Monday, April 30, 2018

Walt Disney World: Homecomin'


Out of all of our meals that we had planned for our recent trip to Walt Disney World, dinner at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' was one of the top two meals on my most-excited-to-try list (the other was the afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian Resort's Garden View Tea Room--post coming soon!).

Ever since it first opened its doors on July 12, 2016 I have read nothing but rave reviews. Pretty much every single Disney dining experience seems to have some combination of positive and negative customer feedback (even if the positive tremendously outweighs the negative), and yet somehow Homecomin' has been that spot that just exudes perfection, surpasses all expectations, and lives up to all the praise out there. I honestly haven't read a single negative or even hesitantly positive review. Everyone seems to love this place, so obviously I couldn't wait to finally try it!

Chef Art Smith is the former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. He pays homage to his home state of Florida with his hub of comfort food glory. Located in The Landing section of Disney Springs, the restaurant space is just as comfortable as the menu.

There's plenty of indoor seating with views of the centrally located shine bar, but there's also a fantastic screened-in porch overlooking the Springs.

We were lucky enough to snag one of these tables-with-a-view.

Our table...

And our view!

Let's take a look at the various menus starting with some of the drink options. First of all, there are four "shines on tap," meaning four pre-mixed cocktails on tap featuring moonshine. They include Moonshine Margarita, Sweet Tea Shine, Blue Hooch, and Rumshine Punch, and they are all available in a couple different sizes.

I decided to try out the Sweet Tea Shine, a combination of sweet tea, fresh-squeezed lemon, and moonshine. It was honestly reminiscent of an Arnold Palmer, and was quite refreshing, not too sweet, and not too strong-tasting. This is a great choice if you want something delicious but are afraid to try a drink that's heavily laced with moonshine. This has a nice balance.

Speaking of moonshine, there's actually an entire moonshine menu! So if you're not a newbie like me, you can get your shine on quite easily with loads of moonshine options.

Moonshine ain't your thing? There's also a pretty significant whiskey menu available.

And here's the general drink menu (on the back of the food menu). It includes a few of the previously discussed drink items plus wines, beer, and additional made-to-order cocktails.

Before we peek at the food menu, check out these adorable his and hers coasters! Another fun detail that could easily be overlooked, but such a nice little touch.

Alright, the best is yet to come! It's time for the main event, the food! Now, I had big dreams for this meal. Big dreams. In theory, I wanted to try as many of the menu items as I possibly could, however I knew that even with a party of four with big appetites, entrees mainly comprised of fried foods would fill our bellies pretty quickly. In lieu of appetizers before our already filling meals, we just went with entrees, however we did get an additional side to try. I'll start first with what the others ate.

My parents both ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich, which is buttermilk-brined for 24-hours, double-battered, fried, and served with hot sauce, aioli, lettuce, tomato, and bread and butter pickles on a buttery brioche bun. Normally it comes with house made BBQ potato chips, but they opted for one order of fries and one order of the corn succotash for a small upcharge.

The chicken was loved all around, and was described as a juicy breast with a nice crispy exterior. The hot sauce didn't make the sandwich too spicy at all. In general, the sandwich was really well-balanced. The side dishes were also enjoyable. The succotash was very fresh and flavorful, and the fries were as expected.

My sister and I both wanted to try Art's Famous Fried Chicken. It's served with a couple different options. The first is the entree named above, which includes 3 pieces of 24-hour-long buttermilk-brined fried chicken (a drumstick, a boneless thigh, and a mostly boneless breast with the wing drumette attached, aka a statler chicken breast). It comes with a side of creamy mashed potatoes, a cheddar drop biscuit, and bread and butter pickles.

The second option is the Fried Chicken & Doughnuts (not pictured) which is currently $2 less than the above, and features 2 pieces of chicken, house-made sugar doughnuts, and creamy mashed potatoes. So you get one less piece of chicken, but instead you enjoy some really yummy doughnuts.

We decided to actually share Art's Famous Fried Chicken (with the 3 pieces) and add an additional side of Momma's Mac and Cheese. We both wanted to try this beloved side, and we had read that Art's Famous Fried Chicken is a very generous portion size which could easily be shared, especially with an extra side.

