23 July 2020

Get a Head Start on Your Holiday


You may have heard this before, or know a December baby that feels similarly, but I hated having a birthday in December as a kid. There were always events happening so that friends couldn’t make it to my birthday parties, and it often felt like a day meant for me was being overshadowed. Silly, I know, but as I got older I came to love the holiday season and wrapped myself in its trimmings, making my birthday an integral piece of the merriment.

As so many are celebrating Christmas in July this week, I thought I’d use my role as an unofficial ambassador of the holidays to offer up something festive to drink that you can make at home. This comes straight from one of the classiest cocktail set-ups in all of Disney, Carthay Circle Restaurant. While the Poinsettia Cocktail may be perfect for Christmas, I dare say it would be just as much at home for Thanksgiving or New Year’s. The Poinsettia Cocktail has a ton of variations, with the only common thread being the cranberry juice, but the Carthay Circle recipe is a spot on holiday favorite. Put on your favorite Christmas album, turn down the thermostat, throw on a light sweater, and let’s get to shaking!

POINSETTIA COCKTAIL

Ingredients:

3 Oz. Cranberry Juice
1 ½ Oz. Cuvée
½ Oz. Orange Liqueur (I recommend Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao or Grand Marnier)
1 Orange Peel Twist (for garnish)

Directions:

Combine orange liqueur and cranberry juice with ice in cocktail shaker.
Shake for 10 seconds.
Strain into a glass flute and top with cuvée.
Garnish with an orange peel twist.

Simple enough, right?

If you’ve ever had cranberry ginger ale, a holiday treat that was much easier to find when I was a child, then you already have and idea of what you are getting into here. The bubbles are nice, the tartness of the cranberry is the first thing you taste, but the subtle flicks of orange come out on the back of each sip. Short of dosing the beverage with cinnamon or a peppermint stick, which I do not recommend, the Poinsettia Cocktail covers many of the favorite dessert holiday staples. That said, this is definitely not a sugary cocktail.

Whether you are looking for a cocktail for this weekend or storing up recipes for when the holidays roll around, the Poinsettia Cocktail from Carthay Circle is about as easy as they come, both in terms of ingredients and preparation. I hope it makes whatever day you produce a batch of them on just a little bit merrier and brighter.

22 July 2020

King of the River


Disneyland, the television show where Walt Disney provided viewers with a wide variety of stories, films, and behind the scenes looks. It would also be the playground that would spark ideas for the theme park. One of the icons to make the jump from small screen to the Frontierland canvas was Davy Crockett. In the show’s first season, in 1954 and 1955, Davy appeared in three episodes, culminating in his death at the Alamo. His legendary tales were so popular that he was resurrected for a pair of episodes in the second season, and introduced another larger than life legend, Mike Fink. Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race aired on November 16, 1955, and Jeff York’s gruff, tough, and sometimes less than honorable Mike Fink paddled his way into the imaginations of viewers young and old and to the title of King of the River. His bewildering friendship with the King of the Wild Frontier, Davy, would carry over to the last of Crockett’s tales on Disneyland in 1956.

Mike Fink’s keel boat, Gullywhumper, would find its way to the Rivers of America less than a month later on December 25, 1955. It was accompanied by Cap’n Cobb’s Bertha Mae, both the original watercraft that had been used to film the race months earlier. The boats were popular enough to be replicated as an opening day attraction when Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom welcomed its first guests in October of 1971. After Disneyland’s Gullywhumper capsized in 1997, both boats were shuttered at the park, with the Magic Kingdom’s pair of keelboats continuing to ply the waterways until 2001.

