Recipe: Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Lady and the Tramp with Bella Notte Sangria!

Those lovable pooches, Lady and the Tramp, will celebrate their 60th Anniversary next week! And they still look so young!

Lady and the Tramp Fanniversary

And to kick off the event the right way, D23, the official Disney Fan Club, will be launching their very first Fanniversary, Home Edition.

If it sounds like big fun to you, then head over to [Read more…]

Review: Tutto Italia Ristorante in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

Nestled in Epcot’s Italy pavilion at Walt Disney World, Tutto Italia Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner. Welcome back DFB guest author Rebecca Dolan with a review!

Epcot’s Italy had long been one of our family’s favorite places to dine since we started visiting in the ‘80s. We were huge fans of the pavilion’s original restaurant L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante, and were admittedly a little crushed when we heard it was going to be closed and replaced with Tutto Italia. (Yes, this happened like seven years ago, but the wound is still fresh.)

We’ve been back to Tutto a few times since with mixed experiences, so we ventured back a few months ago to give it another go.

Atmosphere

You’ll find Tutto Italia off the Italy pavilion’s central piazza. Enter under the large black awning (that says Tutto Italia, of course). The understated lobby area is small, so be prepared to stand while waiting for a table if it’s crowded. The lobby also connects to the Tutto Gusto wine bar, which makes for a nice place to enjoy an early glass of wine if your wait is long.

Outside Tutto Italia

Outside Tutto Italia

Off the front of the building is a patio with some seating (how very Mediterranean of them) which is great for a balmy Florida evening, though probably less so for a scorching July afternoon. In fact, Tutto Italia is one of the few full-service restaurants along the world showcase to offer outside seating.

Enjoy the chance to dine full-service outside at Epcot

Enjoy the chance to dine full-service outside at Epcot

Inside, the dining room looks much like it did in this building’s previous incarnation as Alfredo’s. Murals still decorate the walls and giant crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, otherwise it’s lots of dark wood and booths that make the room seem small and crowded.

Inside the no-frills dining room

Inside the no-frills dining room

Eats

The menu features a number of familiar Italian classics like fried calamari, antipasto, lasagne, ravioli, and risotto. For those not into carb-loading at lunch, there are a few meat and fish entrees as well.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Pasta Entrees

Pasta Entrees

Entrees and Children's Menu

Entrees and Children’s Menu

Each meal starts out with a plate of pillowy focaccia bread plus olive oil for dipping and whole green olives for munching. I’m a big fan of the olive oil here, which always seems to be more fruity and flavorful than what I can get in the store.

Focaccia and olives to eat while you look over the menu

Focaccia and olives to eat while you look over the menu

I also took this opportunity to order the “tropical blend” iced tea. I’m not sure how Italian that really is, but I’m a sucker for flavored iced teas and this fruity brew did not disappoint. A glass of sangria, however, had a little too much of some alcohol in the mix, which kept its fruitiness from coming out. We kept trying to ask exactly what was in it to no avail.

Being an Italian family, we can never visit Tutto Italia (or any Italian restaurant for that matter) without ordering the antipasto platter. The version here came piled with cured meats, cheeses, farro salad, artichoke hearts, eggplant caponata, marinated mushrooms, and sweet peppers. It was easily enough to feed four, and could be shared by more depending on your appetites.

The grande antipasto misto

The grande antipasto misto

We also ordered the Fior de Latte mozzarella, which was accompanied by roasted sweet peppers. It was indeed creamy and delicious, but both, as it turned out, were components of the antipasto platter. So, it was unnecessary repetition.

Fior de Latte mozzarella with roasted peppers

Fior de Latte mozzarella with roasted peppers

After finishing our appetizers we put in our entree orders. Curiously, the orders came out less than 10 minutes after we ordered. Sure pasta isn’t exactly time intensive, but the quick turn around made us wonder how much of the meal was pre-prepared. That might have accounted for the fact that much of it was cold. So, you may want to take a bite before your server walks away.

