Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ears the News: March 18, 2017 Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Ears the News

Brought to you by our friends at WDWMagic.com.


Miss Adventure Falls, Disney's newest water park attraction is officially open at Typhoon Lagoon.

The family raft ride tells the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer, a treasure-hunter whose collection and ship now reside here after a rogue typhoon swept them to shore.

Miss Adventure Falls features two firsts for a Disney water park ride - a conveyor lift to the top of the ride, and an audio animatronic figure. Check out the video below for a first look at the new attraction courtesy of our friends at WDWMagic.com


Trouble viewing the video? Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Celebration at the Top has been extended through until September 24, 2017 at Disney's Contemporary Resort.

Originally announced in February and lasting through to March 26, Celebration at the Top costs $99 per person plus tax and gratuity, and includes canap├ęs, a selection of sushi, a selection of flatbreads and other small plates. A complimentary bar offering craft beers, California wines, cordials and coffee will also be available.

Following the food and drink in one of the California Grill's banquet rooms, comes a viewing of the Magic Kingdom's Wishes fireworks show.

To conclude the night, petit four desserts are available in the private banquet room.

Reservations can be made now on select Sundays through September 24, 2017 via 407-WDW-DINE. Valet parking is included with the cost.

The Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs will soon open The Dress Shop, offering a collection of Disneybounding outfits.

In a posting by Steven Miller on the official Disney Parks Blog, Disney Parks merchandiser Donna Sorrow said, “We designed The Dress Shop collection for guests who want to emulate their favorite Disney characters or theme park attractions in a fun, retro way. These items aren’t costumes, rather the collection contains perfect outfits for guests who have a passion for Disney style.”

“The dress styles are classic in design and contain incredible little details,” continued Donna. “Yet all the styles have modern fits which make them wonderful outfits to wear when visiting Disney Parks.”

Outfits include nods to Disney attractions such as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “it’s a small world,” The Haunted Mansion, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The entire collection at The Dress Shop on Cherry Tree Lane opens inside the accessories boutique at the Marketplace Co-Op in Disney Springs on March 31 2017. Some items will also be available mid-April at the Magic Kingdom, but will not be sold online or in the Shop Disney Parks app.

BB-8 is coming to Star Wars Launch Bay next month, and Hong Kong Disneyland has given us a first look at what we can expect.

Chris Lannuzzi, Puppet Master for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment, has just posted this video of the new experience on his Facebook page. Click here to view the video on Facebook.

BB-8 will appear from April 14, 2017, beginning on the first Star Wars Galactic Nights event. Kylo Ren and Chewbacca, who are currently available for meet and greets, will continue to appear at Launch Bay.

Daisy Duck is back meeting and greeting guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Daisy is meeting along with Donald Duck in front of Sid Cahuenga’s One-of-a-Kind near the main entrance.

Both have separate queues, giving you the option of which Duck you'd like to meet.

Disney has released another preview video showcasing the upcoming Pandora - The World of Avatar.

In this video, we get a close-up look at the Pandora Valley of Mo'ara landscape, and take a ride on the Na'vi River Journey.


Trouble viewing the video? Click here to view the video on YouTube.


Looking to plan your next trip to Walt Disney World? Contact the agents at Kingdom Konsultant Travel to help you plan your dream vacation. Email vacations@kingdomkonsultant.com for a free quote today. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tink's Tips: Extra Star Wars Magic!


Hello, Disney Fans!
     I hope this post finds all of our friends in the North East safe, warm and with power. As an ex-Bostonian, I totally feel your pain when a big storm rolls through like this one. (Hence, why I chickened out and moved to Florida.) And for my fellow Southerners, I hope everyone is enjoying what will probably be the last of our cooler temperatures until the fall. Prepare yourselves, Floridians.... summer weather is coming (as are the crowds). 
     Today I was hanging out with my 4 year old little dude, K, and we were talking about our favorite things to do in the parks. We talked about rides and getting "treats", but funny enough, K said his favorite thing is "seein' the Star Wars guys." Like most kids, K loves him some Star Wars and topping his list of park activities is actually something that most people easily overlook, so that inspired my post today. I wanted to pass along a tip for all of my Star Wars fans out there, who are feelin' the force.

     As you probably know, Hollywood Studios is the place to be for all things Star Wars. You can race around the galaxy on the Star Tours attraction, meet your favorite members of the Rebellion and the Empire alike, at Star Wars Launch Bay, take in some incredible Star Wars-themed fireworks, and even catch Captain Phasma and company marching in front on the Chinese Theater every day. The attraction that my little guy is making reference to, though, is the stage show: Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. Presented daily, in front of the Chinese Theater, the show itself isn't terribly impressive, if you ask me. It simply combines clips from the films with brief stage appearances by various characters. Don't get me wrong... it's enjoyable, and fanboys and girls will geek out over the characters, but the show isn't very elaborate. HERE'S WHERE MY TIP COMES IN THOUGH!!! (Ya ready??? Ok.....)

