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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!

As usual, Miss Bonnie and I were in the World for Marathon Weekend in January. We had originally planned on not actually doing any of the races this year after finishing the Goofy Challenge (a half-marathon on Saturday and a full on Sunday, for a total of 39.3 miles) in 2013, and with what occurred after that race (and one of these days I’ll get around to fully recounting that story…) anything this year would just be anti-climatic…

Bib from new 10k race

Bib from new 10k race

Well, leave it to the good folks at runDisney to announce a new race (the Walt Disney World 10K) and also a new challenge (the official Dopey Challenge: four races over four days totaling 48.6 miles!). We weren’t exactly excited about the training time and expense that the Dopey would require, especially with all we’d have going on right before that in our lives (and if you’re not sure what that was, you can check out the post “It was like a Dream….“), but with a 10k being basically a “walk in the park” after Goofy, and it being a new medal we didn’t have, we signed up for the 10k as soon as it opened for registration (and good thing as it sold out in a nanosecond).

As always, we had a wonderful long weekend seeing many friends, eating some good food (that post to come later), and yes, earning a new medal…

New Minnie medal in the middle

New Minnie medal in the middle

Other than the usual fun and frivolity around the parks, there were some very odd odds and ends around the races… so let’s take a look shall we?

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One side of the Bus Route Sign after the 10k

If you’re staying on Disney property, they provide bus transportation to and from all of the races. After the end of each days race there is a line of buses going to each of the resorts, and large signs directing you to where the bus for your particular resort is (or will be) parked awaiting your tired and sweaty self. On this day the signed provided a bit of, well, odd information…

A closer look at the sign above... notice anything?

A closer look at the sign above… notice anything?

An even closer look for you...

An even closer look for you…

apparently you can’t go to the Art of Animation resort, you have to go to either Art or Animation… didn’t know they were separate…

And around the corner...

And around the corner…

The other side of the same sign also provided a bit of amusement…

And here's your close-up...

And here’s your close-up…

apparently there are no longer any “Springs” at Coronado Springs… all you have now are “Spings”… I think I’d ask for a discount if I was staying there…

And it wasn’t just the signs… let’s take a closer look at the runners bib for the 10k…

Let's look at that bib again...

Let’s look at that bib again…

This race was extra-special - it was the Inaguaral one!

This race was extra-special – it was apparently the Inaugurual one!

As this was the first time the 10k was held, it was the Inaugural running of this race, or that’s what you would have thought – the bib declared it the “Inaugurual” 10k!

So now I’m thinking there might be a job opening at runDisney for a proof-reader… brushing up my resume…

Okay, I just really don’t know what to say about all that… I’ll leave it up to you… comments???

So, let’s wrap-up on a fun note – along the race courses there are usually lots of bands, well-wishers, and of course, characters… and sometimes you’ll see some characters you rarely (if ever) see around the parks.

Just don't look up my name in the Urban Dictionary...

Just don’t look up my name in the Urban Dictionary…

Bonnie and I went out to cheer the racers Saturday and Sunday (the 10k was on Friday), and towards the end of the marathon course just outside of Mousegears in Epcot we came across Launchpad McQuack from Ducktails!

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He even took time to pose with another non-human!

So there you have it dear Dedicated Readers, some more Odds and Ends… and a few very odd ones it was!

Back to the kitchen, see you soon!

Overheard at Disney…

January 22, 2014

A tram from the Magic Kingdom to the parking lot passes another (sans guests) on the side of the roadway that is having a flat tire replaced…

“What would make a tire go flat out here?” wondered a befuddled guest on board.

I’m guess Pixie Dust is supposed to protect tires…


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If you read the recent post “It was like a Dream…” (and if you didn’t, why the heck not?), you know that Miss Bonnie and I recently tied the knot and right after went on a cruise on the Disney Dream.

Seeing that we were accompanied on the cruise by over forty of our family and friends, we considered our time on the Dream not as our honeymoon but more of an “extended reception”.

So the weekend after we decided to have a bit more “alone time” and where else would you go to be alone but to Walt Disney World?

Since we hadn’t had an opportunity to check out much of the the holiday decor and such around the parks this year we wanted to spend some time doing that, and of course along the way there were some eats and drinks… so let’s take a look back at the events of our Honeymoon Weekend at the World (well, at least some of the events…).

