Sunday, July 10, 2011

When non-Disney fans try to write articles...

I've got to thank Webmaster Alex from the DIS for this one, because the link he shared on the boards provided some amusement for me this morning.  Apparently, someone on wrote an article about the World's Best Bar Crawls.  And the last one listed?

Epcot Center.  I don't think anyone called it Epcot Center in about 15 years. Here's the link to the Bar Crawls article, read it for yourselves.

The author tells us we can hit all seven countries in just a few hours.  Apparently, he hasn't seen Norway, China, Morocco, or Canada.  Because we all know Canada is a dry country!   He hasn't told one of the girls in the accompanying photo, because she's wearing a Viking hat.

I'm wondering when the author's last visit to the World was.  I tend to think he would have counted La Cava del Tequila is one of the best places to get drinks.  I know I do.  And he probably would have noticed those Grand Marnier and Grey Goose lemon slushies in France.  Those have been around a couple years.   If he had suggested the readers  buy a souvenir 1/2 yard of beer from Rose and Crown Pub, that would have been a dead giveaway.  I'd like to say that's been gone for at least 3-4 years?  I'm not certain on that one.

I did notice that the article isn't dated, so there is no way of knowing when it was written or posted.  If he did write this a few years ago, he might be forgiven some of the details.  But I won't let him forget 4 out of 11 countries in World Showcase.   That's just sloppy.

At least AJ at the Disney Food Blog does a great job of trying to keep her info up-to-date.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WDW Today Podcast 898 - Victoria and Albert's

On Thursday, Mike Newell of the WDW Today Podcast (at )sent me a chat pop up on Facebook asking me a question about Victoria and Albert's, a fine dining restaurant at Walt Disney World.  Yes, Walt Disney World.  Don't snicker, it's not becoming.   I was trying to tell him that a typical dinner in the main dining room could take roughly 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  Maybe closer to 4+ hours if you're doing the Chef's Table or Queen Victoria Room.   Or, if you are me, dining with 5 friends who know how to have a good can be there for 5 hours. (Yikes!)   So he reads that part about my personal 5 hour experience and answers a question that you can be dining there for 5 hours.   Oops.

A few minutes later, Mike asks if I'm willing to talk about my experiences about Victoria and Albert's, since I've done the Chef's Table and the main dining room.  I agree, and the next thing I know, Skype is not cooperating with my headset, and I'm using Skype app on my iPhone.  Whew!   With absolutely no preparation, I chime in the best I can in the time I had.  It figures that I had just recently discarded two personalized menus I came across in a massive clutter disposal. Oh well.  I unfortunately didn't share some important pieces of info, so I planned to post on the show notes page.

And my login on the WDW Today page triggers a meltdown when I try to enter my password.  Crap, I think I broke the site. 

Anyway, some of the points I didn't get to make were:

  • The cast member taking your reservation will ask for the names of each person in your party, and if anyone is celebrating a special occasion.  Ok, Disney Dining will ask that, but in this case, Victoria and Albert's wants it for personalized menus.  I had to spell out the last names of some friends for this reason.
  • While you can mention food allergies and aversions when you make the reservation, someone at the restaurant will call you within a week of your reservation to confirm all that information.  My friend couldn't eat seeds and nuts, and she didn't care to eat mushrooms and olives.  I noted those things, and the servers confirmed when we were seated.
  • In addition to the personalized menus (Happy Birthday! Anniversary! Honeymoon!), each woman is presented with a long-stemmed rose at the end of the meal.  It's in a plastic box, making it easy to carry.
  • Order coffee, even if you don't drink it.  The coffee making apparatus, for lack of a better word, is like a science experiment.  They use a vacuum brewing coffeemaker.  It's very cool.  Blink and you'll miss the moment.
These were just a few things I thought of after we ended the podcast recording.  I mentioned that for the $125 main dining room price, plus $60 wine pairings, you can find some food and wine pairing dinners (special dining events during the Festival) that cost roughly that amount for a similar multi-course dining experience.  What I didn't mention is that you're going to pay somewhere in the $400-500 range for the Food and Wine Festival's event dinner at Victoria and Albert's, which I haven't done.  Others have said it was fabulous, but that price does break my budget.

