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?)

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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…)

My favorite treat in the entire world…showcase, that is

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While wandering through the countries of the World Showcase in Epcot, there are many (many, many) snacks to choose from. Schoolbread in Norway, Fish and Chips in the U.K, Kaki Gori in Japan…something to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds.

And while I do love these treats, they are not my absolute favorite must-have treat.

For my favorite, I beeline straight for France, along the little streets, and hit the brakes once I see that glorious sign.

“Boulangerie Patisserie”

Bread and Pastry shop.

That doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the wonders inside. But that’s okay. I’m sure they had limited space to work with when designing the sign, and couldn’t rhapsodize about every one of their creamy, crunchy, delicious goods.

But that’s why I’m here!

When you walk into Boulangerie Patisserie, first off, you are bound to encounter a line snaking its way along the sidewalk. DO NOT BE DETERRED. AMAZINGNESS IS WITHIN YOUR GRASP!

Once you walk INTO the bakery, there are two identical counters on either side of the wall. The line will split into two. Based on my inability to choose the speedier line the previous time I visited, I would say go with the counter on the left. But again, what the cases contain is identical.

Inside of the cases, you will encounter heartier options at first. Sandwiches on wonderful baguettes (which can be toasted), cheese plates, and quiches.

Which are all well and good (the ham and cheese baguette is very satisfying), but the good stuff is just a few steps further down.

Cakes and cookies and eclairs and creme brulees and fruit tarts. Chocolate mousse and cheesecake and cream puffs. These will all gleam out from under the glass counter at you, beckoning you.

But I ignore their siren cries for my preferred treat.

Napoleon @ Boulangerie Patisserie, Epcot

The napoleon.

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Crispy layers of puff pastry sandwiched between heaping layers of pastry cream. The top is finished with a snowy dusting…nay, avalanche…of powdered sugar.

Goodness gracious is this thing good.

Let’s get a little bit closer, shall we?

Napoleon @ Boulangerie Patisserie in Epcot

An aerial view.

Napoleons @ Boulangerie Patisserie in Epcot

(No, they were not all for me.)

(But I could have eaten them had they been.)

This sign = love

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– Walt Disney

I love this sign.

I LOVE this sign.

I love what it says, what it represents, how it’s ever-so-slightly tucked away, but easy to spot.

This sign is found at the front of the Magic Kingdom. It basically summarizes what I love about Disney into one plaque.

But most of all, I love that this sign reminds me to always look for the hidden touches. Those tucked-away corners that the Imagineers didn’t neglect to design, the shop window signs, the sidewalks that sparkle, the trashcans that come to life, everything that says “you have left the real world behind, welcome to our world, our kingdom.”

I love this place.

“They’re tourists, what do they know?”

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One of Wingnut and my favorite rides (probably should be “rides” in this case) is MuppetVision 3D. Not so much a ride as it is a show, but oh what a show it is. I think the preshow is actually my favorite part of the show. More than several times I have been tempted to let the purple glasses-wearing crowd pass by, hiding amongst the crates of Miss Piggy’s props and 2D Fruities, so I can watch the preshow in its entirety. Yes, again.

It’s time to get things started…

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Before actually entering the building on a recent trip, I suggested to Wingnut that we take a stroll slightly to the right. And around the back of the building.

Wingnut gave me one of his commonly-seen “this is entirely your weirdo thing” looks, letting me approach the unsuspecting cast member first.

We went up to the doors of the Muppets. As you probably know, the area we wanted to go to is normally blocked off by chains, as it is queue overflow area, but I’m pretty sure the line never gets that long. I didn’t want to go straight to the back alley of the Muppets.

“Hi there, come on in, the show’s about to start!” a cheerful CM greeted us.

“Um, hi. Do you mind if we go behind the chains over there before going into the show? I just wanted to…um…look at something…” I’ll admit, I felt like I was asking to go into the super secret backstage areas.

“Oh sure! No problem!”

I reassured her we’d return (not sure that she was actually concerned about that), and our adventure began!

Basically, there is a long unused line setup, with a ton of funny posters. One side has movie poster parodies, and one side has instructions on how to use your 3-D glasses, among other things. I mostly took pictures of the movie poster side, the “instructional” posters were a bit farther away.

