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September 30, 2015

Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise



Starting Monday, October 5, you can see the Magic Kingdom's Wishes fireworks in a whole new way -- on Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise.

The cruise, which sets sail from the Transportation and Ticket Center ferry dock, is on the General Joe Potter ferry, and makes a circuit around the Seven Seas Lagoon while guests nosh on an assortment of sweets treats. The cruise comes to a halt in front of the Magic Kingdom, affording a perfect view of the Wishes fireworks, then returns to the dock.

I had the opportunity to take this new cruise last week in advance of its official start date, so I thought I'd share some photos and video.

As I said, the cruise starts at the Ferry Dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center, where you check in with a Disney cast member.




Your boarding time varies according to when Wishes will be performed that night. The evening of my cruise, Wishes was going to start at 9 p.m. We had to check in at 7:45 for an 8 p.m. sail time. For 10 p.m. Wishes, everything shifts an hour later.

After checking in, you're welcomed with a glass of sparkling cider or champagne in a glowing plastic flute.


About an hour before the fireworks, you board the General Joe Potter, named for the Disney legend who developed the canals and underground utilities that made the operation of Walt Disney World possible. There are only about 150 guests sailing with you, so boarding wasn't rushed, nor was there a crush of people -- a nice change after a day in the crowded theme parks.



As you board you're given a menu and a souvenir plate that's notched to hold your beverage, which definitely comes in handy. Beverage stations along the walls are stocked with coffee, ice water and soft drinks, while at the far end are stations with alcoholic beverages: beer, wine, and two versions of a spiked pink lemonade, one with prosecco, the other with vodka.




Both high and low cocktail tables are scattered around the lower deck, the latter to accommodate children and guests in wheelchairs or ECVs. There is also a table with some desserts, and even more can be found on the upper deck.


Tables are loaded with desserts made by and themed to the resorts and theme park that encircle your cruise route. They're a departure from the usual Disney dessert party fare, showing a bit of whimsy and imagination. You have:

"The Grand" Key Lime Tart from the Grand Floridian...


Contemporary "Traditional with a Twist" Spiced Flourless Chocolate Cake...


Polynesian De-constructed Pineapple Upside Down Cake (that's it in the middle; sorry, didn't get a photo of it on its own)...


"Main Street" Mickey Balloon Tarts in a variety of flavors...


Mini "Firework" Cupcakes with a Pop...



No Sugar Added Florida Mango Panna Cotta...


and the showstopper -- at least it was to me: Cinderella's Sugar Slipper with Orange Financier (which is a ...



How beautiful are those slippers? I wanted to try one on, they were so perfect. They are pure sugar, though, so while you COULD eat them, you really wouldn't want to. Such a shame.

A nice inclusion on the buffet is the Fruit, Cheese and Cracker spread, for those who may prefer a little less sugar that late at night...


The ferry slowly cruises past the Magic Kingdom resorts for about an hour, allowing you plenty of time to take in the beauty of the illuminated grounds while sampling all the sweets. Trays are replenished frequently -- in fact, I never saw a tray less than half-full at any point during the evening. Periodically cast members circulate with other treats, such as Mickey bars and ice cream sandwiches. There's definitely no skimping and no shortage of treats on offer.

Shortly before fireworks time, the boat "weighs anchor" at the Magic Kingdom, so that you're positioned right in front of Cinderella Castle. (We noticed that we were also right in front of the new bungalows at the Polynesian Village Resort -- probably obscuring the view of the guests in those rooms.) As the show begins, I realized that the music and voices I was hearing were not coming from the park, but were being piped in via the boat's sound system so that we could hear everything perfectly.





Once the fireworks conclude, the ferry makes a fairly speedy return to the dock. I didn't check my watch, but others said we were back at the TTC by a little after 9:30 p.m.

As you disembark, cast members offer a tart but refreshing frozen Olaf strawberry-lemonade ice pop. Certainly made me pucker, but was a nice way to cleanse the palate after all that sugar!


The price for the cruise is $99 for adults, $69 for ages 3 to 9, including tax and gratuity. While the desserts and beverages are plentiful, I have to say I think that is a little steep, especially for children who probably shouldn't be eating $70 worth of sugary snacks right before bedtime. Having said that, though, it is a fairly exclusive event -- a limited number of guests, unlimited desserts and beverages (even alcoholic ones), and a terrific view of one of the best fireworks displays I've ever seen. As an added bonus, a cast member told me that on nights when Wishes is performed at 10 p.m., you'll also get to see the Electric Water Pageant as it makes its way around the lagoon. (We noticed it waiting to set off as we were pulling into the TTC dock.) The cruise could be a nice splurge for a birthday or anniversary, for example, or an ideal new thing-to-do for the frequent Disney-goer who has done it all before.

