Editor: I am so happy to welcome back my friend, Lisa Battista, author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. This week and next, Lisa will be sharing her recent experiences at a very special event and….well, I’ll let her tell you. 🙂
The email from Tables in Wonderland taunted me. (Tables in Wonderland is a dining discount plan for Florida Residents, Annual Passholders, and DVC Members. The program offers small, one-of-a-kind dining events for cardholders every month or so.)
“Arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios™ and walk through the courtyard of the Majestic Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. Then you will be invited to come inside The Great Movie Ride after the attraction is closed with exclusive backstage VIP access! We’ve cleared the track for you to walk through and dine inside the attraction where you will experience some of the most classic scenes in motion picture history. Sets from Busby Berkeley musicals, crime dramas, old-fashioned Westerns, and more!”
So where was the hesitation, you may ask? The answer is the hefty $165 (plus tax; gratuity included) price tag per person for “The Great Movie Ride Dinner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” Although I tend to loosen the purse strings at Walt Disney World, I still couldn’t help but wonder if the money could be better spent elsewhere. How many days could I add to our park tickets? Should we purchase tickets to a special event such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or a backstage tour? You get the idea.
With a little encouragement from my Facebook friends, I send the email requesting a seat at the table, if you will.
“The Great Movie Ride Dinner” was such an experience that I’m going to talk about it in two parts – the food and the overall experience. Today will be the food.
On a gorgeous Saturday evening in June, we checked into “The Great Movie Ride Dinner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” at the ride’s entrance. That day, the attraction was closed to park guests beginning at 6:30 p.m. Greeted with friendly smiles, the professional Cast Members handed us sparkly silver wristbands which were double-checked at the door when we entered.
Act I: Passed Reception in the Gangster Scene As we entered the gangster set, we were invited to pick up our place cards for dinner as well as a light-up glass brimming with a frosty, orange-flavored drink which I heard a server describing as a margarita. The drink was tasty and refreshing and not too sweet. Let’s talk about the food itself.
According to the invitation, we had “Squid and Beans” Salad, “Gambino” Balsamic Beef with Palermo Roasted Tomato, and “Terranova” Blistered Artichoke Cheese Quenelle.” Really? I enjoyed the food but I thought we had a cold seafood ceviche, served on a spoon; a bruschetta of some kind; and flavorful beef in a disappointingly soggy mini taco shell. The dish I’m calling a bruschetta had a very indistinguishable flavor.
Act II: Plated Dinner in the Western Scene After the passed reception, we meander to the Western scene for our plated dinner. Dinner was the culinary highlight of the evening for me.
The menu read:
- Creamy Free Range Yard Bird Corn Chowder with Piquillo Peppers and Ciabatta Bread
- Wild Greens and Herbs with Cactus Cilantro Vinaigrette with Beet Tumbleweeds with Mandarin Rice Wine Marinade
- Poblano Barbeque Braised Beef Short Rib with Tobacco Onions
- Smoky Cheddar Potatoes Gratin
- Black Skillet Roasted Baby Green Beans with Mushrooms
- House-made Fire Roasted Corn Bread with Butter
Let’s start with the cornbread. It was delish! Moist and sweet with lots of corn flavor. The corn chowder was another hit; it had a luscious creamy texture and flavor without being too. I think some liberties were taken with the written description of the soup though, a theme that is repeated throughout the meal (or, it could just be that I don’t know my food!). When I read a description that includes “Free Range Yard Bird”, I think there may be some chicken in the soup. If there was, I didn’t see it but I loved the dish nonetheless.
The salad was nice but pretty forgettable. In fact, when I tried to find a picture of it, I couldn’t. Apparently it didn’t make enough of an impression for me to take a photograph. I was excited to try the Cactus Cilantro Vinaigrette but didn’t taste anything unusual. Never having had a Cactus Cilantro Vinaigrette before, maybe the cactus flavor isn’t supposed to be pronounced.
The entrée was my favorite part of the dinner – the presentation was beautiful and the portions weren’t oversized. One of my personal dislikes as a diner is being faced with the decision to overeat or feel that I’m wasting food. These plates were perfectly portioned.
The short ribs, oh my, the short ribs! I did not pick up my knife. The meat was moist and meltingly tender, but the flavor was not outdone by the texture. The short ribs were accompanied by cheddar potatoes gratin that to me would be better described as cheesy mashed potatoes. This potato lover could have eaten a whole plate of the nicely browned and well-balanced potatoes and melt-y cheddar.
I wish I could describe the Black Skillet Roasted Baby Green Beans with Mushrooms but I cannot. I have an odd habit of eating my favorite items on a plate first, lest I run out of room to finish everything. It’s my quirky little way of maximizing the deliciousness. Plus, with a dessert buffet coming up, why waste space on the veggie?
Act III: Dessert Buffet in the Land of Oz A good dessert is joyful, imaginative, and a bit unexpected which means the Land of Oz completed the perfect pairing of food and location for our dessert course.
The coffee and cordial bars were set up at the beginning of the scene, in front of Dorothy’s house which has dropped on the Wicked Witch of the East. Midway through the room was a plentiful dessert display. In the interest of research, I selected one of everything and sat with some of our dinner companions at the small tables placed throughout the room.
The buffet consisted of:
- Wicked Witch Pistachio Cannoli
- Emerald Cheesecake Pushups
- Ruby Strawberry Panna Cotta
- Dark Forest Chocolate Decadence with Raspberry Gel
- Yellow Brick Caramel Milk Cake
- Auntie Em’s Apple Cake
My favorite was Auntie Em’s Apple Cake while I found the Yellow Brick Caramel Milk Cake to be overly sweet.
The Cliffhanger For a rare event like “The Great Movie Ride Dinner”, the food doesn’t tell the whole story. The overall experience is just as important in determining if you’ve received your money’s worth. Like any good movie, I have to leave something for the sequel. Come back next week for details on “The Great Movie Ride Dinner” experience and my final thoughts on whether it was a good value.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.