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October 13, 2017

Animal Kingdom Wandering

Deb's Digest Blog

I typically don't go to the parks much in the midst of the summer heat and humidity and so planned to visit Animal Kingdom yesterday, mostly to update menus. I had no idea I hadn't been there since right after Pandora opened! I checked for last-minute FastPasses before leaving home, but nothing was available. I wasn't surprised.

So here are some observations from my walk around the park yesterday, noting things I had not seen before. Perhaps you have... but these things are new to me.

After I parked and walked down to the tram area, I noticed that the name of each row has been repainted in much larger letters, much clearer than before. Yea! You will also notice better signage in the parking area as well.


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I then noticed he new tram front vehicles. As you can see in the photo, they are now sporting bright new red and green driver and engine sections.

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I went into the Rainforest Cafe to update our menus and as I exited out the side, I noticed this elephant fountain. It looked so inviting on the already hot and humid morning but alas, "Please do not climb on rocks".

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Next stop, Pandora. As I mentioned, the last time I was in Animal Kingdom was for a media preview of Pandora. My how different it looks full of people.

Crossing the bridge (shortly after 9 a.m.) the first thing I saw was the "End of the Line" for the Na'vi River Journey. The Cast Member told me that neither ride had "opened yet", and the estimated wait time was currently 45 minutes.

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I read after I returned home that either both rides open or neither does. Can someone clarify that for me please?

As I walked deeper into Pandora, the whole area was packed. Cast members had created lines and pathways with rope and it was kind of hard to get from here to there. I looked for a Wait Time for Flight of Passage but couldn't get anywhere near the entry point, for either ride, actually.

I wanted to wander around the area, but as I said, it was very crowded and hard to maneuver so I decided to head out. Here's a screen shot of Animal Kingdom wait times at 9:14 a.m.

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I did manage to find one of the PhotoPass photographers and had this photo taken. It was in My Disney Experience a few hours later.

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Next thing I know I am being told to head back out of the area and over to Harambe to get in line for Flight of Passage (not that I was going to get in line, but curious where I would end up). A very, very long line. Talking to the Cast Member at the end of the line, I was told the wait time was now three hours! Normally the Harambe area is for exiting Pandora, not entering, but the long lines and lack of space inside Pandora changes that during busy times.

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Alrighty then, back to getting menu photos! By the time I reached Asia, I was feeling hungry. I was very happy to see that the Yak and Yeti Local Cafes serve breakfast.

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I chose the Canadian Bacon English Muffin. A take on Egg McMuffin with an extra piece of Canadian Bacon, plus tater tots for $9.99. Ouch, but not surprised.

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Checking My Disney Experience again for wait times now at 10:07 a.m.:

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Ah... behold the infamous Coca Cola Rhino:

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For those of you who do Mobile Ordering, the area to pick up your food is clearly marked. And if you can't find it, ask a Cast Member.

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I made my way back to the front of the park and decided to forego a second loop around. It was getting quite crowded. But I did wander the Oasis and entrance area.

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Ok, I have a question. I have been to Animal Kingdom countless times since it opened in 1998. Unless I have to be someplace, I always walk around the Oasis and Discovery Island areas. The Reeve's Muntjac has become almost as elusive to me as the Anteater. I think in all this time, I have only seen it once and it was under all the brush. Has anyone ever seen it out and about? And I think there are two, yes?

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Ah ha! The Black Swan! Not always out and about, but on this day the pair were swimming and sunning.

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Lastly, as I noted much better signage in the parking lot, there is also a great directional sign as you exit the park.

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'Til next time, folks...





September 10, 2017

My Hurricane Irma Updates

Deb's Digest Blog

DEB UPDATES: 9/10/17 9:45am

Greetings All,

This week has been filled with Hurricane Irma prep work. It feels like we have been prepping for weeks and now it is here. Linda and I decided to stay in our home. We did not make that decision lightly. We have prep kits and bug out carryons and a safe room.

A number of our friends are NOT on Facebook (can you believe it?) so I'm writing here for them.

We thank everyone who has contacted us and sent prayers, pixie dust, and well wishes.

The AllEars Data Center is located in Atlanta. Hopefully the website will remain safely online.

