Apr 26

WDW Downtown Disney Food Truck

Laurie is here again with another review and this time she tackles the Food Truck at Downtown Disney.

I see myself as a Food Explorer who boldly goes where few dare go. I visited Namaste Cafe food truck that is parked next to Cirque Soleil on the Westside of Downtown Disney. It is covered in art representing things seen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I am soy and gluten/wheat free so they warned me that there is wheat flour in the truck that probably cross contaminates food. I boldly went for the the slow-cooked beef short ribs but they switched me to butter chicken as the beef has soy sauce in it.

They serve shrimp, with tandoori spices, that is not tandoori cooked, the beef short ribs, and the butter chicken. These are served on a bed of fluffy white rice with naan bread, and a medley of pickled carrots, tiny cucumber slices, and onions. At home I make baked chicken breast with butter shoved under the skin so that is what I was thinking when I saw chicken chunks in a drab brown sauce. Butter chicken is the leftover bits of chicken tikka Marsala with butter and other ingredients used to make a new dish of scraps just like Cobb did with his salad.  It is chunks of chicken in a sauce of yogurt/other dairy, onions, peppers sometimes, tomatoes, oil or butter, India’s vast array of herbs and spices, chili, coriander/cilantro, bit of brown sugar, and garam Marsala.

I do not recommend the food trucks to those with inhalation allergies or severe food sensitivities. Chef Brian is trying hard to make it easy for them to deal with dietary limitations but the tiny trucks have very little room to store anything and the cramped area makes it easier to cross contaminate. The rice and pickled veggies were pretty safe and AWESOME!! The complex nature of the chicken and beef will make ordering pretty hard. The sauce had that Indian subcontinent heat and medley of spices that is not for weaklings. It packed a punch that nearly knocked me off my scooter and had me crying for ice cream, cheese, and milk.  It is not hot as in that cocktail sauce at Cape May buffet, but still enough to make a grown man cry. PERFECTION in the medley of mild, fuffy rice and the crunchy, tangy cold pickles versus the spicy burn of the chicken chunks. The sauce was so good that next time I am bringing me some rolls for sopping up the sauce.

I recommend Namaste Cafe food truck but do warn that the only vegan items are the rice and pickles. For those without restrictions I highly recommend this food truck but for those with restrictions be prepared for a delay in getting information and maybe not finding something to eat. Chef Brian is mulling over my suggestions to make it easier for them to know what is in the food, they are just starting out, so have patience. They serve glasses of wine, beer, water, and soda pop too.

 

Apr 12

WDW Dining and Other News

Check out what Laurie found out for us………

The Turf Club currently is out of stock of their awesome Caesar salad dressing but they have bounced back with an awesome temporary replacement. Be there at the end of the month for their refreshing, lighter summer menu. Kona Cafe is due for some summertime changes but with no parking without a reservation I need to wait to check on that as I cannot hike two miles for dinner. Captain Cook’s has a temporary new home and new hours so check before going to Polynesian for a meal.

It is wallet hurting time at Earl of Sandwiches in DTD. Sandwiches, wraps, and salads are up 50 cents while some drinks went up $1.50. They have added to breakfast Skinny Bagel Egg White Sandwich and the Made To Order Omelets. They are adding Phillie Cheesesteak, Avocado BLT, Veggie sandwich, Pastrami Reuben, and a Chicken sandwich while removing Cannonballs, All American, Best BLT, and Caribbean Jerk chicken. Tiny price changes means smaller sandwiches and less of the fillings
Wetzel’s Pretzel’s and Hagen Daaz are moving to a spot next to DisneyQuest. Starbucks is moving into a spot next to Bongos so I might be seen over there a lot more. As I predicted it is Bye Bye McDonald’s as the Pollo Campero building is being torn down. Team Mickey, BabyCakes, Bodie’s, Pollo Campero, Fuego cigar bar, and so much more of WDW history is gone. Patina Group is bringing a two story restaurant to Paradise Island area of DTD, no word yet on what they are offering. Buena Vista Drive is getting 2 pedestrian bridges, a dedicated bus lane, and increase to 10 lane. Be warned that van parking for the disable and all parking is at a premium for the next year or two. 5 pm and I could not find a van spot so I had to find a car spot then figure how to get the scooter out of the van, sigh.

Trilobites in Animal Kingdom is offering a pulled Buffalo chicken waffle sandwich and milkshakes. Star Wars Character meals are breakfast at Sci Fi Diner and dinner at Hollywood & Vine. Meet disney characters dressed up as Star Wars Characters with commerorative photo included. Also be on the look out for Star Wars cupcakes and merchandise.

EASTER IS NEAR!!!

The Grand Floridian Resort has a display of Disney themed edible Easter Eggs. Resorts with have Easter egg hunts, games, and other activities. FOODIES be on the watch for Easter themed cupcakes. The Swan and Dolphin are PEEPS crazy with Peeps themed desserts, a secret to be revealed on April 19, 2014, diving for eggs at the pool, Easter Bunny, Peeps smores at the campfire, crafts and games. Check with them for details on their Pinterest Peeps contest and information on what is for nonguests of their resorts. Egg-Stravaganza is April 10 – 20 where guests pay $4.95 for a map with stickers at Epcot. Find the dozen hidden character eggs, put a stick in the proper location, return to designated locations where the guest gets a “surprise” which would be a pin, probably. The Contemporary Resort will have 2 Roman Catholic masses and a Protestant service at Fantasia Ballroom on April 20, 2014.

The resorts will be having some sort of activities and some will have bunny plushies, baskets, and make your own baskets for sale. Fort Wilderness Campground with have easter eggs on display in the lobby through April 22, 2014 and A Mouse Merchantile will have make your own Easter baskets.

EASTER DINNER

The Diamond Horseshoe will offer sandwiches for lunch through April 28, 2014 and turkey dinners April 13 – 19, 2014. Kouzinna has a regular and Easter menu. The Wave will offer an Easter buffet/brunch and Chef Mickey’s will have a brunch on Easter Sunday until 1 pm. Olivia’s, Boma, and Portobello are offering Easter dinners. There may be other Easter Dinners out there. Hurry as Easter and Mother’s Day reservations go fast.

