Highway in the Sky Dine Around
Report from Amy D. Gagliardi
Highway in the sky or HIT to use insider jargon is just that…a successful addition to Disney’s array of specialty and innovative dinning. With a limited size of 25 participants this event proved to be a delight to those in my party of 4 and to the other guests we spent time with. If there were kinks on HIT’s opening night they were worked out by night two when I attended. The evening flowed without a glitch.
They say the third time is a charm and in the case of my securing a reservation for this event that was true. After two unsuccessful attempts to schedule, I managed to score a date on my third try. My daughter Lily saw the event notice on November 29th with reservations beginning on December 2nd. As luck would have it we were flying down to WDW on the opening day of HIT for the first night of our vacation. Go figure.
Do you like appetizers, entrees, deserts and drinks? We do. Even the non-alcohol drinking members of my party were excited about this experience.
Close your eyes and imagine being whirled around in the monorail with priority seating to experience deluxe dining at Disney’s cherished monorail resorts. This includes WDW’s flagship resort the Grand Floridian, and the originals the Polynesian Resort and the first built Contemporary Resort. That’s my kind of imaginative experience.
But wait…this is really happening. Please join me, my husband Pete, our daughter Lily and her husband Mark on our journey through a multi course selection of surprises and treats as we dine around the monorail resorts through a highway in the sky.
As we approach The Wave of American Flavors’ entry way we are greeted by Angela the HIT manager. She stands smiling, welcoming and proud and facilitates our passage through the tunnel-like walkway into The Wave foyer. We are immediately met by Carrie and Mary who were to be our guides for the evening. First line of business is sorting out any possible food allergies of each guest. Lily was given a sticker on the HIT lanyard we were all given to wear around our neck to denote her food allergy.
As the HIT participants gathered in the Wave waiting area we sat and exchanged pleasantries in communal expectation of the night ahead. This was a cozy, relaxed group led by seasoned Disney staff who knew how to put us at ease while also reigning us in to bond as a group and follow their lead for the night. We were given an overview of what to expect…approximately 30 minutes at each stop with a 5 minute warning before the end time at each dining site. After the ground work was laid down for us an ice breaker arrived in the shape of a martini glass filled with pineapple juice, grenadine on the bottom and rum to complete the body of the concoction. This drink is called the Bay Lake Sunset. Non-drinkers could substitute anything of their choosing and this option remained constant throughout the night. Ice tea, exotic juice blends, Martinelli sparkling cider were some of the offerings which were imbibed.
Enter Chef Kimmy from The Wave who met with us to describe our first course of the evening. Butternut squash bisque, a wonderful hot soup-like creamy delight, was served in a European style expresso cup (photo 4 Butternut Squash Bisque). The cup was rimmed with a scrumptious pumpkinseed butter brittle. This was a textural contrast to the smooth bisque as well as an added depth of flavor. I congratulate Chef Kimmy on her creation and sensational course. As a lover of butternut squash soup I appreciate her ability to maintain the integrity of the flavor of the squash, leaving it distinct, while adding complementary and subtle spice tones. Hats off to the chef!
Alas we were whisked away to our next destination. As we were led to climb “secret stairs” to the monorail the transition to this ongoing and outgoing event continued. Walking out of the passage way we found two open monorail doors waiting to seat our party. A Disney monorail engineer guided us throughout the evening’s transports. He shared monorail history and anecdotes with us throughout our excursion.
Our next stop was Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Approaching the Trader Sam outside patio we were greeted once again by personnel specific to the resort. With all generosity we were told that now that we are at the Polynesian we are all ‘Ohana…cousins… so come in and eat with us. On the patio we were given a traditional Mai Tai brimming with swirled orange slices and maraschino cherries on a stick and fresh sprigs of mint. The appetizer course consisted of sesame seared tuna plated with an orange pickled beet salad and a separate small dish with a single chili dusted port belly. Beef was the tuna substitute for our fish allergy companions and they vouched for the tenderness of the beef. While the appetizer portions were almost bite size they were enjoyable. The pork belly seemed to win the favorite spot by consensus.
All aboard once again with our fellow event participants, guides and monorail expert we sat together in anticipation of the entrée course of our dining experience. Exiting the monorail at the Grand Floridian we lined up in ones and twos behind and alongside our guides who maneuvered us through the crowds entering and exiting the monorail to bring us safely and quickly inside this grand resort and to the door of Citricos our dinning destination. I must say that our guides were a bit like Miss Clavel from the Madeline story book who ushered her charges safely, swiftly and mindfully through their travels. It was a treat to be led by this seasoned team of guides who became more like companions as the night progressed.
The entrée course was a short rib on a bed of cauliflower puree enhanced by a red wine sauce and 2 large tender scallops drizzled with a spinach and parmesan foam . A basket of warm sliced bread was served with a plate of salted butter to accompany this course. The food was good and the portions were entrée sized. Our allergy companions received chicken in place of the scallops. They reported perfect satisfaction with their substitution as was the same feedback on the ribs and scallops. Much of the conversation however centered on the wine pairings. We could choose a chardonnay, a red and a red/white blend selection. Some diners actually selected to take their wine with them to enjoy later and were given to go cups to carry their wine with them.
We lined up again and walked from Citricos to the Grand Floridian tea room. Here we sat at sparsely but elegantly decorated tables as we awaited our cheese course (photo 8 table at the Tea Room). Our table of four received 2 platters filled with a representative from each quadrant of the cheese wheel . The triple cream brie was my personal favorite but others preferred the American aged Cabot cheddar while also enjoying the goat and blue cheese segments. Dried fig sections provided sweetness and a contrast in flavor while the thin sliced and buttered toast served as a yummy bed to support the cheeses. Disney’s Fairy Tale sparkling wine was served table side and poured to the rim by an experienced Disney server. It was a pleasure to watch her as she managed to expertly fill the champagne flutes to the rim without spilling a drop.
I was fairly full at this point but my sweet tooth beckoned and so did our guides. On the way to our final destination a few moments were set aside to stop for a group photo at the Grand Floridian. Our guides patiently gathered our cell phone cameras so we could each go home with our very own private shot and memory of this wonderful evening filled with food and fellowship. Finally, back onto the monorail we started our track back to the Contemporary Resort. Traveling a full circle loop we would end the night where we had started. We regrouped at the Contemporary Resort’s 4th floor outside private viewing area to enjoy Wishes and to feast on deserts and cordials as well as coffee and tea. An impressive spread of deserts made by the Contemporary Resort pastry team was set up on tables within our private viewing area. Amid the sounds and sights of the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular we leisurely snacked with an unrestricted tasting of as much or as little as we desired. The night was ours to savor.
Among the desert selections were an assortment of flavorful and tender macaroons, a crème filled tart topped with a generous assortment of berries, a tangy layered fruit flavored option and a densely, decadently rich chocolate treat resembling texturally a flourless chocolate cake. Very good quality chocolate was used here as were all the ingredients used to bake for us. Thank you Contemporary Resort pastry team!
As in all things this night too must come to an end. Saying our goodbyes we eventually made our way towards the door which would lead us back to the reality that our special dining experience was to be over. But not so fast…one more surprise. Event manager Angela met us at the door with a tray filled with silver boxes which were tied with black satin bows and a small card scripted with Disney’s Contemporary Resort and an outline of the structure’s amazing monorail fitting outline.
These stylish boxes, looking almost too beautiful to open, held the unspoken words of our final farewell. Two chocolate truffles. One milk chocolate and one dark chocolate. Not a better way to end an evening of culinary excellence and surprises. Where a taste is worth a thousand words Highway in the Sky will take you there.
For the details of this experience from Disney you can visit.