If you envision hors d’oeuvres at Walt Disney World as potato puffs shaped like the mouse, prepare your taste buds!
My first experience with Disney’s cuisine was at a meeting last spring. Our breakfast buffet included miniature quail-egg omelettes in biscuits and an unparalleled sea-salt bacon baklava. By lunch, this group—meeting managers and industry leaders with years of experience—was abuzz about the food.
Dinner that night was punctuated by descriptions by our chef of the fresh, local ingredients used in each course.
Our group had the chance to experience two of the many private event venues within Epcot (if you think “private” and “Epcot” is an oxymoron, think again): a lovely space tucked away in the Norway pavilion for dinner (accommodates 80, banquet-style), and a special terrace for groups overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon, where we were wowed by the fireworks as we shared coffee, cordials, and pastries.
If you have a small group and plan to use one of the Disney restaurants, I highly recommend the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort for its superb wine list and sushi crafted by one of the top sushi chefs in the country. The starters are “creative California,” like Sonoma goat-cheese ravioli or creamy sunchoke and celery root soup, and you’ll find high-quality ingredients like Loch Duart salmon on the entrée menu. Private rooms accommodate up to 50, or you can book the entire restaurant for as many as 240 people.
When I returned to Disney World again this year, I was just as impressed with the F&B. One morning’s sumptuous breakfast featured brie-stuffed French toast with raspberry syrup and almonds, and a sister stuffed with bananas with a mango syrup and toasted coconut. For something less decadent, there was a Zephyrhills (a town in Florida) strawberry key-lime meringue. As we dined, we watched an artist-chef carve animals and flowers from pineapples and other fruits. (We heard he had arrived around 6 in the morning to design an entire beachside scene for us.)
Ask about the many VIP touches Disney offers for corporate groups. At one event, they seated us at a Lucite table with our names and my magazine’s logo stamped on the chairs. We enjoyed a private safari guided by a naturalist (vans accommodate 25) and a late morning relaxing on the lagoon on the Grand I yacht, which can accommodate 15.