CastleRun: Top 7 Reasons to Run a runDisney 5K

If you’re anything like me and you’ve participated in a runDisney 5K, you have a little pang of “why why WHY did I sign up for this?” when your alarm goes off at around 2 a.m. so that you can go run 3.1 miles. There have been many mornings when I’ve reevaluated my life choices while I roll out of bed in the middle of the night to get ready, drive to a park, and then wait about 2 1/2 hours to run for 30 minutes, only to get home before anyone else in my household has even woken up. But I left this weekend’s Dark Side 5K with a little more clarity on why it makes a heck of a lot of sense to sign up for the Thursday/Friday 5K portion of any runDisney race weekend. So here are my top 7 reasons – one for waking up, one for each kilometer, and an extra one for good luck:

1. The Fanfare

Dark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Photopass Pic 1

If you are newer to running or otherwise are more comfortable with shorter race distances for any reason at all, you aren’t going to get a massive 5K experience anywhere quite like you will at a runDisney event. The pre-race scene is at least as festive as it is for the longer runs, the fireworks at the start are just as exciting, the music is just as energizing, and the course is at least as jam packed with characters and other PhotoPass photographers. The race is also untimed and includes a huge range of runners (and walkers!) – from complete novice to extremely experienced, so it’s one of the least intimidating race experiences you’ll find. And these days you get a proper medal for finishing – so you’ll leave with your bling, too.

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Medal Race Bling Storm Trooper

The down side is of course that this will basically ruin you for all other 5ks. But you probably won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to run those, so it’s okay.

2. The Intimate Park Experience

Dark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Storm Troopers

The runDisney 5Ks are typically entirely within a given park – usually Epcot, sometimes Animal Kingdom. It will be interesting to see what the courses are going forward with the various new lands opening. I can only imagine a run through Toy Story Land or Galaxy’s Edge…. But even now the runs weave throughout a single park in an intimate way that you just don’t get with the longer runs. For Epcot 5Ks, you’ll circle world showcase in the dark with the countries lit, meander through future world with Spaceship Earth glowing, and exit back to the parking lot to finish. It’s a sort of wee hours, quiet park experience that you just can’t get any other way.

3. The Costumes!!

Most of us aren’t willing to run a half marathon in full costume – especially in the Florida heat. But you can knockout 3.1 miles in pretty much anything. This allows you to indulge in some pretty creative outfits and also makes for some of the best people watching of any runDisney event. Knock out your 5K in whatever you want and then you can indulge in comfortable gear for any other races you’re doing that weekend.

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Darth Vader 2

***Huge shout out to SuperNerdCosplay on Etsy for hooking me up with my Darth Vader gear this race!!***

4. Get your Body Clock Set Before the Weekend

I know, I know. Double edged sword since the wake ups really do catch up with you as any race weekend progresses, but if you have the luxury of getting to bed early enough throughout the course of a race weekend, it’s great to get yourself started on the crazy schedule on Friday. I typically force myself through the day without napping after finishing the 5K (if you work outside of the house you’re basically home in plenty of time to work a regular 9-5 and more) and then falling asleep early that evening is much easier, which makes waking up in the middle of the night for the 10K, half marathon, and (in January) full marathon a little…well, easier is probably too strong a word. But more natural.

5. Relax…and Knock Out the Characters before the Long Runs

(Caution: Egregious photo sharing ahead….)

Again, if you’re anything like me, your favorite part of a long run is the finish line. And so, if you’re anything like me, once you start you’re probably impatient to get there. For me, this often means that no matter what my plan is *before* the race, I rarely want to take the time to stop to wait in line for character pictures, etc., during a 10K, half marathon, or full marathon. And even if you tend not to mind stopping during those races, it’s nice to go into them with many of the character stops already in your pocket so that you can focus on running during the longer races – especially if the balloon ladies are an actual concern for you. Plus you aren’t nearly as sweaty, so you’re going to look better in the 5K pictures anyway. 😉

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Kylo Ren 2

 

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Boba Fett

Dark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge BB8

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Phasma

Since the race is more relaxed and there is no time requirement, taking your time and enjoying the course is really just getting your money’s worth out of a runDisney 5K. And you can also grab the corral character pictures before or after the race, so that you go into the other race mornings not having to wait for the same characters in the much, much longer lines. Of course I can’t promise the same experience every time, but I showed up for the Dark Side 5K at about 3:15 a.m. and managed to grab every pre-race character shot in about 15 minutes. (Which was AMAZING.) And then I went on to get pretty much every character picture on the course so that I didn’t need them going into the 10K and half marathon.

