Splitsville has an enclosed second floor that just opened.
•The Daily Poutine has added a cheeseburger Poutine but continue to use frozen fries.

As we wait for Edison and Wine Bar George we now have more to watch forward to in 2018. Portobello will become Tony Mantuano’s restaurant. Wolfgang Puck bar and grill as well as Jaleo by José Andés add to the list of new chef owned restaurants.

Notes

Can gourmet cotton become a new trend? Disneyland California Adventure has a dole whip flavored cotton candy. Always check menus and the news for changes. We are going into Summer so expect some menu changes. Disney cruise line changed menus the end of last year. Sometimes a restaurant will get an item on stock and add it to the menu for a while. Some menu sites are very outdated so look for discontinued restaurants and obvious errors.

Jun 10

Downtown Disney History and Paddlefish

I always enjoy Laurie’s reviews on restaurants.  This one doesn’t disappoint!  Check out what she has to say about the newly opened Paddlefish.

On October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World officially opened with just two hotels and the Magic Kingdom. The Palm and Magnolia golf courses had been open a few weeks. Fort Wilderness would open in a few months. There were plans for residences at WDW. That November saw the opening of the Electric Pageant on Bay Lake.

1972, around December, we saw the Disney Vacation Villas open their first phase. Hotel Plaza opened up as an off-site Disney partner area that included Dutch Inn, Hotel Royal Plaza, Howard Johnson’s, and Travelodge. In 1973, Hoop Dee Doo Revue was the only non-hotel entertainment. The Golf Resort opened at the end of that year. It is now known as Shades of Green.

In 1971, Walt Disney World WAS Disneyland’s big baby sister. Disney planned for on site permanent residence in the form of manufactured homes. At the end of 1974, Lake Buena Vista Golf Course opened with tennis courts, a pool, snack bar, and the Pompano Grill. This complex became part of the Disney Institute and now is part of Saratoga Springs. 1975, guests found the entertainment, dining, and shopping were limited to Fort Wilderness, three golf courses, the clubhouse, and the resorts. Finally, Disney realized they could make money by giving guests a place to shop and dine outside the resorts. Lake Buena Vista Village opened on March 22, 1975. In 1976, there were shops offering candles, souvenirs, pottery, toys, art, antiques, tobacco, sundries, and tobacco. There was a pet shop, post office, deli, market, and a quick service shop. The highlight there was Captain Jack’s restaurant which offered views of the untamed WDW lands

Off in the distance a paddle wheel steamship opened on May 1, 1977. Lillian Disney christened her the Empress Lilly. It was a three story building built on a submerged foundation. Her name was in a red sign above the red paddle wheel. She remained that way until she closed in 1995 and reopened as Fulton’s. A neon replaced the ornate red sign and gone were the paddle wheel and smokestacks. Recently the empress was stripped down to the bones and became a Florida Coastal Cruiser, Paddlefish is her name.

I walked the gangway into a lobby with a hostess desk decorated with metal fish scales. The walls have dark wood panels and the stairs also have dark wood. There are imitation black tufted leather benches that make the short more bearable. The aroma of a New England seafood boil hits you as you enter the lobby. Potatoes, corn, seafood, and old bay seasoning hits your nose and makes you so hungry. They led me through a narrow hallway, so it seemed as it fits a mobility scooter. The entire ship had large windows to let the sun shine in and guests look at the view. I used the elevator to the second floor. Again, beautiful views of Saratoga Springs and Disney Springs.

The place has a posh feeling with comfortable seating, bright lighting, tablecloths, and fishy art. The chef came out and walked me through the menu. My wallet and my stomach are to small for what I wanted. They have a huge menu for lunch and dinner plus a late night appetizer menu and a brunch dinner.

Among the appetizers are crab cakes, chorizo stuffed clams, charred octopus with cannellini beans, conch soup, crab meat topped French fries, calamari, salads, clam chowder, and ahi poke. I went for the shrimp cocktail with ketchup and horseradish sauce. The waiter brought a bucket for the shells. I stared in awe at a bed of seaweed held a pile of U8 or U12 shrimp. These were huge. Each shrimp was deveined, perfectly cooked and delicious. I could sit there all day eating 5 orders of their fresh shrimp. Who needs fried green tomatoes and lobster corn dogs when there is a bountiful plate of perfect shrimp.

The lunch menu features lunch items like crab cake BLT, burger, Floridian chicken salad, soup and salad entree, and fried clam roll. The dinner menu offers sides like Brussels sprouts, Maque Choux, green beans, sweet tater fries, crab mashed potatoes, and succotash. Guest may top their steak or seafood with uni butter, bearnaise sauce, blue cheese, Demi-glacé sauce, and Oscar sauce. Entrees include fish and chips, jambalaya, branzino, opah, lobster risotto, scallops, catfish, steaks, korobuta pork, chicken, lamb, hamburger, and a vegan dish.

I have heard of black cod en papillote so I had to try this French dish. The term means “in parchment” as one places meat, vegetables, herbs, spices, and/or liquids to a parchment paper pouch. The pouch is sealed shut which causes the contents to be steamed. Since the pouch is not opened until table side there is no guarantee that anything cooked properly. In a fish stew the chef can pick out bits that are done or add more herbs and salt. A server stood next to my table and with great flare opened the bag and set the plate in front of me. Steam filled the area with the smell of cod, butter, and vegetables. The flaky black cod was enhanced by uni (sea urchin) butter, squash, and mushrooms to the point that I wish I had some bread for sopping up the butter. Sadly, proper ladies don’t lick the parchment but I am not too proper, lol.

The one thing I wanted to try was the New England boil. Every entree has Jalepeño cornbread, boiled new potatoes, and boiled Plant City corn on the cob. The least expensive is the snow crab, boudin sausage, and gulf shrimp. One can make a custom boil by choosing (per item) from crawfish, shrimp, king crab, queen crab, blue crab, clams & mussels, and lobster. For $10, they have yummy sounding desserts like a brownie milkshake with caramel corn and chocolate ganache. They have southern favorite like key lime pie, carrot cake, and strawberry shortcake. The restaurant had a fully stocked bar with cordials, cognac, brandy, bourbon, scotch, wine, and draft beer. Cocktails include a Bloody Mary with crab, bacon, and shrimp; the Gold Rush with ginger beer, whiskey, and lime; and the Mad About Saffron Martini that has elderberry liqueur, vodka, and saffron.

ALLERGEN WARNING: The air is permeated with shellfish such as lobsters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and crawfish. Also in the air are sausages, corn and potatoes. Old Bay seasoning contains black and red pepper, spices, celery seed, and paprika. Anyone allergic to black pepper, spices, celery, potatoes, corn, or shellfish should not come near Paddlefish.

