Saturday, December 25, 2010
When it comes to Disneyland, I've been there my fair share. I've done, been on and seen most of, if not all the attractions Disneyland has had to offer; however, on one Sunday in December, I was able to experience two things that are usually not available to the general public. The first, of course, was Club 33, a members-only restaurant that is in New Orleans Square. Thankfully, one of the Assistant Organizers of my dining group, Pleasure Palate, was a member and was able to bring a group of us in for lunch. Believe me, it wasn't free, but it was worth it and the cost covered the meal plus park hopper tickets for both Disneyland and California Adventure.
Club 33 runs completely separate from the Disneyland Park and in fact, you've probably walked past it a number of times and not have even known what was behind the plain blue door unless you were told. Located in New Orleans Square, look for a doorway with an oval black, silver and blue "33" address plate. Once there, look to the left of the door for a silver voice box. Lift the handle, speak and if you have the reservations, the door will magically open to you.
Once inside, you have the choice of an elevator or stairway to make your way to the second floor. When you've stepped onto the second floor, you will be in the Gallery where the centerpiece is an oak telephone booth with beveled lead glass panels that was in the Disney movie, "The Happiest Millionare."
To your right is the Disney Room, one of two smaller dining rooms inside Club 33. It's also known as the Trophy Room because when Walt was still alive, that's where he'd put hunting trophies, native spears, plumes, stuffed animal heads and other similar items that he'd get as gifts. You can see pictures of what the Trophy Room used to look like by clicking here. Current photos are below including an animatronic California turkey vulture which was designed to talk to guests while they dined. The actor, hidden in the sound room would control the vulture and listen to guests' conversations through microphones that used to be hidden in the dining room lamp fixtures. Unfortunately, the vulture is now silent.
Around the corner from the Gallery is Lounge Alley, the hallway that leads to the Main Dining Room and includes the bar and the buffet area for both dining rooms.
Apparently, the Main Dining Room had undergone a revamping, replacing lighter woods panels and furniture with darker woods. It was also nicely decorated for the holidays with fresh flowers and a Christmas tree while table settings had black, white and gold china with the Club 33 logo stamp.
So when it comes to lunch at Club 33, each guests chooses an entree and are served a complimentary glass of champagne or apple cider, which is available just for the holidays. After making our choice, we were directed to start our meal with all-you-can eat soup, bread and cold appetizers. Also throughout the meal, Mickey and Pluto would pop in to pose for photos with guests and this only happens on Sundays.
Once we've had our fill of our starters, our entrees started arriving. Although there were 6 different entree choices on the menu, our group stuck with three of them. My choice was the Pan Seared Chateaubriand with Parsnip Potato Puree and Cabernet Demi-Glace along with Baby Tomato Shallot Salad and Blue Lake Beans. It was cooked just right and was certainly a generous serving.
A few went for the New Zealand Grouper with Senate Bean Ragout and Hickory Tomato finished with Pancetta Bacon Gremolata.
The rest ordered Colorado Lamb Chops with Creamy Corn Polenta and a Gorgonzola Reduction along with Steamed Broccolini and Baby Carrots.
Afterwards, it was time for the Dessert Station where some people actually got one of each. I stayed with just five. The Coconut Macaroon Cookies were my absolutely favorite and I was almost tempted to stuff a few handfuls in my purse, but I somehow restrained myself.
At the end of each meal, guests used to be presented with personally engraved match books. When No Smoking came into play, the match books were replaced with miniature notebooks. Unfortunately, the machine that used to do all the engraving hadn't been working for awhile, but it was still a nice memento of our time at Club 33.
Throughout Club 33, there were also prints from Disney artists as well as beautiful furniture. Fresh flowers also abound.
I thought it couldn't get any better. After all, dining at Club 33 is an uncommon thing in itself, but it actually got even better. Simply, we were able to get a ride on the Lilly Belle Presidential Train Car. The Lilly Belle is a private railway car that was originally used for Disney VIP guests. Click here to read the entire history of how the Lilly Belle came to be and why Emperor Hirohito and his wife were the first to ride the Lilly Belle. See a hidden Mickey and find out how to get your own ride on the Lilly Belle here. For now, I hope you enjoy the photos below. First, here are exterior shots.
Check out these interior photos.
Finally, passengers could also get a special ticket memento that VIP guests originally had to use to get access to the Lilly Belle.
By the way, 2 more additional things I've never done at Disneyland was visit the California Adventure Park and that being the case, this was my first time seeing the World of Color Water Show. Check and check.
Finally, Disneyland is definitely the place to be for the holidays. Take a look at all the lights below.
Overall, I had a fantastic time. Between Club 33, the Lilly Belle as well as my other experiences, I truly was in a Magical Kingdom and thanks so much to DJ for everything he did and how he put it all together! Also, I'd like to wish everyone Happy Holidays! :-D
1313 S. Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 90803
To check out all 126 photos, click here!
