16 March 2017

Trois Blondes Biere

We here at the Gazette love a good crate or barrel! With the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting screens nationwide this evening, it felt like the perfect time to belly up to the tavern bar and have ourselves a belt. The question is, with all of the choices in Gaston’s Tavern what should we choose? Barrels cover not only the registers of the establishment, but also line the wall behind him. These five varieties split between seven barrels offer intriguing options, but sadly you can only order a glass of Lefou’s Brew. Let’s explore what’s in a name, or in this case five names.

Trois Blondes Biere – Translated simply means Three Blondes Beer. This in in reference to the three blondes who all dream to one day be wooed and wedded to Gaston. While regularly referred to as the Triplets, the three do have names. Claudette (red dress), Laurette (yellow dress), and Paulette (green dress) are seen in a majority of the film’s scenes that include the townsfolk, but are not part of the mob that launches an offensive on Beast’s castle.

IgerBock – This one shouldn’t need much of an explanation as it relates to the Walt Disney Company’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Iger. A Bock beer is a strong, dark lager that is typical released in spring months. IgerBock also plays off of the true name of bock beer, Einbeck, to northern town in Germany where the beer originated.

Staggs Ale – This barrel is a nod to Tom Staggs who was the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts at the time New Fantasyland and Gaston’s Tavern opened. He would later become the Walt Disney Company’s Chief Operating Officer before he and the company agreed to mutually part ways in the spring of 2016. An ale is a type of beer that is typically produced without any hops and have a sweet, fruity flavor.

LeFou’s Brew – Named for Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou’s Brew is the only barreled beverage that is actually served at Gaston’s Tavern. It is a frozen apple juice concoction that has a hint of marshmallow and is topped with passion fruit-mango foam. It will go straight to your head, in the form of an ice cream headache.

Chateau Blunderbuss – Chateau is actually a wine term for the name of a vineyard or estate in which it was brewed, which makes us look to the under the name for the second line of text, which reads “Biere Haught Caliber.” A blunderbuss is Gaston’s rifle of choice, while the estate of Chateau Blunderbuss clearly has worked up a high caliber beer.

I hope you found the right beverage for your next stop in at Gaston’s Tavern, even if you’re only playing pretend with LeFou’s Brew with your family on that visit!

14 March 2017

Driving Rain

Sometimes you stumble upon a great bit of history without even trying. Take, for example, this photograph of Jack Nicklaus at the Walt Disney World Open Golf Tournament. The event ran from 1971 through1973 before becoming a two man team event between 1974 and 1981 and known as the Walt Disney World National Team Championship. The individual tournament would return in 1984 and continued until 2012 under a variety of names, including Oldsmobile Classic, Funai Classic, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Classic, to name just a few.

Nicklaus won the event all three years when it was the Walt Disney World Open Golf Tournament. While he would win the inaugural event with a three stroke lead fifteen-under-par, this photo captures him during the December 3, 1971 first round when he was not in the lead. Terry Dill had completed his first round with a seven-under-par 65. Nicklaus had to mark his ball after play had been called for the day because of a driving rain. 

It the scheme of Walt Disney World’s history, Jack Nicklaus marking his ball during the original golf tournament to be held on the Palm and Magnolia courses may not rank very highly. Yet, there is something charming and lovely about this moment to me.

13 March 2017

Slow-Cooked Specialties

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos. If the name alone doesn’t start your mouth to watering, I’d get to a doctor and make sure your pulse is still kicking. As for me, this was an item I was very excited to see returning to The Smokehouse for the 2017 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. I’ll be honest with you, last year’s menu had me at ‘burnt ends,’ once I was able to try the dish, it didn’t disappoint, and I was hopeful it would return this year.

While I joked above that this dish should bring joy to everyone, I know full well that it won’t. For starters, I have many friends who are vegetarians or vegans, and this clearly is not something in their wheelhouse, and I respect that. Also, beef brisket can be an acquired taste. I happen to live in one of the barbecue cornerstones of the country, so I have had ample chances to develop a taste for beef brisket barbecue. Some people may only think of pulled pork when they consider barbecue, and while that is delicious and has its place, which is not brisket. There is more connectivity between the meat with beef brisket, as well as a bit more fat to contend with.

Beef brisket is typically served in slices, the thickness of which varies wildly, but at The Smokehouse they’ve mixed it up by providing guests with cubes of brisket labeled as ‘burnt ends.’ Historically, these are the unwanted scraps of the barbecue process. The overly dry or fatty pieces that could be used in stews or served up as a cheap appetizer, but were seen as having very little else that was appetizing. Except that the ends still carried with them the rich flavors and smokiness from the barbecue process. This burnt ends became highly sought after and soon pitmasters became known for how well their burnt ends taste.