We checked into our resort Friday afternoon and soon made our way to the Studios to take in the Osborne Lights (and see if we could find that damn purple cat…). Trying to decide where our first food stop would be Bonnie had the genius suggestion that we try and check out the new Brown Derby Lounge.

An outdoor area adjacent to the Brown Derby restaurant, this venue had opened only about a month earlier and had been getting great reviews, so we were eager to give it a try. As luck would have it, there was a small table for two just calling our names as we walked up, so we quickly sat down and perused the menu.

Champagne Flight and Flavored Margarita Flight

Champagne Flight and Flavored Margarita Flight

The main attraction here is a “small plates” menu with a limited but interesting variety of eats, and in case you really need an adult beverage (and who doesn’t?), several beverage flights. There is also a menu of specialty cocktails and a pretty good selection of wines by the glass.

We each started with a flight (and it seems now that you can hardly go anywhere on property now without being offered a flight of some beverage), Bonnie having the Champagne Flight (with Taittinger Brut, Fairy Tale Cuvee and  Rosa Regale) while I selected the “Citizens Take Flight” which was three margaritas (mango, pomegranate and “derby”) each named after one of the Citizens of Hollywood. All were quite good, but I think the “Melvin Macheezmo” (mango) was my favorite of the three. These drinks don’t appear on the menu of speciality cocktails, but I did ask the bartender and he said they would gladly make a full size version of any of them.

Other flights available include martini (with these drinks also named after some of the Citizens of Hollywood), Scotch, Grand Marnier, and a couple of wine flights (one red and one white).

Artisanal Cheeses - Champignon brie, Midnight Moon goat cheese and Flora Nelle blue cheese served with raisins on the vine, pear jelly, spiced pecans, and crostini

Artisanal Cheeses: Champignon Brie, Midnight Moon Goat Cheese and Flora Nelle Blue Cheese served with various accompaniments

Bonnie needed her cheese-fix satiated so we started with the Artisanal Cheese plate – a nice selection of three cheeses with accompaniments to enhance their flavors. The portions could have been a bit bigger, but we really enjoyed this, especially the Midnight Moon.

Derby Sliders - Wagyu beef with cognac-mustard aioli, smoked gouda cheese, bacon and avocado, AND house-made chorizo with chipotle mayo, manchego cheese, pickles and crispy onions Brown Derby Lounge Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Derby Sliders:  one Chorizo with chipotle mayonnaise, manchego cheese, crispy onions and pickles and one Wagyu Beef with cognac-mustard aioli, smoked gouda cheese, bacon and avocado

For our “meatier” selection we shared the Derby Sliders, two decent-sized mini-burgers. Served with good freshly made chips, one of the sliders was Wagyu beef while the other was a spicy Chorizo sausage. Both were topped off with some tasty goodies and we really liked both of these – Bonnie preferred the beef while I favored the Chorizo.

We had a fun time and there are other things on the menu here we want to try, so I’m sure we’ll be back…

As we finished up eating we were joined by a friend (who’s quite the character) to view the lights (and yes, we found the not-so-well-hidden-this-year purple cat!).

Not the cat...

Not the cat…

After a bit of time with the dancing lights we hightailed if over to Epcot for a quick beverage before viewing Illuminations with the spectacular holiday tag at the end.

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Afterwards we decided to call it a night, bade farewell to our friend and made our way back to our resort.

We were staying at the Bonnet Creek Hilton (which is a beautiful resort that we quite like, but the transportation sucks if you’re going to the parks…), and when we returned to the room we were greeted with a pleasant surprise from the nice folks at the Hilton – a chilled bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries!

And yes, we were making no secret of our recent nuptials, wearing our “Wedding Ears” and “Just Married” buttons that we got on the cruise (they no longer have those buttons at the parks or resorts BTW)… milking it for all it was worth…

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Saturday we started where we had left off the night before – in Epcot to check out the holiday decorations and some special food and beverage selections that were being offered during the holiday season.

Holiday Menu at Promenade Refreshments

Holiday Menu at Promenade Refreshments

At Promenade Refreshments in the World Showcase they were cooking up a couple of fresh-made waffles and we tried the “Savory Seasonal” option.

