Friday links

Another busy week (got to work through Memorial Day weekend and then had jury duty, yeah!) so this will be brief. Hope you had a great holiday weekend and are kicking off the unofficial start to summer right.

Have a great weekend; I hope to return to blogging more regularly soon!

Around Disney, May 2012

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In addition to my amazing vegetarian meal at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion, we saw, ate and drank some other great things.

  • While in Epcot, we walked around enjoying the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. We saw plants, flowers and produce from around the world, flower sculptures, a butterfly garden and lawn ornaments and accessories.
  • At La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico Pavilion we had a passion fruit margarita. Already fans of this bar, I’ve seen the menu enough to realize they are always rotating margarita flavors and coming up with unique combinations. It was a refreshing treat on a hot day.
  • No stop at Disney is complete until we have been to Babycakes. And I may have had one of my favorite bakery items yet. The chocolate cupcake with mint frosting was amazing, with the cupcake being dense and not overly sweet.
  • We checked out Animal Kingdom, the first time for both of us. And when Bill spotted the jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel, we had to stop and try it. Chewy pretzel, gooey cheese and a hit of spice!

What is your favorite thing to do at Disney?

Vegetarian at Le Cellier Steakhouse

Stop me if you have heard this one: A vegetarian walks into a steakhouse and thinks, “What have I done?!?”

Except that wasn’t the setup to a joke, that was me Wednesday as I walked into Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion.

Since purchasing my Disney pass, I’ve started to follow Disney food blogs and pay attention to what people are saying. Already a fan of Epcot and after a great dining experience at Teppan Edo in Epcot’s Japan, I got braver and suggested to Bill we try Le Cellier. It seems to be one of the highest-rated and hardest-to-get-into restaurants in all Walt Disney World. I had the confidence that even a steakhouse could accommodate a vegetarian, so I looked at the menu, was pleased and booked a reservation. For the day we wanted (two months out) there was one seating time for dinner.Yeowza!

Ten days before our reservation I called the Disney dining hotline to confirm there would be something for me, and was assured there would be, but they noted it on my reservation. When I walked up to the host stand, the woman confirmed that one person in our party is vegetarian, telling me they have great vegetarian food. I was excited.

Then I walked inside and it hit me, “I’m a vegetarian and am about to sit in a steakhouse for an hour or so.” (Although I am a vegetarian, my husband and family are not, so I’ve been around meat-eaters my entire life. Although I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons and would love to help anyone become a vegetarian, I understand it is a very personal choice and I’m not going to judge those who eat meat.)

As we walked in, the host took us by the dessert table. The selections looked great, but we aren’t dessert people. We walked into the small dining room (which explains why it’s hard to get reservations) and sat at our table. Le Cellier is French for the cellar, and the dining room does look like a wine cellar.

Our server arrived and went over the entire menu with me and said if I wanted to, she could bring out the chef to talk about off-the-menu options. I said no thank you, the main dish option sounds delicious, and I went with it. A vegan dish, I had a quinoa and potato cake with royal trumpet mushrooms, baby beets and wilted ramps. I’m not sure if it was all in olive oil or what spices were in it, but it was so flavorful and cooked perfectly. And I think the vegetarian option changes with the seasons, which is always a good sign meaning the chef is picking the freshest ingredients and wants to try new things.

Quinoa and potato cake with royal trumpet mushrooms, baby beets and wilted ramps.

Before the meal, we ordered a whisky flight and a beer flight. The whisky flight included Crown Royal (harsh), Pendleton (smooth) and Forty Creek (bold). The beer flight was a selection of three Unibroue beers: Éphémère Apple (nice, light apple flavor), Blanche de Chambly (wheat) and Trois Pistoles (light tasting for a dark beer with a nice carbonation to follow). Each beer sample was 4 ounces, I would guess, a good amount for both of us to get a sample and see what we think.

Whisky flight and beer flight

Along with our drinks, our server brought us a selection of rolls: pretzel(!), sourdough and multigrain. And when we were getting low on bread, Linda (the manager, I believe) asked if we wanted more (yes!) and how we liked out drinks. She mentioned they just added the beer flight around Christmas and it was so popular they kept it. They also have samples of ice wine (a dessert wine) and martinis. We wanted a full drink each after, but between dinner and eating and drinking elsewhere around Disney that day, it was just too much awesomeness and we were full!

All in all, as a vegetarian I felt very comfortable and the staff was helpful and knowledgeable. This really was a great experience and we had a great time eating here. I would believe the hype that it is worth the wait to get in and eat here. And being vegetarian didn’t make me feel as if I was missing out on any of the experience or getting short-changed at a steakhouse.

Have you been to Le Cellier or another table service restaurant at Disney? What did you think?

My February 29: One More Disney Day

To celebrate that extra day we get every four years, Disney decided to open Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland for One More Disney Day from 6 a.m. February 29 to 6 a.m. March 1. Since this had never been done and I have a pass, I checked it out.

