Friday, September 30, 2016

Eleven Things I Ate Around You...

Well, we did it again! We pigged out around the world. I think we went into this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with lower expectations about our eating capabilities. We just can't eat as much as we think we can.

As usual, I printed up the list of food by booth. I highlighted eleven items in yellow. Those were our must-haves. I highlighted twelve items in blue. Those were our if-we-feel-like-its. The plan was to eat all of our yellows first and only go back for blues after we rode Frozen Ever After.

Here's how it all worked out.

Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley
$5.75
1.
First stop, France! Au chante, voulez vous. Le purrr.

They did snails a little differently this year, hiding them inside a buttery, garlic-y croissant. Oh. My. Heavens. Delicious! And packed with the rubbery little suckers. See one in there?


Nom nom. That's French for Yum yum.

Actually not rubbery. Just perfect. 

Hubs ate some of the croissant sans snails and declared it pretty good. I ate the whole thing! The whole friggin' thing. Which, you might think, is good. But it's not. Because we have a list with a lot of things highlighted and we've got to get through it. 

And checkout that translation. Croissant aux Escargots is French for Escargot Croissant. Thanks, Epcot. I never would have figured that one out.

We enjoyed our snails with a guest at our table.




He was a tiny little thing. I did my best to keep away. It was a long, long way to the ground and I didn't want him trying to jump.


Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce
$3.95


2. 
Next stop. Morocco.

Chocolate Baklava!

Baklava is good, right? Honey. Nutty. Flaky. So, chocolate baklava must be heaven. Eh. Not so much. Not bad. But not Chocgasm worthy. The chocolate tasted like an afterthought, or as hubs put it: like it's not supposed to be there. His exact word: Abomination. I agree that it was...different and not something I would eat again on purpose.

This did not stop me from eating more than my share.


Garlic Shrimp: Marinated Shrimp sauteed with Garlic and Butter and served over Rice.
$6.95

3. 
Japan!

This year, at the Japan booth, we tried Garlic Shrimp. Like...duh. Just say garlic and I'm there. The shrimp was tasty. Mildly garlic-y with a hint of soy sauce. The rice was tasteless, however, and the bean...it tasted green and had a nice starchy texture.

More garlic please.


Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento [sic] Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast
$5.25

4.
Hops & Barley.

I am a big fan, a YUGE fan, of pimiento cheese. (Ahem. Note the true and proper spelling, Epcot.) So, I knew I had to try this. And it was pretty gosh-darn good. Nummy, I'd say. Even hubs liked it. The brisket was mildly tasty and the salsa atop it tasted fresh and tomato-y. The toast was almost soggy underneath it all, but still held its own. Overall, it was spicy and full of flavor.

I'd eat that again.

Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce
$3.75

5. 
Germany. Okay. Let me explain.

I'd highlighted in yellow all the yummiest dessert things that I wanted to eat and I felt a tad selfish. So, I also put Germany's apple strudel in yellow. For hubs, you know. A bone.

As we approached the booth, however, I was informed that apple strudel was not a favorite. Still. Rules were rules. (Rules are one of hubs' favorite things.) Apple strudel was in yellow, therefore, it must be eaten. So we ate it.


Once deconstructed we found our strudel contained yellow raisins as well.

It was...well, it tasted...healthy. Is that normal for strudel? When you go at it, you...I mean I, as an American, expect something like apple pie. Sweet. Maybe too sweet. Strudel...this strudel anyway, was not sweet. So, I'd call it wholesome, except I also think sweet apple pie is wholesome. The dough wasn't flaky as it should be...if you ask me. But hubs said it was flaky on the top. Anyway, I'd give it a bland on the food scale.

Oh, and I could barely taste the raisins, too.


Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
$5.50

6. 
Next stop, China.

We grabbed some black pepper shrimp with garlic noodles and walked all the way over to Norway to find a spot to sit and enjoy. 

I must say. Fabulous! Just fabulous! Peppery and garlic-y. The shrimp had a bit of crustiness to its outer layer. Oh, yummy. I wanted to eat all of it. ALL of it! But I knew I still had so much left to eat. We at least ate all of the shrimp. The noodles were heavenly, though. 

