Thursday, January 21, 2016

THINGS OF DISNEY PAST

   Disney's resorts and parks are always in a state of change.  Competition from other entertainment venues makes this a fact of life for the Disney fan.  I often hear complaining and griping about the changes, but usually, it turns out for the better (to me).

   I'm sitting here and thinking about how much the Disney Empire (Walt Disney World in particular) has changed.  This could be a long posting if I tried to dig all the way back, but I'm just thinking about things that have gone away since around 2009 or so, just a few things.  If you went to WDW today - for your very first visit - and hadn't really studied up on it's history etc.  You would not know what it's like to experience...

MAELSTROM (Epcot): 
The crazy, disjointed, confusing, but fun boat ride at Epcot's Norway Pavilion.  It was short, but beloved by Disney Park's fans, probably because it was one of only 2 actual "rides" in Epcot's World Showcase.

It was a little exciting, very colorful, and really did have a feel of "adventure" to it.  It was closed and is in the process of being replaced with a ride based on the smash hit movie Frozen.  Many Dis-nerds are up in arms about the change.  And while I really loved Maelstrom, I'm betting on the new ride to be a hit... especially with my 2 Granddaughters!

The BREATHLESS II (Epcot): 
Breathless was a speed boat that you could buy time and go for a spin around World Showcase Lagoon.
I would have loved to take a spin on the Breathless II

   You would not drive it, but the driver would take you for a speedy cruise. You could also book special cruises for the Illuminations fireworks spectacular on the lagoon.  I would have really liked to do it, but by the time I was ready to go for it... it was gone!

CAMP MINNIE MICKEY (Animal Kingdom): 


A whole "Land"?  Yup, but to be honest with you, I never really "got" it.  It was an area of Disney's Animal Kingdom with meet-and-greets, and the main attraction was the theater that housed the Festival of the Lion King show.  It was fun to walk through and see figurines of the characters fishing or hiking, but there really wasn't much to this "Land".
They never caught anything!

I always felt like it was just a placeholder for what was REALLY coming to Animal Kingdom, and I think the new Pandora: World of Avatar is that thing.







THE BACKLOT TOUR (Disney Hollywood Studios):

Future generations will probably never even know that at one time The Disney Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called by then) was an actual working "Studio".  Although it never took off as a major Production Studio, it was still used for movies & television, and was portrayed to visitors as such.  Even the name "Disney MGM Studios" made you feel that it was part of MGM's productions.  It was a fun idea many years ago, but the novelty slowly wore off and the same thing happened across town at Universal "Studios".  The tram tour in it's original form was a long and intricate tour, it gave visitors the feeling of going "behind the scenes" and seeing something special.  It was shortened, and eventually closed down for good.  The Backlot tour and the whole "Studio Idea" is gone, and Star Wars Land, and Toy Story Land will bring lots of glory back to the Disney Hollywood Studios.  The new generation will never know what they missed.

THE STAVE CHURCH (Epcot's Norway Pavilion):


This one is still there (in a way).  It was originally a mini Viking Museum - or at least that's what it was when we discovered it in 2010.  I never even thought to go inside and check it out, and when I did, I LOVED it!  Nothing fancy, not very big, in fact it was tiny!  But it was a really cool little gem that I looked forward to stepping inside and checking out every visit.  It was recently changed to a Frozen theme, and it's still nice, but I miss my Vikings!


These are just a few of the things that are now Disney history.  I'm looking forward to the new things that Disney Imagineering will bring in the years to come.  I am glad that I got to taste "Old WDW" though!

Monday, November 16, 2015

EPCOT: Food & Wine Festival 2015



   Many Disney fanatics refer to it as "The best time of the year".  I can't argue with that.  This year was the 20th annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and it was a smashing success.  Held from Sept. 25 - Nov. 16, this year's festival was the longest, running 52 days, and featuring over 30 different food booths, plus carts with special festival offerings, 22 different acts featured at the "Eat to the Beat" concert series, special festival merchandise, passholder festival merchandise, seminars featuring guest chefs, colorful displays and topiaries, and so much more.

   We did our first festival in 2012 and were hooked.  Having to wait 3 years for our next visit to the Epcot F & W fest, we planned for a stay that would include 5 days of visits to Epcot for the big event.  We read blogs and watched videos to prepare ourselves and make up a list of  "must taste" items.

The Festival Center 

Our first stop

   Our first stop was at the Festival Center which is located in the original Wonders of Life Pavilion.  The domed building that once housed the popular Body Wars simulator ride.  Here you can pick up your festival "Passport" which is a great little guide as well as a very informative tool with listings of what's available at the food booths and lots of other information about the goings on.  It makes for a nice little souvenir too.
A Handy little tool
Inside the booklet are listings of the food and drinks they offer and a place to get a stamp at each booth.  Just ask them when ordering and they will happily stamp your passport.  We had fun getting every booth and cart stamped in our booklets, and then going to the festival center for the "completion stamp".  It also has boxes by each item where you can check off what you tried during your visit(s).  We were very glad that we grabbed our passports early, because by the 3rd day of our tour, some of the guests we talked with asked us where we got ours, and said they could not find them anywhere.  They were becoming scarce towards the end of the festival's run.  The Festival Center itself is a nice place to just relax and take in the atmosphere.  There are lots of festival items available for purchase, and a little theater which was running a continuous film about the making of the festival.  One thing I think everyone should check out is Ghirardelli's display of beautiful sculptures made completely of chocolate!


