Showing posts with label restaurant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurant. Show all posts

Where to Eat on the Disney Dream

Breakfast at Royal Palace on Disney Dream
What's breakfast without Mickey Waffles on your Disney Cruise?

Cruising on a Disney Cruise Line vacation means there is magic around every corner. . .even when it comes to the food!  You are sure to find something for everyone (and then some!) when you are on the Disney Dream.  Let's take a look at where to eat while on the Disney Dream.

Main Dining Rooms on the Disney Dream


As you may or may not know, Disney Cruise Line features a unique cruising feature - rotational dining.  Rotational dining means that each night of your cruise you change restaurants, but your wait staff travels with you.  This means you get to have varying dining experiences each night of your cruise with the bonus of having your waitstaff remain the same.  Like other cruise line restaurants, you'll find appetizers, soups, main courses, and desserts available regardless of where you are eating. Want to try more than one thing - just ask!  They'll be happy to make your dining wish come true.  Each restaurant also features a kid's menu so the little ones will find their favorites even when they're away from home.  During booking, you'll select either main dining or late dining.  Don't worry - all of the shows in the theater are scheduled so guests on either seating can enjoy them.

Celebrity Treatment in Burbank, California

The Geekly Retreat was my first visit to California and what a memorable experience it was! We had some amazing times during the retreat and it all took place in and around fabulous Burbank.  Visit Burbank was one of the sponsors of our retreat and they treated us well from beginning to end.  Let's take a look at some of the places we enjoyed while in town.

Safari Inn 


Feel like you've seen the Safari Inn before?  Well, you probably have!  This hotel has been used in a number of blockbuster Hollywood films and television shows.  I instantly recognized the Safari Inn from two of my favorite movies when we received details about our stay.  The first film I recognized the hotel from was Apollo 13.  Remember the scene on launch day when Lovell's wife is at the hotel and drops her ring in the drain?  Yep, the outside footage there is of the Safari Inn.  It may also look familiar from Incredibles 2 when the protection program for supers is dissolved and they are forced to figure out their next steps.  There are also many more Hollywood cameos for this famous location too.

Inside the room at Safari Inn
The hotel itself combines a classic feel with some modern upgrades. While the exterior probably hasn't changed much over the years, the rooms themselves have clearly been renovated in recent years, featuring a clean and contemporary color scheme.  The room we were in featured two double beds, a sink and vanity in a dressing area, and a separate bathroom.  There is no official closet in the room, but there is a rack that you can hang clothes on if you need to during your stay.  There is a restaurant "on-site" at the neighboring partner hotel, Olive's Bistro.  From there you can order room service or take the few steps to enjoy a meal in the restaurant.  Another great perk is the free Burbank shuttle.  You need to prearrange your time and destination, but you can get service to a number of area destinations including the airport.  You'll also find a small pool on property along the road and located right next to the parking lot.  To learn more about staying at the Safari Inn Burbank, check out their website here!

Urban Press Winery


Our first night in Burbank, The Geekly Retreat attendees were hosted at Urban Press Winery for drinks and dinner.  Our evening began in the lower level tasting room which featured a bar and high top tables.  The room was equal parts cozy with warm colors and wood tones as well as contemporary with high ceilings and grand statements like the wine bottle doorway.  After enjoying tastes downstairs, we moved up to a private area overlooking the lower level where tables were set up for us to enjoy a speaker dinner.  Lastly, we moved out to the patio.  I know I was in California which was much warmer than Maryland in November, but I wads still happy to find they had portable heaters out there as it was chilly that evening.  The seating outside was more dining tables which allowed us to sit in large groups, mingle, and enjoy conversation with one another.
Enjoying the wine tasting at Urban Press Winery

So on to the important stuff - what about the food and wine?  Well. . .it was all delicious!  My husband and I enjoy visiting wineries around the Mid-Atlantic and I was very excited to visit my first California winery.  The wines were a bit drier than what I'm used to on the East Coast, but that's actually my preference so it was a rather enjoyable assortment - from the reds to the whites, and everything in between.  Quite surprisingly to me, my favorite wine of the night was the Rose.  I'm typically not a Rose fan, but this was made with Pinot which didn't make it as sweet as some others I've had.  The food was equally good.  My favorite was the simple meat, cheese, and bread that we had at the beginning.  That's always one of my favorite things to eat when enjoying a wine tasting!
If I find myself in the Burbank area again, I'd be happy to return to Urban Press Winery for more wine, food, and fun!  Check out more about this Burbank hot sport here!