Of of the two ships to make up the Mike Fink Keel Boats, the Bertha Mae was, shall we say, the lovelier of the two ships. The Mike Fink Keel Boats attraction originally boarded in Liberty Square, down beneath the carriage house that is now associated with the Haunted Mansion. The attraction would later receive a dock in Frontierland as well. This second dock is still standing, though not in use, and you can still see Mike’s name on the boards if you’re looking from the side of the Liberty Belle, or from Tom Sawyer’s Island, back towards Big Thunder Mountain. The free-floating keel boats were an opening day B-Ticket attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

Photographs of extinct attractions are wonderful time capsules into the past of Walt Disney World. They remind us of beloved attractions and the stories they themselves harkened back to. We are given a sense of what the lay of the land was like in days when we were younger or, perhaps, not even alive to visit the parks and resorts. These pictures also remind us that Walt Disney World is ever-changing, even when exploring the world of yesterday. The Bertha Mae and Gullywhumper keel boats where a wonderful part of my child, as they were for many of you who also adored Davy Crockett. From this photograph, it is easy to see that they had a wonderful perspective on the Magic Kingdom as well.

Often times, we see the keel boats as a part of Liberty Square. I would argue that they feel more at home with a backdrop of Frontierland or Tom Sawyer’s Island, like this photograph of the Bertha Mae, but that’s just my opinion. In this photo we are clearly in Liberty Square, and you can see a line of people queued up in front of The Yankee Trader, now Momento Mori. Could they be waiting to get into the Haunted Mansion or a chance to take their turn aboard the Gullywhumper or Bertha Mae? Either is possible given the location of the crowd, but the Haunted Mansion is more likely. The romantic in me hopes it was for a cruise aboard the double-decker keel boats.

Further beyond The Yankee Trader, the foliage that divides Liberty Square and Fantasyland hasn’t yet created a natural barrier between the two lands. The happy coincidence from this lack of greenery is that we can see the side of the Swiss chalet that was home to the Skyway to Tomorrowland. In fact, as the trees and shrubs would grow up, much of the detail that can be seen here (and it is limited to do the distance the photograph was taken from) would have been swallowed up and very rarely seen, except by those in line for a ride aboard the Skyway. A section of the Skyway can even be glimpsed rising above and behind The Yankee Trader and Columbia Harbour House.

The photograph of the Gullywhumper, featured further up in the article, is almost obscured by the stately manor overlooking the river from the hill. In later years, The Haunted Mansion would have landscaping that intentionally highlighted the decay and disrepair of the grounds. At this point in time, however, you can see well-manicured green spaces and lovely, if overgrown, shrubs lining the riverbank. The dilapidation is left to the Gullywhumper, though it looks far better than its namesake vessel that set sail on the Disneyland program decades before.

Maybe it is my fondness for Frontierland that came from spending my formative years at Fort Wilderness, or the Davy Crockett episodes of Disneyland that spurred me into dressing as the King of the Wild Frontier for several Halloweens, but the keel boats were always something I loved to see on the Rivers of America. Tom Sawyer’s rafts and the Liberty Belle keep that spirit alive even today, but whenever I’m admiring the watery boundary of Frontierland and Liberty Square I always let my imagination play and remember what it looked like when Mike Fink and his boats worked the river.

08 July 2020

Get This Wagon Train A-Movin'


As we have all found ways of coping with the pandemic, Disney has done their best to provide at home projects and things to lighten the heaviness of the disease ravaging our population. One of the ways they have done this is through releasing recipes of some of their dishes that have been scaled down, and in some cases modified, for home consumption. Among these are some tried, true, and well-known recipes, such as Tonga Toast or the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. One newcomer to Walt Disney World, and to the collection of official recipes, is the Totchos from Woody’s Lunch Box. A fairly straight-forward and simple recipe, we decided to give it a go in our kitchen.

To start with you have to create the Chili with Beans and the Queso Sauce. The Chili with Beans, like any good chili, takes a while to come together, but it can also rest on a warm burner while you prepare the remainder of the dish. The Queso Sauce is an easy component to throw together and can be completed while you’re baking your tater tots.

