Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Best Thing We Ate

We tried a few specialty food offerings at this year’s Epcot Festival of the Arts this year. Some were good, some were great, all were certainly creative. One delectable dish stood out from the rest and I’m still thinking about how very tasty it was. (I’m trying to forget about the calories.)

Festival of the Arts, as the name implies, gives food booths and kiosks the opportunity to show off clever culinary works of art that showcase the artistry of plating and the beauty of specialty ingredients.

A great example of this was an offering from the POP EATS! booth. We chose the Sous Vide Chicken Roulade ($6.75) “Served with Apples and Sage, Warm Brie Fondue, Blueberry and Beet Gel, and Garnished with Apple and Beet Chips” This dish certainly sounded interesting (to say the least). We paired that selection with the Almond Frangipane Cake ($4.50) “Layered with Raspberry Jam and Callebaut Belgian Chocolate”.

Open-minded were we when we dug in! The chicken was delicious and none of the garnishments were overpowering. The flavors were nicely balanced. The cake (remember I don’t have a sweet tooth) was meh. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t great. I feel like maybe the vibrant colors were a bit off-putting as well.

Epcot Festival of the Arts – Best Thing We Ate

On each visit to Epcot, I searched for things that appealed to both Raymond and me so we could share. There was one, extra-tempting item I kept hearing about. It wasn’t located in World Showcase, but sounded exactly like a dish we would both love. We headed for Taste Track in Future World East. We didn’t even know this place existed. What did they have that we couldn’t resist? I’ll tell you – it was the best thing we ate at Festival of the Arts!

Lobster Bacon Macaroni and Cheese!

Served in a warm bread cone, this stuff was scrumptious! The temperature, texture, and flavors were perfect which seemed to me no easy accomplishment. Unless you have a shellfish allergy (I’m sorry for you, Nick and Heather) – I would not miss an opportunity to try this dish if they bring it back next year. Oh, boy, it was great. Raymond and I polished the entire thing off in mere moments. It was hard to share, but the $8.00 price tag kept us from buying a second serving.

Have you tried this Lobster Bacon Mac & Cheese? What was your favorite Festival of the Arts food?

Toy Story Land First Impressions

My first thought upon entering Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios was that pictures don’t do it justice.  My second thought was yikes!  I expected crowds like those we first encountered after Pandora opened, but the close quarters in Toy Story Land felt much, much worse. I’m not usually quite so claustrophobic, so maybe the addition of tons of colorful toys contributed to the feeling of being penned in. 

What we loved

The bright colors and clever theming did not disappoint.  Packed with details, Toy Story fans are sure to be pleased.  As we’ve come to expect from Disney, everywhere you turn or look offers something new to discover.  We visited twice, once in the morning and again at night to get the full effect.  Due to scheduling constraints we were only able to enjoy two attractions: Toy Story Midway Mania (always a must-do) and Slinky Dog Dash – which was charming and worthy of a FastPass or (maybe) a 30 minute wait.  We also enjoyed breakfast at Woody’s Lunchbox (review coming soon).

The Green Army Men

These guys are always fun.  When on maneuvers, they’re adorable!  Being entertained by the Green Army Men is an added dose of Disney magic.  We were delighted to see characters out and about.  The crowds though!  Which brings me to…

What we didn’t love

Toy Story Land is new, so we were expecting crowds.  We weren’t expecting crowds at a standstill.  The land’s layout does not ease crowd movement and instead seems to exacerbate the problem.  There’s only one way in and out.  There’s no gift shop or indoor restaurant seating to provide any kind of relief.  For sure, this is not the place to hang out when a summer storm blows in.  At 11 acres, this land covers just one acre less than Pandora, but feels much smaller to me.  Again, maybe it’s all the toys.

There’s no doubt the two new rides will continue to attract families in the long run.  The height requirements are 32” (Alien Swirling Saucers) and 38 inches (Slinky Dog Dash) which earn high marks on kid-friendliness.  My recommendation is heavy FastPass usage and plan to visit this area either early or late in the day.  Again, with no indoor spaces available, the heat’s going to be brutal. 

Have you visited Toy Story Land? What were your initial thoughts? Planning to visit? What are you most looking forward to?   

