Spaceship Earth across the World Showcase Lagoon

Epcot Food & Wine 2014 – Pick TEN?

World Showcase Lagoon ViewI can’t even begin to imagine the calories, the cash, and the intestinal fortitude it would take to sample all the special dishes at all the food booths at this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  Think about it – there are more than 60 foods to choose from!  For our week at Walt Disney World in October, we’re committed to trying a decent number of different samples, but we had to have some semblance of a plan (it’s me, I’m the obsessive planner).

Because I will eat anything (Honest! With the exception of tuna casserole and black licorice) – I’m not at all a picky eater.  Raymond?  He’s much more selective about food.  Much better now than he used to be, when we got married 25 years ago I only needed to learn how to cook five World Showcase / Epcotthings and he was completely happy.  We’ve both come a long way since then – my cooking and his palate have both seen vast improvements!  Still, I thought it best for Raymond to peruse the food choices (all 60+ of them) and pick a top ten – a goal, if you will, for us to start with as we make our way around the World Showcase during the festival.

I’m pretty optimistic we’ll get to all ten, so I’ve thrown in a couple of my own to round out the selection to an even dozen.  Note:  We are highly gluten tolerant omnivores.  Here are our picks!

1.  Australia – Garlic Shrimp with roasted tomatoes, lemon myrtle and rapine (a.k.a. broccoli rabe).  For a first choice, I have to applaud Raymond’s bravery – I had to google lemon myrtle!  This World Showcase / Lagoonsounds completely delicious to me.

2. Brazil – Crispy Pork Belly – seriously…say it out loud now, “Crispy Pork Belly” – just saying it tastes delicious.  Can’t find fault with that choice!  (Good job, Honey!)

3. France: Boeuf Bourguignon: Braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes.  Sounds like another winner.  In fact, this recipe was on my 2014 Disney New Year’s Resolution list and I haven’t gotten around to cooking it yet – this will let me find out how it’s supposed to taste!

4. Greece – Griddled Greek Cheese with pistachios and honey.  This sounds amazingly delicious to me.  We are cheese people!  And, living in the South, we love our vittles griddled.

5. Hops & Barley – Baked Lobster Alfredo.  Let us pause for a moment and consider the potential for happiness this dish could provide.  Boy, oh, boy!  It better deliver!!!  The calorie count…no, don’t think about it.Italy Pavilion / Epcot's World Showcase

6. Italy – Ravioli alla Caprese:  Cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and basil.  All things we love to eat, but this is one dish I’m iffy on.  It’s simple – so it’s got to be authentic and really fresh.  We’ll see, won’t we?

7. Morocco – Spicy Shrimp Roll with cilantro and mint sauce.  Well this certainly sounds tasty!  That’s two shrimp dishes – we can do a whole compare-and-contrast thing.

8. New Zealand – Venison Sausage with pickled mushrooms, baby arugula and black currant reduction.  Honestly, we all know that a mushroom, pickled or otherwise, will never pass beneath Raymond’s mustache.  I’ll be polishing those off.  Venison is very popular here in the Italy Pavilion RestaurantsSportsman’s Paradise, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s prepared by non-Louisianan chefs.

9.  Puerto Rico – Friturias: Sorullitos (sweet polenta fries) and bolitas de queso (cheese fritter with mayo ketchup).  Polenta’s a LOT like grits (which we eat every week at our house) and we’ve already confessed our love of cheese.  This ought to be amazing!

10. Scotland – Seared Sea Scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon.  If Raymond hadn’t picked this one, I would have waited in line all by my lonesome for this dish.  This is one I’m not going to want to share.

The next two are all mine, baby!

11. Hawaii -Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise.  Boom!  How can you go wrong with that?

12. Italy – Filetto di pollo, con funghi al marsala: Chicken tenderloin, cremini mushrooms, marsala sauce and ciabatta bread.  Ah, Italy – the source of all my most beloved foods!

