MousePlanet Mailbag

by Stephanie Wien, staff writer

MousePlanet's photography expert Frank Anzalone opens the mailbag this week, sharing some advice on equipment selection for one reader's upcoming trip.

David G. writes:

I have a Nikon D-50 with two lenses, a DX 18-55 and a DX 28-200, and I was hoping you would give me some information on whether these two are good for shots around Disney World, especially for the fireworks at Epcot and Magic Kingdom plus special night time shots. I also have a Nikon speed light SB-600. Any information would be great. I want to take as many pictures as I can on this trip.

Sounds like you are off for a great vacation! You have some great gear and lots of flexibility with your camera for those various shots you might be looking for. If you want to take only one lens, the 28-200mm will get you most of what you need and be less to carry. The 18-55mm lens will give you more of that 'wide angle' shot for the big overview landscapes or a little help trying to get a wide view in a tight space. It really just depends on what image you are trying to capture. I think (if you have a good location) your 18-55mm lens might be the better lens when taking the 'inside the attraction' shot and fireworks. The other lens is a great lens, however the wide angle probably has a wider aperture to let in more light in those darker conditions.

I would also give these photo tip articles a quick read for some tips and ideas too!

Frank's photo tips #1: A quick start to capturing great images at Disney Parks.

Frank's photo tips #2: Capturing photos of friends and family in the Parks.

Frank's photo tips #3: Capturing low-light photos, dark rides, and fireworks.

Frank's photo tips #4: Capturing photos of the parks themselves, landscapes, and great views.

Frank's photo tips #5: Capturing character photos at the Parks.

Make sure to take plenty of memory chips AND your battery charger too! Have a great trip!

Next, staff writer Steve Russo shares more letters in response to his article, "The Top 10 Things to Eat at Disney World" (November 5, 2010).

Elaine P. writes:

I’m writing in response to your column on “The Top 10 Things to Eat at Disney World.” A great topic and a great article, as usual.

I am in complete agreement about the Potato Gratin at Narcoossee’s. The first time I had them, I was transported back to my childhood and my grandmother’s Au Gratin Potatoes—they tasted exactly the same. Her secret ingredient? Velveeta. No kidding. Now I’m not saying that the Disney chefs use fake cheese instead of freshly grated cheddar, but try it in your recipe at home and maybe you’ll be transported back to Disney World!

I’m also in agreement about the muffins at the Boardwalk Bakery, although my pick is the chocolate chip. They’re often sold out, though, so I’ve learned that the exact same muffin is available at the Beach Club MarketPlace. If they’re out of blueberry at the Boardwalk, try your luck there.

And, a stop (or several!) at the Rose & Crown is an absolute must. In fact, the bartenders there greet me with “chardonnay?” instead of “hello.” Plus, Pam always recognizes me as the lady from Chicago…

Looking back, my favorite food of Disney days past is the popcorn from the vendor right next to the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. Now I know Disney still sells popcorn, but my son and I used to wait for that stand to open and enjoy it while watching the first show at the Diamond Horseshoe Revue (remember the guitar player and the magician?). These days, entertainment is no longer featured at the Diamond Horseshoe, my son is now 20 years old and the Disney popcorn box has become smaller and somewhat flimsy. It’s simply not the same—sigh.

But, there’s still a Disney food to look forward to each time I visit the World—it’s the cheddar cheese soup from LeCellier Steakhouse in Canada at Epcot. Of course, enjoying this delectable dish involves making dining reservations six months in advance, as you well know. I’ve done this even before I’ve had hotel reservations—I just cancel the reservations when my touring plans become more finalized. And, if the Food & Wine Festival is going on, I stop and have a sample from the Canada booth pretty much every day I’m there. Yum! We’re even thinking of making it for Thanksgiving this year.

Thanks for the continued entertainment …

First, I'm going to look for a recipe for Narcoossee's Potato Gratin. I'd love to be able to make them at home. Regarding the Boardwalk Bakery… I believe they also stock the Belle Vue Room each morning as well as the Marketplace.