This worked out perfectly for us! The fried chicken was pretty epic, and we requested some hot honey on the side, which was an excellent addition to the already stellar fried chicken. The mashed potatoes were as creamy and delicious as described. The biscuit was right on. The mac and cheese was gooey perfection. No complaints whatsoever.

So, I know what you're thinking. We passed up an opportunity to try the house-made doughnuts. Well little did we know that in honor of my birthday (and yours) the staff at Homecomin' will bring you your very own sugar doughnut topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and rainbow sprinkles.

Upon tasting this dessert I was so happy for the surprising opportunity to try a signature doughnut because it was SO GOOD! Even better perhaps with the ice cream on top. Seriously. SO GOOD!! It looks like doughnuts are an option on the dessert menu, so definitely check them out if you pass up the Fried Chicken & Doughnuts meal option. It's the best of both worlds right there.

I can't say enough about our meal at Homecomin'. I know the menu doesn't look glamorous, and we didn't even try everything on the menu (and trust me there are many other items I'd love to try out, especially on the appetizer list), but I can easily assess the greatness of this spot at Disney Springs with our singular meal there. The ambiance was cozy and warm, the view was fantastic, the service was great, the cocktail was delicious, our entrees were exceptional, and the free surprise dessert was outstanding. Add Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' to your Disney Springs to do list ASAP. You won't be sorry.

*Update 5/5/19* I recently returned to Homecomin' for lunch, and am just as pleased on my return visit as I was the first time. I opted for a lighter option, the Fried Chicken Salad, which is slightly different now than in the older menu above. The current descriptions reads: Crispy fried chicken over mixed greens, pecan-smoked bacon, egg, heirloom cherry tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber tossed with icebox dressing, cheddar biscuit croutons, and fresh herbs. The salad was excellent! The chicken was perfect, of course, and all the accouterments of the salad were in balance.

We also shared a ginormous slice of Art's famous Hummingbird Cake. It was epic in both size and flavor. I can see now why so many people swoon over this cake. It's legendary for a reason!

Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'
1602 E. Buena Vista Dr.
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 560-0100

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Walt Disney World: Cape May Cafe


During our recent stay at Disney's Beach Club Villas we were able to check out Cape May Cafe for both breakfast and dinner. Both meals are served buffet-style, but each is different in theme. Let's start with breakfast.

Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast is served daily from 7:30 am to 11 am. It's a breakfast buffet with character interactions, currently featuring Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy all in their beach attire.

Much like any other buffet/character meal at Disney, the price ranges depending on the time of year. I believe we paid $32 for each adult when we went. Annual Pass and DVC discounts also apply.

The menu is perhaps slightly elevated from what you may find at some other Disney breakfast buffets, and I think that's part of what makes this meal so appealing outside of meeting the characters. One of our favorite items on the menu is the vegetable scramble with goat cheese. I swear, the goat cheese makes all the difference!

Let's take a closer look at some of the other buffet items.

Omelet station

Tomatoes and Cauliflower, Seasonal Vegetables

Breakfast Potatoes, Mushroom Frittata

Smoked Bacon, Pork Sausage

Scrambled Eggs, Vegetable Scramble with Goat Cheese, Corned Beef Hash

Tator Tots

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Mickey Waffles

Assorted Breads, English Muffins, Croissants, Jams

Bagels, Whipped Cream Cheese, Strawberry Cream Cheese, Chive Cream Cheese

Smoked Salmon, Sliced Tomatoes, Sliced Red Onion

Lemons, Capers, Chopped Eggs, Salami, Capacola, Soppressata, Selection of Cheeses

Biscuits, Breakfast Potatoes, Pork Sausage, Smoked Bacon

French Toast, Caramel Banana Sauce, Mickey Waffles, Pancakes, Sausage Gravy (for Biscuits above)

French Toast with Caramel Banana Sauce

Apple Danish, Banana Bread, Blueberry Muffins, Oat Bran Muffins, Powdered Donut Holes

Chocolate Chip Muffins, Lemon Poppy Seed Bread, Cinnamon Buns

Granola, Yogurts, Fruits

All the meals come with complimentary tea or coffee and juice. You can also purchase other specialty beverages or breakfast cocktails if you wish. I selected Earl Grey tea as well as POG juice (passion fruit, orange, guava). I honestly enjoyed pretty much everything I tried. The vegetable scramble with goat cheese is one of the highlight, the biscuit with sausage gravy wasn't bad either. The frittata was also pretty satisfying.