Porto's Bakery & Cafe


I had heard that Porto's was THE place to go in Burbank when it comes to quality baked goods, but tasting truly was believing when we had the chance to experience Porto's on two different occasions.  During our work day at the Team Click offices, Porto's provided lunch to us which included sandwiches, salads, and sides.  The following morning, we had the chance to head to Porto's downtown Burbank location for a visit and to enjoy breakfast.  Now we had known how good Porto's was after the lunch on Friday, but seeing the line that had stretched outside of the building on Saturday morning let me know that the quality of their food was not a secret to the locals.
Lunch from Porto's Bakery - YUMMY!

When we entered the bakery, it was truly an overwhelming scene of people and pastries.  Our group was led upstairs to a conference room where we had our own assortment of breakfast waiting.  I selected a fruit topped pastry which looked (and tasted!) fabulous along with a fresh, delicious cup of orange juice.  While we ate, we had the chance to learn the history of Porto's.  What an incredible story!  The bakery was founded by Rosa Porto, an immigrant from Cuba who began baking prior to her arrival in the United States and then turned her passion into a business for her family.  Over the years, the family bakery has remained true to it's belief that "quality is the number one ingredient in everything we do."  To find out more about the story of the bakery and discover the menu, check them out here!

Visit Burbank


I'd like to thank them for being a sponsor of some of our activities during The Geekly Retreat!  For more information on planning your visit to Burbank, California, head on over to the Visit Burbank website.  Be sure to follow #VisitBurbank on social media for the latest and greatest news from this popular entertainment destination.

Ultimate Walt Disney World Planning Guide

Planning a trip to the most magical place on Earth can be overwhelming for those who are new to the experience - and sometimes even to those of us veteran mouseketeers!  There's so much to think about when planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, let's break it down to what you should be doing before, during, and after the all important 180 day mark.

More Than 180 Days Before Your Trip

  • Book Your Resort Reservation - It's never too early to plan your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation! In fact, there are some great specials you can find before checking out of your current WDW resort.  These deals, called bounce back offers, allow you to grab great percentage off rates or even something like free dining.  Regardless of whether your booking a bounce back offer or planning your vacation from your couch, booking your hotel is a great place to start.  You have choices when you book as to whether you are booking room only or adding a ticket and/or dining package.  Sometimes booking as a package will allow you to take advantage of even deeper discounts.  There are a number of properties to choose from when staying at Walt Disney World Resort, and you can find a guide to understanding those categories here!  By booking your WDW resort BEFORE the 180 day mark, you can take advantage of a little bit of a head start on your dining reservations as resort guests can book their dining reservations for their entire stay beginning at the 180 day mark.  Not sure if a Disney Resort stay is right for your family?  There are many choices around the Orlando area for all of your vacation needs! Here's a look at what to consider when staying off property.
  • Plan a Tentative Itinerary - Are you someone who wants to park hop 'til you drop or are you someone looking to relax more on your WDW vacation?  Looking to see and experience the newest attractions?  Want to book gourmet dining experience?  Need three days in Magic Kingdom or just one?  You can start answering these questions and lay out a tentative itinerary. My plan changes probably fifty times or more from when I start planning, so you don't have to set anything in stone.  However, having an idea of what you want to do on each day of your vacation will help you starting looking ahead to those dining and FastPass+ reservations.  I use a simple table in Word to layout my plans and track changes I make, but there's lots of ways to keep your itinerary organized.  
    With so many unique dining options, where will you eat?

180 Days To Go!

  • 180 days is a big milestone in your Disney planning timeline!  This is the time when reservations for many of the activities you are interested in become available for booking - namely, dining reservations!  Using the plans you made prior to this point, you can begin thinking making dining reservations to go with your trip.  Did you book the Disney dining plan?  You'll want to make sure you're using your credits and booking one or two table service meals per day depending on the plan you booked. Most days I like booking one meal per day as a reservation.  That gives us an opportunity to sit down together and take a break from the rush of the day without feeling tied down with too many dining reservations to make the day our own while we're there in the moment.  If you don't get those reservations you wanted at the 180 day mark, keep trying!  Guests are constantly changing and updating plans so days and times may become available that weren't before.  Other reservations also open up at this point including recreation activities, makeovers, and much more! Looking for dining ideas?  Check out my restaurant reviews and also other options to try when you can't get the dining reservations you were hoping to grab.
  • Update your itinerary - Now that you have some dining reservations you may want to switch park days around or change up your plans.  This is a great time to start utilizing the My Disney Experience app.  Here you can track all of your reservations and plans in one place.  Find out more about this helpful planning tool here.

