How I Ended Up Leaving Big Law and Moving to Disney World

“Just put a date on the calendar. I don’t care if it’s two weeks from now or two years from now. Just put it down. And then spend whatever span of time exists between now and then wrapping your head around this. Because it’s going to be hard.”

It ended up being just about 6 months from that day. It also ended up being hard.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I graduated from Harvard Law in the spring of 2004, bright eyed and ready to throw my type A personality into a world of corporate law where I’d perhaps spend forever or perhaps spend a brief amount of time. I was looking forward to being still in one pursuit and actually didn’t choose one particular very prestigious law firm because they asked me, at the interview, what my plans were for after I’d leave them. (Of course the fact that an associate there cried during his interview of me didn’t help either….) I packed up my things in Cambridge, said lots of tearful farewells, and was moved by my chosen firm into my new apartment in NYC – which I shared with a dear law school friend whom I would almost never see because 99% of my time would be spent in the office.

Then life started to happen.

Truth be told, I loved aspects of what I did. Playing with the English language was always my jam. I dare someone to give me a mathematical formula that I can’t memorialize in contract-speak. The people were brilliant. The deals were bigger than my young self could wrap her head around. I worked so. damned. hard. and I was proud of the work that I was putting out and the respect that I was getting. But it didn’t fulfill me and when you’re billing 400 hour months, you’re screwed if it doesn’t fulfill you. I envied the people that were fulfilled. It would have all been so EASY if I was fulfilled.

But life kept happening.

I met a wonderful man. He had a lucrative trucking company but had regrets about never dedicating himself to academics. And we had the means! If we had anything, we had means. So we committed to each other and he enrolled to finish his degree. We got engaged. We left Wall Street for DC. I took the Virginia bar and started a new practice at a new Big Law firm. The people were still brilliant. I was still proud of the work that I was putting out. But it still didn’t fulfill me. I still envied the people that were fulfilled. I was mentored by a wonderful, powerful, brilliant woman who was killing it in partnership. She seemed to outsource everything else in her life and was okay with it. I wouldn’t have been. Because the work itself wasn’t enough.

I know that the idea of being “fulfilled” is eyeroll inducing. I was raised by a father who told me to be grateful that I had work. And he was right – in a way. And to the degree that he wasn’t it didn’t matter because he was my dad and that was how I was raised. I had gone to Columbia and Harvard. I had a “great job”. My qualms about it must have been wrong. I was lucky and my internal dialogue must have been wrong.

I wasn’t getting any younger and I didn’t want to hold up the rest of my life while I figured out this pink elephant in the room, all consuming detail. We bought a house and had two children that were (and still are) my world.

But then my dad got sick. Shortly after the birth of my second child, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and life as I knew it stopped. The nightmare started.

There were no down times in my father’s fight against cancer. There were no quiet moments of togetherness. Acute leukemia in a sixty-something man is not a gentle disease. Over the course of 10 months I mothered my two young children, supported my family financially in corporate law, tried to support my mother emotionally and mentally, and screamed alone in my car while beating the steering wheel. Those 10 months were the sort of time that people on the outside look in on and say they “don’t know how you survived”. Like anyone in that sort of situation, the answer was that survival was the only option. I worked. I cried. I took care of my kids. I tried to be a good wife. I answered calls from my delirious father at 3 a.m. yelling that I’d abandoned him in the hospital and “WHY WASN’T I COMING TO GET HIM???” You just survive. You wake up in the morning and you do whatever you need to do to haul yourself and the people that you love through the day.

I used every tool I knew to keep a clear head. I ran. I meditated. I ate well. I meditated more. I ran more. And more. I ran until the chaos went away. I had never been a runner. But I ran because it was all that worked.

On February 20, 2014 – incidentally my 36th birthday – I got a call from my mom and my father’s oncologist. They were together in his office on speakerphone. The oncologist didn’t mince words.

“We are no longer prolonging your father’s life. We are prolonging his death.”

I was an only child. I was the decisive one. I had written my father’s advance directive. I had not one shred of doubt.

We did the terminal extubation the next day.

They gave him morphine for hours. When they pulled out the tube the sound was horrible. Something inhuman came out of my vocal chords too. I remember it vaguely. I remember falling. Then I remember standing back up. It was a moment of falling apart I’d allowed myself. Then I stood back up.

We started picking up the pieces. I kept working. We waded through the death-related mass of paperwork.

I kept working. I also kept running.