Paddlefish works well with allergies. I hate such a warning when a restaurant works so hard to feed guests on a limited diet. I enjoyed my meal and had no reactions. Very family friendly while having the bar for adults. The decor, theme, views, and staff are why I will be back. I highly recommend Paddlefish and feel they are my top three table service meals.

Jun 05

Pandora – Survival Guide for Ecotourists

Laurie was at Animal Kingdom for the opening of Pandora.  She has a lot of info to share with us.

HISTORY – Animal Kingdom

In 1998, Animal Kingdom opened with a river ride and a land called Camp Minnie and Mickey. The boat ride quickly closed and was left unused until the Rivers of Light theater and show was built. Camp Minnie and Mickey became a place to see a show and leave. The last show, Festival of the Lion King, was removed along with character greets, a few snack stands, and a small education spot.

We can now see what guests saw on the boat ride. The scary rocks that the boat navigated and the lush foliage. As the boat entered Africa there were no Lion King theater or bathrooms. The boat approached a service bridge that was disguised as a 15th century Portuguese fort with gun slots. The bridge is only 20 years old but retains that rustic look. In place of the boats is a wooden walkway over the water that connects Africa with what is now Pandora.

Pandora aka Avatarland, has a backstory that many guests do not have the time to find out or is hidden. RDA was a mining company that almost destroyed the planet to get what they wanted. RDA ran away and left their base behind. The locals, Na’vi, had no use for the base so they left it to nature to heal the land. A few RDA employees remained in their new home and were expatriates (expats). This story follows colonialism in India, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and even the USA almost verbatim. The story is based in a time like 19th London where there was nothing but drudgery and few jobs back home. Who would want to leave paradise to work in factories and other menial jobs when they can be healthy and happy.

A former RDA employee built Pongu Pongu for his expatriate coworkers. It was a healing place of beauty that ended up with the owner of Pongu Pongu helping ACE ecotourism to be developed on Pandora. Over the past 50 years people came and never left. The RDA Commissary was stripped of almost everything RDA and became a place to show off Na’vi artifacts as well as RDA artifacts. It was named Satu’li Canteen and features home cooking of Earth and Pandora. Next came Windtraders shop that displays Na’vi artwork. Windtraders is an old RDA building that was stripped and turned into a place for souvenirs as well as merchandise celebrating Pandora. The Na’vi have their wares for sell in the shop. The RDA base was recycled for parts for current buildings and the rest left to nature.

DISABLED TRAVELERS

The Na’vi oral tradition includes stories of a paralyzed veteran who became a Na’vi. Pandora has many paths that are disabled friendly. Sadly ACE did not listen to the Na’vi and made two rides that the disabled can’t ride. The calm river ride does not have a wheelchair boat like the Jungle Cruise. Many people want to see the labs and ride a banshee but are turned away. ACE forgot how a paraplegic soared on a banshee and fought for the Na’vi.  Hopefully this will be changed. The Canteen staff are very kind to the disabled travelers. They carry trays, pick up utensils and drinks, and help bus their table. Except for soy, the chefs have included special diets. Sadly there are no gluten free desserts. Breakfast is hearty hash of chorizo, pork, potatoes, and peppers. Hopefully there will be soy free dishes beyond the 2 dishes at lunch.

DAS can be used to get a return time. All persons must be linked to the DAS before a return time can be received for the group. This is a great benefit as it is hard to get a mobility device out of the standby line if a person needs to leave. Rider Switch Pass is also available for those with small kids.

WAR

On opening day I used a Pride Gogo mobility scooter. I came home with multiple dents and bruises besides severe reaction to the heat. I was backpacked repeatedly. People would kick and hit my scooter. Worst was people standing inches from my face as if I enjoyed looking at their shorts and backpacks. Cutting in line was too common. One had to protect their space while waiting in line because people would slither through crowds to be first into Pandora. Some parents were too busy and their kids ran amok, darted into crowds, hit and kicked people, or hit mobility devices. I watched people plow through crowds without yielding to disabled guests, strollers, and cast members.

NA’VI WAY – PEACE AND BROTHERHOOD

Now for what Pandora really is about. I shared my table twice at my meals and I saw others share tables. Cast Members carried my tray, brought me my drink and utensils, and took the tray away. Later they bussed my table while other staff were helping guests find seats. There were guests helping other guests on Pandora like when a man dropped a bag from his stroller and someone chased him down. The children danced with the drummers and the crowd was ecstatic over the drummers. There was the sound of music and nature as people relaxed in the shade. Amongst the war and chaos, was humanity, in a distant land. Most of the people were there to learn and be entertained while patiently waiting. Sometimes a person would invite others in line to join them in a shade spot. This humanity and serenity within a garden akin to paradise calls me back. Maybe I can be an expatriate on Pandora.

NAVIGATING PANDORA

The main entrance is on the left as you enter Discovery Island, just before Pizzafari. If you have a FP or DAS return time then you arrive 15-60 minutes before the return time. The Rider Switch Pass should be shown at the Fastpass line. The entrance to Pandora is down to an hour or two. The second entrance is from the area near the bathrooms near the Lion King theater along the river. Currently that path is only an exit. It is of utmost importance that one gets in the correct line. There is one for each of these: Extra Magic Hours, fastpasses, and all others.

The main landmarks are the river, the canteen, and the floating rocks. Facing the canteen one can find the exits and the river ride line. Straight ahead is the bathroom and behind you along the river is the main entrance, bathrooms, and face painting. To your left is Pongu Pongu and Windtraders. Continuing down the path on the left and behind you is the Flights ride. With your back to the canteen you will see the floating rocks with the far right one having Flights. In front of you are the drums and a body of water.
It is easy to get lost. Look for a large body of water that is between the river and the floating rocks. This will help you orient yourself. Rocks on the left and river on the right will align you with the map. The river on your right will also align you to the map. The river ride, face painters, and bathroom are at the bottom of the map. Practice at home so you understand how to use landmarks and how to turn your body so the map faces the right way. Hold the map and find a landmark. Turn in a circle until you are facing those things at the top of the map like the Canteen. Find your target and head for it. This is a lot easier than reading an upside down map.

