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Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Friday, May 26, 2023

Kick Off Your Holiday Weekend With Cobbler From King Stefan’s Banquet Hall

 by Beth Keating



May 28, 2023


Disney has been known to make a few mistakes along the way, and one of the mistakes that has been covered up by the mists of time is the naming of the restaurant in Cinderella Castle at Disney World.  Many moons ago, the restaurant was named “King Stefan’s Banquet Hall,” an odd moniker because King Stefan was Sleeping Beauty’s father, not Cindy’s.  So why would Aurora’s dad have a restaurant in Cinderella’s castle?  Eventually, someone figured out that the name didn’t really fit, and the restaurant today is known as “Cinderella’s Royal Table.”  Regardless, it is just as difficult to get dining reservations there now as it was back in the day, when it was the purview of King Stefan.

We honeymooned at Disney World eons ago, and were privileged to dine there when it was still  King Stefan’s (and we have the mug to prove it!).  In flipping through our ancient copy of Cooking With Mickey: Gourmet Mickey Cookbook Vol. II, we came across a recipe for the now-defunct King Stefan’s Banquet Hall, and thought it might be time to give this recipe a try. After all, a berry cobbler sounds like the perfect treat to kick-off a holiday weekend! And boy, were these good! No wonder everyone loved them back in the day… They were, indeed, a fan-favorite.

This recipe is relatively easy on the pie-making scale (I’m a pie-making novice), and its blackberries, combined with the tart Granny Smith apples, offers a less sweet pie than you would normally expect in comparison to other fruit pies, but it was no less delicious. The recipe looks like a lot of steps, but it really isn’t. You could even cheat a little and use a premade refrigerated pie dough instead of making the dough from scratch if you wanted. Give it a try, and remember the good ole days of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall along the way!


Apple-Blackberry Cobbler From King Stefan’s Banquet Hall


1 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples

2 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 1/3 cups water

½ teaspoon cornstarch

½ cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)

Pie dough (recipe follows)

Egg wash (recipe follows)


Peel and core apples. Cut in quarters, then in ¼-inch slices. Add to 3-quart saucepan with butter, nutmeg, sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar and 1 cup of water. Cook until the apples are tender, but not soft. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.


After apples have become tender, reduce heat. Mix ½ teaspoon of cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water, and slowly add to apple mixture. Continue stirring until mixture thickens (3 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat and cool.

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter 6 individual baking dishes or soufflé cups. Fill each dish with ½ cup of apple mixture. Top each cup with one tablespoon of blackberries. Cover blackberries with pie dough and brush top of each crust with egg wash.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until top of each cobbler is lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve warm.


Ingredients-Pie Dough:

¾ teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups pastry flour

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup vegetable shortening

¼ cup water

¼ cup milk


Sift into a 3-quart mixing bowl salt, pastry flour, and sugar. Add shortening and blend with a pastry cutter. Combine water and milk and gradually add to flour mixture, just enough to form a moist dough. Knead lightly, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll dough ¼ inch thick and cut to fit individual baking dishes, allowing enough extra dough to hang over sides of the dish.


Ingredients-Egg Wash:

1 egg, beaten

¼ cup milk


Combine egg and milk and brush on cobbler just before baking.




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

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Is the Family Complete Now?

 by Beth Keating



May 23, 2023


It’s been several years in the making, but the trio is finally together.  Does that mean the grouping is complete, or is Disney going to try to sneak another critter into the mix on me? I’m referring, of course, to the loyal and musical pals from The Lion King, of which I have unabashedly acquired all three. (I know, it’s a popcorn bucket addiction. I’m sorry.)

Over at Animal Kingdom, Disney has been slowly dropping popcorn buckets and sippers in the likenesses of the trio of furry friends from the animated Lion King movie.  First came the Simba popcorn bucket, introduced in 2020 with a return post-COVID, and while he looked cute working on his roar, he was a bit on the wobbly side and hard to position once you got him home. Whatever, he was adorable, and a perfect souvenir from the Animal Kingdom. I ended up hanging him on a wall from his shoulder strap because he just couldn’t stand up on his own. And he’s just hung around there for the past few years, not knowing that his Pride Rock companions would be joining him later.


Along came Earth Day 2023, and Disney began offering the accompanying merch. Short-legged Pumbaa showed up in time to help kick-off Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary festivities. Cute and goofy looking, he joined Simba in the room, sitting nearby on a shelf, because his thick-skinned warthog self was well-balanced for sitting and waiting. And he didn’t have to wait long, because a mere few weeks later, a certain meerkat (see what I did there?) arrived, and the duo was now a trio.

