While wandering through Mouse Gears in Epcot the other day, Miss Bonnie & I came across an interesting set of shirts…

Full "O" Hops, are we?

Full “O” Hops, are we?

these were all baseball-style long sleeve shirts and each featured a beloved Disney animated character.

Cheers!

Cheers! Everybody knows this guys name for sure!

They look to be cute shirts highlighting the personality types of each of the animated entertainers…

Carbonated Quacker

Under pressure? A Carbonated Quacker?

but upon closer inspection they sure look to be representations of…

Stout

Of course Grumpy would be a Stout… can’t imagine him as a Lite…

nothing other than beer labels! And clever ones at that!

Pin

Grumpy “Xtra Stout” Pin from several year ago

This isn’t the first time for something like this from Disney merchandise – a few years ago Grumpy appeared on a pin that was pretty obviously a beer label. Of this collection of shirts, his looks to be the most obvious adult-beverage-logo-looking… I always figured Grumpy to be a pretty heavy drinker anyway…

To cap it off...

To cap it off…

There is also a cap with all the labels on it, and compared to the $36.95 price tag for the shirts, the $19.95 hat is almost a bargain.

Think it’s time for a cold one…

 

First came the pleasant news that due to criminal gangs in a certain section of Mexico, the avocados in your guac probably have been tainted with the blood of the people of the state of Michoacán. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, author José de Córdoba quotes Raul Benitez, a security expert at UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico In Mexico City: “They are ‘blood avocados’ “, Benitez says. “They are the Mexican equivalent of the conflict diamonds that are sold from war-torn parts of Africa.”

Extortion by the “Mexican Mafia” is taking a percentage of the profits from the locals, as well as driving up prices in the US, where 80% of the avocados consumed originate from Mexico. For the gory details you can listen to an interview on the radio show Good Food.

On top of this now comes news that may effect your margarita consumption…

IMG_4109

limes prices are now soaring… partly due to severe rains and citrus disease, but also, yes you guessed it Dear Dedicated Readers, criminal activity.

You can read the sad story in a New York Times article by David Karp, or listen to him in another interview on Good Food.

All of this is bad news for the end consumer, but even worse news for the farmers and other workers in Mexico who are being strong-armed by the criminal cartels.

I don’t know what we can really do on our end to help the situation… trying to boycott the products would take even more money out of the pockets of the innocents involved… so for now I’ll simply try to keep the good, hard-working people of Mexico in my thoughts every time I raise a glass…

 

 

 

DSCF6086

After my first visit to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (which you can see in the post “A First Taste of Spring: Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2014“) I was itching to try some of the food items I’d missed on my first go-round, so the next week I trekked back to the World for another spin around the World Showcase.

Urban Farm EATS

Urban Farm EATS

My first food stop was at the Urban Farm EATS kiosk (and yes, they put “Eats” in all caps in all the literature).

Pickled Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Cream, Mizuna and Pistschios

Pickled Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Cream, Mizuna and Pistachios

First I tried the Pickled Beet Salad…

There's that goat cheese!

There’s that goat cheese!

the tart goat cheese cream was tucked under the mizuna (an Asian green of the mustard family) and surrounded by pickled beets and topped with crushed pistachios for texture. This was a great start to the days dining… if you don’t think you like beets, give this one a try.

Next up was the tilapia from the same booth…

Tilapia with crisp Winter Melon Slaw and Mint Oil featuring The Original Sauce Man's Kick it Up Rub (phew...)

Ghost Pepper dusted Tilapia with crisp Winter Melon Slaw and Mint Oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick it Up Rub (phew…)

the generous portion of mild (some would say tasteless…) fish was coated in a lightly (for me at least) spicy, and very flavorful, seasoning mix and sauteed until done. It sat atop a crunchy slaw that was a nice compliment to the fish.

When this dish was first announced I was very curious as to what the heat level would be (as Ghost Pepper is considered one of the hottest peppers in the world), especially since they had fired things up considerably during the Food & Wine Festival last year, but this wasn’t quite as fiery as I’d hoped, yet it was chock-full of nice flavors. The Ghost Pepper is an ingredient (the last by weight) of the rub used, so I assume that there wasn’t any extra added to that.

And here we saw yet another Florida producer, The Original Sauce Man, being featured at one of the booths… I may just have to order some of that rub….

