Posts Tagged ‘disney world’

Family-Friendly Favorites at Epcot’s 2016 Food and Wine Festival

by on September 21, 2016

Last week, we took a look at every new item at the 2016 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, but it’s always hard to resist trying our longtime festival favorites again first thing. This week, we’ll take a look at 15 family-friendly festival favorites (yes, even kids will like many of these options!) to see if they’re just as good as we remember. I took a stroll at dinnertime one evening just after festival opening to try a few dishes I recommended in my preview post, plus a few more that always seem to be the most popular dishes of the festival. I’ve included a quick summary at the bottom of this post, with my take on whether each of these dishes is a skip/maybe try/must-do, as well.

The Dishes

  • Hawai’i's Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy MayonnaiseHawai’i: Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($4.25)

The pulled pork here can sometimes be a little dry, but on my visit, it was perfectly succulent, very savory, with a little punch of sweet from the pineapple chutney. The spicy mayo isn’t really very spicy, but it does help keep the whole slider together. You’ll only get about five bites out of the sandwich this year, with a lot of bread in there, but it’s just as solid a pick as in previous years.

  • Patagonia: Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree ($5.75)

Patagonia's Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato PureeI’ve always found this to be a solid pick, as most everyone loves food on a stick, and while it sounds kind of scary with the boniato puree and the chimichurri, these are flavors that many are familiar with and happy to sample. The beef on this year’s skewer was tender and nicely grilled without being dried out, with the starchy puree (think: mashed potatoes) helping round out the bite and give a bit more richness to the whole plate. The chimichurri is packed with garlic, cilantro, parsley, and a little bit of a peppery kick – you’ll want it slathered over every bite, it’s that good. Chefs at the Patagonia booth were even offering a side of the chimichurri for guests ordering the beef empanada, as well!

  • Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup Served with a Pretzel Roll ($4.75)

This dish is so famous at the Food and Wine Festival that no modifiers are necessary – it’s just “The Soup”. This year’s portion has, once again, shrunk slightly, but it now comes with a pretzel roll (which will look familiar if you’ve ordered the bratwurst from the Germany booth in the past). The soup was a tad too salty for me, though still deliciously creamy and packed with a slight smokiness from the bacon inside. Canada's Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom FiletThe pretzel roll was a little stale, but a better delivery system for the soup than a spoon, so I went with it. With the smaller portion, this was overall a bit disappointing – it’s probably still going to be a super-popular option for most festival-goers, but I’d skip unless you are seriously craving it.

  • Canada: “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce ($7.75)

At $7.75, this is one of the most expensive food buys of the festival, and to be honest, my portion was not worth that price this year. Even during a fairly busy dinnertime visit, with fresh steaks being cooked and served every few minutes, I got a slightly tough and unevenly cooked steak (very well done on one end, medium on the other). The mushrooms and truffle sauce were as decadent as ever, earthy and savory without being too salty. This is another “skip” for me (an unpopular opinion, to be sure), but even for kids and picky eaters, there are better options for a better value out there.

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Daisy’s Best Week Ever, September 15, 2016: Disney on Ice (and off ice)!

by on September 15, 2016

Hello, lovebugs! I hope you’ve had an amazing last few weeks! This week we’re visiting Disney on Ice, taking a quick trip to Epcot, and finishing up with some nighttime fun at Animal Kingdom.

Now, I’m not sure if you guys will appreciate Disney on Ice. I know it wasn’t very popular when I posted it on Instagram. (Did you know TouringPlans has an Instagram?? Come play with us there!) But I absolutely loved the show. We were fortunate enough to have seats right on the ice and I was ready with my camera. While I agree Frozen has been overplayed,  I was just enchanted with the characters in this format. Just take a look at how pretty Elsa was in her element!


There’s lots more to see this week. Click to read more.

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Quick Picks for the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on September 13, 2016

It’s almost Christmas… well, *my* Christmas. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival opening day is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start strategizing how to tackle all of the great eats during your trip around the World (Showcase). To do that, I’ve made “quick pick” lists full of my favorites from past years in a few categories: classics (great for festival first-timers), dishes that are great for families with kids or picky eaters, dishes for adventurous eaters, vegetarian picks (that even carnivores will love), and of course, a few drinks. I’ve included new picks in some of the categories that I’m looking forward to, and also some tips and tricks for making the most of your time (and finding the shortest lines!) at the festival booths.

