If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen a special delivery I received on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago: 4 bottles of Jane St Vodka Soda!

Newly launched in Nashville, Jane St Vodka Soda is the first to market vodka soda, a ready-to-drink carbonated cocktail.

I absolutely love this new pre-bottled offering for a variety of reasons, with the greatest being that it solves a real problem for me. Since developing a wine allergy, I’ve been the person stuck in the kitchen at friends’ parties mixing cocktails while everyone else is able to just pour a glass of wine. Now all I have to do is take along a bottle of Jane St and I can pour with ease just like everyone else!

This is the very reason that Elizabeth Wiltgen, a Los Angeles mom of two, created Jane St. The consummate hostess, she often found herself spending all of her time at parties mixing drinks when she really wanted to be mingling with guests.




Naturally sweetened with agave nectar, Jane St’s gourment vodka sodas come in four artisanal flavor combinations:

Original with Lime
Grapefruit Meyer Lemon
Pineapple Jalapeno
Peach Peppercorn

Jane St is available in Georgia, California, Colorado and, now, Tennessee as well as online for shipping in other areas. Each 750 ml bottle retails for $15.99-$17.99. (The company also has plans to offer a 4 pack of 200 ml mini bottles and an extension of flavors in the future.)

While I really enjoyed all four of the flavors, my favorite was definitely the Pineapple Jalapeno, followed by the Original with Lime. As you can probably guess, the Pineapple Jalepeno has a little kick of spice to it, and I’ve always been a sucker for the sweet & heat combination in my cocktails. I have a feeling several bottles of this delicious drink will be consumed at my house this summer!

To find a retailer near you, check their website. For those of you here in Nashville, here’s a quick list:

Craft Brewed – 2502 Franklin Pike

Nashville Daily Spirits, 708 Thompson Lane

Midtown Wine & Spirits, 1610 Church St

Metropolitan Wines & Premium Spirits, 401 Church St

Boulevard Wine & Spirits, 600 Old Hickory Blvd

Iroquois Wine & Spirits, 7063 US Hwy 70 S

Champion Liquor Store, 152 Donelson Pike

Note: there are locations in Franklin and Hendersonville too, but I didn’t include those, so if you live in those areas, be sure to check the Jane St website.


Disclosure: Jane St provided me with the for bottles of vodka soda seen above, but as always, all opinions are my own!




What do you do when you have a 25 pound box of fresh peaches staring you in the face?

a) eat multiple peaches daily
b) freeze bags and bags of peaches
c) make peach french toast
d) all of the above

The answer is D of course!

In the past I’ve made a delicious Overnight Caramel French Toast for group brunches, and it’s always a huge hit, so when I had to come up with something to make for Father’s Day brunch yesterday, I figured something similar was a safe bet.

Success! This recipe was awesome — kind of a cross between a peach cobbler, bread pudding and french toast. I made some homemade whipped cream to go on top and it was the perfect finishing touch with just a hint of sweetness.




Fresh Peach Overnight French Toast

Serves 8-10. Adapted from All You.


French Toast:
1 8-oz loaf French bread*, sliced
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 medium peaches, sliced
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream

Sweet Whipped Cream (optional)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp powdered sugar


French Toast:

Arrange bread in a tight, flat layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk, sugar and vanilla until blended; pour over bread. Arrange peaches on top and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove baking dish from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Pour cream into a small pan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cook until reduced by half, approximately 10 minutes. Drizzle over peaches and bake, uncovered, until casserole is lightly browned on top and just cooked through, 50-55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Sweet Whipped Cream (optional):

Beat cream and vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixer; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

*I used Pepperidge Farm's "Twin French", which comes 2 loaves to a bag. Popped the other one in the freezer so I can make another batch of this french toast soon!


Here in Nashville we’re fortunate to have The Peach Truck bringing us luscious peaches from Georgia every week, so be sure to check out their pick up locations to make your own delicious creations!

ATL Food-Wine-2015

Another Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is in the books! This was my fourth year attending the event, and the fifth year anniversary of the festival, and I have to say, it was probably my favorite of the bunch so far!


We got off to a bit of a rocky start when attending the “Pig Out” dinner on Thursday night, the first day of our arrival. Let’s just say that the small number of vendors and amount of food being served did not jive with the very large number of tickets that were apparently sold, making it pretty impossible to actually pig out.

Thank goodness we purchased VIP tickets because that meant that we had access to the absolutely delicious offerings served up by our friend Karl Worley of Biscuit Love and his compatriots from Chai Pani. Karl’s lamb burger biscuit with mint chutney & pimento cheese and the pickled shrimp atop grits with curry sauce from Chai Pani crew were outstanding! Truly the saving grace of the night.

