2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Festival Center

Whew! Back from another wonderful day at the Food and Wine Festival. I’ve got some great photos of the Festival Center for you! (For those who were asking, the Festival poster is $25.)

2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Center

Festival Center in the Wonders of Life Pavilion

Festival Center in the Wonders of Life Pavilion

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Center Map

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Center Map

You can check in with the Information Booth to make sure you know where you’re going and when seminars take place.

Information Booth

Information Booth

Wonders Theater (called “Authentic Tastes”) is where several of the seminars, such as Authors Without Borders, take place.

Wonders Theater

Wonders Theater

Visit the Wonders Bar for some samples (not free…)

Wonders Bar

Wonders Bar

Wonders Bar Menu

Wonders Bar Menu

You can experience Seasons of the Vine, a film describing the lifecycle of a vintage in California. This runs continuously every 10 minutes.

Seasons of the Vine Film

Seasons of the Vine Film

Film Description

Film Description

Head over to Tasteful Chapters for an array (a BIG array) of cookery books. This is where you can grab some of the books by authors being featured in the Authors Without Borders seminar series (and don’t forget to have them signed!) There’s also a little cafe with pastries and coffee.

Tasteful Chapters

Tasteful Chapters

The Chef’s Showcase is the section of the Center where Food and Wine demonstrations are done. Don’t forget that Food and Wine Pairings — the ones that were REALLY pricey — are done in actual restaurants.

Chef's Showcase

Chef's Showcase

The Vineyard is the presentation area where wine tastings take place. I don’t have a great photo of it here, but the entrance is the area directly in the middle of this photo — under the series of archways.

The Vineyard

The Vineyard

Finally, we come to The Cellar, which is where you can purchase wines mentioned throughout the Festival. There are also designated times for bottle signings (usually immediately after a wine presentation has been concluded).

The Cellar

The Cellar

For more information on the 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, visit our Food and Wine Festival Index Page.

Food Post Weekly Round-Up: September 27th, 2009

Eat here
So much has happened this week! To start (and in case you missed them), check out my Kouzzina dinner review and photos post.

Then head over to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page to see:

Once you’re up to date on Food and Wine, check out these other fantastic posts from this week (and a couple that were carried over from last week):

Everything WDW reviews Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness

Scott Joseph Orlando breaks the news that Disney World is no longer serving all-beef hot dogs

BelleLovesTheBeast on SRSounds reviews Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Disneyland

etckt has created an Epcot Food and Wine Festival iphone application to help you make choices as you wind around the World Showcase

Orlando Sentinel’s The Dish posts a video of Cat Cora cooking in her new Boardwalk kitchen

Palm Beach Post Pulse takes a look at how Disney World has risen to Dining Destination status

OC Register posts a video of Disney employees learning in the Disney Culinary Academy

Samland has a photo pictoral and essay about the Napa Rose Patio at Disneyland’s Grand Californian

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Tequila Tasting Seminar

Tequila

“Welcome to La Cava del Tequila!” I was among the first group of taste-testers for the 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival’s inaugural Tequila Tasting Seminar today, and I wanted to bring you along with me. So, shall we to Mexico?

La Cava del Tequila

La Cava del Tequila

The line was a little out of hand prior to the event, but sooner or later we were all checked off the list and seated in our assigned seats in the Cava.

Cava Seating and Mural

Cava Seating and Mural

Epcot’s Tequila Ambassador, Hilda Castillo, expertly led us through an informative and interesting seminar.

Hilda Castillo Leading the Seminar

Hilda Castillo Leading the Seminar

Hilda first described the background on Tequila, including its origin (Tequila, Mexico, where Hilda’s from), its source (Agave), its process, and its categories. There is a brilliant mural on the side wall of the Cava that depicts the life cycle of Tequila processing, including the growth of the Agave plant, the cooking down of the plants to create Agave juice, the fermentation into Agave wine, and the distillation of the Agave wine into Tequila.

A Section of the Cava del Tequila Mural

A Section of the Cava del Tequila Mural

From there, Hilda told us that we would be going through the tasting focusing on the following: Look (Sight), Aroma (Smell), and Flavor (Taste). She explained that different types of Tequila get their distinction based on the amount they’re aged. New Tequila, called “Blanco,” is very clear and very strong — think “gas fumes in your mouth,” because that’s what I tasted when we swished the Blanco Tequila! “Reposado,” or “rested” Tequila is a shade darker and significantly smoother than Blanco. Finally, the “Anejo,” or “aged” Tequila is a dark gold color and has a more “oil-like” consistency. This has the smoothest flavor of all.

