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Robert Yohe -- August 2006 - Disneyland (GCH)

Disneyland Resort: Long-Time Fans’ Gastronomic Adventure

Cast Members

Robert (48 years young) and his loving and ever-tolerant spouse, Belinda (45).

A Little Background . . .

Having grown up in southern California’s Inland Empire, I was a frequent visitor to Disneyland from an early age, my first memories of the park forming in the early 1960s. Belinda, also from San Bernardino, had also formed fond memories from many visits during her childhood. Even though I moved to comparatively remote northeastern California when I was eight, my family continued to make at least one annual trip DL while we were visiting relatives. Moving back to the Inland Empire in 1977, I continued the long-established tradition during my undergraduate education and graduate studies at the University of California, Riverside. My career relocated Belinda and I to Idaho, resulting in a six-year hiatus, save for a single multiple-day stay at the Disneyland Hotel for a professional conference (what luck!) in 1994 that afforded unlimited access to the park for the duration of the convention. When I accepted a university teaching appointment at Cal-State Bakersfield in 1999, Belinda and I were back within easy striking distance of one of our favorite state-side destinations. Subsequently, we have re-instituted our yearly pilgrimages to the Disneyland Resort, sometimes making two or three annual trips in order to get our Disney “fix.”

The foregoing history was included to give some context to what follows, which is a brief account of our most recent vacation at the DLR. In addition to being avid Disneyland addicts, Belinda and I enjoy good food and wine, so I thought it would be fun to make a special effort to hit the best restaurants in the Resort, including Downtown Disney, and share our impressions with the readers of this website. We focused on the high-end of the restaurant spectrum to see how the resort’s haute cuisine matches up to their kin outside of the Magic Kingdom.

The Trip Plan

Our vacation was planned some months ago by my wife, in part as a birthday gift for me. The plan was to pick the optimum time to hit the DLR, that “sweet spot” between the beginning of school and Disneyland’s transition from peak season to off season, just before the Labor Day weekend. This strategy had worked very well for us in the past, since it is a time when the park is far less crowded but still has all the major attractions open and running before the major attraction rehabilitation period during the fall. We had five nights booked at the Disney Grand Californian, and Park Hopper passes for the duration of our stay. Additionally, Belinda booked Disney Gallery seating for “Fantasmic” for our first night, August 27, and reservations for the Napa Rose restaurant at DGC, and lunch at the Blue Bayou for the following day. We would stay through Friday, September 1. I was working on a project in Egypt for a six-week period during my summer break from teaching at the university. It was a rough, exhausting summer, topped off by ending up at the Heathrow Airport in London immediately after the foiled terrorist plot to blow up numerous airplanes bound for the United States and finding my flight from London to Los Angeles had been canceled. When I finally arrived home, I was ready for a serious getaway into fantasy.

The Trip (Day 1, Sunday, August 27)

When the time came, we were both very ready for the escape. Belinda had come up with the brilliant idea of having a stretch limousine pick up at our home and deliver us directly to the Grand Californian, allowing us to sip Mimosas as we cruised through the Los Angeles traffic. A truly inspired idea that was worth its weight in gold and eliminated the inevitable stress of driving to and from the resort through the unpredictable and frequently treacherous L.A. traffic. Our driver, Dennis, picked us up at 10:00 am and we were on our way in our white Lincoln Town Car Stretch. We arrived at our destination fresh and mostly sober by 1 p.m., and found to our joy that our room was ready (check-in time is officially 3:00 pm, so we planned to stow our luggage at the bell desk and head off for Disneyland). We got to the room, unpacked, and were in Disneyland by 2:00 p.m., by this time feeling a bit peckish.

