30 September 2015

Taste Your Way - Part I

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicked off its 20th anniversary year last week. Like many of you, we’ll be living vicariously through the photos and reports from others during the festival’s run. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little Food & Wine fun at home! We’ll be combing through recipes from the last 20 years to give everyone a way to take a bite, or sip, out of Epcot from your own kitchen.

We have some bigger dishes that will make their way to our table in the coming weeks, but this week let’s start with a simple cocktail. The 2011 festival brought Hawaii to the marketplace and cocktails to the cookbook for the first time. At that culinary crossroad we find the Hawaiian offering, the Seven Tiki Mai Tai.



2 1/2 Ounces Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 Ounces Seven Tiki Spiced Rum
1/2 Ounce Mango Puree
1/4 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 Ounce Bacardi Select (Float)

A few notes on the items above. As you can tell from the photograph, we were unable to get Seven Tiki Spiced Rum in our area. We love to stay as close to the recipe as possible, in this instance we did have to find an alternative spiced rum. We opted for Sailor Jerry, but you should use whatever you prefer. So that you don’t spend too much time in your search, since 2011 Barcardi Select has been rebranded as Barcardi Black. Lastly, if you’re having trouble finding mango puree, may I suggest a trip down the baby food isle? That’s right, an adult beverage infused with food fit for your toddler.


Pour Seven Tiki, pineapple juice, mango puree, and lime juice into shaker; fill with ice and vigorously shake for 30 seconds.
Strain into double rocks glass filled with ice.
Float Bacardi Select.
Garnish with pineapple wedge.

Every Mai Tai recipe is a bit different, but this one will be a hit for those of you who are a fan of rum. It is a very strong drink, but the mango and pineapple do shine through. If you’re worried about the strength, I would recommend adding a bit more mango puree. It will cut the rum, but won’t carry the acidity of including additional pineapple juice. Overall, the Mai Tai is a nice, simple addition to your cocktail rotation.

Next week we’ll be bringing something savory to the Food & Wine home table.

24 September 2015

Specialty Waffle Fries

Several years ago our good friend Tony Caggiano introduced us to Widowmaker Fries. The concept is a simple one. You obtain an order of fries from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe. You then proceed to make your way around the toppings bar adding some of everything available to your fries. And I do mean everything, your fries are not true Widowmakers unless you’ve got all of the competing flavors vying for your taste buds’ attention! These are well and good, and an inexpensive way to gross out your friends and family for hours to come, but now there is something new on the horizon.

Golden Oak, just across the trail from Pecos Bill as you make your way to Adventureland, has begun serving loaded waffle fries to the masses. They have removed the idea of the toppings bar, whipped up some topping concoctions, and released them for all the world to partake in. Each is a junior version of the Widowmakers in their own rights. Don’t believe me? Let me run through the options for you.

Brown Gravy and Cheese Waffle Fries – toppings include brown gravy and white cheddar cheese curds.

BLT Waffle Fries – toppings include bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing.

Barbecue Pork Waffle Fries – toppings include barbecue pork and coleslaw.

Tex-Mex Waffle Fries – toppings include black bean cucumber relish, warm cheddar cheese, sliced jalapeños, and sour cream.

Like I said, each and every one is a junior version of the traditional Widowmaker Fries. It is worth mentioning that each of these currently cost around $8.00 and are served with a side of either apple slices or carrots. At this point, I’m sure you can imagine the ugly turn this article is about to take, can’t you?

Grab your hungriest amigo, order one of each, cast aside your apple slices and carrots, and combine all four version of the waffle fries into one heaping pile of top-tier Widowmaker Fries. Now, this isn’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t going to be a cheap snack either, but that’s what makes this the Cadillac of Windowmaker experiences.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I could not convince the missus to partake in such a Frontierland feast the last time we visited, so I have yet to indulge my inner Widowmaker. However, I’m certain that the next time Tony and I are both visiting Walt Disney World at the same time, this chowdown showdown will be on the menu for us!

23 September 2015

Crocodile Activity

When you are away in far off lands in Walt Disney World, there are times you don’t speak the language presented around you. Often times, when visiting Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the language you encounter is Swahili. If you’re making your way through the queue for Kilimanjaro Safaris, translations for animal names are easy to come by. This is especially easy to pick up if you’ve ever paid attention to names in The Lion King.

Then there are the times that language is presented to you without translation. Sometimes the context gives you clues, such as the markings around the Harambe Marketplace or the markers on the road throughout Kilimanjaro Safaris. There are always those times, however, that unless you translate the message you never quite know what information is being passed along. These are some of my favorite details in Harambe because I know not everyone takes the time to fully investigate the communications and proverbs sitting in front of them, so these are treasures (and I find all words to be treasures) that I know I share with only a dedicated few park detectives.

