Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And after all this, won't you give me a smile?

I found this video and thought it was amazing.

It doesn't have anything to do with anything except I love The Clash and it's Bruce's birthday today. And hopefully my dad and uncle Danny will enjoy it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Hey, y'all!

I thought a good "y'all" might be appropriate since I'm going to write about Epcot's American Adventure.

Now, I realize we're in America and all. I don't have anything against my country of origin. In fact, I'm quite patriotic under normal circumstances.

However, I don't really understand why, every time I go to Epcot, the American Adventure seems to be the most popular country with visitors. And I'm not just talking about obnoxious Brazilian tour groups wearing matching t-shirts and following bright orange flags. And I'm not talking about the people waiting in line to see Donny Osmond or whatever has-been they've booked that week at the amphitheatre on the water, also known as the American Garden Theater.

I mean regular people, Americans, from such exciting places as like, Arkansas and upstate New York, just wandering around and eating giant chicken legs in their own country's pavilion.

As far as food attractions, The American Adventure serves such delicacies as burgers and fries at the Liberty Inn restaurant (proud to say I've never eaten there), a couple of roadside stands that serve gigantic turkey legs roasted on a spit and funnel cakes, and a beer stand that only sells what? Sam Adams. The worst beer. Ever.

Okay fine. I've had worse. But it is not good.

So wait. What was the point of coming to Epcot in the first place? What was the point of wandering all the way across the park from Future World if you don't want some kind of cultural experience, fake as it may be?

Well, I guess you could make the claim that the parents all bring their kids there to learn about American history. They do have an actual animatronic show (call me crazy, but I always find those things a little bit creepy - except for the Carousel of Progress, because that's just awesome) featuring such American personalities as Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, narrating through the major periods of American history.

Can I make a confession? I've never seen it. I don't believe I've ever even been inside that large colonial-looking building, unless I was way too young to remember it. I can't tell you if it's good or bad.

But again with the redundancy. Doesn't it seem pretty close to the whole concept of the Hall of Presidents, in the Magic Kingdom?

In fact, the whole pavilion seems like a knockoff of the Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, but without the Haunted Mansion or the fun stocks to pose in.

Think about it. I think Liberty Square (Magic Kingdom) sells turkey legs. It has an animatronic show teaching children American history. All the restaurants in the area definitely serve burgers and fries. With the exception of the crappy beer, which they don't serve in the Magic Kingdom, it's just about the same thing. Only bigger. And with Donny Osmond.

Okay, sometimes they have better people there. One year they had the Beach Boys, I think. Only without some of the more famous members. And I think John Stamos was their drummer.
During the Food and Wine Festival - the most wonderful time of the year - they have a concert series called Eat to the Beat. Sometimes they've got somewhat good bands. At any rate, it's better than Canada's resident band, Unkiltered. Oh wait, I mean Off-Kilter.

Also during the food and wine fest, the American Adventure has this kind of free beer seminar hosted by Sam Adams, of course. The good thing is, you get free beer and - at least the year I participated - a free bottle opener. The bad thing is, you have to drink like 5 different kinds of Sam Adams and try to appreciate the differences. I don't know. They're all way way too hoppy for me. I prefer something like Harp or Grolsch.

During the Christmas season, when one can drink some Glow Wine from Germany to pass the time, they also have the Candlelight Processional, which is always led by some celebrity that reads the biblical story of Christmas to the audience, and then a choir sings. Sometimes they get some interesting celebrities, including (according to Wikipedia, and my memory) John Stamos, Marlee Matlin, Jim Caviziel (yes, Jesus himself read the Christmas story), and Neil! Patrick! Harris!

He was there last year like the week after I left after Thanksgiving. You see, in Disney, the holiday season generally starts mid-November and ends in mid-January. Of course.

I remember one summer way back when, they booked the whole Lord of the Dance thing for an entire summer. At least the shows have gotten better than that.

Special thanks to Wikipedia on this entry. Without it, I wouldn't have known what to write, except for the concerts and the beer and the turkey legs.