Tequila Tasting Setting

Tequila Tasting Setting

Blanco

Reposado

Anejo

From there, Hilda led us through an aroma exercise. Because each type of Tequila had a specific aroma associated with it (lime with Blanco, cinnamon with Reposado, and coffee with Anejo), she had us smell a sample of the aroma before smelling each Tequila sample. Hilda showed us the three different ways to “perceive the aroma” of Tequila in order to gather the three different scents — sweet, alcohol-strong, and spicy/sweet — that are emitted.

Items to prime our noses for the Tequila aromas

Items to prime our noses for the Tequila aromas

Demonstrating one of the aroma techniques

Demonstrating one of the aroma techniques

Finally, we got to taste. Hilda began with the strongest of the three and moved on to the richest of the three. The Blanco Tequila exploded in my mouth. We were supposed to swish for five seconds, and that was practically impossible. This alcohol was so strong my tongue went numb.

The Reposado and Anejo went down much smoother, but based on my experience with the Blanco, I took MUCH smaller sips!

Once finished with the Flavor segment of the event, we were served three small appetizer tapas — shrimp cocktail, a crab tostada, and a chicken tostada — to complement our Tequila.

Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Tostada, and Crab Tostada with corresponding Tequilas

Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Tostada, and Crab Tostada with corresponding Tequilas

Overall, the event was lovely. Hilda is extremely knowledgeable and did a fantastic job as presenter, teacher, and adviser. I know that many of these are already sold out for the remainder of the festival, but if you get the chance, make a reservation (407-WDW-FEST). It’s a great experience!

I’ve copied out the Epcot Tequila Bar menu here. Happy perusing!

For more photos, links, and information from the 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, visit our Food and Wine Festival Page!

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Today’s Food Photos!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival welcome

This post is part of our series of posts on the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  Be sure to check out more of the posts in the series.

Hi all! I’ll be putting up separate posts all about today’s Tequila Tasting Seminar, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Center, the Taste of Puglia seminars, and the Festival Artwork artist — Tim Rogerson — with whom I had the chance to chat. For now, I wanted to share with you all of the delicious things I got the chance to try and see today. If your suggestion didn’t make it into this round of photos, don’t worry — I’ll get to it!

A radio station was broadcasting live from Epcot!

Radio Station Broadcasting Live

Radio Station Broadcasting Live

Around the World I go! Stopped in the San Juan booth for some Arroz con Pollo and Ham Croquettes.

San Juan Booth

San Juan Booth

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo

Ham Croquettes from San Juan Booth

Ham Croquettes from San Juan Booth

Then it was next door to Santiago, Chile, for a taste of the Corn and Cheese Arepa and the Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Cookie). I also had a chance to snap a photo of the Rock Shrimp Ceviche. I love that they put popcorn in this thing — the CM said it was a Chile tradition.

The Corn and Cheese Arepa was nothing to write home about (basically, a cornmeal pancake — rather grainy on the inside — with a sprinkling of cheese), but the Alfajor was amazing. Served chilled, this little cookie was one of the superstars for me today.

Santiago Chile Menu

Santiago Chile Menu

Ceviche

Ceviche

Dulce de Leche Cookie

Dulce de Leche Cookie

Had to show you a pic of the delicious filling

Had to show you a pic of the delicious filling

Santiago, Chile, Corn and Cheese Arepe

Santiago, Chile, Corn and Cheese Arepe

Inside the Corn and Cheese Arepe

Inside the Corn and Cheese Arepe

Next came the first of two baklavas taste-tested today (thanks for the suggestion of the Baklava Throwdown!). I’m going to write the Baklava Throwdown as a separate post, but for now, here are photos of the Marrkesh Baklava and the Athens Baklava. Which do YOU think is better?

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Athens

Athens Baklava

Athens Baklava

Marrakesh Booth

Marrakesh Booth

Marrakesh Baklava

Marrakesh Baklava

I also snapped some shots of the New York State wines booth, as I’m such a giant fan of ice wine…

Wines of New York

Wines of New York

New York State wines menu

New York State wines menu

The ice wine is all the way to the right...

The ice wine is all the way to the right...

