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Pandora : World of Avatar Review

Animal Kingdom’s Pandora: World of Avatar
Several months ago I read a rumor that annual passholders might get an opportunity to check out Pandora before it officially opens. A few days later, someone in a facebook group I’m part of posted that preview sign-ups were up on the website. I quickly reserved my spot for a day Ray and I were already planning to be at Animal Kingdom. Within the next 30 minutes all the reservations were accounted for!
Last Sunday Ray and I were at Disney World spending time with our family and celebrating our cousin’s graduation/birthday (more on that trip to come). We spent the morning at Animal Kingdom riding Everest, the Safari, and Dinosaur. After a break at our hotel, we made our way back to Animal Kingdom for our 6pm Pandora reservation.
Walking into Pandora was an incredible experience. It truly felt like I was walking into a different world. Here’s the breakdown:

Valley of Mo’ara

So, let’s start with Pandora’s most obvious and breathtaking feature, the Valley of Mo’ara. The landscaping is stunning and intricately detailed. Every view is a photo opportunity… waterfalls, alien vegetation, oh, and floating mountains. FLOATING MOUNTAINS. The details are bananas. Glowing sidewalks, native weavings, tiny bioluminescent flowers… I could go on and on. The theming extends to the ride queues, which I always appreciate.

Na’vi River Journey

The Na’vi river Journey is an evening boat ride through Pandora. It features glowing plants and Pandoran animals. Disney has created some new magic using video screens, projections, and tradition 3-dimensional sets. I have no idea how all of this works together, but the outcome is beautiful. The ride concludes with the Shaman of Songs (I had to look that up) which is hands down Disney’s most life like animatronic. Its arms move so fluidly it’s hard to remember it’s actually a robot.
Overall this ride is relaxing and beautiful. The queue, while mostly unairconditioned, is beautiful. It’s a must see.

Flight of Passage

Flight of Passage is the most technologically advanced ride I’ve ever experienced. It’s a flight simulator of which you ride on the back of a banshee (but why aren’t we just calling them dragons?) through the planet’s different environments.
Because we went to a preview viewing of Pandora, we walked through the fastpass line for this ride which is MUCH shorter than the standby queue. I’ve read that if the entire queue is full it’s about a 4 or 5 hour wait. Thankfully, the theming is very well thought out and at least half of the queue is air conditioned. You walk through the jungle, some rocks, and a laboratory. Once you make it through the laboratory, you’re taken into a 16 person room to get the background story of the ride and prepare for your flight. A video plays, it talks about your consciousness, blah blah blah. Honestly, this part was rather boring to me but I know it’s what they needed to do to set up for the ride. You’re then led into a room with what almost looks like stationary bikes or motorcycles. You’re handed 3-D glasses and told to “mount” the seat. Once you’re seated, back and leg restraints deploy.

To start the ride, the room goes dark, there’s a flash of light, the screen in front of you disappears, and suddenly you’re immersed into the world of Pandora. You fly up, down, and around experiencing the various landscapes. Oh, and you can feel the dragon breathing beneath you. The video is beautiful and well synched with the ride vehicles. You truly feel as though you’re flying!!
The Downside:
Apparenlty, if you have large calves or a larger middle, you may not fit on the ride. There have been tons of reports from people not being able to experience Flight of Passage due to the size of the ride vehicles. That’s a super bummer. When we went there were no test vehicles outside the ride, but hopefully that will change soon because waiting hours for a ride, then not fitting properly is a truly un-magical experience. Also, while I felt fine, there is potential for motion sickness during Flight of Passage.

Pongu Pongu
Pongu Pongu is currently the only refreshment kiosk in Pandora. It offers several drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and a few snacks. Ray and I ordered a Night Blossom and a Mo’ara Margarita.
The Mo’ara Margarita is a mix of strawberry and blood orange flavors and topped with boba balls. It was good, but nothing special. I probably wouldn’t purchase this again.
The Night Blossom is a mix of limeade, apple and pear, and topped with passion fruit boba. This drink was delicious and because it’s non-alcoholic everyone can enjoy! Also, it’s very instagram-worthy. Definitely get this on your next trip to Animal Kingdom! Satu’li Canteen
The Satu’li Canteen is a great change to the Disney parks. This “fast casual” restaurant offers primarily healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. At the time of our visit, Ray and I only saw the lunch and dinner menu so that’s what I’ll be talking about. There are two main options on the menu, bowls and pods. For the bowls you choose a protein (slice grilled beef, chopped grilled chicken, fish fillet, and crispy tofu), base (quinoa salad, red and sweet potato hash, mixed rice, and romain and kale salad), and a sauce (onion chimichurri, black bean vinaigrette, and creamy herb dressing). Ray chose sliced beef over rice with the chimichurri sauce. It was DELICIOUS! The pods come with two options, cheeseburger and vegetable curry. I ordered cheeseburger pods, which were also very good but I wish I had tried the curry. We also ordered the beautiful, yet underwhelming blueberry mousse dessert.