What do you think?  Enough?  Too much?  Have you tried any of these and hated them?  Save us from ourselves – if you have intel, speak up and leave a comment!

Yikes – we haven’t even thought about beverages!  There’s a certain beer flight at the Farm Fresh booth I’ve gotta try!

The Disney Food Blog’s excellent Festival coverage is here.


Italy Excursion on Disne Cruise Line

Walt Disney World Versus Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise LineI’m a Disney fan - I’ll bet you already had a pretty good idea about that.  What I mean is, I believe in the Disney brand and with few exceptions, am pleased with Disney products I purchase.  This includes Disney vacations.  We love vacationing at Walt Disney World – it’s the perfect place for us and has been the source of so many unforgettable experiences and happy memories.  Why mess with this excellent vacation formula?  What made us take that first Disney Cruise?  Well, first and foremost, a Disney cruise is still a Disney vacation.  When we cruised for the first time, our children had reached the (*cough* difficult *cough*) age where they wanted to explore more of the world, see new and different things.  Devastated, we tried to be accommodating (within reason) and combined a trip to Walt Disney World with a Disney Cruise – best of both worlds and still Disney!!!

Turns out this was a perfect plan!  Raymond was anti-cruise and admitted later (after he had aCastaway Cay's Mt. Rustmore wonderful time) that he’d been practically dreading the cruise portion of our vacation.  What we thought would be one cruise turned into many – we’ve seen amazing, fantastic parts of the world – and still got to vacation in the Disney Bubble!  My mission today is to give you a kind of comparison between Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line – in case you’ve been curious about how they stack up.  To keep from gushing on all day about a couple of my favorite topics, I’ll limit todays discussion to 10 key areas.

Walt Disney World Versus Disney Cruise Line

Beach Service on Castaway Cay1. Service – Ah, those famous and fabulous Cast Members!  I’d say it’s a tie with the edge going to Disney Cruise Line.  With rotational dining on the cruise, you get to experience different restaurants.  The best part of switching dining experiences is that your assigned servers go with you – they’re the same servers you have every evening of your trip.  Should you choose to dine in one of the signature, adults-only restaurants, you’ll have different servers, but they are absolutely top notch – hands down the best service we’ve had anywhere.  The stateroom hosts/hostesses are fantastic (better than Mousekeeping at the resorts, for sure).

Disney Cruise Line / Ship2. Price - I’m not a travel agent and I’ve not price-compared all the different resort types (value, moderate, & deluxe) with each cabin type and the prices during all seasons for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line, but I’m confident – a Disney cruise can be comparably priced to a Walt Disney World stay.  The cruise may actually be even more economical (depending on length and itinerary) when you consider food.  All you care to eat, 24 hours a day (room service included) is hard to beat!  Food at Walt Disney World (unless you take advantage of a free-dining promotion) is expensive!  Park tickets are another big expense – We have found that while we can spend as much on shore excursions, we usually don’t have to.

3. Rides and Attractions - Walt Disney World is the clear winner in this category, however, don’tGrand Cayman Snorkeling Adventure think for a minute that there aren’t a wide variety of amazing experiences available on a Disney cruise.  You may not be going to Disney parks, but there are plenty of excursions that are very adventurous (either through Disney Cruise Line or on your own).  Zip-lining in Alaska?  We loved it!  Touring Barcelona on a Segway?  VERY fun!  Biking, hiking, snorkeling, a stingray adventure?  All available on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (visited on most itineraries sailing from Port Canaveral).  There are too many experiences to name here, but rest assured, you will not be bored on a Disney cruise.

4. Entertainment - We know there are awesome live shows and 3D movies to enjoy at eachDisney Cruise Line Entertainment Walt Disney World park.  On a Disney cruise, you can enjoy first run movies onboard the ship along with extremely well-done, Broadway quality entertainment every evening of your cruise.  We LOVE the shows on Disney Cruise Line!  The ships’ entertainment areas designed for children (kids’ clubs) are extraordinary!  So much to see and do – just in a different way than at Walt Disney World.