EARTH DAY

Party for the Planet is at Animal Kingdom on April 22, 2014. The Seas Pavillion in Epcot will have Earth Day activities on that day that are marine related. There will be a $1 donation to a conservation group with each Earth Day themed Duffy bear. There should be a few Earth Day themed items including a pin.

Apr 09

ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill – ESPN Wide World of Sports

I love having Laurie blog for me.  She lives very near Disney and is there often.  See what she has to say this time about ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill………espn7

They were going to charge me $16 to enter to dine but were very kind to let me in for free. They have a very helpful and friendly staff that makes the day so pleasant. Just off the main entrance is a lobby with a snack bar that hides delicious food, snacks, and drinks that looks more like the lobby for a movie theater but in the back is a kitchen serving up delicious food. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger with onions, tomato slices, and lettuce which was better than most WDW burgers. They can handle common limitations such as soy, egg, dairy, and gluten/wheat allergies only at the Grill. Guests will have a hard time finding snacks that are diet friendly due to the nature of the location. Guests with dietary limitations beyond the top 8 allergens or with complicated diets should speak with Disney Dining about what can be offered with advanced notice. espn5This restaurant has a limited pantry and staff but did an excellent meal for me. They offered me Itzkadoozie ice pops, chicken wings, fries, cheeseburgers, and turkey sandwiches, oh my, so many choices. With advanced notice they can do the frozen Kosher boxed meals. Guests can dine outside if they do not like the cacophony and televisions going on.

Overall I had a great lunch and peaceful time while watching the latest sports on the big screen televisions. The Grill offers a bar in the back with tall barstools except one tiny table for two guests to stare at the wall.espn4 I hate carpet but they have commercial type carpet that is easy to get around and easy to maintain. The Wood chairs and tables can be pushed together for large groups. One of the staff told me how athletes wearing a brace or cast can prop up their leg on the chair across from them. There are overhead sportscasters, the bar in the back, and overhead big screens that may overwhelm some guests but they do offer food to go and have outdoor seats. The ordering is done in the lobby so guests with visual limitations should not have a problem with ordering. Staff is very friendly and offered to carry my tray then stopped by to ask how I was doing.  They use GPS in the form of a coaster sized device to locate where to take an order so no more sitting in a corner as your food goes around the room. Hours vary depending on season and events but usually before 5 pm.

ESPN Wide World of Sports offers guests at $16.95 (adult) admission various sports venues including tennis, rugby, and softball. They offer free parking in their lots that are located at Victory just south of Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts. Hard Ticket Events include Atlanta Braves, golf, cheerleading, dance, volleyball and some other events. Hard ticket events allow the ticket holder full access to the grounds as well as the event.. The main reason for paying so much is that there are top notch kid, high school, college, and professional players at the grounds. High School and College players come here for Spring training when you can see future star players before they make the pro teams. AAU, SUMMIT, USSSA, World Futsal, MAAC, KSA, Pop Warner, USA Field Hockey, and other organizations sponsor events on the grounds of ESPN Wide World of Sports and WDW golf courses. Check with https://www.espnwwos.com for schedules. Guests with a regular ticket do not get into the big events but they do get to watch some awesome sports. The site closes at about 4 or 5 pm unless there is a major event going on. ESPNThere is a sports gift shop packed with sports themed souvenirs as well as some great holiday and birthday gifts.

The recently closed Playsation Pavillion offered rentals of playstation devices so guests could play golf, football, baseball and other sports themed games. The fee was around $5 per half hour. There is no word on what will go into that location as it can be a private studio for broadcasting, private lounge, or another game room. It was located at the back of the restaurant behind the bar, way way way back and out of the way.

Apr 07

Electrical Parade Tips

Need some tips on the Electrical Parade?  Well Laurie is here to give you some ideas.

1. Best spot for comfort and ease of getting a last minute spot is along Frontierland. Best photo opportunities and overall spots are on Main Street. I rather be in Frontierland eating burgers, turkey legs, ice cream,and popcorn without being shoved or kicked.

Electrical parade

2. Crossings are choreographed to get as many folks through Main Street. Keep your kids and anyone easily lost out in front of you, on a leash, or holding your hand. I saw a kid get left behind when they closed a crossing for a float to go by. At DCA two kids were parked in front of us then I saw security and figured out that the kids were lost. They had been separated at a cattle crossing so they parked and watched the street show.

3. Make sure you have your space designated as yours. I had a lady sit on my purse. People will try to squeeze in front of you or stand in front of you. I try to save space for kids to sit in front of me. Do not stand up in front of others as us in chairs, scooters, and strollers cannot see past you.

4. Make sure kids are near you when a parade or event ends. People will walk over seated guests and try to pass others by walking along the edges of the route.

5. Clearly say “Walkway, coming through!” in a firm voice if someone is blocking the paths. There is tape and ropes so they do not need to be out there in the pathway. If they say anything or do not move then get a cast member.Electrical parade1

6. Disabled guests and stroller users should try Frontierland for a parade spot. There are designated areas for disabled guests but at times those can get crowded or full. Those disabled spots may not be on the curb but a row back or even two rows back. Single guests often can get a stranger to watch their spot when nature calls. I have had someone watch my spot when I needed a snack, bathroom break, or soda pop.

 

Apr 03

What Resort to Choose? It Is A Difficult Decision!

My client (Kristin) that I wrote about in another blog post could NOT decide which resort she wanted to stay at on her first ever Disney trip.  She wanted the perfect place and had 2 choices:  Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Contemporary Resort.  Until I threw her a curve ball and added the Polynesian Resort as an option too.  She is a family of 5, so what did she choose?  Go to her blog and find out what she decided upon, you might be surprised…….. Bolling With 5

Apr 03

“Mouse”cation Fans Favorite Magic Kingdom Rides

I recently asked what was your favorite ride in Magic Kingdom.  Here is the response that I got:

Can you guess what the top ride was?  There were actually two.