Things of Note:

Windtraders
Windtraders is a unique store in Pandora. We were only inside for a few minutes, so I can’t give a real review, but it sold tons of interesting and pandora-like objects. Also a banshee adoption center.
Scent
One of the best parts of the theming Disney incorporates is scent. To me, most of Pandor smelt like jalapenos, which I loved.
Night Viewing
We visited Pandora during the late afternoon before it was dark. The Valley of Mo’ara is supposed to be beautiful at night, all light up with bioluminescent plants. I can’t wait to see it!
Moss Wall
Find the moss wall. Take an instagram. #mosswall
The Movie
I’m coming clean and letting you know i’ve never seen Avatar. Honestly, I’ve never wanted to. But guess what… I still LOVED Pandora : World of Avatar. If you haven’t seen the movie OR if you didn’t like the movie, don’t let that stop you from going!!!

 

We had such a wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back!

Dapper Day – November 2016

img_7913A few years ago I came across an instagram photo from a Disney World Dapper Day event. I was instantly smitten with the idea of a fancy outing at the Disney Parks. A few of our friends attended the Magic Kingdom event last spring, and after seeing their photos Ray and I decided to attend the next Dapper Day outing.
Well, we had that opportunity last weekend! Ray and I, along with our friends Kristi, Nathan, Lacey, Sara, Josh, Katie, and TJ, made our way to Epcot is our dapperest (and somewhat patriotic) attire. Here are a few snapshots from the day:img_7903img_7933img_7961img_7914img_7946img_7962(photo credit : Kristi…or maybe Nathan since Kristi is in the photo. lol)
img_7963(photo credit: Josh)

What a great weekend! Not only were we able to celebrate Dapper Day, we were also visiting Epcot during their Food and Wine Festival. We visited last year during the festival and I blogged about it here. For me, the stand out food this year were the hummus fries from Morocco, cheddar soup from Canada, peanut butter and white chocolate mousse from The Chew, schinkennudeln from Germany, and pescado con coco from Islands of the Carribean! I can’t wait to go to the Spring Dapper Day event!

Epcot’s 2015 Food and Wine Review

Last week I posted a few snapshot from our recent trip to Epcot for the Food and Wine festival. You can read all about the festival on the Disney website and see the full event menu on the Disney Food Blog. Today Ray, Brie, and I are sharing our full review of all the food and drinks we tried!

Australia:
IMG_4953Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
Allison – This was interesting. I wasn’t sure about the mint pesto at first, but it was my favorite part!
Brie – Weird and good. The lamb chop was delicious. The mint pesto was interesting, but worked really well with the lamb, and the potato crunchies added good texture and saltiness. I’d get it again.
Ray  – I really enjoy lamb chops, so I knew I’d want to try this. I wasn’t sold on the idea of mint pesto, but I was trying to go into it with an open mind. This was after all one of the dishes we had later in the day, and we had much stranger things than mint pesto already. The lamb chop was cooked perfectly and tasted so good. The mint pesto was creamy and mild, and really added a lot to the flavor of the chop. The potato crunches are really the thing that were really like a cherry on top. That little bit of crunch just pushed this over the edge to being a really enjoyable dish.

Belgium:
IMG_4960 Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and Smoked Gouda Cream
A – Eh, pretty disappointing. I was expecting great things from this dish and it just turned out mediocre. I will say that the portion size seemed to be larger than most of the other dishes served at the festival.
B – If I hadn’t seen a picture of this dish before we went, I would have been disappointed. It kinda looked like a big gravy slop, and that’s what it tasted like. There wasn’t much meat, but I liked the couple pieces that I got. The waffle was fine, the gravy was good, the carrots were good. I couldn’t really taste the gouda cream at all though.
R – When I hear Gouda cream, I get pretty excited. I love Gouda and felt like the description of this dish sounded delicious. Unfortunately the Gouda cream was almost un-noticeable. If it had been left off I wouldn’t have been able to tell. The leek and potato waffle was crunchy and pretty good. It did seem a little more salty than I expected, but worked out when paired with the gravy. The meat was pretty good, but there just really wasn’t much of that either. All in all it was an okay dish, but I feel like it could have been executed much better.

