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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Blocked Out of Dining Reservations with Spring Break Crowds? Try Disney’s Lounges

 by Beth Keating

Review

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 21, 2023

 

I hesitated to write this article because, quite frankly, if too many people figure this little trick out, it won’t really work anymore.  It was a great find for our family during the busy winter holidays when the parks were packed, and we even discovered a few new gems in the process. With spring break crowds pouring into the parks right now, this is a good time to share these tips.  Allow me to explain…

 

When you live near the parks, you aren’t waking up 60 days out at 6:00 a.m. to make dining reservations the way you used to when you were planning a long distance vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Instead, you usually find yourself scrolling through your My Disney Experience app, frantically trying to find an open dining room the day of your visit (or, if you are super organized, maybe the night before.) Sometimes that results in a gift – a favorite restaurant shows up in a desired time slot and you grab it quickly before it disappears. More often than not, and particularly so during packed park days, you are left staring at a set of weird meal times, or restaurants that are nowhere near the park you’re visiting.



That was the case for us over the winter break, when parks were still jammed with visitors.  Even the quick-serve counters had long lines, and mobile ordering (when the app was working) had meal times that were hours away.  During these visits, we did, however, discover a few tricks. By heading out of the parks, even for a short reprieve for a meal, we had a greater selection of places to eat, and we uncovered a couple of places that are now among our favorites.    

 

First up was a new old restaurant.  Back in 2021, at the beginning of the Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration, “The Wave… of Contemporary American Flavors” at the Contemporary Resort wrapped up its renovations, and reopened as Steakhouse 71, a tribute to the opening date of Magic Kingdom.  You can walk to the Resort from the Magic Kingdom, or take a quick monorail jaunt, with the monorail pulling right into the cavernous atrium of the Contemporary.  

 

While we didn’t manage to snag a table in the Steakhouse 71 dining room itself, we were able to walk right up, no waiting necessary, and grab a seat in the Steakhouse 71 lounge.  And we discovered what is, by far, the best burger on Disney property.  I’m not kidding.  No exaggeration.  Oh, my word, I sometimes think of this burger when I am nowhere near Disney, and suddenly wish myself there.  The Steakhouse 71 Stack Burger ($21.00) is a signature blend of smashed patties of beef with pork belly, smothered in melty American cheese, garnished with lemon aioli, red onion, a smattering of house-made pickles, and served on a lovely soft Brioche bun. On the side is a small basket of parmesan fries.  Wait, hold on.  I’ll be back in a little while. I’ve got to go grab that burger now…

 

I can’t begin to tell you what else is served at the Steakhouse 71 lounge because I’ve been there three times now, and I’ve never wanted anything but that Stack Burger.  The lounge is open from noon to 11 p.m.  The entrance to Steakhouse 71 pays tribute to the opening days of Disney World, with its long hallway filled with black and white photos of the construction of Magic Kingdom.  It’s located on the bottom floor of the Contemporary.

 

On other days, when the Magic Kingdom has simply swallowed us up, and we’d decide it was time to get away from the crowds, we’d hop on a Resort-bound boat at the front entrance, and head out across Bay Lake, where we’ve had great success trekking over to Wilderness Lodge.  Two fabulous eateries there have gained our loyalty.  



Geyser Point Bar & Grill is an open-air venue that has a handful of low-slung tables around a central bar, as well as a take-out window if you’d prefer to find seating elsewhere at this beautiful resort, or if you are spending the day poolside.  We’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes to grab a chair at this national parks-feel dining location.  It has amazing views of the waterfront, and while it is only a short trip from Cinderella Castle, it feels eons away.  It is officially a “quick-serve” spot, but its relaxed vibe and rustic seating make it one of the most chill venues at Disney.  And if you’re missing your favorite sports teams, there are usually a bunch of games on the monitors over the bar.  At night, you might even catch the Electrical Water Pageant floating by.