I've made Le Cellier's cheddar cheese soup several times at home - successfully, I might add. I recently sampled some at the Food and Wine Festival to verify theirs was as good as mine. If you'd like to try it, see below.

Le Cellier Cheddar Cheese Soup

1/2 lb bacon cut into 1/2 in. pieces
3 celery ribs cut into 1/4 in pieces
3 cups milk
1 medium red onion cut into 1/4 in. pieces
2 tbsp butter
3 cups water or chicken broth
3 dashes tabasco
1 cup flour
1/2 cup beer
3/4 lb grated white cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

In a soup pot start to brown the bacon over medium heat. When the bacon is starting to get crisp, add the onions, celery and butter. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and incorporate with the butter. Cook for 4 minutes-constantly stirring. Add the water/broth and whisk. Make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stir every couple of minutes. Add the milk and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Do not boil after you add the milk. After the last 15 minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese then the beer. Add the tabasco and season with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick you can thin it out with some milk. Serve with your favorite bread and top with some chopped scallions or chives.

Terry writes:

Thanks for the fun article! I am shocked and dismayed that no one has yet to mention the Grapefruit Cake from Brown Derby! If you cannot get into the Brown Derby, you can usually order one next door from Starring Rolls. It is a longer wait but is definitely worth it!

I can't eat grapefruit, so I would pass on the cake, but the Cobb Salad did make my long list. Thanks for the suggestion.

Finally, two readers share their ideas for potential future columns with Steve.

Ellen V. writes:

I enjoyed (and am looking forward to eating them even more!) your Top 10 Good Eats. How about a Top 10 Places for Quick Service? We're on the dining plan and have reserved a few of the places suggested, but we have eleven quick service meals we need to eat up. It would be lovely to hear what might be good options for us (and the other 50 billion people who eat in the parks) from someone experienced.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll consider that for a future column, assuming I can come up with ten.

Kevin C. writes:

I am a longtime reader of all things Steve Russo/Disney dating back to your many trip reports on MousePlanet. My family and I have been taking annual trips from Massachusetts to the World since I was born in 1979, and now I have a family of my own to keep the tradition going. We have always said that you would fit right in with us on our trips judging by the things you mention in your articles and places you like to dine and so on. Anyway, I have never posted on this site or emailed any writers but I suddenly feel compelled after reading your latest installment. Every other Friday I come into work, turn on my computer and look for your article. These last few years have been thoroughly enjoyable and your articles help make the unbearable time in-between trips, bearable. I would like to possibly give you an idea/suggestion for a future article in 2010. I am sure there is almost nothing you haven't heard of or thought of by now but here is a topic that everyone knows about if they have ever stayed on property at a Disney resort!

I think an article on the In-room Resort TV channels would be a great topic. In my family it is known as "The Channel" and turning on "The Channel" in an A/C blasted room at the Caribbean Beach Resort in July is often mentioned as one of our "I'm there" moments. You could talk about the many changes on the channel over the years going back to Resort Talk with Georgie Russell - "The show thats got everyone talking about Disney Resorts" to the 100 year celebration with Zip and his Zip-a-dee-doo-dah - Tip for Today, up to the top 7 must sees with Stacy (more like 107). I think there is a lot of material especially with all of the change that's taken place over the years, and it could be a recurring article based on the inevitable change to come. You could set up polls with questions on which is your favorite show, catch phrase, theme or host (I know this is a touchy subject) and you could even write a segment on the Spanish resort channel in Spanish; that would be a first, I believe.

I hope this is something that might interest you, or at least gives you an idea for a different article in the future. Keep up the good work, and I can't wait for your next article.

First, thanks for the kind words and for writing. I really enjoy hearing from folks, like you, that have enjoyed the articles. It's a bit of affirmation that someone's out there… reading. It's truly appreciated.

Thank you for the suggestion as well. To be honest, the in-room stations are mostly background noise for me. I certainly know Stacy and the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Tip for Today but my recollections of predecessors are vague at best. I'll see if I can turn up enough research material to turn this into an article.