Canada:IMG_4945“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce
A – Completely worth it. Even the mushrooms were delicious and I typically don’t like mushrooms. TRY THIS!
B – I only tasted a small bite of this, and it was pretty good.
R – This was one of the best dishes we had. The steak was cooked so perfectly. The butter sauce was great and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly and paired with the filet so well. I would have had a second and third.

China:IMG_4946Happy Peach with Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum:
A – I only had a slip, but it was refreshing and really cold (which we needed).
B – Really good and refreshing. We tried this at a point in the day when we were all sweltering and tired, and this drink was a great pick-me-up.
R – This was a kind of sweet drink, but it was about 2pm and blazing hot. We were all about to die, and I like rum… So I stood in line and got this because it was cold. I honestly think this may have saved our lives. It was very refreshing.

Farm Fresh:IMG_4955 IMG_4768Hard Cider Flight
A – I guess I’m a hard cider fan now? The elderberry cider was my favorite and now that I’m home I NEED it. Ray immediately broke the pumpkin cider cup, so I had to risk my white shirt to drink it.
B – One of our best decisions. There was pumpkin cider, raspberry cider, elderberry cider, and dry pear cider. All were good, but the dry pear cider was definitely my favorite. I’ve been wanting it ever since.
R – I’m the only one who wasn’t wild about the cider flight. It was all pretty good, and surprisingly I didn’t hate the pumpkin cider. But I didn’t really have a favorite. I can take or leave a cider.

IMG_4760Florida Orange Groves Key Limen Wine
A – Too sweet, but not terrible.
B – Good. Sweet.
R – I thought this tasted exactly like what key lime wine should taste like. It was pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d drink a bottle of it.

France:
IMG_4764
Assorted Pastries from Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
A – The last time Ray and I went to Epcot we skipped France and I have no idea why. I wanted to make sure we experienced it this time. I walked into the bakery expecting to get a macaron, but realized I needed chocolate and ended up getting a chocolate croissant. It was delicious and it saved my life. Even though this list is super long and looks like we gorged ourselves all day, we actually only had a small bite or two of each item. Well, I ate almost this whole croissant and it was exactly what I needed.
B – I ordered a beignet with chocolate hazelnut spread inside. It was delicious. I almost wished the Nutella-like stuff wasn’t in it, because the actual beignet was so good. This bakery stop was also one of our best decisions. Absolutely everything sold here looked wonderful.
R – I got a chocolate mousse with crunchies on top. This was so good. It was a great break to get out of the sun for a little bit and I think the sugar helped get me going and ready to brave the crowds again.

Germany:
Riesling Flight
A – Good. Tiny.
B – Really good. Glad we got this.
R – Rieslings are pretty good. But I like lots of wines.

Hawai’i:
IMG_4621
Kalua pork slider with Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
A – Ooooooh! This was good.
B – I really liked this and would absolutely get it again. The pork was flavorful and moist, pineapple chutney was good (but really it was just crushed up pineapple), and mine had a lot of the spicy mayo on it. This is in my top 5 fave foods we had.
R –   I think I was the least impressed by this. I didn’t get any of the spicey  mayo in my bites and I wish I had. The pork was pretty good. I’d probably try this again, but it wasn’t life changing.

Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips
A – Surprisingly fresh with a great texture. Definitely get this if you’re a sushi person.
B – Nice and fresh. Not bad at all, but I wouldn’t get it again. We’d just watched the Top Chef season 2 finale, which was in Hawaii, and they talked about tuna poke for like an entire episode. So it was fun to try it.
R – This was surprisingly fresh and good. It is raw tuna though, and early in the day I could only have so much of that. It was also very salty. Not too salty, but it did seem pretty salty.

Pineapple Wine
A – Gross
B – Not into it.
R – I didn’t hate it. It really just tasted like pineapple wine. It was sweet.

Mai Tai  
A – Ugh. I just can’t get behind pineapple juice.
B – Bad.
R –  I’ve really been into Mai tais this summer… This is one of the worst I’ve had. Save your $7 and I’ll make you a great one.

