Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Disney- Wine Pairing at Restaurant Marrakesh

There are special food and beverage pairings offered during Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. We knew that during our trip, we had to do at least one.  After going over the various options, we decided to go with the Morocco food and wine pairing at Epcot's Restaurant Marrakesh. The decision was based on our love of Moroccan cuisine, the fact that it was one of the least expensive, and the chance to taste Moroccan wines which you can't find in stores.

The Moroccan pavilion is my favorite at Epcot. I love the architecture, the tiles, and the fountains. We've always wanted to eat at Restaurant Marrakesh, but somehow it always got bumped for something else.

We arrived to the restaurant and were invited to sit in the lobby area while the rest of the guests arrived.  While we waited, a server came around offering tiny glasses of Ksar Blanc.

They were adorable. I love tiny things.

Once everyone checked in, we were lead into the main dining room. Wow. It's beautiful, with the soaring ceilings, dangling chandeliers, and intricate designs.

We were a little nervous at first. Since there were only two of us, it was evident that we would be seated at a table with strangers.  This could either enhance the experience, or totally ruin it. Luckily, we were seated with a brother and sister, and the brother's adult son. They were from Nebraska. They were wonderful people. We ended up having a lot in common. They shared stories about what it is like living in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska, and we shared with them what it is like living near cities. We had great conversations, and even shared around pictures of our pets. It's nice when people understand, and don't think it's crazy that your phone contains multiple pet photos. Their dog was named Nacho. We happily listened to Nacho stories. 

For each course, the chef came out and explained the dish in detail.

After the chef talked, the sommelier came to the center of the room to describe the wine that went with the course.

First up was a Shrimp Tangine with Chermoula Sauce. The shrimp were nice and big. The sauce was spicy enough to enjoy without being too spicy. It was paired with a Les Trois Domaines Blanc.

For the second course, we were presented with Chicken with Fresh Grapes and Ginger. The chicken was fall off the bone tender, with a ginger sauce that was not overwhelming. If the piece of paper sitting in front of me didn't say that the ovals on the plate were grapes, I would have sworn they were olives. The way the grapes cooked down in the sauce gave them the exact texture of a sweet olive. I could have eaten a whole plate of them. The chicken was paired with a Les Trois Domaines Rouge.

Finally we had a Spiced Lamb Kefta Kabab, with Cucumber, Mint, Cilantro, Chilis, and feta cheese. It was paired with an Amazigh Rouge.  

I wasn't sure how I would like this dish. I am not a kefta fan. I usually find it dry and bland.  I'm not sure what magic wand Disney uses, but this kefta was moist, juicy and flavorful. I realize now that it is not kefta's fault, I've just never had good kefta before. It's yummy. 

We enjoyed all of the dishes. 

One of the guys at our table was a vegetarian, so he had his own set of dishes that looked very tasty too. 

The wines were okay, but not sensational. 

The Le Trois Domaines Rouge was probably the one I liked best. They just didn't pop. They weren't wines we would choose to buy and bring home. 

Now I'm not someone who complains about Disney prices. It is what it is and most of the time I'm happy to dole out whatever for a nice experience. I must admit though, that for what we paid for the meal, I was surprised that it didn't include a dessert. I mean would it have killed them to throw in a piece of baklava?  Okay maybe I was just really craving  baklava being in a Moroccan restaurant and all. 

We ended up buying baklava at Morocco's Food and Wine Festival kiosk.  

Mmmmmm, baklava. 

If you are going to Disney World specifically for Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, then I think doing one of the food and beverage pairings is worth the extra splurge. There's not just wine, some have beer pairings, or a wine and beer combo. We had nice company, good food, and it was a nice relaxing respite from all of the park hustle and bustle. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Disney World- Extra Nibbles

Golden Oak Outpost - Magic Kingdom 

Since our lunch at Be Our Guest was substantial, we didn't feel like we needed a full
dinner. Still, we wanted a little something before the fireworks.  As we started wandering around, we noticed that Golden Oak Outpost was open. We pounced! Golden Oak Outpost is one of those Disney World eateries that has a schedule not even Agents Mulder and Scully could figure out.  It is closed a lot, then at times it mysteriously opens.

The Golden Oak Outpost's main menu item is waffle fries. We had a difficult time deciding what toppings we wanted on our waffle fries. In the end we decided that we should get two and share them.


