22 October 2014

Style Center of the World



The Hollywood Brown Derby is one of the marquee experiences of Walt Disney World’s theme park dining. Though there is not a dress code for the restaurant, I’ve always felt it deserved to be handled with a bit more reverence when it came to sitting down for a meal here. Now, in days past, the hands down best meal on the menu was the Sterling Silver Pork Chop followed by a slice of the world famous Grapefruit Cake for dessert. The days of the pork chop are behind us, but that doesn’t mean that another entrée hasn’t stepped up to fill the void in guests’ stomachs.

I typically tend to gravitate towards all things pork; whether that is bacon, tenderloin, bacon, chops, bacon, roasts, or bacon. However, I am never one to sneer at a sensational cut of beef and can, in fact list the best steaks I’ve ever had on one hand. At The Hollywood Brown Derby the current offering is a Charred-glazed Filet of Beef with a red wine reduction and a cabernet and roasted shallot butter. On the night I ordered the steak it was also served with a potato crisp and on a bed of sautéed vegetables, but the accompaniments are known to change from time to time and have also included mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

I order my steaks medium well, less for the color of the meat or amount of blood and more for the fact that I love my steaks to have their fair share of charred, crusty, burnt bits. The preparation of my filet was excellent, and our server even made sure to ask if I wanted to have the steak butterflied to ensure that it wouldn’t be dried out when I received it, a question that is often overlooked. The steak was tender enough that it could actually be cut through with a butter knife and, not to play with the tired cliché, it melted in my mouth. The wine reduction and cabernet of the butter gave the steak even more areas of my palate to play with.

I wouldn’t go as so far to say the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef is the best steak in Walt Disney World, but it is definitely has a place in the top steaks discussion. The Sterling Silver Pork Chop is definitely missed, but the filet is worth more than a second billing. Oh, and even though the Grapefruit Cake only appears on the menu as a part of the mini dessert trio offerings, fear not, you can still order a full-sized slice! The new best meal on The Hollywood Brown Derby’s menu may just be the Charred-glazed Filet of Beef and a slice of the world famous dessert!

20 October 2014

Map of the World



At the time of its inception Walt Disney World stretched out for approximately 30,000 acres. The comparison has always been that the resort is the same size as San Francisco or twice the size of the island of Manhattan, which much of this land still being undeveloped. Yet when the Vacation Kingdom opened it was not nearly as expansive as we currently think of the area, regardless of how much land Disney had at its disposal. In fact, in 1973, this was the entirety of Walt Disney World.

The iconography of those early years, stretching out into the early 1980s, has always spoken to me. The Osceola –class paddlewheel, Ports-O-Call, sitting out in Bay Lake and it’s home dock of World Cruise Landing set the stage of waterway adventures. Meanwhile the barn of Tri Circle-D, campers, and the inhabitants of Treasure Island complete the Bay Lake story and beckon in the eye and guests. Of course, the prominent feature of Cinderella Castle is front and center, but the inclusion of the Magic Kingdom monorail station is a great touch. Above all though, the single greatest element of this map is the Walt Disney World compass.

Keen eyes will also note that the map includes references to the Walt Disney World Golf Classic and a future hotel site, a dream for an Asian resort that was meant to be but never came to pass.

There’s so much that we learn from the early years of Walt Disney World, looking back often provides the best guide to what the future may look like. With the maps we get a chance to see just how spacious the entire resort was, even if the amount of land far surpassed that which guests could actually set foot upon. There are plenty of memories to take away from this map, the things that have changed and the adventures that are no longer available.

16 October 2014

Shooting Stars and Racing Rockets



In any of the parks or resorts of Walt Disney World things are always changing. If an attraction has been around for almost forty years it is bound to have seen a thing or two change, and I don’t just mean the wardrobe of the guests passing through its doors! Today we’re venturing back to 1978 and to the courtyard in front of Space Mountain.