I went for the spaghetti, which came topped with beef and veal meatballs and pomodoro sauce. I rarely order spaghetti and meatballs out since they almost always fail to live up to expectations. And, while this was definitely not my grandmother’s spaghetti, it was better than most restaurant versions I’ve encountered. The sauce was thick and low on chunks (there are few things I hate more than chunky sauce) and the pasta was just firm enough. The meatballs were ok, if a little dense.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce

Classic spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce

The penne caprese, topped with tomato sauce and cubes of mozzarella, is similar to the spaghetti. The big difference (aside from the pasta shape, of course) is the sauce that’s lighter tasting and flecked with bits of cherry tomato and basil. Nothing mind blowing, but nothing to complain about.

A heaping plate of penne

A heaping plate of penne

The lasagna was pretty standard, with layers of pasta, chunky meat ragu, and creamy bechamel sauce. Carnivores will appreciate the generous amount of meat tucked between those pasta sheets, but as a cheese lover, I was disappointed that the ricotta and mozzarella cheese I’m used to weren’t there. The flavor was fine, even without the cheese, but between the too-soft pasta and too-much bechamel, the texture was mushy.

Hearty lasagna al forno

Hearty lasagna al forno

The Polenta Valsugana was a big [Read more…]

Review: Lunch at Spice Road Table in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion

Happy (almost) First Birthday, Spice Road Table!

Spice Road Table hit the scene in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion almost one year ago now, so we thought it would be a great time to pay another visit to this beautiful restaurant and see how things are going.

Since it’s opening, this Table Service location has offered Mediterranean tapas (small plates) and a unique wine and beer list. However, Spice Road Table recently changed its approach a bit with the addition of Advance Dining Reservations and acceptance of the Disney Dining Plan, as well as a new focus on entree-sized menu options.

So now is a great time to show you what’s evolved, and what’s remained the same at Spice Road Table!

Atmosphere

While we will be discussing some of the recent changes at Spice Road Table, the atmosphere definitely falls under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category.

Spice Road Table

Spice Road Table

The decor remains stunning, from the restaurant itself to the waterfront views it provides of World Showcase Lagoon. You can get an idea of those views as you approach Morocco from the bridge that connects Epcot’s France and UK Pavilions.

Spice Road Table View from the water

Spice Road Table View from the water

The first thing to greet you as you step inside is the bar area, made remarkable by bold blue on the walls and the view of the water wheel outside.

Spice Road Table Bar -- straight ahead as you enter

Spice Road Table Bar — straight ahead as you enter

Spice Road Table Bar

Spice Road Table Bar

From here, you’ll be seated either indoors or outside (preferences can be stated at the check-in podium, and are honored as availability permits). While the indoor seating area is small and narrow, it is beautiful, featuring intricate woodwork surrounding the booths.

Indoor seating

Indoor seating

Indoor seating

Indoor seating

Gorgeous — there’s no other word for them — Moroccan lanterns and decorative items are on display near the ceiling.

Spice Road Table Indoor Lanterns

Spice Road Table Indoor Lanterns

Decor

Decor

But the most striking decorative element is the view of the water from the large windows lining the inside of the restaurant. (It’s worth noting that most of the indoor booths, with a few exceptions, are situated facing the windows for great water views from just about anywhere in the space).

Indoor seating

Indoor seating

Spice Road Table Setting Indoors

Window seat

But Spice Road Table might be best known for it’s outdoor seating area, offering prime views for the nightly IllumiNations fireworks spectacular (and likely the very reason Spice Road Table began offering Advance Dining Reservations, since the spot is in higher demand in the hour before IllumiNations begins).

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

Beautiful lighting fixtures are key decorative elements outside as well.

Spice Road Table Outdoor Lanterns

Spice Road Table Outdoor Lanterns

Hanging lantern

Hanging lantern

And it’s a cool fact that the [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Pictures and Review: France and Mexico Marketplace Booths

We’re back today with another delicious look at the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Welcome to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Welcome to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

It’s always exciting to see what new Marketplaces and other experiences pop up each year at the Festival, but I’m always eager to indulge in my tried and true favorites as well!

Today, let’s take a peek at some always-busy booths — France and Mexico — to take a closer look at both classics and brand new flavors.

The France Marketplace Booth

When you visit the France Marketplace, you’re participating in Food and Wine Festival Heritage! That’s right — it’s one of the original spots from the very first event, which was held in 1996.

