I think I've found the most pleasant place in all of Walt Disney World Resorts.
Well, I didn't find it, I was invited here, to Geyser Point Bar & Grill, a new venue at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. It's a covered but open-air pavilion next to the lake, and when I visited earlier this month it was on a warm evening, at sundown, with a gentle breeze coming off of the water. I could have spent all evening sitting there.
But it was just a meeting point for a progressive dinner for media, a reintroduction to the dining venues at the resort.
I I was in need of a reintroduction. I had not been to the lodge or its restaurants since they opened in 1994, 23 years ago. With the exception of the starting point -- and the ending point -- not much has changed. Whispering Canyon is still the wild and wacky family dining place it always was, and Artist Point is still a more upscale venue that probably should be considered in the same vein as California Grill, Flying Fish and Citricos. Both serve very good food.
Geyser Point has food, too, as well as cocktails that will make you want to linger even more at the water's edge. My group noshed on a charcuterie platter that included prosciutto and duck rillette, plus an appetizer called Shrimp on a Wire, apparently because the shrimp, big, plump and tender-firm, were sitting on a trivet constructed out of a sort of chicken wire design. Whatever. Tasty starters.
Whispering Canyon Cafe
We reluctantly tore ourselves away from Geyser Point and wandered past the resort's pool and into the hotel's lobby and the entrance to Whispering Canyon Cafe. We were lead through the noisy dining room to a quieter space that overlooked the lobby just beyond. Besides the din of families having dinner, the restaurant bustles with servers theatrically shouting orders across the room and relating their roles and backstories to their guests. (I won't go into it, but apparently they're all members of a Western town called into service to help out with the tourists, or something like that. I repeat: whatever.)
Here we had more appetizers, including Pulled Pork Spring Rolls, which seemed an odd item for a Western themed restaurant but then Ricky Ly of Tasty Chomps pointed out that the railroads that crossed the American desert were built by Chinese immigrants, so we'll go with that.
We also had Indian Fry Bread -- yeah, they use the word Indian -- which was absolutely delicious. (The spring rolls were just so-so.) The bread was soft and doughy and sweet. It didn't need the sauces of tomato jam, cilantro aioli or apple ketchup (which looked and tasted a lot like apple sauce).
Before we left, we were also given a taste of the cafe's barbecued ribs -- big, meaty and appropriately messy. The sweet sauce and tender meat took our minds off the fact that children were running by on stick horses.
It was a short walk to Artist Point and its grand lodge decor. Here we had our choice of Wild Halibut en Papillote or Ricotta Agnolotti.
The fish wasn't quite as moist as one would expect from parchment cooking, though the flavors were wonderful, and the tomato, potato and fennel that accompanied made a full plate.
One of my tablemates gave me a sample of her agnolotti, which I liked very much. It included petite eggplant, mustard greens and English peas (I can never tell the difference until I hear the accent).
We had a long walk to our dessert venue, though few complained because a walk was needed.
We were taken to one of the resort's new waterfront "cabins," which are elegantly appointed, freestanding residences at the water's edge, where we had doughnuts, cupcakes and sparkling wine. We weren't invited to soak in the hot tub, but we were allowed to tour the bedrooms, the state-of-the-art kitchen and to enjoy the double-sided fire place from the living room and the wrap-around screened-in porch, which had a view of the Magic Kingdom's fireworks show nearby.
I doubt I'll be booking the cabin anytime soon -- several thousands a night, I was told. But I'll definitely return to Geyser Point just to sit and sip and take in the view.
All the venues are open daily: Whispering Canyon Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner; Geyser Point for breakfast and an all-day menu; and Artist Point for dinner. Reservations at 407-939-3463. Here's a link to the official website.