Saturday, April 30, 2016

Between Mermaids and Arabia

When I say that you can point a camera anywhere at Tokyo Disney Sea and capture a spectacular shot, I mean it.  There is rich detail everywhere and plenty of beautiful sights and angles.  Even a general view down a river can produce some splendid sights, such as this one below that shows off the spires of the Arabian Coast and the whimsy of Mermaid Lagoon.  The two lands are drastically different as far as theme, but they're both fantastic and quite pretty.  It really does prove that this place is a sea of dreams!

A view down this waterway shows both Mermaid Lagoon and the Arabian Coast!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Lilly Belle

With the Disneyland Railroad on hiatus during the construction of the future "Star Wars Land," the park has put a couple of the engines on display at the Main Street and New Orleans Square stations.  At the first, this includes a special viewing of the Lilly Belle presidential parlor car, the special caboose of the C.K. Holiday that was created to provide a private and elegant space to entertain V.I.P.'s touring the park.  Named after Lillian Disney, it features a lavish and ornate interior, with warm wood trim and lush velvet upholstery.  Various keepsakes are scattered around the car, and it's a great treat to be able to see this Disneyland treasure up close!

Looking down the Lilly Belle.
A wide angle view, peeking in from the side.
A lovely crystal candy dish sits on a side table.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Unusual Car Park

Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin has quite the zany facade, with bulging walls and wild (though now-faded) colors and action literally bursting from the (building) seams.  It's a proper facade for a silly and entertaining movie that inspired the fun and whirlwind ride.  And despite the area's general neglect over the years, it still seems pretty popular.  That's certainly a good thing!

Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin is bursting with animated energy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Festival of Sweetness

We're back today with the Disney California Food and Wine Festival, and today, we focus on the items that satisfy your sweet tooth!  The Festival Marketplace features booths with five total dessert items, each with its own blend of delectable sweetness and each appealing to a different type of palate.  Lets take a look at these scrumptious items!

The Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Brittle and Sea Salt ($4.25 + tax), at the "LA Style" booth, is absolutely delicious, with luscious chocolatey and caramel taste, a nice salty crunch, and extra sweetness from the white chocolate candy swirl.  Some people may find this too sweet, but I like my after meal dishes that way.

The Apple Bacon Whoopie Pie with Maple Cream Cheese Icing and Bacon Brittle ($3.75 + tax) at the "Gold Rush" booth was surprisingly tasty!  I usually don't like to mix sweets and savory tastes, but the bacon provide a nice, non-overwhelming saltiness that paired very nicely with the subtle maple icing.  

Based on description, this was the dish I least expected to care about.  Found in the "Bay the Bay" booth, the Coconut Tapioca Layered with Fresh Mango, Lychee Boba, Mango Coulis, with Green Tea Micro Sponge and Sesame Tuile ($4.25 + tax) was refreshing and fruity, with a lingering mellow sweetness.  The tapioca gave a nice soft pop between the teeth, and though the sponge cake was a little strange, it was nice together with the gelatin components of this dish.
The Meyer Lemon Macaron, with Blueberry Marmalade, Meyere Lemon Cream, and Dried Blueberry Dust ($3.50 + tax) at "The Farm" booth, was another nice surprise.  The lemon flavor was not overwhelming, and the blueberry marmalade inside provided a nice tartness.  The macaron shell was soft with a light crispness, lending a pleasant texture to this miniature cake.

Finally, the Blackberry Tart with Rosemary Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche and Cabernet Wine Glaze ($4.00 + tax) at the "Wine Country" booth was... actually a little disappointing based on my expectations.  I love blackberries, but this dish didn't seem as rich in flavor diversity as the others.  It was pretty much all blackberry in a tart breading that was a bit tough.  The candied rosemary was pretty nice, but I'd qualify the dish strictly in the average category--good, but not fantastic.
If you missed previous posts from this year's Food and Wine Festival, check them out here and here!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness

They say that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the "wildest ride in the wilderness," and it's certainly not inaccurate.  This runaway mine train roller coaster takes riders along a rip-roaring journey around buttes, through caverns, and into an explosive mine shaft.  And what's the best way to capture the fun turbulence?  Well, perhaps a little slower shutter speed to convey the motion on the ride.  That way, things are blurred, with just enough focus in the foreground to bring the viewer onto the ride.  These aren't my typical ultra-crisp photos, but I like how dynamic they are.  Now, just hang on to them hats and glasses!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Promenade Beside the Pier

I've always considered the Boardwalk restaurants along Paradise Pier to be a very underrated part of the Disney California 5-year Redesign Plan.  Though not as flashy as Cars Land or prominent as Buena Vista Street or even as crowd-attracting as Toy Story Midway Mania, the redevelopment of this dining promenade into Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and the Paradise Garden Grill provided a lovely space to eat, people watch, and relax.  Shaded and pleasantly landscaped, it's also home to some nice entertainment options.  Plus, the restaurants themselves are vastly superior versions of their predecessors.  Yes, I very much enjoy this area, and I don't think it gets nearly the attention or acclaim it deserves!

The north entrance to the Boardwalk restaurant area is adjacent to Goofy's Sky School.
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta provides delicious Italian fare.
The architecture is playful and colorful, but elegant in its own way.

There is bountiful seating, much of it covered, which is welcome on warm Southern Californian days.

This gazebo was salvaged from Bountiful Valley Farm across the park before it made way for Cars Land.

And Paradise Garden Grill offers delicious Mediterranean style cuisine--and specialty foods during certain times of the year!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fiery Skies Upon the Port

I didn't get a lot of good fortune with photogenic skies while I was in Tokyo, but my last day at the Tokyo Disney Resort was an exception.  The day itself was gorgeous--pretty and blue and sunny--a far cry from the drab gray heavens that had characterized most of my trip.  But as the afternoon descended into evening, the clouds came together in a lovely pattern to amplify the light of the setting sun.  The golden swath painted by the uplit clouds became a spectacular sight, and over the outline of the show building for Stormrider, I was able to capture some beautifuly sky-burning photos.

The winter sun sets to the southwest at Tokyo Disney Sea.

A closer-look at the skies and clouds.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Entering a Hong Kong Adventureland

Hong Kong Disneyland is most similar to the original Magic Kingdom, but it's not exactly a clone.  On the west side of the park, there is only one themed land directly off The Hub--Adventureland, and it isn't quite the type that other parks present.  Instead, it's a bit of a mixture between Adventureland and the Rivers of America, with a jungle setting but a large body of water adjacent, and the spirit of exploration alive and well.  Here, the Jungle Cruise is actually the Jungle River Cruise--a water tour that's sort of corny and sort of not.  And the premiere attraction is actually a stage show--the Festival of the Lion King.

Fittingly, though, in the spirit of Adventure, Hong Kong Disneyland's Adventureland also serves as a gateway to the three expansion areas of the park--leading directly to Grizzly Gulch, which then allows access to Mystic Pointe and Toy Story Land.  So, it definitely allows a model of exploration.  It's not quite the same as our Disneyland, but there's plenty to discover here!

Hong Kong Disneyland's Adventureland in the stillness of the night.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The E.P. Ripley Parked

With the Disneyland Railroad closed for an indefinite period of time, the Main Street and New Orleans Square stations have become exhibits for the steam engines themselves, with a train parked for the time being at each station.  Guests can walk around the station and wander onto the other sides of the track to get close-up views not normally seen.  It's a cool little feature, and while there's plenty of time if you haven't seen this yet, I still recommend checking it out as soon as you can!

The E.P. Ripley sits at New Orleans Square station at night.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Mountain and the Mansion

It's another photograph from Tarzan's Treehouse!  Yes, it's arguably my favorite perch from which to snap photos, especially around sunset, because the view is gorgeous.  With so many Disney park icons to spot, I'm surprised more people don't come up here to take pictures.  But I like having this location as "my secret" (even if it isn't really). And hopefully, you enjoy the view too!