     Watch the show from in front of the stage once, but then, make sure that for another show time you find yourself behind the stage, on the other side of the giant planter. (I would recommend being on the side closest to the Frozen Sing-a-Long stage.) Right before the show starts, the cast will walk from the Chinese Theater, out to the stage, using a temporarily roped off walkway. They then go into little tents on either side of the stage, and when their part in the show comes up, they emerge from the tents, greeting/glaring at the backstage fans, and interacting as they get ready to go onstage. They do the same walk back to the Chinese Theater after the show. This is a super cool way to get even more up close to the characters and maybe even get to have some private interaction time. When I have done this with my kiddos in the past, Darth Maul had a staring contest with my 8 year old daughter, D, and didn't unlock eyes with her until he was all the way up the ramp and going on stage! I don't know how she wasn't totally freaked out, because I find that dude SO scary! We got to interact with Vader, Kylo, Chewy and Bobba Fett too! Oh, and C3PO even hung out for a bit. The kids loved it and I was SO glad we decided to check out the backstage action! 






     So if you're headed to The Studios in the upcoming months, and you love all things Star Wars, be sure and try out my tip and let me know what you think! Need help getting your galactic vacation planned out? Contact the guys and gals at Kingdom Konsultant Travel, and ask them to help you arrange FastPasses, make dining reservations, and whatever else you need. They'll make sure you and your family have a vacation that's out of this world! (Get it??) 
     Until next week, everyone, have a magical day!!!

- Jenn aka "Tink"





Thursday, March 9, 2017

5 Reasons to STILL Visit The Studios!


Hey there, Disney Guys and Gals!

     Hope everyone is having a good day! So, I overheard some young Guests in Animal Kingdom last week commenting on The Studios to a family that was dining next to them. It sounded to me like the family was here for the first time, and the younger Guests were locals. They were telling the family that it wasn't "even worth going to The Studios at this point", and discouraging them from using their park tickets on a Studios visit. They referenced the fact that several attractions have closed and said that there is "nothing there now."  If you know me, you know it took a LOT for me to not interject here. I can't stand to hear my fellow Guests, or Cast Members, or ANYONE really giving bad advice or misinformation about Disney to other Guests... especially first time Guests! These people had never been to Disney before and they were being advised to skip The Studios all together? Is it really not worth going there right now??? That got me thinking...

     I must admit, The Studios has always been my least favorite park. I suspect that could change in a few years time, when Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land are completed, but for right now, it is what it is. I'm not a thrill ride person, and up until a couple of years ago, we didn't have kids, so we weren't all that into the character aspect of the park. That being said, if right now, I was getting paid to plan a family's trip who had never been to Disney before, I would absolutely still include Disney's Hollywood Studios on their itinerary. Here's 5 reasons why...



1. That's Entertainment!

     The Studios has always been great at entertainment. They have hosted some of the best live acts in all of Disney history, including the Tuba Fours, Four for a Dollar, Mulch, Sweat and Shears and the Hollywood Hitmen. Sadly, those acts have been gone for quite some time now, but there are still other fantastic live acts to see. There are The Citizens of Hollywood streetmosphere actors, who appear throughout the day on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, pulling Guests into their acts and cracking people up. There are also great live performed shows, like Beauty and the BeastDisney Junior Live on Stage, Frozen Sing-A-Long, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. And let's not forget Fantasmic! The show could absolutely use some updating, but it continues to be a wonderful form of nighttime entertainment, including characters, fireworks and water effects. And just to squeak it in here, (even though it's classified as an attraction, it IS an entertaining one), The Great Movie Ride is always fun. It did get a new movie clip reel at the end, so it's worth checking out again, even if you've ridden it hundreds of times before.





2. Dining Among The Stars

     There are some really yummy restaurants at The Studios that are worth the trip over alone. Guests swoon of the famous Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake from The Hollywood Brown Derby.
Sci-Fi Dine-In is fun, quirky and cool!
Mama Melrose serves up quality Italian fare, in a fun, (albeit cheesy) atmosphere. Sci-Fi is one of the coolest dining experiences on Disney property. Where else can you eat in a 50's style car, under the (air conditioned!) night sky, while watching old movie clips and previews?  Or, if you like the 50's theme, but prefer something a little more "homey", there's always the 50s Prime Time Cafe, where the servers are your "cousins" or "siblings" and you can watch clips of "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" while you eat in "Mom's" kitchen. Just mind your elbows on the table. And if you have little ones, they will be thrilled when they get to enjoy a buffet breakfast with their Disney Junior favorites at Hollywood and Vine, or you can have lunch or dinner there with Minnie and friends. There's also tasty counter service options like PizzeRizzo, which is Muppets themed, and ABC Commissary, which pays homage to your favorite ABC shows. So many great choices for an in-park meal!




3. Capture Those Rare Autographs

     Disney's Hollywood Studios typically hosts some of the hardest to find Disney characters, like your Pixar pals. In one day, you can meet Buzz, Woody AND the Green Army Men. Star Wars fans can go lightsaber to lightsaber with Kylo Ren and Chewbacca. The Studios is the ONLY place you'll find Jake ("Jake and the Neverland Pirates") and Sofia ("Sofia the First"). Looking for a wayfinder to help you chart a course? Meet Disney's newest character, Moana, in her own meet-and-greet area, inside One Man's Dream. Oh, and there's a guy that likes warm hugs, (Olaf from Frozen), ready for pictures. And of course, you'll find your favorites like MickeyMinnie and Pluto, too!