Instead, what I have done was use the normal dinner at Victoria and Albert's as a substitute for a dinner event elsewhere.   And yes, it was roughly the same price with food and wine at Todd English's bluezoo™ event, but Todd English disappointed.  Not only was there not enough food to soak up the wine, one of the courses came out so over-salted, my friends and I called it the "Dead Sea Pasta".  Other friends dining at the event in another area of the restaurant agreed.   That's a shame because a normal night at Todd's place is really outstanding.   I would tell people to go to the restaurant for a regular meal, and avoid the Food and Wine Festival dining event at all costs.     And it doesn't hurt that Todd English's bluezoo™ also has a chef's tasting menu you can try.

Flying Fish CafĂ© has a Chef's Counter tasting menu with wine pairings that costs roughly in the $140+ range.  And the tastings at both Todd's and Flying Fish don't require a jacket dress code for men.

Just for comparison, I am comparing a meat course at a normal dining room visit at Victoria and Albert's with the special Food and Wine Festival dinner at Todd English's bluezoo.™

Seafood course at Victoria and Albert's:

This was some salmon, crab, asparagus and Bearnaise sauce.  Nice, right?

And here's what Todd served:

It's a pretty good scallop.  A couple dots of orange gelatinous goo, and a cube of pork belly next to the scallop.  The clam on the upper right was overshadowed by the scallop playing Slip n' Slide on the plate. I would have liked a little more than this to counter a full glass of wine.

Here's a meat course at Victoria and Albert's:

That's veal topped with sweetbreads (which are not sweet, nor are they bread.  They are the thymus gland of the cow.  It's not attached, so the squeamish need not eat it.  As you can see, there are little veggies around it, and it's a nice portion.

And at Todd English's festival event wine pairing dinner.

The kobe/wagyu combo.  Thin slice of the good stuff on top of a filet.  Nothing with it.   Of course, it doesn't help that they served this on such a ginormous plate. There was a little slice of cauliflower, sitting on the right side.  And you wouldn't believe it, but it was pickled or something. Had a more interesting flavor, and I would have wanted more than a flat sliver of it.  

And the only decent sized portion of the night?

The over-salted "Dead Sea Pasta".

This would have been really good without the salt lick.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hello blog? It's me, Lori

Hello blog? It's me, Lori.

You didn't call. You didn't write. I thought you fell off the face of the earth.

Yes, yes. I know. I've got no excuse except for procrastination and laziness.

Damn straight, girlie. Where have you been?

For starters, I've had a few fun Disney-centric trips. The usual Food and Wine Festival Trip in October, and I also took a Girls Trip to see some of my VMK (Virtual Magic Kingdom; R.I.P) gal friends down at Disney in July. I was able to enjoy Summer-nightastic stuff before the wonderful fireworks show went away. I'm glad they kept the revamped Main Street Electrical Parade.

Ok, that's all well and good. What else did you do?

I crammed in some bookend nights pre-cruise and post-cruise on the Disney Wonder last December with 600 of my closest ...well, to be honest, many were friendly acquaintances, and some friends, too. I was there to attend the DIS Unplugged Podcast Cruise 2.0. I saw Jodi Benson perform a wonderful full concert, and I enjoyed presentations by Disney Legends Charlie Ridgway (of Spinning Disney's World book fame) and Bob Gurr, bon vivant and the guy responsible for just about every vehicle that moved inside a Disney park. The man was an octogenarian who could out-party people half his age, me included!

Is that it?

Isn't that enough???

Ok, I see your point. Did you do anything exciting in 2011? Half a year is practically gone, you know...

Yeah, I know. Ahem. I do have plans this year. Some big plans. HUGE plans, even.

Are you going to elaborate or are you going to make me guess? I don't have all year...scratch that thought.

Alright, I'll tell you. I'm booked with some of the DIS Unplugged podcasters and listeners on an Adventures by Disney trip in September. We're doing a special "Cities of Knights and Lights" tour of London and Paris with an add-on for Disneyland Paris!


Yes, that's how I felt when I realized I'm actually booked for this trip! The final payment has been made, and all I have to do is do some pre-trip preparations. I would have paid single supplement rates had I not offered to share double occupancy expenses with a really nice gal I met on the podcast cruise. She was in my "fish extender" group, and I sort of forced her to share wine with me and a couple of friends I knew from the DIS. (For those not indoctrinated into the Disboards cruise forum sub-culture, "fish extenders" are pockets of fabric or any bag that can hold little items or tchotchkes to brighten the day of fellow cruisers. You hang them off of the letter holder shaped like a fish, outside the stateroom door.)

Is that why you caved in after over a YEAR of being away to come back?

Pretty much.