We thought we would try out the newly renovated Café Orleans, which was recently converted to a sit-down, table service restaurant as part of the New Orleans Square overhaul related to the premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” the Blue Bayou expansion, and the “enhancement” of Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. We walked up to the hostess and were seated within five minutes. Our waitress finally appeared five minutes after we were seated, looking distracted and not comfortable making eye contact nor smiling. We ordered iced teas and perused the menu. The offerings were limited to a single page but some of the options were interesting. The Café now serves the ever-popular Monte Cristo sandwiches that previously could only be found at The Blue Bayou restaurant. There were also various stuffed crepe choices, both entrees and desserts. I opted to try the Chicken Gumbo Crepes and Belinda went for the Monte Cristo. When the dishes arrived, the presentation of both was actually attractive and not haphazard as I might have expected.. Belinda’s Monte Cristo was symmetrically arranged on the platter with a berry coulis in a small porcelain cuplet, a near perfect clone of the Bayou’s past presentation. My dish was also tastefully presented with two amply stuffed crepes crossed atop of a serving of herb-roasted potato wedges situated in a pool of gumbo sauce. The crepes were garnished with grilled baby asparagus spears and filled with generous portions of andouille sausage, tasso ham, and Cajun-seasoned grilled chicken. I could have used a little more of the excellent gumbo sauce, but had no real complaints. Price: $17.95. Belinda’s Monte Cristo was as good as the Blue Bayou version, with the light batter not too greasy and the ham, turkey, and cheese filling nicely complimented by the powdered sugar and boysenberry coulis. Price is the same as it used to be in the Blue Bayou ($14.95), but the Blue Bayou’s new price tag is $18.95 (difference being you get a choice of soup or salad). Bottom line: although the food was quite good, the service was average at best. I suspect it was just our particular waitress, because I noticed that other tables seemed to be treated more professionally.

Sated, we checked the line for Pirates and found it extending into Frontierland, so we opted for the much less crowded Haunted Mansion and was in the mansion’s foyer within 10 minutes. We noted that once you get used to the Nightmare Before Christmas holiday overlay of this attraction, it seems a bit naked (we had visited the park late last October to enjoy the NBC effects). One change since last year was obvious, in that the attic scene now contains multiple portraits of the same bride but different grooms, the grooms’ heads disappearing just as you pass. The bride has a new look and has been moved next to the phantom piano player, with a projected face similar to the Madame Leota effect. She now holds a wedding bouquet that transforms into a shiny steel hatchet! That explains the disappearing heads! A nice effect and completely unexpected. On the down side, each year I visit the HM, it appears that the ghoul-jumping-out-from-behind-the-tombstone effect in the graveyard scene has become increasingly so muted as to have become virtually unnoticeable.

Having taken a couple of trips through the HM, we ran over to California Adventure to see if we could get reservations at the Vineyard Room, a restaurant we had heard positive reports on but had been unable to try out since our last two visits to this park had been during the week (the restaurant is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings). We wanted to time it such that we could have a relaxing dinner and get back to Disneyland in time to hit Jungle Cruise and Pirates before showing up for our 10:30 p.m. gallery seating for Fantasmic. The restaurant was booked until almost 8:00 pm, but we were told by the host that we could come in as a walk-in as early as we wanted with no problem in getting seated. We decided to head back for the room for a nap since we still had a long night ahead.

We arrived at the Vineyard Room at the Golden Vine Winery, a covered yet open-air, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on the second floor of the building that also houses the Wine Country Trattoria on the bottom floor that also has a wine bar. We had tried the trattoria on a previous visit and found both the food and service appallingly bad. We had higher hopes for the upstairs, higher-end restaurant, claimed to be the best in DCA (which would not be a difficult hurtle to clear). After checking in with the hostess, we had about a five-minute wait before we were cheerfully escorted to our table. The restaurant was busy, but not packed, and the atmosphere in general was pleasant. We had a nice view of Fisherman’s Wharf, and, appropriately enough, moments after we were seated we were served fresh sourdough bread. The menu was two pages, the first devoted to appetizers and salads, such as grilled flatbread stuffed with manchego cheese ($9) and tuna carpaccio with a champagne-soy vinaigrette ($12). The second page featured the house specialties, which included such entrees as the spicy shellfish linguine ($27), with halibut, shrimp, scallops, and bacon in a lobster broth, and the olive-marinated ribeye steak ($34). The one vegetarian offering was the vegetable couscous ($23). There was also a three-course dinner with specialty items not found on the rest of the menu, so this is what Belinda and I chose. Without wine, the total per person was $48, and $67 with a different wine with each course. We opted for the latter, and were not disappointed. The first course, an intriguing goat cheese Maui onion tart, was served on a watercress salad with a kumquat marmalade and paired with a 2004 Chalone, Monterey County Chardonnay. The crisp fruit of the chardonnay complimented nicely the complex blending of flavors found in the subtle goat cheese of the tart, the pepper of the watercress, and the piquant citrus of the kumquat marmalade. The entree was a Pinot Noir-glazed London sirloin with pancetta-wrapped tiger prawns served on sauteed spinach, porcini mushrooms and chive mashed potatoes in a black-pepper butter sauce. This variation on the surf-and-turf theme was served with a 2003 Acacia Pinto Noir from Carneros whose cherry-blackberry jamminess held its own when confronted with the rich flavors of this course. The dessert course was a variation of the “chocolate volcano,” this incarnation a chocolate fondant with a Pinot Noir sauce and home-made dolce de leche ice cream. The final wine was a Louis Martini 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma). Garnished with fresh berries, this dessert was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. No complaints here, and our waiter, Jeff, was fantastic.

