12 Days of Christmas: Day 11! ✨Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party✨

Reserve VIP seating for your family with a super fun way to experience Epcot’s Illuminations: Reflections of Earth nightly spectacular! 

First, you’ll have special seating with perfect views of the fireworks. Second, indulge in “Frozen” themed desserts & drinks while surrounded by a wonderland of themed decorations. Nibble on Living Rock Crispy Bonbons, Anna’s Blue Velvet Cupcakes, Duke of Weselton’s Cheese Fondue & much more! Sip on lemonade, punch or “melted snow” and then after the grand finale, you’ll be led to the Norway pavilion for a ride on the Frozen Ever After attraction!

Contact your Upon a Star Agent to add this special event to your Disney package!

 

Explore World Showcase with Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak!

It's now October, and Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is in full swing! Brady and I had the opportunity to swing by a couple of weeks ago, and as always, the offerings are fabulous! Something that is done each year is Remy's Hide & Squeak, which is essentially a World Showcase scavenger hunt. I've always been curious, so this year, I figured I'd give it a go!

First, you need to pick up your materials.  These are available for $5.99 (plus tax) at locations in Future World and at Traders in World Showcase. Watch for the sandwich boards advertising that you can purchase a map at that location.

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The storyline of your hunt is that Remy is trying to find the ingredients for his famous Ratatouille... and you need to help! Here are your materials:

Map and Stickers for Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak

Map and Stickers for Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak

As you spot Remy in each country, place the sticker with the ingredient he's holding on your map!  When you're finished, you return your map to one of the purchase locations to choose a prize! Don't worry - you get to keep the map, too. 

Now one twist I experienced was that I did this hunt 2 days after Irma roared through Florida. As such, Remy was moved inside to safety.  Normally he's visible outdoors in each location; during my stay, though, we found need to search inside each pavilion, which was a fun challenge!

Once I successfully completed my mission, I returned my map and got to select from one of 4 Remy-themed keychains.  Here's the one I picked - isn't it cute?!

My prize!

My prize!

Ready to help Remy? There's still time to get down to Food & Wine Festival this year! Contact one of our amazing agents for more information!

VIP Tour Experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort Part 2

A couple of weeks back, I posted about some of the amazing VIP Experiences that are available at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  Of course, Part 1 focused on my favorite topic - food!  Again, more detail can be found If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunesI Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

So today, let's focus on a VIP Tour.  Simply amazing. If you want to truly feel like a Rock Star, this is the way to roll! Your Tour Guide is a very knowledgeable Cast Member who will be your personal escort through the parks. Basically, they ensure that you see what you want, when you want, with no waiting.  They will take you into the FastPass line of every attraction - even the most popular!  You bypass bag check.  You are driven right to a special entrance, where your band is scanned and you walk right into the park with no lines.  It couldn't be easier!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

And did I mention SNACKS?! Private VIP guides really do think of everything!  Our guide, Kirk, was phenomenal.  So knowledgeable and friendly! It was fun getting to know him and fun getting to ride the rides with him! He found out that I love Hidden Mickeys, and so he spent time pointing out the hard-to-find ones.  Did you know that there are 3 of them in Soarin' Around the World™? I bet that 3rd one is the one you'll struggle to find! 

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Kirk even helped us park hop! We went from Disney's Hollywood Studios® to Epcot®  - again no bag check line or line to use the touch point. In the space of 2 hours, we had done 4 big ticket attractions!  The amount of time saved was amazing.  

Private VIP Tours are available for up to 10 guests. If you are with a larger party, you'll just add another guide -- this ensures that the personalized experience stays, well ... personal! The cost varies based on season from $400-$600 per hour (7 hour minimum).  This cost is well-worth it, especially during those extra-crowded times of year! Your Upon A Star Agent can book this for you or even add it into your package. 

There are also half day VIP Tours available that are not private; they will, however, take you through the parks to focus on either "thrill rides" or "classic rides".  These are not personalized to your family, but they are a great way to tour if the full VIP Private Tour isn't in the budget this time around.

More to come - watch for Part 3 about "Early Morning Magic" at Walt Disney World® Resort!

New Dining Experiences Coming to Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk

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This is a brand-new character meal featuring Disney Couples!  This new breakfast will feature couples from Tangled and other films like The Little Mermaid.  Looks like this will be the first-time Rapunzel will have be at a character meal.

