Dining (and Wining) Around the World: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I finally got to tell you about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but I almost forgot the entire reason that race exists: the Epcot Showcase of Nations Food and Wine Festival!  Each fall, Disney hosts an expansive Food and Wine festival, in which the Showcase of Nations is transformed with additional food stands for numerous other countries.  In total, there are 36 countries/regions represented.  Given it is Friday and a time for favorites, I am going to list off my favorite items from the festival, and some items that were worth a bite, but not quite as memorable.  Thank goodness I took pictures of the menus, because we had so many good nibbles and sips it’d be hard to remember them all! 2014-FW-Festival-Guide-MAP-AND-MARKETPLACES-2014-page-0011.  The Spicy Hand Roll from Japan: Japan did not hold back in creating a delicious and rather large hand roll that took numerous bites to finish.  This roll included both tuna and salmon and a delicious, lick-your-fingers-when-it’s-done-it’s-so-tasty Kazan Volcano sauce.  Both Mrs. BakeNBurn and I ordered this and I could have had another and called it a meal.

2.  Given I am Greek and spent this past weekend making my Nicolau family baklava, I have to go with Greece’s spanakopita! My mother, I think, makes the best

Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach... I love my roots.
Mmmm cheese, honey, fillo and spinach… I love my roots.

version (she makes a spanakopita crustard, aka pie, which will knock your socks off), but these delicate triangles had just the right balance of cheesey gooeyness and spinach.

3.  Speaking of cheese, I have to follow-up number two with the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I really wanted to lick the paper tray when I was finished.

4.  Moving on to good ol’ America, and in keeping with my love of cheese, I have to say that the American lobster macaroni and cheese (or pasta alfredo as they attempted to market it) was delectable. The hubs and I savored every last bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese – because what’s better than pasta, cheese, butter and lobster?  I also had their carrot cake, which was tasty, but not overly exceptional.

Canada was pretty darn tasty!
Canada was pretty darn tasty!

5.  Canada did a great job with their “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Although the filet was a little overcooked and tough, the sauce was delicious and not overpowering.

6.  Je aime la France! As one should expect, I focused on some bubbly and dessert in France. It’s really what I most enjoy about French dining – Champagne, pastries, and all things dessert.  The sea salt caramel crème brulee was quite a tasty treat, although could have used more sea salt to balance the caramel.  The sparkling pomegranate Kir Royale, however, whet my palate with perfection!

Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.
Pomegranate Kir = Great Decision.

7.  Having recently visited Scotland, which someday I will share with you, I had been craving a local dessert called Cranachan. This dessert is traditionally served

Where's my Scotch?
Where’s my Scotch?

as whisky (or Scotch to us Americans) soaked raspberries, layered with whipped cream and toasted oats.  It is DELICIOUS.  This version, sad to say, did not live up to my memories from Whiski, a fabulous whisky bar and eatery along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  The raspberries weren’t soaked in whisky at all, so the hubs and I also ordered a sample of Scotch to pour into it.  Good, but still not quite right.

This about sums up Edinburgh...
This about sums up Edinburgh…
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!
Two military brats and their beloved Deutschland!

8.  Danke Deutschland! The Riesling samplers were awesome.  Both Samantha and I spent some time in Germany, being the military brats we are, so of course we had to pop over to Germany.  We were torn between the beer or the Riesling flight, but we went with the wine.  It was delicious.  We both liked number 2 the best, but I had a preference for the third, and Samantha for the first, so we split them perfectly and enjoyed each tasty sip!

It's appropriate to just drink in Germany...
It’s appropriate to just drink in Germany…

9.  The hubs loves himself some duck, so we stopped in China for the Beijing Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce, which was almost sticky bun style. I took a nibble and it was awesome, so this one I wish I had saved more room to eat in entirety.

10.  We stopped in Mexico, even though we would later dine at La Hacienda, so the hubs could get his tequila flight and I could try the mango-strawberry 2014-11-09 16.41.40margarita. The tequila flight was decent and the margarita too sweet.  If you go to the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot, you pick varying quality levels for your tequila flight, which is a much better option.

11.  Of course an offering of Prosecco in Italy was a delight, and really a tradition whenever in the World Showcase!

12.  And finally, who would I be, the Anglophile I am, if I didn’t get a hard cider from England?  Alas, it was not Bulmer’s, but I do enjoy the occasional Strongbow as well!

Ciders and beers in hand!
Ciders and beers in hand!

