Monthly Archives: August 2011

Winter/Summerfest – Part Two!

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Giant trees aren’t the only decoration adorning the various locales of WDW during the holidays.

Far from it.

Today we will take a look at a different kind of decoration seen in a few of the deluxe resorts – the gingerbread concoctions.

As with the trees, these are far from all of the gingerbread decorations around the resorts, but here are the ones from the Grand Floridian and the Yacht & Beach Clubs!

The Grand Floridian goes “traditional” with a giant gingerbread house.

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Seriously, this thing is huge.

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And detailed.

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Really detailed.

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(Also, a fun place for holiday pictures)

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Inside the gingerbread house is a store, selling little gingerbread houses and “shingles” for a smaller taste of the craftsmanship. (Gnawing on the walls of the large house is frowned upon.)

The Yacht & Beach Clubs have a different take on their gingerbread structure.

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A carousel!

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This carousel is just as detailed as the house.

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While you can’t actually go into the carousel, as in the Grand Floridian’s creation, this one has the added fun of hidden Mickeys!

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Nothing like the smell of gingerbread wafting through the lobby to get you into a holiday mood!

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Winter/Summerfest – Part One!

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One of the things that annoys me about the holiday season is how quickly you are onslaught with everything festive, to the point where you get sick of it before the festivities even take place, and then there is a dearth of festivity for the rest of the year.

Take the music, for example. When you first start to hear those beloved tunes such as Christmas Eve Sarajevo or All I Want For Christmas Is You, you’re all excited. You haven’t heard these songs in forever.

But then they’re played ALL THE TIME. And you start to think that if you hear The Little Drummer Boy one more time, you might lose it.

And then, as quickly as it all arrived, the holiday music is gone, tucked away for another 11 months.

This slightly drawn-out introduction is the explanation as to why I am choosing to talk about all of the fun holiday touches in WDW now. In August.

There isn’t a lot of holiday spirit in August, is there? But they’re right around the corner (albeit a 4-month-long corner), and well, I thought we could all use a little advance festivity.

Hence, Augustmas. A 4-part series in which I will highlight some of the awesome details and touches Disney adds around the holiday season.

First, a few of the larger-than-what-you’ll-put-in-your-living-room trees. They are all unique to their setting, adding to the fun.

Magic Kingdom

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Hollywood Studios

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Epcot

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Animal Kingdom

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The resorts also put up their own unique trees. Here are just a few of them:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Grand Floridian

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Yacht Club

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Swan

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Dolphin

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Of course, these are just a few of the magical and majestic trees that grace Disney property around the holiday season. Which is your favorite Disney holiday tree?

Throwback Disney shirt

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Wingnut and I recently moved into an apartment together, which meant that I rediscovered a bunch of old stuff I hadn’t seen in years, including a set of Backstreet Boys action figures that were part of a Burger King promotion back in approximately 2000.

(Yes, Wingnut thought that those could be thrown away. No, I did not let him.)

But this isn’t a Backstreet Boys blog.

Also hiding in the back of my closet was a shirt I had gotten in WDW back in 1997. Back when the castle looked like this:

I’ll admit, as my younger self, I thought the pink cake castle was pretty cool. I remember leaning over the bridge and touching the side of the Pepto-Bismol covered facade, wondering what it was made of. (According to Wikipedia, “icing” and paint.)

However, looking back, it does look quite gaudy. And if I was a 1997 Disney bride with photos planned, I’d be freaking out.

But as a pre-teen, this was a souvenir-worthy occasion!

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(yes, that is a giant stuffed chicken behind me)

(This is Now!!! – Walt Disney World – 1997)

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(That was then – Walt Disney World – 1971)

What do you think of the Castle Cake? Awesome? Horrific? A combination thereof?

Beaches & Cream

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If you’ve never experienced this adorable gem tucked away in the Beach Club, well…I suggest you change that ASAP!

Beaches & Cream is mainly known as an ice cream shop, but they do have a full menu as well, complete with classics such as burgers, onion rings, and fries.

Look how cute the menu is!

Menu @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

Now, Beaches & Cream is VERY small, and does not accept reservations. Your best bet is to go during an unpopular meal hour. Probably the busiest time is after Illuminations, that’s when the biggest crowds gather for their ice cream. They do also have a takeout window, but the menu is very abbreviated there.

But Wingnut and I walked to the podium at around 12:15, and I was surprised to be given a choice of a counter, table, or booth, all available right away. We chose the booth, and happily began to peruse the sherbet-hued menu, while enjoying the ice-cream-themed decor around us.

We both decided on the Roast Beef Sub, which comes with cheese, peppers, onions, and (possibly) mushrooms. It is also accompanied by french fries and au jus for dipping.

Roast Beef Sub @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

I enjoyed this, it was a nice and filling meal. Wingnut says that “it was good, a teensy bit dry, but the au jus was enough to make up for it, it had a nice flavor. The fries were run of the mill.”