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Jabba the Hut 2

ark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Chewbacca Chewie

Dark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Course Pic 2

6. Do It For the Bling.

We all know that the difference between a training run and a race is the bling. So go get yours. Other than the Dopey, which requires completing the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon over the course of January’s marathon weekend, the runDisney race weekend challenges currently include only the 10K and half marathon – so you can complete the weekend’s challenge without participating in the Friday 5K. But do you really want to do all of that work and leave short one medal that you could have gotten for an extra 3.1 miles?? Because really. Four medals are better than three medals. That’s just basic math.

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And as I mentioned above, if you are new to racing or otherwise more comfortable with shorter distances, do it somewhere that your efforts will be honored with proper bling.

7. The Snack Box.

You guys. They give you the snack box and a banana after the 5K. That’s 150% the number of snack boxes that you’d get just running the 10K and half. In case you need me to connect the dots for you, that’s 150% the cheddar cheese flavored pasteurized cheese snack. So you can basically disregard reasons 1-6 because commmmme to momma….

runDisney cheese dip

 

So there you have it. Seven good reasons to run through in your mind the next time your alarm goes off at 2 a.m. so that you can wait 4 hours to run 3 miles. 😉

Dark Side Race Weekend runDisney First Order Challenge Finisher Pic

Eat This (Maybe): Italy’s Primavera Kitchen at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

Let’s start this review with some stark honesty:

Confession 1: True to my family heritage, I love Italian food – but I almost always skip Italy at the festivals because the last thing I want in the Florida sun is pasta and fried shrimp.

Confession 2: I ate this full slate awhile ago but was holding off on the review because I didn’t want to open reviews of my favorite festival of the year with a buzz kill.

All of this being said, let’s tear the bandaid off and get this done.

Italy’s Primavera Kitchen at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival is, of course, located just across the promenade outside the Italy pavilion. While it usually takes me awhile to get to Italy’s festival booth, I was with some dear friends with food restrictions that limited options – so we hit Primavera Kitchen to get the allergy-friendly frittata that they offered and knocked out the rest of the menu at the same time.

So, for starters, I love the Bulls and miss them already and thank them for letting me hang and eat my face off with them after Princess race weekend.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Photopass

But if you’re reading this for nothing but the food review you’re probably getting annoyed at this point. So I’ll save you further scrolling and get to it.

Italy offers three savory dishes and one sweet, along with a variety of wines, sparkling options, and an Italian margarita that I still need to get my hands on.

  • Frittata di Asparagi: Asparagus Frittata, Mixed Greens, and Citrus Dressing ($7) (vegetarian) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Frittata di Asparagi

I confess that I don’t know the ingredients in this. But as far as I can tell, it’s eggs with asparagus in them with some lightly dressed greens on top. If you really, really want to pay $7 for a small amount of scrambled eggs, I highly recommend this. Otherwise, not so much. Let’s move on.

  • Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimp, Zucchini, and Spicy Sauces ($8)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Fritto Misto

This was pretty bland. Small-ish fried shrimp and zucchini with lots of breading and a generous drizzle of the aptly named “spicy sauces”. It made me feel like I was eating actual calories in Disney World, which is not acceptable. Even if I liked it, I wouldn’t want to eat it in the hot sun…. If this picture makes you want to lick the screen, knock yourself out. Otherwise there are better places to spend your calories and money and then you can just get some firecracker shrimp at P.F. Changs after your trip.

  • Ravioli: Maine Lobster Ravioli with Vodka Sauce ($12)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Ravioli

These are quite tasty, as they should be for $12. (Yes, that’s $6 per ravioli….) They are nicely cooked and filled with lobster and topped with these funny little things that can only be described as lox-flavored boba balls. (If you don’t like the taste of smoked salmon, do NOT eat the balls.) I don’t really have any complaints here except that they were nothing extraordinary and they cost a fortune. If you’re craving ravioli, they will do the trick.

