In Which Jenn & Pat Are Done With Port Orleans Riverside

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Pat and I have now stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice. We are unlikely to do so again.

Oh, I’m being histrionic – but the gist is accurate. Having considered our experience at POR and compared it to alternatives, we have come to the conclusion that it is not the resort for us. Indeed, almost all moderates are not good fits. (Click here to find out how we decided to stay at POR in the first place.)

The primary reason is the bus situation. There is, of course, the issue of multiple bus stops, which we don’t love, but that’s not the main issue. The biggest problem is the crowding. As far as we can tell, 50% of everyone at WDW is staying at POR at any given time, and 30% of them are waiting for a bus.

Histrionics again. But seriously, this resort holds a lot of people. At one point a bus driver used the intercom to make this precise point to us, urging us to linger in the Magic Kingdom after closing time to avoid massive bus lines. And we did find massive bus lines, at pretty much all times of day.

So there’s that. On a related note, there’s the food court. This is also crowded – duh. They generally are. But as I noted in my food review, POR seems to handle the crowds poorly. Unlike, say, Pop, where corrals and clearly marked and separated bays keep lines in place, POR’s food court is a badly organized free-for-all.

One nice perk often noted about POR is the on-site table service restaurant, Boatwright’s. But having dined there twice now, we find it to be mediocre at best. We would just as soon hightail it over to Disney Springs and go restaurant hopping if we want to eat outside the parks.

Just okay – although points for the cornbread.

These are all nitpicks, mostly, not vacation ruining problems. We had a lovely time at POR, but considering that it cost us almost twice as much to stay there over a room at a value resort, we find the upgrades don’t warrant the cost increase. I understand that Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs are similarly sized and crowded (I’ll – sigh – find out soon enough). The only possible exception is Port Orleans French Quarter, which, with its small size and single bus stop, would eliminate a lot of the above annoyances.

But I find it far more likely than on our next trip we will swing one of two ways: be cheap and stay at Pop, or go all out and splurge on the Polynesian, which Pat unexpectedly fell in love with on our visit to Trader Sam’s (sorry, Contemporary, you’ve been demoted to #2 on his favorites list).

This ends my April 2017 trip coverage. Boo. (Nothing like finishing on a negative note.) Thanks to all for reading – I always enjoy dissecting my WDW trips! Guess it’s time to start pestering Pat to go again…

Have you stayed at POR? What do you think of moderate resorts? Are they worth it to you?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Lunch At The Brown Derby Lounge

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

My final restaurant review for this trip report was probably my favorite of the trip, edging out even our meal of California Grill for sheer enjoyment.

The timing worked out so that we rope-dropped the restaurant, filing in with a small handful of people at noon and selecting our own seat toward the back by the railing. This turned out to be a lovely location, as we could see the Galaxy Far, Far Away show and Captain Phasma’s March of the First Order. Not that we hadn’t seen the latter enough already, mind you, but it’s always nice to enjoy a show with your meal.

I had been deeply saddened to see that the champagne flight had been recently yanked from the menu just before my arrival again, even though even now it’s listed on the official Disney online menu. But then several things we DID get AREN’T, so I’m not sure anyone’s entirely clear on what the Lounge serves…?

Anyway, in an effort to capture some bubbly magic, I started off with the champagne cocktail, consisting of Fairy Tale Iron Horse sparkling wine, elderflower liqueur, and bitters. Fun fact: bitters are bitter; the aftertaste wasn’t my jam. I liked the bubbles but it’s a pass from me.

Pat got a whiskey sour and indeed that’s what it was. I made him take my maraschino cherry too because BLEH.

We started off the food portion of our meal with conchita pibil steamed buns, which came topped with hot sauce and pickled onion. These were AWESOME, both in texture and taste; but then I’ll eat just about anything in a steamed bun, and I dig on pickled vegetables. Pat liked them too if that counts for anything.

This was quickly followed by an item our server told us was new to the menu but already his favorite: tamarind glazed pork belly, accompanied by chorizo, plaintain, sweet potato hash, and mango pico de gallo. I challenge you to find one thing in that list that doesn’t promise beauty and wonder. Can’t do it, can you? So of course this was excellent, led by a rich, delicious pork belly.

For my second round, I went for the Derby Cocktail, consisting of Whiskey, honey syrup, and grapefruit juice. I liked this one quite a bit – the whiskey was nicely tempered by the honey which was in turn cut by the acidity of the grapefruit juice. Bonus: it came with a derby glow cube!