The next stop was in China…

Vegetable Spring Roll

Vegetable Spring Roll

to go to the Lotus House for a Vegetable Spring Roll – basically an egg roll using the thinner spring roll skin… not bad but nothing really memorable…

Kumquat info in the Florida Fresh area

Kumquat info in the Florida Fresh area

Florida Fresh was next on the agenda to try the Kumquat Pie.

Florida Kumquat Pie

Florida Kumquat Pie

The filling was tasty and wasn’t overly tart (as kumquats can be sometimes) and the toasted meringue topping was nice, but I found the crust to be a bit chewy. Other than the crust I liked this much more than I had anticipated.

IMG_4048

And since nothing goes better with pie than beer, I had to try the “Festival Exclusive” Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale. I’d have to say this is my favorite “new” beer I’ve tried at Flower & Garden so far!

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Pretty much next door in Italy is the Primavera Kitchen…

Caprese

Caprese

and opting for something a bit to the lighter side here I had the Caprese – fresh mozzarella and roasted sweet peppers topped with good olive oil. Mild in flavor, but nice… I would have liked just a touch more basil and oil, and maybe a small piece of bread, but still a good dish.

I steeled my resolve to try and pass by The Smokehouse in the American Adventure pavilion so that I wouldn’t stuff myself with yet another “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake

 

Condiment area of The Smokehouse on opening day of the festival...

Condiment area of The Smokehouse on opening day of the festival…

but I did actually swing by the condiment area, where just a few day ago a large basket of cute little Tabasco bottles was sitting there for the taking by guests, I wondered at that time how long that would last…

same area the next week sans hot sauce...

same area the next week sans hot sauce…

well, not longer than six days it seemed…

One of the many bonsai trees on display in the Japan pavilion during the Flower & Garden Festival

One of the many bonsai trees on display in the Japan pavilion during the Flower & Garden Festival

A trip to Japan, and some sushi from the Hanami booth was next.

Hanami Sushi

Hanami Sushi

Similar to the “ball sushi” now served at the Kabuki Cafe, the Hanami Sushi is described as “A flavorful combination of Salmon, Scallop and Beef topped Rice Balls served atop a Shiso Violet Sauce”. They forgot to mention the single edamame in the middle…

The scallop was mild, the beef tender, and the salmon, well, tasted like salmon… and the color of the sauce was a bit disturbing… all tasted fine, but nothing amazing for the $5.50 price tag. If you want to get a sushi-averse friend to give it a try, these wouldn’t be a bad choice, but if you’re an experienced sushi-consumer, you won’t kick yourself for passing on this…

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

I decided to take a trip on the Marrakesh Express next (and I’m dating myself with that reference for sure!)…

Harissa Chicken Kebob with Couscous Salad

Harissa Chicken Kebob with Couscous Salad

I was trying to decide between the Lamb Brewat and the Chicken Kebab and asked the cast member at the register which one he liked better – he was non-committal as to his favorite, but asked if I preferred sweeter dishes or spicy, and to chose that way – so the spicier Harissa Chicken was the selection for this day.

The white meat was a little dry (as is not unusual for chicken breast) but had a nice flavor from the harissa marinade – it was (for me at least) far from really spicy (it does seem like the nicely hot dishes we saw this last year at Food & Wine are not showing up at Flower & Garden…). The kebab would have been a bit juicer if they had used thigh meat instead of the bland breast meat. The accompanying couscous was delicious and the best part of this dish – I’d have gladly eaten a big bowl of just that!

Confit de Canard, Pomme de Terre Sarladaise Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes

Confit de Canard, Pomme de Terre Sarladaise aka Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes

After trying the two other food items in France on the opening day, it was now time to dig into the duck dish: Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes. The topping of duck meat was as rich and flavorful as pretty much any duck confit I’ve had elsewhere, the crispy edges of the potato base were good, but the center was a bit overly greasy tasting from the butter. All-in-all not a bad dish, but if the potatoes had matched up to the quality of the meat it would have been an outstanding dish.

Buttercup Cottage

Buttercup Cottage

The Buttercup Cottage in the United Kingdom would wind up being the last dining stop for this day in the World Showcase…

Pork and Apple Sausage Roll with house-made Piccalilli

Pork and Apple Sausage Roll with house-made Piccalilli

The sausage roll featured a pork and apple filling encased in a pastry crust. The apple lightens up the pork a bit, and the crust was flaky – I wasn’t too crazy about the piccalilli, it seemed a bit to one-note for me, mostly tasting of acid with little of the vegetable tastes coming through. Again, not a bad dish at all, but nothing I’m compelled to have again.