PLANNING TIPS

Pandora is most beautiful at night. Get your fastpass then exit. Don’t waste time for anything but the drummers. Breakfast is great, but all other meals I recommend Tusker House and Flame Tree. During the heat of the day and get fastpass and important things done. Come back when your fastpass time is ready. Don’t waste time in Pandora as you will be in a lot of sun. There are so many things you can do.  There is free ice, cold water, and hot water available. Bring snacks like Lara bars, chips, and things to nibble on. Bring zipper bags for storing snacks and popcorn. SUNSCREEN!! Wear a hat, wicking cotton clothes, and short sleeves. Stay hydrated by getting cups of ice and adding your drinks or their tap water. Sharing is caring so share food with your family so everyone experiences the food. Teach kids to stay near you and have them labeled in some way such as clothing tags. Teach kids who to go to when lost like the restaurant and shops. Kids, as soon as possible, should know your name. MARK MONTGOMERY shouted in a crowd gets more attention because people respond to their name. Have pictures of your group and everything you bring into the park. It is easier for EMTs, police, security, and cast members to find the lost person or item. Marking items with a return address helps. My cell phone is locked but has an emergency number which could be used to contact a friend. Have a designated meeting place such as the Dawa Bar. Don’t be vague like “I am outside the Lion King” as that covers everything from the bathrooms to Tusker House. Better to say, “I am along the river directly across from the Lion King entrance”.  Some places have two entrance like World of Disney which leads to confusion. I have been part of a hunt for the correct entrance too many times. Buy a Mophie charger and keep it with cables in a bag so you can grab it and go. Study My Disney Experience and other apps as they can tell you where bathrooms, churros, and first aid. My Disney Experience allows users to get a map with step by step instructions.

Mom and I were evacuated from New Orleans Square in Disneyland because of an alarm. We were sent to the Haunted Mansion. Emergencies happen and you have to be prepared. Our evacuation was just an alarm going off. What if your bus breaks down? During mass movement, such as parade crossings, a group can split up. Always be over prepared. Bring to Pandora lots of batteries for cameras and electronic devices as the beauty should be shared. Zipper bags make good gloves as well as trash and leftovers. Bring your imagination and take time to study how succulent plants are turned into magnificent aliens plants. Imagine a living planet that glows with life at nighttime. Unlike the real Pandora, you can come and go as you please. Try a morning trip with breakfast at the canteen then head to Asia and Africa for the big ticket attractions. In the evening finish with one more ride and a nighttime show given by Pandora. Watch for other guests who are staring at the details of something as they may have found something interesting. I am in awe how imagineers made rusting bridges and equipment along side decaying buildings.

May 28

Weekend Getaway to Disney and Sea World

Laura is a client and friend of mine.  She had the opportunity to go to Sea World on one of her recent trips in April and shared her experience with me.  She also has a few reviews of some new restaurants that they tried.  Her girls have several allergies so they watch for allergy friendly places.  See what she has to say.

We surprised the girls for their birthdays when we picked them up from school (early release day) and drove straight to the airport. They FREAKED! We had a great flight and headed straight downstairs to Magical Express. We thankfully were the first stop of the ride and had an easy time getting to the lodge. Our room was ready when we arrived and headed straight up there really looking forward to surprising the girls with a savanna view. Our room was a TREK to get to.

We were in a rush to Sea World in the morning so we couldn’t mess with the room situation and just decided to see what happened later on.

 

Sea World was amazing. We did the Dolphin’s Up Close tour which was 1 hour and it was absolutely worth every penny. It was pretty affordable at $25 for kids and $45 adults with all that we got to do. We got time with the trainers, learned a ton about the dolphins, got to learn hand signal behaviors which we did for the dolphins and we got to touch them a lot! They even “sang” happy birthday to the girls! The ONLY downsides: it was cold and we pretty chilly throughout most of the event. Water + cold is not too fun. Secondly, we had to put of all loose items to keep the dolphins safe–which included cell phones. They of course had several photographers snapping pics the entire time capturing every amazing thing but we would have spent a small fortune on those photos so we picked our favorite for $20. The girls (and I) LOVED every second of it. We are all big dolphin fans so it was really a special experience. I seriously almost cried it was so cool.

We did that as soon as we arrived so when we were done we headed to eat (just quick service so nothing special to brag on-only that we got allergy safe food in 3 mins vs 30….) but it was a hot dog and fries…. lol.

We did the Orca One Ocean show next and that was amazing as well. We did not pay for special seating which in my opinion would have been a waste. You can see perfect anywhere in that arena and if you wanted to sit in the splash zone (we did NOT) there was plenty of seating open. The premier seating you pay for is front and center away from splash zones and down lower in the upper set of seating. Not worth paying for.

The show was great and everyone was smiling and happy and in awe the whole time. It was pretty cool. Those animals are so beautiful!

We snagged a last min. reservation to Jiko at 7:20 pm.  We had an excellent server and a perfect table right against the window overlooking the water feature outside. Now for the review:

Jiko- The Cooking Place
The thing that will deter us from ever going back was the INSANE amount of time that dinner took! We didn’t get out of there until almost 10pm! It was not that busy in there at all but it was painfully slow. We were all starving and the girls were past done.

 

We had:

Adult Appetizer: Curried Butternut squash bisque. WOW. So good.
Adult Appetizer: Jiko Salad with EPCOT The Land greens. Very good as well. I could have eaten 3 plates of this.
Girls had GF allergy bread which was terrible.
Dinner: Oak-grilled Filet Mignon–amazing flavor and great meal. He was very pleased
Dinner: Durham Ranch Elk Loin. The elk was amazing but this is a very small portion and the veggies on the plate were basically raw. Very pricey for what you get. Good but would not get again.
Kids Macaroni and Cheese–didn’t like it. It was a weird sharp white cheese and it was under-seasoned and bland but kinda sour.
Kids Fish–loved every bite and cleaned her plate.

Dessert:
Malva Pudding which was outstanding
Some sort of cheesecake which had this weird freeze dried blueberry foam on top which was BAD. Not good.
Kids: Really fun white chocolate Mickey puzzle that they could paint with this weird jello. They hated it but had fun playing.

The price tag of that experience was insane for a painfully long dinner that was overpriced for what it was. We love Artist Point–our favorite signature restaurant on property so far and it just didn’t compare. Would we return? Only if we needed a last min dinner option while staying at AKL. We would skip wine (insanely overpriced and all directly from South Africa) and dessert and just hit up the Mara for Zebra Domes! 🙂 The allergy options for both girls (peanut, tree nut, sesame and shellfish) were great and we were very comfortable with eating here.

We also ate at:

Biergarten
We tried this for the first time in January and loved it so much we took the girls. The chef was great and turns out this is basically one of the safest places for them to eat on property. We comfortably fed them off the buffet right away and they LOVED it. The food was great and the entertainment was outstanding and so fun for everyone to watch. I would highly recommend this restaurant!

Cosmic Rays
Our MK go-to quick service for food allergies. To confirm there are no nuts, no sesame and no shellfish in the restaurant. It’s a perfect place to eat. It is INSANELY busy, however, even now that the 3 bays all serve the same food. We waited more than 30 mins each time we went.

