Epcot 2017 Food and Wine Festival, Part One

So we finally made it to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year. Actually, it was the traditional kickoff weekend, as well as our tradition, too. And it also aligned with the 35th Anniversary of Epcot’s Opening Day.

In spite of the crowds, we managed to sneak off early and catch a few booths before the rest caught up with us. Everything we tried was tasty, but Rich’s favorite was the chicken with peanut sauce from Thailand. It reminded me of my trip to Thailand several years ago.

We plan to drop in on Epcot a couple of evenings to taste some of our other favorites, to try some new offerings since our last visit, and to enjoy the nighttime atmosphere and live music.

More tasty treats from Africa, Germany, Mexico, Thailand and New Zealand.

Disney World Resort Lounge Hopping, Part 1

We debated on whether to go to the Food & Wine Festival on Saturday, but decided against it because it’s too soon, too hot, and too crowded on this Labor Day weekend. We always thought it was way too hot to enjoy the food and drink when it used to begin the end of September – let alone the beginning of September. So we’ll wait awhile to start our tasting around the World.

Instead, we headed for Wilderness Lodge for drinks and snack in Territory Lounge Saturday evening. Rich dropped me off at the porte cochere and I went in to see if I could snag us a table. I not only found the table we had last time but I found one even better in the corner with two comfy chairs.

After our usual vodka martinis, we had the pizza again but this time also tried the wings – so incredibly tasty. But too much in one sitting so we brought them home for a little snack.

It had been raining quite hard but by the time we were done, it was barely drizzling so we popped into Roaring Forks and got a gingerbread cookie and sat outside in the new covered outdoor seating area and shared it. First we said we’d each have a bite, but one bite became two and we said it would taste far better there than it would at home so we finished it off – lol!

Then we walked down to Geyser Point and noticed how busy it was with families. We continued strolling the grounds and went back in for one more walk through the gift shop, and then headed back home. What fun!

As always, Wilderness Lodge wraps around you like a big bear hug – can’t we just live there while waiting for our house to be built? 🙂

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs Feels Like Coming Home

Let’s be honest – when you make a bold change, you turn your life upside down. And I’ve done this more than a few times through marriage, divorce, religious conversion, a quest to find dad, inter state moves, cross country moves, and moves across town. They’re all stressful no matter how much you want or don’t want them.

Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs was exactly what was needed after 16 weeks of living in temporary housing after leaving our home in Las Vegas, no matter how fancy or resort-like this place may be. Along about now, we need a little dose of home.

We arrived early for our 7:40 reservation but as soon as we sat down at an outside table with our beeper, it went off and we were seated on the screened porch at our request. Right away we were immersed in the down home southern hospitality feeling as if we were visiting family.

The Screened Porch Bar

David introduced himself and he was an excellent server, attentive, and genuinely likeable. He told us something about Art Smith, although we were already quite familiar with him, made his recommendations, and took our order.

For our meal, we chose to share a few appetizers and drinks, fully aware of budget and calories, as we must be with frequent trips to Disney as locals.

Rich started with the Bootlegger and I had the Moonshine Margarita, which were tasty twists on a classic Rum Runner and Margarita.

We then shared the Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Fried Green Tomatoes, and the Thigh High Chicken (with Cheddar) Biscuits. All were delicious but the biscuits were our favorite.

It was a fabulous night with great food, drink, atmosphere and company with a nice dose of home, taking me back to my childhood and a southern grandma’s cooking, where you’re always welcome, greeted with hugs and love and good food.

Looking back at the porch, saying our good nights.

We’ll be back, though, because there is just so much more deliciousness to be tasted. But, for now, we’re going to take a break from catching up with these new restaurants and focus on the house build. Oh, yeah, and the Food & Wine Festival, too. 🙂

Anniversary Celebration at Morimoto Asia

By Rich

After driving through a huge Florida rain storm to get to Disney Springs, we were pleased that the weather had cleared as we arrived for our anniversary dinner at Morimoto Asia. This restaurant has been on our list of must-dos since we first heard about it.

We checked in at the front desk at 7:10 for our 7:30 reservation. We were seated immediately at a table for two upstairs along the glass railing overlooking the downstairs dining room. This was a great location. It was less crowded than downstairs, and we had a great view of the whole restaurant.

Before arriving, we had reviewed the menu and selected what we wanted to eat and drink. However, when we looked at the menu, and then talked with our server, we found out that the drinks we were expecting to order (Singapore Sling for Kathy, a Morimotini for me) were no longer available. Instead, we both chose the Momo Mai Tai. It was a very tasty, and potent, choice. We did manage to order the four appetizers we had planned.