Sadly I wasn’t able to get to everything.  Our stomachs just wouldn’t allow it.  The next time I go, I would recommend either a true whole day in Epcot (starting at 11am when the booths open) and break it up with some of the other activities’ Epcot has to offer (maybe not Mission Space, unless you really do want to lose your lunch to fit in more food…).  We were able to see Captain EO (any Michael Jackson fan NEEDS to see this MJ meets Star Wars movie music spectacular – directed by George Lucas and everything!).  It’s one of the hubby’s favs, so of course we had to educate Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  We also rode Soarin’, Spaceship Earth (LOVE it, always a favorite thanks to the narration of Dame Judy Dench), and Living with the Land.  We, of course, closed the day with one of my favorite firework shows, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  I mean, I may have the CD soundtrack and know all the words to the song… You know… Overall, it was the perfect way to end our Disney trip with such incredible friends.

Can't wait to go back!
Can’t wait to go back!

Isn’t the Epcot Food and Wine Festival the best excuse an adult could have to drink around the world?  Which nation looks the best to you?  Aren’t you impressed we stayed awake to eat and drink that long?

Run Now, Wine Later: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap

Thanks for bearing with me, fellow blogging world! Over the past three months I have made the transition into a new position at work, and it’s been quite a bit all-consuming.  I am still trying to figure out how to balance my work, personal, and social media lives, so I appreciate your patience as I have been so absent!  I know it isn’t yet the New Year but it’s never too early to make goals (see my thoughts on resolutions).  One of my goals is to make time to write – it makes me happy, I love to share fun experiences, and I appreciate the feedback I get from fellow bloggers and readers.  So on that note, I would like to (finally) present to you the race recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

When Samantha and I initially began plotting what we wanted to do for the Wine and Dine, of course we naturally started with the costumes.  We went to many iterations, first trying to plan a group costume, and then deciding it might be easier to do couples’ costumes.  Finally we ended up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (aka Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn) and the hubs and I ran as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl!  The hubs and I are huge fans of the Incredibles, so it was a perfect fit.  And knowing my hubby isn’t thrilled by running costumes, it made the outfit very easy (although we did see some Incredibles couples with the men wearing red tights… that’s dedication!).

The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!
The hubs and I as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, and Samantha and her hubby as Mickey and Minnie!

The day of the race was pretty relaxed.  We’d stayed out in the Magic Kingdom until the end of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade, so we woke leisurely, grabbed some grub at the cafeteria and lounged by the pool.  The day was overcast, which was rather foreboding for the weather forecast that night.  It was predicted to rain starting around 10pm, just when the first wave of the race was set to start.  We figured at this point there was little we could do, but Samantha had the brilliant idea to look for ponchos at the resort gift shop.  Remember those $10 giftcards from the packet pickup?  Oh yeah, they came in handy, along with the visors we purchased the day before!  We each bought a poncho, ate a quick dinner, and went back to the room to change.

Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Oh yeah, we did a lot of posing.
Pre-race photo ops, of course!
Pre-race photo ops, of course!

Having already done one Disney race, I knew it would not be beneficial to risk catching the last bus from the resort to the staging area.  We decided the second bus, which would pick us up just after 6pm.  Given our resort’s proximity to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is where the race began, it was a quick ride.  We arrived just after 6:30pm and decided, what the hey, let’s get some pictures.  We found pre-race photographers, used the porta-potties, and stood in line for a Minnie Mouse photo-op (it was perfect for Mrs. BakeNBurn, although I think Minnie really preferred Mr. BakeNBurn!).  We sat down for a little while, but I decided one additional restroom break was in order, and by the time I returned, it was time to get ready for the race!

Two Minnies and Elastigirl!
Two Minnies and Elastigirl!

We donned our ponchos, because at this point it began to sprinkle.  We all decided to start together in corral H, but Samantha

We make ponchos look good.
We make ponchos look good.

and I would let the boys do their own thing once we started.  We didn’t realize at the time that Samantha was actually fighting a knee injury, but boy was she a CHAMP.  We waited about 20-25 minutes before our corral actually set off, and by this time it was just plain raining.  Given we didn’t really have a choice, we decided to make the most of it and just have fun.  And that is precisely what we did!

YAY Wine and Dine!
YAY Wine and Dine!

Once our wave was ready to set off, the boys went ahead to run to their hearts’ content.  Samantha and I frolicked along looking for fun photo ops.  There were many to be had, although a number of the characters weren’t available due to the rain.  The first photo op was with some random fairies, but knowing many other photo stations wouldn’t be operating, we jumped in!  At this point Samantha had ditched her poncho, somewhere around the 1st mile marker, but I decided to keep mine on for a while.  I hate being wet, and thankfully it was vented along the side so I could still feel cool.  Also, I get cold really easily, so I knew I didn’t want to be shivering through the next 12 miles.  Instead, I would turn my poncho into a cape (which I know is terribly wrong, considering Edna Mole’s comment on capes: “NO CAPES!”).  I mean, hey, when life gives you ponchos, you make capes!

