Food fun from my last trip

One of the greatest things about heading to Walt Disney World is the dining. There are so many different wonderful food options, from super fancy to a walk up counter – you can find pretty much anything you are looking for or craving. On my last trip I enjoyed some of my must-haves as well as a few new finds:

Pizzas from Via Napoli IMG_20160527_200549

These are the most authentic pizzas I’ve tasted since dining in Rome in 2009. I know they import their flour and tomatoes from Naples and I think that might be what puts theirs’ over the edge. Every time I eat here, I must have the same pie – Carciofi Pizza which is a white pizza topped with fresh artichoke, fontina, mozzarella and truffle oil. I had never tasted truffle oil until trying out this pie years ago and I am hooked on it. It adds a really unique element to the pizza. The other pie pictured is a simple Margherita topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. We traded slices, but I dominated the Carciofi. The Margherita was really good too!

Dole Whip

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A true, tried and tested treat, it’s one of my go-to items to have for lunch when I’m hot and saving room for a big dinner. I also really appreciate how it is available almost year round at Epcot (at the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine festivals) since I usually spend a lot of time there.

The Bread Basket and Romaine Salad at Le Cellier

Bread and salad, sounds basic right? Not here. I was blown away at these starter options. The bread was soft and absolutely delicious – pretzel, multi grain and sour dough. I love having different choices and not just a basic plain roll when a bread basket is presented at a a restaurant. The salad description reads as “Black Truffle Vinaigrette, Pecan Whisky Sabayon, Parmesan Brioche Crumbs.” It was seriously one of the freshest tasting salads I had ever eaten. And the Sabayon, had a hint of sweetness that I couldn’t get enough of. The next time I return to Le Cellier, I really hope it is still on the menu.

The Loaded Mashed Potatoes at Le Cellier

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This decadent side is Molly’s favorite accompaniment in all of Walt Disney World. It is gluten free, but that’s where the health benefits end! The mashed potatoes have smoked cheddar, bacon, chives, and potato skin crisp. C’est magnifique! Of course, there was plenty to share, so we all enjoyed this treat.

It has gotten to the point where my favorites list continues to grow and grow. That is another element that keeps Walt Disney World “fresh” for a veteran like myself!

 

 

 

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Wildlife of Walt Disney World

Crane

With the recent tragic events last week, it’s a good reminder that as much as we like to be in the bubble, Disney parks are part of the “real world” as well. One thing that has always fascinated us is the variety of wildlife that makes Walt Disney World their home, the real, non-animatronic kind.

Ducks

We have always said that Disney ducks are the happiest ducks on Earth. They make their way into any and every bit of water you can find on property. Lakes, canals, fountains, even pools. You name it, you will find ducks there. Unfortunately people feed the ducks, which is not healthy for them, but I think the ducks are used to enjoying human food at this point. The best time of year to visit is during the oh so cute duckling season. Our favorite duck memory is seeing a cast member with a net standing on the edge of a pond near Journey Into Imagination at Epcot. We stood there watching for a while until we figured out what he was doing. There was a duckling with a plastic ring stuck around its neck. The cast member caught the duckling, much to the vocal dismay of the mama, removed the ring from its neck, and plopped the baby back in the water, unharmed. Here is a slideshow of some pics we’ve taken of Disney ducks over the years:

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Armadillos

Normally seen at night, we spied this lady or fellow one night after eating at Trail’s End.

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Bunnies

Not quite as abundant as ducks, Disney bunnies do have a presence on property. We saw this little one under a building at Fort Wilderness.

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This friend was nibbling grass at Port Orleans.

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We discovered a mama and her babies enjoying the grassy area in the Canada pavilion at Epcot during our most recent visit:

 

Deer

We have seen some deer on World Drive near dusk and while riding the monorail. So, you have to be cautious at night because deer usually don’t travel alone.