Splash Mountain and Haunted Mansion at sunset from Tarzan's Treehouse.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Dragon's Lair

The dragon's den beneath Disneyland Paris' Sleeping Beauty Castle is a really fun walk-through attraction, and presentation is quite atmospheric and immersive.  The animatronic dragon is intimidating and really cool at the same time.  I really wish they had this at Disneyland California, but alas, that infrastructure was not built in at 1955.  Oh well, Disneyland Paris will have to do.  Here are some more pictures of the cavern!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Antebellum Afternoon

The Haunted Mansion is a gorgeous building, created in the spirit of a Southern manor (though ironically modeled after a mansion in Baltimore of inconsistent thematic architecture), fit into New Orleans Square with the air of Southern hospitality--from grim grinning ghosts.  Though the house is full of frightful spooks and dilapidated grounds inside, from the exterior, it remains looking immaculate and pristine.  It's quite welcoming, really, and it looks wonderful from all angles.  Unfortunately, aside from the main entrance, most of the other angles have some elements obscured.  But that is part of what makes the exterior fun--the overlap of trees and lamps and fences and building create some nice visual compositions, and these translate to fun little photographic moments.

A detail from the queue of the Haunted Mansion.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Broadway in Tokyo

American Waterfront at Tokyo Disney Sea has three characters: a New England seaside village area, a San Francisco wharf zone, and the main area--the streets of New York.  It is here that the Broadway Music Theatre can be found, and inside, the wildly popular show Big Band Beat.  Out of all the attractions at TDS, this was the only one that I wanted to see that I missed out on.  The show is such a hit that admission can only be done by lottery, or by waiting for first-come-first-serve balcony level seats.  This means that unless you win the lottery, you're probably waiting more than one show's length to see a viewing--something I decided not to do in favor of experiencing other attractions.  And then, all of a sudden, it was my last day at Tokyo Disney, and the last showtime had passed, and I had still not seen Big Band Beat.

Oh well, more reason to go back, right?

A glimpse at the New York style architecture in American Waterfront.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Soggy Evening at Humphrey's

One drizzly winter evening a few months ago... I was actually at the parks to get rainy night shots!  And early in the evening, I pulled double duty by nabbing some nighttime photos of the Grizzly Peak Airfield area, since I hadn't really done a proper nighttime shoot since it had opened.  The shots below depict Humphrey's Service & Supplies store, formerly "Fly 'n' Buy," now de-punned but selling pretty much the same merchandise.  The new rustic theme of Grizzly Peak Airfield fit the rainy evening better than the old Condor Flats, and the relative calm from the lack of crowds in response to the moisture-filled weather added a nice naturalistic peacefulness to the scene.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Afternoon Down the Main Drag

Last Sunday was an incredibly beautiful afternoon at the Disneyland Resort.  Though the weather forecast had hinted at rain, it turned out to be blue skies and puffy clouds and warm sun.  So after gorging myself with wonderful Food & Wine Festival offerings, I went about trying to capture the light.  To avoid those pesky guests that always seem to get in the way of my shots, I used my telephoto for part of the afternoon, honing in on compositional moments--capturing details or parts of a scene.  It was nice to work through a contrast to my typical wide-open shots.  And scenes like the one below help serve a reminder of a blissful afternoon at the neighbor to the Happiest Place on Earth!

An occasionally pausing yellow light and a sleek neon sign dot Radiator Springs' skyline.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Paradise Roses in Bloom

I give a lot of love to The Hub during its beautiful bloom around springtime, but the heart of Disneyland Park isn't the only place to find beautiful flowers during this refreshing time of year.  Flowers abound all over the Disneyland Resort, and this past week, they were in spectacular form over at Paradise Park at Disney California Adventure.  Hundreds of roses were in full bloom, beautifully pink in the soft afternoon sun, and the result was just a wonderful sight and a fragrant ambiance.  Here is a look at just some of the pretty flowers.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Under the Big Top

Over in Paradise Pier, there lurks what I think is a rather disturbing figure under the tent that is Sideshow Shirts.  An oversized ringmaster appears to have the tented ceiling of this store draped over him, and his overbearing posture seems to envelope customers.  Those who have associations of carnivals with unnerving imagery certainly might be a little wary when entering this space, and I find the interiors here a little too eclectic for my tastes.  But for whatever reason, this guy has endured the years, so if you want to pay him a visit, swing by the backside of Paradise Pier!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Big Eats at Food and Wine

It's another update from the Food and Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure!  My stomach's favorite time of the year, this is when DCA unveils booths full of delicious special dishes served only for the event, and following yesterday's starter course, today, we hit upon the pricier items that Annual Passholders might actually be able to economically offset via the use of the Festival Marketplace Tasting Passport.