To give you a little more insight to the cruise, here's a video with highlights from the evening:

A few practical notes: As I mentioned earlier, the ferry can accommodate those in wheelchairs and ECVs, but only on the lower deck -- there are only stairs to the upper deck. There are, however, low cocktail tables available, and cast members are more than happy to assist with whatever is needed. Also, some of you regular ferryboat riders might be thinking, "Hey! There are no restrooms on board! That's not good." Rest easy: The General Joe Potter now has two restrooms to accommodate guests.

If you're interested the Ferryboat Wishes dessert cruise, you can make reservations by visiting or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

(Author's Note: I was an invited media guest of Walt Disney World on this dessert cruise, but this did not affect my review. My opinions are my own.)

September 28, 2015

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar



There are so many changes happening at Downtown Disney -- er, Disney Springs, I should say -- that it's tough to keep up!

But I was able to get over there the other day to check out the new waterfront lounge, Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar, which opened on Tuesday, September 22.


Themed around a very minor character from the first Indiana Jones movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the new lounge quenches not just your thirst, but your thirst for movie memorabilia. The building, made to resemble an airplane hangar, is supposedly the establishment run by Indiana Jones's pilot Jock. You may remember Jock from an early scene in the film, as not only the pilot who helps Indy flee from the angry natives, but also owns pet snake Reggie.



The lounge has a high ceiling and an airy feel, and the walls are lined with items that hark back to Jock's world-traveling, Indiana Jones-like exploits.



There are even some sly references to other films with a Disney connection, such as Star Wars...


And Marvel's Iron Man...


And what about the drinks? What about the food?

Well, these items are also themed to the Indiana Jones movies, with offerings like "Good Dates," a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark's poisonous "bad dates." These are yummy sweet dates stuffed with savory goat cheese.


Among the other offerings are also "Lao Che's Revenge" (tasty, spicy-sweet sticky chicken wings), Brody's Brats and Snack of Ra, which is a combo of several African salad and dips, naan and an Ethiopian bread. You could easily make a meal, snacking around this relatively short menu that still manages to offer something for everyone.




The drinks sport names like "Cool-Headed Monkey" and "Bam's Barnstormer" (with its inside-out paper umbrella, known elsewhere as the "Dark and Stormy"). They are colorful and fun, even though as of the day I was there the lounge still didn't have the special souvenir glasses to go along with many of the specialty cocktails.


My one complaint, if there has to be one, is that there is such limited seating indoors. Since it's open seating, this leads to people being forced to hover over tables, waiting for others to finish up. Yes, there is plentiful outdoor seating, including Reggie's boat, an actual boat converted into a seating area off the main dock.


If there's a nice breeze coming off of the water, it is lovely. However, this being Orlando, it might just as easily be hot and humid and/or stormy -- not conducive to having a nice, relaxing drink and a snack.

All in all, I really enjoyed Jock's -- though, I'm not sure how he warranted a place all his own, given his minor role in the Indiana Jones story as we know it. Still, it gives us all a chance to relive the movie memories as we peruse the paraphernalia around the room, and to say, one more time, "Snakes? Why'd it have to be snakes?"

September 22, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: The Magic Behind the Muppets



I realize that D23 EXPO 2015 is old news by now, having taken place more than a month ago already, but I've been saving my write-up of this one panel discussion I attended specifically for this week.

"The Magic Behind the Muppets" was held the first day of the Expo, Friday, August 14, and aside from the "big hall" presentations, it was THE ONE panel discussion I had to see.

Even though I considered myself a bit too old for Sesame Street when it first came out -- I was all of about 9 -- I have to admit that I sneaked a peek now and then when my little sister was watching. And, I couldn't help it, I secretly fell in love with some of those crazy characters, especially Kermit the Frog and that adorable "fuzzy and blue" monster, Grover.

My Muppet Love grew in my late teens and early 20s, when The Muppet Show appeared on the scene. The variety show appealed to adults as well as kids, with corny humor mixed with a bit of anarchy, and featured a range of veteran performers and pop culture celebrities from Ethel Merman to Elton John to Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamil. I didn't miss a show. In fact, after I got married in 1981, my husband and I would race home after work to eat dinner in front of the TV with The Muppet Show syndicated reruns. Evening news, schmews.

