Who knew that the magic of Disney extends far beyond the rides and the costumed characters? It is often said that Disney, North America’s largest single-site employer (employing approximately 62,000), has something for everyone and that includes foodies, too. Look past the Mickey Mouse-shaped popsicles and kiddie finger foods and there are some serious eats to be had.
Last weekend, I traveled to Orlando to participate in a Disney-sponsored ‘Girlfriends’ Getaway’–a princess-themed media familiarization tour complete with a jam-packed itinerary designed to introduce participants to some of Disney’s most amazing amenities, attractions, and eateries.
Our first evening on the property, our small motley group was whisked away to Epcot’s La Hacienda de San Angel–the newest dining attraction to be added to Epcot’s Mexican Pavillion–where we were served a variety of Latin-inspired tapas. Chiles toreados y chorizitos, spicy, plump chorizo sausages perched atop a bed of roasted sweet peppers, served as a great opener with the hint of lime and sea salt preparing the palate for the pleasant onslaught of flavors that was to come. A trio of mini tacos, or taquiza, featured seasoned ribeye with chipotle salsa, a roasted chicken taco with salsa verde, and a marinated pork taco–all of which were topped with the Mexican staple queso fresco–a creamy, soft white Spanish cheese. Served alongside traditional rice and black beans, the tacos were a perfectly-seasoned complement. A piping hot dish of queso fundido, which literally translates to ‘melted cheese’ was topped with crumbled chorizo, roasted poblano peppers, and warm corn tortillas. What better way to keep the ‘spice train’ rolling than with a mango-Tabasco margarita rimmed with Tajin chili powder? It sounds like a lot to handle–and it was–but it was surprisingly refreshing with just a hint of heat.
After being mesmerized by the nightly Illuminations show, we were treated to a private dessert tasting on the Epcot property. An array of fresh berries and cream, petit fours, and mini confections were beautifully arranged for us. A truly sweet ending to a perfect night.
TRAVELING WITHOUT A PASSPORT
The planned food itinerary was all about awakening our tastebuds and experiencing the taste and flavors of a variety of cuisines. The next morning we dined en plein air, Parisian-style in Epcot’s French-themed area, where we ate a traditional breakfast to power us through the rest of the day’s activities (which included, be still my beating heart, a make-up and perfume history lesson at Guerlain–yes, that Guerlain). After an “exhausting” (read: luxuriously pampering) day of golf lessons and a spa treatment, it was off to lunch at the equestrian-themed Turf Club at the Disney golf course where traditional pub fare like fish and chips shared menu space with the sumptuous, diet-breaking ’Surf & Turf Burger’–a Kobe beef burger topped with butter-poached lobster. Our meals were simple but sigh-eliciting nonetheless.
Later in the evening, we had a private tête-à-tête with none other than Princess Tiana from ‘The Princess and the Frog’ while noshing on Meditteranean-themed mezze at the luxurious Grand Floridian Resort. As we filled up on small plates of charcuterie and cheeses, calamari with diced peppadew, bowls of hummus and marinated olives and vegetables, we were almost too stuffed for dinner at Cítricos. Almost.
At Cítricos, the Meditteranean theme continued with a menu that “follows the sun” as Chef de Cuisine and New Jersey native Phillip Ponticelli noted. Inspired by the traditional cuisine of Provençe, Tuscany, and the Spanish Riviera, the menu boasted American dishes infused with the bright flavors and flair of southern Europe. Blue crab pavé got a Meditteranean makeover by way of capers, Meyer lemon and olive tapenade. Albóndigas, traditionally Spanish meatballs normally used in soup, were creatively spun into a Greek dish with the addition of braised lamb and mint yogurt. My ‘deconstructed’ paella became an Italian delight with orzo-like Sardinian semolina pasta replacing the rice that usually serves as the base of the classical dish. A sommelier, of which Walt Disney World has over 300, suggested a crisp, sweet German Selbach-Oster reisling–a perfect pairing for the paella.
FEED THE SOUL
Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits! That is the tagline for the rousing gospel brunch held at Downtown Disney’s House of Blues every Sunday morning where guests can come to worship, dine and witness a spectacular show. Our last meal at Disney was a hearty, delicious one. Classic Southern soul food was served alongside traditional breakfast fare at this chain music venue–it was an opportunity to feed both body and soul. A winning combination in anyone’s book.
The Girlfriends’ Getaway was a perfect way to learn about Disney and all the resort has to offer and proved that the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ does, indeed, have something for everyone–even foodies.
Disclosure: Travel to Disney, hotel accomodations, and meals were comped for me and a guest, but in no way influenced this post; my thoughts are my own. Special thanks to Laura Spencer, Carole Munroe, Angela Biegaj, and the entire Disney PR/Marketing team who coordinated this trip.