Category Archives: 2015 WDW Halloween

Nicholas Crispino prepares Fillet Mignon with Mushrooms and Sauce Ponot Noir

Another cooking demonstration, this one rocked even more than the donut holes.  Nicholas Crispino, who has sizzling cred based on his work at Disney’s most popular restaurant, Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom dished out a great steak, made with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and a great sauce.  This was a particularly interesting preparation because it only took a few minutes and came out looking and tasting fantastic!  Not only did he serve a great steak, but he also let us in on the fact that BOG is changing their menu substantially in the next few days, and offered some tips on how to get into this ultra-busy restaurant!  


Here is the filet with mushrooms, and arugula and that great sauce.  Seriously fast and fantastic!

Chew Lab

We get some awesome snacks at the chew lab which is just one of the many food and wine stop off at Epcot.  The thing is, there are little pavilions all OVER the place serving fantastic food (and if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan you can get these delicious entrees as a snack on the plan – such a deal!)  Anyway, the Chew lab was one place out of many, but it was awesome.

This was the olive-oil poached salmon with fresh corn, bacon, and pepper jam.  Really one of the best things I tried, and I tried lots.

This was really fantastic too – a chocolate-almond truffle – think really creamy chocolate mousse, with a shell hard frozen in liquid nitrogen, then covered with whiskey caramel sauce.  Man.  I mean I could eat a bucket of this.  And die.  Happy.

Ghirardelli Chocolate

We stopped off at an exhibit that seems to be an annual favorite, especially with Callie and I, the  Ghirardelli Chocolate exhibit.  They have a lot of chocolate, including drinking chocolate, chocolate bars, you name it–if you shouldn’t eat it, they have it!  Callie and I have made chocolate from beans, and she is busy trying to steal trade secrets from Ghirardelli – they’ve been in business over 160 years, they don’t need all that old information anymore!

Here’s Callie stealing corporate secrets:


They also had a number of chocolate sculptures featuring, believe it or not, Disney movies.  I’m told that everything in these is edible, but they wouldn’t let us eat it.  Seems like a rip-off!  See if you can guess the movie:

Now, think back a bit – Pixar, great movie, Ed Asner….

Here’s some no-name superheroes..

If you had trouble with the superheroes, here are a couple of closeup shots:



Epcot Food And Wine, Donut Edition

We would do more of these if we had time, but they have great cooking demonstrations during the Food and Wind Festival (this one is the 20th anniversary event).  This one was by Jason Stricker who is the executive chef of the Production Bakery at Epcot, and he demonstrated Vanilla Bean Donuts with White Coffee Anglaise paired with Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante.  I have the recipe if you want it.  It’s always fun to listen to these guys because they have lots of anecdotes and know their stuff where cooking is involved.  I learned a lot about vanilla sugar, which is actually kind of interesting.  And of course you get to eat the stuff too, which is important to some people, but not me. 🙂

Callie being a professional cake baker had lots of technical questions for him, that put me to sleep, but I think they both enjoyed it.
Oh, and here’s a picture of the donuts.  Had to take it fast because they didn’t last long.  Really more of a donut hole than a donut, but they were liberally covered in hand-made vanilla sugar and the white coffee anglaise was just about lethally rich and tasty!


WDW Day 0.5

We had a great plan to use today as a travel day and maybe do one or two things at WDW just for fun – just a touch of Disney. Great plan, except for the part that wasn’t, which was pretty inconsequential….  So after an interminable amount of time in terminals….IMG_0263We finally arrived at Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge.  This is a fantastic luxury hotel modeled after the National Park Service lodges of the great Northwest, and it’s a beautiful place.  I will post more pictures of it, but for now suffice it to say that we found our room and are glad to have found it!  Here’s Callie lounging on the queen-size bed..

IMG_0262And take a look at the carvings–just one of many cool details on this bed-

IMG_0267Am I easily impressed?  Maybe, but..

IMG_0264And here’s the bunk bed, guess who gets the top bunk?  No, really guess!

IMG_0266Here’s a shot of Nancy and Callie outside near the pool.  Already having fun!  I had some technical problems getting photos to post in WordPress, argh.  I’ll catch up on posting hopefully.  But let me say this about the Wilderness Lodge.  It’s a beautiful hotel, with a fabulous and impressive lobby.  Of all of Disney’s ‘monorail properties’ (meaning that you’re a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, which can be worth it’s weight in time and frustration, the Wilderness Lodge offers a unique bargain because although it’s not on the monorail, it’s only a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, which DOES connect to both the Resort Monorail and the monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center which makes it a real gem from a transportation point of view, but it’s typically just a little less expensive than the properties that are truly on the monorail.  And we kind of lucked into the free meal plan promotion, so I’m eating my weight in ‘included’ food!  Here’s one more little detail that is a nice touch for the forest theme – there’s one of these over each bunk bed.