I’m also going to say right now I have trouble using the Disney phrase ‘potato barrels’ when I’ve known them my whole life as, and the bags at the grocery store are listed as, tater tots. For that reason, you’ll see a lot of ‘tater tots,’ not ‘potato barrels’ in this recipe, but you’re free to call them what you like.

CHILI WITH BEANS

Ingredients:

1 Pound Lean Ground Beef
1 Medium Yellow Onion (finely chopped)
3 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
1 Can Tomato Sauce (15 oz.)
1 Can Kidney Beans (15 oz.; drained)
2 Tbsps. Chili Powder
1 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp. Coarse Salt
Black Pepper (to taste)
Ground Cayenne (to taste)

Directions:

Brown ground beef in a 5-6 quart Dutch oven, or large pot, over medium heat until fully cooked.
Drain off excess grease.
Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until onion is translucent.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt.
Add black pepper and cayenne, as needed.
Keep warm until ready to serve.

QUESO SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 Cups Jar Cheese Sauce
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Chilies (10 oz.)

Directions:

Place cheese sauce and diced tomatoes with chilies in small saucepan.
Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, until warm.
Keep warm until ready to serve.

The chili itself is pretty similar to my own chili, with a couple of changes, but I knew the flavors I was dealing with. As you can see in the photo above, this makes a hearty, chunky chili, not a soup or stew. This consistency is key to the Totchos. We actually had many of the ingredients already in our house, and I imagine many of you do as well, making this an easy dish to throw together. One of the few items we actually had to get was the jar of cheese sauce. Now, on to the main attraction!

TOTCHOS

Ingredients:

1 Bag Frozen Tater Tots (2 pounds)
 Cups Corn Chips
Chili with Beans
Queso Sauce
¾ Cup Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
6 Tbsps. Sour Cream
2 Tbsps. Green Onions (thinly sliced)

Directions:

Cook Tater Tots according to package instructions.
Divide tots into 6 bowls.
Place ¼ cup each of corn chips, chili with beans, and queso sauce on top of each bowl of tater tots.
Top each bowl with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese, 1 tablespoon sour cream, and 1 teaspoon green onions.

The directions are for a serving size of 6, but both the Chili with Beans and Queso Sauce keep just fine in the fridge for several days, so don’t worry if you aren’t serving 6 people at once. Also, only make enough tater tots for those you are serving the Totchos too. Last note, while they give you specifications for shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions, you know your palate, use these toppings as you would like.

This is a hearty meal that will fill you up and then some. Depending on your use of cayenne and chili powder, as well as the heat level of the jar of cheese you use, there is a definite kick to the Totchos. It wasn’t sweat inducing to me, but just they way I like to get a kick in the taste buds. The creamier components soften up the corn chips and mush up with the tots, but the different textures and flavors just give this a fun feel to me.

The Totchos would be perfect on a chilly autumn night by the fire or for a warm summer backyard campout. With all of the ingredients, it also allows for personalization and can get the little chefs, or favorite deputies, in your house in on the fun. I hope you put on your favorite Toy Story movie or soundtrack and give this little dish a try!

30 June 2020

Fracture Shakespeare


In September of 2014 the World Showcase Players wheeled their cart of props out onto the lane of the United Kingdom one last time. The comedic storytelling troupe could be seen in the UK and Italy pavilions, and were billed as, “A troupe of comedy actors fracture Shakespeare and other playwrights with your help.” Their stories always included audience participation, not just with the casts ability to improvise responses to the crowd and call-and-repeats, but by the actors and actresses literally pulling audience members in to perform with them. The tales of Romeo and Edna and King Arthur and the Holy Grail were the most common productions, with titles usually tweaked to highlight the name of the guest who has joined the skit, but other stories were wheeled out regularly as well.

