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Dedicated Readers will know our love for the Food & Wine Classic held annually at the Swan and Dolphin resorts at Walt Disney World.

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The Classic, which is held on one weekend during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, offers guests unlimited food and wine at over 40 stations featuring culinary selections from the hotel’s restaurants and wine from more than 30 wineries on the hotel’s causeway.

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There are also cocktail and beer selections (including a dedicated beer garden for an additional charge)…

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as well as live entertainment on the causeway during the event.

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In addition are hands-on seminars with the hotel’s chefs and beverage experts.

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Considering that the Classic is over a half-year away why are we talking about it now?

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Well, the official dates for the 2016 Classic were announced a few weeks ago, and it will be held on October 28 & 29. We usually don’t get confirmation of the dates this early…

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and there’s something else we don’t get nearly this soon…

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the menus!

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Yes boys and girls… we were surprised just a few days ago with an email from the events media rep…

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and we already know that 2016 menu will include an American wagyu beef slider with avocado-bacon aioli and Applewood smoked bacon on a toasted brioche from the Fountain; a salt-roasted prime New York strip loin served with mashed potatoes and sauce bordelaise from Shula’s Steak House and seared striped bass with fall artichokes and Nicoise olives in a Spanish caper emulsion from Garden Grove. Returning dishes include the popular shrimp cocktail steamroller from Todd English’s bluezoo and dragon sushi roll from Kimonos.

I’m personally looking forward to the Hand Crafted Bacon with Sweet Corn Puree, Fried Brussel Sprouts and Compressed Heirloom Apple… (see it here).

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The only part of the menu missing are the updated items from the new Carnival Corner section that was very popular last year.

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Funnel cakes with a variety of toppings, corn dogs, and a “Pop-up Mac & Cheese Bar” with do-it-yourself toppings were among the offerings, so we can probably assume similar items will be available this year.

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You can view the 2016 menu (with drool-worthy pics!) at the Swan/Dolphin Classic website.

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The cost for the causeway tickets (which allow you all you want to eat and drink during the event) looks to be the same as last year ($105 per person per day) while the ticket plus the beer garden option has gone up $5.00 to $130 (which is not worth the extra charge in my opinion…).

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Package rates (which include room and causeway ticket) look to have jumped up by at least $40 per night… the “packages” are not really much of a deal (again in my opinion) as you don’t really save any money compared to the regular room cost plus the cost of the event ticket, you just get the convenience of buying them both at the same time (and yes, it is very nice to have a room right there to stagger back to… but it would be nice if they cut a bit of a break on the price for the package or at least throw in one of the seminars for free or at a significantly reduced price…).

You can see the complete rates and details at the Classic site.

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But yeah, we’ll be there one way or another… will we see you there?

Pork Chops and White Beans

Pork Chops and White Beans

With the chill of fall around much of the country, I thought it was the perfect time to share a warming, homey bowl of beany goodness!

Late last year I attended a cooking demo given by my buddy Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, to give an early introduction to his new Pork Chop cookbook.

Pork Chop Cookbook

Pork Chop Cookbook

As I flipped through the book before the demo began there were several recipes that looked good right off, but one really stood out to me as the one I wanted to make first: Pork Chops and White Beans.

I’d actually been craving a big mess of creamy white beans for quite a while – it’s one of those things that really takes me back to my youth in Alabama. Now I am of a Certain Age (read that: I’m an old fart), and when I was in grade school the lunch cooks actually cooked the food, and actually a lot of it was really good! By far my favorite lunch at Gilbert School was the white beans and ham hocks, a real Southern staple.

So not long after getting Ray’s book, Bonnie and I made the recipe with white beans, and it turned out even better than expected! Bonnie about swooned over the finished product, and I think if given the chance she might just leave me for that other guy with a goatee…

Let’s not wait any longer – Let’s Cook!

 

Pork Chops and White Beans

Ingredients

1 Lb  Dry White (Great Northern) Beans

1/2 Cup  Vegetable Oil, plus more as needed (Peanut, Canola, Olive all will work…)

6 Bone-In Pork Chops, about 3/4″ thick (most any cut should work, we used Sirloin… they were on sale…)

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 Cup  All-Purpose Flour

1  Red Onion, finely diced

3  Celery Stalk, finely diced

1  Green Bell Pepper, also (you guessed it) finely diced

1 Lb  Andouille Sausage, diced (we had smoked sausage on hand and used that – I’m thinking any good cooked, smoked, cured sausage should work – kielbasa, chorizo, etc.)

