Friday, April 30, 2010

Buffet Review--Chef Mickey's

What could be better than having breakfast with Mickey Mouse on your first birthday?!?!

Chef Mickey's Restaurant at Disney's Contemporary Resort (Approx $27 per adult, kids under 3 free)

Six months prior to our trip, I spent over an hour on the phone starting at 6:00 a.m. central time to get an ADR for Chef Mickey's breakfast since this very popular restaurant fills up quickly.  (There is also an online reservation system but it was not working on this particular day due to the recent completion of upgrades to Disney's system.)  My party of 6 was scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on the big day. 

After checking in, we were escorted to the photo line.  Here Photopass photographers take group shots behind a large figure of Mickey and in front of a giant plate.  A photo package was brought to the table later.  This one was $32 and included one 5x7, 4 4x6 and a very creative folder with coloring postcards and recipes.  The images can be added to your Photopass card only if you buy the package at the restaurant.  After photos, we waited a few minutes before our pager went off.  We were more fortunate here in terms of seating and character rotation.  Our table was part of a small section along a wall with booths on the wall side and chairs on the other side.  This was much more spacious than our previous character meal experience.  Our server took drink orders and we all got settled in.  My husband brought back Mickey waffles, eggs, and fruit for Tink.  They use the same waffle iron as 1900 Park Fare but these were a superior recipe.  My brother brought me a plate with all sorts of breakfast goodies.  We all agreed that we preferred the food selection here.  They have all the usual suspects of a breakfast buffet: eggs, bacon and sausage, fruit bar, breakfast breads, cheesy potatoes (yum!), etc.  Pancakes were made fresh on a large griddle on the buffet line.

As good as the food is, the real attraction is Mickey.  The characters at this location are Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck.  The boys were all in chef's jackets or aprons and chef hats.  Minnie was wearing her classic red polka dot dress.  We were most of the way through our meal before our first visitor, Donald, arrived.  The characters did a good job of visiting with Tink and all signed her birthday card.  We were accidentally skipped by Minnie and Pluto, but the character handlers corrected the problem quickly. 

Chef Mickey's is a great place for a birthday and it seems like nearly every table is celebrating.  During the song that plays regularly throughout the morning, Tink was presented with a cupcake and "I'm Celebrating" button.  They must really go through the cupcakes here because this one was still warm when it arrived.  (I could use one of those now.)  It was tasty but not up to Grand standards.

Chef Mickey's earned an 8/10.  The food quality was high, our server was average, location is great.  Character meals are never cheap but there is no way we could have stood in line for all of those characters with a one year-old.  I would go back and would recommend this restaurant.  Maybe next time we'll check out the dinner buffet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Airline Lessons Learned

We flew with Tink right before and after her first birthday.  I am thankful I wasn't flying alone with her on the first voyage but I am ready to take on the challenge this fall.  Tink is a very active, curious, and social little girl.  Expecting her not to be this way on a plane full of new people to wave at would have been wrong.  As usual, Andy and I overprepared and overworried.  I had enough toys and snacks for Tink's whole playgroup.  When it came down to it, she didn't need much.  We gave her a bottle during each takeoff to help with pressure in her ears.  Thankfully our flights were all fairly close to a mealtime, so that helped her keep some sort of a schedule.  I had a cup with juice & water for her as well.  Be aware that the Nuby spout cup doesn't handle the pressure of flight well.  It's a great cup on land but not the best for flight day.  She didn't want to eat much on travel days so the apple crisps, yogurt drops, and raisins were lifesavers.  We gate checked Tink's stroller in each city.  It was great to have a safe place for her to be while we were gathering luggage and paperwork and she even napped in the stroller during one of our layovers in Houston.  As far as toys and books, a couple of small toys and one book would have been enough.  We didn't let Tink play with the safety instruction card until our last flight when a flight attendant gave her one.  She said they have many of them on the plane.  It turned out to be more entertaining than the SkyMall catalogs Tink had been destroying.  We didn't spring for an official seat for Tink but were thrilled that we ended up with an extra seat on our row 3 of 4 flights.  That extra space where she could wiggle and play peek-a-boo with the people behind us was wonderful.  And if you have an iPod Touch or iPhone, that's the secret weapon.  Toddler Phone is Tink's favorite app and even Fisher-Price has apps available.  Remember when See and Say was huge?  Now it is an app and in the palm of your hand.  The best things I can tell you to pack for travel with a baby or toddler are your sense of humor and lots of patience.  Even if it goes bad, you'll be at your destination soon and you probably won't see those people again.

What tips and tricks do you have to share?  We came up with a great plan for having an empty seat on our row with Southwest, but you'll have to email me for that one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Buffet Review--Supercalifragilistic Breakfast

On our recent trip to Walt Disney World, we took Tink to three buffet meals.  Each was a very different experience.  Our group included my husband and I (30-somethings), my one year-old daughter, my 28 year-old brother, and my 50-something parents.  I'm going to review each meal.

Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa  (Approx $25 per adult, Kids under 3 are free)
We arrived on time for our 11:10 Advance Dining Reservation.  After a great group photo, we were seated in a smaller room off the main dining room.  I was hoping this was a good sign but I was wrong.  They had just seated the three tables around us so everyone was moving at the same time.  The server was not very understanding that it takes some time to settle a 12 month-old child.  I felt rushed by her and the characters who arrived and stirred up the room just moments after we were seated.  Unfortunately, it's just luck as to where the characters are in their rotation when you are seated, but it does make a difference in your initial experience.  I did not check out the buffet line myself due to the chaos.  My husband brought back food for Tink and my brother brought me a plate.  The food was good and it sounded like they were replenishing the supply regularly even though we were at the end of the meal time.  The characters at this location are Mary Poppins, Pooh, Tigger, Alice, and the Mad Hatter.  All of them spent a good amount of time with Tink.  We got good pictures and autographs on her birthday card.  This was her first time meeting characters and it went great other than the Mad Hatter.  I am sure he is lots of fun with teenagers, but he picked at Tink and made her cry. 

I give this meal 6/10.  The food was fairly good.  They have all the standards: eggs, waffles, bacon, and a few special items like lobster benedict.  Tink loved the Mickey waffles, eggs, and fruit.  Kid-friendly restaurants tend to be loud, but our group couldn't have a conversation over the noise.  I am glad to have tried something new, and the family photo was worth it, but I don't see us returning to this restaurant.  Possible bonus points:  Tink was given a large cupcake for her birthday.  Never turn down anything coming out of the bakery at the Grand.  They made my wedding cake and this cupcake was a wonderful treat later in the day. 

Have you dined here?  What did you think?  Please comment below.

Coming soon: a review of breakfast at Chef Mickey's.

Starting Them Early

I recently returned from my daughter's first trip to Walt Disney World.  The major points of my life have involved the World and her young life is the same.  I announced to my parents that Tink was on the way right before the start of Illuminations.  Tink celebrated her first birthday with breakfast at Chef Mickey's.  Her first ride was Small World.  Her closet and toy box include famous mice, bears, and donkeys.  She drifts off listening to Disney lullabyes.  She's my Disney baby.