Did Disney plan it that way, spreading out the arrival of my Timon sipper so that he was just a few weeks removed from the Earth Day arrival of Pumbaa, or was it meer-ly a coincidence of delays in supply-chain shipping that caused the gap? Was he supposed to be an Earth Day celebration drop as well? I’d like to think the Parks, Experiences and Products cast members were kindly spreading out my popcorn bucket addiction costs, rather than just trying to make me crazy by instigating my quick return to the parks to snatch up Timon. Timon’s carry strap even matched Pumbaa’s, with a special “Hakuna Matata” wonderful phrase and Animal Kingdom’s 25th  anniversary logo printed on it.  


Incidentally, Timon was $18.00 if you chose him with a bottled water, or $19.25 if you chose him with a bottled soda or Powerade.  He was available at a number of the snack carts throughout the Animal Kingdom, and as of my purchase of Timon, Pumbaa was still available at several popcorn carts. (Pumbaa was $22.) There were a few kiddos walking through the park with both buddies hanging around their necks.


Am I free to assume that our Lion King-themed food bucket series is complete now?  Or will Disney add a new personality to the group?  Perhaps Nala will show up… or maybe Mufasa! Now that would be a great addition. Be prepared!




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

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Disney World Restaurants Bringing New Menus

 by Beth Keating



May 20, 2023


There’s a lot going on in the culinary world at Disney right now!  In addition to the continuing construction at soon-to-open places like The Cake Bake Shop on the BoardWalk, and Summer House on the Lake at Disney Springs, Disney has announced a few more updates. 


This is often the time of the year when many restaurants give a seasonal refresh to their menus, and Disney restaurants are no exception. Two fan favorite spots at Disney World – The Hollywood Brown Derby and Jaleo - are getting rather large updates to their current menus, and while some of the existing popular dishes are staying, there are a plethora of new (and drool worthy) options hitting tables. On top of that, one EPCOT restaurant will be getting a do-over, with the Japan pavilion’s now closed Tokyo Dining reopening later this year as “Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya.”


First up is one of our family’s favorite haunts at Hollywood Studios – The Hollywood Brown Derby. And for those of you who might be worried, let me note right off the bat that two of the most requested items on the current menu are staying put: the famous Cobb salad, and the grapefruit cake. Whew!


Now that that is out of the way, let’s take a peek at the interesting looking additions coming to the restaurant. 

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

The appetizer selection will be expanding with a half dozen new options! Crab Louie is built from a “crispy olive bread, citrus blend, fried capers, and Louie sauce.” Of course, fancy dining establishments always offer a shrimp cocktail plate, and since Hollywood Brown Derby is the park’s Signature Dining locale, there will be a Shrimp Cocktail with shaved fennel cucumbers and traditional cocktail sauce arriving on site. An Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with shaved onions, Thai basil, and gremolata will be drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette, and is of particular interest to our household.  Also of great interest in our house is the new Charcuterie Board, with a chef’s selection of cured meats, cheeses, and accompaniments.  Many years ago, at a bed & breakfast in Vermont, we tried Escargot, and we enjoyed it enough to be looking forward to Disney’s upcoming take on the dish, with roasted garlic béchamel and crispy prosciutto.  Lastly, the chefs will be adding Roasted Bone Marrow, including braised beef, pickled mustard seeds, and a fig bread crostini. 


While these offerings alone are quite the undertaking, the Derby’s culinary team wasn’t done yet.  There are a few updates to the entrée menu as well.  Filet Mignon, paired with glazed carrots, potato pave, horseradish cream, and a peppercorn sauce will be appearing next to a Lamb Shank entrée with summer vegetables, harissa vinaigrette, and nasturtium chermoula. If those two dishes sound a little too over-the-top for you, a Free-Range Chicken and Dumplings might sound more middle of the road, but once again, the folks behind the kitchen doors are taking this dish up a notch – and adding lemon-ricotta Gnudi, shishito cream, and a gooseberry jus to the plate.  The Grilled Pork, not to be outdone in this department, will be served with a lavender-sage polenta and local corn salsa with a huckleberry barbecue sauce.

