So during our family’s most recent visit to Walt Disney World Resort, my kids mentioned several times how they would like to visit Disneyland Resort in California sometime soon. Um, yeah, not going to happen any time in the near future. Given that we live in Louisville, KY, that would require a cross country trek. Nonetheless, a visit to Walt Disney’s original theme park has been on my bucket list for quite a long time, as I’m sure is the case for any ardent Disney fan. When I lived in Paris, France, my husband and I often visited Disneyland Paris, and we had the pleasure of staying at the Disneyland Hotel on our last visit there with our children. This hotel is located at the entrance to Disneyland Paris, much like Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is located at the entrance to Disney California Adventure Park. We loved the proximity of the hotel to the park, and the smaller, more intimate scale of Disneyland Paris, much like the smaller scale of Disneyland Resort. One day we will cross a trip to Disneyland Resort off our bucket list! But, for the time being, since we are over 2000 miles from this famed resort, for this Disney Dinner Challenge we chose a recipe that would at least transport us, through our taste buds, to the birthplace of Walt Disney’s theme parks.
What I didn’t know when we selected this dish was how elusive it was for the majority of Guests at Disneyland Resort, as it is a dish once served at one of the most exclusive and mysterious places in all of the Disney parks, Club 33. Club 33 is a members only club located in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park. With a closed waiting list for membership, once as long as 14 years, snagging a coveted membership is almost, if not more, unattainable as spending a night in Cinderella Castle. Members reportedly include celebrities, dignitaries, royalty, and other similar parties. With an initiation fee for individuals last reported at $27,000, and annual dues near $12,000, this is not surprising. Members do receive many additional benefits and perks, including membership for platinum members to 1901 Lounge, an exclusive club located in Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure Park.
I’m not going to lie – I had no idea Club 33 even existed and had no idea what it was. So I felt the need to research it a bit before I wrote a blog post about a meal from this club. And now that I have read pages of information about Club 33, I’m completely obsessed with finding some way to dine there if I ever visit Disneyland Resort.
Walt Disney drew inspiration for Club 33 from the many VIP clubs and lounges for corporate sponsors at the 1964 World’s Fair. Believing there should be a similar locale for Disneyland Resort sponsors, Walt Disney embarked on a quest to create a truly memorable enclave hidden above the storefronts in New Orleans Square. The original design for Club 33 was a homage to Walt Disney and New Orleans. Among the notable artifacts and décor in the original space were a beautiful harpsichord handpicked by Lillian Disney, a glass telephone booth from The Happiest Millionaire, and a walnut table used in Mary Poppins. Members and their guests could ascend to the second floor dining area via stairs or a replica vintage French elevator commissioned by Walt Disney himself, based on an elevator he could not purchase outright in France. Most interesting to me was the Trophy Room, a separate dining room on the second floor that contained remnants of what Walt Disney envisioned would be Audio-Animatronic technology entertainment for the dinner guests in that room. Sadly Walt Disney passed away before the completion of this room and the opening of Club 33, and the Audio-Animatronic entertainment was abandoned. However, a vulture, intended for the entertainment, remained in the room. Notably, not only is dining at Club 33 an unforgettable upscale dining experience, it is the only place within Disneyland Park to provide alcoholic beverages. That alone makes it my kind of place.
Originally marked with only a number 33 plaque alongside a nondescript door, a recent 2014 renovation of Club 33 has moved the entrance down a bit, but has retained the refined beauty of the entrance befitting a club such as Club 33. The motif of the “33” changed ever so slightly also.
The 2014 renovation increased the overall capacity of Club 33, while allowing for a more modernized and expanded kitchen and ADA compliant upgrades. Club 33 now houses Salon Nouveau, a jazz bar lounge, and Le Grand Salon, the main dining area. Treasured artifacts from the original Club 33 were kept in the new space, such as the harpsicord and the telephone booth, while others, such as the replica vintage elevator, were repurposed within the new space. Sadly, the Trophy Room was removed to make space for the new kitchen, but the vulture still keeps watch over Guests from his perch above a grandfather clock.
This post would go on far too long if I included all the information I have unearthed about Club 33. This is one thing I truly love about doing this blog – I learn something new all the time. Maybe everyone in the world knew about Club 33 and I just live under a rock, but now I am fascinated with it, bordering somewhat on obsession. From a historical standpoint I want to visit Club 33 (and the 1901 Lounge) and experience firsthand pieces from Walt Disney’s legacy. And, from a foodie standpoint, I REALLY want to have one of the many enticing cocktails from Salon Nouveau and face the difficult task of choosing from the variety of options on the 5 or 6 course menu. I cannot imagine a more memorable experience when visiting Disneyland Resort.
I am including a few links here for anyone wanting to learn more about Club 33. Disney Food Blog has some great photos of the renovated space and new menu. The fan club website, Disneyland Club 33, has an incredible source of historical information about the club and pictures of the pre-renovated space.
So, now, onto the recipe! This recipe is from the 1994 edition of Mickey’s Gourmet Cookbook so it is a recipe from the original Club 33 menu. Elegant and delicious, it is unbelievably easy and hands-off to make. The chicken bakes for 25 minutes, during which time the sauce is easily prepared. The sauce is then poured over the chicken, and back in the oven it goes for another 25 minutes, giving you time to prepare sides and a salad, and the lemon slices for broiling. Once the 25 minutes have expired, the dish comes out of the oven and heavy cream is poured around the chicken. The lemon slices take no more than 5 minutes under the broiler, and the dish is ready to serve. I love recipes like this – not a lot of preparation, hands-off time to prepare the rest of the meal, and most importantly, a supremely delicious meal that everyone enjoys! I do suggest using fresh lemon and orange juice – it will add to the flavor. The chicken is juicy and tender, with a refreshing citron sauce. I’m fairly confident Breast of Chicken Citron will become a staple in our regular dinner planning.
I doubled the recipe to make 8 servings so I had plenty for dinner and left overs. The recipe below serves 4, so adjust accordingly depending on the size of your dinner party. I added fresh sautéed green beans and lemon herbed orzo to round out the meal, making an elegant dish that no doubt originated in the kitchen of the refined and distinguished Club 33.
Breast of Chicken Citron
4 large chicken breasts, boneless
¼ cup of flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon white wine
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange rind, grated
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup half-and-half
12 lemon slices, very thin
Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Dust chicken with seasoned flour and place in a buttered casserole dish in a single layer. Dot chicken with butter and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.
Combine sherry, white wine, orange juice, orange rind, and lemon juice and pour over the chicken and cook for an additional 25 minutes, covered. Remove casserole from the oven and pour half-and-half around the chicken. Let the hot casserole cool slightly with the half-and-half.
On a broiler-proof pan, arrange thinly sliced lemon slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Broil lightly until browned.
Remove the chicken from the dish and arrange on a serving platter. Stir the sauce and pour over the chicken. Garnish with broiled lemon slices.