I am a total snob about the Swolphin and would just as soon they tear it down and replace it with a real, themed Disney resort (I’m gunning for an Egyptian, Turkish or Moroccan one, but I guess that wouldn’t really fit in with the other resorts on Crescent Lake…). However, I keep hearing how good some of the restaurants are, so this trip I unbent enough to make two ADRs at the Dolphin. Tonight’s was at Shula’s Steakhouse, which everyone says is better than Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club.
There aren’t going to be a lot of photos of Shula’s because it is dark as a cave in there and Jensey didn’t have a flash with her. So you’re gonna get a lot of blitzed out shots from my point-and-shoot.
We used to laugh when my grandma brought out a flashlight to read the menu at JoJo’s, but this time I knew her frustration. Fortunately my iPhone has a flashlight app, but I may have embarrassed Jensey by waving it around to read the menu, identify what I was eating, hail our server, etc. (The other way I channeled Grandma that night was stuffing half a loaf of leftover sourdough bread into the Ziploc I had in my purse!)
Shula’s is one of those old-school restaurants where they really do it up: white-jacketed waiters placing your napkin in your lap, lots of things being wheeled around on carts and prepared tableside, etc. The one vaguely chain-restaurant-y gimmick is that the various cuts of meat are listed on a football that they bring to your table.
In case you’re wondering, they hate it when you drop-kick this menu back to them.
Much like Yachtsman, Shula’s has cuts of raw beef on display, but here they wheel them over on a cart and describe them tableside. This experience is not for the vegetarian or the faint of heart, but the darkness does cut down on the ick factor cuz you can’t really tell what you’re looking at.
Our server was one of those smarmy, irritatingly officious types who ordinarily bug the crap outta me (I don’t remember, but he may actually have asked “Are we loving everything?” when he checked on us). But I was still in a goofy mood, so decided to give back as good as I got, and it became a kind of game to see who could out-smarm the other.
One person who doesn’t like raw meat is Jensey. I like to rib her cuz she always orders her steak well done, but this time I was determined to get her to at least try a piece of my medium-rare steak and maybe even order hers cooked one notch below shoe leather on the chart. As it turned out, our server became my ally in this cause (he even spontaneously used the term “shoe leather” in his lecture!), which turned into a kind of twisted good cop/bad cop routine when he spent the remainder of the meal stopping by our table to extol the virtues of rare meat, explain the butchering and cooking process, and occasionally wave a piece of raw meat under our noses. Never mind that by that point not only had Jensey been persuaded to order the filet mignon medium well, she had received her order and was actually eating it, so the hardball tactics were sort of superfluous.
Also, she tried a bite of my medium rare cowboy steak and didn’t die!
I was pretty knocked out by the sourdough bread – I don’t think I’ve ever had real sourdough in Florida before. The only thing was that the texture was so dense it was almost wet, if that makes sense.
OK, so meat always looks pretty gross in flash pictures, but I can tell you these both tasted great. Jensey said her filet was the best she’d ever had, and mine was right up there—and just as flavorful as they’d promised.
Jensey ordered a Double Baked Potato as her side dish. I think they said they bake it, scoop out the insides and make them into mashed potatoes (i.e., add cream and butter), then put them back in and melt cheese over the top. Fortunately for me, Jensey has the appetite of a delicate flittering little bird and could only eat two bites of this, while I,with my trencherman’s appetite, polished off most of the rest.
I was kinda bummed about my own side dish – I’d been torn between the Lobster Mashed Potatoes and the Crab Macaroni and Cheese. When I asked our server which he recommended, he told me to go with the Crab Macaroni and Cheese.
I was like, “Yeah, but you said the Lobster Mashed Potatoes had lobster chunks and lobster gravy on them!”
Him: “No, you can’t go wrong with the Crab Macaroni and Cheese.”
Me: “Yeah, but lobster GRAVY?!”
Him: “I’m telling you – crab mac ‘n’ cheese.”
Me [whimpering]: “Gravy?”
Him: “Mac ‘n’ cheese.”
WRONG! It was OK, but the cheese sauce was pretty bland and there were only thin slivers of crab in it. I sorta picked at it, sobbing softly to myself and imagining a pile of mashed potatoes studded with huge chunks of lobster and swimming in gravy.
I think this was my favorite meal of the trip because Jensey and I had the opportunity to really get into great conversation (between animal husbandry lessons from our server) and enjoy each other’s company. Plus, you know, it had a ginormous steak in it.
After dinner, we headed toward Epcot and Lori’s dessert party. Along the way, we stopped off at the Beach Club ladies’ room so I could change into a skirt (part of my wedding crasher disguise!) and lose my lucky penny in the toilet.
This turned out to be a popular night for dessert parties at Epcot. We counted at least three, including Lori’s. There was also one at UK Lochside, and this one at the upper French terrace (I can’t remember what Epcot calls it these days – “Le Terrace des Belle Fleurs Magnifique et Je Ne Sais Quoi,” or something like that…).
