Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Via Napoli

We are less than one month from the start of the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and it will be here before you know it!

food and wine festival logo

Today, we are anticipating some of our favorite Special Events. While we love the Marketplace Booths and Low-Cost Demonstrations and Seminars, it’s fun to splurge once in a while on a few of the Special Events, culinary experiences that take place throughout the festival.

Much is made of wine — after all, this is a food and wine festival. But in recent years, Epcot has expanded its offerings to lovers of cocktails and beer as well.

The opportunity to try craft beers and brews from all around the globe is especially exciting. So let’s take a closer look today at one of the events that is especially geared toward beer lovers — The Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch.

Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Epcot’s Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

I attended this event during its inaugural year. While the food was delicious and the beer servings were generous, we were disappointed by the event format. It was basically a luncheon with none of the presentation or explanation that we’ve come to expect with these types of events.

We were anxious to try again though, and last year I was able to attend the event again.

Italian Beers and Bottles

Italian Beers and Bottles

We arrived at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria a little early for the event. That’s always a good idea so that you can scope out the venue — especially at a place that is still functioning as a regular restaurant while the event is going on. It’s not always easy to find the registration desk for the event versus the regular check-in line for the restaurant!

While I’ve had trouble with this particular distinction at Via Napoli before (they usually have people check in for the Food and Wine events at the regular check-in desk), on this visit they had the registration desk separate.

Arriving for the Event

Arriving for the Event

That said, the sign was a little confusing. Apparently, it’s doing double-duty for both the Beer Pairings and the Wine Pairings. Our event included only beer; there isn’t a combo event, for those of you who are wondering. :-)

We were greeted by one of the managers, who showed us to the area where the event would take place.

Presenter Guy

Via Napoli’s Manager Greeted Guests

We found our tables set with all of the glassware that we’d need for four courses. There was also fresh Bread with Olive Oil for dipping to get us started. Note that seating seemed to be assigned at this event. I’ve found that to be the case at more and more food and wine events these days.

The Table is Set

The Table is Set

Individual menus made for handy references throughout the meal and great souvenirs after it was complete.

Place Setting

Place Setting

Before we got started, I had a few moments to acquaint myself with the other guests seated at my table (another good reason to arrive a bit early!). I also had a chance to look over the menu.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

It seems that the Italy Culinary team have gotten the memo; our event included [Read more…]

DFB Reader Questions Answered: What’s a Great Spot for a Disneyland Date Night?

We’re opening our Disney Food Blog Reader Mailbag for another great question from you today!

And wouldn’t you know it? Romance is in the air. Our reader would like to know:

What’s a good idea for a great date night dinner in Disneyland?

What a fun question! And we definitely have some good ideas for this one. But as we all know, budgets vary. Let’s look at several options:

Special Occasion Date: Napa Rose

Looking for an extra special evening? Napa Rose wins our vote for the best dining experience in all of Disneyland.

I Love the Napa Rose Outdoor Lounge Area

I Love the Napa Rose Outdoor Lounge Area

The award-winning restaurant, located in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, offers a warm, relaxed environment. But it’s the food that we absolutely love here.

Chef Andrew Sutton creates a market-inspired menu of seasonal favorites, focusing on the bounty that California offers. And you can pair your meal with their superb list of California wines to enhance each course.

For an extra special treat, reserve the Chef’s Counter, and enjoy watching the staff as they craft your dinner before your eyes.

Veal Filet with Apricot Chutney and Summer Vegetables Entree at the Chef's Counter

Veal Filet with Apricot Chutney and Summer Vegetables Entree at the Chef’s Counter

Want a gourmet experience with a more relaxed vibe? Check out Steakhouse 55 Lounge in the Disneyland Hotel for delicious pub grub, inventive cocktails, and an atmosphere that is sheer Old Hollywood Glamour.

Under the Sea Date: Ariel’s Grotto World of Color Dinner Package

Dinner and a show? What could make for a better date?

If you’re looking for more than just dinner out, we love the World of Color Dinner Package at [Read more…]

Walt Disney World Steak Gallery

It’s time for another fun addition to our Disney Food Galleries!

disney world steak gallery

We just love to share photos of all of our favorite foods — and collect them into galleries for easy viewing! Whether your craving is for popcorn, ice cream, or a cupcake, there’s a gallery for you!

And today, we’re introducing a brand new gallery for all of you red meat lovers out there! Yep, we’ve gathered a whole buncha steaks from around Disney World to help you make your choices on your next visit.

Remember, some of these may drop off menus from time to time or have side dishes or preparation changed, but hopefully this will give you a good overview of what’s available! Here we go!

