The 2015 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival: A Complete Review and Trip Report

MondayMouthful

The 2015 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival

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Although this year’s Food & Wine Festival has sadly come to an end, I thought I’d post on my experience anyway (better late than never) as we know many dishes may return next year. It’s also a great time to begin planning a trip down for Food & Wine in 2016 (I know I just booked mine!) so this may help those who are thinking about venturing down to Orlando next fall.

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Trip Report Overview

Just a few basics here. Our party consisted of 5 adults (myself, my husband Dave, my brother, and my parents). My brother, husband, and I went into this experience really wanting to try as many different menu items as possible. Our plan was to get one portion of most things and split it so that everyone could try it. We also tackled multiple booths (and lines) at the same time by splitting up to get different menu items and returning to a central location to try them all.

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For our  trip, we arrived late Friday night on October 16 and left early evening on Tuesday, October 20th. We knew we wanted to avoid EPCOT on weekends when possible so we planned on Monday and Tuesday (until about 2) to be our EPCOT days. My brother, husband, and I also ended up heading over to EPCOT Sunday evening for dinner (we aren’t thrilled with options at Hollywood Studios).

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Although there were lines (heavier on Sunday than the other two days) we never felt we were waiting too long or that we skipped something because the lines were long. We actually ended up waiting much longer for La Cava Tequila (which is there year round) than anything else. We also didn’t really notice much of the debauchery than some people have talked about for this festival. Yes, there were people drinking and having fun but we did not witness anything we would mark as inappropriate (like the guy climbing the Mexico pavilion or people talking obscenities in proximity to children).

Festival Eats

Let’s move on to the star of the show… the food!I’ll go through what we tried at each pavilion and a synopsis of what we thought of the dish. Note: I will be skipping the dishes mentioned in the “Top 5’s” my husband and I gave in our vlog. To hear more about those, check out this post: http://childcentereddisney.com/2015/11/06/feature-presentation-friday-epcot-food-wine-festival-2015/.

Sustainable Chew

Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Marscapone Grits (see Vlog)

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Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce

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This was a good ravioli. The sauce was flavorful, the filling was well balanced and it was a good portion. The fresh parmesan cheese was also a nice touch. The thing is, though, I felt it was something I could get almost anywhere and therefore not something I would necessarily get again.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle

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Before this, I had never had a panna cotta and wasn’t sure what to expect. I somehow had in my mind a custardy flan or creme brûlée type texture and wasn’t prepared for the yogurt tasting ricotta texture. I’m sure for people who like panna cotta, this was great. Just wasn’t my cup of tea. The gelee was also a bit too sweet for my taste. I did, however, enjoy the crunch of the pistachio brittle and the addition of the fresh fig.

Chew Lab

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn, Bacon and Pepper Jam

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This was awesome. Definitely a contender for our  Top 5 lists, just didn’t make the cut. The salmon itself was well cooked. The poaching with olive oil left it moist and smooth. It fell apart at the touch of a fork and almost melted in your mouth. The accompaniments of the dish added a ton of flavor and when eaten together made a perfect bite. My dad loves salmon and this is one of his favorites. My mom hates salmon and will not let my dad cook it at home, but tried this one and went back for a second bite! Believe me, that’s saying something!

New York Strip with Parsnip Silk, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula Foam

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So here’s the thing. This dish was well made. The meat was cooked to a perfect medium to medium rare (as shown). The presentation was beautiful he flavors balanced together nicely making a few very tasty bites. But that’s just what it was, a few tasty bites. Although I enjoyed it, It wasn’t worth the price tag and not something I’d get again.

Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel (see Vlog)

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Dominican Republic

Souffle de Yuca: Yuca Souffle topped with Griddled Cheese (see Vlog)

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Hawai’i

Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise 

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If you’ve read anything on the Food and Wine Festival, this is probably a dish you’ve heard of. It is typically a fan favorite and returns again and again. Our family had mixed reviews. My brother really enjoyed it. He loved the flavor combination of the pork, the chutney, and the spicy mayo. However, Dave and I weren’t so impressed. It was a good tasting pulled pork, but not better than the pulled pork found at Kona or even Capt’n Cooks at the Polynesian. Also the bread to pork and accompaniment ratio was off and the bite I took wasn’t  much more than bun. We could have gotten it on an “off” day or maybe we’re just spoiled by Kona… either way, we weren’t impressed.

Scotland

Haggis with Neeps and Tatties: Traditional Haggis with Rutabaga and Mashed Potatoes

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To share our opinion of the Haggis, here is a mini vlog, enjoy:

The Tipsy Laird: Whiskey-Soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats

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This was my brother’s favorite dessert of the festival and I quite enjoyed it as well. The lemon creme mixed with the raspberry preserves at the bottom and the oats and cake made a lovely combination. It also did not seem like a “high volume” dessert like many Disney desserts end up tasty. Well done, Scotland!

Farm Fresh

Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions (see Vlog)

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Patagonia

Beef Empanada

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The empanada wasn’t bad, but I felt it wasn’t as flavorful as empanadas I’ve had in the past. It also just wasn’t a memorable dish compared to many of the others we tried. I’d probably skip this one next time and try the Beef Skewer instead. We wanted to try both, but they were out of the chimichurri sauce that went with it, so we skipped it.

New Zealand

Steamed Green Lip Muscles with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs

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The muscles were a tad overdone, but not bad for mass produced muscles. The problem I had with this dish, though was the amount of bread crumbs. They made the dish too dry. A little would have been good to add a buttery crunch, but they added a bit too much.

Australia

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas

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This was a solid flavorful dish, though I don’t know if I would necessarily call them “spicy.” The shrimp we got was well cooked, and there was just enough sauce and veggies to add some additional flavor to the dish.

Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (see Vlog)

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Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut

So this is a bit of a cheat. We didn’t have this one at the festival, we had it at the Illuminations Sparkling Dessert party (stay tuned for a future post on that one). It wasn’t bad… but it did taste like a mass produced dessert (mostly the cake). The chocolate coating was also pretty sweet and sort of a fudge like consistency. I did like the coconut covering though (I am a coconut fan).

 

Mexico

Chilaquiles de Pollo: Corn Chips layered with Seasoned Chicken, Queso Fresco, Sour Cream, and Cilantro

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This was an unexpected contender for Dave’s top 5, just missed it. So what this is, is corn tortillas layered with chicken and cheese and covered in a delicious sauce. It may not look like much, but it was delicious. There was a lot of flavor in the sauce and the different cheeses. The tortillas were more like a soft corn taco texture than a nacho texture. It was almost like a  Mexican take on lasagna.

Tacos de Camaron: Battered Shrimp, Pico de Gallo, Pickled Onions, and Chipotle Mayonnaise 

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This was one of the dishes I went to the festival looking forward to. While I wasn’t disappointed, I also wasn’t “Wow”ed. The shrimp were well cooked and the batter was nice and light. The pickled onions and pico de gallo added texture and freshness and the chipotle mayonnaise was a nice addition of spicy creaminess. Overall, a nice flavorful dish.

China

Beijing Roasted Duck in a Seared Bun with Hoisin Sauce

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I only had a small bite of this dish, but it was pretty good. The bun was sweet and fluffy. The duck was well cooked and flavorful with the sauce. The only off putting thing was the amount of onion added. Overall, a pretty good dish, but not something I’d be rushing to get again.

Black Pepper Shrimp with Sichuan Noodles

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This dish seriously almost made my top 5 just for the noodles. The noodles were well cooked and the Sichuan sauce was amazing. Small bits of fresh cilantro  in the noodles also added pops of flavor and texture. There was also a great amount of them for the price we paid. The shrimp, however, weren’t as amazing. They were well cooked texture wise, but the breading left something to be desired. It really didn’t seem like it belonged. It was somewhat falling off, and seemed to take away from the dish. That being said, I would order this again for the noodles… in fact, I had two helpings while we were there!