Seasonal Savory Waffle

Savory Seasonal Waffle

The waffles were being made to order, so each took several minutes to serve… also the cast members seemed to be having a bit of an issue getting our waffle to cook properly, so the waffle didn’t look too pretty (nor was it firm enough to pick the thing up and eat like a sandwich, which I think at some point was the idea of the thing…), but the stuffing-waffle tasted pretty good, and when it was filled with the turkey and cranberry sauce you had your typical Thanksgiving/Christmas-dinner-next-day-lefover-sandwich flavors on the plate. This was a big portion (plenty enough for us to share), and at $6.39 one of the best values you’ll ever find at Disney.

As you can see in the pic above, much like the passport at Food & Wine, there was a “Holiday Passport” booklet highlighting the special items around Epcot for the holiday season (and yes, there were special ink stamps of ornaments for the holiday version).

Inside of the Holiday Passport with stamp from Promenade Refreshments

Inside of the Holiday Passport with stamp from Promenade Refreshments

There were a few new holiday decorations this year…

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the courtyard in France was sporting several large “ornaments” with miniature winter/holiday scenes from Paris inside – very cool! It wasn’t a big huge deal, but I really liked these!

I always enjoy the holiday storytellers around World Showcase…

Père Noël

Père Noël

we didn’t get to see many of them this go-round, but we had fun watching the ones we got to see.

We’ve been watching the construction progress in Morocco for a while hoping that the new Spice Road table restaurant would magically be open for us one day…

Spice Road Table

Spice Road Table

but this would not be the day… maybe Marathon weekend?

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In Japan the Kabuki Cafe was serving up a savory treat…

Teriyaki Chicken Kaarage

Teriyaki Chicken Karaage

crispy fried boneless chicken topped with a sweet teriyaki sauce… nothing amazing, but pretty good… and nothing says “holidays” to me like Japanese fried chicken!

Sugar and Spice Bake Shop

Sugar and Spice Bake Shop

The Sugar and Spice Bake Shop in the American Adventure offered up several baked goods along with some hot and cold beverages.

Sugar and Spice Bake Shop Menu

Sugar and Spice Bake Shop Menu

Nearby in Italy, the Buona Festa booth had an extensive listing of alcoholic body-additives.

Buona Festa

Buona Festa

Buona Festa Bill of Fare

Buona Festa Bill of Fare

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As usual, my favorite little village in Germany was decked out for the holidays…

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even some of the train engines were adorned with Christmas finery.

Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlmarkt

Elsewhere in Germany, Christkindlmarkt had several caramel-based concoctions…

Christkindlmarkt oddly priced menu

Christkindlmarkt (oddly priced) menu

and another good selection of wines and other adult beverages. Bonnie’s favorite item of the day was from here…

Hot Salted Caramel Drink and Caramel Mocha Iced Coffee Drink

Hot Salted Caramel Drink and Caramel Mocha Iced Coffee Drink

the Hot Salted Caramel Drink… the Caramel Mocha Iced Coffee was pretty good, but the Hot Salted Caramel was, well, wow… rich, creamy-tasting (without any cream)… I think if Bonnie could have married this drink, she would have divorced me then and there to wed this glass of sweet & salty goodness!

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We made one more holiday food stop before we exited Epcot.

Sweet Tamales

Sweet Tamales

The quick service location in Mexico was serving a sweet version of tamales…

Mmmm... guava...

Mmmm… guava…

Filled with guava paste, the slightly sweet masa was drizzled with a fruity sauce and was a great, sweet end to our Epcot eats. Neither of us was expecting much from this, but we both loved it!

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From Epcot we boarded the monorail to head to the Magic Kingdom.

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The Magic Kingdom, and especially Main Street, always look great for the holidays!

Stay classy, Dapper Dans...

Stay classy, Dapper Dans…

After watching a great performance of holiday songs by the Dapper Dans, we headed to Adventureland to take a ride on the  Jingle Cruise…

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this simple holiday overlay of the Jungle Cruise was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed it…

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I think some people were expecting much more and were disappointed with it, but we both thought it was great. I’m hoping they do more special holiday transformations like this in the future (and we do have some ideas… we’re just waiting for Imagineering to call…).

Before...

Before…

We stayed around MK for that evenings holiday Castle Lighting…

after...

after…

and no, we didn’t have anything to eat at the Magic Kingdom that day (yes, I know this is supposed to be a Weekend Eats edition, but I guess it’s also part Odds & Ends…), but we soon made up for it by hopping on the monorail over to the Polynesian resort…

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where we quickly made our way to one of our favorite spots, the Kona Island Sushi Bar.

