Disney Doings

We visited Disney World twice in December for double the pleasure. First we visited Magic Kingdom. The magic got somewhat lost on our twenty-minute trek from the parking lot back in the wilds to the ticket and transportation center. No trams meant an unexpected hike. Then more walking until you get to the actual entrance. We decided to wait in line for the Jungle Cruise ride since we hadn’t been on the latest version, but after a crowded wait where we were packed into lines with no social distancing (we wore masks), we had to leave for our lunch reservation.

   Magic Kingdon        Jungle cruise

 

   

We had a delicious meal at Liberty Tree Tavern that’s essentially a turkey dinner with a gooey toffee dessert. This was almost worth the angst in getting there.

       

After lunch, the park was getting more crowded and the skies cloudier. We quit to head back to the parking lot. Naturally the monorail wasn’t working and we had to take the ferry. Finally made it back to our parking lot in the land of the forgotten and were rained on before reaching our car. Not the most magical experience this day. I will not return here until the trams are running again or else we’ll have to pay extra for preferred parking.

Our day at Disney Springs was better. We met our kids for an anniversary lunch at Paddlefish which was very enjoyable. Here’s my clam chowder and crab cake meal.

     

We strolled around to view the Christmas trees. There wasn’t any defined trail like in previous years. These were scattered among the stores.

         

We passed a concert by a band and watched our grandson on a train ride with his mom. Not sure which one of them loved it more.

       

Next trip, if we care to brave the crowds, will be Epcot for the food booths at the arts festival. I’d definitely get the preferred parking although it grates on my nerves to have to pay extra when the free trams should be running. The magic isn’t what it used to be.

Dining Around the World

We had a wonderful day at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival as we strolled around World Showcase to sample the foods. My writer pal and critique partner, Ann Meier, accompanied us. It was a trek from the parking lot without the trams running and around the new construction obstacles past Planet Earth. We detoured to go on one of my favorite rides at The Land pavilion. I love the boats that glide through the plant and hydroponics gardens where you learn about new growing techniques.

Our first stop was for the Beer-Braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes at Belgium. This was a tasty dish, although the meat could have been more tender.

The Griddled Cheese with Pistachios and Honey at Greece was delicious. The flavors were unusual and reminded me of melted Brie with jam on top. The honey and chopped pistachios were inspirational.

Who wouldn’t like the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Tart at the Rotunda Bistro in the American Adventure? It was a perfect melding of sauteed mushrooms atop a puff pastry shell.

At the Alps, Richard had a wine flight, and I had the Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart. Since I love marzipan, this was a yummy dessert. The portion was large enough for us to share.

   

And how could I pass up the Traditional Macaroni and Cheese with Herbed Panko at Mac & Eats? If you’re a mac and cheese fan, you’ll want to make a stop there. Creamy with a slight crunch from the topping, this dish is the ultimate comfort food.

We were lucky to have perfect weather, partially cloudy in the low seventies, before a cold front came through the next day with heavy rain. It wasn’t terribly crowded at Epcot, which made for almost no waits in line anywhere. There were still other foods I might have liked to try but I got too full to eat anymore. The lower temperature and drier air made walking pleasant as we strolled around World Showcase. I achieved over 12,000 steps this day but counteracted it with all the extra calories consumed.

 

 

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Epcot Experience

We had the opportunity as WDW Passholders to preview Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride at Disney World’s Epcot theme park. Getting there was a hike. The trams weren’t running in the parking lots, presumably due to Covid changes, and so we had to make a trek in the heat to the gate. The entire front part of this theme park is being renovated, leading to long detours to get to World Showcase at the rear. Wear your sturdiest walking shoes if you plan to come. Here I am geared up. Besides my sun hat, I have on a rechargeable portable fan around my neck to keep me cool in the heat and a water bottle holder purchased at the Animal Kingdom.