1.and 2.  Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion

3.  Splash Mountain

4.  Big Thunder Mountain

5.  It’s a Small World

6.  Carousel of Progress

7.  Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

8.  Space Mountain

9.  Peter Pan

10.  Jungle Cruise and WDW Railroad

Did your favorite ride make our list?  If not, please feel free to let us know what it was.

 

 

 

Apr 03

Pinterest Leads to a Travel Agent

I have a client that was doing some research on her upcoming Disney trip. She found a countdown chain on Pinterest and contacted the owner of that Pin. Well, that person happen to have been a client of mine in the past (Bethany). Bethany preceded to tell Kristin (my current client now) about her Disney trip and then told her about the travel agent she used. You guessed it, it was me.

Kristin contacted me and talked to me for a good little while to see what I could do for her since she already had her trip booked with Disney. She asked a lot of questions and we talked several times before she decided to hand over control of her trip to me. See what she has to say about her decision…….

Click on the link to read her blog post: Bolling with 5

 

Mar 30

Review on Chips and Slices – more soon

Laurie found a new spot for some quick service food.  She will be bringing us more later.

I found a hidden spot for lunch at Saratoga Springs Resort called Chips & Slices. It is a quick service snack bar next to the Pro Shop that has a patio and lakefront views. The ferry dock is right across the way. snack standThey have yogurt parfait, breakfast bread, and breakfast sandwiches in the morning. They offer chili dogs, hot dogs, wraps, paninis, salads, chicken wings, pretzels, candy and snacks, Starbucks coffee, soda pop, power drinks, fruit juice, beer, margaritas, and mixed drinks. I plan to pop in and try them soon then I will be updating how they deal with special diets and dining plans if any.

Mar 29

WDW Golf

Laurie had the privilege of visiting Magnolia Pro Shop.  She was told about a power chair that lifts guests to a standing position so they can actually play golf.  She what else she found out.

I asked what made Magnolia Pro Shop and her courses so special. Finally I was told about a solar rider wheelchair that is free for guests to use. Stand-up wheelchairs and power chairs allow a person to rise up to a standing position from their chair seat. I had seen a Youtube video of a surgeon who used such a chair.golf1 What stands out is how the man at the shop beamed as he spoke about guests who could play golf for the first time in years. He had a joy from the memories within him of disabled guests doing what once was unheard of. Contact the pro shops for more information and to make sure the chair is available. Golf courses and pro shops are dime a dozen but people like the staff at the WDW pro shops are rare and a treasure.

In 1971, WDW opened the Magnolia Golf Course and the Palm Golf Course. Then in 1972, they opened the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. These Joe Lee designed PGA championship courses come with a two-seat golf cart that has a sand bucket for filling divots, a small cooler, and a cover for your clubs in case it rains. Attendants will fill your cooler with ice and your golf cart has GPS to assist you with navigation. golf2Cart drivers must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license (permits do not count) otherwise they must ride with an adult who has a valid driver’s license. In 1989, they opened the Ron Garl designed Oak Trail which is a 9-hole walking course with no golf carts but guests may rent a pull cart for their clubs. The 18-hole courses have restrooms and shelters while Oak Trail has just shelters. The pro shops will store your clubs during your stay and, with notice, will move your clubs to another course. Guests must wear proper attire which is polo shirts, mock turtlenecks, and turtleneck shirts for men while women must wear polo shirts, suitable shirts, and blouses (collar optional). Guests must wear slacks or Bermuda shorts while women may wear skirts. Guests may wear golf shoes without metal spikes or tennis shoes. Right handed, left-handed, and junior golf clubs, as well as shoes, may be rented. DVC, resort guests, and military guests pay nothing for shoe rentals.

Magnolia Palms Pro Shop is located next to Shades of Green Resort. They have a wonderful staff who can help make your golf experience special. They have a fridge with cold beer, soda pop, bottled water, and power drinks. They bring in from another WDW site the hot dogs, wraps, breakfast sandwiches, chips, beer, soda pop, bottled water, and snacks that they sell on the course at the comfort station. Eligible guests may dine and shop at Shades of Green. All others must walk down to the Polynesian Resort for a bar and dinner. They have a putting green, driving range, free loaner bags, showers, and free lockers. The Oak Trail course is compact and designed for very little walking from hole to hole. Guests may ask to do two rounds for 18 holes. Using a car, one goes through Magic Kingdom tollbooth up the road on the right to the first light. Turn left and follow the signs to where the road turns right then left at Shades of Green resort. Parking is free if you tell the attendant you are golfing. Shades of Green was the clubhouse then a Disney deluxe resort for golfers. Golfers no longer have a restaurant to hang out in unless they have proof, such as military, retired military, Department of Defense, spouses, and some others. Magnolia course offers a Mickey Mouse shaped bunker on the 6th hole.

Lake Buena Vista Golf Course is located at the former Disney Institute location that is now Saratoga Springs. Upstairs is the lobby with a hallway that stretches across the building. Off that hall are bathrooms, sofas to relax in, Artist Palette (quick service restaurant), a gift shop, and a hallway that leads to The Turf Club restaurant. There is a ramp and stairs down to the back of the Pro Shop and the ferry dock. Guests may park in front of the pro shop and there is a bag drop off area in front of the pro shop. The side that faces the ferry landing has a snack shop and patio. GolfThey have a putting green, driving range, free loaner bag, showers, and free lockers. Guests must ask at their resort for a free taxi. There is a water ferry to Downtown Disney and several resorts that golfers can take to bars and restaurants. The water ferry closes when there is lightening and high winds. The only other option is taking two buses to get there. LBGV offers many more amenities once a guest is done with a round of golf but Magnolia offers 3 courses including the walking course.

