Well hello, friends and fellow foodies! Greetings from Walt Disney World.
As you know, we’re making our second sojourn to the Mouse House this year; this time for the 17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Our last trip was for the 2012 Food Blog Forum, Orlando. You may remember that event from posts like this, this, and this.
Yesterday was our first full day on property and we woke at our resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, bright and early and brimming with enthusiasm for the day ahead. That’s unusual for us to say the least. We’re not usually “rope drop” folks, but yesterday we were just too excited to sleep in.
Our first stop was the Sassagoula Float Works food court which is just a stone’s throw from our hotel room. We were assigned a room that’s only two doors from the main lobby, shopping, and restaurant building. We’re also on the ground floor. Sweet. Breakfast was beignets and croissants and that proved to be just enough to keep us filled for the next few hours.
After a short hop on the magical bus we arrived at Epcot and did something we’ve never done before. We bought annual passes. Big investment, but given the frequency with which we visit they should prove to be a wise one. Interestingly the Cast Member who assisted us in doing so knew Florence and the Pee Dee well, because she had once lived in Clinton, South Carolina. She’s retired now and loves it here in Florida. Yep, it’s a small world after all. Come on people, you knew that was coming. By the way, like purchasing annual passes, despite having been to Walt Disney World over a dozen times, I’m finding that this trip is proving to be filled with firsts.
We entered the Epcot with our APs, took the obligatory PhotoPass picture in front of Spaceship Earth and then visited our first attraction. We hadn’t ridden Spaceship Earth in several trip, but because the park hadn’t been open long it was a “walk-on” and so we did. To make it a bit more fun, my daughter and I chose the Japanese narration which we laughed at for most of the ride. It proved a tad better than the narration by Dame Judy Dench. My favorite version of the narration is by Jeremy Irons, but alas it is long gone. Exiting the ride, I noticed on my iPhone that time was ticking away quickly. We had a meet-up to get to at the Festival Center!
If you haven’t been to Epcot since the early days, you might be interested to know that the fine folks at Disney have taken what was a fabulous Wonders of Life pavilion and, since closing the experiences it housed, transformed that golden-domed structure into what can reasonably called an event hall. It’s the home for visitors to both the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine festivals each year and it houses displays, information desks, demonstrations and classes, as well as “merchandise opportunities.” While I miss Wonders of Life, at least visitors can marvel at the architecture and expereince the building itself. It’s a huge internal space that just makes you want to stare at the vastness of the whole thing. Epcot has changed a great deal over the years, but but that’s a story for another day.
Just before 10:30 AM, we arrived for the MiceChat.com Sip & Nibble Around the World event. The first person we met was George Taylor, author and co-host of Communicore Weekly, our favorite YouTube show. It shares Disney history, news, and facts and much more in a funny and informative way that keeps us coming back for more. The music for the show is provided by George’s brother and the band known as Big Bam Boom. They’ve actually played in Florence, so you may remember the name. From the show and his writing, George is a Disney Fan celebrity in our book, and I mean that quite literally now that he has inscribed our daugther’s autograph journal. When she first saw George standing in front of the Festival Center, she couldn’t contain herself. Fearlessly she went up to him and said, “Are you George?” “Yes, I am” he replied and a new friendship was born. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Heimbuch arrived. Jeff is also an author and the other half of the Communicore Weekly dynamic duo. Of course, our daughter had to get Jeff’s autograph, as well as get photos with both of the guys. Jeff made sure that she knew that he is “way cooler” than George.
Dusty Sage, owner of MiceChat.com arrived next and that was a great surprise for me. I admire what he has done with his website and the fact that he has built such a strong online community around it. Over the course of the day, Melissa and I were able to speak to him a bit about the site and what he’s done with it over the years. Can you believe he has 18 writers contributing content nowadays? If you’re a Disney fan of any stripe, you’ve got to bookmark MiceChat.com for frequent future visits. From events, to news, to history, to Communicore Weekly, you’ll find it all right there. There’s a series being posted this week about the 30th birthday of Epcot so check it out. If that’s not enough motivation for you, here’s a bit of inside information for you. With any luck, you might see a certain foodie contributing articles at some point in the future.
As the rest of our fellow MiceChatters arrived, each was given a lanyard with a checklist of countries and regions represented by the food and wine booths dotted around World Showcase Lagoon. Each came with a mini-Sharpie for noting our achievements, as well as a separate lanyard with a small cup attached for sampling the adult beverages, if we were so inclined. As a group, we next assembled for a group photo and then beat a path to our first stop. For those of you familiar with World Showcase, we went clockwise starting in Mexico. Isn’t that the only way to do it?
Here are some details as to how the Sip & Nibble event worked. Members of the group would split up and visit several booths in a given section of World Showcase. For example, our first stop included booths called Terra, Carribbean, and Hawaii. Samples of the specialty dishes and beverages from each booth were purchased and brought back to an impromptu gathering spot near those booths. Then, we each had an opportunity to sip or nibble from each item. This approach kept the cost low and the social interaction high. We made so many new friends over the course of the day thanks to this touring concept. Through the course of the day we were also able to sample many, many more of the Food & Wine festival offerings thanks to the cooperative efforts and our pooled resources.
All in all we made six or seven stops in traversing that grand circle from the Mexico around to Canada. We capped the event about four or five hours later with a toast near the Champagne and Desserts booth. I think that was fitting for this Disney fan group’s celebration of community, this wonderful park, and the great food brought to us from around the world. Would my family and I do the Sip & Nibble again? Absolutely. With our APs in hand, we’ll be back.
Please take a momemnt to enjoy the following images from the event. Some may seem familiar to you, if you followed our updates on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll post photos and updates today as well, as we head back to Epcot, this time for the 30th birthday of Walt’s final vision, an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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Thank you for this fantastic update. It was wonderful to meet you and your family and spend nearly a full day with you. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!
Great update. We sadly had to miss the Food and Wine Festival yet again, but the Sip and Nibble is always fun. Always glad to see some new columnists joining us on MiceChat (maybe) ;). Now I need to go and check out some more of your blogs!!!