Tag Archives: Magic Kingdom

Eating Through Disney: Character Dining

One of the few times I wish I had children is when I go to a character breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s always such a treat to see the kids light up as a character makes their rounds and arrives at their table (it’s kind of cute to see the little ones that are petrified of the characters, too). Since I don’t have any children and am not planning on having them anytime soon (or ever…), the next best thing is to go with friends. Even though not all of our character meals were spent with others, we still had a blast. And yes, we went to more than one – three to be exact!

Our first character experience was breakfast over at The Beach Club’s Cape May Café, with Krissy the day after the marathon! I had never been, so I was more than game to give it a try. I do remember way back when (I’m talking elementary school) having breakfast at the Yacht Club, and I’ve eaten at Beaches and Cream, but that was it. We took a bus from our hotel (Pop Century) over to Hollywood Studios (which I refuse to recognize as HS, it’ll always be MGM to me), and walked over to the resort, passing the Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin hotels on the way. We even strolled by mile 24 of the marathon, and I made sure to stop and strike a pose.

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The view these resorts (Boardwalk, Beach, and Yacht) have is phenomenal, so I made sure to snap a picture. I wouldn’t mind waking up to that view on vacation! And, being that there is an actual boardwalk and a path that takes you from the resorts to Hollywood Studios, it’s a great place to get in a run… though the last thing on my mind the Monday after a marathon is running!

beachclub_view

Breakfast was delicious – they had your typical breakfast fare including eggs, hot and cold cereals, breakfast meats, pastries, etc. The highlight was of course the visit from Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, who had a little fun with us at our table. The tables are covered in paper (think Macaroni Grill) and when Donald came over he wrote a note to us for doing a good job on running the races over the weekend. Then, after an interaction with our waitress, Donald came back later to write that he was #1, and scribbled out our waitress’s name! Of course, Minnie made her way back around and detailed for us that Mickey was in fact number 1, followed by herself, Daisy, and THEN Donald. We were in hysterics the entire time – I love when the characters interact and joke with you! I even noted how their handwriting was so impressive using just little crayons, and Krissy immediately said “I don’t know what you’re talking about Danielle – that’s Minnie!!” Boy do I love feeling like a kid! We had so much fun, we spent almost 2 hours there and basically closed down their breakfast service. I’d call that a success!

krissy_brunch

Finally meeting online friends is the best!

The next character adventure took us to The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for breakfast. I’ve eaten here before (at least two other times that I can remember), for both breakfast and dinner. Winnie The Pooh was (and still is!) one of my favorite Disney stories, so I love getting to see him and his friends. I actually remember waiting in a long line to have Eeyore sign my “autograph” book the first time I went to Disney World, and when I finally got up there and handed him my book, the cast member with him informed me he was unable to sign my book due to his “paws” (apparently the character costumes weren’t intuitive back in 1992 and Eeyore’s wasn’t pen-friendly), so I took my picture, and then started to hysterically cry out of embarrassment and not having his signature. As I’ve observed in the years since, I see that Eeyore can in fact now sign autograph books – those lucky kids! But I digress…

Disney-002

Aside from the characters, my second favorite part about the Crystal Palace is the atmosphere. It’s such a bright restaurant, and one that I think feels very “Florida.” In addition to the great atmosphere, I love the kid’s section they have for food, cutely named “Pooh’s Corner.” During breakfast they offer what they called stuffed French toast, but to me is more like a giant zeppoli that’s been covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture… heavenly! Like I said earlier in the post, sometimes I feel funny without any kids at character meals, but the woman at the table next to us (with two young boys) leaned over after one of the characters had come to visit and exclaimed “you two are so cute! I love it!” That definitely made me feel better about being such a big kid. We even had  visit to our table from an absolutely adorable little girl in a Tinkerbell costume. She came over to us, sat down, and just smiled. Her mom came over and grabbed her while saying “sorry honey, but Tinkerbell isn’t part of this character breakfast!” … it was so cute.