Well dice my sausage!

Well dice my sausage!

1 Tbl  Tomato Paste

2 Tsp  Dried Thyme

1 Quart  Vegetable Broth (I’m sure it wouldn’t suck if you had to use chicken broth, or a combo…)

Procedure

The dried beans need to be soaked overnite: sort through he beans to check for any small stones or other alien objects (and yes, discard same if you find…), put into a large bowl and add cold/room temp water to cover by at least a couple of inches.

Beans under water...

Beans under water…

Cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature overnite. When getting ready to cook drain the beans.

Awaiting the knife...

Awaiting the knife…

Prep your veggies (dice the onion, celery and bell pepper; smash away at the garlic) and set aside.

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Salt and pepper your meat on both sides.

Yeah, we coulda used a bigger plate...

Yeah, we coulda used a bigger plate…

Put the flour on a plate and coat the chops well all over – shake off the excess and set aside for now.

Nice piece of meat ready to go...

Nice piece of meat ready to go…

You’re going to need a big-ol’ Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed large cooking vessel (we originally started cooking in a cast-iron Dutch oven, and then realized the whole thing just wasn’t gonna fit, so we then switched to a stockpot to finish off the dish, as the visually astute of you may notice from the accompanying pics) – add about 1/4 cup of the oil to your cooking vessel of choice and heat over medium-high.

Fry, fry, baby...

Fry, fry, baby…

When ready to go, add as many of the pork chops as will fit comfortably and fry until golden brown (about 5 minutes a side). Drain the browned chops on paper towels and let sit aside as you move on… the rest if the dish is going to cook a bit before they go back in, so if you want cover and throw into the ‘fridge…

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Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil to the pot and throw in the chopped veggies. Cook a few (3 to 4) minutes until the onion is opaque then add the sausage du jour… continue cooking about 5 minutes or so until the veggies have softened.

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Stir in the tomato paste, the thyme, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the quart of broth, plus a quart of water and bring up to a simmer.

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Add the drained beans and stir well. Cover and simmer for an hour, stirring now & then.

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Add the chops, mix well and return to the simmer. Cover and cook for another hour, again stirring when you think about it…

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Uncover and cook about another 45 minutes until the beans are tender and the gravy is as thick as you like (“the consistency of a bowl of chili” according to Dr. BBQ). Stir on occasion, trying not to break up the pork chops (at this point at least…).

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Remove the chops to a serving plate and the beans to a bowl… this is really good with a side of greens and some cornbread (maybe try Grandma Hayes’s Corn Bread?)!

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Or if you prefer, you can just break up the pork and toss on top of a bowl of beans…

So... darn... good...

So… darn… good…

and still dunk in some cornbread…

And here’s one more picture of the book in case you forgot what it looked like since the start of the post…

Pork Chop Cookbook

Pork Chop Cookbook

I’ve made several recipes from the book, and liked them all! If you like a bit of piggy on your plate, this book is worth picking up! I put up a post a while back of a chicken recipe that was inspired by one of the chop recipes from the book, you can see it here.

As always, I hope you give this one a try, and please post your thoughts in the comments!

Back to the kitchen – see you soon!

 

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to “like” and “share”!

Smothered Chicken Thighs - Louisiana Style

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style

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

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style (Chicken Etouffée)

Ingredients

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

Salt & Black Pepper for the chicken

2 Tbl  Canola Oil (or other veggie oil)

4 Tbl (1/4 Cup) Butter

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

1/2  Red Onion, finely chopped

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

1/2  Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped

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

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

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

3  Garlic Cloves, crushed

1  Bay Leaf

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

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

1 Tsp  Salt

1/4 Tsp  Ground Black Pepper

Procedure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veggies… means it has to be healthy, right?

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

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

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

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in...

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in…

Add the thighs back into the pot…

Bubble, bubble...

Bubble, bubble…

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

Looking good...

Looking good…

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

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

Let's eat!

Let’s eat!

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

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

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

Back to the kitchen! See you soon!

Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Bok Choy and Mushrooms

When I get a new cookbook I tend to read my way through it and use little sticky-notes to mark the recipes that look most interesting and ones that I want to come back to…

About a year ago I got a copy of “Vietnamese Home Cooking” by Charles Phan of San Francisco’s Slanted Door restaurant and it turned out to be one of those cookbooks that in addition to having great-sounding recipes, it also is a “good-reading” cookbook with lots of stories and information. And yes, there were a lot of sticky-notes stuck in this book…

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As it turned out, one of the simplest recipes from this book has inspired my version you’ll see here, and it’s a recipe both Bonnie and I come back to over and over, and when you try it I think you may do the same!

So dear Dedicated Readers, let’s head into the kitchen and Let’s Cook!

Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Ingredients

The vegetation...

The vegetation…

3 Tbl  Canola Oil

2 Tsp  Minced Garlic

1/2-3/4 Lb  Fresh Mushrooms of your choice (I usually use Oyster Mushrooms when I can, and the original recipe calls for baby Shiitake, but I’ve made with Cremeni/Bella with good results as well, so most any type, or a mix, will work)

3/4-1 Lb  Baby Bok Choy (or regular size if that’s what you can get your hands on)

Saucy stuff...

Saucy stuff…

2 Tbl  Rice Wine (from the Asian market, or Dry Sherry from the grocery/liqueur store works really well too)

2 Tbl  Fish Sauce (from the Asian market, or you can find now at many bigger groceries)

1 Tbl  Chicken Broth (or veggie broth or water)

Procedure

First prep your veggies: slice the mushroom caps into two or three pieces depending on the size of the cap – you want nice bite-size pieces. If using a button-type ‘shroom, slice into 1/4″ or so thick pieces.

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Separate the baby bok choy into leaves (you can leave the smaller core section whole except for trimming the root end as needed). Cut the the larger outer leaves into a couple of pieces or more – again you want a good bite-size piece. If using regular bok choy cut into pieces one to two inches in length.

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Wash the bok choy well to get rid of any dirt/grit, especially at the root end. The pieces don’t have to be perfectly dry as a little bit of water on them will help them to steam when cooking.

Heat your wok over med-high to high heat and add the oil. When its shimmers add the garlic and stir for just a few seconds, then add the mushrooms.

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Stir-fry for about a minute until the mushrooms start to get soft.

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Add the bok choy and the wine and mix together well.

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Add the fish sauce and broth and continue to stir-fry for another couple of minutes until the bok choy is just tender. If not as tender as you’d like, put a lid on the wok and let steam for a bit until done to your liking.

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Remover from the heat an put into a serving bowl.

Bok Choy and Mushrooms (here with rice and roasted chicken)

Bok Choy and Mushrooms (here with rice and roasted chicken)

This is perfect with sticky rice to soak up the sauce (I like this a bit “saucy”, and this is a fairly thin sauce, if you want it thicker you can add a bit of cornstarch/water slurry to thicken it up). It makes a really nice side to a simple chicken or fish entree, and I’ve even had it by itself just with rice – all the mushrooms give it a meaty texture (the original recipe calls for a much smaller proportion of mushrooms to bok choy).

Just a few simple ingredients combined in just a few minutes to make a really great dish! I think you’ll like this one!

Back to the kitchen!

A few days ago I gave you an “Eating-and-Drinking-Around-the-World-Style” look back at some of the goings-on around Walt Disney World in the first half of 2012 (if you neglected to spend your spare time reading around the New Year, you can go back now and peruse WDW Odds & Ends: 2012 Year End Edition, Part One, we’ll wait for you here while you do so…).

So now it’s time to pick back up with our review…

Walk... or fly?... this way...

Walk… or fly?… this way…

After we regained our land legs, Miss Bonnie and I took a July trip to check out the further updates to Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, and the newly reopened (and multiplied) Dumbo was on our list…

We were mostly interested in checking out the new “queue-less-queue”…

we found the indoor play/waiting area to be quite cute and nicely themed…

Dumbo play/waiting area

Dumbo play/waiting area

but our real goal was to “fly high buddy” and get an elephant’s eye view of the construction ongoing at the New Fantasyland…

but even from upon high, the apparently strategically placed foliage prevented us from getting a clear elephant’s-eye-view of the construction…

The mostly obscured view of the New Fantasyland construction from Dumbo

The mostly obscured view of the New Fantasyland construction from Dumbo

And yes, the construction continued behind the walls…

Construction walls in the Magic Kingdom

Construction walls in the Magic Kingdom

With the Agent P Adventure now officially open over in Epcot…

Agent P World Showcase Adventure Kiosk

Agent P World Showcase Adventure Kiosk

floral versions of Phineas and Ferb greet guests on their way to the World Showcase.

