Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo of the Day: 1/27/12

There's no question that the Poly beach is one of the best viewing spots for the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Especially with a show that uses the periphery cannons, like this shot from HalloWishes. I can just hear the villains cackling now!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deconstructed: Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta

If you find yourself at the new Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta at Disney California Adventure, it's easy to make your way through the place without noticing much of anything other than the food. Especially if you're hungry.  BUT, if you can subside your hunger long enough to take a glance around the place, you'll find there are subtle touches telling the story everywhere!

The exterior is bright & beachy

Since the restaurant is located on Paradise Pier, it's safe to assume that the timing is set in the late 1920's / early 1930's to fit the "new" theme of the area.  As you walk through the automatic glass doors, you'll find an American flag to your left, and an Italian flag to the right.  Neat, but nothing to ooooh & aaaah at, right?  Let's take a closer look.....

Standard Italian flag?

Did you notice the Royal Coat of Arms? 

Since the monarchy was still reigning in Italy during this time, WDI didn't skip a beat and included the coat of arms on the flag.  Nice touch!  Now, let's move over to the American flag:

Notice anything here?

Just 48 stars!
Remembering to add the appropriate amount of stars to the union is no daunting task, but there's more.  It's hard to translate by photograph, but the flag is made out of linen to fit the era. I couldn't believe they'd be that elaborate, until I remembered just who was responsible for the details.

Did you also notice the frames hung around the flags?  There are authentic photos hanging all over the place, all from various California piers.  One of them even pays homage to Anaheim.  

It looks like some architectural inspiration for Paradise Pier was taken from that top photo

Some pretty nifty swimsuits

Is it just me, or does this kid take you straight to Spaceship Earth??

Each item has it's own grab & go serving station - pizza, pastas & salads.  These look nice, but there isn't much to see:

As you make your way out, this is where you really want to take notice.  There are flyers from the *original* Mickey Mouse Club framed on the walls!  Not the 1955 TV version of the Club, because obviously that would totally contradict the pre-depression era theme.  These are from the very first clubs that popped up in local theaters starting in 1929. So stinkin' cool!

As you make your way outside to find a seat (all seating is outdoors), you might just find yourself lucky enough to take in the delights of the Ellis Island Boys band.  This is a FANTASTIC swing jazz group that performs in the Paradise Garden Theater.  Currently, they're scheduled on Sunday, Tuesday & Friday at 11:50, 12:50, 1:50, 3:15, 4:15, 5:30, 6:30.  They have an amazing sound that transports you straight to the 1930's.  Even if you don't make it over there to eat, this is a great spot to cop-a-squat and soak up the atmosphere for a bit. All that's missing is an area to dance in front of the stage.

Gotta love the washboard and steel guitar

These folks are not to be missed!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Photo of the Day: 1/23/12

A unique vantage point from one of our favorite rides, Casey Jr. Circus Train.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo of the Day: 1/20/12

Happy Friday! I'm sorry for being a little behind this week. On Wednesday, I was supporting the fight against SOPA and trying to stay off line as much as possible, and Thursday was just one crazy day. To make it up, I'm posting two today! :)

Drink up me 'earties!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Park Adventures: Sunday, 1/15

After our great experience at the new Jolly Holiday Bakery last week, we decided to head back again this weekend to try some of the other items on the menu. We were only there for a few hours, but I wanted to share some photos from our time in the park. :)

We parked at the Mickey & Friends parking structure and spotted this gem. Seriously, how awesome is this?!?

The more economical Ecto

One of my favorite things about Disney is that no matter how often we visit, there's always something to catch your eye that you never noticed before. Like this poster in front of the Opera House:

I love the layout, the lettering and the vintage photo used as the background .

While in line at Jolly Holiday, we could see the refurb work going on around the Matterhorn. I was actually slightly surprised to not see one of their infamous highly-detailed scrims around the scaffolding. Saying it out loud, I realize how silly it sounds given the mass & shape of the structure, but it's Disney. If anyone can do it they can.

Gimme some scrim, my friend....

We went to the left this time and were able to grab a shot of this Mary Poppins Lenox statuette on display.

As we made it up to the front, we noticed the CM's had these cute new paddles to call the next guest over to them.

I can just hear the penguin waiters singing now...

