Welcome back to “Episode 5” of our Bucket List Trip Adventures! After a very long travel day and “After Hours Event” night, we got some much-needed sleep and felt well rested and ready to go to Epcot when we woke up. We had park reservations for Epcot (our favorite park) so we grabbed coffee at the resort and jumped on the monorail to Epcot. We noticed immediately that the park was not busy so we took advantage of the short wait for Soarin’ Around the World and then decided to hop in the Frozen Ever After line. Kat was able to snag a lightning lane pass that morning for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and she was afraid she would miss her time as the Frozen line was moving very slow. I did not want to ride Guardians as I am prone to motion sickness and did not want to risk being sick all day. She decided to jump out of the Frozen line and head to Guardians while I stayed and rode Frozen. This ended up working out perfectly for us as we were both walking out around the same time. She absolutely loved Guardians and said it is her new favorite ride at Disney World. We weren’t even sure we would be able to snag a boarding pass for this so she felt extremely lucky!
At this point, we were starving since we skipped breakfast. We had a lunch reservation for Via Napoli at 12:50 that we wanted to make sure we were very hungry for since it was Kat’s first time at the restaurant. It wasn’t quite time yet so we took our time and moseyed through World Showcase until we made it to Italy. We checked in and were seated within ten minutes. We ordered the House Chianti while we perused the menus and ending up deciding on the House Salad served family style and two individual size pizzas. The salad was made up of mixed greens, cucumber, pepperoncini peppers, peppadew peppers, diced tomatoes, and olives with a red wine vinaigrette – fresh, crisp, and a perfect start to the meal. This was plenty for the two of to have two servings each. I chose the Proscuitto e Melone Pizza – a white pizza with fontina, mozzarella, prosciutto, cantaloupe, and arugula and Kat chose the Carciofi Pizza – a white pizza with artichoke, fontina, mozzarella, and truffle oil with the personal addition of mushrooms (our favorite pizza topping). These were both OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious and large in size even though they were the smallest size available. We tried our best to finish them but we tapped out with a few slices left.
The server came to check on us and we chatted with her for a bit about how delicious the food was and how much we love this restaurant. She also shared with us that the servers were contractors while the staff from Italy would soon come back and take the contractors’ place due to changes that were made during Covid. There are still many staffing changes throughout Walt Disney World due to Covid, but we were excited to see many of the international cast members had returned.
After a nice long relaxing lunch, we decided to park hop to Hollywood Studios for the evening. We snagged a last minute 7 PM reservation for Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios with plans to watch the new version of Fantasmic after. We had plenty of time to kill before dinner so we rode a few rides with short wait times, did some shopping, and took some photos.
It was time for dinner and we were more than ready at this point. We were seated within minutes of check-in despite the restaurant being very busy. We had eaten here before and both loved it, and were very familiar with the menu. We both chose their famous Cobb Salad for dinner and since it is very light, we both ordered appetizers. I got the Roasted Squash and Apple Soup with Thai Curry, Farro Granola, and Maple Gastrique (plant based). If there is any form of squash soup on a menu, I am ordering it as it is my favorite type of soup It did not disappoint as it was full of flavor and piping hot. Kat chose the Roasted Bone Marrow – braised beef with pickled mustard seeds and fig bread crostini. This was also delicious and made for the perfect savory dish before a salad entrée.
The Cobb Salads arrived shortly after finishing the appetizers and we couldn’t wait to dig in. This was a chopped salad with spit-roasted turkey, bacon, egg, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, avocado, and the classic Champagne vinaigrette dressing. We had the option to add additional protein to this such as shrimp or lobster and have in the past but decided not to this time as we wanted to save room for dessert. This was wonderful, as usual, and is our go to dish when we want a light and refreshing meal.
We have heard many things about the Grapefruit Cake and Grapefruit Cake Martini at The Brown Derby but have never had room to order it – until tonight! This was already on our list before we even sat down for dinner and we wanted to make sure we were hungry enough to try it.
Let me preface this by saying if you are not a grapefruit lover, you will not like either of these items as they are bitter and not sweet and taste like eating the fruit. The Grapefruit Cake is a Brown Derby original made up of vanilla sponge cake with grapefruit syrup and cream cheese icing. This sounds sweeter than it tastes and did not have too much flavor. We liked it but would not order it again. Likewise, the Grapefruit Cake Martini – Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, Stoli Vanil Vodka, splash of cream with a graham cracker rim – somewhat bitter despite the cream and vanilla and slightly watery but did really enjoy the texture of the graham cracker rim.
Overall, we really enjoy Brown Derby and highly recommend it for lunch or dinner. They also have a great outdoor lounge with a smaller food menu that is walk-in only if you can’t snag a reservation. Time to head to the “Fantasmic” show in order to ensure good seats as we had yet to see the new revamp of this show. We paid our bill and headed over to the theatre and only had to wait a few minutes before they started seating for the show. Because we arrived early, we had to wait about 20 minutes once seated before the show started.
