Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort to host Sandtastic Weekends



Two-weekend event will feature 100 tons of professionally designed sand sculptures,
sand sculpting clinics, DJ and more
FREE TO THE PUBLIC. PARKING $18, VALET $26.
Overnight accommodations starting at $168


Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – June 29, 2016 – For the first time, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort will host Sandtastic Weekends on August 26-28 and September 2-4. Open to both resort guests and the public, the event will feature activities for all ages, with the highlight being 100 tons of intricately sculpted sand art designed by award-winning world-class sculptors from Team Sandtastic and constructed right on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort’s private beach.

The event will offer guests a variety of different ways to take part in the action, from watching the masterpieces being created up close to learning the tips and techniques of sand sculpting during a sand sculpting clinic. Those with a competitive side can take part in amateur sculpting contests or try to stump the professionals by giving suggestions for speed sculpting demonstrations, where a piece is created in just 10 minutes.

The fun will extend beyond the sand sculpting, with plenty of indoor and outdoor food selections featuring creations from the resort’s award-winning food and beverage team, including the resort’s own Phins and Feathers craft beer; games on the beach like corn hole and table tennis; a DJ; and to close the day, a campfire and s’mores.

The fun continues to Labor Day Monday, September 5, with special tributes to celebrate the Kickoff Classic college football game between Florida State and Ole Miss taking place in Orlando. Fans of each team will find a giant sand sculpture in honor of the game incorporating a tribute to both teams and the lights on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort causeway will feature team colors. Coverage of the Kickoff Classic between the Florida State Seminoles and Ole Miss Rebels will be shown on an outdoor oversized projection screen.

Overnight accommodations during Sandtastic Weekends start at just $168 per night. To reserve a room or for more information, including a full schedule of events, please visit www.sandtasticweekends.com.


*Contact the Resort for more information on Handicapped accessibility. 
*Find Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers or Facebook @ThePrincessPapers and on the Disney Dream Girls Podcast on Twitter @DisDreamGirls.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

NEW!! Frontera Cocina by Chef Rick Bayless, Disney Springs Town Center!!

Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless opened a new Mexican themed restaurant in the Town Center area of Disney Springs (across from the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes). The menu includes a wide variety of traditional Mexican favorites made with the freshest ingredients combined as only Chef Bayless can do. The food is about flavor and not "heat." For those who are not fans of "spicy," you will enjoy the food at Frontera Cocina. For those who would like a little kick, there's something for you as well.


 The Cocktails
 
Topolo Margarita ($17.00) Herradura anejo tequila, Torres orange liquer, housemade limonada.
The drink options at Frontera Cocina are unique. I found it very difficult to choose and went with the recommendation from my server. He chose well! It was poured table-side, which was a nice touch and avoids any little spills or splashes while carrying an already poured cocktail from the bar. I call this drink "adult lemonade." It's light and refreshing. It's the perfect afternoon, Florida cocktail. It was rather sweet from the housemade limonada mix. The anejo tequila was smooth, making this very easy to drink. The flavor worked well with all the food that I tasted. I would definitely order it again, but the salt rim was not needed for my personal taste. The flavor of the drink was excellent without it.


The Food
Coctel Rojo ($14.00) Poached Mazatlan blue shrimp and Baja bay scallops, Mexican cocktail sauce, (ketchup, Tamazula, lime juice), jicama, avocado, cilantro, warm tortilla chips.
 
I fell in love with this on the first bite and plan to return to enjoy it again for lunch very soon. The sauce was not spicy. It had a light sweetness that complimented the sweetness of the large shrimp and petite scallops without overpowering their delicate texture. The chips are housemade and taste better than any corn chip I have ever eaten. The deep roasted corn flavor really stands out. I requested a little bit of extra cilantro to brighten the flavors (and because I ADORE cilantro).

Tortilla Soup ($9.00) Red chile chicken broth, chipotle chicken, avocado, artisan Jack cheese, tortilla strips, cilantro, red onion and lime.

The soup comes plated with the chicken, cheese, avocado, and corn chip strips in the bowl. The broth is then poured over table-side. The chicken was tender and the broth has a rich, slow-simmered flavor but is in no way "heavy." I expected it to be very thick but it was light enough to enjoy on a very hot summer day in Florida. There was a little bit of spicy kick in the broth, but I would put it in the mild category. Flavor stood out over spice.



