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Whispering Canyon Cafe

Disney. A place that’s built around fun. With well over a hundred restaurants on their property, there are dozens of choices that keep that fun going while you eat. Then there are a handful that go out of their way to provide antics specifically aimed and having child-like fun with the customers. One such place is located at one of Disney’s deluxe resorts.

Wilderness Lodge is a resort that simulates the Pacific Northwest. As you arrive, you are initially greeted by a grand sized building with a green metal roof. A large covered drop-off area hangs over the front entrance, with several employees waiting to help you check in or valet your vehicle. If you choose to self park, it is free of course, and after many visits I’ve never had trouble finding a spot in their expansive parking lot. Continue reading

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Comprehensive Review: City Cafe, Part 5

You can find previous reviews of City Cafe here:
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

It’s time for another edition of City Cafe snacks, and this one is a feast. I picked up several treats from my favorite local bakery to bring home and eat. As this was a to-go order, I’ll get right down to business and show you my selections. After this run, I only have a few items from their case to try, other than the rotating cakes and pies that are constantly changing.

I started with a simple $0.65 thumbprint cookie. This was a basic shortbread cookie with a thumbprint pressed into the middle. That divot was then filled with a colored icing.

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Thumbprint Cookie

After baking, the icing becomes a somewhat crunchy on the outside, and chewy in the middle.

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Cookie Icing

I noticed after biting in that there were a few pecans mixed in, but they wouldn’t have been noticeable from the taste had I not looked at it. This cookie was just a bite or two, and didn’t leave any lasting memories. It was simply a shortbread cookie with a little icing.

Rating: 5.5/10

The employee at the cafe highly recommended one of the sugar cookies, saying they were better than you can find most anywhere else. She was very confident in these, and picked out a butterfly for me at $1.25.

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Butterfly Sugar Cookie

I generally prefer softer cookies, but unfortunately this one was very crunchy, and almost tough to bite into. It was definitely sweet, but not overly so.

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Cookie Closeup

I found the cookie was fairly standard in taste, despite the employee’s insistence that it would be something special. I have to disagree with that, and say that it was very average.

Rating: 5.5/10

Now we’re getting into City Cafe’s specialty food, cakes. This round I was going to try a white chocolate mousse cake.

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White Chocolate Mousse Cake

As always, the cake was very moist. It had a vanilla base with a nice strong flavor. In between the three cake layers were strips of white chocolate mousse. They had a smooth, creamy pudding-like texture. As soft as mousse normally is, the cake was so moist that I could actually scrape it out from between the mousse layers.

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Cake & Mousse Layers

On top, the icing layer was a sweet, white chocolate buttercream. It looked similar to the mousse layers within the cake, however, this icing was a bit firmer and had that tastefully familiar granular texture from plenty of added sugar. This icing layer was garnished with a purple flower fondant, which was also made from white chocolate.

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Icing with Chocolate Fondant

The back of the cake had a full covering of shaved white chocolate. While most of the cake was melt-in-your-mouth soft, the back was a tad firmer from the chocolate shavings.

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White Chocolate Shavings

This wasn’t the best best cake I’ve tried here, but it kept with the trend of more delicious than normal cakes compared to my past experiences. This is one I’d order again, unless my past favorite, the Milano cake showed its face again.

Rating: 7/10

While in the cafe, I ventured away from the main case, and picked up an apple streussel from the case to the right of the register, where the wine and baklava are located.

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Apple Streussel

The bottom of the streussel was a soft, crumb cake structure. On top, it was covered with an apple crumble.

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Apple Crumble

Although it had a softer exterior, it was built just like an apple pie on the inside, including bits of real apple and a similar type of filling. The filling was made from apple, molasses, and corn syrup. This gave it a slightly gooey structure, while still remaining somewhat liquid when heated. It wasn’t bad, but if I’m going to have something so close to an apple pie, I’d prefer the real thing, with a crispy, buttery crust and all.

Rating: 5.5/10

While in the bakery, I saw a danish and asked what type it was. When I was told it was a poppy seed danish, I told the employee I’d never heard of that before. She was quite surprised and said it was a very popular item, and I should definitely try it. So here it was.

