Here’s What We Think: Dates in Disney, A California Grill Review

I think I’ve said this before, but Tim and I are huge supporters of dating your spouse. Where is one of our favorite places to go on a date?

You guessed it. Disney World.

Luckily, we usually have Grandma and Grandaddy with us on our trips, so we can barter with them for a date night on one night of our trip. In the past, we’ve had dates at Narcoossee’s, Ohana {followed by couple of hours alone in Magic Kingdom!}, and Chefs de France in Epcot. DisneyDateCollageThis past September of 2013 was definitely my favorite date night we’ve had, by far. It was at the newly refurbished and grand re-opening of the California Grill at the tip-top of the Contemporary Resort!

After a lengthy refurbishment, the California Grill was set to re-open the week of our vacation and after trying to book a table the day they started taking reservations, Tim came home frustrated because every single reservation for that week had been booked up within just a few hours. However, after a strange turn of events while on our trip {I swear, this Disney magic stuff is the real deal}, a fellow Disney guru that we follow on Twitter tweeted that he was canceling his reservation for the Cali Grill that night and that someone had better move fast if they wanted it. We were back at our resort when Tim saw the tweet, so he jetted to the front desk to try to snag the reservation. Lo and behold, an hour later Tim and I were putting on our fanciest outfits and getting ready for our 5:30 reservation at the California Grill!

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I’m obsessed with these pictures that Tim took while we were waiting on our boat to the Contemporary. I was 26ish weeks pregnant with Lorelai.

IMG_8874 IMG_8876 IMG_8878We had an amazing captain as we sailed the calm waters of Bay Lake. He was knowledgeable and talkative and he said that he had given up a pretty prestigious job to drive boats in Disney World and that he has never regretted it a minute; that being out on the Disney World waters was the best job you could ask for. I think I believe him. IMG_8879 IMG_8882We arrived early, but went ahead and went up to the restaurant because we wanted to have a look around before being seated.

IMG_8886 IMG_8884 IMG_8885 IMG_8888We loved the new decor of the restaurant, and I geeked out for a bit over the Mary Blair art inspired design and framed photos of her sketching.

IMG_8907 IMG_8908 IMG_8909IMG_8922On either side of the restaurant, you can walk out on to a breeze way that overlooks Magic Kingdom, Bay Lake and the parks and resorts beyond it, and the Seven Seas Lagoon and it’s inhabiting resorts. The views are magnificent, really.IMG_8899 IMG_8898 IMG_8894California Grill, in addition to being a nice sit-down, has a lounge and bar area and sushi bar. Unfortunately, I am not a lover of sushi, so this does not appeal to me. However, I have heard it is amazing from those who do love sushi. IMG_8889IMG_8891 IMG_8890IMG_8892We were seated in the back room that was once the wine cellar. It was small and quiet so it was right up my alley. Tim on the other hand is the kind of guy that likes to be in the middle of the action, so he would have preferred we were sat in the main dining room. I’m introverted and don’t like strangers, so this suited me nicely. Plus, we had a window seat with a great view of our beloved Wilderness Lodge. IMG_8903 IMG_8916 IMG_8913 IMG_8911 IMG_5988Our waitress was fantastic and informative. She recommended the oven-dried tomato flatbread for an appetizer, so we took her up on that while she brought out some bread in the meantime.

Y’all, that bread. Those wheat rolls with the unsalted butter sprinkled with coarse sea salt and a sprig of rosemary?…I could have just eaten ten baskets of that and been fine. Seriously. Although I was pregnant, so maybe that had to do with it too. Either way, the bread was my jam that night. Here’s proof:  The flatbread was pretty amazing, itself. A great recommendation.IMG_8919For his entrée, Tim ordered oak-fired fillet of beef. It was so delicious. The sauce was fantastic and it was cooked perfectly; I was definitely wishing I had ordered it, as well. IMG_8925IMG_8923I ordered a dish that doesn’t seem to be on the menu anymore. It was a chicken breast in some sort of cherry barbecue sauce, I believe, with two chicken sausage links, corn succotash and green beans, with a mac ‘n cheese au gratin…or something like that. I’m a sophisticated foodie, can’t you tell? It was a good dish, but although it doesn’t look this way in the picture, I felt there was far too much of that sauce on my plate and it was really over powering. And as good as the mac ‘n cheese looks, it was a bit dry. IMG_8931Of course, no good date night goes without dessert, so we ordered the sundae sampler. I knew I wanted it from the moment we sat down. We had seen it on the menu prior to arriving and I was so in love with it’s whimsically sweet presentation that I couldn’t pass it up. I basically giggled my way through dessert. I mean, c’mon! Just look at it! The coke float was…well, a coke float, so the caramel corn and strawberry and basil were the flavor-stars of the dish. We finished it very satisfied and with a smile on our face. IMG_5994IMG_8929Besides my chicken dish {which has been taken off of the menu for obvious reasons, I suppose}, we have nothing but good things to say about the California Grill. We have recommended it to many people in the past year and talk often of booking it again on an upcoming trip.