I also want to take this opportunity to give y'all a link to my mom's blog. She writes about the many mishaps of camping. It's an enjoyable read.

Also, I will be going to Florida at the end of the month, when I will make a point to visit Epcot for the first weekend of the Food and Wine Fest. I'll let you know how it goes.

And thankfully, now that the American Adventure is over with we can move on to better things, like...Japan!

But maybe the American Adventure has gotten to me after all. I feel like having some cheese grits for breakfast.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For a limited time only

I don't want to leave this post up for very long, so I'm thinking about deleting it after a decent interval, but I wanted to post some of the pictures I took when Jean's dad and stepmom came to visit in Chicago.

I suppose I should write something about food. Okay. If you're ever in Chicago, you should go to the Sofitel hotel for breakfast. They had the best pastries the world has ever known. I ate so much I got sick later. But that's beside the point. Croissants and pain au chocolat, etc. etc.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Katie's Guide to Epcot: Italy

Welcome back to this edition of Katie's Guide to Epcot!

Today, we're going to take a trip to one of my favorite countries on the Epcot circuit. Okay, it's my very favorite.

Maybe it's just because I want to go to the real Italy so bad, I'll take anything that resembles it, even in an unauthentic Disneyish way.

When you walk into the Italy pavilion, the first thing you see is a large brick tower modeled after the Campanile di San Marco from the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Venezia!

Actually, most of the main plaza area of the Italy pavilion in Epcot is supposed to represent Venice. There is a building on the right that is supposed to represent rural northern Italy, and a fountain toward the back that is supposed to represent Rome, but the main square is modeled after Venice.

The pink building to your left upon entering the plaza is a representation of the Doge's Palace in Venice. The Doge's Palace was the home of the Doge (Duke) of Venice for several hundred years. Now I believe they use it as a center of the municipal government, like a regular town hall, in Venice. The Disney version is an uncanny representation, right down to the stone cutout flowers bordering the top floor, but I am sure it's about 1/4 the size of the original.

Inside the fake Doge's Palace, you will find a shop that sells perfumes, leather handbags and belts, some clothing (mostly soccer related) and a lot of jewelry. There are a lot of things made out of Murano glass as well, which is the special kind of glass they make on one of Venice's peripheral islands. One of the most famous designs is the Milefiori, which means thousand flowers.

I actually don't like that design much. But they also sell other designs, like ones with pretty swirls going through it or just interesting solid colors.

After passing through the main room, you cross into a smaller room at the back of the building. This room usually contains various Christmas wares, even in the middle of summer. I guess they must make some great Christmas ornaments in Italy or something.

Across the main plaza from the Doge's Palace is the rural Italian home, which contains a wine bar, a kitchen store, a candy store, and an actual mask maker from Venice and his various wares.

The kitchen store usually has some pretty irresistible coffee sets and espresso accessories, as well as coasters and wine stoppers and cookbooks. The candy section sells some very good hazelnut flavored nuggets of chocolate, all excellent for eating with a glass of sparkling wine. There are also some prepackaged cookies, which apparently are the real deal, i.e. actually eaten and sold in Italy. My friend of Sicilian ancestry certified them as such, and I believe her.

The wine bar usually has a pretty good selection of red and white wines. You can also get a flight of red or white, as well as some sparkling and dessert wines. One of my favorite wines there is the Banfi Rosa Regale, which is a very sweet, red-tinted sparkling wine. It tastes wonderful with the chocolates.

They do sell quite overpriced glasses of Reunite D'Oro, considering you can buy an entire bottle at Marsh for about 7 bucks.

One of the best things about the wine bar is, however, the limoncello. If you haven't been introduced to limoncello, it is a liqueur made with lemon peel and sugar. (If you want a whole description of how they make it, watch Under the Tuscan Sun.) The final product is pretty syrupy, fluorescent yellow, very sweet, but also very strongly alcoholic. The stuff will knock you on your ass.

