Angela Dawn

Now is the Start

Food

Princess Goodbye

Angela DawnComment

We had to leave mid-afternoon for our flights on Monday. My friends didn't have park tickets, but we decided to enjoy breakfast at the Polynesian, finish packing and wander our resorts (they were staying at Pop Century, myself at Art of Animation) until time to leave. So we headed to the Poly in the morning and off to Kona Cafe.

The wonderful, amazing, spectacular choices of breakfast at Kona Cafe: 

I hope Kona never changes. The Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes & the Tonga Toast are To. Die. For. Sugary goodness that are wonderful meals at Disney are. It was a nice way to say goodbye (until May, when I would be back)

Wandering around the Pop Century Resort we saw Mr & Mrs Potato Head and mimicked them. 

And I had to say goodbye to my friend Stitch before leaving. I'm posting separately about the Art of Animation, so all the wonderful pictures taken this day (and some at other times during my stay) are there. I really enjoyed the resort; and think it's the best if you're staying value (and maybe even moderate). Read that post for a full review.

For now, it was goodbye Princess Half Marathon weekend. Ready for my next adventure.

Evening one and Day Two of Walt Disney World 2014

Angela DawnComment

I arrived on Thursday evening to my resort & quickly checked in. I'd be back later, but I wanted to quickly run to the Magic Kingdom to see if they had a few things: Minnie ears for my 5K, Mickey beaded ears I had seen on Tiffany of MakeupByTiffanyD, and I wanted to pick up a Tables in Wonderland card at the front gate. I had a reservation at 9:45PM at Ohana, so I was a bit constrained on time to make it there for that.

Timing was just so that the final fireworks were going off as the bus pulled up and we were walking to the front gates. 

Fireworks finishing up, outside the Magic Kingdom.

Once inside, I was able to find both sets of ears I wanted, and get something I had waited three years to get again, a dole whip:

The beloved Dole Whip.

It was as good as I remember. I think one day when I stay at the Poly, I will just continuously eat these and lay by the pool.

I took a quick selfie, and then headed toward the monorail to get to the Polynesian. 

My new ears.

The monorail for the resorts was not working. I waited about 10 minutes and then decided to hop on the "express" for the Transportation and Ticket Center. I could just walk to the Poly from there. It was a good 10 minute walk to the main ceremonial house, but I enjoyed walking around (despite construction signs everywhere) and sniffing in that artificial polynesian smell they waft in the area. It's wonderful. Once inside, I checked in (early) for my reservation and picked a seat at Tambu Lounge to have another favorite, an Island Sunset.

Island Sunset

Ohana was busy this evening, and even though the restaurant technically closes at 10pm, I didn't get in until 10:05 (for a 9:45 reservation). While I heard another lady complaining that she had been waiting past her reservation time, I was perfectly content. And then came all the yummy food. I've eaten at Ohana several times, it's always enjoyable, so the food was known to me. All except the salad, which they changed to have a passion fruit dressing and oranges in it. It was good, but I did miss the honey-lime version I had become accustomed to (and also loved).

Appetizers.

After stuffing myself full of all the salad, bread, wings and meat that I could, I had to make sure to save room for the piece de resistance. The bread pudding.

Banana Fosters Bread Pudidng

I've duplicated this recipe at home to good results. It's such a great dessert.

After dinner, I headed back to the hotel and was able to fall asleep fairly quickly. I did get a couple shots outside before heading in, though.

Hakuna Matata

Outside my room.

On Day 2, I headed out to the expo in the early morning (see a different post for that), and then headed out to Animal Kingdom once I was finished with that.

Ready to go at Animal Kingdom.

I walked over the bridge to Harambe, picked up a wonderful beverage, and went to wait in line at the Kilamanjaro Safaris.

Yummy drink, #1.

I hadn't set up fastpasses for this day, so I did so on my phone while I was on the bus to the park. They didn't have any that were right away, so I had about an hour before my fastpass for Expedition Everest. Picking up a drink and waiting in the regular line for Kilamanjaro seemed like the best idea.

The safari itself is about 20-30 minutes and we had some good animals out. There was a zebra right near the vehicle and I got a nice video of that. There was also a baby (child?) giraffe out.

