2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Two (For Dad)

I received a copy of my father’s death certificate this week and the reality hit me hard. So Rich took yesterday (Friday) off and we went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had no intention of returning a week later so we made it six days later – lol!

It must have been the hottest day of the year, but pixie dust sprinkled on our tram experience both arriving and departing, which cut down on our miles walked (only 3 this time), but, still the heat really wore me out, not to mention give me a lovely glisten. Ha! In honor of my dad, I wore my Dodger Blue hat. He and his father used to go see the Dodgers play and Dodger Stadium was where I saw my first professional baseball game (Dodgers vs Giants – Dodgers won). He once told me, “The Dodgers will break your heart.” 🙂

Here’s my selfie wearing my Dodgers hat while snagging a table while Rich was picking up some food at one of the food booths. We had a great system going and I was so thankful he was up to doing all of that because I just wasn’t. You can catch a glimpse of Rich in some of the photos getting our snacks. Like a “Hidden Mickey.” 🙂

People often say I look like my mother but mostly because they don’t know my father and we do have a similar shape of the face. But the rest (coloring, nose, eyes, hair, etc.) is all dad and his side of the family. My ear for music and taste for food and wine adventures, I also get from my father. So, here’s to you, dad!

We started off with Taste Track this time. I’d had my eye on the Cinnamon Sugar Donut and Rich got the Chocolate Hazelnut with Raspberry – both were delicious!!

Then we swung by the food booths that are on the East side of Future World and while we spotted many items we’d like to try when it’s not so hot (that area is so exposed and still, being out in the open without the lagoon to provide a breeze), we did get the Scallops and paired it with Petite Sirah at the Wine & Dine, I think. Really clever dish and quite tasty. I could definitely go back for more of that.

Btw, many booths were open at this time, which was about 10:30. So then we headed back to Ireland but on the way stopped at New Zealand to get one of our favorites from last year: Mussels paired with Pinot Noir. Just as good as last year!

Soon we were back in Ireland and I have to say, we arrived at all of these booths earlier than I’d expected and were getting full eating our lunch calories for breakfast – lol! We skipped the chocolate cake in Ireland this time but did get the Guinness/Bailey’s shake with chocolate shavings this time and the Irish Sausage with Colcannon again. Yum!! But I do think we’ve had our fill, well, at least until Brother Bob comes down.

So what’s next? Several booths we decided to save for Brother Bob’s trip – we were getting quite full at this point – but we wanted to get back to Mexico to try the Short Rib Tostada. Last week we’d been too full by the time we got to Mexico.

We were also quite hot and thirsty and exhausted. We sat down in the shade a couple of times just to keep from collapsing. By the time we got to the Cantina, I found a table, Rich got us a couple of regular Margaritas from the Cantina – we’d tried the specialty F&W Margaritas last week and once was enough. He then ran over to the Mexico booth and brought back a Tostada, which was so delicious, he ran back for a second one. Yum, yum, yum!! Certainly makes a California girl proud!

At the booth last week, they’d balked a bit about serving him two margaritas, but he convinced them one was for me sitting down. At the Cantina, they had no qualms about serving him two.

We had a great time, the crowds were low on a Friday but it was just so darn hot!! At least the tram system was working efficiently and they even used the shady area for the pick-up. I’d complained about having to wait in the sun a few months back and it was the same last week so maybe they use the covered area on week days but not on week-ends due to needing more space for security? That’s our guess.

At this rate, we’ll be back four times to get the cutting board, although it’s rather small. Somebody on Instagram said they thought it wasn’t as small as they’d heard but I think some of us saw the Food & Wine cutting board you can buy, which is a really nice size that it makes the “free” (on the 4th visit) one for AP holders seem small. More of a cheese board size, if you know what I mean.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round One

So we couldn’t resist the Food and Wine Festival now that the Labor Day weekend and early vlogger crush was over. And we did it in such an awesome way.

We arrived a bit after 9 am and headed straight for the Festival Center for our AP Chef Mickey magnets. We also got the ornament/keychain (whichever works for you) and a gift card, which makes snack purchasing a snap.

Then we made our way to France for our usual beignet and champagne except that there were no beignets so Rich got us some yummy chocolate croissants instead.

We finished our bubbly outside in the shade but at around 10:30, we walked back to Ireland to see if they were opening early and they did. We were first in line and the only downside was that the chocolate shavings for the Guinness Baileys Shake hadn’t arrived yet. But the chocolate cake provided the chocolate after all. And, oh yeah, the Irish Sausage with colcannon  potatoes and onion gravy made for an awesome savory breakfast after the sweets in France.

This totally lived up to the rave reviews we’d heard about and hope to return for seconds and thirds on future visits.