Sand waiting to be sculpted on the opening day...

Sand waiting to be sculpted on the opening day…

Around the way I came upon the Disneynature sand sculpture promoting the upcoming “Bears” film. We’d seen the tabula rasa of sand the week before (as seen above), and I was looking forward to the finished product.

DSCF6051

and the results just a few days later…

As always, I’m amazed by the talents of the sculptors in what I’m assuming is not the easiest medium to work with.

DSCF6053

There are several cute details, and it’s worth walking all around it to be sure you don’t miss anything.

The backside of sand sculpture...

The backside of sand sculpture…

I made a quick stop in one of the gift shops at the entrance to the World Showcase and came across a piece of merchandise I hadn’t noticed on my first visit.

Calendar

Cover of the Flower & Garden Calendar

New for this year is a Flower & Garden Festival calendar featuring pictures of topiaries and other plantings from prior years festivals.

Calender

Back of the calender showing the inside pages

Now I’m hoping for a Food & Wine Festival calendar!

DSCF6093

I took one last look as some gorgeous flowers on the way out of the park, and made a mental list of the few new food items I still had to try… and when those get sampled, I’ll be sure to share them with you…

And now Dear Dedicated Readers, it’s back to the kitchen! See you again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dream

Yes, Dear Dedicated Readers, we’re off for another sailing on the Disney Dream…

Why yes, we will...

Why yes, we will…

As you may remember, we (along with 41 of our Nearest & Dearest) took a trip on the Dream just last December (and if you don’t, you can check it out in the post It was like a Dream….).

Someone (maybe Miss Bonnie?) has a certain birthday coming up, and thanks to the generosity of her Parental Units, the four of us will be celebrating that joyous day with a cruise!

Escargots Gratinés Herb-marinated Snails with Finely Chopped Mushrooms, topped with Garlic Butter and Breadstick

Escargots Gratinés

So, of course, we’ve been thinking mostly about what we’ll be eating…

Pan-seared Sea Bass With Saffron and Fennel Risotto with a Sweet Chili Glaze

Pan-seared Sea Bass

There are many favorites from our last few trips on the Dream and the Fantasy that we’re sure to re-visit, but we’re going to make a concerted effort to try as many new/different dishes as possible (and considering you can order as much as you want on a cruise, that’s shouldn’t be too difficult a task…), and of course afterwards we’ll share our eats with you…

DSCF5403

And if my mater-in-law has anything to do with it, there will probably be more Mickey Bars than the law should allow!

You do know

Do you know that you can order these for dessert (even if they aren’t on the menu), and from room service too?

So we’ll be away for a few days, but keep an eye out for a report from our trip on the Dream, as well as a follow-up trip to the Flower & Garden Festival… see you (fairly) soon!

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage! To us!

DSCF5815

It’s that time of year again in Epcot… magical topiaries are popping up… the flowers are extra pretty… and best of all, there are food booths with new goodies to try… yes it’s once again time for the Flower & Garden Festival!

Topiary display at entrance area of Epcot for the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festiva

Topiary display at entrance area of the park for the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

On opening day I made my way over and met up with several members of the Harem for a quick swing around Epcot to check out the flora, fauna and food! So let’s take a look at some of the highlights of that day, shall we?

Goofy has his butterfly net out yet his quarry eludes him...

Goofy has his butterfly net out yet his quarry eludes him…

The topiary display at the front of the part features Goofy, Daisy and her paramour Donald.

While a butterfly alights on Daisy's hand...

While a butterfly alights on Daisy’s hand…

As was first pointed out to me by Papa Harry, butterflies are a major thematic element of this year’s festival. We seem to see more representations of these beautiful and delicate insects all over the park than in prior years.

While poor Donald however has an insect visitor of a different kind...

While poor Donald has an insect visitor of a different kind…

More butterflies...

More butterflies are with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto on the backside of Spaceship Earth

A visit to the Festival Center in the old Wonders of Life building was first on the agenda.

DSCF5821

Intermissions Cafe has an interesting selection of wines and beers – many of which come from Florida producers, another theme we’ll see at many of the food/bev locations.

