Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Lazy Go Club Level - Day 3

Did you miss the first two parts of our awesome trip report? Follow the links below!

Today was one of the MAIN reasons we booked a later vacation this year. My favorite park, Epcot, was celebrating its 30th Anniversary today, and I planned on being there!
We showed up bright and early, and the lines, while long, weren't One More Disney Day long.  Everyone got a cool button at the front, as well as a really cool commemorative guide map.  (They learned from OMDD – they had PLENTY of buttons!)

Dreamfinder Man with Figment in lower right corner of photo
There was one guy who was dressed as Dreamfinder, complete with a stuffed Figment on his shoulder. Lots of people were staring and pointing, even taking pictures with him, so eventually a cast member came over and told him that, while they thought the costume was awesome, he couldn't pass himself off as THE Dreamfinder to other guests (just like I couldn't dress up like Belle and say I was THE Belle).  He was a cool guy. (I thought I took a photo of him, but I guess not!)

Our plan for the day was simple – stay from open to close. There was some music and celebratory streamers and confetti, and then the gates were open and the crowd filed in.
We headed over to Livin’ with the Land, where the line was pretty long, but once on the ride, I was able to get some really pretty photos.  

After that, we went on Soarin’, which was quite a wait. 

We headed over to Figment to Journey into our Imagination, which is a pale, sad comparison to the awesome ride it used to be.
I want Dreamfinder back!

Yes, Figment - this ride stinks...
After Figment, we went over to The Living Seas. I had realized that both times we rode Nemo before, the lights in the tanks were off, so we never got to experience the WHOLE THING.  I wanted to ride it again, to see if it was any better. So we rode it again, while the tank lights were on. Woo. I think we can check that off of the "to do again" list. 

Even better though, was Scuba Steve, in the lock-out chamber.  That was cool to watch. Do they usually do that, or was that special for the 30th?

It feels like we've been here all day already, but it's only lunch time!  We started walking towards World Showcase for lunch, and good timing too - the skies are looking pretty ominous over there by Journey Into Imagination!

Welcome to Florida - did you pack a poncho?

For lunch, I was able to score an ADR for Chefs de France. This is a restaurant that I've always wanted to visit, but was hesitant to try because of my other picky eaters. I’m so glad that we got a chance to eat here! Check-in was easy, we only waited a few minutes before we were seated in the glass atrium-type area by the fountain. Great spot for people watching, AND we got a banquette (booth), so tushy-cushy for me! We looked over the menu and all decided on the croque monsieur, but I still wanted to try the macaroni gratin.  I wonder if they do like a side dish or something?

Our server was David (I think), and his accent was VERY thick, and his grasp of the English language very loose. He quickly brought bread and drinks. I attempted to order for the table (thinking that it would make things easier), and told him that all three of us wanted the croque AND one small dish of the gratin, if it was possible.  He smiled and nodded and whisked away. We continued our discussion about our day, and soon our lunch, as it was, was brought to our table. We ended up with ONE croque and ONE small bowl (small is relative) of macaroni gratin.  Um, what?  I very nicely pointed out that all of us wanted a croque and he quickly returned with two more for me and The Child. 

Now, the bowl that we got TO SHARE is meal-size in itself, but the group at the table behind us ordered a full-size, and I swear that you could have fed a family of 4 with all that food! It was HUGE!  It was also so tasty!  Creamy, but not overbearingly cheesy (i.e. not Stouffer’s!)  Nicely browned on top, too.  I could have eaten that whole thing, but I also had a croque to deal with!  A Croque is a ham and béchamel sandwich, with Parmesan cheese on the outside, which is then toasted until crusty on the outside and gooey on the inside.  We asked for fries instead of the green salad, and all three of us fell in love with French grilled cheese!

Get me a fork! It's hard to gauge the size of the bowl, but this was a HUGE amount!
Croque Monsieur with Fries
I don’t think any of us could finish our meals, either, but I had to save a little bit of room for the special dessert – profiteroles! Everyone on the internet (Dis, etc) raves about these things, so I couldn't wait to try them. My honest opinion? They weren’t fabulous. I know I’m picky and all, but I guess I forgot what pate a choux pastry tasted like. If you are familiar with real éclairs, profiteroles are the same – dry and tasteless.  These profiteroles, however, came filled with ice cream, drenched in chocolate sauce and garnished with curls of white chocolate. We all tasted the raved-about dessert and all of us decided “Meh.”  I don’t think we’ll order dessert again while at Chefs, but we will definitely be back for the sandwiches!