The first thing to take note of is the skies above the entrance. The Skyway was running in these days and you can see a gondola coming into the station just out of frame on the right. Also in the skies about Space Mountain is the model rocket complete with four passengers in spacesuits, racing down the RCA pylon. Those are the big, obvious things to notice in this photograph, but let’s also take note of the smaller items.

An older version of Mickey Mouse is greeting guests out and about in front of Space Mountain. The photo is in black and white, but you can see the stripes of the original blue, white, and grey color exterior color scheme, though there would have been some bursts of yellow and orange as you move closer into the entrance. There is also the matter of the original font of the attraction’s signage, the old-school mouse-eared balloons, and even a Tomorrowland trash can.

There is always something changing, and there are always stories to find in the old photographs of Walt Disney World, even if it is just the wardrobe of the guests passing through! I mean, just look at some of those pants!

15 October 2014

Rejeresha Arts and Crafts Workshop



Earlier this year the Festival of the Lion King relocated to Harambe from Camp Minnie-Mickey. It took up residence in the old fort area of Harambe, right in the middle of a burgeoning market district. It just so happens that the Fastpass line for Festival of the Lion King runs right through Rejeresha Arts and Crafts Workshop, but first a bit of information about the fort.

The Harambe Fort was erected in 1498. In 1998, on April 22nd to be exact, the fort was an Official Harambe Heritage Site by the Ministry of Culture. April 22, 1998 was a big day for Harambe, as it was also the day that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was first opened. Coincidence? I think not!

Back to Rejeresha Arts and Crafts Workshop, the shop was issued its license for the spot they occupy in the Harambe Beach Quarter by Council of Commerce. Its license runs from October of 2012 and is good through December 31, 2017. What does Rejeresha sell, you ask? It is listed as a studio for the creation and selling of custom pieces of artwork. It also happens to make most of these works of art through recycling and reclaiming what others would consider trash. From cans of Coca-Cola, to scraps of telephone wire, and even beer bottle labels, nothing is discarded that could create a unique work of art.

I fell in love with the giraffes at Rejeresha Arts and Crafts Workshop, and wanted to purchase one for the missus, but unfortunately I couldn’t find someone to pay for the item. Perhaps I’ll have better luck on my next visit. In the meantime, let’s take a tour around the shop and see what else they have been creating!

13 October 2014

Big Kahuna



When you think of Kona Cafe and breakfast you typically think of one of two things: great coffee or Tonga Toast. In the case of my wife, that sphere gets ramped to include Macadamia-Pineapple Pancakes. However, the breakfast menu at Kona Cafe is filled with a ton of great food to help you start your day off right. What happens if you’re having a hard time deciding just what to order because everything looks so good to you? That’s when you know that you are the Big Kahuna of breakfast champions.

The Big Kahuna is a cornucopia of breakfast offerings on a single plate. The plate a piece of French toast, a pair of silver dollar pancakes with pineapple sauce and macadamia nut butter, eggs, home-fried potatoes, and a smattering of bacon, sausage, and thick cut ham. Eggs and I, no matter how they are prepared, don’t seem to get along, and the folks at Kona Cafe understand that completely and will substitute a cup of fresh fruit for the eggs.

The bread components of the meal, French toast and pancakes, are both light and fill you up without becoming a rock in your stomach. The French toast is sweet, but not overly so, and the pineapple and macadamia nut butter give you a sampling of what the larger dish is capable of serving up. The potatoes are tender with a creole type of seasoning and the fruit is seasonal and fresh. The bacon is your typical breakfast variety and the ham is hearty, although I could have used a few more grill marks on mine as I love the charred bits, but that’s a personal preference. The sausage, which has recently been changed at Kona Cafe has great snap and the spices make it a top performer in terms of the Big Kahuna’s protein offerings.

If you’re having trouble deciding what to grab at Kona Cafe for breakfast, or maybe just have a big appetite, the Big Kahuna is the choice for you! Each bite is your favorite that leaves you wanting more, but there is always the next bite and the next new favorite item.