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October 2011 Archives

October 3, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Disney World - September 29-October 1, 2011

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We spent some time at Disney World this past weekend and there are plenty of changes since my last visit on September 16.

The (former) tennis courts at the Grand Floridian are a construction staging area.

Tennis courts

The tunnel to the left of the train station is still being worked on.

Tunnel

There was a crane behind Cinderella Castle so they could work on getting the Dream Lights installed for the holiday season.

Crane

Lights

Because of the crane, the path to the right of the castle (near the Tangled meet-and-greet) was closed off.

Path

Enchanted Grove is still being worked on.

Enchanted Grove

The Little Mermaid's building is coming along.

The Little Mermaid

This pole behind the wall was new.

Pole

The Beauty & the Beast area is looking great.

Beauty & the Beast

The scrim wall had been lengthened.

Scrim wall

The walls are still up around the front of Pinnochio's Village Haus.

Village Haus

The crane was still up.

Crane

Storybook Circus is rolling right along.

Storybook Circus

Walls were up along the legs of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, near Stitch's Great Escape.

Walls

Epcot is decorated for the International Food & Wine Festival.

Food & Wine

Food & Wine

Festival Center

Walls were up around the tip board. (Note: These came down on Friday- keep reading for more info.)

Tip board

Tents for the race were set up in the Animal Kingdom parking lot when we went on Friday morning.

RaceAK

The Lion King topiaries were out near the entrance.

Topiaries

At Primeval Whirl, the walls are still up on the right side. As I was standing there, I saw a car go down the track on the left side but they were turning guests away. I asked a Cast Member if the ride was going to be open and she said they were having a delayed opening and that the ride should be open later in the day.

Right side

Left side

We went back to Epcot to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. We noticed that the walls were down around the tip board and it had some new effects- the signs flip and tweets are scrolling down the right side (see the video below).

Tip Board

Tip board

The stroller parking for The Land pavilion has moved - it is now on the side near The Seas.

Stroller parking

Donald and Daisy are out at the International Gateway.

Gateway

One of the buildings at the Canada pavilion is being worked on.

Canada

Walls are up at the Japan pavilion while Yakitori House is undergoing changes.

Yakitori

On the menu boards for the Food & Wine booths, keep an eye out for the QR codes. These can be scanned with a smartphone and it will take you to a Food & Wine site where you can track your favorite items and see menus for the other booths.

QR code

When I was walking to the front of Epcot, I saw Br'er Bear greeting guests. I had never seen him in this location before. I don't know if it's a permanent or temporary thing.

Br'er Bear

That's all for this update. Have a great day. :)

October 4, 2011

Five Tips for Food & Wine for First Timers

Andrew Rossi

The International Food and Wine Festival is now underway at Epcot thru November 13. This is the festival's 16th anniversary and it seems to become more and more popular each year. This is definitely one of my most favorite times of year at Epcot because there is so much going on, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. The festival is a lot of fun but, as with everything at Disney World, it is not something that should be jumped into without first doing some planning in advance. Here are some tips to help maximize your time, money, and enjoyment of all the festival has to offer:

Food & Wine Signage

1. Avoid the Weekends:
Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival because this is when all the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade, much longer lines at the food stands, and also a higher number of guests who have had a little too much to drink (if you go on a weekend you will notice many groups sporting "drinking around the world" t-shirts). The best days of the week to attend the festival are Monday thru Thursday. Lighter crowds makes the festival much more enjoyable, especially when you do not have to wait in a crazy line to get your food and can actually find a table or bench to sit at.

2. Start Early in the Day:
World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon. As a result, there are fairly short lines at all of the various food stands for the first few hours after World Showcase opens (even on weekends). The later in the day it gets, however, the more crowded it becomes.

3. Pace Yourself:
Although the portion sizes of the food you receive at the various international marketplaces may seem small, they can be filling. After having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit because you will not have room to try anything else as you make your way around World Showcase. I like to try one dish, walk around for a little bit, and then try something else from another stand. If traveling with someone else you may want to consider splitting the food, which also allows you to sample a greater variety of dishes.

4. Plan Ahead:
If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the Food and Wine Festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. Just like everything else at Disney World, it pays to do research. I find it best to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. This will really help you to budget your money. Also, if on the Disney Dining Plan, try saving your snack credits to use at the festival's marketplaces. See which items are most expensive and use your snack credits on those. This will offer you the greatest value for your money.