Located in the Poly lobby outside the Kona Cafe, this venue serves coffee and pastries during the day, but in the evening it serves up Island-styled sushi.

Caterpillar Roll

Caterpillar Roll

A look inside the Caterpillar Roll

A look inside the Caterpillar Roll

You can also order from the full Kona Cafe menu (and likewise you can order from the sushi menu if dining at Kona). The sushi chefs actually used to make the food inside the “Island”, but now ply their trade unseen in the kitchen, sadly taking away a bit of the show and fun from this locale.

Pork and Vegetable Pot Stickers

Pork and Vegetable Pot Stickers

We chose the Pot Stickers from the regular Kona menu (pork and vegetable dumplings topped with a creamy ginger-soy sauce – pretty good but the duck pot stickers they used to serve here were better); the cute Caterpillar Roll (an inside out tuna roll with shrimp salad and topped with avocado); and arguably our single favorite item served on property, the Tuna Poke (a traditional Hawaiian poke salad of seasoned, diced tuna).

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke

At the end of our meal our server (who did a great job, especially on what was a very busy and hectic night at Kona) brought us a couple of congratulatory cupcakes – there were nothing really special taste-wise, but still it was a nice touch.

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So Dear Dedicated Readers, that about wraps up the events of our Honeymoon weekend (or at least the events I’m going to tell you about)… next we’re off to the World for Marathon Weekend… I’m sure we’ll be eating something there… stay tuned…

As always, back to the kitchen… see you soon!

It was like a Dream….

December 27, 2013

A while back (in the last Margarita of the Month post) I mentioned to you that Miss Bonnie and I would be taking an excursion on the Disney Dream…

And yes, we took an (all-too-brief-but-incredibly-fun) three-day cruise along with 41 of our nearest-and-dearest (including her Parental Units, the Offspring, and The Harem, among others).

So I thought I’d share with you a (mostly) photo essay of the dishes served at the sit-down dining venues on that beautiful ship… so let’s eat, shall we?

Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes

Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes

Animator’s Palette was the first stop on our dining rotation.

Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes

Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes

The “appetiser-of-choice” that evening was actually one of the best things we had all cruise. Described on the menu as  “Pasta Purses filled with Truffle-scented Cheese and coated with a delicate Champagne Sauce”, one of our party claimed it was the best thing she had ever eaten in her life!

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Tomato Tarte with Glazed Goats Cheese and Radish Salad

Tomato Tarte with Glazed Goat Cheese and Radish Salad

Sliced Serrano Ham
with Tomato Bread and Spanish Olives

Sliced Serrano Ham
 with Tomato Bread and Spanish Olives

The “Big Money” entree here was the Asian-inspired beef tenderloin…

Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin

Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin

it was served on wasabi mashed potatoes with bok choy, carrots and a tamarind-barbecue reduction.

Seared Red Snapper with Scallops, Crushed New Potatoes and Salsa Verde

Seared Red Snapper with Scallops, Crushed New Potatoes and Salsa Verde

Of course there were other entrees, and if you (like Miss Bonnie’s Youngest Offspring) wanted just a big-honking plate of meat with fries, all you had to do was ask!

Herb Crusted Veal Chop, Grilled Sirloin, Steak Fries and Veggies (which I'm pretty sure went untouched)

Herb Crusted Veal Chop, Grilled Sirloin, Steak Fries and Veggies (which I’m pretty sure went untouched)

I did take a bite of the veal chop, and wish I’d ordered that! It was incredible!

And let’s not forget sweets…

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Hummm... wonder why this dessert showed up on our table?

Hummm… wonder why this dessert showed up on our table?

And on the subject of sweets, even though they don’t appear on any menu, you can always order a Mickey Bar…

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or twelve…

Cheers!

Cheers!

