Friday, August 30, 2013

Epcot's Coral Reef

By: Nick Maglio, co-writer of the Disney Musings Blog.

Tucked behind The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion in Walt Disney World's Epcot, you many never know a restaurant, Coral Reef, is here unless you check out the park map, or are looking for it.

Really, as someone who has been to Epcot dozens of times, I don't consult a park map any longer, and never knew where this restaurant was located. I'd heard of Coral Reel, sure. It usually gets mixed reviews, so it's taken a few years to get around to trying it out. But, as we like to try new restaurants each trip, this finally came up in our plans.

Now that we've found it, let's go on in, shall we.

There is a lovely entryway to the restaurant, which evokes the sense of entering the sea, from a sandy beach, into the surf, and then fully submerged...

...where you encounter aquatic life...

...until you enter the restaurant, and you ARE aquatic life!

The dining area has a terrific view of the Sea's massive aquarium. There were 4 of us in our party, and we were seated in a booth with a great view of the tank. Left to right, me, my wife, Barbie, our friends Kandi, and John.

So far so good, we're loving the place, But how's the food and service? Our waiter was very attentive, and we never had to ask for a drink refill. When he brought bread, it was warm, and  the butter a perfect consistency.

Kandi had the Field Greens and Endive Salad, with pears, goat cheese, spiced walnuts, and cranberry vinaigrette for $8.49.
She asked for the dressing and goat cheese on the side. I tried the goat cheese, and it was really good.
She had another appetizer as her entree, the Rustic Seafood Stew, with Cedar Creek Clams, Mussels, White Fish, and Toasted Ciabatta , $11.99.

John had the Seared Chicken Breast, served over spaetzle finished with Applewood smoked bacon - chicken broth, $21.99.
Barbie had the  Grilled Mahi Mahi, with Laughing Bird Shrimp, Hearts of Palm, Jasmine Rice, Cilantro, and a Coconut-Lime Sauce $24.99
I had the Seared Rainbow Trout, with warm salad of white beans, arugula, tomatoes, crispy bacon, aged balsamic vinegar and brown butter, $19.99.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meal, and speaking for myself, the rainbow trout was delicious, and the bacon brought perfect balance to the tastes. Well, it IS bacon, after all, would you expect anything less?

We were too full for dessert.  a

Were we happy with the food and service? Absolutely!

Was it overpriced for what we got? I am going to admit something to you all right now, and I'd appreciate if you'd keep it amongst yourselves, but my parent's favorite restaurant is Red Lobster.
So I am a frequent visitor to Red Lobsters, and can say that my meal here was comparably priced to what I might pay for a dinner portion there.

Will we return? Without a doubt!

This article was originally posted on the Tips From the Disney Divas and Devos Blog, where Nick is a contributing writer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel for Brunch

By Nicholas Maglio, co-writer of the Disney Musings Blog

Goofy's Kitchen is located in the Fantasy Tower of the Disneyland Hotel.

A very popular brunch, with plenty of food choices, including many breakfast item, such as "Mickey Mouse" Waffles & Pancakes, French Toast, Sausage & Bacon, a Create-Your-Own Omelet Station, Eggs Benedict, Fresh Fruit, Goofy's Famous Peanut Butter Pizza, Soft-Serve Yogurt with Toppings.

There are several lunch type items as well, since this is "brunch", such as an extensive salad selection, Chicken Breast Nuggets, pizza, and many other items.

But to me, there seems to be more desserts than anything else, including an ice cream bar.

To be honest, the food here, in my humble opinion, is mediocre.
I think the food at the Storyteller's Cafe buffet at the Grand Californian is superior, while their characters are not as varied.
At Goofy's, the characters are the draw, including Baloo, who joined us for breakfast:

  Barbie and Baloo
 The new super team, Chip 'n' Mulan?

Me and Dale
A character I've not previously gotten a picture with, Br'er Fox!



And our host, Goofy:

As of January 2013 Brunch is 7am-12pm Mon-Fri and 7am-2pm Sat & Sun, prices for Adults: $32.99 and Children 3-9: $16.99 not including gratuity or sales tax.

Final analysis: The food, while not the best, is plentiful, and you won't go away hungry. Go for the fun.

This article was originally posted on the Disney Musings Blog, which Nick co-writes with his wife, Barbie.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How I Plan For Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival

By: Nick, co-writer of the Disney Musings Blog

It seems that every year Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival gets bigger and requires more forethought and planning. The dates for the Festival are September 27th- November 11th.
I usually check out what the Disney Parks Blog, the Disney Food Blog , the Food Festival Blog, and The Tips From the Disney Divas and Devos Blog, have posted for the latest information and tips for planning.

Here's what we do to plan.

To start, there are several tastings, seminars, and special events, many of which require reservations.
Pick which ones you'd like to attend, and call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378).
I check out park hours during my visit. I'm a morning person, so the plan is to go to one of the other parks with early Extra Magic Hours, have lunch at that park, and take an afternoon break. We'll then visit Epcot during the evening. If possible, we avoid the weekends. That's when a lot of locals go and it gets VERY crowded.
On 2 days, usually Friday and whichever day Epcot has early EMHs, we'll hit the food booths early, and visit another park in the evening.