  • Panna Cotta al Melone: Cantaloupe Panna Cotta ($5.50) (vegetarian) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Panna Cotta al Melone

This was absolutely lovely. A soft, melon panna cotta with a pretty little square of white chocolate and a fresh raspberry. If you, like many, are aiming to sample at least one food item from each festival booth, the panna cotta should probably be your choice at Primavera Kitchen. It was refreshing and smooth and not overly sweet at all. A perfect dessert for a warm Florida afternoon.

  • Chianti ($8) and Prosecco ($9)

These are lovely. And help to wash down the bitter resentment of eating a $6 ravioli. Enjoy!

Eat This: Northern Bloom at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

We’ve already raved about the Smokehouse at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival. Now it’s time to talk Northern Bloom – the second booth whose menu I was dying to tackle after I did a first flip through the festival passport.

Northern Bloom is Canada’s aptly named kitchen at this year’s festival, and is of course located just outside the Canada pavilion in World Showcase.

The menu looked absolutely amazing and the foods themselves did not disappoint. As usual, I took one for the team and ordered the full slate of options – and here are the results.

  • Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown-Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon ($6.50) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Seared Scallops

I dig a good scallop and Epcot’s various offerings throughout recent festivals have not disappointed. But here they up the ante because these scallops have been cavorting with BACON. I don’t know if it’s typical of this dish, but my order didn’t have much in the way of visible pieces of bacon in it. It was more like I was eating scallops that had been making out with bacon earlier in the day and still had that smell and taste all over them. They were SO GOOD. The beans were crisp and the potatoes were soaked in flavor and the scallops themselves were perfection. The brown butter vinaigrette was definitely strong, so if you aren’t a fan of vinegar this isn’t for you. But if you love this kind of flavor combo as much as I do I beg you to hit this booth up and not be bashful about licking the container clean. Waste not want not and all that.

  • Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, and Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables ($6.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Beef Tenderloin Tips

So this is a solid little dish without a lot of fanfare. If you’re craving a good stew-type dish (and who isn’t in Florida heat in the spring??) this will hit the spot. To be honest, after all of Epcot’s pureed root vegetable experimentation, I had to do a double take at actual mashed potatoes that lacked the soft creaminess of celery root or squash. No complaints here – just not a lot to say. If you’re traveling with a meat and potatoes kinda girl or guy, get them this. They’ll like it.

  • Griddled Maple Pound Cake with Warm Peach Compote and Sweet Corn Gelato ($4.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Griddled Maple Pound Cake

This is grilled pound cake with warm, soft peaches, gelato, and popcorn. So, in short, it is delicious. Honestly the cake itself took a backseat to the peaches and gelato, which soaked into the cake quite nicely to make for a sloppy, delicious, and not entirely overly sweet dessert. The verdict was that all cake should be under warm fruit and corn ice cream (and popcorn if you’re feeling frisky).

  • Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whiskey ($11.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Maple Popcorn Shake

This is basically a maple whiskey milkshake with popcorn floating on top. So you should get it and thank god that there are no calories in Disney World. Cheers and enjoy.

Eat This: The Smokehouse at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

I’ve eaten far too much at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, which has been underway since February 28 and runs through May 28, not to have shared any thoughts with the class. And so, without further ado, let’s kick things off with one of the booths that excited my taste buds the most going in: The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews at the American Adventure.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Smokehouse

As usual, the American Adventure’s offerings are tucked away a bit to the right and in front of the U.S. pavilion in World Showcase. There are times when this causes me to miss their offerings for too long – but for this festival, between the enticing list and the unmistakable smell of the smoker at work as you pass the pavilion, I hit this booth early and will be returning often.

As I mentioned, you’ll find the Smokehouse kitchen to the right in front of the American Adventure pavilion, sitting beside a massive smoker and behind a topiary of everyone’s favorite deputy.