Beaches and Cream has those fun squeezy bottles of ketchup and mustard, which Wingnut used to create a hidden condiment Mickey.

Ketchup Mickey @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

Wingnut ordered a strawberry malt along with his sandwich, which he really enjoyed: “very thick and malty, probably the best malt i’ve had since i was a kid.”

Strawberry Malt @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

(See the cute beach decor in the background?)

Now, I am lactose-intolerant, and I had asked our waitress earlier in the meal about non-dairy ice cream alternatives available (they offer Rice Dream and Tofutti products), the wheels in my head turning in the direction of a post-sub sundae. However, as I watched him delighting in his frozen treat (a teensy bit jealous), our waitress came over to let me know that they could make me a non-dairy malt with soy milk and either the Rice Dream or Tofutti, if I so desired.

Seriously?!?

I love Disney World.

Yes, vanilla please.

Non-Dairy Malt @ Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

(Yes, that is whipped cream on top – I can have limited bits of dairy.)

I never knew non-dairy life could be so rich and decadent!! This was the perfect treat, and Wingnut was thrilled I could join him for a malt, something we never even considered could be possible.

Even though the malt was wonderful, that isn’t the main thing that Beaches & Cream is known for. Their big (literally) item is the Kitchen Sink, which consists of 8 scoops of ice cream, every topping they have (of which there are more than several), and an entire can of whipped cream (because…well…why not?).

While Wingnut and I didn’t attempt to tackle this on our own, we did get to see one being served to a table nearby. There is a fun celebration that ensues when a Kitchen Sink is delivered, complete with flashing lights and cheering.

Beaches & Cream is located in the Beach Club, right by Stormalong Bay.

The allure of the glow

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Disney has the ability to make ordinary objects entirely irresistible to the crowds. Typically this is done by making the item Mickey-shaped. Such as in a sprinkle.

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But sometimes they up the ante, and the item is taken to another dimension entirely.

They add a glow cube.

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This is the blue “glow-tini”, a drink that was practically everywhere during the Year of a Million Dreams, a “year” that encompassed 2006 and 2007. Now this drink can be found at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe in DHS, in all of it’s blue sugary glory.

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While it is certainly a novelty drink, it is pretty good too. Definitely sweet, but a fun and refreshing Disney treat.

I mentioned that it glows too, right?

Thanks to a reusable glow cube jauntily placed in the drink, your drink can either stay a solid glowing color, blink slowly, blink rapidly, or not glow at all (boring). A button on the side of the cube controls the illumination preference.

Glow cubes are also available in drinks at the Sci-Fi Dine-In (milkshakes), and the Magical Star Cocktail in various locations.

For the younger set, glowing drink accouterments can be found in most of the Disney restaurants in the form of a clipped-on character to the straw in a coordinating reusable cup. Currently, the characters that can be found are Tinker Bell or Buzz Lightyear, found on a Fairies or Toy Story 3 cup, respectively.

Here is the Tink version:

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Tinkerbell and Fairy Friends cup

While the glowing items certainly don’t add to the flavor of what you’re drinking, they absolutely add to the experience! (And isn’t that what Disney’s all about?)

Jiko! Jiko! Jiko!

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(When I asked Wingnut what should be the next restaurant I talk about, the chant that is the title of this post ensued.)

To say that I had been eagerly anticipating this meal for awhile would be a very huge understatement.

Almost as big an understatement as it would be to call Jiko our favorite meal in WDW. Possibly favorite meal of ever.

In between the time of booking our reservation and our actual meal, a few menu changes occurred. The macaroni and cheese no longer accompanied the filet, which I had been considering having, but hadn’t been totally fixated on having.

Unfortunately for my beloved Wingnut, a dessert he had been eyeing (nay, drooling over already), the Coffee and Koeksisters (spiced doughnuts), also disappeared. He was shocked. Dismayed. None of the new dessert offerings would ever take its place.

Well, we’d see about that.

On the way to Jiko:

Going to Jiko

We got there a bit early, and were told they wouldn’t start seating until 5:30 (our reservation was for 5:35). We meandered around the lobby of AKL. We stood in the waiting area between Boma and Jiko. We then hung out in the bar area just inside the doors of Jiko, and then were called to our table.

When we approached the hostess stand with our now buzzing buzzer, the hostess handed us a card for our anniversary, which the staff had signed.

Anniversary Card @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

We thanked them for this unexpected and sweet gesture, and were led to our table. Some ambiance:

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Jiko2, Animal Kingdom Lodge

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We were seated near the wall shown above, which subtly changed colors throughout the evening to represent a sunset.

Upon being seated, we were given two types of bread (honey wheat and flax seed) and tandoori butter.

