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7:00 PM

The Designer Foodie Guide to Disney World

So... I've been quite the busy bee this past month!

On top of my day job and a few side projects keeping me busy, a proposal from my boyfriend of seven years caught me by surprise right before our vacation! Not knowing at the time, the trip was planned as a celebration for our engagement. I thought that was so sweet of him!

The last time I was in Disney World was when I was four years old. I hardly remember anything except being scared to death by the “It's a Small World” ride. This time, I cherished every experience.

Here are the highlights:


Rockin' Roller-coaster (Hollywood Studios) – This was by far my favorite ride. We went on it twice! I'm a roller-coaster person as it is, but this was just over the top. Waiting to get on the ride, they play Aerosmith's “Walk This Way” and have a hilarious pre-ride show involving holograms of the band members. Seconds before the ride starts, an epic count down to the roller-coaster's launch pumps you up for one hell of a ride!

Toy Story Midway Mania (also in Hollywood Studios) – Coming in second, this was such a fun ride/game! You're seated in what looks like a toy chest and as you go around the track, it stops at various screens. When you're stopped, it's time to start shooting targets, all in 3D! With each stop featuring a numerable amount of Toy Story characters, it's all fun and games! The game keeps score of points and announces the winner at the end. Of course my fiancé beat me. Guys are just naturally good a video games.


Disney's Website
Booking a vacation is a breeze with Disney's website. They have their stuff boiled down to a science. Not only is it very user friendly, their website can be used to plan your entire vacation from where you're staying to what's included in your package, choosing the attractions you want to see and even making restaurant reservations! Disney World also has an app for smart phones which can be used to see real-time data in the parks such as ride wait times, show times and other attraction information.

MagicBands and FastPass+
Disney recently implemented new technology in their parks called MagicBands; wrist bands that park-goers wear and can use for a number of useful things. If you're going, get one of these! You won't regret it. They're linked to your Disney account and can be used for admission to the resorts, parks, paying for food, merchandise, photos and more. One of the most handy uses is linking it to FastPast+ selections, which get you on to rides with hardly any wait! Those two favorite rides I mentioned? Yeah, we waited less than 10 minutes to get onto both of them. Definitely take advantage of this if you're going to Disney.

Special Occasions
Since we were celebrating our special occasion, the resort we were staying at gave us pins that said “Just Engaged”. They have them for all sorts of occasions like “Just Married”, “1st Visit” and more! We wore them everywhere and got the special treatment from everyone, including some free food and a premium viewing spot for fireworks. So many people congratulated us; employees and park-goers, alike! Really, everyone gets the special treatment in Disney. Ours was just extra-special. 

Animals in Disney
Although we didn't visit Animal Kingdom, we saw a lot of animals throughout the other parks. They are relentless and not afraid of humans! The ducks are hilarious, quacking it up and constantly begging for food. I thought this was funny. I'm sure they're all well-fed.

So let's get down to business. The food, of course! Here are my thoughts on the food, atmosphere and experiences at the restaurants I went to. If you're planning a trip, I highly recommend checking these places out, as my experiences were all good ones.

*Kouzzina by Cat Cora (The Boardwalk)

*Edit: This restaurant closed and was replaced by Trattoria al Forno in December of 2014.

With an Iron Chef's name attached to the restaurant, I was expecting this place to be fantastic. I was not disappointed! Everything we ate was bursting with flavor. The seasonings in each dish created such bold, rich flavors, my taste buds were dancing with delight! The atmosphere there is high end, yet casual. Elements of the restaurant's ambiance create a rustic but elegant look and feel.

They have an open kitchen where you can see the cooks in action as they create the masterpieces you'll soon be eating. As they cook, the chefs yell “Opa!” every now and then... especially when there's fire involved!

Appetizers: Goat Cheese Sto Fourno (pictured above) - Creamy, gooey and delicious. Like a warm spinach artichoke dip but WAY better. This mixture of goat cheese, kalamata olives (my favorite kind!), sweet red peppers and artichoke hearts is finished with a drizzle of the some of tastiest olive oil I've ever encountered... Served with a side of dandelion greens, I chose to mix them with the cheese and just eat it with my spoon. IT. WAS. DIVINE... A great way to start the meal. Hell, it was a great way to start vacation.

House-Made Dolmades – My fiancé got the dolmades as an appetizer, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice that is seasoned with various spices. I had to try a little nibble of these jewels. For such a bite-sized morsel, they pack A LOT of flavor into these! Lemon, fennel and olive oil resonate as the main notes in this delicious, traditional dish.

Entrée: Cinnamon Stewed Chicken (pictured above) – This chicken looks and tastes like it was slow cooked all day. The hearty meat and hint of sweetness from the tomatoes and cinnamon pair so well together, creating a comforting and delicious dinner. I chose to substitute farmhouse greens in place of herbed orzo pasta that comes with this dish. Curious, I asked our waitress what “farmhouse greens” actually are. Her reply? “If spinach and collard greens had a baby.” I was sold.