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The Smokehouse offers three savory dishes and one (very) sweet, along with a healthy list of beers, wine, and spiked or unspiked frozen lemonade. It was early in the day, so I skipped the drinks and kicked things off with the full slate of food items.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure

  • Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw ($6.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Pulled Pig Slider

This is a popular sandwich and for good reason. I saw more of these than I could count being handed to guests as I waited for my own food. For $6.75 you get a good sized sandwich on a soft roll piled high with meat and crisp red cabbage coleslaw. Hit with some barbecue sauce, it went down easy enough to go back for more. But I didn’t…because this was waiting for me:

  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue, and House-made Pickle ($7.25)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider

Hold onto your hats because in my (always humble) opinion, this is the thing to eat at Flower & Garden this year. I’m sitting here looking at the picture and calculating the minutes until World Showcase opens at 11 this morning. Eat it. And eat it often. The roll is soft and melds with the meat and sauces like butter. And while it’s melting in your mouth you can break to eat the crisp house-made pickle and sausage speared on top. The pickle is spiced perfection and the sausage is – excuse the ancient Greek reference – but if you’ve heard of Plato’s universal chair? This is the universal sausage. The Form of the Sausage, if you will. It’s everything you always wanted from a sausage but didn’t know it. Go eat some. But leave enough for me because I’m going back. As one should when a sandwich makes them pull out Contemporary Civilization class references.

  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalepeños ($6.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash

Is it weird to feel sorry for a dish? Because after eating the last two items I kind of wanted to say “bless your heart” to this ugly little pile of meat and veggies. It’s not terrible – it’s the same meat that’s in the other dishes with some soft veggies and sauce and a little too much of a kick – but it just doesn’t measure up and feels almost like an afterthought. If you’re avoiding bread, I’d get one of the above sandwiches and toss the roll before I’d do this one. Sorry hash. You are my red-headed stepchild of the group….

  • Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans ($4) (Vegetarian)

 

I’m not enough of a sweet (especially chocolate) eater to give this a fair review. If you’re a lover of warm, moist chocolate cake, you’ll love this. The cake itself is soft and tastes fresh baked, the caramel sauce is heavenly, and the spiced pecans give it a little welcome texture. Not surprisingly, the taste and texture reminded me of a German chocolate cake. If this looks like it’d be up your alley, it won’t disappoint.

#ArtfulEpcot: Mexico’s El Artista Hambriento at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts

Last weekend I hit Epcot for some train watching and Photopass fun with the kids…

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…so of course I had to knock out another booth while we were there. And that booth was Mexico.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento

Throughout Epcot’s various festivals, Mexico has always been a favorite of mine. Did it measure up again this time? Welllll……

  • Mixiote de Cordero: Wrapped slow-braised lamb, marinated in tres chiles paste and spices ($8.95)

Once when I lived in Manhattan my roommate saw a guy chasing another guy through Union Square with a brown paper bag. He threw the brown paper bag and it exploded against the street and had been full of…..

Oh never mind.

I don’t even know why the bag of poop story popped into my mind just now.

Seriously though. You have to giggle at this one a little. As far as the taste goes? I mean – I guess it’s pretty good meat? If you’re paleo or keto or otherwise craving a bag of slow cooked protein, this works. Otherwise it’s just a bag of meat. A pretty good, $9 bag of meat. So moving on…

  • Tacos de Puerco: Two corn tortillas with slow-roasted pork shoulder, marinated in ancho paste and served with sweet plantain puree garnished with pea tendrils ($9.95)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Tacos de Puerco 1

These weren’t bad. I wish I had more to say about them. The description sounds AMAZING on paper. They had a nice little kick and there was a barely there, wanted to taste it more bit of sweetness from the plantains. I didn’t love them as much as, say, the shrimp tacos that Mexico has featured at other festivals, though. The sauce was more heat than taste and my American palette tends to want a little crunch with my food. And honestly, the price trend continues – because $10 is a lot for what’s on this plate.

  • Atole de Fresa and Mexican Concha Bread: Warm strawberry drink served with Mexican concha bread ($3.95)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Concha Bread

So…um….my picky 7 year old loved this? I wasn’t thrilled. It was basically a slightly sweet, pretty dry roll and a cup of warm strawberry yogurt. The yellow on top was pretty nondescript. Like it had a little texture but wasn’t sweet enough to be noticeable on the taste front. At least the strawberry “drink” dip cut the dryness? Otherwise…nope. Don’t waste your calories here.

  • Frida Guava Margarita ($13.75)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Frida Guava Margarita

Holy freaking expensive drink. Was it tasty? Yes. It was delicious. But the $14 price tag is borderline offensive for this thing. I’m not even convinced there was alcohol in it. If you want a sweet, tasty drink and couldn’t care less how much you spend on it, have at it. Otherwise, there are probably better places to blow $14.