Bread and Butter1 @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

I then notified the server about my litany of annoying food allergies, and he promptly brought out some safe bread and butter for my side of the table (the flax seed bread and regular butter).

Bread and Butter @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

I enjoyed the bread, it had a very nice flavor. Wingnut said, “the tandoori butter was very tasty, it went well with both of the breads. The flavor of the butter was strong, but not overpowering.”

Next, it was time for appetizers. I had been looking at one in particular for awhile, and decided I couldn’t not try it.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

This is the barbecue chicken flatbread, and it is simply outstanding. I loved the barbecue sauce with the crispy sweet crunch of the apples and jicama. I was thrilled to finally get to try this, after seeing pictures of it for so long!

Wingnut had the Wild Boar Tenderloin for his appetizer:

Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

He describes this as “wonderful, served over chakalaka, which was spicy, but just enough to contrast the buttery boar. There was a little mealie in the chakalaka, but it was more for the textural component.” I tried a bite (okay, 2) of this, and thought it was delicious (possibly even a touch more so than my flatbread. And yes, I shared that too!)

For our main courses, I had the filet, which was served with fingerling potatoes and pole beans.

Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon2 @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

There were spices of some sort that I am unable to have in the red wine sauce, so that’s why that is missing. I thought that the filet was a fantastic cut of beef, buttery and flavorful. I wished I had been able to try this in its true form, as it was very very very good, but was missing that unique touch that all of the dishes seemed to have. Definitely a delicious course though!

Wingnut then moved on to the Braised Berbary Duck

Seared Barbarie Duck Breast2 @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Seared Barbarie Duck Breast @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Honestly, I have never seen Wingnut enjoy a course more than this one. “The duck was like slices of filet mignon – it was soo tasty and tender. It was served over tandoori potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms, which were equally as good as the duck, and bruleed figs for a sweet component.” I did not taste any of this, as I was afraid of spicy allergens within. It did look like a beautiful and delectable dish, and he literally cleared the plate.

For dessert, our wonderful server brought over an anniversary treat for each of us.

Sorbet Sampler @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

I received a sorbet sampler with triple berry, apricot, and strawberry sorbets. The strawberry and apricot were both fabulous, but the triple berry was honestly the best sorbet (possibly dessert) I have ever tasted. It was jam-packed with flavor and wonderfulness. I savored that little scoop like it was a precious treasure.

Amarula Creme Brulee @ Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

(The slightly impatient) Wingnut was given the Amarula Creme Brulee. He is not typically a creme brulee fan (I know, right? ), but he called this “incredible”. It had a layer of chocolate on the bottom that he said gave it a little something extra. I was unable to taste, just got to watch him swoon.

When we were about halfway through our desserts, our server came by and said that the only other dessert on the menu I would be able to have besides the sorbets was the chocolate cremeux cake, and if we would like to try that as well, he’d be happy to bring it over.

Wingnut left it up to me.

Oh, I was SO tempted. I kind of regret my decision now, but…

I declined.

Sometimes (rarely) I like to put up the appearance of being dainty, and didn’t want to toss even more decadence on top of the already amazing meal. I was already stuffed. It would have been just in excess.

OH WHY DID I SAY NO?

I savored my last drop of triple berry sorbet, and thus concluded our anniversary meal at Jiko.

Despite thinking about this dinner for approximately 7 months, Jiko still managed to exceed our expectations. It was a wonderful meal from start to finish, with attentive service, beautiful ambiance, and delicious dishes.

Just singin’ in the rain…

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One of my favorite little Disney “secrets” in the parks is the Singing in the Rain umbrella, found in Hollywood Studios. It’s such a simple thing, but another fun movie touch that makes Hollywood Studios what it is.

If you have never seen this and am wondering “what umbrella? I know about a giant hat…”, venture to the Streets of America, way back towards Lights! Motors! Action!, and hang a left right before you actually exit the streets.

Confused? So am I.

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(Map from wdwinfo.com)

The umbrella is where the giant yellow arrows are pointing.

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So as you can see, the umbrella is, essentially, an umbrella.

Except it is also SO MUCH MORE.

I called it the Singing in the Rain umbrella, didn’t I? So of course, Disney also puts you in charge of the weather of those several square feet.

See that little black square I’m standing on? When you stand on that (and it isn’t absolutely freezing or Disney isn’t trying to conserve water), it rains all around the umbrella, perfect for your best Singing in the Rain impression.

(The area decorated for the Osborne Lights)

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This umbrella isn’t just a great photo op, it is also the spot of one of my favorite games, “Hmm..I can’t figure out how to make the rain work..”, in which you feign confusion (“I swear, I thought there was supposed to be rain here!”), poking around the umbrella for a button. Wait until one of your travel companions (preferably not the one holding your camera!) comes over to help, and hop on the black square!

The laughs and hilarity will ensue! (At least, for you…)