Our day two dinner venue was Enchanted Garden…

Chickpea-garlic puree (served alongside the bread service)

Chickpea-garlic puree (served alongside the bread service)

North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli with Roasted Garlic and Sweet Basil in a light Tomato Broth

North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli with Roasted Garlic and Sweet Basil in a light Tomato Broth

Apps were great here…

Thyme and Garlic Brioche Filled with Chanterelle, Hedgehog and Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Leek Stew in a light Buttermilk Cream

Thyme and Garlic Brioche filled with Chanterelle, Hedgehog and Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Leek Stew in a light Buttermilk Cream

Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower with Crispy Noodles and Wasabi Dressing

Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower with Crispy Noodles and Wasabi Dressing

and Dedicated Readers know I’m a Big Fan of raw-chopped-tuna-with-other-stuff-mixed-in, and the Tuna and Avocado Tower appetizer was a hit with me…

Romaine Wedge Salad

Romaine Wedge Salad

The main course offerings weren’t slouches either…

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Caramelized Sea Scallops

Caramelized Sea Scallops

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

but the Big Winner Dish was the sea bass…

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

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

it was perhaps Bonnie’s favorite dish of the entire cruise.

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And yes, there were sweets to end the night here too…

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Even though this was Pirate Night on the ship, as it was only a three day cruise the standard menu was being served as opposed to the special Pirate Night fare offered on four-night (and longer) voyages.

Royal Palace was the location for our final meal on an all-too-short cruise. Our large party took up the central table smack dab in the middle of the beautiful restaurant – the night before the head waiter had promised us the “best seats in the house” and he delivered!

Escargots Gratinés

Escargots Gratinés

A big-ol plate of garlicky snails is one of the popular starters here.

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

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

Pomegranate Glazed Duck Breast

Pomegranate Glazed Duck Breast

Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp

Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp

Entrees included duck…

Duck Three Ways

Duck Three Ways

and lamb…

Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust

Double Cut Rack of Lamb with a Dijon Crust

Several of our party were excited about the prospects of the lobster mac & cheese…

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

however this proved to be the only really disappointing dish of the cruise, bland and lacking much flavor.

Peanut Butter Mousse

Peanut Butter Mousse

A delicious Peanut Butter Mousse was a sweet ending to our culinary adventures on the Dream.

Oh yeah… when I mentioned this trip in a prior post, I noted this was to be a Celebratory Cruise – and the reason for the celebration was that Miss Bonnie became Mrs FishyRocketBoy!

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Yes, just before the cruise Bonnie and I were married (in Mickey Ears of course, and officiated by a clown).

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So there will be many more years of cooking, dining and Disney in our future, and even though she’s now a “Mrs”, I’m sure Bonnie will still be known around these parts as “Miss Bonnie”…

So there you have it Dear Dedicated Readers, some more good eats, and a little bit of news… okay, some pretty big news… and thanks to Papa Harry for the wedding pics!

As always, it’s back to the kitchen, see you soon!

Overheard at Disney…

December 20, 2013

A couple (of apparently Anglo-US origin…) is pushing a stroller around World Showcase in Epcot and nears the American Adventure…

“What’s this? America? Why would you come to America to see America?”

Kinda hard to argue with that logic I guess…

Margarita of the Month: November

Eclipse

Eclipse

Nearly a year ago Miss Bonnie and I, along with several people who share a lot of her genetic material, took a sail on the Disney Fantasy.

On that trip we had the opportunity to take a galley tour to see where and how they produce the huge volume of great food served in the various dining rooms on the large vessel.

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It was fascinating to see the massive gleaming kitchens…

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and the large, glass-fronted walk-ins.

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One of the things I found most interesting was that there were laminated pictures taped up of the dishes being served that night so that the chefs could see the proper plating of each.

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In addition there were also actual recipes and pictures of the cocktails that were being served!

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And yes, Dear Dedicated Readers, there was one featuring Eating (and Drinking) Around the World’s favorite spirit, tequila!

And since Miss Bonnie & I, along with more than a handful of our Nearest & Dearest, will be taking another Disney Cruise in just a few short days, I figured it was the appropriate time to share that recipe with you… so let’s make a margarita!

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Eclipse

4 oz  Gold Tequila

1 oz  Triple Sec

1 oz  Lime Juice

1 oz  Orange Juice

1/2 oz  Agave Nectar

Granulated Sugar for the rim of the glass

Lime Zest for garnish

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Moisten the rim of the glasses with a bit of lime and dip into sugar. Set aside.

Add all the liquids to your cocktail shaker, throw in a handful or two of ice and shake until well chilled.

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Then strain into the prepared glass and garnish with a bit of lime peel…

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then drink up!

This makes a couple of smallish drinks, or one Eating (and Drinking) Around the World size cocktail… this is a pretty strong, but darn tasty beverage! Give this one a try for sure and imagine you’re sailing the Caribbean!

