Kitchen Accomplice: Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to eat we go

By John Kirkendall

Think for a minute. How many times have you heard the kids tell you about a favorite restaurant they wanted to visit in Disney World? That would be never, right? When speaking of the thrills, chills, and spills in the Magic Kingdom, restaurants just don’t cut it. There is so much else worthwhile to do.

However, if you play your cards right, you can do it all. But it takes planning – and reservations. And even the kids will enjoy a respite from the lines and the frenzied whirlwind of rides and amusements. Just having your private space to sit a while right in the midst of the activity will provide yet another cherished moment – and doing this at mealtime is a natural.

But your kids are a lot like you. They do not want this idea sprung on them at the last minute. So it is best done around the dining room table with the leaflets, pamphlets and informational material in front of the whole family. Without being too obsessive about it, you can review the possibilities along with the time you have to explore them and come up with a list – the list will include something of interest to each family member, including you. You will occasionally be lured from your well-thought-out list once you arrive there, but the list will be your anchor. And, before you leave home, you will make one or two meal reservations at a special place you have all decided upon. And, the nicest thing of all about your restaurant choice(s) is that you do not have to leave the magic behind as you dine. It will surround you.

At Disney World, restaurants, for clear reasons, specialize in buffet or family style dinners. This is almost inescapable. However, there are some special spots where you can dine without the specter of Pluto and Donald. If you have kids with you, it is nice to know the places where these and other characters will magically appear. It is part of the fun and ambience of Disney World. And, for a resort park where the specialty is just plain fun, the quality of the food is remarkable. I purchased a Mickey Mouse cookbook some time back and am still amazed by the recipes. They are darned good.

I have a couple of thoughts about places you may consider. Reservations are not just a good idea – they are required.

Cinderella’s Royal Table
You’ll be greeted by handmaidens before making your way inside this royal restaurant – by far the most popular place to dine in the Magic Kingdom. Those who enter are usually swept off their feet as they’re transported back to a time when medieval kings and queens reigned (a feeling that’s helped along by the Gothic interior, which includes leaded-glass windows, stone floors, and high-beamed ceilings). The servers treat you like a lord or lady (I’m not kidding; that’s how they’ll address you), and the menu has fetching names, but the fine print reveals traditional entrees. Pan-seared salmon, lemon lavender chicken, and roasted prime rib are just a sampling of the choices.

Upon your arrival, the royal photographer will snap a few photos of your group to be delivered during your meal (and are included in the price).

The restaurant recently expanded its character dining experience to include not only breakfast but lunch and dinner as well. Breakfast remains an all-you-can-eat buffet, while lunch and dinner offer a selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts to choose from (basic beverages are included; specialty coffees and smoothies will cost a bit extra).

Cinderella and other Disney princesses are on hand during breakfast and lunch, while the Fairy Godmother hosts the royal dinner.

Note: Because of its location and ambience, a meal here is sought by everyone from little girls who dream of Prince Charming to romantics seeking a more intimate meal. The problem: This is actually one of the smallest dining rooms in the World, making advance reservations a must. And you’ll have your work cut out for you to get one – it may very well take several calls (and a lot of flexibility on your part) to ensure a spot

Private Dining

The Swan and Dolphin Hotel features noteworthy restaurants, among which is Todd English’s bluezoo.

Renowned for his unique style and ability to entertain, Celebrity Chef Todd English combines the freshest seafood with coastal cuisines from around the world in a setting you won’t forget.

Designed by renowned architect, Jeffrey Beers, Todd English’s bluezoo is truly a work of art. Beers has extensive experience and an exceptional reputation in both the architecture and interior design industries. He has a keen interest in the relationship between architecture and light and has studied and practiced the art of glass and glass blowing with renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Continued collaboration and work with the medium provide Beers an unparalleled expertise in glass – both as material and light design element – as is evidenced in each of his projects to date.
• AAA Four Diamond Award.
• Multiple recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
• One of Top 3 Restaurants in Orlando – Orlando Magazine.
• 2005 Buildings Interiors Design Awards – Buildings Magazine.
• Favorite Venue for 2006 – My City Eats and Entertainment

As you can see, this is worth considering from an ambience perspective alone. Yet, it has a delightful, full menu that will pamper you for the evening. If you are looking for a getaway from the hustle and bustle, this may very well be what you are seeking.

There is a pier behind the hotel that is host to boats waiting to take you to Disney World destinations – and the ride itself is a perfect conclusion to a fine dinner.
And, as someone once said about Tallulah Bankhead, an evening away from Mickey and Goofy is like a month in the country. (Don’t tell your kids I said so.)

Asian Chicken Salad from Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney
Yield: 2 servings.
• 3 cups mix of julienned Napa cabbage, red cabbage, green cabbage, shredded carrot, mixed field greens and 1-by-2-inch strips of romaine and iceberg lettuces, chilled.
• 2 ounces sprouts (see note).
• 7 ounces cooked chicken, cut into small strips.
• 1 teaspoon sesame seeds.
• Salt and pepper to taste.
• 1 ounce fried noodles.
• 4 1/2 ounces ginger mustard dressing (see note).

1. Place salad mixture and chicken in a large bowl. Ladle 4 1/2 ounces ginger mustard dressing around edge of greens, being careful not to pour dressing on to greens. Season greens with salt and pepper. Carefully toss greens to lightly coat with dressing.

2. Place mixture on plates, building as much height as possible. Place crispy noodles on top of salad. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Recipe note: The restaurant uses daikon sprouts.

How to make ginger mustard dressing:
In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 teaspoon Coleman’s mustard and a drop or two of water to make a paste. Add 4 ounces honey, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon crushed garlic cloves, 1/8 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 2 egg yolks.
Blend until mixture is smooth and thoroughly mixed. While mixing, drizzle in 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 31/2 cups peanut oil.
When mixture is emulsified, season with a pinch of kosher salt and pinch of white pepper.
Chill until ready to use.

Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at