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Old 07-30-2011, 05:37 PM   #136
JessiLynn015
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Great reviews!!! Can't wait to read more. You gave me great ideas for my trip with my Mom. We want to eat & drink around the world and had no idea about the wine or beer passports!

What did you think about the sparkling sake?? I'm also a wimp when it comes to drinks like that and I love anything sparkling
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:27 AM   #137
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Your reviews are amazing...and so helpful! I'm making many mental notes for our upcomping trip
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Old 07-31-2011, 09:44 AM   #138
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Excellent reviews! I hope to try my hand at eating and drinking around the world next month as well when I'm there with my sister! I had never heard of the Tune In Lounge before and now I'm definitely going to sneak in there when I need a refreshing drink. Great photos and great descriptions. Looking forward to more!
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Old 07-31-2011, 10:35 AM   #139
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Love your reviews - fun to read and awesome pictures!

Looking forward to the review of the California Grill - I hope it's a good one, LOL. I've made an ADR there timed just before sunset for our next trip.
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Old 07-31-2011, 02:05 PM   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JessiLynn015 View Post
Great reviews!!! Can't wait to read more. You gave me great ideas for my trip with my Mom. We want to eat & drink around the world and had no idea about the wine or beer passports!

What did you think about the sparkling sake?? I'm also a wimp when it comes to drinks like that and I love anything sparkling

Thanks JessiLynn! Hope you too have a great mother/daughter trip. As for the sparkling sake, it was very drinkable for me. It didn't taste at all like jet fuel, more like a wine cooler...which is much more my style.



Quote:
Originally Posted by clothesmindedmom View Post
Your reviews are amazing...and so helpful! I'm making many mental notes for our upcomping trip

Glad to be of help and thanks for reading!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracerr00 View Post
Excellent reviews! I hope to try my hand at eating and drinking around the world next month as well when I'm there with my sister! I had never heard of the Tune In Lounge before and now I'm definitely going to sneak in there when I need a refreshing drink. Great photos and great descriptions. Looking forward to more!

Thanks! And I definitely think the Tune In Lounge is worth a visit. Enjoy!



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Originally Posted by CarolMN View Post
Love your reviews - fun to read and awesome pictures!

Looking forward to the review of the California Grill - I hope it's a good one, LOL. I've made an ADR there timed just before sunset for our next trip.

Thanks Carol! California Grill was my favorite meal from my last trip (25th Anniversary trip with DH), so I had high expectations going into this dinner. I'm working on the review now, so stay tuned to find out if my expectations were met.
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Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread #1 - and - Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread - Take 2

List of DISers with Upcoming Trips - and - Aug./Sept. Game - and - June/July Game

MAY 2012 REVIEW - DD's Graduation Celebration -and- NOV. 2011 REVIEW - Let them eat steak!

MAY 2011 REVIEW - My 50th Birthday -and- NOV. 2010 REVIEW - Our 25th Anniversary


DISNEY TRIPS: Aug. 2000 - BWV, CR, DTD Hilton (First Family Trip), Dec. 2000 -WLV,Dolphin, July 2001 - BC, AKL - CL, BWV, Poly, May 2002 - BWI, GF, AKL-CL, June 2002 - DLR's Grand Californian, March 2003 - Poly, BCV, March 2004 - POR, Dolphin, March 2006 - WL, Dolphin, Nov. 2006 - Poly, Nov. 2007 - YC, Poly, March 2008 - CR, YC, March 2010, Nov. 2010, May 2011 - BWI, Poly, Nov. 2011 - BWI, May 2012 - BWV, March 2013 - WL, Swan
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Old 08-01-2011, 08:39 PM   #141
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After checking into the Polynesian, collecting our luggage which had been transferred for us from the Boardwalk, and changing clothe s, we were ready to take the Resort Monorail to the Contemporary for our 7:30 ADR for…




Dinner at CALIFORNIA GRILL







SHORT VERSION

Highlights – Table by the Window, Candlelit Dessert, Filet Mignon & Mashed Potatoes

Disappointments – Overall experience compared to last time

Would We Return? – Probably

LONG VERSION

First a little background information. Our first experience with California Grill was 4 or 5 years ago and it was not a very good one…the food was not great (with a few exceptions), the service was rather slow, and the restaurant was deafeningly loud. It was bad enough that we did not return until our 25th Anniversary trip last fall. I had been reading so many great reviews here that I decided it was time to give the California Grill another try. I am so glad that we did because it ended up being our favorite meal of the many (including 5 other Signatures) that we had on that trip. In case you are interested in reading about that meal, here is the link. So anyway, because of this nearly perfect experience which hit the dining trifecta with delicious food, excellent service, and great atmosphere, I went into this meal with pretty high expectations.