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The final character breakfast stop was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. I stayed at the Contemporary back in 1995 when my dad happened to be on a business trip to Orlando (score!) and the hotel is just as fabulous as I remembered. Of course, the selling point to a 10 year old was the monorail IN the hotel, and I still think it’s the coolest thing ever. Eating at Chef Mickey’s as a child was a ton of fun, and since I’m barely an adult (sure, my age may say so, but my actions say otherwise), I knew it would be just as fun on this trip. This was actually our last meal of the trip; we didn’t have a park ticket for the day since we had to leave at 2p, and getting to the Contemporary was easy – hop on the resort bus to Magic Kingdom, and then walk over. I can say without a doubt that this was by far my favorite breakfast buffet (and I had three on the trip!). There were a ton of vegetarian options (and just a lot of options in general), and everything was really delicious. Besides, how can you not love your meal when you’re visited by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto?!

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I’m definitely planning on doing at least one character breakfast while we’re in Disneyland at the end of the summer for the Dumbo Double Dare – I’ve got to experience the characters on both coasts!

Have you ever done character dining? Did you like it?
Where should I eat while I’m in Disneyland (I’ve never been!)?

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I Ran Disney

For as long as I can remember, running always intrigued me. Somehow, though, I wound up a swimmer throughout high school and college. Being a part of a sport that allowed me to work individually while also contributing to a team was just what I needed as someone who is internally extremely competitive. While I could have continued swimming in a Master’s program, and haven’t yet ruled that out, I decided to take up running after college. I’ve been running now for about a year and a half, and just completed my second half marathon.

The idea of running a half and/or full marathon seemed to be more of a dream than a reality. When I started running, my focus was just to run a 5k. My first race wound up being a 4 miler, and even though I struggled, I was hooked. Running is a funny sport, at least for me, in that I feel like I always need to be one-uping myself. This means increasing the milage I race. I ran my first half marathon in April, and it was awesome. I had stumbled upon the Disney Marathon before I had even started running, and it was always a goal of mine in the back of my mind.

When my fiancé and I planned a trip to Disney with a group of friends for the very same weekend of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I just knew we had to sign up. It wasn’t really possible for us to run a full marathon yet, so we opted for the half. Training started out well, and as we all know, I had some serious injuries that put me on the back burner. First it was my ankles and Achilles, and then it moved on to my shins. Come race day, though, those pains were gone. Instead, I was left with serious pain on the top of my left foot, and in my left knee. These pains I think were just due to overcompensation for all of the other injuries my left leg was sustaining. I’m still having some trouble walking pain-free because of my foot, but hopefully the next three weeks off will help!

The half marathon race was on Saturday, so we headed down on Wednesday to enjoy a few days in the park beforehand. In retrospect, if I ran the race again, I’d prefer to head down later, and only spend one day in the parks, as I think all the walking contributed to the pain I felt during the race. However, being that I had so many injuries during the race cycle, I planned to just run this race to finish. Of course my competitive side tried it’s hardest to keep me going as fast as I could, but the second half of the race was just a little too painful, and my logical and rational side took over (good thing).

Wrapping up all my injuries

The race started early – at 5:30a. My fiancé was in corral A, while I was in corral B. The race had 27,000 registrants, with just over 23,000 that actually crossed the finish line. We had a wakeup call of 2:45a, and we were out the door by about 3:15a to catch the bus to the start line from our resort. Once we got there, we wandered around a bit, had a few Gu Chomps and a last few swigs of water, while also taking a bathroom break. From there, we shed our clothes, checked our bag, and headed to a big group of people, waiting to be allowed to make their way to the start.

Once we got to the corrals, fiancé and I said our goodbyes, and I anxiously stood in corral B. Before the race, they announced that a group over in Iraq would also be joining us, as one of the soldiers who ran the race last year was deployed, but his wife was there in Orlando to run with us. Of course, pulling on my heart strings, I had to wipe the tears away as they were able to get a satellite connection and they gave their pre-race good lucks. After that, there was a brief hello from Al Roker (who I saw when I passed by!) and other members of the Today show, that were also running. My fiancé’s corral started just after the wheelchair start with fireworks and all. About 10 minutes later, it was my turn!

