Friday, November 4, 2011

Fruity Drink Friday

Today's drink comes from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2012 cook book This year the cook book included some great drink recipes & I plan to post a few from it. The cocktail I choose is the Singapore Sling. This classic has been slowly making a come back, along with other classics like the Side Car & Ciapirinha. Although some of these drinks a little before my time, it's great to see Disney paying homage to some of these timeless concoctions :)

Disney's Singapore Sling
from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

1 1/2 Ounces Hendrick's Gin
1 Ounce Cherry Bandy
1 Ounce Pineapple Juice
1 Teaspoon Grenadine
Splash Club Soda
Pineapple & Maraschino Cherry for garnish

1) Pour Hendrick's, cherry brandy, pineapple juice & grenadine into a shaker filled with ice & shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
2) Pour into tall glass and top with soda water and garnish with cherry & pineapple.

*Note: When ever I make a Singapore Sling, I always use sour mix. So if you like, you can add about 1 ounce of sour mix to cut the sweetness a bit :)


****Now for the disclaimer: These recipes DO contain alcohol and should only be consumed by persons of legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly & don't drink and drive. Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte are not responsible for any damage to person(s) or property, or loss of life that result from over consumption or abuse of these recipes. Got it? Not for kids, don't drink & drive, and be responsible :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Disney A La Carte!!

A complete guilty pleasure post here. Big on pictures, low on words. Here it is, a selection of pictures I took from Hallowishes Fireworks show at Walt Disney World :)

 My favorite part of this-if you look at the time stamps (yes, I know-I'm lame) you can see in a matter of just 4 minutes, how many changes you see the Cinderella's Castle go through :) If you've never been to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and you're planning a trip during the Fall season, I can tell you it is a great time and well worth the money. We have always had a great time :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Quick Picture Tour of the Walt Disney Suite on the Disney Dream

Here are a few pictures of the Walt Disney Suite on the Disney Dream. Every category of cabins, on the Dream are way above industry standards, but as expected, Walt's Suite is just amazing. Classic styling, imaginative touches and tons of space to spread out in complete luxury, make this an unforgettable experience. I hope you enjoy a quick peek at the Walt Disney Suite on the Disney Dream :)

 Walt Disney Suite on the Disney Dream:

One the sleeping areas. Notice the fiber optic "stars" in the ceiling about the bed. There were also Murphy beds as well for additional sleeping that stored away during the day :)

 Seating for 8 at the dining room table. The windows behind the table leads to your own private patio with personal hot tub and privacy wall.
 The living room area. Flat screen TV, comfy seating, and all decorated in a classic style that matches the ships homage to the luxury liners of the past. I swear you totally expect to see Walt walk though. For some reason it almost reminds me of Walt's office.
This is really clever. One way mirrors provide you with a gorgeous view, while providing privacy. You can see out-but no one can see in!

I wish I had more than a few quick minutes to really take my time and take more & better pictures, but I was still thrilled to get these shots. This is of course an expensive option when cruising on the Disney Dream, but if it is within your budget, I highly recommend the Walt Disney Suite. It is an experience you will never forget.

I hope you enjoyed!

Fruity Drink Fridays

With winter creeping up on us poor souls up North, I decided to to a drink that makes me think of warm afternoons, under a shady tree, sipping a cool drink. This weeks fruity drink is Disney's Kentucky Peach cocktail.

Next week I'll get back to cool weather cocktails ;)

Kentucky Peach
1 1/2 Parts Red Stag Cherry Infused Bourbon
1/2 Parts Peachtree Schnapps
2 Parts Sweet & Sour Mix ( Homemade or pre-made)
1 Part Sprite (or any other lemon-lime soda you prefer)
Mint leaves & cherries to garnish

Pour all ingredients over ice, stir gently (never shake anything with a carbonated beverage) and garnish with mint & cherries. Then pretend it's still Summer. Or even better-book a trip to Disney and then you won't have to pretend ;)

****Now for the disclaimer: These recipes DO contain alcohol and should only be consumed by persons of legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly & don't drink and drive. Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte are not responsible for any damage to person(s) or property, or loss of life that result from over consumption or abuse of these recipes. Got it? Not for kids, don't drink & drive, and be responsible :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Dining Booking Window Extended!!

Disney has given us an early Christmas gift-they extended the booking window until December 17th, 2011. So now you can still get in on a great deal and book your Disney vacation and get the Quick Service dining plan with any Value resort stay, and the Plus dining plan with any Moderate or Deluxe resort stay. All you need to hold your package is a $200 refundable deposit. Don't let this deal get away. I mean we're talking 2 of my favorite words: Free & Dining.
Contact me for a free quote at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New for the Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

I know I have talked about how excited I am for the newest Disney Cruise Line addition, the Fantasy, to come on line, but here's yet another reason-the Aqua Lab.

It seems that Donald Ducks boisterous nephews Huey, Dewey & Louie created the Aqua Lab and while they are away, young guests of the Fantasy have been left in charge. They must turn wheels & pull levers to help "control" the AquaDuck speed & temperature, as well as many other leaks and spills to tend to.

