A Middle Eastern-inspired menu served in a Cave of Wonders
You ain’t ever had a friend like me! Aladdin is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies but it wasn’t part of the original 12 month Disney Dinners line up because I didn’t have a clue about Middle Eastern cuisine. Aladdin is of course set in the fictional city of Agrabah, based on the Iraqi city of Bagdad during the Persian empire. I started researching Middle Eastern food and realized that it’s quite similar to Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, with fantastic aromatic spices and simple cooking techniques. So I dove in because I loved the idea of transforming my dining room into the Cave of Wonders!
If you haven’t seen Aladdin, it’s one of Disney’s finest Renaissance films. A “street rat” shows kindness to a princess in disguise in a market place, who falls in love with his boyish charms on a magic carpet ride. A Whole New World is one of my favorite Disney songs and one that me and my mom can be heard humming on a weekly basis. I bow down to the legendary Alan Menken, who wrote the score for Aladdin and also my life. Here’s how I paid homage to one of my favorite movies!
“Do you trust me?” – Aladdin
“It’s all so magical.” – Jasmine
Watch the Aladdin episode of The Rose Table:
I saved this party for after daylight savings to maximize impact for the red lights. I swapped out my chandelier bulbs with three red and two blue bulbs to create a magical jewel-tone affect in the dining room, reminiscent of the Cave of Wonders after Abu steals the ruby. I hung glittery purple tulle from the dining room doorway and gathered it on my side table and hung red tulle from my chandelier for a cozy cave affect. Fun fact: the woman behind me in line at Hobby Lobby turned to her husband and said, “Doesn’t that fabric make you think of Aladdin?” Nailed it!
“Let’s make some magic!” – Genie
I styled my china cabinet with mardi gras beads and other “treasures” fit for the Cave of Wonders. I set my floating jewel-tone bubble lanterns on my side table and hung a gold mirror in the corner. I swapped out my art for an Italian scene that looked weirdly like Agrabah or at least a marketplace in this setting. Don’t be afraid to wander around your house looking at options! You might be surprised what takes on a different look in a different setting.
“You ain’t ever had a friend like me.” – Genie
Aladdin escapes the Cave of Wonders on the magic carpet, which is why I chose a purple tablecloth: for a magic carpet ride! I borrowed my mom’s jewel lanterns for the table, perfect for the theme. I then sprinkled costume jewels all around the center of the table almost as a sort of runner.
“I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering splendid”
Can you believe that I already owned this lamp? It’s not quite a lamp but it certainly is a great stand in! It normally hangs out in my living room but it sat center stage at Disney Dinners: Aladdin since the lamp is a central plot point in the film.
“Touch nothing but the lamp.” – Cave of Wonders
Again, I wanted jewel tones so I went with yellow roses, magenta carnations, and a deep purple flower whose name escapes me. I almost never have a firm plan for Disney Dinners flowers because I’m at the mercy of whatever happens to be in stock at my grocery store. There were tons of options for Aladdin but I loved the way these looked together. I cut two bouquets and set them on either side of the lamp.
“You in luck ’cause up your sleeves
You got a brand of magic never fails”
The Place Settings
This is one of my favorite place settings in all of Disney Dinners! I used my gold chargers, which you might recognize from Disney Dinners: Princess and the Frog, with my emma plates from Pottery Barn. I set the table with gold flatware (also seen at Disney Dinners: Hercules) with marigold napkins (also seen at Disney Dinners: Coco) fanned out in the most fabulous gold cuff napkin rings. Now, I did use those napkin rings at Hercules but I actually purchased them for Aladdin because they reminded me so much of the cuffs around the genie’s wrists, symbolizing his tie to the lamp.
I suggest upbeat pop for Disney Dinners: Aladdin. It’s a colorful and festive setting and bright dance music is a good fit.
This is definitely one of my favorite Disney Dinners looks. I Disney bounded as Jasmine with a flowy, shoulder-bearing turquoise dress, gold strappy heels, gold jewelry, a strong gold necklace, turquoise headband, and my hair pulled back in a pony tail (though nowhere near as thick as Jasmine’s; Disney gave me false expectations about hair).
“Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?”
I loved my friend’s LBDs with gold jewelry. Perfect for an Aladdin dinner party!
Fun fact: Jenny is a news anchor and interviewed me during my first TV cooking segment last year (watch it here) and again for my first Disney Dinners segment a few months ago! I’m so glad I finally got to cook for her and her sweet husband.
Mamma Mia, this was good. This is one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made. I remember texting my mom a few weeks before the party asking what she thought of pomegranate juice, ginger simple syrup, lime juice, and champagne for Aladdin and she said, “Perfect!” And perfect it was.
The ginger simple syrup is easy to do. Just peel and slice fresh ginger and toss it in simple syrup right before turning the heat off. This can be made a week ahead of time and kept in the fridge. This would be a fantastic holiday drink. It’s so pretty with the pomegranate arils floating on top. Get the recipe for A Whole New World Cocktail here.
“Mister Aladdin, sir
What will your pleasure be?
Let me take your order
Jot it down
You ain’t never had a friend like me”
At the end of the day, this is basically chicken and rice with a simple salad to start and a dessert that can be made days ahead of time. You do not have to be an accomplished cook to pull off this dinner party but man, does it pack some serious flavor!
This is inspired by the Panir Salad at Nora’s in Dallas, Texas. I have no idea how they make theirs but mine is thick slices of tomato with generous hunks of feta cheese, dill, mint, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Be bold with the herbs. You want a heap of herbs on each plate! Get the recipe here.
Tumeric, garlic powder, paprika, saffron salt, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg season this chicken for a whole new world of flavor. It’s so easy, you could easily make this for a weeknight dinner. This and the rice can be done simultaneously in about twenty minutes. Get the recipe here.
Jeweled Jasmine Rice
This makes the whole house smell incredible! I cooked up some Jasmine Minute Rice before the party and left it hanging out in the pot. Then all I had to do was caramelize shallots with butter, add some Middle Eastern spices and honey (yes, honey!), toss with rice, then add the jewels: pistachios, cranberries, and pomegranate arils. It’s almost too pretty to eat! Weirdly enough, this dish is just as good served cold. Get the recipe here.
I struggled with what dessert to serve at Aladdin until my best friend Sarah said, “Why not something with bananas for Abu?” She’s a keeper, that one. This trifle layers my Banana Bread with a cream cheese pudding, banana slices, shortbread cookies, and vanilla whipped cream. It’s better made two days in advance, making it a great choice for a dinner party. Get the recipe here.
The menu was a hit with the guests and with me because it was so simple to pull off! We had the best time and I can’t even believe there is only one more dinner left in my 12 Months of Disney Dinners series. Get ready because next month is the grand finale: Snow White.
“Made you look!” – Genie
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Make your own magic,