Nov 27, 2014

Christmastime at Walt Disney World

There is nothing like Christmastime at the Walt Disney World Resort, and luckily, Christmas started early enough for us to enjoy all of the festivities. We spent our last full day of this trip at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

Here are a few of the day's highlights:

Meeting Marie from The Aristocats

As we entered Main Street USA, I spotted my favorite fluffy white kitty: Marie! My sister and BIL were kind enough to wait in line with me to get a photo with her. Meow!

Lunch at Be Our Guest
My sister somehow got us Fastpasses for lunch at Be Our Guest. Yes, they have Fastpasses for a restaurant. It is just that popular! Disney did a beautiful job bringing the Beast's Castle to life.

We pre-ordered our meals prior to our trip, so we just needed to confirm that we did not have any changes before we headed inside to find a place to sit. 

Finding a place to sit actually takes some decision-making skills because there are three distinct dining rooms within the restaurant. We took time exploring each one. 

The Grand Ballroom

The first room you entered after you have put your order in is the Grand Ballroom. It is also the largest of the three dining rooms. 

The ballroom was decorated in its Christmas-best with adorable Beauty and the Beast themed ornaments on the tree and wreaths. 

We thought the room was a bit too noisy, so we headed to one of the two side rooms. 

The Rose Gallery

We decided to enjoy our meal in the gorgeous Rose Gallery. The room was filled with tapestries and paintings of the characters from Beauty and the Beast. 

But the centerpiece of the room was a huge music box in the center of the dining room.

Our meal arrived a few minutes later via this rolling cart. 

We shared a potato leek soup, which was rich and creamy. 

 I had the roast beef sandwich with pomme frites and was quite happy with my choice. My dining mates had the croque monsieur and were not impressed.

For dessert, we spilt three cupcakes: Triple Chocolate Cupcake (chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mouse filling and chocolate ganache), The Master's Cupcake (chocolate sponge cake topped with Lumiere's special "Grey Stuff") and Lemon Meringue Cupcake (vanilla sponge cake, lemon custard filling and flamed meringue icing). Yum!

 The West Wing

The final room is The West Wing. It was entirely too dark in that room for us to be able to eat our meal, but it was so cool to walk into. I watched Beauty and the Beast 900 times when I was in elementary school, and loved seeing this room in "real life."

I highly recommend Be Our Guest for a unique dining experience while you are at the Magic Kingdom!

Hollywood Studios

We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening at Hollywood Studios. We got to ride on my three favorite rides: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Aerosmith's Rock N Roller Coaster. 

I also got to meet another one of my favorite characters! James P. Sullivan/Sulley!! I love him. 

I also got to show Sulley his minature self, which he was very interested in.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Although we ran through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Wine & Dine Half Marathon course, it was very different seeing them during park hours. First of all, during the half marathon, the lights were not synced to music, thus they were not dancing. 

Second of all, it was raining during the race instead of (fake) snowing! Whee!

Stockings with the Osborne Family's names on them

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

We headed back to the Magic Kingdom after dinner to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. On those nights, visitors need a separate ticket to attend the Christmas party. We arrived too late to see Elsa from Frozen light up Cinderella's Castle, but it was still a sight to behold. So sparkly!

The Christmas Parade was underway just as we got there. We saw all of our favorite characters dressed in their winter best. Of course, there were some Frozen characters making their first appearance this year.

Along with the parade, there was also a fireworks show.

Since the park was not as crowded as a normal night, it was the perfect opportunity to hop in some shorter than usual lines. We rode on the Seven Dwarves' Mine Train for the first time, and also rode the Jingle Cruise.

Christmas Party guests also had unlimited access to hot chocolate and cookies. Once we were cookie-ed out, we asked for the "healthy" alternative, which were apple slices. Perfect!

Well, that marks the end of my recent journey through Walt Disney World. As always it was a lot of fun for this kid at heart!

Thank you, Walt and Mickey!

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving! I will be spending the weekend here in Albuquerque with friends and family. I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday!

Nov 25, 2014

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival took place this year over the span of 53 days in September through November, with Wine & Dine happening on the final weekend of the Festival. The Food & Wine Festival lets festival goers sample dishes and drinks from a multitude of countries from around the globe. Most dishes seemed to average at about $4 each and drinks anywhere from around $3 for a tasting glass to under $10 for a beer flight. 

