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Dedicated Readers will no doubt recall how much we loved a couple of special events held in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park the past several years…

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the Taste of Africa Street Party in 2010…DSCF9053

and in 2012 the Sundowner Celebration.

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Both featured food demos…

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musical acts…

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special food items…

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and more beverages than you can shake a swizzle stick at!

Wine Walk at Taste of Africa Street Party

Wine Walk at Taste of Africa Street Party

So why bring this up now you say?

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Well, today Disney sent out an email to annual passholders with this semi-cryptic message:

 

When the sun goes down, the story comes alive.

Annual Passholders, mark your calendar for Saturday nights this summer where you can enjoy an all-new, never-before-seen, immersive experience.

Look for more details soon, because the grandest tales and tastes of Africa are going to come alive like never before.

There was also a link to a video which hints that we will see the Rivers of Light show this summer for sure.

The event(s) look to be dubbed “Harambe Nights”, and rumors around the interwebs say that DAK cast members (and I assume the rest of us civilians shortly thereafter) will get the lowdown in early May.

As Animal Kingdom shifts into being a later night destination with the new light show and upcoming Avatar Land, I had been hoping we’d see a revival of something like these events (which I’d been told by more than one cast member were specifically trial runs for the opening of Avatar and guests staying past the usual early closing times for the park). The precise use of the phrase “tastes of Africa” also gives a clue to this (hopefully) being some more than just the addition of the Rivers of Light show, but also a special food/beverage affair as well.

From the email it looks like annual passholders may be the guinea pigs and given an early look at the show and any extra foods/drinks/entertainment/etc. This would be especially welcome news for AP holders as special events, previews and the like have been few and far between in recent years (read that to mean “non-existent”.

If you want to take a look back at the prior events, you can check out the posts “Taste of Africa Street Part: A preview of things to come?“, “Taste of Africa Two???” and “Sundowner Celebration: A first look“.

This has certainly got us excited around here at Eating (and Drinking) Around the World, and we’re waiting to make our reservations for the first Saturday night! What are your thoughts?

 

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…

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Beautiful butterflies abounded on this day…

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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…

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but, yes Dear Dedicated Readers, food booths!

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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!

Hello again, Dear Dedicated Readers, several days ago we took our first delayed look at the events of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in the post “WDW Odds and Ends: 2014 Marathon Weekend Spell-Check Edition“, so now it’s (finally) time to take a little look at some of the dining (and drinking) events from the same weekend…

Pork Belly Nigri

Pork Belly Nigri

Despite being in the World for a long weekend, we did relatively little dining out, but what we did do was memorable, so let’s dig in!

Quite a while before the weekend we’d been asked to join several friends in trying out the newly renovated California Grill high atop the Contemporary Resort and of course we jumped at the chance…

Passion Fruit Margarita

Passion Fruit Margarita

Dinner was the night after the 10k, and some of us were still a bit creaky after the race that morning, but a few adult beverages would serve to ease those with a few pains…

Bonnie and I started with one (okay, maybe two…) of the delicious Passion Fruit Margaritas off the cocktail menu while our companions made wine their libation of choice.

BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread

BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread

As we perused the menu and enjoyed the great company, we also took in our gorgeous surroundings and the fantastic view (there have been plenty of great pics online of the refurbed restaurant, and my photography isn’t going to surpass what’s already been published, so take a look at some nice pics over at the Disney Food Blog).

Bonnie & I decided to share one of the flatbreads and a not-so-everyday-sushi item as our appetizer course.

A closer look at the BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread...

A closer look at the BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread…

The BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread had pieces of coffee-brined pork, and was topped with apple butter, queso fresco, BBQ sauce and julienned pieces of sweet apples for crunch. Nope, it didn’t suck… but as good as it was, our other app choice was, well, flipping amazing

Pork Belly Nigri

Pork Belly Nigri

The Pork Belly Nigri was a roll of bacon and yuzu seasoned rice with a nice piece of cured pork belly sitting on top and all drizzled with a lightly spicy teriyaki sauce… damn…

Duck in all its Glory

Duck in all its Glory

Other apps around the table included Duck in all its Glory (duck served in several ways: House-made Sausage, Rillettes, Prosciutto, Duck Liver Pâté) and Yuzu-marinated Sashimi…

Yuzu-marinated Sashimi

Yuzu-marinated Sashimi

a beautiful plate of Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi, Snapper with Wasabi Oil.