Oaxacan Red Chile Chicken ($27.00) Crispy half chicken, Oaxacan red mole, plantain rice, warm corn tortillas.
This is amazing. Don't let the word "crispy" fool you; the chicken is not fried, breaded, or greasy.  But, the skin is indeed crispy. Inside, the meat was juicy and tender. The mole sauce is so unique. Again, it's not spicy. It's ALL Flavor (if you are not familiar with mole sauce, it is most similar to homemade bar-b-q sauce as a general comparison). The rice is also unique with the addition of plantains. The plantains brighten up the flavor of the rice with a bit of tartness. I couldn't help but say, "wow" on my first bite.
The fresh, warm, corn tortillas deserve a moment of recognition. Don't quote me on it, but I'm pretty sure they are made from the wings of angels. They made me very, very, happy. SO DELICIOUS! And the texture was divine!



Mushroom Torta ($14.00) Woodland mushrooms, chipotle-garlic mojo, goat cheese, arugula, lime, chipotle salsa, taqueria salad (petite baby lettuces, poblano rajas, carrot, radish, avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, cotija cheese, avocado-lime vinaigrette). 
This is a vegetarian menu option, but an excellent choice for the meat-lovers as well. The bread is spectacular. It's crunchy on the outside and light and tender inside. There's a thick layer of creamy goat cheese and it's piled high with a variety of hearty, meaty mushrooms and a nice accent of arugula. The mojo dipping sauce adds something for the heat-lovers. The side salad is a wonderful accompaniment and includes the surprise of roasted sweet peppers. It provided a nice cooling balance to the mojo sauce.


 Pecan Pie Bar ($9.00) with Mexican vanilla ice cream-chocolate sauce.
I was told that this recipe came from the grandmother of Chef Rick Bayless. After hearing that, I could not pass up the chance to try it. (But the Quatro Leches Cake looked scrumptious too!)  It was not what I expected as a traditional pecan pie that has a standard white pie crust, sweet gooey base, and topping of pecans. This was much more like a very dense brownie filled with ground pecans. It was sinfully rich and the addition of vanilla ice cream made it absolutely decadent. It is a large portion and definitely enough for sharing.


The Decor
Frontera Cocina has a lovely modern, yet warm feeling with pops of bright colors. The front room offers views of the open kitchen. The walls are decorated with bottles of tequila that reflect the light in the room. A center room is tucked in under a lower ceiling with warm lighting for a more intimate feel. The back of the restaurant includes a bar with high stools and additional low tables surrounding it. A back deck provides the option of outdoor seating. The front room, bar room, and back patio all include gorgeous waterfront views. The decor is very inviting.

 


 





A few items are available for purchase at the front of the restaurant. There are currently two Cookbooks by Chef Rick Bayless ($35.00, each), Salsa ($12.00), and Drink Mix ($22.00).



*Frontera Cocina also has a walk-up window for quick bites. Review coming soon.
*Dining plan table-service credits accepted for the interior restaurant. Dining plan not accepted at the walk-up window.
*No additional discounts are accepted at this time.
*Frontera Cocina is handicapped accessible. Doors are not automated. However, Cast Members are stationed at the door and available to assist.
*Special thank you to our server-Adam and managers-Randal and Ricky for their hospitality.
*Follow Jeanie on Facebook @ThePrincessPapers or @JeanieGallo and on Twitter @PrincessPapers. You can also hear her on The Disney Dream Girls Podcast, Twitter @DisDreamGirls

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ample Hills Creamery, WE TASTED EVERY ICE CREAM FLAVOR!


Ample Hills Creamery is a new addition to the delicious treat options along the waterfront of Disney's Boardwalk Resort. It is also a short walk or boat ride from the International Gateway exit of Epcot (located between the UK and France), Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the other Epcot Resorts. With their fresh, rich ice cream, housemade mix-ins, delicious toppings and extras, not to mention the amazingly friendly and entertaining Cast Members, Ample Hills is worth scheduling into every Disney vacation! 
 



The Menu 
Ample Hills Creamery was founded by husband and wife team, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna, five years ago in Brooklyn, New York. Their dedication to creating a quality product is evident with the very first bite. From the fresh zing of the Lemon Sky sorbet to the comforting housemade cookies made from a family recipe in Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace ice cream, every flavor is a win!