Another example of Disney creativity and always striving to make the Disney Cruise Line an amazing experience for all it's guests!

If you're interested in getting more information, or booking a Disney Cruise, contact me at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New reservation policy goes into effect October 26th

Effective October 26th, Disney will now be charging a $10 per person fee for any no-shows or cancellations made less than a day prior. A credit card will be required to make reservations at select restaurants and charged the $10 cancellation fee for the following restaurants:

* 1900 Park Fare
* Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
* Artist Point
* California Grill
* Cape May Café
* Chef Mickey’s
* Cítricos
* The Crystal Palace
* Flying Fish Café
* The Garden Grill
* Hollywood & Vine
* Le Cellier Steakhouse
* Narcoossee’s
* Ohana
* Tusker House Restaurant
* The Hollywood Brown Derby
* Yachtsman Steakhouse
* Victoria & Albert’s (cancellation policy is $25/per person)

Cinderella's Royal Table, Hoop-de-doo Revue, Mickey's Backyard BBQ & Spirit of Aloha will continue to the same policy of charging the full pre-paid cost if not cancelled 1 day in advance.

It remains to be seen if this will help the whole reservation system, and ADR availability or not. Personally I like that the Signature restaurants are implementing this. With the longer dining times & limited seating, it makes a lot of sense. What do you think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fruity Drink Fridays

The cooler weather is coming and for some of us, it's already here, so I decided to do a Fall favorite of mine: 
the Hot Spiced Apple Cider. What I love about this drink is a) it's good, b) it can be modified to your tastes, and c) it's good. While I have to be honest-I don't like the Fall, pretty much because it leads to Winter, I do love Fall foods & beverages. So here it is:

Hot Spiced Apple Cider

1 1/4 quart apple cider
3 tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar (IF cider is unsweetened)
7 whole cinnamon sticks (6 sticks for garnish)  
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger  
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup alcohol of your choice** (Or omit the alcohol and everyone can enjoy :) )

**Some options include Calvados Apple Brandy, Poire William Pear Brandy, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Pama Pomegranate Liquor-basically the choice is yours :)

This recipe makes about 6 cups worth and you're going to want to make it on the stove or even in a crock pot. Add all ingredients-except alcohol, and bring to a simmer over a medium to low flame. Simmer for a few minutes (5 or so) . Remove from heat. Add your alcohol and serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks or sprinkled on top. 

****Now for the disclaimer: These recipes DO contain alcohol and should only be consumed by persons of legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly & don't drink and drive. Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte are not responsible for any damage to person(s) or property, or loss of life that result from over consumption or abuse of these recipes. Got it? Not for kids, don't drink & drive, and be responsible :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall and Winter Room Offers 
Walt Disney World Resort

Now two ways to save at the Walt Disney World® Resort!

Book by Nov. 19, 2011, and you can save up to 30%* on rooms at select Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts for stays most nights Oct. 30 – Nov. 21 and Nov. 26 – Dec. 23, 2011. (25% savings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Polynesian Resort; lower savings at other resorts.)

Book by Dec. 21, 2011, and you can save up to 35%* on rooms at select Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts for stays most nights Jan. 2 – Feb. 20, 2012. (30% savings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Polynesian Resort; lower savings at other resorts.)

For a FREE quote & vacation planning, contact me at: or by phone (845) 283-5099 to get started.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Announcing 3 Moms and the Mouse Podcast!

I wanted to take a minute to announce the start of a brand new Disney fan-based podcast I am proud to be a part of. 3 Moms and the Mouse Podcast launched today with it's introductory episode. I am lucky to have 2 amazing women join me in this new venture-Mindy Horner & Dina Barreto. Fellow Pixie agents, great moms & of course BIG time Disney nerds. Our goal is to bring our listeners as much Disney information as possible in a condensed format of around 30 minutes or so. So give us a play on your ride home from work or while you're making dinner and grab a beverage and come give us a listen. Then send us an email and tell us what you think. We really want to make this a listener driven experience-so tell us what you want to hear!

Click 3 Moms and the Mouse Podcast to listen :)

Thanks for the support!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guest Review: The Yellow Dog Eats Cafe

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that when we go to Orlando, the Mouse is all consuming for us. We never rent a car and if we do leave Disney property, it's to visit Seaworld and we cab it back & forth. So when a good friend of mine posted a rave about a local eatery in Orlando, I was intrigued. I asked her if she would be interested in doing a review for me-and she was gracious enough to do so :)  So here it is the inside track on this local gem. Thank you to my friend E.G. for sharing the secret!

Yellow Dog Eats Cafe

Yellow Dog Eats
1236 Hempel Ave.
Gotha, FL 34786
Click here to go to the Yellow Dog Eats Cafe's website

Find this place. It’s the best not so secret place to eat in the greater Orlando area.

You’ll find limited parking, but look across the street in the grassy vacant lot. You can park there. Walking across the road is an experience. Beware the Gotha chickens.

The outside of the restaurant presents like a country store. The experience starts there. Read the outdoor sign advertising the day’s specials.