The Mara
I was pretty nervous about this quick service at AKL given all of the ethnic foods and food allergies. The chefs were really great here and FAST! My girls ate safe breakfast and we had an amazing dinner there our last night–ribs and chicken and both plates were demolished. They liked it better than Jiko by a landslide and we spent a fraction of what we spent that night….oy. lol (And ZEBRA DOMES)
OH! and a HUGE shout-out to the Mara for carrying Erin McKenna cupcakes! The one safe allergy-friendly treat my girls beg for from Disney Springs! We were very surprised to find containers of 4 mini cupcakes from EM! They loved it!

 

May 26

Easy and Thorough Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Laurie shares her tips for touring Hollywood Studios.  Check them out, they may save you some time!

 

 

 

It takes lots of preparation for a trip to Hollywood Studios. There is the quirky weather that can turn into monsoons and high winds, plus blistering heat, that can ruin a vacation. The worst thing is the layout of the park. One can end up walking in circles and backtracking repeatedly so here are some key features and tips.

 

 

 

HUBS

1. The entrance hub has snacks, drinks, rentals, and guest services.
2. The central or main hub branches directly off to all other areas except Muppet Courtyard. From here there are Keystone Lane, the Echo Park paths, Commissary Lane, Animation Courtyard, Hollywood Boulevard, and Pixar Avenue.
3. Star Wars Hub has paths to Muppet Courtyard, Commissary Lane, and the Echo Lake paths.

PATHS

1. Hollywood Boulevard has restrooms next to Oscar’s service station. There is a snack kiosk, snacks in stores, and Starbucks for last minute drinks and snacks.
2. Keystone Lane and Echo Lake paths connect Hollywood Boulevard and the main hub to the Star Wars hub. This path has the Indiana Jones Stunt show, Star Tours, Jedi training, and the Frozen Sing-Along.
3. Muppets Courtyard has the Muppet show, shops, Mama Melrose and Rizzo’s Pizza. It is a building with a path around it. It is best to do Muppets then exit at the rear where you will take a path to the big Muppet store. Around this is restaurants and shops.
4. Commissary Lane has the ABC Commissary and the Red Carpet meet and greet. This path is best for avoiding the Echo Lake traffic. The meet and greet is right off the Star Wars hub, so this path is not important in your planning.
5. Pixar place has Toy Story Mania and two meet and greets with Green Army Men appearing at the end of the path for a third meet. The other place is One Man’s Dream which does previews and character meets, sometimes. The theater empties into the Animation Courtyard by the bathrooms. Exiting this building allows one to do Launch Bay and the bathroom before returning to the main hub.
6. Sunset Boulevard runs from the main hub to the Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Fantasmic, and the Beauty and the Beast show.
7. The Animation Courtyard has the Brown Derby, Playhouse Disney Junior show, character meets, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and the Launch Bay which is everything Star Wars.

BATHROOMS

1. Entrance on both sides of the gate.
2. Sunset Boulevard has ones in the middle in an Alley and by the Rock n Roller Coaster. Just as you are about to enter the Tower of Terror Courtyard, on the right, are bathrooms.
3. Pixar Avenue in the middle.
4. Main hub has one on the Frozen show building next to Commissary Lane.
5. At the Star Wars hub in a metal building.
6. Muppet Courtyard on the left as you enter.
7. In the Animation Courtyard in a far distant corner, next to the Launch Bay.
8. Fantastic amphitheater.

Some restaurants have bathrooms as well. The nurse’s station has a restroom. The baby center had toddler potties.

SHOWS

I include Star Tours and the Great Movie Ride as they have the same effect as shows, fireworks, and parades. One has to have a backup plan to deal with shows. Suddenly a herd of charging people burst onto the paths. They all seem to being headed for a bathroom, snack stand, attraction, exit, or show. The bathrooms in Muppet Courtyard and Pixar Avenue rarely see heavy traffic so I use those to avoid crowds. Don’t wait until the last minute to enter shows and rides. As soon as Playhouse Disney Junior empties there are people heading to the Little Mermaid. Also, when exiting, try to stay toward the side you plan to head toward, as this reduces the chance of getting stuck in the crowd. If one is leaving Frozen for Star Wars or Sunset Boulevard, then wait until you get to those areas for a potty break.  Show times are designed so guests can get a lot of shows seen.

NOW WHAT?

Each trip is unique because of the needs, wants, abilities, and limitations of each member of the group. A single parent with two toddlers will need a different plant than a group of adults. Knowing where things are can help one to reduce wasted time and energy. It helps to be able to find food that you want instead of settling for a cheeseburger or a ice cream bar. Be ready to head to an ice cream shop for a sundae or the Tune In Lounge for a meal.

I did Indiana Jones, Star Tours, Mama Melrose, Muppets, Muppet Courtyard, Frozen, and Toy Story Mania. All of this was on Echo Lake paths, and the Star Wars hub except Toy Story Mania. I had to retrace my steps but I got everything done. Some people suggest criss crossing the park many times. It is easier to do most things in one area than wasting time dashing around the park.

For most guests I recommend doing Rock n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Beauty and the Beast at the same time. Do Frozen, Indiana Jones, Star Tours, and Muppets in one big loop. Toy Story is a block or two away from the main hub but not too far so one can do that then go to FP type rides. Little Mermaid, Playhouse Disney Junior and Launch Bay can be done in one loop.

Opening Rush

Stay to the far left if you want to do Star Tours and Jedi training. Stay far right for Sunset Boulevard then move far left for Rock n Roller Coaster. Stay in the middle until you are past Sunset Boulevard then go to the far right to go to the Animation Courtyard and Toy Story Mania. Toy Story Mania will veer left into Pixar Place. That is when you should be on the right side. The entrance is on the right side about 3 feet from the wall. Being right lets you form the line as people merge. Left ends up making a u-turn then follows the forming line back and back and back. This also happens at the Seven Dwarves mine ride. Knowing where lines start helps one to be in a forming line instead of being stuck outside.

I have major wifi issues in the parks. Before heading to the parks I take screenshots of my Fastpass times. When I travelled to Tampa and Lakeland there were screenshots of the map. Take pictures of everything you bring to the parks including kids and service dogs. You can show CMs what the lost stroller, mother, camera, or purse looked like. “Blue shirt” is not as good as showing the shirt in a photo. Take pictures of where you parked. Pictures can be deleted so I take a lot of “reminder” photos.
I recommend Mama Melrose, Green Army Men on Pixar Place, Brown Derby Lounge, Star Tours, Star Wars Spectacular, and Toy Story Mania. The Star Wars night time show is awesome close up but you can see more from farther away like by Indiana Jones. Have a magical day in Hollywood Studios.

 

May 06

Review of Disney Springs

She’s back! I’ve missed Laurie’s reviews…..

Disney Springs Dining reviews

One of my first reviews was of Portobello. With no notice they closed. They are the last remaining business on Pleasure Island except Fulton which was remodeled. For decades people flocked to Portobello for authentic Italian cuisine.