It's The Final Countdown


  • 60 Days to Go! - If you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort or a Good Neighbor Hotel, you can begin booking your FastPass+ reservations at 60 days out.  Each ticketed guest can book up to three FP+ reservations per day.  You need to have purchased your tickets in order to reserve FP+ so make sure you have that taken care of prior to this date.  
  • Confirm information in My Disney Experience - Double check your MagicBands order on the My Disney Experience website.  You are able to customize your MagicBands by selecting a color option and can even upgrade to a character design now!  This is also the perfect time to make sure your flight information is added to reservation so that your Magical Express transportation to and from Orlando International Airport can be confirmed.  There is also a spot in the website to add specific room requests for your Walt Disney World Resort hotel stay.
  • 30 Days to Go! - This is when the FastPass+ booking window opens for guests staying off-site.  History as shown that some new times come available when this window hits to allow off-site guests a chance to still get FP+ for popular attractions.  Like with dining reservations, if you don't get what you want on the first try, keep checking back.  Guests continue to change their plans right up until the day of their trip and you can sometimes find great options at the last minute.
  • FastPass+ helps you experience more
    rides with less of a wait!
  • Finalize your itinerary - As you get closer to "D-Day" (That's Disney Day in this context!), it becomes more and more difficult to change your plans because you likely have more and more reservations booked.  With that said, it's not impossible.  Most of Disney's reservations have a very liberal cancellation policy of only 24-48 hours notice.  Just be sure to check the fine print, when booking your reservations so you know what to expect!  
While some bemoan the work that goes into planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, it is really a fun way to get your family excited about the trip as your countdown to creating your own magical memories!  If you are using a travel agent, they can help you manage all of this at no additional charge - just make sure they have adequate knowledge of Walt Disney World vacations.  Have specific questions?  Why not visit my friends over at the Disney Parks Moms Panel where you can ask your own questions and get answers from expert moms, dads, and Disney fans!  Happy Planning!

Where to Eat When You Can't Get Those Hard to Get Walt Disney World Dining Reservations

Eating at the Walt Disney World Resort.  It's the reason we go there, right?? Well, it's true there may be lots of fun things to during your visit to the Disney Parks, but one of my favorite pastimes is eating my way around all the parks. . .and I know I'm not alone.


via GIPHY

Advanced dining reservations for table service restaurants open 180 days prior to your stay.  Guests staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel are offered an additional perk of being able to make reservations for the entire length of stay once they hit 180 days prior to arrival.  Still, some restaurants fill up before you have a chance to score your must-dos.  No need to fear though - there are some great alternatives when the most popular options book up quickly.  While these options are often "easier to get" it's not because they are less good.  And, as a disclaimer, even these restaurants book up at peak travel times so still follow all the tips out there to book your dining reservation early!  Let's look at great alternatives to some of the more popular options!

When Your Want to Meet the Original Gang but Chef Mickey's is Unavailable - Chef Mickey's provides a breakfast, lunch, and dinner character buffet where you can meet some of the original gang, but is also a tough reservation to get.  No worries though!  There are three great alternatives to find Mickey and friends.  The first is Tusker House Restaurant located in Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Tusker House is an African themed buffet that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well.  Don't let the African flair scare you if your family is not adventurous eaters - there's plenty on the buffet for the whole family to enjoy.  Here you'll meet classic characters in apparel fit for a safari experience! The second option is Garden Grill Restaurant located inside Epcot.  I LOVE this dining experience.  Again, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all character meals offered here and the food is deliciously served family style.  That's right - it's served to your table so you don't have to get up and miss a character interaction while visiting the buffet.  The whole restaurant is a unique experience too as it rotates through the Living with the Land ride.  Mickey and friends greet diners wearing their best farming gear.  Lastly, you can see Minnie and friends at Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort for a character breakfast.  The food here is good and it is typically not a busy location.  However, since this restaurant is located in a resort instead of a park, you may want to allow extra transportation time - resort hopping isn't always quick!

When Your Little Princess Wants to Meet All the Princesses but Cinderella's Royal Table is Unavailable - I'll be honest, in my 30 years of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, I have yet to be able to get a reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table so I know how hard these reservations can be to grab.  With that in mind, there are two alternatives to princess dining to definitely check out.  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot features character dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that hosts an A-list cast of princesses!  This Norwegian restaurant is pricey for the food in my opinion, but it boasts great interactions with classic princesses.  The second option is the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno located on Disney's Boardwalk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  This was one of my favorite character meals I've experienced on property.  Here you meet two princesses AND their handsome counterparts.  Maybe it's because I'm partial to the smolder and Flynn Rider that I enjoyed this so much?!?