And with the help of Cast Member, Stephanie, we tried EVERY FLAVOR!

Bake/Unbaked- Vanilla ice cream with pieces of housemade chocolate chip cookies and brown butter cookie dough.
This is great LOADED ice cream! Big, fresh cookie chunks plus cookie dough makes it the best of both worlds.

Coffee Toffee Coffee- Coffee ice cream with housemade espresso-infused chocolate-covered toffee pieces.
The toffee candy in this is AMAZING, so buttery and rich! They should sell bags of it along with all of their other housemade candies! This flavor will also give you a nice boost with its double shot of espresso!

Dark Chocolate- Rich dark chocolate ice cream made with 72% E. Guittard chocolate.
This is perfect for the chocolate purists. It's made with very fine quality chocolate and the creamy texture reminded me of rich chocolate mousse.

Malty Salty Pretzel Punch- Vanilla malted ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels.
This flavor is loaded with big, crunchy, chocolate-covered pretzels for that special salty-sweet flavor and lots of crunch.

Ooey Gooey Butter Cake- The creamiest vanilla ice cream made with cream cheese and gobs of St. Louis-style ooey gooey butter cake.

This flavor is billed as "a staff favorite" and most of the Cast who I spoke with at Ample Hills at the Boardwalk Resort agreed. Although the flavor describes the addition of cream cheese, it simply adds richness. I didn't notice any tartness like a cheesecake flavored ice cream. Like it says, it's ooey and gooey.  

Peppermint Pattie- Cool peppermint ice cream with flakes of dark chocolate and housemade peppermint patties.
This has a very intense peppermint flavor. It is flooded with large blocks of delicious dark chocolate coated peppermint cream candy! It is the perfect flavor as an after-dinner treat when dining at one of the restaurants along the Boardwalk.

Sweet Cream & Cookies- Sweet cream ice cream with pieces of Back-To-Nature sandwich creme cookies.
This was shocking. It REALLY tastes like an Oreo. I am an Oreo purist. I take my Oreos very seriously. This does not just look the part; it is the closest thing that I've ever tasted to an Oreo. They have gone a step beyond just mixing cookies into vanilla ice cream. The sweet cream ice cream flavor nails the cream filling flavor of an Oreo perfectly.  It is incredible!

Chocolate Milk & Cookies- Creamy milk chocolate ice cream with pieces of Back-To-Nature sandwich creme cookies.
This is for the chocolate on chocolate fans. It is the chocolate version of the Sweet Cream & Cookies flavor. Unlike the deep dark chocolate ice cream, this is a more traditional milk chocolate flavor base.

Butter Pecan Brittle- Dark brown sugar ice cream with pieces of housemade roasted pecan brittle.
This is another flavor where the fantastic housemade candy makes it! Thick pieces of brittle give it a sweet and sticky crunch!

Cotton Candy- 100% all-natural blue cotton candy ice cream made with no artificial colors of flavors.
I didn't believe this one at first. It's a beautiful light blue, but there's nothing artificial in it. They use vegetable-based food dye and natural flavor extract. I usually shy away from cotton candy flavored things (unless they are real cotton candy). However, this was delicious! It reminded me of the scent and flavor of a big, fresh, fluffy marshmallow. Kids will LOVE this one!

Lemon Sky- Light and billowy lemon ginger sorbet made with a splash of limoncello. Dairy-free and vegan.
Not only is this a great option for those who want something dairy-free or vegan, but it is also 99% allergy-free (cross-contamination is possible). It's a delicious and REFRESHING option for those on restricted diets. It also is perfect for a hot Florida summer day. Consider this the best frozen lemonade you've ever tasted. 

Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace- Dark brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with housemade oatmeal lace cookies.
This is another one of my Top Picks. The recipe for the housemade cookies was Jackie's (the owner) mother's and this is a tribute to her memory. Oatmeal lace cookies are very thin with a unique caramel-like flavor. They are the perfect addition to the hint of cinnamon in the sweet ice cream.

PB Wins the Cup-Vanilla ice cream with peanut butter chocolate flakes and housemade peanut butter cups.
The definite winner for any peanut butter fan. But, do not expect typical peanut butter cup candy. This is SO MUCH BETTER!  The rich housemade peanut butter cup chunks taste like a decadent homemade peanut butter Easter egg. They have intense peanut butter flavor that you just don't find in commercial mass-produced candy. Fantastic!