Pat got red wine. Boring. But at least it was a malbec, so, good choice.

For our final food item we selected the cheese and charcuterie board. The menu is kind of vague as to what you’ll be receiving exactly, probably to give the kitchen some wiggle room. We wound up with baguette slices, pickles and olives along side prosciutto, salami, pate, and an assortment of tasty but unremarkable cheese. Really this was charcuterie at its most basic. It was good, because of course it was good, but it had nothing on what was presented at the California Grill a few days prior.

We wiled away a lovely, leisurely lunch at the Brown Derby Lounge, with good food, good drinks, excellent service, and no ADR required. Get there right at noon for lunch, and thank me later.

This ends my food coverage for our April trip, but I may have one or two more posts up my sleeve…

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: A Disney Springs Mini Bar Crawl

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

(I mean the crawl was mini. The bars were not.)

I can sometimes be a commando park aficionado to my own detriment. Rather than rest a bit after the Dark Side Half, I scheduled a bunch of Magic Kingdom FastPasses and kept on rollin.’ This was very much in keeping with my philosophies but not with my energy levels, and by early afternoon I was already dragging.

Luckily, Pat had requested a trip to Disney Springs this time around, and this make the perfect respite from the organized chaos that surrounds Cinderella Castle on all sides. We picked up a bus from the Contemporary and by the time we had finished our mini bar crawl I was considerably perked up. (I crashed later, of course, but this was a valiant rally.)

Stop #1 was Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, where Pat was confused because he is a big Indy fan and Jock Lindsey barely registers with him as even existing. Nevertheless, it was definitely an Indiana Jones-themed bar, so in we went.

Much is made of the innards of the bar, what with its many sly winks to the film series, but it was kinda dark and crowded in there and the diving bell booth was already taken, boo. We took seats on the covered patio by the lake instead, and this proved to be very pleasant. Our view included the Boathouse’s amphicars coming and going, and we were next to the radio that signals an incoming flight now and again.

For my first drink, I selected a seasonal “jocktail” (okay, sure, why not): the Kali Ma Garita. Kali Ma, Pat reminded me, is the Indian prince from Temple of Doom. I was more interested in the fact that this drink combined my two favorite types of margarita – jalapeno and watermelon. This was good, but sadly not as spicy as I would’ve liked.

Having perused the menu ahead of time, Pat already knew what he wanted: the Cool-Headed Monkey. I don’t know if he cared what was in it; he just wanted to drink it out of the monkey head glass (we were having a Temple sort of day). This drink features rum, tangerine liqueur, and an assortment of fruit juices that sounded promising, but Pat found it to be pretty bland. At least he got his glass!

Upon the return of our waitress, I grilled her a bit about my next drink selection; given my enjoyment of spicy, she suggested an Anything Goes. Spiked with “fire dragon spirit,” she promised it would be sufficiently picante. I don’t know what fire dragon spirit is, but I know this drink was awesome, tempered with fruit juices and pretty to boot. Would order again!

Pat ordered his second drink, the Reggie’s Revenge, on the strength of the Midori melon liqueur alone. Helped along by orange vodka, lime juice, and white cranberry juice, this one was a hit as well.

We chose to skip food here, instead picking up the check and heading over to Frontera Cocina. Pat got a standard house margarita, but I kept my personal theme going and ordered the “Play with Fire,” a margarita featuring cucumber and jalapeno and my choice of tequila or mezcal; I went with tequila as I’m not a huge mezcal fan. This was good but no better than my local place, which does the same for half the cost.

It was definitely half past food time, so we got some bacon guacamole to share, which was well-balanced and delicious if you’re as obsessed with avocado as I am. Pat also enjoyed some chicken tostadas while I munched on a surprisingly elevated Caesar salad that included such unusual ingredients as avocado (never too much!), caramelized onions, Cotija cheese, and chipotle lime dressing.

This ended the culinary portion of our Disney Springs adventure. It was a satisfying afternoon, and one Pat and I are eager to repeat at our next opportunity. So many restaurants still to try!! O.o

But not Jaleo. I can walk to a Jaleo from my apartment. Take that, Disney Springs!

What are your favorite Disney Springs restaurants? Can you walk to a Jaleo already?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Insists On A Photo In Front Of The Castle

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Having failed in locating a non-swamped PhotoPass photographer outside Spaceship Earth, I was bound and determined to make it happen in front of Cinderella Castle. The closer you are to the castle the longer the lines – but if you’re willing to accept a slightly less impressive backdrop, the photographers further down Main Street are much easier to secure.