There are a couple of reasons that the sketch comedy shows linger so merrily in our memories. For one, during the early years of EPCOT Center, characters were few and far between. The culture, or caricatures as this case may be, were key components of the entertainment offerings of the park. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they were engaging and incredibly funny, especially if they happened to pick someone from your party or family to be the focal point of their shenanigans. Their cheek would start early with their town crier type of advertising something outlandish, such as free ale, before letting everyone in on the gag and starting their performance.

During the first few years of EPCOT Center, the group was known as Ye Olde Globe Players and came to Walt Disney World from St. Paul, Minnesota. Over the years many performers made their way through the group, including several faces that were familiar to long time Adventurers Club patrons. In the mid-1990s he United Kingdom pavilion became their main home and toward the end of the decade they were renamed World Showcase Players.

The world Showcase Players final performance in 2014 coincided with an overhaul of entertainment offerings throughout World Showcase, including the transition away from Off Kilter and Mo’ Rockin’. For multiple reasons, it appears that Epcot is in a state of entertainment evolution once again. I, for one, wouldn’t be opposed to see this early, and long running, troupe make another tour around the promenade.

25 June 2020

I've Climbed a Mountain

Before we start today, I want to recognize that it has been months since you’ve heard from me. As most of you know by now, that was due in large part to personal health concerns, health disparities that frankly get better or worse almost daily and never, ever leave me, but I try not to let that be an excuse for not showing up in all aspects of my life. I had originally planned to relaunch with articles at the beginning of the month, but the world has other, more important ideas to contend with. For those of you who have been following me on social media, and have stuck with me when I used my privilege and voice to speak out, thank you. You can expect more of the same going forward. If that isn’t your cup of tea, you are more than welcome to cease following the Gazette as we believe that the lives and rights of our black, brown, indigenous, LGBTQIA brothers, sisters, or however they identify should be equitable and that justice is not just theoretical, but a way in which we should all strive to live.

That leads us into today’s discussion. Again, I had decided that I would restart articles in July, but the world, this time the Disney world, had other ideas. By now you should have seen that Disney will be undertaking a refurbishment of Splash Mountain in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, giving the attraction a, likely, new name and a theme that picks up with Tiana and the characters from The Princess and the Frog after the film has ended. The swift approval, but more importantly, the swift denouncement of the move is what has sparked me to start click-clacking away at the keyboard. Let’s start with the benign and work our way up, shall we?

Land placement here seems like a lot of pluses for Disneyland and huge downsides for the Magic Kingdom. Honestly, as far as Disneyland goes, with this attraction living in Critter Country and on the boarder of New Orleans Square, I’m totally fine with the entire land being absorbed by New Orleans Square. Let Hungry Bear Restaurant become a second, fast-casual Tiana’s Place and take the beloved stuff ‘n fluff Pooh to a new home and let The Rescuers have an attraction here. All of this is far flung, but the point is there is a lot of potential when it comes to Disneyland for this attraction’s surroundings.

The Magic Kingdom, where Splash Mountain resides in Frontierland, has a few more bumps to contend with. For starters, those who claim that there aren’t any mountains in the bayou, you’re absolutely correct. However, there also aren’t a lot of mountains in Atlanta either, which is where the characters in Splash Mountain hail from, and Louisiana is further west than Georgia. Tom Sawyer Island, a fixture of Frontierland, resides in Missouri, along the same bank of the Mississippi as Louisiana. The aforementioned Mississippi is the inspiration for the riverboat and the Rivers of America. Cobble that all together with a Monument Valley-inspired runaway mine train and a street that looks like something akin to Tombstone, and you have one big mess, no doubt about it, but this new attraction doesn’t muddy the situation any more or less than what is currently there. If anything, pulling Splash Mountain further west, where there are little hills instead of mountains, at least makes the attraction an appropriate gateway to the frontier.

Disney stated that the idea of replacing Splash Mountain and the characters from Song of the South with a story that builds off of The Princess and the Frog for over a year, a claim that was bolstered by Imagineer Scott Trowbridge. There are those that think it is Disney yielding to public pressure or that their being opportunistic given the current climate. Regardless of reason or how long the project has been in the works, it is the right move.