Yachtsman Steakhouse

Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club is one of my top picks when it comes to steak at Walt Disney World. After all, they decorate with meat — the first thing you pass en route to your seat is the Steak Trimming Room!

Chefs here pride themselves not only on the very best cuts of meat, but appetizers, side dishes, and desserts inspired by market fresh ingredients. Yachtsman combines the very best of seasonal flavors with the traditional steak experience.

My absolute favorite pick at Yachtsman is the 16-ounce Boneless Ribeye. It is always a melt-in-your-mouth choice.

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

But we are also big fans of the 12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak, served here with a rich potato gratin stack.

Strip Steak

12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak


Shula’s at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin is the kind of place that you think of when you envision an upscale steakhouse. As your eyes adjust to the dim lighting and you check out the menu — printed on a football! — you’ll settle into the refined elegance of your surroundings.

When I have the chance to dine here, I almost always go for my favorite, the 22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye (are you sensing a theme?). The Bone-in Steak has been excellent on every visit. The flavor is unbelievable!

Cowboy Ribeye

22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye

Looking for a lighter approach to soothe your carnivore cravings? We’ve also enjoyed the Steak Mary Anne. Delicate by steakhouse standards, the 5-ounce medallions are served with a simple demi glace in this case. It’s the perfect plate for the guest who prefers all the flavor of prime, aged beef in a smaller serving.

Steak Mary Anne

Steak Mary Anne

Flying Fish

If you’re a landlubber like me, then finding a great steak at a restaurant known for fabulous seafood is a dream come true. But it’s not impossible if you’re dining at Flying Fish Cafe.

When I visit, I always order the Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip. The creamy Sauce Foyot is such a great accent — and they’re never chintzy with it!

Char Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Can’t decide between surf and turf? You don’t have to! Try the two house specialities side by side with the Entree Duo, which features the Char-Crusted Angus New York Strip Steak and the restaurant’s most famous fish dish, the Potato-wrapped Red Snapper.

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak


Jiko offers some of the most interesting food at Walt Disney World.

And while I enjoy the fusion of African, Indian, and Meditteranean flavors when it comes to appetizers and desserts, I rarely deviate from my favorite entree: the Oak-Grilled Filet.

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

Oak-Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

And even when their delicious Mac and Cheese isn’t featured as the dish’s side, you can usually score it as a special request (and I totally recommend that you do). :-)

Liberty Inn

In the mood for steak with no Advance Dining Reservation? Then head to Epcot’s Liberty Inn. Their New York Strip Steak, served with Red Wine Butter, Roasted Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli, is surprisingly good.

New York Strip Steak Meal

New York Strip Steak Meal

Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant

Even though most of my favorite steaks at Disney World are featured at signature restaurants, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good option at moderately priced restaurants, too, like Sci-Fi Dine-In.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: French Regional Lunch

Bonjour! We are taking a tour today of the Culinary Capital of the World — France — as we continue to gear up for the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Okay…well, that may be a little overkill. But there’s no denying that French food is something special.

food and wine festival logo

And we were very glad to hear that French Regional Lunches — aka Frunches — would return once more as part of the festival’s line up of Special Events last year after taking a hiatus in 2012.

And they are back again in 2014! Woo!!!

As we prepare for this year’s festival to kick off on September 19, let’s sit down to a French Regional Lunch from 2013.

Join me, won’t you?


They’ve made the entrance door a little less secret-looking, but the entrance to Monsieur Paul is still a bit on the understated side. Head for Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie and L’Artisan des Glaces, but make a sharp left at the awning. And you’ve arrived!

Monsieur Paul Entrance

Monsieur Paul Entrance

Step inside and you’re greeted by a small waiting area and this elegant winding staircase that takes you up to the second-floor restaurant. (There’s also an elevator if you prefer.)

Staircase in lobby leading up to restaurant Monsieur Paul

That Gorgeous Staircase!

Monsieur Paul is normally only open for dinner service, so it’s a real treat to enjoy lunch here in the recently renovated dining room. During the day, the natural light flooding through the uncovered windows lightens up the formal setting considerably. It’s a nice combination.

There is no assigned seating, so arrive early if you have your heart set on a certain area of the restaurant. Tables are set close together, so it pays to be of a social frame of mind. :-) Most of the time, people respect it if you would rather not chat with strangers. Don’t let this aspect of the experience keep you away. (And, honestly, after the fourth glass of wine, nobody’s a stranger anymore.)

Atmosphere and Seating Arrangement

Atmosphere and Seating Arrangement

You’ll notice in the photo above that there is a “host” for the luncheon. That’s because each luncheon is themed to a different region of France, and wines are paired to complement the flavors of each dish. A principle from a winery will guide you through each course and pairing.

