A Quick Hit to Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Have you ever tasted something so good it sounds completely reasonable fly 1,000 miles each way and not sleep for 2 days to try it again? Well…as should be clear to you by now, I am a little Dopey, that’s exactly what I did last weekend! A year ago my daughter and I hit the Festival of the Arts and just about lost our minds over the offerings from the Festival booth The Deconstructed Dish.

To be specific, we had tried a deconstructed BLT, deconstructed French onion soup, and deconstructed key lime pie, that were stuff of legends. We talked about them all year, not thinking that we’d get a chance tor ever try them again. The stars aligned this year with a free weekend, free plane tickets and a cheap hotel, so we decided to go for it.

There was, of course a catch. To use the free plane tickets, we wouldn’t land until midnight, and then our flight out the day after our park-hopping would leave at 7 a.m. Sooo we knew going into this there would be very little sleep. But… there’s time for sleep in the grave.

When the first of the flight delay messages came in I wasn’t too worried. When the fourth and fifth came in, I pretty much gave up hope. Still, there was no cancellation message, so around 10 p.m we headed to the airport for our now midnight flight. The guys at the valet parking thought we were crazy… they rarely if ever see flights so late out of our sleepy little regional airport.

By some miracle we made it to Orlando, albeit four hours late. We got to our hotel room about 4:30 a.m., which gave me a luxurious 2 hours and 15 min before my alarm went off to get in the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy. But… we made it, I snagged the coveted virual queue position and we were off for a day of park-hopping.

What is Festival of the Arts?

One of the shortest of the rotating festivals at Epcot, this one features the arts: visual, performing, and (of course) culinary. It runs from mid-January to mid-February (smack dab between Marathon and Princess weekends for those of you who think in runDisney terms).The park is dotted with booths featuring Disney and local artists. You can find artists actively working on sidewalk art and step into a photo opportunity featuring renditions of world masterpieces. Disney-related broadway artists perfrom concerts on the weekends, and then there are the food booths.

We came for one thing, and one thing only: the Deconstructed Dish festival food booth, which did not disappoint. I had seen them prepping the booth during Marathon weekend and got crazy excited when I realized our favorites would be back!

Deconstructed BLT

Pork Belly, Soft-Poached Egg, Onion Bread Pudding, Watercress Espuma and Tomato Jam

This is the stuff that dreams are made of. I think the pork belly was a bit overdone and the poached egg was a bit underdone, but I could still eat this every day.

Deconstructed French Onion Soup

Beef Broth Ravioli, Gruyère Cream, Onion Bread Pudding and Onion Textures 

I’m not sure what kind of pixie dust is in the onion bread pudding, but OMG. The only think I wished was that the little pickled onion garnish had been warm. It was served cold which was a little bit of a surprise to my mouth.

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

Flexible Key Lime Curd, “Key Lime” Mousse, Graham Cracker Cake and Meringues

I get as excited as Cogsworth presenting Belle for dinner telling you about this one. This dessert that haunted my dreams was back and just as fabulous as I remembered. First of all, the presentation. Full stop. But key lime pie is one of my all-time favorites (and I’ve tried a few) and this went above an beyond. It was just the right size, and that little gem that looks like a lime on the dish is the key lime mousse. Wow. Just wow. 10/10.

We knew it couldn’t get much better than that, so after we rode Guardians, indulged at The Deconstructed Dish and caught the Voices of Liberty, we figured we should quit while we were ahead! We hopped on a Friendship boat for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and rounded out the day with a viewing of Fantasmic! (Which was also Fantastic!)

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts closes up shop for the year on February 20, so there’s still time to hustle over there if your cravings get the best of you!

Did you sample any amazing foods at the Festival? Leave me a comment and tell me what’s good!

Wine & Dine Weekend 2022 Wrap-Up

Phew! The dust has settled, hopefully all the travelers have made it home safely, so let’s recap the weekend that was Wine & Dine. As with anything, there were highs and lows, I’ll try to cover everything I saw here, but as always, drop a comment if I missed something.