When Splash Mountain opened in 1989 in Disneyland, Uncle Remus was removed as the narrator and replaced with Br’er Frog, basically an anthropomorphic version of Uncle Remus without the negative connotations. It may surprise many, but the last time Song of the South was aired in the United States, without the Tar Baby sequence, was in December of 2001. Beginning in 2010, CEO Bob Iger has taken a strong stance on the movie, calling it “fairly offensive” and “not appropriate in today’s world.” It has not been released during his tenure and earlier this year he stated that the film will never be released on Disney+.

With the removal of Remus many think the problems were all cleaned up and that the story of the Laughin’ Place was safe for public consumption, but the problems are still numerous. Perhaps chief amongst these is the keynote song from the movie and attraction, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Yes, the song is catchy, and yes it did win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1947, but it would be foolish to think we have not changed in the 73 years since then. For starters, the song has its roots in minstrel shows. Two of the recurring characters in these performances were Jim Crow, a slave, and a dandy named Zip Coon, both of which were portrayed by white performers in blackface. Zip would sing a song, to the tune of Turkey in the Straw, which included lines such as, “O Zip a duden, duden, duden, zip a duden day.” Sound familiar? The minstrel shows treated black people as animals, often referring hair as wool, their speech as bleating, and their children using a slur that included the word cubs, and were incredibly popular throughout the 1830s through to 1910s, but lasted as viable entertainment until the 1970s.

You may not have encountered the history of the minstrel shows in your education, but that doesn’t make their vileness any less harmful to the individuals and communities who hear Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and feel more than a passing sting of dread, or anger, or whatever combinations of emotion that type of portrayal bubbles up to the surface. Now, think about how the Disney community has embraced that song as a feel-good standard and used it for everything from merchandise to the names of communities, blogs, vlogs, and the like.

I have said it before, every attraction is someone’s favorite attraction, and in the case of Splash Mountain it has many, many fans. That doesn’t mean it isn’t time to say goodbye to it, to let the parks evolve and grow, just as this is a moment for us all to reflect, educate ourselves, evolve, and grow. You have cherished memories of Splash Mountain, and no one can take away your memories, but to use your memories as a banner against replacing something that hurts someone else is unconscionable.

After the debacle that was fitting Test Track into the former World of Motion attraction space, Disney had claimed that they were done trying to shoehorn new attractions into old spaces, but we’ve seen it time and again, most recently with Frozen Ever After and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Now, it looks as if we’re going to get a similar treatment with Splash Mountain and The Princess and the Frog. I’ll reserve final judgement on the new attraction for when we actually see it, but to take an attraction that stands as a smack in the face to the black community and make it into something that celebrates Disney’s first black princess, is a strong statement and one that I can fully get behind.

24 January 2020

Bright Suns


It seems that just about everywhere there has been cold, blustery, and downright gross weather to start the day off recently. With that in mind, we’ve been transforming our kitchen into the breakfast nook of Batuu to whip up a pair of warm beverages that are sure to make you forget about the dreariness right outside your door and transport you to a distant system where the suns are rising.

The first drink we’re whipping up is the Bantha Chai, a specialty for all of those who are looking for a new way to enjoy blue milk and need something a little warm to start their days off right.

BANTHA CHAI

Ingredients:

2 Cups Rice Milk (or milk of your choice)
1 Blue Butterfly Pea Tea Bag
1 Inch Fresh Ginger Root (thinly sliced)
2 Tsps. Arrowroot Powder
1 Pinch Ground Cardamom
1 Pinch Ground Mace
Sugar (to taste)

Directions:

Whisk together the milk and arrowroot powder in a small saucepan.
Place over medium-low heat.
Add remaining ingredients and allow to heat until steaming, whisking occasionally.
Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Look for blue coloring and the strong smell of spices.
Remove from heat.
Remove tea bag from mixture.
Strain into a clean mug.