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And a few from the other side of the queue ropes

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Our loitering outside of the Muppets building completed, Wingnut and I went back around to the entrance, said our “Hi again’s” to the CM, and went inside, to where the pre-show was just beginning!

No, we did not walk while wearing our 3D glasses, do not fear!

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A blurry photo of my two favorite hecklers.

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Some area shots around the Muppets vicinity:

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I know that the Muppets don’t really hold the same rope drop sense of urgency as does Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Tower of Terror, or Rock N’ Rollercoaster, but it really is a show worth seeing (I won’t hold it against you if it falls 3rd or 5th or so in your Hollywood Studios touring plan).

And it is DEFINITELY a pre-show worth seeing!

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles!!

Deep-fried and caked in cinnamon sugar = THE most important meal of the day!

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal and best way to start your day.

With that logic, breakfast must be the best way to start off a Disney blog as well!

One of my favorite spots for breakfast at WDW (which is actually probably my favorite meal in WDW) is Kona Cafe in the Polynesian. It’s lush, tropical, and home to that deep-fried beauty known as Tonga Toast.

I convinced Wingnut that this would be a wonderful place to start our Disney day based solely on the legend of the Tonga Toast. He was in awe (“wait…it’s FRIED??”), and the reservation was booked soon after.

I too had a plan,  a plan involving some pancakes, pineapples, and macadamia nuts. I had seen way too many pictures of these to not try them for myself.

Wingnut waiting patiently for his sugary fried dough. It has a banana in it. It’s healthy fruit!

Adam @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

Speaking of healthy fruit, we both had orange juice. I had completely forgotten to tell Wingnut about the Lilikoi juice (which I’m absolutely positive he would have loved) until after we placed our juice orders. He was content with his choice

Pretty soon this arrived at the table

Butter, syrup, strawberry sauce @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

Syrup, butter, and strawberry sauce for the Tonga Toast. Oooh the giddy anticipation across the table was rising. Wingnut experimentally tasted some of the strawberry sauce on the end of his knife, and declared it delicious. I agreed, although it was a touch sweet for my taste (He loves sugary items – I once gave Wingnut pure cane sugar candies from Epcot, which were some of his favorites, just as a point of reference.)

And then the glorious moment arrived.

Tonga Toast @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

Wingnut: “It was very good, the ham was very tasty, nicely grilled, and the tonga toast was great, both dips were really tasty although the strawberry definitely won out.”

Along with:

Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

(I had gotten the pineapple and butter on the side)

WOW these were good! And dense! But tasty! And really, so filling! But just one more bite!

Or, as Wingnut puts it, “your pancakes were chock full o’nuts.”

Now, I can eat pancakes pretty much anytime, anywhere, tons of them. I love pancakes. And I’ve eaten some dense pancakes before, but I was really surprised when I was only able to eat this much of them. (And this was with a bit of effort here, folks.)

Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes, the remnants @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

These pancakes are PACKED with macadamia nuts! Delicious, but I had to leave a saddening amount behind. The sausage was just regular sausage. Not jam-packed with macadamia nuts, thank goodness!

Tremendously full, I then realized something…we get two beverages with breakfast! (Disclaimer: This was back on the Deluxe Dining Plan circa 2010 – only one beverage with breakfast is allowed nowadays.) I’m going to assume this is typically used for coffee, especially at Kona, but neither Wingnut or I are coffee drinkers.

I do, however, enjoy a nice hot chocolate.

Hot Chocolate @ Kona Cafe, Polynesian

This may not look like much, but it was the best hot chocolate of the trip (this one may have kicked off a hot chocolate with breakfast trend for this traveler). And after I had ordered it, I realized that it would have been a good idea to get it in a to-go cup, as we were pretty much stuffed with pancake and French, er, Tonga toast by then. Just as I thought of this, the server came back, the hot chocolate already in a to-go cup! I praised his brilliance, and we were on our way, deliciousness in tow (I think I was spoiled by the chocolatey drizzle).

So did Kona Cafe live up to our breakfast expectations? Absolutely! AND we got to MK in time to see the opening show, which I hadn’t thought we’d be able to, and hadn’t seen before!