 

On Geyser Point’s “lounge menu,” we’ve enjoyed the cheesy barbecue brisket ($11.00), a ramekin of melty cheese infused with tender brisket (or is it brisket infused with cheese?), served with house-made chips for scooping.  I wouldn’t be telling tales out of school if I didn’t mention that we’ve scarfed down more than one of these dishes while sprawling in the wide, cushioned chairs.  Another time, we chose the “Shrimp on a Wire” ($13.00), a set of jumbo shrimp with a tasty soy-lime vinaigrette and chili aioli.  We almost always wrap it up with the Bison Burger ($21.00), a super-high quality, juicy and always cooked to order burger with bacon, marionberry sauce, garlic aioli, and crispy onion straws on a soft roll.  Sometimes the roll has been grilled, but not always.  Definitely on our list of top five burgers in Disney World.  

 

If the weather isn’t cooperating for a meal at Geyser Point, we’ll also head to Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge.  They’ve recently revamped the menu there, and it’s wide-ranging, to say the least.  A tiny little room right off the main lobby of Wilderness Lodge, there are only a smattering of tables around a short bar area which seats little more than a dozen guests.  That doesn’t stop Territory Lounge from having some excellent appetizers on their lounge menu, however, and we’ve paired a bunch of small plates together into a pretty substantial meal. 



Help yourself to the quirky Territory Popcorn Sampler ($12.00), with spicy, caramel, sea salt, truffle or barbecue flavored popcorn.  Strange and unexpected, but good!  Over multiple visits, we’ve covered nearly all their available apps, from the Charcuterie Board ($22.00); a delicious Loaded Baked Potato Flatbread ($17.00); the Salmon Run ($25.00), a triple salmon featured flatbread; the Bacon On A Wire ($25.00), a candied bacon and deviled egg combo served on an adorable clothesline, with a bourbon drizzle that was so good we asked for more drizzle!; and the Loaded Macaroni and Cheese ($18.00), with sausage and pickled Chiles that was as unusual as it was yummy (and a tiny bit spicy). The only app we haven’t tried since the menu revamp has been the Bone and Brie ($25.00), because while we would love the honey baked brie with marionberry jam, the roasted bone marrow just scares us. Territory Lounge serves from 4:00-10:00 p.m. 

 

We’ve also escaped the Magic Kingdom crowds to head to Tambu Lounge on the second floor at the Polynesian, a simple ride away on the monorail, and no reservations needed.  In fact, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably miss Tambu altogether, since it is a tiny little spot with only a handful of seats, tucked into a corner by some windows at the entrance to its famous cousin, ‘Ohana.  Most people stop by Tambu for a quick drink while they are waiting for their ‘Ohana reservation to be called.  But those in the know seek out some of ‘Ohana’s legendary noodles, ordered off a secret menu from the bartenders. While the noodles aren’t always available at the bar, it’s certainly worth asking.  Appetizers are served from 4:00-10:00 p.m., with only four real selections on the published lounge menu here. The California Roll ($18.00); the Pot Stickers ($13.00); the Big Kahuna Hot Wings ($14.00); or the Kaikane’s Barbecue Pork Ribs ($16.00) are all staples of the menu, but if you can snag those noodles, don’t hesitate.  The lounge also has, obviously, a full selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic libations, but we honestly have never strayed from the Lapu Lapu ($19.50), a hollowed out pineapple served with a fabulous fruity rum concoction topped by, of course, a festive paper umbrella.  It sets the tropical vacation mood.



Oftentimes, Hollywood Studios is another dining problem for us.  It’s one of the most popular parks to begin with, and the restaurants there are well-themed and super-busy. One evening, we strolled around, heading for a Ronto wrap in Galaxy’s Edge because all the dining reservations were already snapped up, and discovered that we could join the “walk-up waitlist” for the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge.  While the Hollywood Brown Derby is the park’s “Signature Restaurant,” the My Disney Experience app told us there was only a half-hour wait at the Brown Derby Lounge.  In reality, it ended up being just 10-15 minutes before our text alerted us to an available table.  We hustled over to the outdoor lounge, and enjoyed the Derby’s famous (and delicious) Cobb salad ($22.00), and experimented with a few non-alcoholic specialty drinks, including the “Pink Palace” ($5.99), a Sprite and watermelon blend, and the Tangerine and Sprite flavored “Sunset Boulevard” (also $5.99), whose name seemed to be particularly in tune with the Hollywood Golden Age theme of the restaurant. And while it wasn’t specifically on the lounge menu, our cast member cheerfully brought my husband a serving of the signature Grapefruit Cake ($13.00), a tart-yet-sweet treat to end the meal.  (If you ask nicely, you can usually get items from the full restaurant menu at the lounge seats, though it may not be on the actual “lounge” menu.)

