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This past week saw the opening of the 2014 version of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and not surprisingly, we were there!

Promo filming going on in the new Puerto Rico area early on Thursday

Promo filming going on in the new Puerto Rico area early on Thursday

I was there on Thursday for the soft-opening day along with Papa Harry and Mama Ginny, and Miss Bonnie joined us for the festivities on Friday and Saturday.

New Patagonia booth before the opening

New Patagonia booth before the opening

I thought I’d share a few pics and initial thoughts on some of the new stuff at the festival, so let’s dig in, shall we?

Food & Wine display at Epcot entrance

Food & Wine display at Epcot entrance

The entrance display is much less elaborate this year than it has been in the past. All the elements look to be recycled from prior displays.

No bog here...

No bog here…

And in the area that formerly held the Ocean Spray cranberry bog sits a few more recycled items and a salad-tossing Mickey topiary.

If you need a brewed libation to start your tour of the food booths, you won’t find the craft beer kiosk in it’s usual location at the beginning of the World Showcase…

Craft Beer is located inside the Odyssey building this year

Craft Beer is located inside the Odyssey building this year

you’ll have to take a detour to the left and enter the Odyssey.

Pour me a beer... or four...

Pour me a beer… or four…

Inside the (thankfully!) air-conditioned space you’ll find ample tables and seating…

Beer Flight and Craft Beer Snack Mix

Beer Flight and Craft Beer Snack Mix

and, of course, beer (and there is something different about beer at the festival this year, more on that later…)! And this year some food items as well are being served alongside the brews.

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip (top) and Muffuletta Pinwheels with House-made Pickles

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip (top) and Muffuletta Pinwheels with House-made Pickles

I really liked the nicely spicy pimento cheese (must be the Southern Boy in me) while Bonnie loved the snack mix that’s served gratis with any beer purchase (oddly you get one nice size serving with a single 6 ounce brew, and the same amount with a flight…) and she also thought the pickles alongside the Muffuletta Pinwheel were perhaps the Best-Pickle-Ever!

Around the World Showcase there are two expanded/highlighted areas this year…

Main entrance to Puerto Rico area

Main entrance to Puerto Rico area

Puerto Rico sits in the area behind the Desserts and Champagne booth (Promenade Refreshments during the rest of the year)…

Brazil!

Brazil!

while Brazil has taken over the large area that has been home to the Belgium booth in recent years.

Seating area adjacent to the Brazil booth

Seating area adjacent to the Brazil booth

Colorful flags fly over the seating area and the new booth is covered in bright tiles…

Oddly, the sign above the booth says "Introduced 2014"... but there was a Brazil booth in 2013... and even before that...

Oddly, the sign above the booth says “Introduced 2014″… but there was a Brazil booth in 2013… and even before that…

A close-up view of some of the tiles that sure looks like, of all things, a Coelacanth! Would sure be more interesting if they were serving those instead of Tilapia! But then, I guess Coelacanth aren't exactly sustainable (and also from no-where-near Brazil...)...

A close-up view of some of the tiles that sure looks like, of all things, a Coelacanth! Would sure be more interesting if they were serving those instead of Tilapia! But then, I guess Coelacanths aren’t exactly sustainable (and also from no-where-near Brazil…)…

There were live musicians in both Brazil and Puerto Rico during the weekend… a very nice touch…

Guitarist in Brazil area

Guitarist in Brazil area

we’ll see if it lasts past the opening weekend.

Recipe, and a little "health note" posted at the Africa kiosk

Recipe, and a little “health note”, posted at the Africa kiosk

At several of the kiosks, the storage boxes have recipes from Robert Irvine printed on them.

Desserts & Champagne Menu

Desserts & Champagne Menu

For the first time in recent years, not all the bubbly beverages at the Desserts and Champagne booth were from the Moet & Chandon label…

This is what a $32 glass of Dom Perignon looks like

This is what a $32 glass of Dom Perignon looks like

Block & Hans

Block & Hans

In the American Adventure, Block & Hans has forsaken beers sales now for wine.