Ireland:IMG_4959Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie
A – I only had the tiniest bite, but I didn’t love it. The mashed potato topping tasted fake!! I just don’t care about non-sweet pies! 
B – I also only had a tiny bite. It was fine. I’m never into mashed potatoes as a top crust.
R – This was really good, but it was hotter than lava. I burned my tongue pretty bad on it. But the taste was pretty good. It was like a shepherd’s pie with a seafood bisque under the potato. I enjoyed it.

IMG_4763Bunratty Meade Honey Wine
A – Best drink of the festival!!! Two thumbs up!
B – This was good. I thought I would hate it, because I hate fake honey flavor, but I didn’t!!!
R – I loved this. I’m going to have to find some of this for me.

Japan:
IMG_4765
Spicy Hand Roll: Tuna + Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce
A – A good roll and a good size. Honestly, you could probably get something comparable at a nice sushi restaurant anywhere… but I’d still probably get it again.
B – Just a good sushi roll. The volcano sauce was good and spicy.
R – missed out on this one

Mexico:IMG_4767Blood Orange Margaritas at La Cava del Tequila
A – I only got water while in Mexico, but I’ve had this margarita before. It’s pretty good, but not worth the line wait. It’s best to get to this bar when they open (12:00pm) because the crowd can get pretty wild.
B – Ehh, I was disappointed. It wasn’t a bad margarita, but it was expensive and a very long, slow line. I will say that it was stronger than it tasted, though.
R – See, this is a little expensive, and if you don’t go there and wait for them to open you have to stand in a line for 30min+ but it’s the best bang for your buck. They don’t skimp here. The two margaritas I’ve tried (blood orange and avocado) have been great!

Morocco:IMG_4940
Kefta Pocket
A – I think I had a bite of this, but I don’t remember. So, I guess it wasn’t memorable?
B – This was basically a meatball in a pita. A little dry, but good.
R – This was a pita type thing with a meatball in it. Here is the problem I have with any gyro or pita type sandwich… they have a ton of lettuce at the top/opening and then the meet is at the bottom. It’s hard to get a good bite of everything. Everything in it was pretty good, but I don’t know if i’d visit this dish again

Harissa Chicken Roll
A – On the real, this tasted like a southwest egg roll and I loved it. I could have eaten the whole thing in one bite! Unfortunately, it was about the size of my index finger and all 3 of us wanted a try.
B – The second I read this description, I knew I needed it and would love it. And I was correct. This chicken roll was delicious! I have no idea why we only got one.
R – I only had a bite of this, but it was good and spicy, like spices and spicy. I liked it a lot. I would have skipped pita meatball for this again.


IMG_4942Sangria
A – Ray drank it all!!!
B – Good?
R – Typical sangria, but it was nice and refreshing since it was pretty hot.

Patagonia:IMG_4958Beef Empanada
A – This was good, but I would skip it next time. This empanada can be found at any semi-ethnic restaurant. I don’t think we finished it.
B – Just your typical empanada. Good, but no need to get it again.
R – I like an empanada and hoped this would be the empanada to end all empanadas… but it wasn’t. It was fine, but i’d skip it if given the oppertunity again

IMG_4956Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce
A – I only had one tiny bite. I loved the chimichurri sauce, but the meat wasn’t my favorite.
B – This was pretty good. I kinda wish I had gotten my own. The chimichurri sauce was real good.
R – The meat is a little tough, but still good and the sauce was amazing. I’d say this is worth a try, just know and be prepared for the meat to not be super tender.

Refreshment Port:
IMG_4761Croissant Doughnut
A – A+!! This isn’t exclusive to the Food and Wine Festival. You can purchase a cronut any old day at Epcot… and you should!
B – Guys. This cronut is just to DIE for. It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in my life. We got three in total… and like, they’re pretty big.
R – These are okay. I mean they aren’t exclusive to food and wine and you can get them at other places. I haven’t had a ton of cronuts but I’d assume this one was about as good as any

IMG_4762Dole Whip Soft Serve with Coconut Rum
A – Dole Whip is always good, but especially with rum.
B – I only had a tiny taste of this, but it was really good. I was kinda over the taste of pineapple by the time we got this, but normally I would’ve been super into it.
R – Dole whip is awesome. Rum is awesome. I do wish it had been just normal rum or spiced rum with the dole whip though

Scotland:IMG_4755Fresh Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Herb Sour Cream
A – This was something I was really looking forward to. It was good, but not great. The herb sour cream and the salmon went really well together, but the pancake was rubbery. Who wants a rubber pancake? NOT ME!!
B – I was disappointed in this number. I expected it to be awesome, but it was just kinda boring.
R – Herb sour cream is just a basic thing. The salmon seemed more raw than smoked. honestly I’ve thought this whole time that it was shaved raw salmon until i read the description just now to write this. So, for raw salmon it was good. For smoked salmon, I’m unimpressed because it tasted raw. The potato pancake was, unfortunately, forgettable to me.