And speaking of wine, there will be lots of it. My advice? Pace yourself. ;-)

Table Setting with Wine Glasses

Table Setting with Wine Glasses

I’m excited to show you the menu — let’s get started.

French Regional Lunch at Monsieur Paul

To me, the most interesting part of the French Regional Lunches is that they are just that — about different regions. Each week, they highlight a different region in France. During my luncheon, we were headed to Bordeaux!

Menu for the French Regional Lunch -- Click to Enlarge

Menu for the French Regional Lunch — Click to Enlarge

Our first wine was poured quickly after we were seated. The light-bodied Château Bonnet White Bordeaux was the perfect aperitif wine. It was excellent to sip on its own, but the crisp finish also paired well with our beginning dish, which was very rich.

Chateau Bonnet White Bordeaux

Château Bonnet White Bordeaux

Speaking of, our lunch began with an Amuse Bouche. The creamy dish reminded me of a savory creme brulee, if that makes any sense. No sweetness, but the same rich consistency, with the earthiness of mushrooms.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

The peppery Arugula on top contrasted nicely with the creamy custard in the small starter. It certainly did its work — we were excited to see what would be next.

Amuse Bouche -- Inside

Amuse Bouche — Inside

Fresh Demi Baguettes arrived to the table next, baked in the ovens of Les Halles below. I’m a big ol’ fan of bread fresh from the oven, and they do it perfectly here.

Fresh Baguette

Fresh Baguette

Our next wine was poured in anticipation of our first course. I thought the Château Bonnet Rosé was the perfect segue from the light white we started with into the heavier dishes that would be coming.

Chateau Bonnet Rose

Château Bonnet Rosé

Our first course, Cassolette d’Escargot Cauderanaise — Escargot Cassolette with Bacon — was a twist on a classic. While [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Japan Food and Beverage Pairing

We are ramping up for another fantastic Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Today, we’re reviewing a fun Special Event from the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

We are heading over to Tokyo Dining in the Japan Pavilion for the Food and Beverage Pairing experience. The light meals feature beverages paired with tasting-sized portions of the restaurant’s cuisine.

I’ve enjoyed dinner at Tokyo Dining as well as lots of fun meals at Teppan Edo, so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat! While we’d done the Morocco food and beverage pairing event, we’d not yet experienced the Japan version. Here we go!


When I arrived for the Food and Beverage Pairing, I checked in at the stand that serves both Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining. The cool, sleek waiting area features simple, modern decor and comfortable low lighting.

Waiting Area Serves Both Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo

This area is also shared by the two restaurants.

Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo Waiting Area from Another Angle

Step into the Tokyo Dining seating area, and the same modern Japanese vibe is prevalent throughout. A sushi show kitchen takes up space along one wall.

Tokyo Dining Seating and Open Sushi Kitchen

The other side of the restaurant is dominated by [Read more…]

Sneak Peek: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort Opening Tomorrow!

Welcome to Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, where “luxury meets magic!” We got a chance to take a look around the hotel before it opens, and wanted to give you a quick peek! (Nope; they’re not paying us to do this. We just figured you’d be interested. ;-D)

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Opening August 3rd, Four Seasons Orlando says they will provide a best-of-both-worlds vacation experience: “easy access to all the area entertainment in a tranquil setting,” at Golden Oak in Walt Disney World, according to Thomas Steinhauer, Regional Vice President and General Manager.

The Disney Help Desk

The Disney Help Desk

Stairwell to the lobby

Stairwell to the lobby



Twenty-six acres will hold [Read more…]

Disney Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese from Jiko at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

I have a super special treat for you today!

I know I’m not the only person in love with the Macaroni and Cheese at Jiko, right? This signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge — and this dish in particular! — regularly tops my list when I’m visiting Disney World.

And when you run into me having dinner here, chances are better than great that I’ll be enjoying their Oak-Grilled Filet with a side of their amazing Mac and Cheese.

While the filet is a mainstay on their menu, the side dishes that it’s paired with tend to change up regularly. But Jiko created a legend with the filet and cheesy goodness combo; it had legions of fans! So normally, even if the mac and cheese isn’t on the menu, you can request it.

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

And now you can make it at home too!

Jiko’s Macaroni and Cheese

Jiko — The Cooking Place, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients: [Read more…]

News! 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events, Dates, and Prices; Booking Begins July 31st!

Awesome news today! We have a few more pieces of information to share with you about the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival! We now know that booking for Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events will begin on July 31st at 7AM EST! Call 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378).

Food and Wine Festival Updates

What are we excited most about? Parisian Breakfasts BACK this year on Saturday Mornings! We absolutely loved these events in 2013, and we can’t wait to book it again in 2014! And we look forward to taking in some new experiences as well.

