Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Disneyland Annual Passholder Fantasmic 20th Anniversary event - May 14, 2012

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the debut of Fantasmic, Disneyland announced plans to host 4 nights of special showings for annual passholders, on May 14, 15, 21 and 22.  These sounded similar to the Soundsational nights that had been held last summer, which we really enjoyed.

I arrived around 4:30pm on May 14 and looked around to see what the evening would entail.  I was able to obtain a copy of the program which included a lot of details.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

As indicated on the front of the handout, the special merchandise was available at Pioneer Mercantile (at the front of Frontierland, next to the restrooms between Adventureland and Frontierland) and at Port Royale (in New Orleans Square, in what was formerly Le Bat en Rouge).  Both locations had the same merchandise, a t-shirt and a zippered fleece with a hood.  Port Royale also had the soundtrack for Fantasmic, but I believe it was the same CD that has been available.  The items are behind the counter, so you need to ask a cast member for what you want.

The pricing for the anniversary apparel.

The logo on the front of the t-shirt is the same as the logo on the back of the zippered fleece.

T-shirt on display with stack of zippered fleece to the right.

The zippered fleece is not very thick but is a lighter fleece.  With the main logo on the back, the front top left has a smaller logo on it.

Both the t-shirt and the zippered fleece have the anniversary date on the sleeve.

I was really happy to see this date on the apparel.

The back of the event program gave details about where the party was situated and what treats would be available for the event.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

As stated on the program, only Adventureland, Frontierland and New Orleans Square would be open for the event.

French Market in New Orleans Square had several items specific to the event.

French Dip Sandwich with N'Orleans Chips at  French Market for $12.99.

The French Dip is what I ended up having for dinner, and I really liked it.  The bread was a nice firmness, not too hard and not too soft.  The meat was nicely cooked and had good flavor.  Rather than dipping the sandwich, I instead used a spoon to drizzle the au jus on each part of the sandwich as I ate it, so it didn't get too soggy, and the flavor of the au jus was delicious.  Instead of the chips, I was able to substitute cooked mixed vegetables instead.  With the meat and bread of the sandwich, having the vegetables and the grapes nicely rounded out the meal.

Popcorn Shrimp Basket with Slaw at French Market for $12.99.

The popcorn shrimp looked ok, but since I'd just had quite a bit of really good shrimp the day before, I had decided to have the French Dip instead.

Fantasmic cupcake available at French Market and River Belle Terrace.

The Mickey picture, the dragon and the ball are all edible.  Some of the cupcakes we saw on display were missing the dragon, and we joked that it was themed for the nights when the dragon is being temperamental and decides not to make an appearance.  I don't know what flavor the cupcake or frosting is.

River Belle Terrace had a few items we considered for dinner as well.

Open Face New York Steak Sandwich at River Belle Terrace.

An Open Face Turkey Sandwich is available as well.

The two table-service restaurants also had special items on their menus.

Special items at Cafe Orleans.

Special items at Blue Bayou.

The program also indicated that a souvenir popcorn bucket was available at the popcorn carts in Frontierland and New Orleans Square.  I had run into some friends, so we decided to go check out the popcorn bucket, which unfortunately was very disappointing to us.  The bucket said "Disney Parks" instead of Disneyland, which I don't much like but have gotten used to because it means Disney intends to sell that merchandise at both the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort.  What we found really odd, though, was that not only was there no reference to the 20th anniversary, Fantasmic itself wasn't even identified on the bucket.  It had Sorcerer Mickey fighting Maleficent the dragon, but the scene makes it look like they're on a theatre stage, with a few of the Fab Five characters sitting in cushioned individual theatre seats watching, as Ursula, Jafar, Scar and one or two other villains look on from Maleficent's side.  Neither the California nor Florida version of the show are performed in an inside theatre, so the choice of that setting was really odd.  I also wasn't happy that they chose to include villains like Jafar and Scar, who appear in the Disney's Hollywood Studios version of the show, but not Disneyland's version.  So we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show at Disneyland, which originated in Disneyland, but there is no reference to either the anniversary or the show name itself on the bucket, and they're more referencing the Orlando version of the show?  That just seems wrong.  A few of us had considered getting the popcorn bucket, but not once we saw the design they chose to use on it.

And while I'm on a rant, here's a note to the Disney folk on another topic.

Your program indicates that a premium chili cheese dog and the bacon mac-n-cheese dog are available at "Harbor Gallery".  You might want to know that the *actual* name of the dining location near Haunted Mansion is Harbor Galley.  I'm not generally bothered by guests who don't know the real names of restaurants, shops or attractions.  (If a random guest asks me if I know where the "haunted house" is, I just point them towards the Haunted Mansion without chastising them for not knowing its proper name since I know not everyone is as familiar with the park as some of us are.)  But I would think that an official publication from the park itself would properly indicate the names of its locations.

