Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Be Our Guest – Magic Kingdom, Disney World (Orlando, FL)

The Beast had made it clear that no one was to enter the West Wing, no matter what. That’s why my mother and I were shocked when the woman, tidily fitted in traditional footman’s garb with black buckle-shoes and knee-socks, said we’d be supping there.

Beauty and Beast was the overwhelming theme in Disney World’s “New Fantasyland”, including a glimpse of Belle’s home in the distance and Gaston’s Pub next door, serving pork shanks and a disgusting sounding concoction of apple juice and marshmallows, but the crown jewel was the sit-down restaurant in the Beast’s castle – Be Our Guest.

(pic from Disney's website)

Ballroom Blitz: Heaviness loomed over the Beast's fortress: rod iron gates creaked open only long enough to let us pass and massive gargoyles guarded the entrance with their stony, animal stare. But one step inside was like landing on the sun. The dark, brooding exterior fell away into the blinding light of the Grand Ballroom, where tidy rows of tables took on the appearance of an orderly vegetable garden sprouting mahogany legs and place settings. Illuminated reflections from overhead chandeliers bounced off marble walls the color of French vanilla, contrasting the outline of royal blue mountains and gentle snow falling outside the enormous, glass panes at the far end of the ballroom.

Gallery Glimpse: To the right, our “foot-woman” presented another dining room, the Rose Gallery - its centerpiece a grandiose music box topped with Belle and the Beast’s dancing figures - but she turned on her heel and informed us that we’d be dining in the most coveted area…the West Wing.

Winging it: Thunder clapped and lighting electrified the room, enough to see that fabrics were slashed and the portrait of a young man above the fireplace was torn to shreds (on certain lighting/thunder claps, the man morphed into the Beast for just a second). The storm visibly raged outside the corner window, where the eye was drawn to the dwindling, digital petals under protected glass…the sacred rose. No time to lose!

(Sorry for dark pic, but the Beast didn't allow much light!)

Beast Feast

Boozey and the Beast: The Magic Kingdom finally got the memo that spending 10 hours a day with your children, while standing on endless lines in the Florida heat requires some alcohol...well, at least some wine and beer. A glass of Beaujolais with the Beast – don’t mind if I do!

Soup’s On: I never expected much when it came to the food at the Magic Kingdom (I was usually sucking on soggy pizza at Pinocchio’s Village Haus by now), but I was pleasantly surprised with the French onion soup: cheesy, salty and the perfect ratio of bread to broth. The potato/leek soup also drew me in with its velvety, liquid blanket of hearty, creamed comfort that I coveted after traveling.

Hen game: I was just lifting my spoon for the first bite of soup when our entrees appeared – two crispy-skinned, Cornish game hens accompanied with veggies and a miniature pitcher of jus. The food runner dropped them at the table and left before we could say anything, so when we saw our waitress a few minutes later, we asked if the hens could be taken away until we were done with our soup. No problem.

She assured us that our entrees wouldn’t arrive until our soup was cleared, so we laughed when seconds later another food runner hastily dropped off another set of hens, and quickly disappeared. Though it seemed like a bad comedy routine, it went along with the general feeling of being rushed. Our soup arrived about five minutes before our wine and it was no secret that Disney World had many mouths to feed…honestly, we were just happy to have a table. Bring on the birds!

Game on: The hens were a little dry (probably from sitting under the heat lamp a couple times) and they definitely could use a little mojo = add mo’ jus! I wish a mini-pitcher of jus accompanied every meal as a “jus-t” in case. It added the moisture and the saltiness I craved, and even brought some extra enticement to the well-seasoned, fingerling potatoes like a dab of cologne behind the ears.

Dessert Cart(ier): I love myself some Disney, but there’s always a money-making angle. “Belle’s favorite cream puff” and a lemon meringue cupcake that, “Lumiere bruleed himself” were among some of the options, but I couldn’t deny that Disney knew how to sell a product. The dessert cart flaunted its visual enticement of pastries under glass, weaving around the room like the Pope mobile, where patrons craned their necks for a glimpse of glucose on wheels. This movable jewelry case of confections displayed its desserts like fine gems, propped upon black velvet, where the colors of rubies and topaz were all edible designs. The passion fruit cream puff was aptly named after Belle as it was truly a thing of beauty with its fuschia insides and powdered puff exterior that had enough sugar to fuel Buzz Lightyear's rocket pack.

The Odd Couple: As we exited the iron gates, I realized that Beauty and the Beast's dynamic was an exact metaphor for how I felt about Disney World as a whole.

There was Beauty: that moment where I felt like a kid that just snorted Pixie Stix (known as Pixie Dust on the Disney streets) as soon as I entered Disney's gates and considered getting some ridiculous hat before running in all directions while pointing to every ride that I needed to visit. That feeling never went away - even at 35, I was still as giddy as a Goofy.

Then there was the Beast: the dark side, the money-making machine that was Disney. They’d throw in any ludacris prop imaginable if they thought it would sell at the gift shop – don’t even get me started about The Carousel of Progress where they stuck a giant foam, red, white and blue top hat on the uncle in the bathtub during the 1920’s sequence – huh? *available for purchase when exiting*

Like Oscar and Felix, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat – opposites attract and this pair made us feel like welcome dinner guests in a land of make believe. Looks like Beauty won out yet again...well played Disney, well played.