Monday, August 24, 2015

Taste Track in Epcot, Crash & Burn

(Please excuse the photo quality on this overcast evening.)
Last week I was really disappointed when I tried to go to the (newish) Taste Track food kiosk in Epcot for dinner because it closed right before I arrived. (Yes, get there early kids, it usually closes at 6 pm!) So, this week, I was determined to get there early. Today, SUCCESS...or was it?

Taste Track is located at the exit of the beloved Test Track attraction in Future World in Epcot. It is a quick-service, walk-up kiosk (no seating, just some high tables) that serves unique grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato bisque, and salad. 




See why I was so excited? GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE! Unfortunately, that's where the excitement ended. I really wanted to like this place. Unfortunately, there were multiple issues with service, food quality, and food safety. It was the latter that led me on a trip to Guest Services. I am happy to say that in true Disney style, they took the issues very seriously and I would expect Taste Track to be back on track in the very near future.
My unfortunate tale...when we first arrived at the window to place our order, we noticed that the kiosk (more similar to a food truck) had at least five Cast Members inside. However, most seemed a bit preoccupied with carrying on rather than helping Guests. One Cast Member did eventually come over to take our order. She really tried her best, but a severe language barrier made it impossible. Her English was limited to "bacon" and "salad." After multiple attempts, another Cast Member helped with our request for "dressing on the side." This led to an additional problem. Nobody could figure out how to put the dressing "on the side."  I eventually suggested a cup and they used a paper soup cup (very glad that I requested this. More on that later.)

When our order was totaled up, we noticed that the price was high. Their computer system was charging more for the items than the menu listed. We pointed it out and were told that they knew it was an issue but there was nothing they could do about it because there was no manager/leader there. (Anyone who knows Disney service, knows that there is ALWAYS some form of supervisor available somewhere.) We paid the higher amount and received our food.

We ordered the Gruyere and Apple-wood Smoked Bacon with Caramelized Onions on Sourdough Grilled Cheese with a side of Tomato Bisque (9.75). 

We also ordered the Roasted Chicken Salad with Chopped Romaine, Golden Raisins, Candied Pecans, Granny Smith Apples, Cheddar, Roasted Chicken Breast, and White Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette (10.25).

They look pretty good don't they? I'm just going to list the issues with the food quality. You can make your own conclusions:
1. One of my main concerns that led me to Guest Services was the food temperature.  The soup was luke-warm (unsafe since it contains dairy). I returned it and was told that the kettle had not been working right all day. (WHY ARE YOU SERVING IT THEN?) 


I received a side salad in its place. This was exactly the same as the entree salad in size and ingredients but without the chicken. I cannot guarantee that that is what the side salad is supposed to be.

2. The bacon that stuck out of the sandwich was crispy, the bacon inside the sandwich was one step from raw. Again, I found it to be of potentially unsafe quality to eat.

3. I had placed my half of the sandwich on a napkin while I returned the soup. I returned to find this. It soaked the whole way through and left a puddle on the table under it.

4. This is the reason that I was glad that I asked for the salad dressing on the side. When I looked closely at it, it was separated in a bad way. Again, I was uncertain of the safety of eating it based on the semi-curdled appearance.

Additional observations: the bread was stale and became nearly impossible to chew within a few minutes (I'm really wondering if it was pre-cooked and reheated before service), the lettuce in the salad had a lot of black edges, and the caramelized onions in the sandwich were non-existent. 

The good parts were that the cheese in the sandwich and the cooked parts of the bacon were tasty and the salad was loaded with apples, raisins, and candied nuts similar to what are sold at the carts in the park. The winner was definitely the nuts!

Although my experience at Taste Track was disappointing, as stated earlier, Guest Services was very serious about addressing the issues mentioned. They were also kind enough to refund the full cost of our meal despite us expressing that that was not necessary. So, if you are looking for a grilled cheese experience one day, I would still say give this a shot, but wait a few weeks so they have time to work out these issues and get up to SPEED on what we all know Disney quality and service should be. 

*Taste Track is handicapped accessible. However, the tables for dining are high and may not be comfortable for use.

*You can follow Jeanie on Facebook at Jeanie Gallo or The Princess Papers.
She is also on Twitter @PrincessPapers.

*Don't forget to book your next trip with Katherine at Happily Ever After Travel. Simply click the link on the right side of the page to get your free quote! Be sure to tell her THE PRINCESS SENT YOU!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Free Epcot Food & Wine Festival Port Wine Glass for Passholders!