There is a last category of written communication, the type when worlds collide and the messaging is meant to beat you over the head. Such is the case with the image we’re exploring today. Taken from along the shores of the Discovery River, this gate is along the pathway to Festival of the Lion King. The messaging here is clear whether you are reading Swahili, English, or pictograph.

The Swahili text reads, “hawana baada ya giza.” It’s English translation, and I ran this through several different translators, comes out as, “they do not after dark.” It is likely more closely related to “closed after dark,” but I wanted to stay true to my translation. While the crocodile aspect is missing from this section, I imagine it is a safe bet that the locals know precisely why they shouldn’t visit the beach after the sun has set.

The English text reads, “Access after dark at risk. Crocodile activity on beach. Beware.” Straightforward and directly to the point. Clearly some of the non-native tourists have been forgotten that Harambe lives nestled up to, and in harmony with, the wild spaces of Africa.

If these two written warnings weren’t enough, there is one last message. A picture of an angry looking crocodile with sharp action lines radiating from his jaw. If this doesn’t get the idea across to you that there are crocodiles and that they are wild creatures who like to have their space, then I’m not sure what more the citizens of Harambe can do to give you a warning you will understand.

Vignettes like these are scattered all throughout Harambe, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Walt Disney World as a whole. It takes an investment of time to understand what you are looking at and how it plays into the story around you, and it may even take a little digging into a knowledge base you’re not familiar with, but it is well worth the exploration. You see more of the narrative and even have something special to share with friends and family that you bring along with you. Plus, you always know when to be on the look out for crocodiles!

14 September 2015

Lighting Up the Big City

News broke at the end of last week that this year would mark the 20th and final season from the Osborne Family Lights. Since 1996 these lights have been a staple of the holiday season inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There is a history with these lights, one that predates their time with Disney, and an almost mythical quality to their quantity and quality. While it is true that Walt Disney World has added to and upgraded the technology of the display over the past 20 years, the addition and changes to this pageantry of Christmas lights and displays have been minimal.

In 1986 Jennings Osborne’s daughter asked for their house in Little Rock, Arkansas to be decorated with 1,000 Christmas lights. The lights multiplied over the next several years until in 1993 the Osborne home and grounds were decked out with over 3,000,000 lights. Neighbors who felt there was a little too much holiday spirit were able to get a judge to issue a schedule for when the lights could be turned on and when they had to be off in 1994. When this court order was violated, the state Supreme Court ordered the lights to be shut off permanently. To make sure the world could still enjoy the lights, Osborne arrange for the lights to head to Walt Disney World.

When they arrive at Disney-MGM Studios in November of 1995, the Osborne Family Lights first called Residential Street their home. It was here along the eaves and lawns of the local residents, such as The Golden Girls, that the sheer number of bulbs that were being displayed practically overwhelmed their surroundings. With the closure and subsequent demolition of Residential Street’s facades in 2004, the lights found a new home, the Streets of America, where the displays could stretch out to be as tall, or taller, as they were wide. The addition of light shows choreographed to Christmas tunes only added to the already awe-inspiring display.

The holidays in my house have always been a struggle between my wife and I. She wants our house to stand as a testament to timeless Christmas spirit, complete with white lights on the tree, simple garlands around the house, and a few displays upon our lawn. For my part, I would love for our house to stand as a testament to the timeless Christmas spirit, complete with colored lights on the tree, the house, the bushes, and anything else in the lawn. Basically if I can put a light on it, it should have rainbow lights on it, and a tasteful train around the bottom of the tree. This likely explains my unabashed admiration and wonder at stepping out into the Streets of America and seeing the Osborne Family Lights covering up everything in sight and illuminating the night with strand light and merry songs.

A winter trip to Walt Disney World wasn’t in the works for the missus and me this year, but we may have to find a way just to thank the lights one last time. I will miss them, that much is certain.

When the announcement of lands dedicated to Star Wars and Toy Story dropped last month at D23 it was safe to assume that the Streets of America would soon have new tenants. It may have been naïve of me, but I had believed that Walt Disney World would find a new home for the lights, even if it wasn’t inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Decking the halls out of the Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, and Sunset Boulevard areas of the park was my first notion. But who knew, I thought, perhaps they could make their way over to Fort Wilderness and take on a new life in a resort that is already known for its guest-made Christmas displays.

Perhaps the real question facing the Studios now is what will become of its Christmas spirit? There will undoubtedly still be the lamppost and building decorations, the tree, and the music in the air, but where will the over-the-top spectacle be found? I cannot imagine that a park which is in the middle of reinventing itself won’t take this opportunity to reignite their dedication to the holiday season. Maybe guests will get a new fireworks show booming over the top of the Great Movie Ride, utilizing sound clips and scores from some of our favorite holiday classics. A little It’s A Wonderful Life mixed in with some Prep and Landing, or White Christmas intermingling between Love Actually, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street, with all of it leading into a finale kicked off with the immortal words of Tiny Tim. Who knows, it’s too soon for us to tell, but if the Osborne Family Lights taught us anything it is that we can never dream big enough.