Block & Hans Menu

Block & Hans Menu

And getting back to beer…

Brewer's Collection Menu from 2013

Brewer’s Collection Menu from 2013

let’s look at the Brewer’s Collection menu from last year…

Brewer's Collection Menu from 2014

Brewer’s Collection Menu from 2014

and compare to this year… notice anything???

Yep, up until this year beer drinkers could chose from a 6 ounce, 12 ounce or even 22 ounce glass (and a 24 ounce flight of four 6 ounce taps), this year all festival beer locations are serving exclusively 6 ounce glasses, and the flights total 16 ounces (four 4 ounce glasses). When I queried a cast member if this was a method to keep the drunks a bit more in line (which it most certainly is), she gave me the well-prepared answer that the festival was intended to be a “sampling” event, and the smaller servings was simply going “back to the roots” of the event. Actually I think this is fine, I liked when they added the 6 ounce servings a few years ago exactly for the reason that it allowed me to sample more beers without getting too bloated or blotto (at least early in the day…). It’s also worth noting that when they first added the smaller servings that didn’t really jack the price for them (only about a quarter extra on average), and somewhat surprisingly they kept prices the same this year. Regular (year-round) beer locations, BTW are still serving 12 ounce beers.

Souvenir Wine Glasses

Souvenir Wine Glasses

Since they don’t now have a vehicle for selling the 22 ounce souvenir beer glasses, Disney has added a souvenir wine glass (for an extra $4) with a wine purchase at the kiosks (or you can just buy the glass if you like). The glasses are heavy plastic and hold about 8 ounces, they are sturdy and a reasonable size for home use, so not a bad price for a Food & Wine remembrance.

Cookbooks, mugs, towels and more...

Cookbooks, mugs, towels and more…

And don’t fall off your chair, but there is a ton of new merch for the 2014 festival! The cookbook this year features recipes from not only the Food & Wine Festival, but also ones from Flower & Garden and the Holidays around the World (so they will get to sell it year-round I imagine…).

The 2014 festival poster

The 2014 festival poster

Beers continue to be a big theme with “Brews Around the World” showing up on several pieces of merchandise, including tee shirts…

Front of "Brews..." Tee

Front of “Brews…” Tee

The backside of "Brews..."

The backside of “Brews…”

there’s even a women’s cut this year.

The ladies version

The ladies version

And yes, Dear Dedicated Readers, there was some food too…

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi and an O.K. Beer (I guess not a great beer, just an ok one...) from Poland

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi and an O.K. Beer (I guess not a great beer, just an ok one…) from Poland

so here’s some pics of some of the new items…

Mocequa de Pescado (Tilapia with Coconut Lime Sauce), Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread) and a Xingu Black Beer from Brazil

Mocequa de Pescado (Tilapia with Coconut Lime Sauce), Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread) and a Xingu Black Beer from Brazil

The tasty insides of the Pao de Queijo

The tasty insides of the Pao de Queijo

(you can find the recipe for these goodies in the post Let’s Cook! Pão De Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Puffs)

Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese and a Sam Adams Octoberfest

Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese and a Sam Adams Octoberfest from Hops & Barley

Ensalada de Carrucho (Conch Salad) and Medulla Light Beer from Puerto Rico

Ensalada de Carrucho (Conch Salad) and Medulla Light Beer from Puerto Rico

Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Coppola Su Yuen Reisling and Su Yuen Red Wines from China

Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Coppola Su Yuen Reisling and Su Yuen Red Wines from China

Griddled "Yard Bird" and Pepper Bacon Hash with an I-4 IPA and Eroica Riesling from the Farm Fresh booth

Griddled “Yard Bird” and Pepper Bacon Hash with an I-4 IPA and Eroica Riesling from the Farm Fresh booth

Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon from Scotland

Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon from Scotland

Escargot Tart in France

Escargot Tart in France

A trio from Japan (top to bottom): Tuna and Salmon Spicy Hand Roll, Chirashizushi (Salmon, Shrimp, Crab and Egg Omelet over Seaweed Salad and Rice), Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

A trio from Japan (top to bottom): Tuna and Salmon Spicy Hand Roll, Chirashizushi (Salmon, Shrimp, Crab and Egg Omelet over Seaweed Salad and Rice), Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Inside the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Inside the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Green Lip Mussels and a Kim Crawford Pinot Noir in New Zealand

