Apr 14

Eat and Drink in Epcot Until 11 pm with the All New ‘After Hours Wind Down’

Tuto Gusto Epcot Italy Wine Flight

Have you ever been in the middle of your World Showcase Crawl at Epcot when IllumiNations ends and then you have to leave the park at 9pm? Kind of a bummer right? Walt Disney World has rolled out a new “hard ticket event” that allows guests to continue the party until 11pm.

It’s called “After Hours Wind Down” and tickets are available right now.  For $35 guests can pay to stay in the park for two hours after closing and enjoy one of four private locations.

Beginning April 17th through September 15th, choose either La Cava del Tequila at the Mexico Pavilion; Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion; Tutto Gusto in the Italy Pavilion, or Rose & Crown Pub in the United Kingdom Pavilion. Each location will have small bites paired with a beverage flight (additional beverages can be purchased) from 9:20 – 11 p.m. It’s a magical time as the park quiets down.

Cost is $35, plus tax and gratuity. To make a reservation, go to www.disneyworld.com/spring, call 407-WDW-DINE, or check in with Epcot Guest Relations to see if space is available.

Apr 14

2014 Epcot Sounds Like Summer Concert Series Schedule and Performers

Sounds Like Summer Concert Series

Chart-topping classics will fill the air at Epcot this summer when high-energy bands rock the mic during the Sounds Like Summer concert series. Performing hits from U2, Journey, Boston, and more, seven acts will take the stage in June and July at America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase.

This year’s concert line up includes:

June 8-14: Hotel California ~ A Salute to the Eagles
June 15-21: Don’t Stop Believin’ ~ Journey Tribute Band
June 22-28: Good Vibrations ~ A Tribute to The Beach Boys
June 29-July 5: Don’t Look Back ~ Boston Tribute Band
July 6 to 12: Stayin’ Alive ~ A Tribute to the Bee Gees
July 13 to 19: Slippery When Wet ~ The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute
July 20 to 26: 2U ~ A Tribute to U2

Show times are 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. – except on July 4 when show times are 5:15, 6:30, 7:45 and 9 p.m. Sounds Like Summer concerts are included with Epcot admission (Entertainment subject to change without notice).

Apr 14

2014 Epcot IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party Review

Last weekend my girlfriend Susan and I partook in an Epic Girls Weekend at the Walt Disney World Boardwalk Resort.  You can read about that here: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

On the first night we were in “the World” we attended the all new Epcot IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party.

When Susan booked the party, the Disney booking site had the event taking place at World Showplace. Here’s a screenshot I took today where guests are still directed to World Showplace near the UK and Canada pavilions. The image depicted here with the view of Spaceship Earth beyond World Showcase Lagoon places it in the area near Italy. And if that isn’t confusing enough, when you click on “Read More” you are directed to “meet the greeting Cast Member at World Showcase Plaza, directly next to Port of Entry and adjacent to the Mexico Pavilion.” Well OK then.  Want to know where our party was? In the Odyssey.

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party

Why the Odyssey you ask? Well, there was a possibility of inclement weather so the party was moved inside to the Odyssey building. Only problem, you can’t see fireworks from inside a building. Definitely not something Disney can control and this was a great option for bad weather, however it meant that our dessert eating would be cut short by about 25 minutes as the cast members tried to get us out of the building 10 minutes prior to showtime and we would be unable to munch while IllumiNations was taking place.

On any other non-inclement weather evening the dessert party is supposed to take place at the area near World Showcase Lagoon beside Port of Entry. Upside to having the party in the Odyssey, seating. If you are experiencing the party in the normal location it is standing only. However, we arrived to the party about 15 minutes after it had started, due to the fact that we had gone to World Showplace first, then Port of Entry and then the Odyssey, so there was still no place for us to sit as all the tables and chairs had been taken. Mind you there was zero signage anywhere pointing us to the right place. Hopefully Disney changes that.  Even when we left the Odyssey building to access the special reserved section where we were to watch IllumiNations (since it didn’t rain) there was no signage and we missed the first few minutes of the show getting lost in mass crowds of people trying to find anyone who could help direct us where we were supposed to go.