50s Prime Time Café (located in Hollywood Studios) Menu

This place looks and feels like a throwback 50's diner. Some tables feature an old tube-style television that plays black and white clips and ads in the background. The wait staff treat you like you're family... literally. Usually your waitress greets you by talking about “Cousin Jeff” or “Aunt Lola”, as if you were related.

I witnessed a waiter yell “put that darn walkie talkie away at the table!”, as he slammed a newspaper down across the table from us, scaring a girl who was on her cell phone. Pretty hilarious. The waitress that was serving the table next to us tried to get a girl to finish her last bites of dinner by picking up the spoon and feeding her. Adorable! And of course the kid had ice cream after that.

Not only was it fun dining in this place, the food wasn't too bad either... 

Entrée: Dad's Grilled Pork Chop (pictured above) This pork chop was grilled to perfection... I mean, perfection! It glistened with caramelized grill marks and was laid over a bed of velvety garlic mashed potatoes. On the side was an arugula apple salad, topped with fresh fennel. The dish was the perfect mixture of savory and brightness. Not too heavy, not too light! The arugula, fennel and apples really balance the dish out, adding flare to an old fashioned favorite.

Another day in Hollywood Studios, we enjoyed one of the infamous smoked turkey legs at one of the quick service stands. I was almost able to finish one by myself, but they are HUGE. The flavor is fantastic and the meat is so tender. For a quick inexpensive meal, this will keep you full for quite a while!

Biergarten Restaurant (located in Epcot)Menu

The Biergarten Restaurant is a neat place! It's front entrance looks like you're walking into a cave, sort of. Then, when you're taken to the dining area, it expands into this spacious room that resembles a village in Germany. With a buffet. We arrived just in time for a show, where performers brought out fun instruments, played music and invited people up to dance! One of the performers had a ridiculously large Alpine horn, which spanned all the way from the stage to the ground!

They have an amazing selection of food and drinks. All of the wait staff are originally from Germany, as well – talk about authentic! Actually, every restaurant in Epcot features ethnicities from each respective country, throughout. Leave it to Disney to go that extra mile, right? We asked our waitress about what life in Germany was like before she moved to America and it was neat to get a little insight.

Adding to the unique atmosphere of this restaurant, the seating arrangements are at family-style, communal tables. This Bavarian tradition encouraging people to mingle while they eat and drink. I suppose after a couple of beers, people become quite friendly with the strangers at their tables. Coincidentally, we ran into the people we were seated with the next day in one of the theme parks! It was kind of dark in the restaurant so I didn't get very good pictures, unfortunately.

Entrée: I ate lots of stuff. Too much. So much that I don't remember everything. Lots of German sausage which I washed down with some red wine. Food hangover afterwards. It was worth it.

Bongos Cuban Café (located in Downtown Disney) Menu

This was absolutely my FAVORITE restaurant in Disney. The food? Phenomenal. Atmosphere? Open, friendly and fun. The bar's stools are literally bongos, circling a colorful arrangement of décor in the restaurant. The building itself is shaped like a pineapple, making it a very tall and spacious structure! Amongst the hustle and bustle of Downtown Disney, this is a place you must stop at for some authentic Cuban cuisine!

Appetizer: Shredded Beef Stuffed Plantains (pictured above) – So... I have a weakness for plantains. Next to sweet potatoes, they're probably my favorite starch. Served crispy, they are so much better than french fries or potato chips could ever be! What better place to order them than at a Cuban café? Molded into little cups and stuffed with beef, onions, tomatoes, paprika, cumin, chili and other delicious spices, these plantains were over the top; like a mini meat cupcake!

Entrée: Lechon Asado (pictured above) This pork leg is slow roasted til it melts in your mouth. It was served with an onion-lime mixture called mojo sauce, which was delicious. My favorite starch came into play again, this time fried sweet. The main differences between green and yellow plantains are their levels of sweetness and preferred cooking methods. Green ones are better for serving crispy and salty; yellow for soft and sweet.

Drink: South Beach Mojito (pictured above) – No, this drink isn't by any means South Beach Diet approved. Did I care? Um, I was on vacation, of course not. I figured why not get liquored up a bit before Cirque du Soleil? Splurging a little, I enjoyed every sip of this refreshing citrus-mint drink! It came with a slice of sugar cane sticking out of the glass. Admittedly, I had never tried fresh sugar cane. Biting into it, I noticed it was very crispy and juicy, leaving a fibrous material behind after consuming it. We got to keep our glasses as souvenirs, which was nice!

Overall, our vacation in Disney World was amazing. If you're planning a trip, I hope you find this guide insightful!

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2:00 PM

Pennsylvania College of Art & Design Senior Show
Shifting Paradigms Promotional Design by: Kaitie Trout

I wanted to start an ongoing column called "Local Love" to promote local businesses, non-profits, products and events near and dear to me. This past Friday, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design's annual Senior Show & Celebration took place and it was a hit. The event showcased an assortment of projects in the food & beverage industry that — of course captured my interest! Being a PCA&D graduate, myself, I couldn't think of a more appropriate feature to start with.