Green Lip Mussels and a Kim Crawford Pinot Noir in New Zealand

And how was the food? Everything we tried was anywhere from good to great… The Sea Scallop from Ireland and the Bacon Hash from Farm Fresh were definitely our top two of the new dishes we tried this weekend, both rated a wish-I-could-have-more-right-now status. I liked the Slider with Pimento Cheese much more than I expected, and everything in Brazil was a winner… Nothing in Japan was transcendent, but all were good (with the Chirashizushi being the most interesting), and I’d gladly down any one of them again… the Conch Salad in Puetro Rico was very flavorful, but it was a very small portion of the salad atop quite a bit of rice… the small items in Craft Beers were all pretty good, with the Pimento Cheese being my favorite…

All in all, it was a great start to a record-long Epcot Food & Wine Festival! There’s still a lot of dishes to try, and we’ll have many other things to share and discuss over the next several weeks… so…

We’re back to the kitchen, and back soon to the Food & Wine Festival! See you soon!

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

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

Full "O" Hops, are we?

Full “O” Hops, are we?

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

Cheers!

Cheers! Everybody knows this guys name for sure!

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

Carbonated Quacker

Under pressure? A Carbonated Quacker?

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

Stout

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

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

Pin

Grumpy “Xtra Stout” Pin from several year ago

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

To cap it off...

To cap it off…

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

Think it’s time for a cold one…

 

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

Urban Farm EATS

Urban Farm EATS

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

Pickled Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Cream, Mizuna and Pistschios

Pickled Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Cream, Mizuna and Pistachios

First I tried the Pickled Beet Salad…

There's that goat cheese!

There’s that goat cheese!

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

Next up was the tilapia from the same booth…

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

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

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

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

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

The next stop was in China…

Vegetable Spring Roll

Vegetable Spring Roll

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

Kumquat info in the Florida Fresh area

Kumquat info in the Florida Fresh area

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

Florida Kumquat Pie

Florida Kumquat Pie

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

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

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Pretty much next door in Italy is the Primavera Kitchen…

Caprese

Caprese

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

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

 

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

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

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

same area the next week sans hot sauce...

same area the next week sans hot sauce…

well, not longer than six days it seemed…

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

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

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

Hanami Sushi

Hanami Sushi

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

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

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

Taste of Marrakesh Menu

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

Harissa Chicken Kebob with Couscous Salad

Harissa Chicken Kebob with Couscous Salad

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

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

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

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

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

Buttercup Cottage

Buttercup Cottage

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

Pork and Apple Sausage Roll with house-made Piccalilli

Pork and Apple Sausage Roll with house-made Piccalilli

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

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

Sand waiting to be sculpted on the opening day…

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

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and the results just a few days later…

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

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

The backside of sand sculpture...

The backside of sand sculpture…

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

Calendar

Cover of the Flower & Garden Calendar

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

Calender

Back of the calender showing the inside pages

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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!

Food & Wine Festival display at the main Epcot entrance with Spaceship Earth in the background

Food & Wine Festival display at the main Epcot entrance with Spaceship Earth in the background

The Best Time of the Year is here! The 2013 version of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is now open and in full swing! I (along with the usual suspects) was there for the opening weekend (including the soft opening/preview day), and of course Dear Dedicated Readers I have pics and comments to share with you! In Part One here I’m going to basically give you a “trip report” type post of some of the events of the first weekend, and in Part Two to come I’ll look closer at more of the food items and have some thoughts and comments on this years festival so far…  So without any further delay let’s dig in!

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Starting at the front of the park, I really like this year’s display with the Fantasia-inspired utensils…

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and the “cookbook” behind Mickey….

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even though you have to get at an angle to read all of it…

The Cranberry Bog

The Cranberry Bog

As you head towards World Showcase you once again encounter the popular cranberry bog, making it’s third consecutive appearance at the festival… more on the bog later…

Craft Beer Booth Menu

Craft Beer Booth Menu

And (thankfully) the first booth you encounter at the World Showcase is once again Craft Beers… sometimes you just need a beer to get you to that next booth all of 20 or so steps away! Where’s there’s…

A couple of the adult beverages available at the Hawaii booth

A couple of the adult beverages available at the Hawaii booth

more beer! Yea, beer!