Chicken Pot Stickers

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These were solid potstickers, but not as flavorful or texturally on point as those at ‘Ohana. While they were a decent snack, they weren’t something I’d rush back for with all of the other choices available.

South Korea

Bulgogi BBQ Short Rib with Steamed Rice and Cucumber Kimchi

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I had mixed feelings about this dish. The cucumber kimchi was more of a quick pickle. While tasty and crunchy, it lacked the spice and depth of flavor you expect with the kimchi. There also wasn’t enough sauce of to flavor the rice, so it seemed a bit out of place. That being said, I haven’t had much Korean BBQ so that might be intentionally done. The ribs were kind of chewy and pretty salty. HOWEVER, when paired with the Myungjak Bokbunja Raspberry Wine, they were pretty amazing. The sweetness of the wine balanced out the saltiness of the ribs and married really nicely. It truly was amazing how well the wine made this dish pop. I might get it again WITH the wine pairing… but without it wasn’t impressive.

Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap and Kimchi Slaw

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Dave had this twice. The first time he really loved it but the second time they put too much slaw and the meat was not as flavorful. It’s hard to be consistent when cooking in these volumes, but this was a big swing!

Refreshment Cool Post

Spicy Hot Dog with Kimchi Slaw and Mustard Sauce

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We remembered this dish from the last time we were at the festival in 2013 and had to have it. The dog itself packs a punch with some heat and with the added heat from the kimchi slaw (while it also adds freshness and creaminess) it was a hit.

Africa

Bebere Style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato and Pap

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Another one of Dave’s favorites, which I was surprised did not make his top 5. The pap itself is delicious, something I would be more than willing to eat daily for any meal of the day (it would actually make a great breakfast). The stew on top with the beef, tomatoes, jalapeños and onions was really flavorful and had a great depth of different flavors. It is, however, decently spicy and so not something I could finish on my own. Dave loves spice, though, and said he would gladly eat multiple portions if people had ordered them and were not able to finish.

Germany

Schinkennudeln: Pasta Gratin with Ham and Cheese

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This dish to me screamed comfort food. It was rich and creamy and very good for what it was (kind of a German Mac ‘n’ Cheese). This would be great for kids to try to ease them into the festival while giving them something somewhat familiar. Not something I was blown out of the water by, but good comfort food.

Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll

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Pretty much your standard bratwurst in a smaller than normal pretzel roll with yellow mustard. Not much else to say about that.

Poland

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi with Carmelized Onions and Sour Cream

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Another comfort food dish. Definitely something I could make at home myself (with frozen pierogi)… but having grown up in a Polish community, it reminded me of home so I enjoyed it. Another dish to ease kids into the festival.

Sauerkraut Pierogi with Pork Goulash

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More comfort food for me! The goulash on this meal though was quite good and something I’d never had before. Similar sauce to what is normally on top of golabki with cabbage, onion, and pork and fresh parsley on top. That’s more comfort food I hope to see in future years at this booth, golabki!

Japan

Spicy Hand Roll: Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce

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For mass produced sushi, this was good and a great improvement from what I think was the same dish in 2013. The sushi itself was flavorful and had an added crunch from the cucumber. The sauce on top packed a punch (see what I mean when we spoke in the blog about Disney upping their spice level this year compared to 2013) but it was very good.

Teriyaki Gyoza Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables, and Sweet Teriyaki

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This steamed bun was a little sweet for my taste but flavorful. Instead of the light covering most gyoza dumplings have, this combines the steamed bun taste and texture with a gyoza shape. Overall, it was pretty good.