We knew we definitely wanted to get the Jolly Holiday Combo again (Toasted Cheese Sandwich & Tomato Basil Soup), but I also wanted to try the Ham & Cheese Quiche since they were out of it on our first visit. Daniel loved the combo and didn't want to share this time so I had to get my own. Oh darn. While we were waiting, they announced that the chicken noodle soup listed on the menu was not being served because they had determined it "wasn't up to snuff", and were serving corn chowder instead. I'm a big fan of corn chowder so I asked if they were able to swap the soups in the combo and they said yes. Yay!

The cheese sandwich was just as good as it was the first time. The tomato basil soup seemed to be a little more watered down than before, although still good. The corn chowder was hearty and flavorful, but I would have preferred a few more potatoes and a little less corn. The amount of corn almost made it too sweet.

Jolly Holiday Combo with Corn Chowder instead of Tomato Basil Soup - $8.99

Next we tried the Ham & Cheese Quiche that also included a small House Salad and your choice of dressing. I was expecting the salad to be simple; lettuce, tomatoes and maybe some onions or cheese. It turned out to be a mini-version of the Jolly Holiday Salad which includes a blend of lettuce, spiced pecans, feta cheese, red & yellow tomatoes and Craisins. The salad was fresh and full of flavor, but I chose ranch dressing, which did not compliment the salad well at all. Had I realized this, I would've asked for the raspberry vinaigrette that the full size salad is served with. They also had blue cheese & Italian dressings available. Now, onto the quiche. It looked delicious, was really wet & loose on the inside. It definitely needed a few more minutes in the oven. The flavor was good, the ham was savory & not too salty, but it was hard to get over the consistency. We weren't able to finish it.

Ham & Cheese Quiche with House Salad - $7.19

I tried the Practically Perfect Punch (pomegranate & light lemonade) this time around, which was good, but nothing I'd run back to try again. We also tried Abuelita for the first time. From what I understood, it's supposed to be a thicker & darker type of hot chocolate with cinnamon. Sounds delicious, right?. It tasted like they melted down a cinnamon drop candy and sprinkled chocolate powder into it. Not at all what I had imagined. Neither one of us enjoyed it.
Practically Perfect Punch - $3.29 and Abuelita - $2.79

For dessert, we opted for the lemon meringue & pecan bars, which are two of my favorite types of pie.
The lemon meringue bar was just the right mixture of sweet & tart. It was smooth and not overly pungent, I really enjoyed it.

Lemon Meringue Bar - $3.99

I was really excited to try the pecan bar, but it turned out to be really dry and it almost had a soy sauce flavor to it!?! I think maybe it was burnt because they looked a lot darker than what we saw in the case the week before. The second picture is borderline disgusting, but we were trying to pick through it to find something good about it. Nope. We threw most of it away.

Pecan Bar - $3.99

Dryness explosion!!

All-in-all, we enjoyed our meal, but we'll definitely go back to the hits from our last trip, like the turkey & chicken salad sandwiches.

While we were eating, Daniel looked up and spotted Tito Ortiz walking by, not-so-surprisingly without a plaid in tow. Last week when we were there, we spotted Josh Holloway walking by with his family (and a plaid!). So apparently, if you want to spot B & D rated celebrities at the parks, this is *the* place to be! We were big fans of "LOST", so it was kind of cool to see Sawyer.

Can you spot Tito Ortiz?

Hey, it's Sawyer!

Afterward, we wandered around the park for a bit, snapping some photos along the way.

Enjoying the ambiance while we still can.

Normally, I love the colors of Sleeping Beauty Castle, but something was definitely off here.

The lighting on the castle looks positively dayglo!

Who's ready for a rave??

Oddly placed purple lighting directed up the walls.

Blurry "Father" in front of his former home.

We stopped by Chester Drawers to search for a shower gift for my expectant boss. I love the nursery theme in this shop, it always reminds me of Mary Poppins.

The plan was to head over to DCA to hit up Toy Story Mania & the Fun Wheel, but it started to rain so we decided to just head home and cozy up to watch some movies. We decided to walk back to the structure since it was just drizzling and the tram lines were already huge. This meant a stop at D Street in Downtown Disney along the way! I was happy to find that the Animation Series #2 had been released and it was being offered with a new Jiminy Cricket in a combo pack. How could I could I resist? We ended up with Sebastian, which I was super happy about. He even has a little hidden Mickey on him! This week, I added 4 new vinyls to my growing army. I've been searching for the Epcot Center one for a looooong time, and my mom bought him for me on eBay as a Christmas gift! He arrived this week. I've also been searching for Tink since Park Series #7 was released a couple months ago. A super sweet friend saw me make mention of it on FB and sent it me as a surprise! I couldn't believe it! I just love how she sparkles. Here are my new additions....