After waddling out of the restaurant, we made our way back to Disneyland to get in a few rides before the 9:25 p.m. fireworks. Luckily, POTC had a relatively short line, so we waited about 15 minutes to board. Many of the changes that were instituted as part of the new “enhancements” were subtle, such as the new paint jobs on the bateaux and the reduction in the number of artificial fireflies in the faux bayou. The treasure room in the haunted grotto has been expanded and now includes the Aztec stone chest filled with the cursed coins used in the “Black Pearl” movie (according to several cast members, this is the actual prop used in the movie). The exit to the fort scene now has the ghostly image of Davy Jones projected on a screen of mist that the bateau must pass through (nice effect). The pirate ship attacking the fort is now led by Captain Barbossa, complete with Geoffrey Rush’s voice. Of course, now everyone is looking for Jack Sparrow, who makes an appearance three times during the ride (I won’t say where to keep from spoiling it for those who have not yet had the chance to see the new changes). All and all, well done without being over done, and this is from a generally hard-core Disneyland traditionalist.

We hit the Jungle Cruise for a night-time voyage, and made it out in time to find a good position for the fireworks. At this point the park was pure madness, as the people who had just watched the first Fantasmic show were piling out of Adventureland and Frontierland while everyone else was trying to position themselves as close to dead center in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for the “. . . And Dreams Come True” firework extravaganza. All survived, and the show was as good as ever, or better, since we had always viewed this event from the area in front of It’s a Small World previously.

By the time this show was over, it was time to make our way to the Disney Gallery above POTC to view the second showing of “Fantasmic.” This is the only way to see this show. You have the best unobstructed view in the park, without anyone getting in front of you or stepping on your toes. But as with all good things, there is a price. In this instance, it is $59 a person, but his includes a decent dessert bar, your choice of drinks (all nonalchoholic, or course), and seats with tables. Furthermore, there are only about a dozen other people on the balcony, so you never feel crowded. The dessert bar offers various cheesecakes, Black Forest cake, chocolate dipped macaroons, as well as fresh fruit and cheeses, as much as you can stuff in. Despite my rather gourmandly behavior at dinner, I managed to taste-test just about everything.

Clearly, by the time Fantasmic was over, so were we. It took all of our strength to make it back to the room, after which we lapsed into a deep sleep.

Day 2, Monday, August 28

Not arising too early, we made it to the park by 9:30 a.m. and since park had been open only a half hour and it was Monday morning, we had only a short wait at the gate. We opted to have breakfast at the Carnation Café (the “Oscar” breakfast, consisting of scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, potatoes and a croissant), then rushed to Space Mountain, believing that our best chance would be to get there as early as possible. We had about a 15-minute wait, and an enjoyable ride. Other than Space Mountain, Tomorrowland was pretty much dead, so we headed over to Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters where we had about a 4-minute wait. Then it was back over to Adventureland/New Orleans Square to hit Pirates (twice), Indiana Jones, and the Haunted Mansion, all with less than 20-minute lines. However, by the time we got out of the HM, things started to get pretty busy in the park, so we decided to make our way to DCA where it is typically much less frenetic. Surprisingly, things were hopping there as well, but we decided to duck into “It’s Tough To Be A Bug”where we had a 6-minute wait. We then walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and noted that it was mid-afternoon and time for a lunch break, so stopped at the Pacific Wharf Café for salads, which, like their soups, are served in fresh sourdough bread bowls. Since it was in the mid-90s in temperature, the lure of a cold beer from the Pacific Wharf Distribution Company (basically, a beer truck) was too much to ignore, so I tried the Karl Strauss Red Ale which turned out to be just the ticket. After this, we decided to head back to the room to have a rest and start getting ready for our 7:30 p.m. reservations at the Napa Rose restaurant at the Grand Californian.

