Dining

Food And Wine’s Mexican Tequila Lunch: Not Your Average Upcharge

by on October 4, 2017

 

It’s likely your tasting schedule for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is already jam-packed with sampling some of the hundreds of items on sale at the booths around Future World and World Showcase, but if you’re looking for a slower-paced, more educational dining experience, look no further than the festival’s special events. Though the slate of available events changes from year to year, a few staples, including the Mexican Tequila Lunch, have stuck around the last few years, proving popular options that are both educational and entertaining.

The Mexican Tequila Lunch features excellent food, drinks, and views.

This year, I’ll be reviewing two such popular events that run throughout the festival season. First up: the Mexican Tequila Lunch, held select Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays throughout the festival season from noon to 1:30 PM at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion. Hosted by the tequila experts from La Cava del Tequila, this $85 event includes a four-course Mexican-inspired meal as well as tastings of several tequila varieties. I attended the first tequila lunch held during the 2017 festival season, and here, I’ll try to give you a sense of all the great information, food, and of course, spirits, I got to sample during the meal.

Check-in takes place just outside La Hacienda, after which Cast Members welcome guests into the restaurant with a warm greeting and an ice-cold margarita just before seating us in assigned areas of the dining room. Honestly, as soon as I sat down, I was overwhelmed at the sheer amount of liquor in front of me. I had been concerned that $85 was a bit steep for a lunch, even featuring alcohol, but upon looking at the table setup and the menu in front of me, I was very, very excited to see what the meal had in store. I sampled my welcome drink, a silky smooth, slightly sweet Tequila Avion cucumber margarita, as the remainder of the guests settled in around me, and soon, we were off to the races.

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Tokyo Dining: A Hidden Jewel in Epcot Dining

by on October 3, 2017

One of my favorite places in Epcot to dine is one of the places that I don’t hear people talk about very often – Tokyo Dining. Located on the second floor of Mitsukoshi in the Japan pavilion, Tokyo Dining offers interesting food options, and you can often snag a dining reservation at the last minute. I’ve never had a disappointing meal here. So, what makes Tokyo Dining so special?

Tokyo Dining menu

Tokyo Dining is a great restaurant for a last-minute ADR.

First, the atmosphere in Tokyo Dining is top-notch. The décor is sleek and contemporary, yet comfortable. The restaurant also offers fantastic views of World Showcase with gigantic floor to ceiling windows on one side. Don’t feel like gazing out at the torii gate? Request a table next to the sushi counter and watch the chefs work their magic. Another thing that I really love about this location is that, since it is on the second floor, I feel much more removed from the chaos of World Showcase. To me it is a nice, quiet(er), getaway from the hubbub of people.

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Walt Disney World Annual Passholder 45th Anniversary Dining Benefits Extended

by on September 29, 2017

Annual Passholder

©Rikki Niblett

I bring good news today! According to the Walt Disney World Annual Passholder website, the current discount that was rolled out in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort has been extended…for a limited time.

Guests with Annual Passes will continue to receive the 20% discount at 45 select Walt Disney World restaurants now through December 23, 2017. This discount is available through all meal periods. This discount will continue to be available at the following restaurants:

Magic Kingdom

  • Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe

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Every New Item at the 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Reviewed

by on September 26, 2017

With so many items available at the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, it can be overwhelming to know what new dishes to skip or sample. That’s where I come in – as TouringPlans’ resident food reviewer, I’m continuing my tradition of sampling every new dish at the festival this year so you don’t have to! Below, you’ll find reviews and photos of all of the new food, and at the bottom of this review, you’ll find rankings of how I’d categorize each dish (skip, try, must-try, or Best of the Fest). Be sure to use the quick links below to navigate through this guide!

The Food
Epcot Legacy Showplace
Flavors From Fire
Light Lab
Active Eats
Coastal Eats
Cheese Studio
Almond Orchard
Hawai’i
Farm Fresh
Greece
Thailand
Mexico
China
India
Africa
Spain
Italy
Japan
France
Ireland
The Rankings
Best of the Fest – Top Ten New Dishes
Definite Must-Try Dishes
Try If You Have Time
Skip And Save Your Appetite

 

The Food

 

 

Epcot Legacy Showplace

  • Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich

Epcot Legacy Showplace's Zesty Macaroni HandwichI wanted to love the handwich so much. The nostalgia. The pure cheese of it all (literal and figurative). But alas, it was not truly cheeseburger macaroni as I expected upon reading the menu. This had only about one or two kernels of beef in here, and was mostly just mushy, far overdone macaroni with a touch of red pepper shoved into a Cozy Cone cone. Unfortunate execution of a fun idea.