When You Want a Romantic Night of Deluxe Dining but California Grill is Unavailable - Let's face it. . .the entire dining experience at California Grill is hard to top.  From the fireworks, to the setting, to the high quality food, there are few places at the Walt Disney World Resort that compare.  But reservations at this location can be tricky to catch.  There are a number of signature dining experiences to choose from, but my favorite alternative to California Grill is Jiko - The Cooking Place located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  While you can't watch fireworks exploding over Cinderella Castle here, you still get some of the best food on property and may even catch a glimpse of some exotic wildlife while you're exploring the resort before or after your dinner.

The moral of this blog post is that there are so many great restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort, you have plenty of options to explore even if you're top choice may be unavailable.  If you have your heart set on one of those hard-to-grab reservations and can't get it on the day your Advanced Dining Reservations open, don't give up hope!  I've been able to grab some great reservations just a week or so before our trip as that's the time that people start releasing reservations that they made "just in case" or that they double booked.  For even more dining reviews, including a look at dining in Disney Springs, visit my restaurant review page here.  Bon appetite!

Get Animated at Animator's Palate on Disney Cruise Line

We're gEARing up for our next Disney Cruise Line vacation and I'm revisiting some old favorites from previous cruise vacations! Disney Cruise Line is known for bringing the magic of Disney to the high seas.  Even a simple dinner can be turned into an extraordinary experience.  This is especially true at Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy.  Disney Cruise Line uses rotational dining where guests rotate their nightly dinner service through three different restaurants.  During our 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise a few years ago, we had the pleasure of dining in Animator’s Palate three nights and each featured a unique dining experience.

The restaurant itself celebrates the animation that Disney was founded on and continues to embrace.  Mickey Mouse inspires the chairs and the wait staff wears shirts featuring classic Disney sketches.  The art throughout the restaurant is mostly digital and changes throughout the cruise as each night features a different theme.  Fun Tip: Did you know you can request a particular order for your rotational dining experience?  I love Animator’s Palate so much that I plan to request this again as the first restaurant on a 7-night cruise so that we can visit it three times again! 

Our first night in Animator’s Palate featured a special guest – Crush from Finding Nemo.  Throughout the dinner, Crush swims up to tables and chats with guests.  He asks questions about what life is like in the human world and then teaches everyone to ride the EAC just like our turtle friends.  Kids and adults alike will have a great time playing and interacting throughout the meal.
One of the sketches on Pirate Night at Animator's Palate

The second night we dined in Animator’s Palate was Pirate Night.  Disney Cruise Line hosts a Pirate Night on each of it’s Bahamian and Caribbean sailings.  On this particular night, all restaurants on the ship feature a special pirate themed menu and the wait staff dresses as “scurvy scallawags.”  Spending Pirate Night in Animator’s Palate was a nice treat as the art in the restaurant changed to reflect pirate favorites like Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Jack Sparrow. 

The last night of our cruise was also spent in Animator’s Palate and featured the show that is unique to the Disney Fantasy and perhaps the one that people look forward to the most.  When you are seated for dinner, guests are given a paper to draw their own cartoon.  The wait staff then takes all cartoons and, at the end of the meal, you get to see your animation come to life.  Each drawing is featured alongside Disney classics in a magical cartoon experience that you won’t soon forget.  Also, all guests will have their names featured in the credits of the cartoon for contributing animation.

Regardless of which night you dine in Animator's Palate, you will certainly be treated to delicious food! With so many great options on board Disney Cruise Line, don't be shy and definitely try new things.  As you would expect, the Kids' Menus feature family favorites that will make even the tiniest artists happy to dine here.  And while your little ones probably won't want to miss a minute of the action in Animator's Palate, you can take advantage of the Youth Clubs during dinnertime so the grown ups can enjoy a more leisurely dinner.


Animator’s Palate will certainly satisfy guest appetites and quench thirsts for an entertaining evening on your Disney Cruise Line vacation!

The Edison at Disney Springs

If you've visited Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort in recent years, you have noticed the addition of more great restaurants and stores making this a top destination for visitors to Orlando. The Edison is no exception to the reputation for delicious food and a fun atmosphere.  My visit in October 2018 was a Saturday lunch reservation with one of my good friends who moved to Orlando a few years prior.  The outside presents as an industrial throwback and welcomes guests with a patio and ample outdoor seating.  It's located in The Landing of Disney Springs near some other favorites such as Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' and Morimoto Asia.