Several AllEars Team Members are in the Orlando area and decided to stay in their homes: Kristin Ford, Jack Marshall, and ourselves. Scott Thomas flew to Orlando to be with his daughter and her family especially his grandson.

Thank you Laura Gilbreath who is minding the website and will get the newsletter out on Tuesday.

Right now we are experiencing rain and light winds. It will get worse before it gets better but we are prepared and will get through this.

We have been told that at some point today go to the safe room and stay there until the worse is over. We have been told we will lose power at some point. We have been told that there may be tornado warnings. Those have already been reported further south.

For those of you not on Twitter or Facebook, this is what I shared yesterday: I've had many adventures in my life cancer diabetes world travel Disney but nothing prepared me for Irma. Our decision to stay did not come lightly. Wish Florida well. Love, peace.....

This is the local weather station we trust!

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September 1, 2017

A Taste of Italy during Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

Deb's Digest Blog
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Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival is in full swing and at least one of the pavilions is offering new food and beverage items for you to enjoy -- Italy! In addition to the traditional Food and Wine Festival kiosk on the World Showcase promenade, the Via Napoli Donkey Cart and the Pizza Window have new items for you to try.

But first, let's talk about this year's offerings at the Italy Marketplace. There are four food samples ranging in tastes from Crispy Calamari to Cannoli al Cioccolato for dessert.

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The Crispy Calamari is served with spicy pomodoro sauce for $8.00.

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My favorite is the Spezzatino con Polenta - beef stew with creamy Parmesan polenta for $7.50. The beef was tender and the polenta nice and cheesy.

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The Absolut Penne is served with vodka sauce and two nice-sized shrimp for $7.00

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Last but not least is my other favorite, the Cannoli al Cioccolato - a chocolate covered cannoli shell filled with sweet ricotta, chocolate chips and candied fruit at $4.25. The crunchy cannoli shell and luscious ricotta filling are just like my grandmother used to make -- really!

Italian wines and beers are also served at the booth to accompany your food choices.

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A stop at the Donkey Cart will refresh your palate with such familiar beverages as sweet Rosa Regale wine, a Bellini cocktail, and bubbly Prosecco. There are also two new tasty cocktails made with the sweetly tart Italian liqueur known as limoncello and it's orange-flavored counterpart, orangecello. I had the opportunity to try the flavorful "Orangecello" cocktail made with orangecello, orange juice, pineapple juice and strawberry puree. Very tasty and not overly sweet!

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And wait, there's more! The Seasonal Pizza Window at Via Napoli has reopened for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

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Among the offerings you will find there is Pizza Bianca, served room temperature with pomodoro, prosciutto, arugula, and mozzarella. I was hesitant at first -- I mean, room temperature pizza? But it worked! The flavors all blended perfectly without one single ingredient overpowering the taste. You get a large serving for your $8.75, enough for lunch or to share as a snack.

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You can also savor the Polpette e Mozzarella Parmigiana, made with hand-crafted beef and veal meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmigiana, and sprinkled with fresh basil, served with crostini.

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To accompany these rich dishes, enjoy an Italian beer or try the brand-new cocktail, the Limoncello Mule (also available in the restaurant). It's a tasty blend of Wild Sardinia vodka, limoncello, orange juice, pineapple juice, peach puree, lime juice and ginger beer ($14).

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Plenty of "delizioso" new options for you to experience in Epcot's Italy!

Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of Tutto Gusto and Via Napoli, however my opinions are my own.






August 8, 2017

Orlando's Magical Dining Month - Part 2

Deb's Digest Blog
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Here we are again talking about eating during Orlando's Magical Dining Month. Previously, we went over the Walt Disney World restaurants that were participating this year, including those at Disney Springs and the Four Seasons.

In this blog we travel outside the Disney bubble! Are you ready?

IMPORTANT: Be sure to read Part 1 for our TIPS and SUGGESTIONS

Magical Dining Month offers a great chance to try new things. With 80 restaurants representing a wide variety of cuisines you are sure to find something you like. So come on -- get OUT of the Disney bubble! Here are places we have tried -- many we've enjoyed, a few we haven't.

