08 April 2021

The Base of the Mountain

If I have one go-to beverage in all the lounges in all of Walt Disney World, it is the Tempting Tigress from Nomad Lounge. It was the cocktail I tried on my first visit to Nomad Lounge and, while I've sampled plenty of this marquee Animal Kingdom lounge's offerings, I come back to the Tempting Tigress again and again. While Nomad Lounge rests in Discovery Island, this is definitely a beverage fit for the finest establishments in Anandapur. I am thrilled to have it in my home bartending repertoire, just as I hope you will be after this entry.

TEMPTING TIGRESS

Ingredients:

2 Oz. Russell's Reserve 10-Year Bourbon
1 Oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 Oz. Lime Juice
1 Bar Spoon Tamarind Syrup
 
Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass with ice.
Stir and strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
 
There are a couple of recipe notes worth discussing up front. For starters, if you don't have a bar spoon for the tamarind syrup use somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 of an ounce. The tamarind is very strong, so definitely play with the quantities to suit your tastes. It also happens to be the toughest ingredient to come by, I found some in a local small grocer, but it can usually be found through Amazon as a last resort. Lastly, the Russell's Reserve is good, and is the bourbon called for in the recipe, but this tasty cocktail only got better when I subbed in Uncle Nearest or Woodford Reserve.

The Tempting Tigress has a rich mouthfeel, full of spicy notes and tart citrus. This isn't a typical drink you'd throw back on a warm summer afternoon on the beach, but it is perfect for sipping in the early evening with a good friend or good book on your back porch during any season.
 
If bourbon is your spirit of choice, and you like a bit of a spicy zing in your concoctions, the Tempting Tigress will not disappoint. If you are like me, and you look for a reason to stop in at Nomad Lounge just to have this chilled glass back in your hand, then this recipe is perfect for you. Straight from Nomad Lounge to your back porch, courtesy of a most tempting tigress.

24 March 2021

Unwind in the Heart of Serenity

With days finally starting to get a little warmer, the beverage selection around my house has turned from warm teas and ciders to something with a bit more of a tropical flare. While the warm sun of summer may still be as far away as Castaway Cay, it doesn't mean we can't bring the tropical flavors of a sun-drenched beach to our kitchens.

The Konk Cooler is one of the legendary drinks that can be found on Castaway Cay. A little bit pina colada, a little bit mai tai, a little bit pog juice, and a little bit of mixologist magic creates quite a tropical cocktail. Also, it isn't so strong that it'll knock you right out in your lounger. Instead, it lets the fruit flavors party in your mouth and leaves you in search of a friendly bartender to whip you up another.

KONK COOLER

Ingredients:

1 Oz. Passion Fruit Juice
1 Oz. Pina Colada Mix
1 Oz. Orange Juice
3/4 Oz. Light Rum
1/2 Oz. Dark Rum
 
Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass with ice.
 
That's about as easy a recipe for a cocktail as their is. Honestly, I suspect most well-stocked home bar liquor cabinets contain all but one or two of these ingredients. For our part, I had the passion fruit juice, but not the pina colada mix, for others I imagine it might be the other way around. Also, if you're feeling particularly fancy, you can add a wedge of the tropical fruit of your choice for a garnish.

The pina colada mix gives the Konk Cooler a creamy texture that many tropical cocktails don't employ. Typically, I actually try to avoid mixed beverages that utilize orange juice because I feel like the tend to overpower the other ingredients. Don't get me wrong, I love orange juice (I am a Florida boy after all), but it usually is too strong for adding it in with other flavors. Not so here, where the most forward flavors are the passion fruit juice and the dark rum. This switch up from what I was expecting, and from what I remember from my Konk Cooler on Castaway Cay, made for a delicious surprise!

I did have a couple of thoughts while making these myself. One, I would probably add ice to the shaker just to add a little chill to the proceedings, before the concoction makes it to the glass. Two, the dark rum works well here, but I also wonder if it wouldn't plus it up just a hair if I used spiced rum in its place.

Castaway Cay may not be in our immediate future, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a piece of it wherever we find ourselves. This fun, fruity, and frosty beverage will remind you of the warm seabreeze in your hair and provide you with a moment to serenity, wherever you happen to be. The next time you need that moment of bliss, throw on some beach music and remember that the Konk Cooler is a simple escape.