5. Take Your Time:
You could spend an entire day enjoying everything involved with the Food and Wine Festival. If you can, rather than trying to cram all of the festival into a single day, take a few days to enjoy all the events, demonstrations, and various foods and beverages the festival has to offer. I like to treat the festival's food offerings as snacks rather than trying to make a whole meal of them. Instead of spending a lot of money all at once, I prefer to sample one or two different things each time I go to the festival (note that this is easier if you are a Florida resident rather than visiting on vacation). Attending the festival on multiple days can let you sample an even greater variety of foods, spread your money out over a series of days rather than spending it all at once, and allows you to really take your time and enjoy all of the festivities.

October 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

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REVIEW: Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival by AJ Wolfe

AJ Wolfe, writer of the online "Disney Food Blog" has issued a comprehensive (and timely) e-book Guide to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. You'll not only want to buy this guide to help you plan for your visit to the Festival beforehand, but also to have it in your pocket during your visit. I plan to take it with me on my iPhone next month when I visit the Food and Wine Festival with my family.

The Guide is available as an e-book, which, when purchased, is downloaded as a .pdf file. Once downloaded, you can save the file as an e-book in iTunes, and then download the file to your iPad, iPhone or other device. I tested the guide on my laptop, iPad and iPhone, and preferred the iPad to the others, as outside links worked best from this platform. Note that if you are reading the Guide on any device in a place where you cannot access the internet, the external links will not work.

As with all of the DFB e-books, Wolfe starts by giving the reader a "how-to" on using the Guide and helpful advice on getting to Epcot and navigating the Festival. The guide includes descriptions of all of the Festival events, a full day-by-day schedule, tips on how to use Disney Dining Plan snack credits at the Festival, instructions for how to book and pay for events, and a full set of indexes to help you to find your favorite chef, food, wine or beer at the Festival.

While it may be too late to book some events (check Disney's website to determine whether admission to the event you would like to attend is still available), the Guide offers helpful information on how to book, and where certain discounts might be available. Check this section out, particularly if you have a Tables in Wonderland card, an Annual Pass or are a Disney Vacation Club Member.

The Guide highlights what is new for 2011, including HGTV events (HGTV is a sponsor of this year's Festival), Mixology Seminars and a real Cranberry Bog (can't wait to see this one, although it would be REALLY cool if you could wade through it in hip-waders like you seen in the TV commercials!), and other signature new and special events. I am very sorry that I will miss the October 29 "Kitchen Memories Healthy Dining Event," as it will feature my favorite TV chef and globe-trotter Andrew Zimmern (and his kids!).

The "What's New" section lists all of the new International Marketplace Booths and new menu items for this year, and is followed by in-depth pages on each of the (new and returning) booths-including gorgeous photos sure to make your mouth start watering. My family and I plan to do at least one "Lunch Around the World" when we visit next month, and after reading this guide I know that my lunch will include a Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple and Spicy Mayonnaise from the Hawaii booth (it takes longer to say the name than it will probably take for me to wolf one of these tasty morsels down) and Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries from the Scandinavia booth. Wolfe also offers helpful tips for touring the food booths and paying for your bites.

The Guide's in-depth descriptions of the Festival Special and Signature Events, Low-Cost Seminars, Demos and Activities, and Celebrity Chef Spotlights should help readers sift through all of the myriad offerings to decide what events will fit their tastes and budgets. The descriptions include the Where, When and How Much for each event.

Can't wait for the Eat to the Beat concerts? The Guide includes a helpful list of Songs You Should Know by Heart by each of the featured artists, so that guests can jog their memories and prepare to hum along (or sing out loud if you are my husband or one of my daughters). And yes, "Hold on Loosely" is a .38 Special song, not a Night Ranger song-that one is "Sister Christian," and if you visit the Festival on the right days you can hear BOTH of them. (The '80s were SO long ago . . . )

Finally, the Guide offers touring strategies (one day, two days, on a budget, with the kids, etc.) and some suggested World Showcase Booth Crawls. I like the idea of the Continent Crawl (particularly the Jerk Spiced Chicken Drumstick from the Caribbean Islands and the Black Pepper Shrimp with Sichuan Noodles from China), but what about Antarctica? Throw in an Itzakadoozie ice pop and it's complete!