I had to try a gluten free cupcake and cookie at Sprinkles. The wait was well worth it. They are tucked in a corner next to the bridge that goes from Lime Garage to Morimoto and up the hill to Paradiso 37. They only have one flavor for me but I love red velvet cake so I was happy. Lots of dairy and sugar made for a delicious snack. I prefer Erin McKenna for a variety of gluten and vegan cupcakes, donuts, and cookies. I would choose Sprinkles because of the use of decadent ingredients like butter. I suggest getting a boxful and heading to one of the performance areas to hear awesome musicians play.

Erin McKenna has a sign stating their coconut oil based frosting melts at 75° which makes it hard to take one back to your room. The donuts lasted most of my trip until I spilled iced tea on the box. They have bagels, soy based ice cream, yummy donuts, loaf cakes, cinnamon rolls, and cupcakes. I will be back as the donuts are delicious. I only have two in the freezer left. This is an excellent spot to get a snack to enjoy during concerts by the water.

I skipped Poutine fries kiosk. They use the same fries as most WDW owned restaurants. They may have soybean oil. Save money and hit a topping bar to top your fries. Ganachery is another Disney owned and puffed up shop. This is not the fancy bean to bar chocolate that uses no soy and few ingredients. They mass produce on enrobers to the point that the reused chocolate is warm for a long time. They don’t make most of the chocolate.  Last spot that I won’t recommend is Earl of Sandwich because Subway, Quiznos and most sandwich shops cross contaminate. The hand touches bread then the ingredients. They don’t care if the tomato touched meat or bread. I have been there with friends and the sandwiches seem to be smaller. There are burgers, salads, and ribs waiting for you.

Polite Pig is located next to the Lime Garage exit in Town Center. This is very disabled friendly with bright red-trimmed white walls. The main feature is the bourbon bar with at least fifty bourbons in stock. This is a drinking man’s bar that serves pitchers of gin and tonic, beer, and old fashions. It is hard to choose as the menu is so awesome. There is a vegan salad that looked good. Appetizers include wedge salad (chicken and salmon optional on all salads), peel and eat shrimp, cracklins (pig skins), hop salt pretzel, and wings. They offer fried chicken, pulled pork, salmon BLT, and brisket sandwiches.

I tried the St. Louis ribs with corn. I want to try the brisket, salmon, chicken, and pork shoulder next. All entrees come with Texas Toast, choice of side, and slaw. I had the smoked lime butter corn on the cob without crumbs. The tender ribs were well seasoned and better than House of Blues. I loved the fresh corn. I could have had baked beans, broccoli, cauliflower, potato salad, watermelon salad, or Brussels sprouts. They give you a tracking device and you head to your seat. After that you get waited on. There is a self serve fountain machine, and a condiment bar with 7 barbecue sauces. I WILL BE BACK. Highly recommended to drinkers of hardy drinks like ale, whiskey, rye, and bourbon. The staff walked me through the menu and overall made me want to come back. I have eaten lots of ribs in my life so I can say these are very good. I like that they have vegetables to round out a meal. They try to meet dietary needs.
Raglan Road has a great band and great service. It gets a little rowdy after 9 PM. The place is too dark to read the menu. I had delicious gluten free onion rings and many iced tea refills.  I love this place and most of the food. I will be sharing with Tabitha pictures and videos. I will continue to recommend them except to noise sensitive guests. The waitress was spot on perfect.

 

I love the Coca Cola store. It can be hard for wheeled guests to get around. It can get packed right and a bit noisy. So wait for the elevator to the rooftop. For 50¢ more you get 5 refills on your soda pop fountain drink (1 hour time limit). They have 100+ choices on their Freestyle machine. Adults can choose a variety of alcoholic drinks. Beverly’s revenge has gin, blood orange liqueur, and Beverly (Alka Seltzer soda pop). The best option is the International, float, and combo trays that offer a wide variety of flavors. The view can be breathtaking and this is a good spot to crash in between meals. They also offer Monster, Zico, Mexican Coke with real sugar, floats, icees and smoothies. I am up to a Beverly float. This is one of the landmarks at DTD and located near buses, great food, and street performers.