While enjoying enjoy breakfast, guests will be encouraged to “share the tales of their own hopes and dreams” or maybe tell a tale of a great adventure.

Trattria al Forno has a great location.  The Boardwalk is within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios so it’s a great place to start your park day.

While the official menu has not been released here’s hoping their waffle with espresso-mascarpone cheese remains.  It’s excellent!

This exciting new Character Breakfast is set to open this spring.  Advanced Dining Reservations are recommended. 

 

Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios

Minnie’s Seasonal Dine has been a enjoyable dinner experience with Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Goofy for a little over a year now.  Soon there will be more chances to join Minnie and Friends for some festive fun.  This spring Minnie’s seasonal Dine will be offered for lunch! 

Minnie Mouse arrives for lunch starting May 14, 2017.  Advance dining reservations are recommended.

 

Paddlefish at Disney Springs

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Adding to the new food line up is Paddlefish, the multi-million-dollar transformation of Fulton’s Crab House in Disney Springs.  The iconic paddleboat has been reimagined into a modern yacht experience.

The seafood-centric menu features Maine lobster, King and snow crab and a selection of fresh fish picked daily.  Some favorites from Fulton’s are still on the menu like the lobster corn dogs.  An expansive wine list as well as classic turn-of-the-century cocktails as to the ambience of the restaurant.

Paddlefish is now open.  Advance Dining Reservations are recommended.

 

Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs

Planet Hollywood has re-opened its doors in Disney Springs.  The overhaul of the interior and exterior took more than a year.  The new observatory houses the new Planet Hollywood Restaurant and shop along with the new Stargazers Bar. 

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The menu features burgers and other items created especially for the Planet Hollywood Observatory by The Food Network’s Guy Fieri.  For guests that speak in Guyism’s you’ll recognize LTOP, SMC and Donkey Sauce on the menu.  The Stargazers Bar will showcase local Florida Craft Beers.

Planet Hollywood Observatory is now open.  Advanced Dining Reservations are recommended.

These new dining experience are an exciting addition to the food choices at Walt Disney World.  Contact your Upon A Star Agent for more details. 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things You Don't Know About World Showcase!

1. TWEET TWEET - La Cava Del Tequila is a magical little gem hidden within the Mexico pavilion. Opening its doors in 2009, this small Mexican eatery/tequila bar offers 100+ tequilas and mind blowing margaritas (Avocado!). Show the bartender you follow the the establishment on Twitter and be rewarded with a free shot! 

2. HOLA! GUTEN TAG! BONJOUR! - did you know Cast Members working in each country around Epcot's World Showcase are actually from that country? Talk to them! Learn new words, try their favorite native snacks and drinks. Cast members in Germany even played soccer with my daughter! Cast Members are super friendly and very eager to share their stories with you! 

3. ICE CREAM MARTINIS - yes, I said ice cream martini. Check out L'Artisan des Glaces in the France pavilion for a one of a kind treat (drink?!). Currently, there are about 15 flavors of ice cream and sorbet offered, AND there's the option to add a topper of Grand Marnier, Whipped Cream Vodka or Rum! YUMMY!!!! 

4. CARAMEL LOVERS UNITE - Caramel is delicious. Maybe even better than chocolate. And maybe no one makes caramel better than the original company, Werther's. Did you know the company started in the small Bavarian village of Werther in Germany? Visit Karamell-Kuche in Epcot's Germany pavilion for a delicious array of treats including Werther's caramel popcorn, Caramel pecan clusters and my favorite, the Caramel drizzled chocolate chip cookie! 

5. SAKE TIME - while exploring Japan's Mitsukoshi department store, find your way to the back to a neat sake bar! There, you will find Cast Members eager to educate you about the variety and types of sake offered as well as single tastings and flights! Sparkling or strong; they have a taste for everyone! 

Epcot Food & Wine Festival - A Photo Tour (with some words)

OK, so maybe it isn't entirely a photo tour! I have sooooo many words I can use to describe the Epcot® Food & Wine Festival!  Delicious, fun, tasty, yummy... and many other adjectives!  But, you get the idea.  

Each fall, Epcot® transforms World Showcase into culinary wonder, adding plenty of additional kiosks.  Even the "regular" countries of World Showcase put out special kiosks, all featuring the food and (you guessed it) wine/alcoholic beverages from that country.  The flavors are amazing... and the smells just beg you to try!

When you enter Epcot®, be sure to grab a passport.  This way you can keep track of all of the amazing eats/drinks you've tried!

