Category: WDW Restaurants

Dining During Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Nutrition can be one of the most difficult things to manage when you are traveling away from home for a race, or if you are Dopey, races.  This is especially true when you are surrounded by all of the goodies at Walt Disney World.  Joe (you might remember him from his Coast to Coast coverage last year!) is just back from WDW Marathon Weekend and is here to share his tips for dining during a runDisney race weekend!

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When traveling away for a race weekend, runners of all abilities will tell you that any race you run should be no different than your training runs at home.  That goes for shoes, clothing, fuel, and of course food.  So when the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend came upon us, as a runner who was participating in the Dopey Challenge, nutrition and eating while down at Walt Disney World is just as important as making sure that you have the right shoes with you.

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I arrived down in the World on Tuesday before marathon weekend began.  With all of the running that was ahead of me, especially coming from a cold weather climate, hydration was going to be key.  I was staying at Port Orleans French Quarter so having access to a kitchen to make my own meals was not available. However, having a fridge in the room was a big positive. I made sure during the week that I stayed hydrated all the time. In order to accomplish this, I would drink plenty of water and save and reuse the bottles I purchased from the Port Orleans food court.  (WDW allows you free water fills at their food courts and also water fountains throughout the park.)  **This is a GREAT money saving tip!!**

As for eating properly, when running 4 events over 4 days, you have to watch what you are putting in your body days before your events are to commence.  So, I stayed away from salads and other fried foods/burgers that tend to be found all over Walt Disney World and went with healthier options.  Our food court at POFQ had many healthy options for breakfast to include egg whites, fresh fruit and bananas, bagels, etc. I would usually eat these after the races were completed .

2015-WDW-Marathon-Weekend-Dining-1

After waking up early, competing, and eating breakfast afterwards, I was not a big fan of lunch as I did not want to feel like I had to eat just for the sake of eating.  But if I did get hungry while walking around the parks in the afternoon, I could grab a lite snack. Like their options in the food courts, Disney has gotten much better over the years with offering much healthier options throughout the theme parks. I would refill my water bottle in one of the water fountains, and grab a banana or piece of fruit while touring the parks.

As for dinner, as someone who does not like to eat before a race in the morning, dinner was going to be the most important meals for me while down for Marathon Weekend.  If I was staying in a DVC or off property, it would be easy to just head to Publix and buy some pasta from the grocery store for my dinner.  However, since this was not an option, ADR reservations would be extremely important as thousands of runners would have similar ideas as me for places to eat before the races. (Italian Restaurants are obviously the most popular). The restaurants that we chose to eat at were Via Napoli in Epcot, Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and the food court at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.  The reason why I chose these restaurants is because they all offered the one meal that I like to eat before a race, pasta.

I checked with numerous websites before I made my ADR reservations to make sure that they had the types of food that I would want to eat.  At Via Napoli, even though the majority of the food on the menu is Pizza, they do offer a spaghetti and veal meatballs option.  The spaghetti was typical spaghetti but the veal meatballs were a nice change of pace and offered some lean protein, which is always beneficial to runners.

At Trattoria al Forno, the menu was a little more fancy. After glancing at the menu, it took some going back and forth with the waiter but I was able to order some linguini with short rib.  Now at first, I wasn’t too sure about this since I thought that beef short rib was going to be too heavy.  However, the portion size was perfect and the flavor of the meat was amazing!  I would highly recommend this dish on a regular/non-running night and am definitely going to add this restaurant into our restaurant rotation for Disney World.  Also, there was plenty of bread to fulfill any lacking of carbohydrate fueling one might have had.

The Wave

At the Wave, the menu was somewhat limited. However, I decided to mix it up a little and have the free roaming chicken breast with plenty of bread on the side. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the portion size was proper, and it did not make me feel like I was loaded down with heavy food or feeling bloated.  I consume a lot of chicken breast while at home, so having chicken breast at the Wave with some bread fulfilled my carbohydrate and protein needs before the 10K race.

Finally, the last race night, we took it easy and had something at the Port Orleans Food court.   One of the stations at the food court was an Italian type station that had macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, meatballs, and pizza. Of course (as you can see a pattern here), I had the spaghetti and meatballs.  It was a nice quick meal that didn’t require an ADR and that we could eat at our convenience and head to bed early in preparations for the marathon day.

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I learned that it was important to make ADR reservations as soon as our 6 month window opened because most runners would flock to the Italian type restaurants of Walt Disney World.  My greatest fear would be to be searching for something to eat the night before the marathon and not be able to get served at a restaurant that served pasta or some type of Italian food.  I did witness this at Trattoria al Forno as we were leaving the restaurant, I witnessed a runner arguing with the hostess at the front of the restaurant about trying to obtain a to-go order of pasta.  This runner stated that he was a runner and just wanted a plate of pasta to go.  The hostess stated that they could not accommodate him because he didn’t have a reservation.  So, note to all runners out there, it appears that Disney won’t let you order to go meals at a restaurant if you do not have an ADR.