As you enter, you will find an eclectic visual cacophony of food ordering counter, merchandise for sale, dog oriented photos, figurines, t-shirts, wine, and beer. The tables and chairs are a mis-matched collection, so don’t expect prissy, nicey-nice here. It’s a people place, a fun place. Pay attention to the music. It’s one of the most complex offerings you’ll hear in any establishment. Oh, and bring a felt tip pen if you want to leave your signature on the table, or a chair, or maybe even the woodwork. Don’t forget to check upstairs for seating and outside. It’s a busy place so when you enter be sure to seek out the end of the line.

You’ll find the menu on the counter to the left as you walk in. Remember to check the behind the counter chalk board for the day’s special. If they are offering smoked brisket, get it.

The menu consists of elaborate creations the less informed will term sandwiches. There are salads, equally complex, and choices include black beans and rice (go ahead and think you know what that means) and nachos (dare you).

The selections all have creative names, so enjoy the read. The Rufus, Frisky please is a favorite.

Flip the menu over for vegetarian and vegan choices.

Be sure to check the cooler on the far right for desserts of the day. Get one.

Drinks consist of the usual sodas, and the unusual bottled beers and wine selections.

We cheerfully spend roughly $50 for a two, including wine and dessert. The selections are consistently well prepared, delicious and enormous. We hope to try everything on the menu over time, but find it very hard to not get our favorites each time.

Service is cheerful over the counter. They’ll laugh with you and patiently answer all your questions. When your order is up, they’ll announce it over the loud speaker and you’ll bring it to the table yourself. Look for the owner chef, Fish. He’s the tall guy with the long pony tail making sure everything is going well.

Food presentation is pretty basic, but with complex creations that’s all it could be. The food itself is the presentation. You’ll have most served on a paper lined tray. Those items that don’t lend themselves to that will be on a large serving dish nestled in the tray. Remember to pick up your plastic eating utensils and a straw if you want. There will be napkin dispensers on the table (you’ll need it!) and extra sauces. Clear your table when you are done. The trash bins are over there.

Don’t forget to browse the prepared items selection and choose a few to bring home with you.

Yellow Dog. See you there!


Thanks again E.G.! Your review is making me rethink my "Never leave Disney property" status!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fruity Drink Fridays

Pomegranate Splash

Keeping it simple again today, but that doesn't mean no taste. This cocktail has a very wonderful liquor called Pama in it. Pama is a pomegranate liquor and absolutely wonderful. Combined with Skyy Infusions Citrus Vodka, cranberry juice & soda water, it's light, effervescent and delicious. 

Pomegranate Splash 
1 oz Pama Pomegranate Liquor
1 oz Skyy Citrus Infusions Vodka
2 oz Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Fill with soda water (club soda) 

 Pour all ingredients over ice, garnish with citrus of your liking and enjoy. I told you it was simple ;) Cheers!

****Now for the disclaimer: These recipes DO contain alcohol and should only be consumed by persons of legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly & don't drink and drive. Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte are not responsible for any damage to person(s) or property, or loss of life that result from over consumption or abuse of these recipes. Got it? Not for kids, don't drink & drive, and be responsible :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Have To Make My Disney Dining Reservations WHEN??!!

Of all the things people wonder & worry about when it comes to Disney, I think ADR's (Advance Dining Reservations) seem to be the thing that sends people over the edge. Tell a first timer that if they want to get in to eat with Cinderella or Stitch, they have to plan their meal 180 days in advance and watch that look come over their face. I actually call it ADR Stages of Shock.

Stage 1: They laugh, thinking you're pulling their leg.
Stage 2: They then look at you like you've escaped from a "quiet place" with padded walls.
Stage 3: Is a mixture of anger & panic usually identified by a gruff "Are you serious?" and a high pitched "How am I supposed to know what I want to eat 6 months from now??!!"
Stage 4: Pure terror. This is where they have visions of everyone in their family yelling at them for ruining their vacation by making them eat at Casey every night (Sorry Casey fans-I just can't call those things hot dogs-I'm a New Yorker).

Alright this is where you have to kinda talk them off a ledge for a minute. And that's what I am going to try and do in this post. Talk all you panicky folks down and help you with a strategy for making your ADR's a painless experience.

So let's address Stage 3, since it's the real heart of the issue. You don't have to decided what you want to eat 6 months from now, you have to decided where you want to eat 6 months from now. What's the difference you ask? Well to decide what dish you want to have 180 from now is crazy. What if you're not in the mood for pasta when vacation time comes? Also with seasonal menu changes, the dish you choose might not even be on the menu when you get there. Now true-if they have the ingredients and you ask nice, they will usually accommodate you-but that's a big "If". So instead of asking you to pick your meal, Disney is asking you to look at some menus, or read some reviews, on their site or unofficial ones, and choose restaurants you might like to eat at. So say you look at Citricos menu or Chef Mickeys normal buffet offerings and you see a few dishes that look good to you. Or maybe you're even sold by the theme or activities that go on there-like characters who appear there. So you go online to the reservation system or call (or tell your travel agent and they do it for you) and check for a time when you'd like to have a meal there. You enter your time 6:30 pm and look-they have a table for 6:40 at Chef Mickeys. So you hit confirm you and get a confirmation number. Hey! Wait a minute-you just made an ADR for 6 months from now! Now wasn't that easy?