OK we have our passport, let's go!  The Festivities are apparent as soon as you enter!

Let's stop at the Festival Center, shall we? It's located in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion. You can check out my Periscope walking tour by clicking here.  There is a ton of merchandise here, plus this is where many of the seminars are held.  If you head to the back, there is a Ghirardelli Chocolate display.  Check out this year's Star Wars display... all made of chocolate!

It's a good idea to get a nifty wristlet gift card! Load it up with some moolah, and this makes it much easier to get your eats as you tour the world! 

Time to head back to see the food booths! I did 2 Facebook Live Walk-throughs.  Check out my Facebook Page and you can find them under videos. 

And food? Yep.  There was lots of it! And it was all delicious!  I realized that I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I would have like to... I guess I was too busy eating LOL!!

If you've never checked out the Food & Wine Festival, I highly recommend it! It's a great time of year to do an adults trip, girls' weekend, guys' weekend...  You won't regret it!

 

Drinking Around the World Showcase

When planning adult only trips or vacation date nights, I get a lot of, “we want to go drinking around the world”. This refers to World Showcase in EPCOT. It can be a very fun and entertaining way to visit all of the countries in World Showcase. Unfortunately, there have been many adults who have fallen victim to the effects of the “it’s vacation” attitude and had a few too many drinks a little too quickly.

TIPS:

Pace Yourself: with 11 countries, you need to take your time. The basic hours of the World Showcase are 11am-9pm. This gives you 10 hours to conquer the “world” without being tempted to climb a temple in Mexico. Go in with the mindset that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it will help. Take your time, and enjoy the shops and attractions. There’s more to do than just drink!

Share drinks and dishes: My plan is based on sharing drinks and food. This will help you consume less so you don’t feel as full and can try more. This will also help your wallet!  Drinks run from $6-$16 each. You can blow your budget pretty quickly just on the alcohol, but you will need to eat too.

Hydrate: Not to state the obvious, but Florida is HOT! That can lead to dehydration. Alcohol can also lead to dehydration, making your feel the effects very quickly. No one wants to see you blitzed, and you don’t want to be sleeping it off in your resort before the torches are lit for Illuminations.

Start Early: This plan starts when the World Showcase opens at 11am. It factors in some rides, a dinner and entertainment.

Be Respectful: Drinking Around the World has almost become an adult past-time at Walt Disney World. You can see “teams” with matching shirts, bachelor/bachelorette parties loudly proclaiming victory, and many guests have been seen taking things a little too far. Remember- Epcot is still a family theme park. You can still enjoy yourself and be respectful of others.

MEXICO

The best location to start is Mexico, then work your way around to Canada. The food and drinks seem to make a natural progression from light to heavy going in this direction.

* Skip the kiosk outside with the pre-mixed, sticky sweet Margaritas. Head inside to La Cava Del Tequila and grab a margarita to share. The Blood Orange, Avocado, and Jalapeño Margaritas are recommended. Skip the tequila flights – shots will have you taking a siesta before your reach Italy.

* Grab some chips and salsa to enjoy with your margarita. Tell your server that you follow @CavaDelTequila on twitter and you might receive a special offer.

* Ask your server for a glass of water here. Make sure you finish it before you leave the table.

* Enjoy the Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballeros, as it has a wait under 20 minutes. Take your time visiting the shops in the air conditioning.

 

NORWAY

* Grab a Carlsberg from the kiosk. While it’s not actually from Norway (it’s actually from Denmark), it’s still a good beer. Avoid the Linie Aquavit Glacier shot – not just because it’s a shot, but because it’s awful! It’s a potato alcohol and reminds me of dill pickles – not in a good way.

* Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe is a snack highlight. The school bread is the obvious choice and a favorite among guests. It’s also cheap.

* Ask at the bakery for another free glass of water. See if you can get it to go so you can sip it while you’re looking around Norway.

* The obvious attraction here is Frozen Ever After. You will need to get a fastpass or you will lose your touring momentum. Aim for a 11:30-12:30 window. This will give you time before or after to get your drink and dish.

CHINA

* The Joy of Tea stand in China has some of the most refreshing cocktails in the World Showcase. They are tea-based and a little light on the alcohol side. The Canto Loopy is light and really tastes like cantaloupe.

* After eating nachos and school bread, along with a poor snack selection of snack food, I would skip food here.

