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A taste of Mardi Gras at Disneyland

August 29, 2011

Most guests at Disneyland aren’t drawn there because they believe they are going to be served world-class food.  But one of Disneyland’s hidden gems does happen to be their food.  If you look hard enough, and go beyond the quick service stuff-it-in-your-mouth-so-you-can-go-back-and-stand-in-line-for-the-next-ride mode and are willing to take your time to enjoy a meal at a table service restaurant, you’ll discover things about Disneyland that you never knew.  I sure did!

In January, when my husband and I were at Disneyland, for what seemed like the 4th or 5th time in the past 12 months, we decided we wanted to try something new.  Mix it up a bit.  We were actually at Disneyland to celebrate my birthday, and since it was a celebration, we decided to have lunch at a table service restaurant that neither of us had ever been to.  After having eaten there, we were hooked.

Cafe Orleans advertises itself as bringing a bit of the Mardi Gras spirit to Disneyland every day of the week with Creole-inspired cuisine.  As my husband is a huge fan of Cajun/creole food, we decided to give it a try.  The restaurant is located in the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland almost directly across the street from the exit of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  If not for its outdoor shaded patio area that looks out to towards the Rivers of America, you could almost miss the restaurant entirely.

Both times we’ve visited Cafe Orleans we’ve ordered the French onion soup, made the traditional way with a medley of sweet onions swimming in a broth topped with a crouton and smothered with melted Gruyere cheese that’s been put underneath a broiler until it’s hot, and melty, and stringy.  The combo of the onions and broth and crouton and cheese is a bit salty, but oh so good.  On our most recent visit to Cafe Orleans, we also decided to give their Pommes Frites a try!  It’s basically French fries tossed with parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley and served with a side of Cajun spiced remoulade.

What drew my husband to the restaurant is their famous three-cheese Monte Cristo sandwich.  This is a take on the French classic sandwich, croque-monsieur.  The three-cheese version is made with Swiss, mozzarella and double creme brie fried in a light batter topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of berry puree (which my husband doesn’t touch at all).  It seems an odd combo to me to have cheese melted in bread, have that whole combo deep-fried and then topped with powdered sugar.  But my husband assures me that it’s to-die-for and that I’m the one missing out.

The last time were we at Cafe Orleans the Crescent City salad, which consists of pan seared Atlantic salmon atop a bed of spinach and baby mixed greens, tossed with carmelized pecans, red grapes, navel orange segments, carmelized onions, chopped green onions, roasted sweet corn and dressed with an orange-cilantro vinaigrette.  This has to be one of the more unique and delicious salads I’ve had in awhile.  There was so much going on in the salad with a lot of ingredients, but they all melded together beautifully.

Both visits to Cafe Orleans has ended with Mickey-shaped beignets for dessert.  Beignets are french-inspired pastries made with dough that is deep-fried, much like a doughnut, and dusted with powdered sugar.  These are a true New Orleans staple that is served for breakfast or as a dessert.  In this case, Cafe Orleans puts a Disney twist on the classic beignet and serves the fried dough in the shape of the famous Mickey Mouse ears.  The dessert also comes with a side of raspberry coulis and vanilla bean creme anglais as dipping sauces.  No matter how full you are, these things are good and should not be missed.

Enjoying lunch at Cafe Orleans during a trip to Disneyland is certainly a bit of an indulgence.  But it’s a great break from the helter-skelter Disneyland day.

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