Ok so now that you see it's really not that big a deal to make reservations so far ahead, let's talk about some other fears & concerns people have about ADR's and some tips as well.

What if I change my mind when the vacation comes? 

They put you in Mickey jail. No-not really. If you change your mind-call and cancel. Now it's true some restaurants & dining experiences have a 1-2 day cancellation policy. While some of the restaurants do not charge any fee to miss or cancel a reservation, Disney's has started penalizing no-shows, for many of their most popular restaurants. You will be required to leave a credit card on file for any restaurant that has this policy in effect. If you do not show up for or cancel in the right amount of time, a per person charge will be applied to your credit card. The charge varies by restaurant-for instance Akershus Princess Dining is $10 per person. So if you're scheduled to eat at Chef's de France later that week, but change your mind and/or plans-make sure to call and cancel your reservation. Plus-it's the polite thing to do anyway. Now, Disney is sympathetic to the fact things happen, so if little Suzy gets queasy on the Teacups and you don't think you want to push the issue of taking her to eat-call them and tell them your issue, they are always there to help.

What if I find another restaurant I like before I leave for vacation? What if a reservation opens up in a place that previously didn't have an opening?

If you're like me, you're constantly going to be going on and checking to see what's available, or if that 7:00pm table at Le Cellier opens up. Not a problem-just call and cancel the conflicting reservation you no longer want.

 What if the dish I had my heart set on isn't on the menu when I get there?

There is always the possibility that with seasonal menus, certain promotions & crowd volume, you might not see the dish you were eyeing 6 months ago when you get there. But I will tell you that if the ingredients are available, and it's a reasonable prep time & if you ask, you might be surprised to hear the chefs will recreate the dish for you. Now I can't guarantee this-and neither will Disney. But it never hurts to ask. But this is why you should choose restaurants based on the style of food they offer rather than 1 particular dish.

Lastly a few tips:

1) Start planning early. And I don't just mean the actual booking at 180 days out-I mean start looking around, reading menus & reviews to get an idea where you might want to dine. This way when it's time to book, you have a plan.
2) Do your homework or talk to someone who is knowledgeable in Disney restaurants. Learn about the restaurants you will be booking at. You don't want to make a mistake like finishing dining at California Grill and leave only to find out later that you could have either stayed or gone back to watch Wishes from the observation deck.
3) What do you do when you can't find an ADR for a restaurant you really want to try? Keep trying. Try odd times, like late at night, mid-afternoon during a work week, early morning, weekends. I have gotten very hard to come by reservations by doing this. Also, if you're working with a travel agent-let them do the heavy lifting and call at weird hours and multiple times a day lol.
4) Plan your ADR's around events, parades, fireworks, park openings/closings(to be in the parks with very few other people and get some great uncluttered pictures) etc.
5) Don't forget which restaurants have a cancellation penalty.
6) Try different times in the day. If you can't get into dinner at Le Cellier-try for lunch.
7) NEVER give up an ADR UNTIL you have confirmation for something else you want.

I hope this has relieved some of the anxiety that comes along with making Advance Dining Reservations. It's really not as bad as it seems. You got this. And if you're still not sure-you can always use a travel agent to help you. It's 100% free. There is never a charge to you. Master the Way of the ADR and you too can be the hero responsible for happy pictures like these :)

Have fun & Happy Eating!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Save Up to 30% on a Disneyland Resort Stay October-December

Thinking about a Disnland Resort Stay? Now's a good time. Book a Disneyland Resort stay and save up to 30% on a stay at one of the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort, for arrivals most nights-Oct. 2 – Dec. 24, 2011.

Offer Details:

**Save up to 30%* off a room-only reservation at Disney’s Paradise Pier® Hotel.
**Save up to 25%* off a room-only reservation at the Disneyland Hotel or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa.

Booking & Travel Windows:
Book Sept. 13 – Oct. 15, 2011, for arrivals Oct. 2 – Dec. 24, 2011.

Book Oct. 16 – Dec. 10, 2011, for arrivals Nov. 1 – Dec. 24, 2011.

This offer is not available for travel Nov. 23-25, 2011

Travel on this offer must be completed by Dec. 25, 2011

Contact Me at for a FREE quote. And as always all my vacation planning services are 100% FREE to you. There is never a charge to use a travel agent :)

Dumbo & Timothy Adorn the Stern of the Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

After a lot of guessing who would be the lucky character to adorn the stern of Disneys newest cruise ship the Fantasy, the guessing is over-Dumbo & Timothy will do the honors. In another excellent example of Disney's love of synergy, the star of Fantasyland is now the star of the Fantasy cruise ship.