Welcome to the team, guys (& gal)!

We're planning to hit the parks a couple of more times this month, so look for more updates coming soon!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Disney Eats: Jolly Holiday Bakery Review

Early last summer, Disneyland announced their plan to close the Blue Ribbon Bakery in order to expand the Carnation Cafe and I have to admit, I was disappointed. The Bakery has always been a staple of ours, and while we do like to try new things, it always makes me a little sad to learn something we enjoy is going away.  On the flip side, there's no argument that the Carnation Cafe needs more room, but it's a place we rarely visit (probably because it's so cramped!), so I really didn't have an opinion about the expansion.  Then  I learned that the closure of the Blue Ribbon Bakery would mean the opening of a brand new bakery with a Mary Poppins theme.  I was ecstatic!  Mary Poppins has long been one of my favorite films, and holds a lot of sentimental value for my husband Daniel and I, so we're always happy to see any type of homage paid to this fantastic film and important piece of Disney history.

The new bakery would take over the home of the AP processing center, located in the building now formerly known as the Plaza Pavilion at the end of Main St., USA.  The processing center was closed on July 31st, and in just a little over 5 months, it has been transformed into the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe.  The grand opening was held on Saturday, January 7th, and we were able to be there.

At first glance, not much has changed on the west end of Main St., USA

Approaching the building, if you didn't know about the change, you might just go on your merry way & not even notice there's anything new.  The seating areas existed previously, so that wouldn't give it away.  There are just a few subtle changes to the exterior:  1) The former Plaza Pavilion sign has been replaced with the Jolly Holiday lettering, although the style has remained the same, 2) Teaser menu boards have been added to the exterior sign, and 3) A charming new Mary Poppins weather vane has been added to the rooftop.

A closer view of the changes.

New teaser menus

Raise your hand if you're excited about the new weather vane!!

It's no secret that Disney will jump on any opportunity to create a switchback, and there's no shortage of them here.  Not that it's a bad thing, they've gotta keep the crowds in order, and there's certainly a need for them, just be prepared to wait.  We arrived after the lunch rush, just before 2:00pm, but the line to get in was still pretty long, and the switchbacks actually hid just how long the line really was.  Once you get up the steps, there's a switchback to the right, then the line splits into two as you make your way into the building, letting you decide if you want to go to the left or to the right. Both lines seemed to be moving at the same pace, so the deciding factor for me was a cute little carousel they had on display over on the right side. Priorities!!

The decor inside has just the right touches of whimsy, without being over the top.  Stained glass penguins adorn the windows, character silhouettes are hung on the wall, and there's even a chalk inspired mosaic on the floor!
Penguins are a running theme throughout the building

A lovely floral chandelier acts as the centerpiece of the room

A clever, adorable distraction to help pass the time in line. Can you spot all of the references?

Miniature replica carousel featuring the 4 horses from the film is on display

Chalk inspired mosaic on the floor

Condiment station, where the carousel is on display

The condiment station to the left has a Mary Poppins figurine on display

*Love* this!
There was no real fanfare for the grand opening, but the Cast Members seemed pleasantly excited about their new digs, which I think made the guests excited.  Now that we'd finally made it into the restaurant, we had to decide the heck we wanted to eat! Decisions.....decisions.....

Hey, no burgers or chicken tenders!

I'm sure you're looking at the "Practically Perfect Punch" thinking, "ooooh, I'd like to try that!"  Turns out it was just the Minute Maid Pomegranate Lemonade they have for sale throughout the park. Meh.

One of each, please!

Familiar treats found their way from the Blue Ribbon Bakery

The sandwiches & salads are pre-made and on display

What is all that green stuff on the bottom shelf?!? 

How adorable is this old style "stove" used to house the soup tureens?

After much hemming & hawing (and maybe a little drooling on my part), we finally decided.  Daniel & I ordered the Jolly Holiday Combo to share as a sort of appetizer.  I was worried about how good this would actually be, especially considering that the sandwich was pre-made.  I envisioned rock hard bread, cold gritty cheese, and metallic-tasting bland soup.  I was also a little confused as to how this was a "toasted cheese" sandwich, rather than a grilled cheese, but something was telling me to try it.  Boy, were we glad we did!  The sandwich was warm, fresh, and the cheese was a good gooey quality. The tomato basil soup was flavorful & delicious, and even better when you dipped the sandwich into the soup.  We will definitely be coming back for this!

