03 March 2021

One of Nature's Sweetest Creations

Today is the beginning of the 2021 Taste of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. While the full festival experience is still paused given the pandemic, we thought we would follow suit and give those of you at home a chance to create your own taste of the festival. We decided on something sweet, that would be easy to whip up, and could be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a snack any time of the day.

The Honey Peach Cobbler Freeze has been on the menu of The Honey Bee-stro marketplace since 2018, though in 2020 and 2021 it opted to drop the "cobbler" portion of its name and simply go by Honey Peach Freeze. I imagine the image of cobbler makes most guests think of something warm, which is the last thing this frosty concoction should do. Let's jump right in!

HONEY PEACH COBBLER FREEZE

Ingredients:

2 Cups Fresh Peaches (peeled and diced)
2 Cups Frozen Vanilla Yogurt
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Granola
1 1/2 Tbsps. Honey
 
Directions:

Combine peaches, milk, frozen yogurt, and honey in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into 2 tall glasses.
Top with granola to taste.
 
Pretty simple, right? Basically a peach milkshake, or something between a milkshake and a smoothie, but either way is is definitely refreshing. We made a batch of these for our Sunday morning brunch, but we decided we could have had them at any point during the day for a little pick me up. Disney's recipe states that you can add 1 1/4 oz. of blueberry vodka to make it an adult beverage, but I would say you can add a lot of different spirits to make this freeze more adult. I personally imagine a citrus vodka would do the trick nicely.

We found a basic granola (honey coconut) to use as a topping, which I crunched up a bit more so that it would work into the beverage a bit more and not all sink to the bottom. Despite the name change during the festival, the granola doesn't dramatically change this drink. Honestly, it seems to enhance it by providing some texture when the blending process smooths out the other components. Also, the peach flavor we got was more reserved than we would normally like, and our peaches were ripe, so I would almost recommend 3 cups instead of 2 cups of peaches, but you know your palate best.

Overall, this is a great milkshake/smoothie, that is a breeze to throw together, and is good for any time of day. It gives you a solid base to mix and match fruits, flavors, and make something unique to you, while giving you a taste of the Flower and Garden Festival.

01 March 2021

Serving Serka Zong

Signage plays an important role in the storytelling and world-building of the parks and resorts of Walt Disney World. No place is it used with more enthusiasm and precision than in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, particularly in the lands of Asia and Africa. Touring through the Serka Zong section of the Discovery River Amphitheater, there are many signs of life that can be gathered from the assorted posting. They provide insight into governmental agencies and local laws, the history of the region, local businesses and industries, culture, mythologies, and beliefs. Additionally, these signs create a visually dynamic landscape that guests can break-up the monotony a structure or walkway. Even if they are ignored by guests, they have subconsciously affected the guest experience. When they engaged with, however, that is where the real magic of great storytelling comes in to play.



25 February 2021

Head to Marrakesh

Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar is a treasure trove of nods, personal effects, and coveted relics. Not just those of Jock and Indiana Jones, but also the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) and the Adventurers Club. It is a collection of the sort of lost-and-found adventurers not seen since the Adventurers Club closed, and includes some deep cuts in newspaper clippings, maps, log books, cabinets, and several pieces of correspondence. One such item, situated behind glass with some surrounding photos, is a post card to Jock from none other than Dr. Jones himself. It reads:
 
Jock,
Take the $500 I am wiring you and head to Marrakesh. Don’t let the idol slip through our fingers again. I will get it from you after I get back from Nepal.
 
Thanks,
Indiana Jones
 
While there are many stories in Indiana’s archeological explorations that this could be referencing, sometimes the most well-known and practical answer is the right one. The idol in question must be the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol that Jones lost to René Belloq, just before escaping the Hovitos with Jock in the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We know that Indy heads to Nepal to acquire the Headpiece of the Staff of Ra from Marion Ravenwood, so we can assume that this is the timeframe in which the postcard had been sent. It should be mentioned that, aside from this postcard, both the headpiece and fertility idol can be found in Jock’s hangar.
 