By the time I was done perusing everything, it was about 7pm, and the rest of my party were arriving at Disneyland, so we went to check in.  The person who has the voucher needs to check in at one of the ticket booths, and all of the guests also need to present their APs.  You then get a "receipt" that you present to one of the cast members standing next to the ticket booths, who then put a wristband on each person, and you can get your program from them as well.  Now in possession of our magic wristbands, we went back into the park and headed to dinner.

After dinner, the husband and I bid farewell to our friends and headed to Fantasyland.  We had a rather interesting and enjoyable ride on Storybook, and then we ended up chatting with a cast member at the nearby chalet kiosk.  By the time we were done, the park was officially closed since it was just after 10pm.  We headed back through Fantasyland to make our way to the Rivers of America, but we discovered that the big gate that leads from Fantasyland to Big Thunder Trail was closed.  We figured that was an easier way to help sweep the park of non-event guests since it was now a dead-end.

We then headed back towards the hub and then towards the Frontierland entrance, which was blocked off by cast members who allowed through people with wristbands.  We made our way in and made a stop at the restroom, and a cast member was stationed at the door to check wristbands as well.  I heard some women inside complaining about having to have a wristband to use the restroom, and I just metaphorically shook my head at their being so non-understanding.  There were other restrooms in the park that non-event guests could still use - it was just THIS restroom that they were monitoring, because it was inside the closed-off event zone.

We headed to the Rivers of America, which hadn't been all that crowded when we'd left French Market but which was now quite full.  We walked around for a bit and then found a little bit of space in the back of a section right in front of Cafe Orleans.  I'm used to not having a particularly good view of Fantasmic since I can't see over many people, made worse when people insist on placing children on their shoulders, turning them into 7 foot giants and making it impossible to see for those unlucky enough to be standing behind them.  If I really want to see the show, then I make it a point of planning and arriving earlier, but I was content to just be able to see part of the show.  I had a decent view of most of the stage, so that was fine.

The show started with a small extra segment, showing the 20th anniversary logo and then footage from some of the news stories at the time, announcing the debut of Fantasmic.  There were also glimpses of some rehearsal footage as well as credits for the show, which we thought was terrific of them to do.

And then came the show itself!

It was a terrific show as usual, even though it was unfortunate that Flotsam and Jetsam were missing from the show.  We laughed at the Peter Pan segment because the first cannon from the Columbia usually startles the audience, eliciting jumpy movements and shouts or screams from them.  In this case, nothing, no reaction.  That's how you can tell it was an AP crowd!  :)

During the Mark Twain segment, we were surprised to see some characters we don't normally see on there, like the characters from Splash Mountain (just from the ride, nope, there's no movie it's based on), and the very top back of the Twain is usually occupied by Woody and Buzz and 2 green army men, but instead on this night, it was the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf.

The end of the show was met with much applause.  We hung around to listen to the end of the exit music as we normally do.  I happened to look up at what used to be the Disney Gallery and is now the Dream Suite, and I remembered the one time I attended the dessert buffet up there.  It is the perfect view of Fantasmic.  I'm still sad that we don't have the opportunity to see the show from there anymore, even for one more time.

After Fantasmic was completely finished, we then rode Haunted Mansion, and then hung around some more as we stood near Harbor Galley to watch the Columbia being docked.  We eventually made our way toward Main Street, noticing that some of the restaurants were still open.

As we neared Main Street, we could hear the strains of Fantasmic and realized that they'd replaced the normal Main Street music with the exit music from Fantasmic, which can be heard as part of the music loop being played in the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.  We wondered if the music was repeating so sat down to listen, and yep, it would finish and then start up again.  At 1:00 am, in the middle of the song, the voice of Disneyland came over the intercom to thank everyone for coming and to wish everyone a good evening.  We waited a little longer to see if that would be the end of the loop, but when it started again, we got up to leave.

Heading towards Town Square, we noticed that various of the Fantasmic characters were standing up on the train station, much like how they had characters there at the end of the 24-hour Leap Day earlier in the year.  The last ones to leave were the florescent monkeys and the Evil Queen herself, so we got to see them for a few seconds.

We had a wonderful time, and thanks to Disneyland for putting on these kinds of events for annual passholders.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Napa Rose - dinner review - May 4, 2012

On our previous visit to Napa Rose, we'd seen a few things on the regular menu that we'd wanted to try, but the Vintner's Menu that night was too good to pass up.  So we had decided that we'd try to return on another night and hope that the Vintner's Menu wasn't too tempting.  We mentioned this to our server and one of the chefs, who were amused but totally understanding of our predicament.  We were in luck!  The Vintner's Menu for the week was ok but not completely calling to us, so we could order from the regular menu.