I have to admit, I feel a little bad for Minnie-she seems to have been slighted a little, but if that's the case, you'd never know, she is handling it like the true lady she is. With poise, dignity she was seen putting on a crisp new bow and heading over to congratulate Dumbo. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fruity Drink Fridays

The Grand Smash

This is a simple drink, but that's why I like it. The fact that Grand Marnier is the sole star liquor doesn't hurt either. Grand Marnier is a blend of cognac & essence of bitter orange. It can be served alone or in mixed drinks like the Grand Smash. Now I can go into the whole spiel about this drink & liquor-but like I said, it's a simple drink, it's really good & I am feeling short on the blabbity-blab today. So here it is, Disney's Grand Smash:

1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier Liquor
1 oz Orange Juice
4 Quarter Slices of Fresh Lemon
6 Fresh Mint Leaves

Muddle the lemon & mint together. Add Grand Marnier & orange juice. Shake with ice. 
You can strain into a separate iced glass if you prefer. I don't mind the mint & lemon so I leave it in.


****Now for the disclaimer: These recipes DO contain alcohol and should only be consumed by persons of legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly & don't drink and drive. Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte are not responsible for any damage to person(s) or property, or loss of life that result from over consumption or abuse of these recipes. Got it? Not for kids, don't drink & drive, and be responsible :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Exclusive New Italian Wine to Debut at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Two new wines, created exclusively for Disney, will be debuted at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year. Made by Placido in the Tuscany region of Italy, and imported by Banfi, the Pinot Grigio & Chianti will be available to sample, as well as purchase by the bottle, in the Enoteca Castello (wine shop) in Italys' pavilion, Epcot.

The wine is called Songo d'Italia, which translates into "Dream of Italy" and pays homage to Italys' easy going lifestyle & noble traditions. The Pinot Grigio is described as light & crisp, with hints of pears and floral tones. The Chianti is described as a drinkable red, with hints of cherry & plums and a touch of spice.

The cost per glass will be $6 and the bottle cost $16.95 and will be available after the festival ends. Eventually you will also see them on the wine menus of some of your favorite Disney restaurants.

Mini Food Review: Flying Fish Cafes Potato Wrapped Red Snapper

Titled as one of their signature dishes, the Potato Wrapped Red Snapper is most definitely worth keeping around. This dish is is proof that 27 ingredients aren't needed to make a great dish. While it's true some of the components are a bit complex, the actual dish itself is fairly basic in construction-but oh so wonderfully full of depth when it comes to flavor. It starts with a lovely piece of red snapper, thick cut, moist and devoid of bones. For me this is big, I know fish have bones, but one of the reasons I will usually avoid snapper is because it tends to be a very boney fish. I will add that I do suspect there was a mix-up or substitution made here. The fish I was served was delicious but I do have my doubts it was snapper. But of course I have no proof beyond my own taste buds lol. The chefs then wrap the snapper in thinly sliced medallions of potato. This keeps the fish very moist and prevents over cooking. The potato-fish bundle is then pan seared and finished off in the oven. It is plated over a leek fondue. I find the "fondue" is very mild as far as cheese flavor goes and actually reminds me more of creamed spinach-but better because of the superior flavor leeks have compared to spinach. Then the dish is finished off with a reduction of veal glace, red wine & cassis butter. First can I say, that myself personally, I would be hard pressed to find anything that wouldn't be improved by drizzling, dipping, or pouring demi glace over it. Demi glace is a sauce made of equal parts veal stock & espagnole sauce-but I suspect they are using a doctored version. Don't worry though-the addition of red wine and cassis butter bring this sauce together perfectly. Two things are genius about this dish: first to use a demi on fish is nothing short of gutsy and inspired. Second the use of cassis & butter tame the meatiness allowing it to blend so perfectly with the fish. What you get is harmony, perfect glorious harmony. I highly recommend this dish. There is only one bad thing I have to mention about it-eventually it's gone. And then you're sad.

Mini Food Review: Flying Fish Cafes Carmelized Banana Napoleon

Cited as another one of the Flying Fish Cafes signature dishes, this dessert fell short of my expectations. Let me start by saying that once upon a time, I had a dessert at the California Grill that was so good, burned such a mark on my memory, that anything with a similar name will automatically pique my interest and draw my scorn when it fails to measure up. Wow-that's a lot serious words considering we're talking about dessert. But truth be told-I take dessert seriously. Ok so back to this one. This dessert consists of of caramelized bananas, creme caramel & banana mousse layered between crispy phyllo rectangles. The plate is garnished with an exotic fruit coulis (mango lol), bitter chocolate, whipped cream, powdered sugar and fresh mint. The banana mousse is quite good, but more of a light banana whipped cream then a mousse-but good never-the-less. From there it nose dives. The cream caramel seems almost over cooked to me. The texture is not pleasant at all. Not egg-custardly like a nice brulee and not the gelatin constancy of a flan. Instead it's almost rubbery and the flavor leads me to think they over cooked the sugar before they worked the creme caramel. The bananas were not caramelized as much as sauteed in sugar, but not on a high enough heat to give them that nice "burnt" sugar taste. The phyllo would have benefited from a nice sugar glaze before baking. It would have added a bit of flavor, instead it tasted just dry & bland. The garnish was fine, but as it was just garnish-it didn't make or break the dish. For me the Flying Fish Cafes weak spot tends to be dessert-but of course I'd have to of course try more-just to be sure. As for this dish not something I'd order again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Disney A La Carte Sweepstakes

So here it is folks, our first sweepstakes. It's to get the word out about Disney A La Carte and also as a "Thank You" to our current readers. The prize is this Disney cookbook-"Cooking with Mickey & the Disney Chefs".