The west coast Food & Wine Festival is in full swing at Disney California Adventure!
The Tasting Passport is available only to AP holders and allows users to purchase six food items (sorry, alcohol is excluded) of their choice.  The pass is $39 total (tax included) and does not all have to be used the same day.  Annual Passholders who do not use up their Tasting Passports can come back no later than May 1 to finish off their tabs.

The Festival Marketplace Tasting Passort, an AP perk!
If you're doing your math, then you'll realize that $39 divided by 6 tabs means each tab is effectively worth $6.50 of credit.  Work further backwards, since the food items purchased also need tax added, this means that each tab is worth $6.01 of pre-taxed credit.  The moral: don't use it on any food item that is $6.00 or less.  Only use it for food items greater than $6.00 before tax, and pay out of pocket for everything else.

Fortunately, there happen to be exactly six food items that are more than $6.00, making this half-dozen perfect for use with the Tasting Passport!  Lets check them out!

The Chilled Ahi Poke with Avocado Creme, Wakame Salad, and Sesame Tuile ($7.00 + tax) at the "LA Style" booth is exactly what'd you'd expect if you're familiar with poke (marinated raw sushi-grade fish).  The tuna is fresh and flavorful without tasting too fishy, and the seaweed salad is tangy and spongy.  The glazed sesame wafer adds a nice crunch, and the cream sauce plus the sweetened shoyu marinade create a delectable flavor pallet.  Though one of the pricier items, it is definitely worth it!
Also at the "LA Style" booth is the Poke Belly Bao Taco with Pickled Vegatables ($6.50 + tax).  Chinese steamed bun dishes are quickly becoming hip and trendy among the foodie community, with the moist and slightly sweet steamed bun adding a nice twinge of flavor to the savory bun contents.  This dish was also quite tasty, with pork belly, a hoisin sauce topping, and pickled carrots and daikon (Chinese radish) and cilantro adding a nice crunch.  I have had better baos at other restaurants, but this is a nice starter for those who may not be familiar with the dish.
The poke and pork belly bao together.
The Zinfandel-Braised Wagyu Beef with Creamy Polenta and Spring Pea Puree ($8.00 + tax) at the "Wine Country" booth is hearty and tastes a little bit like a pot roast.  I thought the use of wagyu beef was a bit of a waste in such a dish where the cooking process tenderizes the meat anyway, but the spring peas and polenta lent a light, refreshing contrast to the heavier beef.  This was tasty, but not among my favorites.
The Wagyu beef with the roasted yellow beets dish mentioned yesterday.
At "Viva Fresca," guests can also get a Fried Shrimp Soft Taco with Pickled Red Onion & Jalapeño, Queso Fresco, and Avocado-Lime Crema ($6.50 + tax).  This was wonderfully savory, portioned to easily share with a friend, and was a mix of tangy and light deep-fry.  The cheese and sauce complemented the ingredients perfectly!
The Grilled Beef Tenderloin Slider with Chimichurri Sauce ($7.75 + tax) at "The Farm" booth was hearty and quite delicious.  The slider might look like it only requires a few bites, but it actually is more filling than expected, and the chimichurri sauce adds a lovely zest to the moist tenderloin. 
Finally, at the "By the Bay" booth, the premium offering is a Chilled Shrimp and Snow Crab Cocktail ($7.50 + tax), a spicy appetizer dish with some nice helpings of shrimp and crab as well as a tomato puree with red onions, jalapeño, and parsley.  It's not filling, but it's pretty tasty and pairs excellently with the recommended Zocker, by Grüner Veltliner available at the same booth.
The Shrimp and Crab Cocktail in the middle, surrounded by CHOUP! (White Cheddar Ale & Bacon Soup) to the right and Coconut Tapioca Layered with Fresh Mango, Lychee Boba, and Mango Coulis (more on this and other desserts offered in a future post) on the left.
So if you followed along, you probably noticed that quite a few items were substantially above $6.00 per item.  So if you got one of each item described above at full price plus tax, the meal would cost you $46.71.  So by using the Tasting Passport to purchase these six items, you save $7.71, or basically the average cost of one of these heavier hitters.  And in fact, the "discount" works out to be about 16.5%, which is the typical Premium Annual Passholder dining discount.  You can use that savings to go back and get another order of your favorite dish!