Ok, now getting back to where I left off in this review. After arriving at the Contemporary on the monorail we went down to the 2nd floor to check-in at the reception desk for the California Grill. Then we were given a pager and directed to take the special elevator up to the 15th floor where the restaurant is located. My request to be seated at a table by the window was granted and we had a lovely view of the castle.




View of the Castle at Sunset



So things started out well but then our server committed a major faux pas according to DD. Without asking first, she immediately took away DD’s wine glass. In our server’s defense, DD is only 21 and was carded each and every time she ordered an alcoholic drink on the trip (with only one exception). On the other hand, this is the one and only time that a server just assumed she was not old enough to drink and took away her glass. So of course DD then insisted that we order a glass of wine. When she saw a Malbec listed in the wine menu under “Interesting Reds” category she chose it, as Malbec is currently her favorite type of wine. More specifically, this was a Navarro Correas “Alegoria” Gran Reserva Malbec from a Mendoza, Argentina winery ($12).



Like last time, I chose Conundrum, a wine listed under the “Interesting Whites and Rose” category ($14). In case you are not familiar with it, Conundrum is a California white wine that's made from a blend of five different white grapes. If you like white wine that is light and fruity, but not overly-sweet then I highly recommend this one. We both were happy with our choices.





Navarro Correas Malbec and Caymus Conundrum




Moving on to the food now, I couldn’t decide between the Crispy Asian Rock Shrimp Salad and the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli for my appetizer. So what did I do, I ended up ordering the same appetizer as last time, the Triple Cheese Flatbread with Pecorino, Asiago, and Provolone cheeses, Sun-dried Tomato and Arugula Pesto.




Triple Cheese Flatbread


In my defense, this was my favorite appetizer from our last trip so it was hard not to have it again when the opportunity arose. Although this was very good, it was not quite as good as last time because it was a little bit greasy.


On our last visit, DH (who knows nothing about sushi) surprised me when he decided he wanted to try a sushi roll. Our server recommended the Spicy Kazan Roll . . . Crab, Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Tuna, and Fireball Sauce. Both DH and I liked this so I recommended it to DD, the sushi lover of our family. So that is what she chose for her appetizer and unfortunately was not impressed. I guess I am to blame for this, as I probably built it up in her head too much and set her up for disappointment. Anyway, she claims that a restaurant in Austin, TX called Uchiko has far better sushi. So I guess I won’t be giving out any sushi advice again.





Spicy Kazan Roll



Last time I had enjoyed the filet, but decided I needed to change it up a little since I had already ordered the same wine and appetizer as before. So I ordered the second most appealing (to me) entrée on the menu, the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Polenta, Roasted Mushrooms, Zinfandel Glaze, and Sage. Sadly I didn’t really care for this. It tasted strongly of Dijon mustard (I think), which I am not a fan of. On the other hand, DH ordered this last time and really enjoyed it, but then again he likes Dijon mustard. This entree generally gets rave reviews, so I guess maybe it's just me. Is there anyone else out there that doesn't love the Pork Tenderloin here?





Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Polenta




DD chose the Oak-fired Filet of Beef with Mashed Potatoes (I think they were Garlic), Roasted Delta Asparagus, Spring Onion Oil, and Teriyaki Barbecue (served on the side per my recommendation). She thought the steak was very good and loved the mashed potatoes which were served with it (she is a big fan of mashed potatoes). When I had the filet here in Nov. ’10 it was served with Dauphinoise Potatoes, which were nothing special. On the newest menus I’ve seen, they are now serving Mascarpone Potatoes with the filet. So I guess the California Grill makes frequent changes to the potatoes served with their filet.






Oak-Fired Filet of Beef with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Delta Asparagus



My favorite dessert from our last trip was the Valrhona Chocolate Cake - Warm Chocolate Cake with Molten Center, which was then served with Peanut Butter Gelato and Marshmallow. So I couldn’t possibly resist ordering this again, however this time it was served with Macerated California Strawberries and a Grand Marnier sauce. Also, I believe it was vanilla ice cream that accompanied it. This was served to me decorated for my birthday, complete with lit candle. Though it was very good, it was not quite as good as the last version with the peanut butter gelato and marshmallow. I guess this is another thing that frequently changes at California Grill.





Valrhona Chocolate Cake



I should add here that we each had a cappuccino with our dessert as our included non-alcoholic beverage.