A Phineas and Ferb Topiary on the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase in Epcot

Phineas and Ferb Topiary on the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase in Epcot

And yes…

Miss Bonnie's new Happy Place...

Miss Bonnie’s new Happy Place…

there was another visit to Tutto Gusto – it was on this visit we learned about the upcoming menu change – you can see the details on this revelation in the post “Go for the Gusto!“.

Sign at new exhibit in Mexico Pavilion

Sign at new exhibit inside the Mexico Pavilion

The new exhibit on Life in Ancient Mexico was now up inside the Mexican pavilion.

Wanna shoot some hoops?

Wanna shoot some hoops?

How do you spell "H-O-R-S-E" in Spanish?

How do you spell “H-O-R-S-E” in Spanish?

And at the Happiest Place in the Happiest Place on Earth (aka La Cava del Tequila) we found a couple of changes to the specialty Margarita list since our last visit.

La Cava del Tequila Specialty Margarita Menu

La Cava del Tequila Specialty Margarita Menu

The Organic Skinny Lime and Coffee Margaritas were new additions.

Specialty Margarita Menu La Cava del Tequila

La Cava del Tequila Specialty Margarita Menu

We sampled both – the Skinny Lime was fine, but nothing special, but the Coffee was a frozen/slushy concoction that was delicious – especially good on a hot day!

We did eat someplace other than Tutto Gusto in July…

Kouzzina Trio (Cinnamon-stewed Chicken, Greek-style Lasagna and Lamb Burger)

Kouzzina Trio (Cinnamon-stewed Chicken, Greek-style Lasagna and Lamb Burger)

We had a really good meal at Cat Cora’s Kouzzina on the Boardwalk – it was Miss Bonnie’s first visit there and afterwards she dubbed it her New Favorite Restaurant!

Landscape of Flavors Food Court at the new Art of Animation Resort

Landscape of Flavors Food Court at the new Art of Animation Resort

We also got our first chance to eat at the new Landscape of Flavors Food Court.

Indian-inspired eats at the Landscape of Flavors Food Court

Indian-inspired eats at the Landscape of Flavors Food Court

We were very impressed with the Indian-style food offerings at the Art of Animation Resort and looked forward to coming back to try some of the other eats there!

You can see details of our dining from July at Tutto Gusto, Kouzzina and the Landscape of Flavors food court in the post WDW Weekend Eats dated August 5, 2012.

New Wine Flights at Tutto Gusto

New Wine Flights at Tutto Gusto

August again found us at Epcot (is anyone shocked?) and one again at Tutto Gusto to check out the new Wine Flights and “Gusto Plates”.

"La Siciliana" Plate - Caponata, Cacciatorini Sausage & Fresh Mozzarella

“La Siciliana” Plate – Caponata, Cacciatorini Sausage & Fresh Mozzarella

We also checked out some merchandise…

An Eating & Drinking Around the World shirt!

An Eating & Drinking Around the World shirt!

tried a sparkling Sake in Japan…

Hana Awake Sake in Japan

Hana Awaka Sake in Japan

and scoped out the construction walls inside the gift shop in France.

Part of the bakery expansion in France

Part of the bakery expansion in France

Also in August we ventured over to the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort for their second annual Barbeque Weekend.

There we sampled several types of chili in a competition between chefs from the various restaurants at the resort.

Chili Competition at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort

Chili Competition at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort

We also tried a couple of the specialty cocktails being offered up for the weekend….

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort Barbeque Weekends Specialty Cocktails

Watermelon Crawlita and BBQ Honey Bacon Bloody Mary

This year each of the bars and restaurants were offering different cocktails for the weekend – last year each of the locations were serving the same drinks – this was a nice change!

Cocktail Menu at the lobby bar in Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort for Barbeque Weekends

Cocktail Menu at the lobby bar in Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort for Barbeque Weekends

The restaurants were also featuring special BBQ-inspired dishes, unique to each…

Zeta Lounge and Sushi Bar specialty items for Barbeque Weekends

Zeta Lounge and Sushi Bar specialty items for Barbeque Weekends

We also gave the poolside barbeque grill a try….