The Desserts

I was especially excited to attend this party because I had read two reviews online from the week prior that showed pictures of glorious mini cronuts from Refreshment Port. These are a cross between a croissant and a doughnut and are rolled in cinnamon sugar and will change your life! Honestly they are that good.  Guess what? No cronuts. None. Really? It was like visiting Disneyland for the first time expecting to go on the Matterhorn only to discover it is down for refurbishment…only worse. Nope no cronuts. Imposter doughnuts were being served instead. This was a major disappointment. (Note: The night of the party the Disney website was still reporting that Cronuts would be available)

Flambeed Cinnamon Glazed Doughnuts – America

Flambeed Cinnamon Glazed Doughnuts

The chef was at the station with doughnuts in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other.

Flambeed Cinnamon Glazed Doughnuts epcot illuminations dessert party

The doughnuts were topped with a dollop of ice cream and as disappointed as I was that these were not cronuts, I still thought they were super yummy.

Churros – Mexico

I didn’t sample these.

churros epcot illuminations dessert party

 Chocolate Grand Marnier pot de crème – France

These were almost inedible. There was a layer of gelatinous gold glitter that tasted almost like chemical on the top of this dessert. By the time I dug down into the chocolate I tasted no Grand Marnier. I’m not a big fan of pudding so take this review for what its worth.  There are so many yummy desserts at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie in France I have no idea why they chose this as a representation. I would have loved to see mini macarons here.

chocolate Grand Marnier pot de crème epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party

 Tiramisu – Italy

These weren’t too bad. Not much coffee flavor. Tasted more like pound cake with whipped cream.  I’d take a cannoli over these any day.

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney tiramusu

 Shortbread Cookies – United Kingdom

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney shortbread cookies

 Fresh Fruit and Berries

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney fruit

 Ice Cream Novelties

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney mickey bars

Available were Mickey Bars, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches and fruit bars.

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney mickey bars

Traditional Baklava – Morocco

Amazing-ness! I adore baklava and these were perfect. I may or may not have had two plates full.

epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney baklava


epcot illuminations sparkling dessert party disney baklava

Also…you see that flute. That is filled with Prosecco. Champagne was also offered. Before the party ended they had run out of these flutes and were offering guests champagne in small plastic water cups…because who doesn’t want to sip a sparkling wine out of a water cup?

The Epcot IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party pales in comparison to the Wishes Dessert Party (aka Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party) offered over at the Magic Kingdom.  Magic Kingdom doesn’t offer booze, so if that’s your pleasure Epcot may be a better choice.  While I was severely disappointed that the cronut didn’t make an appearance I really enjoyed the stand-in option and the baklava. Hey Disney! How about some Schoolbread from Norway?  For the price, I would say that it is very unlikely that I would return again. Now if they brought that danged cronut back…

The Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party is going to run you $49.  Kids 3-9 are $29. The event is offered on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights from 7:45 PM to 9:20 PM, unless you’re in the Odyssey where they will try and run you out at 8:50PM.

Mar 14

New Disney Vera Bradley Pattern “Perfect Petals” to Be Released at Special May 2014 Event

disney vera bradley perfect petals bags

Disney and Vera Bradley are celebrating their newest Spring pattern with a special event May 4th in Epcot.

This newest pattern released will be called Perfect Petals and will be available in seven styles with two new designs: campus backpack and tablet hipster.

disney vera bradley perfect petals handbag

The bags will be released at a special Brunch Event held in the World Showplace Pavilion inside Epcot‘s World Showcase.  Tickets are $125 and are currently on sale.

This event will include:

  • First opportunity to purchase the newest silhouettes from the Perfect Petals collection
  • Entry into the event store which will offer select styles from the Midnight with Mickey and Where’s Mickey collections
  • Commemorative Gift
  • Brunch
  • Q&A session with Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley.

Brunch Menu:

Banana Muffins, Multigrain Croissants and Guava Cheese Danish
French Rolls
Honey Greek Yogurt Sauce
Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Berries
Orange Juice
Roasted Artichoke, Sun-dried Tomato Quiche
Seared Free Range Chicken Breast with Lobster Cream Sauce
Oven Browned Potatoes with Nueske’s Bacon and Leeks
Grilled Asparagus
White and Milk Chocolate Mickey Mousse Dome
Citrus and Whipped Cream
Coffees and Teas

disney vera bradley perfect petals pursesIf any bags remain following the event, the new “Mickey’s Perfect Petals” items will be released when Cherry Tree Lane opens in the Marketplace Co-Op at Downtown Disney (no opening date has been announced yet). There are no immediate plans to carry this color at Disneyland Resort or on the Disney Parks online store.