Miso Udon: Steamed Shrimp, Vegetables, and Noodles in a Spicy Broth (see Vlog)

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Morocco

Harissa Chicken Roll

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Although it doesn’t look like much here, the harissa chicken roll packs a good amount of flavor inside this egg roll looking vessel. The outside is very crunch while the inside was the consistency of a pot pie (with very different flavoring). This did not have the same spice level as some of the other items I’ve talked about, but still flavorful with the harissa seasoning.

Baklava

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Another one of my brother’s favorites was the Baklava. He had never had baklava before but really enjoyed this one. This was a really good baklava. It had a great amount of nuts and the puff pastry was crunchy and flaky. It was just the right amount of sweet too.

Belgium

Potato and Leek Waffle with Beer Braised Beef and Smoked Gouda Cream (see Vlog)

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Brazil

Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato

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The crispy pork belly was good…. ok it was REALLY good. But, there is a big thing that kept us from putting it in our top 5. It is one of those things, in my opinion, that is good in small doses. The fattiness of the pork belly (while well balanced for pork belly) becomes too rich to have more than one helping. In fact, I was pretty set after just a couple bites. However, the addition of black beans and the fresh tomato and pops of cilantro do cut that down a bit.

Cocado:Brazilian Coconut Candy

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Think of a hardened inside of a Mounds bar. This is it. It is a really sweet and really solid (hard to break apart) piece of candied coconut. I am a fan of coconut as I said before, but more than a little nibble of this was too much for me.

France

Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley

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Another contender for the Top 5. It seems  like no matter how they change it, the escargot dishes are a hit. The escargot are tucked inside a really buttery croissant and topped with a garlic parsley (solidified) sauce. Although all you taste is the buttery garlicky goodness, if you have problems with texture the chewy pieces of escargot inside may not be your cup of tea. I have enjoyed escargot on their own before so this was not an issue for me, but may be for others. Otherwise, it is a great dish!

Creme Brûlée Vanille Chocolat: Vanilla & Chocolate Creme Brûlée topped with Caramelized Sugar

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When I heard about this creme brûlée, I thought it would be a mixture of a vanilla custard and a chocolate custard. Instead, this is more of a vanilla custard with some chocolate sauce inside. This makes the texture seem a bit off for a creme brûlée, but tasteless it’s still delicious!

Ireland 

Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie

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Here’s the best way I can describe this dish. Imagine taking a small cup of lobster bisque, adding chunks of lobster and seafood inside and covering it with mashed potatoes. Voila! Ireland’s Fisherman’s Pie. I did enjoy the chunks of seafood, but overall it was a bit bland and one note for my taste.

Canada

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

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Ahh, the cheddar cheese soup in Canada. A fan favorite! While I, too, drink the Kool-Aid on this one, it did not make my list for the price point. Though heavenly, it’s $4.00 for a shot glass sized cup of soup. Worth a try for sure, though!

Chicken Sausage with Creamy Polenta and Minus 8 Onion Jam  (see Vlog)

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“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce

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I’m sure you can see where I was going on this one. As I spoke about on the blog, there was an inconsistency with internal temperature on this one. This was the first time we got the filet. It was WELL done. They pretty much killed a lovely piece of beef here. It was dry and chewy and even the delicious truffle butter sauce didn’t help. The next day, however, when we got this right when the pavilion opened it was a medium to medium rare and melted in our mouths. I know food is mass produced at the festival, but this is such a popular booth that I can’t imagine food should have to sit under a heat lamp THAT long.

Festival Beverages

Although I won’t go into detail in the different beverages we had, I just wanted to offer a few highlights. First, try the pairings. Like I said about the ribs in South Korea, they can really highlight and elevate the dishes. It was amazing how that wine made the flavors pop!

Also, step out of your comfort zone. Try things you wouldn’t normally try or that may sound strange. Though I enjoy beer and even darker beers like stouts, I’m not really a porter kind of person. However, the Toasted Coconut Porter Float was AMAZING!