#ArtfulEpcot: Morocco’s Mosaic Canteen at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts

I wasn’t wasting any time on my first trip to Epcot’s 2nd International Festival of the Arts last week. I have, however, wasted too much time in getting around to writing up the second country that I sampled that day. So without further ado, today, I give you Morocco.

Like Japan’s offerings, I love how these dishes jump off the plate onto the camera. If Artful Epcot’s food items are nothing else, they are lovely.

  • Spiced Beef…or Hummus Trifle: Layered hummus topped with spiced beef, pine nuts, and dry cherries served with pita chips ($9)

It’s a little laughable that this is listed as “Spiced Beef” on the menu board. It’s name in the Festival Passport, “Hummus Trifle”, makes so much more sense – since it’s the hummus that dominates here. This thing looks SO good on paper. It’s hard to go wrong with beef, dried cherries, pine nuts, and hummus. And don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. But this is essentially a huge cup of hummus with a few chips and some so so meat crumbles, pine nuts, and cherries on top. It wasn’t bad. If you’re craving hummus it’ll hit the spot. (And bring extra chips because they give you more hummus than you can possibly scoop up with the 10 or so chips that they give you.) But generally I think you can do better than this at Epcot right now. And for $9 you can definitely do better.

  • Mediterranean Flat Bread with Za’atar, Olive Oil Artichokes, Olives, Mozzarella an Feta Cheese ($8)

Artful Epcot Epcot International Festival of the Arts Morocco Mediterranean Flat Bread

Isn’t this lovely? It pops on your tongue just as beautifully as it pops off the screen. The flavors are fresh and simple. The za’atar (a middle eastern spice mixture) is fresh and bold, the cheeses aren’t overpowering, and I’d take a good artichoke as a boyfriend any day. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing about this is going to turn your culinary world upside down. It’s simple and fresh and just good. And it’s huge!! For $8, it’s a solid lunch any day of the week. Two enthusiastic thumbs up. Fine holiday fun. 😉

  • Chebbakia: Hand-twisted strips of fried dough coated with honey, rosewater, and sesame seeds ($7)

Artful Epcot Epcot International Festival of the Arts Morocco Chebbakia

If you like a classic middle eastern dessert or have a sweet tooth that you need to punch in the face, this will be your jam. I wanted to taste more rosewater. (I always want to taste more rosewater.) But this was chewy and sweet and sticky and sated my often insatiable sweet tooth. The sesame here (unlike the sesame in Japan’s taiyaki) was not overpowering, but just added a bit of interest to the overall taste. For $7, this wasn’t the cheapest dessert, but it was certainly rich and big enough to serve two people. I think you should go get some.

 

#ArtfulEpcot: Japan’s Takumi Table at Epcot International Festival of the Arts

We kicked off Artful Epcot and the second annual Epcot International Festival of the Arts this past Friday, January 12th, and I came in swingin’ with my passport in hand while the kids were in school.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Festival Passport

Where did I start, you ask?

In Japan, of course.

The sooner you eat somewhere for the first time, the sooner and more often you can eat there again. Because science.

Takumi means “artisan” in Japanese. There are only two food items at Takumi Table this year – one savory and one sweet.

 

Before we even dig into the details of these items, I’m going to stop and comment on how BEAUTIFUL everything offered at Festival of the Arts is this year. If Food & Wine blogging is a never ending battle with dishes that won’t pose for the camera, Festival of the Arts is a veritable runway show of edible little supermodels. And true to Japan’s always impressive attention to detail, they’ve again chosen to plate their foods on and in dishes that teeter on the edge of disposable and almost make you want to wash them and tuck them into your purse to reuse at home.

But let’s stop talking and start eating…

  • Chirashi Sushi and Haupia Pearl: Salmon, Tuna, and Yuzu Miso with Coconut Tapioca Pudding ($7.50)

Chirashi Sushi and Haupia Pearl Epcot International Festival of the Arts Artful Epcot

I’m not moaning. You’re moaning.

Oh you’re not? Okay. Maybe it’s me after all. The worst thing about sitting here writing this review is having to look at this without eating it (again).