Oak-fired Filet of Beef

Oak-fired Filet of Beef

Entrees included Oak-fired Filet of Beef (served with tomato risotto, marinated baby tomatoes, petite basil and tomato butter)…

Georges Bank Scallops

Georges Bank Scallops

Georges Bank Scallops (with French curry spice, squash ravioli and citrus butter)…

Spicy Kazan Roll

Spicy Kazan Roll

while Bonnie and I shared one of huge and delicious sushi rolls: the Spicy Kazan Roll with crab, shrimp, scallops, tuna and fireball sauce. The sushi here isn’t cheap, but it’s pretty darn good!

As always one of the best things about the California Grill is the spectacular view, and during Wishes the lights are dimmed and the music is piped into the restaurant!

Wishes!

Wishes! as seen from our table

While the wife and I were stuffed to the gills, some of our party still had room for dessert…

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Sundae Sampler - perhaps the most adorable dessert ever!

Sundae Sampler – perhaps the most adorable dessert ever!

The food and service on our visit to the California Grill was great, and the refurbished space was gorgeous. Yes, it’s among the more expensive locations on property, so it will remain a “special-event” type of place for most diners, but we’re already looking forward to going again… mmm… pork belly sushi…

Thanks to Alice, Elizabeth, Karen and Marty for some great company on that night! Yes, lucky me, I was the only guy along with five lovely ladies!

The backside of the Spice Road Table

The backside of the Spice Road Table

The next day Bonnie and I made our way to Epcot (big shock, huh?) and met up with Papa Harry and Mama Ginny. Word had been going around that the highly anticipated Spice Road Table in Morocco was scheduled to make it’s official opening that day so we wanted to check it out.

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Much of the 10k route was through Epcot, and it was the day before during that race that some of us got our first look at the Spice Road with the final construction walls down.

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So on this Saturday we made our way to World Showcase in the morning and as the rope dropped to allow guests in we, along with several others, hightailed it to the restaurant. As we got near there was a fair amount of activity in the outside seating area which we were facing, so it seemed they were getting ready to receive diners.

Outdoor seating area at Spice Road Table

Outdoor seating area at Spice Road Table

The cast members at the restaurant welcomed us and ushered in the first guests with much applause.

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Bar area inside Spice Road Table

Bar area inside Spice Road Table

We were led in past the gorgeous bar and seated outside by one of the hostesses. She left us with the menus and soon our server (who was great BTW) arrived.

Spice Road Table Menu

Spice Road Table Menu Cover

He gave us a complete rundown of the restaurant and the ideas behind the menu – the food items are made from authentic recipes from the ancient Spice Road (see the back page of the menu below for some details on this).

Back of the Spice Road Table Menu

Back of the Spice Road Table Menu

He noted that some of the items may not be to our (or even his) particular tastes, but were authentic to the original recipes and not altered to make them more appealing to American palates (and I’m paraphrasing here – I actually wish I’d taped his discourse as it was quite interesting and informative). He left us to peruse the menu and when he returned we selected our beverages to start…

Spice Road Table Beverage Menu

Spice Road Table Beverage Menu

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Spice Road Table Wine Menu

Bonnie ordered the White Wine Flight…

White Wine Flight

White Wine Flight

she thought all were fine, but other than the Ksara Blanc de Blanc (which she graciously allowed me to sample and I quite liked) were nothing special. The flights come in glasses with the Spice Road logo on them and a description of each wine is provided.

Estrella Damm Beer

Estrella Damm Beer

I had a Spanish beer while Papa Harry ordered a glass of wine.

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Tangier’s Breeze

Mama Ginny had one of the signature cocktails – the Tangier’s Breeze. When asked how it tasted, she replied “Like something I want to drink for the rest of the day”! I think she liked it…

Spice Road Table Wine Menu

Spice Road Table Small Plates Menu

Menu

Chef’s Special and Dessert Menu

We ordered our food and enjoyed the beautiful weather, setting and company while we waited for our meal to arrive.

Hummus and Olives

Hummus and Imported Olives with Cornichons (little pickles) and Za’atar Flatbread

Mama Ginny wasn’t famished, so she selected the Hummus while the rest of us opted for the samplers.

Mogador Sampler

Mogador Sampler

I ordered the Mogador (seafood) Sampler with Mussels Tagine, Salted Cod Croquettes & Fried Calamari.

Tingis Sampler

Tingis Sampler

Bonnie & Harry both chose the meaty Tingis Sampler composed of Moroccan Lamb Sausage, a Harissa Chicken Roll and a Lamb Slider.

Mama Ginny was a bit underwhelmed with the hummus selections – I tried them and even though the plain version wasn’t anything special, I personally liked the tomato version, and the olives and pickles were nice. This would be a good item for a table to share as an “appetiser” to some other small plates.

