Joy! Gelato in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

RM-Epcot-Italy-Gelato-CounterAs I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m kind of ambivalent about desserts.  I don’t crave sweets like most people do and while I will enjoy an occasional cookie, slice of pie, or ice cream cone, those are not items I’d put at the top of my “must have” foods while on vacation.  Sometimes, though, I’ll find something sweet that really makes an impression on me – something I like so much, that I’d make a point of eating it again.  This is the story of one such discovery.

Back in October, as Raymond and I were making our way around the World Showcase sampling the different flavors in the food booths and kiosks, he said, “When we get to Italy, there’s something that you’ve got to taste!”  Sneaky guy – he’d managed a visit to this particular eatery on his own back in May and had found a wonderful treat.

Espresso Gelato “Affogato” ($9.75) “Italian Espresso poured over Fior Di Latte Gelato, topped with chocolate coffee beans.

According to Wkipedia, “An affogato (Italian, “drowned”) is a coffee-based beverage. It usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso. RM-Epcot-Italy-Gelato-AffogatoSome variations also include a shot of Amaretto or other liqueur.”  According to the Culinary Institute of America, Fior De Latte (Italian, “Flower of Milk”) gelato is “a simple gelato, very versatile; enjoy it plain, with fresh fruit, or to accompany a cake. This gelato is often used in the preparation of affogato al caffè, where the gelato is covered with brewed espresso and topped with whipped cream.”

So now that we know what it is, technically speaking, let’s talk about how it tasted – incredible!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that as far as a cup of ice cream is concerned, this one’s about as adorable as one could ever find.  Possibly, mere words cannot describe the subtle nuances of flavor, the well matched textures, the sophisticated combination of creamy gelato, espresso, cookies, and chocolate coffee beans, but I’ll try:  This stuff was mighty tasty!!!  Very delicious!  Scrumptious!  A festival of flavors for your taste buds! …get the idea?

RM-Epcot-Italy-Gelato-EspressoBecause we were working our way around the Food & Wine foods and wines, we split this little paper bowl of deliciousness – which actually turned out to be a bit dicey.  We each got one “ear” cookie, we broke the pirouette cookie in half, used two spoons for the gelato, but there were only three chocolate coffee beans (and those babies are incredible).  There were a few tense moments once we realized the situation.  We each contemplated the potential outcomes of being the one to selfishly consume that third, and last, tiny morsel.  Then I came to my senses and ate it.  Problem solved!

If you like the flavor of coffee and are in the mood for a sweet treat, next time you’re in Epcot, making your way around the World Showcase – stop at the gelato stand, lay down that $10 bill and prepare to be amazed.

Have you tried a gelato in Epcot?  Which one did you get?  How was it?

October in Walt Disney World – Trip Review

Magic Kingdom Entrance in OctoberIt was the best of times – two adults, seven days, the World was our oyster.  We’d planned some special events for this trip to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary and we enjoyed each and every one of them, though admittedly some more than others.

We purchased Memory Maker (see first review here) to make sure we ended up with some non-selfies to commemorate the occasion (full 2nd Memory Maker review to follow) and booked dining reservations at some places we had not tried before.  After all was said and done, I’d summarize our adventures into three categories:  The VERY Best, the Just Okay, and the Could Have Been Better.  These were our experiences only – your own may be completely different and isn’t that so much a part of what we love about Walt Disney World?  Something for everyone!  Note:  Over the next couple of weeks, I will write detailed reviews of each experience.

The VERY Best:

Citricos (Grand Floridian Resort and Spa), the California Grill (The Contemporary Resort) and IMG_5997Sanaa (Animal Kingdom’s Kidani Village) – We enjoyed our meals at these three restaurants and thought the food, service and atmosphere were all perfect.

Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival – The food/beverage booths were wonderful and the entire experience was a lot of fun.  We might not have gotten to each item on our wish list, but every morsel we tried was delectable!  We will be doing this again!

Bay Lake Tower – Our studio on the 3rd floor was exactly right for us.  It was roomy with an excellent view of Bay Lake.  Sunrise was incredible!  At first, I was a little disappointed at not being higher up, but once I realized that the Electrical Water Pageant would be happily making its way along Bay Lake’s shore each night where I could see (and hear) it well, I was more than happy with our location.  The distance between Bay Lake Tower’s front door and the bag check area in Magic Kingdom is exactly a half a mile.  Loved the walk!

IMG_5906Senses Spa Massage for Two (Grand Floridian) – Worth every penny.  The spa is gorgeous and we felt very special and pampered.  The massage was incredibly relaxing and we could not have asked for a more luxurious setting.

The Weather – We had one rainy afternoon and a bit of rain the next morning.  Compared to the Florida weather in the weeks leading up to our visit, this was as perfect as we could have wished for.  Having never been to Florida in October, I was captivated by the sky – breathtaking sunrises and sunsets with the most amazingly perfect blue skies and fluffy white clouds during the day.  The warm days and cool-ish evenings were wonderful.

Getting SOAKED on Splash Mountain, Drying off on the PeopleMover – What can I say?  We were in the very first log of the day on Splash – got over-the-head-in-our-faces sopping wet and PeopleMoverthen had the PeopleMover nearly to ourselves to cruise around and air dry.  Can you think of a more fun way to start the day?

The Just Okay

Be Our Guest – Yes, it’s beautiful inside!  It’s also very pricey and the food, while okay, was the poorest aspect of dining there.  We ate there for both lunch and dinner and, for the money, we could have eaten much better meals.  The West Wing (dinner) was unbelievably dark….like pitch black.  We couldn’t believe the servers weren’t running into each other, guests, tables, etc.  At lunch, the food was not as good as at dinner, but the seating location was better (we got to sit where we wanted).  Again, a full review will follow, but if you’re going just to see the inside, try to get a lunch reservation and order whatever is the least expensive menu option.  NOTE:  The Cast Members we encountered here were outstanding.