And may well be even better – or perhaps it’s only that they have more time without the press of a waiting line. Regardless, when we stepped in front of the camera, I thought we were in for a few perfunctory clicks and off you go. Instead, we were lead through such a lengthy, directed shoot that you could almost believe we payed extra to get these shots. But we did not. It’s just the Disney magic.

Is this the exact same photo? Or are there subtle variations?
It’s hard to tell…

Regrettably, I didn’t get our photographer’s name, but she was an older lady (60ish?) with short hair and a bubbly personality. Look for her!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: The Nomad Lounge Review

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

The Nomad Lounge in Disney’s Animal Kingdom worries me, and here’s why: positioned at the mouth of the new Pandora land, I fear it will soon cease to be a hidden gem, a la the sudden rush on Sanaa. Can nothing remain secret?!

Nevertheless, I would never be so oppressive as to demand this wonderful bar hide its proverbial light under a proverbial bushel. But I made sure to take Pat there in April just in case it becomes impossible to breach later.

Presented with the option of seating inside or outside, we went with a small two-person table on the patio next to the railing. It was a nice view of the lake that I’m sure is now a fantastic view of the bridge to Pandora, although I do wish it wasn’t obstructed by the slats of the patio railing.

As I famously crowed, the Nomad Lounge features a drink named after me! It’s called the Jenn’s Tattoo and I will never be less enchanted by that fact. Unfortunately, if you recall from my review, that particular drink is a bit too sweet to be in my regular rotation. So I was on the menu hunt for something new.

It wasn’t too hard to make a call – I went for the Hightower Rocks, a simple mixture of tequila, watermelon juice, lime, and sweet-and-sour. Pat very wisely went for the same.

I say very wisely because this drink is AWESOME. The ingredient proportions are spot on, but more importantly, it comes with a full wedge of watermelon! AMAZING. We wound up doing two rounds of the same. It was that good.

We also picked up what the menu calls African-spiced Wagyu beef sliders. These were good, but the patties were pretty small and I don’t recall detecting anything African-spicy about them. The potatoes on the side were interesting, with an almost plantain-esque texture. There’s nothing wrong with these but nothing excellent about them either.

Overall, though, the Nomad Lounge is glorious. PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE.

***

While we’re in the neighborhood, here are a few more notes about the state of dining in the Animal Kingdom that don’t warrant a full post but might be of interest:

Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery no longer carries paw print brownies and our hearts are BROKEN. Their chocolate chip cookie is undistinguished and NOT THE SAME. However, their breakfast burrito is solid.

Dawa Bar in Harambe is another great place to drink because you can do it while listening to Burudika! I love Burudika!

Thirsty River Bar in Serka Zong is a wonderful thing. I highly recommend taking a Fireball shot or two and then riding Everest or Dinosaur.

That’s all from from the DAK food scene for this trip. I can’t wait to see how Pandora has added to the mix!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Dining At Port Orleans Riverside

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

One of the perks of upgrading to a moderate resort is expanded food options – for the most part, the resorts one tier up have additional bar(s) plus sit-down restaurants. To that end, let’s talk about what kind of food experience you can expect at Port Orleans Riverside.

It is… okay.

Let’s start with the food court. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that value resorts are actually better when it comes to counter service. Pop has clearly delineated food bays and queues, with stanchions and everything. POR has smushed together bays and unclear lines. I get the idea that POR was not designed to handle the magnitude of crowds it now enjoys, whereas Pop was made with that in mind.

The end result in the confusion and the assembly-line food preparation is that the food is generally served in the lukewarm to cold area, with little quality control. My Mickey waffle, while adorable, somehow managed to be both a touch overdone and room temperature at best. The bacon was decent but the sausage was kinda gross. The bananas foster sauce was a nice touch, though.

Do not even MENTION Pat’s biscuits and gravy. Just… why? Even Pat, who voluntarily ordered it for some reason, agrees this was a mistake.

The only other thing we got was my pre-race pasta kids’ meal. This was also basically cold. I think POR’s food court could use a redesign.

Another food option is the River Roost Lounge bar. Important note: you cannot order food from Boatwright’s here. They have their own specific bar menu, consisting of sliders and nachos and suchlike. We got both of these options (although Pat ate most of them since it was pre-race and I didn’t want to risk any spice-induced indigestion) and they were both fine. Nothing to write home about.