Intermissions Cafe Menu

Intermissions Cafe Menu

Hot stuff...

A basket of Hot Stuff…

Among the food items was, like last year, a fun version of a “Push Pop”. This year’s offering was a Caprese Push Pop with chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

Caprese Push Pop

Caprese Push Pop

I don’t think this was quite as successful as the roasted beet and goat cheese version from last year… the tomatoes were nondescript (not surprising for this time of year), the cheese sparse, and the balsamic overwhelmed any flavor the tomatoes may have had.

Merch...

Merch…

And of course there’s tons of merchandise to be had here (as well as at other locations throughout the park)…

merch...

merch…

and more merch....

and more merch….

including a cuter-than-usual Duffy.

Big Bowl-o-Duffys

Big Bowl-o-Duffys

No Piggy???

No Piggy???

All around Epcot are several gardening-related spots, such as the “Gardener’s Palette” outside Innoventions.

DSCF5837

Soccer Goofy and Donald take center stage on the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase.

Goalies eye view...

Goalies eye view…

Colored balls circle the topiary and represent the countries in the upcoming World Cup. Guests are allowed in to have their own photo-op inside the field area.

DSCF5845

A Fantasia-inspired display welcomes us to the World Showcase.

Sorcerer Mickey

Sorcerer Mickey

Taking a left hand turn leads us around the lagoon and the first food booth is the Urban Farm Eats (using the Terra booth structure from Food & Wine).

Urban Farm Eats Menu

Urban Farm Eats Menu

Just past this is a small-scale display on aquaponics (combining aquaculture with hydroponics) that shows how the tilapia and veggies served at the Urban Farm Eats booth could be produced in one system.

Aquaponics Display

Aquaponics Display

DSCF5853

Up next is Mexico…

Jardin de Fiestas Menu

Jardin de Fiestas Menu

The food items here are new from last year, as well as the specialty margarita. We sampled the Taco al Pastor (achiote marinated pork with grilled pineapple, onions and cilantro) and the Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso (flour tortilla filled with mushrooms and cheese and then grilled). Both were met with enthusiastic thumbs up, despite the fairly small portion size on both.

Taco al Pastor, Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso and Franbuesa Margaritas

Taco al Pastor, Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso and Franbuesa Margaritas

The Franbuesa (Raspberry) Margarita was also deemed a winner, but (as least in my opinion) wasn’t quite as wonderful as the rose-scented version from 2013.

Lotus House Menu

Lotus House Menu

The booth in China held fast with a few popular items from last year (the Spring Pancake was one of the best items of the 2013 festival).

Florida Fresh area

Florida Fresh area

The Florida Fresh area takes up the large space between the Outpost and the Germany pavilion.

Florida Fresh Menu

Florida Fresh Menu

The two savory food items are returnees from last year (and both quite good), with the Kumquat Pie being a new addition.

Why yes, I'll have a beer...

Why yes, I’ll try a Floria Avenue Blueberry beer…

The beer and wine choices are (obviously) emphasizing products from Florida, where the craft beer scene is just exploding.

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

Several of the topiaries are featuring a new look to the faces – more like a “real persons” face and skin rather than the traditional topiary-look.

Snow

Snow White, et al

The Fairest One of All and her little buddies are one example (or should that be eight examples?).

Play that funky music green boy!

Play that funky music green boy!

Kermit and Miss Piggy are promoting their new flick in a display between Germany and Italy… and apparently there is a tour in the works!

Tour

Darn it, they don’t seem to be coming anywhere near…

Italy has some typical menu items… and booze-a-plenty…

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Primavera Kitchen Menu

In the American Adventure is the return of one of the big hit food venues from last year, the Smokehouse.

The Smokehouse Menu

The Smokehouse Menu

Despite being a bit of an admitted “BBQ-snob”, I found the brisket and pulled pork to be very good last year, and this year there are a couple of notable additions to the bill of fare…

Brisket, greens and cornbread waiting to be served

Brisket, greens and cornbread waiting to be served

More cute little bottles...

More cute little bottles… we’ll see how long these last…

An interesting item was the Smoked Turkey “Ribs” – basically the turkey “forearm” separated into the two bones and then smoked – these were well flavored and are certainly worth a try.