Giraffes

Lion.

Once finished, I picked up another drink and started on my walk over to Asia and Everest. The second drink went down fairly quick (I'll say it had too much ice in it), so I picked up a third fruity one once I was in Asia.

Second drink.

And the third.

Probably not the best idea to have three alcoholic beverages before getting on a roller coaster, but I survived Everest. It was fun! And actually a little different than I had experienced before because of the drinks. Haha. 

Not the best picture because of lighting. On the ride. I'm on the bottom left.

I made my way back to my hotel to prepare for the evening and my dinner reservations, and took a cab over to the Contemporary. I was running late, and the lines for buses to the Magic Kingdom were just too long. 

I was ready to eat at California Grill. This would be my first time ever, and it was newly opened in the fall with a tantalizing menu that I had been drooling over from home. Pictures on the Disney Food blog didn't help. 

Wine colleciton

They had an extensive wine collection that I perused while waiting on my reservation. They have a lounge area that I was welcome to sit in, too, but I wanted to roam. You can actually come on a first come, first serve basis to sit in the lounge any evening if you aren't able to get a reservation. 

Flatbread

Salad

Bread and Butter - a must at every meal!

I started off the meal with an Oven-dried Tomato Flatbread, and continued on with the Kale Salad. I appreciated that the staff let me have a leisurely meal and didn't rush me out. I had 4 courses and two hours were able to go by so I could see the fireworks at the end of my meal without having to wait around. 

I was going to choose the Oak-Fired Filet as my main course since it used to come with (before reopening) a truffle mac and cheese, and I kind of wish it still did. But, instead I chose the Bison Strip Loin that came with celery root puree and a bread-like pudding made with a fig glaze. I preferred this to the tomato puree with the filet. The main course was very good.

The Main Course

Even though I was very full, I can never leave (or at least on most occassions) without dessert. I decided on the dessert sampler (it had the most choices), and what I was able to eat was delicious (I didn't want to make myself sick of course). 

The Seasonal Tasting

There was some kind of almond crescent cookies, a cupcake that I believe was grapefruit, creme brulee, and a liquid apple-like sauce with a rock-candy stick. I ate everything and then sucked on the rock candy while waiting on fireworks.

Before leaving, I stepped outside on the balcony to enjoy the view around the area, and also for the Wishes Fireworks show. This was a great view, though I always enjoy seeing them with the Castle at the forefront.

I walked a bit through the Nemo area of the resort when I returned as I was running to Pop Century to store my friends race bags at their front desk. Their flight was delayed and they'd be back later than I was staying up (race in the morning after all, they'd be tired). I took a few pictures of my Nemo visit, and went back to my room to sleep since I had to be up early for the 5K.

Play area.

Banner of Dory and Squirt encompassing three floors

Napa Rose Chef's Counter

Angela DawnComment

One of the excursions I wanted to do while I was in California was visit the Napa Rose Chef's Counter. I had built myself up to it by reading what reviews there were (there aren't many on blogs), and prepared my tummy by only eating those beignets and the corn dog earlier in the day. I took plenty of pictures of the food, kitchen, and the alcohol; but I didn't get many of the atmosphere of the restaurant. I fully plan on eating at the Chef's Counter at least once (if I am lucky to get an additional spot on more than one night, I will) when I return in August, so I'll take more pictures then. As for now, onto the review:

The details: There are two seatings for the Chef's Table every evening - 5:30 and 8:30. Each seating has eight spots - four on one side, the prep area; and four on the other side, the main kitchen. If you want a particular side, you need to make certain you request so at reservation time (which can be done 60 days in advance by calling Napa Rose directly - not the Disney dining reservations line).

As is the usual for me, I arrived early. I checked in at the podium, and since the dining room wasn't officially open yet, I was seating in the lounge to wait. The lounge looked extremely comfy with plush, cushioned chairs that I wanted to sit in all night. They do not require (nor take) reservations for the Lounge, but in the 5-10 minutes I was sitting waiting for 5:30 to roll around, it was filling up. So, if you don't make reservations at the Chef's Counter, or in the restaurant itself, and want to eat at Napa Rose; get there right at 5:30 or before. The lounge serves the full restaurant menu. There is a Bar that you can sit at, too (and I did on a different night), but that doesn't serve the full menu - and believe me you want access to the full menu on your first time here.