The Golden Goddess was a two-part story from Marvel’s The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones in 1985 that told the tale of the fertility idol in Marrakesh. While it does account for Belloq offloading the idol to an antiquities dealer in Marrakesh, the story features Indy, Sallah, Marion, and a number of continuity problems, but no Jock. I think it’s safe to assume, at this point, that the story is a fantastical work of pulp fiction and that idol definitely reached Marrakesh with Belloq, but that Jock was the true savior of the artifact, not Dr. Jones and crew who were busy in Nepal and Cairo at the time.
 
The last little detail worth note on the postcard is the address for Jock: 1138 Seaten Ave., Springs, FL. Most of this clearly denotes a fictitious location, but the street number for the address, 1138, is a not so subtle nod to George Lucas’ 1971 movie, THX 1138.

23 February 2021

Hoist the Main

The fleet of the Disney Cruise Line is known for many things; a wonderful private island, Disney hospitality, delicious food, and onboard water features that are top notch. In addition, they are also known for evening shows, some of which employ Broadway-caliber technologies, performers, and music. Although everyone who has ever set sail with Captains Mickey and Minnie has their favorite show, they are retired every so often making way for something new. If you happened to be aboard the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder during their first few years in 1996 or 1997, there’s one retired production you may be familiar with, Voyage of the Ghost Ship.
 
This show lasted only a couple of years, but even so it actually had two versions that guests may have seen on their sailing. The first iteration had to be toned down to make more family friendly. And if you need to ask why a show called Voyage of the Ghost Ship needed to be modified for children, just remember that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was PG-13 for a reason.
 
The show features an ensemble cast who are onboard The Lady Providence, either through work, booking of passage, or as a stowaway. The stowaway is the aptly named Trouble, who is quickly discovered by, and taken under the wings of, Captain Becker and the bosun Dutch. Princess Angelina and Lady Marta are returning to the princess’s kingdom where she is to be married, and they are accompanied by the Marquis Roderigo, who happens to be the magic-wielding Mad Jack in disguise, and his iguana, Charlie. Mad Jack’s goal is to reclaim his powers, ghost crew, and The Lady Providence by completing a spell and summoning the monster Charlemagne in the Dark Sea.
 

Captain Becker and Princess Angelina begin to fall in love with one another, but Angelina is transformed into the ship’s figurehead by Mad Jack. Deciding that the Dark Sea will put the princess in danger, not knowing her current whereabouts, Becker leaves Dark Sea. In order to bend the crew to his will and stop the ship from leaving the Dark Sea, Mad Jack summons sea sirens that will lead the ship to the rocks. Luckily, Trouble seems unaffected by the sirens, and is able to awaken the captain from siren’s song. The somewhat predictable, but no less fun third act kicks into high gear with Mad Jack makes his move, there’s a duel between Becker and Mad Jack, Trouble steals staff of Mad Jack, and Charlemagne appears to devour Princess Angelina and return Mad Jack to full power. He is a fire-breathing sea serpent, that looks a lot like the sillier serpent from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage.  Charlemagne is fed a bomb, explodes, Jack sent overboard to swim with the sharks, Trouble uses the magic staff to return Angelina, Captain Becker becomes an Admiral, he and Angelina are married, as are Dutch and Marta, the crew of The Providence are commissioned to sail around the world, and Trouble becomes first mate. Take a bow you pirates and princesses!
 
Like many great Disney stories, this one wouldn’t be complete without some music.  The production included the songs My Name is Trouble, Hoist the Main, an interlude of Grim Grinning Ghosts (because, why not?), Mad Jack, A Sailor’s Tale which is very reminiscent of Whale of a Tale, Follow Your Heart and its reprise, We Fly, Hoist the Main (reprise), and closes with a second singing of A Sailor’s Tale.
 
The show would go on to be replaced with Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer, but still holds a treasured place in the hearts of some of the Magic and Wonder’s earliest sailing parties. I, for one, would love to see it returned for the Halloween on the High Seas sailings, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

17 February 2021

Habitual Bungling

Some of the biggest names in the Disney catalog come from roots set down in the West. Zorro, Crockett, Pecos Bill, and others were so much a part of the mid-20th century that there was an entire land dedicated to them in Disneyland, a land whose legends only grew as the kingdom parks spread across the globe. One pair of infamous, if only for their bumbling ways, grifters have found themselves immortalized in not one, but two postings in the queue of the Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We’re naturally speaking of Amos and Theodore.

