13 November 2018

South of the Border Specialties

We’ve talked before about Choza de Margarita and how we enjoyed some of the upscale on the go offerings we’ve tasted there. It is a credit to the entire Mexico pavilion that just about every spot to grab a bite to eat or something to drink within, and outside of, the pyramid is a place that I regret not visiting if I can’t get there on a particular trip. As Choza de Margarita is still relatively young in its lifespan, let’s head back today to sample a bit more of the menu. This time we’ll focus in on a dish and a margarita that are a bit more traditional, but with that typical Choza twist.

Guacamole may not sound like a must try dish to you, but in our house it’s a common staple to have on hand. Sometimes we make it ourselves, and sometimes we leave it up to the capable hands of our local grocer, but it is something that we keep around. The guacamole at Choza de Margarita takes what you know and love about guacamole, the avocado, a bit of heat, and seasoning, and ramps it up with mango and pumpkin seeds. Then, instead of tortilla chips, it comes with fried flour chicharróns that are drizzled with salsa valentina. A lime also accompanies this dish to add as you see fit.

The mango is a refreshing addition to the guacamole and adds the brightness of lime without as much acidity, while the pumpkin seeds add some texture to the otherwise silky smooth guacamole. The fried flour chicharróns are wonderful scoops and can hold an extra-large dollop of guacamole that you typical chip would crack beneath. They are like air puffed pillows of salt and heat and they’re perfect alongside the fattiness and fresh flavors of the guacamole. There is definitely more than enough to share in a single portion, and it will really hit the spot if you’re looking for something to tide you over between meals.

To wash the guacamole down, we opted to go a hair up from the traditional margarita, and instead picked up Choza de Margarita’s Lime Cucumber Margarita. This beverage includes Libélula Joven Tequila, fresh cucumber juice, Combier Orange Liqueur, and agave nectar with Tajín Chile-lime powder on the rim. The difference between this and the traditional margarita offered at Choza is the type of tequila used, the addition of cucumber juice, and the rim, which in the traditional version is a black ant salt rim.

As much as any margarita can be, the Lime Cucumber Margarita is as refreshing as it gets. The cucumber is mellow and spends most of its time in the background, allowing the lime and orange liqueur to do the heavy lifting. The cucumber juice comes through enough to cool off the harsh edges of both and leave you with a pleasing aftertaste. The Tajín Chile-lime powder will give you a kick each time you place your lips to the glass, but if you stay in one spot, that effect will obviously dissipate as you continue sipping on your margarita. Overall, the Cucumber Lime Margarita is extremely flavorful, but not overbearing, and is definitely something I will add to my regular rotation.

With a couple of dishes and a handful of margaritas under my belt, I can safely state the Choza de Margarita is representing well the recent trend of great food and drink in the Mexico pavilion. If you’re on the go between stops, or just simply don’t want to wait to get a table at La Cava del Tequila, Choza de Margarita is definitely a place to check out. If you’ve been before, give something else on the menu a try, because from my sampling they will not disappoint you!

06 November 2018

Adventures and Attractions in the Magic Kingdom

One of the great joys in researching and sharing the wonderful worlds of Disney is that, on rare occasions, friends and family members pass along materials and photos from their personal history with Disney vacations. Today happens to be one of those days. The smattering of photos, fourteen in total, feature great views, young plants, topiaries, and entertainment offerings not seen in a long time. While the specific year for these photos is in question, the fact that the WEDWay PeopleMover is up and running and the bicentennial banners are up on Main Street, U.S.A. means this is probably either 1975 or 1976.

There are a couple of unique things that are worth noting as you make your way through these photographs, aside from the aforementioned PeopleMover and banners. The original design of Tomorrowland, free roaming topiaries, and the Dapper Dans on a bicycle built for four are chief among these. Also, pay attention to the exterior and artwork of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage behind the marching Main Street Philharmonic and the openness around Cinderella Castle and on Main Street, U.S.A.

Enjoy this stroll down memory lane that was gifted to us. I know I have!

30 October 2018

Halloween Hysteria

Mickey’s head may seem the perfect size and shape for a Jack-o’-lantern, Disney’s vault shelfs are lined with spooky stories and terrifying villains, and the Haunted Mansion is living ghost story, but that doesn’t always mean that the Magic Kingdom has been a happy home for Halloween. From the day the park opened and even through the bicentennial, the main holidays visible within the park were Christmas and the Fourth of July. Yet, like the Headless Horseman waiting for just the right time to appear to Ichabod and make his blood run cold, Halloween was just biding its time around the bend.

