I do love a good mystery…

As I mentioned on my previous post, on Monday, Tadd and I checked out a few places we had been meaning to visit for awhile.  Another place we visited was Theme Park Connection.  This is basically a Disney parks memorabilia thrift store/warehouse in Winter Springs, FL.  They have all kinds of souvenirs, posters, props, signage, cast member costumes, etc.  Much of it has been used in the park at one time or another.  Some of it is vintage, and some of it is pretty new.  Their inventory is constantly changing and you never know what you might see on any given visit.

Tadd and I spent a long time perusing the shelves and shelves full of stuff.  What ended up catching my eye was a pair of vintage wine glasses.  The logo says “Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival”, but the logo does not mention a year.

I know that what is now Downtown Disney used to be called “Walt Disney World Village” in the 1970s and 1980s before being changed to “Disney Village Marketplace” and then eventually “Downtown Disney” in the 1990s (soon to be “Disney Springs” once the recently-announced refurb is complete), but I had never heard of the wine festival.  My online research has proven sketchy, with no solid dates for the start of this festival (I have seen several different sites with different years mentioned; 1977, 1981, 1982, and 1986, among others), and nothing really discussing when it concluded.  It seems that this wine festival was precursor to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which began in 1995.  Unfortunately, based on the info I have, I can really only narrow down the time frame of distribution for these particular glasses to a very vague range: late-1970s to mid-to-late 1980s.  I searched for any kind of collection of wine festival logos, but those searches did not return anything.

If you have any information on these wine glasses please let me know!  I am so curious to know more specific details, especially what year they are from.  But even if I learn nothing more, they are still my new favorite WDW souvenir items.  I just love them!

Instagram Link Party: Dropkick Murphys @ House of Blues

Hope you had a great weekend.  Mine was very busy, but I think the highlight was getting to see the Dropkick Murphys play House of Blues in Downtown Disney last night.

This is a band I have loved since my high school years back in the late 90s.  One of the things that I love about them is that their songs and style reflect their Boston/Irish heritage, which is a heritage that I share (at least partially, I am originally from the Boston area and I am a quarter Irish on my dad’s dad’s side).  I also love that they are so closely-tied with Boston sports teams.  During the show, they mentioned the approaching start of baseball season and gave a shout-out to the Red Sox.  And the Boston Bruins logo was on their bass drum head.  It was fun seeing all of the people in the audience with Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots gear.  I wore a Red Sox shirt and Tadd wore a Celtics shirt and a Patriots hat.  Lots people just wore generic Irish garb too…shamrocks, anything green, even saw some kilts.

My only request was that they play Tessie, which they did (yay!), along with many other favorites, including their big hit I’m Shipping Up To Boston, from the soundtrack of the movie The Departed.

During the encore, they invited a ton of people on stage, and then got them to mosh during their cover of AC/DC's song "Dirty Deeds". Crazy!

One thing I noticed that I have ALWAYS noticed at Dropkick Murphy shows in the past (this was probably my 5th or so time seeing them live), is that their fanbase and the people who attend their shows are amongst the most friendly of any punk rock concert audience I have been a part of.  Not to say that they aren’t also rowdy and crazy and loud; but three times during the show, strangers around me asked if I was able to see the stage well enough (I am under 5ft tall), and everyone was just so friendly with each other.  They are a happy-rowdy bunch, instead of mean-rowdy or intimidating-rowdy.

As always, I’m linking this post with a {little} dash of ash’s weekly Instagram Link Party.

Instagram Link Party: Orlando Staycation

Tadd and I had plans to go to Hilton Head Island, SC this past weekend.  Unfortunately, they had to be canceled due to a family emergency that required us to stay closer to home, just in case we found out we had to leave town quickly.  We decided to make the best of it and our romantic weekend getaway turned into a last-minute “staycation” in the Orlando area.

We booked an inexpensive room via Priceline.com‘s name-your-own price feature and spent two nights staying very close to Walt Disney World property.  When we checked into our hotel, we really had no plans aside from dinner Saturday night at Il Mulino at the Walt Disney Swan Resort.  We were just going to play it by ear, and have a fun, relaxing weekend away from the stress of life, and focused just on each other.

