Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2013: Australia

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Walking along from Argentina, we hop across the Pacific and land in Australia. And it’s definitely worth the trip!

Australia booth Epcot Food and Wine

Down Under

The Australia booth has a lovely variety of dishes to try. First, there’s Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle and Rapini. Sadly we missed this dish. So little time, so much to eat…

Besides, we had to leave room for one of our favorites from last year’s Food & Wine fest, the Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies. (That’s potato chips in case you were wondering.) Just as scrummy as last year.

Grilled Lamb Chop Australia Booth Epcot Food and Wine

Everything’s better with potato chips

I know many people were bemoaning the disappearance of a festival favorite – the Lamington. If you’re one of these folks, take heart – the new Pavlova (Crispy Meringue Shell with Fresh Berries and Vanilla Custard) is a real winner.

Pavlova Australia Booth Epcot Food and Wine

Hard to eat, but worth the trouble

I’m a fan of custard-based desserts, and the custard here is really spot-on. The meringue is very crunchy and melts in your mouth, like astronaut ice cream. It’s a little difficult to eat with plastic utensils while perched on a bench, but it’s totally worth the hassle. Probably could have done without the slightly less than perfect berries. Not sure that Driscoll’s is doing themselves any favors by sponsoring Food & Wine fest.

Beverages are a Pinot Grigio and Merlot from Rosemount Estate, Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay, and a Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz. I’d probably go with the Penfolds.

Tomorrow we’ll hop back across the pond for our next stop, Mexico!

 

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2013: Argentina

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Continuing our trip around the World (Showcase), we arrive in Argentina, land of beef and malbec. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Argentina booth Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Would you like beef or beef?

Beef, please! First, let’s try the Beef Empanada.

Beef Empanada Argentina Epcot Food and Wine

Baked pocket of yum

I was pleasantly surprised with the beef empanada. I skipped this last year, frankly because we have an Argentinian restaurant right down the street from our house that makes THE BEST beef empanadas on the planet. Next time you’re in Arlington, MA, go to Tango. But if you won’t be hanging out in Arlington any time soon, these are pretty good. The crust was nice and flaky, and the filling well-spiced with some nice currants for sweetness and pine nuts for crunch. Overall a pretty tasty snack.

The better option however is the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.

Grilled Beef Skewer at Argentina Epcot Food and Wine

Like a yummy little meal.

If you like herbs, and garlic, you’ll like this. The meat is not really the star since it’s covered with so much chimichurri, but that sauce is awesome. And I really like the boniato puree. If you haven’t had it, boniato is also known as white sweet potato. Its flavor is not nearly as sweet as a typical orange sweet potato – more of a subtle sweetness that makes it taste really homey and satisfying.

Drinks at the Argentina booth are limited to wines: Terrazas Reserva Torrontas or Malbec, Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut, and Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon. I like the Malbec just fine, but can’t really understand the appeal of walking around on a hot Florida day drinking red wine.

My verdict? Argentina continues to be a solid (if a little staid) offering at Food & Wine. Would love to see them branch out to something new next year!

Things I’m looking forward to at Epcot Food & Wine 2013

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…That’s right, we’re approaching my favorite season at Walt Disney World, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! For 2013 the festival runs from September 27 – November 11. And I’m incredibly excited, because I just booked my trip! Besides, it’s Wordless Wednesday blog hop time, and the theme is “M”. So my M is for Mmmmmm….

This will be my fourth trip to F&W and I’m starting to feel like I know my way around the festival (a little). There is so much to see and do (and eat and drink!) that it can be hard to truly take it all in the first time you visit. So planning for this visit I’m finding myself really looking forward to eating some past favorites, and getting excited to try some of the things I missed last time as well as the new additions.

So here are some of the things I’m really looking forward to, booth by booth. Not all of the booths mind you – I’m not really looking forward to all of them. Just most. For a full menu listing, check out the excellently curated list at the Disney Food Blog.

Africa:

There’s a Brown Elephant cocktail made with Amarula, milk, and Coke. YUM! I bet it pairs beautifully with the delicious Paneer and Spinach pocket that is returning this year. Loved that pocket!

Spinach and Paneer Pocket at Africa booth

Spicy veggie goodness

Argentina:

Mmmm…Argentinian beef. The beef skewer with chimichurri was mighty delicious last year. It’s making a reappearance – and pairs perfectly with a nice Terrazas Reserva Malbec.

Beef with chimichurri at the Argentina booth

Super tender and garlicky

Australia:

Ooooh, that lamb chop.

Lamb chop from Australia booth

Loved those potato chip crunchies

Brazil:

This year they’ll have a frozen Caipirinha with LeBlon Cachaça. Sign me up!

