Jean and I were finally able to give each other our Christmas present yesterday. This present was a reservation for dinner at the exclusive, if not mythological, Club 33 inside Disneyland.
The day started with us picking up John and Mary (as we knew they would truly appreciate the entire experience). They were both unbelievably excited about this opportunity, in so much as allowing themselves to be the complete Disney geeks they are. Giddy as school children we all were.
We headed over to the resort and parked in the structure. The entire walk in, John and I were already “in the mood” of the day: obnoxiously humourous. If even it was only to ourselves. Jean and Mary were less amused by our antics, but had fun none-the-less. I was throwing down the V.I.P. three fingers on a hand gesture, indicating that I was, in fact, an exclusive guest of the Legendary Club 33. I amuse myself. John was amused too, if only by my geekiness, which I knew he shared.
We finally made it to the Disney Resort Guest Relations counter to pick up our “Complimentary Park Hopper Passes” allowing us free entrance to both Disneyland as well as the California Adventure. All the way from the parking structure we had been discussing the possibility of getting VIP passes to the rides, since we were after all guests of the exclusive club. Once we entered California adventure we saw the park specific Guest Relations office and briefly looked at each other to decide who got to go ask about VIP passes. John, Mary, and Jean all wussed out, so it was left to me to take the stand. And damn if I didn’t get shot down while my ass was being kissed at the same time. But hey, never ask never get, right?
So away we walk, heads still high, if not a bit dejected. We grab some coffee and sodas, and head over to Soaring over California for the first ride of the day. What a cool ride! Disney really knows how to impress. Even not being a fan of heights (which becomes HIGHLY apparent later on in the day) the ride was still amazing and fun even though it was shorter than expected.
Walking out of the ride, we discuss what to do next on the agenda. Well, WINE of course! So off we head to the Vineyard (previously Mondavi) for a few glasses of good wine and a sit to take it all in, plan out the rest of the day, and just enjoy the day with friends. Two glasses each later and we’re off to watch sourdough bread and tortillas being made. Let me tell you there is NOTHING like fresh flour tortillas…. yum yum yum. Which, of course, only served to whet our appetites and push us towards lunch. (Nothing much to speak of here, just corndogs.)
After a leisurely lunch, we decided that a ride on the Ferris Wheel was in order. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Waiting in line, we were all laughing and joking around as we normally do. Having a total blast and still not really grasping what is in-store for us later in the day. That all ended for me when we entered the basket on the ferris wheel and stared the ascent. Turns out, I HATE heights. I was plastered against the side, grasping as hard as I could onto anything solid. As we were coming back down, I realized that the wheel wasn’t going to stop, and around we go for a second, slower pass. Hell on earth I tell you! We finally were let off, and as we are walking away John leans over to feel my pulse, as I had just noted I need to let the adrenaline get through my system and allow me to calm down. He was surprised to feel my heart racing. I don’t think I will be doing that again. Ever.
We decided to make our way into Disneyland now so we could ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion before our 5:30pm reservation time. Not much to say here other than we just had the time of our lives running around Disneyland with our friends and laughing more than I have in ages. Aside from having to wait in lines (whaddaya mean, I’m a VIP!!!!), the rides were fun and we only ended up having to waste about half an hour before we were supposed to arrive for our reservation (they want you there at 5:15 for a 5:30 reservation).
Well, we were SOOO anxious and excited, we ended up ringing the buzzer at 5:10, figuring it was close enough to the time. Wrong-O. Jean pressed the button in the Gold Intercom box which resulted in….. wait for it….. NOTHING. Wow what a let down. We ended up pressing the button 5 more times before a Mime accosted us to tell us we shouldn’t ring the buzzer until 5:30 ON THE DOT. Go figure. I get told off by a friggin Mime! Since we’re obviously not going on a ride in 15 minutes time, we wait. Cause Like Hell if we’re gonna leave this door! In the 15 minutes we stand there, a decently large group of people form up waiting as well. At 5:31pm we decide to try the buzzer again. This time when Jean presses the button, we actually hear a buzz on the other side. This is a good sign. Immediately, the Gold intercom speaks and requests the name. Jean gives her information, and is told to try the door.
Now, the true magic begins….
Jean pulls the knob on the door and it OPENS! My first glimpse into the Foyer of Club 33 is directly of the stair case and Lift. Magnificent is the only word I can muster. Jean walks in first, followed by myself, Mary, then John. Jean is the BOMB by the way, since she was the only one in crowd standing at the door to actually ring the buzzer, and open the door. Everyone else behind us (as we were the FIRST inside for the 5:30 seating) simply walked through the already open door. Jean did it all. She so rocks!
The hostess at the front desk checks Jean’s ID and reservations and asks us if we would like to take the lift or the stairs. Me, being the complete geeky idiot I am, look around, briefly discuss our options and decide on the stairs, so of course, say “Lift!…. wait, I mean stairs… ugh”. I was just too breath taken at that moment to put any words into a logical pairing to form a sentence.
We walk up the stairs and are greeted by our waiter who leads us to our table. As we are following (trying not to lag) I found myself to be so enamored with the entire area that I would pause unknowingly to simply stare at a piece of art, or at the wine racks, or just at the overall decoration and ambience of the place. Thanks god everyone else was doing the same, and our waiter was patient with us. Eventually we were led to the very far wall in the banquet room and into the front corner. This seriously has to have been one of the best seats in the Club. We had a view of the lights over New Orleans way, as well as a view directly over to Tom Sawyer island. FABULOUS!!!