Welcome back. Don't be such a stranger. Stay a while.

I have my usual Disney food porn if you're interested...

Save it for next time. There WILL be a next time, right?

Sigh. Ok. Until next time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Guilty Pleasure snacks or foods at Disney

I've been discussing food a lot lately. Actually, food found at Walt Disney World. Part of it was due to a fun gathering held at the Doorway to Dreams store at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL on Sunday, April 18. Doorway to Dreams is the non-Disney park location to purchase timeshare holdings for Disney Vacation Club. Some of the people on the DIS boards have had gatherings there over the past few years.

This time, we were all asked to name one item we would love to eat or drink at Walt Disney World. I picked the margarita flight from La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. I really would have wanted to add the shrimp ceviche to that, but we were limited to one item only.

Later, it occurred to me that there is one item that not many people know about. And it was all due to seeing my Canadian friend, Kevin, at WDW during the December meets. Kevin insisted that he found the best thing ever at the Rose and Crown Pub. By "best", he meant incredibly bad for one's health. It's called the English Bulldog.

For $6.99 plus tax, you order this from the limited pub menu at the bar. This is a sandwich that is served in a basket with The description is as follows:

Split Banger stuffed with Mashed Potatoes, Chopped Bacon, Irish Cheddar, and a Spiced Mustard Sauce

A "banger"is just British for sausage. It's there, hiding within the fluffy mashed potatoes. It looks absolutely revolting but tastes divine. Pair it with your beverage of choice, and it's a great easy meal. But keep the cardiologist on speed dial, just in case.

I wanted to share this guilty pleasure because I chatted online with Kevin about this sandwich a couple days ago. Then I heard the All About the Mouse podcast from 4/23/10 discuss favorite "sinful and decadent" treats around Walt Disney World. This would definitely fall in those categories! I felt a little guilty for eating that sandwich. That's why I call it a "guilty pleasure".

But I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The sweet item that best describes a guilty pleasure for me would be the Carrot Cake Cookie from the Writer's Stop at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I ate the whole darn thing for breakfast at another December meet. I sat outside with a couple girls who indulged with me, while the rest of the group went to see Muppetvision. I wish I would have offered to split my cookie, as it seemed to be the size of my head.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it. Picture two giant saucers of carrot cake, with the cream cheese icing glopped into the middle, in the form of a cookie sandwich. That's the "cookie". Hard to believe I like this thing better than some chocolate items sold there. Go figure. I'll be getting another one of these sometime, but I would want to share it with a friend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Miss me? I'm back. And I've got something to say!

Yes, it's been a few months since I've posted. I still want to post some food porn and comments about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, my birthday trip to Las Vegas, and meeting up with some of my Disney fan friends I've known it seems forever in December.

But before I do that, I want to show you what brought me back to blogging.

Irresponsible reporting on More specifically, an "Orlando Insider" giving advice. A friend of mine on Facebook told me that the author deleted comments she posted to this article.

Elana made reference to last year's birthday pass promotion, which she edited out after my friend commented that this promotion is currently over. After she fixed her article, Elana deleted my friend's comments. This led me to look at the article and see what she would do when I commented.

Before I post what she deleted, let me comment on her "secrets":

1. You can park at the theme parks two hours before closing...for free!

But before Elana mentions this "perk", she casually mentions buying an annual pass to make subsequent visits free. I almost posted a comment that standard annual passes allow you to park for free, anyway! After I re-read the article, I believe she's a Florida resident who must own a seasonal annual pass, only available to Florida residents. Seasonal passholders do not get free parking.

2. Weekday Select Pass - what a deal!

Yes, if you're a Florida resident. One of my comments mentioned that only Florida residents can take advantage of that deal. It does nothing for those of us in other parts of the country.

3. Go to a Holiday Inn 90-minute timeshare presentation to get a free Disney ticket!

This was something else I mentioned in my comments she deleted. I told Elana that I believe that timeshare presentations are a waste of valuable vacation time. I didn't elaborate that those 90-minute presentations aren't always 90-minutes. I've heard horror stories of people getting the hard-sell tactics, and they were feeling captive for a few hours before they were allowed to get their tickets.

4. Volunteer for the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promotion!

Gee, I wonder where Elana got that idea? Oh yeah. From me. I didn't tell her that she must be living in a cave not to have seen all those ads featuring the Muppets. If I had, I could understand why Elana would delete my posts. I was respectful. But I did ask why she didn't mention that promotion in her article. Now she has and conveniently deleted any evidence of me as her source.

