2009 Epcot Food & Wine Highlights

I nearly forgot to post my faves from this year's Epcot Food and Wine Festival. All in all, I think the food was just slightly better in 2009 than it was in the last two years.

My top picks:

New Orleans – Crawfish Etouffee
By far the best you can get in Orlando. Same recipe as in 2008, although I do wish they would bring back the small Tabasco bottles to compliment this great etouffee. (If you ask, they do have hot sauce behind the counter, just not Tabasco brand.)

Melbourne, Australia – Grilled Lamp Chop with Red Wine Sauce and Murray River Sea Salt
The chop could have been trimmed better. It's almost as if they left the fat intact to impress you with the portion size. That said, this was a very well executed, hand-seasoned lamb chop with great balance between the wine & sea salt. Delicious!

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Grilled Pork Skewer with Farifa
No wonder the USA lost the Olympic bid to Rio. Something so simple as a pork on a stick… and it absolutely rocked. Perfectly balanced tastes.

A couple of other notables:

– The Chicken Urumqi (Grilled chicken with cumin and traditional Chinese spices) in Bejing was really tasty, especially with sriracha sauce to compliment the cumin.

– The maple glazed salmon in Montreal was good, but not nearly as tasty as last year. I thought they were a little overboard with the maple this year and the choice to serve the salmon over cold lentils wasn't nearly the presentation or taste of last year's dish. Bring back the arugula & roasted corn and this dish makes the "best" list.

– Stop by Cape Town, South Africa and order the Seared Beef Tenderloin, but don't focus too much on the meat. The star of this dish is the amazing sweet potato puree. A bite of sweet potato with the beef and mango barbecue is really tasty!

– I don't care what anyone says, the Nuernberger sausage in Munich is fantastic. Yes, the presentation sucks… but it's a sausage… on a pretzel roll! It's so simple and the the pretzel rolls were really soft this year. Just a really great snack – perfect way to sneak a beer into the mix at a "wine" festival.

– Last but not least, the sushi rolls at Tokyo. I don't understand how they can make and refrigerate rolls without them turning into mush, but they have got it down pat. The sushi rolls aren't legendary, but they are crispy and fresh!

For more on the 2009 Epcot Food & Wine Festival see the official Disney event page or this unofficial overview at WDWInfo.

What's fair is fare

This weekend kicks off two of my favorite food festivals – Epcot Food & Wine Festival in Orlando and The Great State Fair of Texas.

Now these are two completely divergent culinary experiences. The Great State Fair of Texas has always featured real food for real people (hello, Chili Pavilion!), whereas Food & Wine offers more traditional culinary experience – fair versus fare, if you will.

Some of my returning favorites at Food & Wine are:

  • New Orleans, LA: Spicy Cajun Crawfish and Vegetable Stew; Chicken and Andouille Gumbo; Praline Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
  • Cape Town, South Africa: Mealie Soup with Crabmeat and Chili Oil; Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Purée and Mango Barbeque Sauce
  • Montreal, Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup; Maple Glazed Salmon with Lentil Salad; Spicy Chicken Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta; Maple Sugar Candy
  • Wellington, New Zealand: Seared Sea Scallop with Vegetable Slaw and Lemon Oil; Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney

Whereas my "hit list" for the State Fair would be:

  • CORN DOGS!!!
  • Stuffed Wings on a stick – Texas sized, boneless, seasoned stuffed wings, fried and served on a stick.
  • Texas Bar-B-Que Boomerangs – Tender, hickory smoked brisket, chopped and mixed with BW’s special sweet, smokey flavorful BBQ sauce. Brisket is scooped into a light pastry won ton wrapper, folded, sealed and deep fried to a delicate crisp golden brown
  • Chili Cheese Dog Pot Pie – Slices of wieners mixed with chili, covered with grated cheese and a pastry crust. Baked and cut into squares, served in a 12 oz. bowl.
  • Fernie’s Southern Fried Fajitas – Tender succulent strips of mildly seasoned skirt steak dipped in batter & fried until golden & crunchy. Topped with savory fried onions & served with a side of creamy homestyle gravy.

(OK, OK… my cardiologist would prefer me attend Food & Wine – and yours would too! – so maybe take in the State Fair in moderation!)

To be honest, I can't begin to pick one over the other – both are gastronomical treats and a great way to spend an evening.

My only regret is that I can't be in two places at once!

Trying to reason with hurricane season

Hurricane season officially begins next week. With that in mind, I fired up the generator today for a 15-minute run and double checked our hurricane supplies. Generally speaking, we're in good shape.

I also checked my weather radio – an Eton FR300 Emergency Crank Radio Black – although it's always ready since it runs on AC/DC or hand-crank power.

If you're looking to stay current on storm season, check these great resources:

Hurricane Room on FriendFeed – aggregates content from blogs, twitter, forecasts and other resources to give you one at a glance, real-time story of storm season – must bookmark site!

Accuweather.com Hurricane Center – one of, if not THE, best tracking sites

IbisEye Storm Map

This Summer's Gonna Rock

I know I've been talking a lot about our Safari trip to Kenya, but that's not the only reason this summer is going to rock.

I'm PSYCHED about this year's Sounds Like Summer Concert Series at Epcot. Here's the lineup:

June 15–21
Stayin’ Alive
A Tribute to the Bee Gees

June 22–28
Hotel California
A Tribute to the Eagles

June 29–July 8
Slippery When Wet
The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute

July 9–19
Bjorn Again
A Tribute to ABBA

July 20–26
The Sounds of the Supremes
A Tribute to the Supremes

July 27–August 2
A Tribute to U2

August 3–9
Petty Theft
A Tribute to Tom Petty

We'll miss Slippery When Wet due to the aforementioned trip to Africa, but… man! The concert series is gonna be a lot of fun this year, all leading up to Dallas' own Petty Theft!

Can't wait! See y'all at the parks!

Gatorland ROCKS!


Merrin and I went to Gatorland yesterday and — honestly — we had a blast. The staff is wonderful and the "shows" are really entertaining. Gatorland is a family style park, and there were quite a few families there yesterday. I wouldn't say it was "packed", but probably 80% full or better.

If you haven't been, definitely make Gatorland part of your Orlando vacation plans. It's small enough to make it a three-to-four hour part of your trip or weekend.

And – yes – they have gator wrestling.

Gator Wrestling at Gatorland

Joe Dirt would have been in awe.

PS – Florida residents can take advantage of $9.99 admission for a limited time.