The Avengers assemble  (in chocolate!)
 You can also get a free sample of Ghirardelli chocolate as you walk out of the exhibit.  There is also the Intermissions Cafe which features sandwiches, snacks and beverages if you're a little hungry or thirsty.  It's always fun just being inside the pavilion building and remembering back when this was one of Epcot's future world pavilions.
Carl's house from "UP" (in chocolate!)

The Festival Booths 
 
   Now we come to "The Main Event", the booths are located mostly around Epcot's World Showcase, but new this year were a couple of booths in the Future World area.  Our first booth of the trip was The Dominican Republic which featured one of our favorite items: "Pescado con Coco"  which was a pan seared grouper in a coconut sauce.
Pescado con Coco & Caramel Flan with Rum Roasted Pineapple
The Dominican Republic booth was a beautiful setting

   Crowds were not too heavy during weekdays, and even on the weekend they were very manageable for most of the afternoon.  We ate something light in the room, and then made the festival booths our lunch for the day.  We wandered around hitting booth after booth and enjoying treats from around the world.  

Here are a few of our favorites:
AUSTRALIA: Grilled Lamb Chop w/ Mint Pesto
BRAZIL: "Escondidinho de Carne" (Layered Meat Pie w/ mashed Yucca) and The Brazilian Cheese Bread
NEW ZEALAND: Seared Venison Loin & Lamb Meatball w/ Spicy Tomato Chutney





HAWAII: Pulled Pork Slider w/ Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chutney



ITALY: Filetto di Pollo w/ Marsala Sauce & Ciabatta Bread


FRANCE: Beef Bourguinon in Cabernet sauce w/ mashed potatoes
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Desserts 
   There were some great desserts this year too.  My personal favorite was at the Scotland booth - "The Tipsy Laird" which is a Whiskey soaked Lemon cake with Cream and Toasted Oats.  

Scotland's "Tipsy Laird"
   Some of the others were:
DESSERTS & CHAMPAGNE: "Chocolate Cherry Explosion"
CHEW LAB: Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle











IRELAND: Warm Chocolate Pudding w/ Kerrygold Irish Cream Custard
SOUTH KOREA: Soju Banana Milkshake w/ Ginger Soother

                                                                                    -

The Favorite Booth of the Festival  
   There was not a single booth that we did not enjoy, but we agreed on our favorite booth of the festival and it was a bit of a surprise.  With all of the exotic foods offered, rich and tasty treats from different parts of the world, you would think that it would be something else, but I guess our simple palates just couldn't stray far from home.  The favored booth for both of us was the "Farm Fresh" booth!  The "Griddled Yard Bird" (Grilled Chicken Breast w/ Braised Greens & Habanero Sauce), and "Loaded Mac n' Cheese" (w/ Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, & Green Onions) stole the show!
Who'd-a-thunk it?  Farm Fresh was our favorite booth for 2015








"Griddled Yard Bird"
"Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese"

-
Favorite Pairing of the Festival 

Each booth features a "Pairing" in which Disney's food experts will match an entree with a beverage.  Our budget didn't allow us to try every pairing, but of those that we did try, my personal favorite was the Poland booth's pairing of a Sauerkraut Perogi w/ Pork Goulash, and the Donausonne Blaufaenkisch Hungarian Wine.

Disney Fountain of Youth's favorite pairing of 2015 - Poland

Eat to the Beat Concert Series 

   One of the great things about Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is the concert series.  22 great acts performed this year including (just to name a few): 
  • CHRISTOPHER CROSS
  • THE POINTER SISTERS
  • .38 SPECIAL
  • RICK SPRINGFIELD
  • EVERCLEAR
  • BOYS II MEN
  • SISTER HAZEL
  • CHAKA KHAN
   The concerts are included with your days admission to Epcot, and are performed 3 times each evening at the outdoor Americas Gardens Theater right on the water of World Showcase Lagoon.  A beautiful setting for a concert.
   
   Because of flight delays arriving, we missed SISTER HAZEL, but we were able to catch 2 of the concerts:

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY 


BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY: This Southern Cal Swing Band tore it up, and made us instant fans!

What a night with "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy"!

and we ended the trip with...

HANSON 


HANSON: They don't "look like girls" anymore, and really rocked the house!
Check out this video from our evening:


I never dreamed, in a million years, that I'd attend a Hanson Concert... and LOVE IT!

The Wild Side of Disney 
   One thing that we learned from this year's Festival is that night time brings on a whole different atmosphere to the event.  If you are looking for a "wilder" atmosphere from a Disney park, just head on over to Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival after dark.  The crowds seemed to triple from the afternoons, and the loud talking set invaded World Showcase.

A Special time for Epcot 

   The sights around Epcot during the Festival are beautiful.  Special Topiaries and displays celebrating the event are all around the park, and they are both colorful and enjoyable.  Making for some great picture taking opportunities. 







The Cranberry Bog
   And other special things like The Cranberry Bog - right there in the middle of the walkway heading from Future World to World Showcase.  With a Cranberry farmer in waders there to answer questions about the fruit, and a stand off to the side where you can get all of the free craisins you want!


Craisins anyone?



   And the old Odyssey restaurant building transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion during the festival.  You can sample different beers from local Florida small breweries. 


Beer Flights from around Florida

The old Odyssey Restaurant transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion at Festival Time













 And for Annual Passholders, there are special merchandise available for purchase, as well as a free commemorative Glass from the Festival for AP holders that attend the event 3 days - getting their passports stamped 3 times (once each day) at the Innoventions West Pavilion


Overall, this really is the best time of the year for this old guy.  It's an event that involves all of your senses, and is something to look forward to each year.  There are new booths to try every year, and most of the old favorites return.
Great Annual Passholder merchandise available

Thanks for coming along on this tour of the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  Hope to see you there one day!