Cappuccino with Chocolate Biscotti (Sorry about the blurry picture)



For her dessert, DD ordered the Bananas and Caramel, described on the menu as Crispy Baked Phyllo Squares Layered with Banana, Caramel, Mascarpone Mousse,and Caramelized Banana. She was hoping it might be similar to Flying Fish’s Caramelized Banana Napoleon dessert, which she loved. But sadly this one paled in comparison to the one at Flying Fish. I just now noticed from the picture that DD’s dessert was also decorated for a birthday celebration. I’m not sure why, maybe because we had talked about sharing our desserts when we placed our order.




Bananas and Caramel




Shortly after our desserts were served, the fireworks began. Since we had a good view from our table we decided to just stay there and enjoy eating our desserts while watching the show.







As for the service, after getting off to a bad start with DD, our server provided us with pretty good service for the remainder of our meal. However again I can’t help comparing it to the excellent service we had received here from Dawn last time.


So using a baseball analogy, California Grill struck out their first time at bat, but then redeemed itself by hitting an “out of the park home-run” their next time at the plate. However, this time up they hit only a double…albeit a solid, stand-up double.



Now for the numbers...

Total cost of meal (not including tip and wine) - $180.26 (or $45.07 per Dining Plan credit)


And so I can do a DDP vs. TIW Cost Comparison at the end...

Total cost of meal (again not including tip and wine) if we had used my Tables in Wonderland discount of 20% instead of the DDP - $144.21

20% TIW Discount on Wine - $5.20


4 Deluxe Dining Plan Credits used, 0 Remaining



That concludes the Deluxe Dining Plan portion of our trip so…

NEXT UP: DDP vs. TIW Comparison
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Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread #1 - and - Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread - Take 2

List of DISers with Upcoming Trips - and - Aug./Sept. Game - and - June/July Game

MAY 2012 REVIEW - DD's Graduation Celebration -and- NOV. 2011 REVIEW - Let them eat steak!

MAY 2011 REVIEW - My 50th Birthday -and- NOV. 2010 REVIEW - Our 25th Anniversary


DISNEY TRIPS: Aug. 2000 - BWV, CR, DTD Hilton (First Family Trip), Dec. 2000 -WLV,Dolphin, July 2001 - BC, AKL - CL, BWV, Poly, May 2002 - BWI, GF, AKL-CL, June 2002 - DLR's Grand Californian, March 2003 - Poly, BCV, March 2004 - POR, Dolphin, March 2006 - WL, Dolphin, Nov. 2006 - Poly, Nov. 2007 - YC, Poly, March 2008 - CR, YC, March 2010, Nov. 2010, May 2011 - BWI, Poly, Nov. 2011 - BWI, May 2012 - BWV, March 2013 - WL, Swan

Last edited by jabead; 06-27-2012 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 08-04-2011, 10:11 PM   #142
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Here are the final numbers regarding our first 4 nights/5 days on the Deluxe Dining Plan.

We paid approximately $632 for the two of us for 4 nights on the Deluxe Plan.
And just as a side note, since I am an Annual Passholder I still got a 45% room discount so we did not have to pay rack rate for our room or have to purchase full-price park ticket for DD in order to add the Dining Plan. This would have added significantly to the overall cost of the Dining Plan.

The cost of our 8 sit-down meals (over 5 days) on the Deluxe Dining Plan was $966.37. In addition, we had 16 snacks totaling approx. $56.50 and at least 8 cups of coffee in our refillable mugs (included with the Deluxe Dining Plan) which was worth approx. $20. So the grand total of the value of our food and non-alcoholic drinks covered by the Deluxe Dining Plan was approx. $1043.00. Subtracting what we paid ($632), results in a net savings of $411 or a 39% savings. Not too bad!!!


Ok, now for the Deluxe Dining Plan vs. TIW comparison that some of you have been waiting for...and me too.

If we had used my TIW discount of 20% (or 10% AP discount in the case of Teppan Edo) instead of the Dining Plan, we would have spent $782.70 for the 8 meals. Then if you add on the $56.50 for snacks and $20 for coffee, the total we would have spent would have been $859.20. Since we instead spent only $632 for the Deluxe Dining Plan, we came out ahead $227.20. YEAH!!!