We spent the morning after the half marathon hiding under the covers and finally rolled in to Epcot in time for lunch. Luckily, it was only a 10 minute walk from the Yacht Club directly to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot. 

Our first stop was France.

I picked up the boeuf bourguignon (braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes) - $5.75

Next stop: Brazil

Here, we shared the Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de Queijo) - $3.25

While I headed to the Morocco booth, my sister and BIL waited in line at Belgium. We reconvened to share a few things. 

We split the Beer Flight from Belgium, which featured Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde and Stella Artois Cidre - $9.25

From Morocco, we had the Spicy Shrimp Roll with cilantro and mint sauce - $5.00

Our final stop on this leg of tasting around the world was Ireland

We had what turned out to be two of my favorite dishes. First was the lobster and seafood fisherman's pie - $6.25

And the warm chocolate pudding with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur custard - $3.50 

We took a break from the eating to ride Soarin' and meet some characters. Here are me and Mickey Mouse! 

Then it was promptly back to more food! I started at Greece for their Tzatziki martini featuring Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka and BOLS Natural Yoghurt Liquer - $7.75. It was a little watered down for my taste. 

We also visited Puerto Rico to share the Ensalada de carrucho (Caribbean conch salad with onion, tomato and cilantro) - $4.25. 

Also from Puerto Rico were tostones (fried green plantains) with mayo ketchup - $3.50 

We hit up the Refreshment Port for a croissant doughnut - $4.69 and a Dole Whip - $3.99. Despite growing up near Disneyland, I am embarrassed to admit that this was my first Dole Whip. It was tasty but not as tasty as the doughnut. That thing was addictive. We actually went back at the end of the night and ordered three doughnuts to take home for breakfast the next morning. Yum!

Our second leg of eating ended with some disappointing dishes. From Scotland was the overcooked seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon - $4.50

And from Canada was the Canadian cheddar cheese soup - $4.25. I read so much about this dish that I was really excited to taste it, but unfortunately, it looked and had the consistency of white gravy. 

Another break from eating was in order. We rode Mission: Space and spent some time in the Festival Center, where there was a Ghirardelli Chocolate booth that was showcasing Disney character scenes made entirely of chocolate!

Chocolate Toy Story scene

They were also selling food-themed artwork. Honestly, I think Remy and Emil should be the Food & Wine mascots instead of Mickey!

As our night wound down, we still had a few eats to cross off our list. As we entered World Showcase, we made a stop at the Craft Beers pavilion to try their house-made country pate with pickled carrots and farmhouse bread - $3.75.

I made a non-Food-and-Wine-Festival-related request to stop at the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway

They ran out of Schoolbread so I tried the Lefse (potato flatbread rolled with sweet cinnamon butter) instead. 

Nope, still not done eating yet! We stopped by South Korea and picked up one tasty dish and one disappointing dish. The tasty one was the roasted pork lettuce wrap with kimchi slaw - $3.75

Not so tasty was the Kimchi dog with spicy mustard sauce - $4.00. So not worth it!

At this time of night and from the World Showcase, we were afforded a gorgeous view of Spaceship Earth

We still weren't quite done for the night, so we stopped by the Brewers' Collection for a beer flight consisting of: Radeberger Pilsner, BraufactuM Colonia, BraufactuM Palor and Schofferhofer Grapefruit - $9.25

While we enjoyed our beers, we shared the Kielbasa and potato pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream from Poland

Then it was off to the Chase Lounge located on the third floor of the American Adventure Pavilion. Access to the Lounge is an exclusive benefit for Disney Visa cardholders, my sister is one. The Lounge is a beautiful space to relax. There was complimentary drinks, charging stations, lots of seating and even video games. Perfect place to rest our feet for a little while. 

Our final stop for the night was back to France, where we visited L'Artisan des Glaces for a chocolate macaron ice sandwich. Yum!  

The night ended back at the Yacht Club, where we enjoyed the fireworks from our balcony.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was the perfect way to spend the day after our wet and wild Wine & Dine Half Marathon! If you ever get a chance to attend, you will be sure to have plenty of eats and drinks to choose from.