Smoked Turkey "Rib"

"Piggylicious" Bacon Cupcake, Pulled Pig Slider and (of course) a beer
“Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake, Pulled Pig Slider and (of course) a beer

The most talked-about item leading up to Flower & Garden (and now in the few days since opening) was no doubt the “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake.

The "Oh-My-Goodness-You-Have-To-Eat-This-Right-Now-Even-If-You're-A-Diabetic-Vegan

The “Oh-My-Goodness-You-Have-To-Eat-This-Right-Now-Even-If-You’re-A-Diabetic-Vegan” Bacon Cupcake!

This cupcake has applewood smoked bacon pieces baked into it and was covered with a sweet maple frosting and topped with pretzel pieces for crunch and a little hit of salt… from a nutritional standpoint no human should even look at this concoction, but from a happy, happy, joy, joy in your mouth standpoint this is just a freaking bit of bakery genius! I’m sure thousands of park guests are, like myself, dreaming about the next time they get to scarf down another of these evil goodies… excuse me… I think I need some alone time…

Bonsai!

Bonsai!

On to, as Dedicated Readers will know, my favorite pavilion…

Hanami Menu

Hanami Menu

The kiosk in Japan returned the popular and unique fruit sushi roll, Frushi, to the menu this year, but the other food items are new.

Pineapple Paradise with Yuzu Slushie

Pineapple Paradise with Yuzu Slushie

We sampled the adult pineapple slushie, which was a definite thumbs-up all around…

Temaki Chicken Hand Roll

Temaki Chicken Hand Roll

and one of the new food items, the Temaki Chicken Hand Roll – a sheet of nori with rice, panko-fried chicken, pickled carrots and a Japanese-style curry sauce. Lil’ Sis Lindsay didn’t care for it, but I’m fond of that type of curry, so the flavors were a hit with me.

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

Morocco has some interesting items, but they will have to wait until the next visit…

Gnocchi Parisien a la Provencal

Gnocchi Parisien a la Provencal

France was our next stop, and I tried the gnocchi… this is a Parisian-style gnocchi made from a pâte à choux dough and quite different from it’s probably better-known Italian cousin. Served with a veggie and mushroom sauce and a hit of tangy goat cheese, this was another winner-winner-pasta-dinner dish!

Fleur de Lys Menu

Fleur de Lys Menu

We also all shared one of the sweet and rich orange blossom macaroons filled with a white chocolate ganache – this was a rich and decadent treat!

Macaron a la Fleur d'Oranger

Macaron a la Fleur d’Oranger

On to the United Kingdom…

Peter Pan high in the sky in the UK

Peter Pan high in the sky in the UK

where we find the boy who won’t grow up high atop one of the buildings…

Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartar - a returning item in the UK from last year

Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartar – a returning item in the UK from last year

and appears to be looking over the Buttercup Cottage kiosk…

Buttercup Cottage Menu

Buttercup Cottage Menu

Another bit of Florida produce, strawberries from Plant City, are featured in a salad of greens, toasted almonds and Stilton cheese.

Field Greens with Plant City Strawberries, Toasted Almonds and Farmstead Stilton

Field Greens with Plant City Strawberries, Toasted Almonds and Farmstead Stilton

I tried the freshly-baked Lemon Scones and a non-alcoholic lemonade (try not to fall off your seats after reading that one…). With a nice crunch of big sugar crystals on the top, the scones had a definite lemon flavor and both sauces were great with them – this proclaimed not-a-big-sweet-eater would definitely have these again… but I guess this is now the third sweet item I’ve gushed over isn’t it? Well, so much for not liking sweets I suppose…

Oh yeah, the lemonade was pretty good too… maybe a bit of vodka would have made it better tho…

Rose Blush Lemonade and Lemon Scones with Berry Preserves and Creme Fraiche

Rose Blush Lemonade and Lemon Scones with Berry Preserves and Creme Fraiche

As we continue our clockwise progression, just past the DVC kiosk in Canada (known as the “Merry Meadows Outpost” during Flower & Garden) we came to, well, a big pile of sand…

Mister Sandman...

Mister Sandman…

I can Bearly wait!

I can Bearly wait!

which will (by the time you read this) have been transformed into what I’m sure will be a fantastic sand sculpture promoting the next Disneynature film.

We'll see the results soon...

We’ll see the results soon…

Our last stop on this day for oral consumables was the ever popular Pineapple Promenade…

Pineapple Promenade

Pineapple Promenade

Pineapple Promenade Menu

Pineapple Promenade Menu

and the main reason for this popularity is…

Pineapple Soft Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum

Pineapple Soft Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum

spiked Dole Whips!