 

Want the guest favorite and oh-so-good Indian-style bread service ($21.00) at Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but can’t finagle a dining reservation?  Try sneaking in to the Sanaa Lounge, a spot that I hesitate to call a bar because it is so small.  Located just off Sanaa’s main dining room, it barely seats a dozen or so people.  Regardless, if you are one of the few who know this little gem is there when the dining reservations are full, you can find yourself enjoying the bread service with five delicious types of naan bread with NINE different dips, sauces and accompaniments.  It is absolutely filling enough for dinner, even shared with a friend… or not. It’s your trip, have it your way. Sanaa Lounge, though small, does serve a full complement of drinks as well. Plus, when you’re done, you can go outside to the savannah and visit the animals.



There are a few more lounges on our short list that we haven’t made it to yet, places like Scat Cat’s Lounge at Port Orleans-French Quarter for their famous beignets while listening to jazz; River Roost at Port Orleans-Riverside to experience YeeHa Bob’s show while chowing down on Mardi Gras Fritters; or the stunning Dahlia Lounge at Coronado Springs, to watch fireworks from the rooftop balcony while enjoying a Spanish Charcuterie board.

 

There is a plethora of lounges scattered throughout the Disney World property, many of which are hiding in plain sight at the Resorts. When the parks get crowded, it may be worth your while to seek these culinary havens out, because you just might find a few treasures along the way.  And missing the enormous crowds will be a bonus!

 

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Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.

Monday, March 20, 2023

You’ll Melt for the Grand Floridian’s Chocolate Egg Display

 by Beth Keating

Lifestyle/News

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 20, 2023

 

Disney’s culinary team is amazing, but nowhere is that more evident than when they get to set their own creativity free during the annual gingerbread house and chocolate egg displays. That’s when they really get to have a little fun, and let their own personalities shine as well.


Video by Jonathan Keating


There are dozens of chocolate designs at this year’s display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, with tiny woodland creatures, scenes from some of your favorite Disney movies, and lots of spring critters scampering along the table.  There’s even a special kiosk set up in the center of the lobby to offer some delicious springtime treats for sale.

 

If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you might want to indulge in one of the baked goods and candies on display at The Grand Cottage, the treat counter. Just a few of the goodies range from Confetti Cake Lamb Pops ($9.50); to Lemon Blueberry Mickey Whoopie Pies ($8.00); Peanut Butter Cereal Eggs ($5.50); Cream Cheese Carrot Coffee Cake ($9.50); Spring Macarons ($15.00); and Salted Caramel Chocolate Popcorn ($10.00).  Looking for a slightly less sugary treat? There’s also a hot cross bun for $4.50.

 

Some of our favorite eggs from this year’s display include a marvelous rendition of Alice in Wonderland, complete with a working clock embedded in the egg; a six-foot-plus tall version of Kevin and her babies from Up; and the adorable little Orange Bird perched on a crate of oranges. Another favorite wasn’t the most detailed, but has special memories for our family – a lone, lit lamppost beckons viewers into The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe egg.



Other incredible eggs included a tableau of Snow White’s cottage, with the dwarfs’ mine train chugging below; an Avengers’ egg with your favorite superheroes; Figment atop a light up egg-shaped Spaceship Earth; light-up, egg-shaped versions of several Main Street Electrical Parade characters; a really fun Sword-in-the-egg version of Merlin; and a 3-D version of a glowing Tiana and Princess and the Frog scene. A really unique egg was more than just an egg – it was an entire kitchen scene incorporating Disney’s new Munchlings.

  
The details on the displays are remarkable, and you have to take more than a single look.  For example, the Walt Disney egg is a “split screen” with the bottom of the egg featuring blueprints of Cinderella Castle, and the top half coming to life with the fully completed colorful rendition of the castle.  But look closely, and you’ll also see Walt’s cast member name tag propped on the edge. Many of the eggs are double-sided, so make sure you check out the fronts and backs of the eggs.



