Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Osborne

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Bistro de Paris

James having a pre-dinner beverage.
By the looks of his face, it's not Beverly.
This is the final table service dining review of my January trip!  For the foodies out there, not to worry, I still have a ton of quick service reviews (some even from August!), but I'm glad I'm finally finishing up the table service ones.  Don't mind the fact that it's taken me almost three months...

Bistro de Paris was James' birthday gift from me because he loves French food.  We were on the dining plan, but it isn't accepted here.  So I was paying cash.  In fact, when we checked in for our ADR, the first thing the hostess said to me was, "Are you on the dining plan?"  When I mindlessly replied yes, she immediately retorted, "We don't accept it here."  I realized my mistake and awkwardly replied, "I know" before she agreed to check us in.  It seemed a little rude, but as Colette says in Ratatouille, they are French.  (No offense to all the lovely French people out there.  For all I know, this hostess was having a terrible day.)

Bistro de Paris is located directly above Les Chefs de France, and you have to essentially go to the back of the building to enter the Bistro waiting area.  You wait downstairs, and someone comes down to get you when they are ready for your party.  There were quite a few stairs, which my knee wasn't fond of, but I'm sure there's an elevator for those who can't make it up there easily.  Once upstairs, the restaurant is pretty small, and it's very cute.  It definitely looks upscale, but I didn't feel like I needed to be wearing a gown or anything.  I mean, we were a little dressed up, but the table next to us had regular park clothes on.

Grilled beef tenderloin
Once we were seated, we first got bread, and soon we were ready to order.  James chose the escargot appetizer, and I skipped on having one.  For our entrees, we both ordered the grilled beef tenderloin.  When James' escargot came, I tried a piece, but I am definitely not adventurous enough an eater to enjoy it.  James' opinion: not even close to the best escargot he's had, but it was fine.  As you can see in the photo, the beef tenderloin was presented quite nicely.  It was again fine.  Nothing special.  Maybe it was the cut of beef that didn't thrill us, or maybe we should have ordered something more French, but we weren't enthused with our choices.  They were good, but not spectacular.

My dessert!
Dessert did have a special place in my heart, however.  James chose not to get a dessert, but since I was paying, I decided I wanted one.  I chose the creme brulee dessert that came with the creme brulee itself (in that tiny mug), caramelized rice pudding, upside down caramel cream, and creme brulee ice cream.  The creme brulee and the ice cream were my favorite parts, and I didnt really like the pudding (but I don't really like rice pudding).  The upside down cake was good too.  This dessert was $11, so take that as you may, but I thought it tasted good!  Although James didn't order a dessert, they did bring him out a special birthday surprise.  Instead of a cupcake, it was a plate with "Happy Birthday" on it in chocolate.  And there was a candle in some berries.  How cute!

James wouldn't use the flash while taking this picture.

Overall, I would say Bistro de Paris didn't wow us, and we probably won't be back for a while.  Compared to our meals at California Grill and Le Cellier, it didn't even come close.  It certainly wasn't a bad choice, and I would encourage anyone to try it once.  I've also heard great reviews about it, so maybe it was just what we ordered.  Just keep in mind that they don't accept the dining plan, and the dinner can get quite expensive.  If I remember correctly, the bill came to almost $150 after the tip.  And we didn't even get any alcohol!  It was a nice birthday present to James, though, and I certainly don't regret the visit there.

Have you ever been to Bistro de Paris?  What did you think?  What did you order?  If you haven't been, why haven't you tried it yet?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Let the Adventure Begin

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Canada

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Epcot's Mini-Attractions, Volume 1

There's no questioning that Epcot is an amazing park both for attractions and atmosphere.  Between E-tickets like Soarin' and Test Track and the culture of the World Showcase, this park has it all.  But sometimes the things that people skip over can also be some of the funnest memories later.  Thus I'd like to dedicate this post (and a future one, as I've thought of enough for at least two posts) to Epcot's "mini-attractions."

1. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure
This is kind of a big one, but it's also one that I don't think people stop at enough.  For anyone who's unaware, Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is an interactive game that takes place in, you guessed it, World Showcase.  To play, first stop at a recruitment station and get a "Fastpass."  This will tell you when and where to return to get your mission.  When your time arrives, simply go where the Fastpass tells you to, and you will be given a Kimmunicator for your group.  This Kimmunicator is essentially a cell phone on which Wade from Kim Possible talks to you.  He directs you to a specific country, and you must stop the villain who is trying to destroy the world!  The game is a lot of fun for both adults and children.  I've played the Germany, Japan, France, and United Kingdom missions, and the Japan one was my favorite.  It really is a blast, and the best part is, once you have your Kimmunicator, if the park isn't too busy, it will let you play another mission after you finish yours without getting another "Fastpass."  I think the attraction is too often overlooked, either because people aren't sure what it is or because it seems too childish.  I think it's a lot of fun, however, and there are some really cool interactive elements!

2. The Great Piggy Bank Adventure
Some people skip right over Innoventions while they're at Epcot, and I think that's a big mistake.  There are a lot of fun exhibits there, and one of my favorites is the Great Piggy Bank Adventure (presented by T. Rowe Price).  In this exhibit, you enter a little area to learn about money (mainly saving it).  First you are sent to a little kiosk where you virtually meet your pig friend.  You choose whether you want to save up for an ultimate vacation (obviously what we chose), a bedroom makeover, a college education, or retirement.  Once one is chosen, you get your own little piggy friend to carry around with you on your journey!  (See photos!)  You are directed to different kiosks throughout the experience to do things like save money for your goal, avoid inflation, and diversify your money.  At the end, you learn if you reached your goal or not.  Luckily we did, although I wish they really gave you the money you "saved" in the game!  The game actually does have a lot of important lessons, and I think it could be enjoyed by every age group.  The youngest of children might not understand the financial lessons completely, but they will enjoy the games and the piggy friend.  Older children will both understand the lessons and enjoy the games, and adults should already know the lessons (hopefully!) but will still have fun playing!

3. The Seas
Everyone knows about the two real attractions in the Seas pavilion: the Seas with Nemo and Friends ride and Turtle Talk with Crush, but if you stay in the pavilion once you're done with the attractions, you'll find many more mini-attractions.  Aside from the most obvious one (all the fish!), others include little trivia games on screens (these were fun, and you can email yourself a little certificate with your results) and looking at the especially cool manatee section of the aquarium.  There is also a special aquarium in one section with just fish that mimic the Finding Nemo characters.  Finally, one of the coolest mini-attractions in the Seas pavilion is the little dolphin show.  When the dolphins get fed a few times a day, the cast member that does the feeding also puts on a little show with the dolphins.  It's nothing like what you'd probably find at Sea World, but it's a cool little thing to add something extra awesome to your day.  Really the entire Seas pavilion in itself is a cool mini-attraction, and it should definitely be explored in its entirety!

What do you think of my first three mini-attractions from Epcot?  What are your favorites?  I had at least three more for a future post, but do you have any suggestions?  Or can you think of any mini-attractions in other parks?  Anyone who lists any that I don't already have on my list will most definitely be shouted out in the next mini-attraction post(s), so let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Kona Cafe

I bet this picture alone will entice you to read on
I was very much looking forward to eating at Kona Cafe, since I had heard a lot about it from many people in the Disney community.  It is a generally revered restaurant, and I was interested to compare it in my mind to the dinner at 'Ohana we had in 2009.  We had an ADR around 7 pm, and we were seated almost immediately upon arrival.  Unfortunately, this is where dinner started to go downhill.