This year at the 20th Annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival, Guests with Annual Passes can receive a free commemorative port wine glass!  
Simply pick-up a festival passport at the many locations where they are available throughout the park, head to Innoventions East between 11 AM and 7 PM for your special stamp, and on your 3rd visit to the festival you will receive your glass (while supplies last).

*One glass per passholder.
*Must have valid pass and ID to receive each stamp.

Viva La Mexico La Cantina de San Angel- It's NOT Taco Bell!

La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico at Epcot offers not only a beautiful view of the World Showcase, it also provides fresh, delicious, and quick dining.  But, don't be surprised when you try the food. This is NOT Taco Bell!

Mexico is the first country that you encounter in the Epcot World Showcase (if you head to the left). It hosts two table-service restaurants but also has La Cantina for a quick-service option (Disney Dining Plan Quick-Service credits are accepted here.)

The seating is outdoor and offers views out over the water to the World Showcase, making it a prime location for viewing Illuminations fireworks. Additional tables are located around the side of the main Mexico pavilion outside.  Also, Guests may go inside the attached La Hacienda restaurant to La Cantina (AVAILABLE DURING LUNCH HOURS ONLY) when it is not serving, and enjoy air-conditioned seating.









The menu offers classic Mexican fare such as tacos, nachos, and empanadas. But they also have a lighter option of a salad as well.

We chose the Tacos de Pescado (12.25), Seasoned (battered) fried fish, homemade corn tortillas, Mexican rice, refried black beans, slaw and Habanero aioli. (3 small tacos per order)

The fish was crispy on the outside and flaky inside and the homemade corn tortillas are simply amazing! The little bit of slaw added a light refreshing touch. There was nothing really spicy about this dish for those who are concerned about heavy seasonings.

 

We also tried the Ensalada Mexicana (8.95) with grilled chicken added (3.25), tossed romaine lettuce, arugula, red and white cabbage, black beans, corn, olive oil and lime juice. The salad wasn't anything spectacular but it was a light fresh option on a hot evening. I particularly appreciated that they served the hot grilled chicken in a container on the side. Whereas the fish tacos were slightly petite, this salad was a huge portion and I was unable to finish it all.





I'm not really sure why we received a huge side dish of guacamole since it was not listed on the menu with either of the items we ordered.  However, it was tasty but also was the spiciest item that we received. 


Overall, La Cantina de San Angel is a great option for quick-service dining in Epcot.  It's not your typical Taco Bell food, but I think that's probably a good thing. It is also conveniently located near Future World if your plans involve staying on that side of the park for the day. 

*To experience La Cantina de San Angel, contact Katerine at Happily Ever After Travel by clicking the link on the right side of this page and requesting your free trip quote. Don't forget to tell her the Princess sent you!

*La Cantina de San Angel is handicap accessible and has a few select handicapped tables.  However, seating is tight. More accessible seating is available outside to the right of the entrance to the main Mexico pavilion. Follow the handicapped ramp on the right side. Tables are located on the elevated level.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lion King Themed Treats

Cute packaging makes these adorable Lion King themed treats a fun choice when visiting the Disney Parks. 

For those participating in the dining plan, the white chocolate covered Simba crisp rice treats, lollipops, animal crackers, gummy spiders, gummy centipedes, and candy rocks are all available for a snack credit.














Additional Lion King themed treats include zebra striped popcorn and chocolate alligators!

I decided to try out the candy rocks. Although they were displayed next to the gummy spiders and centipedes, it was unclear what the rocks were. I was expecting them to be a candy coated malted milk ball or chocolate treat based on the picture.


However, this is where cute packaging betrayed me and I neglected to read the ingredients list (beyond sugar). The candy rocks were, in fact, big jelly beans.  I enjoy jelly beans. However, there's a reason why spice flavored jelly beans and fruit flavored ones are usually sold separately.  The first "rock" that I tried was  a pretty light blue color....wintergreen flavor (which I promptly disposed of).  The second one was yellow...banana flavor.  Other flavors include cherry, licorice, grape, and cinnamon, I THINK.  I didn't get very far into trying the flavors because my taste buds were overwhelmed from the first lick of wintergreen.