Also, as soon as the menus come out for the booths, we'll go through it and decide what interests us.
I make a copy of this paired down list, and pair it down even further by highlighting the must haves.
Pacing yourself is key, for a variety of reasons, which is why I pick those must haves

Financially, this is an expensive event if you plan to try a bit of everything. Sure, on the surface, $3-$7 for a sample may not seem like much, but this adds up quickly!
As for paying at the booths, we get gift cards. It's quicker than cash, and an easier way to keep track of what you are spending. They sell little ones with wrist bands, so they are also convenient.

Then there is the alcohol, which can add up even faster than the food.
I have tried the suggested food and wine pairings in years past, and then had a beer or 2, and then a mixed drink. This is a bad idea. Trust me!

We'll be at the Festival during it's opening week, so stop by the Disney Musings, Disney Food Love, and the Epcot Food and Wine Addicts Facebook pages for photos and reports.

I hope some of these tips help, and perhaps we'll see you at the Festival! Enjoy!

Portions of this article were originally posted on the Disney Musings Blog.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Storyteller's Cafe at Disneyland Resort's Grand Californian for Breakfast

By Nicholas Maglio, co-writer of the Disney Musings Blog

My wife, Barbie, her cousin Jill, Jill's husband Zach, and I had breakfast at the lovely Storyteller's Cafe at Disneyland Resort's Grand Californian this past February.

We all chose to partake in the Farmer's Market Buffet which was $25.99 for adults. The children's price was $11.99.
The buffet included bacon, sausage, an omelet station, scrambled eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit, and a "baker's bonanza", cereal, salmon, etc., waffles are available from the kitchen upon request.

There are also entrees such as The American Breakfast: Two Eggs, Country Potatoes, seasonal Fruit, and Toast with choice of hickory smoked Bacon, Ham or spicy Chicken Sausage. Served with a glass of Juice, Steak and Eggs, several omelets, pancakes, french toast and waffles.

The characters are rotated out, and only a couple are out at a time. While we were there we saw, Chip, Terk from Tarzan, and, Koda and Kanei from Brother bear.

Barbie, Chip and me

Terk and me

Sadly I missed one of my favorite characters, Meeko. We also missed Dale and Pluto.

While the characters here are not as well known and numerouse as those at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Resort, the food is much better.

Final analysis, if you want a very good meal, in a beautiful restaurant, with a smattering of characters, this buffet is for you. Stop back soon for a look at Goofy's Kitchen.

This article was originally posted on the Disney Musings Blog, which Nick co-writes with his wife, Barbie.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot's Mexico Pavilion

La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot's Mexico Pavilion 

By Nick Maglio: Co-writer of the Disney Musings Blog

Located across from the Aztec Pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, La Hacienda de San Angel has a prime location on World Showcase Lagoon.

Open from 4:00pm–9:00pm for dinner each evening, this is, and please, don't spread this around, as we don't want EVERYBODY knowing, a GREAT spot to watch Illuminations! Let's get to our experience, and I'll be making suggestions along the way.

We had an 8:00pm ADR, and arrived a few minutes early. Suggestion 1- Make a later ADR within an hour of Illuminations.

We were immediately called, and escorted to a dining area nowhere near the large windows looking out over the lagoon.

 I asked if there was anything available by the windows, and was told it may be a few minutes. We waited only about 10, before we were again called, and this time we were brought into a much lovelier dining area overlooking the water. Suggestion 2 - Ask for a window seat.

The regular menu. Our friend Kandi is a vegetarian, and asked for vegetarian suggestions.
Our server brought a Vegetarian Menu. Suggestion 3, if you have a special dietary needs, don't hesitate to bring this to your server's attention. This one really applies to ANY Walt Disney World restaurant.

My friend John and I shared the "La Hacienda," $49.95. It came with New York strip, chicken al pastor, chorizo sausage, vegetables, rice and beans. Everything was perfectly cooked, and flavorful. The corn was amazing!

My wife had Tacos de Vegetales, grilled vegetables and queso fresco on flour tortillas served with roasted corn $18. She really enjoyed it, and says she can't wait to go back.

Our friend Kandi had the Enselada de la Casa, Spinach salad with queso fresco, tomatoes, pomegranate, pine nuts, and avocado with mustard vinaigrette dressing for $14.

Just as we were finishing dinner, the lights dimmed and the music from Illuminations began to play.
We had front row seats for one of the most beloved shows at Walt Disney World.

After a great show, we had dessert. Our friends shared the Corn Ice Cream. Yes, Corn ice cream! It came with popcorn, and was sprinkled with paprika. I cannot recall the cost or exact name. We had a taste, and it was very good.

My wife and I shared the Empanada de Manzana, puff pastry filled with sauteed caramel apples, served with dulce de leche ice cream and cajeta (caramel sauce) $7.95, which was also very good.

This was a really great meal, and a really great location from which to view Illuminations, and look forward to our next trip and visit to La Hacienda de San Angel.

This review was originally posted on the Tips From the Disney Divas and Devos Blog, where Nick is a contributing writer as well as his blog, Disney Musings.