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December 2014 Archives

December 2, 2014

New Epcot Holidays Around the World Entertainment

Deb's Digest Blog

Epcot's Holidays Around the World kicked off on Friday, November 28. One of my favorite holiday things to do at Walt Disney World is see all the Holiday Storytellers around World Showcase. Disney is getting away from the "Holiday Storyteller" name and now showcases it as simply Holidays Around the World.

"Share in the sights and sounds of the nations of World Showcase as each country's holiday heritage comes to life amid joyful music and time-honored traditions."

With so many entertainment changes in Epcot over the last several months, I was a bit leery when I first heard about the changes to Holidays Around the World. Then a couple weeks ago, I was able to interview Disney Show Director Marsha Jackson-Randolph about the changes, and I became cautiously optimistic.

Over the weekend I was able to watch the three new act, and I really enjoyed them. Here are my thoughts and a video of the performance.

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China - the Chinese Lion Dancers
Epcot's Holidays Around the World Chinese Lion Dancers

First, a lively performance by two talented dancers dressed as a Chinese Lion. (The lion may appear in bright yellow or red). The Chinese Lion Dance brings good fortune and happiness to all during the Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival. The Lion Dance dates back to the Han Dynasty of more than 2,000 years ago. The drums not only give the Lion something to dance to but the loud noises keep away evil spirits.

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Chinese Lion Dancers

To be honest, I was a bit concerned when I found out the Monkey King (one of my favorite storytellers) was going to be replaced. I have to say, though, the Lion Dance was pretty cool.

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Chinese Lion Dancers

The six minute performance takes place on a raised stage, which makes viewing very easy. I REALLY appreciated the narration (explaining the different parts of the show) that went along with the performance. Kids and adults both seemed to enjoy the show. At the end, the Lion will pose for photographs. I look forward to seeing this again.

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Morocco Holiday Entertainment
Epcot's Holidays Around the World Morocco Celebrations

Journey through the seasons of holidays in Morocco where celebrations are the spice of life in this 13-minute show. Celebrations include the Olive Festival, Rose Festival, Date Festival and even a Marriage Festival. The holy Ramadan celebration is also mentioned.

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Morocco Celebrations

I enjoyed this performance. It was nice to see the various celebrations the Moroccan people have. There were several times the audience got to participate in the show, too!

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Morocco Celebrations


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Mariachis and Dancers in Mexico
Epcot's Holidays Around the World Mexico's Mariachis and Dancers


Celebrate the Fiesta de Navidad and join in the excitement of the music, dances and traditions of a Holiday Fiesta. Hear about La Navidad and Las Posadas.

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Mexico's Mariachis and Dancers

Of the three new shows, this was my favorite.

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Mexico's Mariachis and Dancers

It takes the wonderful group of Mariachis and adds holiday music, stories, dancing and even a pinata (when the kids get involved) And who doesn't like to sing Feliz Navidad?!

Epcot's Holidays Around the World Mexico's Mariachis and Dancers

Have you seen any of the Epcot Holidays Around the World shows? Share your thoughts and leave your comments below!

December 19, 2014

Trattoria al Forno - First Look from Opening Night

Deb's Digest Blog
Trattoria al forno Sign

Trattoria al Forno, on Disney's BoardWalk, officially opened on December 18, 2014. Linda and I had dinner reservations to check out the new place.

Please keep in mind this review is from opening night. Items are still being tweaked, chefs and servers still learning, and the place needs to "shake out" so to speak and find its rhythm. We plan to return in a few weeks. Overall we had a very fun dining experience. Special thanks to our server, Lynne, who provided great service and answered or found the answer to all our questions!

The restaurant has made an amazing transformation in just a few months. There is much to share about the theme and story of the Trattoria, but in this blog, we will focus on the food. Speaking of food, Chef Dee is back, much to our delight!

Trattoria al forno Interior

We began by looking at the menu, 99 percent identical to the pre-opening menu that had been announced. We perused the wine list and checked out the appetizers. We were tempted to order several appetizers, but after looking at the pizza, pasta and entree offerings, thought we should start slow. Plus, we hadn't seen the dessert menu yet!

There are several designated Gluten-Free items and approximately 80 percent of the menu is or can easily be made Gluten-Free.

BREAD AND OLIVE OIL

Trattoria al forno Bread and Olive Oil

The bread had a crunchy crust. Be sure to use the wonderful olive oil!

ANTIPASTI (appetizers)

Thin-sliced Italian Cured Meats (serves 2)
- with house-pickled peppers, olives and caponata served with a toasted slice of house-made ciabatta $15.99

Trattoria al forno Thinly Sliced Meats

The four meats served are sliced on the brand new, super-duper paper-thin slicer. We received Bresaola (air-dried beef); Sopressata (traditional cured meet -- think of it as a version of salami); Coppa (salted, seasoned and dry-cured cut of pork shoulder or neck); Prosciutto (dry-cured ham).

We loved the Bresaola (some of the best we've had in the US) and Sopressata. The Coppa was good but not our thing. The only disappointment was the Prosciutto. We saved that taste until last and the meat was not as thinly sliced as we expected. In fact, we've had thinner sliced at the local grocery store.

The meats are accompanied by a small bowl of house-pickled peppers and olives and caponata. Linda liked the caponata and said it had lots of tomato flavors. She also enjoyed the olives and peppers.

This was a great way to begin our meal and we would recommend you give it a try.