It is served in a small shot glass looking thing, but don't take it like a shot. You'll probably start choking, and anyway, it is made to be enjoyed in sips, not gulps.

In the back of the Italy pavilion, there is an Italian restaurant. It used to be this very cool restaurant based in Rome called Alfredo's, which is actually where they invented Fettuccini Alfredo. Hence the name.

Unfortunately, something happened a few years ago involving contracts, and Alfredo's moved out of the space. For awhile, there was even talk about putting in a Buca di Beppo, which would have just been disappointing, however, after some time they put in the new restaurant. I think it is still disappointing, but that's just because I don't like a lot of sausage. Most of their dishes have a lot of sausage or pork content, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, and I am told that in Italy they eat tons of sausage. I am sure it is a perfectly good restaurant, but it isn't Alfredo's. Alfredo's with the tiramisu and the fettuccini alfredo and the usually attractive Italian waiters.

And just to memorialize that wonderful lost tradition of Epcot visits, I post for you here today the original fettuccini alfredo recipe, from Alfredo's.

1 lb fresh fettuccine noodles
4 qrt boiling, salted water
1 cup unsalted Plugra butter, softened
⅓ to ½ cup Parmesano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated.


Melt Plugra butter over very low heat. Whisk in grated parmesan cheese; continue whisking over a low heat until the cheese melts and the butter/cheese sauce becomes a creamy consistency. Drop fettuccine in boiling salted water. Cook until noodles float to the top of the pot (2 to 3 minutes). Drain immediately and place in large pasta bowl; toss with sauce. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper.

So much butter. Yet sooooo good.

Moving on back out to the main plaza, there are plenty of small tables and benches to rest upon while you digest whatever it is you have consumed, and soak up the sun while you're at it. If you notice the pattern of the paving stones on the ground, you will see that they are arranged in strange square shapes that seem to make no sense.

In reality, they too are modeled after the Piazza San Marco in Venice. As the story goes, nobody really knows why these paving stones are arranged in these patterns, although some suspect it was an organizational system for vendors that would set up their booths in the square. In Disney, however, it is just for decoration.

If you happen to be hanging out in Italy at the right times of day, you can catch a silly kind of street performance, during which the Disney actors actually pull people out of the crowd to participate.

For future reference, when you get chosen to participate in the play, they give you a button that says you have participated in the humiliating event. If you keep the button and wear it on any subsequent visits, you don't have to experience the embarrassment ever again.

If you want a less crowded space than the main Italy plaza, you should check out the small waterfront area across from the main plaza, located right on the sores of the World Showcase Lagoon. You have to cross one of two bridges to get to it. You will notice a small canal under the bridge, which of course is also supposed to represent Venice. There is actually a gondola tied up in the canal. This is because originally, Disney was going to offer gondola rides, but sometime during the evolution of the park, decided against it.

This is just my own speculation, but I think it was either because they realized they were going to have to give everyone a life jacket because of liability, and it would have been too inconvenient, or they realized the lines were going to be too long. So, the gondola ride is now a peaceful hangout and photo opportunity spot for weary Epcot travellers.

The fountain is a good place to sit and enjoy some wine, while enjoying the music that floats over from the auditorium at The American Adventure, located right next door.

If you happen to be in Epcot's Italy on a hot day, you can get yourself a frozen gelato from a multi-colored cart pulled by a fake donkey. They have lemon, strawberry and chocolate flavors. The cart is usually located right next to the small refreshment stand outside the main plaza, in front of the fake Doge's palace.

The main refreshment stand is where you get your beer, for all you beer lovers. Now, unfortunately, they no longer carry Peroni, my favorite Italian beer. At this stand, they serve Moretti instead. I think it lacks the subtle vanilla flavor present in Peroni, but it is beer, and it works if you don't like wine.

Also in this stand, they sell bellinis, which is a lovely slushie made with peach liqueur and champagne (or spumante), and something called an Italian margarita, which sounds absolutely disgusting to me, but it contains rum, I believe, possibly tequila and limoncello in a frozen mixture.