Check out the Featured Artists & Projects Below:

Katie Smith - The Glass Barrel

"Remarkable wine" and "extraordinary memories" is what The Glass Barrel wine bar promises in it's warm, inviting presence. Katie Smith, creator of the concept, says she was inspired by her father who is a bartender and her love of wine when thinking up the idea. Adding another sense of artistry, she constructed the wineglass-shaped bottle rack and hanging glass holder that hung alongside her project. Much like a glass of fine wine, this piece is swirl & sniff worthy!

Ashley Hill - The Simple Cup

Simply put, The Simple Cup is an emerging nonprofit mobile cart that sells coffee, teas, honey and handmade products from Lancaster. Ashley Hill, the ambitious entrepreneurial spirit behind the concept is turning her senior thesis into a functioning operation, starting with its launch at the Senior Show. Partnering with local coffee roasters and other businesses, she plans on using the proceeds to to benefit charities such as the Fields of Hope organization. Selflessness, local pride and a love for coffee build a solid foundation for The Simple Cup.

Visit The Simple Cup's website here to learn more: thesimplecup.org

Courtney Lynn - Comedy and Java

Another coffee-inspired endeavor, Comedy and Java is a zany, Broadway-based coffeehouse/gift shop concept. This shop would be the perfect stop for any cast or audience member, before or after a show. Based around a one for one business model, this shop would donate a portion of their profits to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The clever and colorful cup-shaped logo is adorned across coffee bags, mugs and other merchandise, giving this piece an authentic and cohesive-looking brand. Courtney Lynn, the mind behind Comedy and Java says she would love to turn this into a real shop one day.

Brittney Hippensteel - Ruff Origins

I was delighted to see dog treats abound at Brittney Hippensteel's display for Ruff Origins, a handmade dog treat company, based around locally sourced, healthy ingredients. With so many mystery ingredients in conglomerate-made dog treats, it is a refreshing change to see a short and sweet list. The brand's packaging appropriately reflects an artisan look and feel. Smelling the buttery, cheesy aroma of the local cheesy treats, I had to resist the urge to eat one, myself! My dog absolutely loved them along with the Pumpkin Puppy Biscuits (try saying that 3 times, fast).

Kaitie Trout - Strange Times Beer

The edgy craft beer themed company, Strange Times, sells handmade merchandise for beer lovers everywhere. With craft beer having such a passionate fan-base and cultural following, it's no surprise Kaitie Trout's own love of beer influenced her to create the project. I definitely bought a few letterpress coasters to add to my collection! The hand-brushed letters of the logo and various phrases laid across t-shirts, coasters and posters are an artistic nod to the hand-crafting skills it takes to brew a special beer. PCA&D is just the beginning for Kaitie, as she plans on pursuing an MFA in Design at the School of Visual Arts to continue her education and enrich her cultural awareness.

Not too long ago, I was in the same position as these students. I know how much hard work and dedication is involved in preparing for this single event. Naturally, I wanted to support the next generation of seniors... And they certainly pulled it off this year! 

Congratulations to the class of 2014!
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3:00 PM

Pinterest Kitchens
Photo and Logo Credit: Pinterest.com

Pinterest is the ultimate place for daydreaming of all kinds. Whether you're planning your dream wedding, thinking of creative party ideas or fantasizing about your future house, plenty of visual ideas and inspiration exist in this beloved hub.

One of my guilty pleasures is looking at kitchen interior designs. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of a house, after all! It's where we eat, (unless you have a separate dining room) cook, entertain and contemplate life, you know? Memories are made there.

My current kitchen is decent. I mean, it gets the job done... But it's nothing to pin about. One day, I will accomplish my dream kitchen. Until then, I'll keep pinning and planning...

What features does my perfect Pinterest kitchen have? Glad you asked...

Color & Character

Photo Credit: Various Sources

Whether the theme of a kitchen is made up of bold and fun colors or a rich neutral palette, color scheme has a big influence on how you feel about a room.

Colors have very psychological aspects to them, actually and have the ability to even effect your mood. Based on my personality, I'm one to go the bold and fun route. My perfect kitchen would have at least a little bit of my favorite color, lime green, in it: It's fun, it's calming and it makes me happy. 

Organization & Functionality

Photo Credit: Various Sources

Soooo many clever ideas are out there for kitchen organization.

Even having a smaller kitchen can be a mixed blessing, forcing you to be creative about using the limited amount of space. One thing I've learned is the wall is often an underutilized storage area. Storage isn't just limited to cabinets and drawers, people — putting things on display can serve multiple purposes!

Adding a shelf or a hook not only increases storage space, it increases the accessibility of tools, spices and other gadgets. Also, creative storage can even serve as a decorative element in your kitchen.

 Decoration & Design

Photo Credit: Various Sources

Storage can be decoration and decoration can be storage. It's a beautiful thing, really. Like I mentioned, putting kitchen objects on display can serve a decorative purpose as well as being functional. Nothing brightens up the room quite like a bowl of citrus or a cleverly placed cookbook!

Speaking purely decorative, something I'll have in my future kitchen for sure are a few framed art prints. I might even design some of them, myself... Hanging images and quotes adds so much character, charm and sometimes even a little humor to your kitchen.

You heard from me, now what's in your dream kitchen?
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