The lounge - look at those comfy seats!

On the way to my seat.

I was escorted to my seat pretty much at 5:30. I was the only one there on my side, the prep side. Eventually two others - regulars - joined me; and a group of four were seated on the opposite. I think next time I would prefer to sit on the opposite side as there was more action going on there. Plus there was a display counter on my side, that kind of blocked the view a little bit (and I didn't see a purpose for it). Though, rumor is, that they'll be removing it at some point.

View from my seat

I should mention here that all these pictures were taken with my iPhone, and I'm not the best (yet) at taking excellent quality pictures with my phone. I was greeted by waiter for the evening, Mickey. According to the regular couple that goes to Napa Rose often (and always sits at the Chef's Counter), Mickey was the best. All waiters at this restaurant are also sommeliers, so they have great wine recommendations (more on that later). Mickey let me know that I could order off the regular menu, the Vinter's Menu (a prix fare menu), or have the Chef whip me up something for each course of his/her choice. This last option is a choice only available at the Chef's Counter, so of course I chose that. I also added the wine pairing (when in Rome, right?) to the dinner. 

A sous chef for the evening (Andrew Sutton is the head chef), Gloria, came over to visit and ask me about my likes/dislikes. I told her that I didn't like sushi, oysters or chocolate. (I know, I know, I'm a woman and I don't like chocolate). Other than that, I was good to go. I'm also not a big fan of soup (something about my food being liquified), but I lucked out and wasn't given any - they must have been psychic that way. As I've read, either Andrew Sutton will help you at the Chef's Counter, or if he's not working, one of the Sous Chefs. I just assumed he wasn't there.

The bread basket - I had already torn off some pieces when I took this picture.

 I resisted getting any more than this. It was difficult.

Mickey brought out the bread basket. Now, something about me: I love bread. Carbs, really (which is funny since I follow a low carb diet). But bread is amazing, any which way you cut it. BUT I knew I had an incredible amount of food coming, so I tore a tiny piece of each bread off & ate that, and only that. Believe me it was hard. They were delicious. I didn't ask what kind - but it tasted like a simple country bread, another soft type, and thin a crispy type. Next time I'll ask. The butter was excellent too. 

The lovely couple next to me was having some kind of pre-meal bubbly, and Mickey brought me some, too. I'm not sure if this is customary with the wine addition to my meal, or just because they were having some, too; but champagne-like pre-meal bubbly is always welcome. Next up was an amuse-bouche. A small preview of the gloriousness that was to come. Mine was a celery root puree with apple and cranberry raisins. If baby food tasted like this, babies would have nothing to complain about. It was fairly amazing for being beaten up celery root. I'll have to spice some up & try it at home with my Vitamix, though something tells me it won't taste quite the same.

The celery root amuse-bouche - I broke this up into as many bites as I could, but I could have easily spoonful-ed it.

Mickey brought me out another wine that would go with my first course. I hadn't really broken into much of my bubbly yet, but he advised me that it would go well with my first course, too, so I could always save some. The first wine was a Graff Family Vineyards Viognier, 2007.

The bubbly

The Viognier

I sipped on both my wines and enjoyed watching some of the preparation that was going down in the kitchen while I awaited on my first course. I'd recommend the meal to anyone, but if you're traveling alone, this is an excellent choice. I was able to talk to the kitchen staff, have a view of everything, some entertainment and such, as I enjoyed my meal. Much better than sitting alone at a restaurant tapping into Facebook because there is no one there to talk to. 

What looks like beef in front of a chef lemoning some scallops

The same chef transferring the scallops to the stove.