Cats

We have seen a couple cats at Walt Disney World, and didn’t have a chance to photograph those. Molly once saw one on the path between Epcot and Hollywood Studios and Emily saw one recently in the parking lot of the All Star Movies Resort. When we visited Disneyland in Anaheim a couple years ago, we didn’t know that Disneyland cats were a “thing.” We snapped pix of this cutie at our hotel:

 

We also saw a cat in Frontierland walking around the remains of the old attraction, Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, although it was really far away. Molly has a sixth sense for spotting cats…

We have since discovered that the Cats of Disneyland have a pretty prominent presence in the parks and on social media. Disneyland is home to feral cat colony, and the cats have lived there since Walt’s days, helping to control the rodent population. They are cared for by Disney cast members. Their twitter account @disneylandcats is quite hilarious, and they typically tweet out pictures of cats found all over the resort.

Bald Eagles

We saw this bald eagle, which is really hard to see in the picture, sitting atop the Swan Resort. We weren’t sure if it was, but a cast member confirmed that bald eagles love hanging out in the Boardwalk area.

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Gators

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Being Floridians, we understand that alligators and venomous snakes come with the territory. We snapped a picture of this small gator on the shores of the Rivers of America near the Haunted Mansion a few months ago. Cast members didn’t seem to be too alarmed, and we heard that they only remove alligators that are large or aggressive. We would’ve never imagined the event that happened this week at the Grand Floridian, and we are happy that Disney is now taking steps to educate the public to the fact that even though you’re at Disney, you still are part of the real world. It’s likely that Disney probably won’t even allow an alligator of this size to remain in the parks or in public view going forward. So when you’re out and about at Walt Disney World, be on the lookout for wildlife. You never know what you may find!

 

 

Exploring Disney Springs

The whole family visited Walt Disney World last weekend, and exploring the newly opened Town Center at Disney Springs was on the top of our to-do list. The last time I was at what was formerly called Downtown Disney was last August. The orange parking garage had just opened. When we peered over the side of the garage into the area that used to be the old parking lot it was under heavy construction and looked like a war zone. There were construction walls everywhere, and some areas were unpleasant to navigate. It’s hard to believe that just 9 months later the Town Center is nearly complete and has now opened to the public.

We parked in the lime garage, which also just opened, because that brings you right out into the Town Center area. This garage is more centrally located than the orange garage, which is at the West Side area. Only at Disney would I get excited about a parking garage. They are both aesthetically pleasing and use smart technology, so that you know how many spots there are on each level when you enter. When you approach a row, signs tell you how many spots are available in that row. As you drive down the row, lights hang over each parking spot and ones that are illuminated green indicate open spots.

 

As I said, you exit the lime garage right into the Town Center. The area just opened up and it is impeccable. The typical Disney attention to detail is everywhere. I wasn’t that thrilled with all the chain stores that were going into Disney Springs, but honestly, you don’t even have to go in the stores to enjoy the area. We decided to go on a Sunday morning, in the hopes to avoid crowds and heat. It was a very laid back atmosphere. We drank some Joffrey’s coffee from the new pastry shop Amorette’s and enjoyed the ambiance of the area. I mainly went in my favorite shops on the Marketplace side, as the high end shops aren’t really my thing. My personal favorite is the Co-op Marketplace. I always end up spending a gift card in there! Emily’s husband did get a great deal on clothing at the new skating store, Volcom.

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There are plenty of spots to sit and relax at the Town Center, but we discovered the best spot to relax–at Guest Relations! The building is equipped with all sorts of comfy chairs and couches and they even have a bunch of rocking chairs on the wraparound porch. If you need to speak to someone in guest relations, they take your name and then you can be seated. When it’s your turn they come and get you, so no waiting in lines! Even though we actually didn’t need to speak to anyone in guest relations, we spent quite a while sitting and enjoying the A/C. They also have free ice water inside.

When the Town Center opened, guests were finally able to see the actual springs that make up Disney Springs, and they are lovely. There are some restaurants still in construction that look like they will have seating areas overlooking the springs, and some more stores that will be opening. All in all, I’m impressed with what Disney has rolled out so far, and can’t wait to go back to see it when it is all complete!

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