Other Disney Food Blog E-book Reviews by Alice:

Disney Food Blog Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks

DFB Guide to WDW Dining

Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

AllEars belongs to an affiliate program with the Disney Food Blog ebooks.


October 10, 2011

Food and Entertainment Together at Teppan Edo

Andrew Rossi

I have noticed recently that one type of dining experience that seems to be gaining a lot of popularity is teppanyaki-style restaurants. Also referred to by some as a hibachi restaurant or Japanese steakhouse, these dining locations are best known for their food being prepared right at the table in a presentation that is just as much about entertainment as it is cooking the food. It seems as though teppanyaki restaurants are popping up all over the place, making what was once an extremely rare and unique dining experience much more commonplace and easily accessible.

Teppan Edo at Epcot's Japan pavilion in World Showcase is one such teppanyaki restaurant and the first one that I had ever visited. When I was younger we had none of these restaurants anywhere close to home and when my family came to Disney World this was a place we would eat at to experience something we could not normally find, quickly becoming a tradition to eat there on nearly every trip. Now that I am older, even though there are about three similar restaurants within easy driving distance of my home, I still enjoy going to Teppan Edo at Epcot, not only for the great memories I have there of past family vacations, but also for its delicious food and entertaining chefs. It may not be as unique as it once was, but Teppan Edo continues to deliver a special and memorable dining experience.

Teppan Edo Sign

Overview:
I do not want to bore anyone with a history lesson, but I feel that in order to fully understand the dining experience at Teppan Edo you need to have some knowledge of where it came from. To start, the word teppanyaki is derived from the Japanese words teppan, which means iron plate, and yaki, which means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Here in America some people mistakenly refer to teppanyaki-style dining locations as a hibachi restaurants when in fact a hibachi (the Japanese word for "fire bowl") is a grill that utilizes charcoal.

Upon doing some research I was surprised to find that teppanyaki dining was not as old a tradition as I originally expected. In fact, the teppanyaki-style restaurant in Japan had its origins with the restaurant chain Misono, which introduced the concept of cooking Western-influenced food on a teppan grill in 1945. They soon found the cuisine was less popular with the Japanese than it was with foreigners, who enjoyed watching the chefs preparing the food as much as the food itself. As the restaurants became popular tourist spots, the chain increased the performance aspect of the chef's preparation.

With its fairly modern origins, the name Teppan Edo is slightly curious as the Edo period in Japan refers to a time frame running from roughly the beginning of the 1600's to the 1860's. Edo, however, was also the former name of the Japanese capital of Tokyo and it was during the Edo period that Tokyo became the seat of power for the country's rulers and grew to become one of the largest cities in the world and the site of a vibrant urban culture.

Helping to promote this culture was a company called Mitsukoshi, which opened its first retail store in Tokyo in 1673 and would later introduce the first westernized department store to the Japanese retail market in 1904. It is Mitsukoshi that brings this story full circle because not only do they have a store at Epcot's Japan pavilion reminiscent of their larger department stores in Tokyo, but they are also the owners of both restaurants located above the store, Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining.

Mitsukoshi Sign

The company's motto is "Service With Sincerity" and I found this to be very fitting because it aptly describes the dining experience that is found at Teppan Edo.

Atmosphere:
Simple and streamlined are two words that probably best describe Teppan Edo's décor. While there are actually very few decorative items throughout the entire restaurant, this does help give the dining room a more contemporary and modern feel. It is an atmosphere that relies more on color rather than theming and decoration to establish the restaurant's feel. The white walls and tables are like the canvas upon which the black wood and red cushions of the chairs really pop out. The red color especially adds a great amount of vitality and liveliness to the space.

The layout of the dining room is also very linear and symmetrical. First, guests must walk down a long, straight hallway where they are then seated in one of the smaller dining rooms to the side.

Entry Hallway

Inside these dining rooms, the tables are arranged in straight rows with the chairs, plates, and napkins all positioned in a similar linear fashion.

Dining Room Setup

Combined with the color scheme, this layout really helps to give the restaurant a simple-yet-upscale design and feel. If someone were to just walk through Teppan Edo when it was empty of all guests, one would think that it was a restaurant geared more towards adults rather than families. However, atmosphere is based upon more than just décor and looks can sometimes be deceiving.