And I got the chance to chat with Tim Rogerson, the Festival Poster Artist. I’ll write a separate blog about his work, but I snapped a fun photo of Tim with his original masterpiece. (Note: I’ll grab the price on the poster tomorrow.)

Tim Rogerson with his original painting

Tim Rogerson with his original painting

Then it was over to New Orleans for a bit of some AMAZING Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and Praline Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce. I can’t tell you how many happy noises I made while chowing down on these two dishes. The Praline Bread Pudding tasted like a sugar-soaked monkey bread with the perfect crunch of sugar caramelization on the top. The Gumbo was spicy and flavorful — a meal in itself.

New Orleans Booth and Menu

New Orleans Booth and Menu

New Orleans Praline Bread Pudding

New Orleans Praline Bread Pudding

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

I realized that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was about to perform at the Eat to the Beat Concert, so I popped in to listen to the first song. I’d seen them in concert back in the 90’s, so it was fun to reminisce!

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Announcement

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Announcement

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Performing at Eat to the Beat

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Performing at Eat to the Beat

Continuing my tour, I headed to Melbourne, Australia, for a bite of Grilled Lamb Chop, Red Wine Sauce, and Murray River Sea Salt.

Melbourne, Australia Booth

Melbourne, Australia Booth

Grilled Lamb Chop, Red Wine Sauce, Murray River Sea Salt

Grilled Lamb Chop, Red Wine Sauce, Murray River Sea Salt

Finally, I headed over to the China booth to try a Green Tea Plum Wine Cooler. This drink was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend it to anyone. In fact, I liked it so much, I went back and got a photo of the Plum Wine bottle! Also got a shot of the rice pancake.

Shanghai, China Booth

Shanghai, China Booth

Green Tea Plum Wine Cooler, China

Green Tea Plum Wine Cooler, China

Plum Wine

Plum Wine

The Plum Wine pour and some rice pancakes in the China booth

The Plum Wine pour and some rice pancakes in the China booth

Whew!! I hope you’re still with me! I’ll be back tomorrow with more — and stay tuned for my Tequila Tasting Seminar post coming soon!

First Look!: 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Entrance

Just returned from my first stroll around the 2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival! Tarps were being rolled up on the booths, food was being prepared, and merchandise was out en force. It’s shaping up to be a wonderful Festival.

In the meantime, I’ll keep adding links to my main Food and Wine Festival page; you can always look there for the latest.

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the preparations that are happening and a couple food pics that I was lucky enough to snag. Here we go!

Foodie City Banners Line the Walkways

Foodie City Banners Line the Walkways

Food and Wine figures direct you to the Festival Center — the Wonders of Life pavilion:

Pointing to the Festival Center at the Wonders of Life Pavilion

Pointing to the Festival Center at the Wonders of Life Pavilion

Don’t forget to grab your Food and Wine Festival wrist gift card!

Wrist Gift Card

Wrist Gift Card

Champagne and desserts booth looked fantastic!

Champagne and Desserts was ready to go

Champagne and Desserts was ready to go

Yum!

Yum!

Headed over to Cork, Ireland, for a taste of some yummy cheese and apple chutney!

Cork, Ireland Booth

Cork, Ireland Booth

Kerrygold® Cheese Selection: Aged-Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Ivernia Cheese with Apple Chutney and Brown Bread

Kerrygold® Cheese Selection: Aged-Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Ivernia Cheese with Apple Chutney and Brown Bread

The Marrakesh, Morocco, booth was displaying some wonderful options!

Marrakesh, Morocco

Marrakesh, Morocco

Marrakesh, Morocco dishes

Marrakesh, Morocco dishes

Books Being Sold at Morocco Booth

Books Being Sold at Morocco Booth

Cape Town smelled AMAZING as I wandered by — they were putting together the seared beef tenderloin with sweet potato puree and mango BBQ sauce!

Cape Town was rustling up some great-smelling grub

Cape Town was rustling up some great-smelling grub

Sweet Potato Puree for the Seared Beef Tenderloin

Sweet Potato Puree for the Seared Beef Tenderloin

Seared Beef Tenderloin

Seared Beef Tenderloin

I even got a chance to sample an avocado margarita while I was checking out La Cava del Tequila!

Thanks, Rafael!

Thanks, Rafael!

Paris was unloading boxes when I first walked by, but in early afternoon they were “cookin’!”