4. It'll Make You Want to Scream

     The Studios has two big reasons why thrill-seekers should prioritize this park... Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster! These two are heads and shoulders above the other Disney attractions on the thrill-o-meter, and are worth "dropping by" for. But there's also lighter thrills, like The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours. Plenty to keep your teens and pre-teens revved up!



5. Jonesing for a Galaxy Far, Far Away?




     While you wait with bated breath for the opening of Star Wars Land, you can get your fix at The Studios right now. Die hard fans will love the ride Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, shopping in Tatooine Traders, and even becoming a Jedi, at the Jedi Training Academy. When you've finished that, there's still WAY more! Catch the March of the New Order mini-parade and the A Galaxy Far, Far Away stage show, where all of your favorite Star Wars heroes and villains stop by. Both the mini-parade and stage show are presented multiple times a day. In the Star Wars Launch Bay, Guests will find a behind-the-scenes film, looking at the making of the Star Wars movies, as well as props and displays, and a meet-and-greet area for Kylo Ren and Chewbacca. You might even catch a Jawa trying to go through your belongings! And when the day is done, a multi-media fireworks spectacular is presented in front of the Chinese Theater. Named "A Galactic Spectacular", this show is just that! Star Wars music combines with projected images, lights and lasers, and pyrotechnics, to tell the story of a galaxy far, far away. While all of this may still not be as exciting as a whole new themed land, it'll hold you over until thew new part of the park opens in the upcoming years.











**********

     So there you have it! 5 reasons why you should NOT skip The Studios on your next visit. Yes, you need to know that some attractions you may have seen last time you were there are now closed. Yes, you will see a lot of construction walls. But YES, you will still have fun and it will still be magical! And now.... the show must go on!  Also known as, I must get to my laundry and feed my kid dinner. Have a good one, Disney Fans!



- Jenn aka "Tink"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Meet Kingdom Konsultant's Newest Blog Contributor!

Hi everyone!! My name is Lori, I am a Disney-holic and I have the honor of being the new guest blog contributor here at Kingdom Konsultant Travel. I am thrilled beyond measure to have this amazing opportunity. What better activity for a self-proclaimed Disney addict than to expound on my favorite subject and hopefully share a little Disney magic in the process?! In the "real world" I am a remediation educator in a small community elementary school in rural NC. I have "been happily ever after" married to my best friend and other (better??!) half, Shawn, for almost 23 years. Cinderella isn't the only one who got her prince!

We have been greatly blessed with 2 sons, ages 18 and 16, and one sweet princess age 13. Yes, I am living in a house full of teenagers. (Prayers are welcome!!) I admit I may be a bit biased but I think they are some of the most amazing young people around. Two obedience challenged dogs add to the general chaos that is my life. My days are filled with the 250+ students that have my heart at work, my kids and their activities, and my church. On a personal note, I am a football fanatic; I love swimming, a good horror movie, and of course, Disney!! I always end up back at Disney.

Sometimes I believe my cells must be Mickey shaped! Just the mere mention of the word "Disney" and every nerve ending in my body perks up and tingles with glorious anticipation. A whole host of Disney icons infused with magic just floating happily inside my whole body. Not biologically correct by any means but a great visual nonetheless! Not everyone in the real world understands my obsession with all things Disney. I could go on for endless, self-absorbed hours cheerfully discussing Disney World. (Just ask my co-workers!!)

Why the obsession you may ask? Why would a 40 something adult woman with 3 teenage kids feel so strongly attached to what some of the populous views as "just an amusement park"? The answer is surprisingly simple. HAPPINESS. Disney is my happy place. I have such sweet, precious memories associated with that one small piece of Heaven on God's green Earth. When I think of Disney World I see my children's smiling faces. I hear their laughter. I can picture the joy shining in their eyes. My children have grown up with Disney. They are almost as obsessed as I am. An indication that I have done something right as a parent in my humble opinion.



Have all our trips been perfect with blue skies and dreams come true? No. Not by a long shot but the happiness just outweighs all of that. Disney World is the one place we all agree on. Just as soon as one trip ends the whole gang begins pestering for another one. I've done Disney World with no kids, infants, toddlers, tweens, and now teenagers. Disney just somehow magically grows as my family grows. On each trip I get that same feeling of euphoria the moment I step on Main Street USA. The music, the smells, the smiling CMs with huge bouquets of Mickey balloons just create an avalanche of happy feelings. I swear my toes tingle!!

Each trip is also a new adventure with a fresh sense of amazement. How a toddler views the Magic Kingdom is totally different from that of an 8 year old. And that is totally different from a teenagers' outlook. We MUST do Tusker House for breakfast each trip but scour the menu religiously before we go to decide what is new that we just have got to try. Disney never gets old! It is a wonderful blend of old friends and new discoveries with hidden treasures thrown in. I simply can not wait for the next adventure to begin!

I realize this is getting long and perhaps tedious as I ramble on and on. Those afflicted with the same addiction as me will understand and totally get me. Those who still look at me with confusion...oh, well. That's okay, too. I will just keep singing "it's a small world" under my breath, wearing my Mickey Mouse tees, and compulsively reading every Disney related blog or information site I can find. I will keep planning and re-planning my next magical adventure at my home away from home. I will keep closing my eyes and swearing I can hear the music, see the colors, smell the unmistakable scents, and feel the excitement in the air as if I was really there. After all, it is in my blood. Just look at those Mickey shaped cells!!