We wound up in Downtown Disney Friday night.  Dinner at Paradiso 37 (which was better than I thought it would be!), followed by desserts from Goofy’s Candy Company.  They have this create-your-own treat thing, where you fill out a form and choose an item (apple, rice krispie treat, marshmallows, pretzel rods, or ginger bread cookie), then you choose to dip it in white, dark, or milk chocolate, then choose a candy topping (M&Ms, Oreos, peanuts, Reese’s Pieces, etc), then you choose a chocolate drizzle for the top.  It used to be that the marshmallow option was only $2.95 so it was a great bargain, because when they were done being dipped in everything they were enormous and they presented them to you skewered on a Mickey head crazy straw that you could keep.  Now they are $4.95…Not a bargain, but still a generally affordable treat.  We got ours to go and brought them back to the hotel room.  On the way out of Downtown Disney, we decided randomly to stop by guest relations and make reservations for the Sunday morning Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom.

Saturday we really weren’t sure what to do, but in the end decided to go to the Premiere Outlets where Tadd got some new bright green hi-top chucks at the Converse store (they are awesome…I need to get a picture of them), and I almost got something on clearance from the Coach Outlet, but ended up with a new Vera Bradley bag that I adore (an angled tote in Baroque), plus some extra stuff for gifts (everything in the VB Outlet was buy 2 get 1 free).  Then we set off to Celebration, FL for an afternoon of lunch at Celebration Town Tavern (which made me homesick for Boston), relaxing by the lake, Starbucks, and getting Tadd’s hair cut at a charming little place called S. Todd Esq, Barber!  We made so many Sweeney Todd jokes before and after the haircut…could not resist!

Saturday night, we had reservations for dinner at Il Mulino for that evening, so we went back to the hotel room, got gussied up a bit, and drove over to the Swan & Dolphin Resort near Epcot (refered to by locals as the Swolphin).  Il Mulino gets somewhat mixed reviews on Yelp and other places, but I have to say that we had a fabulous dinner!  They won us over with all the little extra surprises that added to the experience, including an appetizer of thinly sliced Italian sausage and eggplant caponata provided to us “compliments of the chef”, a tiny bottle of Rosa Regale included with our special Valentine’s Day dessert, and concluding the meal with a complimentary limoncello.  We had a head waiter & assistant waiter doting on us, and the manager came over twice to make sure we were happy.  These little extras really made our dinner special!  We felt like royalty.

We were thinking about walking over to Epcot for Illuminations after dinner, but when we left the restaurant, it was getting cold (and I had bare legs in a dress & heels!) and we had about 10 minutes before they started.  So we decided to go to the bridge between Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Boardwalk Resort, and watch the fireworks over the treeline.  We were almost completely alone, huddled together in the cold, with a great view, and it turned out to be a very romantic moment.  I’m so glad we decided to stop there instead of rushing all the way into the crowded theme park for the show.

Sunday morning, we woke up bright and early, checked out of our room, and headed over to the Magic Kingdom for our 9AM Keys to the Kingdom tour.  Wow, was it cold!  I think it was 33F when we left our hotel.  We arrived at the gates of the park just after 8:30, and because of our tour, were allowed into the park before the masses.  Getting to see Main Street Town Square totally empty was a treat!

We had a fabulous time on our five hour tour, which included lots of history, trivia, VIP front-of-the-line guided access to a couple major attractions, and we were also allowed backstage to see how the park is run from behind-the-scenes.  It also included lunch at Columbia Harbor House.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the tour, since part of the fun is not really knowing what you will see next, but if this kind of thing interests you, then I definitely recommend it!  Our tour guide was Robert, who was a lot of fun, enthusiastic, and very sweet.  The tour brought back a lot of happy memories for Tadd, who was a WDW cast member about 12 years ago.  We both really, really enjoyed it.

Thus ended our impromptu romantic staycation weekend.  I am sad that we didn’t get to go to Hilton Head, but we still had a great time together and made some special memories.  Valentine’s Day is important to us because it’s the anniversary of the day Tadd asked me to marry him, so we always try to do something to celebrate.  I think our weekend was more than befitting of the occasion.

This post is linked to the weekly Instagram link party over at a {little} dash of ash!