Barbeque & Bikinis!

Barbeque & Bikinis!

Poolside Barbeque Grill Menu

Poolside Barbeque Grill Menu

and lunched on a couple of the “Gourmet Dogs”.

Brooklyn Dog & Nacho Dog

Brooklyn Dog & Nacho Dog

Back over in the World, we went to check out some merch at Downtown Disney, and at the Team Mickey store we realized that you can’t really escape the Platypus…

Agent P taking it to the hole...

Agent P taking it to the hole…

and that Mickey is a fan of the Crimson Tide!

Roll Tide, Roll!

Roll Tide, Roll!

September found us making our first stay at the new Art of Animation resort as the Little Mermaid section (the only part of the resort with “regular”/non-suite rooms) opened for business the middle of the month.

We loved the decor and detail in the room…

Beds and headboards in Little Mermaid room

Beds and headboards in Little Mermaid room

Sheet Music for "Under the Sea" on table in Little Mermaid room

Sheet Music for “Under the Sea” on table in Little Mermaid room

we even found a couple of Hidden Mickeys!

"Classic" Hidden Mickey in Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation Resort

“Classic” Hidden Mickey in Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation Resort

Hidden Mickey Watch in Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation Resort

Hidden Mickey Watch in Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation Resort

And where were these Mickeys?

Pull back the curtain...

Pull back the curtain…

In the shower of course!

Inside of the shower in Little Mermaid room

Inside of the shower in Little Mermaid room

The exterior of the resort was pretty cool as well!

A Not-So-Little Mermaid

A Not-So-Little Mermaid

And a big scary !

And a big scary Ursula!

One evening while there we took the bridge over to the food court at Pop Century and partook of an overly indulgent dessert…

"The King"

“The King”

the King – a huge chocolate cupcake in honor of Elvis (Presley, not Costello). Filled with banana custard, glazed with a peanut butter icing and topped with candied bacon (hell yeah!) and chocolate, this is an homage to Elvis’ favorite grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Stir-fried Veggie Noodles at Captain Cook's

Stir-fried Veggie Noodles at Captain Cook’s

One night we went to the Magic Kingdom to check on the construction progress of the New Fantasyland expansion, and on the way we stopped at the Poly for a quick bite at Captain Cook’s.

Hawaiian Flatbread at Captain Cook's

Hawaiian Flatbread at Captain Cook’s

At the Magic Kingdom, we found some of the construction walls down…

and the new walls that mark the entrance to the New Fantasyland were out in the open.

New Fantasyland entrance wall

New Fantasyland entrance wall

Detail on column of New Fantasyland wall

Detail on column of New Fantasyland wall

And a new place to nap...

And a new place to nap…

We once again made our way to Epcot…

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and found a few sultry Princess pics at the Art of Disney Store…

hubba, hubba!

hubba, hubba!

And there was a new Haunted Mansion-inspired figure from  Jim Shore….

So want!

Play that funky music, Ghost-boy!

Play that funky music, Ghost-boy!

Moving out to the World Showcase I kinda got that Special Feeling…

Terra Vegan booth with Craft Beer booth in the background

Terra Vegan booth with Craft Beer booth in the background

as the booths for the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival had started to go up around the lagoon.

Belgium behind the hedges

Belgium behind the hedges

The official opening of the festival was a couple of weeks later, and there was yet another runDisney race then – the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler.

And once again, those attending the race expo could find plenty of “sustenance”…

Tower of Terror 10K Race Expo cocktails

Tower of Terror 10K Race Expo cocktails

The lines to get into Epcot were predictably long the first weekend…

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but with extra-tasty foods…

Grilled Lamb Chop from Australia Kiosk

Grilled Lamb Chop from Australia Kiosk

and fun in the cranberry bog awaiting…

Having fun Deb?

Having a good time in the bog Deb?

And how about you Ms. Wolfe?

And how about you Ms. Wolfe?

no one was complaining too much… certainly not us!

Karaage Hand Roll and Spicy Hand Roll from Japan Booth

Karaage Hand Roll and Spicy Hand Roll from Japan Booth

We sampled plenty of foods and beverages…

Fruit Wines at the Florida Local Booth

Fruit Wines at the Florida Local Booth

and checked out the new Chase Lounge (see WDW Odds & Ends: 2012 Year End Edition, Part One to find out what this room formerly looked like!)…

Chase Lounge in the Festival Center of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Chase Lounge in the Festival Center of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival

and the merchandise offered up in the Festival Center.

