Friday, May 22, 2015

Rebel Hangar; A Star Wars Lounge Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

By Nick 

The Rebel Hangar Lounge at the Backlot Express in Disney's Hollywood Studios is being held nightly through the end of Star Wars Weekends on June 14th. So far.

I say so far, because this new spot to hang out and have appetizers, cocktails and sweet treats was originally only slated to be open during Star Wars Weekends...on the weekends, but interest was so high, it was made a daily offering!

Let me relate my experience with not only booking during the initial weekend period, but also the very lucky sneak peak I got of this great experience.

When it was first announced on the Disney Parks Blog on May 5th, just a little over a week before my trip, I immediately got on the phone with Josh, one of the 2 friends I was going to be traveling to Walt Disney World with to have a guys geek out weekend, and asked if "The Lounge" would be something he would be interested in, and if I should call our other friend, Joe. He said "Book it, Joe will be fine with it." I got on the phone to make an ADR. I was told it was already sold out! This was only a few hours after it was officially announced! This didn't stop me from trying though. I went online to the Disney's official dining page, and found Rebel Hangar Lounge. As I talked to Josh, telling him we should periodically call or check the dining page, I absentmindedly clicked on different days and times, and BOOM-there was an opening for 820PM for Sunday 5/17 and I immediately booked!

Fast forward to the first day of our trip, Thursday 5/14, and Joe, Josh and I were walking towards the back of the park after a very filling buffet, Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine, which I will be reviewing in the coming days, so please stop back. There was a couple of people talking to Cast Members behind a podium at Backlot Express, home of the Rebel Hangar. I walked over to check out the decorations, and started taking photos.

A very nice man, (I really wish I'd gotten his name, in fact, I wish I could remember every Cast Member's name, as they were all wonderful) asked if we'd heard of the Rebel Hangar. We told him we had indeed, and would be visiting that very weekend. He then explained they were having a preview for executives, and asked if we'd like to see the menu.

We said certainly, and as we looked, he asked "How would you like to come in and check it out, maybe have a bite to eat and a cocktail?" Um, yes!

As we entered, we explained we'd just eaten, but would love a cocktail, and he said we that was fine.

We were seated, and within moments, Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, aka, the Cantina Band, came out to entertain us. As there was literally only 2 other guests, excluding the executives, who were in another area, they spent several minutes with us taking photos and showing off their musical instruments and skills!

 Me and Dan. At least, I think that's Dan.

Joe and his new friend. (Joe is on the right, by the way.)

 Joe, Josh and me with the Band.

We were all given menus, and each of us chose a different drink.

I got the Imperial Blue - Maker's Mark Bourbon, Cointreau, Bols Blue Curacao, and sweet and sour topped with Sprite, which was $10.25 on the menu.

 Joe chose the Dagobah Swamp Juice - Midori, Tito's handmade vodka, sweet and sour, topped with lemon-lime Fomz, $14.75.

Josh had the Tatooine Sunset - Stoli Vanil Vodka, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, pineapple juice and grenadine, $9.25.

As we were enjoying these, the hit being the Dagobah Swamp Juice, when Sabine and Ezra, from the Star Wars Rebels animated series, came out.

We were also convinced to give a couple of food items a try, despite being so full, and we chose the 2 selections that had the most visual appeal, Chips and Sith, chickpea and lentil hummus with roasted red pepper coulis, black sesame dust and multi-colored corn tortilla chips, which is $8.49 on the menu, and the Yoda Key Lime Cake, $7.99. The hummus was very good, the Key Lime Cake was amazing!

We were also offered another round of drinks! How could we refuse? This time, I got the Rebel Red - Grey Goose vodka, Chambord, sweet and sour, and grenadine, priced at $15.25 on the menu. This was good, but very sweet.

Finally, as we were finishing our adult beverages, that bounty hunter with the bad eyesight or slow trigger finger, depending on which version of Star Wars you are watching, Greedo, came out!

As we exited, I stopped and took some pics of the various decorations on the walls and tables.

So, after an experience like this, how could our Sunday visit possibly match up? Well, to put it bluntly, it couldn't.

For one thing, there was barely a character to be found. We spoke to our Cast Member friend from our previous visit, who explained that there had been more members of the Star Wars galaxy roaming the lounge earlier in the evening, but the reason Disney was not promoting this as a character dining experience was these visits were random. As he was saying this, the only characters we saw that evening, 2 Jawas, came out.

The other problem was where we were seated. The corner we were in faced the ramp leading to the Backlot Express area, which was clearly visible, somewhat detracting from the experience.

This table is also directly under a vent, so cold air was constantly blowing on us, which not only made us chilly, but quickly cooled down the hot food we'd ordered.

We all got our favorite cocktail from the previous visit, the Dagobah Swamp Juice. This time, it came with a clip on X-Wing Fighter. Note: You can order the drinks without the X-Wing, even though that isn't advertised, which knocks about $5 off the price!