Two interesting changes for this year’s egg display made it all the more interesting, especially if there aren’t as many guests and you can get closer to the eggs.  This year, small cards next to the chocolate confections identified the culinary artist behind the artwork, along with some details such as how long they’ve served on the culinary team, and what inspired them to choose the character or movie that they used for their egg.



A second addition is the opportunity to watch one of the culinary artists with an egg-in-progress. If you are there at the right time of day, you can watch one of the pastry artists adding details to an egg with cocoa butter painting, and you can chat with them, asking questions about the creation process, their backgrounds, how to become a member of the culinary team, and more.  The egg we were able to observe was exquisite, with dozens of Disney characters forming a bright collage over the surface of the egg.  What a fantastic way to add to the experience!

 

The eggs will be on display in the soaring lobby of The Grand Floridian until Easter (April 9, 2023). The Grand Cottage shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There is no charge to view the egg creations.

 

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Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Magic Kingdom Guests to Get Soft Opening Chance to Ride TRON

 by Beth Keating

News

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 17, 2023

 

In a tweet from Disney this morning (March 17, 2023), Magic Kingdom guests got a surprise announcement – there are additional chances to ride the new TRON attraction before its official opening on April 4, 2023.



While many cast members, annual passholders, D23 members and DVC members have gotten a shot at riding TRON through the various preview lotteries that have taken place, guests at the Magic Kingdom from March 20 through April 2 will have two opportunities a day to snag a seat on Team Blue’s Lightcycles during the ride’s soft opening days. Today’s tweet announced:


“ATTENTION USERS: We have a surprise transmission from the Grid. // Between 3.20 – 4.2, Guests may have the early opportunity to experience TRON Lightcycle / Run presented by @Enterprise during a limited soft open via virtual queue or purchase of individual Lightning Lane entry.”

 

Once the attraction officially opens on April 4, the ride will be accessible only by virtual queue or purchase of Individual Lightning Lanes. There will not be a standby line. 

 

During the soft opening, guests will use their My Disney Experience app to request to join the virtual queue either at 7:00 a.m. or at 1:00 p.m.  (Guests must be in the park at 1:00 p.m. to join the afternoon queue, but they do not need to be in the park to request to join the 7:00 a.m. queue.)  Guests must have a valid theme park admission, and a Magic Kingdom theme park reservation in order to join the queues.  Riders may also purchase Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) at 7 a.m., while availability lasts.  (Those slots go QUICK! ILL pricing changes with demand and days, and the day’s cost will appear in your My Disney Experience app.)



TRON Lightcycle / Run is located in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom.  It is based on the TRON movies that began with the 1982 film featuring video game designer Kevin Flynn, who finds himself “digitized” into an electronic world, racing to find his way back into the real world.  Tron: Legacy, the second movie, revolves around Kevin’s son, Sam, who tries to find his missing father, but finds himself pulled into “The Grid.”  Your ride essentially picks up after the second movie, when Sam has opened another gateway into The Grid.  You don’t need to watch the movies first to enjoy the attraction, but the ride will certainly make more sense if you do.  (If you want a crash course on the TRON saga, check out the Disney Parks Blog summaries here.)  Both movies are currently available on Disney+.

 

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Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Irish Roots of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney for St. Patrick’s Day

 by Ray Keating

Lifestyle/History

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 16, 2023

 

St. Patrick’s Day – the day when we’re all Irish – is upon us. And it turns out that Walt Disney, along with Mickey Mouse, had real Irish roots. 

 

So, how about some Irish tidbits as they relate to Walt, Mickey and Disney in general?



• Mickey Mouse, the Irish Mouse! 

 

In his book Walt Disney, Neal Gabler offers the following on the birth of Mickey Mouse (emphasis added): 

 

Walt read the story to Lillian, but she said she couldn’t focus because she was upset by the name Walt had bestowed upon his character: Mortimer. “The only thing that got through to me,” she told an interviewer, “was that horrible name, Mortimer…. I’m afraid I made quite a scene about it.” “Too sissy,” she said. When she calmed down, Walt asked her what she thought of the name Mickey, an Irish name, an outsider’s name. “I said it sounded better than Mortimer, and that’s how Mickey was born.”