Now about that aforementioned trip we’re taking… we’ll be on the Dream his December… and it will be a Celebratory Cruise… I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that before too long…

But until then, it’s back to the kitchen, and the bar! See you soon!

Epcot entrance area

Epcot entrance area

In Part One of our look at the opening of the 2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival I gave you a trip-report type post on some of the events of the first weekend (including a look at the Thursday soft-opening), and now in Part Two, we’ll take a closer look at some of the food items and some other thoughts and comments on this years festival.

So let’s eat!

Seared Scallop with Ragout of Tomatoes, Peppers & Hearts of Palm with Carnaval Sparkling Moscato

Seared Scallop with Ragout of Tomatoes, Peppers & Hearts of Palm with Carnaval Sparkling Moscato

One of the new dishes in Brazil is a sea scallop with a tasty tomato stew alongside rice. This was a good one to start with – there has usually been a scallop dish at the festival the past several years, and I’ve thought all of them have been pretty good, and this one was as well.

The ragout was particularly good, and I think would go nicely alongside other proteins like fish or chicken – fortunately this recipe is in this years festival cookbook, so maybe we’ll give it a try soon…

Also in Brazil was a big winner of a dish…

Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions,  Avocado & Cilantro

Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions,
Avocado & Cilantro (as served at the Preview Dinner)

Crispy Pork Belly… mmmm… pork belly…

We had this at the Tables in Wonderland Sneak Preview dinner in the summer (see “Getting a sneak peak“) and was blown away… but heck, it’s pork belly, and we loves us some pork belly here…

Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto & Potato Crunchies (left) and Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle & Rapini

Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto & Potato Crunchies (left) and Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle & Rapini

The lamb in the Australia booth is a perennial favorite – this version is identical to the one served last year, but there were no complaints about that, especially from Miss Bonnie… this is always one of our top “likes”, and this one topped with potato “crunchies” (aka crushed salt & vinegar potato chips) is just lamb-a-riffic!

We weren’t so crazy about the shrimp in Australia however, the garlic-infused invertebrates were cooked fine, but the promised accompaniment of “Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle & Rapini” was almost non-existant… maybe I just got a poorly plated version, but this wasn’t anything special.

There’s normally a special margarita featured at the Mexico kiosk, and this year is no different…

Mango-Habanero Margarita

Mango-Habanero Margarita

the slightly thick Mango-Habanero Margarita was very spicy, and very good – I actually think the heat level might be a bit much for many guests – but Dedicated Readers will know I have no complaints with extra heat… as we’ll see as we go on, I think many dishes were less “toned-down” than in the past – “spicy” dishes that in prior years may have been a bit tame seem to be really spicy this year – not blow your head off hot, but defiantly less mild than before… and I think this is a Good Thing…

Lemongrass Chicken Curry with Coconut & Jasmine Rice

Lemongrass Chicken Curry with Coconut & Jasmine Rice

New in Singapore this year is a chicken curry with lemongrass and coconut milk – a nice sized portion and a reasonable representative of this style dish – if you’ve had this type of curry before, this is probably not the best one you’ve ever had, but it’s pretty good, and if you’ve never tried anything like it before this is worth taking a bite of…

Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice & "Singa" Sauce

Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice & “Singa” Sauce

Another favorite from Singapore last year, the Mahi with an absolutely delicious “Singa” sauce fortunately made a return to the festival this year.

Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce along with Jinro Chamisul Soju

Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce along with Jinro Chamisul Soju (aka Korean Rocket Fuel)

One of my favorite booths since it’s introduction a few years ago is South Korea, and it’s been very popular with Epcot guests (which is still pleasantly surprising to me). The new (and popular) item this year is a hot dog topped with a kimchi relish. This is another dish we loved at the preview dinner, and despite it being a sorta-skimpy half-dog portion, it’s still Dang Tasty! Just wish they had given a bit more thought to the name…

One of my favorite new dishes this year comes from Africa…

Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapenos, Tomato, Okra & Pap

Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapenos, Tomato, Okra & Pap

the Berbere Style Beef was full of rich flavors and was one of the dishes (as I noted before) that wasn’t pulled back on the heat level! Even though my serving was a bit short on the beef, I was very happy with the taste and enjoyed each bit of okra and tomato!