Nancy J. Cohen at Epcot

On our way around World Showcase, we stopped at the Noodle Exchange to sample a bowl of Shrimp Coconut Curry Rice Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms and Thai Basil. Basically, we got three shrimps and a bowl of spicy broth with noodles. I didn’t care to fill up on a bowl of what was essentially chicken noodle soup, so I ate the shrimp and took a few spoonfuls of the broth. This satisfied my stomach until later, but by then it was too hot under the sun for me to have an appetite. I’ll come back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival when it’s cooler out.

The Noodle Exchange Shrimp Noodle Bowl

Since it wasn’t time yet for the ride, we stopped into the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, a new attraction in the France pavilion. In a quiet, air-conditioned auditorium, you sit and watch an abbreviated version of the animated film unfold for approximately fifteen minutes. Closed captions encourage you to sing along with the characters, or you can sit back and relax and enjoy the music. It’s definitely worth a stop to experience this happy, feel-good experience. Here is Belle outside posing for photos.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast

At our appointment hour, we headed to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to check in. We still had to snake through a line for about twenty minutes to enter the building. We noted a new Crepe restaurant next door that was bustling with customers. Once inside the Ratatouille ride, we wound through darkened corridors with these scenes.

 

Then we were herded into mouse cars. A safety bar lowered, and we swerved away from the dock on our trackless vehicle. Here we donned 3-D glasses and became part of the film. It was awesome how the effects were done. You really felt you were inside this house and careening through the kitchen, even scooting under the ovens with a hot blast of air. Twice we got spritzed with water as part of the action. All too soon, the ride was over. It swirls around a bit but it’s not jerky. If you keep your eyes on the visuals, you’re fine. It’s really an amazing technology, and I hope we’ll see more experiences like this one.

As we strolled through the rest of World Showcase, several Disney heroines made their appearances. Besides Belle above, here are Snow White, Princess Jasmine, and Alice in Wonderland.

Snow White  Princess Jasmine  Alice in Wonderland

We heard a mariachi band by the American pavilion. Back in Future World, we ducked by the new Space 220 Restaurant, which is already booked out 60 days in advance. You don’t need a reservation for the Lounge but be prepared to wait in line for an indeterminate time if you plan to visit the space station restaurant.

Mariachi Band

Gold statues of various characters are spotted around the park to commemorate Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. A long trek back to our parked car ended the day. We were happy but tired. I’m hoping the trams are running again by our next visit.

Gold Statue of Figment

Animal Kingdom Safari

We took a break and went to the Animal Kingdom at Disney World to make use of our annual passes. Our parking space was within easy walking distance of the entrance so we were lucky in that regard. We walked along the shady paths toward Africa.

Animal Kingdom

After stopping at Starbucks for some snacks to refuel our energy, we headed onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. No wait in the line, which we also saw later at Expedition Everest. The park is so spread out that it didn’t seem terribly crowded. We got front row seats in our safari vehicle.

   

The animals were strolling about or lazing in the heat. We viewed quite a few as you can see from these photos.

           

We lunched in Dinoland at a fast food place where we could sit indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning. On our way out, we browsed in the shops and then headed home tired but happy.

   

 

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Epcot Festival of the Arts

We visited Epcot International Festival of the Arts at Disney World in Orlando. The tram let us off directly in front at the entrance instead of making us detour like last time due to construction. There was plenty of that going on inside the park. I liked how the baggage inspection is now in a shadier location with fans and multiple personnel so the process goes quicker. Spaceship Earth was open but the whole rest of the central portion of Future World was sectioned off due to remodeling.

We made our way around to the Land and watched the new film Awesome Planet. The scenery depicted was awesome indeed, including simulated flashes of light in the auditorium to accompany lightning on the screen and a sprinkle of water on my wrist when the screen showed rain. The film made me want to go right out and sign up for a conservation effort. We need to preserve our beautiful home planet so it’s safe for future generations.

