Farewell Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George and the Chicken Guy

When we got the email about Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George, we knew we had to do it for our good-bye to Florida. This would be our third time at Wine Bar George and one of the places we will miss when we’re back West.

It was a beautiful day – we arrived at Disney Springs at around 10:30 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. The lime garage was already full but we’ve grown to appreciate the orange garage so that was no problem. We strolled around the springs, enjoying the atmosphere and Christmas decorations and our first stop was the Ganachery – another place we will totally miss. We got some chocolate toffee bark to take home and a milk chocolate Mickey and a vanilla with dark chocolate, shared them, while we strolled the Springs and made our way to World of Disney to get our first peek at the remodel.

We browsed and ended up getting Minnie Mickey coffee mugs. By this time it was getting close to 11:30 so we headed back to Wine Bar George and were seated on the balcony across from another couple, who were just being served a huge plate of Thanksgiving turkey. We exchanged appreciative glances and comments and ordered the same. The dinner was a traditional turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and haricot vert. We paired it with Argyle Pinot Noir. It was quite tasty, but I asked for a box to take half of it home for my evening meal.

We skipped dessert but made a point of stopping at the Chicken Guy. I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, but this was our last chance to try them. We were especially interested in the Nashville hot honey sauce – we were wowed by Nashville’s hot chicken when we evacuated there last year. I’m not usually a fan of hot chicken as in Buffalo Chicken Wings but Nashville chicken is amazing!

Anyway, we picked up an order of 3 tenders and the Nashville sauce for Rich’s evening snack since he managed to finish his turkey dinner. And then we headed home. It may seem to silly to complain about an hour and fifteen minute drive but it does get old. But that’s probably because we’re so ready to move back west. Our Florida vacation this time around is so over.

The toffee was incredible, my leftovers were even tastier heated up later, and the bite of chicken tender I had was the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had, although Rich remembers Cane’s in Las Vegas as being just as good if not better. We’ll have to make that one of our first stops when we get back so we can double check that memory. 🙂

 

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round 4

The F&W Festival gets more and more crowded each week, and Saturday, wouldn’t you know it, seemed to be the hottest, most humid day yet. It may have been the last hot and humid day of 2018, because it’s been cooler ever since. Anyway, all I know is that I dripped sweat like I was in Thailand so many years ago. It makes it all so very tiring, and we didn’t have a lot of energy for this one.

But our list of things to do on this trip wasn’t that ambitious – mostly to revisit Taste Track and get another one of those tasty Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Donuts, the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, and, perhaps, the Short Rib Tostada at Mexico or the Black Pepper Garlic Shrimp Noodles in China. We did all of the above (except for the noodles) and more.

We also tried the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes when we got the Skirt Steak. I actually preferred the Corned Beef over the Skirt Steak, although the smoke on the steak stood out nicely.

So, back to the beginning.  We debated about whether to choose the Festival Center or Taste Track for our first stop but we were so hungry, Taste Track won. But we had to wait about 7 minutes for the booth to open, but it was worth the wait.

Then, we were off to the Festival Center for our free on 4th visit Passholder Mickey cutting boards (so cute!) and a couple of Mimosas to wash down breakfast. Rich got the Blood Orange I got the Tropical – mine was a bit too sweet and his was a bit too tart so we mixed them to get it just right. Hard to tell which is which from the photos.

We stumbled around and found the Flavors from Fire both and got the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Polenta and the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes (amazing cheese sauce) and a wine pairing (Michael David Winery: 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi).

My apologies for the not so great photos – the sun was so bright it really was hard to see what I was snapping.

We thought we might want a refreshing Baileys Guiness Milkshake in Ireland but partway there, we decided to turn around and head for Mexico for the Short Rib Tostada and a couple of Margaritas – so hot and sweaty out!

Halfway through the margaritas, we decided to head over to Hawaii for some dessert. Rich got in line and I snagged a table.

The Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Macadamia Nuts was awesome!

We’d also heard great things about the Maple Walnut Cheesecake at the Cheese Studio so we made a final stop on our way out. It was quite tasty, too, but better suited for Thanksgiving – it had a real taste of Fall but too heavy for such a hot, humid day.

My favorite was the Passion Fruit Cheesecake in Hawaii, although the Maple Walnut may have been Rich’s favorite. Both delicious and a great way to end the 2018 Food & Wine Festival for us.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Three (Brother Bob)

Yesterday we made our third trip to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival – this time with brother Bob. Little did we know that it also happened to be Columbus Day and the park was packed, especially for a weekday. Ugh!