Our server took almost 15 minutes to come over to our table at all.  I mean, she didn't even stop by to tell us that she'd be over in a few minutes.  It was like we were the forgotten table, and James even mentioned that if we weren't at Disney, he would have left the restaurant.  Amazingly, our server finally came over, introduced herself, and told us a little bit about the menu.  Obviously we had already decided what we wanted at this point, so we ordered everything right away.  I was hoping to forget the little service snafu and have a good dinner, which we did.

I hate when James doesn't let me use flash in food pictures!
We started out with the sweet bread and butter.  Most people love this bread, so although I'm not a huge fan, I'm saying that's based on my personal taste.  I'm pretty sure James liked it.  Soon, our sticky wings for two came out, as pictured at the top of this post.  This was by far the highlight of our meal.  The wings were delicious as usual, and I'm pretty sure we ate almost all of them with no regard to our imminent entrees.  We paid for the sticky wings out of pocket even though we were on the dining plan, and it was so worth it.  I would even consider coming to Kona and just ordering the sticky wings. Yum!

My teriyaki steak
 I had the teriyaki steak as my entree, as I've heard so much about it, and I love anything in teriyaki sauce.  The steak was good, but I didn't think it was anything special.  I prefer the teriyaki steak at my local Japanese restaurant to it, and it definitely wasn't the best meal of the trip.  That said, it was a perfectly respectable steak, and I would recommend it to any steak eaters.  Plus I loved the broccolini, but I'm just weird like that.  James had the shrimp and scallops dinner, and he thought it was okay.  Based on my photo and memory, I don't think it was a ton of food, and he was still a little bothered by the service issue earlier in the night.  Other than the sticky wings, I don't think James was a huge fan of Kona.

James' shrimp and scallops
Yummy fondue!
After dinner, we had the incredibly difficult choice of what to get for dessert.  The chocolate creme brulee sounded good, but it also had bananas which I don't love.  I was basically down to the famous Kona Cone vs. the chocolate fondue, and I went with the fondue.  I honestly can not remember for the life of me what James ordered, so it must have not been very exciting.  We did, however, get birthday cupcakes!  These were exciting no matter how many times we got them.  And at Kona, they had "Happy Birthday" AND an image of Lilo and Stitch on the plates with this powdered chocolate stuff.  So cool!

Overall, I would recommend Kona to anyone who is looking for a dinner that's a little bit less known to the general public.  It would probably be easy to get an ADR here a few days before or even a walk up, and the dining choices are interesting.  Plus the sticky wings and desserts are delicious.  As for the entrees, they were meh.  I know some people rave about the steak, but I thought it was just okay.  Kona was a nice restaurant, but I don't think it measured up to my expectations.  Or maybe they were just too high.

Check out the menus for breakfastlunch, and dinner here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Where Sky Meets Land

Monday, March 7, 2011

Keys to the Kingdom

The only picture I have from the tour.
With my backstage guest pass!

For James' birthday, I took him to Bistro de Paris, and that review will be coming in the future on this blog.  For my birthday, however, I didn't want a dinner.  I wanted to go on Keys to the Kingdom.  After going on the Around the World on a Segway Tour back in August, I was itching for another behind the scenes tour.  I was stuck between trying another Segway tour and going on Keys, but after asking a ton of people, I finally settled on this one.  And I'm very glad I did.

On the informational side, Keys to the Kingdom is a four and a half to five hour tour in the Magic Kingdom, and it includes lunch (but more on that later).  Tours are offered at 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30 am, and the cost is $78.81 per person including tax.  Everyone participating in the tour must already have admission into the park, and you must be 16 years or older.  And that's that.

Our tour started with us entering the turnstiles at approximately 8:45 for our 9:00 am tour.  If you've never been in the Magic Kingdom before park opening, this would be the perfect time to take some pictures.  We had a Crystal Palace breakfast earlier in the week, though, so we didn't need to.  The tour meets at package pickup, where you get a nametag, a backstage guest pass (see photo), some complementary water or coffee, and you get to pick what you'll want for lunch later in the day.  Lunch is at Columbia Harbor House, and you can choose from the entire adult's menu.