 

• Walt’s Irish Ring and Roots

 

In a DisneyBizJournal guest column titled “Walt Disney and the Irish Claddagh Ring,” Chris Lucas wrote of Walt Disney’s Irish roots:

 

Walt was proud of his family's Irish heritage and only wore two items of jewelry in public: his wedding ring and his Claddagh ring, bought for him by his wife, Lillian, at a shop in Connemara, Ireland in the 1940s.

 

Walt Disney’s family was from County Kilkenny, Ireland. His grandfather, Kepple Disney, one of 16 (!) children, immigrated to Canada in 1834. His son, Elias (Walt’s Dad), crossed the border to the U.S. in the late 1800s and moved to the Midwest. Walt was born in Chicago in 1901.

 

The famous “Partners” statue at the Disney parks, designed by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson, depicts the Irish Claddagh ring on Walt’s right hand (the one not holding Mickey, the one pointing to the future), but most people never notice it because it is above the sight line.

 


• Sean Connery and the Little Irish People

 

Okay, the title for this 1959 Disney film actually is Darby O’Gill and the Little People. But it does co-star Sean Connery, before he was James Bond, as Michael McBride, who is from Dublin. Check it out on Disney+.

 

• A Documentary on the Irish

 

According to Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia by Dave Smith, the 1998 six-part television documentary Irish in America: The Long Journey Home was a collaboration between Disney Studios and WGBH in Boston. Smith reported, “This project was close to the heart of Roy E. Disney, whose great-grandfather was one of the Irish immigrants.



• For the Love of Raglan Road

 

We’re big, big fans of Raglan Road: Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs. Grabbing a meal and catching the entertainment at Raglan Road is a perfect way to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, or any other day when you’re seeking a bit of the Irish. Read our previous pieces about Raglan Road herehere, and here.

 

Happy and blessed St. Patrick’s Day to all!

 

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Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, and the Alliance of Saint Michael novels; and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

 

The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right? 

 

Consider books by Ray Keating…

 

 The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist. Signed paperbacks at RayKeatingOnline.com or paperbacks, hardcovers and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.

 

• Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel. Signed paperbacks and/or paperbacks, hardcovers and the Kindle edition at Amazon

 

• The Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries. The latest in the series is Persecution: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel. Get the signed books here, or paperbacks and Kindle editions right here.

 

• The Lutheran Planner: The TO DO List Solution combines a simple, powerful system for getting things done with encouragement, inspiration and consolation from the Christian faith.

 

• Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York  –  signed books  or at  Amazon.

 

•  Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know is available at  Amazon  in paperback or for the Kindle edition, and signed books at  www.raykeatingonline.com

 

Also, check out Ray’s podcasts – the Daily Dose of DisneyFree Enterprise in Three Minutes, and the PRESS CLUB C Podcast.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Check Out Disney World’s Best “Pies” for Pi Day

 by Beth Keating

Review/Lifestyle

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 13, 2023

 

Once upon a time,  a long time ago, I was a middle school teacher. And if you’ve ever had the occasion to interact with middle schoolers, you know it’s not easy to capture their attention.  “Pi Day” was one of those days in the school year that seemed to excite the class across the board.



“Pi Day” is March 14, or 3.14, based on the mathematical constant for π (it’s actually 3.141592, etc., because it goes on forever, or at least for trillions of digits.) π represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.


So, back to the middle schoolers – we celebrated Pi Day by having the kids bring in their favorite pies for a festive lunch.  Most of them brought things like apple pies, chocolate pies, berry pies, you get the idea…. The teachers then had the kids make their own circular  “pizza pies” with English muffins and pizza sauce.  A good time was had by all.

 

If you find yourself at Disney World for Pi Day on Tuesday, there are a few interesting selections you can grab for your own Pi celebration.  While pizza might be your obvious choice, there are lots of other possibilities along the way. (Please, don’t go for the nearly $12 individual doughy theme park pizzas at places like PizzeRizzo when there are so many better options!)