I figured since it was the middle of the week and the middle of the night it would be pretty relaxing and a different atmosphere. And that’s where I underestimated people’s love and dedication to Disney.

It wasn’t like the one time I went in the summer, but it’s not the out-of-season midweek trips I’m used to. In fact, as I was heading to Magic Kingdom at 9 p.m. (along with everyone else as the other parks closed) I was worried it might get to capacity before I got there from what I was hearing a photo I saw. It wasn’t crazy getting in but it was busy inside the park. Everyone was lined up all up Main Street for the Electrical Parade. I grabbed a spot at the castle and watched it with the visual display and upbeat song on repeat. It really was great.

View from the castle

Then I walked to some rides and that’s where the craziness really began. There were people everywhere. People were still in the park from the day, people were coming in just for the night, it was crazy. But it was fun to be a part of that, and it was following a full day at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. In total I hit three parks in 14 hours.

But how do you fuel such a trip? With a solid breakfast. And I did that by hitting up Babycakes at Downtown Disney. If you are a regular to the blog, you know I’m becoming a big fan of this vegan bakery, and it’s a must-stop on every trip to Disney (and New York, it’s home base). I got the amazing waffle sandwich filled with frosting and cookie crunch and topped with maple and vanilla sauce. So good, yet so sugary. (Pro tip: Don’t go on Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror right after eating this. Trust me.) I also got a slice of banana chocolate chip loaf, which was actually better because it was a perfect balance of bread and sweetness.

Such a good way to start the day: Waffle sandwich and banana chocolate chip loaf.

Later in the day I hit up La Cava del Tequila in Epcot’s Mexico Pavillion. This is becoming another can’t-miss spot on any trip to Disney. I wanted an afternoon snack and drink. I got an avocado marg (so creamy and satisfying, like drinking guacamole but in a really good way!) and some chips and salsa. The salsa is more of a sauce, but has a kick to it and they give you a big plate of chips. Aaaaand it was free since I follow them on Twitter (@cavadeltequila). Great way to rest and recharge on a long, hot day.

From top: Classic margarita, chips and salsa, avocado margarita.

Another spot I have to visit each trip is the Germany Pavillion, where I grabbed a pretzel, Altenmünster Oktoberfest and a German peanut snack with a hard cheesy and spice coating, NicNac’s.

Pretzel, beer and NicNac’s

While on the trip I hit up two breweries, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse the first night, where I had dinner and sampled some beers. About 10 minutes east of Disney, it is a cross between Cheesecake Factory (for the food) and Rock Bottom (for the drinks). Good food and good beer. While at Disney I tried the sampler from Big River Grille and Brewing Works. The beer was decent but the food choice and atmosphere were just ok. If you want to check out one of these, my vote is for BJ’s.

It was a quick trip to Disney, but I successfully packed a lot in.

How did you spend your extra day this year?

Weekend at Disney World

Living in south Florida, I try to take advantage of all the state has to offer. But one place I haven’t spent much time is Disney. Since we were already planning to meet friends from the north there, we decided to take advantage of Florida resident discounts. We got a ticket that would allow us to park hop that we can use again in the future.

It was a pretty quick tour, but in a day and a half we hit Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios and a quick stop at Downtown Disney. It was a quick overview of all the parks, but we plan to spend more time in the future checking them all out.

I didn’t really take many pictures, but created memories with friends who have spent a lot of time at Disney. They knew the ins and outs and how to make the most of our limited time, where to stop for food and drink  and tips for using our passes in the future.

We went to Epcot, where I had various drinks around the world, including a michelada in Mexico made with Tecate, tomato juice, salt and a lime; sake in Japan; and an Oktoberfest beer in Germany. I spotted frozen drinks I hope to try when it’s warmer (it was a cool, rainy day).

From bottom: michelada, blood orange margarita, tequila flight, margarita flight

We went to a sit-down hibachi restaurant in Japan and, when told I was vegetarian, two people (including the manager) came over to ask what I do and do not eat and make sure I was comfortable. I was really impressed by that, and that fact alone makes me willing to spend the time and money at a restaurant with table service at Disney in the future.

One of our final stops was to Downtown Disney to Babycakes, a vegan bakery I love. This is my second time at Babycakes, the first was in Rockaway Beach, New York, at their summer shop.

Love the look of this box!

I’m not a huge doughnut fan, but I saw the cookie-topped doughnut so I gave it a try, and couldn’t pass up a lemon cupcake. The food is so good and it’s great knowing it is all free of animals (and other things for those with allergies).

From top left: Cookie doughnut, lemon cupcake, toasted coconut doughnut

Where is your favorite place to eat or drink at Disney? Since we don’t know the area well and will be back, I would love to know the can’t-miss spots!