Raglan Road

The Saturday night before last, just before we started our No Spend August challenge, Tadd and I were hankering to do something different.  We had tentative plans to go to Kissimmee to check out their weekly antique car show, but it was just too hot to enjoy it.  So we decided to go to Downtown Disney to try their brand new AMC Dine-In Theater Fork & Screen experience.  But when we got there, the movie showing we intended on seeing was sold out.  We couldn’t agree on a backup movie or time, so we gave up on that idea.

But we were already in Downtown Disney, so we decided to make the most of it.  Our favorite restaurant, Raglan Road, just happens to be in Downtown Disney, so we decided to see what their wait was like.  The hostess said 25 minutes, which was agreeable to us, so we took a pager and entered the giftshop to wait for it to buzz.

If you live in Orlando, or are planning on visiting on vacation, I really can’t recommend this place enough.  It gets high marks from us almost every single time on food, atmosphere, entertainment, and service.  The place is cavernous, but the authentic 130+ year old bars (there are 4 of them, and they were shipped from real pubs in Ireland) ooze with authentic old Irish pub charm, and give an intimate feel to the space.  In the dead center of the dining room is a table with a tiny staircase leading up to it, which is opposite a small stage.  In the evenings, they host Irish dancers and traditional Irish bands.  Occasionally the dancer(s) will climb the stairs up to the tabletop and dance right in the middle of the restaurant.  It’s quite a sight to see and highly entertaining.

Raglan Road Dancers (click for source)

Dancing on the tables! (click for source)

The food is hearty, filling Irish pub/bistro fare with a twist.  It’s heavy stuff, definitely not something meant to enjoy everyday, but just lovely as a once-in-awhile treat.  My personal favorite is the Pie In The Sky: chunks of chicken, potatoes, wild mushrooms, and leeks topped with a flaky pastry crust, served with a very light rocket lettuce salad on the side.  Soooo good, I have trouble branching out and ordering anything different each time we go.  Tadd really likes the Bangers & Booz, which is their take on bangers & mash.  The menu changes often, but these two dishes have been offered for years.

The food is so heavy that we don’t usually order appetizers, but there really is no need anyways, because each meal always starts with complimentary Irish soda bread and their signature Guinness reduction dipping sauce. If you don’t like Guinness, don’t worry, the dipping sauce does not taste like beer.  The reduction process gives it a sweet, honey-like flavor.  It’s delicious.

Pie In the Sky

Bangers & Booz (it's hard to see, but the large white space on the right side of the plate are mashed potatoes).

Irish Soda Bread & Guinness Reduction Dipping Sauce

Sorry the pics are so bad but the lights are dim and these were taken with my phone.

I always make it a habit of enjoying a pint of Guinness with my meal at Raglan Road.  The atmosphere just begs me to order one.   However this last time, Tadd ordered a pint of Kilkenny, which is also made by Guinness, and it was really good!  I might order one of those next time.

Kilkenny on the left, Guinness on the right.

We didn’t order dessert this time, and rarely have room for it anyways.  But the couple times we have splurged for it in the past, we have always gotten Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding, which is their most well-known and well-loved dessert item.  This bread pudding tastes like the richest pancake you have ever eaten, and comes with a side of warm butterscotch sauce and vanilla cream sauce, which you can add at your discretion.  People rave and rave about this dessert, and for good reason.

As I mentioned previously, this is a LARGE restaurant.  It’s really more like a complex.  In addition to the main dining room, there is an outdoor patio area with a bar.  Patrons sitting in this area get full service and access to the regular Raglan Road menu.  For those who just want a drink and nothing more, there is a smaller outdoor patio on the opposite side with tables and chairs and a small bar.  This area is called the Hole In The Wall.  Adjacent to the Hole In The Wall bar, is an attached quick-service eatery called Cookes of Dublin where you can get fish & chips and other fast-food renditions of Raglan Road dishes.  One of their most popular items is the deep fried Snicker’s bar.  It’s a great option if you are craving Raglan Road food, but want a smaller, quicker, cheaper meal. The lobby area of the main dining room also has a giftshop where you can buy all kinds of Irish novelties and tchotchkes.

So I know I’m no fancy restaurant critic, but have I convinced you to give Ragland Road a try next time you are in the neighborhood?  If you go, let me know what you think!  If you have already tried it, what is your favorite dish?