As we ate, a couple of Vikings came around the corner chatting up guests and shaking hands. They just looked like guys in old clothes. So...authentic vikings! But if you listened carefully, you'd hear them saying...nonsense: "Yar! Yarm arr yar-yarr. Narm yar, yar arrgh." Disney is epic, isn't it?


Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle
$3.25

7. 
Then we went to The CHEW Collective (Yeah, I don't know what that is, either) for some peanut butter and white chocolate mousse. With caramel drizzle. Oh, yeah.

It was good. But very mild. It looks bigger than it was. Here, another picture for comparison: 






I don't know. It still looks bigger than I remember it. I kept the little container. Figured I could put something in it. Paper clips, maybe.


Duck Confit with Creamy Polenta and Fire-Roasted Salsa
$5.25

8.
Then we were off to the Greenhouse Guru Hosted by Village Farms. Another booth that just seemed unrelated to anything worldly. I really like the idea of eating foods representative of countries around the world. I think Epcot might be getting off its theme.

Here's the thing with the duck. I had some duck in a Tur-Duc-ken once and loved it. But every time I try it in any other form, it's just not the same. I guess I have to have my duck marinated in a turkey and stuffed with a chicken.

Anyway, the polenta was pretty good. Like cheesy grits. The salsa was bland. I guess I thought the "fire-roasted" part meant hot. But it was just tomato-y. And the duck could have been any pulled meat. Very mild.


Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel
$4.50
Red Wine Chocolate Truffle
$2.25
9. 
Off to the Chocolate Studio!
Again. Off theme.

Here we got the liquid nitro chocolate truffle with warm whiskey caramel. And as long as we were there, I decided to get one of my blue choices: a red wine chocolate truffle. This was against the rules. But I guess hubs was pretty full by that point and just didn't care.

The liquid nitro truffle was like hard, frozen chocolate mousse. Creamy like velvet as it melted in your mouth. I liked it, even though the chocolate was very mild.

The red wine truffle? Well, I thought it was awful. I made the gross! face with each try. I thought it tasted like wine. In fact, it was as if every time my mouth closed on it, I got a spurt of strong red wine. I don't like wine.

Hubs thought it tasted nothing like wine. He said it was just really bitter chocolate.

So, what do you think? Was I just so prepared to taste wine and hate it that I did? I don't know. I really don't know. But. Blech.

Spanakopita
$4.25

10.
Greece!

I had spanakopita highlighted in yellow. Hubs was suspicious.

"I looked it up," I told him.
"So, what is it?"
"I don't remember. But it must be good."
"It's eggplant," he said.
"I wouldn't have put it in yellow if it was eggplant."
"I'm telling you, it's eggplant."

It wasn't eggplant. It was like a spinach pastry. Very delicious! Cheesy and flaky. But sort of heavy. Could be that we were just getting really full.


Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard
$3.75

11.
Ireland.

You know what that means! That chocolate pudding cake with the booze sauce all over it! It was bigger this year. I said twice as big. Hubs said more than that.

Here's a picture of last year's cake:





Yeah, it was puny last year.

Anyway, I swear it wasn't as good. It was as if in making it so much bigger, they just spread out the flavor. It didn't pack quite as much punch as I thought it was going to...as I remembered it. Seemed a bit watered down. But it was still pretty good.

And that was it. That was all we could fit in. We spent an hour after that in line at Frozen Ever After. You can read my post about that, if you like. And when we came out into the light, it was pouring rain. We made our way into a little snack place so I could get a much needed dose of Diet Coke and then...left.

I think hubs would have gone around again after the rain let up to try some more of our blue choices. But I was satisfied. And maybe a little sick. I didn't feel very well on the ride home. Many of our choices this year were very rich and buttery. And we ate more desserts than usual.

But I'm all better now. Already formulating my plan for next year... mwuhahahaha!








Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Disney, You could do so much better...

I would like to be entertained now...
photo by C.P. Storm via Flickr


Yesterday, we made our annual trek to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival to sample delectable treats that we assume are representative of the countries each food dispensing booth is named for.

But on Monday, we visited--duh, Duh, DUH!--The Magic Kingdom! That's right. The Happiest Place on Earth. (I guess the whole Disney World is supposed to be the Happiest, but the Magic Kingdom is still my favorite.) We'd tried to visit last April but it was so crowded we could barely make our way through the throngs of bodies to get anywhere. So we left. This visit was much better. Sure, it was still crowded, but normal crowded, not I-feel-like-a-sardine crowded.