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

But wait! There are still more new offerings. The Sustainable Fish will be plated with white bean ragout, derby summer vegetables, and a roasted tomato emulsion, and the Seafood Cioppino is a medley of shrimp, sea scallops, seasonal fish, and mussels, served in an aromatic tomato broth with a toasted baguette for dipping.  For plant-based diners, there is a new offering as well, a Shepherd’s Pie, combining roasted garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, peas, corn, and carrot Romesco.  Making a dining decision at the Brown Derby is certainly going to require a lot of thought! 


At Disney Springs, Jaleo by celebrity chef José Andrés, is stirring up a new list of summer dishes to add to their famous paellas and Spanish regional specialties.  (Chef Andrés was named as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2012 and 2018.  He’s been named a James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Chef” and “Humanitarian of the Year;” and you may also know him from “World Central Kitchen,” where they have provided millions of meals for local residents in times of crisis and natural disasters.)

At Jaleo, entrées are prepared in an open kitchen, and when a new paella is ready, you’ll hear the bells ring! The kitchen’s wood fire is not only impressive, but adds great flavor to the meals, and the soaring, multi-level restaurant has a lively atmosphere.  


The new summer menu options include:  


  • Cono de Atún “Gilda”($8): Cone of Tuna Tartare, Modern Olive, Cantabrian Anchovy and Piparra Pepper
  • Gazpacho Estilo Algeciras ($10): Classic chilled Spanish soup made with Tomato, Cucumbers and Green Bell Peppers 
  • Ensalada de Aguacate y Mojo Verde “Spanish Diner” ($13): Avocado, Mojo Verde and Goat Cheese Salad
  • Piquillos Rellenos con Brandada de Bacalao ($16): Stuffed Piquillos of Bacalao and Potato served with Manchego cheese and a Bechamel Sauce
  • Mejilones a la Brasa con Mojo Verde ($16): Mussels cooked in Josper served with Mojo Verde
  • Lubina a la Pobre ($56): Whole roasted Branzino served with Potatoes, Olive Oil and Fresh Herbs
  • Ensalada de Tomate con Ventresca ($34): Heirloom Tomato Salad served with Red Onions, Piparra Peppers and 4 oz. of conserved Tuna Belly from Asturias 
  • Secreto Iberico de Bellota ($105): Secreto Iberico cooked on the basque grill and served with Pan con Tomate 
  • Pintxos Morunos de Cordero ($18): Basque Grilled Lamb Skewer with Andalusian Spices 
  • Berenjenas con Miel ($12): Fried eggplant with honey and lemon zest 
  • Atún Crudo con Aguacate ($18): Thinly sliced tuna served with avocado and a citrus dressing 


And while both The Hollywood Brown Derby and Jaleo are updating their menus for a seasonal twist, over at EPCOT, the new “Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya” in the Japan pavilion will be opening later this summer, with an emphasis on Japan’s seasonal festivals.  According to Disney, “Each month brings a new celebration to your table. From hanging tanzaku to celebrate Tanabata in July to savoring moon-viewing dumplings in September, a cultural representative from Japan will guide you through each unique festival experience, one bite at a time. The atmosphere also embraces the festivals of Japan, with the atmosphere featuring beautiful, hand painted artwork and lanterns highlighting some of the natural wonders that Japan offers as well. Each and every visit is designed to create unforgettable memories that capture the spirit of Japan’s vibrant seasonal festivities.

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

In addition to the full menu, there will also be an open sushi bar and grill, preparing such treats as Kobore SushiTokyo Negi Roll, Funamori, and The Monster Roll. The freshly prepared selections will also have that famous artistic Japanese touch: The Funamori features sashimi and sushi arranged on a boat-shaped platter. Disney says, “This iteration of Funamori is even served with the festive pomp and the boat procession of the famous Tenjin Matsuri!”

As the restaurant name suggests, a particular feature of the new eatery will be Japanese Izakaya, a “type of casual pub-style restaurant,” with its emphasis on sharing plates of food. The small plate menu includes choices such as Karaage Chicken, Salmon Misoyaki, and Tomato Salad with Avocado.

The sushi bar will be creating beautiful fresh selections, but there will also be a grill serving traditional selections such as Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake.

The restaurant will make its new home on the second floor of the Japan pavilion, in the space occupied by the former Tokyo Dining, and its huge glass windows will be a gorgeous spot for watching people on the World Showcase promenade below, or especially for evening fireworks, if you are lucky enough to grab one of those special seats!

Pack your stretchy pants for your next trip to Disney… there are a lot of new food options coming your way!