Our waiter, James, introduces himself and notes that water is on its way, and takes our drink orders. Well, he gets Mary and Jean diet cokes, and comes back with a Wine List for John and I. I am no longer worried about what wines they may have. Their list ha an incredible selection of wines. We had a VERY difficult time selecting a nice bottle to start with, but ended up with a Cambria Vineyards Julia’s Pinot Noir, 1997 Estate Bottled Reserve. Amazingly, the bottle was one of the least expensive on the menu running us only $38, when most others were in excess of $100 (I didn’t find this out until later, as I hadn’t seen this bottle on the list initially). Just goes to show that price isn’t everything, as this bottle was one of the best I have ever had. So far a great start to the meal. Nice and subtle, with a very soft palate and a nose that just makes you happy and smiling.
James returns with the wine, and menus. I am so on sensory overload at this point, I can’t remember the exact items which were on the menu. What I do remember is that there were two sections: 1. Appetizers, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts (I believe), and 2. The Vintner’s 5 Course Dinner.
I have no idea what the first section looked like as I knew I had to do the 5 course. How many times can I do something like this? I had to take advantage of it. The dinner was $75 plus another $35 for the wine pairing with each course. This consisted of a different glass of wine paired with each course. If you are keeping track at home, this puts us up to 6 glasses of wine over dinner. I am SO glad I chose this option! (We all did, though it turned out to be a bit too much food for Jean and Mary.) As I said, my memory is a bit fuzzy just from the evening (I was damn near stone cold sober the entire night because of the pacing of the courses), but I am sorry to say I don’t remember exactly what we had. There was an appetizer red onion tart which was amazingly powerful, a salad, of which I cant remember the name, a lobster spring roll, a New York strip steak, a Fava Bean soup with lobster and a parmesan crisp, and blue cheese ice cream. It all sounds a bit off, but I can assure you this was the BEST dinner I have ever had. The wine pairings were amazing, minus one that just wasn’t right at all.
The wine paired with the steak was just not good. Not that it had turned or anything like that, it simply wasn’t a good wine. Our waiter James even sat with us and tried a small taste and agreed that it was just a poorly made wine. That simple validation for me made my night. I can indeed now run with the big boys and know when a wine simply shouldn’t be paired with a dinner, or in this case really be served at all. Alone it was awful, with the steak it was better, but even _I_ couldn’t finish the glass of it.
Because of this insight, James had gone back and spoken with others in the staff who were assisting him with our table (possibly even the manager), and returned just before the next course to let us know they had switched the last two pairings. Essentially, they served the same wines that were set to be pared with the courses they were paired with. This way we had a red wine with the fava bean soup (which was spectacular) and then a lovely dessert wine ( From EOS, WHOO! )with the blue cheese ice cream. James had believed this switch would make a better pairing, and indeed he was very correct. though it does make me wonder what indeed the Chef was thinking when he made the original pairings. Hmm.
Through the entire meal, we laughed and carry on about everything which we normally talk about. Including a looooooong discussion about the wines. We even chatted up James and some of the other staff members. This truly is an exceptional staff. We felt as nothing less than VIPs who were catered to on hand and foot. Even with a few of our odd requests (probably not odd to them in the least) we were able to stay in the lounge area and wait for Fantasmic to start, we each got the cool Club 33 pens used by the staff and to sign the bill, and even found out that one of the other waiters had seen John and Mary the night before at the second to final showing of “The Producers” in the Pantages!
When Fantasmic was about to begin, James came by and escorted us out to the balcony above New Orleans square to watch the show. Though the trees made this pretty much impossible, it was still amazingly cool to simply be up there. Remember, this is a place where very few guests in Disneyland are able to go. You should have seen some of the stares we got while we were up there. We felt like complete snobs at that point. We were cool, and everyone below us could see that. (Well, at least the ones who looked up could.)
After the show, and a few cell calls during it just to gloat, we headed back inside to finish off our coffees and scotches (Macallan 25 year was the best they had). We also checked out the “souvenir” display case, which I am forced to put in quotes because it is unlike any other Disney souvenir shop you have ever seen. It is a simple display case, about the height and width of a normal sized man. Displayed within were button downs, robes, polo shirts, golf balls and tees, watches, candle snuffer, baseball caps, lapel pins, a license plate frame only for members, and a 35th anniversary plate. No prices. This place is SO HIGH CLASS! We of course, are not, so he had to ask, and I am glad I did, as I couldn’t justify the $85 for the plate, though I would have loved to. Instead I settled for the $10 lapel pin. Cause I am subtle and cool like that.
With the addition of the “souvenirs”, we closed out our second bill and made our way out. Just before heading down the stairs, we meet up with the manager. Or more correctly, the food services guest relations manager. Not the top dog, but second in command, and top dog for the night. Got his card, and chatted him up a bit. Let him know how highly we thought of the entire staff, and how attentive they were to us. We tried to make sure he understood how appreciative we were of all the special requests we had over the night. He was the perfect manager and thanked us, while explaining that if they can, they are happy to accommodate special requests, which simply re-enforced that some of our requests were a bit out of the ordinary, but not an issue for them tonight.
As we left, we savoured the view of the lobby and opened the door to rejoin the unwashed masses that are the normal Disney Guests… Emerging from that door which sits so meekly next to the Blue Bayou, we were filled with an elation which is rarely felt amongst our small group. It was as if we had stepped back into our “real” lives, but were somehow changed forever because of the experiences we shared behind that single door labeled with a simple “33”.