The photo op by the waterfalls during the day.
Now that you've taken all that in, what are you waiting for?  Go grab some grub today!  And save some money while you're at it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Return of the Food and Wine Festival

After five long years of hiatus, the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival has returned and is bigger than ever!  Over half a decade ago, this west coast edition of the longstanding EPCOT tradition was a springtime staple for DCA, bringing various tastes and samplers of California cuisine to park guests.  But during the park's multi-year expansion, construction proved detrimental to running the event, so it was shuttered.  Fortunately, it has returned this year with eight different food and beverage booths, souvenir stands, and dining and cooking demonstrations and celebrity chef showcases.

For me, though, the best part of the Food and Wine Festival is the food samplings, offered at the "Festival Marketplace," so here's a look at some of the offerings at this year's event!

The food offerings of the Food and Wine Festival have been located along the main walkway between Buena Vista Street and Paradise Pier and adjacent to the Golden Vine Winery (technically, this area is part of Pacific Wharf).
Back this year is my longstanding favorite: White Cheddar Ale & Bacon Soup in a Boudin Sourdough Mini Boule ($5.50 + tax)--otherwise known as CHOUP!!!
Choup (effectively cheddar soup) can be found in the "By the Bay" stand and is delicious.  My only criticism is that there's never enough actual soup to go with the amount of bread in the small bread bowl!
Nearby, in "The Farm" stand, there is Golden Thai Vegetable Curry with Jasmine Rice ($5.75 + tax).
The dish has the traditional tanginess of Southeast Asian curry and also is somewhat spicy, providing a nice kick.  There's good flavor, though not as rich as other Thai curries I've had, and the vegetarian dish is suprisingly filling!
The Anaheim Chile & Roasted Cauliflower Burrito with Jack Cheese & Avocado-Lime Crema ($5.50 + tax) can be found in the "Viva Fresca" booth.  It's also pretty filling, with plenty of savory flavor from the tasty Anaheim chile, and the crema provides a cool zesty contrast to the heavy dairy of the burrito.  Surprisingly tasty!
One of my favorites is the Triple Cheese mac with Smoked Chicken with Fontina, Cheddar, and Gouda ($6.00 + tax).
Found at the "Gold Rush" booth, this mac 'n' cheese is rich, decadent, and absolutely delicious.  The chicken is moist and adds a nice texture too.  I definitely recommend it as one of the lower cost and higher filling dishes.
Also at the "Gold Rush" booth are the Artichoke Chips with Spicy Aioli ($5.00 + tax).  They are full of garlicky goodness, and the tender, subtle artichoke flavor offsets the fried breading.  This was another favorite offering, and I only wish they offered more than five pieces with this delicious dish!
The Artichoke Chips and Triple Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese together.
The Roasted Yellow Beets & Purple Haze Goat Cheese with Baby Greens, Green Verjus, Sultanas, and Cashews ($5.50 + tax) at the "Wine Country" stand is a fresh salad mix with a nice combination of dairy, nuts, and fruit flavors that combine very well with each other.  I suggest mixing everything together first.  The golden beets give a nice, light texture, though the other ingredients make this a heavier dish than its description may imply.
There's a nice photo op area by the back waterfalls of Grizzly Peak for those who want a snapshot.  The whole area in this corridor looks great, with the wine country aesthetic!
We'll be back tomorrow with more food offerings--in particular, the pricier items that make sense to be purchased with the Festival Marketplace Tasting Passport available to Annual Passholders.  In the meantime, the Food and Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure runs on weekends (Fridays through Sundays) until May 1st this year, so go check it out!
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