- Lori

Monday, March 6, 2017

GRAND OPENING! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!


Happy March, Disney Guys and Gals!!!

     It's Flower and Garden time!!!! Yes, Epcot's newest festival, Festival of the Arts, just closed a few days ago, but back to back, we have another fantabulously awesome festival to enjoy! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!!! Hooray! (That's a lot of exclamation points. I apologize. I'll try and reel myself in.)

     I LOVE Flower and Garden! (Dang it! There's another one!) It's an amazingly colorful, vibrant and fragrant festival, the engulfs ALL of Epcot, and gives Guests two
months of gorgeous flowers and topiaries, incredible rock concerts, exciting opportunities to learn about how to grow and maintain their own gardens, AND delish food and drinks from the Outdoor Kitchens! (Ok, I am really excited about Flower and Garden, so there are going to be lots of exclamation points in the post. We will just have to deal!)

     This year's festival is bigger and better than ever, with longer running dates, (March 1st-May 29th), new entertainment acts, (including Simple Plan, Expose and Berlin), and two brand new Outdoor Kitchens. Not to mention 70+ topiaries, dining packages, events and tours, appearances by home and garden experts, playgrounds, and a massive butterfly garden. Whew! I'm exhausted just naming it all! There's tons to see and do at this kid-friendly festival, and I was there to check out opening day with The Hubs, so if you stick with me, I'll take you on a photo safari of the festival, as well as share with you menus and reviews of the food items that we tried. Let's go....

     As expected, opening day of the festival was slammed! The weather was hot, hot, hot and gorgeously sunny, which made all of the colors that much more vibrant. This year's entry topiary is similar to last years, but a little more sparse.




Still cute, though. Anyway, we grabbed this year's Festival Passport and headed toward the Festival Center first. On the way, we met up with this little imaginary dude...

Figment!
He makes for a super cute, and super colorful topiary! We saw a couple of cool displays in Future World, as we walked to the Festival Center, located in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion. One was all about gardens that have low water requirements, and the other, near Universe of Energy, was about Prehistoric Plants.




     Universe of Energy itself was also adorned with floral towers. That's one of the things I really love about this festival. Everywhere you turn, there' touches of floral added here and there. It's really beautiful.

     Outside of the Festival Center, there were some great Fab 5 topiaries, and the whole outside of the building has lovely flower displays.











     Inside the center, Guests can festival exclusive merchandise, demonstrations, displays, classes and even a little cafe selling fresh fruits, veggies and sandwiches. Oh, and more flowers, too. Great place to hide out from the rain, should a storm roll through. I'll have to keep this in mind for my May visits. 















     Back outside, we said a quick "hey" to buzz Lightyear, in front of Mission Space, before heading over toward the Cars themed playground. 


Also along the way, we checked out the Purple Martins area, which has alien-looking bird feeders, attracting these unique birds. Note that they are Purple MARTINS, not Purple Martinis, as The Hubs misread the sign to say. 



     The Cars play area is super cute, as always, and the perfect place for younger kids to get out some of their energy, running and climbing. And it's the perfect area for parents to enjoy some Adirondack chairs and a moment's rest. 




No kids with us today, though, and it would probably be pretty weird for two adults withOUT children to be hanging out in a playground, so we kept it moving. 



     Back behind Spaceship Earth, the featured topiary this year has Chip and Dale on one side, and Donald, (Duck, not Trump), and his nephews on the other. There's also the incredible buttery garden topiaries and some gorgeous chalk art, too! 






The butterfly tent is always amazing to visit, but it does tend to get better over the course of the festival, as more caterpillars transform. 




     There's definitely some cool merchandise this year, including an old-school hyper-color type of t-shirt that changes colors in the sun, and the popular wrist tag gift card, perfect for wearing around the festival to pay at the Outdoor Kitchens, This year's is shaped like an orange and is even scratch and sniff! 



     As usually, Phineas and Ferb were over by the Agent P Scavenger Hunt Game, and the walkways leading to World Showcase were just breaktaking! I love the floating planters, adding pops of color to the lagoon! 







     Time to hit up those Outdoor Kitchens! For those of you that haven't been to Flower and Garden recently, you may not be familiar with these booths. Epcot has combined the most popular element of the very popular Food and Wine Festival, into the spring festival, opening about a dozen booths around World Showcase. Each location sells smaller, sample sized food items, as well as regional alcoholic beverages. For Food and Wine, the booths are themed to various countries around the world, and Flower and Garden's booths are similar, but they also incorporate the element of farm or garden fresh items, as well. But what it boils down to is this: YUM! 

     Before we get into the individual booths, I will say this... overall this year, it seems to me that many of the portions are larger, as are the prices. This could be seen as a plus or a minus. If you're the type who likes to just pick a couple of things to sample, you'll be happy with the larger helping. If you're using Disney Dining Plan snack points to get items, you'll get a better value out of the higher pricing. But if you're like me, and you like to try all different stuff, you really need to bring some friends along to share the food and the cost. Otherwise, two booths in, you'll be done. The Hubs and I were the only ones we knew that were available to attend opening day, and so we had to try and sample stuff as much as we could, without getting sick. Now, let's not kid ourselves... eating has never been a problem for us. We can both put away a good amount of food. But when you're starting on an empty stomach, and you only have three hours before you have to pick up the kids from school, it can all go wonky. We did our best, (for YOU, of course!), but to be totally upfront, things that we had reviewed last year, we did not get again this year, so my reviews below are combined with this year's and last year's. Fair enough? Ok, let's go!




