Dining at Maria and Enzo's

If you've followed along on any Upon A Star adventures or social media accounts, you probably know that Disney Springs is a rapidly changing and rapidly growing place! In fact, it was recently listed in a travel blog as one of the top 20 places to visit -- and I couldn't agree more!

On our recent trip in January, Brady & I ventured with our friends down to Disney Springs several times - after all, a foodie's gotta eat!

Maria and Enzo's is one of the newest eateries. It's themed - stick with me here - like an airport! The back story is that Maria and Enzo had a small bakery in the airport, but when it closed, they converted the whole thing into a dream restaurant (with the help of the owner of the Edison next door - but that's another blog post!). 

As you might imagine, this restaurant serves Italian food. The views are fantastic -- overlooking the water -- and the food I had was wonderful.  I loved the whole look and feel. There were travel & aviation posters lining the walls, and the room had an open and airy feel.

In addition to the main seating area, there is also a "First Class Lounge". There are no outside views, but it does have tablecloths! Due to the diners, i couldn't snag a picture of those tables.

But let's talk about the real star here - the FOOD.  I love Italian food! And I really enjoyed everything! The menu is somewhat limited, but very good. The first picture was our appetizer, the Arancini di Carne (fried rice stuffed with meat ragù, peas and mozzerella).  For my entree, I had the Busiate con Granchio (spiral pasta with lump crab meat) -- it tasted fresh and was so delicious! Brady had the Rigatoni, and our friends had the Spaghetti. Desserts were the Cannoli and the Sicilian Ricotta layered sponge cake.

All four of us were impressed with our food - and with our server! Martina was amazing - be sure to request her table when you go!

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In terms of pricing, you are definitely going to pay over $20 per entree. Disney Dining Plans are not yet accepted; but for me, I don't mind paying for a great meal every now and again.

Want to try it for yourself? Let your Upon A Star agent know that Maria and Enzo's is a must on your next trip -- we will set it all up for you. 

Buon Apetito! 

Viva Italia! Italy at Its Finest!

Ah, Italy! Just the name of this country probably brings images to your mind. Are you picturing the gorgeous countryside? The fabulous food and wine? Well I can tell you that it's both of those things, and so much more! 

Exactly a month ago I was traveling the Italian countryside, checking out all that Adventures by Disney has to offer. And let me tell you -- it offers A LOT! The amount of experiences I had in just 8 days still blows my mind. I've tried to write this post many times, but each time, so many words fought to fill the page that I thought it best to do it in podcast form, which I did! (You can click here for that link. )  But now that it's been a month, the wonderful memories have distilled into several key moments, and I can't wait to share them with you... read on! 

So as you read this, just know that everything I did, you can do too! This itinerary works almost year-round, and it is worth every cent. First let me introduce you to my tour guides:

Korey & Alexa

Korey & Alexa

They were amazing! I couldn't have asked for better guides!  This picture really showcases their fun personalities.  On your Adventures by Disney tour, you may have different guides, but I can guarantee that they'll bring the fun! These two kept everything moving seamlessly. They functioned not just as tour guides, but as photographers, storytellers, comedians, and best of all  - FRIENDS.

The lovely Alexa hails from Rome, so she functioned as our local guide. Korey is from the US, and he was our other guide, bringing his amazing knowledge of history and the culture to us. I can't thank them enough for making this trip so incredible.  So as the song says, "let's start at the very beginning..."

Rome

Well in many ways, Rome is kind of the beginning - "All roads lead to Rome" after all! Upon arrival, I was met by Adventures by Disney representatives and ushered through the airport. The process (which could have been overwhelming) couldn't have been easier! We were handed over to our private driver, and then we were met at our hotel by our guides.  Here is our hotel, the lovely Grand Melia Rome!

Later, we were whisked off to see the beauty and awesomeness of the Colosseum:

And yes, I am wearing gladiator sandals. Because, you know... when in Rome! This experience really hit me - the weight of all of the history, the fact that it is literally an ancient building STILL STANDING - it was so inspiring. And well - we didn't wait in one single line. Not one. Oh and did I mention walking through the Gladiators Entrance? That is something that only about 1% of visitors get to do. 

Day 2 began at the Vatican.  The richness of this city-within-a-city was truly a sight to behold. And of course, again, no lines! We were among the first to visit St. Peter's Basilica and the Pieta. 