The Burnt Ends Hash isn’t precisely what I would call ‘burnt ends’ in the traditional sense, but they still retain the delicious bark and crunch along the outer edge. The cubed form is more akin to what you would find it a typical hash, tossed in with an assortment of other vegetables, peppers, onions, and the like. Liquid gold is a term usually withheld for a yellow cheddar sauce, but since there is such a thing as white gold, I think we can let it apply to the white cheddar fondue that coats the hash here. Then it is topped with a handful of pickled jalapenos.

The jalapenos aren’t your typical from-the-jar jalapenos, and their acidity does wonders for the richness of the beef and cheddar. Barbecue enthusiasts from those cornerstone areas we talked about earlier, are probably not going to find this brisket to be inspired. However, to the average palate, it is probably a reasonable facsimile, especially if they’re not accustomed to either burnt end or beef brisket.

As with most items procured through a quick service avenue in Walt Disney World, consider the amount of food which needs to be prepared and the speed in which you are able to procure it. Is this a top-tier barbecue product? No. Is it a savory treat that I wish my local pitmasters would figure out how to recreate this in a more traditional form? Absolutely. Do I think you should make time to try the Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash while you’re visiting the Flower & Garden Festival? Without question.

10 March 2017

A Spectacular Journey Into the Movies

With award season come and gone, and the passing of the incomparable Robert Osborne, I’ve been thinking about the role Disney’s Hollywood Studios has in the modern movie going experience. Specifically, I’ve been ruminating on the question of whether or not The Great Movie Ride has skewed or contributed to the way we look at films? Even more precisely, since not everyone has multiple experiences with the attraction in their formative years, has The Great Movie Ride subtly nudged a generation of Disney enthusiasts and how we look at genres and the legacy of particular movies?

The idea came to me a few months back when I was viewing, and becoming complete and utterly enamored with, La La Land. The obvious comparison to be made about a musical film set in Hollywood is Singin’ in the Rain, but is that the most accurate representation or have we just fallen into the comparison because we’ve seen  Singin’ in the Rain so many times and that is the direct line we’ve been hearing and reading about so much since the film’s release? From my perspective, I grew up thinking musicals were only something that my mother made me sit through on a rare occasion. Let’s disregard the fact that I sang in county and state school choirs and loved it or that I was fascinated with movies like Labyrinth and Mary Poppins. It wasn’t until I discovered Singin’ in the Rain in my 20s that I fell in love with the genre properly. However, I only came to Singin’ in the Rain because I wanted to see every movie that had a major scene in The Great Movie Ride.

I can draw almost identical parallels to the spotlight of Alien and science fiction horror and The Public Enemy and gangster films. Similarly, I didn’t have an interest in John Wayne westerns until The Great Movie Ride’s trailer sequence sent me on a hunt for The Searchers. Although I can remember a deep-seated love of the Man With No Name trilogy, but I couldn’t tell you now whether or not that came out of the Clint Eastwood figure in the western scene of the attraction. Likewise, while I know that my mother had a love of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan films, I didn’t have an affinity for them in my younger days.

The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Casablanca, and Raiders of the Lost Ark are timeless to me, and I don’t think their inclusion or exclusion in this attraction would ever change my feelings for these films. I don’t know many kids that loved Fantasia, aside from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment, but I burned through at least one copy of that VHS because I loved that entire film early on and never let it go.

Where does our love of film, or specific pictures, or genres come from? I suppose, as with most things in life, it comes from the world around us. How something affects us is directly related to how it is presented to us, and it can determine if we love or loathe it. Sometimes, someone loving something, such as my sisters fascination with Titanic in our squabbling teenage years, can make you distance yourself from it for no apparent reason. Generally, however, is something is present with care and adoration to a child, that child is going to have that same love for it.

This brings us back to The Great Movie Ride. Here, it is clear that the films presented are loved by our tour guides. Each scene is carefully crafted to make you feel like you have indeed walked straight onto the set of a movie, or that you are actually living out a part of that movie. Nothing is left astray, down to the posting on the jailhouse wall in the western scene or the screen readouts aboard the Nostromo. It is that care and dedication that can make us smile at Mary and Bert on a rooftop and give us shivers at the slithering floor of Well of the Souls. It is this attention to detail that makes almost all of the movies presented in The Great Movie instant classics in the minds of those who grew up with this attraction.

I’m willing to bet that if you were to ask someone in their mid-to-upper-30s that didn’t grow up going to Walt Disney World on a regular basis if all of the films with dedicated scenes inside The Great Movie Ride were classics, you get a bunch of affirmative responses. However, they may balk at Tarzan, The Public Enemy, Footlight Parade, or The Searchers. It isn’t that they couldn’t grow to love the films, it’s is only that the films haven’t been presented in the same light and with the same care as some of us have seen them in. They aren’t ingrained in their cinematic DNA.