The straight lines and predominantly black and white color scheme of the restaurant may seem cold, but as soon as one walks into the dining room the atmosphere is actually one that is warm and inviting. This starts with the tables themselves, which seat eight people. Unless dining with a large party, this seating arrangement usually means that you will be dining with at least one other party. With all the seats facing towards the grill in the center, not only does this seating arrangement offer everyone at the table a great view of the food being prepared in front of them, but it also creates a more intimate feel and encourages conversation not only between those sitting at the table.

Table Seating Arrangment

On some occasions I have been seated with families that were very outgoing while other times there have been families that did not really want to talk or interact. The party/parties that you are seated with does not make or break the experience of Teppan Edo, but it is definitely more fun having another party with you that will enjoy dining with.

The major component of Teppan Edo's atmosphere is the fact that your food is being prepared right before your eyes.

Cooking on the Grill

The chefs, however, are doing more than just cooking the food; they are really the entertainment for your meal. As they are cooking, the chefs will joke with the guests sitting at their table, perform tricks like flipping shrimp shells into their hats, and even use the food being prepared for entertainment purposes. For example, in the many times I have dined here I have seen chefs pour oil on the grill in the shape of a smiley face or Mickey Mouse, sprinkle a line of sesame seeds onto the grill and call it "Sesame Street," and, of course, make the signature smoking volcano out of the stacked rings of an onion.

Onion Volcano

Not only does the teppanyaki style of the restaurant make meals fun and entertaining for the entire family, especially for the children, but there is just something interesting (even artistic) about your food being prepared right before you. Not only are the smells of the cooking food amazing, but you also know that your meal is going to be fresh and you can see exactly everything that is going into it. Visually it is also very impressive with the mixture of colors of the vegetables and meats.

Cooking Vegetables

Cooking Vegetables and Chicken

Cooking Chicken and Shrimp

Cooking Steak and Shrimp

The overall atmosphere of Teppan Edo is one of activity and excitement, with many chefs at different tables preparing their food simultaneously there is a lot of action throughout the entire dining room. This also means that the restaurant can get a little bit loud with the combination of sizzling food, clanging cooking utensils, and the not-so-uncommon cheer or applause from various tables for their chefs. All this gives Teppan Edo a fun, festive feel that is a great place for families to dine. If you are looking for a quiet, more intimate meal at the Japan pavilion you may want to consider Tokyo Dining. The décor Teppan Edo may not be anything special, but that allows you to concentrate your attention on what really matters, the art and entertainment of the food being prepared by the chefs at your table.

The Menu:
Teppan Edo's menu is dominated by items cooked on the grill at your table, but it features a wide selection of items ranging from seafood to steak to chicken and even vegetarian selections.

The appetizers offered are prepared in a kitchen in the back as opposed to at your table. Among these appetizer selections are Wafu Ribs ($9.50) braised with sake, soy and ginger, the Tuna Salmon Sensation ($8.50) featuring raw tuna and salmon sashimi served with a sesame-saki-soy dressing, Assorted Tempura ($8.50) that includes lightly fried shrimp, chicken breast, and seasonal vegetables served with dipping sauces, Gyo No Negi-Maki ($8.50) which are beef-wrapped green onions served with hickory smoked sea salt, a Garden Salad ($5.95) with your choice of ginger dressing or a creamy sesame dressing, Edamame ($4.50) which are young soy beans, and Miso Soup ($3.00). I have been to other teppanyaki-style Japanese restaurants that include either a soup or salad with your entrée, but that is not the case at Teppan Edo.

The menu also features several different sushi selections. Among these are a Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll ($8.50) featuring a spicy tuna mix, cucumber, green onions, sesame seeds, seaweed and rice, a California Sushi Roll ($7.95) including avocado, cucumber, smelt, mayonnaise, seaweed and rice, a Grilled Crispy Sukiyaki Beef Roll ($8.50) with beef, sesame seeds, seaweed and rice. For those wanting to try more than one type of sushi there are the Sushi Roll Sampler ($7.50) that includes two pieces each of California roll, spicy tuna roll and sukiyaki beef roll as well as the Sushi Sampler ($9.50) with tuna, salmon, and shrimp sushi.

All entrée items on the menu are accompanied by vegetables with udon noodles and white rice. Sometimes at other teppanyaki-style restaurants you are offered the choice of either fried or white rice, but at Teppan Edo white rice is the only option. The entrée items are what will be cooked on the grill at your table and there are several options available. You can choose a single serving of Filet Mignon ($29.95), Sirloin Steak ($27.95), Hotate (cold water sea scallops, $29.95), Kajiki Maguro (swordfish, $26.95), Ebi (large shrimp, $25.95), Ton (pork loin, $23.95), Tori (chicken breast, $22.95), and Yasai (seasonal vegetables, $16.95).