So I think you understand why I HAD to see this panel.

The morning of the panel was the first chaotic day of the Expo, so I was a bit later getting into the room than I had planned. I ended up further away from the stage than I would have liked, so most of the photos here are official pictures from Disney, but I was there and that's what mattered!

The session was hosted by Entertainment Weekly's Marc Snetiker, who, judging from the grin on his face, was as pleased to be there as I was. One by one, he introduced the panelists, whose names are probably already familiar to you if you're also a Muppet fan:

Dave Goelz, the elder statesman of the group, who started working with Muppet creator Jim Henson in 1973 and is best-known for his work as the Great Gonzo (but he's also Bunsen Honeydew and Beauregard the bear)...


Steve Whitmire, a part of the organization since 1978; he took over Kermit the Frog when creator Jim Henson died in 1990 and is also Rizzo the Rat...


Bill Barretta, who voices one of my all-time favorites, Pepe the King Prawn (he's not a shrimp, OK?) and Rowlf the Dog, amongst others, has been with The Muppets since 1991...


Eric Jacobson, with The Muppets since 2001, is now many of the characters created by Frank Oz, such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Sam Eagle...


... and Matt Vogel, a relative newcomer to the Muppets (since 2007), the voice behind more recent characters like Constantine, Uncle Deadly and Robin the little frog.


The camaraderie among this group was evident from the moment they took their seats. Through light-hearted anecdotes seasoned liberally with laughter, they related past Muppeting mayhem and answered questions from the audience both as themselves and along with their fabric and foam alter egos.

It soon became clear in moment like those illustrated in the video below that "The Magic Behind the Muppets" was the chemistry among the people tasked with making that magic.

Besides just giving fans a chance to gawk at these Muppet Men, one of the reasons for this panel was to promote the next chapter in the Muppets story -- a new ABC-TV show debuting this Tuesday night, September 22, at 8 p.m. After showing an in-depth, not to mention hilarious, trailer for the show, the men talked about its premise and what it has been like to work on this project.

Done in the "mock-doc" style of programs like ABC's "Modern Family," which interjects "private" interviews with the main characters into the running narrative, the show is very contemporary and set in the present day. Presented as a show-within-a-show, Miss Piggy has her own late-night television show and Kermit is her producer.

According to Barretta, Kermit has made only one mistake -- he has hired all of his friends to work for him. As a result, familiar faces populate the series. There's Pepe as one of Miss Piggy's writers, while skittish Beaker is handling props. The Swedish Chef is, naturally, in charge of the food (Craft Services), the Electric Mayhem performs as the show's band, and prim and proper Sam Eagle censors everyone in his role of Standards and Practices. Rowlf the dog operates the tavern across the street where everyone congregates after work.

"We are getting a chance to see what happens backstage after we call 'Cut!'" Barretta said. "We're focusing on the characters in their world."

"There's a real depth to the characters that we haven't seen before," Whitmire added, crediting the "very clever writers" that they have working on the scripts.

"The time feels right now," Jacobson noted. "And I'm so excited. I don't think I've ever been so excited about a project before."

Goelz eagerly agreed. "I don't think I've had this feeling since I worked on Fraggle Rock [a mid-1980s children's live-action series that featured Muppets called Fraggles]."

One of the things contributing to the Muppeteers' excitement is the way they have been able to shake things up a bit in this new incarnation of the show. Those of you who follow celebrity news will know that Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longer a romantic item -- a story that made headlines in the real tabloid press. Kermit even posted about it on his Facebook page:

After careful thought, thoughtful consideration and considerable squabbling, Miss Piggy and I made the difficult...

Posted by Kermit the Frog on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cue the melodramatic tension! This is bound to lead to some interesting storylines on the show and has allowed the writers to play with what the public thinks it knows about these beloved characters.

"Even the most casual fans have treated this like a real break-up," Whitmire laughed. "But I think it's good for the frog."

"We’re always learning,” Goelz added. “Every day we like to surprise each other with new aspects of the characters.”

After fielding questions from fans, the Muppeteers treated the crowd to a "behind-the-scenes" look at what it takes to make a Muppet scene. Six lucky volunteers were brought up to try their hand at operating their own Muppet.

Taking two recruits at a time, Whitmire demonstrated the proper way to the hold the Muppet (with arm fully extended overhead) and the correct way to make the Muppet speak. After a few minutes of practice, the two new Muppeteers had the chance to dance with the masters. Although the exercise was instructive, the results were simply sidesplitting when the group danced to Beyonce's "Single Ladies," followed by Pepe's rather suggestive dance to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."