Mar 14

Epic Food Review of the 2014 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchen Menu Items

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival

I’ve been lovingly referring to the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival as “Fake Food & Wine”.  Why shouldn’t I?  I’m sure the gardeners will hate me for it but I do come from a farming family (My child has her very own farm and you can read about it in this: Homeschool piece). And I do appreciate the Flower and Garden aspect of the festival. I love that you can see what you are eating at the various Outdoor Kitchens in the planters near each of the food booths.  I think kids would be more interested in eating their vegetables if they grew them themselves…but I digress.

If you’d like to read about the horticulture aspect of the festival you can do so here: My Hard Hat Tour of the 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. But this post…this post is about the food…all the glorious food and what I did and didn’t like.  Take each recommendation with a grain of salt (pun intended).

THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews

This year we have some new beers to sample at The Smokehouse, which is in the American Pavilion.  I was intrigued with something called Billy’s Chilies from Twisted Pine Brewing Company (Boulder, Colorado).

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen smokehouse beer chili billies

Could it be? A “hot” cold beer???  I knew I didn’t want to go all in on a 12oz pour of this beer so I ordered up a 6oz pour along with a 6oz pour of Maduro from Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, Florida).

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen smokehouse beer chili maduro

I knew I would like the Maduro..I’m a fan of most Cigar City beers. As I went in for a sip of the Billy’s Chilies I felt it cool on my lips and then after the first swallow felt a tingling sensation in the back of my throat. Crazy good! Tasted just like a chili pepper but not so much as to completely overwhelm your palate.  If you like spicy…give this one a “go”.

On a subsequent visit I ordered up the Beer Flight – Magic Hat #9, Maduro, Fat Tire and Billy’s Chilies. And sat with a few friends at the picnic tables there as we all tried these 6oz offerings.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen smokehouse beer sampler

Also new this year is the “Piggylicous” bacon cupcake with maple frosting and pretzel crunch featuring Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon.  I have been on the fence about this offering since I saw pictures of it online. I’ve seen maple cupcakes with crunchy bacon topping the frosting but never a cupcake with large chunks of what looks like ham in it.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen smokehouse pigalicious bacon cupcake

I have to say, I’m glad I tried it but it wasn’t the best. I think I just couldn’t get past the fact that there was so much bacon inside the batter. Also, I like my bacon really, really crispy…an effect you can’t achieve while baking it inside a cake.

The Buttercup Cottage

I love The Buttercup Cottage, formerly known as just “The Cottage”. It’s located in the UK Pavilion. The Salmon Biscuit was one of my favorite offerings last year and this year was no exception.  On a visit with my friend “Travel with Rick” we shared the selections here.

Here’s a look at the Freshly baked potato and cheddar cheese biscuit with smoked salmon tartare.  This little bundle of happiness is a good bang for your buck and very filling.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen buttercup cottage salmon biscuit

The next three menu items are new this year.

Field greens with Plant City strawberries, toasted almonds and Farmstead stilton (TRYit!). This salad was light and refreshing and packed a punch with some crumbled stilton cheese.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen buttercup cottage strawberry saladPork and apple sausage roll with house-made piccalilli is up next.  We spoke with Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann out on the promenade one day and he told us that the initial concept for this dish was to make it an apple and sausage pie. It finally morphed into this roulade by the time the menu was finalized.  The side dish served with it was like pickled peppers. I’m not a big sausage fan but if you asked Rick, I’m sure he would tell you to go for it.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen buttercup cottage pork apple sausage roll

The final offering here I tried were the Freshly baked lemon scones with berry preserves and crème fraÎche. I’m a certified scone addict so it was a no brainer that I would go for these.  The scones by themselves were pretty good, but drag them through both the preserves and the cream for a perfect bite!

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen buttercup cottage lemon scones

 Primavera Kitchen

Located in the Italy Pavilion you will find the Primavera Kitchen.  At this locale I opted for the Three cheese manicotti – Egg pasta stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and béchamel. This was a rather large serving but I think it had been sitting in the warmer too long. You can tell from the photo that it kind of has a film to the top of it. Not an ideal texture. The park is kind of limited on what they can and can’t do at each one of these Outdoor Kitchens so I’m not sure if there would be a solution to preventing this or not. The flavors were good though and I paired my pasta with a glass of Placido Pinot Grigio which was light and crisp and one of the more generous pours of wine along the World Showcase Lagoon.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival italy primavera kitchen Three cheese manicotti