I still remember, many years ago, attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only did they give us free (scrumptious) cookies and hot chocolate, but the streets were wide open and welcoming. I have no idea if the experience is the same these days.

But this complaint isn't about crowds, really. The park is going to be crowded because it's a great place to go. That said, Walt Disney World could do a lot better job at entertaining the crowds. A LOT better.

You know the old joke, right? You stand in line for 90 minutes waiting for a 30-second ride.

It's funny because it's true. Sort of.

The lines are sometimes only 20 minutes. Sometimes they're over 90! And the rides really do only last a few. It's so imbalanced it's silly.

But it could be better.

Look what they've started with the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride, for example. The first long stretch of line abuts a playground. While one person in the group holds their place in line, others can play. There were honey pot drums, some sort of pop-up ball thingie, Eeyore's lean-to to crawl through, etc. And then the line ran around both sides of a honey bee roller coaster that everyone could play with, moving the bees up and down and through honeycombs that buzzed with excitement. It was great!

And then it became a line again.

Oh, bother.

We had a Fast Pass for Space Mountain and as we passed fastly all those poor schmucks in the stand-by line, I noticed there were some games along the wall to amuse them. What a great idea!

When we were at Epcot, we prepared to wait in line for the new Frozen Ever After ride. We started just outside the door and the line time was 45 minutes. Not bad at all, for Disney. Amiright? But before we made it to the door, it changed to 60 minutes. Still not as bad as the hour-and-a-half I was expecting. So we plunged ahead full of Happiness and bravado (and full of a LOT of delectable treats we assumed were indicative of food from various countries around the world).

The bulk of our wait time (which turned out to be about an hour and ten minutes) was spent in a snake of a line, winding back and forth against itself, inside a big room the walls of which depicted a Norwegian (we can assume) village from the movie Frozen.

This was mind-numbing, back and feet aching tedium. And as I stood there, trying not to look yet again at that guy I kept passing, or getting out of the way of people making their way backwards, having given up, or trying not to step on that poor child with more energy than can be contained, I wanted to be entertained. I could only look at Facebook on my iPhone so often, after all. I read an article about politics. Watched some cat videos. But it was all still very clear that I was cattle.

At one point, my husband and I decided what it would take for the Frozen Ever After ride to be worth all that waiting and back-aching boredom.

A water slide, a bit of spinning, real live singers and dancers, being snowed on, a snowball fight between cars or boats* or whatever we'll be riding, a Popsicle, and a Diet Coke at the end. That's our bar.

While the ride was a lot of fun, and I was glad to have been on it, of course it didn't live up to the time expended in a herd of bodies walking past one another again and again.

The sad part is that Disney could have done it so much better. Not the ride. The line! 

The line could have been fabulous.

In that room, that little village, there was a black sky above us. A sky that could have been filled with fireworks from time to time. How about Donald Duck sky-writing Disney film quotes for us to guess at? Large screen TVs could have broadcast shorts, singalongs, Disney news, behind the scenes tours, facts and trivia. There could have been a balcony in that room on which employees entertained and engaged us a la the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

That line could have been so much fun! All the lines at Disney World, especially the ones they know will be extraordinarily long (like, what's the deal with Peter Pan's Flight? We didn't even try.), could be...well, AMAZING!

You're Disney World! What the heck? Where is your innovation? Where is your commitment to your guests? 

You could make the stand-by lines so much fun people will look forward to the wait. You could really make Disney World The Happiest Place on Earth.

So, why don't you?



*Now, ahem, about those boats. You went through all that time and expense to remake Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After. Shouldn't we have ridden SLEDS? On the snow? And that warm mist we went through...shouldn't it have been...oh, I don't know...SNOW?

Come on, Disney World. You can do better.





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Try to remember without watching the video...

Fall, is it?
Photo by Satoru via Flickr

At the end of this post I will make a yuge announcement! But everything leading up to it is very important. I can't tell you how important all of this is. But it's really, really important.