So I would have to say that the use of the Deluxe Dining Plan was again a great success for us. Not only did we save money, but we got to have 8 great meals (4 Signatures) and order whatever we wanted, regardless of its price. A common complaint regarding the Deluxe Dining Plan is that it is way too much food. By spreading out our 12 credits (4 nights worth) over 5 days and including 4 Signature restaurants (requiring 2 credits each) this didn’t seem to be a problem. We also shared one dessert a few times when we felt too full for two. So I guess we broke a few of the rules for maximizing the dollar value received with the Dining Plan. However, despite this, we still ended up with a 39% savings and even saved over $200 in comparison to using the TIW discount.

One more thing…I’ve compiled a list of the per credit value of each of our meals. With only one exception (California Grill), the higher values were received at the non-Signature (1 credit) restaurants. However, it’s interesting to note that my favorite meal of these first eight was at Yachtsman Steakhouse…so for me that makes it the most valuable rather than the least.


Coral Reef - $51.88
Teppan Edo - $48.09
California Grill - $45.07
Sanaa - $41.28
La Hacienda - $40.76
Narcoossee’s - $39.90
Flying Fish - $34.02
Yachtsman Steakhouse - $31.60






NEXT UP: Grand Floridian Cafe breakfast
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Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread #1 - and - Our Live Updates from Disney World Thread - Take 2

List of DISers with Upcoming Trips - and - Aug./Sept. Game - and - June/July Game

MAY 2012 REVIEW - DD's Graduation Celebration -and- NOV. 2011 REVIEW - Let them eat steak!

MAY 2011 REVIEW - My 50th Birthday -and- NOV. 2010 REVIEW - Our 25th Anniversary


DISNEY TRIPS: Aug. 2000 - BWV, CR, DTD Hilton (First Family Trip), Dec. 2000 -WLV,Dolphin, July 2001 - BC, AKL - CL, BWV, Poly, May 2002 - BWI, GF, AKL-CL, June 2002 - DLR's Grand Californian, March 2003 - Poly, BCV, March 2004 - POR, Dolphin, March 2006 - WL, Dolphin, Nov. 2006 - Poly, Nov. 2007 - YC, Poly, March 2008 - CR, YC, March 2010, Nov. 2010, May 2011 - BWI, Poly, Nov. 2011 - BWI, May 2012 - BWV, March 2013 - WL, Swan
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Old 08-07-2011, 10:46 AM   #143
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Thanks again for the great reviews - the pictures add so much!

I really appreciated the TiW vs DxDP comparison, as well.
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:14 PM   #144
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake

OMG I NEED this!!!!
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:27 PM   #145
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a question

Hi
I have really enjoyed reading your dining review. I am suprised at how expensive the glasses of wine were in the restaurants. In the UK I would expect to pay that price for a bottle!
Another question how were you able to eat that amount of food!!! I know that there is a lot of walking to be done on a disney holiday but I dont think I would be able to!!!
Thanks again for such a readable trip report
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Old 08-07-2011, 02:30 PM   #146
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Fantastic reviews!
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Old 08-07-2011, 03:49 PM   #147
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Awesome reviews! I always think I'm going to remember to write down our dining experiences and then never do. Generally we'd be headed to Disney in September but we've opted for Hilton Head instead this year so I'm sort of going through Disney withdrawal, and it's too early to make spring break dining ADR's (but not too early to plan!).

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:52 PM   #148
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Just now catching up on your dining report! You're not alone in your feelings for California Grill's signature pork dish! I didn't love it either. Nothing was BAD, I just didn't care all that much for the way the flavors tasted together, I guess! Loving all the photos... It seems like you had a great trip!
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Old 08-08-2011, 02:35 AM   #149
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On our last visit, DH (who knows nothing about sushi) surprised me when he decided he wanted to try a sushi roll. Our server recommended the Spicy Kazan Roll . . . Crab, Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Tuna, and Fireball Sauce. Both DH and I liked this so I recommended it to DD, the sushi lover of our family. So that is what she chose for her appetizer and unfortunately was not impressed. I guess I am to blame for this, as I probably built it up in her head too much and set her up for disappointment. Anyway, she claims that a restaurant in Austin, TX called Uchiko has far better sushi. So I guess I won’t be giving out any sushi advice again.
I go to school in Austin and have been to Uchiko and think it's amazing! But I still really liked the Spicy Kazan Roll when I had it. Uchiko and California Grill are both great restaurants and make wonderful sushi, but to me they seem to have different styles, you know what I mean? But then again, I have the hardest time picking favorites

btw, I have been loving your reviews!
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Old 08-08-2011, 05:44 AM   #150
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You are really doing a wonderful job of these reviews

Thanks for the Dining Plan/TIW analysis, really interesting
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