First, we tried the poutine waffle fries. They were great. The ridges in the fries made a nice holder for the tasty gravy and the cheese curds. Someday I'll get to Canada to try authentic poutine so I can accurately compare.

Second, we tried the BLT waffle fries. These babies were fully loaded. With all of the bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing, it was difficult to tell if there were actually fries underneath. They too were delicious. I think the important thing is to tuck right into your fries as soon as you get them, because they start to lose their tastiness once they get cold. 

The Brown Derby Lounge - Hollywood Studios 

I try not to write about a place more than once, but we really love The Brown Derby Lounge at Hollywood Studios.  

Originally we had a reservation at The Brown Derby, but after only being able to snag a late in the afternoon Midway Mania fastpass, and having to get to the Magic Kingdom in time for the Ferrytale Fireworks Cruise, we didn't know if we would have time to squeeze in a full, fancy dinner experience. We however were not disappointed to eat at the Lounge again.

On our last visit it was too hot to order adult beverages. Thanks to cooler weather, we  thought we'd fancy it up with some cocktails. I got the Grapefruit Cake martini. It was one of the best drinks I've had.

Shannon got the martini flight, which is composed of three different mini/sample martinis. It probably equated to about one and a half full sized martinis. Shannon thought that the martini flight made riding Tower of Terror extra fun.

Shannon isn't a big fan of hard boiled eggs, so it took some convincing to get him to agree to order the "famous" Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb salad. To his relief, they don't toss all of the salad ingredients together. Each ingredient was segregated into its own little section. I was also happy because I could scoop up all of the egg for myself.  It's a pretty great salad. It's nice and refreshing. The dressing is excellent. I think you have to give it a try at least once. 

We ordered the sliders again, this time taking our previous server's advice. We switched out the duck burger in favor of another beef burger. This way we each got our own little burger. They were as good as we remembered, as were the homemade potato chips.

Finally, we ordered the Crispy Bites. This might have been based on the fact that we thought "crispy bites" was fun to say. 

The bites were yummy, but the real stars of this show were the sauces.  Just give me a few bowls of sauces and a spoon, and I think I would be happy. 

Casey's Corner - Magic Kingdom

I mentioned in a previous post that we planned on making a meal out of the offerings at The Epcot Food and Wine Festival on our last day. Alas our plan was thwarted by a constant downpour. I didn't have a back up plan, but we had to eat something before leaving for our flight home. Several of the blogs and podcasts I listen to extol the virtues of Casey's Corner. Since we had to pass it on our way out of the park, we thought we'd give it a try.

Casey's Corner is themed to Disney's animated short, Casey at the Bat. Hot Dogs dominate Casey's menu. Most people come for the corn dog nuggets, but we don't like corn dogs. We did spot a favorite treat however, chili cheese dogs. 

This was a behemoth of a dog, with perfectly slopped on chili, and an ample coating of cheese. If you are going to clog your arteries, and pack in a heap of calories, you want it to be worth it. This meal was worth it. We savored every gooey, gloppy bite.  Even the fries were good. 

We also got to enjoy some lunch time music. Such a nice, extra, Disney World touch. 

Though I haven't been to every Magic Kingdom quick service restaurant, at this point, Casey's Corner has claimed my number one spot. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I Live Out my Middle School Disney Romantic Ideals

The trifecta of movies known as the Disney Renaissance movies, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, came out during my middle school years. The idyllic romantic moments in each movie made quite an impression on my pre-teen and early teen romantic sensibilities. It came of course as an utter disappointment to me that middle school boys had no interest in twirling me around a ballroom or floating in a blue lagoon.  To be honest, boys pretty much had no interest in me until I got to college. In the end it all worked out. 

Now I’m a happily married adult, going to Disney World for my anniversary. I asked, and my husband agreed to help me live out my middle school Disney romantic ideals.

The Little Mermaid

I vividly remember seeing The Little Mermaid for the first time at a sleepover. 
This movie gets me, I thought as Ariel belted out Part of Your World. I immediately acquired a VHS copy and watched it almost every night during that summer.

Of course my favorite romantic moment is the Kiss the Girl scene. The fireflies, the singing fish spitting out little fountains; the secluded blue lagoon. It seemed the pinnacle of romance. I'm pretty sure the scene contributed to my lifelong adoration of blue water.  

Disney World did their best to recreate the scene in the Voyage of The Little Mermaid attraction. 