Classics for first-time Food & Wine Festival visitors

  • Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Hawai’i: Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayo

This booth’s menu rarely changes because it’s always consistently good. Definitely stop here early in the day, as it is one of the first booths in World Showcase and lines grow quickly.

  • Australia: grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies

Great walk-around finger food to enjoy while strolling Epcot. Only a few bites, but the potato chip crunchies make this a fun take on a classic dish.

  • Hops & Barley: New England lobster roll

A consistent favorite, usually heavy on the lobster and served on a heavenly butter-grilled bun

  • Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac & Cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and peppers

Who doesn’t like mac & cheese, especially when it has bacon and other toppings? This can be a lighter portion, but one that nearly everyone will enjoy

  • Belgium: beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes

The beer-braised beef returns this year with a new presentation (no more potato leek waffle). This booth can be a little slow, depending on how many are ordering sweet waffles (made to order), but it’s worth the wait for this dish.

  • Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Mexico: Mexican chocolate flan

Mexico is always a must-stop for desserts for me – every year they make something slightly different, but always tasty, and this flan is sure to fit that pattern. A great stop for the very end of the night, when this always-busy booth’s line tends to be shorter.

  • Chocolate Studio: liquid nitrogen chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel

This dish debuted last year and became an instant classic for pretty much everyone. It’s usually rich enough to share, and it’s always a blast to watch them freeze the truffles to order.

Perfect bites for families with kids or “picky eaters”

  • Germany: Schinkennudeln (baked mac and cheese with ham)

Again, who doesn’t like mac & cheese? This rich dish is a variation of the baked mac and cheese found inside Biergarten, and it is just ridiculously heavenly. A good stop if you are worried Farm Fresh’s version is too veggie-heavy, and usually a pretty quick line.

  • Brazil: Crispy pork belly with black beans and tomato

Most kids love bacon, and this is exactly that, just with the addition of a nice stew of black bean and tomato. Full of savory flavor, this dish will be a winner for many, and bonus – there’s a really cool seating area at this booth, too!

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TouringPlansTV: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party + Video

by on September 2, 2016

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Welcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Halloween is my favorite time of year, so I’m extra excited to share today’s video with you all. It’s just in time too, since today–September 2–is the first 2016 Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom!

Check out below to learn all about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, found at Walt Disney World.

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Morimoto Asia Omakase: Fine Dining At Its Best

by on August 29, 2016

The menu for my meal, signed by Chef Morimoto.A few weeks ago, Morimoto Asia hosted their first omakase dinner led by Iron Chef Morimoto himself, and I was lucky enough to attend! An omakase meal is pretty simple – the chef makes all of the decisions for you, setting the menu as they desire (though sometimes customization is an option). California Grill offers an omakase dining option at their sushi bar, and it’s widely considered one of the best dining splurges at Walt Disney World. This particular opportunity, though, seemed even more special than that, as Chef Morimoto would be working alongside his team at Morimoto Asia – a rare chance to see one of the masters in action. I was excited for this meal, especially given the excellent meals I’d had here before (and Len’s great review of most of the menu).

Before The Meal

I arrived not knowing exactly what to expect, other than that every bit of chopstick and sushi etiquette I’d ever learned would be put to the test. The dinner was offered to only 12 diners, and we were seated in waves to make it easier on the chefs to time the meal. I was in the first wave of four to arrive, and we were immediately seated at the beautiful sushi bar on the upper level of the restaurant. Chef Morimoto and Morimoto Asia’s executive chef, Yuhi Fujinaga, were already engaged in a precise dance of preparation for our first few courses, working alongside four other chefs, ensuring every dice was to their exact specifications. After a few minutes of watching them all, I knew I was in for a special evening.

Every diner received a Chef Morimoto-signed menu for the evening listing all of the nine (!!!) courses to come as we sat down to the sushi bar, where we were also told that we could opt to include alcohol pairings with each course. Obviously, I had to take one for the team (in the name of research, of course!), and give the pairings a shot. Below, I’ll outline each course as presented and the pairings that came with them, with a few thoughts on each. As always, take a closer look of each dish with just a click on any photo.

The Main Event


First Course: Oyster Two Ways – caviar, foie gras

Paired with Jean Charles ‘JCB no21’ Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, France

Oysters two waysThis starter was the perfect exercise in how hot & cold temperatures can work together to create a cohesive dish. One oyster was served cold topped with caviar, and the second, topped with freshly seared foie gras swimming in an umami-rich teriyaki sauce. My first bite, of the cold oyster, was as briny and of-the-sea as you’d expect, and refreshing to wake up the palate. The decadent foie gras was slightly sweet in my follow-up bite of the second oyster, helping soothe a bit of the first’s saltiness. The bubbly JCB Cremant, shown above with the menu, really offset both oysters perfectly with a bit of acidity.