Just some of the merchandise at the 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Just some of the merchandise at the 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

You can see many more details and my thoughts on the first weekend of the festival in the posts Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part One and the cleverly named Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part Two.

September also marked the 30th Anniversary of Epcot’s opening day…

Panel of men who were involved with the building and opening of Epcot hosted by Jason Surrell

Panel of men who were involved with the building and opening of Epcot hosted by Jason Surrell

and we had the chance to attend the D23 Anniversary Celebration.

Food & Wine Classic Banner

Food & Wine Classic Banner

October saw more fun at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and what has become our favorite event of the fall, the Swan/Dolphin Food & Wine Classic.

Just a few of the booths being set up for the Food & Wine Classic

Just a few of the booths being set up for the Food & Wine Classic

The Classic features beverage seminars, tons of food…

Shrimp Cocktail Shooters

Shrimp Cocktail Shooters

Pork Belly!

Pork Belly!

even more to drink…

Beer anyone?

Beer anyone?

and celebrity chefs… some meet-and-greets are by design…

Yours truly with Big-Time chef and restauranteur Michael Mina

Yours truly with Big-Time chef and restauranteur Michael Mina

and some just a bit of serendipity…

That Retro-Rad Chic Emily Ellyn showed up for the festivities and I quickly accosted her - she got rid of me by giving me a gift of cherry tomatoes to go away...

That Retro-Rad Chic Emily Ellyn showed up for the festivities and I quickly accosted her – she got rid of me by giving me a gift of cherry tomatoes to go away…

all in all, the Food & Wine Classic is a blast! You can see more food pics in the post Food & Wine Classic 2012: Food Photo Gallery, and I will strive to finally get a full post/review up on the event soon… just don’t hold your breath…

The same weekend we also got to check out one of the soft openings (aka “Dress Rehearsal” in Disney-speak) of the Enchanted Forest section of the New Fantasyland expansion…

Part of the mural in the load area of the new Little Mermaid ride

Part of the mural in the load area of the new Little Mermaid ride

The Little Mermaid attraction is a cute dark ride with a great queue…

Hello Ariel...

Hello Ariel…

and after that Miss Bonnie, Mamma Ginny and I got to meet the red-headed-gal-with-a-tail.

Lumiere and Belle

Lumiere and Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle was a wonderful experience – great effects, fantastic animatronics (especially Lumiere) and lots of guest interaction. The queue and cottage are full of details to keep you busy while waiting to meet the literature-loving Princess.

Entrance to the Beast's Castle and the Be Our Guest Restaurant

Entrance to the Beast’s Castle and the Be Our Guest Restaurant

We also go to poke our heads into the (at the time) yet to open Be Our Guest restaurant….

Lunchtime/quick service ordering area at the Be Our Guest restaurant

Lunchtime/quick service ordering area at the Be Our Guest restaurant

the interior of the restaurant is spectacular, and yes Virginia, there is alcohol…

Beers from France and neighboring Belgium...

Beers from France and neighboring Belgium…

at dinner beer and wine will be served – a first for the Magic Kingdom – and following the theme of the restaurant, the alcoholic beverages are all from France (or beer from nearby Belgium)… with one exception…

this sure is a Conundrum...

this sure is a Conundrum…

the white wine list includes the wine blend Conundrum from Caymus… a wine I actually like quite a bit, but why the inclusion of one single bottle from California in a French restaurant?

Enchanted Forest area of New Fantasyland with the Beast's Castle in the background

Enchanted Forest area of New Fantasyland with the Beast’s Castle in the background

The whole area just looks fantastic – can’t wait to see how it all looks when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train area is finished!

Who's that guy in the red shirt?

Who’s that guy in the red shirt?

Belle’s Village was also looking good…

Hey Gaston! Watch those hands!

Hey Gaston! Watch those hands!

but you have to watch out for handsome egomaniacs trying to steal your girl!

Exterior of Gaston's Tavern

Exterior of Gaston’s Tavern

Gaston’s Tavern was open and serving that day!

Surprised that Lafeu got that many...

Surprised that Lafou got that many…

Not surprisingly, there are also tons of details in this fairly small quick-service establishment.

Roasted Pork Shank at Gaston's Tavern - tender, juicy meat inside, crispy skin outside!