Be sure to check out our 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events page for ALL of the details on these options; and check out our 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival page for all of the latest news and updates on this year’s festival.

New Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events for 2014

Sunday Mornings With… — This event will be a plated brunch with noted pastry chef or baker who will craft 3 different desserts for guests. Time and Price TBD

Dining Through the Decades, A Tribute to Walt Disney (October 24) $99 pp or $119 pp

Experience Puerto Rico – The All Star Island (September 20) $99 pp

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival — Boot Camp Series — An interactive epicurean adventure (September 21, October 5, 12, 19, Nov. 2) $119 pp

Food for Thought [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: More Breakfast Goodness!

It’s always so fun to flip through the fantastic photos that our members post on the Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, head over there! We think a virtual trip to Disney is a great way to take a break from your busy day. :-)

And today, we are all about the tons of yummo breakfast options that you have at Walt Disney World! Let’s take a trip to some of our favorite Disney breakfast spots today for our latest installment in our Disney Food Pics of the Week Series!

Breakfast Skillet at ‘Ohana

Photographer: Ryesah

Yay for the words: “all you care to enjoy” and “Mickey Waffles”! You only need fun interaction with cool characters like Lilo, Stitch, and Mickey and Friends to make this character breakfast at ‘Ohana completely awesome!

Breakfast Skillet at 'Ohana

Breakfast Skillet at ‘Ohana

Baked French Toast at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Photographer: Nancy RK

Starting your day in Cinderella Castle for breakfast? Lucky you! We’ve had some [Read more…]

What’s Your Perfect Disneyland Dining Day?

Have you ever stopped to dream up your Perfect Disney Day? I bet I’m not the only one who’s whiled away the hours in this way. But I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that my daydreams about upcoming trips are frequently planned around — what else? — the FOOD!

So today, we’re going to have a little fun. I want to hear all about what your Perfect Disneyland Dining Day would look like! Where would you eat your meals? What would you have for snacks? Would it be an all fancy-meal affair? Or would treats and counter service eats make the cut too?

I’ll get the ball rolling on the food fantasy by sharing my picks!

Breakfast at Steakhouse 55

One of my favorite places for a serene breakfast is Steakhouse 55. This historic restaurant has been welcoming guests since the very earliest days of the resort. Formerly known as Granville’s, you’ll find a cool and classy atmosphere here with a retro vibe to it.

Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel

Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel

But the digs aren’t the only retro touch. The menu celebrates the past too, with classic dishes. That’s true for dinner as well as for breakfast.

And that combination of serene surroundings and delicious food with a touch of elegance makes Steakhouse 55 a great way to start your day on vacation.

New York Steak and Eggs

New York Steak and Eggs

Besides, how you can resist a good plate of steak and eggs? :-)

Morning Snack at Corn Dog Castle

I must admit, a plate of steak and eggs will probably keep me going for the better part of the day, so I’m likely to skip the morning snack after a meal like that in the real world. But this isn’t the real world at all — it’s the Best. Day. EVER! Right? So you guys, there’s totally gonna be a morning snack stop at Corn Dog Castle.

And making a choice here is no small feat. I mean, you’ve got the amazing classic Hand-Dipped Corn Dog, and you absolutely cannot go wrong with it. But there’s also the nearly-as-delightful Cheddar Cheese Stick if you’d like to skip the sausages altogether.

For me, on this Dream Day, I’m going all the way — and opting for the Hot Link Corn Dog!

Hot Link Corn Dog Meal

Hot Link Corn Dog Meal

In this case, that hand-dipped, made to order treat consists of crunchy Cornbread Coating that enrobes a Hot Link. And it’s definitely got a little zip to it.

Hot Link Corn Dog

Hot Link Corn Dog

Believe me when I say to you — Go there. Get this. One of the three options, anyway. A trip to Corn Dog Castle must be on your list. I insist. (You’ll thank me, I promise.)

Lunch at Cafe Orleans

OK, you guys KNOW that this place is going to be on my “list of anything awesome in Disneyland,” so if you’ve read all of my goings-on about the restaurant already, you’re allowed to skip this section. ;-D Yep. One of my very favorite Disney table service stops is Cafe Orleans.

As much as I love their Gumbo here, it’s the Pommes Frites that I never pass up. Perfectly cooked fries are tossed with Parmesan, Garlic, and Parsley and served with a side of Cajun Spice Rémoulade for dipping. So, so good!

Cafe Orleans Pommes Frites

Cafe Orleans Pommes Frites

Next, I always make space in my Disneyland eating plans for a [Read more…]