Also available are combinations including Nihonbashi (sirloin steak and chicken breast, $28.95), Asakusa (sirloin steak and large shrimp, $29.95), and Ueno (chicken breast and large shrimp, $26.95).

The dessert options are very limited and include Soft Served Ice Cream ($4.50) in either chocolate, vanilla, or swirl, Green Tea Pudding ($6.95), and Chocolate Ginger Cake ($6.50). On a couple of occasions I have visited Teppan Edo on a birthday or anniversary of another member of my party and they actually received a complimentary piece of the Chocolate Ginger Cake. The flavor of the ginger is a little too strong for my liking even though the chocolate frosting is very smooth and creamy. For free on a special occasion it is worth a taste, but it is not something I would spend money out-of-pocket to try.

For my meal I decided on Ueno, the combination of chicken breast and large shrimp. To start, the chef first prepares the vegetables with udon noodles. The vegetables are zucchini and onions which are grilled and then mixed with sesame seeds and soy sauce and combined with the noodles. Even though this item is placed on your plate before the rest of the entrée, I like to wait to eat it until the chicken and shrimp are also done.

Vegetables and Noodles

Both the zucchini and onions are grilled so that they are still a little crunchy and provide a nice contrast in texture to the softer noodles. I am not necessarily a fan of sesame seeds, but there are not so much of them that they really detract from the taste of the vegetables and noodles; the purpose of the sesame seeds is to provide just a little extra flavor and texture. The combination of vegetables and noodles proves to be a light and refreshing accompaniment for the chicken and shrimp.

Both the chicken and shrimp are cut into smaller pieces and are prepared very simply using just a little bit of oil, butter, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and some sesame seeds. This really allows you to enjoy the natural flavor of the chicken and shrimp. While the shrimp was very good and very fresh I was even more impressed with the chicken, which was extremely tender and grilled to a beautiful golden-brown color (and also comes served with mushrooms). One of the benefits of the food being prepared right at your table is that it is hot and fresh when it is served.

Chicken and Shrimp

While the chicken and shrimp were good enough just to eat plain, the chef does provide everyone at the table with three different dipping sauces. First is a mustard sauce that is recommended for use on steak and chicken, next is a ginger sauce that pairs well with the vegetables, and finally a white sauce for the shrimp.

Dipping Sauces

Of the three my favorite was the white sauce. The sauce is very rich and creamy (I believe it is mayonnaise-based) and it provides a refreshing, almost sweet contrast to the flavor of the shrimp; the two paired perfectly together. I also enjoyed the mustard sauce with the chicken, although this was much stronger in flavor than the white sauce. This one is definitely not for the faint of heart because it has a definite kick. I tried some of the ginger sauce with the vegetables, but I so enjoyed the way the vegetables were prepared that I preferred to eat them as-is rather than putting the sauce on them. Adding to this was the fact that I am not the biggest fan of ginger. I felt this sauce was a little too strong in flavor and actually took away from the taste of the vegetables.

One of the things I enjoy most about meals at Teppan Edo is that they are not only fresh, but they are also on the lighter side. As opposed other restaurants at Disney World which feature many heavier, filling dishes, Teppan Edo's menu features predominantly more healthy choices that leave you feeling satisfied, but not overly full. That being said, the serving sizes are very generous and my combination of chicken and shrimp along with the noodles and vegetables as well as the white rice was more than enough for a meal without even having an appetizer or dessert.

Full Entree Plate

Service:
There are two components to service at Teppan Edo. The first is your waitress who is responsible for taking your orders and serving your drinks as well as appetizers and desserts should you order any. The second is the chef who prepares the food at your table. In all my times visiting this restaurant I have found the waitresses to be very courteous and respectful. The type of service they provide is very much a reflection of Japanese culture. I can tell that they care very much about providing guests with the best possible dining experience. One thing that is common with the waitresses, however, is that they tend to be very soft-spoken and this can sometimes make them a little difficult to understand what they are saying.