At World Showcase, we turned left toward Mexico. Along the way, we stopped at the Pop Eats booth and sampled the sous-vide chicken roulade ($6.75). The dish was artistically presented and very tasty.

sous vide chicken

Next we tried the red wine-braised beef short ribs ($8.00) at Germany. The meat was very tender, accompanied by a dollop of mashed potatoes and broccolini. It was really good but didn’t leave much room in our stomachs for more.

braised beef short ribs   Germany pavilion

I’d seen a dessert I wanted back at Pop Eats, so we returned there after making a full rotation around the lake. My husband got the cookie with strawberry filling ($4.50). I had the almond frangipane cake ($4.50) as I’m a fan of rainbow cakes. This was nice and moist. I’d ordered the popping bubbles cocktail as well. This champagne drink has gel pearls that burst in your mouth with extra flavor ($10.50).

desserts

There were other dishes I might have liked to try, but I got too full. Plus, it was hot out with temps in the eighties, and I was beginning to wilt. After a very long walk to the exit, we boarded the tram to the parking lot and headed home to relax in our air-conditioned condo.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

We took a trip to Batuu at Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and entered a strange world with lettering in an otherworldly language. The marketplace was awesome, making you feel as though you were on another planet, and the costumed staff played along.

water stand  

We ate lunch at Docking Bay 7 and thought the food was good. I didn’t try the blue or green milk at the market stand.

 

Various characters from the movies appear around the site. Keep your eyes open if you visit so you can spot them.

storm troopers

The Droid Depot was a busy store with people putting together their own astromech units.

We didn’t fly the Millennium Falcon this time; will have to return for that attraction when it’s not so hot outside.

A few other sights along the way:

Visiting Galaxy's Edge at Disney World #StarWars #Disney World Click To Tweet

If you had the opportunity to take a trip like this for real to the outskirts of the galaxy, would you go?

 

Orlando Dining Revisited

Our dining adventures in Orlando continue with a visit to Epcot Food and Wine Festival and Magical Dining Month. Now is not the time to reduce your calorie intake.

Since I can never pass up the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, we had to go for a tasting. I didn’t plan to go far in the 90+ degree heat. We killed time until 11am when World Showcase opened by going on the Living with the Land and the Imagination rides. I still love to see the vegetables and fruits growing in their experimental environment and the fish in the aquaponics tanks.

Our first food stop was Flavors from Fire for the Steakhouse Blended Burger, a blend of beef and mushrooms in a slider on a brioche bun with melted Brie cheese, arugula, and a blue cheese potato chip. It was a gooey dish but satisfying and tasty. We passed by a few other marketplaces to stop at Thailand for their Marinated Chicken with peanut sauce and stir-fried vegetables. This was good enough to make at home.

We got no farther on either side of Showcase Plaza, by now being overheated and worn out, so we left at noon. A word of warning – the main entry is under construction, so you have to walk a long stretch to get to the security bag check. Nor does the tram from the parking lot let you off in front anymore. You still have to walk around the construction site. It makes for an extra-long hike before you get anywhere.

Vines Grille and Wine Bar

We celebrated my husband’s birthday at Vines Grille and Wine Bar on Restaurant Row at W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando. On the Magical Dining menu, I chose the Vines Salad with mixed greens, pistachio, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette. Next came Faroe Island Salmon with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, confit tomatoes, and lemon-dill sauce. For dessert, I selected crème brulee. It was a memorable dinner with excellent food and service. I’d definitely make a return visit here.

The Tap Room at Dubsdread

The cozy atmosphere at this country club restaurant with its enticing golf course view in Winter Park invites you to linger with friends and family. However, I’m thinking it might be better for lunch. Prices are reasonable for either lunch or dinner, but our experience at the latter was less than stellar. We asked for the Magical Dining menu. I ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower topped with blue cheese crumbs and served with ranch dressing for an appetizer. Either the topping or the sauce was too spicy for my taste, but I couldn’t finish this dish. As an entrée, I’d chosen crab cakes with yellow rice and asparagus. They were out of asparagus. I selected broccoli as an alternative. It was served raw. Besides asking to replace it with a cooked portion, I had to ask for the rice since mashed potatoes had come with my meal. As for dessert, the Key lime pie came in a jar but looked tasty. My brownie sundae was okay, but I’ve had moister and fudgier brownie sundaes at the Red Lobster. This one satisfied my sweet tooth but wasn’t anything exceptional.