Gift shops open early on the Thursday before the "official" opening of the Festival

Gift shops open early on the Thursday before the “official” opening of the Festival

All the cool kids know that even though the Festival officially opens on a Friday, most of the food booths will go through a test-run on the Thursday prior, so this year I made my way there for the preview day and met up with with Mama Ginny and Papa Harry to get an early start on the feasting.

Staff in Hawaii booth prepping for beer service... we offered to test for quality control but they were having none of our foolishness...

Staff in Hawaii booth prepping for beer service… we offered to test for quality control but they were having none of our foolishness…

In years past it seems a few booths would start to open up about 1 PM or so and then most of the rest (but not always all) would trickle open throughout the afternoon (and usually they shut down a bit early, about 8 PM), but this year was a bit different… we headed around World Showcase about 11 AM, planning on taking some pictures and just enjoying the day until we eventually came across some booths opening.

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As we passed the Refreshment Port (which is serving as one of the F & W booths this year, featuring the spiked Dole Whip and other pineapple goodies) we noticed activity inside…

Refreshment Port menu during the Food & Wine Festival

Refreshment Port menu during the Food & Wine Festival

I asked one of the ladies inside if they were ready to serve, and she answered in the affirmative! I asked if I would be the first one to be served, and when she again said yes, I ordered up the first boozy Dole Whip served at the festival! Papa Harry quickly came up and asked for the second spiked Dole Whip, and we all quickly dove into the icy, orangey, delights…

The very firat Ornge Dole Whip with Creme de Cacau served at the 2013 festival! Whoo-hoo! You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning!

The very first Orange Dole Whip with Creme de Cacao served at the 2013 festival! You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning! Whoo-hoo!

At the Flower & Garden Festival this past spring the first version of an alcohol-laced Dole Whip made it’s appearance to much happiness & joy (see the post: Flower & Garden… and Food & Wine!), and this version with Orange Dole Whip spiked with Creme de Cacao is a very tasty treat! As it’s still fairly toasty in Florida, this is a great boozy treat for festival-goers!

Canada Kiosk as yet un-opened..

Some activity at yet to open Canada Kiosk…

We made our way around the lagoon going past several booths that were still to open…

All's quiet on the Ireland front...

All’s quiet on the Ireland front…

with our past history at the Thursday soft-openings, we weren’t expecting too much activity or actual openings until early afternoon…

Setting up the queue in France...

Setting up the queue in France…

but as we passed by France and made it to the Belgium booth, lo and behold the queue was opened up just as we neared and we were welcomed to place our orders!

Belgium open for business!

Belgium open for business!

Here it was not even 11:30 and booths were opening to serve the early attendees (for contrast you can check out another preview-day escapade in the post Mission Impossible???).

Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and my first Stella of the festivel

Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and my first Stella of the festival

We ordered one each of the three waffles being served this year (the berry-topped version as in prior years, a chocolate-topped one, and my choice, a savory Potato and Leek Waffle topped with Braised Beef).

We continued our circuit around the World Showcase and sampled at many of the now-opened booths.

Chef Jens going last-minute instructions to the cast in the New Zealand kiosk

Chef Jens giving last-minute instructions to the cast in the New Zealand kiosk

Florida open for business

Florida open for business

By 1 PM the majority of the kiosks were serving…

Mama Ginny thought that the Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll in Germany was a real wiener!

Mama Ginny thought that the Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll in Germany was a real wiener!

and by 2 PM it seemed all were open.

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We continued to rotate around the World Showcase a couple of times…

A United Kingdom cast remember crafting a chalk welcome to the festival...

A United Kingdom cast remember crafting a chalk welcome to the festival…

The empty rectangle would eventually be filled in with a colourful Union Jack

The empty rectangle would eventually be filled in with a colourful Union Jack

tasting and toasting as we went… Mama Ginny and Papa Harry bade me farewell mid-afternoon and I took a bit of a resort break and returned in the evening for some more sampling… we’ll look more in detail at the food in Part Two of this post…

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On Friday, the official opening day of the festival, I started by checking out the Festival Center (which wasn’t open on Thursday).