Both pro shops offer the cutest baby clothing with Disney characters in a golf theme. There is offer golf attire for men, women, and children. Their adult apparel includes straw hats, gloves, socks, shoes, shorts, shirts, jackets, ball caps, belt buckles, and scarves with some clothing in size 2X large. They carry a very nice line of Crabtree and Evelyn products as well as sunscreen and lip balm. Their shops are a great place for gift shopping for that golfer in your life. I so want that buttery soft $700 leather shoulder bag but I did get me a stone magnet for the fridge. They offer Disney themed balls, divot fixer, ball markers, towel, club covers, coasters, and magnets as well as huge umbrellas, clubs, backpacks, bag tags, cuff links, and sunglasses. Lake Buena Vista pro shop has a discount area with 40% off of a few items like baby rompers and ladies shirts.

golf4I strongly recommend that guests check out the official WDW golf site at golfwdw.com and call 1-407-WDW-GOLF if they still have questions. Disney’s Magnolia, Palm and Oak Trail Golf Courses are next to Shades of Green Resort and are run by the Magnolia Palms Pro Shop. WDW Golf is an unofficial site that shows you the layout of the courses. Reservations must be secured with a credit card. Guests must report changes in group size and cancellations at 24 hours before tee time or face charges on their credit card. Resort guests save $5 on an 18-hole round of golf. The bigger savings are offered to those who play later in the day. The Twilight discount that starts at different times during the year and one hour after that is the Super Twilight discount, that is over half off. Twilight, Military, Resort, and DVC discounts are given on golf club rentals. Juniors (17 years and under) get a discount only at Oak Trails. I had a pleasant time with the staff at both Pro Shops as I watched them give a deep discount to someone late in the day. Do not be surprised if you get a deeply discounted round of golf if you arrive late in the day. They charge for non-playing guests who ride along. Area residents can check out the $29 a month club that gives free use of driving range and $15 for cart rental (no other fees) during certain times of the day. The Oak Trail course for is free for members.

The Unofficial Walt Disney World Golf Guide
www.wdwgolf.com

Mar 20

Portobello NEWS for EASTER and MOTHER’S DAY DINNERS

Laurie has news for us on Easter and Mother’s Day dinners at Portobello……..

 

Portobello News – Easter and Mother’s Day dinner, local beers, Easter dinner is Spring themed with Caprese salad; lamb chops, creme risotto, and mint gastric; and carrot panna cotta.

I hope the Easter Bunny does not find out about the carrot panna cotta. Their $39 per person Mother’s Day menu will be treat mothers to Arugula, and citrus vinaigrette; lobster ravioli with brown butter and pine nuts; and creme brulee bread pudding. Come by for Orlando Brewing’s certified organic beer that is made locally. I highly recommend Portobello for their dedicated chefs who work hard to offer gluten free pasta, vegan dinners, and accommodate special diets. My last meal there seemed normal instead of plain rice and meat with veggies. Few, if any, would see the modifications the chef made to meet my dietary restrictions. Portobello is a warm, friendly Italian villa that has opened her kitchen and home to guests. It has good lighting, a patio, full bar, and disabled friendly. http://www.portobellorestaurant.com/news_reviews

Mar 20

The Perfect Meal!

Laurie had THE Perfect meal!  See where she went for that meal.  Sounds delicious to me!

I parked next to the Pro Shop at Lake Buena Vista Golf Course without knowing what was in store for me.  I had been exploring WDW and wanted to see the Pro Shop.  I was told about a very nice restaurant upstairs so I went out the door, past the snack stand, up some stairs, and finally up a long winding ramp to a building full of windows and a patio where I found at lounge and a seater’s podium.  I was in The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs which is a DVC resort themed after Saratoga Race Course and Saratoga Springs in New York. Truf ClubThe horse racing theme can be seen in the restaurant’s hunter green carpet with leaping steeple jumpers and winner’s wreaths as well as the numerous framed ephemera, memorabilia, and jockey silks.  As early as the 1830’s the rich headed to Saratoga for gambling, dining, posh resorts, and vacations from city life.  The society column, potato chip, and club sandwich were born there.  The restaurant has clean low pile carpet with a horse theme, wood chairs, banquettes, and decorations that give this restaurant a warm, comfortable feeling.  Most guests will not have a problem with the seating, lighting, noise, or access.

Turf Club7I had a two top table against the glass so I could look out at the heated patio, lawns, water, and ferry boat.  On the walls are picture frames with various horse racing memorabilia.  The seating is wood chairs without arms and booth type seating at tables that are spaced sufficiently to not feel crowded.  Chef Omar came out to speak to me about my dinner.  Turf Club6Turf Signature Grilled Romaine Salad with lightly grilled hearts of romaine with Caesar dressing, balsamic vinegar reduction, roasted cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.  Everything in this salad is dairy, soy and gluten/wheat free.  They offer gluten/wheat free rolls with real butter or margarine if you prefer.  The balsamic reduction with its sweet and tangy notes was thick and gooey like honey.  The Caesar dressing has flecks of a hard cheese which is imitation cheese that is dairy, soy, and gluten/wheat free.  It is so yummy and creamy with Italian dressing notes that make me want to come back for more salads.
Turf Club4They brine their pork chops for 24 hours in root beer.  Out came a perfect pork chop with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and root beer brine.  OH MY, it was delicious tender white meat with earthy root beer notes and just a tiny touch of sweetness.  The sweet potato hash was soft cubes of sweet pure bliss.  I stared at a round yellow disc not knowing what to expect from the polenta cake.  I could not stop eating the polenta cake as each bite had notes of thyme, onion, corn bits, and very finely ground polenta.  The polenta was so smooth that it could have been used as a spread on bread.  Three of my favorite foods on one plate put me into a euphoria of sheer joy.  The chef used to work at Kona Cafe and has been in the business long enough to know how to turn fresh ingredients into mouth watering taste sensations.

