Finally got into the Mac store today and they got the disk out. Turns out that it was an extra thick CD-R combined with a thick label. So the overall size was more than the slot loading drive could handle. Now I know to watch out for "fat" CDs in the future!
I don't think there is a true "manual" way to do it either. Everything requires the machine to either have some kind of power or to actually be booted into the OS.