She Tried It! Disney Dining …For Grown Ups
I’ve been to Disney World plenty of times. Most memorably, the times when I was a child. My parents, my sister and myself were so occupied with seeing and experiencing as much as we could in a week’s time that we ended up returning home more exhausted than we were when we left. A working vacation.
For that reason, like many people, Disney was cemented in my mind as a place where sweaty, penny-pinching parents come to run around after their kids.
But my mind was forever changed last weekend.
For the first time ever, Disney was the cool place for girlfriends, couples and other grown folk who want to escape the daily grind of career, relax and have some good–and by good I mean delicious–food. Check out the places and experiences that blew my mind during Disney’s Food and Wine Festival.
For the past four years, I’ve been invited to Disney World to cover the annual Disney Dreamer’s Academy. (If you have or know a high school student, please look into it.) Typically, we stay at the Animal Kingdom resort, which is home to the restaurant Jiko. Jiko serves South African/African fusion cuisine and the food is phenomenal. When I visited about a week ago, I had the Maize Crusted Halibut. What was different about this time, is that I always leave wishing I could come here on my own, perhaps without having to stay on the resort. I learned that you don’t have to be staying on Disney property to enjoy the restaurant. Good to know.
Not being too fond of the taste of alcohol, I’m not much of a drinker. Anything I like has to be sweet. And I was surprised to see that the chefs and the sommelier were able to find something that even I could appreciate. Little did I know that Jiko has the largest collection of South African wines anywhere in the United States. I had this delicious natural sweet wine called the Vin De Constance that went amazingly well with dessert.
Eat around the world at Epcot
Every year, Disney hosts Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. In addition to the classes, demonstrations and panels that go on, there are also kiosks representing different countries around the world. Equipped with a “passport” detailing all the different food options, I went to “Japan” where I had a handmade Sushi roll with Tuna, Salmon and Volcano sauce. In Mexico, I had a battered shrimp taco with pico de gallo, pickled onions and chipotle mayonnaise and a guava margarita. (You can get your sip on in Epcot.) And in Poland I had potato with caramelized onions and sour cream.
While my brief trip around the world would have been more than enough food to hold me over for a few hours, it wasn’t long before we were eating again. This time, at Disney Springs, an area for more adult shops, dining and entertainment. Our first stop was The Boathouse. While the seafood was delicious with thick lobsters, huge oysters, amazing fried corn and hand cut french fries, the menu item that absolutely stole the show was the Baked Alaska. At first sight, the dessert was nothing short of intimidating. It looked like a large rock had been cut in half to reveal an interior of Rocky Road ice cream, marshmallows and a graham cracker crust. I can’t describe how game changing this dessert was, just know that when it was almost finished, the adults at the table were clamoring for some more of the crust.
When I was a little girl I used to have dreams about a car that drove on land and floated on water. And since Disney is the place where dreams come true, it was only fitting that it be the place where I got to experience my dreams becoming a reality. We went out on the water, just as the sun was setting and listened to our driver’s extensive knowledge about Florida alligators.
Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, known as one of the Iron Chefs, has opened a new restaurant in the Disney Springs area called Morimoto Asia. Not only was it the most visually appealing venue, with chandeliers that looked like jellyfish, they had an amazing flatbread tuna pizza. And we got the chance to watch our chef chop and slice the peking duck before we had a chance to devour it.
After all this food, there was hardly room for any more. Luckily, at Paradiso not only did we have some yummy guacamole and a perfectly blended Sangria Margarita, we also had the opportunity to dance off some of the calories as we listened to a live vocalist sing and dance his heart out.
The next morning, with bellies still full we ventured into Magic Kingdom, you know the park that houses Cinderella’s castle, for breakfast. Now, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. When I think of theme park food, quality is not usually the first word that comes to mind. But that’s exactly what I got here. After Morimoto, this was the best scenery. The entire space is modeled after the Beast’s castle, complete with a ballroom, and a tattered beast’s bedroom. You can even find the famous wilting rose in the corner of the room.
If you’re a die hard Disney fan then you remember the song, “Be Our Guest.” During it, Lumiére, the candelabra, sings, “Try the gray stuff it’s delicious. Don’t believe me ask the dishes.” Well, the dishes ain’t never lied because the gray stuff on top of this cupcake, was probably one of, if not the best, cupcake I’ve ever had. No lie.
As a part of the Food and Wine Festival, Epcot hosted the Party for the Senses. And just as the name implies everything, all five were stimulated. We watched as Cirque du Soleil artists performed acts from their show La Nouba, listened to amazing musicians and tasted food from chefs from all over the world.