Amos Tucker and Theodore Ogelvie, portrayed by Tim Conway and Don Knotts respectively, first appeared in 1975’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, based upon the 1971 book of the same title. At the time the audience is introduced to them, the pair of misfits are no longer members of the Stillwell Gang, having shot the leader in the leg, and have taken to calling themselves the Hash Knife Outfit, a not so subtle nod to a 1933 Zane Grey novel. After continually trying to rob Russell Donovan, and then his three wards who found a gold nugget, before befriending the group. Enter the Stillwell Gang, a hijinks-filled bank robbery, and a happy ending for the newly formed family, leaving our pair of reformed ne’er-do-wells asking to become farmhands.

Apparently, the simple life doesn’t satisfy Amos and Theodore, as in 1979’s The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again the duo, in an attempt to stay on the straight and narrow, end up being suspected of bank robbery, get recruited for a train heist, and end up working with an undercover soldier to clear their good, if a bit dented, names. While this sequel doesn’t feature Russell Donovan or his family, it does end with the pair returning to the safety of the farm.

The postings in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s queue definitely line up with what we know about the pair. One announcement includes a reward and a description of the two, claiming that they are wanted for “attempted bank robbery, chicanery, skullduggery, tomfoolery, and habitual bungling.” Sounds like Theodore and Amos alright. The second notice includes sketches, that are a darn good likeness, of the duo, and was posted by the T.W. Bullion Silver Mine. The Bullion name is a story in and of itself for another day. It states that the two claimed to be metallurgists and that they “fouled up our whole operation and took off with ten pounds of lead. Complete incompetents.”

Seems like the pair haven’t totally reformed their reputations, or their grifter ways, and they definitely haven’t forgotten how to enrage local constabulary and businesses, blunder their own prospects, and entertain the masses while they’re doing it. The next time you’re in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, keep a sharp eye out for Theodore and Amos, or, at the very least, the signs that they’ve been mucking about.

15 February 2021

The Cup That Will Transport You - Part XI

It's been well over 3 years since we've touched upon the Joffrey's coffee blends for your home brewing experience, but there hasn't been a ton of new additions to the line up in that time either. And, if we're being perfectly up front, it's been rather difficult to get Aileen to not continually crave the Alto Mayo Protected Forest. Yet, we're back today with a pair of offerings that span a new resort in Florida, before traveling all the way to Hawai'i, with results that are almost as far apart as these two locales. Let's get right to it!



Riviera Resort Blend (Dark)
 – 
Developed by our Head Roastmaster Chris De Mezzo in collaboration with Disney Chefs. This blend combines beans from Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, and Kenya to create a sweet and smoky profile with a rich aroma. Transport yourself to the elegance and glamour of Disney's Riviera Resort with every sip.

What Aileen Tastes:
Joffrey's description is on target, but misses the mark for me. The smokiness is overpowering and makes this cup of coffee very bitter. There isn't a lot of sweetness to pick up after that, but it may pair well with a sweet dessert to balance it out. I just wouldn't make it my regular morning cup of joe.


Aulani (Medium) – Begin your morning as they do at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. This is the coffee served in-room. A masterful blend of rich Kona coffee beans from the Big Island of Hawai'i, blended with beans from Central America. You'll find a distinctly smooth and buttery mouth-feel with mild tropical fruit flavors.

What Aileen Tastes:
This is an incredibly smooth coffee, and it hits on all of the right floral notes, as well as just a hint of almond and vanilla on the backside of each sip. If you're looking for a bright and bold coffee, with a very forward coffee flavor, this isn't the blend for you. This is one of my new favorites, no surprise given how big a fan I am of Kona coffee, and it could be very versatile, matching up with whatever meal or dessert you choose to pair it with.