Napa Rose has distinguished itself as one of the top restaurants in Anaheim thanks to the skillful culinary craftings of executive chef Andrew Sutton. Sutton, who is from the Napa wine country, has brought his special style of “California cuisine” to this resort and has garnered quite a following. Belinda and I had dinned at this restaurant three times previously, so we knew what to expect, and it was all bound to be memorable. The dining area is open and airy and tastefully appointed. The wait staff are top of the league. The wine list worthy of applause. The menu changes seasonally, so you can pretty much expect that anytime you visit you will have a new set of tempting dishes to have to choose from. The Vintner’s Table is generally our choice, which consists of the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairing, a four-course meal that is well worth the price of admission. But no one said the price was going to be low: the Vintner’s Table with wine is $120 per person. However, since the entrees here alone are typically $30 to $40 each, four course with wine for the stated price is a bargain.

This time the first course was a “Braised and Seared” pork brisket with spicy Maui Gold Pineapple relish and two roast bell pepper coulis. This rich Pacific Rim-inspired appetizer was paired with a 2004 Zilliken Estate Riesling from Germany, its sweet crispness a good foil to the heavy and sweet pork. The second course was the chef’s special “soup and sandwich,” consisting of a toasted lobster club sandwich on brioche and Wine Country corn soup with roasted chanterelle mushrooms, paired with a 2002 Cask One Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley. Wow. If you are still earth-bound after these tastebud pleasers, then you need to strap yourself in for the entree, a grilled veal chop with Heirloom “Toy Box” tomatoes, fava beans, Kalamata olives, and shaved Parmesan, served with a 2003 Castello di Nipossano Chianti Rufina Riserva from Tuscany. Talk about a party in your mouth! This was one of the more complex chiantis I have tasted in a long time and matched well with the cavalcade of rich and earthy flavors found in this dish. Dessert, called “Figs, Figs, Figs.” consisted of marinated black Mission figs accented with orange goat cheese semolina cake and fig sorbet, served with a Bonny Doon 2004 Muscat, Vin de Glaciere. Now, if you don’t like figs, this dessert is not for you, but if you do, you will not be disappointed.

Day 3, Tuesday, August 29

This was the morning that we had early admission to Fantasyland (8:00 a.m.), an hour before regular opening time for the public, so we had decided the night before to order room service for breakfast. It arrived right on time (a “Healthy Breakfast” of granola and fruit for me, an omelette for Belinda), and we were at the gate a few minutes before opening. Once in Fantasyland, we took the opportunity to take advantage of the nonexistent lines for all the “dark rides” which occupied us until regular opening time when we ran over to New Orleans Square to catch Pirates, then over to Critter Country for a 20-minute wait for Splash Mountain. We got the front seat and, naturally, got thoroughly soaked. We then headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad where we encountered a very short line (5 minutes). After some leisurely shopping, we made our way to New Orleans Square where we had lunch reservations at the Blue Bayou.

We had always enjoyed dining at the Blue Bayou, not so much for the cuisine but for the ambience. Given the recent changes to the menu, the increase in prices, and the recent rather unfavorable new reviews about the food itself, my expectations were set low. The once high prices were now obscenely exorbitant, the cheapest menu item being the Monte Cristo Sandwich ($18.95). However, one does now get the choice of a cup of gumbo or a iceberg-wedge salad served with the entree, which I suppose serves as the justification for the price jump. Upon arrival, we waited less than five minutes to be seated. The only apparent change to the interior of the restaurant was the expansion of the dining area. Our waiter was pleasant and efficient. Given the limited number of choices, we were able to make our decisions quickly. Passing on the appetizers, we ordered two fish dishes, Belinda the Cajun-Spiced Salmon ($26.99), served blackened with a “citrus crawfish beurre blanc” and me, the Port Royal Mahi Mahi ($27.99). We both ordered the gumbo, which was brought out almost immediately. It was surprisingly very good and spicy. The timing on the arrival of the entrees was appropriate, within a few minutes of the completion of our gumbo. The presentation in both cases was attractive: mine a decent-sized portion of Mahi Mahi fillet topped with two pecan-encrusted jumbo shrimp atop sauteed spinach and endive, Belinda’s salmon was covered with the crawfish beurre blanc that actually had several crawfish tails! My fish was fresh and flavorful and the accompanying vegetables not overcooked and truly enhanced by the lemon vinaigrette. The pecan crust on the shrimp was slightly sweet and complimentary to all the other flavors of the entree. Belinda’s salmon was spicy but not overpowering and was actually further enhanced by the crawfish sauce. Although the meal was quite filling, Belinda thought we would be remiss not to share a piece of “The Key West” key lime pie. I had heard a bad review about this very dessert, but decided to keep an open mind. Fortunately, we were not disappointed, as the dessert was freshly made, refreshing, and downright delicious. In sum, the meal was much more than I had expected and renewed my faith in this restaurant’s ability to actually be more than just a nice view of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Full and sleepy, we made our way back to our room for a short rest that became (unintentionally) a two hour nap! We had intended to do a wine tasting at the Golden Vine Winery, but got there after 5 p.m. which is when they close the tasting (in part due to the competition of the “Block Party Bash”). We ordered a couple of glasses of wine, relaxed a bit, then returned to Disneyland with the intention of seeing the fireworks again at 8:45 p.m. (the park closed at 9:00). It was interesting to note that their was an apparent “second shift” of patrons who arrived between 6:00 and 6:30 at Disneyland; some are folks being evicted from DCA as it closes at 6:00, the others likely local annual pass holders. A park that had not been very busy suddenly seemed to have twice to three times as many people as it did at 11:00 a.m.