Paris was up and running

Paris was up and running

...and serving escargot!

...and serving escargot!

Some of the booths, including New Delhi, displayed plants and herbs from which they took flavorings.

New Delhi booth

New Delhi booth

Peppers!

Peppers!

CMs from Canada and Italy were very excited to share their countries’ foods (and bevvies)!

The Moosehead Tap in the Montreal Booth

The Moosehead Tap in the Montreal Booth

CMs in the Bologna, Italy booth were having a great time

CMs in the Bologna, Italy booth were having a great time

Can’t wait to try this one out tomorrow!

The flavorhood

The flavorhood

Flavors at the Flavorhood

Flavors at the Flavorhood

And the Eat to the Beat pavilion is all ready to go.

Eat to the Beat is ready to rock

Eat to the Beat is ready to rock

Hope you liked today’s photos! More to come!!

Also, I’m looking for your suggestions. I can’t eat everything at the festival, and I’d love to hear what you’d like me to sample and photograph while I’m here. Take a look at the booth menus and let me know via facebook, twitter, or email. Hopefully you have some ideas, because I need direction! Everything looks too good!

2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Merchandise

Some great merchandise available this year! Here’s a sneak peek!

One of the many Festival Shops

One of the many Festival Shops

These are my favorite item. They’re messenger bags recycled from last year’s banners. Once they’re gone, they’re GONE! Get one soon!

Messenger Bags recycled from last year's banners

Messenger Bags recycled from last year's banners

Recycled Messenger Bag

Recycled Messenger Bag

Recycled Messenger Bag

Recycled Messenger Bag

This year’s Cookbook! I really like the styling of this.

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Cookbook

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Cookbook

A couple of recipes in the book

A couple of recipes in the book

Pins and T-shirts! This year’s designs offer men’s and women’s styles — and plenty of them! There’s a great selection this year; everyone will find something they like.

This year's pins

This year's pins

epcot food and wine festival tshirt

These depict this year's theme artwork

These depict this year's theme artwork

Women's shirt

Women's shirt

And other items…

Another t-shirt option and the tote bags

Another t-shirt option and the tote bags

Coasters, notecards, and wine charms

Coasters, notecards, and wine charms

Kouzzina Dinner Review

After reading about and looking at photos of everyone’s meals at Kouzzina by Cat Cora, I’m thrilled to say that I finally had the chance to dine there myself!

Kouzzina

We arrived a few minutes late for our 7:30 reservation and were seated immediately. The Boardwalk was pretty deserted, except for a small crowd watching a magician do a few fun tricks. The lobby of Kouzzina was even more deserted; my guess is that folks haven’t yet heard about this place, so they’re not storming it at the moment.

But that meant that I got to take some really interesting photos of the lobby, including Chef Cat Cora’s family pictures on the wall and her shelves of cookbooks and wine.

Lobby shelves

Lobby shelves

Cat Cora's Pappa at age 8

Cat Cora's Pappa at age 8

More of the Cora Family

More of the Cora Family

Wall Map

Wall Map

The staff at the restaurant were wonderful — extremely welcoming and attentive. We were quickly led to our table through the large, open dining room. It’s still reminiscent of the Spoodles “farmhouse” feel, with the light wood plank floor and big, hardy dark wood tables and chairs. But Cora’s added softness with the use of delicate, mismatched chandeliers and effusive ironwork curly cues as accents.

Dining Room

Dining Room

There is some booth seating around the perimeter

There is some booth seating around the perimeter

Cora has written on and signed some of the artwork

Cora has written on and signed some of the artwork

We passed the open show kitchen, in which I found some very kind and patient chefs (I took a LOT of photos later in the evening!), and the big, farmhouse tables set for what must be very extended families!

A proud Chef watches over his fires

A proud Chef watches over his fires

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

The kitchen staff yells Opa! when the saganaki flame goes up

The kitchen staff yells Opa! when the flame goes up

Staff and Chef Dee Foundoukis are eager to show off the restaurant

Staff and Chef Dee Foundoukis are eager to show off the restaurant

We went very light on lunch today so that we could order and taste lots tonight, which we certainly did! Once presented with the menu, I quickly ordered my Ouzo-tini and two appetizers: Spanakopita and Saganaki.