cauliflower

Crabcakes

sundae

Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

This meal at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill in Disney Springs was worthy of a return visit. Unfortunately, the items I chose are not part of the regular menu but were among the Magical Dining selections. The Late Summer Tomato Soup with garlic pecorino croutons and basil oil was savory and just the right consistency. The Braised Beef Short Ribs came with sunchoke purée and wild mushrooms ragu. The boneless meat was tender and shredded easily. For dessert, the mango tart with toasted almond crumble and coconut tapioca was lip-smacking delicious. The lively atmosphere and modern décor proved popular as there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I saw standards like meatloaf on the regular menu that would bring me back. While a bit pricey for a normal dinner, this full-service restaurant is worth a visit on your list.

Dining Out in Orlando #foodandwine #Orlando Click To Tweet

Now it’s back to home cooking! If you want to see which recipes I’ll prepare in my own kitchen, take a look at A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, now available for pre-order in print and ebook formats.

Coronado Springs Resort Dining

Continuing our tradition of trying new places to eat in Orlando, we dined at Toledo, the new rooftop restaurant inside Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. A magical elevator takes you to the top floor where you emerge into a spacious lounge area. You can come for drinks and the view if you don’t care to stay for dinner. Here we are gazing toward Hollywood Studios. You can see the new Star Wars land under construction and the Tower of Terror.

View from Toledo

Inside the restaurant, we were led to a quiet table among the bustle. We began our meal with an olive medley and flatbread with melted cheese for appetizers.

I ordered tilefish for my entrée and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty dish. Dessert was the best, a couple of chocolate concoctions that we all shared.

Dessert at Toledo

Our other days in Orlando were taken up with family visits. On this night, we were celebrating our son’s birthday. We’ll soon have a lot more to celebrate as my husband and I become grandparents for the first time later this year.

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Epcot Flower Festival

We spent a couple hours at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival the other weekend. Construction is going on at the front entrance, so we veered around the barriers to the package inspection station. From here, we headed into one of my favorite spots, the building with free cola drinks from around the world. I like the raspberry-flavored one the best.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Next we ventured outside and to the right toward Canada. One of our party had the Citrus-Poached Salmon at the Flavor Full Kitchen. I tried the Roasted Beets with Cashew Cheese. It was delicious. Between this dish and the beets we ate recently at a Publix cooking class, I could make a meal from this vegetable.

salmon

At the Honey Bee-Stro, we sampled the Roasted Cauliflower with Carrot Puree, Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. It was good, but I like my roasted cauliflower recipe better. Also from this booth, a member of our group had the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread. It looked good, although maybe not as crispy as I like flatbreads.

flatbread

Our kids sampled the Fruit Sushi called Frushi from Hanama in Japan and a few other items. By now, I was too hot to eat any of the meat dishes and the heat had sapped my appetite. We finished our rounds and left for the day.

fruit sushi

Later, my husband and I visited Disney Springs. We had lunch at Paddlefish. While enjoying a lovely view of the lake, we ate New England Clam Chowder and the Crabcake appetizer with corn relish that was more than enough for a meal. We watched the amphicars glide past from the Boathouse Restaurant.

clam chowder

amphicar

Others meals we had were at Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze. And now that we’re home, it’s time to go back on our healthful diets.

Seasons 52   Bahama Breeze

Orlando Explorer

Our most recent visit to Orlando had us visiting Epcot for the Festival of the Arts. I tasted the mushroom risotto at the Masterpiece Kitchen around World Showcase but held off eating more until we went to the Morocco café for a vegetarian platter with hummus and more.
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At Disney Springs another day, I indulged in a root beer float at Ghiradelli. We enjoyed the ambiance as we strolled through the marketplaces and past numerous restaurants. Our adventures continued at historic Winter Garden as we strolled downtown. The main street still has its old-time charm, while a brewery hall attracts a young crowd with several fast-food eating choices. Here’s a peek at the lobby of an earlier era Edgewater Hotel and an adjacent ice cream shop.
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We took walks at Disney’s Riverside and Boardwalk resorts, and gained a couple of extra pounds from dining out the entire weekend. Now we’re home, and we brought a cold along with us as a souvenir.
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