Grilled Treviso -- with gorgonzola dolce and pistachio gremolata $7.99

Trattoria al forno Grilled Treviso

When I read about the grilled treviso, I thought it was fish so, I'll be honest, I Googled it. Turns out to be radicchio. You can sometimes find radicchio in your local grocery -- it has the deep red leaves with white veins. You may find in it a ball or more elongated. The Treviso was grilled and topped with a mixture of gorgonzola, dolce and pistachio gremolata. It was topped by two different types of endive, also with the topping. The combination of grilling and topping took away the bitterness sometimes found in radicchio. It was OUTSTANDING. It's the hidden gem on the menu and we will certainly order it again. In addition, two people can easily share it.

WINES

Trattoria al forno Wine Quartino

Italian Wines are best enjoyed with Italian food! The Trattoria boasts an all-Italian wine menu with around 70 wines encompassing the 20 Italian wine regions; 30 wines by the glass or quartino. The quartino is a small carafe containing approximately a glass and a half of the wine. Linda and I found the quartino a great way for us both to sample several different wines.


PIZZA AL FORNO A LEGNA

There are six pizzas to choose from with an array of tastes, from a traditional Margherita (mozzarella, tomato and basil), to one with Fennel Sausage, Salame Piccante, and House-Pickled Peppers. Pizzas are prepared Neapolitan style.

We chose the Smoked Prosciutto, Potato, Rosemary and Mozzarella $16.99 (which also had tomato sauce). The pizza was a blend of flavors with the rosemary being the predominant one. The pizza was tasty, but not great. It was too doughy for me -- the Neapolitan style is more chewy. One person could have made it their appetizer. If you are sharing, two people will be happy with the size. Quite frankly, we've been spoiled by other full- service dining pizzas nearby from the likes of Via Napoli (Epcot), Il Mulino (Swan), and La Luce (Hilton Bonnet Creek).

Trattoria al forno Smoked Prosciutto, Potato, Rosemary and Mozzarella Pizza

PASTA E RISO AND CARNI E PESCI

It was difficult to choose from the Pasta e Riso and Carni e Pesci selections, so we ordered three entrees to share (we left with enough food for tonight's dinner!).


Polpetta Gigante - giant meatball with ricotta cannelloni and marinara $19.99

Trattoria al forno Polpetta Gigante

Trattoria al forno Polpetta Gigante

Indeed, as the menu describes, this is a giant meatball. What the menu doesn't tell you, however, is that it has lots of spinach and red pepper flakes, giving it a bit of heat. We were both disappointed. Too much heat and spinach for me, and Linda, who likes food with heat, said it was too much for her as well. The Ricotta Cannelloni was tender and flavorful. We both like the marinara sauce! It should also be noted the cannelloni was made with rice flour.

Semolina Tagliatelle alla Carbonara - with Guanciale $19.99

Trattoria al forno Semolina Tagliatelle alla Carbonara

For both of us this dish was the winner of the evening! It is made with an egg sauce, not a cream sauce, making it a lighter pasta dish. Pasta served al dente. The bits of guanciale (Italian cured meat from pork cheeks) added just enough contrast. We highly recommend this dish and will order it again.


Eggplant Rollatini - with shaved fennel-arugula salad $17.99

Trattoria al forno Eggplant Rollatini

This dish was recommended by our server and since Linda enjoys eggplant she ordered it. The eggplant was lightly grilled and Linda found it chewy and bland. When we spoke to the chef later, he said they are still tweaking the preparation. The shaved fennel-arugula salad is, however, a nice surprise. This salad needs to be an appetizer. It is served with several of the entrees.

DOLCI

Just about everything on the dessert menu sounded wonderful and again it was difficult to choose.


Tiramisu - ladyfinger-soaked espresso and layered with Italian mascarpone cream $6.99

Trattoria al forno Tiramisu

Our server told us this would be the best tiramisu we ever had. Indeed it was so delicious and is in our top three ever. The cream is so creamy, there is no filling so to speak, just the basics. Yummmm.

Signature Dessert Highlight Item - Bomboloni with dark chocolate, served with vanilla gelato $6.49

Trattoria al forno Bomboloni

This wasn't the signature dessert in our minds, although it is very Italian. It's basically fried dough with a tiny bit of chocolate. The gelato, however, was awesome!


Lemon Panna Cotta - with almond crunch and macerated berries (no sugar added and gluten-free) $6.49

Trattoria al forno Lemon Panna Cotta

Another great choice -- light, creamy, loved the almond crunch, although I could do without the berry foam (too sweet) on top.

COST

We used Tables in Wonderland, which gave us a 20 percent discount on food and beverages (alcohol included) and added an 18 percent gratuity.

We ordered four different wine quartinos and shared them. The cost came to $56.

Subtracting the wine from the bill, our dinner with tip and tax was $119 for two. Remember we ordered a LOT of food.

An appetizer, entree and dessert will run you about $33 each before tax/tip.

CONCLUSION and RECOMMENDATIONS

This is going to be a popular restaurant and I'm certain once word gets out it may be difficult to just walk up without a reservation. Even reservations may be hard to come by.


Our RECOMMENDATIONS:

Appetizer: Thinly Sliced Meats OR Grilled Treviso
Entree: Semolina Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Dessert: Tiramisu OR Gelato

We will return sometime in January to see how things have evolved. We have some favorites on the menu and there are many items to try, such as: the Regional Italian Soup, Fried Calamari, Baked Lasagna, Port Chop alla Milanese, and Braised Beef Bolognese, Cannoli Pizzelle, Hazelnut Chocolate Cake.

RELATED LINKS:
Dinner Menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/trattoria-al-forno/dinner
Child's Dinner Menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/trattoria-al-forno/child-dinner

Review Trattoria al Forno: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=689


Mangia, Mangia (eat, eat).


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About December 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in December 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2014 is the previous archive.

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