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DOWNTOWN AREA

These are great places to try especially if you have tickets to Dr. Phillips Arts Center! Make it a real date night!

The Boheme at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando - Get an early reservation if you're going to an event at Dr. Phillips Center afterward.

Le Coq Au Vin - South Orange Avenue in Orlando - Get an early reservation if you're going to an event at Dr. Phillips Center afterward.

UNIVERSAL CITY WALK

Mama Della's Ristorante - Portofino Hotel at Universal -- We love eating at Mama's. Reminds us of an Italian restaurant in New York during the '60s! Mama wears her housecoat and musicians entertain.

The Kitchen - Hard Rock Cafe - We dined here once and didn't have a very good experience so haven't returned.

RESTAURANT ROW

Eddie V's Prime Seafood - West Sandlake Rd

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar - Orlando

Seasons 52 - We've been here several times and have never been disappointed.

Urbain 40 (Chef Tim Keating, formerly of Disney, is here now and recently debuted a new menu.)

Vines Grille & Wine Bar -- We tried this last year during Magical Dining Month and the food was delicious, service was great, with good selection of wines.

SURROUNDING AREA

1921 by Norman Van Aken - Mount Dora - Go for an afternoon of walking around Mount Dora and then grab dinner before heading home.

Cafe D Antonio (Celebration) - Great Italian food just outside Disney property.

David's Club (Omni) Champions Gate - One of our favorite places, but we always get the delish burger! This time we will go and try the steak!

SUGGESTIONS

Deb: Wow, it's hard to choose a favorite, so I'll just share the spots where I had my most memorable experiences over the last year: Mama Della's, 1921, Le Coq Au Vin, and Urbain 40.

Linda: I agree with Deb that it is hard to pick just a couple places. Her choices are also my choices.

Go and enjoy Magical Dining Month in Orlando!

Let us know about your experiences! Bon Appetit!

August 7, 2017

Orlando's Magical Dining Month - Part 1

Deb's Digest Blog
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It's that time of year again -- the time when a number of Orlando-area restaurants band together to offer patrons a chance to experience fine dining at a bargain price while benefiting a good cause, or causes. Yes, it's time for Orlando's Magical Dining month, and this year we get a bonus preview week, too! The eat-fest begins August 25 and ends October 1, with more Walt Disney World restaurants participating this year than ever before.

You might be wondering: Just how does Magical Dining Month work? It's really quite simple. You book a reservation at a participating restaurant, enjoy three delicious courses and pay only $35 (plus tax and tip) per person.

The Magical Dining website provides a listing of the restaurants (by area/district) and cuisine. You will be able to see the actual Magical Dining menu and also make a reservation through OpenTable.com. When booking through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal sold will benefit Freedom Ride and BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation.

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WHY WE LOVE MAGICAL DINING MONTH!

-- It's a deal! Who doesn't love a deal?!

-- Food! Who doesn't love food?!

-- Encourages us to get out of our rut and try new places to eat.

-- Makes a great night out.

-- Raises money for charity.

This year 20 restaurants in the Disney/Lake Buena Vista area are participating. In Part 1 of this blog I'll discuss the Walt Disney World dining participants, including those located at Disney Springs. In Part 2, I'll step outside the Disney bubble to look at other dining opportunities in Orlando.

Ok, now for the participating Disney restaurants, of which there is an interesting mix. A combination of what I would call "middle" tier dining and then "signature" dining. So I'll offer opinions on both categories.

I also have to admit, we used to dine at some of these places often, but since the wide variety of options have opened at Disney Springs, we haven't really been to the "middle tier" resort dining as much.

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Middle Tier Dining

Overall our recommendation for the restaurants in the "middle tier" is to only go if you were planning to dine there anyway. For the same $35 you can experience a signature dining experience (perhaps for the first time) and in our opinion get a much better value for your money.

The links below go to our Rate and Review Section so you can see reviews about the restaurants.


Boatwrights at Port Orleans Riverside

Grand Floridian Cafe - Grand Floridian

Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West

The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs

The Wave at the Contemporary

Out of these Linda and I agree our recommendations are The Wave and Grand Floridian Cafe.