I know its hard to travel to a place that we all love and not consume Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, Dole Whips, citrus swirls, popcorn, and churros to name a few things.  But you have to remember, we all paid a lot of money for these races, took time off of work and our real lives to travel down here for them, and also trained for months and months to have the best possible experience.  It would be a shame to throw all of that hard work away by not fueling your body properly.  All it takes is some planning ahead, take note of what you would normally eat while at home, and apply it while you are on vacation.

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Finally, of course when you are done with your events, there is nothing wrong with having a nice big glass of beer and a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar! Because after all, you earned it!

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Joe Quattrocchi is from Riverdale, NJ and is a proud member of the Essex Running Club.  He has been visiting Walt Disney World for much of his life and has taken over 30 trips to the resort.  Having recently caught the runDisney bug, Joe is the running correspondent for the ResortLoop.com Podcast and has recently joined the Mickey Milers.  You can follow along with his racing adventures on Twitter and Instagram!

Kill, Refurb, Marry: World Showcase Counter Service Spots

Kill-Marry-RefurbIt’s time for another Kill, Refurb, Marry!  I’m excited about this month because we are talking about my favorite thing…FOOD!   Yes, that is a huge topic when looking at all of Walt Disney World, so we are narrowing it down to World Showcase Counter Service Spots.  Ooooh that’s a good one, right?!  I love World Showcase for its diversity and the food really is the best part…you know how I love the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 🙂  So let’s dive in!

Kill – Refreshment Port

I don’t understand the Refreshment Port.  It really seems to have no identity.  The current menu consists of chicken nuggets, a soft serve waffle cone, croissant doughnut, and various beverages.  That’s a little random…  If I was a newbie to WDW and walked past there, I would have no idea what they served.  To me, refreshments are cool and well, refreshing.  Chicken nuggets aren’t refreshing.  This spot would be much better utilized as a character meet  & greet area, or simply put some benches and tables down for people to rest their weary Epcot touring feet in the shade.

refreshment-port-00

Refurb – Tied: La Cantina de San Angel and Liberty Inn

I had a tough time deciding which location I would want to refurb, so I decided to go with two.

First is La Cantina de San Angel.  Yes, I know it went through a refurb not too long ago, but I wish it would’ve been just a bit better.  The tacos are a great start, but they definitely leave something to be desired.  And really, nacho cheese on the nachos?  Come on…  Plus, those red chips really freak me out.  That color can’t be natural!  Give us simple carnitas, real cheese and basic yellow corn tortilla chips!  Give us a real taste of Mexico!

La-Cantina-de-San-Angel

And then there is Liberty Inn.  This was a strong contender for Kill, but I think there is a real opportunity here to showcase some great American cuisine!  American food should not be defined by a chili-cheese dog, chicken nuggets and a burger.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could focus on local cuisine?!  Maybe a combination of the Florida Local from the Food & Wine Festival and The Smokehouse from Flower & Garden.  Sounds good right?  Or maybe a dish from various regions of the US.  There are so many options!

Marry – Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie

Now this is what all World Showcase Counter Service Spots should strive to be!  First, the exterior is so incredibly inviting.  You really escape into a small French village.

Les-Halles-Epcot

But when you enter the building, it is spacious and more importantly smells delicious.  There is a large variety of options from the basic croissant, to sandwiches, quiches, and the most delectable desserts. Good luck trying to pick just one thing!

Les-Halles-Epcot-Sandwiches

Les-Halles-Epcot-Pastries

And if all of that isn’t enough, you can head over to L’Artisan des Glaces next door for some artisan ice cream or sorbet.  You can even get an ice cream martini!!  It really is the perfect place to grab a snack and take a break.

So those are my choices…what about you?  What World Showcase Counter Service Spots would you Kill, Refurb & Marry??  Make sure to visit This Happy Place BlogMouse on the Mind and all of the other great blogs participating in Kill, Refurb, Marry today!

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Friday Feast: Lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant

To say that this restaurant was on the highly anticipated list of places to visit is an understatement.  Ever since the menu was released, I was chomping at the bit to have lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.  Why lunch?  Well there is one menu item that was calling my name and it seriously lived up to all my expectations!