* Purchase a bottle of water at Joy of Tea. Sipping it over the next couple of countries will really help you feel better as you continue on your quest to conquer the countries.

* After you grab a victory picture in front of China’s pagoda, head inside to sip your beverages while looking at the clay army. Enjoy the Reflections of China in the air conditioning. If you want a personal souvenir, Good Fortunes Gifts next to the Joy of Tea will add your name in Chinese, free of charge, to a fan or parasol.

OUTPOST

This isn’t a country – skip it! It doesn’t count as an official stop on a Drinking Around the World tour. Don’t be fooled by the “exclusive” Walt Disney World Safari Amber, it’s a boring Anheuser-Busch brew.

GERMANY

* Beer Here! So many great beers to choose from. Most will go for the Schofferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefewizen. This beer is refreshing on a hot day. I prefer a glass of Riesling from the Sommerfest kiosk.

* Karamell-Küche is a wonderful sweet shop. The salted caramel is delicious but hard to share. The caramel popcorn is nothing special. Go for a cupcake! Since the shop is usually busy, they are very fresh.

* Keep sipping on that bottle of water you bought in China

* Stop at Kunstarbeit in Krystal and see the beautiful Swarovski Crystal figurines, especially the beautiful Cinderella’s Castle! Grab a pickle – a glass one – for your Christmas Tree. It’s a great tradition to start with your family.

Checkpoint: remember you have 10 hours for the tour. If you are pacing yourself, checking out the attractions and shopping, you should be about 3.5 hours in, making the time about 2:30pm (unless you got derailed at Frozen).

 

ITALY

* Italy is known for great wine. You can opt for a red or white wine flight in La Bottaga Italiana. The pours are very small, so I prefer going to Gelati and getting the Sangria or a Bellini. The drinks here are some of my favorites, so grab a drink for each of you to split; we’ll make up for it at the next stop.

* While you’re at Gelati, grab some gelato. You get 2 scoops to share!

* Make sure you get some water. If the kiosk won’t give you a cup, the sparkling Italian water could hit the spot.

* Relax and catch a street show in the piazza and a picture in front of the wonderful statues.

AMERICA

* I recommend a break in America, especially if you got that extra one in Italy. However, Block & Hans has some American crafts beers that are worth a try. Try the Angry Orchard Hard Cider.

* It’s America – Funnel Cake! There is nothing more to say….

* You can refill your purchased water bottle at the water fountains outside the bathrooms in the back of the pavilion.

* Enjoy the air conditioning inside while you watch the amazing Voices of Liberty performers. I may or may not have grabbed a power nap in the American Adventure theater. Rejoice that you have made it almost half way and your still going strong!

JAPAN

* Time to be adventurous! Head to the back of the Mitsukoshi Department Store to the Sake bar. The hot sake goes down easily. While the Ichiban beer (especially the frozen) sounds tempting, it’s bland and not very appealing.

* After that funnel cake, you’re probably feeling a bit full. There isn’t much in Japan as far as “snacks” go. A guest favorite is Kaki-Gori, which is like a sno-cone.

* San! Ni! Ichi! Participate in the pick a pearl ceremony before heading to the Bitutsu-Kan Gallery, which is filled with wonderful Japanese art. Maybe you’ll be in time to catch the Matsuriza drums.

MOROCCO

* Stop into the Tangierine Café for a coffee infused with liquor. It’s a great afternoon pick-me-up.

* Share some hummus and enjoy the air conditioning with your coffee.

* Ask for a free cup of water with your coffee and hummus.

* After you enjoy the architecture and colorful tiles in the Marketplace labyrinth, head back toward the front of the pavilion to Souk-al-Magreb for henna.

Checkpoint: Coffee and a nap! You should be feeling good! You should be 3.5 to 4 hours past the last check point. It’s around 6:30pm, so let’s grab some dinner!!

FRANCE

* The best drink in the World Showcase is the Grand Marnier & Grey Goose Orange Slush! The Grey Goose Citron Lemonade Slush and Kir Royale are also divine, so grab a drink for each of you to share.

* Before you get your drink, get some dinner, and more importantly, dessert. Head to Boulangerie Pâtisserie les Halles. Try the Bisque de Homard (lobster bisque) and Brie Aux Pommes- brie with apples and cranberries on multi grain bread. There are so many selections for dessert; it’s hard to pick just one! From the excellent Fraises Tart (strawberry tart), to the macaron collection, to the chocolate mousse, there is something wonderful for everyone.