Chirashi is happy, lazy sushi. Because instead of being a tidy little roll, it’s just a big ol’ pile of the same delicious ingredients. But in usual form, Artful Epcot has found a way to make even chirashi as beautiful as it is delicious. The rice is perfect. The seaweed salad is crisp and chewy and not fishy at all. The mound of salmon and tuna on top is fresh and soft and perfect. And it all sits on slices of orange that add a citrus-y pop to the whole thing.

And then. You guys. When it’s over and you’ve licked that side of the plate clean?? There’s this lovely little shot of sweet coconut milk and tapioca and fresh fruit that is so refreshing and good that its only fault is not being huge.

I cannot wait to eat this again. I want to write poetry about it and have it for lunch every day until February 19th.

But onward…

  • Taiyaki Dessert: Japanese Stuffed Pastry, Sweet Red Bean Filling, Sesame Cream, and Raspberry Sauce ($4.50)

Taiyaki is a lovely little fish shaped cake typically filled (as here) with sweetened adzuki bean paste. It is thought to have originated in Tokyo during the Meiji era (1868-1912), but now you can find it all over Japan.

Like most taiyaki, Artful Epcot’s version was almost too pretty to eat. But unique to most taiyaki, it was bedded next to an unattractive pile of too much sweet sesame paste and whipped cream. It was warm and sweet and teetered on the edge of delicious so closely that it broke my heart.

I love me some adzuki bean paste. Not overly sweet but soft and mild, it’s wonderful nestled inside some warm dough.

Taiyaki Dessert 3 Epcot International Festival of the Arts Artful Epcot

So why was it leaning up against a pile of whipped cream that appeared to have come out of a can?? WHY??? And why was it sitting in an ugly pile of sesame “cream” that wanted to put hair on my chest when I tried (admittedly, with my tongue) to clean it off the fish??

Listen. Give this a try. The cake itself is warm, soft, mildly sweet perfection. I plan to go back and get it again – just asking them to hold the whipped cream nonsense and put the sesame cream on the side so that I can control how much (or how little) touches my fish. And in rare form, I’ll bring a friend – because this thing is RICH. Try it. But don’t be surprised if when you’re done eating you’re cleaning the sesame out of your teeth and still looking at something like this…

Taiyaki Dessert 4 Epcot International Festival of the Arts Artful Epcot

I’m sorry little fish tail. I couldn’t handle you.

This booth had two food offerings and I just wrote a full on book about them. I hope the ones to come make me want to prattle on less because momma doesn’t have time to write a novella about all 19 booths…..

In the meantime, one passport sticker earned. Lots to go-

Takumi Table Japan Pavilion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Artful Epcot

Have YOU had the chance to visit #ArtfulEpcot yet? If so, what did you eat?? If not, what’s on your short list for when you get there??

Eat This: Epcot Legacy Showplace at Epcot’s 2017 Food and Wine Festival

The old Odyssey building is home to food offerings of its own and some fabulous exhibits celebrating Epcot’s 35th anniversary at this year’s Food & Wine Festival.

If you don’t know where the Odyssey building is, you’ll find it on the walkway/bridges running from Future World East into World Showcase. This year they have 3 food items, one of which deserves your attention and your calorie allotment for the day….

  • Chilled Scotch Egg wrapped in Sausage with Mustard Sauce ($4)

Scotch Egg

So for those of you unfamiliar with Scotch Eggs, they’re basically a sausage wrapped hard boiled egg that is meant to be travel friendly and eaten at things like picnics. I’m just going to apologize to all of my UK friends right now. Because…nope. I don’t even care how ugly my picture of this thing is. It didn’t do it for me. As far as I can tell, you don’t even get a whole egg. And it’s chewy. Like, chewier than a hard boiled egg should be. It tastes like cold, leftover breakfast. And it’s breaded – so it’s not even like you’re low-carbing it when you eat one. The creamy mustard is pretty good –  but it’d be better on something else. Skip it and save room for…

  • Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich ($5.50)

Handwich

Commmmme to momma…. This thing is RICH. You might want to block out time for a nap after you eat it. Mac and cheese and bits of burger piled high into a cone shaped soft pretzel. It speaks for itself. Eat it slowly while you stroll around the 35th anniversary exhibits in the building.