But before we go there, let’s start from the beginning.  Look at the amazing theming at the entrance of the restaurant…

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When dining for lunch, you are sent to the left of the entrance on on a queue to place your order.  While waiting, you are surrounded by various suits of armor who are having a candid conversation 🙂  Make sure to keep you ears open!

05 BOG_Armour

Hidden Mickey!

Hidden Mickey!

There are digital menus all in the entrance way so you can make  figure out what you want before entering the ordering area…obviously I have cupcakes on the mind…

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When you come to the ordering area, the host explains the RFID Rose you will get after placing your order and directs you to the next available kiosk.

08 BOG_CheckIn

The “rose” is a sort of tracking device that you place on your table that allows the servers to find you and deliver your meal…super cool technology!!  When I visited, it was still soon after the restaurant opened so they had cast members assisting with the ordering process.  It was fairly simple to understand so I’m not sure how necessary this was…

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After placing our order, we wer directed to find a table in one of the three dining rooms and place our rose in the center of the table.  The first room you enter is the Ballroom which is expansive and elegant.

Ballroom

Ballroom

To the right of the Ballroom is the Rose Gallery.  This area was actually closed when I was there for “technical difficulties” but I was snuck my way in to snap a photo 🙂

The Rose Gallery Gorgeous!

The Rose Gallery
Gorgeous!

But my favorite room has to be The West Wing!  It’s dark, mysterious and has everything that embodies Beauty and the Beast.

The West Wing

The West Wing

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Sadly there was no room in the West Wind so we found a table in the Ballroom, placed our rose in the center of the table and waited for our food to arrive.

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I think my favorite thing about the restaurant (well besides the food) is is how the food arrives!  The servers bring it out on on these fabulously old fashioned rolling carts.  It just fits perfectly within the theming of the restaurant.

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So now onto the food…my favorite part!  I’m going to start with the quick service dish to top all quick service dishes: Braised Pork.  YUM!  This is served with veggies, mashed potatoes and bacon…how can you go wrong with that?!  Honestly, this is one of the best dishes I’ve had on WDW property, and you know how I love to eat!!

Braised Pork

I was with a group of about 8 other people so I got to see many of the other dishes they had to offer…they all looked delicious!!

Tuna Nicoise Salad

Tuna Nicoise Salad

Quinoa Salad

Vegetable Quiche

Vegetable Quiche

Chocolate Cupcake

Chocolate Cupcake

But seriously…don’t waste your time on anything else.  Just order the Braised Pork and come back to thank me later….it’s SO good.

Overall, I love the restaurant and can’t wait to go back!  Next time, I hope to have dinner there so I can finally have a glass of wine in the Magic Kingdom!

Have you eaten at Be Our Guest Restaurant?  What’s your favorite dish? 

 

Friday Feast: Jiko

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I’ve visited Jiko a few times over the years, but I have recently discovered a love for this restaurant. Not only is it located at one of my favorite hotels, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but the food is just beyond amazing. B and I ate here once and he wasn’t as big a fan as I was, so who better to bring back for an amazing meal than your best girlfriend. Enter Amanda….my foodie partner in crime! We had 2 amazing meals here this year and now Jiko is our favorite dining location in Walt Disney World. In fact, Amanda is celebrating her Mom’s birthday there tonight…Happy Birthday Mom!

Partners in Crime :)

Partners in Food Crime 🙂

Our favorite place to eat at Jiko is the Chef’s Counter. There are six seats here that overlook their partial show kitchen where they make all of the appetizers. This includes the flatbreads which are cooked one of the super hot brick ovens. The ovens get up to 685 degrees and only take 5 minutes to cook the flatbreads! The chefs (most of them) are very friendly and happy to answer any of your questions. If you’re a foodie, this is a great place to become more immersed in your meal.

00 Jiko_Chef's Counter

Chef’s Counter!

00 Jiko_FlatbreadsSo let’s dive in! Many are hesitant about dining at Jiko because of the “exotic” cuisine. But in reality, it’s not all that exotic and just purely delicious. Here are some of the menu options:

Jiko Apps

Jiko Apps

Jiko Soups & Entrees

Jiko Soups & Entrees

Ok, some of the ingredients might be strange and unusual, but just give it a chance. How can you go wrong with this amazing bread and butter to start?! There are two kinds of bread, honey wheat and rye focaccia with flax seeds, and the butter is a sundried tomato butter combined with cilantro, turmeric and ginger. Yes, it’s amazingly delicious. Oh and if you have an egg sensitivity like I do, let them know and they will separate the bread for you…pretty cool!

Honey Wheat Bread includes eggs

Honey Wheat Bread
includes eggs

Rye Bread egg-free

Rye Focaccia
egg-free

On both visits, Amanda and I split the same appetizers. After having the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin for the first time, I’ve pretty much been dreaming about it ever since. The meat is insanely tender, the pap (a traditional African corn porridge) is amazingly creamy and the spices are insane. This tiny little appetizer packs a flavorful punch!