5. Characters - The character meet-and-greets are plentiful at Walt Disney World and also on a Pluto on Disney Cruise Line in AlaskaDisney cruise!  Because they’re confined to a ship and not spread out among 4 parks, the characters on Disney Cruise Line are, to me, more accessible than at Walt Disney World.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto – and a plethora of princesses along with many more characters are fairly easy to meet.  For spontaneous, unexpected character interaction, Disney Cruise Line is the winner.  Nothing makes returning to the ship at the end of an action-packed day more special than being welcomed back by your favorite Disney characters.

6. Food - I can find plenty of delicious foods to enjoy on either type of vacation.  However, there are many more dining choices at Walt Disney World.  Because of this, I feel like Disney Cruise Formal Night on Disney's Magic in the MedLine makes an extra effort to please every type of person and their meal preferences (and special dietary needs). For example, if you don’t like one entrée – order another.  If you don’t like any of the desserts on the menu, order a bowl of ice cream or a Mickey Premium ice cream bar.  If you don’t feel like eating in the dining room, order room service.  We like getting up early and walking on deck for a look around before stopping at one of the counter service eateries and taking our selections back to our cabin to enjoy.  We also love the convenience of making our room service selections at night and having our breakfast delivered right to our cabin first thing in the morning – all included in the cruise fare.

Relaxing on Deck / Disney Cruise Line7. Resort / Cruise Ship Amenities - Unlike different amenities available for different resort types, all guests on Disney Cruise Line enjoy the same perks.  Access to the spa and salon, pools, exercise room, restaurants, pools, hot tubs, pubs, lounges, shops, theaters – equal access for all passengers.  Yes, the spa and salon treatments are extra, but worth the splurge if your cruise itinerary includes an at-sea day.  The ships’ exercise rooms are excellent (with awesome views) - we’ve even attended spin class!

8. Accommodations – Both types of vacations offer a variety of room/cabin choices to suit every family size and budget.  I feel the need to mention that Disney Cruise Line’s cabins are among the largest in the cruise industry.  The cabin spaces is used creatively with convertible couches and beds that drop down from the ceiling.

9. Location - If you choose a cruise out of Port Canaveral, you’re not far from Walt DisneyChip & Dale on Castaway Cay World.  It’s easy to combine a Walt Disney World stay with a cruise.  If you want to see other parts of the world, you may need to fly to departure ports outside of Florida – airfare can add a significant amount to your vacation expenses.  Walt Disney World never moves, so it’s easy to have a good idea about the time and expense it takes to get there.

10. Experience - This is the hardest one of all.  The experiences are certainly different, but with many of the same special Disney elements.  With so much to enjoy on each type of vacation – I can’t pick a favorite.  We alternate visits to Walt Disney World with a Disney cruise as often as we can.  This summer we visited WDW for a week and next summer we’ll be cruising with Disney in Norway.  Every Disney vacation is special, exciting, and tons of fun.  I’d call this one a tie.

Call your favorite travel agent or check out Disney Cruise Line vacations here.

Formal Minnie on Disney Cruise Line Castaway Cay Snorkeling





Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett – 60 Years Later

Davy Crocket played by Fess ParkerWay back in 1955 (a long time ago), THE best show on TV was Davy Crockett.  I wouldn’t know myself, of course, because I wasn’t born yet, but I have heard a lot about the show that was a mid-century marvel, the amazing Fess Parker and the role that made him famous.

“Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” 

The 1955 season of this phenomenal hit consisted of only three episodes about the life…and death of the famous Davy Crockett.  Unfortunately, the show’s hero died at the Alamo and that’s how the first season ended.  The explosion of Davy Crockett mania took off anyway!  Coon skin caps and Davy Crockett lunch boxes were flying off the shelves, Davy Crockett comic books and bubble gum cards were all the rage, and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was at the top of the music charts for 16 weeks.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in Davy Crockett licensed merchandise made it’s way into the hands of children across America.Davy Crocket Indian Fighter Hunts a Bear

Walt Disney, having already killed off the main character of his wildly popular program, did what he could to keep the momentum going by producing two more shows for the next TV season which highlighted Davy Crockett’s legendary adventures.  The entire Davy Crockett television series was only made up of 5 hour-long episodes – but that was enough to create a memorable national sensation!

Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. (August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010), born in Fort Worth, Texas, was forever known for his most famous role – that of Davy Crockett.  Like me, you may remember him as another famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone – the role he took on in 1964 and played for six years.  Fess Parker retired from television (and acting) in 1970 and went on to a successful career in real estate, Fess Parker Wineopening a Santa Barbara resort hotel, The Fess Parker (a Doubletree by Hilton) in 1986.  Shortly thereafter, Fess Parker turned his business talents in a new direction and purchased a 714-acre ranch -  This year, the family owned and operated Fess Parker Winery will celebrate it’s 25th year in business.

“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!”

Special Note:  My thanks to Joseph Green (and his extensive Disneyana collection) for allowing me access to his Davy Crockett Dell comic book!Fess Parker / Davy Crockett Inside Cover Davy Crockett Comic Book Back Cover Davy Crocket Comic Book

Jungle Cruise Crocs

Walt Disney World Reptiles

Komodo Dragon at Animal KingdomWe all know that Walt Disney World is overrun with famous princesses.  There are also a good many ducks!  Did you know that Walt Disney World also boasts an incredible number of reptiles?  Why, I’d be willing to bet that there are more reptiles at Disney World than all the princesses and ducks combined!  Let’s talk about lizards, snakes, alligators, crocodiles and more!

You can find reptiles in lots of places in Magic Kingdom.  The famous crocodile from Peter Pan is in Peter Pan’s Flight and he also makes an appearance in the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  How about the snakes and crocs found on the Jungle Cruise?  “….keep your hands in the boat because Ginger snaps!” If you look carefully, you can find the tiny anole lizards native to Florida sunning themselves all over the place – We can usually spot at least one among the headstones in the pet cemetery next to the Haunted Mansion.Crocodile in Festival of Fantasy Parade

Crocodiles on the Jungle CruiseIn Animal Kingdom – there are lots of reptiles, as you would expect!  The Komodo Dragon along the Maharajah Jungle Trek is amazing!  There are crocodiles on Kilimanjaro Safari and, in the exhibits along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, you can view a Kenyan Sand Boa.  Over in Dinoland – there are bunches of reptiles (of the extinct variety).Animal Kingdom Dinosaur

The make-believe dragon in Epcot’s Journey into Imagination with Figment could arguably be considered a reptile of sorts.  Our own brush with an actual reptile in Epcot happened in the China Pavilion several years ago when Joseph pulled a live snake out of the shrubbery.  Luckily, I was able to convince him to put the snake back by reassuring him that he didn’t need to rescue the poor thing – that it was clearly thriving and happy living among the landscaping and carefully cultivated topiaries.  Florida boasts more than 50 native snake species – fortunately, 44 of those are non-venomous.  If you find a snake at Walt Disney World, I do not recommend catching it! Journey into Imagination with FigmentSnake in Epcot's China Pavillion

Reptiles can be found all over Walt Disney World- all you have to do is watch for them!  While I’ve never seen one myself, I’ve heard plenty of stories of American Alligators being spotted in many different Walt Disney World bodies of water.  I’m guessing it’s like here where we live in Louisiana, gators that get large enough to potentially become a nuisance are captured and relocated by alligator “specialists”.

Tell your story – what’s been your favorite Walt Disney World reptile encounter?

Lizard in Disney's Hollywood Studios