I started slow, realizing the potential for pain was high, and I wanted to try and hold it off for as long as possible. Because of my lackluster training and the fact that my feet were sore just from galavanting through the parks, I kept a steady pace just under 9 minute mile almost the whole way. By about mile 6, though, the pain started. First it was my foot, then it was my knee. I managed to keep shuffling along, with the pace of each mile going up and down, sometimes still under 9 sometimes well over. Even though I was in pain, the miles still flew by. The second half of the race had some serious hills. The worst was somewhere between mile 10 and 12, where it was not only up hill, but also on an on/off ramp loop. With knee and foot pain, not being on a level surface was torture. As I saw people running by with knee straps, I was envious, thinking how nice it would feel to have some serious pressure on my left knee. Aerobically I was doing just fine, and could have pushed myself a bit more, but knew that wasn’t possible with the pain. So, I tried my best to distract myself with the surroundings, reading the different signs, checking out the spectators, and just overall enjoying the experience.

Running through Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom

Despite the pain, once we got back to Epcot, I knew it was go time. We took a loop past Spaceship Earth and to the Christmas Tree (they left the decorations up), and back out to the parking lot where I asked my tired and sore legs to push it one last time. Somehow, despite my lack of training and injuries, I managed to finish in 2:03:45, a mere minute and a half slower than my first half last April. I couldn’t be happier! I can only imagine what my race would have been like if those pains weren’t there, and even more so if I had been able to train properly. I’m really looking forward to April’s race, as I will hopefully have a successful training cycle. I’m definitely hoping to break 2 hours, maybe even 1:55!

After I crossed the finish line I got my Donald Duck medal, grabbed some water, was handed a mylar blanket, and tried to hobble around to keep my legs from tightening up. I called my fiancé, who had finished in a blazing 1:33:05! We reconnected and had our picture snapped before catching a bus back to Port Orleans, where our friends were anxiously awaiting our return. We didn’t skip a beat, hopped in the shower, guzzled some more water, and headed to Epcot for the day. After a full day in the park, we had a celebratory dinner at San Angel Inn in Mexico – yum!

Fiancé and I with our Donald medals!

On Sunday, we had the opportunity to cheer on some of the full marathoners as we headed to Animal Kingdom to start our day. We first passed them while on the bus, and I tried my best to send mental cheers. From there, I was happy to see them both in and outside the park, so we all stopped to cheer them on, and my fiancé took some pictures. The craziest part, was that there were people running the full marathon that were shouting out congratulations to us for finishing the half (we were wearing our medals)! I love how friendly and congratulatory/cheerful runners are. I really couldn’t believe there were people only at about mile 18 of their full marathon saying “congrats!” and “great job!” to us – they were the ones deserving the cheering! For the rest of the trip, we were constantly passing people with their full marathon Mickey medals, and others with their Goofy challenge medals (meaning they ran both the half AND full). It was then that both my fiancé and I realized we can, and will, run a full marathon. The hardest part will be finding a race to run. Since we’re getting married in September, it might be hard to train for something only a few weeks after the wedding and honeymoon. But, we’ll see! If anyone has any recommendations for decent marathons for first timers in the general Northeast (I’d say maybe no more than a 3 hour drive from Central NJ), I’d love to hear it!

So for now, I’m going to let my little legs (that are growing, thanks to the milage!) rest for a few weeks, and then get back at it – slow and steady of course. But I can now say I finally ran Disney. Maybe in a year or two I’ll run the full marathon… maybe even go Goofy!

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More Breakfast for Dinner: Santa Fe Breakfast Bake

On Tuesday night, I had made Mexican Stuffed Shells courtesy of You Are What You Eat or Reheat, and blogged about it. Apparently, though, my fiancé didn’t think I drove home the point of the true deliciousness. I mean, I’m not quite sure what else I can say. It’s meaty, cheesey, and delicious. It’s a nice variation from typical stuffed shells, and I really think it’s a fun alternative to a more “common” dish. Now don’t get me wrong, good ole Italian stuffed shells are delicious as well. But if there’s anything you know about me from this blog, it’s my love for Mexican/Spanish food. So seriously, you need to make these. Now.