Menu

Drinks

Momo Mai Tai

Wicked Dolphin Dark Rum, Cruzan Light Rum, Passion Fruit, Blood Orange, orgeat, Pineapple

Appetizers

Rock Shrimp Tempura

Signature tempura rock shrimp, spicy gochujang aioli

Tuna Pizza

Crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeño, anchovy aioli

Morimoto Spare Ribs

Pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze

Kakuni Pork Bao

Steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo

Dessert

Cream Caramel

Yuzu caramel sauce, black sesame whipped cream, black sesame air cake

The architecture and atmosphere at Morimoto Asia is amazing. Well-conceived modern Asian design with interesting seating and decorations. It was fun just to look around at everything. The ambiance created a perfect setting for us to share our celebratory anniversary experience.

After we sorted out our drink order, we ordered the first three appetizers (minus the Pork Bao). Once the other appetizers arrived, we realized we wanted the Pork Bao too and added that to our order. Sharing small plates over a couple yummy drinks is one of our favorite ways to dine. And this was the epitome of this kind of dining.

I could not share the shrimp, but Kathy was blown away by the great flavors of this signature dish from Morimoto. The tuna pizza, another signature dish, was full of flavor and texture, enhanced even more when our server brought us some soy sauce to drizzle on it. Wow!

The spare ribs were the ideal sticky, Asian-style ribs we love so much. We could have eaten more of these. And the savory steam buns were filled with flavorful pork belly and a mayo with some kick.

Kathy asked me which appetizer was my favorite, and I didn’t have an answer. They were all incredible.

We were unsure if we wanted dessert, but since we wanted to linger, we decided to share an order of the cream caramel. We had a bit of a wait for the dessert to be delivered. The cream caramel itself was rich and delicious. The black sesame whipped cream and air cake added a bit of an odd savory flavor, but nonetheless, this was a nice ending to a marvelous anniversary dinner.

We’ve had some incredible dining experiences in our 21 years of marriage, and this ranks up there as one of the best.

Thoughts by Kathy:

As fans of all those cooking shows on TV, we were really curious about Morimoto’s food. And then when Deb Wills talked about the new late night cocktail menu and how, in her younger days, she might have downed them all – lol – well, we just had to experience this. And I know exactly what she means. Really cool vibe – kind of like an updated contemporary 70s Disco – at least like the one I used to frequent several nights a week. All that was missing was the dance floor. Oh, and maybe some disco balls.

The food was amazing and even the Mai Tai had a special flavor of its own. Rich couldn’t help me with the Shrimp so I took some of it home and had it for lunch the next day – yum!

We didn’t announce our anniversary, unlike our birthdays. Last year was the big 20th anniversary cruise and we wanted to play it a little more low key this year.

This was our first time at Disney Springs at night and it is so fabulous – very Vegas in a good way and now trumps Downtown Disney at Disneyland.

We stopped by Art Smith’s Homecoming, which we’re hoping to check out later this fall when we might be more in the mood for a bigger meal. It looked quite inviting and I’m sure it’s delicious, but I don’t really eat fried chicken any more. Still, we do want to try it.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming

Outside seating for street fare, Morimoto’s

Entrance to Morimoto Asia

Floating staircase leading to upstairs dining

Table for two seating along the upstairs rail

Morimoto’s Mai Tai – delish!

Rich enjoyed his Mai Tai

Kathy enjoying her Mai Tai in lieu of Singapore Sling, which is no more

 

Signature dish – tuna pizza

Signature dish – shrimp tempura

Ribs, appetizer portion

Bao buns

Cream caramel

After our meal, we strolled around Disney Springs to take a look after dark, stopped to listen to a band, and then a night time view of Morimoto’s all lit up – really cool!

Evening entertainment Tuesday-Thursday

Amphicar

The Boathouse at night

Morimoto’s all lit up

Rich’s Birthday Celebration Part 1: Na-vi River Journey and Nomad Lounge

One of the fun things about living here is checking for FastPass+ for some of the more popular rides in the 30-day window – you never know what you might find. We’d heard about the craziness of Pandora’s opening day (just entering the park had to be scheduled), and thought we might not be able to ride either of the two new rides until after the summer crowds were over.

But I happened to notice an opportunity for the night before Rich’s birthday and thought what a fun birthday kickoff that would be. Besides, he was taking his birthday off so it would be okay if we were out late on a work night. This was also the first time we’d experience Animal Kingdom at night since they started extending the hours. For most of its history, it would close around 7 pm or so, and we had only experienced it during the morning hours.