Edna, I failed you...
Edna, I failed you…

Past the third mile marker we made our way into the Animal Kingdom.  I completely forgot how awesome the Animal Kingdom is,

The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!
The race course went through 3 parks, which really helped the miles fly!

and loved running through it.  With the rain it really felt like a jungle! Before entering the park we passed by a mini light parade and Rafiki! There were photographers scattered throughout, and running in DinoLand was pretty spectacular.  This portion of the race took up about 2 miles, so once we exited we were on our way to the 10K mark.  Miles 6 through 8 were all on roads in between the parks, and because of the rain, course entertainment was not to be found.  Thankfully we were finally making our way into Hollywood Studios!  This was by far my favorite park of the race.  We entered through a back lot into the middle of Hollywood Studios and quickly made our way past Mickey’s wizard hat.  It was pretty spectacular all lit up at night.  We meandered through Hollywood streets and then towards the back of the park where we ran through a psychedelic tunnel with windows into costume design studios.  We got to see the costumes and mock-ups for the princesses, which in my mind, was spectacular.

Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
Look, a turtle! Go Terps!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
We were obviously THRILLED to see Rafiki!
Goodbye wizard hat!
Goodbye wizard hat!
The costume design rooms were spectacular!
The costume design rooms were spectacular! Look, Prince Charming!!

I was wondering two things around this time: 1) when were we going to see the Incredibles, and 2) when were we going to run through the Osborn Family lights?  Thankfully my questions were soon answered.  Alas, the Incredibles characters were not available when I ran past, but I took the opportunity to pose enthusiastically in front of the Incredibles backdrop.  I was in character, after all.  I was positively joyous when the photographer shouted, “Elastigirl, you made it!”  It was nice to see the photographers cheery, because they, also, had to be stuck in the rain.  Shortly after passing my photo op, we looped back around in the backstage area of Hollywood Studios and quite literally emerged in the splendor of the Osborn Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!

This was my moment to shine!
This was my moment to shine!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
Behold the splendor of the Osborn Family Lights!
DSC03675
Beautiful!
So sparkly!
So sparkly!
Quite literally everything has a light on it.
Quite literally everything has a light on it.

If you’ve never seen this spectacle, it’s completely worth the visit.  I have never seen as many glorious lights in my life.  Disney took the idea from the Osborn family in Arkansas who initially started doing light shows coordinated to Christmas music.  It’s really phenomenal and had last seen the show in December of 2010.  It in every way encompasses the magic of the Christmas season!  During the section we didn’t even bother running because we wanted to take it all in and have chances for photos.  It’s just too beautiful to run right through!

This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.
This is my pose I stole from my friend Christine from the Princess half.

Once we finally peeled ourselves away from the shimmering scene, we wound our way back through the park and passed once more by Mickey’s wizard hat.  It turns out this hat will be bidding a fond farewell to Disney World so I am happy I could see it one last time!  Once we exited the park, we were on our way to mile 11, with just the Boardwalk to go!  As we made our way from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk, we ran under a bridge.  The space underneath was PACKED with ChEAR squad participants, excited and encouraging in the wee hours of the morning!  These folks are truly phenomenal – they show up to the Disney races, which are either at 5:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night, and never fail to put a smile on a runner’s face.  It was the little boost we both needed to get through the last few miles.

Passing by all the Boardwalk resorts was also a lot of fun, although the boardwalk itself was rather treacherous while wet.  We trod carefully and worked our way up and into Epcot!  We entered in the back of the park through the entrance to the Showcase of Nations.  The after party was taking place, but I think we had already decided that hanging around later into the early morning hours in the rain didn’t sound overly enjoyable.  We weaved through the park and ran out of the entrance toward the finish line in the parking lot.  We made it, and boy did we work for it.  Samantha and I both held up pretty well given the conditions and the miles.  Our costumes remained intact and we were so thankful to be done.  We grabbed our mylar blankets, post-race snack packs, and of course, our gorgeous medals.  These babies were well worth the effort.  We found an open finisher’s photographer station then made our way out of the throng of runners to find our hubbies.  Rather than go to the party they were waiting for us after the finisher photos.  We were all pretty ready for hot showers and bed, so we worked our way to the bus stations, and thankfully made it on the available bus for Caribbean Beach.

WE DID IT!
WE DID IT!

All in all, it was a great race, and one I would definitely do again.  Sadly you cannot control the weather, and I would love to be able to experience it in better conditions, with all the characters out in action.  I was so thrilled to be able to run a second Disney race in 2014, and with another of my dearest friends.  The whole weekend was topped off by the Disney Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, so although we didn’t indulge in the after party, we still managed to get our fill!  Here’s to an amazing running year, and having completed now my 5th ever half marathon – all in 2014!

Have you ever run a half, or longer, in the rain – any other recommendations?  Would you run for wine (and food)?  Which Run Disney race is your favorite?  Who doesn’t love frolicking through sparkly Christmas lights?