18 November 2019

Riding the Maelstrom

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

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

14 November 2019

Hang Your Tricorn Hat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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