We Crash Club 33 Part II: Club Harder

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I’d apologize for the delays between posts, but anymore that’s pretty old hat, so if anything, I’ll apologize for this brand new post throwing off our consistent pattern…!

As a wrap-up of sorts to our blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tenure living in California, let’s discuss our trip to Disneyland’s hallowed Club 33.  If y’all don’t know, Club 33 is a super-duper exclusive, members-only (and for a price!) dining experience in Disneyland.

We’d been before, though I was such a nervous wreck the first time (where’s the lorazepam when you need it??) that the whole experience was a bit of a fog.  Of course, given the nigh impossibility of securing a reservation for us common folk, that’s NOT the kind of recollection you want to have.

So, when we had a pretty decent idea that we would be moving back to Philadelphia (though neither of us had gotten final, official offers yet), I decided to see if I could snag a reservation to celebrate new jobs/a farewell to California/Christmas-y sorta time/creating a hopefully memorable experience for us and our best pals in the Golden State.

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And yes, if you’re wondering, I do know, however indirectly, a member of Club 33, and no, I will not tell you who he/she is and will not get you a reservation. I feel incredibly fortunate to have stumbled into this person and won’t risk any goodwill between us, no matter how much money you wish to make rain on me (I think that’s grammatically correct…?)

Tucked into the New Orleans Square land of the park, Club 33’s open air waiting area is a modified version of the old, publicly-accessible Court of Angels. I’d never seen the space myself, as it has already gone behind construction walls on my first visit to Disneyland. Vaunted by many in the Disney online community as Imagineering at its purest, I was excited to experience it–and it did not disappoint, especially the free hot chocolate made available on this chilly December night.

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After the requisite photo shoot on the staircase, we were called upstairs. The restaurant, renovated and expanded since our first visit,  takes up a significant chunk of the second floor of many New Orleans Square storefronts. The main dining room overlooks Disneyland’s Rivers of America, where the Fantasmic! nighttime show plays.

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Excuse my bleary eyes and dark circles in the photo above. We were on a redeye back from New York City the night before and had worked a full-day before dinner. My hair was about as on fleek (is that nu-gay for “en vogue” or something?) as its ever gonna be, though.

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The only place in Disneyland where you can get alcohol. LIVE IT UP.

Dinner was pre-fixe at $105 (::crying emoji::) a person, and we could’ve opted for a caviar accompaniment for an extra…I don’t know, a lot of money. I don’t do fish, and it would’ve reminded me too much of the opening scene in Finding Nemo, anyway. Not for the faint of heart or wallet.

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The chef sent out this little meat shooter thing before our courses began. I’m not fancy and forgot to write down the name, but it was tasty!

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First course: the Prime New York of Beef Seared Black and Blue with Tarragon-Roasted Garlic Purée. 

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Second course: French Quarter “Five Onion Soup” with Tasso Ham and Gruyere.

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Third course: Grilled Diver Scallop and Gulf Shrimp.

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Fourth course: Petit Angus Filet Mignon.

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Final course: MONKEY BREAD HECK YEAHHH

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The “Just Kidding, Here’s More Food as a Palette Cleanser” Course.

Compared to our first visit, I would have to give this meal the edge. Along with the physical overhaul, the menu was also revised by renowned Chef Andrew Sutton, who is also executive chef at Napa Rose and the wonderful Carthay Circle restaurant in Disney California Adventure. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to try both, but these courses seemed more confident and flavorful than the old Club 33 standards.

Now that the foodie shots are out of the way, time for more restaurant photos. Since we visited pretty late on a Monday night just before the crazy busy holiday season, we nearly had the place to ourselves. As you can tell if you compare photos from our first visit to these, the renovations were quite substantial (and, I’d argue, mostly for the better):

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The new bar area, the Salon Nouveau.

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This used to be a working French lift, commissioned by Walt Disney himself. Now, it is a much-maligned booth for one (??)

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Let us know if you find us in the guestbook!

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Note to self, never trust Lance alone with a camera:

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All in all, our second visit to Club 33 was more magical (and definitely less stressful!) than the first.  With my expensive exclusive Mickey ears on to rub in everybody’s faces, we strode out of the restaurant like kings.

What a night.

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Birthday Boy

 

Let’s all wish Lance a happy seventh anniversary of his twenty-fifth birthday! Huzzah!

Unfortunately, friends, even though Lance loves birthdays, he does not like his birthday being acknowledged by restaurant waitstaff (this is part of a larger issue with public attention being directed toward Lance at all.  Must’ve been due to his legendary turn as Motel in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof.)

Every year when we go out for his birthday dinner, I joke about how I’m gonna get the waiters to sing whatever copyright-abiding “Happy Birthday” ditty they’ve written for the restaurant.

…And every year, Lance’s death-stare and verbal responses get more and more extreme:

2008: “If they sing, I will immediately walk out of this restaurant.”

2009: “If you make them sing, I will slit your throat.”