The Magic Kingdom’s first real foray into a Halloween event long predated the now beloved Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. It was known as Halloween Hysteria, and it wasn’t even held on Halloween! Instead, it was held on the Saturday closest to Halloween in October of 1979, which fell on October 27th. This one night event followed the formula for after-hours events set by Disneyland and continued well beyond the Magic Kingdom’s first decade: attractions with smaller crowds, special entertainment, and even musical performances by The Police and Dr. Hook. The single night events that would grow to larger affairs were the hallmark of special events for a long time at Walt Disney World. Even the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party held in 1983 was only a single night affair.

It would be under the tenure of Michael Eisner and his drive to create a Walt Disney World where guests could spend their entire vacations and have more entertainment options than ability to do them all in a single vacation when the modern Magic Kingdom Halloween party would start to take shape. The first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party would be held in 1995 and would still be a single night soiree, but the curve for expansion would be steep. In 1997 it became two nights, 1999 saw it reach three nights, 2001 upped the nights again to five nights, in 2003 it doubled to ten nights. Soon after, it was bursting at October’s seams and spilled out into September.

The offerings have, appropriately, changed over the years. Fireworks, parades, character meet-and-greets, not to mention the character’s costumes and photo backdrops, trick-or-treating trails, shows and entertainment, and even the variety of meals and sweet treats have shifted with the times. I, for one, would love to venture back to 2000 and visit with Frankenstein Goofy in front of a flimsy façade, and not very accurate, Haunted Mansion background for a photo or two.

Today, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has invaded the end of summer season and is held on 34 nights over the course of August, September, and October. For the curious, this means 12 more nights than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party in 2018, making Halloween the (pumpkin) king of Magic Kingdom holidays. While bigger is better in the world of specially ticketed events, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary definitely delivers big thrills and chills, not to mention lasting memories, it’s almost uncanny to think of how small the party’s origin was in comparison.

25 October 2018

A Painter's Brush

I am a sucker for visual displays that show a rainbow of colors. When something shows off the full ROY G. BIV spectrum to me it just makes me happy, and I don’t think I’m the only one. In fact, there are whole fields dedicated to the psychology of color. It ranges from how certain colors help us learn or be more productive at work or whether a certain color makes us drowsy, right on through to why children are drawn to more vibrant colors, our stereotyped association of pink for girls and blue for boys, and how the color of food suggests to our brains what that food might taste like. It’s truly fascinating.

When it comes to rainbows, I like the balance and harmony it shows. The spectrum is symmetrical in a very non-symmetrical way, putting everyone at the table, in the color wheel, or in the double rainbow. I’m sure there is some sort of science behind that as well, especially tied to the attributes I place upon rainbows, but there is definitely something to be said for a well-crafted use of color. If I dug deeper into my own psyche, which is a scary place to play around in all by itself, I’m sure there’s some nod to the Dreamfinder or Figment hiding in a corner whispering alongside Bob Ross about the rainbows.

In Disney Springs alone there are several examples of rainbows being utilized, sometimes in bright, in-your-face displays, and other times in more subtle versions. Here are a few of my favorites from UNIQLO, Amorette’s Patisserie, and Cherry Tree Lane in the Marketplace Co-Op.

23 October 2018

Goods at the Market of Harambe

Satu’li Canteen, Tiffins, Flame Tree Barbecue, Tusker House, and even Nomad Lounge take up a lot of the space when talking about dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As well they should, there is a lot of great dishes and culinary risk-taking coming out of all of these restaurants. Sometimes lost in the shuffle, or lost in a deluge due to its outdoor ordering and seating, Harambe Market offers up some wonderful dishes that you should be paying attention to. Let’s sample one or two, or four, today and give you an idea of what you could be missing out on.

Let’s start with a pair of entrees, the Spiced Karubi Ribs and beef and lamb gyro. The ribs feature an African spice rub and barbecue glaze and come paired with green papaya slaw and black-eyed pea salad. The gyro, as you would expect, features thinly sliced gyro meats from a rotating spit, served open-faced on naan and topped with cucumber and tomato salad and tzatziki sauce. It also comes with a side of black-eyed pea salad.

The ribs are definitely one of the specialties of Harambe Market, and that care shows in every bite. Some of the meat will literally fall off of the bone, while you will have to pull some of it off with your teeth, although not with much effort. The spice mixture present in the rub and sauce represent the best of what African spices can do, but the flavor profile may be a bit off putting for picky eaters. The green papaya slaw is cool and crunchy, with fresh flavors that are a bright contrast to the slow cooked ribs. Likewise, the black-eyed pea salad, with corn, peppers, and black-eyed peas, delivers a ton of tasty vegetables in a small package.