My first course was sustainable Swordfish with crusted chickpeas and a green harissa made on site; from what I could understand from the chef it's normally made with red bell pepper, but this had more green and yellow.  It was similar to a ramesco. And, all of that was topped with roasted almonds.  I was described the meal when it was brought to my seat, and I tried to remember best I could. Some of the sauces might be slightly off, but for the most part everything should be accurate. I was surprised at this point to see Andrew Sutton. He came over to let me know about the Swordfish and what I was eating. The man next to me was having the Swordfish for his main course, I believe. Along with the chickpeas there were also crusted lemons, which surprisingly didn't taste too sour upon putting them in my mouth whole.

Look how amazing that is. 

And the after... (this is how my plate looked pretty much after every course)

At this point I had a little time to look around; and talk with one of the chefs. Ronnie was in front of us prepping a fair amount of the evening, so he was able to give us details about what he was doing. I even was able to try some Bucharelli that he was making, despite it not being in anything I was eating. 

Ronnie doing prep.

A view where you can see more of the other side

Mickey brought me the second wine for my second course; a chardonnay. This one was a 2010 from Firepeak Vineyards. And then, onto my second course. I was brought out a Hickory Smoked Pheasant Salad with French Green Beans, Pomegranate Dressing and Almonds Frisee. 

This was an excellent salad. I had read on the menu that the normal salad comes with an Almond Vinagrette, so the Pomegranate was a nice surprise, and worked well with the other flavors.

The Pheasant Salad

The time between the salad and the next course went by rather quickly. I was done eating and my next meal arrived shortly after. Mickey came with the third wine just about the same time as the course came. I was having trouble keeping up; and I love wine. The third wine was a 2012 Pinot Noir.

The duck breast

Of course, the Pinot Noir paired wonderfully with the course. Above, the third course was a Grilled Maple Leaf Duck Breast a Quince Puree and Lentils. I cannot say enough how perfect these meats were. Done to just the right tenderness. I did forget to mention that Gloria did ask me how I like my red meat prepared and I said medium. I imagine if you had said well-done, the meat could have looked differently, but I don't think it would have tasted quite the same. Medium is the best.

Third Course Pinot Noir

Fourth Course Cabernet Sauvignon

I was brought another wine, a fourth wine (in addition to the bubbly pre-meal). I want you to remember that first pour of Viognier that I took a picture of. These aren't tastings, they are glasses. As you can imagine, I'm feeling the wine at this point. The fourth was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a feeling my last, main course would be a red meat; and I was right.

The final course (before dessert, of course)

For the last meat course, I was given a Buffalo tenderloin over mushrooms and capers; with artichokes wrapped in dolmas (grape leaves) on the right. I'm uncertain of the sauce/jus on either part of the meal. I guess at this point I had so much wine in me, I didn't care to write it down. Either way, it was all delicious.

Next up, my final wine; or a Port, actually. This one I was not able to finish. I was fairly full at this point. Not bursting, but satisfied. And, apparently buzzed, too. So, I didn't drink all of my Port. But, I love dessert (despite not liking chocolate), so I was bound determined to eat my dessert. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had perused the menu prior to traveling to California to see what I might get, and was thinking it might be some sort of sorbet trio or something.  Instead I received a date cake with a swirl of white chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream. It was amazing! White chocolate can sometimes be overwhelming - too much at a time, but this was just right. I could have eaten a jar of the white chocolate with a spoon.

Despite being so full, I could have easily had two of these wonderful desserts. Everything in it paired so well with the other parts. Just as it had been with all the courses previous. 

The meal was wonderful, and I look forward to doing it all over again in August. I actually came back to Napa Rose on the Saturday evening of my trip and sat at the bar. Joe, the bartender, was wonderful, as all the staff seems to be. I sat again next to a lovely couple, this time they were a bit more engaging and we made plans to eat at the Chef's Counter together when I return in August. I might try to eat there twice. Fairly ambitious, but it was so great. When I was at the bar, I tried the scallops and the truffle macaroni and cheese. Both were beyond words. I am craving that macaroni and cheese right now, and I'm not a mac and cheese fan normally. I had been recommended the scallops from Ronnie and another chef when eating at the Counter, as it was something I didn't try. It lived up to the expectation.

That brings my review to a close. I know it's long and picture-ridden, but when you're talking about this kind of food, it deserves this much space. I highly recommend going to Napa Rose if you're able to while in the Disneyland/Anaheim area.