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As I went around the Festival Center, I ran into a friend waiting in line for an upcoming food demo – he had an extra ticket which he offered up to me and I gladly accepted his generous offer (this was just one of several Magical Moments on this day… thanks again Richard!).

The ubiquitous Pam Smith (left) with Master Sommier Andrea Robinson

The ubiquitous Pam Smith (left) with Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson

I got to see wine expert Andrea Robinson (nee Immer) demo a really nice and easy salmon entree accompanied by lots of great wine advice (of course, coming from one of only eighteen female Master Sommeliers in the world).

Wasabi Pea-Crusted Salmon

Wasabi Pea-Crusted Salmon

The dish was paired with the delicious Eroica Riesling from Chateau Ste Michelle.

As I said my goodbyes and made my way back to World Showcase, I discovered a new addition to the American Adventure pavilion that had sprung up overnight…

Block & Hans

The new purveyor of specialty beers, Block & Hans

the small gazebo-shaped gift shop that had been shuttered had re-opened as Block & Hans, Purveyors of Fine American Ale.

Block & Hans Menu

Block & Hans Menu

I was told by the cast members working the shop that this was a permanent addition (or I assume at least as “permanent” as anything in WDW is…), and not just for the duration of Food & Wine. Yippee!

I made a couple of more booth stops and headed back to the resort to await Miss Bonnie’s arrival…

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter  and a Chardonnay from the Hops & Barley Market

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter and a Chardonnay from the Hops & Barley Market

We soon returned together to the World Showcase and met up with Mama Ginny and Papa Harry for a bit of music and even more dining…

The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog in the full glory of daylight

The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog in the full glory of daylight

and we then made our way towards the Cranberry Bog to see some of our friends frolic inside it… little did I know that the Magic of the day would continue into the evening…

Now if you’ve been to the festival in the past few years you’ve no doubt seen the Cranberry Bog… it popped up three years ago on the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase and has been a surprisingly huge hit with guests ever since… it’s basically a big above-ground swimming pool filled with water and, what else, cranberries… during the first weekend actual real-live cranberry farmers are slogging around in the bog telling guests about the tart little fruit (Disney cast members perform that task thereafter).

Last year the bog hosted a media event on the first Friday of the festival with several well-known Disney bloggers, pod casters, Orlando-area food bloggers and members of the traditional media donning waders and getting their chance to play in the bog (you can see some pics, etc from the bog that year in the post Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part One).

As we looked on, my Eating (and Drinking) Around the World press agent (aka Miss Bonnie) decided to take charge and see about getting yours truly into the Bog… after all I’ve been blogging about the bog haven’t I?

Craisin Glazed pork Belly with White Cheddar Maple Grits... a-freaking-amazing...

Craisin Glazed pork Belly with White Cheddar Maple Grits… a-freaking-mazing…

Well, yes Dear Dedicated Readers, we were soon escorted into a private reception area filled with food stations (all featuring cranberries of course) and beverages. After hobnobbing with the other guests and sampling the food there we were taken to don our waders and have our turn inside the Bog! We did have to delay our start for a bit as we downed our third portion of pork belly… don’t judge…

Inside the Bog having our photo taken by a real-live cranberry farmer (photo courtesy Papa Harry)

Inside the Bog having our photo taken by a real-live cranberry farmer (photo courtesy Papa Harry)

Once inside the Bog we were served cranberry cocktails and snacked upon several cranberry-laced edibles.

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Seared Free-Range Chicken with Craisin Moonshine Pearls

Seared Free-Range Chicken with Craisin Moonshine Pearls

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All in all it was a very magical end to a magical day….

Cheers!  Photo courtesy Papa Harry

Cheers!
Photo courtesy Papa Harry

For a couple of other looks at the Bog Experience check out these posts by a couple of Orlando-based buddies of mine: Ricky at Tasty Chomps and Julius at Droolius.

Saturday we returned to Epcot (big shock) and continued to sample some of the goodies…

Pineapple Fritters from the Refreshment Port

Pineapple Fritters from the Refreshment Port

and we eventually headed to the Festival Center so that Miss Bonnie could check out this years merchandise…

One of the new tee-shirts this year

One of the new tee-shirts this year

and also so we could take part in one of our favorite activities: stalking Celebrity Chefs.