Signature Dining

Il Mulino New York Trattoria at the WDW Swan Hotel. This is one of our favorite places to go, either for a full dinner or just sitting in the bar/lounge with a beverage and appetizer. Great opportunity to try someplace new.

Jiko the Cooking Place - Animal Kingdom Lodge - Another favorite of ours. In addition to the great food they boast one of the largest South African wine lists in the US. Be sure to check out the Magical Dining menu and if it appeals to you, go for it.

Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs - This is one of Linda's favorite places to dine. Need I say more?

Paddlefish at Disney Springs - We have not dined there so can't advise you either way.

Ravello - The Four Seasons - another place we have not dined, but we've heard good things. If the offerings on the menu appealed to me, I would try it out during Magical Dining Month, but I'll be waiting a bit longer. However, if the menu presented makes you drool then by all means go for it!

STK in Disney Springs - We are big fans of the food at STK and dined there several times. The only hesitation in recommending it is the loud music the DJ plays. "It's Not Your Father's Steakhouse" is their tag line.

Todd Englishes Blue Zoo - Another of our favorites -- I've become a fan of their Chicken Francese entree, which happens to be on the magical dining menu.

Linda and I don't think you can go wrong with any of the establishments we have been to.

TIPS

MY BIGGEST TIP: I can't stress this one enough -- Make sure to check out the menu on the Magical Dining website before making a reservation.

-- Reservations are a must!

-- For those with dietary needs, CALL the restaurant and inquire before you go.

-- Parking - If you dine at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, use the valet parking and get your parking ticket validated by the hostess in the restaurant!

-- In our experience, sometimes we are served the full portions,as if you were a regular diner, and sometimes it is a smaller portion. No matter which, we have always felt like we got our money's worth!

BOTTOM LINE: Orlando Magical Dining month provides a great opportunity for you to explore new dining experiences. Linda and I try to use it at least twice each year to discover new favorites! Leave a comment below about your experience!

Next blog I'll be talking about the restaurants outside the Disney Bubble... check back!

The Magical Dining Website has an FAQ section you should read!

July 26, 2017

Updates for 2017 Holiday Season at Walt Disney World

Deb's Digest Blog

Walt Disney World released a few details on the upcoming holiday season at a special media preview.

Let's start with Disney Springs! The Holiday Tree Trail will return with even more trees than before. The trees are 10' and 12' tall with a 10' backdrop for a guest photo op.

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A new Disney Springs Logo Tree will feature custom ornaments for Disney Springs Operating Participants. This will be followed by trees themed to variety of characters and Disney films: Mickey and Minnie, Pluto (devoted to pets), Sleeping Beauty (new), Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog, the Little Mermaid, Frozen, Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio (new), 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia (new), Villains, Lilo and Stitch, Dumbo (new), Tangled, Robin Hood (new), Peter Pan (new), Jungle Book, Muppets, Mulan, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland.

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Santa's Chalet will be located at the end of the trail with snow and music. Each tree will have a signature ornament and as you exit the trail, there will be one final tree displaying what's at the Disney Store for the holidays.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! returns on November 7. The show will be updated with a few different sequences and new characters, along with more integration of fireworks.

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There will also be one or two additional "holiday" offerings at the Studios this year, details will be announced soon!

Moving now to Epcot. The Candlelight Processional is the premiere holiday show with celebrity narrators. This year, Disney is making an extra effort to find celebrity talent that speaks to all of our diversity. Already announced are Trace Adkins, CCH Pounder, Jaci Velasquez and favorite Neil Patrick Harris.

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Joyful! A Gospel Celebration is also returning.

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In addition, the Mexico pavilion will feature an enhanced holiday celebration titled La Posada, with authentic Mexican with mariachi, dancers and music similar to a festival.

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Let's go now to the Magic Kingdom!

NEW this year: The Main Street Trolley will have a new Christmas show, and the Move It Shake It Dance and Play it! parade will have a holiday finale. A Frozen Holiday Wish will return once a night on non-party nights and twice a night during the Party. Usually you have to attend one of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties to see the special shows and happenings exclusive to the event. This year all guests will see the special entertainment during the week of Christmas.

