Category: Disney Dining

New 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival DFB Guide!

It is hard to believe that the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival starts in less than one week! Once again it is the most wonderful time of year for us Disney foodies.  Bring on the lamb chops and cheese soup and tacos and beer and and and…  Clearly I’m not excited at all.

Because there is so much to see and do during the festival, planning is key!  For the past few years, I have relied on the DFB Guides to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to help me plan what booths I want to visit, what demonstrations I want to book and help me put together a general plan of attack.  There are over 30 booths to choose from and I want to make sure that I don’t miss anything!

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The DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival e-book has everything you need to know before heading to Walt Disney World.  From what’s NEW at the festival, to touring strategies, to detailed menus and an entire FAQ section!  Here’s more of what you will find:

  • In-depth descriptions, prices, dates and times of events, seminars, demonstrations, and tasting options at the festival and how to book them
  • A full, daily schedule of events for every day of the festival
  • Details on how and where to use Disney Dining Plan Snack Credits at the festival
  • A list of the most popular items and events and how to experience them
  • An updated Epcot Food & Wine Festival FAQ section with information on how to make your visit more enjoyable
  • Printable checklist of the World Showcase Booth menus
  • Full index of brand new additions to the festival

Since this will be my 6th year attending the festival (WOW!), my first stop in the guide is always the “What’s NEW!” section.  I have my favorites that I MUST get each year (lamb chops and pork lettuce wraps, I’m talking to you!), but I love to try new things.  This is so helpful in prioritizing what new items to try and some of the new events I might want to attend.

2014-DFB-Food-and-Wine-Guide-Whats-NewOne of my favorite features has to be all of the detailed information on the Marketplace Booths.  Each booth has it’s own page, complete with photos of the booths AND food as well as the full menu.  This gets me so excited for what is to come and makes it easy to plan out the booths I MUST visit.  The photos are also great if you are not familiar with a particular dish or ingredient.  Here’s what you’ll find at one of my favorite booths, South Korea:

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Another great feature are the special event listings.  Between the large events, like Party for the Senses, and the smaller culinary demonstrations, there is A LOT to keep track of.  The guide has a full daily schedule of events complete with times.  Are you as excited to see Sister Hazel as my friend Rick is?  No worries, this guide will tell you the dates and times they are performing!

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And that’s not all!  There are fun bonus items like:

  • Eleven themed World Showcase Booth Crawls!
  • Customized touring strategies for the festival based on how much time you have to spend, if you have children, what your priorities are to see, and more!
  • Indexes of food, beer, wine, wineries, and chefs – complete with chef bios!
  • A fun playlist of songs featuring artists appearing at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series

So what’s better than having this awesome e-book downloaded to your phone as you walk around the Festival or on your laptop as you’re planning your trip??  A discount of course!  Right now you can receive $3 off your purchase of the DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival e-book by using the discount code CHEFS at checkout.

All books come with a 100% money-back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose!  But trust me, you won’t want to give it back.  Find out more about the DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival e-book here!

Happy eating!!

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Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel

With the news of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto coming to the revamped Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort next year (BEST NEWS EVER!), I thought I’d take a trip out to Disneyland and visit one of my favorite places, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.  This was a must do for me when I visited Disneyland for the first time last year.  I had heard it was like a combination of the Tambu Lounge and the old Adventurer’s Club, both favorite spots of mine in Walt Disney World.

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Located in the Disneyland Hotel, this adventurous watering hole is the home of Trader Sam, head salesman of the Amazon Jungle. You may know him from a little attraction called the Jungle Cruise… Anyway, after decades of traveling through the jungle, Sam has collected tons of artifacts and perfected the art of mixology.  He’s now set up shop and one of the most unique and entertaining lounges was born!  We set up camp here for quite some time on a hot afternoon and just had a great day.  It is small, dark and full of adventure!

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Wait…are we in the South Pacific??  Sure looks like it…  It’s amazing how you feel completely transported to another place!  And it’s not just the atmosphere that does that, but the food & drinks fit right in.  The menus are so unique and SO delicious!  Let’s start with some cocktails…

Hands down, our favorite drink was Ginger’s Pear-adise.  This is pear vodka, ginger liquor, organic agave nectar and fresh lime juice served straight up with cherries.  This is so good, it’s dangerous!

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Make sure to ask for extra cherries, then let them sit and marinate in your drink 😉

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I also tried the Shrunken Zombie Head.  I mean, Sam is known for shrinking heads so it only seemed right.  This is reserve and aged rums, tropical juices, falernum and cinnamon.  You can get this in a regular glass OR in a souvenir shrunken zombie head.  That’s an obvious choice, no?