It’s interesting to note that this year these are simply being referred to as “Pineapple Soft Serve” as opposed to “Dole Whip”… can you guess who isn’t sponsoring the booth this year???

Tropical Mango Pale Ale

Tropical Mango Pale Ale – another interesting beer selection

We made our way back towards the front of the park and took in some of the other Flower & Garden displays we didn’t see on our way in…

Part of the Water Wise Herbs and Vegetables display area

Part of the Water Wise Herbs and Vegetables display area

The kid’s play area is themed to Monsters University this year.

Mike & Sulley's Monstrous Garden

Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden

Other than the Mike and Sulley topiaries and a bit of paint on the playground equipment, themeing here is a bit on the sparse side – not nearly as creative as the Oz-themed play are last year.

Mike & Sulley's Monstrous Garden

Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden

More floral butterflies are evident around the water areas…

More floral butterflies while on the way to see the butterfly house...

More floral butterflies while on the way to see the butterfly house…

and soon we got to the home of butterfly nirvana – TinkerBell’s Butterfly Garden.

DSCF5960

Always one of the most popular parts of the Flower & Garden Festival, the butterfly garden didn’t disappoint this year…

DSCF5962

unlike the past few years, there are no topiaries installed inside, the main decorations (other than the plants and butterflies of course) was the inclusion of the miniature homes of the fairies.

DSCF5961

Home of the Pirate Fairy featured in the next-to-come TinkerBell dvd release.

DSCF5969

Beautiful butterflies abounded on this day…

DSCF5979

flitting about and occasionally sitting on the flowers and more of the pixies abodes.

Glass flowers inside the butterfly house

Glass flowers inside the butterfly house

There were gorgeous glass flowers inside the butterfly house, and discerning guests will notice other inclusion of glass flowers elsewhere in the park.

DSCF5977

It seemed that there were many more butterflies in the house on this day than I’d ever seen before, both in sheer numbers and variety of species. This is a not-to-be-missed display!

DSCF5982

We crossed over to check out Mater’s Parts, Plants & Play Garden…

Lightening McQueen

Lightening McQueen

there was no real change in the area from last year, but still it is a cute section where fans can see some of their favorites from the Cars movie series.

More glass flowers on the way out of Epcot

More glass flowers on the way out of Epcot

We made our way out of the park, and took one last look at the entrance display from another angle…

Watch your tail Donald!

Watch your tail Donald!

All in all it was a very nice day, and a good start to this year’s Epcot Flower & Garden Festival…

DSCF5987

and now I’m really looking forward to my next visit and sampling some more of the new food (and drink!) items, and taking in even more of the gorgeous plantings and displays! And of course Dear Dedicated Readers, I’ll be telling you all about it!

Right now we’re, as always, we’re heading back to the kitchen… see you soon!

It must be spring!

March 5, 2014

Even though much of the country is chilly and still covered in ice and snow, spring is upon us here in central Florida… and the true harbinger of spring is not a songbird, but…

And coming soon now means this week!

And coming soon means this week!

the start of the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival!

A fresh-faced Snow White...

A fresh-faced Snow White…

and her adoring Dopey...

and her adoring Dopey…

And like last year, the festival will not just feature cool topiaries…

"Where's that Peter Pan?"

“Where’s that Peter Pan?”

and gorgeous flowers…

DSCF3265

but, yes Dear Dedicated Readers, food booths!

DSCF5779

While we were in the World recently for the Princess Half-Marathon weekend we got to see a little tease of what’s to come.

There will be sushi here...

There will be sushi here…

There will be several favorite dishes from last year returning…

Beer flight and BBQ...

Beer flight and BBQ…

Frushi

Frushi

and plenty of new goodies to try (can you say “Pigglylicious Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch”???).

Behind the hedges and scrim is the upcoming home of the Florida Fresh Garden

Behind the hedges and scrim is the upcoming home of the Florida Fresh Garden

A very nerdy peek thru the scrim...

A very nerdy peek thru the scrim…

We plan on being in Epcot for the start of the festival…

Miss Bonnie impatiently waiting for this year's new Raspberry Margarita

Miss Bonnie impatiently waiting for this year’s new Raspberry Margarita in Mexico

and will soon bring you a report on the flora, fauna and eats of this year’s festival! Stay tuned!

