Markham's is generally exclusive to Golden Oak residents and their guests; the Delicious Disney Chef Series offers a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of what it's like to live literally, at Disney — Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World
Would I pair Moet with Cracker Jack? Probably. Though I might not have gone out of my way to admit it before it was served to me at Markham’s, easily one of the most exclusive dining venues in all of Walt Disney World, as part of a multi-course culinary journey befitting of a timeless classic.
On this night, the classic was Dumbo, which made the combination more than relevant (the venue was decked with balloons and other whimsical circus accoutrements) but the "Cracker Jack" was certainly leveled up.
Staffers served the champagne reception snack – alongside another of handspun cotton candy, a conical nest for thick hunks of bacon – after a bath in liquid nitrogen. Delighted guests regressed to childhood as they snapped dragon-breath selfies, eyes as sparkly as their bubble-filled flutes.
There are only two ways to dine at Markham’s, the venue tucked neatly inside the elegant edifice that serves as a clubhouse of the elite Golden Oak community, an actual neighborhood on the grounds of Walt Disney World in Orlando.
One of them is to live here. And with homes that start at roughly $2 million and climb from there, that’s a pretty exclusive club. The other is to pony up $349 for a seat at a Delicious Disney Chef Series dinner, where storytelling collides with sumptuousness – on the plate and in the glass – as a legendary Disney tale unfolds Inception-style, enrobed in an unforgettable meal, interpreted by chefs and sommeliers in their culinary media.
On this night, Advanced Sommelier Kristopher Soto served as Ringmaster – and dressed thusly, as well – introducing wines and courses, each of them curated and created custom for the event. Weaving them together like edible chapters, he was appropriately playful and dramatic as each course – created by chef Michael Rodriguez of the fan-favorite Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – was explained, deconstructed and tied into the story. In between, there was much wine education to be had.
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The Special Delivery course – five-spice maple-bourbon duck bacon with pickled vegetables, a summer roll of sorts, was introduced as the stork did Dumbo: adorable bundles of Asian-inspired joy. The Pink Cloud intermezzo offered a fanciful, if adult, serving of strawberry boba concealed within champagne sorbet and topped with a pouf of cotton candy. Impaled with a pipette of absinthe meant to melt the candy cloud, some chose instead to sample the Green Fairy straight, pre-palate cleanse.
Other courses featured: Taleggio-sweet corn caramelle pasta (shaped like elephant ears), roasted squab served with a "crow" feather to aid in lavender-honey drizzling, and beautifully presented bison strip loin wowed diners at least as much as trapeze artists might.
The meal culminated with Timothy’s Surprise (the biggest of which was how many guests were able to finish it after such a gastronomic marathon), a towering dessert replica of the hat worn by Dumbo’s brave and brazen – and also caring – best friend.
Swag, too, comes with the price tag on this meal. Dumbo, it was explained, was born in Florida, and so each diner went home with a clean version of their kitschy Florida placemats, these signed by Disney legend Dick Nunis, the former Chairman who helped the Disney empire grow from its very beginnings to the empire of 2019. That's alongside an archive-mined photo of Walt himself, holding the promotional plushies for Dumbo's original release back in 1941.
This series is one of the most opulent offerings in the realm. Read on for a few others.
What could be on the menu? Alaskan king crab and compressed watermelon from Victoria & Albert's — Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert's
You won’t just see them glittering on the guests at Victoria & Albert’s coveted Chef’s Table. This illustrious venue at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has received the renowned AAA Five Diamond Award each year since 2000 – and is the only restaurant in Florida to be awarded both this designation and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards. In fact, only 26 other venues nationwide hold this dual distinction.
This three-hour experience seats a max of 8, though reservations for parties as small as 2 are available. Approximately $250 per person (add another $125 for wine pairings) garners diners a ringside seat as chefs prepare exquisite tastings – up to 11 courses – during which delicacies from caviar to lobster to Wagyu beef may make appearances.
Guests enjoy time (at sea) with the chefs at Remy — Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line
It’s literal if you’re sailing aboard the Disney Cruise Line ship of the same name, but no less enjoyable on the Disney Dream, where premium culinary experiences have been expanded to accommodate guest demand. At the French-inspired Remy (so named for Ratatouille’s charming Patton Oswalt-portrayed rodent protagonist), guests can "make shroom" for six delectable courses that celebrate that finest of fungi: the truffle. The Truffle Collection’s premium menu features offerings that showcase white Alba and black Périgord truffles. $250/pp
Less expensive offerings? That’s negligible, since you’re already footing the cruise bill, but Petites Assiettes de Remy is an Executive Chef-hosted, six-course progressive tasting – in food and location – with wine pairings for each. $50/pp
And for those with a sweet tooth, Pompidou’s Patisseries Dessert Experience is the ultimate indulgence. Guests sample six desserts as chefs share the history and artistry of each. French praline topped with milk chocolate mousse, orange crème pâtissière inside an orange-flavored tuile wafer...each offering melts away on the tongue as the chefs impart insight and answer questions. $60/pp (Wine pairing experience can be added for $25/pp.)
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