Roasted Pork Shank at Gaston’s Tavern – tender, juicy meat inside, crispy skin outside!

We tried the roasted pork and gave it two-greasy-thumbs-up!

Another view of pig...

Another view of pig…

This is not a big venue, and the entrance/ordering area is cramped and not easy to get in and out of if there are more than just a few people in line… this is likely to be a popular spot with “Lefou’s Brew” (aka Disney’s answer to Butterbeer) being served there and the cute, detailed seating areas, but it’s gonna be crowded… mark my words…

Seven Dwarves Mine Train construction

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train construction

Work continues on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction…

Seven Dwarves Mine Train construction

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train construction

The construction over at the Storybook Circus section of the expansion looked to be pretty much completed by mid-October…

Storybook Circus Entrance

Storybook Circus Entrance

with the mandatory gift shop, Big Top Souvenirs, now open…

Big Top Souvenirs

Big Top Souvenirs

and inside we found snacks…

Some of the "Big Top Treats"

Some of the “Big Top Treats”

and castmembers eager to teach guests how to juggle!

The new meet-and-greet area, Pete’s Silly Sideshow, was also open.

Entrance to Pete's Silly Sideshow

Entrance to Pete’s Silly Sideshow

Inside you can meet a couple of Lovely Ladies…

Signage inside the Sideshow

Sign inside the Sideshow

or a couple of not-so-lovely Gents…

Sign inside the Sideshow

Sign inside the Sideshow

The characters are in sideshow-appropriate garb and eager to meet their fans.

The Great Goofini in the flesh!

The Great Goofini in the flesh!

There is also a covered Fastpass distribution area with some shaded seating…

Storybook Circus Fastpass area

Storybook Circus Fastpass area

and nearby food carts for the famished while waiting….

Food cart in Storybook Circus

Food cart in Storybook Circus

Anyone for a weenie?

Anyone for a weenie?

A week later we had a step-up from hot dogs and pretzels…

Thanks to Mamma Ginny, Papa Harry and (especially) their Offspring Jen, Miss Bonnie and I got to attend the Party for the Senses for the first time.

A nice selection of cheeses and accompaniments

A nice selection of cheeses and accompaniments

Diver Scallop with Pea Puree and Micro Greens

Diver Scallop with Pea Puree and Micro Greens

This over-the-top event features a great variety of exciting food items…

Fry me a Quail Egg please...

Fry me a Quail Egg please…

to go on top of my Duck Confit Burger

to go on top of my Duck Confit Burger

and great wines and beers…

A really nice Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen

A really nice Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen

and performances from Cirque du Soleil! Just pretend I got a good picture of them…

To top it off I even got to talk Doctor Who with a real Brit! And speaking of the time-traveling Gallifreyan…

Doctor Who Tee-Shirt in the UK pavilion at Epcot

Doctor Who Tee-Shirt in the UK pavilion at Epcot

that same weekend I found the first evidence of Doctor Who merchandise finally showing up in the United Kingdom at Epcot (see The TARDIS has landed… for more).

The first part of November was filled with more Food & Wine Festival goodness….

Dessert Trio at Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Dessert Trio at Epcot Food & Wine Festival

and another runDisney event, the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon, coincided with the last weekend of the Festival.

Wine & Dine Weekend schedule of events outside the race expo

Wine & Dine Weekend schedule of events outside the race expo

And once again…

Get ready for the race!

Get ready for the race!

those attending the race expo could find plenty of sustenance!

I always enjoy how many revelers at the Food & Wine Festival like to come in special attire…

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

and I think this might be the favorite shirt I saw this year!

The second weekend of the month marked not only the end of the Food & Wine Festival, but the beginning of the holiday season at the World…

Goodbye Food & Wine Festival - hello Christmas...

Goodbye Food & Wine Festival – hello Christmas – the Epcot Christmas Tree goes up…

and the first night of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios.

DSCF1973

In addition of the spectacular light display…

and a hidden Purple Cat to find…

Found it!

Found it!

there were some special food items…

"Santa Mickey" Cupcakes

“Santa Mickey” Cupcakes

and cocktails to be had!

Holiday Cocktail Menu at High Octane Refreshments in the Studios

Holiday Cocktail Menu at High Octane Refreshments in the Studios

The Merry Margarita - nothing says the Holidays like Blue Curacao and a Glow Cube!