I was able to successfully kiss my husband while our clam shell glided through the blue lagoon. The problem is that the ride is extremely dark, and when you're cloistered in the clam shell, it is darker still, making the moment impossible to document. A generous park guest was happy to assist with a re-enactment of the moment in brighter circumstances.

Beauty and The Beast

I thought nothing could be as great as The Little Mermaid, then I saw Beauty and the Beast. Ariel got me, but Belle was me. Belle is still my favorite Disney Princess, and Beauty and The Beast is my favorite Disney animated movie (yes it does have a lot to do with that library). It is the movie I have seen the most times in a movie theater, seven. I still get goosebumps when The Beast and Belle float around the beautiful ballroom.

I was overjoyed when we finally procured a reservation at the Be Our Guest restaurant (having failed to do so during our previous trip). 

The ordering process at Be Our Guest is a mixture of fascinating and unsettling. You walk up to a touch screen, and tap, tap, tap, your order is complete; neat and convenient. You then take a seat and eventually your food magically appears. The servers are able to locate you via your magic band; just a little disconcerting.

The restaurant is a recreation of The Beast’s castle. 

The ballroom is spot on with golden chandeliers set against a ceiling mural, complete with winged putties (Thank you Mrs. Maines for teaching us that term). 

The enormous windows look out onto a perpetual winter landscape. Snow flakes fall gently to the ground. 

The details are marvelous. 

The one downside, the ballroom is vast, noisy, and busier than Grand Central Station. Servers are constantly pushing food carts, or feverishly clearing tables. Kids are scampering around, and adults are attempting to remember where they were told the silverware was located. Not quite the romantic location I envisioned. Certainly there was no way to take a twirl around the ballroom without either seriously injuring ourselves, or others. We had to settle for a quick picture, 

and decided to enjoy our lunch in the less frantic west wing.

The west wing is the coolest of the dining areas at Be Our Guest. Every so often there is thunder and lighting, and the ripped painting of Prince Adam flickers between Adam and the Beast.  

The West Wing is also where the Rose Gallery is located. Like the thunder, every so often, a petal falls from the rose. 

For our meals, I ordered the slow braised pork. 

Shannon got the roast beef sandwich. 

Both of our lunches were yummy, though the pork was on the salty side so might not be the best for people who have to watch their sodium intake. 

Of course we had to get The Master’s cupcake. It's topped with the “grey stuff”. Yes, it was indeed delicious.

Having lunch at Be Our Guest was everything my Beauty and the Beast loving middle- school- self wanted it to be.


I love Aladdin, but it didn’t capture my fancy enough to bump Beauty and The Beast from my number one spot. The romantic scene and the Whole New World song however, is my favorite romantic scene of the three movies.  Always having a love for adventure, even as a teen, how could I not be completely captivated over being able to travel and see the world on a woven common household object? 

I assumed I could realistically find myself in a lagoon, minus the singing fish of course. I certainly could visit a ballroom, but I doubted any of my junior high classmates were harboring an enchanted carpet in their lockers. The closest that I will ever come to actually flying on a magic carpet is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin attraction.

 I had to slightly adjust my imagination to envision that we were seeing the sights and wonders of the world and not just whizzing past the same few fabricated buildings over and over. 

It was actually a fun ride, and as the breeze ruffled my hair, I connected to the middle school girl who longed to see the world.

I had a great time re-enacting, to the best of my ability, the scenes that I thought were the utmost in romance when I was a young lady. A young lady who was just beginning to learn what romance was. More than floating in a fake lagoon, strolling through an ornate ballroom, or flying in the air on a carpet, perhaps the most romantic experience was actually having a husband who was willing to amuse me by allowing himself to be dragged around to all of these attractions. Someone willing to help me live out my middle school romantic ideals is truly my Prince.

Extra Note: While we were having our adventures that day, a sky writer flew over Disney World. What the plane wrote could not have been more perfect if we planned it. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Noshing at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

I'm sure by now it comes as no surprise that we like to eat. Perhaps a better description is that we like to taste. We don't mind a nice hearty entree, but what we really love are tapas, or food trucks, or other opportunities to have a little nibble of a variety of things.  

For years I've listened to Disney podcasts go over every manusha of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. I vowed that one day my time would come. This past October, I got to see what all the hubbub was about. I attended the 20th anniversary of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. 

First things first, we visited the Festival Center (we did this twice, once at night and once during the day). 

The Festival Center was housed in the former Wonders of Life Pavilion. 

We picked up our Food and Wine passports. 