Feb 15

Latest News in Dining Around Disney World

She’s back! Laurie gives us the latest update on several dining locations and more.
🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔
SAD NEWS!! Starring Rolls on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios has closed. There is no word on what will become of the location. 💔 Saddest news is that the 2005, yes it is that old, Club Penguin will be DELETED and replaced with Club Penguin Island. BOOO!!! Also say farewell to the Muppet balloon at Hollywood Studios.
GOOD NEWS! The margarita stand in Mexico pavilion in Epcot is being replaced with a Choza tequila sponsored bar that will also serve empañadas, tacos, and guacamole. Magic Kingdom has added alcoholic beverages to the menus at Tony’s Town Square, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Skipper Canteen, and Liberty Tree Tavern.
HALLELUJAH!!!!!!! Cosmic Ray’s has discontinued the bays. No more having to wait in one line for a sandwich and one for a burger when there is a central kitchen. The menu remains about the same. One line for all your dining!
COMING SOON!!! The Polite Pig will be coming to Disney Springs this year. They offer wood fired grill fare. The Edison and possibly other spots will open someday maybe this year. The third addition to Disney Springs is Master Sommelier George Miolotes and his Wine Bar George that will be a wine connoisseur’s heaven.
🍔🍔🍔
Jiko has added perch from Lake Victoria, Durham Ranch elk loin, lamb tagine, and buttery-sweet scallops that are paired with Berkshire pork belly chutney. A new appetizer is the Manti Dumplings that are filled with boar, bison and elk and accompanied by spicy tomato sauce and saffron yogurt. The new (6 months) Chef Daniel Sicilian is offering seasonal side dishes as well as offering menu items based on what is available in the market. Another new Chef is Michael Craig who will be offering a Tanzanian chocolate mousse, pistachio financier (a type of cake), pink peppercorn meringue, cacao nib crunch and pineapple dessert. An interesting and tasty sounding dish is the sweet potato cheesecake with sweet apple chutney.
🍔🍔🍔
Finally, after nearly two years of construction, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has added the Geyser Point Bar & Grill. Cedar beams and natural stonework make for a comfortable place along the water to rest after a long day in the parks. Adults will find themed drinks and items from Pacific Northwest breweries, vintners, and distilleries. This will be a “small plates” type of menu that features crispy fried oysters with miso tartar sauce; cheesy barbecue brisket with house-made chips; “Shrimp on a Wire” with miso-lime vinaigrette, togarashi spices, shishito peppers and chili-aioli; and a handcrafted charcuterie. They will have a walk up window. They are open for all meals. Breakfast includes scrambled eggs with sausage and bacon, crab cakes Benedict, and maple-cinnamon pancakes.
The quick-service lunch and dinner menu, available at the walk-up window includes:
Bison burger with Tillamook Cheddar, sweet onion straws and marionberry barbecue sauce
Classic bacon burger with Tillamook Cheddar
House-smoked turkey sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise
Lump crab cake sandwich with house-made Canadian bacon and spicy cabbage-carrot slaw
Grilled salmon BLT with lemon-caper mayonnaise
Salad with grilled Portobello, zucchini, roasted red peppers, tomato and multi-grain salad with goat cheese dressing
Grilled chicken or salmon with arugula and romaine, apples, seasonal berries, hazelnuts and red wine vinaigrette
Seasonal fruit plate with lavender honey yogurt.
For dessert there’s seasonal pie and a chocolate brownie mousse with caramel popcorn and toasted meringue.
Kids’ all-day menu:
Grilled chicken strips with dipping sauces, apple or veggie sticks
Finger Food Sampler with sliced smoked turkey, Tillamook Cheddar, spiced apple jam, grape tomatoes and sourdough crisps.
🍔🍔🍔
The Lily is back as Paddlefish with awesome seafood as well as steak. They are out of the Levy chain so expect special diet friendly dining. They are the only place serving en papillote style fish. They offer mussels, shrimp, oysters, clams, and lobsters in an array of presentations. The boils are red potatoes, corn and choice of seafood boiled up like in New England.
🍔🍔🍔
Guy Fierri has join Planet Hollywood in the menu designing part of the grand reopening. The Stargazer Lounge will feature Florida breweries and will offer signature drinks. There will be outdoor seating with views of Disney Springs. Look for old favorites and new Fierri inspired dishes. A night at the observatory has taken on a new meaning.
🍔🍔🍔
Trattoria Al Forno will be offering a character breakfast this Spring. There are no details other than Tangled and Ariel characters in a “Bon voyage” theme.
🍔🍔🍔
Hollywood & Vine will continue to offer a Playhouse Disney Character breakfast from 8 am to 10:20 am. On May 14th the Minnie’s Seasonal Dine will start at 11:20 am. Watch as the theme will change to Spring. ABC Commissary has guests order food, sit down, and they deliver the food to the table. The menu is very tight so check to see if like what is served.
🍔🍔🍔
Magic Kingdom has new breakfast options. Casey’s Corner will be serving muffins, bagels and a croissant donut. Plaza Ice Cream Parlor will serve Mickey waffles, Kelloggs cereal and donuts. Kids will love the donut sundae, a donut topped with ice cream, hot fudge, apple, whipped cream, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and a cherry. Sleepy Hollow has the new egg, ham and tomato waffle sandwich as well as the fruit and chocolate-hazelnut waffle sandwich. Golden Oak has dropped the waffle fries and only offers regular fries and chicken nuggets.
🍔🍔🍔
Keep an eye open for holiday dining as Cape May will do a Mother’s Day and an Easter Brunch. Maple flavored popcorn can be found in Frontierland. Casey’s Corner will have monthly specialty hot dogs such as the barbecue slaw dog. Captains Grille at the Yacht Club will be at Ariel’s in the same building from May, 2017 until Autumn, 2017. Last December Sanaa added typical breakfast fare with an African flare. The Contemporary and Yacht Club will offer guests a quick meal for breakfast menu placed with the menu inside the room service info. This is a test for now.
🍔🍔🍔
Pandora will be the newest land in Animal Kingdom. What is know is the names are Satu’li Canteen (restaurant) and Pongu Pongu (adult drinks). Kiosks, quick service, lounge, or table service is not known. Rivers of Life show packages are a great deal and allow guest to try Tiffins and other restaurants. The night time is very limited in hours so it is best to do the package to save time.
🍔🍔🍔
Gasparilla Grille at the Grand Floridian now offers stations (bays). The sandwich bar offers sandwiches, such as roast beef, ham, and turkey. They are made fresh like at Subway but not subs. There is a salad bar as well. In the mornings there is a station that will serve yogurt with a variety of toppings available. The hot sandwich and pizza station features in-house pizza dough. There will be gourmet burgers, mahi mahi Reuben sandwich, and a chicken and Brie sandwich. There will be a station offering baked goods such as coconut pot de crème, almond fruit tart, and in-house yummy treats. Also they will offer typical coffeehouse drinks.

Aug 04

Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs – Allergy Friendly?

Blaze Pizza – NOT CELIAC SAFE
Not safe for allergies

I spoke to an expert who confirmed the following:

1. The ovens contain wheat dust.
2. The pans are not dedicated to gluten free.
3. The press for GF is next to wheat pizzas.
4. They clean a regular press, sometimes, instead of a gluten free press.
5. Pizza dust is all over employees.
6. Employees touch the regular dough then put their hands in the bins of toppings.

Vegans and allergies
The employees take a topping from one bin then reach into other bins with that same hand. Much like Subway restaurants there is cross contamination. Meat residue gets on the “vegan” veggies. A person who is allergic to pork, tomatoes, onions, or dairy might find microscopic traces of allergens. The pizza sits on the counter edge so that toppings fall into the bins.

To make a truly allergy free or vegan pizza they would have to start with new bins of toppings and sauces. They are working on removing many bad things in their food like HFCS and artificial dyes. However, I would hate to wait for them to change gloves, wipe down counters, and bring out new bins. I have watched videos so that I know this to be true. The salads are premise and sit in bins which means no substitutes. They could make a salad from fresh. The convenience is gone if you are celiac, special diets, or Vegan.

They are a good value, good food, and good service from what I hear. I will not review them as I cannot eat there safely. I will not recommend them for the same reason. Homecoming and Bongos are safe and work with guests.

Aug 04

Pokemon Go – important

By Laurie.

Pokemon Go is based on GPS which may use outdated info. Poke Spots and Poke Gyms are assigned to churches, landmarks, and businesses usually. In time these locations may close, disappear, become unsafe, or change use. These locations can be swamps, burnt out buildings, meth labs, gang houses, or other criminal based activities. There could be guard dogs, gun toting lunatics, or sexual predators at the location. Lures are used to attract Pokemon for half an hour. Some can be attached to Pokemon Spots and others to the game character so that people gather in one location hoping for a rare Pokemon. A search on Google will find Poke Spots like the Neon Zebra that is an adult bar and my favorite, Shipwreck: the Alkimos that is a long swim if you dare to try to visit. Sadly graveyards, 9/11 memorials, and other places of remembrance are now playgrounds for Pokemon players. There is no way to easily add spots like the Salvation Army or removing unsafe sites or graveyards. The system needs to change so that players don’t bother people.

