23 February 2017

Found at Hawker Centers

Coming out of the gate I want to be completely up front and honest. We are reviewing the Morimoto Spare Ribs that can be found at both Morimoto Asia and Morimoto Asia Street Food, if you haven’t heard about them yet, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under. If you haven’t taken the time to try them yet, then maybe I can finally be that voice of reason that sends you scurrying off to take your first bite. If you’re just here for the food porn that is a picture of the Morimoto Spare Ribs, here you go!

The ribs come in in orders of three at both Morimoto Asia and Morimoto Asia Street Foods, but an order of six can be obtain at Morimoto Asia. An order of three of these behemoth ribs is more than enough for one person, and six is definitely for sharing. The menu lists the Morimoto Spare Ribs as pork ribs with cilantro and hoisin sweet chili glaze. Those descriptions hit the basics of what is included in terms of flavor, but miss out on a lot of the other wonderful components make up these ribs. In the mélange for the ribs, from either the braising ingredients or the glaze, are tamarind paste, garlic, onion, ginger, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and soy sauce, to name just a few.

Each rib is huge, and that is not an understatement. I know that beef back ribs can sometimes be referred to as brontosaurus ribs, but these pork spare ribs want to compete for that title. For as big as they are, each of the Morimoto Spare Ribs contains just as much flavor. They are crispy on the outside, with tender, juicy meat that falls right off the bone just underneath. The glaze strikes just the right balance between sweet, heat, and salty. I absolutely cannot recommend these ribs enough.

How much do I like these ribs? We all know I am prone to recreating Disney recipes that I love at home. The Morimoto Spare Ribs were so popular that the recipe was released a little more than a month after the restaurant opened. Here’s the rub, I know that utilizing recipes supplied by Disney that I can generally make a fair stand-in for any given dish, but with the ribs I’m almost certain to be disappointed. The ribs are so good in their original form that anything I would create would only pale in comparison, so I won’t even try.

If you weren’t hungry before you started reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you are now. If you hadn’t tried the Morimoto Spare Ribs before today, I hope you are making immediate plans to rectify this situation. And if you need someone to take an extra rib or two off of your hands because you order too many, then I’m your man!

21 February 2017

Where the Stars Stay and Play

When you wander down Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you could be forgiven for being distracted. After all, your attention is almost immediately drawn to the screams being emitted from the large hotel at the end of the street. With all the chaos and attention that the Hollywood Tower Hotel is bringing upon itself, have you ever paused and looked at artifacts on the street just below your line of sight?

On the left hand side of the street, as you make your way down to the Tower of Terror, there is a sign on the curb near Sweet Spells. The sign is a California marker for US-66, otherwise known as Route 66. The more interesting artifact, however, is the sets of luggage found at the base of the signpost. The two pieces of green luggage belong to Gilbert London, while the matching three piece set of brown luggage is the property of Carolyn Crosson.

Both Gilbert and Carolyn, though perhaps she is better recognized by her stage name of Claire Poulet, both come to Sunset Boulevard as characters from the Tower of Terror episode of The Wonderful World of Disney. The episode aired on October 26, 1997 and featured Steve Guttenberg and Kristen Dunst as a reporter, Buzzy, and his niece, Anna. Gilbert and Carolyn are two of the five ghosts featured in the attraction and the film, though they are portrayed by a different acting pair in the television installment. Gilbert is the snarky and snide actor who, deep down, has compassion for his fellow ghosts. Carolyn is a warm and caring individual, who tries to be as open and honest as one can be in her situation. While not what one would expect, they were in love prior to their deaths in the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s elevator in 1939 and remain so in the afterlife.

The episode would go on to be released as a standalone film, but there are never references made to the attraction or story’s tie to The Twilight Zone. The Tower of Terror feature can be seen as the beginning of Disney’s attempt to bring attractions and their stories back to film, as this predates Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bears, and the like. In fact, all exterior shots of the hotel and several of the interior scenes were filmed at the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then Disney-MGM Studios.

Gilbert and Carolyn finally get their storybook, or science fiction television, romance at the end of Tower of Terror. However, their theme park counterparts are still sending chills up the spines of guests daily. I much prefer the first ending to their story, don’t you? Regardless, these sets of American Tourister luggage have been awaiting the return of their owners for a very, very long time.