We started going back to Disney with the kids. My heart sang when I was there and ached when I left. I found out about a half marathon there that was exactly 2 years after the date of my father’s death.

I kept working. But I was training for something symbolic. I billed 400 hour months. I spent my younger son’s 2nd birthday closing a deal in a hotel room while my husband celebrated with them in other parts of the resort. But I was training for something symbolic.

On February 21, 2016 I ran the Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. It was my f- you to the universe. I was still kicking. It was everything that I hoped it would be.

And then it was over and I went home. And I kept working. And I started to crumble inside.

My husband had finished his degree in mechanical engineering. No small feat for a man who’d reentered the academic world in his 40s, surrounded by kids who’d been raised on computers. He’d tried a responsible government job at the patent office. Then sales engineering. He could have made it work but none of it felt like him. He didn’t belong behind a desk. To an extent, trucking *had* been him. Now he had his degree and we knew what he was capable of but we also knew what felt right. The wheels started turning. Pun sort of intended.

Then I came home from that race and I kept working. And I crashed. I’d run the half. I’d said my f- you to the universe. But nothing had changed. I got on the phone with one of my best friends.

“We’re getting me out. Soon. We have to. I can’t take it anymore.”

“No. You’re not. You hate where you are but you’re not going to be  able to change it like that.” No matter how much I hated it, it was still a huge part of my identity. It was also how I put food on the table.

What is that Law of Inertia? An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Crisis and my own brute strength desperate determination would become that unbalanced force.

I had the fateful conversation with my friend. Put a date on the calendar and spend the time between now and then coming to terms with it and preparing financially. I wrote August 11th on the calendar. I bought my husband an 80-foot long car hauler. He went on the road. I took care of the kids and kept working. I banked every penny.

On July 28, 2016, I gave notice. I fought for my decision with the partnership for hours. I turned down the idea of a sabbatical because I knew I wouldn’t start to heal without a clean break. They said I would be miserable. I didn’t want to admit to them that I already was.

Ultimately I stretched my remaining time with the firm out for a bit to try to ease the transition. My last day of work was August 22, 2016. I came home and packed and we went to Disney later that week.

The process of detoxing from a life in Big Law is a subject for another day. The months following my exit were, and still are, the sort of soul searching difficult that does not sum up tidily or easily. I had ups and downs. I purged my house. I kept running. I started to allow myself to daydream about what might be next.

Suffice to say that after 13+ years in Big Law and everything else that those years encompassed, and with a dear husband who is now more often than not on the road for work, we found ourselves fully portable from a work perspective, staged and sold our Maryland home, and built a house in Florida immediately north of the Magic Kingdom.

Because when you are forced to wake up to how short life is, following your joy starts to make a lot more sense.

Eat This: China Booth – Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival 2017

I truly don’t know how or why it’s taken me so long to talk about the China booth at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival. What I do know is that it’s a situation that needs to be remedied, as it’s one of my all around go to favorites at F&W this year.

So let’s not waste any more time than we already have…. I give you, China:

  • Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce ($6.50)

Duck Bao China Epcot Food and Wine

In retrospect, as I start this review, China is all about this insanely delicious duck bao bun. I’ve had it probably more times than any other single item at this year’s Food & Wine Festival and as I’m sitting here looking at this picture I would like to have it again. The bun is spongy and soft, the duck is lean and flavorful and well cooked. The veggies and onion add a subtle crunch and the hoisin sauce gives that kick of sweetness that hoisin sauce should.

  • Spicy Chicken Bao Bun ($5.25)

Epcot Food and Wine China Chicken

Another tasty bao bun, another day. This is a simple dish – just a fried finger of chicken with spicy sauce and green onions. It’s not the duck, but it’s a solid option.

  • Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles ($5.75)

Epcot Food and Wine China Shrimp 2

This is unapologetically just tasty Chinese food. The shrimp are tender and sitting on a bed of soft noodles, all of which are breath-defyingly garlicky. The sprinkling of green onions on top gives a nice little crunch. And they’re kind enough to provide a bottle of Sriracha sauce at the pickup window, which, like all Sriracha sauce, you should use, because it will make your life better.

  • Chicken Pot Stickers ($4)

Epcot Food and Wine China Dumplings 3

For some reason, all things dumpling have been calling my name lately – and these answered the call happily. Like many things at Food & Wine, they are simple and good and don’t need a book written about them. They just need to be eaten. Grab a set to go with your duck bao. Your taste buds will thank you.

