Sunday, June 12, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

Dan & I traveled to Walt Disney World from May 31st to June 6th. It was the first time I’d been there since the summer of 1979 – a time before Epcot and many of the other attractions now available. In my posts detailing my previous travels, I’ve related the events of the trip chronologically. However, for this trip, I didn’t have my computer with me and didn’t take notes. So, I will be posting my thoughts on different aspects of our trip.

First, for those who are contemplating a trip to Disney, I strongly urge you to use the Dining Plan that Disney offers, especially if you are staying at a Disney resort. There are several versions of the plan available. We chose the version that offers one quick-service meal (essentially, fast food), one snack, and one table service meal per day. Alcoholic drinks and gratuity are not included in the plan. (It should be noted that some of the higher end restaurants will count as two meal credits per person. Still, you’ll wind up paying less than if you bought each meal separately.)

Also, for table service meals, make reservations as far in advance as possible (Disney allows restaurant reservations up to 180 days in advance). Dan & I made reservations in February, and by that time, several restaurants were already booked – notably Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion.

As mentioned, quick service meals were essentially fast food – just a step up from the fare you’d find at McDonald’s. Each of the value resorts has a food court much like what you’d find at a shopping mall. Dan and I used them for breakfast most days, where they served omelets made-to-order with home fries, waffles (shaped like Mickey Mouse’s face, I felt I was committing rodenticide through food proxy), juices and fruit. They also have lunch and dinner options of the hamburger/pizza type.

Snacks can be purchased at the food court, or at any of the food carts that dot the various Disney parks: anything from ice cream to sweets or healthy options like fruit. With the large breakfasts we had, Dan & I only needed a small snack to carry us till dinner. On one occasion, we purchased one of Disney’s legendary smoked turkey legs - one was enough for both of us.

In each of five full service restaurants we went to, Dan & I experienced attentive service. Each restaurant was staffed with people recruited from their respective countries. Here are the details on each of the restaurants we went to:

Boma – Animal Kingdom Lodge: This is a buffet, specializing in African dishes. The food is prepared in an open area and I conversed with one of the chefs, who was from Mentor. Since the African continent is vast and encompasses many cultures, the selection was highly varied. Highlights there are various meats cooked over an open flame, salmon with capers, a delicious seafood bisque flavored with curry and coconuts (which Dan had to skip due to his shellfish allergy), and a huge selection of desserts. There was simply too much food for Dan & I to sample everything, and I came closer to gluttony than I have at any time since I started my diet in January. (Incidentally, my dietary restrictions were suspended for the duration of the trip). But I would recommend it to anyone who thinks buffet food is automatically second-rate.

At Boma

San Angel Inn – Epcot, Mexico pavilion: Obviously, this is a Mexican restaurant - part of a shopping complex, all interior, which is designed to feel like an outdoor setting in a small Mexican town. .The food here was good, but not extraordinary. The chips and salsa, for example, were no better than you’d get at a garden variety Mexican place anywhere in Cleveland. The most arresting thing here was a family we spotted at the next table: Two perfectly behaved children with their parents. I was within earshot of their conversation and they were British. More on this observation in another post.

A possible Hidden Mickey at Teppan Edo

Teppan Edo – Epcot, Japan pavilion: This was a real treat for Dan, who’d never been to a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant before. We shared our table with another group. Here, as at the other restaurants we went to, the staff were proactive in asking about food allergies. The chef cooked Dan’s food separately from everyone else’s to avoid contamination. Rather than going into detail about our food, this video tells the story:

Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room – Epcot, United Kingdom pavilion: As I may have said before, my ancestry is English, and I adore their culture and the temperament of their people. As for their food, it’s agreeable to me, but doesn’t send me into waves of ecstasy. Rose & Crown recreates the English pub experience, complete with a live performer singing bawdy songs. We sat outside, under a shade so the heat wasn’t too oppressive. I had the Surf (broiled to medium rare perfection) & Turf – and for dessert, Chocolate Scotch Cake, (and I sampled Dan’s Sticky Toffee Pudding).

California Grill – Contemporary resort: This is one of the most popular restaurants at Disney. Located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort, you can only gain access via a special elevator guarded by the maître’ d. One of the reasons for this is the restaurant’s balcony, which is ideal for viewing nighttime fireworks. Like many higher end restaurants, California Grill serves smaller portions, so we were able to enjoy our appetizers (flat bread and salad) and entrees (I got the Veal), with room left over for dessert.

I almost felt guilty eating this artfully presented dessert

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