* You can get a free cup of water at the Pâtisserie. Ask for it at check out.

* Check the schedule to see when Serveur Amusant is performing. These French acrobats are so fun to watch as they defy gravity. You can also find Belle by the lake.

ENGLAND

* There are several good beers on tap at Rose and Crown. Try one of the pub blends like the Bumblebee (Boddingtons and Guinness), Blank & Tan (Bass and Guinness) or the Golden Fox (Boddington and Bass).

* Grab some Victoria Sponge Cake from Yorkshire Country Fish Shop. The light sponge is filled with jam and butter cream and is delicious. If you’re still feeling pretty full from your desserts in France, head into the Teas Caddy and get some Shortbread Cookies.

* You can get a free cup of water with your Victoria Sponge Cake.

* Take your beer and treat to the back of the pavilion. Across from Toy Soldier is a band stand. Sit and enjoy the band as they play covers of some of the best British bands, like the Beatles and the Who. Stop in the Crown and Crest to see your coat of arms and pick up a Doctor Who or Sherlock tee.

CANADA

* To get the really good beers in Canada, you used to need a reservation at Le Cellier. Now there is a kiosk where you can grab some of the better beers on the World Tour. La Fin Du Monde is a robust Abbey Trioel that is considered to be one of the best beers in the world, not just World Showcase.

* There isn’t much in the way of Canadian snacks, but you can get some yummy popcorn and receive a special souvenir bucket.

* Ask for a cup of water with your popcorn.

* By now it’s the end of the evening. Find a bench or spot by the lake and enjoy Illuminations. It’s one of the great Disney nighttime shows. With the fireworks, lasers, and soaring music, it’s a great way to end your day.

Touring the countries this way can help you cover World Showcase and see all it has to offer. For regular Disney travelers, this could be a fun way to experience the park in a new way. For new Disney vacationers, this gives you an opportunity to experience every country, not just a few.

Stay tuned to the Upon A Star Travel & Concierge Blog and follow me on social media as my husband, Chris and I, tour the World Showcase and test this out in September. I’d love to hear your results and feedback when you give this a try. Cheers!!

You can find out more about agent Carrie at http://uponastartravel.com/agents/#/carrie/
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @uponastarcarrie
Carrie@uponastartravel.com

Flower and Garden Festival 2016

As this year's Flower and Garden Festival draws to a close, I am thinking about how amazing it is as a whole. I simply love Epcot in the spring.  The topiaries, displays, and food kiosks are incredible, and I love just wandering around seeing all the special touches that Disney adds to one of my favorite parks.  I am excited that I will get to experience it later this week before it closes out for the year.  Rather than typing out lots of words, though, I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves. 

If you have never been, I highly suggest visiting Epcot during 2017's Flower and Garden Festival!

Quick Service Dining in Disney: Epcot Edition!

A few weeks ago, I began a series on Quick Service dining around Walt Disney World.  If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.  Today, we will be heading around Epcot and talking about my favorite Quick Service eateries and snack locations!

Epcot has such a huge amount of options for food.  It also has my favorite Quick Service restaurant on all of Walt Disney World - Sunshine Seasons! This place is my favorite for a variety of reasons.  First, it is located in the Land Pavilion, which is my favorite.  It's my happy place, and sometimes during a stressful day I like to envision sitting in the food court area here, looking up at the Seasonal Hot Air Balloons that decorate the ceiling.

Of course, the important part, even more than the atmosphere, is the yummy food!  Sunshine Seasons has a variety of options: Stir Fry, Salads, Sandwiches, Rotisserie Chicken, Soups... and so much more!  The pastry section never ceases to amaze, and you are sure to find something for every palate!  There are also fantastic breakfast selections. 

In all my food pictures, I am ashamed to say that I do not have a single picture of my typical order here -- the salmon over green beans.  It's so amazing! I do have a picture of my husband eating his favorite dessert, though -- a red velvet whoopie pie!

Sometimes, though, when we are ready for lunch, we are back in World Showcase.  On those days, we love to try out the countries.  We have recently come to really enjoy the food at the Liberty Inn (American Adventure Pavilion). 

All American food with options like Hamburgers, Chicken Wraps, S'mores & Apple Pie abound here.  I've always found the food to be tasty, and the lines aren't too bad, either!