 

 

When Does It Become Home? Early thoughts on being a local…

If you’ve ever moved into a new-to-you house or condo or apartment or other space, you have at least an inkling of what this question means. How deep it runs. If you’ve ever moved to a place where you once vacationed (or just downright escaped to), you have probably also experienced the strange paths that this question can take. There is the excitement of living where you know you’re meant to be. In our case, the teary satisfaction of watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the bedroom window.

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

The joy of waking up to the train whistle. Of closing our eyes to the muffled sound of the Water Pageant rolling across Bay Lake on a cloudy night.

But as incredible as it is to watch the fireworks from your bedroom window at night, the real joy in this process is not the extraordinary details of living 2 miles from the place that I’ve longed for every day of my adult life. It is not the thing that people describe as “living your dream”. It is the much smaller and more subtle reality of living a real life in the right place. Of having lifted the mundane tasks of every day and dropped them into the place that clicks because it is right. It is sleeping in on a Saturday morning and eating a late breakfast with the kids around the kitchen table. Drinking coffee on the lanai as I type this very post. Walking the kids to school in the morning along lakes full of unfamiliar birds and baby alligators. Grocery shopping. Running. Walking my dog. In this wonderful-to-me place that is slowly becoming not the stuff of vacations but of home.

We talk about living our dreams. And that is good talk. That is symbolic stuff to strive for. But sometimes I think we should talk more about living our regular lives in a way that is right for us. Some of these moments are the stuff of dreams. But more of them are just the joy of making yourself a “local” in the place that has always been home.

Coffee On Lanai

 

 

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Scotland Booth

I finally had the chance to take on Scotland today. I’d been looking forward to this one and had probably only taken this long because it’s hard to get deep into the UK section of Food & Wine with enough of an appetite for lox and stew. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

The Scotland booth is of course in the UK area, past Rose & Crown and the Ireland stand as you walk toward Canada. This year they are offering two savory dishes and one sweet, along with a handful of drinks (which I skipped for now).

  • Fresh Potato Pancake with Scottish Smoked Salmon and Herbed Sour Cream ($5.25)

Food and Wine Scotland Fresh Potato PancakeI am sitting here looking at this picture and wishing I had another one of these in front of me. It’s so simple and perfect and good and I’m thrilled that it’s back this year. A healthy little pile of lox and generous dollop of herbed sour cream sitting on top of a warm potato pancake. I’m not dainty with it – I just pick it up with my fingers and bite into it. The combination of no frills ingredients works so well together. Go have one for a late breakfast tomorrow. Then have another for lunch. You’re welcome. 😉

  • Traditional Scottish Lamb Stew with Neeps and Tatties ($4.75)

Epcot Food and Wine Scotland Stew 2

I admittedly had to google neeps and tatties. They are a sort of turnip and potatoes, mashed here, under the stew. This was so good. Simple, again – just a mild stew, not too much salt – thank goodness, lamb and veggies – carrots and onions. Nothing about it is wildly different. If you’re looking to try the 5 most inventive things at Food & Wine, this isn’t going to be on the list. But it’s delicious and if you happen upon Scotland and are hungry, it will do the trick quite nicely. I am again sitting here looking at the picture and wishing I had some more.

  • The Tipsy Laird: Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats ($3.50)

Food and Wine Epcot Scotland Tipsy Laird

This is a pretty little layered dessert. It has a berry compote at the bottom with cake, oats, lemon cream, and a dollop of whipped cream and fresh raspberry on top. It’s moist and creamy and has lots of flavor. I was expecting it to be the sort of syrupy reduced liquor taste that you’d find in, say, a rum cake – but I honestly didn’t taste the whiskey at all. Still, at $3.50 this is a lovely little dessert.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – New Zealand Booth

It’s always exciting to be 2 months into Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, feel like you’ve tapped into every food item that really interested you, and then stumble on a country that completely shocks you by hitting it out of the park. Don’t get me wrong – I expected New Zealand’s offerings to be excellent. They always are. But I didn’t expect to love them so much personally – or, to be quite honest, for them to be quite this excellent.

The New Zealand booth is just past Australia near the “top” of world showcase, i.e. the end closer to Future World, if you turn toward Canada and the UK pavilion at the split. This year they offer 3 food items, all savory, and several alcoholic drink options.

To start. I just want to acknowledge how lovely all of the food items at the New Zealand booth are. At a festival where I am constantly wrestling with delicious food that does not want to pose for a picture, the New Zealand dishes are all beautiful and served up with rare attention to presentation.

  • Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs ($4.25)

Food and Wine Epcot New Zealand Mussels

I had to do a double take at the price of these mussels when I actually received them. At $4.25(??!), these have got to be one of the best values going at Food & Wine. They are gorgeous and HUGE, soaked in butter and garlic, and covered in breadcrumbs. They smell like the ocean and have a briny taste that will make you think you’re on a remote beach somewhere instead of eating, perhaps off the top of a (pristine) trashcan, along World Showcase Lagoon. Having expected a tray of tiny mussels dripping in sauce, I was beyond pleasantly surprised. These are not shy about what they are. They are strong, beautifully seasoned mussels and they are delicious.

  • Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney ($5.25)

Food and Wine New Zealand Lamb Meatball

This is a seriously hearty serving at $5.25. A lamb meatball covered in spicy (think little kick more than major heat) chunky tomato chutney with garlic and lots of fennel seeds, all sitting in a soft doughy basket that does a lovely job soaking up everything. The fact that it is lamb rather than a more “common” meat is not in your face. The meat is very mild. It’s probably not a great dish for a hot day, as it’s very rich and hearty, but if you’re looking for a generous portion of something tasty on a breezy evening, this is a very good option.

  • Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée ($6.50)

Food and Wine Epcot New Zealand Venison 3

This is a very small serving, especially compared to the lamb meatball that I’d just eaten, but it is wonderful. A healthy little chunk of tender venison, presented beautifully and drenched in marsala sauce. The meat is rich and full of flavor, not at all gamey, and so delicious that you’ll forget for a second that you’re eating Bambi. The kumara is apparently a type of yam or sweet potato found in New Zealand and the purée definitely tastes just like you would expect a mashed sweet potato to taste. It’s a great choice, as the mildly sweet starch cuts the richness of the venison and marsala sauce beautifully. This was really just a wonderful dish all around.

  • Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($6.50)

Epcot Food and Wine New Zealand Frozen Wine Cocktail

Oh New Zealand. You had me at frozen wine. This was just a happy little glass of slushy wine that went down easily along with the three savory dishes. I’d order it again in an Epcot minute.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Patagonia Booth

We’ll keep this short and sweet, because Food & Wine’s Patagonia booth only offers 2 items this year – one simple, solid enough dish and one crowd favorite.

  • Beef Empanada ($5)

This is…a beef empanada. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very tasty beef empanada. If you are in the mood for a beef empanada and are okay eating it without sour cream or salsa or other toppings, you should get this. The crust is flaky, it’s spiced very well, the peppers and onions give it a little kick… It’s as straightforward as it gets. You’ll enjoy it but you probably won’t be writing home about it or reminiscing about it next year.

  • Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée ($5.75) (Gluten Free)

Oh glorious skewer of garlic and butter soaked, chimichurri covered, thinly sliced beef. There’s not much not to like about this little dish. The beef is thinly sliced and skewered, the chimichurri is plentiful, and the entire thing sits on a bed of mashed boniato – a Caribbean sweet potato that, mashed here, reminds me of a textured polenta or hearty mashed cauliflower that is a perfect vehicle for making sure that no butter or garlic gets left behind. This quickly jumped to one of my favorite beef dishes at the Food & Wine Festival this year.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Italy Booth

It’s rare that the weather is cool enough during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for me to even think about Italian food, but the cloud cover yesterday offered up the unique Florida afternoon pasta craving. I jumped on the chance to see what Italy had to offer this year.

Italy Booth Menu Epcot Food & Wine 2017

  • Crispy Calamari with Spicy Pomodoro Sauce ($8)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Calamari

I so wanted to love this. I adore a good calamari and a sauce with a kick. The calamari itself was prettily presented and cooked perfectly, but at least this particular batch was much too salty. That actually seems to be a theme at Food & Wine this year. It’s rare that I don’t like a dish but when it happens it’s often the salt content that does it. If you’re craving calamari I certainly wouldn’t turn away from this, but it wasn’t a favorite – especially considering the $8 price tag.

  • Spezzatino con Polenta: Beef Stew with Parmesan Creamy Polenta ($7.50)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Spezzatino con Polenta

This. was. delicious. A rich beef stew with lots of sauce nestled in with a healthy serving a creamy, cheesy polenta. The stew was hearty and the polenta with parmesan was everything that a good polenta should be – the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes that cut the richness of the stew perfectly. Admittedly not something that would call my name on a typical hot day, but if the weather is right again I would happily go back for more.

