Before the grand finale of 12 Months of Disney Dinners, I thought we could have some fun with a little behind-the-scenes article, since many of you have requested details on how I pull these off. To recap: Disney Dinners are glamorous adult dinner parties inspired by various Disney movies: from Frozen to Alice in Wonderland to Pirates of the Caribbean. All of my parties would be much easier for my readers to create than they were for me to execute. When people watch them, they don’t think of all the behind-the-scenes effort. For me, it’s not just a three course meal for six people. It’s also a photo shoot for usually 5-9 articles and a video shoot.
How did I come up with the idea? I saw a photo on Instagram last November of a table that had woodland creatures and apples on it and it reminded me of Snow White. I had a dream that night that I hosted 12 Months of Disney Dinners. I woke up and thought, what a fabulous idea! The point is to showcase different ideas and menus for entertaining. These are not kids parties. My goal with each party has been to delight Disney fans with all the references but still offer a gorgeous dinner party if someone isn’t a Disney fan.
People often wonder what comes first with a Disney Dinner. People ask my mom all the time, “How does she get the ideas for these? Where does she start?” The season played a big part in party planning. I knew I would kick things off in January and what’s a better winter theme than Frozen? I then researched the original fairytale, which is Norwegian. I researched Norwegian cuisine for inspiration and watched the film. I watched every Disney movie that became a Disney Dinner this year and took notes like a total nerd. I wish I had saved some of those notes for this article! I would write down quotes that I like and elements from the movies that could be included in a dinner party.
A lot of people assume that I chose my favorite twelve Disney movies for this series but that isn’t true. Some of my favorite Disney movies don’t lend themselves to a themed dinner as well as others. I never published the schedule just in case I wanted to make changes to the twelve and sure enough, I made some changes to the line up after Princess and the Frog. Aladdin and Coco were not originally on the list. Snow White was originally going to be in October (poison apples! hello!) but I decided to make it the finale for a slew of reasons that we’ll discuss later this week. Come to think of it, Princess and the Frog wasn’t originally on the list because I wasn’t familiar with Cajun cooking. (Cajun eating, absolutely!) I told my brother the 12 month line-up last December and he was absolutely horrified that Princess and the Frog wasn’t on the list. “It’s such a you movie! It’s about cooking! She wants to open a restaurant! She makes gumbo!”
I was originally going to do a few parties that weren’t based off of Disney movies but rather Disney concepts. I considered a Pacific Wharf party based off of the land in California Adventure, A Wish Upon a Star party, and a Gaston party. I ultimately decided to keep the twelve all based on animated Disney movies, with the exception of Pirates of the Caribbean, which is my favorite movie of all time.
The burning question people always have is: how much time do these take you? I pretty much planned three at a time all year. In November and December I worked on Frozen, Princess and the Frog, and Beauty and the Beast. I started testing several parties at a time, meaning I’d make both gumbo and soufflé in a week for back-to-back parties. I really had a vision for each party initially – I could see the party in my mind – and then I would figure out how to execute it. Recipe testing to get the perfect Disney Dinners recipes was the most time consuming.
At first I decorated the dining room one week before the party, but by the end I upped that to two weeks before on account of how I would always set the dining room up, panic, and order a ton more decor days before the party. Fun fact: I did not add the snow light machine for Frozen until four days before! Two days before, I would clean my house. The day before, I’d go to the grocery store and usually make dessert or any make-ahead element that the menu had. The afternoon before, I would paint my nails to match the theme. The night before, I would fully set the table: glasses, napkins, plates, silverware, etc. Day of, I would prep whatever I could and usually set up stations around the kitchen to make it easier for me to grab things. Then I would film my walk through that I later voice over in the first part of the video.
My photographer would arrive one hour before the party. Jessica Serna of My Curly Adventures photographed most of the series and I am so grateful for her! (Additional photographers were Darling Photography TX for Alice in Wonderland, Hercules, Coco, and Aladdin, and Mary Anita Batchellor Photography for Snow White.) We would shoot the table first, then my outfit shots, and any food that was able to be prepped a few minutes before the guests arrived. Then we would film my intro (“You’re watching The Rose Table Disney Dinners!”). The hardest intro to film by far was Frozen because the snow effect had to be timed perfectly and I kept fumbling through the menu.