The Ouzo-tini, “Cat’s personal recipe features Absolut Vodka, Metaxa Ouzo, Pineapple Juice, fresh Lime Juice, and Pomegranate served in a Sugar-rimmed Martini Glass Shaken and served table side. I loved all of the flavors, and the licorice-like taste of the Ouzo was very present. My first thought? “This tastes like a Good -n- Plenty!”

Ouzo-tini

Ouzo-tini

The Spanakopita — Traditional Phyllo Pie of Spinach, Feta, Leeks, and Dill — was…fine. Maybe we were having an off night, but the heavy spinach taste wasn’t much to our liking (and my companion usually LOVES spinach). It’s hard to say that, as I know this is a traditional item on the menu. I can give very high marks to the phyllo pastry… .

Spanakopita, Bread, and Butter

Spanakopita, Bread, and Butter

Spanakopita

Spanakopita

The Saganaki — Seared Haloumi Cheese with Lemon and Oregano — was my favorite of the two appetizers. It’s basically the Greek version of fried cheese, so why wouldn’t we like it? The cheese is firm — almost rubbery in texture. It’s quite salty, and the tang of the lemon adds an interesting layer. Although the cheese is a decent taste alone, it’s much better when eaten, as presented, with the soft, crusty oil-and-herb brushed bread. One more tidbit — originally, the saganaki was to be flambeed table-side. Due to dangerous conditions (not the least of which are kids + fire), the flames stayed in the kitchen; but the whole kitchen staff yells, “Opa!” every time the fire jumps feet into the air.

Saganaki

Saganaki

From there, we moved on to our entrees. I had been fantasizing about the Pastitsio since the Kouzzina menu was released way back when, so I ordered that. We also ordered the Flank Steak and a side order of herbed Orzo.

The Pastitsio — Greek-style Lasagna with Bucatini Pasta, Cinnamon-stewed Meat Sauce, and Bechamel — looks gorgeous. With a brown, crusted top and layers of rich bechamel sauce; thick, spaghetti-like bucatini; and spicy (as in cinnamon-spice) meat sauce, it looked heavenly. But the taste was…I hate to say it…a bit bland. I looked around for salt. There was none on the table, which was according to Cat Cora’s instructions, said my waiter. He brought me the salt and the Pastitsio got better, but it’s not something I would order again. My companion (a more adventurous eater than I) felt the same.

Pastitsio

Pastitsio

Pastitsio Inside

Pastitsio Inside

On the other hand, the Wood-grilled Flank Steak with fresh Herb Saltsa and Kouzzina Potatoes was rockin’! Grilled perfectly and settled on those beautiful little smooshed garlic potatoes, it was the hit of the evening.

Flank steak and crushed garlic potatoes

Flank steak and crushed garlic potatoes

We also sampled the Herbed Orzo side dish with Greek Olive Oil and Kasseri Cheese. This was light, fluffy, and had a stunning flavor — salty again, with that slight zing of lemon. The cheese in no way weighed this down. We enjoyed it.

Herbed Orzo with Cheese

Herbed Orzo with Cheese

For dessert, I knew we had to try the Loukoumades — Greek doughnuts drizzled with warm honey. I was also in a chocolate-y mood, and although I’m not usually that impressed with Disney World’s standard chocolate desserts, I ordered the Chocolate Budino Cake with a warm molten center and whipped sweet cream.

The Loukoumades came highly recommended by a food blog reader, and we’re big ol’ doughnut fans, anyway. They looked puffy and yummy and fried, and you can’t beat that. Better yet, they were delicious. The honey drizzle feels and tastes like a glaze, and after a quick crunch as you bite, the Loukoumades melt in your mouth. Add the tangy berry dipping sauce and you’ve got a jelly doughnut right there at your table. A truly clever, “interactive” dessert that the whole family can enjoy together.

Loukoumades

Loukoumades

The Chocolate Budino Cake looked innocent enough, and I almost discounted it as being another of the bland, (seemingly) mass-produced Disney World chocolate desserts. But I would have been wrong. The aroma when I cut into the cake was the precise one I smell when my Dad adds the butter to a bubbling pot of dark chocolate fudge at Christmastime. Every bite of this dessert was delicious.

Chocolate Budino Cake

Chocolate Budino Cake

And the inside...

And the inside...

I didn’t get the chance to try Cat Cora’s Greek Cookies, but I did get to take a photo for you!