Another yummy option is the Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion.  This is the quick service area, and there is a beautiful outdoor seating area that overlooks World Showcase Lagoon.  Yet again, no food pictures.  Apparently I am always too hungry to snap a picture before I eat...

I also want to give a shout out to 2 of my favorite snack options here.  First up is Karamel Küche in the Germany Pavilion.  This is Werther's Caramel at its finest, and holy moly is this place good!

My second shout-out goes to France.  Between La Boulangerie Patisserie (pastries & coffee) and Les Glaces des France (ice cream), I don't know if I can pick!

So, there you have it.  Next time you're at Epcot, give one of these options a whirl - and let me know what you think! 

Tasting and Drinking Our Way Around the World: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival 2015

This week, agent Carrie shares her experience at this year's Food & Wine Festival! If you've always wanted to go but haven't, this post is for you!       ~Jenn

My best friend from high school, Amy, and I have been going to small wine festivals around PA for many years.  As we celebrated our 30th birthdays at a fall wine festival in Yorktown in 2005, we decided we needed to have something greater in order to “look forward” to the big four-oh looming in front of us.  We decided to go to Italy!  We started planning, even buying books and tapes to learn Italian.  We weighed out the pros and cons of going with a tour group vs. renting a convertible and winging it.  Sometime last year it hit us- we have no money saved up for our grand tour of Italy.  Over the last 10 years, life happened- children got older, houses were bought, jobs were lost and new ones started.  That’s when my husband surprised us by saying he was sending us to Italy!...in Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival.  

I started reading and learning about the F&W Festival.  I quickly learned it was not like any of the festivals I’d been to locally -- meaning no free wine tastings.  I was a little worried about how much money we were going to spend on tiny sips of wine.  I started to feel overwhelmed with everything there is to know about the festival.  There are parties, special events, food demonstrations by famous chefs, drink seminars, and so much more.  I wanted it all!! 

There were two small problems with wanting it all…money and time.  The money is pretty self-explanatory.  While the demos and seminars felt completely doable at $15pp for a 45-60 minute session, some of the parties and VIP experiences went for up to $500pp.  Time was the bigger factor.  We were going for a Girl’s Weekend and only 2 days in the parks.  At first, I wanted to spend both days at the festival (Epcot is my favorite park), but then I found out that Amy hadn’t been to the parks since high school. So we HAD to go to the Magic Kingdom for a day.

We made the sad decision to skip the demos and our desired special event - the Italian Regional Food and Wine Pairing Luncheon - because it would take 3 hours up in the middle of our day.  Instead, we planned to eat (and drink) our way around the World.  The Global Marketplace consists of 30 booths that represent countries and refreshments that are placed around the World Showcase.  It’s more than the regular World Showcase pavilions.  Additional countries are represented as well: Poland, South Korea, Greece, and Patagonia are just a couple of examples.  We pre-purchased the Sampler Package that included 8 entitlements for food or drink items in the Global Marketplace, a 20th Anniversary F&W pin, and VIP seating for the Eat to the Beat Concert.

After a beautiful morning riding rides in Future World, we headed to the Festival Center.  It’s the hub of all the comings and goings for F&W.  The demos and seminars happen here.  There is a small area to buy festival merchandise (Dooney and Bourke anyone?!?!)  This is also where you pick up any festival tickets and passes.  While we were there, we got a F&W gift card and loaded it with the max money we were willing to spend at the festival.  This was to ensure we didn’t go overboard.  We also got our “Festival Passport”, which tells you all the Festival booth menus throughout the Global Marketplace.  This passport makes a great souvenir because you can have it stamped at each country’s booth you visit.

The booths have a minimum of 2 main dishes, a dessert, and a beverage.  We decided to order different dishes so we could try each other’s.  In Scotland, I ordered the Haggis with Neeps (rutabaga) and Tatties (potatoes) and Amy had the Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon.  I thought the haggis was a bit dry, but since I’ve never had haggis, I have nothing to compare it to.  That became the theme of the day…let’s try something we haven’t had before.

Then we went over to Hawaii.  I was disappointed that they were sold out of the Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad (at 12:15pm!), and they didn’t know when they would have more.  So, we both had the Kalua Pork Sliders with sour Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayo.  I could have had eaten these all day!