There is no videographer for Disney Dinners, just me and my friends and my iPhone. I take most of the footage of the food and decor myself then hand my phone off to my friends to record while I’m cooking. The #1 thing that Disney Dinners first time guests say by the end is that they were surprised how much it really is a dinner party and not a photo shoot. In fact, for many of the parties, Jessica and I would shoot the food away from the guests while they happily drank cocktails in the dining room. She would snap a few pictures of us eating each course and then she’d trot into the kitchen to eat her plate and take a break until the next course.
People ask me all the time what my favorite Disney Dinners has been. That’s like choosing a favorite child! I love different elements of each of my Disney Dinners. Frozen is still my favorite intro because I wore my favorite white cape dress that swished like Elsa’s dress when I walked off camera. Plus I had the snow special effect, which is hard to beat. I had the most fun at Pirates of the Caribbean, mainly because it’s impossible not to have fun when you’re drinking rum punch and eating lobster! Mulan was the easiest menu to execute and the flowers smelled unbelievably incredible. When I think of Mulan, I think of the relaxing scent of fresh lilies and the excitement of lighting The Great Wall of Chocolate on Fire. Alice in Wonderland of course has been the most popular and that was probably my favorite table to date, although Hercules was pretty stunning! If I had to choose an overall favorite though, it’s Princess and the Frog. Princess and the Frog actually has the least video views but coincidentally, many of my long-time readers and I agree it’s our favorite.
Speaking of Alice in Wonderland, the video is up to 430,000 views! It has thousands of comments and they’re all positive. It make some so happy how much everyone loved that party. So many people commented and tagged friends saying they wanted to host their own Alice in Wonderland dinner party! I hope they tag me if they do. The thought of anyone having a wonderful evening with friends because of something they saw on The Rose Table fills me with joy.
As far as food goes, I’m partial to the Beauty and the Beast menu because each dish was mentioned in Be Our Guest (cheese souffle, beef ragut, and The Grey Stuff) but souffle is a pretty advanced dish so it would be one of the more difficult menus to recreate. If someone has never cooked before, I recommend the Moana, Mulan, Alice in Wonderland, and Aladdin menus. Those were all super simple. One of my guests said at Alice, “You’ve spent more time hanging out than you have cooking!” In terms of my favorite foods, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Hercules menus were my favorite. My guests I think would say Frozen. Everyone who came to Frozen brings up the food constantly, especially the pork tenderloin with mustard sauce. That was a winner! What I did not see coming is how into the Aladdin menu people would be. That’s my #1 Disney Dinner in terms of how many people have made the dishes and tagged me in posts – and that only came out a month ago! People were really into the chicken and rice.
If I had to choose a favorite recipe that’s come out of Disney Dinners, I’d have to say gumbo. My gumbo recipe is awesome. I’m so proud of it. I made it the other day and my dad said, “This really is the best gumbo I’ve ever had.” My Great Wall of China is definitely one of the best desserts I’ve ever come up with. I think “the internet” would tell you Deconstructed Chicken Salad, the main course at Alice in Wonderland. The grilled grapes kind of blew people’s minds. Thousands of people commented on it and everyone who’s tried it has loved it. I also love my ahi tuna poke! I make it all the time.
If you had told me when I started this series that by the end I would have over 100,000 fans, over 1,000,000 video views, and a single moth with 147,000 minutes spent on my Facebook page, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. Thank you all for spending time in the kitchen with me. I treasure your company.
What everyone really wants to know is: what happens after this month? Will I continue to do Disney Dinners? Yes! Don’t worry, lovelies, there are still more Disney Dinners and other fabulous parties in The Rose Table’s future. This is simply the end of one every single month. Now get excited because Snow White hits the web later this week along with a very special announcement of what’s to come in January!