Le Cellier Restaurant Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – EPCOT Candlelight Processional Dinner Package

This is going to be kind of a mixed up review.  I want to comment on the fact that we are here as a result of the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, and how that may effect our meal at this restaurant, and I want to give fair commentary on what it’s like to eat here as a gastric bypass patient.  So skip the parts that don’t pertain to you, but you might want to go over the stuff that will help you plan in the future.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Candlelight Processional, this amazing holiday event takes place at EPCOT at Walt Disney World each year from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.  It is the classic retelling of the story of the nativity – the birth of Jesus Christ – performed by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 150 voice choir and an orchestra.  For us, this is a must do.  I have loved this program since the very first time we saw it, back when Brighid was a baby, and it is well worth a special trip to Orlando just to witness the spectacle.  At least to me.  The Candlelight Processional is included with your park admission into EPCOT, but a while back, Disney introduced Candlelight dinner packages that gave you priority seating at the show if you purchased one.  You pay to get in the park, and then you make a reservation at one of EPCOT’s many restaurants.  Your meal is a fixed price meal that includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert, as well as soft drinks, coffee or tea, and then a special ticket/sticker/pass to get priority seating at the show.  In recent years, they have made it more complicated by separating the restaurants into three tiers – each tier is a different price.  And if that’s not complicated enough, a year or so ago, they made it so that you are required to eat prior to seeing the Candlelight Processional – so if you planned on seeing the 5 o’clock Candlelight Processional, then grabbing dinner, that’s not an option any longer – you have to eat prior to the show (which is performed 3 times each night).

Okay, so that’s the background on the show.  In years past, despite having a reservation, we often waited a very long time to be seated at the restaurants, and it really did seem one year that we might not make it to the show in time because our meal was so delayed.  It seems to have gotten better with the tiers and the scheduling of your meal prior to your show, but you really MUST book your package well in advance.  The most popular EPCOT restaurants book quickly for the Candlelight packages, and you would do well to book your reservation as soon as the packages become available in the late spring/early summer.

We have never, in all of our years going to EPCOT, eaten at Le Cellier, and it is one of the more difficult restaurant reservations to get during normal times.  I do not hold out much hope that I will get a table for a party of 7 when I call, but I do call the day the packages become available and I am able to secure an early dinner seating at Le Cellier for Jim, the girls, my in-laws, and myself.  I have heard rave reviews about this restaurant, and there are people who have said they would rather eat here than some of the other very high priced steak places in the Orlando area.  I am excited to have a table and look forward for months to eating there.

The restaurant, when we arrive, is very busy, but we have an early dinner time and we arrive early by about 25 minutes to make sure we get in on time.  We really only wait about 5 minutes when they are calling us to be seated.  I am surprised at how small this restaurant is!  The waitress tells us they can hold about 150 people, and for a theme park, that seems like a very tiny place.  No wonder they are always booked!!

The dinner package for adults is $47.99 per person, and I do not ask to negotiate down to a child’s price because then I will have to order from the children’s menu, which has nothing on it you want to eat if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery.  If you want to try on a normal visit to negotiate for a child’s meal, they offer pasta and sauce; a hot dog; and a grilled steak.  I could have taken a chance on the grilled steak, but honestly, I am more likely to have steak get stuck than anything else, and I don’t want to spend the night in agony.

The appetizer selection includes the famous Cheddar Cheese soup, and that is one thing I have been dying to try.  I know, however, that I will never be able to eat a whole bowl of what I imagine to be a rich, thick soup, so I talk Jim into ordering the soup.  I cannot eat shrimp comfortably, so that rules out the shrimp cocktail option; and I’m not in the mood for a salad, although they offer a mixed green salad, a steak house caesar salad, and a caprese style salad.  You could certainly eat any of those, and although the mozzarella in the caprese salad (I think they call it a beefstack salad) is probably not part skim, the protein is good.  They also offer a chipotle chicken sausage, which I do not try only because I don’t like spicy foods, so I settle for the other soup option – a beef barley.

Now, you know if you’ve had surgery,  you don’t eat as quickly as you may have at one time.  At least you are not supposed to.  So when I order soup, I like it to come out piping hot so that I still have warm soup by the time I get to the bottom.  I was so disappointed when my soup came out at barely room temperature.  The waitress is busy, and she seems like we are bothering her to be here, so I hesitate about asking for a hotter cup of soup, but Jim catches her eye and brings it to her attention, and she is soon back with a much hotter cup of the soup.  There are huge chunks of beef in this soup, and that is a good thing protein wise, but the meat in my soup is a little tough.  I can eat some of it, but I do have to leave some in the cup.  It’s also very bland.  I have to add salt – a lot of it – to make the soup palatable.  This is not a good start to the evening.