 

One of my personal favorites is in Animal Kingdom. Trek over to the Yak & Yeti Local Food Café in the Asia section of the park, and grab a cute little mini mango pie ($7.99). This delicious individual serving pie has a tangy filling, and a graham-cracker adjacent crust. Best served cold, they are a great afternoon treat, but I’ve been known to try one for breakfast, too.  Hey, you are on vacation; it’s fine!

 

Hollywood Studios has a few specialty desserts that appear for holidays, and there are a few that will be disappearing soon from the 50th anniversary celebrations. But if you want a pie that’s a little more traditional, pay a visit to your cousins at 50s Prime Time Café for the Lemon Meringue Pie ($9), a tart lemon curd in a crisp pie shell, made all the better because it’s topped with a toasted meringue and raspberry sauce. Just be sure to keep your elbows off the table.

 

If you find yourself in EPCOT, head to Via Napoli in the Italy pavilion, where three massive wood burning ovens, each named after one of the active volcanoes in Italy, bake up perfect (and sometimes unique) Neapolitan pies.  On a recent trip, we sampled the Quattro Formaggi Pizza (ranging from $25-$55 depending on size), and the Prosciutto e Melone Pizza, a delightful and unexpected white pizza with cantalope! (ranging from $26-$54 depending on size).  



Disney Springs is a goldmine of “pie” entrees, or desserts, as the case may be.  For a more non-traditional pie, the quick-serve Cookes of Dublin offers a delicious Chicken & Wild Mushroom Pie ($15.99), a combination of chicken, wild mushrooms and leek in a white wine cream sauce topped off with a flaky pastry.

 

Wolfgang Puck is perhaps the king of “pies,” having staked his reputation on his signature haute cuisine pizza over the years. His Disney Spring’s location, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill,  currently offers more than a half-dozen pies, ranging from a simple Margherita ($18) to the somewhat pricy but very delicious smoked salmon pie ($32). Can you say Spago?

 

Pizza Ponte is a quick-serve favorite of our family, as its pizza is closest to our New York style preferences. The Big Roman ($6.95) is a LARGE slice, more than sufficient for a nice lunch, but we’ve also enjoyed the Four Cheese slice ($7.95) and, of course, a traditional pepperoni slice ($7.25). They’ve all called us back to Disney Springs again and again, and you can’t go wrong with any of the pies from Pizza Ponte. 



The home cooking at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ is always tasty and oh-so-filling, and with so many delicious things on his menu, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the chocolate pecan pie ($14), a 100-year-old Smith family recipe.  You’ll be torn between this and the similarly priced hummingbird cake (always a winner), but it is Pi Day, so you’ll lean toward the nutty goodness. But, if you are really unable to make a choice, and have a friend with you, you can always opt for the Signature Sampler ($24), a higher ticket dessert that nonetheless will give you the hummingbird cake AND the chocolate pecan pie AND the carrot cake. Oh, and a scoop of ice cream, too. Roll yourself on out of the door when you are done.

 

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, also at Disney Springs, may be familiar to many Disney guests, because as a chain restaurant across the U.S., it’s a good possibility you have one in your hometown.  With so many other yummy and unique choices on your vacation, Blaze may not be your best use of dining locations, since you can visit one once you get back to the home front, but if you need something speedy, they are a solid choice to design your own meal.  If you aren’t in Disney, you can also take advantage of Blaze’s special $3.14 11-inch pies on Tuesday, as long as you sign up ahead of time for the Blaze rewards program.  They’ll drop you a special coupon in their app for your discounted meal.  (The coupon is good through March 31st, so maybe you can get a double Pi Day out of it.). Check the Blaze website for participating locations near you. 

 


Blaze isn’t the only locale where you get to see your pie being made.  Pay a visit to Trattoria Al Forno on the Boardwalk, where the open kitchen lets you watch the chefs hard at work as they prep your dinner.  Choices range from the Pizze Margherita ($20), with its fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, to the Pizze Carni ($23), a three-meat pizza with an unexpected blend of Italian meats including prosciutto, capicola and sausage, with a bit of a bite from a smattering of pepperoncinis. We’ve never had a bad meal at Trattoria Al Forno, and while it may not be a pie, the Veal Osso Buco here ($35) has been a birthday dinner for a family member on several occasions.