Menu at the Africa Kiosk

Menu at the Africa Kiosk

It was interesting to note that on the standup menu, as well as the printed materials (such as the Passport booklet), this kiosk is now just listed as “Africa”, while the booth sign still calls itself “South Africa”.

"South Africa" booth

“South Africa” booth

And from what limited research I’ve had to do on this dish, it seems it’s more Ethiopian… defiantly not South African… if anyone has info or recipes for this dish please post in the comments!

Artisan Cheese Selection

Artisan Cheese Selection

The country of Cheese (and shouldn’t there be one?) once again had a nice cheese plate (including Beecher’s Flagship Reserve, a personal favorite).

Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Souffle with Fig Jam

Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Souffle with Fig Jam

This year the Cheese booth added a nice Blue Cheese Souffle which is paired with a fig jam.

Ja mon!

Ja mon!

A new caffeinated adult beverage is being served at the Coffee Cart in the American Adventure…

Shakin' Jamaican Coffee with Kahlua, Vanilla & Caramel (hot version)

Shakin’ Jamaican Coffee with Kahlua, Vanilla & Caramel (hot version)

a spiked coffee that’s served hot or frozen – I tried the hot version topped with whipped cream and really enjoyed it!

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Nearby at the Hops & Barley Market there’s beer…

Beer Flight at the Hops & Barley Market

Beer Flight at the Hops & Barley Market

and more beer…

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

and some food too… the New England Clam Chowder was advertised as being with “a side of Tabasco”, and on the soft-opening day there were the little tiny bottles of hot sauce being served with the chowder, but by the next day they all seemed to be gone…

Pick a hot sauce, any hot sauce...

Pick a hot sauce, any hot sauce…

luckily nearby were multiple Tabasco dispensers… the chowder was pretty good, but nothing special, but will be a nice option on some cooler fall evenings.

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter along with a La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter along with a La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Lobster is featured here, with the Lobster Roll returning and a new Lobster Tail dish this year… it was cooked well and the accompanying butter sauce was most delish… not sure if it was really worth the $7.50 price tag, but it was tasty!

Spicy Tuna Hand Roll and "Snow" Sake

Spicy Tuna Hand Roll and “Snow” Sake

There’s always plenty to like in Japan, the Spicy hand Roll is a welcome returnee, while a tame cooked-intro-sushi-for-the-squeemish filled with chicken made it’s debut.

Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll

Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll

There was also a new veggie dish in Japan…

Youki Tofu topped with Miso Sauce, Edamame and Served with Grilled Vegetables

Youki Tofu topped with Miso Sauce, Edamame and Served with Grilled Vegetables

I liked the miso sauce, but the rest of the tofu/veggie dish was. well, just kinda there… a Sapporo draft helped immensely…

Harissa Chicken Roll

Harissa Chicken Roll

In Morocco I tried the Harissa Chicken Roll – what looks like a fried egg roll is filled with a slightly creamy and nicely spicy poultry filling – pretty good, I’d say this one is worth a try (even though it could have used some side of some sort… don’t ask me what though…).

There’s some new stuff in New Zealand….

Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter & Toasted Bread Crumbs

Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter & Toasted Bread Crumbs… you had me at mussels…

and it’s all pretty darn good… I’m a big mussel fan, and this version made me happy…

Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms, Baby Arugula and Black Currant Reduction

Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms, Baby Arugula and Black Currant Reduction

but I really liked the sausage and pickled mushrooms, especially the ‘shrooms… yes, I’ll have another serving please…

Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and a Stella

Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and a Stella

And as noted in Part One, I really liked the new savory waffle in Belgium.

Canada still has one of the all-time festival favorites in the Cheese Soup…

Seared Rainbow Trout with Bacon, Frisee and Maple Minus 8 Vinaigrette (left) and Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

Seared Rainbow Trout with Bacon, Frisee and Maple Minus 8 Vinaigrette (left) and Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

but we both thought the new trout dish there is also a hit – heck, there’s bacon – how bad could it be?

Dole® Pineapple Fritters

Dole® Pineapple Fritters

In addition to the spiked Dole Whip, the Refreshment Port also features a nice sweet snack in the Pineapple Fritters.

Dole® Pineapple Fritters

Dole® Pineapple Fritters

Two pineapple rings battered, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar – Miss Bonnie thinks it needs some sort of dipping sauce (and I can’t argue that it wouldn’t hurt) – but it’s still a tasty snack, and at $1.99 one of the real deals this year.

Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties along with an Innis & Gunn® Original Beer

Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties along with an Innis & Gunn® Original Beer

Scotland is the new featured booth this year, and much ado has been made about the “Vegetarian Haggis” (which almost seems like an oxymoron). It’s basically like a veggie/grain burger along with rutabagas and mashed potatoes… not too bad at all, but really nothing to get all worked up about… but haggis???

Scottish Banoffee Tart with Bananas, Scottish Whisky Toffee, Walkers Shortbread Crumbles and Sweet Cream

Scottish Banoffee Tart with Bananas, Scottish Whisky Toffee, Walkers Shortbread Crumbles and Sweet Cream

But the real winner at Scotland was the dessert…

Inside of the deliciously oozing Banoffee Tart

Inside of the deliciously oozing Banoffee Tart

the whiskey flavor really goes nicely with all the rest of the parts… Dedicated Readers know I claim not to be much of one for sweets, but I’d gladly down another one of these… or maybe two…

So there’s a look at some of the food, so on to a few other things…

Temporary table area near the new Mo Rockin stage in Morocco

Temporary table area near the new Mo Rockin stage in Morocco

Disney seemed to be making an effort to provide a few more tables/dining areas during the festival….

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a few semi-backstage areas were opened up and tables set up for guests. Some maybe not always real convenient to the booths, and a few seemed to go unnoticed by diners, but I give them lots of credit for trying to make extra table areas.

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I was chatting with a guest from New Jersey while waiting in line for a New Belgium Fat Tire at the Craft Beers booth, and he noted that with the huge variety of brews available the festival should really be called the “Epcot Food & Beer Festival”, and I couldn’t argue with him! Between the Craft Beers, Hops & Barley and Brewer’s Collection kiosks there were 22 different beers offered! Add the others from the rest of the booths and we’re talking over 40 interesting beers just at the kiosks around World Showcase! This is a Good Thing…

One of the things I’ve liked best the past few years about the beers being served at the festival is the selection of sizes offered – in addition to the usual 12 ounce pour (and the 22 ounce souvenir glass for many selections), they also offer a 6 ounce glass for most of the beers available at only a modest mark-up for the smaller serving (usually only an extra quarter, see the menu above). This allows guests to try a variety of beers without getting too bloated (or blotto…), and if you wind of trying one you’re not too fond of, it hasn’t been much of a “beverage commitment”.
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And if you’re in need of something at home to pour a beer (or any other beverage for that matter) into, the merchandise locations have you covered…
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from wine glasses…
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to Mason jars with a handy handle…
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to (finally!) a Food & Wine margarita glass! This is by far the best variety of glassware we’ve seen for sale at an Epcot event.
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And of course there are shirts…
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and shirts…
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and even more shirts.
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And there are plenty of other items to part you from your hard-earned cash from posters to cookbooks to pot holders and on and on and on… most of which feature this years logo (which I like very much) or the bumbling chef mascot.
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And we can’t forget Mama Ginny’s favorite bear, Duffy!
One thing that’s inevitable at the Food & Wine Festival is lines…
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and (at least in the first weekend) we saw an odd thing at more than one booth: queue lines were being doubled up – as guests would go to the registers to place their order, they would be given their receipt and then sent back in line to wait to go to the window. This was (understandably) causing quite a bit of confusion among guests… I did see this at multiple locations, so it wasn’t just an aberration at one booth… it may have made the lines appear shorter, but did nothing to speed the process overall. Don’t know if this continued or was being used extensively… did any of you experience this and if so what do you think about it?
Festival offerings at the Outpost in Africa

Festival offerings at the Outpost in Africa

This year we saw many of the existing food & beverage locations offering special Food & Wine Festival offerings, and I really like that they’ve done this – there has been an occasional item in the past years, but this year several spots (such as the Outpost in Africa) have offered specialty drinks or food (like at the Refreshment Port). Using the normal sites to add even more items for guests now seems like a no-brainer…

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So? What did I think?

Overall I thought it was a great version of the festival – I especially liked to variety and more adventurous (and spicy) nature of many of the dishes – and now that the festival is winding down I’m already counting down to next year!

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Did you make it to Food & Wine this year? I’d love to hear you’re thoughts!

Back to the kitchen (and maybe one last visit to the Food & Wine Festival…)… see you soon!

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