Oct 13

Have You Experienced ICE! Inside the Gaylord Palms Resort at the Gates of Walt Disney World?

Gaylord Palms resort orlando ICEHow do you make a five star resort even more stunning? You put a Christmas overlay on top of it. Fill it with 2 million twinkling lights, a 54-foot Christmas tree, carolers and a one of a kind ICE! winter wonderland art exhibit.  That’s the experience you’ll receive at the Gaylord Palms this holiday season.

Join Frosty the Snowman and his friends at this year’s ICE! featuring Frosty the Snowman in a colorfully frozen retelling of the original holiday classic. More than 2 million pounds of hand-carved vibrant ice sculptures bring your favorite scenes to life in a 9-degree ice palace. Slide down the four, two-story ice slides in the slide room and then visit the Frostbite Factory – a live ice-carving zone featuring Artisans in Action – where you can get up close to watch a masterful ice carver from Harbin, China, create amazing sculptures before your eyes! And what’s Christmas without Santa? Warm up with some hot cocoa and have your photo taken with Jolly Old St. Nick.

Delectable dining opportunities and countless other activities are available for you to enjoy within the resort, but the best way to benefit from all that Gaylord Palms has to offer is to unwrap the splendor of these great packages:

The Christmassy DreamWorks Experience (starting at $223 per night)

  • One night room accommodations
  • Tickets to ICE! including unlimited/priority access during your stay
  • DreamWorks Character Meet & Greets with priority access
  • ShrekFeast Character Breakfast at Villa de Flora: Kids will love becoming an honorary Ogre and joining Shrek and friends for a fairytale feast fit for a king.
  • DreamWorks All-Star Adventure Scavenger Hunt
  • DreamWorks Welcome Amenity
  • Souvenir Family Photo

Christmas at Gaylord Palms (starting at $183 per night)

  • One night room accommodations
  • Tickets to ICE! including unlimited access during your stay
  • Access to DreamWorks Character Meet & Greets
  • Souvenir Family Photo

ICE! is open daily from Nov. 23, 2013 to Jan. 5, 2014, including holidays. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.ChristmasAtGaylordPalms.com.

Gaylord Palms Resort is located five minutes from the gates of Walt Disney World at 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, FL 34746.

Be sure to “Like” Gaylord Palms on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to get the most up-to-date information and special deals and promotions!

Oct 13

Disney’s “Frozen” Official Full Length Movie Trailer

Sep 13

Food & Wine Weekends Five Course Meal Review at La Luce by Donna Scala at the Hilton Bonnet Creek

La Luce Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek food and wine weekendsFollow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and you might notice that I have a special affinity for a certain Italian restaurant inside the Hilton Bonnet Creek at Walt Disney World.

This past weekend was opening weekend for the “3rd Annual Food & Wine Weekends” at the resort property which adjoins the Waldorf Astoria Orlando Resort.

La Luce, the brainchild of chef Donna Scala, has crafted an impeccable specialty menu for the Weekend Events running through November 9th, 2013 and I was first in line to sample them.

La Luce Donna Scala Hilton Bonnet Creek Orlando DisneyFriday Night

On Friday night I headed down to La Luce with a girlfriend and we prepared ourselves for “Il Cibo Della Vita”, which translates to “the food of life”.  We decided to dine at the bar and share the offerings between the two of us. This is a more casual way to experience La Luce and the service from my favorite bartenders Tony and Deborah make the experience that much more fun.

Zuppa $9 Butternut Squash – Creamy…sweet…lucious and silky smooth. The serving size was generous and we enjoyed dragging the specialty bread service through it when we got to the bottom of the bowl. I especially enjoyed the fried sage leaf on top.

Butternut Squash Soup La Luce Food and Wine Weekends Hilton Bonnet CreekBruschetta $12 Mozzarella di Bufala, Roasted Tomato, Arugula – Crisp bread and forward flavor is what you’ll get with this starter.  The deep roasted tomato had a distinct sweetness which was a perfect match to the saltiness of the olives and creamy cheese.

Bruschetta la luce donna scala hilton bonnet creek food and wine weekendsRisotto $28 Speck Wrapped Scallops, Wild Mushrooms, Reggiano – Decadent is the word I would use to describe this dish. I wouldn’t normally order a risotto but this dish might sway me to do that more often.  Imagine crispy prosciutto wrapped scallops atop a bed of creamy…cheesy…risotto finished with a splash of olive oil and fresh parsley.

scallop risotto la luce donna scala hilton bonnet creek food and wine weekendsAt this point in the meal we were getting pretty full and I wished that we hadn’t eaten so much in the afternoon as we noshed around World Showcase for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  Here’s course number four, which I wish I had sampled. There’s always next weekend….