 Second Course: Tartare Two Ways – toro, A-5 wagyu

Paired with Cerulli Spinozzi ‘Cortalto’ Pecorino, Abruzzo, Italy

Tartare two waysSimilar to the first dish, this second course played on the duo theme with a tuna tartare served in a dashi soy sauce alongside A-5 (the highest quality available) wagyu beef tartare. Chef Morimoto hand-chopped the beef in front of us, before mixing it with a bit of spicy aioli, and served the rich beef topped with slightly sweet julienned jicama. The dry and acidic Cortalto wine cut through the richness in both sides of the dish, though I probably could’ve had an entire glass of the dashi soy instead of wine for this course and been happy.

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Daisy’s Best Week Ever August 25, 2016: Magic Kingdom, and Epcot, and DISNEYLAND. Oh my!

by on August 25, 2016

Hello, my lovebugs! I’m so excited to be able to share this week with you. Hopefully I’ll be getting back into rotation with the team moving forward, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other! This week I visited the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and had a surprise two night adventure at Disneyland. (I know, right??) So let’s get started with one of my favorite views in the Magic Kingdom.


I know, it’s a bathroom, but doesn’t it look majestic? Of course, I was excited to see anything after 67 days away from the parks. We decided to downgrade to silver passes this year and while I had a couple of tough days missing my “home” over the summer, it was overall a positive experience. I think we’ll continue with passes at this level in future years. What would you do? Do you think we’re crazy skipping the summer and peak holidays? Let me know in the comments.

There’s so much more to see – click to read more. 🙂

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Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part II

by on August 22, 2016

castlesAs I’ve said before in this Disneyland vs. Disney World series, Disney never does the same thing twice! It’s a common misconception that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland Park are basically the same experience but on different coasts. That is absolutely not true! Even though Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was inspired after the original Disneyland Park, it was never intended to be a carbon copy. Both parks offer their own exclusive attractions, restaurants, character interactions, style, and overall experience. Of course, that gives rise to the question of which park is truly the best? That’s the question I intend to answer in perhaps the most ambitious installment of Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part II.

Due to the scope of this topic, this article has been split into two parts. Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part I compared the two parks on categories such as characters, attractions, and dining. This second installment will compare the different themed lands represented at both parks and determine which one is best!


Walt’s Lantern Above the Disneyland Fire Department

Main Street, U.S.A. :

Everyone loves their Main Street, U.S.A. I know it’s the land I miss most when I’m not at the parks. The problem with comparing the two is that they are each unique and my favorite tends to depend on my mood. Seriously, my pick could be different by tomorrow! Anyway, let’s begin with the first thing guests seen when approaching either park, the train stations.

Mayor Weaver of Main Street, U.S.A.

Mayor Weaver of Main Street, U.S.A. will be happy to give you a handshake and a business card

The Magic Kingdom’s Train Station is two stories high, spacious, and also symmetrical in comparison to Disneyland’s. It hosts the morning Welcome Show and offers fantastic seating for the parades and fireworks. Disneyland’s Train Station is more quaint and resembles a station that would have existed for an actual small town. It also serves as a stage for entertainment too.

Once guests enter the park, they find themselves at Town Square. Disneyland’s doesn’t seem as big as the Magic Kingdom’s, but it offers a park-like atmosphere with more trees and benches and its Main Street Vehicles operate into the afternoon while the Magic Kingdom’s only run a few hours in the morning. Disneyland’s Town Square is also rich with history due to The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Opera House and the lamp burning in the window of Walt’s private apartment at the fire house. But I can’t fail to mention that Magic Kingdom’s Harmony Barber Shop, where guests can actually get haircuts with a touch of pixie dust!


Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.

Now the Magic Kingdom offers the best view down Main Street, U.S.A. due to the size of Cinderella Castle, and the whole street has a slightly grander and more ornate look than Disneyland’s. Although, I think Disneyland’s storefronts boast a bit more personality, inside and out, and I appreciate their few unique, specialized shops. I also believe that Disneyland’s Main Street dining options are a little better too. I love the Market House Starbucks, the menu at Carnation Café, and everything at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. But I do prefer the setting and character experience at the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace, as well as Casey’s Corner menu and theme, compared to Disneyland’s The Plaza Inn and Refreshment Corner respectively. Lastly, I think the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. does just a little better when it comes to entertainment due to the charming Main Street Trolley Show and Main Street, U.S.A. Actors.