The Merry Margarita – nothing says the Holidays like Blue Curacao and a Glow Cube!

This would actually be the only Holiday Goodness we’d experience in the Parks for this year, but it wouldn’t be the last Disney Fun w would have in 2012.

The next Disney holiday decorations we’d see would be…

Atrium of the Disney Fantasy decorated for the holidays

Atrium of the Disney Fantasy decorated for the holidays (photo by Miss Bonnie)

on board the Disney Fantasy as we set sail for our second Disney Cruise of the year.

Pool area of the Disney Fantasy at night (photo by Miss Bonnie)

Pool area of the Disney Fantasy at night (photo by Miss Bonnie)

The Fantasy was perhaps even most spectacular than the Dream that we had sailed upon earlier in the year.

Tequila Seminar in the Meridian Bar

Tequila Seminar in the Meridian Bar (photo by Miss Bonnie)

From drink demos…

Beef Tenderloin with twp sauces at Palo

Beef Tenderloin with two sauces at Palo

to fine dining…

Arrrgghhh... come with me wench!

Arrrgghhh… come with me wench!

to the frivolity of Pirate Night…

Mistress of the Fantasy

Mistress of the Fantasy

there’s just way too much to cover about a Disney cruise to squeeze into this already-too-long recap… so someday I’ll try and and give you some more details…

Okay, so there you have it – a look back at 2012 from an Eating (and Drinking) Around the World perspective – hope you enjoyed!

Now what will 2013 hold? We’ll see soon as this year’s Marathon Weekend at WDW is just days away…

Back to the kitchen… and the starting line! See you soon!

Food & Wine Classic Banner in the lobby of the Dolphin Resort

This past weekend was the third (and I’ll go ahead and say now, most successful) incarnation of the Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic.

I’ll give you, Dear Dedicated Readers, a more in-depth look at our weekend there in a future post, but I thought I’d tempt/tease/allow your taste buds to live vicariously through some pictures of the foods served this past Friday and Saturday…

So let’s take a look at the eats!

Carved Prime Rib with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Horseradish Sauce from Shula’s Steakhouse

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sliders with Shredded Lettuce, Pickle Chips and Old Bay Aioli on a Sesame Roll from The Garden Grove

Texas-Style Beef Brisket with Fried Pickles and Brioche Puree from Cib’s Smokehouse

Smoked Pork Belly with Texas Toast and Baked Bean Foam from Cib’s Smokehouse

Custom Blended 2 oz. Burger on a Cheddar Cheese Roll with Truffled Aioli and Caramelized Onions from Fresh

Shrimp Cocktail Steam Rollers from bluezoo

Pan Seared Shrimp “n” Grits from bluezoo

Pork Carnitas with Brasied Pork, Sofrito and Pico de Gallo on Pita from Cabana Bar & Beach Club

Blackened Fish Taco from Cabana Bar & Beach Club

Assorted Desserts from pastry chef Laurent Branlard

Assorted Desserts from pastry chef Laurent Branlard

Falafel: Chick Pea Fritters with Tahini from the Fountain

Fried Calamari with Spicy Marinara Sauce from Il Mulino

Traditional Oysters Rockefeller with Creamy Spinach, House Bacon and Parmesan from Todd English

“Six Shooter”: Oyster Shooter with Bloody Cocktail, Horseradish, Celery, Corona, Lemon Foam and Old Bay and a Traditional Raw Oyster on the Half Shell with choice of sauce from Todd English

Crispy Fried Oysters with Old Bay from Todd English

“Frenchy” Oyster with Crème Fraiche, Hackleback Caviar, Pickled Onion and a  Quail Egg from Todd English

Hamachi Parfait with Crispy Rice Cake and Wasabi Tobiko from Chef Michael Mina

Dragon Roll with Crispy Shrimp, Tuna and Avocado from Kimonos

Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna from Kimonos

Okay… so there you have some food pics… but I can’t resist a couple more non-food shots…

as usual, the stalking of Celebrity Chefs continues (there will be more later)…

Yours truly with Emily Ellyn

and this weekend I got to meet the “Retro Rad” (and all-around-fabulous-babe) Emily Ellyn from the Next Food Network Star! I was a bit star-struck, but tried to hold it together… more on the celeb-chefs at this weekend’s Food & Wine Classic later… along with everything else…

Back to the kitchen…

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