This latter episode begged the question, "Will the new Muppets TV show be TOO racy?"

"Oh, it will be a little edgy," Whitmire said, "but nothing that parents can’t let their kids watch.”

"We always have worked to amuse ourselves," Goelz explained. "After all, we're stuck there at work all day. That was even true of Sesame Street before me."

"Yes, with love and all due respect to our fans," Whitmire added, "we have always done this work for ourselves. But with this show, I have to say, I am laughing out loud when I read the scripts."

As the program ended after an all-too-short hour, I found myself thinking about how lucky I was to have been in that room to see those talents at work first-hand. That's the amazing thing about the D23 Expo -- the chances it gives you to get a glimpse into creative worlds that have had such a huge impact on you throughout the years. That's what keeps me coming back every two years and has me looking forward to D23 Expo 2017.

But first, I'm looking forward to this week. The Muppets. ABC. September 22 at 8 p.m. As Fozzie Bear would say: Wocka wocka!

August 30, 2015

Kidani Village Grand Villa Meet and Greet December 4th

Deb's Digest Blog

The final component of our 20th Anniversary Celebration is now finalized.

On December 4, 2015 we will be having a special meet and greet at a Kidani Village Grand Villa!

We are pleased to announce our SPECIAL GUEST is none other than the DREAMFINDER himself, RON SCHNEIDER! He is happy to meet folks and chat. Please note the photo below is from his days as Dreamfinder - he will not be in costume and won't have figment with him. (Scroll to bottom if you wish to order his book for signing.)


In addition to Ron, many of the AllEars Team and Mouse Fan Travel team will be in attendance (including Deb Wills, Deb Koma and Beci Mahnken to name a few). We will have a pin trading board, AllEars Trading Cards - including 2 new releases, and door prizes!


This link will take you to the ticket form. There is no charge for tickets but we want to manage how many folks are in the villa at any given time, so you must register for the event.

We will have water and light snacks. Please do not bring food or beverages into the villa. Also, no strollers in the villa. Please note that children must stay with parents the entire time.

We will not know the villa location until we check in. Specific information on how to find us will be provided approximately 2 weeks before the gathering.

Our Saturday Evening, December 5th, Signature Event at Epcot is sold out, but we are accepting Wait List Names.

On Sunday we will have a Meet and Greet in the Magic Kingdom from 10-11:30am. Come meet members of the AllEars and MouseFanTravel teams. Grab some coffee and pastry and head on over to the Tomorrowland Terrace. AllEars Trading Cards, lanyards and more!!!
Here is the Facebook Link to the event.

We look forward to seeing many of you in December!!!!

Here are the Amazon links to Ron's book if you would like to purchase it for him to sign!

We'll see YOU real soon!

August 13, 2015

D23 EXPO 2015: Preview Day Highlights



The D23 EXPO 2015 hasn't even officially begun and I am already exhausted!

After attending the previous three D23 Expos as a member of the media or as a "private citizen," I am going to this year's event with what is known as the Sorcerer Pass. This is part of a special package that comes with a number exclusive benefits (and a big price tag), among them the opportunity to get a sneak preview of a lot of the Expo before it officially opens tomorrow, August 14.

After obtaining my special Sorcerer welcome package first thing this morning, I spent the day taking advantage of all the previews that were offered. I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.

One of the main benefits of the Sorcerer Pass is early access to the merchandise. Today Sorcerers were able to poke around in the three main Disney shops at the Expo: The Dream Store (D23 EXPO 2015-themed official merchandise and other specialty items from Disney Theme Park Merchandise), the Disney Store and Mickey's of Glendale (Walt Disney Imagineering exclusive merchandise). I'm not usually much of a shopper, but when the goods are this special, I found that I couldn't resist. You've probably seen a lot of the merchandise on other blogs already, but to give you an idea of what's available.

From the Dream Store:





From The Disney Store:



In Mickey's of Glendale:


OK, I admit it. I actually enjoyed shopping a little bit today and succumbed. I bought those last two shirts for myself. And maybe I got a few Star Wars-related things in the Dream Store -- I mean, how could I resist that adorable droid R4-D23 with its cute little Sorcerer's Hat? And maybe a Pandora charm found its way into my shopping bag as well. I couldn't help myself. But I think that's what the Expo does to you -- when you're surrounded by so much cool Disney merchandise, what's a die-hard Disney fan to do?