But really, even with that one little snafu at the start of our weekend, overall the festival was a ton of fun and left me feeling like I’d been hit by a truck on Monday. A sign of a great time, right?!?


For me, the best part of the entire weekend is always the tasting tents. They are open for a couple of hours each of the three days of the festival and there’s more food and drink than I could ever possibly imagine sampling, though I always try my darnedest. I feel it’s my duty.

My choices for Best Bites in the tasting tents:

Day 1 Tasting Tent Best Bites

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q Smoked Pork Taco on corn tortilla with avocado, tomatillo salsa, pickled onion, cilantro and cracklin

Duck fat poached chicken thigh with spring vegetables and smoked tomato from Saltyard (Atlanta)

Smoked Pork Rillettes with Sweet Corn Salsa (can’t remember who these were from!)

Hot Chicken Hot Dogs from Biscuit Love (TN)



Day 2 Tasting Tent Best Bites

Pickled Peach Salad with capra gia feta vinaigrette, shaved pistachios, and wild watercress from Paces & Vine (Atlanta)

Cold buckwheat noodle salad with smoked chicken thighs, pickled mushrooms, kimchee, radish and peanuts from The Roosevelt (VA).

Indian Shrimp & Grits from Bhojanic Indian Food (Atlanta)



Day 3 Tasting Tent Best Bites

One Hot Mama’s applewood smoked bacon, brisket, and blue cheese beer sauce on kettle chips (SC)

Indian Chicken Salad with coconut milk, chile oil, and pickles from Hot Joy (TX)

Colletta‘s Braised Short Rib Agnolotti topped with salsa verde and  pickled shallots (GA)

Peanut Butter Goo Goo Clusters (TN) – yes, even with all the other food options there, nothing else satisfies me like a PB Goo Goo!


Best Bite of the entire weekend: Colletta’s Braised Short Rib Agnolotti – man, I claim that I don’t even really like pasta all that much, but this dish was amazing. I went back for thirds, and would’ve gone back for more had I not been so completely stuffed.



As you may or may not know, each day, in the hours before the tasting tents open, there are a plethora of educational classes/demonstrations you can attend. There is truly something for everyone and I always have a difficult time deciding which ones to go to. This year I’m patting myself on the back because I made some really awesome choices.


Best Class of the Weekend:  Bugs & Chocolate

Yes, you read that correctly. My favorite class was Bugs & Chocolate. Led by Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolates,  we were able to sample a selection of chocolate covered insects. And yes, I ate them and I liked them.

I’ve actually been curious about bugs as a delicacy for quite some time and for some reason, the thought of eating them really doesn’t phase me one bit. Hey, they’re a great source of protein! Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.


Best Class of the Weekend Runner-Up: Paired to Perfection

When I walked into a giant room of tables filled with Stella beers, I knew I’d made a good choice. “Paired to Perfection” with Shaun Doty (of Atlanta) and Marc Stroobandt (Belgium) was great fun.




Chicken and waffles + a table full of beer = good times.

My favorite quote of the festival came from Marc during this class: “People ask ‘are you a beer drinker or a wine drinker?’ What kind of question is that? In Belgium, we’re drinkers.”

Hah! From my observations at Food & Wine, I think the majority of this crowd definitely agrees with you on that Marc!


Little Octopus logo

You may have noticed that I don’t talk about new restaurant openings as much as I used to. With the rate they’re happening in Nashville these days, it’s nearly impossible for me to keep up so I decided I’m not even going to try. However, once in a while a concept comes along that I’m so excited about that I can’t not talk about it. So here we are.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 9th, Little Octopus officially opens for business in East Nashville’s POP space. Oddly, I hadn’t even heard any rumblings about the new restaurant until a giant octopus mural was being painted on the outside of the building a couple of weeks back, and then my curiosity was most definitely piqued.




Within a few days, I got an email from POP announcing “the next dining room residency at POP Nashville”, Little Octopus. Daniel Herget was chosen by owners Sarah and Brad Gavigan to take on the role of executive chef, and he has put together a menu of hot and cold small plates, salads, raw offerings, bowls, sandwiches (lunch) and large plates (dinner).



avocado, crispy shallots, sour orange, charred scallion, cilantro at Little Octopus

Last week I had the opportunity to preview the lunch menu, so I jumped on it. After tasting just the first two dishes that were brought to the table, I was an instant fan.

Vegetable heavy, with lots of vibrant, fresh flavors, this place has exactly the type of food I’m looking for during the warmer months. Pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten free customers will be happy to know that there are several options for them. Even voracious meat eaters like me might find themselves being drawn to the plethora of other dishes when dining here – I know I was!