20 February 2017

The Essence and Flavor of France

It’s no secret that the level of attention that went into the selection of landmarks, as well as the attention to detail, for each of the pavilions in World Showcase was monumental. In fact, the story of each pavilion was so intricate, from the choice of restaurants, to decor, and even to the placement of the pavilion, that Cast Members had manuals dedicated to the individual pavilions that they worked in when EPCOT Center opened in 1982. The design stories from France are, if not my favorite, amongst a very short list from around World Showcase. I could pull out a couple of details for you, but why not give you a chance to read some of it for yourself?

“When Architectural Designer Harry Webster began designing the France pavilion, one of the first questions he asked himself was, ‘How do you symbolize, represent, create images for and capture the essence and flavor of France in an area roughly an acre in size.’ 
“One of his goals was to provide a historical stretch of French architecture, representing several styles and influences. Our provincial street, La Pétit Rue, could have been built in the 1600’s, while the chateau façade of La Signature recalls those grand country estates of the 1700’s. Parisian architecture is best remembered for its structures built in La Bell Époque, or the beautiful age, those years between 1850 and 1900. 
“An earlier concept was to re-create the Place du Tetre, the artists’ colony up near the cathedral of Sacré-Coeur, but we found that the Sacré-Coeur would have dominated the skyline too much, and hence, decided on our symbol and exclamation point provided by the Eiffel Tower. 
“From the outset, we thought it was only appropriate that France should reside near a river in order to provide atmosphere of Paris on the Seine. After securing the pavilion’s site, Au Petit Café was relocated from the west side to its present location. The move gave us the opportunity to include the small park near the canal. 
“Under Baron Von Haussmann during the 1850’s, Paris’s great boulevards were almost standardized with uniform seven-story high structures. This was known as the Grand Design, depicting elegance with its mansard roofs and dormers. 
Masters of scale, our Disney designers have made our Paris buildings look much higher than its three-story layout.
The original Eiffel Tower in Paris, France was built in 1889 for the Paris Exhibition, and was the tallest structure in the world until 1930.
Although ours is duplicated from original blueprints, it stands without a base. However, this peculiarity doesn’t take away from the show, as the tower’s sale makes it not only look as if it’s farther away than it actually is, but also looks as if the buildings before it are ‘hiding’ the base.”

There are as many stories about the France pavilion as there are artists and composers present throughout the pavilion. The document created for France’s Cast Members doesn’t share all of these stories, but it sets a great foundation for further explanation, even if their Eiffel Tower doesn’t have one! From windows to the river, the France pavilion is a masterclass of design.

15 February 2017

Be There to Experience It

Let’s start with the obvious, if you’ve been around the Gazette for a while, you’ve probably caught on that my adult beverages of choice often contain whiskey or bourbon. However, I will often try something else in order to give you a proper review, but also to come into contact with new things. It is this second reason that makes me feel so at home at Nomad Lounge. Here, on the opening page of the menu, they explain, “Our trips are about research, but they are also about understanding cultures, exploring environments, and having unique experiences.” With that mantra in mind, today I offer up two very different cocktails for your consideration, the Annapurna Zing and Jenn’s Tattoo.

The Annapurna Zing comes from the Indonesia section of the menu and is comprised of Bombay Sapphire East Gin, passion fruit puree, mint, simply syrup, and lime juice, topped with Ginger Beer. While the specific ginger beer isn’t listed, Disney’s fondness for Fever Tree recently makes me think this could be the splash that they are using here. This has a lot of ingredients, but has a very simple flavor. The zing comes from the ginger beer and lime, which are always a good combination, regardless of what spirit you choose to include with them. The simple syrup and passion fruit do their best to minimize, but not entirely mute the zingy elements of the cocktail. If you’re a fan of gin, but you don’t want another martini or gimlet, the Annapurna Zing should be right up your alley. I know I certainly enjoyed mine.