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This was good, but a little too sweet for my taste.  However I was a big fan of the twisty straw it came with. Oh and speaking of souvenir mugs…they have various limited edition mugs that you can buy!  They are all really cool and I almost bought them all, but the zombie is the only one that made it back to CT.

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Like beer?  Watch out because whenever you order something from the tap, it angers the gods a bit…

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After a cocktail, some snacks are definitely in order and Trader Sam’s doesn’t just offer your typical bar fare.  The menu is awesome!

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We had eaten lunch not to long before that, but I knew I had to try the Fish Tacos.  O.M.G.  These were SO GOOD!  I mean, I’ve never really met a taco that I didn’t, but these were fantastic.

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Next time I think I’m going to try the Ahi Poke and the Kalua Pork Flatbred…YUM!

The bartenders are really fun and have a great time with all of the guests.  I think I might have mentioned that I really liked the bendy straw…so I got a bunch of them with my water.

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Don’t be surprised if you get sprayed with lava when someone orders the famous Uh Oa…Watch Out!

What’s going on with that guys chair?

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Yes, he’s shrinking!  A few of the chair around the bar actually shrink while you are sitting there.  At first you start to wonder if you’ve had too much to drink, but no, it’s just the fun bartenders playing a trick on you…

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So small…

I just LOVE this place!  It is so much fun and the news that it is coming to Walt Disney World just made my day!!  Now, I just need to convince B that we need to get points at the new Polynesian DVC Resort so we can just stumble back to our bungalow 🙂

Have you been to Trader Sam’s?  Are you excited it is coming to Walt Disney World?

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Breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Disneyland

Mmmmm breakfast…one of my favorite meals of the day!  I particularly love when you can find different and unusual breakfast options.  So when I first saw the menu at Flo’s V8 Cafe, I knew I had to have breakfast there when I went out to the west coast for the Disneyland Half Marathon!

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Nestled in the back of Carsland and overlooking the amazing Radiator Springs Racers, Flo’s V8 Cafe is like stepping back in time.  Back to the neon and nostalgia of the 1950s…it’s SO FUN!

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I went in knowing what I was going to order.  Ever since the restaurant opened in June 2012, I knew what I was going to order…Chicken Tamale Breakfast please!  This is a chicken tamale with scrambled eggs, salsa verde and pico de gallo.  Right up my alley! The only problem with that dish is that I can’t eat eggs..sigh.

Oh well that was no problem!  They took the eggs out and let me substitute for a side.  WIN! Obviously I went with the amazing hash browns for my side…I mean, how could you not get that for your side?!?

As I was waiting my special order, I noticed the fun beers they had on tap for the later crowd.   Now I don’t like IPAs, but the Racer 5 IPA looks intriguing enough for me to try!

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We waited a few extra minutes and got our meals…oh man!

The chicken tamale (sans eggs) with a side of potatoes was beyond amazing!  Honestly, I still dream about this dish…

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B went with the more traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and a biscuit.  Oh man was that biscuit good!!

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We grabbed a booth overlooking Radiator Springs Racers and went to town on this meal!

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I have to say, even without the eggs, this is a meal I crave to this day!  That salsa verde is SO GOOD!!  Wait…did I already say that?! 😉

As a Walt Disney World regular, I can’t help but be sad that this is not an option over here.  That “California cuisine” needs to make it’s way east because it’s amazing!!

Have you eaten at Flo’s V8 Cafe for breakfast?  What is your favorite Disney breakfast?

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Kill, Refurb, Marry: World Showcase Counter Service Spots

Kill-Marry-RefurbIt’s time for another Kill, Refurb, Marry!  I’m excited about this month because we are talking about my favorite thing…FOOD!   Yes, that is a huge topic when looking at all of Walt Disney World, so we are narrowing it down to World Showcase Counter Service Spots.  Ooooh that’s a good one, right?!  I love World Showcase for its diversity and the food really is the best part…you know how I love the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 🙂  So let’s dive in!

Kill – Refreshment Port

I don’t understand the Refreshment Port.  It really seems to have no identity.  The current menu consists of chicken nuggets, a soft serve waffle cone, croissant doughnut, and various beverages.  That’s a little random…  If I was a newbie to WDW and walked past there, I would have no idea what they served.  To me, refreshments are cool and well, refreshing.  Chicken nuggets aren’t refreshing.  This spot would be much better utilized as a character meet  & greet area, or simply put some benches and tables down for people to rest their weary Epcot touring feet in the shade.

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Refurb – Tied: La Cantina de San Angel and Liberty Inn

I had a tough time deciding which location I would want to refurb, so I decided to go with two.