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Poppy Seed Danish

It was essentially a cinnamon bun with a different flavor. It was even shaped the same as well. Just like City Cafe’s cinnamon buns, it had plenty of icing and included white raisins and a crumble on top. This version had the addition of poppy seeds. Take away those poppy seeds, and add cinnamon, and this was no different than their usual buns.

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Cinnamon Bun Look-alike

I found this particular pastry to be fresher than the cinnamon bun I had prior. I liked the fresher taste, but didn’t think the poppy seeds brought anything special to the flavor. In fact, I would much prefer a cinnamon flavor than the taste of poppy seeds in this type of pastry. They really didn’t work for me. Other than that minor change in the recipe, it was still an enjoyable pastry over all.

Rating: 7/10

Most of the time I prefer my cheesecakes with some infused flavor. I’m not against a plain cheesecake, but sometimes they can be, well… a bit plain. Since I have been setting out to try City Cafe’s entire lineup, I had no choice but to go for this slice of regular cheesecake topped with raspberries.

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Cheesecake with Raspberries

What a surprise upon the first bite when I discovered it was unbelievably creamy, almost melting on its own as it sat on the plate.

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Smooth, Creamy Texture

The sweet cheesecake sat on a very thin crust, that could easily go unnoticed. Tasting it on its own, it was semi-firm, and was a typical graham cracker base. Since other than any toppings, the crust is the only change in texture to an otherwise overly soft dessert, I would have liked to see it made much thicker. A thick crunchy crust can really perk up even the most boring cheesecake.

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Crust

The cake was topped with tightly packed, fresh and plump raspberries. They were coated in a simple sugar that was mostly clear, although on the bottom it had soaked up the raspberries’ juices, making it turn bright red and giving it the full flavor of sweet raspberry.

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Raspberries in Simple Sugar

The back of the cheesecake didn’t have the same graham cracker crust as the bottom. Instead it used a soft crumble. Because it was so soft and in minimal quantity, it also could have gone unnoticed. Again, I could have gone for a thicker, crunchier crust, preferably graham cracker, which is the primary cheesecake crust found most often.

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Soft, Crumble Crust

Other than the crust issues, I was happy with the cheesecake. I was really impressed with the creamy texture, and bold, sweet flavor that it had. It was one of the better cheesecakes I’ve had in a while, and could have been near perfect with the right crust setup.

Rating: 8/10

My wife picked up a flourless chocolate cake to stay gluten-free.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

It had the same base as every other flourless cake we’ve had recently, with a sort of gritty texture, but a nice sweet, chocolate taste. It was similar to a really good chocolate brownie.

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Brownie Substitute

The cake was topped with fresh berries that were coated with a simple sugar.

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Berry Topping

It was as simple as that, a chocolate base topped with fresh berries. It tasted great, and my wife was able to eat it. Win-win.

Rating: 7.5/10

My next choice covered two things I love. The croissant, and chocolate.

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Chocolate Croissant

There are generally two ways that I find chocolate croissants are sold. One is just a simple chocolate drizzle over the outside. Many places go a step further and have a pencil sized strip of chocolate down the middle of the inside. This one did even better than that. I found quite a wide layer of chocolate that covered almost the entire bottom of the pastry.

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Extra Thick Chocolate Layer

I heated it up until the whole thing was firm and flaky. There was just enough chocolate inside and on the top that it gave it a chocolate flavor without feeling like a dessert. The croissant itself was standard in structure, but still well made. As a chocolate lover and croissant lover, this was a nice treat.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sticking with the croissant theme, I picked up another one, this time filled with ham and cheese. The outside was coated with white cheddar and cooked until the cheese hardened into a tasteful crust.

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Ham & Cheese Croissant

The cheddar cheese on the inside was plentiful, and it had melted into a gooey mass that made the inside of the croissant extra soft. It wasn’t easy to see as the color matched the croissant’s, but it was quite noticeable, and delicious.

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Ham & Cheese Filling

The ham was just the right amount of contrasting flavor to the croissant while not becoming the primary flavor. The whole thing had a nice even mix of cheese, ham, and croissant flavors.