The chefs all basically have the same performance while cooking but they greatly differ in delivery and style. While I have never had a chef at Teppan Edo that I would call bad, there are certainly some that are far more energetic than others. I think that the chefs certainly do feed off of the enthusiasm of those sitting at the table and cater their performance to the type of guests that are there. If there are several small children at the table the chef will often pay extra attention to them. A chef cooking for a table with a younger crowd might interact differently with them than a chef at a table with all older guests.

Not to stereotype, but I have tended to notice the younger chefs to be far more enthusiastic and outgoing than the older chefs. This is not always the case, however. Just as with the waitresses, the chefs' grasp of the English language can sometimes inhibit communication, but I have had several that spoke English very well. If a chef does not speak very good English, they might not talk very much while preparing the food. While the performance of your chef is certainly not the be-all-end-all of your dining experience at Teppan Edo I have had some that have made the meal very memorable. An entertaining and engaging chef can make an already good meal even better.

Dining on a Budget:
It used to be that Teppan Edo had separate menus for lunch and dinner that featured cheaper prices for lunch, but this is no longer the case. Teppan Edo is not the cheapest restaurant in Disney World, but for that price the amount of food that you get is very generous and you are also getting the entertainment of the food being prepared at your table. To get the most for your money I would recommend getting one of the combination entrees because they let you sample a wider selection of offerings than just ordering a single item. If you are looking to save some money, my best advice is to skip appetizers and desserts. The amount of food you get with your entrée that it is more than enough to leave you satisfied at the end of your meal; you certainly will not leave hungry.

Teppan Edo is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one dining credit. In addition, Annual Passholders can receive a ten percent discount on lunch Mondays through Fridays. The restaurant does not participate in Tables in Wonderland, however, and there is no discount for Disney Vacation Club members.

The Overall Experience:
Dining at Teppan Edo is more than just a meal, it is truly an experience. Not only are you getting good food, but you are getting the entertainment of that food being prepared in front of you right at your table. This combination of cooking and performance make for a really special dining experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family. This is the type of dining experience that is quintessentially Disney.

Even though teppanyaki-style restaurants are becoming more and more commonplace across the country, they still have a tremendous uniqueness factor. Teppan Edo is the type of restaurant that you are not going to eat at all the time and that is something that adds to its appeal. The fact that it is located at the Japan pavilion with servers and chefs actually from Japan lends added authenticity and a level of immersion into Japanese customs and culture that you do not necessarily get at similar restaurants. For this reason, even though I could just go to another teppanyaki restaurant a couple of miles away from my house, I still choose to go to Teppan Edo at Epcot because it provides a consistently fun and memorable dining experience from start to finish.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Teppan Edo and post your own too!


October 15, 2011

Halloween Howls at Fort Wilderness

By Guest Bloggers Carol and Gary Cruise

Ghosts and goblins are everywhere! Spooky golf carts and costumed dogs are the order of the day. It's a trick-or-treaters delight!

If you are at Walt Disney World during the month before Halloween be sure to set aside an evening to visit Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. You'll be very glad you did!

The campers at Fort Wilderness take great delight in decorating their campsites for every season and the Halloween season is absolutely packed full of fun at "the Fort". Halloween decorating began about seven years ago when one camper decided to re-do his site in a spooky way! The next year more joined in, and the next year still more, all trying to out-do their neighbors. After a few years it had developed into a major event and Disney decided to join in the fun with a site decorating contest, golf cart parade and plenty of other activities. There's fun for the whole family!

Here's the 2010 Schedule:

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The campsites are just amazing. You will see a vast array of Disney themed inflatables, often mingled with some downright scary animated mannequins. There are ghosts flying between trees in eerie foggy cemeteries, zombies crawling up from under the ground; there's even a skeleton eating a Mickey Bar. Unless you've seen it you cannot imagine how creative the campers can be. Some people have spent thousands to create a magnificent show. One site this year had a few dozen inflatables, countless strings of Halloween lights, animated Halloween characters and illuminated jack-o-lanterns, all flashing in perfectly multiplexed time to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". It was awesome! He won third prize in Disney's site decorating competition.

It's hard to describe how well it is done, so I'll let some pictures do the talking! Here are a few samples of what you will see:

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Some sites are decorated as early as September but the activity really accelerates in October. The last two weeks before Halloween are exciting times as campers race to get ready for the big day!

