IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN! After missing last year's festival, I aggressively prepared for what was sure to be the most epic Food & Wine Festival yet at Disney.
It also helps that this year is the 2oth Anniversary of the festival! So hang on tight because I ate a lot.
20th Anniversary Merch
But first! The merchandise. Disney takes its anniversaries seriously. This means mountains of merchandise to commemorate the year.
I don't have the heart to tell you how many of those items I now own. But let's just say me and my wallet came to an agreement based off of the wise words of Agent Cooper:
I may have gone overboard.
My biggest splurge this year was a Dooney & Bourke purse designed specifically for this year's anniversary. Full disclaimer: I'm not a purse person. I'm definitely NOT a designer purse person. But I figured that if I were to ever get one, this would be the purse of my dreams. Zoom in. See? Many different foods and countries from the festival are printed here, along with monorails (love) and Disney characters eating. Perfection. And then I got to experience what it's like to actually buy one of these things. Like the fact that each purse is completely unique because of how the pattern was printed. My brain stuttered when the cast member pulled out three different purses and asked me to pick which one I wanted.
What do you think?
I also couldn't resist getting miniature garbage cans. I should probably mention that these are not replicas of garbage cans actually used in the park, like the Magic Kingdom series released last year. But still. You never know.
And lastly, Annual Passholders were given gifts this year - but we have to work for them. If we came three times to the festival, on the third visit, we would get a commemorative wine glass. You can see the stamps I got for visits #1 and #2 (they tore the page out in exchange for the wine glass, alas) and said wine glass. It's tiny but terribly cute.
Time for the food! There were a few new booths this year, but the key feature was the two booths inspired by the television show, The Chew: Chew Lab and Sustainable Chew. I don't think these booths will be back next year since it seems like The Chew's appearance is an anniversary special. A total shame, since one of my favorite dishes comes from the Chew Lab: the Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel.
The main draw for me was the fact that it's frozen in liquid nitrogen. The novelty of it caught me (I mean, how many years have I watched chefs on the Food Network dunk things in liquid nitrogen? It always looks impressive and somewhat mystical). I took a video of the truffles being pulled from their cryogenic slumber via my Instagram:
After eating another truffle during my fourth visit to the festival, a cast member came up to my mom and I and asked how we liked the dessert. Of course we said we loved it and I couldn't help but gush about the liquid nitrogen. He gave me a weird look and said, "You do know that all it does is freeze things, right?"
I see his point, but can't I be impressed?
Another home run this was the Hard Cider Flight from the Farm Fresh booth! This was another one of my attempts at adulting that actually worked out well! I love hard cider, but I had no idea that there were so many different flavors. The raspberry hard cider was good, but the pear one? WOAH. The pumpkin cider made me feel like it was actually October for like... five seconds (it's still really hot in Florida, sorry). The elderberry was my absolute favorite! I've never had elderberry before. Funny the first time is in cider. Hurrah!
Beyond the above treats, I have to say that everything I tried this year was wonderful. Which of these sounds good to you? Have you been to the festival this year and tried any of these?
Mango Jasmine Tea with Bubbles (China Booth)
Traditional Haggis with Neeps and Tatties (Scotland Booth)
Bulgogi BBQ Short Rib with Steamed Rice and Cucumber Kimchi (South Korea Booth)
Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits sustainably presented on VerTerra Dinnerware (Sustainable Chew Booth)
Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Hawai'i Booth)
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (Australia Booth)
Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream (Poland Booth)
The Tipsy Laird: Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats (Scotland Booth)
Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie (Ireland Booth)
Souffle de Yuca: Yuca Souffle topped with Griddled Cheese (Dominican Republic Booth)
Lechon Asado: Roasted Pork with Mangu, Pickled Red Onions, Avocado (Dominican Republic Booth)
Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese with Nueske's Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onions (Farm Fresh Booth)
Meeting Robert Irvine... Again!
Getting to see Robert Irvine at the festival was the Big Exciting Event for me this year. After seeing him for the first time in 2011, and then again last year, I was thrilled to find out that he was returning for a demo and book signing.
His new book is called Fit Fuel; it's an interesting combination of healthy recipes and workout routines to help lead readers towards a heatlhier lifestyle. Of course, the book has much more to offer than just that, including full color photos of Robert Irvine demonstating exercises and other fun stuff. You'll just have to grab a copy ;)
It's been inspiring to me since I've made a big effort to eat healthier (and therefore balance out my love of junk food) and exercise (to combat the hours I sit in front of a computer at work + writing time). My mom and I have been a team in this - she's been doing much better than I have and I'm proud of her.
Knowing how challenging it was to see Robert last year, Mom and I got up VERY early in the morning and arrived at the park before it opened. I've actually never been to Epcot before opening, so it was pretty fun to see how my favorite park starts its day (lots of bubbles) compared to Magic Kingdom's grand welcome. We ALMOST ran all the way to the Festival Center to get our wristbands for the signing. Almost. More like extreme power walking. But we got the bands!
Then we got to watch Robert Irvine's demonstration (hilarious and unpredictable as always) and got in line for the book signing.
Was Robert Irvine awesome? YES. Even though I've grown so much this year from all my experiences chatting with readers and booksellers, I STILL found myself tongue-tied and less-than-eloquent when we approached his signing table. Oh well. I guess some things never change ;)
Does that book in my hand look familiar? I decided to give a copy of Love Fortunes and Other Disasters to Robert Irvine. My mom and I have been reading his books and watching his shows for years; he's someone who gives so much and I wanted to give something back. Plus, I have a feeling he'll get a kick out of Fallon Dupree and her parents ;)
The below pictures can't convey the feels. I signed my book for him, my hands shaking like crazy, and he was nice enough to hold down the book cover for me. After Mom and I were ready to head out to World Showcase, we took one last peek at Robert's signing and saw Love Fortunes still on the table. I hope he enjoys the book!
Another Festival has gone by with so many great memories and one happy stomach. As always, I'm so happy to share the food and fun with you all.
Thank you so much for being patient with me as well. Balancing Love Charms work and other upcoming bookish machinations kept me fully occupied over the past weeks, but I can't wait to reveal those surprises in the months to come!