Upon entering the restaurant, the industrial theming from the outside continues.  A large clock greets customers while you check in and wait for your table.  We were seated promptly at our reservation time and found the restaurant only partially full on a Saturday afternoon at 1:00.  With the expansion of dining options in Disney Springs, availability for many of them can be found, especially if you can be flexible with days or times. On our way to the table, we walked past several recreations of inventions from the past.  There are also many casual seating options in the restaurant such as oversized chairs and couches.  The vibe inside the restaurant reminds of The Great Gatsby and a throwback to the 1920s. It's a multi-level restaurant as well which adds to the visual interest. I have seen events advertised here featuring jazz music on select evenings - this looks like a fabulous place to enjoy an evening out at Disney Springs!  While you probably wouldn't be bringing the kids out too late, it's worth noting that this does turn into an adult only (over 21) venue after 10PM.

Industry means comfort inside of The Edison
When we were seated at our table, we found ourselves faced with an impossible choice of what to eat.  The lunch menu features a wide variety of favorites including burgers, sandwiches, seafood, and an assortment of soups and salads. I ended up opting for The Edison Burger while my friend decided to give the Fish Tacos a try.  The presentation and taste were both great on the fish tacos.  My friend shared that the Mahi-Mahi was cooked perfectly and the tastes were bold and flavorful.  I'm really glad I chose The Edison Burger too.  After a few days of trying to eat healthy while working, I went all out on my final meal in Disney. The burger was topped with cheddar cheese, crispy onions, bacon, special sauce and french fries on the side - this was close to heaven on a plate!  I regret not giving the Clothesline Candied Bacon a try after seeing this served as an appetizer to the table next to us.  It features an assortment of bacon literally hanging on a cute little table sized clothesline. There's always next time, right?!?

How great does this burger look?
So what were my overall thoughts on The Edison?  I'd definitely recommend it to friends and family looking for good food and a casual, fun environment.  It's certainly a family friendly spot for lunch or dinner.  Guests can expect pricing in line with most non-signature table service restaurants in Disney with main dishes ranging between roughly $15 and $30.  With so many great places to eat in Disney Springs and throughout the Walt Disney World Resort it's truly becoming harder and harder to make decisions when planning your advanced dining reservations.  Featuring a menu that I would describe as classic American fare, this is one place where the whole family will be able to find choices to suit them.  Bon appetite, friends!

Cruising into Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen

Life is a jungle. . .and then you stop and eat dinner.  When you're up for an adventurous bite in Magic Kingdom, head over to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen and you won't be disappointed!  The name of this Adventureland restaurant may be a mouthful, but the mouthfuls of delicious food that follow will make it all worth it.  So what makes this such a great place to eat? There's just so much to love!

Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen (let's just stick with Skipper Canteen for the rest of this post) is a table service restaurant located across from the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom.  If you love the corny jokes and fun atmosphere of the Jungle Cruise, you will fall instantly in love with the theming of this restaurant!  The hostess greeted me warmly and I was quickly escorted to my table for one.  On the way to the table, we shared a few Jungle Cruise type jokes and she pointed out some of the memorabilia from the Jungle Navigation Company that is located around the restaurant.  There are three distinct rooms in the restaurant, each which tell their own unique stories.  I dined in the former family parlor of Dr. Albert Falls himself!

The waitress who served me was absolutely delightful.  I always like to ask restaurant staff what their favorite items on the menu are and there was easily so much to choose from with the delicious flavors of Asia and Africa coming to life for all of the hungry explorers!  While she shared that the Curry Vegetable Crew Stew was her favorite, I had to opt for the Whole Fried Fish as it seems like such an iconic dish for this restaurant.  I did take her suggestion and asked for a substitution to have the coconut rice.  The presentation of this fish dish is not for the faint of heart!  My boys would have been completely weirded out by staring at an entire fish standing up on mommy's plate.  The fish was cooked perfectly!  It was crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside.  I'm really glad I added the coconut rice with the dish as the sweetness was a nice addition to the meal.  While I would recommend the fish to any seafood lovers, I think next time I dine here I would opt for another dish.  With so many rich flavors on the menu, I think there is even more to explore and love here!

I dined here on the night I attended Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party so I decided to skip dessert knowing that I wanted to savor all the sweet treats that were awaiting me out in the park. As a whole, this is a fun table service dining experience inside Magic Kingdom that the whole family will enjoy.  Pricing is mid-level and provides a nice alternative to some of the more expensive character dining options that are inside the park.  Reservations here are also easier to come by then some other restaurants in the park and it certainly won't disappoint.  Bon appetite!

Find Your Way to Ale & Compass Restaurant!

Welcome to Ale & Compass Restaurant
Ahoy fellow Walt DisneyWorld Resort lovers! Recently I visited Ale & Compass Restaurant located inside Disney's Yacht Club Resort and there is so much love about this nautical inspired restaurant.  Let's break down the location, atmosphere, and menu to get an overview of all you can expect to find here.