Strawberries and Cream- Smooth and pure strawberry ice cream.
Sometimes simple is best. This is REAL strawberries and cream. It's as simple as that.

Vanilla Bean- Vanilla bean ice cream made with Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans.
This creamy vanilla has the finest vanilla flavor made from the finest vanilla beans. Pair it with the rich dark chocolate and pure strawberries and cream for a Neapolitan treat unlike any other.

Sally Sells Seashells- Fresh and fluffy orange marshmallow ice cream with housemade salty chocolate seashells.


This flavor is made exclusively for the Ample Hills Creamery location at Disney's Boardwalk Resort. It rounds out my list of favorites. The pairing of chocolate and orange is classic, but this raises the bar with refreshing fluffy bright orange flavor and decadent housemade chocolate candies. The huge fine chocolate seashells make this like having two desserts in one. It's a MUST TRY!



The problem with Ample Hills is that it's SO hard to decide which flavor to choose! Luckily, you don't have to. Unlike most ice cream shops, the amount of choices is only limited by the size of the cup. On our flavor tasting tour, the awesome Stephanie told us that she's been able to fit up to 8 small scoops of different flavors into a small cup!!  You can also choose a cone. They even have specialty cones like cookie, m&m, pretzel, and chocolate chip!





Oh, and the toppings are free. Choose none, one, or ALL! It's your creation! 

Our first choice was a Small Cup ($5.79) with Baked/Unbaked, Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake, Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace, and ALL the toppings! Toppings include rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, mini M&M's, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, whipped cream, and cherries! Something to note is that this is not the typical light whipped cream. Ample Hills tops its treats with thick, rich, real whipped cream that is a few stirs away from being butter. It's the good stuff. And there's no lack of quality on the final cherry on top. Do not expect a glow-in-the-dark plastic tasting cherry. The cherries are nothing less than gourmet quality. From the bottom of the cup to the cherry on top, each bite is pure excellence.

Our second selection of a Small Cup ($5.79) included Strawberries and Cream, Dark Chocolate, Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace, and Sally Sells Seashells topped with chocolate syrup, mini M&M's, rainbow sprinkles, their luscious whipped cream, and a sweet gourmet cherry. YUM!
Don't forget that there's also the option to create a sundae too! The Sundaes ($8.49) have the addition of either a brownie or piece of ooey gooey butter cake as the base (both are also available individually). Ample Hills even provides a handy guide to help Guests put it all together! It's painted right on the wall. 



The Decor
Ample Hills Creamery has a delightfully whimsical decor with little surprises in every corner. Be sure to look around at all the details. Symbols of each Theme Park are painted on the walls, including the former icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios, Earful Tower. Special note: this is the only location on property where it still exists and once a new icon is chosen, it will be removed.  









There is also another special little decoration hanging on the wall. It's a postcard from the original Ample Hills location in Brooklyn, New York, sending well wishes to the Boardwalk location. 
And don't miss the making of the delicious Ample Hills creations from start to finish. An open kitchen has windows from inside the shop and outside along the Boardwalk. 
Ample Hills also has a fabulously fun Cast! Be sure to say hello to Stephanie and ask her about all the Ample Hills history details. She can answer any questions and introduce you to Princess Lemon Sky who may be (easily) persuaded to perform a quick Magic Kingdom Festival of Fantasy parade dance.


Finally, for those Guests brave enough to taste every flavor, a special gift announcing the accomplishment to the world is presented from the Cast. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it! Welcome to the Disney family Ample Hills Creamery!

*A special thank you to Stephanie, Area Manager Brandon, Princess Lemon Sky, and all of the amazingly welcoming Cast of Ample Hills Creamery.
*Disney Dining Plan snack credits are accepted for select items noted on the menu. 
*Ample Hills is handicapped accessible. The entrance doors are not automatic. If you need additional assistance, Cast Members will help you.
*Find Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers, Facebook @ThePrincessPapers or @JeanieGallo and as a regular correspondent on The Disney Dream Girls Podcast, on Twitter @DisDreamGirls and The Disney Dream Girls Podcast on Facebook.