The one sour note in the entire meal was the port wine ice cream.  I have never been a fan of alcohol not even before my religion and stomach said no to alcohol. Turf Club5 I was repulsed by the ice cream but that is me not the restaurant.  There was a very dark wedge of flourless chocolate cake with chocolate sauce on bright red raspberry sauce that was topped with half a ripe strawberry and whipped cream.  I started with the cutest little cup of port wine ice cream then went for the whipped cream to cleanse my palate.  On the cake were blueberries and bright red raspberries that gave a change of pace to my palate.  The cake was like a thick, rich mousse that made for one of the best desserts I have had in a long while.  The combination of berry tang with sweet decadent chocolate made for one happy diner.

Turf Club2The menu is small but the food is big in taste.  They offer lamb, chicken breast, pork chop, prime rib, salmon and pasta.  The fish of the day was corvina that was right off the docks.  They offer no sugar added Berry-Misu as well as buttered toffee pot de creme and cheesecake.  The chef will do substitutions such as mashed potatoes instead of broccolini.  Babycakes will deliver a gluten and soy free vegan cake to the restaurant for a fee.  The chef can offer vegans sweet potato hash, asparagus, romaine salad, coucous, rice, broccolini, sauteed greens, seasonal vegetables, sorbets and other dishes but most important was that the chef wants to please guests even if he has to make a dish from scratch.  With advanced notice they can offer vegan cheese and tofu as well as other special diet items.

On your right as you enter The Turf Club there is a window that serves drinks to guests in the lounge.  They have a sports channel on the television, a pool table, and comfortable seating.  Turf Club7Guests of the retaurant can order anything from this full bar right from their seat.  They feature Blue Point Toasted Lager that comes from Long Island just 200 miles south of Saratoga Springs in New York.  They offer mint juleps as well as themed drinks such as Travers Stakes, Three Minutes to Post Time, and The Preakness Cosmo.  Down the hall from the restaurant and lounge is Artist’s Palette that has quick service food, a DVC type market, and a gift shop.

At this point I sum up the good and bad points of a restaurant.  Except for the port wine ice cream and the ramps I have nothing bad to say about this restaurant.  I hate alcohol most of the time and hate ramps so that is my issue not the restaurant’s issue.  PERFECT DINNER, GREAT RESTAURANT, TOP RESTAURANT IN FINE DINING!!!

Mar 12

The Truth about Shades of Green

Laurie had the chance to head over to the Shades of Green and she gives us her input.  Even though I cannot book Shades of Green for you, I wanted to be sure to let those know that qualify to stay here, what it was like.  Looks great to me.
Over and over I have heard people direct someone away from Shades of Green.  I popped in there and was shocked that I did not see quonset huts with one mess hall, a PX, and a parade ground.  I had heard a few good words about Shades of Greens but not much praise.  I knew what I should be seeing based on her history.  I decided to write this article to let everyone know the many good things about Shades of Green and why I wish I could stay there a week.Shades of Green
 
The resort was built of volcanic rock and wood to give the feel of a Southern country club.  It opened in 1971 as a 2 story clubhouse for the golf courses and in December, 1973, it was opened as the Golf Resort.  The goal was to provide guests with 490 square foot suite like rooms in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.  In 1986, the resort was renovated with a Snow White theme and was called The Disney Inn.  In 1994, the Department of Defense took over the resort and has been operating at near capacity since then.  They remodeled, doubled the number of rooms, added a parking garage, added meeting rooms, and added a fitness center while retaining that elite country club look.  This is extremely exclusive so that anyone not eligible may not walk the grounds, eat at restaurants, or buy a cup of coffee unlike other WDW resorts.  The only way someone not eligible can do those things if they are a guest of someone eligible or have someone eligible with them.  I went across the street to Kona Cafe to eat mushroom soup, baked chicken, roasted squash, roasted purple potatoes, and cinammon gelato that came with bacon brittle.  
 
ELIGIBILITY
Shades of Green is cracking down on outsiders coming into their resort.  Currently anyone can walk into the lobby and walk around the grounds.  I read that they are going to change it so that one must be eligible, with someone eligible, or have a room key that shows they are staying onsite with an eligible member.  I was checking out a store when a woman was denied her purchase but a nice guy said she was with him.
She did not have proof of eligibility so the young man was the answer. Shades of Green9The eligible person must be a registered guest of the hotel, must check in and out on the same day as sponsored guests, and be responsible for sponsored persons. Eligible persons not staying at Shades of Green may visit the resort and partake in the dining and some other stuff.  Only registered guests may use the pool, yoga studio, and gym. I am not trying to explain who is eligible.  There are 3 tiers for room rates based on rank or grade.  A cadet pays tier 1 for the first room and tier 2 for the second room which you see is part of the complexity of the rules for the resort.    
 
KID FRIENDLY
Kids under 6 eat free at the buffet.  The buffet has Build A Cookie once a week, Build A Pizza once a week, and a weekly Carnival Night. Kids will enjoy the free wifi, cable television, and Raytheon Family Technology Center that offers free use of computers.  Magnolia Pool is the quiet pool with shallow entry.  There is a kiddie pool and playground as well as pool activities.  Pools are heated to 84 degrees and have a lifeguard.  Planned for the warmer seasons are outdoor movies.  The arcade has cards for sale that give up to 33% in bonus credits.  Magnolia Spa offers children ages 4-12 beginning facials, massages, pedicures, and manicures.  Guests aged 12 – 18 may use any of the adult procedures if accompanied by an adult. The Princess Makeover offers 3 hair styles, makeup, tiara, and glitter for $30 and there is a discount with receipt at the Exchange on a princess gown and tiara.  
 
GUEST SERVICES
I drove to the resort expecting a one-star motel.  I was shocked to see what seemed to me to be Cypress Gardens type of landscaping.  For $5 a day there is the parking garage and for $10 guests may use the valet.  They let guests drop off passengers in front of the lobby. Shades of Green3 I was taken aback by the beautiful rock waterfall that greets you before you enter the lobby.  The lobby has high ceilings with heavy use of beams.  There are comfortable places to rest especially by the fireplace and windows that face the gazebo area.  Shades of Green tries hard to provide for everything a guest may need or want during their stay.  Shades of Green1They offer Alamo car rental, scooter and power chair rentals (fee), Raytheon free computer access, airline check in, shuttle to the street where one can walk to Polynesian, shuttle around the resort, package delivery from parks, Early Magic Hours that provides extended hours in parks on certain days, banquet rooms, laundry, and large rooms.  Anything one could need for a vacation is at this resort.
 