I truly could go back and only eat raw fish and avocado and be the happiest person on the planet. Seriously, who knew that a simple bowl of avocado could be so glorious? This is coming from a person that hated avocado until just a few short years ago.  No doubt I will be eating bowls and bowls of avocado this summer at Little Octopus, as I’ve been craving it ever since I left lunch on Friday!



Little Octopus hamachi, green apple, truffle, lime, jalapeno

Then there are the raw offerings. The hamachi was fantastic. It reminded me of some of the preparations I fell in love with at Bar Crudo in San Francisco a few years ago. There is also a Cobia with fresno chili, jicama, cilantro, coconut, and ginger on the dinner menu that I’m dying to try, so I’ve already made plans to dine with friends one night next week!



bok choy, root vegetables, peanuts, nuoc chom at Little Octopus


The bok choy left me thinking, “Why can’t the vegetables I cook ever taste this fantastic??”, and “I could be a vegetarian if I could make my vegetables taste this interesting”.



Little Octopus farro bowl, burger, and roasted maduros

Those first three I mention were definitely my favorites of the meal, but the rest of the dishes did not disappoint either. The farro bowl with kimchee, egg, pickled eggplant, and pea shoots was similar to a  bibimbap in texture. Lime and cotija cheese were unexpected yet perfect complements for the roasted maduros (fried sweet plantains).

With all of the other creative options on the menu, I probably would not have chosen to order the burger, but now that I’ve had it, I would most definitely recommend it, particularly for those that might not be as adventurous as some of us are. Dressed with manchego and pequillo aioli, it is super flavorful and was perfectly cooked.

I can pretty much never pass up anything with coconut milk, and the valencia rice with cobia was as delicious as I’d hoped it would be.



Valencia Rice, coconut milk, cobia, red pepper, tomato palm oil at Little Octopus

Little Octopus will offer dining room and patio dining as well as a lounge and full bar for lunch and dinner six days a week.

Since it was lunch time when I visited and I was on the clock, I didn’t imbibe, but the cocktails look as interesting as the rest of their menu… so I will most certainly be partaking when I head back for dinner in a few days!

They’re now accepting reservations 2 weeks out, so send inquiries to rsvp@popnashville.com.


Little Octopus

604 Gallatin Ave Suite 202
Nashville, TN 37206

Tues – Sun 11 am – 11 pm

Twitter: @lttleoctopus
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LittleOctopusNashville
Instagram: @lttleoctopus







Thursday, June 4th, 2015
3 – 8 pm

Pavilion East
1006 Fatherland Street
Nashville, TN 37206

Cost: $45

Yum!East, a food tasting event spotlighting East Nashville restaurants, chefs, food artisans, and specialty purveyors is back for its third year! The admission price gets you unlimited tastings, a souvenir glass, open bar with craft beer and wine plus some live music (it is Nashville after all).

Here’s who you can expect to see there:
AMOT Eatery
Artemis Breads
Calypso East
Chocolate F/X
Eastland Cafe
Edley’s BBQ East
Far East
Fat Bottom Brewing
Five Points Pizza
Holland House Bar & Refuge
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Kernels Gourmet Popcorn
Khan’s Desserts
The Local Taco, East
Lockeland Table Community Kitchen & Bar
Nashville Sweets
Nicoletto’s Pasta Co.
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden
Pied Piper Creamery
Porter Road Butcher
The Post East
Rumours East
Two Ten Jack
The Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant
Wolfe Gourmet Cakes
Yeast Nashville

How’s that for a lineup?? All proceeds from the event benefit Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, so go. Eat. Enjoy! And know that you’re helping some awesome kids. Buy your tickets here. (but first you may want to scroll all the way down for something special I’ve got….)




Unearthing Nashville

Sunday, June 7th, 2015
5:30 pm

Old School Farm
5022 Old Hydes Ferry Pike
Nashville TN, 37218

Cost: $100, all inclusive

The “Unearthing Nashville” dinner will be prepared by Sinema’s executive chef Dale Levitski, Chef Tony Galzin of Fifty-First Kitchen, Chef V of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, and Chef Nick Seabergh of The Sutler. The family style supper will include 3 courses, cocktails, live music, a garden movie, and bonfire.

The chef team will use ingredients from local purveyors as well as produce grown right on site at Old School Farm in Nashville’s Bells Bend community.

“This is kind of a ‘new Nashville’ comes to the Old School Farm, as all four of us are new residents of Nashville,” said Levitski. “These are talented chefs who use Nashville’s bounty on a daily in their respective restaurants, and I’m excited to see what we come up with. You won’t see a menu printed in advance because we’re going to wait to see what the farm provides. We will guarantee a fresh, fun Sunday supper underneath the stars on Old School Farm’s gorgeous land.”

A fundraiser for Old School Farm, the chefs are donating their time and talent to raise funds for this nonprofit working farm and restored historic schoolhouse that employs adults with disabilities.

