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December 15, 2016

Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt is fun, free game at Disney Springs

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Here’s a Christmas experiment that you can help ensure turns out to be anything but a disaster.

Building on the popularity of various types of scavenger hunts throughout its theme parks, Walt Disney World has introduced a new such game at Disney Springs for the holidays. Through Jan. 8, guests can play Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt.

This scavenger hunt takes participants from the West Side of Disney Springs to the Marketplace in search of the presents Stitch forget to buy because he lost his Christmas shopping list. At the end, there is a reward (beyond the personal satisfaction of finding each item). It probably goes without saying by now, but there is no admission fee for Disney Springs and parking is free.

To get started, guests can pick up a complimentary booklet with directions on how to find the gifts Stitch planned for his ’ohana (family): Lilo, Nani, David, Cobra Bubbles, Jumba, Pleakley, Mrs. Hasagawa, Moses Puloki, Mertle, Elena, Teresa and Yuki. Locations to get the free booklet are the Disney Springs Welcome Center, Once Upon a Toy, Super Hero Headquarters and the information desk inside World of Disney. The various starting points allow players to join the game at any point in their shopping and dining experience.

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My 14-year-old son tried the new Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt recently on his own and enjoyed it. He said the game leads participants into 12 different stores on the hunt for pictures of Stitch with the gifts he has chosen for his ’ohana. Some pictures are just inside the doors while others are deep inside the stores. Unlike Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak game, which takes place outdoors during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt is indoors except for walking between stores so the game easily can be played during the day or at night.

You also can modify the difficulty level of the game if you play with more than one person. The booklet gives written and visual clues and also lists the actual stores to look inside, so you could work off just the clues if you have an individual who is keeping the store locations secret. Hint: One store is a sweet spot; be sure to collect your free chocolate! Hint No. 2: Another store is located near the new Christmas Tree Trail, so you might want to take a few minutes away from the game to check it out.

As the players find each picture of Stitch and his gift, they paste a sticker that depicts the same image on the appropriate spot in their booklets. If your children are at all competitive, like mine, I would recommend having them take turns with the clues to keep the game a friendly endeavor. Of course, each child can complete his or her own booklet and receive a prize, too.

When you finish, head back to one of the starting locations to collect your prize, a Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt button. Happy Holidays!



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December 6, 2016

Chef Morimoto and Chef Art Smith host progressive dinner at Disney Springs

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It was a night for foodies to celebrate – and eat and drink, of course! And I was fortunate enough to join them to cover the first progressive dinner between two top Disney Springs restaurants with their celebrity chefs as the hosts.

On Saturday, guests took part in the Sake and Shine dinner that started at Morimoto Asia and finished next door at the Shine Bar portion of Homecoming Kitchen. Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Chef Art Smith not only oversaw the meal, but they circulated among diners and even gave each other cooking lessons that served as demonstrations for the participants, as well.

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We began our evening at 7:30 p.m. at Morimoto Asia, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary at Walt Disney World. We gathered on the upstairs terrace, taking advantage of the cooler Florida temperatures, to sample a three-course Pan-Asian feast.

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The fun began when Chef Morimoto announced he would be teaching Chef Smith how to make sushi. First, he showed Chef Smith how it was done, slowly laying out the ingredients on the seaweed before rolling and slicing. Then, Chef Morimoto waited for Chef Smith to take a stab at it. He good-naturedly did so, before Chef Morimoto informed him that he would be teaching the diners how to make sushi, too. Eight lucky participants took turns stepping up to the table and learning from the chefs.

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Then we all got to sample some of Chef Morimoto’s delicacies. Paired with the restaurant’s sake, we tasted Spicy Tuna, Shrimp Tempura, California and vegetable rolls, as well as a variety of Nigiri, including Tako (octopus), Hamachi (yellowtail), Kanpachi (amberjack), Maguro (Tuna), Mizudako (live octopus), Sake (salmon) and Lion Fish. I had never tried sushi, but I decided that if I were going to take the culinary plunge, this would be the place to do so. And I’m happy I did because I actually enjoyed the rolls and ate all the pieces I was given. I was less inclined to finish the Nigiri, largely because it prominently featured large strips of raw fish.

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Our second course was Alaskan King Crab and Nantucket Bay Scallop “Ankake” over crispy noodles. The contrast of the textures in the thick seafood sauce and the crunchy paper-thin noodles made this dish really appealing. And the large portion size was more than I could eat. I wish this were on the regular dinner menu at Morimoto Asia. The second course was paired with Morimoto’s Sobe Ale, which is available as a draft in the restaurant.

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Our third and final course was a Five Spiced Braised Beef Short Rib with Sansho Peppercorn Sauce and Wilted Dou Miao. This short rib was so tender that it fell apart on the fork and was just delicious. Although this particular dish is not on the Morimoto Asia menu, the chef does offer Morimoto Spare Ribs (pork ribs with cilantro and hoisin sweet chili glaze). Our beef short rib was paired with a Primus red wine blend.

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By this point, it was 9:30 p.m. and the progressive dinner originally was scheduled to end at 9 p.m. The chefs seemed to be in no hurry to end the evening, however, and we all walked across the courtyard to Chef Smith’s Shine Bar that is connected to his Homecoming Kitchen restaurant. On our way out, we each were handed the evening’s menu, which had been autographed by Chef Morimoto and Chef Smith. What a thoughtful and much-appreciated gesture!

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At Shine Bar, Chef Morimoto and Chef Smith mingled with guests, posing for photo after photo. We were invited to sample the varieties of Moonshine-based cocktails at the bar, including MoonShine Mash (made with Mrs. Sutton’s Watermelon Likker), Sweet Tea Shine and MuleShine (made with White Lightning).

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Then, Chef Smith challenged his friend and fellow chef to learn how to properly ice one of his Hummingbird Cakes. Chef Smith is known for his version of the popular Southern dessert, which is a pineapple-banana cake with cream-cheese frosting. When he was the personal chef for Oprah Winfrey, she gave many of his creations to friends as birthday cakes. Chef Smith’s Hummingbird Cake also was the most popular dessert at his Chicago restaurant, Table Fifty-Two.

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Despite that daunting history, Chef Morimoto took on the task of playfully icing a Hummingbird cake and then we all sampled slices. Guests also were invited to taste Chef Smith’s signature Shine Cake, a butter cake that is soaked with Moonshine syrup, and visit a strawberry shortcake bar. (Florida strawberries typically start their short harvest season in December.)

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The evening wrapped up at about 10:30 p.m., making what was scheduled for 90 minutes a three-hour event. The first Sake and Shine dinner was lively and leisurely at the same time. Both chefs said they would like to pair up again for another progressive dinner, so be sure to follow them and their restaurants on Facebook, which is where these types of announcements typically will be made.

The cost of the event was $225 per person (including tax and gratuity). The tickets were available on the Patina Group’s website, which is another resource for food news.

DISCLAIMER: I was a media guest at the Sake and Shine dinner. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.



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