Jenn’s Tattoo is a concoction of Ketel One Vodka, watermelon, hibiscus, and lime juice that comes to us from the Central and South America segment of the menu. The drink comes topped with a lime wheel and a candied flower. I’m going to say this right now, if you do not like sweet cocktails, this is not for you. It is on the opposite side of the spectrum from what I typically enjoy, but the watermelon, hibiscus, and lime juice combination had me intrigued. Unfortunately, the lime and hibiscus were overpowered by the watermelon, which was as sweet as you remember it from your last slice this past summer. It is definitely a dessert in a glass type of drink, but if you want something that is very sweet, and that masks the vodka well, this is the cocktail for you. For me, the best part of the beverage was the candied flower on top, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It may not be the adult beverage of choice for me, but I could see where others would enjoy it.

My first visit to Nomad Lounge will in no way, shape, or form be my last visit to this hideaway in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. To paraphrase Nomad Lounge’s travelogue present in the menu, whether you’ve traveled across the world or around the corner, as long as you are doing it for the experience and open to new things, the spirit of travel will remain the same. There is always something new to taste, to widen my world just a bit more, and I’ll keep on exploring menus for all of you, but also for myself!

13 February 2017

Yah-Hah-Buoy

It should come as no surprise that the Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus has a cubic ton of nods to animated classics and theme park stories per square foot. That might be a slight over exaggeration, but only slightly. Case in point, this single life preserver from the queue of Goofy’s Barnstormer offers up a great deal of tales to discuss. It reads: Water Ski Championship, “Yah-Hah-Buoy,” Manufactured by Geef Industries, “Your How-To Company.”

The question here is where to start? How about with the simplest explanation, and that comes from the name of the preserver itself, “Yah-Hah-Buoy.” This is clearly a cleverly disguised nod to the Goofy’s famous yell. While the phonics of the yell may get lost in translation, whether it is actually yah-ha-hooey, yah-hoo-hoo-hooey, or yah-ha-ha-hooey, it is unmistakably Goofy’s trademark call when he is surprised or sent for a rather long flight and fall.

Let’s move on down to Geef Industries’ slogan, “Your How-To Company,” next. Goofy has long been known as a Do-It-Yourself type of guy, from exercise and dancing, to sports and household repairs. The How-To series of animated shorts starring Goofy began in the 1940s and ran into 1950s before taking a sabbatical for the next several decades. The series would see a return to prominence in 2007 with the introduction of How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. It goes without saying that Goofy’s best laid plans, even those with step by step instructions, never went quite according to plan.

Moving back just a hair to Geef Industries itself, this is a reference to one of Goofy’s other personas. During the 1950s, Goofy became an everyman, hence some of the Do-It-Yourself type shorts, and had a family to take care of and provide for. During this slate of animated shorts, Goofy was known by the name George Geef. During this time is when we are introduced to Goofy’s son, Max, or Junior as he was known then, as well as Mrs. Geef. While Mrs. Geef’s face was never seen, she did have a distinctive head of red hair.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the top of the bill, err…, life preserver. Water Ski Championship has the most amount of story to tell, but let’s start on the animated side of things. The most obvious Goofy short that this is referencing is the 1961 cartoon, Aquamania. In this short Goofy is determined to get a boat and get out onto the lake with his son. The name of the short itself is introduced very early on in the short, as this cartoon is a case study in Aquamania, or the obsession with boats and boating. Through a bizarre series of circumstance, Goofy ends up in a water skiing race, picks up an octopus companion, takes a trip aboard a roller coaster, and ends up winning the race.

This isn’t the only water skiing that Goofy is known for, however. Between 1972 and 1973, Goofy partook in two water skiing shows right on the Seven Seas Lagoon. Known as the Walt Disney World Water Ski Spectacular and the Wonderful World of Water Ski Show, the show would run up to five times a day, including the occasional evening show. The best location for viewing was right down from the Magic Kingdom’s monorail station, but there was a price for the show. Tickets were 50 and 75 cents, or later the show was one offering of a “D” ticket. Even after the shows had been cancelled, Goofy and his character friends would ski along the lagoon, sometimes right up alongside the ferries. On rare occasions, they would even ski right up to the shore of spur-of-the-moment meet and greets with guests.

