It is my pleasure to have Laurie back guest blogging with me again! She was able to attend the Animal Kingdom’s 15th Anniversary and here is what she had to say……
I took a public bus to TTC then the Disney bus to Animal Kingdom. A major storm stretching from Tampa to Orlando had been pouring rain off and on since the night before. Arriving after 1pm I missed the opening festivities. Inside the park I was given an anniversary button and map. I headed straight for Tusker House hoping to get a dinner reservation. The previous night’s rain had left the park with a fresh clean look. I was shocked that they were going to take me immediately but being a singleton makes it a lot easier for me to get into restaurants. There is Dawa Bar for drinks including nonalcoholic ones. The restaurant and bar are heavily detailed with African themed decorations and architecture. The food stations give the feeling that one is in the court yard of a hotel in Northern Africa with rooms set aside for dining. One can spend an hour or more just looking at those artifacts like masks, artwork, woodwork, artifacts, and barrels of fake food that make this place unique. Yes, those are fake peanuts, fruits and vegetables in the barrels and baskets around the food service area.
Tusker House is a family restaurant with comfortable wood seats and tables which made it easy to go back to the buffet. I like that they have wide aisles that make it easy to get around in a wheelchair. The lighting is just a tad dim in places but most guests should not have a problem with the lighting. Talk to your hostess if you have issues with lighting or need a bit of privacy due to difficulties with noisy or crowded areas. During character meals the characters dance around the room as the kids follow along while shaking percussion instruments. Even at dinner this is a family restaurant so expect running kids and families chattering as they eat with gusto. The chef walked me through the buffet because I cannot have soy or gluten/wheat and makes special dishes in the kitchen if that is needed. They will bring out fresh from the kitchen dishes if one is concerned with cross contamintation.
I started off with a dessert which was a dark chocolate flower filled with strawberry mousse and the cutest tiny striped swizzle stick. It was good but it did not knock me over with anything but berry mousse and heavy dark chocolate. I decided to try side dishes next. I loved the delicious saffron infused root vegetable medley of cabbage, squash and unidentified root vegetables. Most of the veggies were cooked to the proper firmness but some were less cooked and crunchier. The mashed potatoes were flavorful with bits of skins but I really loved the roasted potatoes. The basmati white rice with toasted almonds, cardamon, cinnamon and lemon is a light dish that would be good for light eaters. The curried rice with golden raisins is served cold with a good curry flavor that is not overpowering. The yellow rice was a gentle dish with the soft red pepper then POW you are hit with raw green bell peppers like shooting off fireworks in the library. There also was a corn and carrot medley dish that was properly cooked but the flavorful green bean dish was sauteed into submission. The delicious sweet plantains have a fruity banana flavor even if they look more like roast potatoes. Apple and endive salad with blue cheese crumbles, spiced walnuts, and apple vinaigrette with Ocean Spray Craisins BRAND dried cranberries was an interesting salad with lots of crunch but I did not see the walnuts and cheese.
I turned to the meat dishes where I found fresh salmon with salsa-like tomato chunks, which, in my opinion, the fish did not need. The spit roasted chicken had skin on it that was full of herbs and wonderful flavors that I wish I had started off with. The turkey and roast beef are carved for you thick or thin with bowls of honey mustard and horseradish sauce available. The horseradish sauce is just dairy and horseradish root which is a sign that they are allergy friendly as some places use Worcestershire sauce. I loved the honey mustard sauce because it has stone ground mustard for a nice kick. The turkey is moist and tender with deep flavor. The beef was well done on the edge and rare in the middle with some gristle but that was the best part. The pair of meats had me sucking for more flavor, one of the best meats I have had in a while. They have a sandwich fixings station with sliced turkey, sliced ham cold cuts, and Swiss and American cheesses that are equal in taste and quality to Boarshead. I tried the excellent stone ground mustard and ate 3 crunchy dill pickle wedges but I skipped the mixed field greens with vinegar and oil dressing and the side of shredded cheese as there was no more room on my plate.
My final stop was at the spicy South African preserves station for chutney. The mango chutney chutney was sweet and fruity then POW the kick hits you. The mango chutney would be great with white meat such as turkey or pork. Next was the apricot chutney called blatjang that was a sweet medley of raisins and apricots. The final one was the mixed fruit churtney that was sweet with at least 5 dried fruits with something like bits of nuts but not sure what it was. This has to be my favorite part of eating here as I loved adding the churney to white meat but it could go well with vanilla ice cream.
The friendly staff will keep your drink glasses filled, carry trays if you need help, open doors, and find you a spot that best suits your limitations. The staff took time to explain what was on the buffet as I am not familiar with African food. I highly recommend this restaurant to families, large groups, disabled guests, and those with dietary limitations. They have a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes and they can handle most dietary restrictions such as religious, medical, and allergies/sensitivities. I find them a bit short on the bread and desserts available to me as a gluten and soy free guest. The only soy free option was oil and vinegar but I think the honey mustard that comes with the meat would do fine as a salad dressing.
I left on my fully charged scooter for Lion King because it was so late in the day and rain was coming. The place was not very crowded considering it was the 15th anniversary. I just missed the show but was given permission to enter. I declined as I cannot leave my mobility scooter in the rain. I headed over to the kiosk for an over flowing cup of vanilla-chocolate swirl ice cream. I sat aside waiting for the next show when I got hit with a deluge of melting ice cream. The nice lady from the kiosk was outside cleaning up so she handed me a wad of napkins. I was happy as a kid licking as fast as I could. Finally I hid next to the bathroom until show time was near at hand because a rain storm hit hard.
I love the winding drive down the queues through trees. The doors to the theater was open which made me happy as it was still drizzling and storm clouds were surrounding the park. I was put on the left side of the giraffe section. I cannot wait to see the new theater as it is hard for guests in the first section of the bleachers to see over guests in scooters. Disabled guests sit on bench seats on flat ground in front of the bleacher seats. This means three rows of guests must see through the people sitting in front of them. Sometimes guests in those seats are stuck behind a scooter or wheelchair and other times behind a tall person. Being in a scooter means I get to sit on the side with a good view. I got a lot of exercise from clapping, swaying, singing, and bouncing to the lively music. I had an awesome time and one of the tumble monkeys shook my hand.
I left the park as fast as I could because of the high winds and and incoming rain. Overall it was an awesome 15th Anniversary celebration even if I missed all the festivities. What more could I want besides good food, ice cream, talking with guests, nice cast members, and the Lion King show. I have many happy memories from that day. IT WAS AWESOME!
My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW. I love to watch cooking shows so I can learn about food. I love exploring new places, eating out, cooking, helping people, and playing online games. I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.