Canada:

More beef? Yes, please! The “Le Cellier” Filet of Beef with mushrooms and truffle butter sauce is one of the few items we went back for seconds on.

Filet of Beef Canada Booth

I’ll eat anything in a truffle butter sauce

Cheese:

Last year I was pretty disappointed with the fondue at the Cheese stand, though the cheese plate was delish. This year they’re offering an almond crusted blue cheese soufflé with fig jam. Sounds like it could be tough to pull off, but I’m willing to try!

Craft Beers:

I love beer, and can get most of these down at my local shop. But I’ll probably try out the Fall Fest from the Abita Brewing Company. I’m really partial to Abita beers, and I haven’t had this one yet.

Desserts & Champagne:

Skip the desserts. (Trust me on this one.) But I’ll be glad to grab a glass of Möet & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé. So civilized!

Giant champagne class at Epcot Food & Wine

The new park icon?

France:

Somehow last time we totally skipped the France booth. I think we were just too full by the time we made it back there. This time I’m determined to try both the escargots and the Boeuf Bourguignon.

Mexico:

I wish the wonderful taco with pork carnitas and chicharones that we had at the Flower & Garden festival this Spring were back, but alas, it’s not on the list. However there is a Taco de Ribeye with Salsa Chipotle that sounds yummy. But mostly I just want a mango-habanero margarita. Nice!

New Zealand:

Venison sausage with pickled mushrooms, baby arugula and black currant reduction might be the most unusual sounding dish in the whole festival. So of course I must eat that!

Poland:

Last year I once again made the mistake of ordering the pierogi. It’s truly awful. So this year, I’m going to try the zapiekanki which seems to be a cheese bread with toasted mushrooms and caramelized onion served with a house-made ketchup. I’ve heard good things, so it’s going on the list. They’ve also got a drink that sounds intriguing – Frozen Szarlotka. It’s supposed to taste like frozen apple pie. Sounds good to me!

Pierogi at Poland booth

These pierogi may look good, but they’re like little gluey rocks. Don’t bother.

Refreshment Port:

The Refreshment Port will have new offerings for the Food & Wine festival this year, many which feature Dole pineapple. I think I’ll skip the fried pineapple fritters, thanks. And some of you may recall how disappointed I was with the Dole Whip with rum at the Flower & Garden festival. But I’m assuming they’ve learned from their mistakes, so I’m looking forward to trying the new concoction – the Orange Dole Whip with Creme de Cacao. Sounds like it might be a little better conceived – hopefully the execution will be good.

Scotland:

New this year! I’m so intrigued by this entire menu, but especially the Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties. So glad to see another vegetarian option! The Scottish salmon sounds lovely too, as does the dessert – a banana/toffee tart. I’m surprised to find out that bananas are indigenous to Scotland… maybe I shouldn’t over think this one. There’s also a Glenfiddich Scotch flight and they’re serving one of my new favorite beers, Innis & Gunn Original. Thanks, Merida, for being popular enough to inspire both an Adventures by Disney tour and a new booth at F&W.

South Korea:

Kimchee dog with spicy mustard sauce. Sounds like the funkiest food on the planet and I must have one.

And saving the best for last, the one dish that I’ve craved all year and can’t wait to try again:

Terra:

Vegan Chili Colorado with House-Made Chips and Cashew Cheese. No joke, this was my absolute favorite dish at last year’s festival and I can not WAIT to eat it again.

Vegan Chili Colorado from the Terra booth

Who would have thunk it? Vegan beef made fabulous

Whew – so that’s it. I’m only at the show for two days this year, so I have no idea how I’m going to possibly eat and drink all of this in two days. I’m working on talking my BFF and Food and Wine Partner in Crime into coming on the trip again. We’re going to need the extra mouth.

So what about you? Planning to visit Food & Wine this year? What do you look forward to? Are you shocked by some of my omissions? Leave me a comment!

Focused on the Magic

Replicating Disney Snacks at home – Frozen Banana Attempt

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You may have seen my prior attempt at making Scotch Eggs, a la the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot. Well these past few 90+ degree days in New England have felt like August in Orlando, and reminded me of one of my favorite snacks to grab while in Disney – Frozen Bananas! (Here’s an adorable picture of Disney blogger Suzannah from Zannaland.com enjoying a frozen banana back in the ’70s. Too cute!)

My first experience with a frozen banana (that sounds wrong…) was at Disney’s California Adventure in 2005. It was my daughter’s first trip to Disney, and it was her 4th birthday. I was still zealously careful about what she ate at that point (No junk food for my kid! Yeah, right…) So when I saw the frozen bananas, they seemed like the perfect treat. The version with no chocolate or peanuts, of course.