Rating: 7.5/10

Moving on, I wanted one last true dessert item, so I brought home a pecan tart.

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Pecan Tart

It was surrounded by a soft, butter tart crust. I much prefer a flaky crust, but am always open to new ways to enjoy my food, so I didn’t start to worry yet.

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Crust

I decided to heat up the tart to have that warm pie sensation. Surprisingly, the crust firmed up when it was heated, and became chewy. This wasn’t quite the flakiness I was looking for, but it was an improvement from the softness it had initially.

On top of the crust sat a gooey sweet mixture of molasses and corn syrup. This was then topped by the tart’s main flavors, coming from pecans and chocolate chips.

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Tart Filling

Overall the pecan tart was tastefully sweet, with a unexpectedly hearty flavor of chocolate from the mini chips. While pecan isn’t a preferred dessert flavor for me, this was still pretty good and I’d be more than happy to try other variations of their tarts. I supposed that goes without saying, since I’ll be eating everything they have to offer.

Rating: 6/10

To end this tasting session, I wanted to try something from the dessert case was less dessert-like, and possibly even on the healthier side. I grabbed a coconut parfait. Generally I enjoy parfaits, and coconut is a flavor I love, so I was excited for this one.

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Coconut Parfait

The main substance was a store bought Greek yogurt, with a couple layers of graham cracker crumbs added. The parfait was also topped with these crumbs, along with a little shredded coconut.

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Parfait Toppings

Unfortunately, these few shreds of coconut on top were the only coconut flavor found within the parfait. I don’t know if it was intended to be an actual coconut parfait, or if the employee that helped me just called it that since it had those coconut shreds visible on top. Not only was there no coconut flavor within, the yogurt was very sour. I don’t mean it had gone bad, it just was a sour tasting yogurt. The graham cracker crumbs had a slight sweetness that tried to compensate, but there just weren’t enough of them. Additionally, the crumbs had become very soggy from the yogurt, so they couldn’t even offer the crunchy texture that is expected. It’s even obvious in this photo how liquid soaked they had become.

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Soaked Graham Cracker Crumbs

On top of the unappetizing flavor, the Greek yogurt was also very stiff. It appeared to have had very little moisture, and I’m guessing it was due to much of it being soaked up into the graham cracker crumbs.

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Firm Yogurt

There was nothing else to this parfait other than the yogurt, crumbs, and the few coconut flakes on top. I’m used to parfaits having several ingredients mixed in, especially fruits, dried or otherwise, to add some sweetness. This parfait definitely needed some. In the end, I didn’t find it very appetizing. It was way too plain, and definitely too sour. Plus, the expectation of coconut was shattered immediately, which was a huge disappointment.

Rating: 3/10

Today’s unusual visit left me ending on a low point, but that’s okay. I’ve said before, I can’t expect to enjoy every food I try, and when I’m trying everything on the menu there will be some things that I won’t like. Some of which I’ll expect not to like even before taking the first bite, but I’m enjoying the attempt at giving everything a chance. There were still some good picks in this batch, and I look forward to rest that are ahead.

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Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas Chef’s Table

Like most cruise ships today, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas has many specialty dining options for a nominal fee. The most expensive of the 26 dining venues is the exclusive Chef’s Table at $85 per person. By the end of this review, you’ll hopefully see the bargain in this price and what it brings you. There is only one seating per night, and each seating can only accommodate 16 guests. That means that on each cruise, only 112 of the approximately 6,500 passengers get a chance to attend this unique dining experience. It’s important to lock in your reservation as early as possible if you’re interested in participating. I’ve eaten at Chef’s Table twice, and both experiences were very similar in style, but differed in the food served. Continue reading

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The Candybar Bakery

After over a year of doing these reviews, I’ve talked with many different restaurant owners and their employees. Last week I had what was probably one of the strangest encounters with a business owner that I’ve experienced so far. Not long after Lagniappe Deauxnuts closed in Fayetteville, GA, a sign was put up in their window that told of a new bakery coming soon. I was excited that I had a new bakery opening so close to me, and hoped for some unique food to sample. I thought it would be interesting to visit on their opening day, try some food, get a feel for the place, and post a review so readers could see what it’s all about before most of them even knew it existed.