Goofy has had an illustrious career as, well, just about everything you could imagine. His exploits are known far and wide, but they are particularly well known around Storybook Circus. If a single life preserver can hold this much story, just imagine the wealth of tales some other artifacts may hold!

10 February 2017

Happily Ever After

It’s been quite the week in terms of news and nighttime entertainment for Walt Disney World, huh? Pandora is opening for Memorial Day Weekend, we’re probably a bit over two years away from Star Wars Land opening, Rivers of Light will officially debut next weekend, DisneyQuest is preparing for its end of the line, and Wishes is going out with a bang to make way for Happily Ever After. There’s excitement throughout the community, some sadness, and I’ve even heard the comment that it’s too much happening all at once. The first time I saw that thought I brushed it off, but then I saw it again and again and began to put some stock and serious thought into the idea.

It occurred to me that, as Walt Disney World enthusiasts, we’re used to changes big and small happening at one time. However, we also are used to these changes happening one at a time. The opening of a new land has always been filled with much pomp and fanfare. It was built up, and built up, and discussed, and dreamed about until the day finally came that it opened and we got to finally experience. We would then dedicate weeks and months to pouring over every corner of the land until we felt we had fully immersed ourselves in every story we could and it had become as much of our Walt Disney World consciousness as any other land. With some minor tweaks this could be the same pattern for a new attraction, show, parade, resort, or any other venture from Walt Disney World. The point being, that for a time it is the new and shiny experience and there isn’t anything playing tug-of-war for our attention.

Has 2107 just become the apex of change in Walt Disney World by pure happenstance? After all, Star Wars Land, while a tentative opening date has been announced for 2019, but that doesn’t have any true standing for this year, just this news cycle. Rivers of Light was scheduled to open last April with other nighttime activities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since Disney Springs was announced and began opening in sections, it was only a matter of time before DisneyQuest was replaced. Surprisingly, new fireworks shows don’t come along too often for the Magic Kingdom, but with all of the projection technology being utilized in every park, including the Magic Kingdom, can anyone really be surprised that the marquee fireworks display really wanted to get in on the game? So, yes, there’s a lot happening right now, but how much of it is just happy circumstance?

Enthusiasts of Walt Disney World are more accustomed to bemoaning our plight as being overlooked and only getting hand-me-downs from Disneyland or a sparse smattering of novel attractions. On some level, we should be thanking Universal Studios for their aggressive expansion over the past several years as bringing the battle for Orlando back to the forefront and giving the parks and resorts the love and attention we all know that they deserve. Once Pandora is open, the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are going to be in relatively great positions as marquee theme parks. Although don’t get me started on the needs of Tomorrowland. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in the midst of a major transition, but its stock will rise exponentially once we can visit a new world in the Star Wars universe and Andy’s backyard. Epcot and its assorted festivals still continue to wow guests year after year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard of major overhauls coming to Future World, World Showcase, and the park’s nighttime spectacular by the end of the year.

Are there a lot of changes coming to Walt Disney World in a comparatively short period of time this year? Yes, there are. This is considering that the changes we’ve already heard about still don’t consider a nighttime parade at the Magic Kingdom, which we all know is a staple of the Magic Kingdom experience and can’t be absent for much longer before the natives get very, very restless. Is this the new status quo? I don’t think so, but it is the standard for the next several years. We should all be grateful that our beloved Vacation Kingdom is receiving the love it so deserves and set ourselves up to rejoice the new attractions, lands, and resorts, and know that there will be times that we’ll have to pay our respects to beloved experience before they are transformed into something new. It’s the circle of life, and with a resort that will never be completed, we should be thankful that we are being given new worlds to explore and build into our consciousness of what makes Walt Disney World wonderful.

09 February 2017

Have an Ice Day

Guests head for Blizzard Beach for fun in the sun and some chill thrills, they aren’t flocking to the water park on the meltdown with their bathing suits and beach towels in order to have a culinary experience. However, when working up a hunger climbing mountains and splish-splashing around, it’s important to make sure you are rehydrating and getting enough calories to maintain a high energy level. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three offerings from Blizzard Beach’s main dining venue, Lottawatta Lodge.