There’s also a third “food” item at Epcot Legacy Showplace. L’Orange Cotton Candy – a mixture of lime and orange cotton candy. Confession: I didn’t get it. I’m not a big cotton candy eater and feel like you guys could probably fend for yourselves out there on this one. Cotton candy is overpriced everywhere, so $4.75 doesn’t seem terrible if you’re into it. And this one is apparently French.  So mangez as you will….

Eat This: Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

There once was a time when I set my alarm for dawn 180 days out from our trips to book all of the hard to get ADRs. Now, on park days, I wake up in the morning and browse the Disney app with the kids to pick our day’s plans. Yesterday morning was a lazy-ish Sunday, so instead of running out the door early we did some stuff around the house and just grabbed an early dinner reservation at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Beaches & Cream

To get to Beaches & Cream, you enter the lobby of Beach Club and walk toward Cape May, then around the back of it through the open hallway, which puts you out onto the patio area behind Beach Club’s amazing pool, Stormalong Bay (which it shares with the Yacht Club). You enter Beaches & Cream back there – through either the carryout door or the main restaurant door.

The main restaurant is tiny. I think I counted 10 total tables – 3 booths and 7 small round tables. Sort of explained why reservations can be so hard to get.

 

Try to get a seat near the jukebox in front if you can. You can pick the songs that are played. I think my kids enjoyed that at least as much as the meal.

There was a lot of Sugar, Sugar and Lama Rama Ding Dong going on while we were eating. If anyone reading this was there, I apologize.

Beaches & Cream Menu

The menu is, not surprisingly, no frills 50s style diner fare. Burgers and club sandwiches, meatloaf and a Reuben. It was chilly outside and it was on the menu, so I opted for the grilled cheese and tomato bisque. All sandwiches are served with fries or fruit. I opted for the fries and upgraded them to chili cheese. Because, you know, research.

In the distance you can see the kids’ hot dog and mac n cheese. I’m not bothering with close up pictures. They were, in short, a hot dog and mac n cheese.

The grilled cheese was basically a solid grilled cheese. The tomato bisque served its dipping purpose. The fries were good enough fries covered in chili and cheese sauce.  It was a good, inexpensive (the grilled cheese and bisque were $12), chill meal eaten to the tune of jukebox music just behind Stormalong Bay. If you’re deciding between this and Victoria & Albert’s, you’ve…well, you’ve got more trip research to do – but if you want a chill meal during an Epcot or Hollywood Studios day or while you’re poolside at Stormalong, it’s a great option.

But we all know Beaches & Cream isn’t really about the savory dishes. So I did you guys a solid and took at quick look at the dessert menu…

Beaches & Cream Menu 2

…before ordering the Kitchen Sink. You guys – I don’t even like ice cream that much and was alone with my two skinny kids, so this was hilarious. When they bring it out they put these yellow siren-style lights on and the waitress makes a big announcement to the whole restaurant, which dutifully chants back “A WHOLE CAN??” to the information about just how much whipped cream is in this thing.

Beaches & Cream Kitchen Sink

That’s right. The Kitchen Sink is served in an actual “kitchen sink” style bowl that houses massive scoops of vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, an entire can of whipped cream, massive chunks of cake and brownies, Oreos, maraschino cherries, and “every other topping” that the restaurant has – which seems to include gummy orange wedges, peanut butter, bananas, chocolate sauce, various chips and sprinkles and God knows what else. At $32, it was more than all three of our dinners combined, but it claims to serve 4 people and that seems like a low estimate. After eating for approximately 3 hours, it looked like this:

Beaches & Cream Kitchen Sink After

I don’t even think we’d really hit ice cream yet. People at other tables might have been laughing at us. I also might have been laughing.

So, in short, if you want a really chill meal in an out of the way spot at a great resort, hit up Beaches & Cream. Especially if you love ice cream. With the Food & Wine Festival currently around the corner at Epcot, I’d usually have trouble justifying it – but it was perfect for us last night.

We’d planned on heading into Epcot for Illuminations afterwards but it was unseasonably chilly and I figured just as well not to push it on a school night. So instead the boys toasted marshmallows at the Beach Club campfire and played on the beach for awhile before we headed home. I befriended a lovely couple from Jersey whose child took a liking to me and the boys played with his older sister in the sand. Those little pinch-me moments overlooking Crescent Lake and the Boardwalk are my favorites these days.

Beaches & Cream Boardwalk View 2

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.