Another one of the perks of being a Sorcerer guest, is a sneak preview of the Expo show floor and the Disney Parks and Resort pavilion before the grand opening. For me, these looks behind the scenes were priceless.

Early in the day, we were shown around the floor, just to give us an idea of the lay of the land. No photos were allowed during this glimpse "backstage," as things were still very much in process -- forklifts carrying pallets of boxes and rolls of new carpeting, cherry-pickers lifting workers up to adjust displays, designers ripping fabric to drape around exhibits... it was such a beehive of activity and you could almost see things coming together as you stood and watched. The excitement was building!

But the real treat came later in the day, when we were taken for a special advance viewing of the Parks and Resorts pavilion.

SPOILER AHEAD -- if you're going to the Expo and want to be surprised as to what's on exhibit, read no further!

The first section of the pavilion is dedicated to the new area of Disney's Animal Kingdom that is being developed based on the film AVATAR. We were introduced to the exhibit with a film from "Alpha Centauri Expeditions" (ACE for short), the fictitious travel company that will transport guests to another world -- the world of Pandora. If you've seen the film AVATAR you'll be familiar with the sights shown in this short video (watch for the special cameo appearance of Imagineer Joe Rohde, responsible not only for this project but also Animal Kingdom, Disney's Aulani resort in Hawaii and so much more). The video gives big hints about the types of attractions guests will be able to experience when this new section of Disney's Animal Kingdom opens -- in 2017! Who can wait that long?

Further into the pavilion, we saw a model of Pandora, with cast members there to answer our questions.



They confirmed that among the attractions guests will be able to ride a banshee around floating mountains. There were also models of creatures and artifacts from Pandora, as well concept art.




As we exited the exhibit, we found a fun photo op -- a chance to pose with a striking bust of a Navi, one of the blue-skinned natives of Pandora. I was lucky enough to be joined in my photo op by the aforementioned Joe Rohde, who just happened to be entering the area when I popped back in for a quick second look.


The other major area of the Parks and Resorts pavilion focuses on Shanghai Disneyland. As the opening date for this new Asian Disney resort nears (2016 is right around the corner), more and more information has been released, but seeing the models, cast member costumes, artwork and even concept videos in person was quite interesting.







Every area of the new Shanghai resort was represented, from pirate-themed Treasure Cove to Gardens of Imagination, not forgetting the Disneytown shopping district and the Toy Story Hotel. Most exciting for me was learning more about Shanghai's Tomorrowland, which will feature a new ride called TRON Lightcycle Power Run, a coaster-style attraction where you will board a train that looks straight out of Disney's groundbreaking TRON films. We captured a short video of the exhibit here:

Coaster fan that I am, I hope that I'll be able to ride this attraction some day -- truly looks amazing!

And although it's an overused word, that's how most of today was -- amazing. All the little sneak peeks and behind the scenes glimpses that we got today did little more than whet my appetite for what's to come the next few days.

If you're curious to see what I see, follow me on twitter @dmk_allears and on Instagram @dcdeb52. And, if the internet gods smile on me -- I hope to also broadcast a Periscope or two -- you'll find those through my Twitter account as well. Hope you'll tag along with me as I explore!

August 10, 2015

2015 D23 Expo! Follow Along!

The D23 Expo begins in a few short days. Four members of the AllEars team will be in attendance, Deb Wills, Deb Koma, Kristin Ford, and Jeanine Yama.

Here's how you can stay in touch following the AllEars team that will be attending!


Twitter @allearsnet or


Twitter @allearsdeb or
Periscope: connect through twitter allearsdeb

Twitter: @dmk_allears or
Periscope: connect through twitter dmk_allears

Twitter: @Kristin_B_Ford or

Twitter: @justjeanine or

And don't forget to say hello and ask for your Free AllEars Trading Cards (while supplies last).


July 16, 2015

2015 Food and Wine Festival Sneak Preview, Part 2


Food and Wine Festival Logo

I'm back with more news from the Tables in Wonderland preview of this year's Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

I only just mentioned in passing the special ticketed dining experiences the other day. I already talked about the new Rockin' Burger Block Party, but forgot to share with you a few photos of the types of sliders that will be on offer at this experience.

There's the Oklahoma BBQ Beef Slider with Mmmhops Pale Ale Onion Fries and Smoked Bologna Baked Beans -- paired of course with Mmmhops Pale Ale, from the brothers of pop group Hanson.