Executive Chef Andrew Sutton, Chef Francisco and Chef Gloria were all absent this night - I figured they were all busily preparing for the opening of the new restaurant in DCA - but we were happy to have Chef Alex there.  We decided to ask him for the five-course tasting menu (with no rabbit included) but with two special requests for each of us.  I'd wanted to try the strawberry chicken salad and the salmon carpaccio, but there was a new zucchini blossom starter on the menu, and I *love* zucchini blossoms.  I didn't want to request too many specific things, so I just asked for the salad and the zucchini blossom.  The carpaccio would have to wait for another time, if I get the chance.  The husband's two special requests were the zucchini blossom and the venison main course.

I can't remember what the amuse bouche was and I didn't take a picture of it.  Oh well.

The husband's first course was the first course from the Vintner's - shrimp and octopus ceviche and a stuffed jalapeno.  He really liked the dish, except that the jalapeno was extremely hot.  He gave me a tiny taste of it, and wow, yeah, it really packed a punch.  He ended up just eating the "yumminess inside" and leaving the jalapeno.  Our runner noticed and commented that the spicyness level of the jalapenos has seemed to fluctuate.  They hadn't been particular hot lately, but of course, on a week when they decided to feature the jalapeno, they got a batch that was super hot.

Laughing Bird Shrimp and Tender Octopus Ceviche, Red Jalapeno Cucumber Crazy Water and Avocado Relish

My first course was the strawberry chicken salad.  Overall, I liked the salad - it was a nice mix of ingredients, and I didn't know that there were a few haricot verts at the bottom as well.  It was very refreshing and would make for a good summer dish.  The dressing wasn't quite what I expected, and I would have liked there to be a little less of it, but otherwise, I enjoyed the dish.

Salad of Strawberry Roasted Organic Chicken, Jicama, Upland Cress and Buttermilk Lemon Vinaigrette

The husband's second course was a scallop in what seemed to be the normal accompaniments to the swordfish.  He very much enjoyed the dish.

Seared Scallop, Crushed Heirloom Tomatoes, Garlic, Steamed Clam, Oregano and Capers

My second course was the sustainable fish of the day, which was grouper on this night.  I don't think I've had grouper before, but I really liked it.

Grouper with Laughing Bird Shrimp, Potato Gnocchi in a Lemony Basil Broth

The third course for both the husband and me was the zucchini blossom stuffed with pheasant confit.

Just one word - YUM.

Zucchini Blossom stuffed with Pheasant Confit, Sauteed Mushrooms, Tender Spring Vegetables and Zucchini Blossom Coulis

We then ended up getting a palette cleanser of strawberry basil sorbet, as did the two people sitting in the seats next to us.  I've never gotten a palette cleanser there before, so I don't know if it was just that they were running behind in preparing the main courses or if they were just giving us all a treat, but it was very nice.

The husband's main course, as requested, was the venison.  He loved it.

Roasted Venison Loin, Sage & Bacon Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Black Trumpet Mushroom Essence

My main course turned out to be the main course from the Vintner's, which was a New York steak.  I'd actually kind of been feeling like having red meat, so it was a terrific choice, and very tasty.  I loved the cherries on top, and when I asked one of the sous chefs about them, he explained to me how they were prepared.  No, I don't remember, so I can't relay it here, but it explained why the cherry tasted different than normal.  The dish was a fairly generous portion, especially for a tasting menu, so I unfortunately ended up leaving a few pieces on the plate.

Ranchero Style Angus New York, Sierra Cherry Salsa Fresca, Chorizo Roasted Ramps and Green Chickpea Puree

Time for dessert!  We noticed that the Vintner's dessert that the husband had enjoyed so much last time (carrot pecan cake) was now on the regular dessert menu.

The husband decided to have the no-sugar-added dessert (panna cotta with berries) which for some reason is not advertised on the menu anywhere.  Many of the servers don't even know about it, so they usually go and ask the dessert chef and then are surprised to find out it does in fact exist.

I decided to have the strawberry rhubarb crisp, which I'd been watching them serve all night, and it looked good.  It was very delicious and a rather large portion for a dessert.  I liked the slices of dehydrated strawberry on top too and saved them for last.

Wine Country Warm Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, Buttered Oat Coconut Crust and Strawberry Sorbet

The dining room seemed a lot quieter than most normal Friday nights, and the kitchen didn't seem quite as busy.  The manager we'd talked to last night wasn't working this evening, so I still didn't get his name yet.  Philippe, the general manager, saw us when we were in the lounge waiting for our seats, and he stopped to say hello.  I asked about the Dover sole, and he explained a bit about how they get them from a vendor.  He said they didn't have any this week but were hoping to get some the following week.  He said that the servers had gotten quite good at doing the table-side plating of the dish.

Here's page 1 of the current menu,  and here's page 2 of the current menu.