Last, but not least, is all the new holiday merchandise coming to Walt Disney World later this year including new Dooney and Bourke bags, many new ornaments, themed stockings and much more.. Here is Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager to tell you more:

First Look -- Disney's Minnie Van Service

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney's Minnie Van Service

At the 2017 D23 Expo in July, Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced: “Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do.” The Minnie vehicles will take you everywhere you want to go at the Walt Disney World Resort, and you’ll ride in Minnie’s classic style.

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A Disney Cast Member will be your driver.

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If this type of transportation service sounds familiar to you, it is the Disney version of Uber and Lyft transportation services, but limited to Walt Disney World property.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


Disney's Minnie Van Service is now in "soft opening" at select resorts. At this time the cost is a flat fee of $20 per trip -- drivers do not accept gratuities. The vehicles are 2017 Chevy Traverse vans and each seats six.

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There are one or two child car seats available in each vehicle.

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When asked about Disney touches inside of the Minnie Vans, the Cast Members smiled and politely did not answer the question.

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The hours of operation have not yet been set, but currently the service seems to be available beginning around 6:30 a.m. and through the evening. An app to order your car is coming -- once the service is fully launched you'll be able to summon the car via an app -- details as they are released.

June 26, 2017

Morimoto Asia Summer Forbidden Lounge Late-Night Offerings

Deb's Digest Blog

by AllEars.Net's Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth

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Morimoto Asia is a beautiful two-story restaurant in Disney Springs with a variety of options for your dining pleasure. There is the full-service dining room on the first floor (though there are some full-service tables on the second floor). Also on the main floor is one of the two bars. Upstairs not only has a sushi bar, but the Forbidden Lounge, a wonderful place to hang out and relax with craft cocktails and great food.

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Morimoto Asia recently debuted its new summer additions to the Forbidden Lounge late-night menu. We were able to sample the new cocktails and also the late-night food offerings. (Be sure to read my recent blog "Noshing at Disney Springs," which includes the Forbidden Lounge.)

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Here is my take on the new craft cocktail offerings:

Here are Linda's thoughts on the new craft cocktails:

I tasted all five of the new beverage offerings, and I think there is one that will appeal to just about every palate. All were refreshing and had a different twist on a classic cocktail. There were sweet, smoky, citrusy, tart and aromatic offerings. I do not particularly care for sweet or smoky drinks, so while the Yuzu Sidecar, Kunsei Smoked Coconut, Kyuuri Gin Blossom Martini and Watermelon Soyokaz were enjoyable, my favorite was the Tequila and Tonic. This was very refreshing, aromatic, and had a hint of citrus. Plus, there was no strong alcohol flavor.

A number of new small plates/appetizers created by Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinaga were also introduced for late-night noshing in the Forbidden Lounge.

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Since I have a rather "limited" palate, I asked Linda to elaborate on the food offerings, each of which costs $8.

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Next up were the new food items for summer. My two favorites were the Blistered Shishito Peppers served with Wasabi Creme Fraiche and Yuzu Salt. The peppers were full of flavor, not very spicy, although every once in a while one had a bit more heat. The peppers went really well with my Tequlia and Tonic. I did not try the wasabi creme fraiche. I thought they tasted just fine on their own.

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My other favorite was the Shichime Spiced Edamame. These were prepared with sesame and Japanese 7 spice. Now, these had much more heat than the Blistered Shishito Peppers. Again, very flavorful and a nice change from plain edamame with salt. Again, I enjoyed them with my beverage, but I think a nice cold beer also would go nicely with this dish.

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The Kushiyaki “grilled on a stick” was chicken yakitori, pork skirt steak and miso marinated black cod. The chicken and pork were good but OH MY! The black cod was out of this world. It was light, flaky and melted in my mouth.

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The other two dishes offered have a bit more substance to them. The Beef Bulgogi Nachos were served with wonton chips, thinly sliced soy-marinated beef short ribs, gochujang sauce, jalapenos, cheese and scallions. This dish had some heat, the beef was very tender and the wonton chips held their crunch. It was also a bit messy to eat, but then so are regular nachos.

The Chashu Pork Quesadilla had pulled, braised pork belly, caramelized red onions, spicy mayo and blended cheese. I am not a big fan of pork belly because it can be on the fatty side. This quesadilla was delicious, but I found the pork to be a bit too fatty for my taste.