After all of this deliciousness, we headed back to France for the official rope drop at 11 am and stopped in Spain for some chicken and sausage paella and wine flight.

After that it was China for my very favorite Shrimp and Garlic Noodles! Yum!! Rich can’t eat shrimp so he got some kind of Chinese Pancake. We shared everything else.

By this time we were pretty full so our next and final stop for this tasting was in Mexico for the Mariachinand Aye Carrimba Margaritas. Both were interesting but not my favorites by a long shot.

It was very hot, we walked 4.5 miles and were exhausted the next day, although no other aches and pains. The heat really wears you out. We hope to make it back 2 or 3 more times because we barely got starte, but we’ll see. Along about now, a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge sounds a bit more relaxing/refreshing. 🙂

Welcome Home to Florida

We caught an early flight out of Las Vegas yesterday morning and as the plane circled over our former home, heading out into the open desert, I said something like, “What a pile of dirt!” – lol!

It had been an emotional roller coaster revisiting the place we’d called home for 9 years. I was reminded not only of the excitement we’d had flying in from San Francisco and staying in different hotel properties, but also living there. I was also reminded of why we felt compelled to leave.

The flight on Southwest was pretty good going back – the service was quite attentive – and before we knew it, we were landing in Orlando via over Tampa to avoid some storms. What a sight for sore eyes! I mean, literally! All the greenery and water! What a contrast from the Las Vegas desert.

And I began to feel a renewal of my original love for Florida as we drove the hour back home. So pretty. So peaceful. Sunny but not too sunny. Hot but not too too hot – even the humidity is a welcome relief from the oven-like temps of Vegas. Maybe that was the point of the trip for me. For Rich, well, he had a very productive week at work. Everybody so excited to see him. They’d love to have him back at headquarters but I don’t think I could live there again.

We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to Disney, and especially for the Food & Wine Festival. Rich’s brother will be here for that – looking forward to reconnecting like we did on our trip in 2010. What a year that was – doing the F&W Festival with our Disney friends and family. Looking forward to seeing who we can meet and connect with this year.

We stopped at our little downtown deli and Rich got us some sandwiches to take home because neither of us wanted to prepare food. We noticed a musician set up outside the market/deli area and we stopped for a listen and offered a tip. I took some video and captured a pic of that. What a fabulous welcome home!

Our Florida Vacation

We called 2017 the “Year of Repositioning” and many of you followed our journey from Las Vegas to Florida and the fits and starts along the way.

2018 is the “Year of Adjusting,” and I’ve really been struggling lately, actually even before the one-year anniversary of arriving in Florida. The first 7 months were spent in an apartment in North Orlando while we house hunted and then built our home in a beach city we’d never lived in before. So the adjustment period started all over again, although we might have been further along in our adjustment if we hadn’t had to split our time. But, then, this is our third time in Florida and I always get homesick. Hence, the upcoming birthday trip to SoCal, a short cruise to Mexico, and a couple of days at Disneyland Resort. I can’t wait to touch down once again!

Just for kicks, I looked at some pics of our Las Vegas home and the surrounding area and am so thankful we’re out of the desert – the best thing about living there was that feeling of home and being only 4 hours from Disneyland/SoCal childhood. I miss that! Sometimes I can’t believe I’m so far away now. How did this happen? 🙂

Anyway, here are two pics that show the contrast of living in Las Vegas and living in Florida – no wonder I struggle to adjust – it’s a huge change!

The back of our Vegas house – solar screens are popular as a way to block out some of that hot desert sun. We also had blackout drapes on the back side of the house for that intense afternoon sun.

This morning’s view from my screened Lanai where I sip my coffee every morning – glorious!

Two different worlds for sure!

Saturday, we shopped for the trip in the morning and then had our lunch at La Fiesta, which is so authentically Mexican, we’re there practically every week. At least the weeks we’re not at Disney. The Margaritas are amazing!! Growing up in Southern California surrounded by Mexican culture, margaritas and tacos are a taste of home.

Tequila, take me home!

Halfway through eating lunch. 🙂

We were shopping at Target the other day and we picked up some food items like tortillas, black beans, rice, tortilla chips and salsa and the clerk said, “Are you having a Mexican Fiesta?” I just looked at her and said, “Every night is a Mexican Fiesta for us.” The thing is nobody would say that to you in California or the West Coast or the entire SW. In this day of the Food Network and food education, I’m a bit shocked even somebody in Florida said it.