Once everyone arrives for the tour, your tour guide gives everyone a headset in which you can hear his or her (in our case her) voice.  That way, she can walk in front of you, and you can still hear her.  Our guide's name was Kate, and she was the youngest Keys to the Kingdom tour guide at just 21 years old.  She was totally awesome and knowledgeable, and after the tour, we left a rave review at Guest Services.

Our tour started on Main Street, where first you learn the four "Keys to the Kingdom": efficiency, safety, courtesy, and show.  These keys are all over Main Street, from the fact that the sloping of the street makes the castle look bigger (show) to the fact that the sidewalk is a different color from the street, so people can peripherally see that there's a step up or down (safety).  We learned a little bit about how Walt Disney World came to be, and we learned a little about some of the different people on the Main Street Windows.  One of my favorite facts about Main Street is that almost all of the "two story" buildings are actually only a story and a half and use forced perspective.  In fact, the only building that is really two stories is Exposition Hall (if I remember correctly) because it has to hide the Contemporary.

Next, we headed up Main Street to Walt Disney's window, where he gets to see Cinderella castle every day.  And then we headed over to the castle itself and the Partner's statue.  We learned that Walt's statue is a little taller than he actually was because he always believed that the "perfect man" was a little taller.  We learned how the castle is the "big weenie" of the park.  We learned about how our guide sometimes works in the castle suite.  And then we headed on down to Adventureland.

The first attraction we rode was Jungle Cruise, where our guide confided that she secretly always wanted to be a skipper.  We learned some facts and saw some hidden Mickey's, and soon we were headed down to Frontierland.  It was at this point that we hit our first backstage location: the parade float storage facility.  We got to see the floats charging, and our guide told us that the Spectro floats are still stored in there while MSEP takes its place.  We also got to see the backside of Splash Mountain, and we learned that during the dip in Pirates, you are actually going down under the Railroad.

After this backstage area, we learned about Frontierland and then Liberty Square.  Did you know that there are no bathrooms in Liberty Square?  It is the 18th century after all, and there's no indoor plumbing.  The bathrooms in Liberty Tree Tavern are actually in Frontierland, and the bathrooms in Columbia Harbor House are in Fantasyland.  This is where we got to eat our lunch, which honestly I wasn't thrilled with.  I'm not a huge fan of Columbia Harbor House since I don't eat fish, and I'm not a huge fan of chicken.  I had some kind of BLT salad, and it was alright, but I wish I could've had a burger or something.

After lunch, we rode my favorite attraction of all time: the Haunted Mansion.  We even got to enter through a cast member entrance.  Very cool!  We learned about some facts and hidden Mickeys in there, and soon we were headed across the bridge over to the bathrooms near Crystal Palace.  It was here that we went to our next backstage area: the Utilidors.  Although the Utilidors are called tunnels, they are not underground at all.  They are essentially just hallways, but it was still really cool to go down there.  We learned about the inner workings of the park, including the fact that the Magic Kingdom was trying to correct all the mistakes made in Disneyland.  We walked through and saw different things, and we watched a short video down there.

When we "surfaced," we were near Tomorrowland, and we got to see the backstage room where all the balloons are filled with air.  It may sound lame, but I thought it was pretty cool!  Our tour ended back on Main Street where we began, and unfortunately we had to return our backstage passes.  As I said, our tour guide was great, and we filled out a guest appreciation card at Guest Services.  This tour was so interesting, and if you are at all interested in the workings of the Magic Kingdom, I highly recommend it.  The price is extremely reasonable when you consider the length of the tour and the lunch that's included.  I didn't feel that the magic was ruined at all, as some people fear.  In fact, I felt even more magic when I realized all the work that Walt, Roy, and everyone that built Walt Disney World put in and all the work that the cast members still put in today.  I recommend this tour to anyone.  (And if you're interested in the things that I saw that I won't put on here in case of any younger eyes, ask me on Twitter!)