Just before we ordered anything, a chef came out of the kitchen and asked if there was someone at our table that had asked to see him due to food allergies.  I told him I had issues with food, but not allergies, so he must have the wrong table, and he asked me what my issues were.  I told him I had gastric bypass surgery, and he offered to look over the menu with me and work something out.  I had already browsed the menu on my own, and had almost resigned myself to having either the salmon or the chicken, when I asked him if he could do the shrimp and scallop pasta dish without the pasta or the shrimp.  He looked quizzically at me, but then said he could do something, serve it over vegetables, and figure something out.  I told him to give it a shot and I’d see what I ended up with.  Well, when the meal came, to look at it, it was a little unattractive.  These were not plump sea scallops, but rather small bay scallops that you would use in a salad or a sauce.  They were in a reddish colored sauce that was served over a julienne of fresh mushrooms and some other veggies.  It smelled so good that I had no trouble overlooking that it looked like an odd meal, and then the first bite removed any doubt that this was delicious.  The sauce is a little on the rich side – made from lobster stock with lobster oil – but it tasted soooooo good.  There were dozens of the little scallops, and the mushrooms were tender and perfectly cooked.  I’m so glad he made the mistake of coming to our table, and I hope someone at another table didn’t suffer some type of serious allergic reaction because the chef never got to them!

You will find this restaurant – a steak place – heavy on steaks.  There are two filet mignon dishes – one a mushroom filet that was really good – as was the mushroom risotto that accompanied the steak.  But even as tender as the filet is, I cannot in any way eat much of it without feeling ill.  There is a salmon dish, although it is served with maple butter.  You can opt out of the butter if you think it will cause you problems.  The other most friendly gastric bypass dish on the menu is the seared free range chicken, however, it is served with a corn pudding – something I cannot eat since my surgery.  You will also find a pork chop on the menu, but it’s a good sized chop and I just don’t see how they can prepare it so that it’s tender enough to eat.

Desserts – again, had I notified the restaurant in advance of a special dietary need, I’m sure they could have made accomodations for a sugar free dessert.  After the huge plate of scallops, however, I had no need or desire for dessert, and I ordered the chocolate mousse for the kids to share.

Overall, I was disappointed in the restaurant, perhaps because my expectations were so high after years of hearing how amazing it was and maybe because our first taste of the place occurred during the busy Candlelight Processional season.  But, if previous attempts at trying to book a meal here are any indication, this particular restaurant is this busy all of the time.  The food was okay – my scallops were really good, but they were the one standout among the crowd.  We might make an effort to eat here again in the future when it’s not Candlelight season, just to verify that while they are a nice restaurant, they certainly do not compare to anything like a Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s.

Jolly Holidays Wednesday – And a HUGE Thank You!!!

First, before this blog goes anywhere, I went to post a HUGE THANK YOU to my father-in-law’s friend Richard.  We can’t tell him how grateful we are to him for gaining our admission to EPCOT.  We all had a great time, got a big dose of the Christmas spirit, and truly appreciate you going out of your way for us.  Thank you so much!

So, I am determined to get this gang up and out the door at oh dark something this morning, to make sure we are at the park in time.  We are meeting Jim’s parents and their friend Richard at 9 AM, and I want to make sure we are there with time to spare.  YAY – we get there at 8:35!!  We get a great parking spot, and I find Richard right away.  He is such a pleasure to talk to, and we all had a nice conversation when I wasn’t chasing my youngest daughter.

Dot and Russ got there a few minutes before 9, and we spent another couple of minutes talking before we headed into EPCOT for the day.  Our first stop – The Land, where we ride the boat ride.  This is one of my favorite things at EPCOT, although I am disappointed to see that they no longer have a guide on the boat – it’s all recorded.  I guess this is just another way to save Disney money, but it does take a little away from the ride.  It’s still fascinating to me, though, to see the garden part of the tour.  Not being able to grow anything in the traditional fashion makes me all the more interested in how they grow things the way they do!

We leave the boat ride, and Jim, Russ and Eilis head to Soarin’.  The wait is 20 minutes, which for this ride is really good, so they stay while I go up to the top of the building to wait with Dot.  During the wait, a lady comments to me about how very good and patient Granuaile is.  Well isn’t that a beaming mommy moment!!  I want to tell her that this is unusual for her, and it might be that she was drugged with a Triaminic strip for a cough this morning and we kept her awake until the wee hours of the morning, so she is probably sleeping with her eyes open, but I thank the very nice lady and appreciate for a few minutes that the terrible twos aren’t always so terrible.