IMG_0268The lobby is most impressive, and has lots of space for lounging, like in front of the seven? story fireplace.




Here’s another shot of the lobby.  Not great photography, but a great subject!IMG_0329



IMG_0273Also there’s a great swimming pool that’s fed from some kind of Disney geological marvel that bubbles up a great quantity of water in the lobby of the hotel, which forms a river that runs into the pool.  Sounds crazy, but it’s pretty cool, here’s a fairly bad shot out there.


On our way, in the air!

We’re all excited to be on our way to Walt Disney World! We’ve been planning for months, and we’re finally on our way! We planned the entire trip with the Disney web site and a restaurant sniping site, and came up with a great itinerary of too much to do!

Sent from my iPad

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

It does!  I think the last update I made to this blog was last year!  There’s a reason for that, although mostly I’ve been kind of lazy, a common problem that many people will recognize.  But i also haven’t had much to write about, and that can be a common problem too.  But now, I have something to write about.  Callie is graduating from college, and as a graduation present (self serving, I admit), we’re going to Disney World.  If you’ve read this before you know that WDW is one of my favorite vacation destinations, and I would add that there are certain times of the year when WDW is a little more special than usual.

When you think about seasons that would lend themselves to WDW festivities, there are some that are unique to Disney, like Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, which is a hoot if you like landscaping and exotic flowers, topiary, etc. (doing this or looking at it, either way).  I’ve been to Epcot for this uniquely Epcot festival, and it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a gardener or just like looking at gardens–which is okay, right–no judgement!

Christmas is a FANTASTIC time to visit WDW, although the last two weeks of the year are among the busiest of the year, and although Disney ramps up big time to deal with the crowds, you’ll rarely see bigger crowds at Walt Disney World than you will those last two weeks.  Some good news about this, Disney generally starts decorating for Christmas in the first two weeks of November, so you can enjoy Christmas cheer just a couple of weeks into November, and the crowds aren’t as intense then.

Incidentally, you might not change your vacation plans based on crowds, but it’s always good to know what you’re getting into.  A really useful website is, where you can look at the crowd level at several parks in the Orlando area, even a couple that begin with ‘U’ for Underachiever….  Another good one is at, which has not only crowd calendars but lots of other good information on planning your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation.

To get back to the original subject of WDW seasons, they put on a really fun Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom in October/November (maybe a couple of days into Nov).  Epcot has their Food and Wine Festival in the fall, which overlaps the Halloween festivities at the Magic Kingdom.

Taking these grossly out of order, then in the spring, in addition to the Epcot Flower and Garden festival, they have some running events, like the Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and they start their Star Wars Weekends which continue into summer.  For summer they have their Sounds Like Summer concert series, and of course–it’s summer!  So the park can get busy with families on summer vacation.  One thing that is I believe to be true, that is also kind of a consolation for those really busy days is that generally the busier the park, the more entertainment and special events you’ll see in the parks.  Going on those fall days when you can’t see another guest anywhere can be fun, but you won’t see much live entertainment, and parade schedules and shows are generally cut back when they know business will be slow.

So in case you wonder what the point of all this is, we’re going to WDW for Halloween!  It’s about the only time and place where adults can get away with trick-or-treating, so I’m in!  Nancy is going, and we’re meeting Paula and Bob, and we’re feeling extra lucky because Paula’s daughter Donna and her family are coming up for a couple of days, so we’ll get to see family that we see occasionally and love to see whenever we can, and in the case of Donna and her clan, it’ll really be extra special since they don’t live in Orlando and so we don’t get to see them nearly as often.  Anyway, it’s all very cool and fun and exciting!

So i’m warning you, I’ll post again in a few days and start talking about our planning process for WDW.  Everyone probably approaches this differently, but you really HAVE TO plan to avoid disappointment and frustration.  You don’t have to be crazy about it, but you need some idea of what you want to get out of the trip, and how you’re going to do that.  So strictly for Callie and I, I’ll show you all of our tricks, original old-time tricks, and new tricks we’ve stolen from smart friends, that allow us to plan WDW vacations the way we like to do it.  If you see something you like, feel free to use it, and if you think the whole process is crazy and overkill, well, point that out in the comments!