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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: A Culinary Cabaret (Part I)

28 October 2012

Through a very generous gesture from a very close friend, last week I've had the absolute pleasure to relax, pull up a chair, and put service to the test as part of a Test Meal at New Fantasyland. If those weren't clues enough, I'm pleased to say I've had the pleasure to have dinner at the much anticipated new combination counter service (called Fast Casual) and Table Service restaurant: Be Our Guest.

My friend who gave my friends and I the chance to dine at Be Our Guest also was treated to a seminar and question/answer session with Imagineer Chris Beatty, the overall creative director of the whole Fantasyland Expansion. With the incredible details and facts about the restaurant as well as our feedback on the food, I have quite a lot to say about this restaurant. To best treat you to this culinary cabaret, I'll be focusing on a single course each week as well as some interesting facts about different parts of the restaurant. This four part series will culminate in the week of November 18th, when the restaurant opens for previews to the public.

Without even crossing the bridge into the castle, so much of the story is set just by approaching the Beast's Castle from the courtyard of Fantasyland. Fantasyland's ground had actually been slightly elevated section by section throughout the year in order to feel like you're going down into the forest from the castle courtyard. In the distance, lies the foreboding fairy tale castle, home of the Beast, atop a high, cold, unwelcome mountain deep in the forest. This mountain was designed with sharp and angular rockwork, with parts of it looking like claws and the whole of it reflecting the cold, regretful personality of the Beast within. Once New Fantasyland is complete, this story element will be clearer when seen beside the rockwork for the mountain of the Seven Dwarfs, which will have round, soft, and playful angles and colors.

The mountain and castle seen from the pathway to Maurice's cottage

Early renderings of the restaurant originally had the castle to similar scale of neighboring Cinderella and Prince Eric's castle. This came from an Imagineer's desire to shrink in size and walk around Storybookland in Disneyland. They hoped to recreate this concept in full size at the Magic Kingdom for a full fantasyland storybook adventure. Though, after careful thought, they realized nothing should be competing with Cinderella Castle, the landmark and poster palace for not only the park but the Walt Disney World resort. The main castle, as it is today, is smaller in the distance to give the sense that it was far away, deep in the forest on the high mountains. It was painted muted colors to blend with the mountain in order to further give the sense of its far off distance. So the next idea was to have the castle entryway be full size with turrets and a high wall and gate. As designing and modeling progressed, a full sized castle entryway seemed too heavy in the foreground view of the restaurant.

Part of this idea survived with the crumbling castle wall and gatehouse. The castle gates were the oldest and least kept of the castle grounds, suffering the most damage from battles and invasions throughout the castle's history. The gatehouse doubles as a story element as well as the greeter stand to check in and make reservations for the restaurant. My friend said Imagineer Chris at first decided not to use this idea, though for our test meal, this was where we checked in. In order to get into the story, I asked the host and hostess at the greeter stand why they were not themselves enchanted objects. The hostess stated she was simply a forest villager who found employment from the Beast when he opened his castle to guests. The host stated he was having a drink with his buddies at Gaston's tavern when the curse fell upon the castle, so he was not affected. With the smallest of back stories, the story was set and already, I could tell this meal experience would be like no other.

Next week, we'll look more into the details of the castle after crossing the bridge, but for now, we'll jump ahead to mealtime. After being seated in the fantastic West Wing, the first thing we noticed was the beautiful presentation and theming of the tables. After admiring this we begin our meal with appetizers. The way a test meal works is that our menu choices were predetermined for us with a random lottery of meal vouchers in order for servers and kitchen cast to appropriately practice with all the menu items. Also, the test meal is free to the testers, so this was also a way to prevent everyone from ordering the steak! Our first course consisted of two appetizers everyone in our party could share.

The Meal Vouchers consisted of 2 appetizers, 4 entrees, and 2 desserts, with free non-alcoholic beverages

The napkins were folded to look like roses

The extremely low lit room was helped a bit with the tea light inside this gothic candle holder

First up was the Salad Trio. This consisted of a plate holding three bowls of three different salads. The first was a roasted beet, gold raisin, and orange salad. The second had watermelon, radish, and mint salad. The third had green beans, tomato, and roasted shallot salad. Each mini salad was dressed with champagne vinaigrette. Our group found the salads to be light and refreshing, with some interesting flavor combinations.

Green Bean salad, Watermelon Salad, and Beet and Raisin Salad

My personal favorite was the beet, raisin and orange salad, as its earthy flavors from the beets and sweet and acid component of the golden raisins made it the most unique and non-traditional of the trio. The watermelon salad was nice with the mint flavor, though the presentation was a bit rushed as the few thin slices of radish were shoved to the side with the watermelon dominating the bowl. The green bean salad was most traditional, with good flavor from the heirloom tomatoes and roasted shallots. The odd part was that it was difficult to find the champagne vinaigrette in all three salads. Still, the salads were a good start to the meal and a nice thing to share among the group.

Next was the French Onion Soup, which we were all intrigued to try. Yes, we all shared one bowl, but no double dipping until we all had a sample! Growing up in the north east, I was accustomed to getting French Onion soup at diners and such and they're always so good. As hoped for, the soup came in a ceramic crock bowl with an incredibly thick layer of cheese melted on top. There should have been a French bread crouton as well, but it somehow got lost in the cheese. Needless to say, the soup was delicious and did not disappoint. The onions had been cooked slow enough to absorb the richest flavor from the stock and spices it was soaked in. Coupled with a heaping spoonful of gruyere cheese in every bite, this was an incredible soup that everyone enjoyed.

With our appetites piqued appropriately, we were definitely ready for the main course. From the French countryside to the coast in the south of France, we sampled entrees such as Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops along with the classic recipe of Ratatouille Confit Byaldi. Come back next week as we continue to explore the Beast's castle and feast on the culinary cabaret of classic French cuisine.




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