Off to Greece!  You can easily find Greece in the Marketplace.  Just follow the cheers of, "Opa!"  When you pick up your drink, shout, "Opa!" and the cheer is quickly returned.  This was one of the best interactions with Cast Members and people at all the booths we visited.  I got a Greek Salad and Amy got the Vegan Moussaka with Vegan Sausage Crumbles.  My salad was good, but small.  The moussaka was also good, but very hot.  It was a 90-degree day, and eating the super-hot food wasn’t going down well, so it didn’t get finished.  I was very impressed with the vegan/vegetarian options all through the marketplace.

Next was the Champagne and Desserts booth.  As a champagne lover, this was my favorite booth.  I really wanted to splurge on a tasting on Dom Pérignon, but at over $20 for 2 ounces, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Darn budget!  Instead, I went with the Moet & Chandon Nectar Impérial instead.  Amy got the Moet & Chandon Impérial to go with her Chocolate Cherry Exposion dessert.  I got the fancy Strawberry-Basil Champagne “Toast”.  Everything was phenomenal!  We immediately planned to go back at the end of the evening to get another glass of bubbly and dessert.

Next stop was the Refreshment Port. This booth is not a country, but it offers one of the best Disney treats around -- the Dole Whip with Coconut Rum!!  We enjoyed this while looking out at the lagoon for a small break.

O Canada!  Cheddar Cheese Soup and Moosehead Lager for me.  Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter and Tawse Vineyard Cabernet Franc for Amy.  The soup and filet are on the menu at Le Cellier, so I was a little disappointed that there was nothing new.  But, I LOVE the Cheddar soup and the beer was light and made an excellent pairing.  The wine was really good and had the right notes to compliment the fillet and earthy mushrooms.  It was one of our favorite booths, and Amy now wishes to go to Le Cellier the next time we are in WDW.

After a shopping excursion and concert in England, we headed over to France.  It was Champagne again for me in the Sparkling Pomegranate Kir.  The Boeuf Bourguignon was so delicious and melted in my mouth.  I was excited to see it on the menu, because I have always wanted to try it.  Amy’s Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit bland, but the Crioissand aux Escargots was the simply amazing.  It was both our favorite of the whole festival.  We then went into the wine shop, Les Vins de France, where we purchased the red and white wine flights.  This was our biggest disappointment of the day.  Each glass was 2oz, and the flight was $18ea.  Given the rich food we had, the wine seemed, well…boring.  We still drank it all while sitting on the edge of the fountain enjoying the beautiful day.

Italy!!!  We finally made it!  We started with some shopping and pictures -- and then it poured!  Have no fear; there is a w(h)ine shop.  While we whined about the rain for a minute, we drank a glass of wine.  Due to the rain, La Bottega Italiana was packed.  We got one glass of Pinot Noir, then got back in line to get another glass of something we couldn’t pronounce (looks like those Italian tapes were a waste of money). We really enjoyed the wine here.  By then, the rain had slowed down a bit so we headed to the festival booth.  I tried the Raviolo alla Caprese (cheese ravioli) and Amy had the Filetto di Pollo Funghi al Marsala (chicken marsala).  We were very disappointed in the Italian booth.  It only had those 2 selections, and they were so dull.  A great part of our time at the booth was talking with a nice couple from Cleveland -- I had to poke a little fun at his Browns shirt.  Turns out “Mrs. Browns Fan” was actually a Steeler fan and grew up 2 blocks from where I currently live.  It’s a small world after all!

With one more entitlement left and 10 minutes until our dinner reservation, we headed to Germany.  They make the best Riesling, and they have four to choose from!   We drank our wine while we headed over to Morocco to try Spice Road Table as our final stop in trying something new.  We had a little wait, so we decided to get henna tattoos that mean “Sisters”.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere and cast members here.  Everyone was very helpful and friendly, and the food was amazing!  We watched Illuminations from here and then headed back.  We were entirely too full (and a bit too giddy) to stop at the Champagne booth again.

We ended up using all of the entitlements and all but a couple dollars on the gift cards.  We were happy we didn’t go over budget.  We were disappointed, though, that we didn’t make it to more of the Global Marketplace.  As we started around the lagoon, our goal was not to miss anything.  The only booth we purposely missed was Poland.  As Pittsburghers, we didn’t think they could do a pierogi better than home -- I mean after all, we have pierogi races at Pirate games.

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is an EVENT!  We had so much fun the whole day.  Even after an amazing day at the Magic Kingdom, we said we were going to come back and do 2 days at the festival.  We’ll be back for our next milestone birthday celebration!  Forty-One is a big deal…right?