Lamb Meatballs $26 Tuscan Bean Ragu, Mint Gremolata, Natural Jus

lamb meatballs la luce donna scala hilton bonnet creek food and wine weekendsOur dessert was delivered by General Manager Rabie Elmtioui.

Dolce $9 Cannoli, Ricotta, Mascarpone Cheese – Three cannoli…each one, two bites of heaven. A light and sweet ending after the heavy risotto.

cannoli la luce donna scala hilton bonnet creek food and wine weekends

Saturday Night

On Saturday night I was allowed in on a special staff tasting. Ask your server what they would recommend and they will be able to give an honest answer because of the tastings that take place before dinner service.

Zuppa $9 Cauliflower - Don’t you just want to dive in? Another excellent offering from La Luce. Silky smooth cauliflower puree with crisp croutons. A perfect contrast. (glances over shoulder for the “Soup Nazi“)

la luce food and wine weekends hilton bonnet creek cauliflower soupBruschetta $12 Grilled Pears, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Aged Balsamic - This was the stand out dish for me from the entire weekend. I could have eaten an entire plate of these and washed it down with a bottle of wine. Crusty bread, ripe cheese, sweet pears and tangy balsamic. Like a symphony in my mouth. **smacks lips**

la luce food and wine weekends hilton bonnet creek bruschetta pear gorgonzola

Risotto $28 Prawns alla Plancha, Wild Mushrooms, Melted Leeks, Truffle Cheese - You had me at melted leeks and truffle cheese. This risotto was on par with the scallop risotto I had on Friday night. I may be turning into a risotto fan. Well played La Luce…well played.

la luce orlando hilton bonnet creek food and wine weekends shrimp risottoGrilled Duck and Sausage $32 Umbrian Lentils Ragu, Tomato, Cipolline, Saba - Generous in portion size, this entree is full of flavor. Perfect proteins top a bed of savory lentil ragu.  The duck literally falls of the bone. The hand stuffed sausage has just the right amount of spice.

la luce food and wine weekends hilton bonnet creek grilled duck and sausageDolce $9 Lemon Souffle Pudding - This light and airy dessert read more like a souffle and less like a pudding. It was tangy and not at all heavy. La Luce has perfected dessert! It’s signature Butterscotch Pudding even has its own Facebook Page!

la luce food and wine weekends hilton bonnet creek lemon souffle puddingThe level of service from the kitchen staff to the servers and bartenders to the management is five star at La Luce.  The restaurant was awarded the 2013 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. With over 150 selections of wine to choose from there is something to suit any palate.  The specialty menus for Food & Wine Weekends includes suggested wine pairings for an additional fee.  For a complete list of the weekend events check out my “Weekend Offerings” post.

If you would like to book a room at the Hilton Bonnet Creek please visit http://www.hiltonbonnetcreek.com/ or phone 407-597-3600.  La Luce is open daily from 5-9pm.  For reservations phone 407-597-3600 or visit http://LaLuceOrlando.com

Special thanks goes out to the Hilton Bonnet Creek for hosting my stay. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Sep 13

Disney’s 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Soft Opening Review

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival signage

The 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is officially underway today! Yesterday I got a sneak peek at the soft opening for the annual Walt Disney World Event and sampled several of the Marketplace offerings…all in the name of research of course…and I am here to give you a full report on what I loved and could have lived without. Shall we begin?

We started our journey entering the park via the International Gateway. First stop was at the gift shop there to pick up our Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Wristlet Gift Cards. So much easier than fumbling for cash or swiping your credit card a million times. We loaded each one with $50 and away we went.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival gift cards wrist

My husband was excited about the return of a beef dish to the France Marketplace so we headed over there first.


Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes) – $5.50 – This was a nice sized portion of protein which was cooked until fall apart tender. I can’t say the same for the potatoes. They were more of a potato disk. The gravy had wonderful flavor.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival france boeuf bourguignon


Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef – $4.00 – This was one of my favorites! The dish was served on a quarter section of savory waffle. The waffle was light and fluffy and delicious. Atop that was a stew of beef, gravy and carrots and what looked and tasted like a butter sauce. You MUST try this dish!  I loved that the Belgium booth had covered seating adjacent to it and my husband and I were able to sit for a spell while we enjoyed their marketplace offering.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival belgium potato and leek waffle with braised beef


Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll – $4.50 – When I first read about this dish, I pictured a piece of deep fried tempura chicken wrapped in seaweed. When I got to the Japan Marketplace I saw something different. It actually looked better then I had imagined. This offering is white meat chicken shredded and rolled in seaweed with what tasted like cabbage. It is then rolled in rice and topped with a teriyaki sauce and served with ginger and wasabi.  There’s a small strip of seaweed on the base of the roll so you can pick it up with your fingers (hence the hand roll).  I gobbled this one right up. It was delicious.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Japan Teriyaki chicken hand roll

At this point in the afternoon it was getting warm so the husband and I decided to head over to the American Adventure Pavilion so we could sit in the AC of the Publick Dining Room. I happened to run into Chef Kim (right) and Chef Jens Dahlmann (left) there. Chef Jens is the creative genius behind the entire festival. If you see him out on the promenade make sure and thank him.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Chef Jens Dahlmann amanda tinney chef kim

Hops & Barley

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter – $7.50 – While small in size, this offering was large in flavor. The lobster was not chewy in ay way. It was tender and dressed in a delicious butter sauce.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Hops and barley griddled lobster tail with garlic herb butter

We also tried the New England Clam Chowder with a side of Tabasco – $3.00 – This soup was screaming for salt…or that side of Tobasco that my husband refused to let me pour in. He thought it was fine just the way it was and ended up polishing off the entire cup.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Hops and barley new england clam chowder with a side of tobasco

I decided to go for my first adult beverage at this point. The Rogue Chocolate Stout (6oz) – $3.50 – I love this beer. It’s not too thick with just the right notes of chocolate. I don’t think I could drink more than three ounces but it is also available in 12 and 24 ounces as well.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Hops and barley rogue chocolate stout

I’m happy to report that all of the beers at Hops & Barley are on tap this year. In years past, they have served some of the beers out of bottles that were half sitting in ice and half out. This made for many warm pours. Perhaps that’s the reason why there are less Sam Adams beer offerings. 2013 Epcot International food and wine festival hops and barley marketplace americanAfter we had cooled off we headed to sample something I love only second to cats…cheese!


Artisan Cheese Selection: Flagship Reserve Cheddar, La Bonne Vie Triple Crème Brie and Wijngaard Goats Gouda – $4.75 – In the past I found that the cheeses here were often cut too early and left to dry out. Not this time. Each cheese was perfectly pared and deliciously ripe and soft.  I devoured the entire board.  The Cheddar was drizzled with honey, the gouda came with a craisin cracker and the brie was accompanied by an apricot preserve.  I paired my cheese with…


Selbach-Oster Mosel Riesling Spätlese – $4.75 – This was a decent sized pour. The wine was fruity and sweet and went lovely with the salty cheese. Sweet and salty…how can you go wrong?  There were wines available at the Cheese marketplace, but that’s the nice thing about the festival…you can mix and match to your liking…and the German wines just so happened to be right across the promenade from the Cheese. Well played Epcot…well played.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Artisan cheese selection


Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun – $5.00 – This dish caught my heart and my taste buds last year and I was happy to see it return. It’s got a slight kick with the sauce so be prepared with a cold beverage…

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival china mongolian beef in a steamed bun

…we went for this one…also from China.  The Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.00 – I think they went heavy on the triple sec and light on the vodka here. In fact…I saw one of the cast members pour a vodka floater on top and I think that was all the alcohol that was in this super sweet drink. Not a great value.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival china kung fu punch with vodka

Another disappointment was this dish. Which made me very sad. I’m a sucker for pork belly.


Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado and Cilantro – $5.25 – The pork belly was neither crispy nor melt in your mouth. It was just meh. Tasted like it had been braised…but not long enough. I loved the light fresh topping and the beans were excellent but the protein was a definite fail. Save your money and go for the decadent pork belly at California Grill instead.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Brazil Pork Belly with Black Beans


Napa Smith Organic IPA (12oz) – $6.75 – I sent the hubby over to the Terra booth to pick up an IPA for me while I was shooting the pork belly and he came back with a big cup of it.  I love an IPA. This one was not too bitter and was unfiltered. I found it refreshing and it was nice to try something new. I don’t know that I would go back for another but I didn’t dislike this offering.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Terra Napa Smith Organic IPA

We were getting pretty full by this point in the day but had saved some room for dessert so we made our way to…

Desserts and Champagne

One of my Instagram friends had been longing for the new Frozen S’mores – $3.00 – I was excited when the cast member handed me this treat through the window. It looked delicious. The taste didn’t match the visual appearance at all. I was expecting a slushy icy consistency. Instead I got foam. Like all foam. Like the head of a beer or soda foam, albeit S’mores flavored. It was not what I was expecting.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Frozen Smores

I ran into Marianne Hunnel, the Festival Content Development Manager, and told her about the issue with the Frozen S’mores and she took one look into the window at the machine and knew exactly what the problem was. I’m going to give this dish another go sometime later in the festival. I think it may have been a problem with the machine. This is one of the benefits to a soft opening right?