2010: “If they sing to me, I will rip out your intestines and churn them up in a blender.”

2011: “If they sing, I’m going to stab out your eyeballs and pour a cauldron of boiling oil on you.”

Who knows what 2012 will bring…!!!!

Book Review: The Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining

Here’s an excerpt from the Disney World planning e-mail I sent Lance yesterday:

OKAY!

Here’s what I’ve compiled for our time at Disney.
Thursday, June 28th (EPCOT!)
Breakfast: Boardwalk Bakery (opens 6:30am)
Lunch: Sunshine Seasons (Future World) or Yorkshire County Fish Shop (UK pavilion)
Snack: Kringla Bakeri og Cafe (school bread, sweet pretzels; Norway pavilion) or Boulangerie Patisserie (France pavilion) or Karamell-Kuche (caramel corn, caramel corn cupcake; Germany pavilion) or Kabuki Cafe (kaki gori [shave ice]; Japan pavilion)
Dinner: La Hacienda de San Angel (reservation @ 8:15pm) or Via Napoli (reservation @ 6:20pm) or Les Chefs de France (reservation @ 5:00pm)
Other counter-service options (if we just can’t decide on something for dinner) include:
After dinner: Downtown Disney [walk back to Boardwalk Inn, transfer to bus (19 min)]
I decided we don’t need to do Fantasmic! (the night show) at Hollywood Studios since they do a version of it at Tokyo DisneySea, so we can just catch it then.
So, when did I become so anal retentive about our Disney World trip?
One of the most stressful aspects of Lance and I travelling together is that we are both terribly indecisive, which can lead to time and opportunity squandered as we can’t come up with what to do or where to eat.
Well, I wasn’t having any of that in Disney World.  I wanted the following three things set ahead of time:
  1. where we were going each day;
  2. what we were doing each day;
  3. and where we were going to eat.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Disney dining beyond the counter service pizza and hamburgers at places littered throughout the parks.  In the past, that was all I could afford and, honestly, I didn’t want to spend the time sitting down at a restaurant when I could be standing in line for the Country Bear Jamboree.

At some point in the Disney planning process, I stumbled upon the Disney Food Blog, a website, edited by AJ Wolfe, chock full of wonderful coverage, reviews, and PHOTOS! (blessed be the photos) of Disney dining.  I realized, after perusing DFB, that I could incorporate some finer dining into our trip to make it a more worthwhile experience, especially since we were staying at a Disney resort this trip and had more time to play with.

And, duh!, the biggest revelation for this Disney dining novice: I could also just find a character meal (i.e., a meal where characters like Mickey or Stepmother Tremaine from Cinderella [for real? who wants to see her?] show up and interact/take photos with the guests) and get all of my character photos out of the way in one fell-swoop as opposed to waiting in lines in the parks for hours, collectively. (We shoulda done this, Colleen, instead of waiting in Toon Town for an hour and then me calling you a bad name afterward out of frustration and exhaustion. The more you know..!)

The most comprehensive, one-stop-shop for all of DFB’s coverage is AJ’s The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2012 e-book.  Not only is it updated annually, but as an e-book, it’s loaded with links to more extensive reviews and photo essays on their site, and is great to take with you to the parks on a smartphone (or, if you’re adventurous, a tablet).

A significant chunk of the book is dedicated to spelling out the different dining options (table-service, counter-service, character dining, signature dining, dining plans, advanced dining reservations, etc.) at Disney, the complexity of which can be labyrinthine, so I appreciated the straightforward layman explanations.

The book also comes with budgeting spreadsheets and sample dining itineraries which I found to be extremely helpful.  The list of recommended snack options (like the Norway pavilion’s school bread or the Dole Whip–how’d I never heard of this before??) has made it into our Disney vacay plan, as you can see above.

Lance will also be happy with the book’s comprehensive list of bars and lounges, which I’m sure he’ll need to utilize after one trip on It’s a Small World.

My one gripe with the book? Not enough pictures of the food!  I found myself going to the DFB site for more extensive photo coverage, or even Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The DFB as a whole is a great resource in maximizing your Disney vacation. The biggest downside is that it brings to your attention food and restaurants you probably wouldn’t have considered before, and suddenly you’ve made two dozen reservations for three meal times! (As seen above. Oops.)  My biggest disappointment about this trip already is how our discounted conference-rate room at the Boardwalk Inn doesn’t allow for the Disney Dining Plan to be added to it. Boo! Think about all I could’ve eaten then…

The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-book comes in a bundle pack (which includes their main guide and separate, more extensive guides for Epcot and Magic Kingdom snacks) for $46.95, or you can buy the main guide separately for $18.95.

Highly recommended if you want to eat something different than hot dogs every day (but if you do, The DFB Guide covers where to find the best hot dogs! No joke), though I may be cursing its name after I’ve been to three buffets in one weekend.  Eep!

Disneyphiles! Where do you recommend to eat in the parks?