The Best

The start line: For me the best part of any race weekend is the party atmosphere at the start line. It’s a big costume ball with sneakers, and boy were there some great costumes! Carissa and Riley were there, providing the hype and fireworks blasted each wave across the start line. It was so great to be back in person.


The Worst

Half Marathon: The entire Half Marathon experience was pretty much the worst this weekend. It started with really high humidity and some light rain, and just went downhill from there. The new course they tried out was narrow and filled with soul-crushing highway miles towards the end. I got the worst corral placement possible. Stuck in the back, there were more walkers than runners and more bottlenecks than stretches where I could actually run at the pace I wanted. There was also a disappointing lack of etiquette on the course. Walkers spread out across the entire path making passing impossible, but in their defense, there really wasn’t any “right” for them to move to. With humidity climbing and paces slowing, it was pretty much 13.1 miles of prolonged frustration.


The OK-est

Afterparty: The afterparty was the busiest I can remember seeing Epcot. At least at the start of the evening, lines for everything were pretty long. Since party-goers were welcomed to the park at 5 pm and day guests didn’t leave until 9 pm, there was a lot of overlap. I heard that things opened up after 10 pm, but after 3 days of being up at 2:30 am, I didn’t make it that far. I did try a couple of delicious Festival foods – the French fry flight and the pork lettuce wraps, but I called it a night early since I needed to catch a plane in the morning. I was going to try to get on Guardians of the Galaxy, but the line stretched out to the Creations shop when they opened it, and my sore feet weren’t having it.

Virtual Queue: To try to manage crowd flow, runDisney utilized a vitrual queue for race merch shopping. To join the queue, you needed to be geographically within 45 miles of Wide World of Sports. This ended up throwing a monkey wrench in a lot of peoples’ days, especially those who live locally. It wasn’t horrible, but I heard many cases of people waiting at least 2 hours for their groups to be called.


Brushes with Greatness

I was lucky enough to catch up with two of my heroes! Puppet Runner (+Remy) and Jeff Galloway, who inspired me through the last quarter-mile and got me across the finish line.

I also connected with a number of people I know from Facebook groups and Instagram. So much fun to see meet these amazing comerades.


Achievements Unlocked

Going in to the weekend I really had 2 goals:

  1. Don’t get swept
  2. Stop at some character stops to get some pics.

I’ve always been so terrified of the Balloon Ladies that I have never dared stop. I was determined this time to get some pics with characters… but I have to be completely honest, it almost sank me during the 5K! As I mentioned earlier I started in the back. There were 3 character stops in Epcot. Olaf was hanging out in Norway and the line was ridiculous so I kept moving. Remy and Emile were posted in France and I figured it was now or never. If I waited for the perfect moment I would end up empty-handed again so I got in line and waited. And waited. Then the characters went on break. And I waited. Finally they returned and the line started moving again and I got my first treasuered character pic. That’s when I realized ALL the runners had passed. I saw one person hobbling by on crutches, and after that, it looked like the staff was wrapping up. That’s when I kicked it into high gear and went straight for the finish. (Not last!)

I was still struggling with time, but I did manage to grab a few over the course of the weekend:


And Some Final Thoughts on Costumes

So this was the first time I went all-in on costumes. I’m not crafty or rich, so this was a bit of a stretch for me. Running with a friend, we decided to do couples costumes. They worked, although maybe not to the degree I hoped they would. The biggest issue was my selection of a full-body polyester cat costume. Unfortunately it was the longest race, the hottest race, and it was raining at the start line. Mr. Mittens made it 3 miles before I had to start removing pieces. It was a matter of survival. Oh well. I was very cute for the one pic I took in the hotel room.

And in the end, a good time was had by all. I’d love to see your costumes, too! Find me on Instagram @disneyparkrunner and show me what you’ve got!

Wine and Dine Weekend means FOOD

So I have to admit I’m maybe a little too excited about spending a guilt-free (post-half-marathon) evening eating my way around the World Showcase. The Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend is of course meant to be the culmination of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and the after party is a “private” party for Half-Marathon runners and their guests to enjoy the Festival foods with access to some of the big attractions and short wait times.