Mussels Tagine

Mussels Tagine

I’d really been looking forward to trying the Mussels Tagine as I’m a Mussel-Fan, but these didn’t really do it for me…

According to the menu these are prepared with cilantro, garlic, lemon confit and tomato sauce… I’m more used to a steamed or perhaps grilled presentation of these bivalves served in the shell, but these were sans shell and had a more mealy texture like you’d find in a tinned, smoked version. They weren’t bad mind you, but I wasn’t excited by them and doubt I’d order them again.

Salted Cod Croquettes

Salted Cod Croquettes

I was pleasantly surprised by the Salted Cod Croquettes however – I was expecting a stronger flavor from the salt cod, but these fritters were mild and nicely flavored.

Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

The best of the sampler was without a doubt the Fried Calamari. Our waiter said this was by far his favorite item on the entire menu, and these crispy, tender (for calamari) rings and tentacles were delicious! I’ve downed plenty of fried squid in my day, and these were among the best I’ve ever had – I’d return here just for more of these!

Moroccan Lamb Sausage

Moroccan Lamb Sausage

The Tingis Sampler was pretty much all a hit. The dense Lamb Sausage came served atop a salad of chopped tomato, red onion and cilantro and was quite good.

Harissa Chicken Roll

Harissa Chicken Roll

The Harissa Chicken Roll (with a side of spicy ketchup) is the same item as usually seen at the Morocco booth during the Food & Wine Festival. Like an egg roll filled with slightly spicy chicken mixture and studded with corn kernels this is a really nice item.

Lamb Slider

Lamb Slider

The real winner of the sampler for Miss Bonnie (and I couldn’t argue with her on it’s virtues) was the mini lamb burger (yes, I have an aversion to the term “slider”… keep waiting for that rant Dedicated Readers…). Served on a seeded brioche bun and topped with a tzatziki sauce, this juicy lamb patty was really good… I’d love a full-size version of this!

Despite this being a “small plates” kinda-place, we were all sated after our choices and couldn’t find the room for dessert – our servers favorite was the Chocolate Pyramid, which we saw at a neighboring table, and sometime we’ll return to try it out…

Now for a couple of notes about this place…

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You do get served on real plates and with real silverware, the napkins aren’t cloth, but they are very heavy and have the logo nicely printed on them.

When asked if we wanted water, we were brought bottled sparkling water (which of course we were charged for), so be sure to specify you want a glass of ice water unless you want otherwise.

At this time they do not take Tables in Wonderland, but our server indicated “they were looking into it”…

Also for the time being the bar was only for drinks being served at the tables, but our server noted that they hoped to have the bar open for walk-up guests in the fututre.

Inside seating area

Inside seating area

The restaurant is gorgeous… simply gorgeous…

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but the seating areas are fairly small – total capacity looks to be under 100. And I’m sure the outside seats will be in high demand for Illuminations.

There’s been a lot of “compare and contrast” online about this and the Tangerine Cafe, but they are really two different animals and two different experiences. Yes, per “volume of food” this is more expensive, but it’s also a sit-down, even if the servings are “small plates”… I’d give it a try before downplaying it as many seem to have done… we’re looking forward to going back and trying some items we didn’t have on our first visit!

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In the attached building is also the gift shop, a section of which is currently devoted to food items.

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Spices, coffees, teas, wines and more are available for purchase.

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Next door to the gift shop is the Art of Henna…

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and at the end of the building opposite the restaurant is a take-out window…

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with an assortment of sweets and beverages.

Juice Bar Menu

Juice Bar Menu

Here ended our visit to Morocco, but we weren’t quite done with Africa…

Dawa Bar

Dawa Bar

as we made our way to the village of Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom…

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for a visit to the recently re-located Dawa Bar for a few African Margaritas.

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With the on-going construction in Harambe due to the new theater being built for the Festival of the Lion King show, the Dawa Bar was moved from it’s original location to the new one a few yards away to the right of the entrance area/podium for the Tusker House restaurant.

The back side of beer!

The back side of beer!

The new bar is certainly larger and more open than the previous incarnation – you can even walk all around the back of it if you are so inclined.

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There is more seating right at the bar, but there is precious little other seating right now, and we’ll have to see if the former plethora of tables returns after the construction walls come down and the area opens up again.

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After a couple of rounds we made our way out of the park, and thus ended our culinary and cocktail highlights of Marathon weekend.

Hope you enjoyed the look back at some eats & drinks… there is more from the World to share with you soon!  But for now its back to the kitchen!

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