  • Chilled Scotch Egg Wrapped in Sausage with Mustard Sauce

If you’ve ever had a true scotch egg (even from Rose & Crown), this cold offering won’t particularly impress you, but it’s a decent stab at bar food in a location focused primarily on selling craft beers. I wish it hadn’t been cold – it would’ve been far better warm, as the sausage around the egg became a bit mealy as a result of the chill.

  • L’Orange Cotton Candy: A Mixture of Lime and Orange Cotton Candy (V)

Epcot Legacy Showplace's Scotch Egg, L'Orange Cotton Candy, and Bright HorizonsHard pass here – this is just a giant bag of lime and orange cotton candy pieces. There’s no reason to buy this unless you have kids genuinely in search of cotton candy.

  • Bright Horizons: Sprite with Multi-Flavored Boba Pearls (non-alcoholic)

The redeeming quality of this drink is that it comes in a very nice light-up cup that makes a decent souvenir. The boba pearls are multi-colored and pretty, but consider how much you’re paying for a cup of (likely flat, like mine was) Sprite – there’s truth in advertising here.

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Quick Tips and Picks for the 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on August 30, 2017

 

The 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is finally here! Are you excited? Overwhelmed by all the options? I’m right there with you, but as Touring Plans’ resident food reviewer, I’m here to help you navigate all the menus and the festival itself over the next 75(!) days. We’ve already sent many of you down the planning rabbit hole a few weeks ago, when all the festival menus were released.

Today, I’m offering up a few tips I’ve acquired over years of festival snacking. Then, I’ll help point you towards a few highlights at the festival by grouping over 50 dishes by the most popular themes you, our readers, ask about every year! Check out each category listed below, with quick links to that section of the article. To whet your appetite, I’ve included photos of some dishes from previous years’ festivals (of course, they may look slightly different in 2017… we’ll see soon!).

The Tips
The Food
Classics For Food & Wine Festival First-Timers
Family-Friendly Bites Perfect for Picky Eaters
Must-Do Desserts
New Items That Sound Like Winners
Dishes Aimed Towards Adventurous Eaters
Vegetarian Dishes Perfect for All Palates
Gluten-Friendly Treats
Can’t-Miss Specialty Drinks

 

The Tips

 

Even for well-seasoned festival-goers, the ever-growing Food & Wine Festival can be a bear to conquer. With so many options, so little time (and money!), and heat and humidity coming into play, there are a few tried and true strategies to guarantee success without going broke or missing out on your favorites:

  • Do: Set a budget. It’s ridiculously easy to sink $100 into Food & Wine dishes in less than a few hours, if you’re not careful. Set a realistic limit for what you want to spend and stick to it. To help, each menu featured here at Touring Plans includes the prices for items after they are revealed on festival day one.
  • Do: Make a plan for all your must-do dishes, so you don’t run out of stomach space or money before you hit the back of World Showcase. Speaking of planning…
  • Don’t: Start your snacking at the front of World Showcase. Just like with touring a park, you’ll want to avoid the first booths you see in order to optimize your waits in line. I won’t tell you to go all the way to the back of World Showcase and work your way forward, either – this is a very common strategy nowadays. Your best bet, in my estimation, is to start with a popular booth on either side of World Showcase – France, China, Canada, Belgium, and Germany are always solid bets for long lines that will only grow longer as the day progresses.
  • Do: Pace yourself. Even if you only have one day to snack around the festival, it’s definitely best to take it slow, especially in the early, hottest days of the festival. Speaking of heat…
  • Don’t: Forget to hydrate! Even if you aren’t partaking in any alcohol, Epcot in August and September heat is brutally hot midday. Take advantage of the bottled water sold at booths, or better yet, grab a free cup of ice water from quick service locations in Mexico, Japan, Norway, China, and the American Adventure.

Finally, probably my most controversial tip, but after a few years of experience with marathon Food and Wine days, is definitely the key to success:

  • Do: Eat breakfast. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. Why eat breakfast before going to Epcot to snack all day? Why? It’s simple – you need to fuel your long day of walking around in the heat somehow, and if you plan to drink any alcohol, this will ensure you are starting your day off on the right foot. I’m not suggesting a character breakfast buffet, to be sure – just make sure you grab something before heading out to the park for the day.

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Disney Testing Pre-Order Service at All Star Music

by on August 30, 2017

Disney is testing a new pre-order service at Intermission Food Court, the quick service location at All Star Music. This service is currently offered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at All Star Music only. The other All Star resorts (Sports and Movies) are not testing pre-orders, nor are the other value resorts, Pop Century and Art of Animation. This service is different from mobile ordering through MyDisneyExperience.

To use the service, pick up any grab and go items you want, place your order with the cashier, pay, and take a pager. You can then grab a table, cutlery, napkins, and any fountain beverages you ordered. When your food is ready, the pager goes off and you collect your order at the pizza pickup window.