We are closing in on lunch time, so we decide to head over to the World Showcase and the Amercian Adventure area, where we see the giant and smelling oh so good Gingerbread house.  They will be selling the delicious gingerbread here later on, but right now, it’s closed.  And so is the restaurant.  They don’t start serving until 11:30 and it’s only 11:05.  We just hang out, meet a nice lady in line with us who went to Boston College and discouraged us from letting Brighid consider Northeastern.  Finally, we purchase our enjoyable lunch, and just as we are finishing, Granuaile hears the fife and drum corps and runs to hear it.  She loves them!  She’s so musical.

The afternoon goes well, bouncing from ride to show to shop, and we soon find it time to eat again.  Dinner is at Le Cellier, and it’s an early meal so that we can go to the 6:45 Candlelight Processional.  I’ll review the restaurant later, but we eat, and we are on our way.  It’s pretty much time to go wait in line for the Candlelight Processional, which tonight is being narrated by Chita Rivera.  Jim loved her from Kiss of the Spider Woman.  I think that’s the show that turned him on to the theatre, because up until then, he had shown very little interest.  Anyway…

Midway through the show, Eilis has to go to the bathroom.  I figure I will wait until the Hallelujah chorus is being sung so I can slip out without really disturbing anyone.  Granuaile, however, decides to whisper in that OH SO LOUD baby whisper that Eilis has to go Baf-room!!  Now!  Mommy!  Eilis has to go baf-room!  UGH.  We do manage to make it to the Hallelujah Chorus, and we run to the bathroom.

We had a few pictures taken during this trip, and the one photographer helped me with my camera by teaching me how great night mode is.  He was great.

I hate to see the day come to an end, but the kids are tired, and it’s getting late, and we really have done a lot today.  The Candlelight Processional is my favorite Christmas moment, and I leave EPCOT feeling really good.  Back at the hotel, the girls get a snack and climb into bed, and it’s just been a terrific day.

EPCOT Candlelight Processional

If you are spending any part of your holiday season in Disney World, this is a not to be missed event that will have you wishing you could come back to Disney every year at Christmas time.  This is a very popular, celebrity hosted event, and there are two ways to get in to see it.  Anyone who purchases a ticket (any ticket – annual pass, seasonal pass, park hopper, single day ticket) into EPCOT center, can go to see one of the three nightly performances that takes place from the day after Thanksgiving up until the day before New Year’s Eve.  There is no extra charge to go and see this spectacular holiday event.  HOWEVER…

Disney sells what are called Candlelight Processional Dining Packages.  These packages include your dinner at one of the participating restaurants and reserved general seating for one of the three shows.  The packages are sold at three different price levels, depending on the restaurant you choose.  For example, Tier I is about $30 per adult (not including tax or gratuity), and you are limited to the Garden Grill restaurant or the Biergarten.  Tier II is about $39, and includes restaurants like the San Angel Inn and the Rose and Crown Pub.  Tier III, the most expensive at about $46 per adult, includes the most restaurants.  With that package, you can dine at Chefs de France, the Coral Reef, and Le Cellier, and a few others.  The meal includes an appetizer, an entree and a dessert.  Alcoholic beverages are not included, and park admission is still required – this price does not include your admission to EPCOT. 

With the package, you will be able to enter the American Gardens theater, and everyone who has purchased a package is escorted in first.  There are no reserved seats, just the guarantee that you will have a seat in the theater.  As the line of package purchasers begins to dwindle, they then allow those people who have not purchased packages to file in to the theater.  People line up at least 30 minutes prior to the start of each show to get standby seating, and closer to Christmas, I have seen people waiting an hour or more.  You are NOT guaranteed a seat if you do not purchase the dinner package.  If you have your heart set on seeing a particular celebrity perform this event, I HIGHLY recommend the package.

The show itself is a 150 member choir, providing the music that weaves together a retelling of the story of Christmas.  The story is told by a celebrity narrator, and in the past, the narrators have included Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, CSI:NY); James Caviezel (Passion of the Christ); Rita Moreno (Broadway); and other stars of stage, screen, TV and music.  The music is beautiful, the story is, of course, beautiful, and the experience is one of the best for your money at Disney World. 

If you plan on doing a dinner package, book it as soon as possible once the packages are available.  They do sell out, as the restaurants book up quickly.  You DO need to make an advanced dining reservation when you purchase the package.

And look for the CD of the Candlelight Processional when you leave.  We find ourselves listening to it at all times of the year!