No Trespassing
Treat the game like a real life treasure hunt. Don’t go onto people’s lawns to catch a Golbat or go into the kitchen at your local diner for a Ponyta. People are going backstage at Disney World in search of Pokemon. Don’t park at a business just for Pokemon as that is rude. Do not climb over chains and fences into forbidden areas. There is rumor that Disney plans to tweak its filters on free wifi to block Pokemon sites. Don’t use graveyards and holocaust sites for Pokemon as you should respect the dead. As a Christian I would never visit a satanic site or a brothel even for the rarest Pokemon.

OUCH
Pokemon critters, spots, and gyms are assigned without much concern for public safety. People get hurt when they fail to see sidewalk cracks, branches, poles, holes, traffic, people, animals, and other objects. People risk their jobs by playing the game on company time or by taking pictures of Pokemon where cameras are not allowed. Islam banned Pokemon as a form of gambling when Pokemon was on Gameboy long ago. People are forgoing real life duties and family for Pokemon hunting. I watched a pickup almost hit a guy on a motorcycle because of Pokemon. Many minor incidents go unreported but I have been in downtown Winter Haven watching road rage, poor manners, and unsafe driving.

Mind Your Manners and Children
New York plans to ban sexual predators from having Pokemon Go. An old ruse is for a predator to have a puppy and ask for help finding the owner. Imagine a man telling a Pokemon obsessed kid that there is a Sandshrew near by. Spots with lures attract people even in the dead of night because lures on Poke Stops have a better chance of finding rare Pokemon. Stay in your car if you must go to an unsafe lure site. Is that lure site a happy family friendly site or is it a dark street in the middle of the bad part of town?

Remind kids about meeting strangers, chatting online with strangers, and dealing with people in general. Some predators find a location then study area information so they can easily befriend victims. But he talked about the local hardware store, grocer, park, and my school just like he lived there. Make sure kids don’t share too much information. Once a girl was starting to cut herself so I called her school. I knew her age and school as she shared it in a chat room. Even adults have to be careful. Be safe online.

DISRESPECT
The one thing I hate about Pokemon Go is the assignment of locations to sacred places like graveyards, Auschwitz death camps, and war memorials. People and governments could lead to bans or restrictions. Armies are prohibiting Pokemon game play as are Islamic leaders. People are concerned about sexual predators and criminals using the site. Businesses are also cracking down on gamers at the work place. Pokemon Go must curtail certain activities or face strict regulations on all augmented reality programs.

Imagine going to a concert and 5 people have Master Chef on IPads. The volume is cranked up and they chat away about the show. You cannot hear the concert and the iPads are disturbing your view. Could that happen? NO!! Yet people go to amusement parks, museums, and malls to play Pokemon. While a little girl is enraptured in It’s a Small World there are adults sitting in front of her catching Pokemon. In front of her adults chat about Pokemon as the little girl strains to hear the dolls sing. MARK MY WORD – continued disrespect of the dead and of historic monuments, rude behavior, and safety issues could lead to new strict laws or even bans on playing Pokemon Go.

 

Jul 28

Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine

Laurie gives us a great review of the new restaurant in Disney Springs – Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming.

 

The Disney Springs backstory drastically changed when Town Center was added. Now the creek is 13840390_10153932197548883_1896979375_owhere people settled in the 1850’s, then Marketplace opened up, then the arcade and The Landing. Sprinkles, Homecoming, and D-Luxe Burgers are in farmhouses that were converted to businesses.

I rolled my scooter up to a flat entry area where staff opened the door for me. I was in awe at the glass house with ceiling to floor glass. The check in desk was a huge solid wood fortress which I feel is great because the staff have lots of room for supplies and menus. WOOD FLOORS!! On the left is a beautiful bar surrounded by banquette seats and armless chairs.

13838043_10153932197583883_405446019_oThis has to be the biggest Florida room ever. Instead of screens, there is glass walls. I can imagine a chef lost on the creek when he sees this old ranch house. He uses lots of wrought iron and burlap for decorating. I stopped and stared at the burlap on the chandeliers, then noticed the feed sack design on the furniture. Hardwood floors make it easy to keep the place clean. 13833323_10153932197578883_915768614_o

The tables are spaced out to allow some elbow room. Overall the seating, lighting, flooring, and spacing makes this a disabled friendly place. They offered to let me take my scooter to my table. The place has a beautiful riverside painting with a gorgeous egret. All around are moonshine jugs and crates.

The best dish was the Hamilton Burger with two fine-ground burger patties, white cheddar cheese, grilled onions, tomato slices, bread and butter pickles, and a chow chow pickled relish. I used my own bread but Chef Smith is working with local food writers and site owners to find vegan and gluten free options. I loved two perfect patties topped with a subtle cheese. The pecan smoked bacon was meaty with smoky hints for one of the best bacon I have ever had. The grind is an issue for me but still this gets top five WDW burgers. The blend of juicy beef, subtle cheese, and veggies that does not bore the palate. This is the pride of Hamilton County, FL which is where Jasper is located.

13835591_10153932197653883_879824797_oThe two side dishes were soft in texture so let them know if you want almost raw sweet taters and greens. I had a cast iron pot full of kale, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and onions. This tangy dish was ideal muse to the sweet tater cube while both are perfect with any entree. The touch of cane sugar pools at the bottom so one can eat just sweet tater cubes or slather the cubes with sugar cane goodness.

13639917_10153932197713883_220005850_o

 

 

I liked the shrimp cocktail though a bit spicy it was a perfect blend of shrimp, avocados, onions, tomatoes, and secret sauce. Another spicy dish was authentic chunky grits with Tasso ham gravy and shrimp. This is not cheese grits or the commonly served corn purée. It reminds me of my Dad’s grits.

I strongly recommend Homecoming to all guests. The creek view is realistic and there is a patio for dining. There is a bar that serves Florida alcoholic beverages and moonshine. One can come for a drink with friends without a reservation. This Florida Room is designed for all types of guests and their needs and desires. They have chicken and donuts, biscuits, chicken and dumpling soup, fish, chopped pork, salads, hush puppies, desserts made in Jasper, Jasper board, anything fried, and sweet tea. Kids can have cheeseburgers, fish sticks chicken, and tenderloin with mashed potatoes, greens, veggies, and donuts with ice cream.  There are a few take away dishes like fried chicken. I want to sit on the porch while eating the Jasper Board, chopped salad, steak with palmetto butter, mashed taters, sweet taters, greens, and ice cream topped off with sweet tea. That would be a perfect day, indeed.

13844036_10153932197648883_1615008133_oCharles Smith grew up in Jasper, Florida which is 170+ years old. The area mainly consisted of Georgians and other Southerners looking for land, elbow room, and prosperity. After years working for celebrities and establishing himself as a top chef, there came a time when he went home for good. He goes by the name of Art Smith and is renown for civil rights, rebuilding Jasper, and teaching kids how to cook.