After the fireworks and closing the park, we headed over to House of Blues in DTD for no-frills burgers and fries before heading back to the room and crashing for the night.

Day 4, Wednesday, August 30

Today was to be the slower paced “spa day,” as Belinda had booked massages for us at 11:30 a.m. We had reservations for breakfast at the Storyteller Café for 9:00 a.m., so it allowed for a comparatively leisurely morning. Breakfast was unremarkable but expensive (over $40 with tip), the most notable thing about the breakfast buffet was the excellent freshly grilled asparagus and fresh berries. We decided after breakfast to go into DCA to get in a little park time before our massages. The park had just opened and we wanted to see if we could get onto Soaring Over California. We literally walked right on. We squeezed in Muholland Madness and the Jumping Jellies before heading back to the hotel. After sauna and massages, we went back to the room to rest before heading over to DCA again, this time for wine tasting.

In the early afternoon, we went back to the Golden Vine Winery (which really isn’t a winery) for a tasting. The tasting is $10 per person and includes a choice of three of six wines on the wine bar’s tasting list or a smaller portion of all six. We chose a mixed tasting of several, mostly Californian, varietals. Unfortunately, I will be unable to share the details of the wines we tried since I assumed that like most real wineries, GVW would have copies of their wine list available to patrons to make notes on. This was not the case here, and I had not brought paper nor pen to take notes. This is a point that I strongly pressed upon the server who seemed to care less. As it turns out, none of the wines offered were particularly impressive anyway. However, we decided to order a fruit and cheese platter, order some wines by the glass and call it lunch, and during this time I found a truly excellent wine from Napa Valley, a Poggio Del Papa “Super Tuscan,” a complex blend of cherry, berry, and tobacco flavors, probably the best wine I had during the entire vacation. The only reason I remember this is that I was so impressed I borrowed a pen and scrawled the information on a receipt I had in my wallet.

After our wine-and-cheese lunch, we made our way over to DCA to see the live “Aladdin” show that was scheduled at 4:00 p.m. Since we had “priority seating,” we showed up about 30 minutes early to get into the line that was for the orchestra seating. When it came time to go into the theater, we basically had our pick of seats in the orchestra and settled into a pair just about center in mid-orchestra. The theater was only about half-full, so the background noise level was low and the performance was most enjoyable.

After the show, we strolled over to Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in DTD to get reservations for dinner that evening. By the time we got back to the park, it was between 6 and 6:30 again, and again we encountered the increased crowd phenomenon. Despite this, we managed to get onto Indiana Jones with only a 10-minute wait, and onto POTC with less than that. After some shopping, we planned to take the DLRR from New Orleans Square for a spin around the park and out at Main Street Station to head for dinner, but they had taken a train out of service and what should have been a 5-minute wait was moving into a 15-minute wait. Fearing we would be late for dinner, we walked out of the park and on to Brennan’s.

Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen is one of several restaurants found in Downtown Disney, and one we had yet to try. We had eaten at Brennan family establishments in New Orleans over the years, and had always had positive experiences. We arrived at the restaurant on time and were immediately seated on the second floor interior balcony overlooking the fountain on the first floor. Having a craving for beef, I settled for the filet mignon medallions, while Belinda, obsessed with salmon, went for the blackened salmon topped with flaked crabmeat. We ordered wine by the glass and kept things simple, since we were utterly exhausted. The meal was quite good, but not extraordinary. Presentation was simple, but the food flavorful and hearty. Of note was the Bananas Foster that was prepared table-side, which we swore was our last indulgence of the day. It was exceptional and equal to its New Orleans kin. If you are in the mood for a little Cajun holiday, this is a recommended stop on your Disney vacation.

Day 5, Thursday, August 31

Last full day at the resort before returning home. After an acceptable night’s sleep, we made our way to Disneyland to have breakfast at the River Belle Terrace. After recharging our batteries with pancakes and eggs, we took a stroll down memory lane and headed for the Enchanted Tiki Room. I first visited this attraction more than 40 years ago and was happy to see that the old standard had not been changed at all in recent years. On to the Mark Twain steamboat after the Tiki Room, and then to the Golden Horseshoe Review to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. I had not been to the Golden Horseshoe since the original show closed in 1983, so this, too, was a trip down memory lane. Gone was the orchestra, the can-can girls, Wally Boag, and everything else that made the GHSR so special since the opening in 1955. However, the Hillbillies were most amusing, and all in the house (about 2/3 full) seemed to have a great time.

After running around the park for awhile (including a hellish journey through “it’s a small world”), we realized we were hungry and decided to dine at the Plaza Inn at the end of Main Street. We had eaten here many times in the past, and settled on this rather than leaving the park and having something in Downtown Disney. We enjoyed tasty Cobb salads that are freshly made and tossed to order. I couldn’t resist a beckoning piece of fresh apple pie with a caramel topping for dessert (shared with Belinda, of course). The crowds earlier in the day had been virtually nonexistent, but things began to pick up after lunch. When then hit some of the shops, then made our way to the Disney Store in DTD to do some final-day shopping. After depositing our loot in the room and having a brief lie-down, we made our way to Catal, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in the center of Downtown Disney (whose most prominent feature is the Uva Bar literally in the middle of the pathway) to make reservations for the evening. Back to the park for a last fling on some of the attractions we had missed, including Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and the Autopia (we had not gone to this attraction since the late 90s make-over), then the Disneyland Railroad back to Main Street.

Exhausted, but hungry, we dragged ourselves to Catal (which, thank goodness, is near the Grand Californian). Catal has its fine restaurant upstairs, and it less ambitious fare available at the downstairs Uva Bar. Luckily, we were seated almost immediately with great seats on the second floor for viewing the fireworks. The menu featured an impressive array of options, including tapas, various appetizers with a Mediterranean flare, salads, pasta and risotto entrees, and the house specialties. We figured we would order different courses and share, getting an opportunity to taste more than one dish (pretty much our modus during the entire vacation). Belinda ordered the soup of the day, which was a French onion soup, and I ordered the compressed salad of Manchego cheese, arugual, red apples, dates, walnuts, and pistachio vinaigrette. The soup was absolutely atrocious, inedible due to its extreme saltiness. However, the salad was not only a thing of beauty in terms of presentation, but it was just plain delicious. We complained about the soup, and it was taken off our ticket with an apology from our server. Next, the entrees: mine, grilled Ahi tuna with homemade French fries, piquillo peppers stuffed with grilled eggplant and served with a paprika aioli; Belinda’s, boneless braised short ribs with a red wine-sweet onion soubise (sauce) and Brie agnolotti (think ravioli). Both dishes were excellent in both presentation and flavor, the Brie agnolotti, however, being a bit strong in Brie rind flavor. Having become quite full by this point, we opted to share a dessert, a chocolate-caramel tart with white chocolate gelato and home made almond brittle. Very rich, but an exceptional end to a fine dining experience overall.

Day 6, Friday, September 1

The limo was due to arrive at noon, so we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast by way of room service, and finished the last little bit of packing. We decided not to try and rush into either park for a last minute shot at Pirates or Indiana Jones, though the topic was broached early on. We did stroll around the grounds and relaxed in the grand lobby of the hotel once we used the automatic checkout. Our driver was right on time, and we reluctantly loaded up and said, “Farewell” to our home for the past week. It was clear that we would be back as soon as possible, but for now we would treasure the memories that we had just made at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Robert Yohe


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