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Gorilla Falls’ Naked Mole Rats

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Gorilla Falls’ Naked Mole Rats

If you trek the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Research Centre.  I’ve been there many times and can tell you that a lot of folks walk in, see a bunch of small animal exhibits and cruise right on out the exit.  What?  Lizards, snakes, and tortoises not interesting enough?  I’ll never understand these people. 

If you don’t spend some time looking around the Research Centre, you miss one of the most amazing animals in the whole park!  After you enter the building and turn to the left, on the far wall there’s a glass panel behind which tunnels and burrows can be seen.  Look closer and you’ll spy the subterranean occupants…Naked mole-rats!  Sound disgusting?  Yes, they certainly are…both disgusting and absolutely fascinating at the same time.

Before you declare a loathing for rodents, let me lay down some incredible Naked mole-rat facts I dug up (Ha! See what I did there?!?) on the inter-webs (mostly at the National Zoo website).  If, after my mini-mole-rat presentation, you still feel like they don’t deserve even a tiny bit of your attention, then I’m sad and sorry you don’t find them as unbelievably cool as I do.  Gross and interesting – what’s not to love?

What ARE Naked mole-rats anyway…?

Naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus Glaber) are mammals from eastern Africa who live in colonies led by a queen (like bees).  The queen is the only member of the colony who gives birth.  The other mole-rats take care of the queen, guard the tunnels, and do general food and housekeeping duties. 

Naked mole-rats are herbivores and while they weigh barely mere ounces and are only 3-4 inches long, these unique animals can live more than 30 years. That seems like a crazy long time for such a tiny creature!  They have whiskers but no fur, and their bodies are pink and wrinkly (don’t they sound charming?).  A quarter of a mole-rat’s muscle mass is in its jaws and those jaws hold some awesome teeth!  A Naked mole-rat’s front teeth can operate independently like chopsticks. Their lips close behind their teeth to keep dirt out of their mouths while they’re digging. (Look at that smile!)

Naked mole-rats live out of sight, seemingly mind their own business, eat veggies, and have a very organized society of cooperative togetherness. No, they’re not cute and fluffy, but they are pretty darn amazing just the same.

Have you seen Animal Kingdom’s Naked mole-rats? What did you think about them? If you haven’t stopped by their tunnels for a visit…don’t you want to now?

Disney Springs Dining – Wine Bar George Review


Raymond and I try to book at least one “date night” dinner on every Walt Disney World visit.  In January, that dinner was at Wine Bar George.  Located near some of our favorite eateries in The Landing area of Disney Springs, Wine Bar George has a cool exterior and the menu boasts an impressive wine selection.  We like wine. 

Disney Springs Dining – Wine Bar George Review 

After a long day in the parks, our feet were killing us and we hobbled into Wine Bar George quite a while before our reservation time and were welcomed by a friendly and professional staff.  We were offered two options for seating – upstairs inside or outside on the second-floor patio near a heater.  It was pretty chilly out that evening and we’d been outside all day, so we opted for indoor seating.  This was a big mistake and while our overall experience at Wine Bar George was good, our seating location had a negative impact on what we’d hoped would be a romantic dinner.

Our server, Collin, approached our table right away and helped us select three wines from the extensive wine menu to share in a wine flight.  He made some recommendations and answered questions as we made our dinner selections, but it was challenging!  The problem with where we were seated (at a table for two) in a hallway was noise. 

When I say it was noisy, I’m talking super loud!  The room at the end of the hallway was filled with a boisterous crowd and as they talked and laughed, the volume at our hallway table made hearing our server and each other virtually impossible.  Collin apologized several times as he tried to hear us and be heard.  Raymond and I spent our meal smiling at each other across the table and making gestures to indicate which wines we liked best and how we liked the food.  It was funny and sad at the same time.

The good news is that we’d go back, sit somewhere else and try more wine!  Next time we’ll bring friends since the menu offers family-style plates that serve two to four and we didn’t go with any of those options on this initial visit.  What did we eat? 

The Food Was Delicious

We tried the Artisanal Cheese Platter, the Porchetta Spiced Pork Cheeks, and the Burrata.  By far, the Burrata was my favorite, but we though everything we ordered was delicious and reasonably priced.  Collin’s wine recommendations were spot-on with what we like.  I’d recommend Wine Bar George to all my fellow wine-lovers out there, but if you go…don’t sit in the hallway!

Have you been to Wine Bar George?  How was your experience?