Jun 01

Animal Kingdom – After Dark

Want to know more about the Rivers of Light Theater and the Jungle Book Show?  Find out what Laurie thinks after she saw the show this past weekend.

13323955_10153795247073883_453819948_oRivers of Light Theater was meant to be used like at World of Color without stages and parked barges. Disney had 6 weeks to make a show from the water up. They have many old routines and shows to rely on but this was including water screens and Asian performances. The screens have improved and they are tweaking everything to optimize guest experiences.

I loved the show with sitars, drums, and India’s style of music. There were flaws in seeing the show based on location. The stage or an actor may block the view or the angle may make a screen hard to see. Mist from the water screens heads downwind so be prepared to get wet if you are in that area.

ENTERTAINMENT!!! It has awesome musicians and performers. I recommend the show for at least one time. I will see it again. It helps to know the storyline either from the new movie or the cartoon version.
Sunset in the summer is around 8 or 9 pm. 13288143_10153795247123883_741215504_oThis leaves 3 hours for the Jungle Book show, Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safari. Kali Rapids is a short water ride that can be skipped at night. The street performances are excellent time wasters. Everest at night is something not to be missed. I liked the safari but it was not AWESOME so I could skip that. Fastpass guests line up in the Kali Rapids area so that reduces the time walking.

When exiting the show into Asia do not turn at Flights of Wonder. The crowd turned while 20 guests were meandering through Africa. Harambe Village was empty. At the last bridge out of Discovery Island do take the left path. 5 people watching as I sped downhill at full speed on my scooter.

I strongly recommend the Tusker House breakfast or lunch package. The few dollars extra gets you a Fastpass equivalent, buffet, and characters. Tiffins is a bargain as well based on what they charge. These meal packages allow you to get early Fastpass then more Fastpass. Also the street performances are awesome and some have fun guest participation. Grab a bite and rest a while. Before dark you can hear and see so many wonderful things. I like Flame Tree and I bring baggies for burgers and snacks to take to a cool spot in the shade as the entertainers perform.

13288251_10153795246993883_1048853045_oThe best thing was the light projection show on the Tree of Life. I was going home at park closing when there on the tree was fish and Nemo. Grab something from Flame Tree then watch the show. There are 4 versions.

May 19

Dining with Allergies – Are There Safe Restaurants at Disney?

Thank you Laura for compiling a list of your favorite places that your family has enjoyed eating at with no reactions!  Food allergies are very serious for many people and I am so glad that Disney takes these seriously.

IMG_7579We have dined at many places with our girls who have severe food allergies to peanuts and sesame seeds. We also avoid tree nuts, fresh egg and fresh diary and we avoid all products labeled with may contain or processed in a shared facility, equip. etc. Below are listed all of the places we have taken them and we have successfully made it thus far with no reactions!

The food has been top notch and the chefs were amazing. We always avoid restaurants at home that have our major allergens present in the restaurant—so no Asian or Mexican places usually. At Disney, that all changes. I was hesitant at first but after interacting with the chefs at a few places I knew this was different than anywhere else. My fears were set aside and we have had amazing food and experiences with our girls because of it and the care they take to make sure we are safe.

I will first recommend you find the Facebook Group called “Disney Chefs Rock Food Allergies”. I don’t run the board or get any “kick back” from any of their services, but the page is without a doubt the most helpful source of information I have found with dining questions, planning safe meals, etc. SO many knowledgeable people who have been there done that and can help! It’s truly an amazing supportive community!

Kiosks and Quick Service

All kiosks and quick service restaurants have a binder that will list out the allergens and possible cross contamination for all top 8 food allergies. If you have a sesame seed allergy or others that fall below the top 8, you will need to go though the ingredient lines. They generally take photos of the packaging so you can read it first hand. ALWAYS ask to see the binder–they are required to show it to you! If a cast member refuses, ask for a manager!

Table Service

For Table Service restaurants note the food allergies when you book the reservations in My Disney Experience under “special requests”. It will be flagged immediately on your reservation. You can also contact “special diets” before you go and chat with them about your options–especially if you have multiple allergies.

–Take wipes to wipe down tables and chairs before you sit down.
–Make sure your server knows immediately that you have food allergies and they should send the chef out to talk to you before any ordering of any kind is done. If they don’t mention the chef coming ASK to see him/her! This is proper ordering protocol for table service and even some quick service!
–The chefs are amazing. They will make you something safe even if you don’t see anything on the menu that looks safe or sounds good (hello picky kids!) It is their job and their pleasure to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable dining experience!
–If you do not feel comfortable with something or want to double check if your meal is allergen free-ASK. If something looks sketchy or mixed up notify them immediately. Everyone makes mistakes so keep your guard up and keep the communication open with the staff.

Allergy Menus

They will have allergy menus at all restaurants–QS and TS. THESE ARE NOT YOUR ONLY OPTIONS!!! They are ok if you have 1 allergy. But if you have multiple it gets confusing because they are not done very well. ALWAYS ask the chefs to clarify and/or look at the binder. There have been many times something is not listed on the allergy menu that is actually safe for us so always ask and don’t feel pressured to just order off that menu.IMG_9844

No matter what, ALWAYS flag your allergies when ordering, even if it’s a “safe” food just so they know to handle it with care and avoid possible cross-contamination.

Favorite Snacks:
Mickey Pretzels
Popcorn
Dole Whips (Magic Kingdom, Polynesian Resort)
Churros
Croissants from Gaston’s Tavern
Lafoo’s Brew Gaston’s Tavern

Quick Service
Roaring Fork (Wilderness Lodge)
Capt. Cooks (Polynesian Village Resort)
Cosmic Rays (Magic Kingdom)
La Cantina de san Angel (Epcot–Mexico Pavilion)
Electric Umbrella (Epcot)
Sommerfest (Epcot–Germany Pavilion)
Pizza Planet (Hollywood Studios)
Backlot Express (Hollywood Studios)
Flametree BBQ (Animal Kingdom)

Table Service
Yak and Yeti (Animal Kingdom)
Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)
Rainforest Cafe (Downtown Disney or Animal Kingdom)
T-Rex Cafe (Downtown Disney)
Whispering Canyon (Wilderness Lodge)
Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort)
Kona Cafe (Polynesian Village Resort)
The Wave (Contemporary Resort)
Jungle Cruise Navigation/ Skipper’s Canteen (Magic Kingdom)
Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
Be our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
Captain’s Grill (Yacht Club Resort)
Cape May Cafe (Beach Club Resort)
Garden Grill (Epcot)

We have only run into one place that I would recommend that you stay clear of with nut allergies, and that is Pecos Bill quick service in Magic Kingdom. Seems like a great safe option but we recently learned that all of their meat marinade may contain all nuts! I discovered the ingredient label in the food binder and we promptly walked back to Cosmic Rays. So disappointing!