So here’s what we think: Although amazing restaurants with breath-taking views and mouth-watering eats make any date night a magical and memorable experience, spending time with the love of your life is always the best part of dating in Disney. IMG_8944 IMG_6047Here’s to us, Timothy Elrod, and many more magnificent nights at the Happiest Place on Earth.

With love, Malorie

 

Here’s What We Think: Rapid Fill? No Big Deal.

I hereby promise this is my last post on Rapid Fill. On our trip this past week, I was able to experience it first hand, and the official Elrod opinion is that Rapid Fill is no big deal.IMG_5912

Although, Rapid Fill was not in use at the Wilderness Lodge during our stay, the pricing for the mugs was, since they could be used at other resorts that already had Rapid Fill in place while resort hopping. The drink machines at Roaring Fork where already Rapid Fill machines, they were just not turned on to that capacity. We were able to use our Rapid Fill mugs just like the old mugs. Any refill, anytime. To experience the system for ourselves, we took a boat over for dinner at the Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary to try it out.

IMG_6181IMG_6182IMG_6177 IMG_6176 IMG_6174Basically, nothing was different. Set your cup down under your drink of choice and press the button. An image of a cup filling up will appear, to let you know how much more you have available in that refill, along with the expiration date of your mug. IMG_6175Next I wanted to see what would happen when I “ran out” of my current refill. With ice in my mug, I could fill it all the way up to the top and the cup on the screen indicating the amount of refill that I used would only be about halfway full. In order to reach the max amount, I literally had to empty my mug of all ice, fill it up, dump about half of it out, then fill it up again, at which time I received this message. IMG_6186When I tried to get more drink at this point, this screen appeared. IMG_61872 minutes and 14 seconds. That’s it. Then I could start again. And if I can drink a cup and a half of soda and desperately need more in under 2 minutes and 14 seconds…I may need to seek medical help…or just drink water, which is free and unlimited on the Rapid Fill machines.

See? No. Big. Deal.

The coffee, tea, and hot chocolate machines are not Rapid Fill machines, so they are unlimited just as they always were. Although, even if they weren’t, I can’t imagine it being wise to guzzle a whole hot beverage in under 2 minutes and 14 seconds, either!

As for re-using your mug, they can be reactivated on a separate trip, but I am unaware of any pricing discount in doing so. In which case, I’d just prefer the new mug.

So have any of you used the new Rapid Fill system? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Especially any from folks who have stayed at the value resorts where the system has been in place a bit longer.

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Via Napoli Review

Any entries posted between September 5th – 12th were composed prior to our trip. To follow along with us in our current WDW adventures, follow us on Twitter: malyourpal and timelrod or on Instagram: malyourpal.

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Have you ever enjoyed a meal at Via Napoli in the World Showcase at EPCOT? We have. Twice. And as a matter of fact, we are eating there for our third time today! [insert giddy girl dance]IMG_5991 Via Napoli is tucked into the very back of the Italy pavilion and is in my humble, untravelled opinion, a very attractive facade. IMG_1660Inside the atmosphere is nice without feeling fancy, and I like that. I’m a dress-for-the-occasion kind of girl, so I always feel awkward dining in really nice places in shorts and a tank top with my hair in a sweaty ponytail. Via Napoli definitely doesn’t give off that vibe. IMG_5989 IMG_1635My favorite part of the restaurant is the wall of three wood burning fireplaces where they cook their authentic Italian pizzas. They are named after the three active volcanoes in Italy; Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna.

On top of having really great food, we have to admit that one of the main reasons we keep returning to Via Napoli time after time is because of the wonderful service. Both times we have dined there, we have had amazing waiters that were willing to take the time to explain menu items, tell us about their homeland {yes, the waitstaff is comprised of Italian citizens working for a stint in America}, and go above and beyond to meet our needs. When Cole was still taking a bottle, our waiter brought us hot water to heat it and asked many times throughout the meal if I needed anything else for my baby.

Even though we have visited twice, pizza was what we ordered off the menu both times. Why not? It is made from authentic Italian ingredients, including water and flour flown in from Italy for the dough! Tim loves the piccante, while I’ve had both the pepperoni and quattro formaggi. IMG_1647 IMG_1645 IMG_1644 I mean, look at that! That is a pizza! Yum-my!IMG_1642For dessert we have sampled pretty much everything on the menu; perks of riding on the free dining plan. We all order something different and then share. Tim is a fan of the Tiramisu. I love the Coppa dii Brutti Ma Buon and my parents had only good things to say about the Zeppole di Caterina. And the coffee? Well, you know the Elrods love a good cup of coffee and Via Napoli did not let us down. IMG_1651 IMG_1653 IMG_1649 IMG_1650Over all, the Elrods rate Via Napoli:ElrodRatingEars copy 3 We have never {in our whopping two times} walked away hungry or disappointed. We are not anticipating today to be any different, but if it is, you are sure to hear about it. [wink wink]

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Rapid Rant

[Getting my ghetto Henry County on; head bob, finger point, and all.]

Oh NO, you dih-int!

Just heard word of the Rapid Fill roll out across Walt Disney World resorts. Click here for the article from WDW Magic. In our last post regarding Rapid Fill, we were so sweet. Even gracious in defending it. But today, we are skeptical and a step below livid from what we’ve been hearing. Wish you could see the text messages Tim and I have been swapping back and forth today. {Chris Patton, if you are reading this, they are all work related, centering around team building, leadership, and the Grand Opening tonight…}

Warning: One or more of the above statements are completely false.

From what we can tell, Rapid Fill is in full swing, with pricing as promised. No new mug designs have been introduced, but more color options have been provided including green, purple, and orange. This is a bandaid for us. We’re satisfied with that, but would still love some creative variety in the future.

Things people seem to be complaining about it is the inability to get coffee and hot chocolate in the mugs. Apparently the hot beverage machines do not have the RFID scanners in them? However, this sign obviously says coffee is available, so am I being scammed by Twitterers trying to stir up trouble? Refillable-Mug_Full_19179

If there is any truth to the coffee rumors, this is where my ghetto-fightin’ girl comes out. Don’t. You. Mess. With. My. Coffee! If I’m paying $18 for a refillable mug, I don’t want to have to pay for coffee in addition to that! Coffee is mostly what I drink from the mug, anyway! I’m not the soda consumer my husband is, so coffee and water are my two beverages of choice. If I have to pay for every cup of coffee refill I want, the mug really isn’t worth it for me. I guess Starbucks will be getting my money, instead. It’s a better cup of coffee, anyhow.

Complaint number two, which has yet to be confirmed, is the free refills being limited to every 20 minutes. I’ve heard of this from unlimited drink machines aboard cruise lines, so most people are saying this is a given with the instillation of a RFID chip. We don’t like this either. If this is the case, they need to offer a bigger mug, maybe? {I know, I know, welcome to America.} My husband can drink down the 16 ounces the mug holds within a few gulps. Having to wait 20 minutes between refills would make him grouchy, to say the least. And here’s a thought; what about people that prefer a mixed drink {ie. half Coke, half Coke Zero}? Does the machine give you some sort of time limit to fill up your mug? Or do you get one push of the trigger and that is it? Because even then, with fizzy drinks you tend to fill them up by pressing the trigger several times, letting the fizz die down to avoid spill-over. I guess I am just uneducated as to how the machines fully work. I need some ‘splainin’, as Ricky Ricardo would say.

As for those who wish to “go green” and bring back an RFID mug on numerous trips to reactivate, Disney is still saying that’s a no-go. Hopefully that will change in the future, as well. I’ve heard from several techie minds that that should be relatively easy to incorporate.

Overall, now that Rapid Fill has been put into place, the Elrods are giving it a thumbs down. We’re hoping Disney can work out the kinks in the coming months. We will be arriving in 22 days, so I doubt things will be fixed by then. I’m expecting to hear some major complaints coming out of Tim while there. Photo on 3-13-13 at 3.20 PM #3

What do you think? Let us hear it. Are we overreacting?

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Defending Duffy

Do you know who Duffy the Disney Bear is?1259000440026

There are so many people that don’t know the bear that has become so beloved in the Elrod family. We have also had many friends that have gone to WDW and come back saying, “And then we got our picture with this bear in EPCOT. I don’t really know why he was there. Who is he?”

Well, Duffy the Disney bear was first briefly introduced in 2002, but only gained popularity after being noticed and loved by the visitors of Tokyo DisneySea park in Tokyo, Japan. In 2010 they brought Duffy back to WDW and he has had mixed reviews ever since.

For the Disney story behind the bear, grab your kiddos and check out this video of how he came to be.

Personally, we love Duffy, but maybe that’s because we have two young boys that have really taken to him. Both of our boys sleep with their own Duffy every night and play with them almost everyday. At this age, I’d say that our boys really play with Duffy more than they do their stuffed Mickey toys! Tim and I have, in turn, really grown to love the bear that follows around Jack and Cole like a fluffy little shadow.

However, so many Disney goers like ourselves feel exactly the opposite. I can’t tell you how many tweets and blogs I read that bash Duffy. One person even scoffed at Duffy even being included in the Christmas Day parade at Magic Kingdom.

Poor Duffy. Well, I am here to be a voice on the other end. I’m here to defend Duffy. We love you, Duffy Bear! We love that Jack and Cole love you, and you can count on coming to WDW with us every trip, so that we can stuff you full of more Disney memories and love, just like Minnie did. IMG_5999IMG_6009IMG_6016IMG_6014So what side of the Duffy-fence are you on? Or is this the first time you are really learning who Duffy the Disney Bear really is?

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Our WDW Favorites

This is a post for all of the people that ask us, “It’s our first time going to to WDW! What’s your favorite restaurant?” or “Where’s your favorite place to stay?” At which point Tim and I look at each other and shrug. That is such a hard question for us because we tend to want to answer according to your needs; like those annoying teachers that would answer your questions by asking you another question.

“Well…..what price point are you looking at? Are you asking us what our favorite value resort is or our favorite deluxe resort? What kind of food are you looking for? Are you asking us what our favorite sit down restaurant is, or do you want only quick meals?”

In essence, we try to answer people’s Disney questions by probing to find out what is going to be perfect for them for their trip, and we end up not answering the original question that they asked at all! What is our favorite? So here it is. Everything posted here is our own official Elrod opinion. These are our favorites when it comes to resorts and restaurants. Take it or leave it.

Our Favorite Resort

The Wilderness Lodge.

Our favorite Restaurant

This is where it gets tricky. This is where it get choppy. Let’s break it down.

By Location

Magic Kingdom: Table service – Liberty Tree Tavern  Quick service – Casey’s Corner  Snack – Main Street Bakery

EPCOT: Table service – Via Napoli  Quick service – Cantina de San Angel  Countries to get a snack – Germany and Japan

Hollywood Studios: Table service – Mama Melrose  Quick Service – ABC Commissary  Snack – The Writer’s Shop

Animal Kingdom: We mainly just eat snacks – Harambe Fruit Market

Downtown Disney/Marketplace: Table service – T-Rex  Quick service – Earl of Sandwich  Snack – Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop

Breaking it down a bit further for resorts

Breakfast

Table service: – Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kona at the Polynesian, & The Wave at the Contemporary

Quick service: Roaring Fork at the Wilderness Lodge

Lunch/Dinner

Table service: Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary

Quick service: Roaring Fork at the Wilderness Lodge, the Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge, & surprisingly the All-Stars for their variety and nacho bars

And there you have it! Easy as that. We still have many places we’d like to try that we never have before, so these may change. We’ll keep ya on the up ‘n up if they do.

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Enchanted Tiki Room Review

Just wanted to let you guys know that the Enchanted Tiki Room officially re-opened yesterday!

I think I briefly mentioned in a past post the refurbishment that it has been undergoing for the past 7-ish months. Back in January it experienced a fire in it’s attic and had to be closed. It was supposed to re-open shortly after, but somewhere in the mix Disney decided to go ahead a make a few changes as well.

The previous attraction was The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. It featured animated rivals, Aladdin’s Iago and The Lion King’s Zazu, as the new co-managers of the sing-song, tropical hideaway. The newly opened show, however, is much more reminiscent of the Disneyland version of this attraction. With Clyde and Claude back in the lead, it features a few of the same songs as before with a few more Tiki Room classics added in. It has also been updated with LED lighting and enhanced audio equipment to make the show look and sound better than ever.

I have yet to see the new one, obviously, but I look forward to it in just a few weeks! I have seen the Under New Management version many, many times. In a quick review, I will admit that Tim has never been a fan of the Tiki Room. He always hem and haws over having to sit through the singing, animatronic show, but to me and my mother (the advocates) it is just a Disney vacation classic. You have to do it! My favorite part is watching the Tiki-men bang on drums around the top of the room, and watching the totem polls and flowers sing along with the colorful birds! I think the Enchanted Tiki Room is one of those classic Disney attractions that falls into the love/hate category.

You love it. Or you hate it.

Another example of this is the Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, or the late 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (R.I.P). My Elrod WDW Tip on the Enchanted Tiki Room: Do it at least once in your life. Don’t skip it just because you heard negative rumors or reviews about it. Just do it and see for yourself. Make up your own mind about it. You never know, you just might love it!

For all of you out there that have visited the Enchanted Tiki Room (new version or Under New Management version) where do you stand?

Are you a “Take Me Outta Here!” Tim, or a “More! More!” Malorie?

Well, whether you are a lover or a hater, you have to admit the tune is catchy, so..

All together!

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
All the birds sing words and the flowers croon
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room