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

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Disney Pulls Plugs on Star Wars Hotel and Florida Office Development

 by Ray Keating



May 18, 2023


Today, the Walt Disney Company made a couple of major announcements regarding their investments in and around Walt Disney World. One announcement came as the result of bad decision-making by the company, while the reasons behind the other decision can, and will be, debated.

First, the Star Wars hotel – or the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – will end its voyage after just a year-and-a-half of journeying among the stars. This immersive, cosplay hotel, built on frighteningly expensive two-day stays, was launched in March 2022, and it will come to an end in September of this year. As DisneyBizJournal has argued previously, this was a rather bizarre decision that seemed destined to crash and burn – but few thought that the end would come so quickly and without trying other options.


According to various reports, Disney has not announced any plans for the building at this point.


Second, Disney has announced that it's pulling the plug on a $1 billion office complex known as the Lake Nona Town Center. 


During its most recent earnings call, when Disney CEO Bob Iger was addressing the company’s feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Iger noted that the company plans to invest $17 billion in Disney World over the coming decade. But he also asked, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?”


The project was estimated to bring 2,000 jobs to the area, including 1,000 being relocated from California.


It must be noted that Disney is in the midst of cost cutting and restructuring, and both of these decisions could tie directly into this effort. Plus, many expect a recession later this year, and if Disney is concerned about that, then closing the doors on a very expensive hotel with limited appeal makes sense, as would reining in this development project.


At the same time, there will be plenty of speculation about the development project decision being related to the Disney-DeSantis battle. Indeed, The New York Times pointed out the following:


When he announced the [Lake Nona] project in 2021, [Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman,] cited “Florida’s business-friendly climate” as justification.


Mr. D’Amaro’s tone in an email to employees on Thursday was notably different. He cited “changing business conditions” as a reason for canceling the Lake Nona project. “I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business,” Mr. D’Amaro said in the memo. He noted that $17 billion was still earmarked for construction at Disney World over the next decade — growth that would create an estimated 13,000 jobs. “I hope we’re able to,” he said.


But the company’s battle with Mr. DeSantis and his allies in the Florida Legislature figured prominently into Disney’s decision to cancel the Lake Nona project, according to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. 


The Orlando Sentinel reported that a DeSantis spokesman said, “Given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures.” Meanwhile,  state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, was quoted: “Governor Ron DeSantis is a job killing moron who cares more about his own political ambitions and culture wars than Florida and our future.” Before this news broke, U.S. Senator Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, noted that “cooler heads need to prevail,” and declared, “I think we’ve got to figure out a way forward here to bring everybody back to the table. So, we can continue to grow tourism, grow jobs, you know, give opportunities for people.”


The Disney-DeSantis feud ranks as one of the most bizarre I’ve seen in writing on the economy and business for more than three decades. It was triggered by the company staking out ground on a social issue that has nothing to do with their business, with a Republican governor who wants to be president, DeSantis, then not merely criticizing the business for doing so, but bringing the power of government down on that business for staking out ground with which he disagrees. Politics, populism, the Constitution and freedom of speech, the courts, egos, and the economy are all stirred into this toxic stew. And the only thing we know for sure is that Florida taxpayers and workers will be screwed in the end.




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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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Municiberg Becomes Pixar Place at Hollywood Studios

 by Beth Keating

Lifestyle – Park Visit


May 17, 2023


If you love a good character Meet-And-Greet, head on over to Hollywood Studios right away. It seems many guests are not yet aware that the former area of Municiberg (which was the former Toy Story Mania area) has reopened, transformed now into Pixar Place, with some of your favorite Pixar pals meeting and greeting and signing autographs in front of colorful backdrops.


The area reopened Sunday (May 14, 2023), and by mid-week, most guests were still walking by the gates to Pixar Place without giving the alleyway a second look.  In fact, if you don’t know it’s there, you might hurry on by on your way to Slinky Dog Dash.  The reimagined Pixar area is located straight past the “Walt Disney Presents” gallery, and just before you hang the sharp right into “Toy Story Land.” 


On our visit to Pixar Place, the “Edna Mode Experience,” an indoor spot to get your fashion advice directly from Edna herself (NO CAPES!), was a walk-in. PhotoPass photographers were keeping Edna company for your family’s photos, and there was only one group in line ahead of us.  


Elsewhere on the block, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (or Mrs. Incredible) were meeting together, and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. was scaring guests and giving monster-sized hugs. Both of those locations had PhotoPass-attended, colorful themed backdrops, and while poor Frozone had a PhotoPass friend, he had nothing but a brick wall to serve as his décor. 


