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Review: Babycakes at WDW Downtown Disney

30 Jan

Babycakes vegan cupcakes

Stepping up to the counter at Babycakes Bakery, at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney, I was fully prepared to enjoy a delicious, vegan cupcake. Well, I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

Let’s back up a bit. I have no beef with vegan food (pardon the pun). My husband is (mostly) vegetarian, so we don’t eat a lot of meat at home. I grew up in Marin County in the 1970s, so I’ve enjoyed more than my share of zucchini bread, soybean casserole, and macrobiotic cuisine. I’ve had plenty of dietary restrictions for one reason or another, so I know avoiding certain foods can be complicated (such as baking without animal fat). And I know vegan baking can be done very well, so combined with the rave reviews I’d heard, my expectations of Babycakes were rather high. And c’mon, anybody who’s seen Scott Pilgrim knows that veganism gives you certain special super-powers, right?

Plus, in my current home town of Boston, we’ve got hipster cupcake shops down to a science. There are chocolate-covered bacon cupcakes, Irish car bomb cupcakes (with plenty of booze), multilayered incredible creations that are far more frosting and spectacle than actual cake.

So, even just walking into the building was a disappointment. Somehow in all the reviews I’d heard or read, it never really hit me that Babycakes wasn’t in a building of its own (presumably with its own hipster vegan atmosphere), but instead shares the old McDonalds’ space with two fast-ish food joints, one of which was heralded over the summer by this amusing sign:

Great Latin Chicken

For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the actual restaurant, and it wouldn't be as funny anymore if I looked it up.

I tried to get past the atmosphere fail by reminding myself that Babycakes is a small business run by genuine New Yorkers, who no doubt have way better hipster cred than myself. My son was less than impressed, irritated with me for having apparently overhyped this place. (The reviews I’ve heard have been so consistently good, and from people I trust so much, that I practically feel disloyal speaking ill of the place!)

But now the real test: How were the cupcakes? I ordered a vanilla for my son, and a red velvet for myself. We paid at the register shared by all three food counters, and headed to a table. The frosting was actually quite good on both cupcakes. It was a very sweet frosting, perhaps too sweet for some people’s tastes but perfect for me. But the trouble was the cake itself. Both cupcakes had a vegetable oil taste to them, and at the same time were disturbingly dry. I found myself wishing I’d ordered one of the cupcake “tops” instead of a full cupcake, because really the only part I wanted was the frosting.

Most of the best vegan and vegetarian food I’ve had plays to the strengths of the ingredients in play, rather than trying to emulate something else. I can’t help but wonder if Babycake’s weakness is that it’s trying to be “regular” cupcakes, instead of playing up the special flavors and textures of the fruits, grains, and vegetables. Would I have enjoyed the carrot cupcake more? I probably should’ve gone back to try one more, just to see. Or perhaps could it have just been an “off” day for the pastry chef?

Please do take my review with a grain of salt, maybe even a heaping teaspoon of kosher sea salt. Plenty of people do seem to enjoy Babycakes, and you might just be one of them! If you want an alternate take, the crew at WDW Today reviewed Babycakes in their Episode 799.

I’m glad that Disney’s opening up its culinary options a bit. I wish I’d enjoyed Babycakes more; I’d like to be able to give it a better review. I’ll give Babycakes another try next time I have the chance, at the very least for one of those cupcake tops.

Muscle Car Show at Disneyland Resort

9 Jun

How cool is this? CarDomain has pictures from a muscle car show last weekend at Downtown Disney in Anaheim.

Small Explosion in Back Lot at Downtown Disney

2 Jul

From the Orlando Sentinel:

A Disney security officer on bike patrol called deputies at about 12:30 a.m. he heard a noise and saw white smoke coming from a garbage can in a back lot at of Downtown Disney, said Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty.

The garbage can is in the far lot behind the Cirque du Soleil theater, going toward the golf course at the Saratoga Springs Resort, Prunty said. There are no attractions or shops in that area.

When deputies arrived, they secured the area and later reported no damage or injuries.

Interesting that it happened in a back lot, nowhere near the areas most of us think of when we think “Downtown Disney.” Also, I’ve gotta wonder if there’s any relationship to earlier reports of a Disney Cast Member facing charges for bragging about placing a pipe bomb at Downtown Disney, which in that case was near Fulton’s Crab House.

Push the Talking Trash Can could not be reached for comment, but I think it’s safe to assume he was unharmed.

Disney Does the Right Thing, Sort Of, in Racial Profiling Case

28 Jun

From NBC News, an update on the possible racial profiling at Downtown Disney:

Late Thursday, Disney reversed its lifetime ban on the four players and made it a one year ban at Downtown Disney only.

This is of course good news . . . especially for the teenager whose mother is a supervisor at the Walt Disney World Polynesian Resort (a lifetime ban would have been awkward on Take Your Child to Work Day, wouldn’t it?). But it’s not enough. Nothing I’ve read justifies any ban at all. These kids deserve not only a complete lifting of the ban, but also an explanation and apology.

Just as important, many of us will still be waiting for answers about what exactly has gone wrong recently with security at Downtown Disney, and assurance that the problem has been addressed.

The blogosphere of course has been ablaze over the story. Disney geeks like myself have probably already seen More Thoughts on Racial Profiling at Downtown Disney on The Disney Blog, but may not have seen the Essential Presence blog (great stuff, it’s now in my blogreader), which I highly recommend, especially for those who wonder what all the fuss is about. The author’s commentary on a recent Orlando Sentinel article is spot on.

More Details on Possible Racial Profiling at Downtown Disney

27 Jun

The Orlando Sentinel has more on the story this morning:

Walt Disney World ejected four of Florida State University’s top football prospects from Downtown Disney last weekend under its anti-gang, no-loitering policy.

