Note 7/2011: A flashback from 2008:
A slow news day, so to speak. Actually, it’s a slow news day in part because we’ve been watching the news. Lots of news! It’s Democratic National Convention time, and frankly, we are riveted. (us=nerds. it’s okay; go ahead and say it.)
We began the day with intentions to once again visit Epcot before CP had a phone interview for a job at 2:15 (interview went well, thank you for asking!). After being at the Magic Kingdom until 1am last night, we didn’t even get up until 9am, so we were off to a slow start. By the time we arrived at Epcot around 10:30am, it was unbelievably hot and humid and Epcot was mobbed with visitors. Almost as soon as we arrived, we decided to go back to the hotel. This is the nice thing about having a rental car and flexible park tickets; you really can come and go as you please and not feel like you’re missing out.
When we returned to our resort, we took care of our internet problems, stocked up on bottled water (realized during said hot morning that we were really dehydrated. How do people live here full time??), and went to the laundry room to do free – yes, FREE! – laundry. In a beautiful facility! In brand new machines! One could get used to this. (You can tell we’ve been renters for too long, huh?) CP had the phone interview, and we spent much of the rest of the afternoon hiding from the heat and watching coverage of the convention in Denver.
The day wasn’t totally spent in the hotel, however. Around 5pm, we departed for the Magic Kingdom area for our 5:30 reservation at the California Grill, one of Disney’s (supposed) best restaurants that sits on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort. The Contemporary is one of my favorite Disney hotels; I have fond memories of being three years old and staying there on my first trip to Disney. (At some point I’ll scan pictures of that and post here.) CP was quite taken by the architectural style of the hotel:
Once inside the Contemporary, we checked in on floor two and were whisked in a private elvator to the 15th floor. We were seated immediately (I love early bird dinners!) at a table right by the window overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon. From our table, we could see the Magic Kingdom, all of the Magic Kingdom resorts, and even Epcot and the Disney Studios in the distance. The view was breathtaking, but short lived. I couldn’t get any good pictures, but a MASSIVE thunderstorm rolled in, and we had perfect views of cloud-to-ground lightning on all sides. Maybe it wasn’t as exciting as seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our table, but I thought it was pretty exciting nonetheless.
Onto the food. As vegetarians, we are pretty used to restaurants being accommodating of our “dietary needs.” At the California Grill, we were not accommodated. We were wowed! Without asking, we were informed of every vegetarian item on the menu, and were also told of vegetarian options that were not on the menu that the chefs would make special for us. Disney or no, this experience was unusual.
We both started the meal with an heirloom tomato, roasted garlic, and provolone flatbread. Next, I had a salad with roasted peaches, blue cheese, candied pecans, and an orange-honey vinaigrette, and CP had an heirloom tomato salad with red onion, sherry vinegar, ricotta insalata, and microbasil. Both were excellent. For our entree, each of us had the chef’s special, which looked like this:
On the top left is handmade zucchini ravioli with roasted tomatoes, kalamata olives, and fried squash blossoms. On the top right is taro gnocchi with corn butter sauce, rosemary fingerling potatoes, confit garlic, currant tomatoes, and eggplant. On the bottom left is goat cheese polenta with button mushrooms and sauteed haricot vert. On the bottom right? I have no idea. I was too full to get there! I believe it is an off-menu impromptu flatbread creation, but we were both stuffed and couldn’t quite get there.
The nice thing about the California Grill – or at least the nice thing about how our server handled things given the massive line at the door – is that we were able to have a leisurely meal, which allowed us to digest between courses and really enjoy the food. All told, our dinner took three hours! We concluded by splitting a Valrhona molten chocolate cake with apricot sauce and house-made apricot ice cream. Amazing. Just amazing.
We rolled ourselves out of the hotel – here is a picture of the monorail rolling into the hotel:
We’re really hoping to stay there if we make a return trip. It’s retro in all the right ways, and tastefully updated in others. Plus, it’s literally steps from the Magic Kingdom, and has a monorail! We are fans.
Now, we are in our hotel room, watching the DNC and its tribute to Ted Kennedy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit teary. Waiting for Michelle Obama now.
Tomorrow, we get back to the business of being “real” tourists. I think we’re headed to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a good breakfast, and then we’re going to either the Disney Studios or Animal Kingdom. Much depends on the heat, I’m sure. We’ll keep you posted.