Chef Carla Hall

Chef Carla Hall

On this day there was a meet-and-greet with the adorable, effervescent and very tall Chef Carla Hall of Top Chef and more recently the ABC show The Chew.

The backside of Carla...

The backside of Carla…

We were the very last people in line… Carla was spending plenty of time with her fans and stayed well past the prescribed cut-off time… when we got to meet her she jumped up out of her chair and gave us both a huge hug. She thanked us for waiting so long, and of course we thanked her for staying! We chatted for quite a while, and she (nor any of the attending cast members) didn’t rush us through to finish up – she seemed truly glad to be there and to meet us.

I mentioned to her that they should bring The Chew to the World to film some episodes during Food & Wine (it is an ABC property, owned by Disney, after all) and she heartily agreed.

As fun and nice as she appears on TV, in person Carla is all that times 10! It was well worth spending some time in line to have a few minutes with her.

Somebody said something funny...

Somebody said something funny…

The only thing I regret is not asking her about those freaky big-head commercials with her and Rocco Dispirito… I just don’t get them…

So Dedicated Readers, let’s call this an end to Part One… in Part Two we’ll look at more food! And more drink!

Back to the kitchen, see you soon!

DSCF4765

Yes Dear Dedicated Readers, Eating (and Drinking) Around the World was at the opening of the 2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and yes, there will be a full post chronicling the events of those fun first days, but for now I’m going to give you a few pics… an appetizer, and a teaser, for the post to come…

Menu from the new Scotland kiosk... how was the faux Haggus? You'll just have to wait for that...

Menu from the new Scotland kiosk… how was the faux Haggis? You’ll just have to wait for that…

Spiked Dole Whip from the Refreshment Port

Spiked Dole Whip from the Refreshment Port

Potato and Leek Waffle topped with Beef Stew from Belgium... and a Stella of course!

Potato and Leek Waffle topped with Beef Stew from Belgium… and a Stella of course!

There's nothing wrong about a booth being sponsored by hot sauce!

There’s nothing wrong about a booth being sponsored by hot sauce!

Especially when you have Tabasco on tap!

Especially when you have Tabasco on tap!

Mahi with Singa Sauce... a favorite from the Singapore booth returns...

Mahi with Singa Sauce… a favorite from the Singapore booth returns…

Merch...

Merch…

merch...

merch…

and more merch... including Mamma Ginny's favorite bear!

and more merch… including Mamma Ginny’s favorite bear!

Kimchi Dog and the rocket-fuel known as Soju from South Korea - despite he unfortunate name, the dog is going to be a huge hit this year!

Kimchi Dog and the rocket-fuel known as Soju from South Korea – despite the unfortunate name the dog is going to be a huge hit this year!

Cheese, Gromit, cheese!

Cheese, Gromit, cheese!

Spicy Hand Roll and Sake from Japan

Spicy Hand Roll and Sake from Japan

Best face-paint ever!

Best face-paint ever!

Did someone say Cranberry Bog???

Did someone say Cranberry Bog???

You can't eat this... Cranberry Glazed Pork Belly with Cheese Grits  at the Ocean Spray media event

You can’t eat this… Cranberry Glazed Pork Belly with Cheese Grits at the Ocean Spray media event… holy crap…

Spiked Jamaican Coffee... available hot or frozen... ja mon!

Spiked Jamaican Coffee… available hot or frozen… ja mon!

And of course there's celebrity chefs...

And of course there’s celebrity chefs…

this weekend we got to meet the a-freaking-adorable Carla Hall!

this weekend we got to meet the a-freaking-adorable Carla Hall!

Hungry yet? If not…

Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms and Arugula from New Zealand

Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms and Arugula from New Zealand

Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Souffle from Cheese kiosk

Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Souffle from Cheese kiosk

The freaking-amazing Lamb and Garlic Shrimp from Australia

The flippin’-amazing Lamb and Garlic Shrimp from Australia

so there’s your teaser… will be back soon with more details!

For now we’re back to the kitchen… but in a few days we’ll also be back (again) to Epcot for the Food & Wine Festival! Hope to see you there! If not, we’ll give you the lowdown here!

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