Jolly Holiday Combo: Toasted Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Basil Soup - $8.99

Thick shredded cheese fills the sandwich

Originally, I ordered the Ham & Cheese Quiche, but they were all sold out (boo), so I opted for the Chicken Waldorf Sandwich on Brioche.  I enjoy chicken salad, and it did not disappoint. The apples were crisp & fresh, and let's face it, walnuts added to just about anything will make it taste better. The brioche held up surprisingly well against the messy chicken salad, but it was a little drier than I would have preferred. I added a bit of mayo to help (packets are available at the condiment station) and it was perfect.  The fresh House Chips were a nice touch, but they were so fresh that many were still soggy from the oil they had just been cooked in. Blech.
Chicken Waldorf on Brioche: Apples, Walnuts, Celery and Craisins - $8.99

Daniel ordered the turkey sandwich, pretty standard fare, but it was odd that it didn't have cheese on it.  Swiss or provolone would go very nicely with this lunch time staple.  The bread was fresh & not crunchy, which is often a problem with ciabatta bread. The accompanying mustard aioli actually had a bit of a honey mustard flavor that was unexpected, but still good.  He added mayo to help cut the sweetness a bit, though. After the toasted-not-grilled cheese sandwich was gone, he enjoyed dipping this into the leftover soup.  This also came with the House Chips. 
Oven-Roasted Turkey: Turkey, Tomatoes, Lettuce & Mustard Aioli on a Toasted Ciabatta Roll - $8.69

With every new quick service menu at Disneyland, we find there's a fancy new signature cupcake offered.  Who am I to argue?  So for dessert, we opted for the new Lemon Strawberry Cupcake to share.  This seemed to be a popular choice among many of the guests - after we sat down, we noticed just about every table had one of these.  The cake was moist with a light lemon flavor.  The icing seemed to be a thick whipped cream style frosting that wasn't too heavy or overly sweet. I enjoyed the tartness of the lemon cake & the strawberries, mixed with the sweetness of the frosting.  Daniel on the other hand wasn't crazy about the strawberries, something he normally likes. He thought the flavor of the berries overpowered everything else.  He really enjoyed the cake, though.  While I liked it more than he did, it wasn't anything I'd rush back to try.  There were many other yummy looking treats in that case that I'm already dreaming about trying on our next visit. 
Lemon Strawberry Cupcake - $4.99

A friend of ours joined us for lunch.  He ordered the Roast Beef sandwich and the "seasonal" fruit pie, which was apple.  While the sandwiches are pre-made, they can be special ordered.  In this case, he didn't want the horseradish aioli so they were able to make it for him as long as he was willing to wait.  We didn't try his sandwich, but he wasn't too impressed with it - "nothing special".  We did try a bite of the apple pie, which was just OK. The flavor was fine, the crust was decent, but the apples were rubbery.  I'm sure this is because it was just sitting under a heat lamp.. The addition of the sugar crystals baked into the top of the crust was a nice touch of sweet, though.

Hot Angus Roast Beef on Toasted Onion Roll:
Caramelized Onions, Horseradish Aioli and White Cheddar - $9.69
Seasonal Fruit Pie in the upper right corner - $4.99

All of the seating is outdoors, on two levels.  There are a few tables on a covered porch area, with most of the seating on the ground level surrounding the building.  The lower tables offer umbrellas to shade you from the sun, when needed.  Your guaranteed to have a great vantage point from any seat, with views of the Hub, Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Matterhorn and Tomorrowland.  If you time it right, the tables on the Main Street side of the restaurant could be a nice spot to watch the parades and even the fireworks from, albeit slightly obstructed.

Now let's talk about cost.  We ordered 3 entrees, 2 sodas and 1 dessert. With our 15% AP discount, the total came to just over $35.  Not too bad in the world of theme park food, and much better quality than most theme park counter service restaurants.

This new bakery offers a much different experience than what we ever had at the Blue Ribbon Bakery.  While they did offer lunch options, we never saw it as a destination for a meal., it was always just a place to stop in for a sweet fix.  The Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe offers so much more.  I foresee this quickly becoming a new staple for us, leaving us asking "Blue Ribbon who?".

Don't mind if I do!