Still, we had a blast sharing some of our favorite booths with family – the last time was back in 2010.

We started off with the Festival Center, tracking down the Chocolate display, including scenes from Coco, made entirely with chocolate. It was quite impressive!

Then we moved on to France for our favorite beignet with Hazelnut Creme with a glass of champagne – fabulous way to start the day.

Of course, we had to introduce Bob to the Ireland booth, then we chose the paella from Spain, Belgium, and Bob chose some items at India and Africa. We then finished up with my favorite Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles in China – amazing! Rich got a Kung Fu Punch, and while refreshing, was too sweet for me.

On our last stop for the day, we entered the Mexico Pavilion for some much-needed air-conditioning and to see the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit from Cocol One of the exhibits showed time passing, lighting up the scene and then returning to darkness, revealing the dead family members reunited with their family. Really cool!

It was hot and crowded by then and Bob had some plans of his own to do some park hopping before returning to Epcot for some evening noshing, so we called it a day and let Bob continue on his way.

We’ve had such fun playing tourist with family but now it’s time to get back to work. Let’s see what I’m inspired to work on most – my music or my writing.

An Evening at Wilderness Lodge

We’ve been craving a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge for some time now. It would be a nice change from hoofing it around a hot park – air conditioning, peace, quiet, ah…

We each had a dirty Ketel One Vodka martini, the Oregon White Cheddar Chardonnay Cheese Fondue that comes with 3 pretzel breadsticks and grapes, and the Asian Sticky Wings. The Cheese Fondue is amazing and the wings are quite tasty, although tonight they were especially salty.

We noticed the famous Artist Point Mushroom Soup is on the lounge menu along with the Berry Cobbler (we’ve had the Cobbler in the lounge before), but we decided to save those two items for our final Artist Point dinner at the end of next month right before it becomes the silly Snow White Character dinner. I mean, did they have to convert it completely? How about special occasions or just until 8 pm or something like that?

 

We noticed Artist Point was quite busy last night so maybe it hasn’t been hurting or maybe everybody is just booking it now because they know time is running out but it seemed like there were many families with the stroller brigade crowding the restroom area. Obviously, Disney World is going after the family dollars above all else.

After our lovely little meal and drink, we walked the grounds and while it’s as beautiful and mostly peaceful as ever. We stopped with another couple to get some photos of a rabbit hiding in the flowerbed and took turns taking photos of each other.

Later on our way to what was once the Trout Pass Bar, we were almost run over by two New Yorkers when I paused for two seconds to take a photo. People seem to be storming over to Geyser Point – that place is always a madhouse these days – and the smores area is making it even more crowded.

Note: Rich is standing in front of where we last sat on stools and enjoyed a glass of wine before our last meal at Artist Point over Thanksgiving 2017. Sigh…

We did enjoy another lovely walk over to the cabins – wouldn’t we like to live there? Wow! Of course, we love Wilderness Lodge and in some ways really hate to see these changes impacting that peaceful experience it used to be. It’s sad that the Trout Pass Bar is now a nail salon – I mean, a nail salon by the pool? Seriously? Oh well, I may have to give it a try for old times’ sake.

It was such a beautiful night and we were wishing we were staying over, but, alas, it was soon time to go home. But first we had a quick look around the gift shop and then out to the parking lot to retrieve our car to begin the drive home via the Windermere townhome for old times’ sake. After all, when we lived there, Skipper, Lovey, and Buddy were still with us. It wasn’t such a bad life, now was it? 🙂

Back when the townhome community was new. The trees in front of the townhomes are so huge now, it makes the neighborhood seem much more crowded.

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. 🙂

“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.

Margarita Sunday at Frontera Cocina, Disney Springs

We’re still settling into the beach house but we took some time this weekend to enjoy the beach on Saturday. It’s so wonderful to be living near the beach again. We really love the pinks/blues we see in the sky.

As fun as that was, I’m feeling a bit unsettled living in a new place. We moved across the country, back to Florida for the third time, but we’re living in a place we haven’t lived before. We’ve only been here 2 months – it’s still so new to me. I was really craving a feeling of the familiar. So we went to our favorite church in Orlando, drove through Dr. Phillips and Windermere remembering when we  lived there, and pointed the Challenger towards Disney Springs.