Location - Disney's Yacht Club Resort is located on Disney's Boardwalk and Ale & Compass Restaurant is easily found right off the resort's main lobby.  Dining at resort properties can sometimes be tricky from a transportation standpoint, but guests wanting to check out Ale & Compass Restaurant will find easy access from both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  This is also easily accessible to guests enjoying stays at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Beach Club Resort, or the Swan and Dolphin.  Both of the theme parks and all of the hotels mentioned are within easy walking distance of this dining location.  If you haven't taken time to stroll the Boardwalk area located between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, it is absolutely beautiful and has many dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
View of Disney's Boardwalk

Atmosphere - Once inside the restaurant, you will fall in love with the calm, quiet atmosphere.  I love Disney and even get excited about people watching, but even I need a break from the busy theme parks.  I went at lunch time on a Wednesday and the entire time I was in the restaurant, there were no more than 5 tables seated.  The color scheme is also warm and relaxing with rich blues and wood finishes.  There is certainly nothing here that would overly appeal to parties traveling with kids, but it's not a restaurant that is off-limits because it's "too fancy" for little ones.  The waitstaff could not have been more friendly and I was impressed by their willingness to accommodate food allergies with such care and precaution.  While no one in my family has a food allergy, one of the ladies traveling in the group next to my table did and the waiter talked extensively with her about the allergy and then had the chef come out to review the menu with her and offer options for preparing the meals.  Great customer service!

Lunch menu
Menu - So one of the pitfalls to writing a restaurant review when you travel by yourself is that you only get to try what you eat off the menu.  With that being said, I can tell you that my meal was one of the best salads I've had on Disney property.  I had a hard time choosing with so many delicious options on the menu, but opted for the salad to try and eat a little healthier before heading into Disney's Hollywood Studios where I would most certainly being enjoying less-healthy options throughout the afternoon.  On my waiter's recommendation I chose the Roast Chicken Kale Salad.  The dried cranberries and spiced walnuts added a sweet and salty kick to the superfood mix of kale, swiss chard, and quinoa.  I felt ready to take on the day when I was finished and no so full that I couldn't blast of on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in just a bit!  I decided to save my dessert for the park later on and wrapped up my visit.  As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable when compared to other Walt Disney World Table Service restaurants.  If using the Disney Dining Plan, you'll probably get more "bang for your buck" elsewhere as that one table service credit can buy you character dining experiences as well.  Don't forget that this is one of the restaurant locations on property that offers 10% off to Disney Visa Rewards Cardholders.  Don't have a Disney Chase Visa yet?  Check out my referral link here to learn how you can save money and earn rewards with your Disney Parks vacations!  

Roast Chicken Kale Salad at Ale & Compass Restaurant
While I can't speak to the quality of the menu entirely, if the salad is any indication the rest of the menu should be delicious - and I'd love to come back and try more on a future trip.  It's a quiet respite from the rush of Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios and can easily be fit into your day at either of these parks.  This is also an easy reservation to grab if you're planning a last minute trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.  Bon Appetite at Ale & Compass Restaurant!  

The Chef's Table - A Memorable Dining Experience on the Carnival Pride

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have an appetite for great food and I regularly look for signature dining experiences wherever our travels take us.  On our August 2018 sailing on the Carnival Pride, we found a gem of an experience.  Carnival Cruise Line offers premium dining options at an uncharge on their ships similar to most other cruise lines.  On the Carnival Pride, the two options are David's Steakhouse and The Chef's Table.  For this sailing, we decided to try The Chef's Table and we were certainly not disappointed.

After checking the kids into Camp Carnival for the evening, we met our friends we were sailing with in the Atrium Bar at 6:15.  When we arrived, we were greeted by one of our servers for the evening.  She greeted us by name (she had a print out with not only our names, but pictures so she could do so -  smart customer service, Carnival!) and offered us champagne or sparkling water to begin the evening.  Before I forget to mention, one big perk of this dining experience is that champagne and wine is included throughout the meal.  We chatted with some of the others that would be joining us for the evening.  The meal is meant to be an intimate experience and we were among just 16 guests.  The chef greeted us around 6:30 and then escorted us to the elevators where he explained what we were about to experience.  He then escorted us down to the galley (that's the kitchen for you land lovers!) and we had a brief explanation of how operations worked.  We were there during the early dinner seating and things were busy, but ran like a well-oiled machine with cooks and servers bustling quickly about.  We were then taken to a table in the galley for our first food of the night, but not before Katerina offered more champagne!