On a recent excursion we opted for two of the main offerings, the Blizzard Cheddar Burger and the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Exciting options, I know, but the menu also features salads, wraps, and flatbreads, but we wanted entrees we could really sink our teeth into. Both sandwiches come with a pair of sides, coleslaw and fries, and as sides go they were fair staples, but nothing to write home about.

The Blizzard Cheddar Burger is amped up with bacon and cheddar (obviously), along with guacamole and barbecue sauce. Bacon and cheddar cheese go with just about everything, guacamole and barbecue sauce included. However, if you’re thinking that the idea of barbecue sauce and guacamole may not complement each other, you’d be on to something. That isn’t to say that they’re actively fighting with one another, but there is an odd disjointedness when you get a bite with both. Your mouth may be confused, but it’s not distracting enough to not stop eating the sandwich.

Meanwhile, the grilled chicken sandwich is just that, grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a multigrain bun. It isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done if you’re looking for a simple, no nonsense lunch. Also, if you’re not thinking about the fries and coleslaw, it does offer a fairly healthy option without going all the way to salads and wraps.

When it comes to beverages, or Brrr-Everages as they’re referred to over at Lottawatta Lodge, there are the regular options and a few specialty items. The Brrr-Everage that seemed to be calling my name, however, was the Frozen Hot Chocolate. Just the name alone had me, and perhaps I should have done some more investigating before I jumped to order it. I think I was expecting a rich, cocoa-y milkshake or something akin to a Frosty from Wendy’s. What I received in the place of that dream was an Icee-type chocolate beverage. Even in the warm Florida sun it melted quickly into a watery, chocolate mess topped by whipped cream. It definitely won’t be a treat sort of item I’ll order again. While it’s rare that I won’t give something a second chance, save a complete reworking of the Frozen Hot Chocolate, I don’t see much in the way of a redeeming quality.

Bad food can turn a great day into a mediocre day very quickly. Lottawatta Lodge does lunch well, and does not distract from the experience the rest of Blizzard Beach has to offer. While I would stay away from the Frozen Hot Chocolate, both sandwiches we sampled left us full and ready for the afternoon without much fuss over the meal. Oh, and don’t worry, we waited 30 minutes before venturing back into Melt-Away Bay!

07 February 2017

We are Reckless, Brave, and Loyal

Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar is filled with wonderful bits of history, from tales of aeronautical flights of daring, to archeological finds, and a ton of nods to Jock’s friend Henry Jones Jr. However, one of my favorite hidden details comes from the lost and found and is the passport of none other than Samantha Sterling. It just goes to show, the Adventurers Club may be gone these nine years, but it has certainly not been forgotten.

Some of you may be asking yourself who is Samantha Sterling. Let’s provide a little background. Samantha Sterling was the daring adventuress who headlined the show stopping cabaret at the Adventurers Club. It is said that stop a man in his tracks by just a glint in her eye and a beast in his tracks with a dart from her blowgun. The character was dressed in the best safari gear and was based upon Amelia Earhart, which makes it easy to see why she and Jock would have been friends.

The passport gives us another tidbit of information that is worth looking into, and no I don’t mean that she was a 5’8” blonde that had blue eyes. I’m sure any man that ever got caught in her gaze could tell you that. No, I’m referring to the date in which the passport was signed by Samantha. In the bottom corner it reads, “Given under my hand and the seal of the Department of State in Washington, DEC 23, 1937.”

Why is this date so interesting? A couple of reasons, for starters it is a mere week before guests visited the Adventurers Club. As guests, the story you were told is that you were visiting the club on the night of a recruitment drive, which also happened to be New Year’s Eve 1937. It’s likely that this is not Sterling’s first passport, as she regaled guests with many a tale of her expeditions, but seeing as how it was issued so close to when guests were visiting the Adventurers Club, it’s no wonder that she hadn’t headed back out on a new trek yet.

We know that Jock was a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, along with many personalities scattered throughout Disney resorts worldwide, and that the S.E.A. was founded after the Adventurers Club, so it isn’t any wonder that membership would have its overlaps, quite possibly including Samantha Sterling. Either way, their free spiritedness would have made the two fast friends. It does make me wonder what other adventurers this pair got into though.