DELUXE RESORT AMENITIES
The quiet Magnolia Pool has shallow steps for guests to walk into the pool and a hot tub with disabled transfer seat.  They are remodeling the Mickey Mouse head shaped Millpond Pool that has disabled access, nearby playground, kiddie pool, and Evergreens.  Shades of Green6Evergreens is a sports bar, with pool tables and games, that serves hot dogs, sandwiches, nachos, wings, pizza and burgers.  The Fitness Center offers weight machines, treadmills and steppers.  The Yoga Center offers free Zumba and Yoga classes.  There are meandering paths for jogging and strolling.  Kids can feed the koi at the pond or run around the lawns.  There is the Arcade in the Magnolia wing where you can find arcade games, pool tables, and air hockey games.  There are tennis courts that nobody uses, so call ahead on equipment availability.  The laundry rooms have drinks, microwave, and soap but it is cheaper to buy the soap at the Exchange.  There is a golf cart to take guests to the main road or around the resort.
SHOPPING AND ROOMS
The AAFES Exchange shop is tax free and offers groceries, sundries, and Disney gifts.  The exchange offers everything one needs to set up their own bar including beer, wine coolers, wine, Kahlua, brandy, Maker’s Mark, vodka, Southern Comfort, and those little mini bottles.  They have cigars in a display case and cigarettes behind the counter.  The inventory is limited for babies as they have one type of baby food, Enfamil, Destin, diapers, and other baby items.  For your home away from home they have foam plates, plasticware, cups, laundry powder, softener, and dish soap.  The fridge has milk, juice, power drinks, soda pop, and water.  They carry cereal, peanut butter, Pringles, nuts, chips, saltine and snack crackers, Pop Tarts, animal crackers, candy and mints, gum, jelly, cup of soup, and Entemanns to name a few of the items in stock.  Shades of Green2These are the largest regular rooms on WDW at around 500 square feet instead of the 265 square feet for a value room.  Standard rooms include 2 queen sized beds, separate vanity with two sinks, mini fridge, cable television, wifi, safe that is larger than normal, and tasteful decor.  Some suites have a king sized bed, 2 sofa sleepers, and a murphy bed to sleep 8 guests.  Suites have a microwave, mini fridge, hair dryer (on request), iron, ironing board, separate dining area, balcony or patio, kitchenette, 2 bathrooms, and separate living room.
 
DISCOUNTS
The resort is tax free even the shops and restaurants.  There are no resort fees and cars are charged $5 a day for parking.  They regularly offer early bird discounts with one for the end of August, 2014, one for Spring, and one for May at $89 to $115 a night.  Survivor Family Program offers 50% discount to the family of an active service man and have DB or URW status.  Sunrise Package offers a room and breakfast for two persons for $111 to $143 per day average cost (best to aim for other discounts).  Shades of Green5DOD and Military staying on an OEF/OIF for 270 or more consecutive days receive 20% discount on rooms and some restaurants.  Red, White, & Blue offers breakfast, dinner, server tips, and room for 2 guests at $140 to $175 per day on average.  It might be cheaper to get a short term discount such as the early bird as the $50 to $60 might be better used on WDW dining.  They have a ticket sales desk that offers tax free discounted tickets throughout central Florida.  Mangino’s offers specials such as all you can eat prime rib with sides for $21.95 and shrimpfest for $18.95.  
 
SUMMATION
Shades of Green10I would rather stay at Shades of Green than a moderate resort at WDW as it offers similar amenities as the Grand Floridian resort including tax free shopping, large rooms, arcades, bars, restaurants, beautiful grounds, pools, peaceful resort, well guarded, well maintained, spa, and a covered parking garage.  $89 to $150 a night versus the $350 plus a night for other deluxe hotels.  It makes me wonder why someone would give up luxury for a value resort.  April 4, 2014 is the Shades of Music event and there are chef dinners that are above what is normally served at Mangino’s.  The money saved each day could be used on Disney dining, souvenirs and character meals. I am adding this to my wish list and hope to stay here someday.  So, have you stayed at Shades of Green?  What are your thoughts?  Leave us a comment if you have stayed here.

Mar 12

World Wide of Sports……latest info on the Playstation Pavillion

Just heard this from a friend of mine……

Wide World of Sports has closed its Playstation Pavillion as of today. The pavilion offered Playstation device rentals at about $5 per half hour so that guests could play Playstation sports themed games. Staff has no clue to what is going in there but it will be either a private room or entertainment of some sort.

Mar 05

Italian Cuisine Showdown – Tutto Italia vs Portobello

Laurie gives us the showdown on the two Italian restaurants.  See what she has to say and what she experienced.  I must apologize for the spacing on this too.  I can’t get it to space correctly to save my life.  🙂