No doubt we’re having a blast in Florida, enjoying frequent trips to Disney and the beach – what a welcome change from the desert. Our house is wonderful, the golf community is gorgeous – both a dream come true. But it’s not home. And, as always, it’s starting to feel like we’re on another extended Florida vacation.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report) Updated

So excited, I’m jumping up and down! We’ve been going back and forth with how to celebrate my birthday in SoCal. Longing for home, we’ve booked and unbooked hotels near the beach, near Disneyland, and then finally booked a cruise. But I started to miss Disneyland. So, here are the latest plans:

Wednesday:

MCO to LAX, check into Anaheim Hilton. Dinner at Napa Rose

Thursday:

Drive to Huntington Beach, breakfast at Norm’s, then drive up PCH to Long Beach where we will board Carnival cruise ship at the new terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.

Friday:

Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch, Chef’s Table birthday dinner

Saturday:

Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.

Sunday:

Return to Long Beach. Drive to Disneyland – get park hopper – do Disneyland in the morning, check into Anaheim Hilton for afternoon rest, and then back to DCA for the evening – Dinner at Carthay Circle (martinis and amazing biscuits, here we come!)

Monday:

LAX to MCO

I’m so stoked about getting to do Disneyland, the beach, and a cruise for my birthday! In the meantime, we’ve got a little overnight trip planned for Epcot and the MK as a pet sitter test run. She seems really great and was recommended by our visit but it’s always good to do a short trip close to home before flying across the country and going out to sea. Just in case anything needs to be ironed out.

 

Rosé Tasting with Master Sommellier at Wine Bar George and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Oh my, my, where to begin? Well, when I saw the special event posted on Instagram, well, I had to forward it to Rich and he immediately bought our tickets for Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. It soon sold out and we noticed that in addition to the Friday afternoon event at the same time, a new event was created for 1:00 p.m. before our tasting. Nice to see the popularity of such an event. As you will recall, we ate lunch at Wine Bar George on the first full opening day a couple of weeks ago. We were so impressed, we knew we’d be back, but not so soon and at a special event.

Loving wine, vineyards, wineries, and anything related to wine, having grown up in a family’s Central Valley vineyard, living near Napa/Sonoma/Livermore and even a few years living near the Willamette Valley vineyards, well, let’s just say neither of us can resist such an event.

George is amazing, so friendly, knowledgeable, sef-effacing, and a great storyteller. We’re not that into Rosé but he made it an awesome event. And we came away with a new respect for Rosé.

We were divided into groups of six at five tables. We managed to sit next to the woman who won the little contest identifying all six wines by region – she identified all six correctly, a feat nobody had managed at the two previous events. She’s quite the Rosé drinker. 🙂

Each table also had a charcuterie/cheese/bread board – amazing! What’s not to love – food, wine, good company, and Disney?

So stoked after the event, we decided this was the time to walk over to Saratoga Springs for the first time since we’ve been back in Central Florida. We used to do this walk often when we lived in Windermere. In fact, this was my “go-to” place to celebrate (i.e., let off steam) the release of my books.

We noticed the new boat dock and shortcut to the walkway leading to Saratoga Springs, which was a great improvement. We stopped in at our favorite pool bar and Rich asked about bartender Rich to see if he was still there. He was, much to our surprise, but he wasn’t working that day. Well have to go back and say hi.

In the wine mood and a bit hungry after just a few snacks during the tasting, I found a table and Rich ordered two glasses of Cab and a cheeseburger flatbread. It was a bit warm sitting here, so we found our way to some shadier chairs on the other side of the pool near the Agapanthas, a flowering bush found all over California, including the Disneyland resort. After our meal, we stopped in at Artist Palette and the gift shop for old times’ sake.

 

We walked back and made our way to the Orange garage, and ended up walking 4.5 miles again. But this time, unlike at Epcot, whenever my hip started hurting after about 3-3.5 miles, we sat down and took a break so I was able to make it back to the car without any problems.

We stopped off to listen to some music reminiscent of what we used to hear at Downtown Disney near the Grand Californian. Disney Springs has so upped their vibe, Disneyland is going to have to work hard to keep up. 🙂

 

 

First Guests at Wine Bar George

Yes, that was us – the first guests on the first full opening day, Sunday. 11 am. George himself greeted us both coming and going.

The atmosphere was way cool, the food incredible and the wine perfectly paired.

We shared the Skirt Steak (with fingerling potatoes and asparagus) family platter meant to be shared. We ate about half and brought the rest home. Heated up for dinner, it was even more awesome – the flavors all married together.  So tender… we’ll be back for more.

As for wine, I had a glass of Argentinian Malbec and Rich had a California Merlot that reminded me of more of a Cab. I don’t recall the names but I took photos of the bottles, which I will post.

We also shared the Olive Oil Cake. I’d wanted to try that for a long time and it was also amazing!

Our server Jason was simply the best!

We were well-rewarded for the long drive through a deluge of epic rain. This was the kind of Disney magic that dreams are made of and we renewed our Annual Pass.