I'm glad I didn't mention that standard or premium annual passholders get free parking. I'm also glad I didn't mention that people staying at Disney-owned resorts also get free parking. If I had, I bet Elana would have edited her article again, taking away the glaring omission in her annual passholder comments.

One last thing:

Love me or hate me, I will never delete your posts unless you threaten me or use profanity. Anything else will stay posted here. Because that's the way I roll.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Post-D23 Expo: The Announcements

Last weekend was the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. If you're a Disney fan, you'd have to be living in a cave if you hadn't heard about it. All the Disney divisions made appearances, and I've appreciated many websites and podcasts for covering the event. But I wanted to address the announcements made, or at least my views about them.

First, let's start with the Disney Cruise Line.

Most of us (again, who haven't been living in a cave) have heard that Disney is building two new ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, coming in 2011 and 2012. That means that the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will probably have some itinerary changes. So it was announced that the Disney Wonder will relocate out of the Port of Los Angeles, where it had previously done Mexican Riviera sailings. But the Big Deal Announcement was that it will sail the summer season in Alaska.

Alaska is definitely a new itinerary for DCL, but I can't get myself excited about the prospect. I work in Chicago and live in a suburb 8 miles away from the office. I'm used to experiencing below-zero frozen tundra weather in the winter. And the semi-frozen spring and autumn. And the four weeks we like to call "summer", or by its other name, "construction season". So going to a place in summer that is generally chillier than Chicago doesn't appeal to me. That's why there are Caribbean cruises, after all.

What I did like was that the statue in the Disney Dream atrium would be Admiral Duck himself, The Donald. And the ships will be bigger, so I want to see them for myself.

Next, let's talk about the Disney films:

The opening speech by Bob Iger concluded with 30 minutes of "The Princess and the Frog". By all accounts from attendees either blogging, podcasting, or Tweeting, this should be a shot in the arm for traditional 2D animation. I'm personally looking forward to seeing this film. I hope I get the same awe I had when I first saw "The Little Mermaid" during its initial run in the theaters.

There were announcements of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with Nicholas Cage. Again, it sounds like a fun film. I am hoping it will be closer to "National Treasure" than "Race to Witch Mountain" in terms of enjoyment. I'm sorry about all those who loved the latter film. I found it too trite, but the cameo appearances gave me nostalgia from my childhood, so it wasn't a total loss.

But the big news of Johnny Depp making another appearance as Captain Jack Sparrow in the 4th installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies really got my attention. But when Dick Cook, who made that presentation at the D23 Expo, suddenly leaves Disney under hush-hush circumstances, it's been reported that Johnny's not happy to work without him in this LA Times article here. I'm not sure I want to count all my Sparrows until they're hatched, now.

And now my favorite part, Disney Parks and Resorts:

I thought Bay Lake Towers was Disney's DVC "Worst Kept Secret". Until someone posted blueprints of what appeared to be a Walt Disney World Fantasyland expansion, that is. Or maybe the Worst Kept Secret was a quote from Anthony Daniels (C3PO from the "Star Wars" films) a few years ago during an interview, spilling the beans about working on scenes for Star Tours v2.0.

Yeah, Anthony shouldn't be trusted with State secrets.

Ok, let's get back to Fantasyland for a minute. I'm really excited about this, because well...I just didn't think Toon Town lived up to its potential. The dedicated areas for the princess meet and greets and Pixie Hollow sound fantastic. I love that they will be themed to each character. And after I saw the virtual ride through of the Little Mermaid attraction from a bonus feature on the DVD, I immediately wanted that attraction to come to pass. I understand that the attraction won't be just like the Tony Baxter mock up, but I'm sure plenty of elements will find its way into the attraction, and I can't wait to see what they do!

I never gave Dumbo much thought, but I think it's great that they are expanding capacity and giving waiting families something to do while waiting. Thumbs up for that. But let's switch to food. The Magic Kingdom was in dire need of another place to eat, and the Be Our Guest restaurant sounds like it might be a good option. At least until I get to try the food. Same goes for Gaston's Tavern. Of course there will be antlers. Maybe Melvin the Moose at Country Bear Jamboree will work overtime at Gaston's.

Back to Star Tours now, but I have a confession to make. While I enjoy the Star Tours attraction, I have to confess that I do not like the "Star Wars" films. Even the first one released back in 1977. Never liked the films, so all the discussion about whether the new attraction will be based on the pod races went over my head and made no impression on me. I will like that the new attraction will be in 3D, pod races or no pod races aside. I'm living proof that you don't have to know or like the source material to enjoy the attraction based on it.