     First up was the brand new booth, The Berry Basket. It's themed to... you guessed it... BERRIES! Here's the menu: 



And here's my mini review of what we sampled:

  • What did we try?   Warm Wild Berry Buckle
  • How would I describe it?   A coffee cake-like pastry, covered in a mixed berry compote, and topped with a small scoop of pepper berry gelato.
  • How was the portion/value?   At $4.25, it was easily shareable between two or three people and is about the size of most Disney desserts, so I think this is reasonably priced. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   C   The cake was served warm, which was nice, but the ice cream melted pretty much on contact, making a gooey mess that ran over the sides of the plate. The cake itself seemed like a package coffee cake, and would have been better as a more hearty biscuit. The flavors were good, and the pepper berry gelato was something a little different. (You get pretty much no pepper-flavor to it.) 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   No. Not my favorite. 

AND
  • What did we try?   Twinings Green Tea Mint Berry Julep (non-alcoholic)
  • How would I describe it?   A refreshing mint-berry slushy, served with blackberries on top. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.25 is probably a little much for a few ounces of slushy.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   I loved this and would have given it an A. The Hubs hated it, so I'm balancing us out at a B. This drink wasn't overly sweet and the mintiness gave it such an awesomely refreshing finish to it. The Hubs hate berries. And mint. And tea. This drink was SO not made for him. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I absolutely will. The Hubs, not so much. But at least I know he won't steal any of mine. My four year old totally will though. This drink will be his jam!
     Next in line was La Isla Fresca, which has a Caribbean theme to it. 


And here's the menu: 


They were having some difficulties opening and so we skipped it for now, but I did try the slush last year:
  • What did we try?   Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink (non-alcoholic)
  • How would I describe it?   This was pretty much straight-up frozen mango juice. Since I am allergic, my little guy, K, got this one. He loves anything slushy, so he was a fan. Our friend, "A", got the alcoholic version and said it was tasty. The shot of rum pooled at the bottom of the cup, making for a potent final sip.
  • How was the portion/value?   To me, for $4.25, ($9.25 for the alcoholic version), I should get a full 8 oz. glass, not a little 4 oz. (I'm just guessing here) one.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   N/A   This one was all K.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I do not wish to die of mango poisoning, so, no, I will not.
     The Mexican booth, Jardin de Fiestas, was also not open when we passed by, so we skipped that as well. but here is the menu:

The Mexico pavilion has some nice Flower and Garden touches, including The Three Caballeros, in topiary form, and some incredible orchids, wrapped around the trees. 



     Of course, Norway features everyone's favorite icy sisters, who just can't seem to 'let it go':



...as well as some troll friends:


     The next Outdoor Kitchen was Lotus House, in China.


Didn't get anything this year, but here's what we had last year:
  • What did we try?   Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries
  • How would I describe it?   Just like a candied apple, but with a skewer of strawberries, and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
  • How was the portion/value?   You get 3-4 strawberries per skewer, depending on size. $5.50 may seem like a high price, but I honestly love these so much, that I'd pay it any time. (Though, I will note, this is up over $.50 from last year!)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A   I LOVE these! I have come to get them every year now since they were introduced. The strawberries are always super high quality, so they are juicy and fresh, and the candy coating adds just enough sweetness. The light sesame flavor is a nice touch. The Hubs doesn't even like strawberries and he'll usually steal one of these from me.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I plan to get them several more times before the festival is over. 
AND
  • What did we try?   Vegetable Spring Roll
  • How would I describe it?   Standard Chinese spring rolls, served with a creamy orange sauce.
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.50 for two spring rolls was ok by me.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   The rolls were tasty and not overly greasy. I was expecting the orange sauce to be sweet like a duck sauce, but it was more savory, and I was not a fan.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Maybe. Definitely not a bad snack, and a really good sized portion.

AND
  • What did we try?   Oolong Peach Bubble Tea
  • How would I describe it?   A milky iced tea, with a very light peach flavor, (in fact, I didn't taste peach at all!), and a whole bunch of blackish-green tapioca "bubbles" in it.
  • How was the portion/value?   This one was a full 20 oz. cup, but rightfully so, since it was $6.75. I think that price tag is WAY too high! (Especially since that's $.25 more than last year and I thought THAT was too high!)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   C   First of all, I wasn't expecting this tea to be milky, so that was a surprise, and not exactly en enjoyable one on a hot day. As I said, the peach flavor was barely detectable. Now, I know people who go nuts for bubble tea, but for me, these flavorless tapioca balls made me feel like my drink was full of eyeballs. Ew. It manages to pull off a C because overall, the sweetness and creaminess of the tea was enjoyable, just not my cup of tea. (See what I did there?)
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   That's a "no". For $6.75, I could get two other things elsewhere.
     The African Outpost area has some of the best festival topiaries, straight out of The Lion King, as well as some cool merchandise areas. 