We’d had reservations at Frontera on Valentine’s Day but after participating in FAWM (February Album Writing Month – write 14 songs in 28 days), I got sick 7 songs in, so we had to cancel. We were making this weekend our Valentine’s celebration.

It was a holiday weekend and after twelve p.m., so our usual Lime Garage was full. This was our first time in the Orange Garage and we were a bit confused on how to get to Frontera and ended up taking the long way around. The good news is, on the way back we figured it out, which will help us immensely should we have to park in that garage again.

We bypassed the long line of those waiting for a table and headed for the bar – a trick we learned on our last visit to Frontera. We ordered our usual Blood Orange Jalapeno Margaritas, which were served to us right away, and our lunch entrees (Carne Asada Tacos for me and Short Rib Tacos for Rich), which took a bit longer. We were starving by the time they arrived but they were worth the wait.

We chatted with a nice couple sitting next to us – they’d had dinner there the night before and were back for Margaritas and then had an extra tequila shot before leaving.

After lunch, we headed for the Ganachery. While there we chatted with the CM and the guy in line behind us. The CM was going to Italy and he had been there when he lived in Paris. He mentioned Marseille and we mentioned we would be in Marseille on our future Med cruise. He said we would love it – great food and wine. He wished us a great trip! He was fabulous and why we love people we meet at Disney.

Alas, it was time to drive back to the beach, but were halfway thinking about making our favorite church in Orlando our regular church and combining church and Disney on a regular basis.

Christmas at Disney’s Yacht Club

We knew we wanted to spend Christmas Day at Disney World (outside the parks for crowd and AP blockout reasons) and have Christmas dinner at one of the restaurants. We couldn’t decide which, though, so we changed our ressies several times. But when we read about the new Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club, we settled on that the day before. And we were so glad we did.

Of course we love the Yacht Club – it is our home resort at WDW ever since our first stay there back in 1999 (the Contemporary was Kathy’s first back in 1982). We were very impressed with Ale and Compass – the decor, the food, and the service.

Christmas Lunch
by Rich

Starter (Shared)
Oven-roasted Oysters
with Spinach and Creamed Kale, White Cheddar, and Cornbread Crumbs

Entree – Kathy
Maine Lobster Roll
with choice House-made Vinegar Chips

Entree – Rich
Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich
with Caramelized Onions, Poached Egg, Fennel, Watercress, and Tomato Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette

Wine – Kathy
Domaine Savary Chablis, Burgundy

Wine – Rich
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley

The oven-roasted oysters were fabulous, just the right start to the meal. The breading and accompaniments to the oysters were in perfect proportion to the oysters.

Kathy’s lobster roll was wonderful – not over-dressed, just delicious chunks of lobster on a nicely-sized roll. Kathy enjoyed an ideal pairing of hard-to-find Chablis.

Rich’s medium-rare skirt steak was incredible – tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The caramelized onions and truffle vinaigrette were especially nice touches. The Syrah was a splendid pairing, achieving a lovely balance between blackberry fruit and sweet smokiness.

After our meal we walked the Boardwalk, stopping at our usual kissing spot, and popped into the Boardwalk where we were each offered a complimentary peppermint sugar cookie. We continued our walk full circle to the Yacht Club – Rich even skipped his usual Boardwalk skip – and two stools at the Hurricane Hanna pool bar called our names and we each had a Margarita.

We chatted with other guests from St. Augustine, noting that this is the real replacement for the Trout Pass Bar at Wilderness Lodge. It has the same vibe that Geyser Point sadly does not quite have with so many families gathering there.

After our cocktails and conversation (love this about Disney World), we were in search of coffee before we hit the road and ended up at Beaches and Cream where Rich got us two coffees and two ice cream sandwiches (huge but yummy – lol) while Kathy grabbed us a table overlooking Stormalong Bay.

We stopped in at the gift shop where Yacht Club coffee cups captured our attention, made our purchases and then we drive back to the beach.

It was a gorgeous day out – low 70s compared to mid 50s at the beach. What an awesomely perfect Christmas! Disney for the day was even better being able to return to our new home at the beach.

Is Everybody At Disney for Easter Week?

This week on the blog, it’s been very quiet out there. I don’t know if it’s because everybody’s at Disney during Easter week or it’s something I said. 🙂

Watching Tim Tracker’s video, I’m thinking it’s because everybody is at WDW this week.

I hope that’s the reason, unless I was actually at WDW, and then I wouldn’t be too excited by those crowds – sheesh!

Anyway, hope you’re all having a great time and hope to see you real soon.