Epcot Food and Wine 2016 Roundup

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Epcot Food and Wine is my favorite Epcot festival. It’s the perfect time to enjoy what World Showcase is really about — experiencing different cultures — through food. Booths are set up throughout World Showcase and a few areas of Future World, highlighting different regions and countries and types of food.

The festival is included with admission to Epcot. Food and drinks are smaller portions, usually ranging from $4 to $9 per item. If you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, Festival items count as snacks. You can also purchase a tasting sampler, which will help you save a little money if you purchase higher-cost items with it.

When we do Food and Wine, we like to visit as many booths as possible. So, the festival usually takes the place of lunch, dinner or sometimes both. We also share many items to be able to taste as much as possible. Be sure to grab your tasting passport (free and available at most booths) to keep track of what you’ve tried.

France

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What’s more French than French onion soup? This version was cheesy, gooey and had a nice touch of bitterness/acid from the cognac. It was heavy on onions, too, which I appreciate. I had this piping soup twice!

Hawaii

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I love ahi tuna, and the spicy tuna poke with rice and a seaweed salad did not disappoint. The tuna was fresh and delicious.

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I did not eat the Hawaiian pulled pork slider on a King’s Hawaiian roll (I’m not a big pork eater), but my husband loved it. He said this was his favorite dish all day. It was dressed with spicy mayo and pineapple relish.

The Chew Collective

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The Chew, which is my favorite daytime show (all hail Clinton Kelly!), has a heavy influence at Epcot Food and Wine. They have their own booth, and they film several shows from the festival. This zucchini and ricotta lasagna with a rustic tomato sauce and micro basil did not disappoint. This is some of the best marinara sauce I’ve had. This booth is located in Future World.

The Chocolate Studio

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The Chocolate Studio speaks to me on a personal level, mainly because I could eat chocolate every day for every meal. This red wine truffle was bitter at first. It’s dusted in cocoa powder, and the red wine adds to the bitterness, too. However, it has a rich, sweet finish, and I enjoyed this deeper flavor.

Craft Beer

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Craft Beer is an indoor pavilion located as Future World becomes World Showcase. It’s near First Aid and the restrooms. It’s a nice break from the heat, and it has lots of cool graphics on how beer is made and different types of beer. We enjoyed some pimento and cheese at this booth. It was okay, but I’m a huge pimento and cheese connoisseur.

Scotland

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We tried the traditional lamb stew, which is a traditional home-cooked meal in Scotland. This stew was served atop neeps (mashed rutabagas) and tatties (mashed potatoes). We were not fans of neeps, but the tatties were creamy and wonderful. This stew was okay for me, mainly because it tasted so beefy (I don’t really eat beef), but my husband loved it. I would consider this the Scottish version of pot roast.

Islands of the Caribbean

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I didn’t expect to love the quesito, but this Puerto Rican dessert quickly became an unexpected favorite… possibly my favorite dish I had all day. This cream cheese-filled pastry is topped with a guava drizzle. It’s sweet, but the cream cheese gives it a nice tanginess. It gets better the more I eat it, as flavors develop. This treat is part of the Islands of the Caribbean pavilion, a new booth for 2016. It’s a cute area tucked to the side of the entrance of World Showcase filled with calypso music and bright buildings.

Canada

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Canada’s cheddar cheese soup is a staple every year. It’s also included in the Food and Wine 2015 cookbook, and my mom made it for Thanksgiving last year. Though I don’t eat bacon (I know – who am I?), I usually will indulge in this soup because you can’t really taste the bacon. This year it was suuuuper bacon-y, so I only ate a few bites. My mom’s version is vegetarian, though, and I hope she makes it again. This soup is a favorite for most bacon-eating normal people.

China

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The pepper shrimp with garlic noodles is a fairly large portion packed with flavor. I added a little Sriracha to my plate, mostly because if I see Sriracha, I can’t forget about it. This was one of my favorites.

Brazil

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Pão de Queijo is Brazilian cheese bread; it tastes slightly doughy and undercooked on purpose. I loved this gooey bread, and you get two rolls! They do a good job keeping the bread warm, too. It was cool to have Brazilian food after the Olympics were recently there.