This one is fairly straightforward, although the critical step is in removing the tea bag before straining. I, and my kitchen, learned that lesson the hard way. This has a strong taste of ginger, with the cardamom and mace coming in mostly as an aftertaste. I would definitely make this again, as it has a wonderful warming quality the comes not only from being a hot beverage, but also the spices that make it a perfect addition to a fall or winter line-up. The only thing I may change would be the rice milk, which I would consider replacing with regular milk (2%), as the rice milk has a thinner feel in my mouth than I would like. If you can’t find blue butterfly pea tea bags or arrowroot powder from your local grocery store, both are easy to find on Amazon.

Moving on to something a bit more high-octane, the Sunrise Caf is the Batuu version of an amped up latte.

SUNRISE CAF

Ingredients:

1 Cup Prepared Black Coffee
1/2 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbsps. Coconut Oil
2 Tsps. Turmeric Powder
½ Tsps. Five-Spice Powder
Brown Sugar or Other Sweetener (to taste)

Directions:

Combine coffee, milk, coconut oil, five-spice powder, and 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a small saucepan.
Place over medium heat.
Heat until steaming, but not bubbling, then remove from heat.
Let mixture infuse for about 5 minutes.
In a small jar or cocktail shaker, combine the heavy cream and the remaining teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Shake the heavy cream and turmeric for approximately 30 seconds, until somewhat thickened.
Pour coffee mixture into a mug, sweeten to taste, and top with thickened turmeric cream.

This has a great flavor to it, but the coconut oil always seemed to be leaving a layer of oil atop of the concoction. With some trial and error, we found that blending together the mixture ever so briefly in a blender before topping with the cream helps to alleviate some of that separation. The turmeric gives it a strong curry-like taste, so if this isn't a flavor spectrum that you enjoy, this may not be the hot beverage for you. For us though, it was delicious. Also, you should use whatever coffee tastes best to you for this recipe, although I would hesitate to utilize anything that is flavored. For our take on this classic from Batuu, we opted to use Joffrey’s Organic Peru Alto Mayo coffee.

While Batuu may be known for its cocktails and novel approach to blue and green milk, these two recipes from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook are welcoming in an entirely different way. Neither is overly complicated to prepare and both have something to offer when there is dreary or chilly weather outside, no matter what corner of the galaxy you reside in! I hope you’ll give them a try and let us know what you think.

16 January 2020

Who Says We're Not Going Anywhere


Let’s get off of our high horse and share a little knowledge when it comes to the carousels of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. The Prince Charming Regal Carousel, at the Magic Kingdom, and the King Arthur Carousel, in Disneyland, both feature a wide array of beautiful crafted and uniquely decorated and named horses. Yet, one horse on each carousel has a special story to tell.

At Disneyland, that horse is Jingles. Jingles can be found quite easily as it sits on the outer ring of horses and is covered by a copious number of jingle bell straps, a blanket with Mary Poppins’ umbrella on it, and a shield that includes the number 50 and a silhouette of Mary Poppins herself, amongst other icons. Jingles has always been considered the lead horse, but in April of 2008 it was officially dedicated in honor of Julie Andrews. The horse was also featured in Saving Mr. Banks as the horse that P.L. Travers, portrayed by Emma Thompson, rode when she visited Disneyland with Walt Disney, aka Tom Hanks.

Meanwhile, a coast over at the Magic Kingdom, a horse with a laurel of roses with a golden ribbon trussed up in its tail is the horse of Cinderella. It sits in the second row of horses, near the carousel’s traveling bench, so its presence isn’t as pronounced as Jingles. All of which only makes it that much more special to find and take a ride with.

Here is where I’ll make a personal plea, whether you’re visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World, search out these special horses and take a spin around the carousel, however, when you’re done find a small child in the next group and share the secret with them. My wife and I did this very thing last year, and while a trip on the carousel is always a nostalgic good time, it was the light in the young girl’s eyes when we told her the story and showed her where the horse was that made that morning truly magical for us. I can almost certainly guarantee that it will do the same for you.