Some years ago, never mind how long precisely, Marie Osmond sang a song about September. Hold on a minute...let me see if I can find it...aren't the Tubes amazing? Don't we just live in the most amazing--barring Trump--time? Ah, here it is:



This song really has absolutely nothing to do with my post, except that, as I was thinking about writing it, I remembered it. This song, I think, is about getting old and dying, or falling in love with...wait that would a May/December thing...not a May/September thing. So, okay, it's about getting old and remembering when you were younger and then...following...followfollowfollow as Marie says. I don't know...is she saying to go into the light?

Whatever.

(I so wanted to write "whatevs" but that's a slippery slope.)

It has been quite a September so far, that's what I'm getting at. (Egad. I just tried to watch that video and couldn't get through it. That was a long time ago. Maybe we shouldn't look back after all.)

The first weekend of the month saw hubs and me in Atlanta for the Decatur Book Festival. What a fabulous time! Seriously. I sold so many books I started to feel...like an author! Like a real author. Don't worry, I got over it really fast. Like, the very next weekend when we hosted a table at Space Coast Comic Con.

I'm not sure where the idea to try comic cons came from, but it came, and we decided to give them a shot. We did Nerd Fest in Melbourne last spring and it was a good time so we chose a couple more. The results were less compelling. I don't think our set-up is really geared toward the comic con crowd. Not at this time, anyway.

But...to get back on track...

I made clothes specially for the occasion. I decided I would be Chai (pronounced "Kai" whether anyone likes it or not) Legend, a character from the book I'm writing next. I got a few compliments on the first one, the one with the dress. I didn't get any compliments on the second, with the pirate shirt, because I didn't get to wear that one.

Here they are:

























On the left is the dress. It looks like super thin leather. But it's not, of course. It's fabric coated with some kind of rubber, I think. In the back view, you can see that I added the buckle to cover the mistake I made in the over-yoke, which I created because the actual yoke is too wide for my chest. (An expert sewer, I am not...yet.) And on the right is the ensemble with the overcoat. The overcoat fabric also looks like animal skin. Very cool. Here are the fabrics up close:





The pouch is a story in itself. I want to make my own purses and the hardware is really expensive. So I went to Goodwill and found a bunch of super cheap bags. Then I cut them up and saved the hardware: buckles, zippers, D-rings, etc. And one purse not only had this weird front filled with grommets, but it matched the fabric of my dress perfectly. So, I made a pouch out of it. It's what Chai carries magic in.



And here is the pirate shirt. Believe it or not, I made the small and still had to take three inches off each side of the thing, just to get it to look like this.




You might be wondering if I plan to post pictures of all my sewing/craft projects on my blog. Yes. Yes, I do. Anyway, I didn't get the pirate shirt finished in time for Space Coast Comic Con and I worked my butt off getting it ready for Treasure Coast Comic Con which was the very next weekend!

But alas, that con was rather dead on Sunday and I just wasn't feeling the costume vibe, so I never changed into it. Pity. I may just have to dress up as Chai as a rule when doing these author gigs. I don't want to have spent all that time screaming at my sewing machine for nothing.

(Not to worry. I figured out what the problem was. My bad.)

Okay, so September thus far has been exhausting! So exhausting that I found myself at Cracker Barrel on Sunday evening scarfing down some Homestyle Chicken and biscuits. Nom nom. I was so emotionally worn out that I ordered some of their famous Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake to go. I get it without the ice cream so I can eat it whenever I'm ready. (I was ready surprisingly soon after eating the chicken and biscuits.)

Anyway, here is what it looks like on their menu. Beautiful, isn't it? You want to see what I got? Scroll, my friend. Scroll.




Yep. I got home and opened up my to-go container to have a look and this is what my eyes beheld:



Wtf?

Don't get me wrong. I ate it. It was goooooood. But...I can't help feeling it would have been better as the solid, fudgy, thick hunk it was supposed to be.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It's FALL! Do you know what happens every fall? No? Well, I will tell you.

The Epcot International Food & Wine (who cares about the wine part?) Festival!


That's right. This weekend I'll be printing up a list of all the countries with booths this year and highlighting the things I want to eat and new things I'm eager to try. And as usual, I will be blogging every scrumptious and awful detail shortly after, complete with pictures!

I don't care if you like it...it's one of my favorite things to blog about. So, prepare yourselves!

And Epcot! Here we come!