 

The afternoon had us touring more of this amazing city.  Just imagine... a place where the "new section" was built in the 1800s! Seeing 2000 years worth of history in 2 blocks... I can't even describe it. The Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the gelato... oh the gelato! So delicious! 

But the highlight of Day 2 had to be touring the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel after hours. Privately. With no crowds whatsoever. AND we got the rare privilege of taking pictures in the Sistine Chapel (this is not something that normally happens... just an extra bit of pixie dust!! Here are some of my favorites:

Completely amazing!

Orvieto

Day 3 had us traveling to the beautiful medieval city of Orvieto on our way to Tuscany. So many amazing places to visit here, including a gorgeous medieval Duomo (that's a church!). But this is my favorite picture:

Orvieto - side street

Orvieto - side street

Tuscany

Day 4 is maybe my favorite. Hard to pick, but I remember every second of this day. Visiting "Sarah's Farm"... real name Fattoria Poggio Alloro. This family-owned farm has gone from just starting to a leading producer of Wines and Olive Oils. Disney fans, it may interest you to know that Sarah herself will be at Food and Wine Festival in Epcot this year!

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The itinerary? Pasta making! And food! And a tour of the farm and winery! And oh my goodness, Sarah was such a ball of joy and energy throughout. She made Tuscany completely unforgettable. And I'm calling this the best meal of my life... 

And it really looks like that! What an incredible view!

Also, shout out to our hotel here, which was a converted farmhouse.  The Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda was amazing!

Florence

Day 5 takes us to Florence, home of the Medicis, and a place where almost every major Renaissance artist stayed! I loved seeing all of the gorgeous buildings and of course, shopping! Two highlights though were seeing Michaelangelo's David at the Academia and touring the Palazzo Vecchio. 

 

Venice

Day 6 & 7 brought us to Venice. Of course, it's a water bound city, so what better way to travel than by gondola? Did I mention a gondola with musicians?

After a quick tour to get our bearings, we were taken to the Hilton Molino Stucky, which is a gorgeous hotel with one of the top rooftop pools in the world!

While in Venice, we had plenty of free time to explore, but we also got to see the Bridge of Sighs and Doges Palace which were both incredible. 

But the highlight here was Venetian mask-making at a beautiful shop called "Tragicomica".  The artisans were amazing! They guided us as we designed our very own Carnivale mask!

So as you can see, we were with a group. And you know what? The entire group still chats... almost daily... in our Facebook Group. I was nervous about traveling with "strangers", but let me tell you, they are now fast friends. I truly enjoyed spending time with them. And not to worry, although these were the highlights, there was plenty of "explore on your own" time. Brady and I have fond memories of exploring roaming Italy by ourselves. We could not have accomplished the amount of things we did without the help of Adventures by Disney... and we certainly wouldn't have felt so spoiled! Of course, I wanted to leave some magical surprises, so I didn't tell you everything.

I hope that this taste of "Viva Italia" and Adventures by Disney has inspired you! There are so many itineraries to choose from! I'd love to answer your questions about Adventures by Disney, and your Upon A Star Agent can help you find the perfect match for your family! 

Until next time... Ciao!

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

Disney Dinners: A Yummy Way to Countdown to Your Disney Vacation

Anticipation is one of the wonderful side effects of booking your Disney Vacation.  You’ve figured out where you want to stay and how many days you want to go.  You’ve been wise and booked your package with Upon A Star Travel and are taking full advantage of the Concierge service.  You’ve excitedly told your kids!  “YAY!  We’re going to Disney!!” They yell.  Now you have to wait- it’s the hardest part.  It can be especially difficult for kids.  When you’re little, time moves so slowly.  Even High Schoolers feel like they’ve been in a relationship forever if it lasts from Christmas to Snowball.  A fun way to help add to the anticipation and move the time more quickly are Disney Dinners! 

A Disney Dinner is a meal themed after a Disney movie.  My family started doing this on Friday nights and we count down the weeks instead of the days.  It doesn’t feel as long to say we leave in 10 weeks instead of 70 days.  This gives everyone something to look forward to each week.  It also helps us get reacquainted with some Disney movies and characters.