The first official Disney activity is the Mummy Wrap-Up which takes place in the morning the day before Halloween. It's held in the playing field beside the Meadows Swimmin' Hole. The campground Activities Cast Members wheel in hundreds of rolls of toilet tissue and families have a few minutes to wrap their children. It's a race against the clock! Once the cast members have called "Time" the children line up. At the count of three they all race to the far side of the field, turn around and race back. The wrapping (or what's left of it) is judged once they return. What a comical event; when it's over the field looks like a toilet paper cyclone went through!

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There are Halloween themed games in the Meadows Swimmin' Hole and creepy-crawly crafts at the pool-side pavilion.

The highlight of the day before Halloween is always the golf cart parade. You just cannot imagine what folks can do with a golf cart if you have not been there. All sorts of lights and Halloween inflatables festoon the carts. I can't imagine how they manage to power all the accessories they creatively to attach to the carts! Giant spiders and cats lurked on top of them. Several carts were transformed into pirate ships, two were Flintstones cars, one was a Disney Monorail car, one was a Kilimanjaro Safari truck and another was the hearse with the invisible horse from the Haunted Mansion. There were over two hundred carts in the parade. All were unique and some were simply amazing. My personal favorite was the two carts which were transformed into the Slinky Dog from the Toy Story movies. How do you rent two carts from Disney in the morning and transform them into the Slinky Dog in time for a 5:45 parade? That takes work and lots of ingenuity!

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Hundreds of people line the parade route to enjoy the fun while costumed drivers and riders on these outlandish carts toss candies to waiting children.

Halloween morning starts with the Pet Costume Parade. It begins at the Dog Park beside the 300 loop. There were about seventy five dogs and two very wary cats! Pets parade past the judges then promenade all the way around the 300 loop before returning to the Dog Park where the prizes are presented. Many of the owners also dress up for this event and many are themed to match their pets. One dog was dressed as Zero from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Of course his Dad and Mom were Jack Skellington and Sally. Another dog was in a Dumbo costume and Mom was also dressed as Dumbo while Dad was Timothy Mouse. There were many dogs dressed as Disney characters and even a tooth fairy.

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There are more activities throughout the day; you can create a tie-dyed t-shirt at the Bike Barn and get a temporary tattoo at the afternoon pool party before trick-or-treating begins at 5:00 p.m.

The trick-or-treating is one of our favorite parts of Halloween. Carol and I just love to see the kids in their costumes and the costumes at Fort Wilderness are often very creative. Many of the parents don costumes to accompany the kids, and some of those decorated golf carts chauffeur them around. It's a very busy night, we had over 600 trick-or-treaters, but it was oh-so-much fun! Our friends Lisa from Massachusetts and Terri from Louisiana came to join in the fun this year. We were visited by princesses, pirates, robots, all varieties of Disney characters, monsters, ghouls and even one youngster disguised as a Walt Disney World Monorail Car! We are so thankful that Lisa and Terri brought some extra candy . . . or we would have run out much earlier!

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There are all sorts of special Halloween activities such as the "Haunted Halloween Carriage Ride" which takes place every night during October. This half hour carriage ride passes through woods and trails along the shores of Bay Lake. Your driver tells the spooky story of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and your trip ends with a frightening face-to-face encounter with the headless horseman. This ride sells out quickly, so be sure to book early. There is also a nightly 45 minute horse drawn wagon ride which tours the campground and gives riders some wonderful views of the Halloween decor.

During the Halloween season Chip & Dale's nightly campfire, sing-along and outdoor movie takes on ghostly air with eerie songs and spooky movies.

So be sure to plan a trip to Fort Wilderness during the Halloween season. Disney campers would be happy to see you and we always like to talk about our decor ideas. Come in the evening to see the campground illuminated with all things spooky!

If you come by car you will be asked to park at The Outpost (campground entrance) and catch an internal campground bus to The Settlement, where Pioneer Hall and the Trail's End Restaurant are located. If you come by boat it is a very short walk to The Settlement. From The Settlement you can easily walk around the 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 700 loops to enjoy the spectacle. It's about two miles in total and you will see some amazing sights! If walking two miles is a problem, don't worry; you can see the many of the displays very well without getting of the bus!