I was lucky enough to be at the Food and Wine Festival back on opening day in July and got to try a few things. It was a quick hit –we were park-hopping and had a special meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table planned for later in the day. We didn’t want to fill up too much do spoil our appetites for later.

I was also not thinking clearly, because I didn’t take any pictures of the Festival foods we tried. So I’ll have to share pics I found on the Disney website. I am guessing they’ll forgive me since I am basically providing them free advertising here.

If you’ve not experienced a Disney food festival before, they are wonderful ways to sample all kinds of new flavors with low commitment. Everything is small bites, though I’m sure you already know, nothing is cheap, just small.

When my daughter and I go to the food festivals we follow a couple of rules:

  1. Everything is shared. No exceptions (except alcohol)
  2. Nothing is off limits, for this one day
  3. Stop when you’re full, not after…
  4. Therefore, study the menu hard ahead of time

We only hit a couple of booths – France and Japan. My daughter is obsessed with escargot (weird for a teenager, I know) but that was first on the list.

A view of France while standing in line for escargot.

Off to France we went. We ordered:

  • Beignet aux Trois Fromages (warm donut with 3 cheeses)
  • Brioche aux Escargots (escargot, brioche, creamy garlic & parsley sauce)
  • La Passion Martini Slush (vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, cranberry and passion fruit juices)
    • To be super clear, this was for me, not the teenager. But rest assured it was YUM.

The verdict: Both the beignet and the escargots dishes were tasty, but we regretted ordering 2 items that were so bread-heavy. They were too similar to work together (maybe they should have taken that into consideration while planning the menu). The amount of escargot on the brioche was a little disappointing, but it was delicious and nonetheless satisfying.

Next on our super-fast spin around the lagoon was a stop in Japan for some octopus, maybe because my teenager is not quite normal. To be honest I like octopus, too, although knowing how intelligent they are I feel a little guilty when they are on my dinner plate. We ordered:

  • Takoyaki (Octopus, green onion, and cabbage bites) (with some other Japanese stuff)

The verdict: Skip this one. We needed a microscope to find the octopus in all that breading. As I already mentioned, we were breaded-out at this point. The cabbage was pretty yummy though.

By now we were thirsty and we backtracked into Morocco. We found a non-alcoholic special iced tea that I can’t seem to find on the Festival menu. My recollection was good flavor, but way too sweet, so keep that in mind.

Sunshine on opening day of the Festival!

That’s what I know about first-hand. Let’s look at what I am dreaming about for the Wine and Dine after-party:

  • Australia: Sweet & Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp (shrimp, pineapple, pepper, onion, and snap pea)
  • Disenfranchised (Simmering Sips, near Port of Entry): Guava Mousse on a Sugar Cookie (coconut-lime whipped cream)
  • Canada: Canadian Cheddar and Bacon Soup (self-explanatory)
  • Mexico: Taco al Pastor (pork belly, corn tortilla, chipotle black beans, pinapple, pickled onions, chives)
  • Also Disenfranchised (The Noodle Exchange, near Disney Traders): Chinese Char Siu Pork Udon (mushrooms, bok choy, pickled egg)
  • And Also Without Passport (The Swanky Saucy Swine, near Disney Traders): Grilled Pork Shoulder Lettuce Wrap (charred corn salsa, pickled red onion, cilantro-lime crema)

Which brings me to the final item of discussion: poutine. It’s a fan favorite. It’s also sometimes a delicate subject for me. My running partner (who will be with me on Wine and Dine Weekend) originates from Québec: birthplace and home of poutine. He’s a purist, and not at all interested in alternate, haute-cuisine takes on the north-of-the-border hangover staple. The Refreshment Port (near Canada, eh) is offering two types of poutine: traditional, and braised beef.

If you’re new to poutine, as I was not long ago, let me give a very brief primer.

3 ingredients:

  • French fries
  • Beef gravy
  • Cheese curds

It is both disgusting and delicious at the same time. It is generally used for medicinal purposes anywhere people speak French and endure winter 8.75 metric months of the year.