“Fantasmic” is a night-time, open-air musical show where Mickey Mouse dreams of good and evil and the battle between the two. It is filled with lights, water effects, music, fireworks, and SO MANY Disney characters. This was Kat’s first time seeing this show and she said it’s one of the best Disney shows she has seen. The park was closed by the time the show ended so they directed guests through an exit that would lead directly out of the park. Exhausted from another long Disney day, we called it a night and headed back to the Grand.
We woke up this morning really excited for another day at our favorite park, Epcot. We had no plans until later that evening so it was nice to be able to play the day by ear and be spontaneous. Ultimately, because we skipped breakfast again, we were starving and decided to rope drop La Cava Tequila for margaritas, beer, and chips and dips.
I ordered my favorite drink on the menu, the Avocado Margarita, and Kat grabbed a beer because tequila is not her thing. The Avocado Margarita is their most popular drink and rightfully so. It is frozen, slightly sweet with notes of melon, and has a delectable hibiscus salt rim. These drinks paired perfectly with a basket of fresh corn tortilla chips served with queso blanco, salsa, and guacamole. We devoured the whole basket as we were very hungry and grabbed a second round of drinks.
After finishing our second round, we cashed out and walked around World Showcase enjoying the beautiful sunshine. We did not have a lunch reservation and we were still hungry but wanted something lighter, so we settled on heading to Spice Road Table for small plates and another cocktail. The weather was beautiful this day and it made for the perfect opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the Moroccan lounge. This was also another first dining experience for Kat so we ordered a few plates to share as everything is served tapas style. We chose the Pomegranate-Chili Crispy Cauliflower with Red Pepper Aleppo sauce, Dolmas (grape leaves filled with rice and herbs), Naan with hummus, chermoula, Za’atar, and marinated olives, and lastly the Spice Road Table Sampler which included Lamb Kefta, Spiced Chicken, and Tiropitakia.
We would highly recommend the sampler if you have never been here before as it gives you the opportunity to try a few things on the menu. The Lamb Kefta was served with Tzatziki, radish, and blistered cherry tomato and was cooked perfectly and not “gamey” at all. The Spiced Chicken was seasoned with Ras el Hanout, a very popular Moroccan spice, and served with mint yogurt and tabbouleh. We loved the chicken and thought it even had more flavor than the lamb. Lastly, on the sampler was the Tiropitakia, a cheese-filled phyllo with cucumber-tomato relish. This was delicious but needed more cheese as it was mostly pastry dough.
We jumped on the chance to order the Naan bread with dips as it reminded us of the bread service from Sanaa (one of our all-time favorites). This was good but nothing special here as it was served with basic hummus and chermoula. We also ordered the Dolmas because we have never had it before and wanted to give it a shot. This was our least favorite item as the texture was soft and spongy and the dish lacked flavor.
We saved the best for last – the Pomegranate-Chili Crispy Cauliflower with Red Pepper Aleppo Sauce. This was lightly fried with a thin layer of breading that provided the perfect crunch to the already fresh and crunchy cauliflower. The sauce was sweet but also tart with a hint of spice to make it the perfect pairing to this dish. This may sound basic when reading it on the menu but do not miss out on ordering it as it is the standout dish of the restaurant.
We LOVE Spice Road Table and will continue coming here as it is very easy to join the walk-up list and grab a table with a short wait and boasts an incredible fireworks view. The food and drinks pack a huge flavor punch and give you the opportunity to try several dishes you may not have where you are from. Now that we were actually full, we headed back to the resort to get cleaned up before dinner that evening.
Tonight was our long awaited reservation at Monsieur Paul at Epcot and we were reeling with anticipation! We have been trying for many years to secure this reservation and we finally got one for this trip. We wanted to make sure we were able to go back to the resort and shower and change as this is a signature meal and has somewhat of a dress code. After we took our time getting ready, we grabbed a drink at The Enchanted Rose, a lounge in the Grand Floridian, before boarding the monorail back to Epcot.
We left with plenty of time as Disney transportation is not the quickest and we were STILL late due to a breakdown on the monorail system. As we entered the gates of Epcot, we sprinted all the way to the back of World Showcase where dinner was in just the nick of time. Although we were ten minutes late, they were very understanding and said things like this happen all the time. We were brought upstairs and seated immediately.
Monsieur Paul is a prix fixe signature dining experience priced at $195 per person with the optional addition of a wine pairing or a la carte drinks. The Monsieur Paul experience is described as the “Gastronomic Meal of the French,” a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in life such as birthdays, weddings, etc. We decided to add on one wine pairing and then we would order more a la carte drinks if we desired. The meal allowed you to choose an appetizer, fish course, meat course, and a dessert with an amuse-bouche to begin, a Trou Normand in the middle, a cheese course before dessert, and a digestif to end. The menu was specially printed for this evening as the selections change several times throughout the year and you were allowed to take it as a souvenir.