The addition of Robert Osborne to The Great Movie ride was not a change that I greatly looked forward to. I mean, TCM is one of three channels my television lives on and his insights have always given me a deeper understanding and joy of the pictures he showcased. However, I just didn’t see what it would add to the attraction, and it didn’t help that my first ride with the new audio had a handful of glitches and poor sound. Since that time I have come to love the narration, but particularly the new trailer area which is filled with Osborne providing tons of insight, trivia, and knowledge I may not otherwise have gathered. I’ll go so far as to say some of the new to The Great Movie Ride films featured in the queue will be considered classics to the next generation, because of Osborne’s presentation.

If The Great Movie Ride has influenced a generation or two, or maybe even three, around a handful of films, then I am perfectly okay with that. Not everyone has to love the same pictures, and they don’t even have to agree on what makes a particular picture great, but these mean something to me and I think they’re classics. If that’s because I had the privilege of being able to experience The Great Movie Ride more frequently than others my age, I good with that to. Because, honestly, I can’t imagine my life without them.

09 March 2017

Water in a Sheltered Cove

During its first summer of operation, Walt Disney World’s original swimming hole, River Country, garnered visits and attention from guests, media, and even Cast Members looking to splash around and relax. There were also those who wondered just how River Country worked as a cove of Bay Lake, but still managed to keep to water fresh and moving. A simple, yet inspired, solution was created to give River Country its cascading rivulets and churning pond.

State of the art pumps in the mid-1970s were ineffectual at keeping the million gallons of water in River Country from becoming stagnant, much less to get needed flow up to the top of White Water Rapids and Whoop-‘N-Holler Hollow. Engineers figured out a system that would utilize the functions of Mother Nature, i.e. gravity, and the most modern technology to make the park a reality. This great diagram from the August 20, 1976 Eyes and Ears, shows off just how the feat was accomplished.

The rubber bladder that separates the swimming area from Bay Lake is the key to the entire operation. The tube stretches across the entirety of the cove’s mouth along with its sensory device that can pump water in or drain water out as needed. The sensor fills the bladder until it is filled enough to float six inches above the surface of the lake. As water levels drop, the sensor automatically activates the drainage system will ensure that the bladder stays at the six inch mark.

As for the water movement itself, an intake pipe deep out in Bay Lake pulls in water and moves it along the lake bottom. Once inside the boundary of River Country’s cove, the pipe makes its way to the base of the waterslide hill. From here the water is pumped up to troughs at the top of the slides, which is then careens back down the hill in the flumes towards the swimming area. The churning of the water, not to mention the guests tubing, zip lining, tire swinging, and cannonballing into the main swimming area causes water to splash out of the cove, over the bladder, and back into Bay Lake. From there the process could start all over again.

With 8,500 gallons of water moving through the attractions each minute, is it any wonder that River Country had to break the mold on design and engineering to bring the old fashioned swimming hole into the 20th Century?

07 March 2017

The Bass Never Landed

If you’ve ever ventured into the Live Oak Lodge at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, then you’ve likely wandered into Big Murggie’s Den. More often than not guests are taken in by the billiards table and may not even give a second consideration to who, or what as the case may be, Big Murggie is. A clue as to this rascal’s identity can be found right over the mantle of the den’s fireplace.

The plaque reads, “Since 1941, a channel bass ‘Big Murggie’ has fouled both rod and reel in the waters of Broad Creek. Lodgers both young and old tell a tale of the bass never landed.” It goes on to list the individuals who almost got him, the date of the incident, an estimated weight of Big Murggie at the time, and a quote from the fishermen in concentrical fish shaped rings. The four entries are:

M. Merrill (6-5-41) – 15 Oz. “Nice try”
G. Grantham (10-27-48) – 10 Lbs. (Maybe) “Slipped away…”
R. Edmunds (3-14-59) – 22 +/- Lbs. “Bent my hook!”
T. Sparks (7-11-66) – 48 Lbs.? “Broke my line!”

If the name Edmunds rings a bell, that would be because it is his family, as the story goes, that it was Royce’s family that first came to the island and wanted to create this lodge. It just so happens that Royce is also one of those dedicated to the rod and reel who would love to see Murggie up on their wall.

According to the anthology of the resort, “Big Murggie is the biggest, meanest channel bass ever to cross man’s path. Royce was just a youngster when he first laid eyes on him, and from that day on he believed that it would be his mission to reel him in. You are welcome to fish for him yourself, but by now he’s probably as big as a house. The plaque on the wall in the den of the Live Oak Lodge is all primed and ready for him; all that’s missing is Big Murggie himself.”

Considering the last sighting was in 1966 when Murggie was 48 pounds, it’d be easy to believe he’d be the size of a house by now! So if you’re out on Fishing Pole Pier, and happen to see a rather oversized channel bass swim by, know that you’re probably going to need a big fishing rod. As for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if he buried himself in the much and has sprouted one of those beautiful dunes in the marsh. And that’s precisely the type of tale they tell around Big Murggie’s Den.