At the table in the kitchen we were served a selection of 4 appetizers, one at a time - each including an explanation from the chef on it's preparation.  Our appetizers included a Mango Sphere on Rosemary Biscuit, Salmon Tartar Cornets, Beef Carpaccio on an air pillow served with chocolate bacon (yeah, you just read that right!), and Double Cooked Lamb.  Everything was delicious, but I think my favorite would have to be the Double Cooked Lamb - although the Beef Carpaccio practically had a little party in your mouth when you added the chocolate bacon.  After our four tastings, the pastry chef came out to show us how to make Carnival's signature dessert - Melting Chocolate Cake.  Actually, he didn't show us - he opted to teach someone.  And being the ever eager student, I volunteered and got to be a pastry chef for a night!  It's amazing how simple the recipe is for such a fabulous little dessert!  After the brief lesson, we were whisked away back to the second floor where we entered Beauties Nightclub, which had been transformed into an elegant dining space for the evening.

Before I go any further, I should say that the chef prepped us at the beginning of the evening that the evening would feature a "tasting menu" and portions would be small.  For those unfamiliar with the process of how Chef Table's typically work, he didn't want them to be worried with small plates - assuring everyone they would be full when the evening ended.  We were served 7 courses once we were seated and by no means were they small!  Everything was so delicious, we had to keep pushing on to try it all.  Timing was beautiful throughout the evening to allow for guests to let their stomachs process a bit before pushing forward!  Partway through the dinner service, a magician came and performed for about 15-20 minutes which was a really fun addition.  The menu included Beet Blanket with Spiced Grape Tea, Crab Stack, Duck Textures, Bisque Our Way, Sea Bass, and my absolute favorite Wagyu Beef.  This was the first time I had Wagyu beef and I couldn't believe the taste and texture - so tender you could cut it with you fork!  The Wagyu was also served with bone marrow souffle which was a first for me, too.  The final course featured a selection of desserts from the pastry chef.  I was so full that I could only muster a tiny bite of each, the Raspberry Mojito and the Apricot Vanilla Gel were my favorites.  It was a sweet end to an even sweeter evening!

So, now for the big question - was it worth it???  I would answer with a resounding "yes!"  The charge of $75 per person was more than reasonable when you factor in the quality of the food, the nearly 4 hour evening, wine and champagne, and the tour of the galley.  We also received an 8x10 group picture from the evening and walked away with souvenir menus and the recipe for Carnival's Melting Chocolate Cake.  I would definitely recommend this and look forward to doing this again on another Carnival Cruise Line vacation!

Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno

Character meals are a must-do for most families when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.  So when I new experience becomes available, Disney regulars like ourselves can't wait to try it out.  When we visited in December, we were lucky enough to grab a morning reservation for Trattoria al Forno to try the new Bon Voyage breakfast.  The dining experience promotes adventure and it surely doesn't disappoint.

The Characters - Not going to lie.  I'm pretty sure I was more excited about the characters here than anyone else in our party.  While the standard Disney line is that characters are always subject to change, the regulars here are Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Prince Eric, and Ariel.  Yeah - you read that right. . .two Disney GUYS!!!  Grown women will swoon once being hit by "the smolder" - trust me, I know.  As in most of the other dining experiences, a parade happens during breakfast to get little ones up and moving around.  The characters were great with everyone and the restaurant is relatively small so characters make their way around quickly without feeling rushed.

The Food - Again, this restaurant hits it out of the park.  Each table begins with a pastry assortment inspired by Tangled and The Little Mermaid which is served in a frying pan - of course!  Diners then get to choose from a menu which entree they would like and food is freshly prepared and delivered to the table.  I really enjoy this option compared to the up and down craziness of buffets.  The food was also different then what you find in most Disney restaurants.  I had the Swimmer's Delight - an egg white omelet with smoked salmon, goat cheese, spinach, mushroom and tomato with a side of roasted potatoes.  It was imaginative, themed perfectly with the entire meal experience, and delicious!

The Location - Trattoria al Forno is located on Disney's Boardwalk adjacent to Epcot.  We took a car service from our hotel to Disney's Boardwalk Resort to access the boardwalk area and then had a quick walk to the restaurant.  The location is perfect for spending a day in Epcot which is exactly what we did!  When you finish breakfast, you are very close to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot.  Bonus - you get to skip the crowds entering the park as this is a far less popular entrance.  You could also do this for breakfast when visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios as it's only a 20-30 minute walk or a brief ferry boat ride away.