We arrived at the park at around 6 pm or so (I think our FP was for about 7 pm), parked, and trammed to the entrance. We noticed right away that there was a lot of shade at this time of day, which was a relief because AK can be very hot. It was busy but not unpleasantly so. We stopped off at Guest Relations so Rich could get his birthday button. He got a lot of happy birthday wishes. We even stopped at PhotoPass, the first we’d done that since we got our APs.

We explored Pandora and were very impressed with it. Animal Kingdom used to be somewhere we’d go about every 5 years – lol! But now it may be our second favorite park, although it’s certainly giving Epcot a run for its money.

We enjoyed the ride so much, we’ve made another FP and can’t wait to return. (Besides, we need to see the rest of the park because we really didn’t see much other than Pandora).

Afterwards we stopped in at Nomad Lounge and peeked into Tiffins. We were quite impressed with both. But with birthday dinner the next day, we were there for appetizers and drinks. It was a bit warm outside so we found a nice air-conditioned table and chairs inside and ordered our drinks.

Rich got the Lamu Libation, a Rum Runner type drink, and I got the Hightower Rocks, a watermelon Margarita – so refreshing! Then we ordered the Florida LionFish Tacos and Pork Ribs. The tacos were refreshing, although the shell was too dainty and broke, making eating it a bit difficult. But the ribs, oh my goodness, absolutely delicious!

Afterwards, we walked around outside the lounge, making plans to return next time after dark when it’s a bit cooler out there. The tables for two are a bit small so that might be best saved for drinks only, although there are couches and tables for larger parties.

We headed back to Pandora to take another look around in the dark – the atmosphere is so amazing. We’d skipped dessert at Nomad Lounge (Churros was the only choice), so we picked up some dessert at a walk-up – some kind of cream cheese pineapple eggroll, I think. It was tasty, although the filling squirted out and got a bit messy.

Anyway, we then headed back to our “resort,” which is about 45-minutes to an hour away, depending on where we are in the park and traffic. But, having lived 2 miles from WDW for a year, we know the back roads pretty well.

It was really a wonderful way to kick off Rich’s birthday. Unlike my birthday when we did a morning activity, back to the resort, and then back to Disney for dinner, we split it up – evening activity the night before, back to the resort for a restful morning, and then back to Disney for birthday dinner.

The lush Pandora grounds

The ceiling in the Nomad Lounge (while there we chatted with a couple who lived in Windermere, where we used to live). They were staying onsite for the wife’s birthday.

Lamu Libation

Hightower Rocks

LionFish Tacos

Pork Ribs


Looking back at Nomad Lounge

Territory Lounge

Thirteen weeks and counting since we left our home in Las Vegas, and this is starting to feel like the longest road trip ever – lol. So even though we had a fabulous night at Epcot last Friday, by Sunday the “resort” was feeling quite confining. Rich said, “Let’s go to Disney Springs” and off we went.

We arrived at around 6 p.m. and it was still quite hot out with very few clouds. We actually enjoy the afternoon storms because they cool things off and when they’re missing, it can be pretty uncomfortable in late afternoon. Disney Springs was also very crowded, so we turned around and headed for Wilderness Lodge. Just the sound of it was refreshing, and we’d been toying for some time with the idea of a drink and snack at Territory Lounge – “Berry Cobbler” in particular.

Rich dropped me off at the Lodge while he self-parked and so I waited for him in the Lobby. Ah, you know how wonderful that is! When he joined me, we made our way to the Lounge, found a table with a view of people going in/out of Artist Point. Such fun people-watching. We began to relax and feel quite at home here. I’d been craving a vodka martini and Rich said, “Dirty?” and ordered 2 “dirty” vodka martinis. They really hit the spot.

Feeling a lot like we were at our favorite Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian where we would get a Flatbread, I spotted the Neopolitan Pizza, which we shared and was so yummy! I was quite full after that and suggested we skip dessert. Well, I thought Rich might cry – lol – so I said, “Go ahead and get dessert” and he ordered the Cobbler and a decaf, and I managed to help him out with both.

Not a bad way to kill time while waiting for a new home to be built, right? I wish we were going there tonight. I can taste the martini and the pizza. The CMs were so friendly and the manager stopped by to see how we were doing. It was also quite a nice crowd – couples and a couple of families with well-behaved kids. What a delightful evening! Territory Lounge definitely competes quite well with Hearthstone Lounge, which I’m happy to know because I was afraid I would be missing Hearthstone too much. No problem!