Lastly, the Food & Wine Festival is all about having fun and trying things… but not at the expense of others. It’s okay to have a few drinks but remember it is also a family park. Also remember that the hot Florida sun can dehydrate you faster than your normal drinking circumstances may. Drink water in between drinks, and monitor yourself more closely than you would at home. In other words, hydrate responsibly!

What did you think of this year’s Food and Wine Festival? Comment below and let us know!

Traveling to Walt Disney World? Let me help you plan the most magical vacation possible! I’ll work with you to find the best possible price for your vacation, continue to look for promotions that can be applied, take care of your dining reservations, help you with Fastpass+ recommendations and more all free of charge to you! Contact me today for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

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“Monday Mouthful” with Information on Party for the Senses

MondayMouthful

Time for another Monday Mouthful where I talk about one of my favorite Disney trip planning topics: FOOD! As we get closer to the festival (and selfishly my October trip) it got me thinking back about my trip to the Food and Wine Festival of 2013 and I felt it would be good to report back (even belatedly) on my experience with the Party for the Senses. Bear with me, as this was almost 2 years ago!

Party for the Senses is an event offered on Saturday nights during the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival (this year on 10/3, 10/10, 10/17, 10/24, and 10/31) for an additional fee on top of your admission to EPCOT. During the event, you have the opportunity to try a large variety of small plate dishes prepared by different chefs (sometimes from all around the world) as well as many different adult beverages. Live entertainment is typically provided by Cirque du Soleil La Nouba and you also get reserved seating prior to the event at the Eat to the Beat concert of the night.

There are three categories for admission for this event:

  • General Admission: For $169 per person (this year) you gain entry to the event with unlimited food and drink during the party, access to the live entertainment and reserved seating for the Eat to the Beat concert. You will not have a reserved table for you, however, there will be limited seating as well as standing bar tables for your convenience.
  • Reserved Seating: For $199 per person (this year) you get everything that you would with general admission but will also have a reserved table for your party on the main floor, admission to the party at 6:45 (15 minutes prior to general admission) and a specialty cocktail toast at the beginning of the event.
  • Wine View Lounge: For $319 per person (this year) you get everything you would with a Reserved Seating ticket, but also have a private (I believe this means unshared) reserved table for your party, access to a premium bar, an artisanal cheese station, and speciality cocktail toast.

We decided to go with just the general admission when we went in 2013 and did not regret it. First of all, we had a table (seated) for the entire event which we shared with two ladies. We simply switched off when grabbing plates and brought things back to share. We also did not feel that we were at a disadvantage at all in terms of access to food or drink. You are a bit father removed from the entertainment for pictures sake, but you can see the entertainment fine from anywhere in the pavilion.

Overall, almost everything we tried was delicious, there were just a few things that weren’t our taste (not necessarily the way it was cooked). One was some kind of lobster push pop with a Bourbon (perhaps?) gelée… which I actually had to spit out. We also had a culinary adventure in signature dining meal for lunch that day, which was very poor planning on our part (what were we thinking?). There is so much food available that having anything more than a light lunch might cause you some severe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). There were many things we didn’t enjoy as much as we could have because we were simply feeling full to the point of explosion and other things that we didn’t even attempt because we simply had no room.

I loved the set up of the event, being able to browse through the different stands while sipping on a drink and taking in the live entertainment. I do also think it is quite possible to enjoy the event without snagging a table (either reserved or not) if you have the stamina and ability to remain standing during the duration. For those with mobility or stamina issues, however, I would recommend splurging on the reserved seating or having someone rush ahead to grab a table for you!

Here are a few pictures of our experience of the event to make your mouth water a bit:

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The one thing we didn’t care for…. but the display was so enticing!
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Chicken and Waffles Station
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Plenty of room at our shared table.
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This gives you a good idea of the size of the portions/plates at each station.

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Has all this talk of Food and Wine got you ready to plan a trip for Fall 2016? Contact me for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com! I’d be happy to help you plan your trip and rebook it should an applicable promotion come along and best of all my services are FREE of charge!

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