They also sell little desserts and pastries at this stand, including cannoli. It also may be a good time for you to catch up on your water intake for the day.

That's all from Italy.

Although I do want to mention: If you are at all interested in the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot every fall, the menu has just been announced.

Tune in next time for the American Adventure! Also known as redundancy with giant turkey legs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Katie's Guide to Epcot: Germany

Good morning, Disney scholars!

It has been awhile since I have updated the KGE. It's time to actually make my computer do some work, save some pictures to the desktop, and start blogging again.

So, today we're going to talk about Germany.

Before I could drink, I didn't like Germany too much. It always smells like bratwurst and sauerkraut, two of the worst food items in the world. I wanted to hurry past it every time before the smells got to me.

But now...I discovered Riesling. And Gewurztraminer.

But, we should probably talk first about Germany's other attractions.

Germany has no ride. That large building you see back there? Just a warehouse. It was originally supposed to hold a large-scale ride, a water ride representing a cruise down Germany's four largest rivers (can anyone name them?), but they ran out of money. So now they use it for storage.

So what do you do there, if they don't have a ride? Well, you shop, eat, and drink beer.

Entrance to the dining room.

I've never been to the Oktoberfest dining room, since I am revolted by most German food. It's not that I'm prejudiced. I just don't like things in sausage form, and I don't like pickled and fermented cabbage. Or beets. Or baby cow meat. So, basically I like....the noodles.

Now, for those of you that like brats (sausage, not children), that's great. Go eat there. I think it's set up kind of cafeteria-style, where there's a huge line to get up to the food bar, and then you go take your tray and sit down on one of the giant wooden picnic tables inside. There always seems to be a line though, so if German food is your thing, it's probably good.

When facing the inside of the German pavilion (that is, facing the fountain and the Oktoberfest restaurant), to your left are a few shops, and a wine cellar. As previously discussed, the wines are good, and are priced within standard Epcot wine prices, which means about 4-5 bucks for a tiny plastic glass. But, I thought it was worth it. The only problem is, do you really want to switch to wine/beer at this point of your trek Around the World?

If you started with tequila, and don't want to switch to non-hard alcohol just yet, I honestly don't know what there is for you to drink here. If you don't mind mixing, go right ahead! Just make sure to keep eating all day long. The only time I've been able to mix alcohols is during the Food and Wine fest, where you're just walking and sweating and eating and drinking everything in sight all day long. It seems that the normal upchuck rules don't apply. Unless you're my dad and you ride Mission Space.

Anyway. To your left, there are also a couple of shops. There's one with some toys and a lot of crystal figurines. They are pretty and shiny. They also have some tiaras in there.

The crystal shop has a pretty ceiling.

Of course we tried on the tiaras!

So. Other than the tiaras, what is there? Well, on the other side of the courtyard, you have a beer stand. At this beer stand, they might also sell pretzels, although I am unsure on that point.

As far as beer goes, the selection isn't as varied as you would expect from Germany. They used to have Beck's, but they got rid of Beck's, now they sell only Spaten and Spaten Optimata. Apparently Spaten Optimata looks like black syrup and can get you drunk off your ass. Good luck with that.

The other thing in Germany that is a big draw for some of the international visitors, is the Adidas store. They have a lot of football (soccer) jerseys there, from different countries including but not limited to....Spain (Real Madrid, at least), Chivas, Germany, Italy, England (although they have more of these in England), and France. There's probably more.

One thing that is special to the holiday season (early November through January), and yet spectacular, is their annual stand dedicated to selling Glow Wine - at least the translation is glow wine. It's similar to Glogg, if you've ever heard of that.

Basically, it's spiced mulled wine. It is some kind of fruity and sweet red wine brewed with cinnamon and other spices, and it tastes like Christmas. It is traditionally served very hot, so be careful when sipping!

Germany - Done! On to the next country - Italy!!
Coming soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fresh strawberry pie, as requested

Taking another small detour from Katie's Guide to Epcot, I have had a request (or demand) for the recipe for my strawberry pie. I just thought I'd post it.