  • Absolut Penne: Vodka Sauce with Shrimp ($7)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Absolut Penne

Yes. Yes. Yes. Eat this. The pasta is cooked perfectly. The shrimp are generous. The sauce is light and has a perfect little kick to it. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be out there inventive to be good. And when you’re trying to represent a country with a dish, sometimes it pays to keep it simple and good. Japan’s BLT sushi roll could learn a lesson from Italy this year. The spezzatino was excellent, but this penne was easily my favorite dish at the Italy booth.

  • Cannoli al Cioccolato: Chocolate-covered Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate, and Candied Fruit ($4.25)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Cannoli al Cioccolato

The candied fruit element in this delicious piece of heaven didn’t click until I typed out the description just now. I’d forgotten about it while I was inhaling the cannoli itself – knowing only that I was eating something incredibly sweet and good that had a little kick of interesting going on in it somewhere. It’s a sort of cannoli that has a fruitcake somewhere in its family tree several generations back. In a good way. The shell is also very substantial – it manages to tame the chocolate and ricotta fairly well so that the overall taste isn’t “too much” the way that some cannolis are. There are a handful of desserts at F&W that I’ve personally liked more this year – the crème brûlée in France, the cheesecake in Hawaii, the cajeta mousse in Mexico… But at that point it just comes down to personal taste. If you want a cannoli, this is a very, very good one.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival – Australia Booth

I took advantage of a “free” hour, some merciful cloud cover, and an empty stomach yesterday afternoon to sample what Australia and Italy had to offer at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival. Let’s cover Australia first…

(Don’t mind the coconut rum spiked Dole Whip….)

  • Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas ($5.25) (Gluten Free)

Food and Wine Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp

This was one of those dishes that was very tasty, but I don’t have much to say about it because it wasn’t really anything that different in the end. I’d order it again in a heartbeat if I was at Epcot with a taste for it – but it basically tasted like really good (ducks for cover) Chinese food. Nicely seasoned shrimp with pineapple and veggies. End of story. But don’t worry because Australia is about to make up for it with….

  • Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies ($7.50) (Gluten Free)

Grilled Lamb T-Bone Australia Food & Wine

You guys look how UGLY this is. A fatty little piece of meat covered in green sludge. A delicious, lick the cardboard container clean, fatty little piece of meat covered in minty, delicious, swan dive into me green sludge. EAT THIS. I beg you. If you haven’t had mint pesto – and I actually don’t think I had before now – you need it in your life. I want to mass produce it and bathe in it. Perhaps in part because I’m just not all that familiar with Australian food (outside of Vegemite and pavlova), it tasted Moroccan or otherwise Middle Eastern to me. It refused to pose for a pretty picture but made up for it 1,000 times over by easily jumping into my top 5 at the Food & Wine Festival this year. It was perfect and I cannot wait to eat it again.

  • Lamington – Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut ($3.25) (Vegetarian)

Lamington

This is one of those rare moments when it’s okay to use the word moist. Because this is some damned good yellow cake dipped in some damned good chocolate sauce and coconut. Is it going to win prizes for inventiveness? Probably not. But it’s apparently classically Australian and if you’re in the mood for a perfect little piece of chocolate and coconut covered cake you should eat this, like yesterday. It will cure what ails you.

Eat This: The Grand Floridian Cafe

Occasionally I find myself having run a good, healthy, calorie burning distance on property and, as such, famished beyond all pretensions of self control and within reach of some very excellent food. It’s a dangerous combination. Such was the case a week or so ago as I stumbled into the Grand Floridian after a long training run.

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The menu at the Grand Floridian Café was calling to me and who was I to deny it?

I grabbed a last minute reservation and was quickly seated at a lovely window side table. My waitress was darling and talked me through the many options – though I’d known going in where my meal would take me. After ordering my Chipotle Bloody Mary – prepared with a chipotle-infused vodka and garnished with a jumbo shrimp (!) and chorizo with a lime-salt rim – I settled into reading the rest of the menu and confirmed what I’d come for. (You can tell we’re getting close and comfortable with each other as I just dangled a preposition….) The Lobster ‘Thermidor’ Burger.

Let me say that again for you. The LOBSTER. THERMIDOR. BURGER. Described on the menu as a 7-oz. artisanal burger patty with lobster-parmesan thermidor sauce on a seared brioche bun and served with the café’s signature seasoned french fries, I knew it had to be mine. (Confession – I got the cucumber salad instead of the fries. It looked like a sad little cup of sliced pickles. Learn from my mistakes. Get the fries.)