I actually own a copy of this book and am really enjoying working my way through it trying to recreate the recipes at home. I will send you your own brand new copy for your own bookshelf :)

So it's really simple, you don't have to write an essay or submit pictures. We might try something like that later, but for now here's are the ways you can win this book. Different actions will get you entries into the sweepstakes, and I tried to offer as many ways to enter through various social media outlets as possible. Here are the ways you can earn entries in the sweepstakes. Do one do them all-it's up to you :)

Get 1 entry for doing the following:
*Go to my blog by clicking here (or if you're already here) & click the Follow Me button.
*Next verse, same as the first-except Click to Follow Me on Twitter
*Comment on any blog post
*Retweet a tweet by Disney A La Carte (That just sounds funny lol)

Get 3 entries by doing the following: 
*Follow me by Email or add me to your RSS feed
*Get a friend to follow me on Facebook. (Have them mention you in a post so I can give you credit)
*Tweet about the sweepstakes using the hashtag #DALCSweeps

Get 5 entries by doing the following:
*Get a friend to Follow Me by either email or on the blog (Again they have to let me know-they can do that by commenting at the end of this post-which will get them another sweepstakes entry too! :D )

Get 10 entries by doing the following:
*Go to my website here and request a FREE, No Obligation Disney vacation quote

As much as I'd like to just have fun with this-I gotta cover my bum, so here they are, the fine print:

Rules & Conditions:
1) Contest runs 14 days from  9am 9/6/11-midnight 9/20/11
2) Earn as many or as few as you like
3) Must be 18or older-sorry by there's laws and stuff about this kind of thing
4) Entries will go into a pot and winner will be drawn at random. 
5) Any person already following the blog will automatically be entered to win
6) Contest subject to change, but any entries will be notified of any changes made
7) I reserve the right to add to or modify this is there's something I forgot.
8) This is solely the action of me-Lisa Ruiz & Disney A La Carte and is not in any way connected, associated, sponsored or sanctioned by Disney or Pixie Vacations in any form or fashion.
9) Any questions, comments, etc can be directed to

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mini Food Review: Flying Fish Cafes' Artisanal Cheese Plate

Given my fondness for cheese of all nature, it's kinda surprising this was my first Disney World cheese plate. But in my quest to always try new things, I decided to give one a try. I am so very glad I did. 

Where to about presentation. Simply plated, this cheese plate let's its flavor do the talking. The 5 cheeses arranged to the left and the 4 accompaniments to the right, deserve your attention for a minute. The texture of the individual cheeses, the natural beauty of the honeycomb and even the cool touch of the raisins which are still attached to the vine come on the plate somewhat understated, but individually make their own statement. 

Ok enough about the visual, let's talk about the personalities of each cheese and their partners. The plate is served with a side of bread crisps for spreading the softer cheeses if you like, as well as the regular bread they bring to the table, which you can also enjoy with your cheese plate. Along with the bread, a selection of 4 accompaniments are also served as well. Raisins on the vine: fairly straightforward, but possibly a bit too dried. I would have preferred them a bit more plump, I tend to think it provides a more pleasing texture. A fresh bit of honeycomb: very mild in flavor but sweet. A Spanish fig-almond torta: think the filling in a Fig Newton except overly dry and with almonds. I wasn't a fan of this, even though I love figs, because of the dryness and the almond ruined the texture for me. And lastly a fresh peach, citrus and sweet Bermuda onion compote Agrodolce: peaches, citrus rind & onions cooked with vinegar & sugar which is where the Agrodolce comes from. Agrodolce means sour (agro) & sweet (dolce) in Italian. Behind the fresh honeycomb I enjoyed this a lot. It had a lovely pungent yet sweet contrast which made it stand up very well against the stronger cheeses.

And the stars of the plate-the cheese. In order ascending from mild to strong:

Cowgirl Creamery MT.Tam: Texturally somewhere between a brie and a light cream cheese, this was one of my favorites. A bit more sharp than a brie as well as a twinge on the pungent side this cheese was perfect spread on the bread or crisps with a bit of the honeycomb. Thin slivers of apple would have been a wonderful addition. 

Reypenaer V.S.O.P Gouda: Gouda is one of my favorite cheeses and this one is write your mama good! It's a bit different from the Goudas you know. This Gouda is aged longer (2 years) and that aging produces a harder texture than the slightly creamy but firm texture you might be used to. It also takes the flavor more away from the medium soft cheeses like cheddar and closes in on that of a nice Parmesan. But is saying that it is not so much you would mistake it for a Parmesan. It's much sharper and refined.

Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper: This sheeps' milk cheese is semi-hard and somewhat reminded me texturally of Romano. Not in flavor, only texture. It's flavor was buttery and full in the front of your mouth. It had a flavor that lingered, but was somewhat unidentifiable. It was out-shined by the other cheeses on the plate, but it was still a nice addition. 

