Viva La Hacienda y La Cantina del San Angel!
by, 09-16-2010 at 06:42 PM (2880 Views)
Last night Epcot celebrated the bicentennial of Mexico with the opening of La Hacienda and La Cantina del San Angel.
Like any good latin gathering, more people showed up than were probably expected. The place was full of invited guests, including many former Disney executives.
Outdoor dining for La Cantina
Just add Mariachis and you have one grand fiesta. The only one that seemed to be missing was the Disney fire marshall.
Beyond the Mariachis is just a hint of the view overlooking World Showcase Lagoon.
But there was a great sense of friendship and comraderie present. Many were former executives of Disney such as Dick Nunis, as well as old friends of Palmas Services. For those of you who may not know, Palmas Services is the operating partner for not only the eateries at Mexico, but all of the food and beverage locations in Disney's Coronado Springs.
Beaming with pride was Richard "Ricky" Debler, who has been in the restaurant business since he was 16, and has been involved with creating food & beverage experiences with Walt Disney World since 1980. To date, this organization takes care of eleven different table, counter, and kiosk service offerings across Disney property. And Ricky has played a hand in all of them, even lending his name, as in Rix Lounge and Cafe.
For the ribbon cutting, Mickey and Donald accompany Dan Cockrell, VP of Epcot (left) and Ricky Debler, President of Palmas, LLC.
Of all of the eateries, the most popular has been the San Angel Inn, located beyond the walls of the Mayan temple icon within the Plaza de los Amigos. The San Angel reference is taken from Ricky's own rich family tradition. In the 1960's their family took over a popular Mexico City restaurant built from an old inn known as San Angel. That inn was originally created from an old hacienda established way back in 1692.
Ambience still holds reign at the San Angel Inn at Mexico in Epcot
Now San Angel Inn has serious but familial competition with La Hacienda del San Angel across the way. As opposed to the twilight experience of the Inn, here you find a home filled with light looking over World Showcase lagoon. The decor speaks of a someone who not only loved food, but loved the arts and crafts of Mexico.
Arte, Alimento, Amigos declares the mission of the Hacienda.
The food is strikingly different than what you'll find in San Angel Inn. Ricky and Dan Cockrell, VP of Epcot, traveled back to their family's original restaurant in Mexico City to look at how contemporary mexican dining is provided today. To get a sense of San Angel's heritage see this site.
I sampled from over half a dozen foods served in both the Hacienda and in the Cantina. I am no food critic, but they were all delicious, and unique in their own way. The menu takes its roots from traditional mexican food, but not from typical mexican food restaurants. Rather the menu was more in alignment with out of the way eateries my son (who lived in Mexico for two years) likes to take us to (though considerably upscaled), rather than a typical Tex Mex type experience. For instance, I was asked to rate the salsa. There are a couple of salsas available on the menu. But none of the dishes served as appetizers style on the menu last night really played to it, nor did they need it. Likewise, unless you went with the Chiles toreados and chorizitos, nothing was too hot--and even those where sweet peppers mixed with lime and sea salt.
Chiles toreados y chorizitos
Fresh homemade tortillas are the base for the various tacos. With some of these great dishes, it may be difficult to pay attention to the offerings of Epcot's annual food and wine festival.
As always, the Cantina will continue to be popular for those looking for a bite to eat along their sojourn through World Showcase.
From the windows of La Cantina you can look directly into a very busy kitchen staff.
The interior of the Hacienda restaurant is designed to accommodate overflow from the patios of the Cantina during the day, while moving over to more formal sit down dining at night.
The patio of the Cantina overlooks Italy in the distance. Dan Cockrell says that some 20% additional capacity has been created in Food and Beverage offerings at World Showcase.
But my prediction is that demand for the offerings of the more formal Hacienda, will quickly push counter service Cantina seating outside the door and back onto the patio. I think the food offerings of La Hacienda, while perhaps a little on the pricy side for my tastes, provides a very different culinary experience then what you get elsewhere in Epcot. Definitely add it to your list of places to try. With the potential of viewing the fireworks of Illuminations at night, this location has the opportunity of becoming a "South of the Border" California Grill.