For food, we ordered several of the small plates to share. The highlight was the Lightsaber Bites for $11.49. These are hand-dipped and corn-battered knockwurst sausages with house-made chips and honey-mustard dipping sauce.

These were delicious, as were the house made chips, which also came with the Slider Sampler: The Sith and the Jedi, Barbecue pulled pork brisket with coleslaw and barbecue pulled chicken with arugula for $9.99. The pork was good, but the chicken was just so-so. I wouldn't get this dish again.

At $11.49, the Trio of Thermal Detonators, pork wings with spicy piquillo pepper sauce served with coleslaw were also pretty good, but again, I likely wouldn't order these on another visit either.

The Pilot's Pommes Frites , aka French Fries, which came with a garlic aiolic and cost $5.49, were really tasty, but did not stay warm long under the vent. I would certainly get these again however.

Would I recommend this experience. ABSOLUTELY. For one, it isn't outrageously priced. You can enjoy the experience for under $20, depending on what you order. And I would love to try the other items we didn't order, especially the Ilum Fruit and Cheese Sabers, skewers of Tillamook cheddar, mild brie, goat cheese, olives and seasonal berries with crostini and cheddar cracker $12.99 and The Dark Fried, crispy chicken and mini-Darth Vader waffles served with maple syrup and barbecue sauce $14.99.

But I highly recommend you ask to be seated in an area that immerses you in the theme, or even outside on a nice evening.

For more on my Star Wars Weekend visit, please listen to Episode 23 of The Disney Exchange Podcast, which will be out this Sunday.

The Many Reasons We Love The Hollywood Brown Derby

By Nick

If you listen to the Disney Exchange Podcast with any regularity, you'll likely have learned at least 2 things about me. I love food, and my favorite restaurant in Walt Disney World is The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

My wife and I have eaten at the Brown Derby several times through the years, and a couple of our best experiences were had here.
In April of 2011, we Dined with an Imagineer with our friend Marilyn, a wonderful experience. I can't remember everything I ate, but do remember the Cobb Salad and Strip Steak were delicious, and our Imagineer, Dave, who was working on the revamped Star Tours at the time, was very entertaining.

On the right side of the table is me, Barbie, Marilyn and Dave

Then, January of last year we were asked to be the celebrity couple of the day!
We were given a plastic bowler for me, and a feather boa for Barbie, and cut a ribbon officially opening the restaurant!


We were then escorted to a table strewn with silver stars and Mickey heads!
Our meal was wonderful, as usual. And we had one more surprise at the end! We were given this commemorative photo souvenir!


And then, there is the food!
Now, I could come up with a multitude of complimentary adjectives for each item I'm about to present, but I'm going to just say right now, everything is delicious. I will, however, point out some highlights.
Lets start with the starters, also known as the appetizers, the first couple I would not be able to enjoy today, because I've developed a Shellfish allergy! :(
First there is the Portsmouth Lobster Bisque, with Tarragon oil, and a Brentwood sweet corn-lobster relish.

Next we have Blue Lump Crab Spring Rolls, snow crab claw and an Asian slaw with spicy miso aioli.

And finally, my favorite of the 3, Feuilles de Brick Napoleon of Blue Affine, with wild mushroom duxelle, grilled portobello, golden chanterelles, and a fig reduction.

This next item can be an appetizer or an entree, it is so large. I've had it for both.
It is also a signature dish at this signature restaurant.
The Famous Brown Derby Cobb Salad is made with finely chopped greens, turkey breast, egg, bacon, tomatoes, crumbled bleu cheese, avocado, chives and Cobb dressing.

Your server will even ask if you'd like to have it mixed for you.

On to the entrees.
Sterling Silver Pork-seared Tenderloin, with herb and four-cheese spaetzle with applewood smoked bacon, shallots, sweet peppers, braised red cabbage and an apple cider jus.

Spit-Roasted Leg of Lamb, with lyonnaise potatoes, garlic buttered hericot verts and a red zinfandel sauce.

Duck Two Ways, which is Crispy duck Magret and Duck confit, with apple-rosemary stuffing over a butternut squash, mascarpone anolini and maple brown butter.

On our last 3 visits, I've gotten what I consider to be the BEST pork chop I've ever eaten, the Sterling Silver Pork Chop, with smoked gouda and heirloom apple slaw served over potato hash with bacon, Napa cabbage, sweet peppers and a cider jus.

A unique item is the Grapefruit Cake for dessert. Light Layers of Yellow Cake with fresh Grapefruit-Cream Cheese Icing, and a slice of dried grapefruit.

The menu changes frequently, so not every dish I featured here will be on the menu when you visit, and, as I discussed on Episode 17 of The Disney Exchange, it appears the pork chop may not be on the menu, but if you visit I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

This article was originally posted on The Disney Exchange.