The four, including the son of a Disney manager and the son of a Philadelphia civil-rights lawyer, were banned for life from Disney World property late Friday.

A Disney spokeswoman said the youths were expelled because they had been loitering for an extended period and refused to leave when Disney security told them to.

Parents of the youths wonder whether there’s another reason: They’re black.

(I’d wondered why my blog was suddenly getting so much traffic today from a web forum for football recruiters . . . I guess I have my answer now.)

Wondering whether there’s really anything wrong with racial profiling? Amnesty International has an excellent report on the topic.

When law enforcement officials focus on what people look like, what religion they follow, or what they wear, it puts us all at risk.

Racial Profiling at Downtown Disney?

22 Jun

Disney’s been ramping up security at Downtown Disney, in the wake of an alleged (but highly doubted) abduction. (They say that’s not why they’re ramping up . . . but I’d be surprised if this event and the national attention it received hadn’t influenced priorities.)

What worries me though . . . is that the Orlando Sentinel reports today concerns that Disney Security may be disproportionately handing out warnings to teenagers of color:

Out of the 50 warnings issued last weekend, the Sheriff’s Office was able to find only 40 of the reports. Warnings were issued to 20 young Hispanic males, 19 young black males and one young black female.

None came from Orange County, the location of Downtown Disney. Eleven were from Osceola County, 11 from Lake County, 11 from Polk County, five from Georgia and one each from Arizona, Texas and an unreported location.

One of the teens told never to come back asked why no whites were among those warned about trespassing.

“A whole bunch of white boys walked by yelling and stuff, and they didn’t do nothing to them,” said Michael Washington, 16, of Polk City.

Let’s hope that Disney sets things right quickly. Racial profiling isn’t just unfair, it’s also ineffective. Need to understand the issues better? ACLU’s got the scoop for you.

Victims of Downtown Disney Kidnapping Decide Not to Prosecute

13 Jun

Interesting story from today’s Orlando Sentinel:

The victims of a recent robbery and kidnapping at Downtown Disney have decided not to prosecute if the Orange County Sheriff’s Office captures their abductors.

“They both signed DOI’s within the past hour,” sheriff’s spokesman Jim Solomons said shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday. DOI stands for declination of intent, a form stating that victims decline to prosecute.

The abduction early Sunday of Jessica DellaCamera and Justin Stetzer, tourists from Connecticut, attracted national attention after they reported being taken at gunpoint from Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World’s shopping and nightclub center.

There’s been a lot of back and forth on this story, including a period in time when the Connecticut Police disbelieved the report, based on a misidentification of one of the victims. We might not have heard the last of this story.

Ghoulish Pirates Desktop Wallpaper Images

8 Jan

If you’ve been to the World of Disney store in Walt Disney World Downtown Disney Marketplace latey, you’ve probably been greeted by these ghoulish figures at the door, as part of a Pirates of the Caribbean display. I took these pictures with a flash, which lit up some of the details, especially farther back where you can’t see the details under the usual store lighting. These are perhaps a bit macabre for some tastes, but for somebody with a strange enough aesthetic, they might be great desktop wallpapers.

Build Your Own Lightsaber: A Brief Tour

2 Jan

On Monday, December 18, my dear son and I were among the lucky first to visit the new Build Your Own Lightsaber feature at Once Upon at Toy, in the Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World. The Cast Members on site seemed enthusastic about the new display, and more than willing to help my son with a few tricky odds and ends. They also seemed somewhat creeped out by my level of geeky excitement, and by the fact that I’d seen the press release the previous week, and blogged about it . . . but hey, I’m forty years old, I’m used to being a geek by now!

They backed away nervously when I took out the camera, and I merrily snapped away. So, here are a couple pictures for those of you who might just be weird enough to enjoy them.

Build Your Own Lightsaber

The main display sign, woo hoo!

Another angle

Seen from another angle, with Jedi and Sith alike working away, side-by-side.

How to build

Instructions are given, step-by-step. Some of the pieces are a bit tricky to put together, though, and the CMs are very helpful.

Step by step instructions

The first section of instructions, including (of course) the price: $19.95. Is this a better or worse buy than the standard Hasbro Build Your Own Lightsaber kit that you can get at Target? Better, IMHO . . . especially if you’re a Disney pin trader.

The young Jedi

And finally, my darling padawan poses with his new creation.

After you finish building your lightsaber, you checkout at the regular counter. They’ll give you the appropriate batteries, plus a “Jedi” or “Sith” Disney trading pin. Contrary to earlier reports, there’s no “lightsaber testing” to determine which side you’re on . . . at least not yet. The CM at the register takes your word for whether you follow the path of fear and hate.

Build Your Own Lightsaber at Once Upon a Toy

8 Dec

The Star Wars web site has details of a new “build your own lightsaber” retail opportunity (warning, popups!) at the Once Upon a Toy store in Walt Disney World.

“Guests can ‘Choose Their Own Destiny’ by deciding to build a custom lightsaber for the Jedi or the Sith. They will choose from a variety of parts to create their own custom saber or they can create one that is similar to the saber of one of their favorite Star Wars characters. The saber is electronic, with authentic saber light, sounds and vibrations. Upon completion of the saber the guest will tell the Disney Cast Member at the register whether they created a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ saber. Based on this distinction, the Disney cast member will give them the Jedi or Sith pin.”

Sounds like the best part is when the CM tells you whether you’re naughty or nice, now doesn’t it?

The toy is currently available only at Once Upon a Toy at WDW’s Downtown Disney, but of course they’re leaving the door open to making it available elsewhere.

[Added 1/2/07: A brief tour of BYOL, with photos.]

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