 

We’ll finish off your journey through the Pi Day possibilities with a restaurant you probably haven’t been to – Ale & Compass at the Yacht Club.  And, more importantly, we’ll recommend a dish that you might never have thought of including in the “pie” search: the $30 New England Seafood Pot Pie, made with shrimp, scallops, crab, and sustainable catch of the day, along with baby carrots, pearl onions, peas, potatoes, and crustacean cream, served up under a gloriously puffy crust.  It’s only served during dinner hours from 5-9 p.m., however, so you have a very limited window of opportunity to sample this oceanic delight.  May we suggest pairing it with the restaurant’s Parker House Rolls ($13), which in our family’s opinion, is one of the best reasons to visit Ale & Compass? They are served with bacon jam, pub cheese, and citrus butter, and are insanely good!

 

No matter which “pie” you choose for this year’s π day, we hope you enjoy exploring some of these great Disney dishes.  Maybe you’ll discover a few that we haven’t tried yet.

 

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Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Iger on Rationalization, Curating and … Hulu

 by Ray Keating

News/Analysis

DisneyBizJournal.com

March 9, 2023

 

Disney CEO Bob Iger was interviewed at The Morgan Stanley Technology, Media And Telecom Conference on Thursday, March 9, and he raised more questions than answers about the future of Hulu.



Iger noted that he was “extremely bullish” on streaming in general, including Disney+ and ESPN, but when it came to Hulu, he spoke of “studying it carefully.” He declared that it was a “good platform” that had a “good library,” as well as it being “attractive” for advertisers. But Iger added that he and the company were still trying to figure it out regarding Hulu within a “tricky environment.”

 

As we noted in July of last year, “Comcast still owns 33 percent of Hulu, with Disney controlling the rest, gaining Fox’s 33 percent Hulu stake in the 2019 acquisition of Fox. As it stands now, Comcast has a passive role in Hulu and has agreed to hold that position until 2024. After that, Comcast can force a buyout by Disney based on a total valuation of $27.5 billion – with Comcast then getting more than $9 billion from Disney – or Disney could choose to execute the buyout. That price tag, however, could go higher if an independent party determines that the fair market value is, in fact, higher.” 

 

We also noted that, at the time, Hulu was viewed either as “a leader and an opportunity for Disney, or a potential financial burden.” The fact that Disney is still trying to figure out Hulu speaks to it being more burden than opportunity – but as we’ve seen over the last few years, views on streaming can change quickly.

 

Overall, Iger’s streaming emphasis was on establishing a “pricing strategy that makes sense,” as part of a “rationalization” process. That is, while subs need to grow, what Iger sees as “skyrocketed” costs must be, and are being, dealt with. He noted a need to do more marketing of programs, rather than the platforms.

 

Along these lines, he spoke of curating, that is, being more judicious in terms of how much to spend, on what, and making quality the differentiator, rather than volume.

 

As for particular brands within the Disney universe, Iger raised the question of how many times should Marvel do sequels, as opposed to tapping into more of the “7,000 characters” that it purchased in the Marvel acquisition.

 

And on the Star Wars front, he reiterated being “careful” in developing both streaming shows and movies.

 

As for the theme parks, Iger clearly was bullish, saying it was a “great” and “resilient” business. He noted the need, again, to be smarter on pricing, that is, balancing making it accessible to families, while also limiting the number of people in the parks at any time to ensure a quality experience and to maintain profitability. That’s no easy task, and one of the reasons that CEOs get paid the big dollars.

 

Disney fans, no doubt, will be pleased by Iger mentioning that creating new attractions means being able to expand attendance by giving people more things to do. He also mentioned that Disney had more opportunity to expand in California’s Disneyland than many might assume.

 

As for economic challenges, Iger seemed confident in the company’s ability to deal with both recession and cost pressures.

 

Finally, regarding a successor, Iger noted the process is ongoing, and it was his wish to leave the company on “a trajectory that is optimistic and positive.”

 

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Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, and the Alliance of Saint Michael novels; and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

 

The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right? 

 

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