Kouzzina Cookies

Kouzzina Cookies

Overall, I enjoyed the feel and service of this restaurant. And while the dishes (except the steak and dessert) weren’t spot on for my palate, I really do look forward to returning and trying some of the other items on the menu.

As with several of Disney’s newer restaurants, this menu has some adventurous dishes, such as the traditional whole fish entree. But it is actually more populated with more familiar items — such as the burger, steaks, fried cheese, and lasagne — that have been given Greek and Mediterranean twists. Overall, you (and your kids) are probably going to find something you like here, even if you’re picky eaters, but check out the menu to be sure you’re comfortable. It’s well worth the visit to the Boardwalk, and can offer a delicious and interesting evening out for the family or a romantic evening for date night.

Try it and let me know what you think via facebook, twitter, or email!

You can find other posts on Kouzzina here:
Kouzzina Grand Opening
More Kouzzina food photos, including the Whole Fish entree.
Kouzzina menus

New Dishes at Liberty Tree Tavern (And We Tried One!)

We were over at Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch today and found out about two brand new dishes: Chicken and Dumplings and Salmon Cakes!

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

The chicken and dumplings was not what we expected, and almost tasted like a very hearty, peppery chicken soup. A bit too homogeneous a taste for an entree (we like some sides with our meals), but not a bad dish.

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Unfortunately, the pasta dish has been taken off the menu.

New Menu Item at WDW’s Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe

Pecos Bills New Menu Item

Pecos Bills New Menu Item

You can now get Fried Chicken…with gravy…and mashed potatoes…and corn on the cob over at Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland! I’m so excited! Sounds like the perfect dinner for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, hmm…? (Jan ’10 update: Word is that the chicken fried chicken is only being served on certain days at Pecos Bill’s.)

Thanks to Amanda Tinney for the photo!

Moms Panel Magical Memories, or “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul”

For this first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series, I wanted to introduce the panelists to you in a really fun way — storytelling. I asked the moms about their most magical dining memories at Disney World and got some heartwarming, funny, and informative responses (who knew you could rent out Beaches and Cream?!). I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did; maybe they’ll even give you some great ideas about things to try next time you’re at Disney World! And be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of the Moms Panel Mini-Series, coming up later this week on the Food Blog!

In the meantime, if you’ve got a great Disney dining memory to share, please send it my way via the “Contact Me” button above. Once I have a good collection, I’ll post “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul, Part II!”

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

From Mom Kara B. (Thanks to Kara B. for sending the great photos as well!)

Last year, my middle son was to come with me to WDW for the Toy Story Mania opening for his birthday, but 2 days before going he came down with the chicken pox (seriously, who gets that anymore — especially having had the vaccine?). Fortunately, we were returning as a family within a month, so we decided to go to town celebrating his birthday and these have become the most amazing memories for us. First, at the Coral Reef Restaurant, which I think is one of the prettiest restaurants at WDW, I had arranged for a diver to come down with a happy birthday sign. He was absolutely taken by surprise; I never saw him with such a big smile. We also had a specialized cake made for him; it was pure Disney magic. It had Chicken Little on it with the message “Good Bye Chicken Pox, Happy Birthday Mark.”

Similarly, at Whispering Canyon Cafe, the cast member had all the girls under 14 come up and sing Happy Birthday to him. He was mortified, but there was a little smile on the inside I’m sure to have been treated like such a prince.

From Mom Anna S.

We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, new teeth, new shoes – just about everything happy at Walt Disney World restaurants, but I have to tell you, the most magical Disney dining memory is the one I share with the other members of the 2009 Moms Panel. On one of our nights at training, the whole group went to Jiko. We had gotten comfortable with each other pretty quickly, so by the time our dinner at Jiko rolled around, we were feeling like best friends. The meal was phenomenal, the wine was outstanding, but as the realization of the amount of Disney “magic” that had been sprinkled on all of us started to set in, the feelings that came over me surprised me! It was like old friends, sharing sips of drinks and tastes of food, talking about our kids, our vacations, our jobs and things at home. You know the feeling you get on a cold winter’s night, when you come in from a long day, slip into your flannel jammies – you know, the plaid ones with Mickey on the pocket? – wrap yourself up in your fuzzy bathrobe (or your Snuggi, if you’re so inclined), toast your toes in a pair of the ugly crocheted slippers your grandmom made for you, and enjoy a steaming hot cup of cocoa with your feet up in front of the fire place? THAT’S the magical feeling that came over me that night at Jiko. I will never forget it.