If you head out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this winter make sure you take some time to stop and catch the lights. Search high and low until you find the black cat Halloween decoration that accidentally got included in the displays the Osborne family sent over to Walt Disney World, find the leg lamp, and make sure you have a great spot for one of the light shows that features the music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Soak in as much as you can, because in that moment you are living in someone’s Christmas wish.

11 September 2015

World Traveler

There are times when you are at Walt Disney World that you just want to sit, take in the moment, and relax. No rushing off to the next attraction, meal, or itinerary item, just a few moments to soak in everything a park or place have to offer. Sometimes it’s nice to keep these quiet corners where we take solace in the parks to ourselves. We wouldn’t want them to get overrun after all. Today, however, as I don’t think too many of these are big secrets, I thought we’d look at my favorite tranquil spots in Epcot.

5 – Imagination
This may seem a bit counterintuitive, with all of the jumping water, but stick with me. Once upon a time I used to love spending time on the upper level of the Imagination garden area. The jumping water, always just out of reach, was a favorite pastime of mine. The area still pulls in a great number of children, and between their clamoring and the roar of the backwards waterfall, the area isn’t exactly peaceful. Below the waterfall, where guests can grab their photograph with the water feature, isn’t exactly quiet either. If you’re seeking a bit of respite, however, you do have two options. Walking towards the back of the pavilion, near the restrooms, provides amble space and quiet, especially if you’d like to marvel at the architecture of the towering glass pyramid. Secondly, and my choice for a quiet space, is the garden path between Imagination and World Showcase. This path is well traveled, but not overly so, you can sit near fragrant rose bushes, within earshot of the waterfall for that relaxing sound, and even watch a monorail pass overhead. It’s the perfect getaway in the heart of Future World.

4 – International Gateway
Sure, when you first walk into Epcot the last thing you want to do is stop. International Gateway is an enticing spot though, particularly as you make your way around World Showcase. Watch the Friendships come and go, listen to the music from around the globe, sit in some shade; it truly has everything you could ask for in a quiet corner to call your own for a few minutes.

3 – Canada
True, Victoria Gardens are quite fetching, but have you ever noticed that there is nowhere to sit and enjoy the orchestrated blooms? This is, however, where most people are going to spend their time in the pavilion, between the gardens, Le Cellier, and O, Canada. My favorite corner, however, takes you to the upper level of the pavilion, beyond the trading post, to the cabins, Hotel du Canada, and mountain range. While there isn’t much shade here to hide from the Florida sun, it does offer solitude and quiet. Of course, the imaginary Imagineer inside me also likes to come up here to remember what used to be up here, and what might yet still be some day.

2 – France
This is a bustling pavilion, there is no question about that, but France also has a quiet space of its own. Cutting through the arcade and past the parfumerie, or coming up from the front of the pavilion and making your way around to the back side of the hedge garden, you’ll find your way to the coziest corner in the pavilion. There aren’t a lot of bunches to sit on, but there is a short wall that is present as part of a planter. I’ve spent many an afternoon napping away in this alcove, first as a child in a stroller, now as an adult perched along the wall. A word to the wise, don’t fall asleep too hard as there is nothing but hard ground to catch you if you turn over and tumble off of the wall.

1 – Japan
The gardens of Japan have long been one of my favorite spots in all of World Showcase, and with their recent refurbishment that affinity has only grown stronger. There is moving water and koi fish that bring life to the area, abundant exotic foliage, warm, glowing lamplight after the sun has set, unique pathways and bridges, and new seating to welcome weary travelers. Perhaps there is something to the fact that I see this entire section of the pavilion as the Japan I’ve always wanted to visit, it feels like the global clipper scene from Delta Dreamflight come to life, or perhaps it is just expertly designed to feel welcoming. Whatever the reason you are drawn to this corner of the pavilion, there is plenty of reasons to stay, rest, explore, and reflect.

As I went through this list, I realized all of my selections are in the western half of Epcot. True, there are a multitude of reasons to explore the entire park, but these are my hideaways when I want to get away from it. They just happen to all live on a single side of the park. We all have our own spaces where we take some downtime in the parks. Are any of these on your list when you’re in Epcot? Where else do you go in the park when you need a quiet place to just rest?

09 September 2015

A Social Club for Explorers

This month marks 8 years since the Adventurers Club closed in earnest. There were private events held at the club for another year, and the artifacts of the club have found their way to new homes around the world as part of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.). A night at the Adventurers club was never dull. Just to jog those cobwebs out of your memory banks, how about a look at an old rack card promoting the Adventurers Club and their nightly schedule?