By their opening day, I still had yet to see a single piece of advertising for The Candybar Bakery, other than the sign that had been up in their front window saying that it was “coming soon.” It was exciting to think that my review could be one of their first, and I was more than happy to get the word out that they were now open. Continue reading

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Publix Cupcakes

I don’t know anyone who would disagree that Publix supermarkets have some of the better bakery items around (for those living in the Southeast). I have always thought that they may have the best key lime pies I’ve personally eaten. In fact, all their pies are fantastic. The amazing thing is that the majority of all their baked goods are frozen, but you’d never guess that unless you were told. Everything including the cakes, pies, cupcakes, and pastries are brought in frozen, and then thawed. They then decorate items like the cakes with frosting in the store. This is probably done at most grocery stores, but somehow Publix’s thawed bakery foods still taste so fresh, you’d swear they were made that morning.

I’ve noticed my local Publix has been well stocked in cupcakes lately. Their cupcakes are fairly large, and sell for just over $3. During my last visit I was admiring how well decorated and delicious the cupcakes looked. I was curious how they compared to my personal reference point for all cupcakes, Disney World. Disney by far has some of the most elaborate cupcakes I’ve tried. They are always at the forefront to new and innovative ways to decorate and spruce up these old favorites. Publix’s cupcakes seemed to be almost the same size as Disney’s, but they were about $2 cheaper. Could they possibly be a substitute when I’m having Disney withdrawals? I was about to find out. Continue reading

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Broadway Diner Desserts

Located a couple blocks from the Fayetteville square in Georgia, a popular local restaurant is packed with diners every night of the week. At Broadway Diner, it’s not uncommon to see folks waiting outside for a seat, even in the middle of the week. Usually the wait isn’t any longer than twenty or thirty minutes, but that’s an indication of something. There must be something people find special about this place. After all, it is a diner, and people wait here like they would for the big chain restaurants.

Because of their exceptional gluten-free options, you will probably see a future review here on their meal options, but for today it’s just about the desserts.

Broadway Diner has a single dessert case that isn’t large at all. Fortunately, that doesn’t stop them from stuffing it with huge cakes and pies offering some of the most incredible flavors around. My wife and I stopped in after dinner to pick up a couple slices to bring home for dessert. Just like Frank’s at the Old Mill, the portions here are quite large, and to top it off, they’re only $5.95 a slice!

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Kona Cafe

It’s time for a very short review of one of my favorite breakfast spots located in Disney World’s first ever resort hotel, The Polynesian. Kona Cafe is one of the few places that my wife and I try to patronize at least once during every visit to the parks. So far, we’ve only done breakfast there, but have plans to try a dinner sometime soon.

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Comprehensive Review: City Cafe, Part 4

I recently made another stop at City Cafe while running errands. My wife and I stopped here on the way home to pick up some desserts to sample. Previously, I started this comprehensive review by enjoying a lunch, then I came back for some desserts, and then back again for another meal. I didn’t stay long enough on this stop to get any new information on the restaurant, so this will simply be a quick review of some treats we brought home to enjoy.

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Melt Bar & Grilled

Whenever traveling to other cities, food is generally a main focus when planning the trip. One thing I like to do is look up where Adam Richman from Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” has been. While I have little interest in the challenges themselves, I find that many times the food that the challenges are based on look really interesting, delicious, and often unique. One such place exists in Lakewood, OH, where a recent trip to visit family brought me to the area.

Melt Bar & Grilled is TripAdvisor’s #3 out of 113 restaurants in Lakewood, which was the original of five locations to eventually open. Melt is a very popular place in the Cleveland area, and many patrons are known to wait over two hours for a table. Based on the reviews, an hour or longer wait is not uncommon on most days. Maybe we were lucky, but my wife had taken me here once before, and both times we showed up as they opened and got seated immediately.

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Toasted Marshmallow Chocolate Bar

A friend of mine was up in Concord, NC at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort. At some point during his trip he stumbled across a dessert from one of their dining venues that was so amazing, he couldn’t resist texting me a photo and telling me that he “met his match.” Knowing my love for unique and amazing foods, he purchased an extra one and brought it back for me to try.

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