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Amanda and I are cheese addicts…if there’s a cheese plate on the menu, we’re getting it! Jiko has a great one with some interesting accouterments, including a date and mango jam, ground pumpkin seeds, plum gelee and a honey crisp.

Cheese Plate

Cheese Plate

08 Jiko_Cheese MenuMouth watering yet? Let’s move on to the entrees. The most famous entree at Jiko is their Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon. When the restaurant first opened, it came with an amazing Mac & Cheese. The menu was changed to the current Spoonbread Souffle, which I’m sure is good, but no comparison to the Mac & Cheese. Good news, you can still request it and the kitchen is happy to oblige!

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Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon with Mac & Cheese

If you’re a fan of beef, you might also like the Short Ribs. These are perfectly tender, but beware that they are quite spicy. Amanda ordered this on our first visit and while I thought the beef was good, it was a bit too spicy for me.

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Spicy Beef Short Rib

On our second visit, we both went the seafood route at the suggestion of our amazing waiter Hassan (who we had both times!). I was ready to get the Filet Mignon again, but was also intrigued by the Yellow Snapper. And I’m so glad he convinced me to go with that! The Pan-seared Yellow Snapper with Tea-smoked Lentils is beyond amazing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was probably the best dish I’ve had in WDW. The sauce is a Citrus-Curry Beurre Blanc and if I could put this on everything I would. Basically, order this dish….

Yellow Snapper

Yellow Snapper

Tea-Smoked Lentils with the Yellow Snapper

Tea-Smoked Lentils with the Yellow Snapper

Sigh…I want that right now. Amanda ordered another delicious seafood dish, West African “Jerked” Scallops. Girl likes the spicy stuff! These were very good and I particularly enjoyed the Coconut Curry Sauce. However the baby carrots were very underdone and hard to eat…boo.

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Jerked Scallops

Well there’s always room for dessert, right? Jiko has a very interesting dessert and after dinner drink menu, and me, I’m more partial to liquid desserts.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

Dessert Cocktail & Coffee Menu

Dessert Cocktail & Coffee Menu

Most of the desserts have eggs, so I steered clear of those. But Amanda raved about both the Coffee Creme Brûlée and the Chocolate Cake. They look delicious!

Kenyan Coffee Creme Brulee

Kenyan Coffee Creme Brûlée

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Cinnamon-Chocolate Flourless Cake

I did try their sorbets, Coconut and I can’t remember the 2nd flavor!, which were quite good. Great egg-free option!

Sorbet

Sorbet

Now the after dinner drinks…I tried both the Zebratini and the Nutty African. YUM! The Zebratini was a bit too sweet for me, but the Nutty African was right up my alley!

Zebratini

Zebratini

Nutty African

Nutty African

Yowza…that’s a good meal! I wish I was there right now! Look how happy I was after my last meal there…

Pure Contentment

Pure Contentment

Have you eaten at Jiko? What is your favorite dish there?

Friday Feast: The Cobb Salad at Hollywood Brown Derby

Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of my favorite restaurants in all of Walt Disney World.  B and I typically will visit the Studios on the last day of our trip to get one last ride on the Tower of Terror and then have lunch at Brown Derby before heading to the airport.  My absolute favorite dish there is the Cobb Salad, a Brown Derby classic!

Cobb Salad_Brown Derby Sign

Legend has it that one night in the 1930s, the owner of the original Hollywood Brown Derby was hungry after a long dinner service.  So he went through the kitchen gathering leftovers, mixed it all with the house French dressing, and alas the Cobb Salad was born.  It is now a staple on the Brown Derby menu and consists of finely chopped greens, turkey breast, bacon, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, avocado and chives, all tossed with Cobb Dressing.  YUM!

Cobb Salad Menu

The Cobb Dressing is like a slightly creamy red wine vinaigrette and gives a nice balance to some of the heavier ingredients like avocado and bacon.  The salad comes to the table in separate components and is then tossed by your server table-side.

Pre-Tossed Salad

Pre-Tossed Salad

Final Tossed Salad

Final Tossed Salad

As you can see, all of the ingredients (including the lettuce) are finely chopped so they all blend together perfectly.  Now I can’t eat eggs, so I leave that out, but all of the other components are some of my favorite foods, so it’s obvious I will love this.  It’s a great lunch or appetizer to one of the Brown Derby’s delicious entrees.

Have you had the Cobb Salad at the Hollywood Brown Derby?  Do you love it as much as I do? 

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