13 January 2020

Elegant Yet Unpretentious


When I’m at Walt Disney World, I tend to shy away from sit-down breakfasts. I’m much more of a get up and crash the gates, get as much done as I can, and then relax someplace cool once the heat of the day rises up, which leave little time to sit down and enjoy the most important meal of the day properly. Typically, we reserve sit down breakfasts for the morning we arrive or the morning we are departing. The tradition has served us well, but there’s a meal at the Grand Floridian Café that may cause me to reconsider my time-honored by pass of breakfast.

Chicken and waffles are nothing new to most diners, heck even Walt Disney World has been serving up the southern favorite in some form or fashion for the better part of a decade. The history of the dish goes back even further, taking root in the 1800s in Philadelphia, before moving south and west by the early 1900s. The finer points of its history, and where the best version of the dish can be found, is altogether another topic, but suffice it to say that the Grand Floridian Café has found a way to put their own spin on this classic meal.

The Grand Floridian Café’s version is listed simply as Buttermilk-Fried Chicken and Waffle, and comes with a hand-breaded, boneless chicken breast, a malted waffle with cherrywood-smoked bacon, and is covered with a sriracha-honey drizzle. The portion size is ridiculous. The waffle is larger around than my face. The chicken breast is larger around than my face. Together, the main components are almost the size of my head. The chicken and waffles are definitely large enough to share, and yet everyone who tries it intentionally tries to hoard it for themselves, because it is just that tasty.

The waffle is wonderful, with a crispy outside and fluffy inside that neither burnt, nor doughy. The bacon in the waffle tends to slip by my palate, particularly when I have a bite that also includes chicken, which why wouldn’t a bite have both waffle and chicken, but the smoked flavor from the cherrywood comes through. The chicken is juicy, with a breading that is crispy and well-seasoned. While pieces of it may slide off due to the inclusion of the drizzle, or as you saw your way through the breast, the breading does a nice job of maintaining its consistency. Last, but certainly not least, the sriracha-honey drizzle provides a back of your through tickle heat, while also being sweet enough to make you forget all about wanting to add maple syrup to the mix.

If there is a secret to the Grand Floridian Café’s Buttermilk-Fried Chicken and Waffle, it is that you aren’t just resigned to ordering it for breakfast, as it is also served up during the restaurant’s lunch time. The chicken and waffles are large and will definitely put you in a food coma, making it a hearty way to start your day or the perfect pre-nap meal. No matter when you seek out this dish, just be sure that you do!

18 November 2019

Riding the Maelstrom

This week we venture back to Arendelle when Frozen 2 is released, but let’s venture further back, back, over the falls!

Before there was Frozen Ever After, there was The Maelstrom, a water adventure through Norway’s Viking and troll-filled past from 1988 to 2014. This image is probably one of the most recognizable publicity images ever released for The Maelstrom attraction. It comes from the attraction’s final plunge from the idyllic countryside, replete with hikers and mountain troll, into the turbulent North Sea’s host of oil rigs. Aside from the rockwork that calls back to that scene in the attraction, what I love most here is the reaction on the guests face who definitely know there being photographed. From the two guys at the very back who are too cool for this attraction to the gentleman in the front who is pleading with the camera for his life, as if this is his audition to be in a slasher film. Whatever your thoughts are of Frozen Ever After’s inclusion in Norway or its predecessor, The Maelstrom, at least the attractions watercraft have remained consistent.

14 November 2019

Hang Your Tricorn Hat


Thanksgiving is two weeks away, but there is a place where the holiday lives on all year long inside the Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern. We talked about this meal, briefly, when speaking about how the holidays of fall and winter are represented throughout Liberty Square. However, the Patriot’s Platter dinner, which is also available a la cart at lunch, has so much food on it that it definitely deserves its time in the spotlight.