Our server, Dado, introduced herself and explained how the experience would work in great detail. We asked several questions and she was extremely knowledgeable about everything. She also gave us some background about Paris, where she is from, and ended up giving us a list of “don’t miss” restaurants in Paris and Dubai. She was friendly and attentive and had an infectious personality with a true heart of gold. If possible, we would have asked her to dine with us that evening we liked her so much!
She brought the Aperitif, Monsiuer Paul’s Cocktail, and the Amuse-bouche to begin the meal. She explained that the wine pairing would begin with the appetizer course. We originally wanted to select different dishes throughout the menu so we could try more things but that didn’t happened for some courses as we both really wanted the same thing. For an appetizer, we both chose the Salade du homard du Maine – Maine Lobster salad with passion fruit vinaigrette – I mean who can pass up lobster?! This was prepared exquisitely – as if an artist plated the dish. It was colorful, light, airy, fresh – everything you could want in a lobster salad. I am still searching for the recipe for that passion fruit vinaigrette as it would make the best summer salad accompaniment.
Next up was the fish course and again we both decided on the same dish – Coquilles Saint Jacques au potimarron et sirop d’erable – Seared Scallops served with maple butternut squash velouté. As I mentioned earlier in the article, if “butternut squash anything” is on a menu, you can bet I am ordering that. Scallops were seared to perfection which gave them a slight crisp to the outside which paired with the smooth texture and the sweet flavor of the velouté.
As a palette cleanser between the fish and meat course, we were served a citrus sorbet with a pear brandy. Dado warned us that the brandy would be very strong and it was meant to just eat a small bite at a time. She was 100% accurate and we were barely able to take one bite each and then moved it to the side. It’s not that it was bad but the alcohol was much too strong for our liking.
Kat and I tend to prefer different meats so it was no surprise when we made our choices for the meat course. Kat chose the Filet de boeuf roti, fricassee de cepes, pomme de terre mousseline, sauce Bordelaise – Center cut beef tenderloin roasted , porcini fricassee, mashed potatoes mousseline with bordelaise sauce. She ordered the meat to be prepared rare and it came out exactly this way. The potatoes had the perfect whipped consistency with a small dollop of bordelaise sauce on them and we both agreed some of the best mashed potatoes we have ever had. The mushrooms had a savory earthy flavor that added to the richness of the beef. Overall, a fantastic pairing.
I chose the Carre d’agneau rotie en cocotte, choux cert fries farci aux champignons des bois et chataignes, jus court au thym frais – Rack of lamb roasted in a cocotte with curly green cabbage stuffed with mushrooms and chestnuts with fresh thyme juices. Lamb is my preferred meat when it comes to European cuisine so it was a clear choice for me. The lamb temperature was prepared to my liking and the small pods of the maple butternut squash velouté as a garnish were an added surprise. The thyme juices made the meat tender and fall off the bone while the cabbage roll tasted like the best thanksgiving stuffing you’ve ever had. The chestnuts added a great crunch when paired with the sifter mushroom and cabbage. Overall, an incredible dish I would absolutely order again.
Next was the cheese course – our favorite food of all time. I mean we even bought light-up Remy cheese necklaces for the occasion for goodness sake. It was so good that we unfortunately missed taking a picture of this before we devoured it. But take our word for it, the selection of imported cheeses was top notch.
After cheese, we moved on to the dessert course. We aren’t big dessert people so usually skip dessert but since it was included in the meal, we at least wanted to try it. We both wanted the same dessert and explained to her that we would only be taking a couple bites since we were so full so we would only like one to split. She obliged and brought us one of the Vacherin Classique – Meringue, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet, vanilla Chantilly, and raspberry coulis. Absolutely incredible – loved the cold crisp sorbet paired with the airy sweet meringue and the tart raspberry coulis. This was so light that we did almost finish the whole thing despite how full we were.
Monsieur Paul is on the second story of Chefs de France and has a great view of the fireworks from the windows if you are lucky enough to be seated at a table next to them. We unfortunately were not but Dado was so kind to ask us if we wanted to move to the open table by the window to finish out the rest of the meal and watch the fireworks. She even told us which seats to sit in at the table for the best view! She then brought us the Mignardises (assorted mini desserts) and the Digestif. One of the mini desserts was a salted caramel that they make in house that was the best we have ever had – Dado snuck us a couple more to take home with us. We chatted with Dado more about traveling, her childhood and family, and her experiences in living many places throughout the world. She was gracious to oblige our questions and gave us several travel recommendations.
Sadly, our meal and experience had come to an end. Overall, we would rate this meal a 10/10 and will be back for another meal. The service from Dado alone made this experience worth it and the excellent “culinary cabaret” only added to the outstanding evening. We had heard mixed reviews about this meal but it was truly one of the best meals we have had on any trip. Full and exhausted per usual, we trekked back to the resort and called it a night. Stay tuned for next week’s article in the Bucket List series – Days 4 & 5 at Disney World – and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at ourculinarycabaret.