IMG_4756Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon
A – My favorite dish of the day! Every element to this dish is fantastic! DO NOT SKIP! Also, maybe get your own. Splitting one scallop three ways is just kind of sad. All I can think about is how to recreate this dish.
B – This was my number one food (besides that cronut). If for some awful reason you can only get one food at the Food and Wine Fest, this is the one you need. I’ve been dreaming about it for days.
R – Spinach cheddar gratin was okay. the scallop was great though. I think this is the first time I’ve had a real scallop though, so my thoughts on scallops have changed severely

IMG_4757Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats
A – This was really good without being overly sweet. Kind of tiny for 3 people to get a really good taste.
B – Oh, this was really good too. It had like a raspberry sauce on the bottom and was a pretty generous portion. I would get it again.
R – I don’t remember anything about this.

IMG_4758Scotch Flight
A – Eh, I’m not a scotch girl.
B – Poison!!!! I’ve never hated three liquors more.
R – Okay, i would just buy the 18 year instead of the flight here. Unless you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting the difference between several different years of scotch. it can be pretty fun. I like scotch though.

Sustainable Chew:
IMG_4957Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits
A – I  DIDN’T GET ANY!!!! Ray ate it all!! 🙁
B – I didn’t get to try this, sadly. See my saga below.
R – I got these and the panna cotta’s and then waited around forever for the two girls. (see Brie’s saga below) I was trying to save some of it for everyone to try, but time was just ticking away and grits are only good for so long. So, I ate all of this myself. Even after waiting a long while, everything was delicious. This was an afterthought, i only went to the sustainable chew to get these panna cotta things, and ended up seeing this and deciding i would try it. Guys, it was good. i know this isn’t one of the countries, but don’t pass this up.

IMG_4954Vanilla Panna Cotta with Figs and Pistachio Brittle
A – SO DISAPPOINTING!!! This sounded so delicious, but the texture was just totally off. I was waiting in anticipation to try it and couldn’t even finish two bites. The geletin and panna cotta mixed into a weird curdled-like texture. The “brittle” was just chopped pistachios. It was so bad!! See Brie’s sad saga below.
B – Whew, guys. I was CERTAIN that this would be my number one dish. I was sure of it. I love figs and pistachios and vanilla, so how it could it not be to die for? In fact, Allison and I needed it (and another cronut… Shhhh!) so badly that we had to ignore painful blisters and a bathroom emergency to get it!!! We’d gone through the entire World Showcase and realized we hadn’t been to the Sustainable Chew. We found it on the map, and it wasn’t far from where we were (or from the cronut place, which we’d already decided we had to go back to). There was a ride in a different area of the park that we wanted to go on again before it closed, so the three of us divided and conquered to be as quick as possible. I went to get cronuts, they went to find the panna cotta and spareribs and a bathroom. I was suffering from two gigantic blisters on the bottoms of my feet, so walking was painful. That blood orange margarita had also kicked in, and we’d just finished that hard cider flight and key lime wine. So… I was a little fuzzy. Basically, we all got separated and couldn’t find each other for a very long time. We were finally all back together with the cronuts and panna cotta (Ray had eaten the spareribs and cheesy grits), too late to go on The Land, but worth it because we had the cronuts and panna cotta. Except it wasn’t really worth it, because the panna cotta was awful. Too gelatinous and separated, a weird taste… just really not good at all. Granted, we ate it like 30 minutes after it was ordered. Still, my biggest disappointment of the day.
R -After waiting an hour, I didn’t think this would be very good. Who knows if it would have been good fresh… it was mostly a texture issue.

And that was our day!
Things to know:
– Going to Food and Wine with 3-5 is great because you can split the food, try lots of different things, and not spend $200.
– Most of the food portions are pretty small, but this is how you’re able to buy delicious filet mignon for $7.
– The drink portions are also really small, but they don’t skimp on the alcohol!
– The lines can get really long, but in our experience they moved quickly (except Japan, those slow pokes).

Have you been to Food and Wine? What was your favorite dish? What looks best to you?