From Mom Amber V.

My favorite Disney dining memory was during my daughter’s first trip. We had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and she was wide eyed and in awe. She was dressed up in her own Cinderella gown and so proud to have her very own wand and wishing star. The pictures we have of her sitting in the castle during that meal are some of the best of our vacation. While the food was good – we have certainly had better meals at Disney, but it was the experience and atmosphere that makes it such a fond memory for me. When we got home, eating in the castle was the thing that stood out most for our daughter from her first trip and for that reason I will always consider it an absolutely magical meal.

From Mom Joanne M.

My then six year-old daughter, Nicole, and I were having our first breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort. The food was delicious, and Alice and the Mad Hatter laughed, danced and joked with Nicole. When Pooh Bear came by, she was struggling to drink her milk. Well, maybe it was actually me who was struggling to get her to drink her milk. Well Pooh stayed with her until she drank every drop, which took at least five minutes. You could see the handlers were eager for Pooh to move on, but he wouldn’t move. It has since become one her favourite character dining experiences that we visit each vacation!

From Mom Heather R.

This is a really hard question to answer, as I’ve been WOWed by Disney dining too many times to count. One such occasion was last summer, when we were visiting with my sister and her family. We elected to have dinner at the Cape May clambake on the evening of my birthday, and as usual it was a delicious meal for a seafood lover such as myself. What really kicked it up a notch were the special arrangements my sister had made with the restaurant to pixie dust my evening. A lovely (and quite large) tray of specialty desserts was brought to the table, complete with personalization and a very pixie-dusted special delivery. (I can’t imagine what the accompanying price tag for her might have been – ouch!) I definitely felt like a princess.

From Mom Whitney P.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue with our extended family of 19: Have you ever spent a lot of money on a meal or a concert and afterward thought to yourself, ‘Boy, it wasn’t worth it.’ ? Well, I’ve never had that thought when looking back fondly on this meal. My husband’s boss recommended we go there and hopes were high. I had encouraged the entire family to spend two of their dining plan credits (and therefore, skipping a meal elsewhere in the week), so the pressure was on. We had the latest 9:15 p.m. seating, and our lot was hungry. But the night went off without a hitch. From the cheerful servers to the finger-licking fare, our meal was a delight. And the show, filled with lots of chuckles, didn’t disappoint. Thankfully during the entertainment, I sat for a moment and just looked at everyone at our two adjoining tables, and savored the moment. All the family–from my then-two-year-old on up to the grandparents–all had smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves. It’s like a mental snapshot for me to look back on happily. The cherry on top is hearing my brother- and sister-in-laws still talk about it and wanting to plan our next reunion trip.

Also, one thing you may not know about me and my family is that we often camp when we go to Disney, and we look fondly at Fort Wilderness as our home away from home…. Some folks don’t like to cook when they are on vacation, me included, but cooking takes on a new meaning when we camp at Disney: My husband takes the kitchen reigns, and I become his sous chef. Last October, we camped at the fort and found that two families of friends would be at Disney the same week. We invited them for dinner at the camper and then afterward to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire singalong. Taco Soup with all the trimmings was served one night and grilled brats the next, followed by our dessert specialty, fried oreos. What made both nights memorable was our introduction of both families to a slower pace at Disney, unknown to many, where you can retreat to the fort while being just a few hundred yards from seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks!

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

From Mom Jo Y.

Unfortunately they don’t do it anymore but a few years ago my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary whilst in WDW. We dined at Coral Reef and I surprised him by organising a diver to hold up a banner in the tank wishing us a Happy Anniversary. The diver was fantastic picking up shells and throwing them in the air like confetti and spending time “chatting” with us through the glass, very magical!

From Mom Erin F.

Ours is the iconic family story; it has nothing to do with the food, but instead with the restaurant experience: When oldest daughter was six, we were eating at the Biergarten. She and my husband were fake dancing over by the band, and the MC asked if anyone wanted to lead the band. My daughter sticks her little paw in the air and was chosen out of the group. After a quick chat with the MC, she starts to lead the band and suddenly launches into this whole comedy routine! She was an outgoing kid, but this was our first indication that this was a kid who was a performer! It was a mirror into her soul. People were applauding and laughing, and it was the magical moment of us first seeing who our kid could be. It was a great experience for our family.