Monday, December 06, 2010
Life, work, being sick, having a computer that was sick, holidays, taking a mini vacation all have definitely contributed to this late post of the media dinner I attended last November at the Corkbar in downtown Los Angeles, but better late than never I say. On behalf of Corkbar, I was invited by Kelsey Beniasch of Wagstaff Worldwide, Inc along with other LA food bloggers to check out Corkbar and their new fall menu.
In all honesty, I'm not much of a drinker, so a wine bar wouldn't be a place that would normally draw me to visit, but there was something specific about Corkbar that really impressed me. I had to commend them for being very supportive of the California wine industry by offering over 120 California wines by the bottle. 80 of those wines could even be ordered by the glass from many lesser-known producers with quite a few under $10 a glass. Their bar even offers beers from breweries from San Diego to Sonoma to keep with the California theme. I think it's great that Corkbar is supporting California businesses.
The interior design also incorporates wine country materials such as unstained woods and cork throughout a space that includes high, industrial ceilings and wood-lined walls. What's so unique about those wood-lined walls is that it's a collection of panels, some bordered with corks from actual wine bottles collected and consumed by the owners. Above the bar hangs an eye-catching 24-foot-high, tiered wooden shelf that displays over 800 wine bottles. That wooden shelf definitely drew my eye when I first walked in.
Now with everything said, regardless of how good a wine bar is in regards to its wine list, if there are no good food offerings to be had, it's definitely not a place you'd see me visiting anytime soon. Thankfully, after sampling Corkbar's menu that included some new fall items, I can definitely say that it's a wine bar that also has good eats.
Our tasting menu started with their Ball Park Sliders which were made up of burgers with homemade relish, homemade mayo and fennel sandwiched between pretzel bread. Honestly, I think all sliders should be made from pretzel bread from now on. I really enjoyed its crusty-salty surface and the addition of the tender fennel added a flavor component that I really found appealing. This particular dish came from their Test Kitchen Tuesdays where every Tuesday, Chef Albert Aviles features an experimental dish that customers can try for just $2. If it's a hit, it may just end up on the menu or as a special.
Next were the Cheddar Cheese Gougeres, which were basically light and airy cheese buns. They reminded me of Brazilian cheese bread and they were just as good. In fact, they were addicting. I could have easily eaten a whole plate all by myself.
With more cheesy goodness came Corkbar's own version of Mac and Cheese which included cheddar, monterey jack and roasted pasilla chiles. This is the first time I've had spicy mac and cheese and it was about time.
On the table next were two salads. First was the Double Wedge Salad, which was one of the specials for the evening. Second was the Root Vegetable Salad with arugula, dandelion greens, upland cress with roasted root vegetables, shallots, red wine-thyme viniagrette and balsamic drizzle. Neither salad was very memorable, but the greens were fresh and I was happy with that.
When it came to the Curried Mussels with black mussels in a coconut curry broth served with a sliced baguette, I had two complaints. One, there wasn't enough bread to sop up all that delicious broth. Two, I wish I wasn't already getting full because I would have definitely eaten more of it.
Another special for the evening was the apple juice brined pork tenderloin with German purple cabbage and a cream cheese potato puree. Chef Aviles mentioned that the purple cabbage was his Grandma's recipe and he certainly did Grandma proud. Cooked with green apples, pineapple juice, a bay leaf and more, that cabbage had a tart, fruitiness to it that added a different dimension, flavor-wise. Also, the pork was cooked perfectly and I enjoyed the creaminess of the potato puree.
Back to the ocean for the Seared Sea Scallops with parsnip puree and spinach sautéed with bacon and topped with brown butter and to the ranch with the Hanger Steak, a pan seared hanger steak on a bed of red wine and mushroom risotto and topped with a red wine and balsamic reduction. Scallops aren't usually my seafood of choice, but I had no issues with their scallop dish and while I liked the red wine and mushroom risotto, I thought the steak itself was a little overcooked; hence, chewy.
We also tried out the Farmer's Market Veggie Sandwich with roasted eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, red onion and a feta spread on olive bread. As vegetable sandwiches go, I thought it was pretty tasty.
Our final savory course before dessert was the Root Beer Braised Short Ribs served over cheesy polenta. Those short ribs were meltingly tender, so that was the big plus of this dish; however, I thought the dish was a little too "saucy" and I wish the polenta was cheesier.
When it came to dessert, we shared two. One was a Creme Brulee, but the second one was simply referred to as Breakfast. So what's Breakfast? Simply, it's a cinnamon brioche bread pudding with caramel sauce, creme fraiche and sprinkled with bacon. Unfortunately, Breakfast usually shows up as a special and not on the regular menu, so when you see it, get it! You won't regret it.
Overall, I enjoyed the food at Corkbar. It's a wine bar that has great wine selection, but it's also a restaurant where one can enjoy a delicious dining experience. Of course, if you also need help pairing wines with items from the menu, there's a knowledgeable staff to help you do just that. Corkbar is definitely a great addition to downtown LA and who knows, you may even see a Corkbar coming to your neighborhood sometime in the future as well.
403 W. 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015