     Germany has Bauernmarkt (Farmer's Market):


Several new options this year, so we tried a couple of things:
  • What did we try?   Potato Pancake with Caramelized Ham, Onion and Herb Sour Cream
  • How would I describe it?   Similar to a corned beef hash. A savory potato pancake, topped with cubed ham, sweet onions and a sour cream drizzle.
  • How was the portion/value?   The portion was large and easily shareable for two. At $4.25, this one is a good value. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   Tasted like breakfast! This was a delicious combination of flavors and we both really liked it. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Maybe. I certainly wouldn't mind, as long as I had someone to share it with. 
AND
  • What did we try?   Warm Cheese Strudel
  • How would I describe it?   A puff pastry filled with a sweet cream cheese filling, and topped with a mixed berry compote. 
  • How was the portion/value?   Again, this was a good, shareable size, so $4.00 wasn't too bad. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?  A-   Loved this one too! There was plenty of cheese filling and the berries went nicely with it. My only com plaint was that to eat, and I couldn't decide if I should pick it up with my hands, or use silverware. Doesn't get any points for presentation, that's for sure. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Yep! 

Germany has one of my other favorite topiaries, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. Awesome photo op! 



     Just past Germany, Italy's Primavera Kitchen smelled fantastic! Here's what they had:


And what we got:
  • What did we try?   Meatball Parmigiana
  • How would I describe it?   Five small meatballs, in a rich tomato sauce, with lots of melty cheese, and topped with a crostini. 
  • How was the portion/value?   5 meatballs can easily be share among a family, which helps with the value, but $7 still seems high. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   Though very flavorful, I found the meatballs to be very salty. the Hubs says I am crazy and they were delicious, so he ate the majority of them. I wish they gave you more bread. That way your could put each little meatball on a piece and eat them like a open faced sandwich. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I won't, but The Hubs might. 


AND

  • What did we try?   Strawberry Tiramisu
  • How would I describe it?   A rich, smooth cream, with a soft cake on the bottom and strawberries on the top. Kind of like a delicate strawberry shortcake. 
  • How was the portion/value?   It was a pretty tiny cup for $5.50. We each only had one spoonful. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B-   It was ok. I mean, the cream was delicious, and the berries were sweet, but I was expecting coffee to be involved since it was tiramisu and it was not. Plus nothing about it "wowed" me. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Nah.

More gorgeous displays in Italy...





     Next we came upon the American Gardens Theater, where the nightly performances of the Garden Rocks concert series will be taking place. Here's a look at the talent this year:

Last year, The Smokehouse was a fan favorite as far as Outdoor Kitchens go, and it seems like this year will be similar. The giant smoker was puffing away, smoking brisket, ribs and pulled pork. 






And here's this year's menu: 


Mostly the same as last year, but I was disappointed to see that they did not bring back the sweet tea, which I loved. This year, we tried:
  • What did we try?   Smoked Pork Ribs
  • How would I describe it?   Two to three smoked ribs with black beans and corn. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $6.75 is a little on the high side for just two ribs. (This is up $.25 from last year.)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   Great ribs! They needed a little sauce, but BBQ sauce is readily available and it's kind of nice that they serve them plain, for those that prefer that option. I didn't love the side, but I'm not into a lot of Southwest flavors. The Hubs loved the ribs and the corn/bean mix. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Probably not, but only because there's too much other good stuff. 
AND last year we tried:
  • What did we try?   Pulled Pig Slider
  • How would I describe it?   Pulled pork on a fresh bun, with light coleslaw veggies and fried onion straws.
  • How was the portion/value?   So it's priced at $6.50, which I think is completely reasonable for a fair sized sandwich. (This is up $.25 from last year.)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   In all fairness, I do believe The Hubs would rank it higher. He was swooning over it. Though I liked the sandwich and knew the meat quality was fantastic, I found this one to be dry. I also happen to greatly dislike coleslaw, so that didn't help. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I won't, but The Hubs will.
AND
  • What did we try?   Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash
  • How would I describe it?   A hash mix of smoked beef brisket, cubed potatoes, peppers and onions, all held together with a cheese cheddar fondue and topped with pickled jalapenos.
  • How was the portion/value?   Plenty for the $6.25 price, though this is up $.50 from last year.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A   Another one of my festival favorites! This was like heaven in a paper basket! The smokiness of the burnt ends matched so nicely with the creamy, sharp cheese fondue. I want a whole plate of this stuff!
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Yes! It'll be my lunch next time, minus the jalapenos!

AND
  • What did we try?   Warm Chocolate Cake
  • How would I describe it?    A plain chocolate cupcake, served warm and topped with caramel sauce and candied pecans that have a little kick to 'em.
  • How was the portion/value?   $3.75 is pretty fair for a small cupcake, so I think this one is priced well.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   Ok, so warm... chocolate...cake. Can't really go wrong there. And the cake was warm, moist and tasty. (Though the cake itself tasted like it was made from a packaged mix.) The caramel sauce was flavorful, but I didn't get any saltiness from it and I think if it were truly salty, it really would have made this one stand out. The pecans with a kick were a fun surprise. (I gave it the "+" for the warmth. Warm desserts rock! Can't beat the fresh-out-of-the-oven quality!)
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Nah. Again, not bad, but not something I feel the need to repeat.
NEXT! Japan and the Hanami booth!:



Too full for anything this year, but last year I tried:
  • What did we try?   Frushi
  • How would I describe it?   A sushi-like roll-up, with pineapple, strawberries and cantaloupe in the middle, raspberry coconut rice around it, and topped with coconut flakes, canned whipped cream and raspberry puree.
  • How was the portion/value?   Three pieces in the roll, for $5.75 is too much. Especially since this is up $.50 from last year. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   D-   Guys, I am so sorry if you are a Frushi fanatic, (because this stuff seems to have a cult-following), but I just don't get it! The coconut rice was chilled and gummy. The fruit wasn't particularly sweet, and the toppings tasted artificial. Both of my kids spit this out and they love fruit. I tried one bite and hated it. I ended up throwing out almost the whole roll. The only reason I gave it a D- and not an F is because it looks cool.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Um, no. Never. Down with Frushi,
     There's a cute merchandise area between Japan and Morocco, with lots of stuff for the festival. Makes me with I gardened. 




     We sadly had to skip Morocco's Taste of Marrakesh booth too, as we were soooo full. Here's what this year's offerings are: 


I don't think we got anything there last year either, so no reviews. Boooo..... 

     On to Florida Fresh! This one is also a very popular booth and with good reason:





It has a really cool garden around it, the Key West-style shack has seating next to it, as well. Plus, look at this menu:


Yum! This year we tried the newest item...
  • What did we try?   Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue
  • How would I describe it?   A sweet and tart key lime pie in a graham cracker crust, with meringue and a little shortbread butterfly cookie. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.25 was totally reasonable for this dessert. You could easily share it, and you'd pay the same price or more for a similar dessert elsewhere on property.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A-   The Hubs is a key lime pie connoisseur. He's super picky and likes his pie super tart, super sweet, and with cream and not meringue. Well, because you can't have it all, this one did have meringue, but he didn't seem to mind. He said this was the best key lime pie he's had on Disney property! I don't even like key lime pie and I thought it was pretty good too. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I am pretty sure The Hubs will get it again. 
But last year we also tried some other stuff, which was brought back this year too. The Florida Fresh booth had me at watermelon. I LOVE watermelon juice. Like, LOVE it. Back in the day, (probably about 15 years back), La Cantina de San Angel used to serve it as an everyday drink and it was bomb! So refreshing and delicious! It was really unique and I loved getting it every time I was in Epcot. They broke my heart and stopped selling it, but they do occasionally resurrect it for Food and Wine or Flower and Garden, so I was very excited to see it on the menu at Florida Fresh:
  • What did we try?   Fresh Squeezed Watermelon Juice
  • How would I describe it?   Pretty straight forward... a liquefied watermelon in a glass.
  • How was the portion/value?   Well, it was $3.25 for a small, 4ish oz. cup. Considering that the large, 32 oz. cup used to be $3.50, it is a little hard to pay the same for a much smaller portion, but since I love it, I do it.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   As much as I adore this refreshing and naturally sweet juice, the glass I got was room temperature at best, making it not nearly as enjoyable as it usually is, hence the "B".
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Yes, but I hope it's cold! The colder, the better!
AND

Watermelon Juice on the left and Watermelon-Cucumber Slushie on the right
  • What did we try?   Watermelon-Cucumber Slushie (non-alcoholic)
  • How would I describe it?   This was more of an artificial watermelon flavored slush. Very sweet.
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.25 for a small cup of slush is too much. ($11.75 for version with gin)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B-   It tasted good, but compared to the watermelon juice, it was just too sweet for me. The cucumber flavor was pretty minimal. It was more like a Jolly Rancher watermelon flavored slush.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Probably not. I'll stick with the juice and hope that it's cold.
     Next up was France and the Fleur de Lys booth, and oh, God bless the French. Seriously. I mean, they can do things with food that no one else can do. Not to mention, their alcohol is pretty incredible too! Here's this year's menu:


Since two of the three food items were repeats from last year, I decided not to get anything this time around, but here's last year's reviews:
  • What did we try?   Tarte a l'Onion Alsacienne
  • How would I describe it?   A flaky, buttery crust, covered in oniony goodness.
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.75 for this pastry was totally reasonable, considering it was about the same size as a pastry you'd get at Starbucks for the same price. I'd guess it was about a 3" x 4" square. (This is up $.25 from last year's price.)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A+   Oh lordy. Butter. Sauteed onions. Flaky pastry. Fresh French herbs. What about this could possibly be bad? (Well, unless you don't like onions.) This pasty was as delicious as it sounds, and more. Served warm and fresh, it was heaven-sent. One of my very favorite things from this year's festival.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Oh yeah. For sure. Can I have one NOW?
AND
  • What did we try?   Macaron Chocolat Framboise
  • How would I describe it?   A raspberry flavored French macaron cookie, filled with a fudgy ganache and raspberry jam.
  • How was the portion/value?   Everyone who has had a French macaron knows that those little suckers are expensive. You can expect to pay a couple of bucks for one small macaron, so $4.75 for one large one doesn't seem that bad. I'd say the macaron was about 3" across.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A-   Loved this one too. The cookie part was perfectly crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside. The fudge filling was plentiful and so smooth. The raspberry jam was only directly in the middle, (which The Hubs thought was great, because he doesn't like raspberry jam, and he was able to nibble the macaron, enjoy the chocolate, and avoid the raspberry), and a good balance of tart and sweet. The only reason I added the "-" to the grade is because it was served out of a fridge, making it cold and a little on the hard side. Buuuut, I get that it's Florida and they HAVE to keep them in the fridge. Had I waited a few minutes more to enjoy it, it probably would have softened up, but it was irresistible. So it's their fault for making it irresistible. Yeah.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Oui. Oui, very much. 
The French Pavilion is gorgeous any time of year, but during Flower and Garden, it's just stunning. And with Beauty and the Beast coming out in just a couple of weeks, this place is bound to be popular. 