Oh, and the cutest part of dining at Chef de France?  Getting to meet the Chef, of course!  At some point between our entrée and dessert, the Maitre D rolled out a cart that had a large silver cloche on it.  Neither The Child or The Hubby had any idea what was under there, so it was a cute surprise for them.

With our Tables in Wonderland card, I think our meal came to around $50 or $60 bucks. Not bad for a table service meal!

Fat and happy, we moseyed over the American Gardens Theater for a “Special Anniversary Moment” show.  We got pretty good seats, and wait… Who is that up there? Why, that is Tom and Sarah Bricker! If you follow Disney blogs, you know who they are. If you don’t, well then what the hell is your problem? Go check out his blog here! He’s a great photographer (albeit a little infatuated with a fisheye lens for my taste). 

Sarah is in the Figment hat; Tom in the Rainbow visor
The mariachi band came out and did a set, which was wonderful – some of these performers have been here for decades, and they are very good!

A few of the Epcot and Walt Disney World bigwigs came out (I can’t remember their names now), and then representatives of each country came out as well, holding little signs for where they were from. 

Voices of Liberty came out and sang a song. I gotta say, while I appreciate their talent, they are a little too…. How do I put this?  Perfunct? Clipped? Each word is very precise and snipped.  Slightly ‘bad-opera’ like. They were good, but not my favorite style of enunciation.

Once the show was over, confetti dropped from everywhere, and almost right after, it started to rain! Thank goodness we had our ponchos!

We quickly poncho’ed up, and made our way over to the World ShowPlace Theater for the second special thing “Epcot: How It Changed the World  – a talk with Marty Sklar"!  This is going to be so awesome!!! We've never been in this building (it’s for private parties, or special events during Food & Wine Festival and such), and I've never been so close to someone so important!! I can’t wait!!!

The space was HUGE! There were really awesome chandeliers, and lights were projecting cool images onto the walls.  In the back, there were tables with little water coolers on them so that we could all have water. Snacks would have been nice, but you get what you pay for, right?
Can I have one of these for my desk at work?
We found a place to sit, and then I popped into the ladies’ room – wow it’s huge! 

With that out of the way, I walked around a bit, taking photos of the space (because how often do normal people get to be in there!) Lo and behold, who do I see but Brickers!  I know he’s a normal guy and all, but to go up to him and start talking about photography would be like a 6th grader talking to Michael Jordan about basketball (yeah, even my references are old school, deal with it.)  So what does any normal stalker do?  Take photos of them!

Not long after I finished my papparazzing, the talk began. Marty came out and told us the history of Epcot, how it was for him, being able to work with Walt before Walt passed on, and some funny tidbits about Epcot itself. There were monitors on either side of him, showing photos while he spoke, and I tried to get some cool photos, but about halfway through, Hubby elbowed me and reminded me that they mentioned no photos. Oops. Here are a few I was able to get.

The Man of the Hour - Marty Sklar

What is (was) United Technologies?

After the talk, I think it must have been nearing 6pm, so I think we just started making our way towards Italy and DINNER! We had 7pm ADRs for another new restaurant – Via Napoli.  Hubby is not much of a pizza guy, but he agreed to this one because there were other things on the menu. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some food.

We checked in at the podium and had a seat in the foyer. I don’t want to say it was loud, because it wasn’t, in the traditional sense, but it was loud in the fact that the volume was high, and there were lots of CMs talking, and lots of guests talking, and I guess the word I’m looking for is chaotic.  The noise combined with the hostesses’ thick accents made it hard to hear whose name they were calling for a table. Soon though, we heard our name (pronounced badly) and it was time for our meal.

We were seated in the atrium area, the ‘sunroom’ type area in the rear.  It was also loud in there, but that was due to a table full of twenty-something BFFs drinking too much Proseco.

Our server was very sweet, if a bit harried, and got us drinks and bread quickly. It was a nice rustic, doughy bread, but I didn’t want to fill up too much, because I knew what else was on the menu!

Lemons for my water and my Diet Coke

Bread and Oil for dipping

The Child didn't like the bread as much as I did
Hubby decided on Chicken Parmesan.  The Child and I split a pizza – ½ Quattro Fromaggi and ½ Pepperoni. We were told that since the orders were cooked in different kitchens, the meals may come out at different times. No problem, we said!

The pizza came first, after about a minute and a half. Okay, so it was longer than that, but not by much.


Take a moment.

Look at this pizza.

Quattro Fromaggi on the left; Pepperoni perfect on the right

It is so pretty.