The strawberry pie is a very special recipe. It was handed down to me via my grandma's recipe box. It's what I made the night my boyfriend and I got together. And subsequently, what I made on our anniversary this year.

It's very good. It's very simple to make. It's very sugary. It's not my favorite pie in the world to eat. But it's special to me.

1 c. sugar
3 tbs. cornstarch
2 tbs. light Karo
1 c. water
3 tbs. dry strawberry gelatin
1 qt. strawberries
Whipped Cream

Wash and prepare fresh strawberries (cut off stems and leaves). Boil sugar, cornstarch, syrup and water until thick and clear. Add dry gelatin. Cool, add strawberries. Pour into pie crust. Top with whipped cream.

There you have it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Katie's Guide to Epcot: China

Hey everyone, sorry for the extended delay in posting about China. I would offer excuses, but there's no need to waste time.
So, China.

Next on the World Showcase after Norway is China, land of cement dragon sculptures and tiny acrobats that balance large trays of glasses filled with liquid on their heads while riding extremely tall unicycles.
As strange as it may seem, there are no crappy Asian noodles in China. Or Japan, for that matter. China just has various bits of meat strewn over rice in their small cafe, the Nine Dragons. You see, I absolutely love crappy asian noodles. Vegetable lo mein. That kind of stuff. And to get it in Epcot, you have to walk all the way to the food court in The Land.

Sidenote: Excuse me while I rant for a second.

There's nothing wrong with the food court in The Land, but I read a blog post once that ridiculed ALL the food in Epcot as being unvaried and bad quality. The writer had only gone to the food court in The Land as research. What kind of close-minded idiot goes to a FOOD COURT when there are at least 15 extremely good, varied restaurants less than a mile away, and then jumps to the conclusion that ALL the food in the entire park is terrible? Especially someone who professes to be a critic that knows all about gourmet food and where to get it. MORONS.

Rant over.

So, honestly, the Chinese food at the small cafe in China is really no better than Panda Express, but without the noodles, which I'm sure surprises no one. I haven't been to the more expensive restaurant, but I have heard it's not anything to write home about either.

China also features a 360 degree "circlevision" theater inside the tallest blue pagoda. They recently renovated the pagoda, so it's possible that they added seats, but about 5 years ago, it didn't have seats, so you had to stand through the movie. I guess that's fine. I'd just prefer to watch my movies while sitting.

Outside the pagoda is a small landscaped area with a creek and possibly some goldfish ponds. In front of that, but behind the main gateway, is where the small acrobats usually perform.

There are about 12-15 of these talented teeny people, and they seem to be fearless experts in such exploits as riding tall unicycles, making human pyramids (or other structures) and flipping around really fast in handsprings and other such maneuvers. It's fun to watch a few times, but mostly it just blocks up the pathway all around China.

Now, as far as drinks go, there is about one beer worth drinking, and some other pretty strange concoctions. The beer would be Tsingtsao (I think I spelled that right), which I always think tastes a little like soy sauce. Not that it's a bad thing.

The other drinks you can get are all frozen, with names like "Iced plum wine" and "green tea" daquiri or something. They are weird. I have to tell you that they are weird. But, go ahead and try one, just for the sake of trying one.

The main attraction in China, I think, are the stores. There's no ride and no food worth eating, so it's got to be the store, although if you're going to a store in Epcot that carries everything and the kitchen sink, I prefer Japan's since it's an actual department store elsewhere in the world.

But, in China, you can get such things as...porcelain vases, tea sets, chopsticks, collapsible fans, funny pointed hats, Chinese silk dresses and shirts, shoes, jewelry, get the point. Basically, they sell everything.

To be honest, I think China is one of the more boring countries, which is why it has taken me so long to write this. I'm sure for some people, it is heaven, but I seem to have written about all the interesting things already.

One more thing you can do in China is to pretend you're meditating next to a cement sculpture of a Buddha.