The first time I ever visited Walt Disney World, it really was magical. I was 4 or 5, and the Lion King was pretty new and I was obsessed. I remember meeting Snow White and Barbie and Jasmine and riding It’s a Small World — but not much else.
The second time I visited Disney World, I was in middle school on some kind of school trip. I was a scaredy-cat and wouldn’t ride the rides, and I remember being less than impressed with the whole experience. Maybe I was just at that “too cool for this” age.
When I learned that the Food Blog Forum conference would be held there this year, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it all that much. I don’t know if I know many young adults who would pick Disney World as a vacation spot. I always considered it to be more of a destination for families.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it has a lot to offer my age group. I’m old enough now to enjoy rides and I care about finding the good food inside the park. Also, no one told me there would be cocktails and beer! I don’t think I ever gave it much thought, but I suppose I assumed Walt Disney World would be a dry amusement park. I also really enjoyed seeking out Instagrams (shocker, right?) and admiring every detail and thought that went into the design of the parks.
Today I’m sharing a bit about my long weekend at Food Blog Forum Orlando! Click through to see more pictures!
We stayed at the gorgeous Grand Floridian Resort. This Victorian-style beauty was full of thoughtful details. Grand chandeliers, marble floors, costumed concierge staff. My only regret is that it was never warm enough for swimming! (The Sunshine State promised sun, but it was full of lies for most of our trip.)
Friday night we attended a dinner at the beautiful Four Seasons Resort Orlando. We were greeted with peach cocktails and appetizers from their PB&G restaurant and spent the evening eating and making new friends. It is the only hotel to have received the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.
All-day Saturday was the conference. I can’t tell you how cool it was to hear from some of the bloggers I really look up to, including: Lindsay and Bjork Ostrum of Pinch of Yum; Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes; J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats; Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple; and Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen. We also got to hear from Enid Hwang, the community director at Pinterest. I’m still processing all the info I wrote down, and you bet I’ll be pondering it more and putting new things into action on Feast + West over the next few months.
And! We were treated to the most amazing lunch at the California Grill. The chefs from each of Disney’s restaurants — many of them nominated for James Beard awards — served us dish after amazing dish. I was excited to see a traditional South African potjie, a lamb and rice dish, on the menu from Sanaa, but my favorite was the Grill’s chocolate pudding cake with Nutella filling, meringue kisses and Chantilly cream, pictured above. Divine!
Sunday we spent a full day in the parks. I was lucky that I was able to fit in all four of the parks over the course of the weekend. I think Animal Kingdom might have been my favorite — it’s the newest and they have paid a lot of attention to detail. I took a bajillion pictures. (What’s new?) Magic Kingdom was full of the whimsical Disney fun I remember as a kid, but it was also the most crowded. I also really enjoyed Epcot — I went there three times! One night we had a progressive dinner party around the world and it was fun to try lots of different cuisines. Hollywood Studios was probably my least favorite, though we did get to enjoy a cool lunch in a darkened drive-in theater, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
Can we also just talk about the food and drinks at Disney for a moment? As I mentioned, I was so pleasantly surprised by all the delicious things to find at Disney World. The Mickey macaron I featured above maybe doesn’t hold a candle to the macarons I can get in Charlotte, but there were tons of other amazing treats.I loved the sugar cane mojito from the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. And the Dole Whips?! I didn’t even know I wanted a swirled pineapple-orange juice float, but now I will want one always. I should also mention the salted caramel manhattan we tried at Mizner’s Lounge in the Grand Floridian — so delicious!
And on Monday we rode in buses to Orlando’s East End Market where we ate and drank ourselves silly at 10 a.m. It’s a marketplace filled with an array of artisanal food vendors, from bakers to coffee roasters — it’s totally where I would spend weekend nights with my friends if I lived in Orlando. Also, Lineage Roasting has a white cold brew that I would love to drink over ice every afternoon!
I honestly didn’t realize Orlando had such a bustling food scene (they hosted the James Beard semifinalist announcement in 2014!), so it was awesome to get to try so many types of foods from around the city.
The other highlights of my trip? I crossed two items off my bucket list: a visit to Anna Rifle Bond’s studio in Winter Park and a day at Universal Orlando exploring the Harry Potter section. I was able to fit in a little time with family I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was really nice as well.
All in all, I had the best time. Having been to two blogging conferences now, I can say that I emphatically recommend them. Blogging friends, if you’re looking to make some awesome friends and take your blog to the next level, you should try to attend some blogging events. And if you have a chance to attend a Food Blog Forum, do it! I can’t recommend them enough! // susannah