Overall Cup of Disney Rankings:
– Alto Mayo Protected Forest
2 – Aulani
3 – French Bistro
4 – California Grill
 Flying Fish Espresso
– Trattoria al Forno
7 – Flying Fish
8 – Sanaa
9 – Yachtsman Steakhouse
10 – Kona Blend
11 – Artifact Blend
12 – Citricos
13 – Victoria & Albert's
14 – Narcoossee's
15 – Tusker House
16 – Jiko
17 – Artist Point
18 – French Roast
19 – Riviera Blend
20 – Le Cellier
21 – Flavors of Africa
22 – Hollywood Blend
23 – The Wave

Previous Reviews:

11 February 2021

This Isn't Poison

AbracadaBar is filled with magic, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. There are posters from magicians hanging on the walls, each imbued with its own tinge of something mystical. Cabinets and shelves filled with magical artifacts, tools of the trade, and books on a variety of magic. Even the wallpaper has the story of illusion written all over it. With so many items clamoring for guests’ attention, it would be easy to overlook so much of what AbracadaBar has to offer, not the least of which would be the small plate and beverage offerings. Guest should take note, however, of a small vial sitting on an upper shelf of the cabinets.
 

There are a handful of items that relate to movies scattered throughout AbracadaBar, but this is one of the finest details to be found. The bottle has a small label affixed to it for identification. No words are on the label, only the silhouette of a llama. While it is a bit dusty, there’s no debating that this is, in fact, the Extract of Llama featured in the 2000 animated feature, The Emperor’s New Groove. Mistaken for poison that the evil sorceress Yzma wants slipped into Emperor Kuzco’s drink, beloved (and later reformed) henchman, Kronk, uses the Extract of Llama by mistake. Kuzco’s transformation, instead of his untimely demise, prompts the legendary outburst from Yzma, “What, a llama?!?! He’s supposed to be dead!”
 
Yzma maintains quite the collection of animal extracts, most of which have transformative properties, and they wreak havoc later on in the movie. It seems as though one may have gotten away, passed from magical hands to magical hands over the years, and has found a new home at AbracadaBar. Only time will tell if the Extract of Llama causes any more calamity.

09 February 2021

Troll Country

In 1988, Maelstrom opened its doors, beckoning guests to board Viking longship and behold the beauty and charm of Norway. The attraction did just that until September of 2014 when it was shuttered to make way for Frozen Ever After. The memorable moments of attraction come one after another, making it difficult to choose just one scene as iconic. However, the three-headed troll who cast their magic on the invading guests, sending them “back, back, over the falls,” ranks pretty high up there.
 

I love finding the behind the scene glimpses of how such iconic moments come together. Here we see Peter Kermode working on the eight-foot tall clay model of the bothersome troll, back when the attraction was going to be known as SeaVenture.
 
Kermode was one of the premiere sculptors at Imagineering, taking over the from the renowned Blaine Gibson when he retired he 1983. Trolls weren’t his entire life though, Kermode’s work can be seen in parks all around the globe, in the form of everything from pirate wenches to bears, and he even worked alongside Don Chandler and Joe Kaba to bring Bruce the shark to life for the movie Jaws.
 
Back to the photo of Kermode and the three-headed troll, you can really see the detail on their faces that would be hard to catch glimpses of as your longship was thrown from side to side, and then backwards, during your brief encounter. Once the full beards, hair, shrubbery, and lighting effects were added, many of these details would be obscured. Warts, wrinkles, snarls, ears, and all, they strike an imposing figure that was definitely not to be trifled with.

04 February 2021

Disney Culinary History

Recipes from the past give us some insight into what dining and palates were like at a given point or time. Recipes that are attributed as being favorites of a specific person can offer us a sliver of what that person may have been like. When you reach into the Walt Disney Archives for Walt Disney “Favorite Recipes” you’re getting a bit of both. Much has been made over the years about Walt’s Chili and Beans, but today I wanted to branch out a bit and move towards a dish that is a play on one of my favorite dishes, but also brings in breakfast, and has a bit of a mystery to it.
 
If I am out and about for breakfast (those were the good old days), more often than not I am going to order corned beef hash, with the egg on the side if the missus is with me or sans egg if I’m alone. It is quite literally the meat and potatoes of breakfast foods. Walt’s version was a bit different, and was known as Browned Roast Beef Hash.
 
A point of clarification here, while it is known as one of Walt’s favorites, credit should be given to Thelma Pearl Howard, the housekeeper and cook to Walt and his family. Thelma worked for the Disney family from 1951 through 1981 and is the originator of many of Walt’s recipes. Her recipe has been featured in everything from the 1986 book, Cooking with Mickey Around our World, to the 2017 history and cookbook, Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food, and with good reason. Let’s get to the recipe itself and then we’ll talk through some of the finer points.
 