Weekend Update: Red Sox Edition

I am back from my fun-filled weekend in St. Petersburg!  We had a great time, and I am excited to say that the Red Sox beat the Rays at the game we attended on Saturday night!  I hope we inspired some of our friends to become baseball fans.  Jury is still out on that, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, because I love baseball!  And that’s what is important.  To me anyways.

The weekend started off early Friday afternoon when Tadd and I left work around noon and headed over to Downtown Disney on our way out of town.  We were able to get our weekend started a few hours earlier than the rest of our friends, so we decided to make this fun stop to kill some time.  I was excited because it meant I was crossing off another item on my Summer List!

It was SUPER hot and crowded at DTD, and all of the restaurants where we had intended to grab lunch had long lines and no indoor seating, so we decided to eat at Rainforest Cafe.  HOLY OVERPRICED, BATMAN!  But I have to admit that my turkey caesar wrap was really good, if messy.  I was annoyed that they charged me $15 for a wrap and chips, but were going to make me pay an additional $2 if I wanted fries.  Forget it!  I stuck with the chips, which I barely touched.  Regardless, we just rolled with the punches and had a nice lunch.

After that we window shopped around a bit, and then headed back on the road at about 3pm, just as it started to rain ever so slightly.

You always know you are on your way out of the Orlando area when you spot the Mickey power lines.

We got to the hotel around 5, and relaxed before running over to Publix for provisions (beer, snacks, water, soda, etc).  Pretty much everyone else was running a bit behind schedule, so we had some more time to kill.  Mostly everyone arrived a little after 8, so we headed out to Jimmy Guana’s for dinner, followed by Lana’s Friendly Tavern, which is a dive/kareoke bar that we visited last year during Red Sox Weekend too.  It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall all-locals kind of places.  Cheezy but fun.

Saturday morning, Tadd and I got up early and grabbed some freebie continental breakfast while everyone else slept.  We got back, showered, lounged for a couple hours, and then started getting everyone moving.  We had all of our Red Sox gear ready to go!

First we ate lunch at an interesting place called Quaker Steak & Lube.  Cue a string of about eighty million 8th grader jokes throughout lunch.  Those poor waiters and waitresses have to hear them ALL the time, I’m sure.  Stupid tourists!  Ha!  Oh well, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The joke was on us though, because even in all of our Red Sox gear, my brother’s beer was brought to him in a Rays glass!  Lame! Waitress’s revenge, I suppose.

After lunch, it was time to get ready to tailgate, then on to Tropicana Field (or “The Trop” as it is called by the locals)!


I won’t lie…We were freaking HOT while tailgating.  The parking attendants were discouraging people from parking willy nilly, so we had to take a spot in the middle of the open parking lot instead of strategically parking under a tree on the perimeter of the lot.  This is on blacktop, at 2pm, in Florida in July.  HOT!  Oh well.  Thank goodness the Trop is domed and climate-controlled!  Yay for air-conditioning!

On to the game (crossing off yet another Summer List item)!

Final score!

Celebrating our victory in style!

It was a magnificent game.  Lots of excitement, and, most importantly, the Sox won, 9 to 5!  Woo!  We decided to head to Five Bucks Drinkery in Downtown St. Pete to celebrate.  This might be my new favorite St. Pete spot.  Everything on the menu is under $5 and they have some really interesting (albeit high-calorie) pub fare.  Really, anyplace that has craft beer and tater tots is great in my mind.  But Tadd ordered chicken fried bacon!  Not something I would touch with a 10 foot pole, but he was in heaven.  I liked the fried pickles too.

"To the Sox!"

After our celebration at Five Bucks Drinkery, a few of us decided to drive out to Treasure Island and hang out on the beach for a bit.  Despite the humidity inland, the weather right at the ocean was beautiful.  We waded in the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico for a bit, and then plopped down on the sand to just enjoy the breeze and the sound of the waves.  I love the beach at night!

Sunday morning a few of us decided to do the Florida Aquarium Dolphin Eco-Tour before heading back to Orlando.  It’s a 90-minute boat ride around Tampa Bay.  We really enjoyed the tour and saw a bunch of dolphins!  Our guide was really informative and had some really interesting info on the Bay and its ecology.

See the dolphins? They are not easy to photograph!

The end.  Go Sox!!!