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New Dining Tool on TouringPlans.com Dashboard

by on August 29, 2017

At TouringPlans.com we provide you with tools that help you plan and enjoy your vacations. We know that dining is an important part of Walt Disney World trips, so to help secure hard-to-get dining reservations we offer our Reservation Finder. Building on the success of that tool, we are now making use of our extensive menu database to help you make decisions related to Disney Dining Plans.

The first version of this “Dining Calculator” is available now. At this point, the tool is simple: it shows you what dining plans are offered, and it gives you an estimated value of the food you’d get if you consumed “average” meals or “maximum value” meals. These (especially the “maximum value” meals) are not necessarily realistic since you would need to eat at same restaurant and order nearly the same thing for every one of your meals to get that value. However, these numbers should give a sense of the potential savings (or lack thereof) for your group in using a Disney Dining Plan.

To access the Dining Calculator tool, click on the DINING button while looking at a Walt Disney World trip on your dashboard (if you don’t already have a “trip” on your dashboard, you will need to create one). If you have an existing trip, you may need to edit your trip to specify the number of adults and children in your group.

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Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl

by on August 28, 2017

ice cream crawl passport cover

Leave it to artist Donna Yan’s adorable Dole Whip couple to make us simultaneously want Dole Whip and a Mickey Bar!

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute must-have indulgences at Walt Disney World is ice cream. Add into that my love of coming up with themes or challenges for our Disney trips, and you get a recipe for success. (Specifically, you get a Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl!) My husband and I are apt to try a variety of challenges on our trips. We might focus on only getting snacks from places we’ve never been to before. Or we might make all of our table service reservations for restaurants we’ve never visited. Or we’ll do a trip dedicated to resort dining. (I’m just now noticing the theme of food in a lot of our planning…) For our upcoming trek, we decided to crank it up a bit and focus on ice cream.

I knew from the very beginning that not only did I want to do an ice cream crawl, but I wanted it to have its very own passport. I was inspired by the Epcot festival passports that detail out what food items you can find where. Seriously, what better way to keep track of all the amazing ice cream options than to have a dedicated ice cream passport?! (You can download your very own passport later in the article.) Let’s back things up a bit and discuss how the ice cream crawl was formed.

Simply put, the ice cream crawl was born out of an intense desire for ice cream. (Okay, it was actually as a result of the Whole30 we were in the middle of, but don’t tell anyone else that. It’s not like we were dying for sugar or anything…) First, I needed to decide what locations would be fair game for inclusion in the passport. All four theme parks were obvious, but what about resorts? Water parks? Disney Springs? At the end of the day, I went with locations that we would be reasonably likely to frequent. This included all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the area around Crescent Lake. It’s so easy to pop out of Epcot and over to the Crescent Lake resorts that including those seemed appropriate. (And we really needed Ample Hills Creamery in there!)

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Ask It: Should Disney Post Calorie Counts?

by on August 9, 2017

I’ve been told many, many times that Disney food is calorie free and/or calories don’t count when you’re on vacation. No matter how often I repeat that mantra, when I get home, the scale doesn’t seem to agree. Many people believe that posting calorie counts can help diners make better choices, or at the very least more informed choices. But do you really want to know just how many hours on the treadmill you’ll have to spend for every Disney meal?

This week’s question is:

Should Disney post calorie counts on their menus?

  • Yes (64%, 502 Votes)
  • No (36%, 286 Votes)

Total Voters: 788

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Voting is live here and on Twitter, and we’ll have your results next week. Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments as well.

 

Walt Disney World Offering Dining Discounts at Many Restaurants

by on August 8, 2017

Walt Disney World

Olivia Cafe’s Scallops ©Rikki Niblett

Disney really wants you to eat at its Walt Disney World resort hotel restaurants. How do I know? Well, lately they’ve been offering a lot of special discounts and offers geared to entice Guests to many dining establishments.

The most recent of which is for Florida residents. To encourage Guests to dine at a few select signature restaurants, Jiko, Citricos, and Artist Point, Disney will be offering Florida residents a complimentary appetizer with each adult entree that’s purchased. This offer is only valid during dinner. In addition, Guests who are Florida residents who dine at these three restaurants will receive free valet parking. This limited time offer is only available through September 30.

That’s not the only recent discount though that the Walt Disney World Resort is offering. For those who missed it, some of the most popular table-service restaurants at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels have added an extra discount for both Disney Vacation Club Members, as well as Annual Passholders.  Guests will be able to receive a 30% discount only during dinner and only before 6:30 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m. There is also a similar 30% discount available for Tables in Wonderland members. The restaurants offering these discounts include:

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