 
BROWNED ROAST BEEF HASH
 
Ingredients:
 
3 Cups Peeled Potatoes (finely chopped)
2 Cups (approximately 1 pound) Precooked Roast Beef (finely chopped, prime rib or steak can be substituted)
1 1/2 Cups Onion (finely chopped)
1 Cup Beef Stock
4 Eggs (fried)
6 Tbsps. Butter (divided)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
 
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
Lightly sauté onions in 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium until translucent (approximately 3-4 minutes).
Stir in meat, potatoes, and stock.
Transfer ingredients into baking dish and back for 1 hour.
Remove hash from oven.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Spread hash mixture evenly in the skillet, season to taste.
Cook over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown (approximately 5 minutes).
Flip and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown as well.
Spoon onto serving plates and top with a fried egg.
Makes four servings.
 
I’m going to tell you now, the recipe sounds like you’re making has patties, which is exactly how we attempted to cook the hash. However, you may notice there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a binding agent for such preparation. A little digging shows us that even Marcy Carriker Smothers, the author of Eat Like Walt, couldn’t account for its absence, “Perhaps someone in Walt’s office asked Thelma for her recipe? It’s plausible that she casually dictated it since she never wrote her recipes down. The answer may be lost to Disney culinary history, but there is still fun to be had with this recipe.”
 

Smothers is absolutely correct. It also strikes me that some of the best hashes I’ve ever had weren’t the perfectly formed patty, golden-brown on each side, but a mess of potatoes, meat, and onion. I would worry less about making it perfectly formed, and focus more on the seasoning and making sure there is a bit of charring or browning to the finished product. This is what we did as we went through the back half of the hash mixture. If you are looking for the perfect patty, however, definitely work in some breadcrumbs or other binder to your version. While a bit time consuming to make, it was well worth the effort.
 
It may not be the perfect recreation of a dish Walt Disney dined on, but it is still delicious and gives you a strong jumping off point for you to putter with in your own kitchen. The Browned Roast Beef Hash is a hearty start to any day, whether it’s the 1950s or the 2020s.

02 February 2021

Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns

There are a few resorts around Walt Disney World, and Disney resorts across the globe for that matter, that provide a safe haven for artifacts that intersect at the roundabout of history, culture, and artistry. At the very top of that list are the galleries of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, both in Jumbo House and Kidani Village. Each artifact has a story to tell, but these tales are only hinted at by the small placards that accompany them. Take this horn that sits in a small carved out space on the fireplace of The King’s Library.
 

The posting reads simply, “Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns - Only royal males in Cameroon grassfields are allowed to drink from these horn cups.” There isn’t a ton of information there to go onto, but there is enough for the curious to latch onto and dig deeper into the narrative tucked into the carved, worn drinking vessel. Like many of the items on exhibit it doesn’t take many Google searches to find solid information from a respected source. In the case of the Cameroon Royal Drinking Horns, an exploration of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art provides this enlightening entry, which is meant for another horn, but speaks to some of the specific themes also found on the Kidani Village horn.
 
“In the courts of Cameroon Grassfields Kingdoms, rulers and noblemen drink palm wine from carved buffalo horns. The buffalo or bush cow is a large, dangerous, crafty beast that can easily turn on the hunter. Like the leopard or elephant, the buffalo is a royal emblem. So prestigious is buffalo horn that it is copied in word. The decorative motif carved on this horn is suggestive of the spider, another symbolic animal, chosen for its wisdom. The earth spider, a nocturnal hole dweller, is used in divination throughout the Grassfields. This wisdom is assumed because it comes from the earth, the resting place of the dead who will become ancestors.”
 
The stories this horn could tell, the meetings and moments it had been a part of, are likely a mix of significant and mundane. Yet, this drinking horn clearly has a fascinating provenance, which could be said of the backstory for each article in the hallway, library, elevator nooks, and atrium galleries of both sides of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The next time you’re in the lodge, find an artifact yourself and run headlong down the rabbit hole of its inimitable story. I promise you won’t be disappointed.