Major River Roost bonus, though: they offer Abita Purple Haze on tap. On tap! It’s SO GOOD on tap! And yet kinda underwhelming in bottles. Why?

I hear tell Yeehah Bob performs here, but I’ve never seen it. SLANDER AND HEARSAY.

Then there’s Boatwright’s itself, the resident full service establishment. Cool decor here in the boat skeletons, pleasant waitstaff, mediocre food. My jambalaya was decent – they didn’t skimp on the shrimp, which was nice – but Pat’s steak didn’t sit well with him. Add to this a chocolate cake with NO FROSTING(?!) and this is not a restaurant to which I am clamoring to return. Admittedly it is nice to have the on-site sit-down option, but I’m not sure it’s worth the increased price.

Points for the cornbread and butter, though!

We never went to the pool bar because based on the online menu we thought they only served drinks and we wanted food at the time. But there are banners on some lampposts advertising it that show sandwiches? MYSTERIOUS.

So our POR dining experience was meh at best. Yet another reason we’re not jazzed (’cause it’s New Orleans!) to return, but we’ll talk about that more in another post.

Have you eaten at POR dining establishments? What did you think?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Pat Are Frozen With Fear At The Haunted Mansion

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

It was Pat who spotted the PhotoPass photographer, not me. I blazed right past her in my quest to ride the Haunted Mansion, but he saw and asked if I wanted to stop on the way out. Post doom-buggy exit, we pulled off to the side of the path, just pass the pet cemetery.

The mini photo shoot seemed unremarkable. The photographer took the usual pictures – some long shots showing the whole of the Haunted Mansion, some closer up that highlighted our smiling faces, the only hint of our location the curling design of the iron fence.

Finally, the trick shot: “Look scared,” she instructed us. We pantomimed as best we could.

Then we were done. I tapped my Magic Band to connect the photos to my account and we continued on our way.

I was not surprised by the last bit of instructed playacting, being no stranger to “magic shots” or whatever they call them. I assumed the Hitchhiking Ghosts would be superimposed. It was only later, stuck in the Magical Express on our way to the airport, that I accessed the photos and discovered that our picture was so much better than that.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure that isn’t right. But as was pointed out to me on Twitter, maybe they thought we looked cold?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Dinner At The California Grill

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

We last left our monorail loop dining adventure at Trader Sam’s, where we had a couple rounds of drinks. We would’ve been happy to keep at it, but we had a 6:50pm ADR to make at California Grill.

A monorail ride to the Contemporary later and we were walking up to the restaurant podium, where a very pleasant Cast Member checked us in. I was careful to specifically request a Magic Kingdom-side table, hoping for sweet views a la last time, but this only sort of worked…

An operator escorted us onto the exclusive elevator and into the restaurant, where we were given a pager and sent off to the bar. We were just taking a seat there, the bartender laying down drink napkins for us, when the pager went off. “They do this to me all the time,” he said sadly as we walked away. We promised to come back after the meal.

I was saddened to see that while my Magic Kingdom-side request had been honored, we were seated toward the back of the restaurant, with only the slightest sliver of the park viewable depending on whether the table in front of us were seated. Note to self: if you want window-side, request it. I hadn’t because I didn’t want to seem too demanding and ended up regretting it. Oh well! It was still nice.

I’m afraid I don’t remember our waiter’s name, only that he was from Morocco. Yusuf, my brain is suggesting? Let’s go with that. Anyway, he was extremely excellent – exactly the sort of understated elegance one expects from a fine dining establishment, pleasant and present when you need him but not overbearing.

Our meal began with bread – rolls and killer herbed focaccia with butter – and drinks that were apparently so unremarkable I did not photograph them. I think I just got something sparkling and Pat got something red to accompany his steak. The super classy bit was when Pat asked Yusuf to help him pick between two wines; Yusuf proceeded to bring out both bottles for Pat to taste and select from, completely unprompted. Good show, good show.

We selected the charcuterie plate to share as our appetizer, and this turned out to be the hit of the night. First off all, it comes on a pig-shaped cutting board that is equally parts adorable and a touch morbid, incidentally two words that could also describe my aesthetic.

Cute, right? As for the contents, they ranged from interesting to delicious to interesting AND delicious, and it was a ton of fun to mix and match bites with the bread or accompanying pickled vegetables. Meats included duck, salami, pork belly, and I want to say venison as well.