And though the menu has changed a bit from year to year, it’s always a favorite stop for guests.

France Marketplace Booth

France Marketplace Booth

You’ll notice that the France booth has a very robust menu. With three different savory items, plus dessert, you could easily make a meal out of the offerings here. Add to that wines and cocktails, and you would definitely want to visit the Marketplace more than once to try everything.

2014 France Menu

2014 France Menu

The big news at the France booth this year was a change to the classic Escargot offering. In the past, guests have enjoyed Escargots en Persillade in the perfect stroll-and-eat version; the escargots were nestled in rounds of Brioche.

But in 2014, escargot became an ingredient in a savory tart. The Tartelette aux Escargots combined the Snails with Spinach, Garlic, Bacon, and Parmesan, presented in a deep, rectangular savory tart.

Tartelette aux Escargot

Tartelette aux Escargots

This one has probably been one of the biggest controversies of the festival this year! We’ve heard from guests who love it, and from guests who hate it.

Me? While I’m not a huge fan of spinach or snails on their own, the combo of flavors is an absolute win here. But really, is there a way to go wrong when Bacon and Garlic are involved??

Cross section of Tartlette aux Escargot

Cross section of Tartlette aux Escargots

Also joining the line up this year is Gratin de Crozets de Savoie. The savory combination of Gruyere and Mushrooms makes this rich vegetarian dish a hit.

Gratin de Crozet de Savoie

Gratin de Crozets de Savoie

The pasta used in the dish, Crozet, comes to us from Savoie. It’s a uniquely French version of pasta, customarily a whole wheat variety.

Gratin de Crozet de Savoie -- Inside

Gratin de Crozets de Savoie — Inside

Also on the menu is another popular option from years past:  [Read more…]

Review: MUST-EAT New Dishes at the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

It’s finally here! We are reporting to you LIVE from the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

We’ve been busy for the last couple of days gathering information and pricing for you for every one of the Marketplace Booths at this year’s festival.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We’ve also had the pleasure of Eating and Drinking Our Way Around the World! For pictures of every dish at this year’s festival, be sure to click over to our Marketplace Booth Page. Click through the links to see all of the pictures of your favorite dishes, plus plenty of new items to try!

It’s shaping up to be one of the most delicious Epcot Food and Wine Festivals ever! But after a day of tasting (and tasting, and tasting), we’ve definitely come up with some favorites. Let’s take a look at our top dishes from around the World Showcase this year…

Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon Hash with Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Hollandaise and Pickled Jalapeño At Farm Fresh

As soon as you get anywhere near the Farm Fresh booth, you can smell it. Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon Hash with Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Hollandaise and Pickled Jalapeño – a strong, smokey smell of bacon laced with the sweet-spicy onions and jalapeños.

We’ve been hearing about this fun take on “breakfast for dinner” for a while now, but we were blown away by the execution of it. The dish has everything — super flavorful Bacon, Potatoes cooked perfectly (soft and fluffy in the middle and crispy on the edges), and velvety Hollandaise that stands in for the Egg in the dish, not to mention the sweet corn and spicy peppers.

Bacon Hash

Bacon Hash

Just so you know, I have to eat so much during the festival that I never fully finish any of the dishes. This one? This one I finished completely and wished it made sense for me to order MORE!

If you only try one dish this year, I think this should be the one.

Fresh Baked Carrot Cake with Craisins® and Cream Cheese Icing at Hops & Barley

We hadn’t been wowed by the Fresh Baked Carrot Cake with Craisins® and Cream Cheese Icing when we’ve tried it at recent preview events. It was good and all, but nothing to write home about.

But the version of the dish that we tried today at the Hops & Barley Booth was a show-stopper. And no, I’m not even exaggerating a teeny bit.

The Cake itself is [Read more…]

Review: Non-Alcoholic Sangria at Magic Kingdom’s Tortuga Tavern

Sometimes, when you’re in Magic Kingdom and you’ve had your fill of Dole Whip Floats (I know…sounds impossible), you just might be looking for something else refreshing, you know?

Well, just in case, here’s something to try! I’ve been eying the Non-Alcoholic Sangria at Tortuga Tavern for a loooong time, and since I was in the MK on a very warm day recently, I decided it was finally time to give it a go.