First is La Cantina de San Angel.  Yes, I know it went through a refurb not too long ago, but I wish it would’ve been just a bit better.  The tacos are a great start, but they definitely leave something to be desired.  And really, nacho cheese on the nachos?  Come on…  Plus, those red chips really freak me out.  That color can’t be natural!  Give us simple carnitas, real cheese and basic yellow corn tortilla chips!  Give us a real taste of Mexico!

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And then there is Liberty Inn.  This was a strong contender for Kill, but I think there is a real opportunity here to showcase some great American cuisine!  American food should not be defined by a chili-cheese dog, chicken nuggets and a burger.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could focus on local cuisine?!  Maybe a combination of the Florida Local from the Food & Wine Festival and The Smokehouse from Flower & Garden.  Sounds good right?  Or maybe a dish from various regions of the US.  There are so many options!

Marry – Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie

Now this is what all World Showcase Counter Service Spots should strive to be!  First, the exterior is so incredibly inviting.  You really escape into a small French village.

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But when you enter the building, it is spacious and more importantly smells delicious.  There is a large variety of options from the basic croissant, to sandwiches, quiches, and the most delectable desserts. Good luck trying to pick just one thing!

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And if all of that isn’t enough, you can head over to L’Artisan des Glaces next door for some artisan ice cream or sorbet.  You can even get an ice cream martini!!  It really is the perfect place to grab a snack and take a break.

So those are my choices…what about you?  What World Showcase Counter Service Spots would you Kill, Refurb & Marry??  Make sure to visit This Happy Place BlogMouse on the Mind and all of the other great blogs participating in Kill, Refurb, Marry today!

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Polynesian Club Level Experience During the 2014 WDW Marathon

Ever since Chris told me about his idea for this post, I couldn’t wait to read it!  I’ve heard Club Level at the Polynesian Resort is one of the best on property and to get an inside look at all the goodies is so exciting. Be prepared to see some awesomeness in this post.  Looks like a GREAT way to celebrate a race weekend!

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Aloha! There are many different ways to stay in and around Disney World for a runDisney event. One of the most indulgent though is to stay Concierge (or Club Level) at a Disney Deluxe Resort. In 2012 when I ran the inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler, the Mrs. and I stayed Club Level at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (our only other time at Club level) and found it to be an amazing experience. It may seem like a lot of additional expense, but once you factor in the “costs” of all the additional Club Level amenities, the price difference isn’t so great especially if you’re willing to “downgrade” your room view and “upgrade” your experience. However, nothing beats this view!

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Disney hotels know how to “plus” vacations, but the extra attention that goes on at the Deluxe resorts (and Club Level in particular) is quite special. When I booked our stay for my first marathon, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by booking Concierge at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: reward myself for accomplishing the race and say “thanks” to the Mrs. for putting up with months of my training by booking a stay at her absolute favorite result.

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The experience began soon after initially making the reservation. I received an email from the WDW Itinerary Planning Office offering to assist me with any aspect of our upcoming trip. This feature of Club level is wonderful for helping with booking dining, tours, recreation and other aspects of a Disney vacation. I had already booked an ‘Ohana reservation for the evening after the marathon (family style noodles and fire-roasted meat after running 26.2 miles? Yes please!), but the only time that was available was after 9:00. I replied to the Planning Office’s email asking for assistance in moving our reservation. They wrote back that they would put us on a waiting list. Lo and behold, two weeks before our trip, I received an email with a new reservation for an earlier time like I had asked for. Talk about assistance! I didn’t have to stalk the Dining website hoping for a cancellation.

Upon arrival, we were escorted through the Great Ceremonial House Lobby, past the check-in desk, and directly to the Hawaii Longhouse, home to the Club Level rooms and known as The King Kamehameha Club. Now may be a good time to point out that the Mrs. had *no* idea that I had booked Club Level. So when we walked past the normal check-in area, she was first confused, then surprised, then ecstatic (and maybe just a little emotional too).

Upon entering the Hawaii Longhouse, we sat down at a private check-in desk and were offered refreshments. Looking to pre-hydrate for the race, I took advantage and had some Natura water while the Mrs. had a Sprite. After a speedy check-in, we were escorted upstairs to the Concierge lounge, which has beautiful views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. There are plenty places to sit and reflect, TVs to catch up on the real world, and also complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal papers to peruse.

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This is also the location of the Club Level food and beverage offerings throughout the day. This (as a runDisney race participant) was the biggest benefit for me. All day long I had access to water, fruit and snacks.