The Quattro Fromaggi is just what it says – 4 cheese pizza. But this ain’t no Totinos Party Pizza (not that there’s anything wrong with those!)  Mozzarella. Fontina. Parmesan. Provolone. Gooey white cheese. Melted perfectly. So tasty!

Oh, but the Pepperoni….. I know what you’re saying – Lazy, it’s just a pizza, what’s so special about it?  THE PEPPERONI!  Authentic pepperoni, mozzarella, simple sauce. The pepperoni gives a bite and a spiciness to the slice, and a greasiness that permeates the sauce and cheese to make just the most perfect slice of pizza I've ever had (though, to be fair, I've never had pizza other than the likes of Papa John’s or local joints).

Hubby’s meal came out just minutes later, and his eyes about bugged out of his head – his chicken breast was the size of the entire plate!  In contrast, the little pile of roasted potatoes looked kind of sad, huddled on the edge of the plate.
The chicken is longer than the rolled up parcel of utensils at the top!
He took his first bite and did the Eye Roll – it was so good. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned. Both the Child and I sampled as well (as we always do at Disney) and agreed that it was wonderful. Not as wonderful as our pizza, but pretty damn good. Hubby tried the pizza and agreed that it was wonderful. Not as good as his chicken, but pretty damn good.

Between the two of us, The Kiddo and I demolished the pepperoni side, but could only each have one slice of the cheese – the cheese was very rich and filling. We decided that next time, we would do all pepperoni.
Besides the awesome pizza, another thing I was looking forward to were the Zeppole Di Catarina – ricotta cheese fritters! They are like little doughnut holes or sweet hush puppies (though, doesn't a sweet hush puppy sound really gross?)  They are served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, though they didn't need either of those. I could've gone for more powdered sugar, but whatev.  They come in a stand and you get over a half-dozen, warm and crunchy right out of the fryer.  

I took a bite and I was in fried dough heaven!  Lighter than a cake doughnut, lighter than the aforementioned hush puppy, but heavier than a yeast doughnut. Just wonderful. I could probably eat the whole thing myself, but I let Hubby and the Kiddo each have one. They were not nearly as in love with them as I was. Good! More for me!

Fresh whipped cream, chocolate sauce and Zeppole
The child was having a hard time deciding but ended up getting the kid’s Coppetta de Gelato (Italian Sundae).

Coppetta de Gelato
Hubby chose the simple Chocolate Gelato.
Chocolate Gelato with Nut Brittle
The sundae had blueberries and other things in it, so she was kind of bummed about that, but the gelato was very good. Same with hubby – he enjoyed his dessert, even more so after taking the chocolate from MY dessert and pouring it onto his!

All in all, this was one of the best meals of our trip, and after our Tables in Wonderland discount it was only $90 or so.  We will definitely be coming back here!

We waddled our way out of Italy and attempted to find a spot for Illuminations.  Being the 30th Anniversary of Epcot, we assumed that there would be some sort of special ‘tag’ at the end. However, even though we love Epcot, we actually have not seen all of Illuminations more than once or twice, so we didn't know when the end was.

I got a pretty crappy spot – in the photos you can see that there is a banner on the left and trees above that are in all my shots.  It was a great shot for viewing (we were right at the railing around the lagoon) though, and we protected our spot until it was time for the show.

The regular part of Illumination was just that – the regular part.

But the end… OH, the end!

It sounded and FELT like Disney shot off every single firework they had in stock that night. I could feel it in my bones. I felt the ground shake under my feet. I think at one point fireworks came out of the lake right in front of us. It was AMAZING!!!!  I had tears in my eyes by the end of it, it was mind-blowingly fabulous, and what better way to finish off an amazing day at my favorite park than some balls-to-the-wall pyrotechnics!  You know how everyone claps at the end of a good fireworks display? There was so much more than clapping this time! There were hoots and hollers galore, and it went on for quite a while.

Eventually, people started heading for the exits, but we just took the time to pack up my camera gear and then wait out the crowds (anyone who leaves right after fireworks are asking for huge crowds and long bus lines).  We meandered around World Showcase, returning to FutureWorld the long way (via America, rather than Germany), and soon it began to empty out enough that we could hear what music they were playing – Vintage park music!  They played “Makin’ Memories,” “One Little Spark” and “Livin’ with the Land” – I’m sure they played more, but those are the ones I remember….

It was great that Disney did that, for their true fans like us. Someone who goes to Disney once or twice in their lifetime wouldn’t understand how special that was, but those of us who go multiple times a year, every year since we were kids, totally get it.  It was a nice end to a wonderful night.

Finally though, we grabbed a bus back to the Lodge and conked out – it had been a LONG day!