     Over the bridge we went, and into the jolly old UK. The UK Tea Garden hosts an awesome tour this year. The Royal Garden Tea Tour is offered daily, at 9:30 am only. The tour is $15 per person, and for 45 minutes, Guests learn about the art of tea, and then are served tea and scones in the lovely outdoor garden area. (The complimentary English Tea Garden tour is still being offered multiple times a day, as well, but this one has SCONES!) I can't wait to check it out. I bet my Mom will love it!



And Tinkerbell has found a new home in the UK this year, accompanied high in the sky by her pal, Peter. 




Then, between the UK and Canada, we came across the Cider House Outdoor Kitchen.


The line was massive and we STILL weren't hungry, so we skipped it for now, but here's what we had last year that is back again in 2017:
  • What did we try?   Freshly Baked Lemon Scone
  • How would I describe it?   A warm lemon scone, lightly iced, and topped with mixed berries and fresh whipped cream.
  • How was the portion/value?   Bigger than a mini-scone from Starbucks, but smaller than a full sized one. Does that help? I thought $3.75 was a fair price.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A+   Also one of my very favorites from the festival! What a delightful surprised to be served an oven-warm scone! The flavor was lemony, but not overwhelmingly so. The berry topping was not sugary, and more like fresh berry compote. The cream gave it a nice contrast. I loved this and it might be my top pick.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Absolutely. 
AND
  • What did we try?   Martinelli's Sparkling Cider 
  • How would I describe it?   Your typical, sugary, sparkling apple cider that you were likely served as a kid, on New Year's Eve.
  • How was the portion/value?   A small glass for $4.75? I can buy a bottle for $2 at any grocery store. Perhaps one of the most overpriced things a bought all day.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   Yeah, it tasted good and was served cold, but this is not in any way something special.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Not a chance I'm paying almost $5 for this again.

We saw the gang from Winnie the Pooh just after the Cider House...





...and then, of course, came across the gorgeous gardens in Canada, in full bloom, and some other little forest friends. 




Canada is home to a brand new Outdoor Kitchen, Northern Bloom. It was super popular with the crowd of Guests that were in the park, so I had to check it out. Here's the delicious menu:

  • What did we try?   Seared Scallops
  • How would I describe it?   Caramelized scallops with green beans, roasted red skin potatoes and bacon crumbles, in a brown butter sauce. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $6.25 got us two scallops, two potato halves and about a half a cup of green beans. Not too bad. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   The scallops were fantastic and some of the best I have ever had. The green beans, however, were warm, but raw, which made them kinda gross. Overall, stellar flavors, but I wish the beans were cooked. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Maybe, but I'll probably try the beef next time. 


AND
  • What did we try?   Nanaimo Bar Trifle
  • How would I describe it?   A smooth, creamy vanilla pastry cream, with a rich chocolate topping and a cookie crumble. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.25 for an very small cup seems a bit much. Some of the other desserts are a much better value. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   Very, very tasty. The Cast Member that sold it to me claimed it was coconut flavored, but I did not taste any coconut. It was great, but again only about two spoonfuls. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Nah. It was good and I'm glad I tried it, but it's not worth getting again. 
     The Urban Farm Eats area had some really cool urban gardening displays, including a modernized chicken coop, small space gardens and vertical gardens. 







They also have a pretty cool set of offerings:


 Sadly, we were far too full to try anything from Urban Farm Eats as well, so we kept on moving. 

     Over at the Pineapple Promenade, the main feature is the pineapple soft serve, (Dole Whip), with or with without rum. They do have a couple of other unique options too, though:


     We once again skipped out, since I've had Dole Whip many times before, and a spicy hot dog is not my idea of a good time. I have had the Desert Violet Lemonade before, and I really liked it, but I wasn't up for trying it again. 

     We quickly checked out the musical playground, which my kids loved last year, and I'm sure that they will love to kill some time there again when we take them there this year. Mamma certainly doesn't mind checking it out either, since there are astroturf and Adirondack chairs, and some nice shade. Ahhhh..... Flower and Garden can wear a parent out!


     And just like that, we were done. Around the world in 3 hours! Took some gorgeous pictures, filled our bellies, and got lots of sun. I can't wait to take the Littles soon, so that they can enjoy the food and flowers! Flower and Garden definitely has more kid-appeal than Food and Wine, so they'll be psyched to attend. And I promise, anything else I taste-test, I'll tell you all about it. 

     Thanks for joining me on my 'round the world tour of Epcot's 2017 Flower and Garden Festival. Please gather up your personal belongings and exit to the rear of the post. Oh, and should YOU want to check out this festival, or any other Epcot festival yourself, contact my friends over at Kingdom Konsultant Travel. They'll take care of all of the deets to make your trip sweet! Until next time, Disney fans!!! 


- Jenn aka "Tink"
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