In keeping with the Mexican/Spanish food trend, I decided to make a Santa Fe Breakfast Bake for dinner on Thursday. Yes, breakfast for dinner! Growing up I was never a big breakfast fan. My parents would coax me into eating dessert for breakfast, just in order to get something in my system before school. That meant a Little Debbie brownie, an Entemann’s chocolate eclair, chocolate milk, etc. I would only eat pancakes if they were filled with chocolate chips, waffles were used for ice cream sandwiches, and you could forget about eggs. Come college, though, I discovered the wonderful world of brunch – veggie stuffed omlettes, fried and over-easy eggs with cheese on bagels, hash browns, and all those other fun (and filling, aka bad for you) breakfast deliciousness. My fiancé is a huge breakfast fan, and he’s really added to my tolerance for it. I definitely need to be in the mood for breakfast, but I’ll at least give it a shot, without it being coated in chocolate.

So, when I found this recipe on Sweetly Serendipity’s blog, I immediately added it to my to-make list. While there was an egg recall, thankfully the eggs that I bought were okay. So I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take advantage of my a-o-k eggs. Of course, being the spice fiend that I am, I added not one, but two diced habanero peppers to this dish. Oh yes, it was spicy. I also got a package of spicy Bob Evans breakfast sausage, since, you know, you aren’t doing it right unless your gut and mouth are on fire.

Earlier in the day I double checked the recipe to see how much time I’d be spending in the kitchen. It’s only then that I saw the dreaded words “chill overnight.” Whoops! That definitely didn’t happen. I’m always afraid when I’m making an egg dish they won’t be fully cooked. So, I left them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes longer than suggested, and it turned out perfectly! Unfortunately, that pushed our dinner time to about 9:45pm. We ran 8 miles after work, and then by the time we got home (there was some traffic from Rutgers’ first football game) and I started with everything and it cooked, we were finishing up just in time to watch Jersey Shore.

Speaking of running, my fiance and I are officially signed up for the Disney Half Marathon in January!! We’re both super psyched, but nervous. It conveniently falls right in the middle of an already planned vacation there with a group of friends, so we felt like we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m not looking forward to starting a race at 5:50am, but it’ll be cool to run through Epcot and Magic Kingdom. I’m hoping to have a pair of compression socks by then, so I can at least enjoy the rest of the trip! We’re doing our own training plan this time around, upping the mileage a bit, and starting earlier to make sure it’s as easy of a run for us as it can be. Once we get back, we’ll have a little break and then it’ll be time to gear up for the second annual Rutgers Unite Half Marathon!

But back to my breakfasty dinner. This thing was awesome. It called for 8 tortillas, but I think I only probably wound up using 2-3 burrito sized tortillas. The recipe suggest to use corn tortillas, and I would definitely agree. I used your average Chi-Chi brand torillas, and while they were delicious, they were a bit soggy after cooking. Of course, for me, adding the spicy sausage and habaneros brought it to another level that was greately appreciated by both myself and my fiancé. Aside from those minor tweaks I stuck to the recipe, and we have lots of leftovers! So much that we each brought a big portion for breakfast at work on Friday, and will probably have it for breakfast on Saturday morning as well. Since it suggests you chill over night, I think this would be a really great dish to have for a brunch, etc. You’re able to prepare it the night before, so you can focus your attention on the things that need to be made the day of instead. I can picture this working really well with some veggie sausage as well.

Santa Fe Breakfast Bake
– Serves 4-6 –

Ingredients:
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup salsa
1 cup canned black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
8 corn or flour tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup shredded mexican-style cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
Sour cream, guacamole, salsa (all optional, but recommended!)

Directions:
1. Brown sausage in a large pan, and drain grease, if any. Combine salsa, sausage, beans, and corn, and set aside.
2. Place one-third of tortilla strips in a lightly greased 11×7 baking dish.
3. Top with 1/3 cup cheese and one cup salsa mixture. Repeat layering with one-third of tortilla strips, 1/3 cup cheese and remaining salsa mixture, ending with remaining tortilla strips.
4. Whisk together remaining ingredients except green onions. Pour egg mixture over tortilla strips; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil and chill overnight.
5. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dish from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
6. Keep covered and bake for 20 minutes. Then, uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until the top is lightly golden.
7. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole, and some scallions for garnish.

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Disney World… Food, Fun and MORE!

I just got home yesterday from an amazing trip to Disney World.

Aside from the delicious food I was devouring every step of the way, some pretty awesome things happened! I suppose, however, I should start from the beginning.