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Linda's plate of samples:

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We are both fans of the Forbidden Lounge and were excited to have the opportunity to try out the new offerings.

Linda adds: I have always enjoyed the Forbidden Lounge upstairs at Morimoto Asia. The craft cocktails are fun, the “bar food” usually changes with the season, the background music is nice and the bartenders are friendly and attentive. I hope you will enjoy your experience as well.

DISCLAIMER: AllEars.Net was invited by Morimoto Asia to try out its new summer offerings in terms of bar foods and cocktails. Our opinions are our own. Trust us -- we spend plenty of our own money there!





June 22, 2017

Special Character Meets at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Deb's Digest Blog
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One of the fun things about Disney's Hollywood Studios is the unique character meet-and-greet opportunities. Some of the characters are regulars (like Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, Buzz and Woody), but others are around for a very limited time. Recently we headed to the Studios and the first order of business were the special characters! I was very excited that the friends we were meeting wanted to see the characters, too!

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Arriving at 9 a.m., we were expecting the park to already be crowded because resort guests had an Extra Magic Hour morning. However, luck was on our side and the park crowd seemed like any other day.

We headed to Pixar Place to meet the new addition of Cruz Ramirez. Cruz does advance training in the new Cars 3 movie. You will find Cruz on the right just past Toy Story Midway Mania. It appears she may be here for several weeks.

After the meet and greet you can see a sneak preview of the movie until June 25. (By the way, I LOVED the Cars 3 movie!)

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TIPS:
-- Please don't touch Cruz, her paint job is still wet.

-- To get the full photo with the marque, you will need to stand outside the roped area (see the photo above). The PhotoPass photographers will only get you and Cruz (the last photo). P.S. We had a fun surprise when we viewed our PhotoPass pics.

We next decided to head to One Man's Dream and the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 meet-and-greet with Star Lord and Baby Groot. The meet-and-greet is in the back of the exhibit. If you haven't been to One Man's Dream, be sure to fit a visit into your vacation. It is a treasure trove of exhibits about Walt Disney and the parks' history.

I found this meet-and-greet to be awesome. Not only is Star Lord very interactive, Baby Groot is just the cutest! Keep an eye on Baby Groot as he does some fun things!

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Last, but certainly not least, we visited the droid BB-8 from the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. BB-8 is in the Launch Bay.

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PhotoPass photographers were at each location.

Mission Complete! Not rushing, but not dilly-dallying either, this took just under 90 minutes.






June 19, 2017

Noshing Night at Disney Springs

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney Springs Signage


Disney Springs
really has undergone an amazing transformation. We have probably spent more time there in the last couple years than we had the 10 prior. Lots of great places to eat with a variety of tastes and prices. In fact, for several months we have been talking about noshing our way around Disney Springs.

We were staying at a Disney Springs hotel recently, so we decided it was time for Noshing Night! Our criteria was to sit at the bar and order a beverage and appetizer. A progressive dinner without dessert. One important note -- Linda enjoys craft cocktails and I only drink wine (mostly red). Both of us were certain to be drinking lots of water and most of the bartenders were refilling our glasses without asking.

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The sky was clear on this Friday evening as the week of rain had finally ended for a few hours. Still, it was a hot June evening.

Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


We began at Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar, one of our favorite places at Disney Springs.

The Homecoming bar has two options, you can either sit inside the restaurant (in air conditioning) or outside. We spotted two seats inside and sat down. Bartender Doug came over and introduced himself, keeping us happy for the duration.

Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


We perused the beverage menu. Linda feels that Homecoming has one of the best craft cocktail bars in Disney Springs. She chose the Cucumber Cooler, which consisted of Tito's handmade vodka with lime juice, simple syrup and crisp cucumber slices ($11). Linda asked for it very easy on the simple syrup and it came out perfectly. I actually might have enjoyed it on the rocks.

I chose an Alexander Valley Merlot ($12), although I would have preferred a nice crisp white -- but this is a craft cocktail bar, not a wine bar (Winebar George, we can't wait for you to open!)