How many memories do you have from the Treasure or Mask rooms? How was your induction ceremony? And who could ever forget Fingers? Heck, this card takes us so far back, it predates Samantha Sterling. Early on another character took on cabaret duties, Mandora! The gag being was it a man playing Dora or was Mandora her actual name? While short-lived, Mandora certainly earned her place in the Adventurers Club hall of fame.

What was your favorite part of an evening at the Adventurers Club? For my part, I always loved the off the cuff interactions with the members of the Club. They always found a way to leave you smiling, or with a quizzical look wondering what, exactly, just happened. That and whenever I received a piece of mail. No matter what brought you to the Adventurers Club, my friends, Kungaloosh!

04 September 2015

Exotic Fresh Fruits of the Islands

The Tahitian Terrace was an Adventureland staple from 1962 into the early 1990s, when it was replaced by Aladdin’s Oasis. During its time, the Tahitian Terrace featured a luau show, seating beneath an ever green and blossoming tree, and a tropical waterfall. It wouldn’t have been a tropical getaway without some punch right? Disneyland being what it was, however, the punch was family friendly of course!

Planters Punch Tahitian was the original punch that combined a bevy of flavors that quickly whisked partakers away to a tropical island. However, the original recipe from the 1960’s was a big on industrial sizing and not exactly practical to make at home. What do I mean by that? Well, take a look:



1 Case Welch’s Grape Juice
1 Case Orange Juice
1 Case Pineapple Juice
½ case Lemon Juice (18oz cans)
1 Quart Grenadine
16 Pounds Granulated Sugar
18 Gallons Cold Water


Stir together all the above ingredients until sugar is dissolved and juices are well mixed.

Unless you’re a caterer with a mighty thirsty crowd, this probably won’t help you very much. However, Disneyland in their infinite wisdom did create a recipe that invoked the spirit of the punch, if not the exact ingredient and quantities. We whipped up a batch this week to share with you.



11.5 Ounces Welch’s Grape Juice Concentrate
6 Ounces Pineapple Juice
3 Tbsp Grenadine
3 Tbsp Lemon juice
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Tang Powdered Orange Drink
5 Cups Water


Mix the above ingredients until well mixed.
Serve over ice.
Yields 2.5 quarts.

This punch packs a punch… of sweetness! It might even be a little pucker inducing, but it is a fun punch with flavors that you don’t typically find in a tropical punch. The grape is right out in front, as you would expect, and the aftertaste leaves you the hint of orange from the Tang. For my palate, the Tahitian Terrace Punch could do with a bit more water to thin things out a bit, perhaps a bit less sugar, and/or a splash or two of rum. Hey, my backyard is more Trader Sam’s than Adventureland!

The lemon juice isn’t specified as the processed variety you can buy in stores or fresh squeezed. I opted to go with fresh squeezed for my first try.  And my wife was utterly flabbergasted that I actually purchased Tang for the concoction, but I tried to stay as true as possible to the recipe. Go ahead and give the Tahitian Terrace Punch a whirl! If nothing else, the recipe provides a great base from which to create your own unique spin on the tropical blend.

03 September 2015

A113 Open

If you happen into the Trolley Car Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a caffeine fix, be sure to look around. The trolley depot has a lot of wonderful storytelling details scattered about to give guests a sense of time and place. Of course, some details have more of a storied past than others. Just take a gander at the control panel to see what I mean. There are a lot of stories to be uncovered on this display, but my favorite just happens to be the junction marked A113 OPEN.

Some of you already know where this is going, but for the uninitiated let’s do a little digging. A113 has a longstanding tradition of being tucked away in films. Most notably in Pixar films, but they don’t have this nod locked down exclusively. A113 is the courtroom we find Carl in during Up, the license plate number belonging to Andy’s mom in Toy Story, and it was a secret directive number in WALL-E, amongst its many placements. Moving away from Pixar to other television and film appearances, the code can be seen in Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Firefly, The Powerpuff Girls, Lilo & Stitch, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Meet the Robinsons, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and many, many others. Not to mention the number of times its begun showing up in video games. This can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it?

No, but all of these A113 references do have something in common, the California Institute of the Arts; or as it is more commonly known, CalArts. A113 is a classroom at CalArts that is most often used for graphic design and animation programs and classes. Animators and designers pay their respects to the alma mater by including this nod to a classroom that they and many of their colleagues passed through. It may be well trodden and almost common knowledge at this point, but anytime an inside joke is honoring an academic institution, it is well worth the time to find it.

A113 isn’t the only reference to be found in the Trolley Car Cafe, it isn’t even the only hidden detail tucked away on the control panel, but it is one of the most recognizable. While you’re grabbing a cup of joe, take a few ticks to seek out this CalArts easter egg and then take another moment or two to think of where your favorite A113 reference can be found.