And we also had a chance to sample the South African Vegetarian Bunny Chow Slider with The Dreaming Tree Chardonnay Watermelon Salad -- in case you didn't know, The Dreaming Tree wines are affiliated with singer Dave Matthews (a personal fave!).


As I look over the list of other programs for this year, I don't see many additions (and note quite a few subtractions). Still, I didn't mean to give the others such short shrift. There are a few things in this 20th anniversary year that are a bit intriguing.

New for 2015 are a Japanese Craft Beer Tasting and an Italian Food, Wine and Beer Pairing. The latter seems a combination of last year's Food and Beer Pairing with a more traditional Wine Pairing, I'm guessing to appeal to more participants. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but if I get the chance, either of these might be a good way to try to learn an appreciation for the beverage. I'll be seeing if I can make the times for those programs fit into my schedule.

Also, the programs "Sunday Mornings with..." and "Food for Thought" seem to be have been combined into the new "What's Cookin' with..." -- a series of twice-weekly programs featuring a light brunch, and a cooking demo and conversation with a celebrity chef, such as Andrew Zimmern, Robert Irvine or Carla Hall (from The Chew). Most of these chefs have been to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival before, however, as a devotee of the TV shows Chopped! and Iron Chef, I'm interested to see the names Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli this year -- hope I'm in town to see one of them, at least.

What I am really interested in, however, is what's happening in the France pavilion.

You may have noticed as you read over the list the France pavilion is no longer offering the Grand Marnier tasting that they've had for the past several years. Instead a new experience is on the schedule: The Parisian Afternoon, Sandwiches, Macarons and Bubbles! To be held in the restaurant Monsieur Paul, this event promises an assortment of finger sandwiches, petit fours and unlimited mimosas -- all for $55 per person. Based on how enjoyable the Parisian Breakfast program they've offered the past few years has been, I can't wait to try the afternoon outing myself.

The team at France is also mixing up its tried-and-true French Regional Lunch program. This year they are abandoning the "regional" theme altogether, and Monsieur Paul will instead host French Family Meal Traditions. This new experience will allow guests to enjoy the chefs' favorite meals from their childhoods, in a long, lingering meal served family style and paired with "perfect" wines. As Eric Weistroffer, general manager of operations in the pavilion notes, "In France we eat like this -- a big family meal that lasts all afternoon, and as we are eating dessert we start to plan what we will have for dinner." It sounds like my kind of gathering!

Some of the other new things for the festival this year:

-- For the first time, the festival has its own private label wines! Called "Festival" the chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon come from California and were just bottled the other day, but we had a chance to sample them -- the red was surprisingly good. And I say surprisingly because it is such a young wine -- but there were notes of vanilla and berries that made my tastebuds very happy.



-- In addition to the two new "Chew"-related booths that will be in Future World, there are two other new Future World booths making up an exhibit called The Art of Wine and Cheese. Designed to resemble an artist's studio, these two kiosks will be stocked with a selection of wines and cheeses arranged by color, allowing you to have fun will you pick your pairings. According to Chef Mike Deardorff, the cheeses will include an Oregon blue cheese and a chevre, or goat cheese, while the wines will be vintages from California, Oregon and Washington State.

-- The Food and Wine Festival Discovery Sampler Package which includes the following:

* 8 entitlements for food or beverage of your choice at 30 Food and Wine Festival International Marketplaces.

* Priority seating at the 6:45 p.m. Eat to the Beat concert at America Gardens Theatre on the day the package is purchased.

* Limited release 20th Food and Wine pin that comes in three color options.

PRICE: $59 per person, plus tax. Epcot admission is required.

Note that a limited number of packages are available each day.

-- Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak, a scavenger hunt around World Showcase for young and old alike. To join the hunt, you'll have to purchase a map and stickers from a special location, then search for little statuettes of the "little chef" Remy, star of the film "Ratatouille", that have been hidden. Once you've found all the little statues and matched the ingredient stickers to your map, you can take the finished product for a special surprise, compliments of Remy.

I've had a number of questions from readers about the Festival Premium Package that was offered last year, but there has been no word yet whether it will return this year. The Eat to the Beat Dinner Package IS coming back, however. This package, available for lunch or dinner at a number of Epcot restaurants, includes your choice of appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage (or one full buffet), as well as guaranteed seating at an Eat to the Beat concert on that day. For a list of participating restaurants and pricing, as well as a scheduled entertainment, check our Eat to the Beat page HERE.


-- Details about festival programs are available online now (, giving those interested two full weeks to plan before booking starts at 7 a.m. on July 30 at 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378).