From Mom Kay B.

The answer to this is, hands down, Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table. It is an unbelievable experience to be able to sit in the KITCHEN of this great restaurant and not only watch the food being prepared, but also have the chance to talk with all the chefs. It is a small kitchen and to see the group back there working together to make incredible meals is a show in itself. The table setting is beautiful and the service can’t be matched. You experience about 8 courses, during which they serve you their chef choice. If there is a large group, several different choices are served so you can try them all. You can match this with wine servings making this a complete evening. In the past, Mickey and Minnie showed up to say hello, but since they are now at the Contemporary resort you don’t get this treat. You will be given a beautiful red rose when you leave.

I know this is not within everyone’s budget so I’ll also share my son’s and daughter’s thoughts (editor’s note: Kay is the self-professed “grandmom” on the moms panel, and her kids are all grown up now):

Amy says she will never forget her Food and Wine dinner at Citricos during a hurricane watching the wind and rain while eating some of the best food ever! Her second most magical experience was renting out Beaches and Cream at midnight during her wedding week and sharing their “kitchen sinks” with all her wedding party
friends and family.

Rick says his most magical Disney dining memory was enjoying a dinner at California Grill that started with fresh sushi, moving on to the barbecue filet mignon, and finishing with their peanut butter and chocolate souffle (which they don’t have anymore) while watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the background!

From Dad Doug I.

A few days after proposing to my wife (then girlfriend, of course!), we had our first experience dining at the California Grill. Everything combined for a perfect meal. We were given a window seat without asking, overlooking the Magic Kingdom, at twilight. The restaurant was only about 1/4 filled, so it was quiet and we could talk. Well timed, as we were basically planning out our lives together.

Our waiter was a sommelier, and he coached us through a series of wines to match each stage of the meal. He knew when to swing by and recommend something, and when to disappear into the woodwork. The sushi was phenomenal. The pork with polenta was better. We ended our meal with a final glass of wine, catching the fireworks from the outdoor viewing area.

It is, and always will be, our favorite restaurant in the entire world.

From Mom Jodi G.

My most magical Disney dining experience was our first meal as a family at Walt Disney World – breakfast at Akershus. My daughter, then 2, was so wide-eyed and excited. It was so much fun!

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

From Mom Beth C.

I think my most magical Disney dining moment occurred at Whispering Canyon Cafe. I was at Disney World with my family for a trip to watch my daughter Nicole dance in the Magic Kingdom. Besides my immediate family, my parents, mother-in-law, nephew and close friends, whose daughter Brigid happens to be Nicole’s best friend and fellow dancer, had dinner here. Since there were three birthdays in our party, we chose it to be the place to celebrate. The waiter called over all the boys and girls in the restaurant to help Brigid’s siblings, Patrick and Emily, celebrate their birthdays. All the girls lined up in front of Patrick, and all the boys lined up in front of Emily. After we sung “Happy Birthday”, the waiter then instructed the girls to kiss Patrick and the boys to kiss Emily. Well I do not know who was more surprised, the birthday kids or the other children dining that night. I never saw kids move so fast back to their tables and everyone had a great time. Of course, we asked for ketchup, spoons and more soda. But I will save those surprises for your own trip!

From Mom Kim L.

The first Disney restaurant that we ever took my son to was Chef Mickey’s when he was two years old. It was magical to see his eyes light up when Goofy walked by. Goofy was the first character he saw. It’s also where he first met Mickey. Our son danced, waved his napkin and greeted all the characters with a smile. We shared this meal with my son’s grandparents which made for a special family dinner. To this day, when I recall those moments, my heart soars. It is unexplainable because it was pure magic.

From Mom Margaret F.

My husband, sons and I have been enjoying Disney World for many years, but my grandmother has never been. We decided to take her a few years ago for her birthday. The boys selected Crystal Palace as the perfect place to celebrate. We ordered a cake and had asked the hostess if there was anyway we could celebrate with a special touch. Imagine her surprise as Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet showed up at her table with a birthday card and cake. Our wonderful server had the whole section sing Happy Birthday to her and Pooh took her hand and led her around in a “mini birthday parade.” The boys were so excited to see their great grandmother having such a great “birthday party.” The added touches the restaurant put on her birthday made it so magical and it brought tears to my eyes to see her able to share that special day with her great grandsons in our favorite place. She still talks about her special birthday years later.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!