When my boyfriend and I began planning our trip, we were a bit wary about the dining plan option Disney now offers to it’s guests staying on Disney property. We had the option to select either “Quick Service” which would include two quick service meals (places that serve your typical chicken fingers and fries) and two snacks a day, OR a regular dining plan that would account for two sit-down meals a day and two snacks. After much debate, we went with the quick service option.

Let me tell you, they do not skimp on food! We couldn’t even use all of our meals and snacks. You’d be surprised how far two snacks and two meals a day will get you! Snacks included novelties such as popcorn, ice creams, specialty drinks, etc. while the meals were anything from a smoked turkey leg to sushi in Japan (Epcot) and hamburgers. I didn’t feel limited in my choices at all. At some points I actually felt a bit overwhelmed at all of the options.

There were a few stand-outs from our quick service experience. They included the hand-twisted pretzels we got in Germany over at Epcot; they were buttery and somehow managed to be both sweet and salty, a delicious combination. We paired it with a Spaten beer in a souvenir mug – yum! Also, at breakfast we each had some mini Mickey Mouse shaped waffles. Not only did they look pretty darn close to Mickey himself, they were delicious! They had a nice hint of vanilla and were super soft on the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. I didn’t need any syrup to sweeten them.

While we were visiting Downtown Disney to meet up with some friends and get some souvenir shopping done, we stumbled upon Goofy’s Candy Shop that had cupcakes! My boyfriend and I immediately ran to the counter and ordered a bright pink and bright blue cupcake that we were able to use as a snack swipe. It was REALLY good! The amount of frosting, though, was way too much. I wound up tossing a good portion of mine, while my boyfriend finished his and had a blue mouth for the rest of the night. I would eat that cupcake again and again, though.

Also while we were in Downtown Disney, we picked up a few foodie gifts for ourselves. We got a wine stopper that is shaped like Mickey, a pack of Minnie’s cupcake mix, and a celebrations 2010 shot glass.

We also decided to do two sit-down dinners that we paid for separately; one was dinner in Mexico at Epcot. I knew this was a must-do, since I’ve eaten there every time I’ve been to Disney, and both my boyfriend and I are serious lovers of all Mexican food. It was absolutely delicious! My dish came with a sizable and perfectly seasoned steak, a bean and cheese stuffed chile relleno, and rice. My boyfriend went for the rib-eye tacos which were also delicious. We washed our meals down with margaritas; passion fruit and jalepeno! This is one of those instances where the food really speaks for itself. Even the tortilla chips and salsa were super fresh and were really good. I think having authentic waiters and staff (or should I say cast members) really adds to the whole experience. While we were there we also picked up some hot snake bite salsa. I’ll have to let you know how spicy that turns out to be!

We also had dinner in Cinderella’s Castle, at her Royal Table. Now, this wasn’t something we had planned on originally. A week or so before our trip, my boyfriend let me know he had made a phone call and had us squeezed in for an early dinner. Unbeknown to me, however, he had much grander plans. At dinner, we had our picture taken with Cinderella, and I received a wand with a star while he got a sword. For our meal, we were able to choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I went with a simple mesclun salad with walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette, while my boyfriend had gnocci and chicken soup. They were both phenomenal. From there, my boyfriend ordered the chipotle glazed pork chops with mashed potatoes and asparagus while I opted for the honey glazed salmon and wild rice. Both of our dishes were delicious, however they were barely room temperature. I was a bit disappointed about that, but also completely satisfied. From there, it was dessert time. Typically, you are presented with three options (sorbet, chocolate cake, or creme brulee). I however, was brought a covered plate, which when opened, housed an engraved glass slipper on a bed of rose petals. When the cover came off, my boyfriend reached in his pocket, pulled out a cupcake shaped charm box, and inside pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him! Of course I said yes, and we then celebrated with champagne and custom made cupcakes!!

Needless to say it overall was the best trip of my life. The food was phenomenal, I had a ton of fun (despite all the rain and wind), and I’m engaged! I couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

I’m looking forward to making those Minnie cupcakes and trying the Mexican Salsa. I’m also planning to make some chipotle and chocolate cupcakes for Valentine’s Day, so stay tuned for those as well!

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