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There were four distinct services that we took advantage of for Marathon Weekend:

  • Kakahiaka (morning service) 7:00 – 10:00 a.m. (continental breakfast with oatmeal & fixings)
  • Auinala (afternoon service) 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. (snack service with goldfish crackers, cookies, nuts, etc…)
  • Ahiahi (evening service) 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. (varied by the night but always included fruits, cheese, crackers, hummus w/ pita bread, and pineapple with caramel)
  • Aumoe (late service) 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. (wine, cheese, desserts and cordials)

Kakahiaka was wonderful every morning of the weekend. The bagels with peanut butter were delicious, as were the croissants with butter and honey and the cinnamon rolls. Four kinds of cold cereal were out every morning, and the fresh oatmeal had granola, brown sugar and dried fruit for topping. And the array of fresh fruit was perfectly ripe. I was able to carb-load every day before the big race and I even took a banana every morning for a snack later in the parks!

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Auinala was nice when we came back to the resort mid-day, like we often do. We would pick up a soda or juice and some snacks before resting a bit.

Ahiahi was where the chefs at The King Kamehameha Club really were able to shine. Every night was a different treat. From sweet meatballs and Rangoon, to BBQ chicken skewers and spring rolls, to sushi and Tuna Poke’, every night was something different. Often there would also be pasta, salad or even a smoothie with a Polynesian theme. And every night there was a selection of beer and wine from which to choose. Additionally, hummus and pita were always available, and there was a different special item for kids each evening. This will be important later!

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Aumoe was a wonderful treat every night on the way back to our room. The dessert offerings were always varied and delicious, including mini-cakes and cookies. Cordials were on display every night for drinking or making delicious coffee concoctions.

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The night of our arrival, we returned to our room to find that in addition to the usual turndown and mint chocolates, there was a personalized welcome chocolate from the staff.

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As we got closer to race day, there were additional special items to note. Anyone familiar with staying at a Disney resort for a runDisney event knows that the quick service location will have race weekend specials (often involving copious amounts of pasta). Captain Cook’s was no different. They had a race weekend special of a baked pasta bowl with beef and tomato sauce served with a roll. Also, they had a grab-and-go option of a bagel, granola bar, banana and water bottle for $7. Not bad.

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Not to be outdone, every morning of race weekend before you’d have to get on the monorail to EPCOT for the race starts (another perk of staying at the Polynesian), the King Kamehameha Club Staff would put out an assortment of their own quick-grab items: bagels with spreads, apples, oranges and bananas. You could take as many as you wanted. Also, they had the water, juice and coffee service out too!

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I’m all about finding great race fuel in the most unlikely of places. Well, I think I found just about the best pre-race fuel in the kid’s item during Ahiahi Friday night. The chefs had made their own peanut butter and jelly uncrustables! I felt no shame in scooping up a few to put in our fridge for later. These mini PBJ sandwiches were perfect to have as a small meal before bed the night before the race.

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The King Kamehameha Club Staff were also incredibly accommodating. They would retrieve a beer for us during off-hours if we asked. They obtained sparkling water for the Mrs. (the usual machine was out for service) when she requested it. And they procured for me possibly the most perfect recovery drink imaginable (as most non-lactose intolerant runners know):  chocolate milk!

There were other (usual) benefits to the King Kamehameha Club: package delivery to your room (not the resort gift shop), beautiful towel animals, plenty of extra soaps, evening turndown w/ additional towel service which is especially good if you need to take multiple showers from pre- or post-race workouts or after going to the pool. You can never have too many towels.

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This beverage was provided by the excellent staff as a Victory beer for completing my first marathon!

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As I mentioned above, we had reservations at ‘Ohana for dinner after the marathon. Let me tell you, this was a great post-race meal! The family-style service provided plenty of carbs and protein via the delicious noodles and meat skewers. I was sure to wear my medal, and our server never let my plate be empty of grilled steak, shrimp, pork or chicken. And the pineapple bread pudding with bananas Foster sauce was the icing on the cake for a wonderful meal.

We talked at length with the Concierge staff all weekend long about runDisney races, about ones they had run in the past and ones they were thinking about. But my best conversation came with Rodrigo, a manager. I had heard someone in passing congratulate him on completing the marathon. So I offered mine as well. We talked and he said that the staff had come out during the marathon and cheered him on and gave him water and applesauce. How awesome to have your coworkers do that so early in the morning! I noticed he appeared to be limping, and I asked what had happened. Turns out, shortly after passing his coworkers, he got injured in the speedway portion of the race between miles 8 and 9. He persevered and managed to finish the race in less than 8 hours. I don’t know if I would’ve had the dedication to hobble 17+ miles, but he did. And his running partners stayed with him the whole way.

And that is a great note with which to end this recap. Our experience was magical staying in The King Kamehameha Club, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to be truly pampered for their runDisney event. Mahalo!

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Chris at Lost Horizons began running in 2009 and has run four runDisney races in the past 2 years: the WDW Half Marathon and Inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler in 2012, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in 2013 and the WDW Marathon (his first) in January 2014. He may run more. He tweets (@horizons1983) about Disney, running and science. Sometimes simultaneously.

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