I have avoided Italian cuisine until I ate at Portobello in Downtown Disney at WDW.  I finally was convinced that I could eat safely in a restaurant that made pasta because I cannot eat gluten/wheat and soy. Comparing the two restaurants is like comparing poodles to greyhounds.  Tutto Italia gets many customers from guests in Epcot who want a sit down restaurant meal in the park. The restaurant needs high turn over of guests as they have a constant supply of guests.   Portobello is a Downtown Disney destination for locals as well as WDW guests.  They must stand on their own as if they were in Downtown Chicago or Downtown Peoria.   Portobello has to work harder to get and keep customers through high reputation, word of mouth, and guest experiences. Definitely two different types of restaurants even though they both have the same cuisine.
Tutto Italia is hidden on the left side of the courtyard in Italy pavillion in Epcot.  The first problem was the greeter who told me to go over there and wait for someone.  SCOOTER!!  She immediately turned away in preparation for anyone that might come up to her podium.  Finally, vaguely she pointed to the ramp which took me by the wine cellar that serves a bar menu and Tutto Italia cuisine.  I was faced with a sea of red velvet ropes so I moved one out of my way.  I was confused as there was nobody to assist me since I came from the side.  As I went to the rope blocking me from entering from the side a party of 4 passed by me.  A grumpy old man came out to wait on them and I spoke up.  He said that they went first as the restaurant had a 4-top available.  I do not like grumpy staff and I do not like being ignored.  He said all scooters have to sit out in the rain..  I had to pack my park bag with the scooter charger, round up stuff, and ended up carrying a lot of stuff.  I was seated in a side room which is between a main dining room and a dining area that overlooks the courtyard.  The manager came up after finding out I was gluten/wheat and soy free.  I was handed only the gluten free menu but I prefer all menus so I can see if the chef can adapt something.  The best thing was the perky Italian speaking waitress who through the night kept things moving along, knew her menu and made the storm clouds go away.
Portobello has no stairs or terrace, guests are welcomed at the greeter station inside the restaurant, and when possible scooters are parked indoors.  Staff welcomed me like family, explained where to wait, and made the visit go smoothly.  The greeter’s station is in the foyer that is tastefully decorated with Italian knick knacks and decorations.  I quickly was escorted to a table in a warm rustic dining area with tasteful Italian decorations.  Portobello is a Tuscan style villa whereas Tutto Itallia is a Disney version of Joe’s Spaghetti House.  Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom looks more like an Italian restaurant than Tutto Italia.  The side dining area in Tutto Italia has terra cotta colored walls, dark wood moulding, and framed prints.  The main dining room has murals on the walls, dark wood, comfortable seating, chandeliers, and big vases of glass. They do keep the dark floral carpet clean and use a broom under tables.  There is excellent lighting with easy disabled access.  It was rather quiet and my neighbors were seated far enough away.  It is nice not to have a waiter squeezing in to speak to you or having to hear everything someone says.
The way the two restaurants handle special diets shows how one is driven by turn over of guests while the other is driven by customer satisfaction and experience.  The chef at Portobello came to my table to discuss my dinner and would have made me a dish off the menu just to make me happy.  Tutto Italia has managers doing the special diet orders thus keeping the chefs in the kitchen. IMG_2950 Unlike the warm buns at Portobello the Tutto Italia manager brought out 3 slices of warmed bread (not toasted) and individual pats of butter.  I asked if it was because of my diet and he said that they serve all guests individual pats of butter.  They do not provide butter knifes so you have to lick the knife clean so you can use it on the salad and entree.  Two different types of gluten free bread were from Lo*Pro which were extremely dense that were not worth eating.  I ate one a bit with butter and stopped.  I rather use GNI and Udi products or corn tortillas.  The raisin bread smelled like cinnamon raisin bread but was very dense, sorry, I did not get the brand.  I wish they had GNI, Udi’s, or even French Meadow dinner rolls.  The gluten free offerings were not good for sopping up the yummy juices and sauces in the entrees.
They brought out the beautiful Insalata Mista that had me in awe since I was expecting a typical mixed salad.  IMG_2956They thinly slice watermelon radish then immerse the slice in an ice bath so that it curl to mimic a flower.  It looked like a slice of watermelon with dark rind, translucent white center, and various shades of rose pink.  I do not like asparagus and was dreading more chomping on wood stems until I tried the tender white asparagus the size of my pinky finger.  There was a clear flavor with the crunch of a crisp young green onion.  I WANT MORE!!!  There was a fresh blend of radicchio, arugula, and arugula.  This tasty salad was dressed with a basalmic vinaigrette that in spots was broken into oil and vinegar.  Next came the Bistecca de Macellaio which is grilled “butcher steak”, roasted rosemary potatoes, and agrodolce cipoline onions.  One of the most flavorful cuts of meat is the hanger steak which sometimes is known as the butcher steak. Unlike filets this steak should have tender beef as well as gristle, sinew, and fat.  I will eat almost any temperature of steak but order steaks medium well.  The easiest way to tell if meat is done is by poking it for firmness and my steak was very soft.    It was a flavorful steak with proper seasoning with a green onion and tomato salsa on top.  There was way too much gristle and sinew in the meat that most guests would have sent it back.  No amount of pounding and marinade could have saved that piece of meat.  IMG_2963Under the steak was properly seasoned roasted rosemary potatoes and cipollini onions. The onions were cooked to soft sweetness without the harsh notes of a raw onion.  Agrodolce is a blend of oil, vinegar, sugar, and sometimes raisins for one of my favorite side dishes ever .    Overall I could eat this meal every day if they used a better cut of steak and more heat on the steak.  This seemed more fit for an American diner and far better than my American cooking.
I was disappointed that the only item on the gluten free menu was panna cotta.  There was no gelati or sorbets.  IMG_2976Be warned that the amarine cherries are soaked in alcohol and should not be on the panna cotta.  My religion, my stomach, and my palate refuse to accept alcohol which was not noted on the menu.  I learned my lesson from a past experience so I asked for the cherries to be held.  The chef did not add another fruit but just offered a glass of chocolate panna cotta.  HEAVEN, icy smooth chocolate hits your palate and melts away.  I could have eaten a very large bowl.  There was no gelatti or sorbets for me unlike Portobello which offered me creme brulee, gelatti, sorbeti, ice cream, fresh fruit, and panna cotta.  At Portobello I am offered soup, 2 -4 salads, antipasti, 3-5 appetizers, pizza, 2 pork dishes, 2 fish dishes, 2 chicken dishes, spaghetti bolognose and other pasta dishes, and 4 or 5 desserts.  The amount items available for special diets is far greater at Tony’s in Magic Kingdom and Portobello.
RECOMMENDATION:  If you want chefs coming to your table for special diets, authentic rustic themed restaurant, and wider variety of pasta then head to Portobello.  For a cheaper family dinner that has a chef coming out for special diets, has quaint Italian decor, and great food then go to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.  I was happier at Portobello where the chefs and management rearrange the dishes to meet the customer’s limitations.  Overall the food is excellent, waitress was awesome, and good for guests with disabilities.  I would love to try something else that is more Italian this time.  You cannot go wrong eating at Tutto Italia.
Overall the only problems I had were kitchen issues that any restaurant can have. I had a wonderful meal, I never had to ask for more tea, was asked over and over again if I needed anything, had a perfect waitress, and was relaxed when I left the restaurant.  I recommend this restaurant as the theme is not important, kitchens make mistakes, and any issues are likely to just be because of my diet and attitude.  They can handle 290 pound ladies like me, wheelchairs, and special diets.  This was a lot less noisy than Tony’s in Magic Kingdom.  If you want chefs coming to your table for special diets, authentic rustic themed restaurant, and wider variety of pasta then head to Portobello.  For a cheaper family dinner that has a chef coming out for specia diets, has quaint Italian decor, and great food then go to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.  I was happier at Portobello where the chefs and management rearrange the dishes to meet the customer’s limitations.  I would love to try something else that is more Italian next time.  You cannot go wrong eating at Tutto Italia and I recommend them for a nice dinner in Epcot.