When we got to Morocco, Lori’s dessert party was roped off but no one had arrived yet. The setting was gorgeous! Sometimes among DIS brides there is a feeling that the Morocco dessert party location is kind of a ghetto they stick you in if you’re having an Escape Collection wedding. But I have to say, after seeing it set up for a party, it has a lot more atmosphere and character than many of the other dessert party spots, including the one we used. Plus, Lori had added her own touches, like the purple centerpieces and personalized napkins (I totally swiped one!) that made it really inviting.
The event guide guarding the rope eyed us suspiciously as Jensey darted around snapping pictures and I kept a lookout for the wedding party. You could tell when they were getting close by the way the crowd parted and people gaped at them like they were celebrities. When Lori & Eoghan got to where we were, I felt all bashful, but she came right up and welcomed us. Then we were ushered past the puzzled guide and into the party just like real guests!
However, we still had to be on our guard, because Lori’s wedding planner was actually at the party (curses! They usually never go to these things!) and now she was eyeing me and Jensey suspiciously. We felt pretty awkward at first – I didn’t wanna monopolize the bride’s time (even though I had a bazillion questions for her and wanted to hear all the details of the wedding) and of course we didn’t know anybody else there, so we got really friendly with the bartender.
He turned out to be a really nice kid on the international exchange program, and he was so friendly that it put me at ease.
Eating desserts helped too!
Lori very sweetly made time to chat with me and Jensey before the fireworks started, and she introduced us to her wedding photographer, Randy. I got a little nervous when he started snapping pictures of us cuz he’s not on my personal payroll of those who Photoshop out my under-eye bags – yikes!
We also got to have a mini-meet with three other Disney brides (and two grooms!) who came by to see Lori. Unfortunately, by that time the event guide guarding the rope had decided she wasn’t letting anyone else hoodwink her and wouldn’t let them in. Jensey and I stood under her icy glare at the edge of the rope (she practically did that “I’m watching you” thing with her fingers to her eyes) and chatted with Disney brides Rachel, Amanda, and Tracy, who you may recall made a cameo in my anniversary trippie – that girl practically lives at Disney! I was going to pass them some desserts but got Tasered by the event guide, so we just took a picture together (I haven’t seen it yet, but if Tracy posts it and I’m cross-eyed and drooling, you’ll know why!). When the event guide started cracking her knuckles and picking her teeth with a switchblade, the ladies and their husbands departed for a better fireworks-viewing area, and Jensey and I tried to disappear back into the dessert party crowd.
We staked out a spot near the dessert table with a great view of Lori & Eoghan posing for photos in front of IllumiNations. I got misty-eyed watching them – the way they looked at each other was like they were the only two people in the world, and love was just radiating from them. I was so honored to be able to share part of their day with them (if by “share” you mean “shamelessly stalk” of course…).
After the fireworks we got to chat with Eoghan and his family, who were all very friendly and, fortunately for me, clued in to the fact that Lori & Eoghan’s Disney wedding was technically a vow renewal—cuz in my babbling I stuck my foot in my mouth on that one! (I’m also the one who accidentally revealed the groom’s secret honeymoon plans to my friend at her wedding. Hmmm…. maybe I shouldn’t be writing all this if I wanna get myself invited to another Disney wedding!)
Also, I learned that the name Eoghan is pronounced “own” and promptly forgot it. Then Lori and I made plans to meet up in the Magic Kingdom the next day, and she sent us on our way with a pair of ginormous chocolate-dipped Mickey crispy bars – SCORE!
[boring “driving home” part omitted]
So when Jensey and I walked into my room at Pop Century, I saw a foil-wrapped chocolate on my pillow and though, “Oh cool, I got turndown service.” Then I was like, “Wait a minute, there’s no turndown service at Value resorts!” Upon closer inspection, we discovered a certificate stating that I had been chosen as Family of the Day!
I found the idea of a solo traveler being chosen Family of the Day high-larious, but that could have been cuz I was delirious with exhaustion at that point. Even funnier to me was that some earnest housekeeper had carefully arranged my negligee on one of the turned-down beds (I had tossed it out of my suitcase thinking that the cleaning staff wouldn’t be in that day cuz I’d only just checked in.)
In addition to the certificate, I got a chocolate on all four pillows and a floppy Walt Disney World magnet that may also be a photo frame, cuz you punch it out of the middle of the sheet. Not sure….
(These are my pix – I didn’t want to waste Jensey’s talent)
On top of all this, Jensey had brought me two grocery bags full of bottled water and delicious treats to keep me going, so I was set!
We gabbed and gabbed for another hour or so until I made Jensey as tired as I was. Then she went home and I called Patrick to tell him the whole story of my day!