On the sweet side I loved the french toast. I also tried something that tasted like overnight oats, topped with fruit puree and berries. It was kind of bland once you ate all the fruit puree. I'm not sure what it actually was because it wasn't labeled.

As you can see I got a second helping of the veggie scramble with goat cheese along with my sweets!

Although breakfast at Cape May Cafe is actually pretty good, and ventures outside of the boring and expected breakfast fare, the real reason most people book this meal is for the character experiences. Recently Daisy Duck joined the cast, making her the fourth member of the character team making the rounds. Here I am with my new beach-going pals!

Also, for my birthday I got a card signed by the characters and a cupcake! Our awesome server Tanja even got some of the nearby tables to join her in singing Happy Birthday to me. I was so stuffed that I couldn't even eat the cupcake but I appreciated the sentiment. It was really a super way to start the day! I would definitely recommend this character breakfast, and I would happily do it again.

Dinner at Cape May Cafe is not a character meal. It's a seafood-and-more buffet served from 5 pm to 9 pm daily. We actually had reservations this night to a different restaurant but decided to check out dinner at Cape May Cafe instead  after walking by several times during our stay and smelling all the delicious seafood. At the time of our visit we paid $45 per adult for our meal.

Although it's listed as a seafood buffet, there's a lot more on the menu than simply seafood. Let's take a closer look at the offerings.

Steamed Clams, Paella

Tartar Sauce, Clam Strips, Fried Cod Nuggets

Vegetable Pasta with Herb Pistou, Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pasta

Macaroni and Cheese

Sauteed Green Beans, Chicken Drumsticks

Selection of Breads

Selection of Cheeses

Hand-carved Strip Loin

Horseradish Cream and Onion Jam

Cheese Pizza

Barbecue Pork Ribs, Brown Gravy, Mashed Potatoes

Italian-Herb Marinated Salmon, Steamed Mussels in Tomato Fennel Broth

Steamed Red Potatoes, Steamed Corn on the Cob, Steamed Clams, Snow Crab Legs

Drawn Butter

Selection of Salads, Marinated Olives

Southwestern Salad, Caesar Salad, House Salad

Chilled Marinated Shrimp, Cold Snow Crab Legs

Clam Chowder, Vegetable Soup

Cake Squares, Brownies


Dessert Bar

So many choices! I started with the clam chowder, which was actually really good! And I'm from New England, so you know I know what I'm talking about. Very chunky with potatoes and lots of clams. Really tasty chowder. Several of my family members got second bowls of the chowder at the tail end of our meal.

I moved on to an all seafood plate consisting of paella, steamed mussels, salmon, clam strips, cod nuggets, and some bread with olive hummus. My least favorite item was probably the salmon. It was only ok, and cooked pretty well-done. The clam strips were likely pre-frozen, maybe the cod nuggets were too, but I honestly didn't mind them. I really enjoyed the paella and mussels the most.

I moved on to a non-seafood plate with some Caesar salad, roasted beef strip loin with horseradish cream and onion jam, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, macaroni and cheese, and vegetable pasta with pistou. The beef was pretty tender, and generally quite enjoyable. Believe it or not the mashed potatoes and gravy were pretty stellar. So comforting and well-seasoned. The macaroni and cheese was also really good. It's homemade, and delicious!

Ok, so I'm not sure how or why I waited until the end of the meal to get the snow crab legs, but somehow I did. I took a few on a plate and then freaked out when I realized how good they were, and what I had been missing this whole time, and I went back and filled a bucket with more snow crab legs. I ate the hot ones (not the chilled ones) with drawn butter, and OMG were they good!

This is the reason people come to this buffet. Honestly, I don't really think it's worth $45 (or more) unless you are really going to town on the shellfish. There are plenty of seafood and non-seafood options at the buffet, but whether or not it's worth the price is really going to depend on the person, their appetite, and their affinity for seafood. We had a wonderful meal, but with all the other great dining options in a similar or lower price range, I'm not sure we will be back. I'm really glad we tried it though! I would still recommend it for anyone who loves seafood (mainly shellfish) to try it at least once.

Cape May Cafe
1800 Epcot Resorts Blvd
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463


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