Moving over to the beef and lamb gyro, this is a step up option for those guests who don’t want to step out of their sandwich comfort zone. The cucumber and tomato salad, along with the tzatziki sauce are laced with cool and mellow flavors that complement the savory and rich elements coming from the gyro meats. The naan is pillowy and chewy, and makes for a sturdy base that you can either cut into with a fork and knife or pick up like a traditional sandwich. The black-eyed pea salad is, again, a nice accompaniment to the dish and a welcomed change-up from fries or chips.

Since we’re back in Africa, it seems only right to also try the Safari Cake, which is a coconut cake with pineapple-coconut mousse that is then coated in chocolate and served on a bed of toasted coconut. The cake spongey and the coconut flavor is definitely the star here. The mouse is creamy and thick, and you catch a hint of the pineapple, but the flavor is fleeting between the waves of coconut. The chocolate is a nice touch, as is the toasted coconut on the plate that easily sticks to the cake or chocolate covering, and both serve the cake well. The portion size will definitely leave you wanting more.

To wash all of this down, we sampled the Leopard’s Eye, Snow Leopard Vodka blended with kiwi-and-mango flavored Bibo. Bibo is a fruit based beverage from Coca-Cola which here is the kiwi and mango variety. The tropical flavors mask the vodka well and, when paired with its neon green coloring, the Leopard’s Eye feels and tastes more like frozen Ecto Cooler, for those of you familiar with the juice box staple. It’s very sweet and does wonders to combat the heat and humidity of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My only complaint is that the ingredients used to create slushy beverages can, at times, cause me to get not only an ice cream headache, but full body aches. That’s more of a personal problem than it is a slight against the Leopard’s Eye, but I thought I would issue the warning in case you suffer similar frozen cocktail discomforts.

The stalls of Harambe Market are meticulously crafted, with every detail considered, and so too are the meals and menu items which are offered up from their windows. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has long been the bastion of adventurous eaters and culinary boundary pushing within the four parks of Walt Disney World. Harambe Market offers unique takes on recognizable dishes and pleases the palate on every visit. If you haven’t paid a visit to the open air eatery yet, or it’s been a while since your last visit, I say it’s time you take another bite or two, or four.

22 October 2018

The Business of Show Business

Construction photos can tell us a lot about how far along a project is while tantalizing our senses into dreaming about what will be. In a historical context, construction photos, particularly large aerial photos like the one above can give us a glimpse into timelines for projects and when certain aspects were started and completed in comparison of one another. This view of a mid-construction Disney-MGM Studios is not dissimilar to the views we’ve been seeing in the past couple of years for Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge, but the subject matter is wholly different.

Starting with what we can see that has already come to life, the Earffel Tower stands tall to the far left of the picture. Below that we can see several of the house facades from Residential Street, including the houses for The Golden Girls and Empty Nest, are also in their finished forms. Warehouses for costuming and props are also up and running by this point in time. Many of the soundstages are also completed structurally, such as those for The Great Movie Ride, animation facilities, and the walking portion of the Backstage Studio Tour, but I’m willing to bet if we could venture inside that the elements of these attractions are nowhere near ready for their close-ups.

It is also worth noting, speaking of complete pieces, that much of the Magic Kingdom, particularly Space Mountain, can be seen in the upper left of this photograph, right along with the Contemporary Resort. Likewise, shifting our attention over to the upper right of this picture gives us a nice view of Spaceship Earth, The Living Seas, Imagination, and other structures of EPCOT Center.

Starting right near the backside of EPCOT Center, we can see the groundwork being prepped for the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, as well as the future sites of the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. When it comes to recognizable construction, however, we need to get back to Disney-MGM Studios and the main focus of this photograph.

It’s easy to see the progress being made on New York Street, the amphitheater for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and Superstar Television. The framework is done for Echo Lake’s 50’s Prime Time Café and Hollywood and Vine. Similarly, just across the way, the bones are up for the original Theatre of the Stars and the Hollywood Brown Derby.

While the footprints are recognizable, there are still and lot of walls, dinosaurs, and walkways to be built before Disney-MGM Studios’ opening in just a little more than a year. Not to mention the rest of the park that would come along in just a few short years between opening day in 1989 and the completion of Sunset Boulevard in 1994, including Star Tours, MuppetVision 3D, a new Theatre of the Stars, Rock ‘N’ RollerCoaster, and, of course, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. A single moment shows a lot of promise and a lot of hard work, both completed and yet to come, and are great time capsules when we can dig them up.