And a quick segue about another 3D adventure: Hallelujah about "MuppetVision" getting a well deserved overhaul to digital. It was really starting to show its age compared to "Mickey's Philharmagic".

I figured I just covered most of what I found appealing at the Expo, except a surprising thing I found while being part of Lou Mongello's walkabout. Lou carried his notebook computer around while a bunch of us were "in the box" (aka a live chat room) at home, so we could experience the Expo. This was "Sounds Dangerous", except with a remote camera that actually worked. Heh. Loved the full-sized Buzz Lightyear made of Legos, as well as the cool mural that guests helped the Master Builder create. The collectible booths were not that exciting to me, but I have to thank Lou for showing us the booth that had The Art of the Disney Princess book. I was floored when I saw a rendering of the famous stretching room portrait from the Haunted Mansion. But the tightrope walker was Snow White! Loved that, and I'll probably buy that book now.

I had my vicarious thrills from the expo from Lou's walkabout and Ricky Brigante's virtual tour of the Parks and Resorts booth at . Thanks for doing this for us stuck thousands of miles away.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hot Button Topic: Refillable Mugs

After my last blog about the guest parking lots, I thought I'd tackle another hot-button issue:

Refillable Mugs at the Disney Resorts

I can imagine people read that topic and think, "Oh no. Not another debate about the refillable mugs!" But I can't wait to share my .02.

It might seem that the refillable mug program has been around forever, but it really started sometime in the middle of the 1990's. For those Disney fans who lived under a rock since then, the program was essentially this:

For a nominal fee per person (somewhere around $10-12), guests could enjoy unlimited refills at the self-serve drink stations at their resort for their length of stay. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa and sodas. Or in the case of some deluxe resorts, there were locations to get the drinks filled for you by cast members.

It was made perfectly clear that the mugs were only good at the resort you were staying, unless it was a "sister" resort group like Port Orleans/Dixie Landings or Yacht Club/Beach Club.

Today, we have a moral controversy over the mugs. Back in the 90's, cast members who sold the mugs actively encouraged guests to bring the mugs back on future trips to the same resort. But somewhere in the early 2000's, the drink stations would have placards posted that the mugs were only good for the length of stay of the trip the mug was purchased.

Suddenly, you had a group of guests who faced conflicting messages from Disney. Repeat guests were allowed to bring back the mugs when the program first started, but suddenly Disney would now frown upon that?

Now I've seen guests clearly abusing the drink stations from Day One. They would fill up any drink container they had. It didn't necessarily have to be a Disney mug. And guests would bring mugs from other resorts, which was a clear "violation" of the original rules.

Do cast members ever tell a guest they are not allowed to use the contraband drink containers?

Never. It would be a guest relations nightmare if the cast members did that. I think cast members are lenient because they know that some guests are a short fuse away from a total meltdown during their vacations.

Do I condone it?

Nope. Never condoned it years ago; still don't condone it today. But when I had lots of 1 and 2 night stays at Pop Century (to avoid weekend points at DVC since 2002), I never bought the mug. I had Mug Guilt. I couldn't justify buying a mug on a short stay, and I felt like those intimiding new placards were going to eat away at my conscience if I bought a mug and used it on future trips.

It was actually funny that in 1999, I did a split stay of 2 nights at All Star Music, 5 nights at Dixie Landings, and 2 nights at Beach Club. I had packed my All Star resort mug and Port Orleans mugs from prior trips, and bought a Beach Club mug to add to my collection. I find it comical that I made sure I used the proper mug for each resort!

Part of me thinks that those of us with original mugs should have a grandfather clause allowing us to bring back the mugs because Disney marketed the mugs to us as repeat visit mugs. Another part of me thinks that Disney changed the rules, so we should now abide by the new rules. And another part of me thinks Disney could really milk the whole "environmentality" thing by encouraging us to reuse mugs at the resorts and the parks to avoid discarding paper cups.

What is the solution for this controversy?

I think Disney had the right idea by testing out a bar code system at the water parks. You were able to refill your drinks on the date of purchase by scanning a bar code on the machine or it wouldn't dispense. I'm not sure how feasible that would be at a busy drink station at the resorts. But if Disney was able to work out a system that would allow you to use old mugs yet pay for the length of stay use, that might end the controversy.