The passport lists every kiosk and the dishes that you can get at said kiosks.  Each country/kiosk has their own stamp. Once you order a dish, you can get a cast member to stamp your passport, just like an actual passport. Challenge accepted, we thought on the first night. 

The Festival Center was filled with shops and places where various food related seminars were held.  The most fun part was the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience.  

They had neat chocolate sculptures.

There was a place where you could fill a bag with a myriad of flavors, some we've never seen before, of Ghirardelli chocolate squares.  It was one flat price per bag so people were using some interesting engineering skills, trying to figure out how to fit the most squares into their bags. We said that we would come back on our last day and get a bag. Sadly it never happened. 

Once we had our passports in hand, and chomped our one free chocolate square to build up our energy, we set out on our eating world tour. 

We sampled food on three different days. 

For those in the Food and Wine know, the Canadian cheese soup from the Canada kiosk is a must. 

I agree. It was delicious. Sometimes cheese soup can be a little bland, but this soup had a nice tang. It had a perfect consistency. Not too thick, not watery. 

Our next bite was the Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise. 

The pork slider was good, but not great.

With all of those flavors going on, you would think it would be more...flavorful. It was more on the blah side. The spicy mayonnaise wasn't spicy at all. The meat was nice and juicy, so it did have that going for it, but it wasn't my favorite dish of the festival. 

Although I was tempted to finally try haggis (someday I'll give it a whirl), we skipped the traditional Scottish dish in favor of the seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon. I didn't have high expectations for a scallop cooked in a booth. I was pleasantly surprised. 

This tied with the cheddar soup as my favorite Food and Wine dish. The scallop was cooked perfectly.

The bacon went well with the scallop and the spinach-cheddar gratin was gooey-creamy goodness. I could have eaten about five. 

We got two of the items at the Ireland kiosk. First we got the cheese platter that came with Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, and Skellig.

Shannon was more interested in the cheese plate than I was, but I'm glad he insisted on getting it in the end.  The cheeses were quite yummy. 

We also got the lobster and seafood fisherman's pie. This was hearty and filled to the brim with the bounty of the sea.  One warning however, you want to open it up and give it a few minutes, otherwise you will be greeted with a mouthful of molten seafood lava. 

Ireland had my favorite view of all of the kiosks we visited. 

Farm Fresh
At this kiosk we sampled the loaded mac n’ cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers, and green onions.

I really liked this dish.  The pepper bacon and the green onions made it wonderfully zippy. While I thought it had a fine amount of cheese, Shannon felt that the mac and cheese was not cheesy enough. This dish caused us to have a lively debate on what constitutes enough cheesiness. 

While there were plenty of drinking teams?... at Food and Wine, wearing their matching t-shirts, and attempting to drink around the world, we didn't partake in much of the wine part of the Food and Wine Festival. We did get the hard cider flight at the Farm Fresh kiosk however.  

I liked the pear cider the best, and the raspberry the least. The raspberry had the faint taste of cough medicine.  

Chew Lab
Out of all of the desserts at the festival, I wanted to try the dessert from the Chew Lab the most. The dessert was a liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel.  Sure, maybe it's a little gimmicky, but a dessert made using liquid nitrogen is still pretty cool (no pun intended).  

The truffle, once frozen, tasted like ice cream. The truffle part was tasty, but the highlight was the whisky caramel. Yum. 

Our intent was to spend our final day at Disney World noshing on as many of the other festival dishes as we could fit in our bellies. Poland, Patagonia, and New Zealand were just a few of the stamps we planned on collecting.  We made our way to the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning to ride a few of our favorites one last time, then we planned on hopping on the monorail to Epcot.

While walking in Fantasyland, the sky grew ominous.

While we made our way through Frontierland, the heavens opened to poured buckets. At first we thought it was one of those short Florida rain bursts, but the rain continued, and continued. I had enough trouble keeping my churro dry, and the Magic Kingdom has many places to hide under cover.  

All of the Food and Wine kiosks are completely out in the open. Once you get your food, there aren't a lot of ways to keep it dry.  The rain didn't stop until about an hour before we had to leave, so we ended up spending our entire last day at the Magic Kingdom instead of Epcot. So much for collecting all of the stamps. 

We had a fun time exploring the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. The food was good, but I can't necessarily say it was amazing. There wasn't anything that made me want to buy a ticket for next year because I just had to taste it again. If we happen to go to Disney World during the festival, it would be an added bonus, but we don't intend to plan another trip specifically around the event.