 Lotus House

Next stop was in China at the Lotus House.  New this year is a Spring pancake with grilled chicken and green apple. I did not sample this yet, but when I asked Chef Dahlmann what were some of his favorite dishes this year, the pancake in China was the first thing he said.  I did however try the Vegetable spring rolls…twice.  Serving size was two crisp rolls with a smidge of spicy cream sauce. These were delicious and perfectly portable.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen china lotus house spring rolls

Florida Fresh

Florida Fresh, near the Germany Pavilion, has quite a few beer and wine offerings. There’s a Festival Exclusive Beer available here…Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale, Florida Beer Company (Cape Canaveral, Florida).  I sampled it, but actually preferred the Cotton Mouth Belgian Style Witbier, Swamp Head Brewery (Gainesville, Florida). There’s also a blueberry beer offered here…Florida Avenue Blueberry, Cold Storage Craft Brewery (Tampa, Florida), however I didn’t find it very blueberry’ish. If you want a truly fruity beer, opt for the Schöfferhofer Grapefruit beer served at the Germany Pavilion year-round.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen florida fresh beer

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen florida fresh beer

 I’ve heard rave reviews on the Shrimp and stone ground grits with andouille sausage, sweet corn, tomatoes and cilantro. My girlfriend Helen sampled this offering and ate every single morsel. I didn’t try it but it looked divine.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen florida fresh shrimp grits

Also available there is an amazing and sweet white sangria…Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria featuring Simply Lemonade, Florida Orange Groves (St. Petersburg, Florida)…I don’t have a photo to share but loved this offering.

Intermissions Café

On one of the afternoons I was exploring the festival we attended a demonstration at the Festival Center in the Wonders of Life Pavilion and I stopped by the Intermissions Cafe for a small glass of Garda Italian Wine Blend, Quantum Leap Winery (Orlando, Florida). This wine didn’t have much body and was light on the palate.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival   center intermissions cafe Garda Italian Wine Blend

Fleur de Lys

In France we have an Outdoor Kitchen called Fleur de Lys where you can find the most succulent macaron as big as my head! Macaron à la fleur d’ Oranger – Orange blossom macaron with white chocolate ganache (TRYit!). I’ve been slightly obsessed with the macaron sampler offering inside Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France and this super-sized orange macaron is just as wonderful!

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen france fleur de lys orange macaron

Pair your macaron with the orange beer (Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 – Fruity white beer with citrus notes) for a real taste of Florida in France.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen france fleur de lys Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 beer


My trip wouldn’t be complete without a little sushi right?  New this year to the Japan Pavilion is the Temaki hand roll – Sliced Panko fried chicken, curry sauce, rice and pickled julienne carrots wrapped with Nori.  This offering is also very portable and I loved how the curry sauce played with the pickled carrot.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival outdoor kitchen japan hanami chicken hand roll

We’re going to round out this food review with a trip to the all NEW…

Urban Farm Eats

We’re going to start with something that I didn’t like and then get into my favorite offering at the festival.

Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer, Anheuser-Busch (St. Louis, Missouri).  Don’t TryIt!  Just kidding…try it, but you’ve been warned.  I am a craft beer drinker and usually prefer IPA’s and Ales. I asked the Cast Member if the beer tasted like molasses since it was made from sorghum and got a resounding “no”. Well, this beer tastes like molasses…kind of sweet…not appealing at all.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival  urban farm eats Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer

The two food items I tried at Urban Farm Eats were pretty amazing.

First, the Land-grown eggplant “scallop” with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash (TRYit!). There was a light coating of oil in the bottom of this dish that I found unnecessary but the overall flavor was delicious!  Everything had good texture, especially the spaghetti squash and the romesco sauce did a nice job of tying all the ingredients together.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival  urban farm eats eggplant

The “Best in Show” of the festival goes to the Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub. I asked the chef doling out this dish if I was going to be sorry to not have a drink to wash down this fish dish and he informed me that I might. I must also tell you that tilapia is one of my least favorite fish.  This.Dish.Was.Amazing!  The fish was dense and cooked perfectly. The rub had a kick, but not a kick-you-in-the-face kick…more of a slap-your-mama-good kick.  The melon slaw was the ideal accompaniment. I can’t wait to go back this weekend for another serving!

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival  urban farm eats ghost pepper dusted tilapia

That’s it for now kids. Be sure to follow me over on Instagram for live updates from the parks. I’ll be there this weekend finding more delicious morsels to share with you.

Have you Made it Out to the Flower & Garden Festival Yet? What are You Looking Forward to Trying?

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