Bijou: Another fantastic cheese, this goats' milk cheese was superbly creamy. The texture was really lovely. Flavor wise it was mild up front, but pungent on the back. This may sound weird, but it had a very distinct aroma once inside your mouth, of a barn-the hay and grasses that is lol. Now I know you're sitting there going "ewwww", and I would have too, before I actually had this cheese. But what I am picking up is the natural diet of the goats as well as the fact that different cheeses will produce different aromas, depending on what animal it comes from. It also comes from the fairly quick turn around in making the cheese. While it may not be for everyone, I really enjoyed it and do suggest you at least give it a try. Even if it's to see if you pick up the same things I do. 

King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue: Blue cheese is hit or miss for me. Danish blues can be too "slap you around stinky" for me, but this Australian Blue was really a nice surprise. This Blue was sharp, but it was also nutty and wonderfully salty. On par with the crumbly, veiny texture of most blues, taste was the big attention getter with this cheese. I think if you like Blues, you will find this cheese different, but in a good way, and the same can be said if you're not a Blue fan. 

Sorry this was a very long "mini" review, but I wanted to give all the components their due, as they each really earned it. I would recommend this cheese plate without hesitation, with one condition-must love cheese.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Restaurant Review: Flying Fish Cafe

My first trip to Flying Fish was nothing short of abysmal. Yup-that good. But something kept nagging at me (besides my rule of always giving a restaurant a second chance) to try it again. So on my latest trip, I gave the Flying Fish one more shot and I can say it pleasantly came through with a delightful dining experience.

Brief Description: The name might tip you off to the fact that fresh seafood takes center stage in the unique eatery.Innovative takes on shellfish, wood-fired steaks and a fun selection of fish like salmon and their signature red snapper round out this menu. As you enter you can see the brilliant chefs creating culinary magic through the glass that separates the kitchen from the dining room. The restaurant is a whimsical homage to a classic seaside boardwalk with smile inducing little touches.

Decor: This restaurant isn't just pretty, it's happy and fun. Whimsical touches can be found throughout and the feeling of a carnival or seaside fair is present. But don't get me wrong-not the cheesy, creepy kind of carnival way. Think more refined MacKenzie Childs then Jersey Shore. Gold & platinum set the main color palette,with accents of blue, red and then a big splash of multicolour coming from the art deco rug. A union of warm, medium blond woods and cool, brushed stainless steel make up the dining tables. Chairs are padded but rather unremarkable, though sufficiently comfortable. Some of the striking decor pieces include the large, cut panel Ferris wheel, thick scale-covered columns, asymmetrical lines around floor to ceiling windows as well as unique pieces that look somewhat like the swing ride at a fair, but flying fish get the enjoyment on this ride. Look up when it's light and you'll see a big beautiful sky. Like being outdoors on the perfect fair day, blue skies and puffy white clouds smile down on you. But when the lights go down, the sky turns to night and color changing LED "stars" come out to twinkle (not tinkle) for your delight. The seating is somewhat close, but there are lots of tables set in alcoves & booths that create an intimate atmosphere. The Flying Fish Cafes' decor lift's your spirits, but does it in a gentle way that doesn't hype you up. A lovely dining atmosphere.

Service: My first experience at the Flying Fish was quite disturbing. A combination of a packed restaurant, and less than professional waiter soured me greatly on the restaurant. But because I know how poor service can so easily make or break your view of a restaurant, I needed to give the Flying Fish Cafe a second chance. I am very glad I did. This experience was stellar. As a party of one, the chance to be forgotten about or flat out ignored is high. And sometimes it's simply a matter of perception-when you have no company to fill the time, you notice it going by more. I have to say that from start to finish, my server was perfect. His timing was not off by a second-even when seated other larger tables. He was a pleasure to talk to about the menu and he was also extremely knowledgeable. He made the meal an experience. I also had a very enjoyable experience with the hostess that sat me. She was welcoming and engaging and I have to mention it because too many times my experiences with the host staff (including Disney) give of the overpowering scent of "I couldn't care less", so my encounter with her was a very nice way to start my experience. Overall I give the Flying Fish high marks this time around on service.

Menu Selections/Approachability: Fresh seafood takes center stage at the Flying Fish Cafe, while there are a few non-fish, non-seafood options, those options are limited to a strip steak & pork tenderloin. This menu is tailored with thoughtful takes on shellfish & a nice selection of fresh fish like tuna, salmon & red snapper. While the selection of fish is a bit on the safe side, what they do with it takes it beyond creative. This is something I really like. When you stay with a familiar main ingredient and create around it, using the freshest ingredients, you give guests and opportunity to try something out of their comfort range while having training wheels on. It's a smart choice and Flying Fish pulls it off brilliantly. Once again 8 is Disney's lucky number for entree options, but the selections are so across the spectrum in difference,  that it almost gives the illusion of more choices.

Execution/Food Quality: First word, 3 letters. WOW! Beyond my own dishes, which were beautiful (although my pictures will not do them justice), every dish that went past me to other tables, was picture perfect. Best part is they know it at Flying Fish, as they definitely use that old trick of carrying low. Dishes are actually carried at eye level as to entice you with their deliciousness. But the dishes at Flying Fish aren't just another pretty face-they have substance too. Local seafood choices translates into freshest seafood available. This is something normal for Disney-fresh, seasonal and a local as possible. They start with the best and then execute the dishes flawlessly.