Once you're finished your tour you might want to sit in a rocking chair on the Trail's End veranda and watch the world go by. Or perhaps you would like to pick up your favorite adult beverage from Crockett's Tavern and take it to the beach. There you can sit in a comfy chair on the patio or a lounge chair on the beach and enjoy a terrific view of the Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. It's spectacular to see it reflected off the waters of Bay Lake! They even pipe in the sound track to add to your enjoyment. After Wishes is over wait just a few minutes and the Electrical Water Pageant will sail by as it does every night at 9:45. It's a terrific way to end your day at Disney!

So come on over to Fort Wilderness and enjoy Halloween!

Thanks to John Ames, Will Garmer and TCD who agreed to share their photos with us.

October 18, 2011

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World

by Laura Wickell
AllEars Guest Blogger

The 41st Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic will be taking place this week, October 20-23, at Walt Disney World's Palm and Magnolia Courses. Among the featured golfers playing this year are the PGA TOUR's top players, Luke Donald and Webb Simpson. I'm volunteering at the golf course this week, as we're getting ready for the tournament, so I thought I'd share some photos.

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Here's a map to help you find your way around
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Mickey and Minnie will greet you at the 18th green
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And here's the 18th green Hospitality Tent:
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As in years past, the Wine & Dine Walk will be offered -- this year around the putting green of Disney's Magnolia Golf Course. Inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, specialty locations will offer culinary pairings of tapas-sized appetizers, entrees, desserts and wines especially for the event. Here's an idea of how they'll be set up.

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The leaderboard will be broadcasting football during the event:
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Finally, the 7 Dwarfs put in an appearance:
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As do some other topiary friends!
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The two-day pro-am field, which will compete Thursday and Friday of tournament week on both the Palm and Magnolia courses, is set to be headlined by Head Coach of the Boston Celtics Doc Rivers, former Super Bowl star Jerome "The Bus" Bettis (Pittsburgh Steelers), ex-NBA player Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat), Celtics' sharp-shooter Ray Allen, Tampa Bay Rays star Johnny Damon, future NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks (Tampa Bay Bucs) and popular MLB player Brian Wilson (SF Giants).

Read more about the tournament HERE.



October 19, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Downtown Disney October 17, 2011

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Near Earl of Sandwich and Once Upon a Toy, a giant Mickey pumpkin has been set up.

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Halloween decorations are set up outside of Pin Traders.

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Walls are up around a portion of the exterior of World of Disney as they work on the pavement.

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Outside of World of Disney, there is a Halloween display set up.

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The pavement work has been completed outside part of World of Disney.

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Walls are up around a portion of the Lego Store as well.

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Some of the pavement work has been completed outside the Lego Store. The Lego sculptures have been moved around somewhat.

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Over on the West Side, signs are up for the new stores.

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Halloween displays have also been set up on the West Side, across from D-Street.

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Click here to see my September Update which included Downtown Disney.

That's all for this update. Have a great day!

October 29, 2011

A bit of the Disneyland Resort

Alpha Gollihugh is a regular poster on the AllEars Facebook page. One of the ways she shares the magic is with her photo collages. Here are a few for you to enjoy from the Disneyland Resort.

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The Disneyland Hotel has a new counter service restaurant, called Tangaroa Terrace and bar,Trader Sam's. It is in the newly renovated pool area. It appears the renovation to hotel and pool will be going on for some time. What is done, looks really nice, and the monorail pool slides are fun for everyone.

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As the crowds climb at "summer" Disneyland, they really bring out the streetmosphere entertainers. Music is everywhere! The pics show a pirate quartet called the Boot Strappers they are quite good singers and tell funny
period jokes.

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Rode one of my childhood favs. Casey Jr Circus train and Storybook Canal Boats. They both cover this wonderful land of miniatures. See where Peter Pan took Wendy to Neverland, where Aladdin and Jasmine lived, Toad Hall, and Jepeto's village and many more. All the little plants are real and kept in a bonsied state for all to enjoy

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Ways to cool off at Disney California Adventure's Soarin'

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That's all for today folks!

October 30, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Epcot - October 27, 2011

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On October 27, we spent some time at Epcot. My last visit to Epcot was at the beginning of the month.

At The Land pavilion, there is a pumpkin patch set up next to the Garden Grill.

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Pumpkin patch

Part of the Canada pavilion is still under scrims.

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Work continues on the Japan pavilion.

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When I last visited Epcot, I forgot to check out the train village. Villagers are having their own Food & Wine Festival.

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That's all for this update. Have a great day! :)

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About October 2011

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in October 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2011 is the previous archive.

November 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.