So yesterday on a whim, and without instructions, I decided to try my hand at making them. I have bananas. I have a freezer. How hard could it be? Well, not very hard at all as it turns out, but the result was not exactly like being in Disney. But that’s OK.

Advice – start with less-ripe bananas. I used what was on hand, and they were a bit softer than ideal, and a little harder to work with.

What you’ll need:

  • Bananas
  • Something to skewer them with. I suggest chop sticks or cake-pop sticks. The thin bamboo skewers you might have around for the grill are too thin and won’t hold the weight of the banana.
  • Plastic wrap

Bananas and chopsticks

First, remove the stem of the banana, keeping the peel on.

Then, skewer the banana, pushing the stick as far as you can go before hitting the curve. You don’t want the stick to poke out.

Skewering the banana

Skewering the banana

Next, peel the banana, and wrap in plastic. I like the kind that’s more like sticky wax paper. Be sure to make them airtight to keep them from turning yellowish-brown.

Wrapping the banana in plastic

Wrapping the banana in plastic

Finally, pop them in the freezer, and wait a few hours. I placed them in the ice tray, hoping that would speed up the freezing process.

Bananas in the freezer

Freezing the bananas

Finally, take them out and enjoy!

Frozen Banana

Frozen Banana

At this point, you could take them out and dip them in Magic Shell to cover with chocolate. Or, you could get fancy and make a chocolate ganache to dip them into…

Not a bad use of bananas that are about to get too ripe! Normally I throw them into the freezer (unpeeled), and defrost when time to make banana bread.

Another word to the wise – eat them right away. Defrosted bananas get mushy fast.

Have you tried to make Disney treats at home? Share your story in the coments!

Comfort, Convenience and Charm at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

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I admit I’m a sucker for the Disney Deluxe resorts, and it had been a little while since I’ve stayed in a Moderate.

But earlier this year I traveled to Orlando on business and needed a 1-night hotel stay outside of our convention hotel that still fit within corporate price guidelines. So rather than staying near the Orange County Convention Center, I decided to soak up a little magic and stay at WDW. I had never stayed at Port Orleans Riverside, so that was a natural choice.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my stay. The Mississippi River Delta theme is incredibly charming, with the river winding its way through the resort and Spanish moss hanging from the trees over the shady walks.

The Mill at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort

The Mill at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort

There are two styles of lodging at the resort – the Alligator Bayou which is themed  to look like you’re in a giant fishing lodge in Cajun country, and Magnolia Bend, with plantation mansion – style buildings. Two of the Magnolia Bend buildings have recently been renovated into Royal Guest Rooms with a princess theme.

I stayed in Alligator Bayou in a river-view room. Lodge 14 to be exact, which is a short walk from the main lobby buildings, yet seems quiet and secluded. It’s also right next to a parking lot (that you can’t see from the building, but that is a very quick walk), which was incredibly convenient.

Alligator Bayou at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Alligator Bayou at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

While the rooms in this section haven’t been recently redone, I found them totally comfortable and of the quality I expected at a moderately priced resort.

Room 1414 Alligator Bayou Disney Port Orleans Resort

Room 1414

My room featured two double beds and a fold-down trundle bed. Did it have the same luxurious resort feel of my favorite Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge? No. But did I feel like I was part of the Disney Magic? You betcha! The resort grounds were beautiful, peaceful, and fun.

Water craft at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Water craft

Ol' Man Island at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Ol' Man Island - See I was working!

Quiet Pool at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

One of several Quiet Pools - See, still working!

And how was the food? It was a mixed bag at the Riverside Mill Food Court. (I didn’t have time to try Boatwrights.)

Riverside Mill Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Riverside Mill

Best lunch options:

Muffaletta at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Muffaletta

Apple pie and ice cream at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Apple pie and ice cream

What not to get for lunch? The wide array of fried foods.

Fried lunch options at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Fried lunch options

Best breakfast option:

Cinnamon buns at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside

Cinnamon buns

The cinnamon rolls are only $3.19! And they’re good. As opposed to the…

Breakfast Bounty Platter at Disney's Port Orleans Resort

Breakfast Bounty Platter

Breakfast bounty platter, which is really awful. Unless you like institutional eggs and hard-as-rock biscuits for $8.29.

As for convenience as a home-base for your WDW vacation? Well, the Sassagoula  ferry shuttles you back and forth from the resort to Downtown Disney, which is fantastic. And bus service is quick to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Parking is plentiful for those with a car, and easy to get to from many of the accommodations.

So would I rather stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge? Yes, of course. But for the money, you can’t beat the charm of Port Orleans Riverside.