Dessert Trio: Chocolate Orange Cupcake, Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake and Morello Cherry Pistachio Mousse – $4.00 (or $1.75 each) – Hail Mary full of grace were these delicious!  The chocolate cupcake was moist and has just the right amount of frosting. The frosting wasn’t cloyingly sweet and had a crunchy orange topping.  The cheesecake was thick and decadent…and I am NOT a fan of cheesecake…but I would order this again. My favorite was the mousse. Light and airy with juicy cherries on the bottom.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Dessert Trio

I needed something to wash down all those mini desserts so a trip to Craft Beers was in order.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Craft Beers Amanda Tinney

Craft Beers

Dogfish Head Brewery, Namaste and Widmer Brothers Brewing, Alchemy Ale (6oz) – $3.50 each – Dogfish Head makes some killer brews. I’m not a fan of hefeweizen and that’s what the Namaste beer (left) resembled to me. It’s a witbier. I wasn’t impressed. The Alchemy Ale (right) on the other hand was pretty good.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Craft Beers

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Sign

We were both stuffed and even though we still had money left on our gift cards we made our way towards the International Gateway to exit the park. Check out the chalk drawings in the UK. Such clever cast members!

Epcot UK Chalk Art Walt Disney World Epcot UK Chalk Art Walt Disney World 2013 Food and Wine Festival The 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will take place from September 27th – November 11th, 2013, in Epcot. A full list of menu items can be found here.  Stay tuned. I’m headed back to the festival today to sample more offerings and will report back again here with my findings. See you around World Showcase..and if you see me please come up and say Hi! I love meeting you!

My husband and I were provided free admission  into Epcot. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Sep 13

Check Out the Offerings at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando Food & Wine Weekends at Walt Disney World

Chocolate Waldorf Astoria Orlando food wine weekendI am over-the-moon excited about the upcoming Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and this year my epicurean loving heart is overflowing at the thought of experiencing a second layer of foodie fun at the 3rd annual Food & Wine Weekends Celebration at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria.

I feel like the resident Disney blogger at the Hilton Bonnet Creek. (Shhh…Don’t tell Mickey…but its my favorite resort on Disney property)  However, this will be my first time experiencing the offerings at the resort’s special Food & Wine Weekends which runs tandem with Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.

I’ll be sharing loads of pictures this weekend so make sure to follow me over on twitter, facebook and instagram and here’s a list of the scheduled events for Food & Wine Weekends at the Hilton and Waldorf that I’ll be covering Friday and Saturday night.

Fridays and Saturdays

Delights & Flights

5pm – 7pmHilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Lobby
Enjoy a complementary sampling of featured culinary delights paired with signature beverages to kick off your Food & Wine evening experience.

Il Cibo Della Vita

5pm – 11pmLa Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Celebrity Chef Donna Scala offers pairing menus including some of her newest recipes. Experience dishes made from the seasons finest ingredients paired with the perfect selection of wine. (menu here)

A Taste of Waldorf Astoria

6pm – 10pmBull & Bear at Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Enjoy an exclusive degustation menu comprised of some of the most celebrated dishes from the master chefs of the most renowned Waldorf Astoria hotels around the world. (menu here)

Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing

6pm – 10pmZeta Bar & Sushi Lounge at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
An exciting epicurean journey awaits as guests explore perfect pairings for our favorite sushi dishes with beer, sake and wine. (menu here)

Bar du Chocolat and Champagne Tasting

6:30pm – 10:30pmPeacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Decadent, yes. Sinful, perhaps. Peacock Alley is transformed into a chocolatelovers’ dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of champagne. Choose from a signature selection of chocolate treats from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team.

Live Entertainment

6pm – 10pmPeacock Alley


Royal Tea, A New Waldorf Astoria Orlando Tradition

3pm – 5pmPeacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Treasure time together as you savor finely prepared tea sandwiches and house-made pastries while sipping premium hot tea and lightening to live piano music. (menu here)

Unless listed as complementary, experiences have associated fees for participation and reservations are strongly recommended.

The Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort is located inside the gates of Walt Disney World at 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln, Orlando, FL 32821. Phone:(407) 597-3600