He didn’t seem to mind, however, and was offering a variety of antics with visitors.  He was probably excited to be in the new zone with his pals, rather than in his previous, more isolated location on the lawn near Hollywood Brown Derby, tucked back from visitors. He appeared pretty happy to be teaching a few “heroes in training” how to freeze things, without having to speed up to accommodate a long line of guests. The kids were taking their time laughing and goofing with Frozone.


The longest of the Meet-and-Greet lines was for Sulley, and there was but a five minute long line with four or five families waiting.  Sulley also relocated to Pixar Place from his former meeting spot inside the “Walt Disney Presents” gallery building.  All in all, the kiddos were getting great play time with the characters, with plenty of moments for autographs and individual interactions.


When the Meet-and-Greet area closed later in the day, a large brown gate blocked off the street, so if you were hoping to use the shady benches for a bit of a peaceful rest (as many of us have done since Municiberg ceased active operations way back when), you’ll have to find a new secret relaxing spot.


Right now, Edna Mode, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Frozone and Sulley are the only scheduled characters meeting in the new Pixar Place, but there are a few slots that look to be ready to add additional friends, such as the Luxo Jr. lamp/Pixar ball backdrop that was empty this week.  Who might be arriving there?


Oh, and if you are so inclined, the small Neighborhood Bakery kiosk has reopened, with the giant Jack-Jack’s Num Num Cookie ($6.19) once again for sale there.  Who can resist a “super” giant chocolate chip cookie?




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

Monday, May 15, 2023

Cinderella Coach 100th Anniversary Popcorn Buckets on Sale at Disney World

 by Beth Keating



May 15, 2023


I have a popcorn bucket problem… and my family knows it.  


For the past few years, I’ve been collecting Disney popcorn buckets, ever since the original Millennium Falcon version came out. And please, don’t ever actually put the popcorn in the vessel, because as anyone knows, that popcorn grease (and the popcorn smell!) will never come out of the plastic. You’ll never catch me taking advantage of the $2.25 popcorn bucket refill prices, either, because the bucket must remain pristine.  (The little round plastic refillable buckets are a different story, though. Have at it and refill to your heart’s content. They aren’t quite as “special” as the limited time premium souvenir buckets… and not nearly as pricey!)

I have been enamored of the Cinderella Coach popcorn bucket since it arrived (in a different color) a number of years ago at Disneyland (maybe in 2015 or so?).  But, being an East Coast family, and Cinderella’s carriage being a West Coast promotion, I sadly didn’t end up with the bucket in my collection.


Fast forward to this year’s 100th anniversary celebration, and the splendid carriage reappeared – at Disneyland again! -  as a 100th anniversary platinum-colored edition with a special 100th anniversary shoulder strap.  And once again I was envious.   


Lo, and behold, weeks later, with very little advertising or fanfare, it was announced that Cindy’s wheels would be arriving in Florida’s Magic Kingdom as well. My son, knowing how much I wanted that carriage, went over to the Kingdom and sacrificially stood in a verrry long line to get a Cinderella coach for me just in time for Mother’s Day.  (And while the line was indeed long, it didn’t approach the six hour “Figment Bucket” line craziness.)


The Cinderella popcorn bucket runs $28.00 at Disney World, and is available at various popcorn carts throughout the park.  We got ours (or rather, he got ours) at the popcorn cart in front of Cinderella Castle.  And while these beauties are selling quickly (there were only nine left at the cart when my son got to the front of the line), the cast members did say they would be restocking for the next day.  Unlike the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Popcorn Bucket mobile order process (which was very efficiently run, by the way), this popcorn bucket is not available through mobile order.


Now the only decision you’ll have to make is whether to grab this bucket earlier in the day to ensure you have it in case of a run on sales, or to wait until later in the day so you don’t have to carefully tote your treasure around on rides for eight or ten hours.  Because, be forewarned, the wheels on the bucket go ‘round and ‘round… and are pretty easily broken.  So, the dilemma is whether to acquire the target early and baby it all day so it doesn’t get broken, or risk grabbing it later in the day and maybe missing out.  Cast members did say they expected this bucket to be around for a little while because of the 100th anniversary celebration, but they didn’t have a firm expectation of the timeline.  While the buckets were selling quickly, they also seemed to be restocking frequently. They are billed, however, as “while supplies last.”


As for me, it was a happy Mother’s Day…. I finally got my fancy carriage, many years in the waiting!




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