To me, the braised beef option, with a garlic and herb cheese sauce, sounds delightful. Upon initial consultation with my Québecois expert, he is… not impressed. I think this will likely be “settled” at the after party. But, to be completely honest, if I try everything on my wish list, there will be no room left for traditional poutine. I might just forfeit now, to make everyone’s life easy and enjoy the evening.

Either way it’s one night in food and rollercoaster heaven. The next morning I hop on a plane for reality. We’ll see who wins the poutine wars. With no official judging criteria, perhaps I stand a chance. What’s your stance on poutine? Will you be trying the plain of fancy version? Drop a note in the comments!

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind lives up to the hype

Spoilers ahead – read on if you want the scoop on the hottest new E-ticket!

I scored a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an almost private trip into space on the new roller coaster at Epcot, and wow, oh wow, oh wow! Currently, there is no standby line for this indoor coaster. If you’re very lucky, you can join the Virtual Queue at 7 a.m. or purchase an Individual Lightning Lane entry. Individual Lightning Lane prices can vary, but generally are around $15 per rider.

This time I was very, very lucky. Acting on a tip from my Uber driver, he said that they key to getting into the Virtual Queue is not to hit the button on the My Disney Experience app before exactly 7 a.m. . Starting at 6:58 or 6:59 and hoping to get in on the refresh will just end up putting you behind the game. So I waited like the cat ready to pounce on the mouse hole (à la Lucifer in Cinderella), and struck at my prey -the “join queue” button – the moment my phone said 7 a.m. I was rewarded not with a far-distant boarding group that would require me to be at Epcot all day (I had park hopping plans), but boarding group 4. FOUR – Which required a scramble to get on the bus for the park. Right. NOW!

Virtual Queue Success

We were staying at a Disney Resort, so we had early access to the park that day. We breezed through security and tickets and passed by anxious non-resort guests waiting for rope drop. We were just a few minutes ahead of park opening and headed straight to the main event. We did not stop at Starbucks. Really. That’s how focused we were.

Once we got over to Guardians, it looked like they were waiting until rope drop to call the boarding groups, so we seized an opportunity for Test Track. We headed for the single rider line – standby was already backed up out of the building – and walked on. Wait time of zero. (I told you we had some incredible luck.)

As soon as we exited Test Track (what a way to start the day), the boarding groups were called for Cosmic Rewind. Just steps away from our current location, there was nobody in front of us at the gate

So we bolted to the entrance and got the ever-so-satisfying dopamine hit of watching the Magic Band Mickey on the turnstile turn to green and feeling the little buzz of excitement on our wrists with the happy chime that signaled we were about to step into a new world of wonder that few have experienced. There was nobody in front of us.

We made our way through a spacious, glowing blue and violet queuing area and wound our way around the graceful curves of the first room, past the Xandar artifacts and into the final waiting room. We kept looking over our shoulder, and no one was there! We waited in the final room just a few moments before the preshow began. Finally one other couple joined us, but that was it! No pictures are permitted after the preshow, so you’ll have to experience the rest for yourself!

We were escorted to the spacious loading area and had our pick of seats. We were about to climb into row 1 of the train, but the Cast Member clued us in to the best experience being in row 9. So we headed for the back and strapped in for the ride of a lifetime. So why is row 9 so much fun? Well, Cosmic Rewind is a reverse launch coaster, and all the vehicles rotate… so once we left the station we spun around and were facing the back for the reverse launch… which was a lot like Rockin’ Roller Coaster, except backwards.

The story plays out on massive screens that surround the coaster. In classic Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, we have an important mission – to go back in time and save the birth of rock & roll! Like Mission Breakout at Disney’s California Adventure, the soundtrack is randomized. We got Blondie’s One Way or Another as we swooped and swiveled through space.

The ride itself was incredibly smooth. There was at least one inversion… and with the ride being in the dark, you could never anticipate what was coming. It was really a rush of cosmic proportions, and would be worth just about any wait in line. I can’t wait to go back to Epcot to experience this again during the Wine and Dine weekend! 5 out of 5!!!!