So my drink and my burger arrive and holy hell. This photo shoot was quick because momma was hangry.

Confession #2: I don’t usually do random foods with lobster. I’m a bit of a lobster purist. I want it with butter and nothing else and generally think that piling it into other foods is wasteful at best and sacrilege at worst.

But you guys. YOU GUYS. It melted into itself. The roll was buttery and soft with just the right amount of resistance. The burger was cooked a perfect medium rare and the lobster and sauce on top were everything right in the world in the form of a burger topping / condiment. It went down easier than I thought possible and erased my run with happy fullness.

I could have happily rolled out of there and home at that moment but for you I powered on. I asked for a dessert menu.

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Choosing was hard. The waitress came over and we briefly discussed my dilemma. She jokingly suggested the sampler for 2. “YES” I said. “BRILLIANT.” She seemed concerned and promised to bring a to go box with this last course.

The cheerful little row of shot glass sized desserts arrived soon after. “For 2?!”, I laughed. Though truly for the reasonable prices of each item, any of them would have made a light and happy way to end a perfect meal. Still, I’d gotten them all, and I soldiered on.

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The sampler included tastes of 4 popular desserts – the fresh berry tart, the mocha pot de crème, the chocolate timbale, and the wild strawberry cheesecake. The mocha pot, a coffee-flavored custard and whipped cream, was light and delicious. The chocolate timbale, a chocolate gateaux with bittersweet chocolate mousse, was rich and decadent. The wild strawberry cheesecake, whose name spoke for itself, was creamy and wonderful with sweetness cut by the (at least comparatively) tart berry. And last but oh-so-definitely not least, the fresh berry tart, a layer of almond cake topped with seasonal berries and apricot glaze, was hands down my personal favorite. Given the choice of one, that would easily be my dessert order. I am a sucker for almond drenched cake and fresh fruit. Had the sampler been nothing but four slices of this, I’d’ve been in bliss.

I did not need a to go box.

I am so happy to know that a relaxed and decadent spot like this is just around the corner. And while I ordered a heavy lunch, in part because I was post-run famished and in part because I wanted the full experience of the place, you really could have a lovely lunch here without leaving feeling stuffed or having spent a fortune. I will most definitely be back, and soon.

Eat This: Food & Wine’s Farm Fresh Booth

I had a chance to stop by Epcot yesterday night after an already busy day of running, Magic Kingdom, and Skipper’s Canteen. I was actually there with my partner in crime, who had scored tickets to both tapings of Wheel of Fortune, but before the show started we had a chance to sample both food offerings from Food & Wine’s Farm Fresh booth. And these were calories well spent.

  • Crispy Chicken with Griddled Cornbread and Red Eye Gravy ($4.75)

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This took me a minute to absorb but actually turned out to be delicious. I had walked past this booth 1,000 times and always just assumed they were serving up pieces of chicken with sides of cornbread. It’s actually more of a sweet cornbread cake with chicken and gravy icing – and if you can’t get behind that then we probably can’t be friends.

Seriously, though, this one surprised me. The cornbread is very sweet – with a distinct maple flavor that my friend likened to cornbread pancakes. It sort of needs the chicken and gravy to balance it out, but if you can get it all in your mouth at once your tastebuds will make quick work of blending it all together and making a single taste that’s just right.

  • Roasted Beet Salad with Green Beans, Feta Cheese, Minus 8 Vinaigrette, and Toasted Walnuts ($3.75)

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I’m not a huge lover of beets but enjoy them when they’re playing in the right setting. This salad was so fresh and lovely. The beets are a warm and cozy addition to this crisp salad full of greens, walnuts, and fresh green beans. The feta gives it just the right punch and I don’t know what Minus 8 dressing is but apparently I dig it. For the $3.75 price tag, this was a healthy serving and a great value.

  • Two Henrys Elderberry Cream Hard Cider ($4) and Florida Orange Groves Mango Mamma Wine ($5.50)

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It’s good to know going in that the Two Henrys Elderberry Cream Cider is in fact very much an elderberry. cream. cider. It has that round sort of taste that almost tastes malted and the elderberry is a bit syrupy. It wouldn’t be a go to drink for me but in the right mood it would do the trick.

The Mango Mamma Wine is very light and crisp and went down easily on a hot night. It made a good partner to the earthy beet salad and rich fried chicken dish.