22 March 2021

Take a Stroll Around the Block

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is one of the longer festivals to grace the park. In a typical year it features garden ideas, seminars, shopping, food, music, and, of course, topiaries. It could be argued, and rightly so, that many of the festivals have lost their identity and have transformed into one year-long festival, with a couple of menu changes in the marketplace booths. Each year there is less innovative or original gardens and topiaries, with the individual spirit of the festival being relegated to new merchandise. That’s a story for another day.
 
The topiaries scattered about World Showcase and Future World have always been one of the true joys, and heart, of the Flower and Garden Festival. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a purist or just stubborn, but I’ve always liked the topiaries without the fake eyes. The more plant, the better.
 

Here we see a bit of topiary humor, with Aladdin modeling as the final touches are made to his topiary by a member of the horticulture team. This photo was taken in 1994, just days before the Aladdin topiary was installed for the first time in the festival. His spot for many years were the gardens, usually purple and green cabbage or marigolds, of Morocco. Situated along the miniature canals that connected to the waterwheel. A display, which while often overlooked, gave guests an up close and personal look at the model of irrigation.
 

When the gardens were removed to make way for Spice Road Table, Aladdin found other places to fly his carpet around the Morocco pavilion. While he isn’t part of the festival this year, I have a feeling he may be returning in the next year or two, as his film will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in November of 2022. I love Aladdin, especially his original placement, but I don’t know if he’s on the tops of my topiary list. As for you, which of the topiaries from the Flower and Garden Festival, new or retired, is your favorite? 

16 March 2021

Great Places for Children to Visit


Toy Story has become one of the marquee franchises in Walt Disney World. Its characters have an attraction in the Magic Kingdom, an entire land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a section of the of All Star Movies Resort. The Toy Story section of the All Star Movie Resort features a representation of Andy’s Room circa the original 1995 Toy Story film, complete with a three story Woody figure and bookshelf. This bookshelf features a number of nods to other Pixar works of the time and was visible in the movie as well. What do all of these book titles reference? I’m glad you asked, let’s run through them.
 
Let’s get a couple of the more standard books children might have on their shelves. Fairy Tales, Dictionary, Great Places for Children to Visit, ABC’s, My First Book, and The Stars could all be found, in some form or fashion, on just about any child’s shelf. There are, to my knowledge, no hidden meanings tucked away in these titles.
 
Red’s Dream, Tin Toy, and Knick Knack are all references to Pixar short films. Red’s Dream, from 1987, features a red unicycle dreaming of being a circus star. 1988’s Tin Toy, stars a one-man band toy, Tinny, who is being pursued, and then ignored, by a baby. It is worth mentioning that Tin Toy would go on to be the first Academy Award win for Pixar. Lastly, Knick Knack, released in 1989, features a snow globe trapped snowman who desperately wants to be free of his snow globe and hang out with other souvenirs at a beach party.
 
Next up, Smyrl Smyrl Twist and Twirl, is a reference to Pixar technician and artist, Eliot Smyrl. Smyrl has worked on everything from Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, to Finding Nemo, Up, Inside Out, and even Pixar’s latest release, Soul.
 
The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. is actually a short that pre-dates Pixar’s formation. This short was created in 1984 and features a robot named Andre waking up in the woods and being taunted by a bee, Wally B. This short was created by Alvy Ray Smith, John Lasseter, Bill Reeves, and other names Pixar fans would be familiar with, but was created when they were still at Lucasfilm.
 
Ant and Bee Go on Vacation, isn’t a real title and it doesn’t have a tie to a Pixar project. However, it is likely a reference to the 13 Ant and Bee stories by Angela Banner that were created by Angela Banner and illustrated by Banner and Bryan Ward in the 1950s through the early 1970s. This series is still a beloved children’s book series in the United Kingdom.
 
Lastly, let’s discuss a pair of mysteries. Feet First has no place in Pixar or real-world literature that I could find. It’s a complete enigma to me. Scooter Run, however, may be a nod to the scooters that were used as transportation around Pixar in their early years. In fact, it is possible that this is even a reference to the timed races they would have when they needed to let off some steam, but I can’t find any solid documentation of my theory. If you have details on either of these titles, I’d be happy to know!
 
There you have it, a shelf full of childhood memories, nods to Pixar’s early history, and a couple of mysteries. Which is your favorite bit of history or trivia that you’ll share on your next trip to All Star Movies?

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 RenĂ© 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: