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: Narcoossee’s Review

On the last day of our trip, we decided to have a nice dinner together as a family. Two years ago, Tim and I ate a wonderful and romantic dinner together at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. We enjoyed our time there so immensely that we wanted to return this year, but take our whole family with us to enjoy the delicious cuisine.

Wow. Let me say, things have changed.

Now you know Tim and I are Disney fans to the max and rarely have anything negative to say about anything having to do with a Walt Disney World vacation, but this year, we had a few experiences that we wouldn’t deem completely praise-worthy. Our dinner at Narcoossee’s was one of them.

Let me start by telling you about our previous experience at Narcoossee’s.

Tim and I made reservations there to celebrate our second wedding anniversary in 2009. We were seated quickly and had a friendly, competent waiter. Tim got the surf and turf with roasted potatoes and broccoli, while I had the filet with potatoes gratin and green beans.

It. Was. Delicious. Amazing. Everything was cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful. That sauce on the top of my steak was divine, and I could have eaten a whole plate of those potatoes gratin by themselves.

For dessert Tim got the strawberry shortcake and I got the key lime creme brulee. They were also delicious, but it was the presentation that impressed us. We also shared a french press of their coffee, which was also exquisite. We love coffee.

Two years ago, our meal was not only tasty and impressive, it was delivered at a perfect pace. Not too quickly, so we had plenty of time to talk and relax and soak up the experience, but not so slow that you were starving and left wondering if they had to go slaughter the cow you were about you enjoy.

This year, our experience was completely different. We expected some difference because we were going with a larger party and we had our 15-month-old son with us. Of course we were not expecting some relaxing, romantic dinner. But we were expecting the food to be amazing.

We had to wait a few minutes on our table, which was not a big deal to us. We went out on the porch over looking Seven Seas Lagoon, took a few pictures of us on the porch, in front of the restaurant, standing next to a live lobster, that kind of thing. Once we were seated, our waitress was friendly and promptly took our drink order. That was probably the only prompt thing about the whole meal, though.

We ordered our food and we waited…

…and waited…

…they brought bread, which was good, but I remember being better…

…and we waited…

…finished the bread, asked for more…

…and waited.

You get the point.

Then our food finally came. I was already slightly disappointed because the menu had changed. The filet no longer came with that divine sauce on top, and worse, there were no potatoes gratin anywhere on the menu! Instead I ordered green beans and some sort of cheese pasta on the side. I don’t remember what it was called, and the menu on AllEars.net is not the menu we ordered from, so I can’t go back to look at what it was exactly.

This was the plate that was presented to me.

Yeah, those are carrots. I don’t really know how that happened, because green beans came with the meal on the menu…I didn’t ask for any substitution.

I didn’t return them, however, because we ordered a kid’s chicken finger meal for Jack that came with steamed carrots and my carrots were steamed much better than his. The carrots they served our one-year-old were practically raw. He would have choked on those, so I just gave him mine and I munched on his.

The pasta was dry. Like, super dry. The crusty crumble on top made it very unappetizing to eat. The flavor was okay, I guess, but it gave you what we like to call in the south “cotton-mouth”. Drink refills all around, please!

The steak was okay. Not any better than what I’d order at our local Outback, though. Tim got the surf and turf again. He said that his lobster was tough, his medium steak cooked more to a medium-well, and overall he enjoyed his dinner much better the first time around.

By the time it came time to order dessert we were exhausted. You try entertaining a toddler at a table for an hour and a half! At that point, we had all taken turns walking him out on the porch while we waited on our food, had exhausted the coloring page menu and crayons, and were now letting him play with the fake candles in the center piece. I know there are plenty of moms out there who know exactly what this is like.

We did, indeed, have an equally absurd wait for dessert. However, dessert tasted great, which was nice. We also ordered another french press.

Tim’s gelato sampler.

My chocolate mousse.

My dad’s cheesecake.

My mom’s creme brulee.

Hannah and Madison got the Nemo cupcake off of the kid’s menu.

The coffee was delicious, as well. So I guess if you are planning on going to Narcoossee’s for just dessert and coffee, you won’t be disappointed…unless of course you have to wait an hour to get it.

Am I sounding too harsh? I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer, I just want to give an honest Elrod opinion.

To sum up, if you had asked us two years ago what we thought of Narcoossee’s we would have scored it a whopping

This year, however, we would rate it a much lower

The food was above average, when it comes to what is served on Disney property, but it was not as great as we remembered. The service was slow, but we’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say it was just an off night. The dessert was yummy and well presented, and the coffee was one of the best cups you can get on property.

Thanks for reading along, and thanks for sticking with me after a week-long hiatus. I went through a little funk last week, but I am back and will meet you back here tomorrow with another [Almost] Wordless Wednesday!

Trip Update From Tim

Hey guys! Tim here. I just wanted to post an update about our trip so far. We are having a great time! This morning we ate breakfast at Boma, which is at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This so far was the highlight of my trip. Our waiter, Albert, who is from Jamaica, was AMAZING. He played with Jack, was very friendly and knowledgeable, and he brought us a little surprise for our anniversary.

Below is a picture of what he brought us. Tonight we are planning on going to Epcot for the night after Jack wakes up from his nap. Tomorrow, full day of the Magic Kingdom and dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern!

See you tomorrow!

– Tim

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Here’s What We Think: 1900 Park Fare Review

One of the many WDW restaurants we have returned to several times is 1900 Park Fare, located at the Grand Floridian. We have done dinner there a couple of times and last September we enjoyed the breakfast buffet. Today I thought I would give you an Elrod Restaurant Review of our thoughts on this fun ‘n fancy Disney Dining experience!

Breakfast and dinner at 1900 Park Fare are all-you-care-to-eat character dining experiences, meaning Disney characters are present in the restaurant while you are eating and will make stops at your table for pictures, autographs, and one-on-one time with you and your family. Admittedly, my family and I prefer character dining to standing in lines in parks for character meet ‘n greets. We like being guaranteed the time (no getting to the front of the line just to hear, “Sorry folks! Mickey has to go check on his tomato crop. He’ll be back in just a minute!”) and we find that we usually get more interaction with them when they are coming to our table at leisure, verses being shuffled through a line.

As for the food at 1900 Park Fare, well let’s just have a little chat about that right now, shall we?

From 8:00 – 11:30 a.m. 1900 Park Fare is home to the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast. Let me just say, I love breakfast foods, and for a person that loves breakfast foods, this is the place to be for your morning meal if you are looking for variety. They have seemingly everything you could ever want to your kick-start day on that buffet. Although the choices seem endless, Tim and I did come to the conclusion that the quality of the hot items (i.e. eggs, bacon, sausage) didn’t seem much different than those we got at the quick service counters at the All-Star Resorts. The characters that they advertise will be there are Mary Poppins, Alice, and the Mad Hatter. However, when we went we also got to see a few friends from the Hundred Acre Woods, like Winne the Pooh and Tigger. All of them were very friendly and didn’t seem rushed to get from one table to the next. Alice was especially kind, and Jack, who was three months old at the time, really took a liking to her as she played and cooed with him.

On an Elrods scale of 1 – 10 Mickey Ears, we give the Supercalifagilistic Breakfast a

Definitely an above average breakfast experience, but we would suggest sticking to items that you wouldn’t find just anywhere, like the made-to-order omelets and unique pastries.

From 4:30 – 8:30 p.m. you can eat to your hearts content at Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. Unlike breakfast, my family found everything on the dinner menu quite delicious. My mom loves the chilled strawberry soup, and the meats are delicious and are sliced right before you at the serving line. The desserts are tasty, as well. You definitely won’t hear my sister and I complaining about the Edy’s soft-serve ice cream bar with assorted toppings. The characters you will meet are as expected; Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, and the Fairy Godmother. Although it is always a treat to meet a Disney Princess, I have to admit that it is usually the Ugly Stepsisters that we prefer to interact with. They are so loud, funny, and ungraceful, just as you would expect them to be. The not-so-Charming Prince has been a bit of a disappointment in the past, but of course, as adults we understand that “some are just better than others.” 😉

Overall the Elrods give Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner an

Our only complaint would be a critique that would also apply to breakfast; the tight spacing between tables. Although 1900 Park Fare is a generous sized room, in an understandable effort to seat more guests they have set the tables pretty close to one another. It is not a problem if you are in a prime location, such as right in front of the buffet (which we so luckily got at one of our dinners there). If you are seated in the back or one of the side rooms, it can be a bit of an obstacle course to get to the serving line for your plate.

Want to know the best thing about 1900 Park Fare? Both the breakfast and dinner all-you-care-to-eat and character meet ‘n greet buffets can be obtained using only one table service credit (per person) on the Disney Dining Plan! Now imagine getting all of that for FREE because you booked your vacation while they were offering the FREE Disney Dining Plan!

That is what I call a real deal. That is how we Elrods like to go Disney.