Greenhouse Guru

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Greenhouse Guru is located next to the Chew Collective in Future World. The area itself is cool; it’s filled with facts on greenhouses, tomato plants and unique seating. This heirloom tomato salad with balsamic and goat cheese was delicious. It was nice to have a fresh break from several heavy foods, too.

Morocco

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The hummus fries have become a social media favorite this year, and my husband loved them. Though I love hummus and most Mediterranean food, I was not a big fan. They are a different texture, for sure. The flavors are good (except for the diced cucumbers — bleh), but I couldn’t get past the texture. If you like these, there’s good news. Spice Road Table, the sit-down restaurant in Morocco, offers a version of these guys all year round. Maybe I’ll give them another shot there.

Italy

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Holy chicky chicky parm parm! This chicken parm was cheesy and packed with flavor. The chicken itself was cooked well, too. You also get a pretty large portion of this, especially of the chicken.

Mexico

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The taco de camarón is a version of a similar dish you can enjoy at La Hacienda de San Angel, the sit-down restaurant in Mexico on the water (not inside the Aztec building). It’s one of my favorite entrees in all of Walt Disney World, so I always enjoy snagging a mini version during Food and Wine. Fried shrimp, red cabbage, cilantro and spicy mayo atop a flour tortilla provide a spicy, creamy and crunchy dish.

Australia

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This lamb chop with mint pesto and tomato crunchies was packed with flavor, but it did include two of my favorite things: lamb and pesto. The pesto was not super minty, and the potato crunchies add a nice element. The lamb was cooked about medium/medium well. I wouldn’t have minded it closer to medium well, but it still had a great texture and flavor.

Ireland

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This is a terrible, terrible photo of a delicious dessert. The warm chocolate pudding with Irish cream was rich, warm, gooey and sweet. It was like an amped-up, high-brow version of a molten chocolate cake.

 

 

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What to wear for New Year’s Eve at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Star Wars Edition

One of my favorite places to spend New Year’s Eve at WDW is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This park is usually less crowded than Magic Kingdom, but they still participate in the New Year’s fun with hats, horns and fireworks. I put together a Star Wars NYE outfit that embodies both the Light and Dark Side, my favorite colors and plenty of sparkle.

NYE DHS

  1. Tee, Her Universe, $35: I can’t express how obsessed I am with Her Universe. This Yoda tee is the perfect mix of luxe and geek.
  2. Sneakers, Forever21, $29: These gold sneaks are flashy and comfy, two things you’ll need for NYE at the parks.
  3. Ears, GlamBowtique, $29: Sparkles and Star Wars on one set of ears? Is this a dream?
  4. Bracelets, Disney Store, $39.95 each: I loved the Disney Alex and Ani bracelets pre Star Wars line, but the SW options now increase my love so much it hurts. Here are the links for both the Rebel and Imperial Officer in you.
  5. Bag, Mod Cloth, $54.99: This bag gives you the right to call anyone’s lack of anything, but especially faith, disturbing. Use your power.
  6. Joggers, Forever21, $17.90: These sparkly joggers look put together while achieving the peak of comfort.

 

Photo Review: Chefs de France

As Epcot Food and Wine is well underway, let’s look back at one of World Showcase’s best restaurants, Chefs de France. Located in France, of course, this table service restaurant is one of my favorites. I highly recommend making reservations.

Service, like any Disney restaurant, was excellent. Our French waitress was knowledgeable and helpful.
Service, like any Disney restaurant, was excellent. Our French waitress was knowledgeable and helpful.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of our cheese plate, but I highly recommend starting your meal with one.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of our cheese plate, but I highly recommend starting your meal with one.
We were near a window, so we were able to see some of Illuminations when it started.
We were near a window, so we were able to see some of Illuminations when it started.
This dish is one of the best meals I've ever had. This is the Gratin de Macaroni. It will change macaroni and cheese forever! It's incredibly filling; I wasn't able to finish.
This dish is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This is the Gratin de Macaroni. It will change macaroni and cheese forever! It’s incredibly filling; I wasn’t able to finish.
I don't have a photo of Kent's meal, but he had the  Canard aux cerises (Duck Breast with Cherries) and loved it.
I don’t have a photo of Kent’s meal, but he had the Canard aux cerises (Duck Breast with Cherries) and loved it.
I couldn't wait to take a bite of my creme brulee before snapping a picture.
I couldn’t wait to take a bite of my creme brulee before snapping a picture.
Puff choux with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Kent ordered this, and I think I will next time. The creme brulee is good, but I prefer the pistachio creme brulee at Tony's in Magic Kingdom.
Puff choux with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Kent ordered this, and I think I will next time. The creme brulee is good, but I prefer the pistachio creme brulee at Tony’s in Magic Kingdom.
Yum!
Yum!