Overall, I’m giving this category to Disneyland, but just barely! Disneyland’s dining, Town Square, and history just put it over the top, even though it’s difficult to beat that postcard view down the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A.

Winner: Disneyland Park

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Blaze Pizza: A Fast Favorite at Disney Springs

by on August 16, 2016

As I mentioned last week, Disney Springs has had so many new restaurants open in the past few months. Just last Friday, one of the final pieces of the dining puzzle opened its doors to welcome pizza lovers from near and far. Blaze Pizza, located in the Town Center area just across the springs from Homecoming Kitchen, is a fast casual chain that promises fast-fired pizzas and salads in just 3 minutes. The easiest way to think of Blaze is to look at it as Chipotle for pizza: pretty much everything is customizable, from the crust, to the sauce, toppings, and pizza finishes.

After my first glance at the menu board outside the restaurant, I was excited to try Blaze just based on the price – a plain cheese pizza, 11” personal size (as all pizzas are served here), is just $7.25; add one topping out of a huge selection, and the price is $8.45. For any and all toppings you want, or one of the specialty pizzas, the price is still less than $10, at $9.65! You can even have your pizza made half-and-half, if you’re indecisive or looking to split a pie with a friend, at no additional cost.

I visited Blaze not long after it opened a few days ago for an early lunch, so there wasn’t yet a long wait that particular day (though a queue was set up outside for later use during rushes). Once I was greeted inside, I was introduced to the huge variety of topping options and the four “simple salads” available. I decided to leave my first pie at Blaze Pizza up to the experts, so I ordered half-White Top (white cream sauce base, mozzarella, bacon, garlic, oregano, and arugula) and half-Art Lover (artichoke, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, and dollops of red sauce on top). I also chose to add pepperoni on the Art Lover half, just to see what the portion size was like there, too.

I’m glad I took a chance adding a topping here, because my expert pizza makers made it clear that some who’ve passed through the doors of Blaze had already made a fatal pizza flaw: too many toppings. They really do know their stuff – too many toppings leads to soggy pizza, one that’s harder for them to cook and for you to eat.

Simple is better here, and while you don’t get a ton of each topping on your pizza, everything I tasted on my pie was fresh and flavorful to the point that I didn’t really miss the extra few bites. I chose the standard crust, which is thin, almost like a flatbread. The high-rise crust was explained to me as being a bit more like what most would think of as “normal pizza crust”, but at $2 more, I felt like the standard crust was just fine.

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A Night Out On The BoardWalk at Flying Fish and AbracadaBar

by on August 5, 2016

The marquee at Flying Fish remains as colorful as everDisney dining fans have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of one of the most popular signature table service restaurants in Walt Disney World, and it’s finally here. After several months under refurbishment, Flying Fish (formerly Flying Fish Café) reopened this week with a new look, new menu, and a new chef leading the way (though Chef Tim Majoras is a familiar face to the restaurant, as he’s been with Flying Fish for the past five years). As a longtime favorite of mine, I was just as excited as all of you to try the new menu (and probably just as sad to see favorites like the potato-encrusted snapper fly away off the menu). But first, I had to make a quick stop into another new addition to the BoardWalk, right next door, at AbracadaBar.

The front of AbracadaBar's menu offers a peek into the bar's backstory.Located in the space formerly occupied by Seashore Sweets, AbracadaBar is the newest addition to the Disney bar scene, though it may surprise a few guests with how different it is from other recent additions. AbracadaBar, open at 4:00 PM daily, is a bar, through and through, and decidedly not a lounge in the traditional Disney lounge sense. The menu (featuring a little magic trick of its own) is fairly short, featuring eight signature cocktails with high-end spirits, a selection of beers, wines, and two non-alcoholic drinks (that can also be tailored to your tastes if you prefer them on the alcoholic side).

If you frequent Disney lounges, you’ll notice something – I didn’t mention any food on the menu; that’s because there isn’t any, though your server will likely offer you some truffle popcorn to snack on with your drink. This is probably for a specific reason – there are a TON of food options on the BoardWalk (AbracadaBar itself is sandwiched between Trattoria al Forno and Flying Fish). It seems like it’s meant more as a stop-off for those on their way to their final dinner destination. This could be a great idea for the area, typically packed with adults looking for a fun place or two to spend a night out without kids.