The Italian Food & Wine Pairing – This was in Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion and the seating took place in a large, open, extremely noisy space.  We had wonderful tablemates and would have loved talking to them more, but we couldn’t hear each other AT ALL!  The fare was just okay.  Having never been to an event of this type before, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I did think it would be more enjoyable.  The French Regional Lunch we tried at Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion) was much better.

MNSSHP CastleMickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – All I could think about was how much more I would have loved it if our children (even though they’re grown) had been with us.  We liked dressing up and enjoyed the short waits for the attractions.  The fireworks and parade were very well done, but not being big on sweets, we didn’t pick up a single treat.  I do know that attending on the 6th night of our stay meant we were pretty wiped out to begin with.  Maybe we’d have liked it more if we’d been more perky.  I’d try the party again, but with more than just the two of us.

Could Have Been Better

My Disney Experience / Disney’s Computer System – Still very glitchy.  My app actually showed MDE App Glitch“closed” for every single Magic Kingdom attraction for much of a day – many rides were down at one time  (Pirates, PhilharMagic, Small World, Pooh), but certainly not all of them.  On that same day, we were told before leaving Bay Lake Tower that Walt Disney World’s entire computer system was having issues.  I don’t know if that was related to why so many attractions were closed, but the wait times at the remaining attractions were pushed way up as a result.  We left Magic Kingdom, hopped on the Monorail and did some Resortloop shopping – hoping things would clear up while we were gone.  Sadly, we saw and heard a lot of unhappiness in Magic Kingdom that day.  Similar to what happened in May, Raymond’s Magic Band didn’t work at park entrances for the first three parks we visited, but at least the problem was resolved after that.  The funniest glitch was that I didn’t have charging privileges on my Magic Band after we checked in even though I was the one who gave the credit card to link at check-in.  Considering how convenient I find that touch-to-pay feature, I probably shouldn’t have had that issue fixed!

Animal-Kingdom-Construction-WallsAnimal Kingdom – I’m not criticizing, honestly, and I totally understand that short-term sacrifice will lead to long-term gains (and more FUN!).  It was heartbreaking, though, to see the amount of construction equipment, construction walls, abbreviated attractions, etc. in our beloved Animal Kingdom.  We spent Saturday (10/11/14) afternoon there and had planned to return on a weekday for a longer visit, but after seeing how much the construction detracted from the overall experience, we didn’t go back.  I did get to ride my favorite attractions and see the two new baby gorillas which was great.

Epcot’s New Lumberjack Show (Canada Pavilion) – I’ve got nothing nice to say – so I’m not saying anything at all.

Have you ever visited Walt Disney World in October?  What were your favorite and least Canadian Lumberjack Show in Epcotfavorite experiences?  What should we try next time?




Disney’s Tutto Gusto Wine Bar in Epcot’s Italy

IMG_5076“Tutto Gusto Wine Bar in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion is a wonderful treasure, a charming, cozy and relaxing nook tucked away from Walt Disney World’s hustle and bustle.  I recommend it as a great place for adults to enjoy a snack or light meal and an excellent glass of wine.” – Me, channeling my inner restaurant critic.

I am mostly German with some British and Native American tossed in the mix.  I can trace my ancestry back to 17th century Germany on my mother’s side and on my dad’s side, we are direct descendants of Daniel Boone.  There is not, anywhere I can find (no matter how hard I search), even the tiniest drop of Italian blood in my veins.  In my heart, though, I’m Italian.  The language, the food, the wines, the Italian flare for style – all appeal to me in an indescribable way.  I’m certain this is why eating in Epcot’s Italy always gets my vote.  I love the Cast Members and I’ve never EVER had a bad meal.IMG_5069

You may recall from a previous post (about a certain chocolate croissant) that Raymond and I had a couple of hours alone in Epcot last time we visited Disney World.  One of the things I wanted to try, as it was brand new at the time, was Tutto Gusto.  We had ADRs for later that evening at Le Cellier, so a light lunch was in order and Tutto Gusto’s small-plates menu, which I had checked out online, would be perfect.  Raymond loves Italian food (and wine) every bit as much as I do, so he was on board with the plan.

IMG_5074We were pleasantly surprised to find Tutto Gusto nearly empty when we arrived (it had just opened for business earlier in the month, so perhaps it was still unknown to most guests).  We immediately loved the cozy feel of the restaurant – a quiet, relaxing escape from the rest of Epcot.  The restaurant seats fewer than 100 people – when we sat down, there were maybe a dozen patrons, including us.  The server was excellent – attentive without being overbearing.  We ordered glasses of red wine (can’t tell you what it was, but we liked it) – after letting our server pick for us based on our description of what we like in a wine.  We then took our time perusing the menu for a few minutes before ordering.

Raymond ordered a (small, single) Panini that came with an equally small side salad – not IMG_5072surprising if you know what a fan he is of these Italian toasted sandwiches – I have a Panini maker at home and know how to use it!  I opted for the Insalata Di Mare Trapanese (Shrimp, squid, octopus, lemon, extra virgin olive oil).  Both of us were happy with our choices and felt our meals were light enough to be topped off with dessert!  Mocha Tiramisu all around.

Final words about our lunch – YES, I was influenced by all I had read online about Tutto Gusto and HAD to try it – What that curiosity IMG_5077yielded:   We had a lovely, quiet (romantic even) Italian getaway right in the middle of Epcot’s World Showcase.