Cucumber Cooler Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


Drinks having arrived, it was time for food. We ordered the Church Lady Deviled Eggs ($10 for 6). OMG! We order them every visit! I recall the first time we ate there I was thinking, "Why pay so much money for a deviled egg?" But you have to try them! Then you'll understand.

Church Lady Deviled Eggs

Linda then decided some of the Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits ($6) would be great, especially since we were drinking. Another OMG! These were quite different than the ones we had here previously. Our barkeep told us they had changed them and added cream cheese to fluff them up. They were outstanding! Who takes biscuits home in their doggie bag? We did!

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We chatted, noshed and sipped there for about an hour, paid our bill and left to find another spot.

Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

As we walked outside, we talked about where to head next. Linda had a hankering for oysters so off to the Boathouse we went.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

As you might imagine, it was quite crowded over there. There is the Captain's Raw Bar inside, just as you enter the restaurant, but we find it too loud to talk so we opt for the dockside bar.

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Boathouse at Disney Springs


The only outdoor seating was in direct sun, so we walked around a bit in hopes something in the shade would free up. Sure enough, a table for two opened up at the outside bar with our names on it.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

Linda placed an order for oysters along with a Blue Moon Beer. I was still feeling full from Homecoming and wanted something cool and refreshing so I ordered a glass of prosecco.

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Blue Moon Beer and Proseco

We have enjoyed beautiful sunsets at this location before, but tonight that wasn't meant to be. Instead we enjoyed watching folks in the Amphicars. In fact, we even got to see one of them being towed back in due to technical problems. Oops.

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After we had been there about an hour, we felt the temperature had gotten increasingly hotter. Soon we were both feeling sluggish. Time to walk!

Rating: Food 5*, Service 3.5*, Ambiance 5*.

We saw lots of different types of entertainment around Disney Springs, which is always fun. I really like that they have enhanced this aspect since the total refurbishment of the old Downtown Disney. We enjoyed the strolling violinist, strolling piano and singer and a Living Statue. It was very entertaining to watch folks who wanted to get their photo with the Living Statue, but were not exactly sure how to approach him. We even had fun checking out the Lego displays.

Disney Springs Entertainment
Disney Parks Legos
Disney Springs Entertainment

Our next and what turned out to be our final stop -- Morimoto Asia.

 Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

The downstairs bar was very noisy and hectic so we made our way to the upstairs bar. Ah, the air conditioning felt so very good and soon we both perked up again.

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda loves the Manhattan East here so she ordered one. It is made of hiro sake, Makers Mark bourbon, canton liqueur, and orange bitters ($14).

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs Manhattan East Cocktail

To no one's surprise I ordered another glass of red wine, Antinori Santa Cristina Chianti, Tuscany ($12). I have found this chianti works really well with Morimoto's ribs!

Our two servers, Matthew and Junko, took most excellent care of us. Linda decided the Manhattan that Junko made was the BEST Manhattan East she has had there!

I ordered an appetizer portion of the spare ribs (pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze) for $14. One of my favorites -- three tender and crispy ribs. Be careful of the red threads on top of the ribs, though. They are VERY hot!

Spare Ribs Appetizer Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda got a Spicy Tuna Roll with white rice (you have a choice between white and brown). The tuna, with spicy mayo and scallion, is $13.

Spicy Tuna Roll Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

We were having lots of fun talking with the bartenders and soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Love the background music upstairs -- smooth jazz or New Age, not sure which.

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
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Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

Around 9 p.m. we decided to call it a night and walked back to our Disney Springs hotel.

The food of the night award goes to Homecoming! The server of the night award goes to Matthew at Morimoto Asia.

You might be asking yourself, "What did all this cost?" The food itself without tax/tip came to $73, divided by two that made it about $37 each. The alcohol without tax/tip came to $78.50, so just under $40 each. All totaled including tip, tax and tags our total price was $185.75.

There were a few discounts available. Homecoming offers the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent discount; the Boathouse offers 10 percent with the Annual Passport (food only), and Morimoto Asia takes the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent.

We certainly won't be doing this often, given the price tag, but it made for a perfect evening out!
It was wonderful and we hope to do it again when the weather turns cooler.

Have you enjoyed a night of noshing at Disney Springs? Where did you go? Tell us about it in the comments.






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