I was absolutely thrilled with this character meal!  I wish my hubby would have been feeling better that morning to enjoy all that the meal had to offer.  The kids enjoyed the kids menu and had fun meeting some favorite characters and mom got to eat egg whites with goat cheese while swooning over Disney princes - does life get much better?!?

Have you checked out breakfast at Trattoria al Forno yet?

House of Blues Gospel Brunch Review

If you're looking for a fun, inspirational brunch with delicious Southern comfort food, be sure to plan a visit to House of Blues Orlando at Disney Springs for their Gospel Brunch.  While there were families with children at the brunch, I don't think my little ones would have been engaged the whole time.  I opted to visit the Gospel Brunch with a friend on a trip and we enjoyed our adult outing.

First things first, reservations for the Gospel Brunch are handled differently than other Disney dining locations.  The Gospel Brunch is actually a ticketed event - not simply a dining reservation you can book on your My Disney Experience app.  Each Sunday, there are two showtimes to choose from to meet your vacation schedule.  Here's a tip - call the box office directly to book your tickets!  Not only will you save money by not having to pay any of the absurd Ticketmaster fees, but you can also talk to a real person that can give you advice on picking your table.  Since the event is ticketed, you actually reserve your specific table when you book.  The gentleman on the phone was great and told me he would find the best table available for us.  So not only did we save some money, but benefited from great advice.

We had tickets for the 1:00 show and arrived to Disney Springs around 12:00.  We grabbed a table in front of House of Blues and enjoyed a drink before the show began.  People started lining up around 12:30 to get in, which kind of surprised me because you have a reserved table so it didn't seem necessary to really line up before the doors opened.  Once the doors opened, seating was fast.  Each group presented their tickets to one of the wait staff and was led to the assigned table.  Our table location was great!  We were on the second tier with a perfect view of the stage and seated near the buffet, but far enough away from it that we didn't have too much foot traffic.

Speaking of the buffet, let's talk about the food.  OMG - southern goodness at it's finest!  Whether you like Chicken and Waffles, Biscuits and Gravy, Fried Catfish, or Jambalaya there is something for everyone to enjoy.  If your palate is not that adventurous, you can also find traditional brunch items like omelets, carving stations, and salads.  Everything is served buffet style so come hungry!  My friend and I visited following the final race of our Glass Slipper Challenge weekend so we had room for lots of calories to fill up on!

Of course, the other highlight of the visit besides the food is the entertainment.  Each weekend features a different Gospel band but you can count on good, quality entertainment all the time!  The performance was nothing short of inspiring.  The singers and musicians had everyone singing, clapping, and on their feet.  Below is just one of the short videos I grabbed that day!




Overall, we had a great time and I would highly recommend this experience to others looking to enjoy a wonderfully entertaining show paired with quality Southern food!

Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'

With the recent revitalization of Disney Springs, Walt Disney World has it's very own food and shopping mecca within the borders of the massive resort.  We don't regularly get a chance to visit Disney Springs on our family trips as we spend most of our time in the parks with the little ones, but when I visited with my friend for a runDisney weekend, we took the chance to enjoy a few of the restaurants Disney Springs has to offer.  The first was Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'.

The decor looks like something that Chip and Joanna Gaines would have designed on Fixer Upper.  Inside and outside of the restaurant feature calming colors and a rustic country design.  We had reservations and were seated quickly after arriving.  The restaurant is not very big compared to some of the other spots in Walt Disney World, so reservations do tend to book up unlike at some of the other Disney Springs locations although you probably don't have to be on right at the 180 day mark to grab your table.

While I'm not an expert on celebrity chefs, I did know that Art Smith is famous for his fried chicken.  However, when we sat down with the menu, I wasn't sure that a big southern meal of fried chicken and heavy sides was what I needed in the middle of my Glass Slipper Challenge races.  So instead, my friend and I decided to split and appetizer and then order salads.  To give us a taste of the famous fried chicken, we opted for the Thigh High Chicken Biscuits for our appetizer. The plate included three biscuits that had both fried chicken and pickles then drizzled in honey.  Everyone was right - the fried chicken was to die for!  We thought this appetizer was the classic southern comfort food that you would expect to be delicious here.  My dinner was a simple grilled chicken salad with balsamic dressing.  Everything was fresh and wonderful.  And even though we heard amazing things about the dessert options, we decided to pass on dessert to make sure we weren't to weighed down for the race the next day.

Overall, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' is a delicious delight located in Disney Springs.  For anyone that likes traditional down-home southern comfort food, this should be a must-do on your dining wish list.  The prices are reasonable too which always helps!  Maybe next time, I won't be on race weekend and will be able to enjoy even more fried goodness from this delectable restaurant!