Tortuga Tavern -- Outside

“So….non-alcoholic sangria?” you’re thinking, “What could that possibly be?” Well, I wasn’t sure, either. Is it some sort of “near-wine” with fruit in it?

Beverage Menu -- Click to Enlarge

I know, I agree — the name could use some work. “Punchless” Sangria? “Where’s the Rum” Sangria, maybe? Ah, well. It’s a work in progress. :-) But it sounded yum, so I took the plunge.

And I…really liked it!! Like, reeeeally liked it! With a taste of [Read more…]

Review: Todd English’s bluezoo

We were very excited on a recent trip to see what was new at one of the chicest spots at Disney, Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Located in the Dolphin, the restaurant will trick you into thinking that you have strayed away from Theme Park Land and entered the glitzy glam of a sleek Las Vegas hotspot.

But the real story is the impeccable attention to detail that Chef Chris Windus shows at every turn.

We have a TON of food to cover, so let’s get right to it!

Atmosphere

As I mentioned above, you’ll find a sophisticated and upscale vibe at bluezoo, which calls to mind a more grown up feeling. However, even though it may not seem super kid-friendly at first glance, this is still Walt Disney World and there will be kids there (yours are welcome, too!). bluezoo would also be a terrific spot for date night, if you decide to leave the kids at a kids’ club or with an in-room sitter while you strike out on your own.

bluezoo entry

As you enter, you’re immediately greeted by a fluid, aquatic feel. The effect goes beyond the visual — you hear the running water as well — but you are surrounded by a palette of vibrant blue, with accents of bright orange and flashes of silver.

bluezoo bar

Even when things aren’t moving, they may seem to be (especially after you start indulging in some of the unique bar drinks…haha!). For instance, when you enter through the bar, there is a stylized presentation of a school of silver-colored fish, seemingly alive with synchronized movement.

bluezoo bar table

The glossy, natural woods and comfortable booths complement the rest of the look of the bluezoo bar. And the touchscreen order system is a fun addition. You’ll feel like you’ve strayed into the future while choosing what to eat!

bluezoo interactive bar menu

bluezoo interactive bar menu

We reported this detail in 2011, and on this visit we were told that the touch-screen menus will be getting an upgraded look and feel very soon.

Beyond the bar, we made our way into the huge, airy main dining room. The soaring ceilings and beautiful bubbly lights are combined artfully with [Read more…]

Guest Review: Orlando’s Downtown Disney Pollo Campero Beverage Bar

Thanks again to Leigh Caldwell of Theme Park Mom for this great review of the new beverage bar at Orlando’s Downtown Disney Pollo Campero.

The beverage bar can be accessed from both outside and inside the restaurant

A new bar has opened at Downtown Disney as part of the renovations at the former McDonald’s on the edge of the Marketplace area.

It offers beverage menus from both Pollo Campero, a chicken restaurant with Latin flair, and Fresh A-peel, which brings some new [Read more…]

Kouzzina for Breakfast

I recently had the chance to dine at Kouzzina — Iron Chef Cat Cora’s signature restaurant on the Disney World Boardwalk — for breakfast! I had only had dinner at Kouzzina previously, so I couldn’t wait to see what Chef Dee Foundoukis was cooking up for breakfast. :-) Luckily, this was part of the Disney World Five Stars to Mickey Bars event, so I got to take pics of my dining companions’ food as well! Score!

Atmosphere

Kouzzina is reminiscent of its predecessor, Spoodles, in that the expanse, high ceilings, and heavy wood decor tend to feel like a big old Mediterranean farm kitchen; but Kouzzina brought a new elegance and simple formality along with the renovation. The restaurant opened in September 2009, and I showcased several photos of the lobby, dining room, and open kitchen in my Kouzzina dinner review.

For breakfast, the restaurant was lit with sun streaming through the floor to ceiling windows and pleasant white noise came consistently from the open kitchen.

Tables in Kouzzina

Kouzzina Open Kitchen

It was a relaxing, pleasant place to start a Disney day, plus it was pretty empty. I can highly recommend it for a filling, delicious breakfast if you don’t happen to be [Read more…]