Tremendous Steak in a Lovely Space at Le Cellierby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
My family lives in upstate New York, and, like many upstate New Yorkers, I have made my fair share of journeys across the border to visit our fair neighbor to the north, Canada. I've been to Montreal many, many times (I got engaged there), and have also marveled at stunning, quaint Quebec City (for my "babymoon"). British Columbia and Prince Edward Island are my next must sees. The Canadians we came in contact with during our Canadian adventures have been so hospitable, welcoming, and in Quebec City, very tolerant of my very sad attempts at French. Canada, I love your cheeses, your ice wines, your spotless public transportation, your duty-free shops, and of course, your poutine.
Naturally then, I suppose, one of my very favorite places in Disney's Epcot is the lovely Canada Pavilion. Staffed by Canadian young people as part of the Disney International Cultural Representative Program, a visit to the Canada Pavilion helps me get my Canada fix and chat with a captive audience about my favorite Canadian places.
I start my visit to the Canada Pavilion by taking in what in my humble opinion is one of the finest attractions in Epcot: O Canada!, the hilarious 18-minute film hosted by funny man—and proud Canadian—Martin Short. I love Martin Short a whole big, belly-laughing bunch. I grew up being wildly entertained by Mr. Short on Saturday Night Live, and have always steadfastly believed that if I ran into him on the street, he'd be a genuinely nice person.
O Canada! is in CircleVision, and presents the audience with an enveloping and majestic trip to the varied landscapes, traditions, and people of Canada. You get to pop in on Vancouver, Quebec City, Toronto, and Montreal's very own Cirque du Soleil, as well as the more rustic Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat. The film lets you in on the identities of some famous folks you may not know are Canadian—like Alanis Morissette, Jim Carrey and Mike Myers—and so beautifully illustrates the Canadian love of the outdoors, and yes, the cold. Sing it with me, "Canada, oh my Canada – you're a lifetime journey for a traveler…" I know you're at Walt Disney World folks, but you can spare less than twenty minutes, right? Take a breather, soak up some air conditioning, rest your weary feet and be ready to be transported. You will be so glad you did; you will want to visit Canada immediately, if not sooner.
The next stop for me is the home of one of the most talked about treats in all of WDW, Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. Yes, Le Cellier Steakhouse (The Cellar in French), a subterranean little gem in the Canada Pavilion. Intended to be reminiscent of some of the grand architecture of Canada—including the absolutely stunning Fairmont Le Chateau Fronternac—the stone arches, flickering sconces, and tasteful setting invite you to settle in and linger to enjoy delicious cuisine highlighting Canadian specialities.
Confession: I have tried to love the Cheddar Cheese Soup as much as everyone I know loves it, but I only just like it. I have a friend who is actually afraid to get the recipe for that soup, for fear that she will make it endlessly, and possibly explode. I don't love it that much, so on a recent visit to Le Cellier with my ten-year-old son, I took a pass on the soup but had a tremendous lunch anyway.
It was a treat for my son and I to dine "à deux," while Dad took a theme park breather. First, we watched O Canada! and I pointed out all the places we've visited in Canada while we giggled. Next, we made our way through the lovely gardens near the entry to Le Cellier, enjoying the slow pace after a day of zooming around Epcot. My son was patient while I snapped photos of the restaurant's beautiful interiors. We ate lunch early, and the restaurant was quiet.
We dined on the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan; Le Cellier is a Signature Dining experience and requires two Table Service credits. My son ordered the artisanal cheese plate with accompaniments, and I had a beautiful and delicious seasonal goat cheese, poached pear and beet appetizer. The food was absolutely scrumptious and our server was great with my son. The cheese plate in particular was special, it featured a variety of cheeses at the right temperature (so the creme cheeses were not refrigerated bricks) and was stunning to look at.
Next, I ordered the dry-aged boneless ribeye, a 14-day aged piece of beef served with, watercress, piquillo peppers, fingerling potatoes, sherry-thyme vinaigrette, and garlic butter. The accompaniments of this ribeye vary seasonally, so check the menu to see what is featured on your visit. I am particular about steak and this was fantastic. I had it medium-rare and it was "melt in my mouth" tasty.
My son enjoyed a seasonal noodle bowl consisting of seared steak and pickled vegetables. It was light and wonderful. I really, really wanted to get a side of poutine (which if you haven't had it, is this crazy, rich, salty bar food: French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy). Lots of folks were ordering it at Le Cellier, and they have a few eye-popping versions, but poutine is a meal in itself and I had three courses to push through.
Last, time for dessert. I ordered the Canadian dessert wine sampler. Called neige wines (French for snow), these syrup-y treats are made from shriveled frozen fruit. A perfect end to a meal, each features a potent, nectar-like taste of fruit. A variety of Canadian dessert wines are also featured during Epcot's Food and Wine Festival; be sure to check them out. My son and I shared a chocolate trifle, which consisted of panna cotta (a custard), caramel popcorn, caramel sauce, and popcorn gelato. Yes, it was a ridiculously good as it sounds.
Le Cellier Steakhouse (like all the WDW Signature Restaurants) is pricey. We go once in a while as a real treat. For a relative WDW bargain, you could also stop in and share a dish of poutine with a friend. Le Cellier is open for lunch and dinner, and accepts Tables in Wonderland (WDW's dining discount). If you decide to go, make those ADR's (Advance Dining Reservations); Le Cellier books up very quickly during peak times. Enjoy.