-- As in years past, Tables in Wonderland members, Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Golden Oak Residents will be able to book culinary demos and beverage and mixology seminars early. This year early booking for these programs starts July 24 at 9 a.m. at 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378). A $2 discount is available to the above-mentioned guests for seminars and demos held Monday through Thursday.

-- The cast of The Chew will be filming a week's worth of shows October 7, 8 and 9. They will also be filming segments around Walt Disney World to be broadcast on upcoming shows. The co-hosts will also attend the Rockin' Burger Block Party on October 8.

I think that brings you up to speed on most of what's happening at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year. We'll certainly do our best to bring you any more details as they are announced.

Quick Ref Guide:

International Markeplace Menus with Photos

Special Ticketed Dining Events
Eat to the Beat Concerts/Dinner Package

Culinary Demos/Beverage Seminars

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the Tables in Wonderland event. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.

July 12, 2015

2015 Food and Wine Festival Sneak Preview, Part 1


Food and Wine Logo

It's that time of year again... as summer reaches its peak and we look toward the cooler temps of autumn, it's time to start thinking about the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival!

In anticipation of that event, the Tables in Wonderland team hosted its yearly "sneak preview" of the festival for its members. Held in the spacious World ShowPlace in Epcot's World Showcase, I had the chance to sample some of the newest offerings and learn about what treats are in store for us for this, the festival's 20th anniversary.

Marianne Hunnel, area manager festival content development, hosted the preview, aided by Chef de Cuisine Michael Deardorff.

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite parts of the festival is visiting the Marketplaces that ring World Showcase. So I thought first I'd give you a run-down of the new and returning marketplace offerings:

The big news is that for the first time the festival is crossing into Epcot's Future World. A new area called "Next Eats" will feature two new marketplaces that are drawing inspiration from the television show, The Chew. (The Chew is playing a big part in this year's festival, in fact -- read the press release HERE.)

The first, Sustainable Chew, will feature recipes adapted from The Chew co-hosts. The plates and utensils used in this area will be recyclable, adds Chef Mike, further reinforcing the sustainability message of using techniques that protect the environment.

From this booth we had the chance to sample the pork spareribs with red wine and fennel and cheesy mascarpone grits, which was paired with a frozen "Chew-tini" -- a slushy-like drink made of organic Meyer lemon vodka, carrot-mango juice and a citrus sour mix.



The ribs were tender and the cheesy grits were pure comfort food. I was especially pleased to learn that the the fennel that will be used in this dish will be among the herbs and vegetables actually be grown in Epcot's Land pavilion. As for the Chew-tini -- it was very refreshing, the kind of drink it's easy to have too many of without realizing it!

The other offerings this marketplace will have were not available to sample -- ricotta and zucchini ravioli with tomato sauce and vanilla panna cotta with fresh figs and pistachio brittle -- but Chef Mike said that his team will be ready by September to make the couple thousand ravioli that they'll have to produce every day.

A second new Future World marketplace at Next Eats will feature the Chew Lab, what Chef Mike referred to jokingly as a sort of "Muppet Labs." In this marketplace, Disney chefs are collaborating with “The Chew” to create tastes that use some of the hottest culinary tech trends.

The food offering we had the chance to try was a strip steak with parsnip "silk," balsamic glaze and arugula foam. Not a fan of the foam, but the steak itself was tasty.


This dish was matched with a unique Smoking Hibiscus drink that featured Mezcal and a hisbiscus flower that was quickly frozen in liquid nitrogen on the spot.


While I didn't care for the smoky concoction, I have to admit it was fun to watch them dunk the flower in the liquid nitro and watch it transform into a crisp garnish.

Another item from the Chew Lab also employs the liquid nitro technique -- a chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel. Mmmm. That's all you need to know.


Other brand-new items that will be available during the festival (but weren't part of the preview) include a venison loin with a mushroom marsala sauce that will be found in the New Zealand marketplace, and buttered chicken and naan at the Africa marketplace. I can't wait for that!

Some of the returning and/or "reimagined" items that we sampled were the Pescado con Coco (seared grouper, rice and coconut sauce) from the Dominican Republic...


Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese (with Nueske's Pepper Bacon) from the Farm Fresh marketplace...


Fresh Potato Pancake with Scottish Salmon and Herb Sour Cream...


the Citrus Thistle made with Hendricks Gin...


and Haggis with Neeps and Tatties...


And good news for purists -- this year's haggis is not a vegetarian version as offered in years past. According to Chef Mike, they have found an American company that makes a meat-based haggis that is NEARLY the same as that made in Scotland.