My kids are 11, 13 and 16.  We rotate who gets to pick the movie.  Then they help plan and assist with cooking the meal to go with it.  I can’t even explain how wonderful this has been for my family.  With school and activities, it’s been quality family time.  We work together on the menu, including looking up recipes together.  We then post the menu on the fridge, a day or 2 before so everyone knows what’s planned.  Sometime we plan a menu that’s similar to the location where the movie takes place- we did a Hawaiian theme for Lilo and Stitch.  Sometime we play on words like our Pirates Pizza Party because my husband was craving pizza.  My son is autistic and by posting the menu in advance, he knows what is coming and has tried many new foods since we started doing this.  He associates it with the movie so it “makes sense”.  Working one on one with each of my kids has been wonderful, and they’ve really been great about cooking. 

There are several ways to plan Disney Dinners.  You can make it simple and pick fun names for simple foods like Playing Card Sandwiches for Alice in Wonderland or “Poisoned” Apple Slices for Snow White.  There are some great preschool ideas online (check out Pinterest).  You can add activities, coloring pages and decorations.  You can even get some Walt Disney World recipes online for your dinners.  Make it your own and have fun!

Here are some of our favorites:


You can follow Carrie on facebook at facebook.com/uponastarcarrie and on Twitter & Instagram @uponastarcarrie.

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?

Quick Service Dining in Disney: Magic Kingdom Edition

I think it's well established that I love to eat.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks... I'm no respecter of times.  And when I am on vacation, good food is very important! That being said, I have decided to do a series involving my favorite eateries around the "World". Because there are so many, and in order to keep these posts manageable to read, I'll focus on a specific type of dining in a park/resort.  For me, the Magic Kingdom really epitomizes the Disney experience.  As such, our journey begins here.

When it comes to a Quick Service meals in the Magic Kingdom, the first that comes to mind is the ever-elusive Be Our Guest.  This restaurant is an anomaly in that it changes over from a Quick Service by day to a Table Service by night.  I love this! First of all, the ambience is second to none.  As a little girl who grew up loving Belle and her movie, dining in Beast's Castle truly never ceases to amaze me.  

Trust me, these pictures do NOT do this place justice! But really, the focus of this article is the food.  And Oh. Em. Gee.  It is fantastic! I typically get the carved turkey sandwich with pommes frites (AKA french fries), which is so so good! Dessert varies, but I love anything with the gray stuff on it -- and hubby almost always opts for the Strawberry Shortcake cupcake.  Of course, there are tons of options here, and I'm pleased to say that they are a lot different from traditional fast food.

Aside from the menu, this location is unique as far as how it serves your food.  When you check in/order, you are given a small "rose".  This is actually a handy little device that uses RDFI technology to allow the servers to know where you chose to sit - and they deliver your order right to you! You also get real silverware (as opposed to plastic).  As far as seating choices go, I love dining in the West Wing -- it's so spooky and amazing. 

The trick with this restaurant is that you usually can't just walk in.  Reservations are a must if you really want to dine here.  So, when you need a "walk in" location, one of our favorites is Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square.

There are so many things I love about this place.  But first, I have to give a shout out to my favorite greeter.  He sings to the passers-by, rings a bell, and welcomes everyone in with a smile.  He is basically a fixture from what I can tell - I think I see him every trip!

The menu is definitely heavy on seafood, which happens to be my favorite.  I love the fried fish and chicken basket when I feel like throwing my diet to the wind, but on my most recent trip, I discovered how amazing the salmon platter was!

The decor inside is nautical, and there are some nods to the Haunted Mansion ... one of my favorite attractions! If you dine here, try to sit on the second floor - there is a great view!

My 3rd go to in the Magic Kingdom is definitely Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn.  This has been an annual favorite of mine, partially because of the fixin's bar!  Now a disclaimer: there was just an announcement that this restaurant is slated to receive a new menu.  And I am SUPER excited about it!  Originally I was in love with their taco salad, which was discontinued a couple of years ago.  Now, it is going to be a lot of burritos, rice bowls, and fajitas.  Second to seafood, these are my favorite food groups!

Now for some stunning news -- I apparently have absolutely no food pics from this establishment.  This is likely because I'm starving and gobble down my food before taking a picture when I go here... I promise to rectify this situation on my trip in January!  Hopefully the new menu will be in place by then so I can offer our loyal readers a review.

So, those are my 3 faves in the Magic Kingdom.  Honorable mention goes to the Diamond Horseshoe, which is only open seasonally.

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So, what are your go-to Quick Service eateries in the Magic Kingdom? Comment below!