Jan 18

Best in 2013 WDW Dining

Laurie is here to give us her Best of 2013 in Dining.  See what made her list for last year.

The best food, drink, dish, and restaurant is in the eye of the individual diner. As a food critic I try hard to include my experiences while rating food based what I think about other diners’ possible experiences. Here are what I feel are the best things in WDW dining from last year. My reviews are based on my criteria that include disabled access, lighting, seating, hospitality, service, management, flexibility of chefs with menus, special diets, and a smooth dining experience. 2013 saw many new foods for me. My favorites were white asparagus in the salad at Tutto Italia, brittle at Artist point, Bodies bodacious French fries that are made onsite, gluten free cheesecake at Whispering Canyon Cafe, chili at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Kona Cafe’s cinnamon gelatto, and boniato puree at the Food and Wine Festival. Please let Tabitha, the awesome travel agent, or myself know about any comments you have about my reviews as I hope I gave you some awesome reviews.

Best Restaurant:    I have to give Best Restaurant to Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort. The management has to be the nicest folks in WDW and keep the restaurant clean and well maintained. The staff is cheery, well informed about the menu, and provide a smoothly run dining experience. I have had their watermelon soup and the current Maui onion soup. The watermelon soup was full of flavor while remaining fit for summer time. The Maui onion and white bean soup had depth and heartiness that warmed me up. The flavorful chicken, pumpkin, and purple entree would be ideal for the meat and potatoes diner or someone avoiding spicy dishes. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that can please vegans and those who are on a special diet. I love their sushi, pork chop, side dishes, and coffee most. Their chefs try hard to provide diners with a great meal including substituting ingredients, substituting side dishes, and making dishes off the menu. This is my place to go for a meal when I am away from home.

Best Fine Dining Restaurant:    I love Citricos and Artist Point. Both have given me near perfect meals that were sheer joy unspeakable. Artist Point is the Best Fine Dining Restaurant for 2013. Artist Point wins based on theme, service, management, overall experience, and view. Both restaurants give the guest pampered luxurious dining with the finest chefs in the country. Both gave me perfectly cooked pork belly which is one of my favorite appetizers. Citricos is more of a Mediterranean menu while Artist Point offers a Pacific coast menu. Both can handle vegan, meat and taters diners, and special diets Artist point won by a very tiny margin as both restaurants have chefs who go out of their way to accomodate guests.

Best Quick Service Restaurant:     I cannot separate the twin sisters of Landscapes of Flavor (Art of Animation) and Everything Pop (Pop Century). The worst thing is the FAKE gelatto, as gelatto is not made with soy at Art of Animation. landscape of flavorsI fell in love with the Pasta Alfredo after eating it at one of these restaurants. As with any family restaurant these restaurants can get dirty, loud, and busy. They are like family to me since I eat at these restaurants a lot. I love their burgers here which are one of the best in the area. Sunshine Season has to be the best quick service restaurant in the parks with vegan and special diets accommodated.

 

Best Ice Cream:    Crepes de France kiosk in Epcot has a smooth creamy soft serve ice cream. In 2012, I was in love with peppermint ice cream, but even that did not replace the ice cream at Crepes de France. I was happy to see Itzkadoozie ice pops return to the parks.

Best Restaurant Desserts:     Dad’s Brownie Sundae at ’50’s Prime Time Cafe is offered with made gluten free brownie. The awesome bodacious sundae is made with hot fudge, caramel sauce, Mickey sprinkles, and a brownie. Portobello gave me heaven in a bowl with its panna cotta while konaKona Cafe gave me a soy free cinnamon gelatto with macadamia bacon brittle that melted in my mouth.

Best Appetizers:    Raglan Road has gluten free onion rings and scallops that I could eat every day for life. The Tuscan bean soup at Portabello is one of their ever changing soups that finally turned me into a bean soup lover. The Kona Salad at Kona Cafe has bleu cheese, almonds, onions, fresh greens, and a citrus vinaigrette that is a never ending medley of textures and tastes. Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue has the best traditional salad by far.

Best Entertainment in a Restaurant:     Teppan Edo has chefs that make dining an experience to remember. Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Whispering Canyon Cafe are my other two picks for the best restaurants for an entertaining meal. No winner as each is a unique experience though the latter two are also the most disabled friendly and can easily deal with most dietary requests.

Best Buffet:     Some such as Cape May could not give me everything I should have gotten if I was not soy and wheat/gluten free. However, every buffet in WDW has offered me full plates and a full stomach with satisfaction over what I ate. Tusker House1ATusker House is my favorite because of their wide variety of items. They offer meat and potatoes as well and vegan, healthy, and exotic dishes. I recommend them for their ability to fit so many diets including picky eaters.

 

 

Did your favorite make the list?  If not, why not tell us about it.  Thanks for stopping by and thank you Laurie for another wonderful review!