Smothered Chicken Thighs - Louisiana Style

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style

With it being slap in the middle of Mardi Gras season (it’s actually Fat Tuesday as I write this), I thought it the proper time to share a Cajun-influenced dish I stirred up a bit ago – chicken pieces cooked in and smothered with a rich sauce filled with the “trinity” of peppers, celery and onions – in other words (and perhaps more familiarly) a chicken étouffée. Since there’s beads to get and Hurricanes to drink, let’s not waste any time – Let’s Cook!

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style (Chicken Etouffée)

Ingredients

4  Chicken Thighs (bone in, skin on – you can remove skin if you must)

Salt & Black Pepper for the chicken

2 Tbl  Canola Oil (or other veggie oil)

4 Tbl (1/4 Cup) Butter

2 Tbl  Flour (all-purpose, or whole wheat AP, etc.)

1/2  Red Onion, finely chopped

1 large Celery Stalk (or 2 smaller ones), finely chopped

1/2  Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped

1 large  Jalapeno Pepper, (you guessed it) finely chopped (seed if you want for less heat, gloves would be nice for you while chopping this fella…)

1 1/2 – 2 Cups  Broth (chicken or vegetable, I’m thinking subbing up to 1/2 cup of dry white wine for part of the broth wouldn’t suck if you want to try)

2 – 3 nice size Plum Tomatoes, diced (seed if you want, I didn’t)

3  Garlic Cloves, crushed

1  Bay Leaf

1 Tsp  Dried Thyme (if you happen to have fresh thyme in the house, cut the dried back to 1/2 tsp and throw in a few sprigs of fresh too)

1/4  Tsp (or more if you like) Cayenne Pepper

1 Tsp  Salt

1/4 Tsp  Ground Black Pepper

Procedure

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to med-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces on both sides and add to the pot.

IMG_3995

Brown the chicken well on both sides, maybe 8 – 10 minutes total. Remove the thighs to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium – med-low and add the butter. When it melts stir in the flour and mix well.

Roux for you... cook until about the color of peanut butter...

Roux for you… cook until about the color of peanut butter…

Stir constantly, adjusting your heat if needed, so the mixture doesn’t scorch. Keep stirring and cooking until it’s a nice medium-brown color – yes kids, we’re making a roux… this should only take a couple of minutes.

Veggies... means it has to be healthy, right?

Veggies… means it has to be healthy, right?

Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and jalapeno to the pot. Cook and stir constantly until the veggies begin to soften – two or three minutes or so.

IMG_3999

Add about half the broth and stir well all around the bottom to deglaze the browned goodies from the pot.

IMG_4001

Add most of the remaining broth (hold back about 1/2 cup in case you want to thin the sauce down a bit later) along with the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and both peppers. Stir it all up well and bring up to a good simmer.

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in...

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in…

Add the thighs back into the pot…

Bubble, bubble...

Bubble, bubble…

and adjust heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Pop on the lid and cook for 45 minutes. Stir every so often and turn the thighs over when you feel like it…

Looking good...

Looking good…

Uncover the pot and continue to cook another 15 minutes or so until thickened to your liking (if too thick, thin with the remaining broth). Check for seasoning and add S & P if needed (if you used any fresh thyme, pluck out the sprigs before serving).

Traditionally you’d serve this with a big pile of rice, but it would be killer with mashed spuds too!

Let's eat!

Let’s eat!

Serve with a simple veggie (like the roasted Brussels sprouts shown here) and if you want more heat, some hot sauce or fresh hot pepper as well (yes, that’s a habanero on my plate…).

This is so good, if I do say so myself! But I can’t really take a lot of credit for it, as I based the recipe on one from the good Dr. BBQ, aka Ray Lampe. Ray’s new “Pork Chop” cookbook has a recipe for Pork Chop Etouffée (which is killer in it’s own right), so I subbed in the thighs for the pork, and made a few other minor adjustments for my tastes, and I think it turned out really well. While on the subject, I’ve made four or five recipes from the “Pork Chop” book (one of which I plan to share with you soon), and all have been right on the money! It’s a book worth picking up for any porcine fan.

Trust me, dear Dedicated Readers, this is damn good! Make it… now! Post your results in the comments! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Back to the kitchen! See you soon!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 122 other followers