Although this is a cute snack, it would be nice to have a flavor guide list on the package. One bite of wintergreen to start ruined my anticipated sweet experience. I would also venture to say that these flavors are not exactly "kid friendly." If you would like a fun tasting adventure, this is the treat for you.  Proceed at your own risk!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

DVC Typhoon Lagoon Beach Bash Event



Tonight DVC (Disney Vacation Club) hosted one of several Typhoon Lagoon Beach Bash private events.
There's nothing quiet like a Disney after-hours private event. Even a few brief moments of having a park all to yourself are simply...magical. 

 

 
I was fortunate enough to attend the DVC hosted Beach Bash at Typhoon Lagoon tonight.  This was a members only event that included free admission, DJ dance party entertainment, and complimentary refreshments.
Occasionally, DVC treats its members to special events. The Beach Bash nights were definitely a hit. It was great to enjoy the park in the evening without the hot burning Florida sun. Also, the crowds were minimal at this private function. That's always a great thing!



The DJ and Disney Dancers kept the party going with games and lots of dancing on the beach.


And a few friends came to join in on the fun as well, including the Big Cheese himself all decked out in his beach party gear.







To keep all the Guests happy, an endless supply of chips, cookies, ice cream novelties, lemonade, and water were constantly stocked at various locations in the park. I think everyone from young to old had a smudge of melted chocolate from a Mickey ice cream bar or ice cream sandwich on their face at some point during the night.















Of course there was a little special something for the adults as well. Jon and Gabe where there to make sure everyone had an EXCELLENT time at the event. (Alcohol not included with event and available only as a cash bar.)

Thanks to DVC for hosting another wonderful event!  If you would like to learn more about the Disney Vacation Club, go to the Walt Disney World website.  



*Disclosure: Although I was a Guest of DVC for the Typhoon Lagoon Beach Bash event, that did not bias my opinions for this article.
 

Monday, August 10, 2015

DVC Event Featuring the Polynesian Village Resort

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending one of the loveliest DVC (Disney Vacation Club) member events to date.  To promote the new Deluxe Studio Villas and Bungalows at the Polynesian Village Resort, DVC hosted a Luau- themed event with tours. 

Our evening started at Luau Cove where we were greeted with some nice themed swag including a necklace, Polynesian pin featuring Lilo and Stitch, and a bright orange rubber wristband with a mickey imprint as our admission pass. 



Once seated, platters of appetizers were served family style. The delicious treats included sushi (California roll), cold sesame noodles, salad, and pulled pork sliders.  Each Guest also received a drink ticket for an alcoholic beverage. I enjoyed a very delicious Mai Tai. A tropical juice blend punch was also provided and helped to tame the boozy goodness of my drink.


Part of the event included a brief presentation about DVC, but it was more informative than a sales pitch and focused on the new addition of rooms at the Polynesian. Before and after the presentation, the Luau Cove performers presented a mini version of the Luau. It included the talented band, a (solo) singer, Polynesian Luau dancers, and everyone's favorite, the brave and fearless fire dancer. 


After the show, we were given ponchos (there was a slight mist in the air) and invited to either tour the new DVC Deluxe Studio Villas and Bungalows or schedule a time for a private tour at a later date.  We wandered over to the rooms directly after the show. The DVC rooms are converted from the regular standard rooms at the Polynesian into deluxe studios. They are located in the buildings closest to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Unique to these studios (and the Grand Floridian) is that they sleep 5 and include a queen bed, sleeper sofa, and pull-down single bed. They also have a standard tub/toilet/sink bathroom and an additional large rainfall shower/sink separate bathroom area. 





The Bungalows are located mere inches above the water on the beach and overlook the lake with direct views of the castle at the Magic Kingdom. They are pure luxury and include 2 bedrooms, a full designer kitchen, private plunge pool on the deck, soak tub, rainfall shower, and TV embedded in the bathroom mirror. My favorite little touch was the artwork of the Electrical Water Pageant that adorned the inside of the pull-down twin bed in the living room. It was a true Disney touch!











If you would like to purchase a Disney Vacation Club Membership, the current minimum price directly through Disney is $16,500.00 (Minimum of 100 points at $165.00 per point). However, I recommend looking into a resale organization for purchases at a fraction of that cost. For more information on the Disney Vacation Club, go to the Walt Disney World website.

If you are not interested in a DVC membership but would still enjoy staying in the luxury of the Polynesian Villas or Bungalows, rooms may be booked on a cash basis. See The Princess Papers Blog sponsor, Katherine at Happily Ever After Travel, by clicking the link on the right side of the page and getting your free quote today!  Let her know the Princess sent you.

*Disclosure: I attended this event as a Guest of the Disney Vacation Club. However, it did not bias my opinions in this article.