Value: With an average appetizer price of over $13, and average entree price of $37, and an average dessert price of $7.50, Flying Fish is on the pricier end of the dining spectrum. Your wallet will take a hit here no doubt, but in my opinion is-it is worth every penny. For this restaurant you need to resign yourself to not worry about price and enjoy the experience. Ambiance, service and most of all food come together to make this a memorable visit. I am fond of saying "I don't mind paying a lot for a meal, as long as it's worth it.". I can honestly say the Flying Fish Cafe is worth it.

Transportation Rating: I am giving the Flying Fish Cafe a transportation rating of 4. Navigating your way to the Boardwalk involves a few steps and can be a bit tricky and time consuming. Your travel options are to take a bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios. Do not enter, but instead use the pathway to the right and walk over (5-10 minute walk) to the boardwalk (the actual boardwalk & Boardwalk resort are two different but connected things) and the Flying Fish is right there to your right. You can also take a bus to Hollywood Studios and also to the right, is the boat launch to the Boardwalk docks. And the final way you can travel is to take a bus to the closest park (any) or Downtown Disney and then take a resort bus back to the Boardwalk. But please note that the bus to the Boardwalk will often make stops at the Swan & Dolphin, as well as the Yacht and Beach Club resorts before the Boardwalk stop. Factor this into your traveling time.

My final word on the Flying Fish Cafe is while a bit tricky to get to, it is well worth your time to include it into your vacation dining plans. And now that is offers a Dine with an Imagineer option, there is even more reason to  give this hidden gem a try.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mickey's Not So Scary Hallowwen Party Primer

One of my favorite special events will be happening soon at Walt Disney World-Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This special hard ticket event happens every Fall on selected nights from September to November. During this time, the Magic Kingdom shuts down early and hosts a Halloween party for only 5000 ticket holders. Villain Meet & Greets, character dance parties, trick or treating through the Magic Kingdom, a special parade & Merry Hallowishes, a special holiday fireworks version of Wishes nighttime fireworks, are some of the special treats guest can enjoy. So here's a few quick facts & tips about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party.

When is it?
This years party runs from September 13th to November 1st. The party starts at 7pm and runs to Midnight, but I have heard of people being allowed in as early 4pm.

Will my regular Magic Your Way ticket, Park Hopper or Water Park & More ticket get me in?
No. You must purchase a separate ticket for this event. You will be given a special wristband upon entering and will be asked to show it before being allowed on to the rides & into special experiences.

How much is admission? And are their discounts on tickets?
Ticket prices vary depending on dates & if you purchase them in advance. A complete list of dates & prices can be found here. Annual passholders & Disney vacation club members can usually get discount on selected dates as well. 

Is it really scary like other theme parks Halloween parties?
No, not at all. Like the name says, it's not so scary at all. Disney created this event to be very family friendly. Will the Haunted Mansion may seem a little spookier, and there will definitely be some extra villains to meet, the whole thing is pretty mild. But best part-there's fun for every age group. 

I heard mention of candy-tell me more about this.
Upon entering the Magic Kingdom, everyone-yes the grown-ups too, is handed a bag to hold your trick-or-treating booty. Throughout the different lands of the Magic Kingdom there are goody stations where you can collect your candy. Goofys Candy Co. supplies the treats and the giver-outers are very generous :)

What else is there to do?
** Boo-to-You parade twice a night. And can I say I am not at all a parade person-I usually use that time to slip on the rides while the everyone else is watching them, but this parade I always make sure to catch-it's great!! 

**Character Dance parties where you can boogie down with some of your favorite Disney characters. This is really fun for the littler party goers. Very interactive and lots of fun!

**Disney Villains Mix & Mingle is a great way to get your picture with your favorite Disney scoundrels and meanies. But be warned-they are a cranky lot ;)

**Special Disney Character experiences with old favorites and some hard to find folk and many of them are dressed up in their best Halloween costumes. We were able to get some really hard to find autographs during the party, including quirky ones like the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, and Dee & Dum :)

Is there any other benefit to going to the party?
Yes. Because there are only 5000 tickets sold, you get to experience Magic Kingdom with less people. Granted 5000 people is still a lot, but we have literally walked on rides again and again because of the lower crowd levels. I do want to mention that not all rides are open, but many of the most popular ones like Space Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad, Dumbo, Peter Pan's Flight and of course The Haunted Mansion are usually open. Like everything it's subject to change-weather and rides operating will dictate what's running.

And because I like to save the best for last, Merry Hallowishes. Disney does such an amazing job with Wishes fireworks show, that it's hard to believe there is any way they can top it, but I have to say Hallowishes is better. I know-I wouldn't have believed it possible had I not seen it for myself, but it is. It is just spectacular and will leave you with your mouth hanging open.

These pictures really don't do it justice-not even close. But trust me-you will not be disappointed. 

So if you're ever considered trying this special event now you have an idea on what to expect. It's a ton of fun and definitely worth trying. And don't for get to get your parade & fireworks viewing spots early ;)