Disney Hack: Top spots to stay cool at Magic Kingdom, plus how to get free water

If you haven’t noticed, it’s summer. Summer is hot, particularly in central Florida.

And, no, I’m not wimpy. I grew up in Alabama and now live in Louisiana, two very humid places. I also spent an entire summer in Orlando. Even when you’re used to the heat and humidity, it can be startling. Usually Florida offers summertime afternoon showers that help the day cool down a little, but during my last vacation to WDW in June, the Sunshine State lived up to its name with no rain.

Beverages-Ice-WaterRemember, you can fill up a cup or water bottle with water from Disney’s water fountains. The water is filtered, but it does come out slowly. It’s not usually cold, either. You can also get a cup of ice water for free from most quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World.

But what if you’re looking for some AC? The following spots at the Magic Kingdom will help you out.

1. The Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom

My husband is thoroughly enjoying the air conditioning in this picture.
My husband is thoroughly enjoying the air conditioning in this picture.

The Hall of Presidents, located in Liberty Square, has an air-conditioned waiting area with seating (couches full? I plop down on the floor). Shows last 23 minutes and run constantly during park hours. Even if you walk in just as a show is starting, you are guaranteed over 20 minutes of air-conditioned waiting time. Don’t worry about the show ever being full; there are 700 seats in the theatre. Aside from being a break from the summer heat, the Hall of Presidents is a very Walt-inspired attraction due to his patriotism and love for Abraham Lincoln.

Never visited the Hall of Presidents? One of the best parts is the presidential roll call at the end of the show, when all 43 presidents (Although the incumbent President, Barack Obama, is the 44th, Grover Cleveland is both the 22nd and 24th, due to his non-consecutive terms; therefore making 43 people who have served as President) wave or nod each name is called.

Also, be sure to see the location someone named the Hall of Presidents on Instagram when you visit next. It goes with the theme of this post.

2. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Adventureland

Photo from Disney
Photo from Disney

Not only does the Tiki Room offer ten minutes of air-conditioned bliss, it’s also an important part of Disney history. After purchasing a mechanical bird on a trip, Walt was inspired to create the first-ever Audio-Animatronics show, The Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. Without the creation of The Enchanted Tiki Room, attractions like it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion may have never come to fruition.

At the beginning of the show, a cast member wakes up the birds. But, some say that if a guest asks nicely, he/she can awake the birds from their slumber.

Just like the Hall of Presidents, you will only have to wait for the previous show to end before entering. The Enchanted Tiki Room is rarely (if ever) filled to capacity.

The Enchanted Tiki Room is now located next to Aloha Isle, so continue cooling down with a Dole Whip after the show. My favorite treat is the Dole Whip float, pineapple ice cream served atop pineapple juice.

3. Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland

Photo from Disney
Photo from Disney

The Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, an interactive comedy show hosted by Mike Wazowski, rarely has a wait. If the wait is ever more than 15 minutes, come back later. During the middle of the day in peak season, less-popular attractions will sometimes have inflated wait times. The good news is that the waiting area is completely inside. The ten-minute show is also aptly cooled.

Each show is different based on its interactive nature, keeping the attraction interesting.

4. Mickey’s PhillarMagic, Fantasyland

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Photo from Disney

This is another attraction that you should come back for if the wait is more than 15 minutes. You generally only have to wait until the previous show finishes before entering the theatre. The waiting area is also inside.

This 3D, 12-minute-long show is the perfect 3D show in my opinion. You get to experience some of the most iconic Disney scenes and song, including “A Whole New World,” “Be Our Guest,” “You Can Fly,” “Part of Your World,” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” I’m afraid that this show could be revamped soon, as it was featured in the Times guide while I was there. When nothing particularly special is going on, Disney will feature attractions that aren’t getting as much love as others in the Times guide. If they do decide to revamp PhillarMagic, I hope they keep the tour of Disney songs theme. It helps the show from getting old because most people enjoy hearing those classic tunes over and over again.

5. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Tomorrowland

10455224_10204386212587980_3043377364061649969_nThe PeopleMover is one of the most underrated attractions in Magic Kingdom. It’s not inside, but the ride offers a constant breeze during your overhead tour of Tomorrowland. The PeopleMover rarely has a wait, and sometimes I get off and get right back on when I need a break from the heat and crowds.

My favorite part has to be traveling inside Space Mountain. The ingenuity to put a ride within a ride is so Disney.

The only attractions in this list that offer FastPass+ service are Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor and PhillarMagic, but do not use a FastPass on these attractions. It will be a waste of a FastPass because you won’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for either ride.

Why you should purchase a Memory Maker at Walt Disney World: Review

Throwing out $169 for pictures may seem like a high price to pay, but purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker (advance purchase price: $169; regular price: $199) is worth it.

What do you get?

1. All photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers

11169938_10204386439033641_4243657927817853037_nThis means everywhere you see a Disney PhotoPass photographer, usually wearing a khaki vest and holding a Nikon camera, is up for grabs. When I first used the MemoryMaker in 2014, PhotoPass photographers were usually at the front of the park (near each park’s landmark) and at character meet and greets. When I visited in 2015, I noticed that PhotoPass photographers seem to be in more locations and in those locations for longer periods of time.

Where can I find PhotoPass photographers (usually)?

Magic Kingdom:

  • Main Street, U.S.A. — Leading up to the castle and near the founder’s statue
  • Liberty Square — Side view of castle
  • Tomorrowland Entrance — Side view of castle
  • Frontierland — Exiting Big Thunder Mountain
  • Fantasyland — Near Ariel’s castle

Epcot:

  • Spaceship Earth
  • Fountains at FutureWorld
  • France — Fountains
  • France — Eiffel Tower view

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Park Entrance — Great Movie Ride in the background
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Archway — near the entrance to Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Tower of Terror

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Ticket Kiosks — Before entering the park, many like to snap a picture under the Disney’s Animal Kingdom sign
  • Tree of Life — Various angles
  • Expedition Everest

2. All photos from character meet and greets

10603785_10204386453233996_828113591478815383_nNot only do PhotoPass photographers snap posed pictures at character meet and greets, but they also capture candid shots. These candid shots can be difficult to capture if you don’t have someone else in your party dedicated to snapping pictures.

11181213_10204386274189520_3606817736356252130_nCandid shots are usually my favorites (above). If you don’t have someone in your party taking pictures for you, the blueberry (a term used for Disney character handlers in blue shirts) will take a picture for you. Usually, they do a great job. I’ve also had blueberries take completely out-of-focus pictures that may or may not contain the subjects (ahem…Darth Vader meet and greet last year…ahem). Using the photos from the Disney PhotoPass photographer guarantees the photos will be high-quality shots.

3. All ride photos

11112295_10204386435913563_9037740285948348139_nYes, you will receive every photo from every ride you venture on that takes your picture. Every ride does not take your picture, but many popular attractions do. If you link your MemoryMaker to your Disney MagicBand, then you don’t have to visit the photo kiosk following the ride. Your MagicBand already knows you were on the ride! It’s fun, convenient, and a little creepy.

Rides that take your picture:

Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Seven Dwarves Mine Train (you can’t view these photos following the ride, but they show up on your MemoryMaker…as does a video)
Splash Mountain
Tower of Terror
Rockin’ Rollercoaster
Expedition Everest
Dinosaur
Spaceship Earth (doesn’t show up on your MemoryMaker, but you can email this photo for free)
TestTrack

Did I miss any?

4. Photos with a bit of magic

1467248_10204386484674782_6579620180324435906_nSome of your photos will have some fun effects treated with Disney magic. You don’t know what the effect will be until you look at your photos!

With the MemoryMaker, you get all of your photos digitally for one price. After your trip, you will have about a month to download your photos. You can download the photos once, but you can make as many copies as you would like for your party. One traveling party only needs one MemoryMaker!

If you’re tired of asking strangers to take your picture, it’s time to get MemoryMaker. My husband HATES having pictures made, but knowing that pictures were quick and easy with a PhotoPass photographer made them WAY more manageable. Plus, he liked getting the ride pictures.