Yusuf came by to take our entree order, after which I hopped out of my chair to check out the various decks, Magic Kingdom side and Epcot side. Unexpectedly, I thought the Epcot deck was a better view of the Magic Kingdom, being closer to centered on the castle, but if you want to stare longingly at Space Mountain the MK side is for you.

Pat got a steak. He said it was good, and cooked perfectly. Boring. Take a look at MY meal:

I technically ordered off the “appetizer” menu, if you consider sushi an appetizer. This was tuna three ways: raw, seared, and in maki. I have an odd attitude toward tuna: I HATE HATE HATE it out of a can but a seared tuna steak or raw slice of sashimi is full of beauty and wonder to my taste buds. This tuna was all excellent. Not, like, never have I ever had such magnificent fish excellent, but certainly worthy of a place in a fancy restaurant.

We chose to skip dessert, instead picking up a couple drinks from the bar (see, Mr. Bartender? We said we’d be back!) and taking them out on the Epcot-side deck for my final live viewing of the Wishes fireworks. I didn’t actively cry, I just teared up a little. Nothing rolled down my cheeks, people! But this new Happily Ever After business BETTER BE GOOD.

California Grill is expensive, no question. But if you’re good for a splurge, I think it’s worth it. Also it appears to be where the sugar daddies bring their sugar babies, so if you’re lucky you may get a floor show in the form of a dude in socks and sandals massaging the shoulders of a women twenty years younger whose facial expression is very sour indeed. Entertainment!

No, but seriously, California Grill. Get the charcuterie and check that view. Do it!

Have you been to the California Grill? What did you think?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Drinks At Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Our first and only real Advanced Dining Reservation of the trip was at none other than the California Grill, way high up there atop the Contemporary Resort, where the food, the view, and the prices are all equally killer.

But that wasn’t enough for us. Oh no. We extended the experience by leaving the hot, crowded Magic Kingdom early and taking the resort loop monorail to the Polynesian for a couple drink in the patio at Trader Sam’s.

This, my friends, was oh, such a good choice. The drinks were good, but the atmosphere was what rocked my world. And I say that having not gone inside. I KNOW, I KNOW – Trader Sam’s is famous for its goofy innards. But the patio was so relaxed we couldn’t bear to leave it. Pat and I chilled outside under an umbrella with lovely view of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Our server was very nice – spread a bit thin over many tables, but we could flag her when we needed her. For round one, Pat got a Dark & Tropical Stormy, essentially a dark and stormy with the addition of something called “falernum.” Neither of us had the slightest idea what that is, but he loved his drink so much that he has vowed to find a bottle for home use.

I got Rosita’s Margarita. This was a margarita. I have no complaints. It also had falernum in it? I don’t know what that does.

Round two: Pat got a HippopatoMaiTai, which came in a Very Happy Glass. This did not contain falernum, but it did contain something called “orgeat (almond).” It must have worked because Pat raved about it. Look how happy he is!

My second drink was the Tahitian Torch, a very fruity concoction full of tropical juices and something called “Dragon Fire Spirit.” Perhaps this is another name for “falernum.” Either way, I liked it – it was sweet and pleasant without being cloying.

Twisty straws for everyone!

We could’ve happily hung out for a third or even fourth round, maybe gotten a few appetizers even, but that California Grill ADR was calling us. Post about that coming soon!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn DID NOT PEE HERSELF DURING THE DARK SIDE HALF, SWEAR

Perhaps you are rolling your eyes already at the subject line of this post. Perhaps you are quite sick of looking at me. Perhaps you have written me off as a narcissist. It’s okay. I understand.

But my Annual Pass expires in December, and with it, my free PhotoPass downloads. Will I ever get another? Maybe. As of now, though, these are the last free runDisney photos I will ever download.

SO NATURALLY IT LOOKS LIKE I PEED MYSELF IN HALF OF THEM.

It’s thigh sweat! THIGH SWEAT!
And possibly some anti-chafing gel? I tend to slather it on for races. Things to rethink…
JESUS CHRIST.

IT’S SWEAT, PEOPLE! SWEAT!

WHY? WHY?? WHY DID I WEAR GRAY INSTEAD OF BLACK? WHY DO I SWEAT BETWEEN MY LEGS?????? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!?!?!

Whatever. Girl Moff Tarkin OUT.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!