First and foremost, though, let’s start by talking about the restaurant itself. The Liberty Tree Tavern looks like a colonial style inn, with a fireplace for cooking that is complete with all of the appropriate kitchen accoutrements. The lobby or parlor area is spacious, but definitely gets crowded during peak meal times. One of my fondest childhood memories included coming here for a meal around Christmas to see the waiting area almost completely taken over by a small winter train set, but I digress. The dining rooms of the restaurant are dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and George Washington, though I suspect any future refurbishment may introduce an Alexander Hamilton room as well. Each room includes artifacts that could have been used by the room’s namesake, as well as artwork of each individual. But let’s move on to what really matters, the food.

The meal starts with the Declaration Salad, rolls, and butter. The salad is comprised of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and is tossed with the house-made Honey Shallot Vinaigrette dressing. It will be worth noting how many times I used the phrase house-made in this review, because there are a number of items on the menu that are made from scratch at Liberty Tree Tavern. The rolls and butter are no frills, but the dinner rolls are soft with a hint of sweetness. They’re good enough that you’re going to want to keep eating them, but I promise you that you don’t want to fill up on bread here.

The main course arrives with little in the way of fanfare, but the bounty is overflowing. While typically served family-style, for parties of two or fewer (such as when the missus and I dined there recently) the restaurant plates the meal for you. Don’t worry though, if there’s something you want more of they are happy to bring it to you. The main entrees of the Patriot’s Platter include roasted turkey breast, pot roast, topped with brown gravy, and oven-roasted pork, smothered with mushroom herb gravy. While billed as a Thanksgiving meal, and turkey is traditional with a side of ham, I’d argue the Patriot’s Platter is really more a slice of a little bit of everything when it comes to Thanksgiving, seasonal meals, and Christmas. Sides include mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, typically green beans, herb stuffing, house-made macaroni and cheese, house-made cranberry relish, and turkey gravy in a gravy boat suitable for covering your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and anything else you so please. I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of gravy here, both in terms of variety and quantity, but I loved it all!

A smorgasbord is the only way to describe the copious amounts of food you’re presented with. The pot roast is fork tender, and the oven-roasted pork is the savoriest dish on the plate. The turkey is wonderful, but is mostly a vehicle for gravy, cranberry relish, mac and cheese, or whatever you choose to pile atop it, and the same can be said for the mashed potatoes. The stuffing is dense a bit mushy, which is right in my comfort zone. The macaroni and cheese is firm and gooey in the best possible way. Meanwhile, the green beans seem to be some of the freshest vegetables I’ve had a buffet or family-style restaurant in Walt Disney World. Lastly, the certainly not least, the cranberry relish is tangy, full of wonderful fall and winter spices, and a hint of citrus that just makes the whole thing come together.


Don’t get lulled into a sense of accomplishment, or defeat, once the platters are cleared though, dessert is still on its way. It comes in the form of the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake. This vanilla toffee cake, filled with candy bits baked in, is topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toffee crumbles. It is nothing by a pile of warm, crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, caramelly, chocolatey goodness! Oh, and ice cream! I was devasted that I was so full I couldn’t stuff myself more than with just a couple of bites.

There are plenty of beverages here, for children and the child inside us all, as well as adult beverages, but I want to take a moment to implore you to try the Warm Washington Cider. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, Washington cider that is served warm, but it is topped with Baker’s crème, and is basically autumn in a tall glass.

Liberty Tree Tavern isn’t just the sum of its parts. Certainly the atmosphere and the ridiculous amounts of food and beverages feel like you’ve just landed back in your childhood kitchen at Thanksgiving, but there is something intangibly wonderful about this old inn that resides in the middle of Liberty Square. The quality of food has come up considerably in the past several years and, at least for my family, this will definitely become a dinner we work into our regular rotation.