Have you ever been on Keys to the Kingdom?  What did you think of it?  Let me know your thoughts on this tour, whether or not you've been on it, in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Yachtsman Steakhouse

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a picky eater.  I don't eat fancy, and I'm definitely a steak and potatoes kind of girl.  So when we were looking for ADRs to make for our January trip, I knew I wanted a great steak.  Enter Yachtsman Steakhouse.  I knew it was a signature restaurant, but we had the dining credits to spare.  Also, it was our birthday trip, and I wanted it to be as special as possible.  It so was.

It's not always easy getting to the Yacht Club from another resort if you don't have a car.  We chose to take the bus to Hollywood Studios and then the Friendship Boat to the Yacht Club.  If my knee was feeling better, we might have walked.  It's quite a nice walk along the water if your legs aren't tired or in pain.  I love the Friendship Boats, but they are SLOW.  After what seemed like forever, we finally made it to the Yacht Club and found our way to the restaurant.

When we were seated, we were surprised and happy to find that we had special menus that said "Happy Birthday!"  And we were encouraged to keep them!  I was also excited when our waiter told us that since we were on the dining plan, virgin strawberry daiquiris were included as a nonalcoholic beverage.  Naturally, I ordered one.  For dinner, James ordered a Lobster Bisque appetizer and the 24 ounce Porterhouse steak.  I decided to skip an appetizer, and I went with the 8 ounce filet mignon.  Our waiter called it the "lady steak."  Which was very true in my case.

James' 24 ounce Porterhouse
We were started off with onion bread and butter while we waited for James' appetizer, and I must say, I was obsessed with this bread.  I had way more than I should have, and as a result, I was only able to eat about half of my steak when it came.  It was just so good!  I couldn't stop eating it.   Soon James' soup came, and I was a little nervous about the decision because James has a history of not liking soups at Walt Disney World.  Amazingly, he was very pleased with his lobster bisque.  Soon, he was done, and we were ready for our entrees.
My 8 ounce filet mignon
Although we had to laugh at the size difference between James' and my steaks, they were both delicious.  James ate most of his, and I ate about half of mine.  I joked that we could get a 24 ounce next time, and I could eat two ounces, and James could eat the rest.  I wouldn't say it was the best steak I've had at Walt Disney World (I'm looking at you New York Strip from Le Cellier), but it really was excellent.  I honestly don't remember the potatoes, but I'm sure they were good as well.  I probably didn't have room for any more carbs after eating all that darn onion bread.
My first creme brulee ever!
After we were done with our entrees, we were given a dessert menu, and I decided I wanted to be a little adventurous and try something I had never eaten before.  (Dessert is the best time to be adventurous because it's basically always yummy.)   I decided I wanted to try creme brulee, since I had never eaten it before.  I didn't even really know what it was, but I knew people liked it.  I figured it was worth a try.  The creme brulee was awesome!  I actually had two more creme brulees in Walt Disney World after that night as a result of this creme brulee.  I am officially a creme brulee fangirl.  (I didn't take a picture of what James got for dessert, so I don't know what it was.  I'm sure it was good though!)  And of course, Yachtsman couldn't forget about our birthdays, so they brought us cupcakes in addition to our regular desserts.  The plates said "Happy Birthday!" in this chocolate powder stuff.  So awesome, though I didn't have room for the cupcake after the creme brulee.

Overall, we really liked Yachtsman Steakhouse, and I would definitely go back.  I think it's worth two dining credits, especially if you get the 24 ounce steak.  No matter how much you can eat, you won't leave hungry!  And get the creme brulee!  For the current dinner menu, click here.
Have you ever eaten at Yachtsman Steakhouse?  If so, what did you order, and how did you like it?  If not, what's keeping you away?  Let me know your thoughts on this signature restaurant in a comment,  a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Mine, Mine