AbracadaBar's interior is both cozy and welcoming.The space inside AbracadaBar isn’t huge in size, and the beautiful dark finishes and ornate red and gold wallpaper inside make it pretty cozy but welcoming. The tables aren’t on top of each other, which is always a plus in a bar or lounge. I loved coming in to this atmosphere out of the harsh Florida summer sun – a quick twenty minute break inside to enjoy a drink was really all I needed. Speaking of a drink – what to sample? I’m a big fan of many of the style of cocktails on this menu, so my choice was difficult, but I settled on one of the rare-at-Disney drinks, the Elixir 13.

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A Disney Springs Dining Digest

by on August 2, 2016

New restaurants abound at Disney Springs (pictured here: Chef Art Smith's Homecoming Kitchen)We’ve had an overwhelming amount of news and reviews lately about dining at Disney Springs, so I thought it’d be nice to take a step back this week to compile a Disney Springs Dining Digest of all of the new options now open. Below, you’ll find a quick summary of each new restaurant and what we thought of it here at TouringPlans (with links to our menus and full reviews, because we know you love photos of all that tasty food!). I’ll also rank the restaurants to give a sense of my overall favorites, which will hopefully help you plan your next visit to Disney Springs.

The Big Five (Table Service Restaurants)

Disney Springs has always had table service restaurants representative of a variety of modern cuisines with Wolfgang Puck, Bongo’s Cuban Café, and Crossroads at House of Blues. Recently, though, five new table service locations have opened that diversify the dining scene even further. Since we’re looking at the changing landscape of Disney Springs as a whole, we’ll start with one of the first new locations to open, even before Downtown Disney converted to Disney Springs, and move chronologically to restaurants that have opened as recently as the last few weeks.


  • Food: American steaks and seafood (priced similarly to Yachtsman Steakhouse or Shula’s); sandwiches, burgers, fried baskets (priced similarly to lunch at non-signature restaurants like The Wave or platters at more expensive quick service locations)
  • Atmosphere: The waterfront location and white tablecloths make it seem pretty fancy, but never so stuffy that eating a burger and fries here feels out of place. Families are welcome here, but it also works well for an adults-only date night out.
  • Quick Tips: Wait times for a walkup table here can creep up pretty high, so take advantage of the indoor/outdoor bar areas if your party is small. Steaks are good, but with few exceptions, require ordering other stuff to feel like a full meal: an appetizer (shrimp cocktail or oysters from the raw bar) or a la carte side (giant bowl of mac and cheese? Count me in.) is perfect for two people. On that note, always share desserts here (they’re huge!). Burgers and filet sliders are among the best budget-conscious meals at Walt Disney World for their quality. Beer selection is mostly bottled, so if that bothers you, stick to the cocktail menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: I haven’t formally reviewed The BOATHOUSE here on the blog, but I’ve previously mentioned it as a great alternative to Wolfgang Puck and STK Orlando. Definitely one of the first places I consider for a meal if I find myself hungry at Disney Springs.
  • How Do We Get Here: Park at Lime Garage or use the walking bridge from across Buena Vista Dr; The Landing’s boat dock for water transportation to/from resorts and other Disney Springs docks is right next door to the restaurant

Morimoto Asia

  • Food: Pan-Asian (influences from Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines); dim sum appetizers, sushi, ramen, noodle bowls on the lower-priced end ($15-25 for a meal, like a standard table service restaurant), plated entrees including Peking duck and amazing kalbi beef on the higher-priced end (signature dining pricing)
  • Atmosphere: The glitzy centerpiece chandelier is worth a visit to the restaurant alone, and it feels a bit more adult and upscale than most restaurants at Disney Springs due to the modern music and darker tones throughout. Kids and families wouldn’t be out of place, but you’ll probably see far more adults-only groups when you dine here.
  • Quick Tips: Grab a spot in the bar/lounge area or the upstairs Forbidden Lounge if wait times are high. If entrée prices are out of your budget (believe me, though, they’re worth saving for), you’ll still have a great meal by sampling from the extensive dim sum, sushi, and appetizer menus. Desserts are easy to share, but your money is better spent trying a cocktail, sake, or beer from their well-crafted menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: In true Len Testa style, this epic review describes reactions to a vast majority of the menu’s dishes. Overall, Len listed it as “good, quality dining at reasonable prices”, and my meals there have reflected the same sentiment.
  • How Do We Get Here: Technically located on the outskirts of The Landing, just across from Raglan Road, it’s a two minute walk on newly-opened pathways from Orange Garage.

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