While there are 20 new or reimagined food offerings and 20 new beverage offerings, the special dining experiences also have a few fresh entries.

One item that jumps out at me is the new Rockin' Burger Block Party, which will be offered September 25, October 8 (when the co-hosts of The Chew will attend) and November 6. This promises to be night of eating, drinking and making merry, as you'll be able to dine on a variety of sliders inspired by recording artists who are somehow affiliated with the beverage industry (such Hanson, which has its own beer, marketed at the festival). The beverages at the event will be related to these musicians and guests will be able to enjoy it all while listening and dancing to tracks spun by a DJ.

For more details on this new event, and the other special dining experiences that require a ticket, check out the listing HERE.

That's all I have now to whet your appetite. I'll be back soon with details about the returning Eat to the Beat dining package, another special tasting package, and other Food and Wine Festival activities that you'll want to know about!

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the Tables in Wonderland event. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.

April 4, 2015

All Ears to Celebrate 20 Years...... Teaser

Deb's Digest Blog

In January, 2016, will celebrate its 20th Anniversary! We are proud to be the longest running unofficial Disney World site on the internet.

We ARE planning something for our anniversary in conjunction with our partner Mouse Fan Travel. We wanted to announce by now, but creating Magic and surprises takes time.

However, you may want to save the date of the first weekend of December 2015... you just never know what may be offered...

P.S. This will not be the magnitude of our 15th Anniversary Celebration. We are hoping for 1-3 events... but those events will be really special!

March 15, 2015

Lunch Demonstration at Raglan Road

By AllEars Team Member: Linda Eckwerth

Recently, I was invited as a media guest to attend a lunch demonstration at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant in Downtown Disney. The demonstration was hosted by Irish Master Chef Kevin Dundon and Amy Recicar from Coastal Wine & Spirits who assisted in pairing the wines with the dishes and gave us insights to each of the wines served.


The luncheon kicked off Raglan Road's Mighty St. Patrick's Festival (March 13th - March 17th) and their 10 year anniversary celebration.


The lunch consisted of four courses. Before each course was served, Chef Dundon showed us how to prepare the dish.


The first course was Coquille St. Jacques - Scallops with Pomme puree and Mornay Gratin
This was paired with a Sterling Napa Sauvignon Blanc

The scallops were seared to perfection and had a simple seasoning of salt, pepper and butter. The Mornay Gratin and small dollops of potato were a wonderful compliment.


The second course was Duet of Tomato Soup and Champagne Splashed Oyster
Paired with a Chandon Brut Champagne

The soup did not disappoint. It was a cream of tomato soup with one of the ingredients being gin. The oyster was fresh and light. Combining the two was almost like having oyster with a cocktail sauce. Chef Dundon told us their seafood is from Boston and the restaurant gets the last catch of the day to ensure freshness.


The third course was Roast Rack of Spring Lamb - Served with Irish vegetable Consommé
This was paired with a B.V. Rutherford Cabernet

I am not a big fan of lamb. However, when it is prepared properly it can be delicious. This dish was outstanding! The lamb was very tender and the simple ingredients of potato, carrots, leeks and consommé were wonderful. The lamb Raglan Road serves is from Colorado. Chef Dundon said this is the closest flavor to Irish lamb.


Last but not least was dessert. Pimms Knickerbocker Glory Topped with Vanilla Mousse and Cucumber and Melon foam.

There was so much going on with this dessert. It had a few different textures and several flavors that just melded together. The base was a gelatin with small melon balls. The mousse and foam were light and the small cookie added a nice crunch.


If paying, this lunch would have been $55 per person plus tax and gratuity. In my opinion you would have definitely gotten your monies worth!

Not only did we get to dine on delicious food, listen to Chef Dundon's stories but a big announcement was made regarding Raglan Road's 10th Anniversary. A "Master Chef" Cooking Contest was announced.


Five finalists will fly to Ireland, all expenses paid, where they will stay at Chef Dundon's popular resort and cooking school, Dunbrody Country House Hotel and work with Dundon to perfect their cooking technique. Come October, each of the finalists will cook a dish chosen by Chef Dundon at a private 10th anniversary celebratory dinner at Raglan Road. For complete competition details visit Raglan Road's Facebook page, or their web site The complete press release can be seen HERE.


Special lunches and dinners are offered sporadically during the year. Raglan Road has their own website where you can obtain the latest news and information. There is also a newsletter to keep you in the know!

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