For reservations or more information, contact 615-942-7821 or carrie@sinemanashville.com.




Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’

Sunday, June 14th, 2015
3 – 5 pm

Front Lawn of First Presbyterian Church
4815 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37220

Cost: $10 for adults (goes up to $13 on June 13th)
$8 for children (goes up to $10 on June 13th)

One of the best family friendly activities of the summer is happening in just a couple of weeks– Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’!

While the nearly 3,000 attendees stroll the lawn tasting, there will be judges hard at work finding winners for 3 categories: chocolate base, vanilla base and “other.” The winner from each category then vies for the “best of show,” which will be produced next year into a new Purity ice cream flavor. How cool is that?

I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a judge in the past, and I’m back at it again this year! So excited to see what the competitors come up with.

For more information on the event, how to enter the contest, or to purchase tickets, click here. Please note, online ticket sales end at 3 pm on June 12th.

Also, a couple of tips for you if you haven’t been to this event before:

  • Don’t try to sample every flavor. Only taste the ones that sound really good to you. If you start out sampling every flavor at the first few tables you come to, you’re going to get too full too fast and you may end up missing out on something great because your tummy can’t take any more!
  • Take a couple of bottles of water with you. If it’s hot out, make it very COLD water.
  • Wet wipes could come in handy. Ice cream = sticky.



A Taste of Music City

Saturday, June 20th, 2015
3 – 8 pm

Public Square Park
Downtown Nashville

Cost: $55 in advance, $65 day of

Held at Public Square Park, Taste of Music City is celebrating it’s 13th year this year, as guests are invited to come sample fabulous food and drinks from local restaurants, purveyors, breweries and beverage companies. For a list of all the eats you’ll find at the festival, click here and to purchase tickets, click here.



Free Ice Cream at Walk of Fame Park

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
11 am  – 3 pm

Music City Walk of Fame Park
2565 Park Plaza
Nashville, TN 37203

Ice cream, ice cream, you can never get enough ice cream, right? Especially when it’s FREE! Denali Moose Tracks is partnering with Purity Dairy to bring 10,000 scoops of free Purity Moose Tracks ice cream to downtown Nashville on June 30th. For each scoop of ice cream served, Denali Flavors, makers of the legendary Moose Tracks, will donate $1 to Operation Finally Home in an effort to raise $10,000 000 to support its mission of providing custom-made, mortgage-free homes to local wounded and disabled veterans and the widows of the fallen.

During the event ice cream lovers can tweet the hash tag #10KScoops for a chance to win free ice cream for a year from Denali Flavors @Moose_Tracks.



~Yum!East Giveaway~

Contest Closed

The Winner is….

#22 David

I’ve got 2 tickets to Yum!East to give to one of you lovelies! All you have to do to enter is this:


1. Leave a comment telling me which restaurant you’re most excited to try at Yum!East, or which is your favorite of the bunch on an everyday basis.


For up to 2 additional entries, you can do any or all of the following. Note: You must leave a separate comment for each optional entry.

2.  Follow me (@betheats) on Twitter and tweet “Yum!East is on June 4th and @betheats has 2 tickets to give away! Enter here: http://bit.ly/1SE2fnY ” then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

3.  Like Yum!East on Facebook and come back and tell me you did so (or just tell me you already do if that’s the case!)

Contest ends on Monday, June 1st at noon CT. Once the winner is chosen, I’ll make contact via email and post the name here on the blog. If that person doesn’t respond within 24 hours, I’ll be forced to choose another, so be sure to check your email!




Bonnaroo, a 4-day music festival held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN, began 13 years ago, right around the same time I moved to Nashville. Practically in my backyard for that many years….yet I’ve never been! Almost shameful.

I’ll be the first to admit that camping on a farm in the heat of summer and forgoing showers for a few days is not exactly my style. But– that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought to myself a few times over the years that I was missing out on something.

After reading my friend Kristin’s article on the elevated food scene at the festival last year, I realized that Bonnaroo needed to be added to my bucket list. And guess what? A little over two weeks from now, I’ll be there!

I’ll be covering it all on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there if you don’t already. As you would expect, I’ll most definitely be focusing on the food offerings ;-)

And speaking of food, last year Bonnaroo introduced BonnaROOTS Community Dinners and they were such a roaring success that they’re bringing them back this year. Locally sourced, four-course feasts allow festival-goers to eat for a cause, as the proceeds from the dinners go directly to Oxfam America and Eat for Equity, two great organizations helping those in need.


bonnaroots dinner


All ingredients are sourced from within 200 miles of Bonnaroo’s farm, and the herbs come from Bonnaroo Victory Garden, which is located onsite – how cool is that?

The menu includes:

“Make your own soda bar” with Victory Garden Herbs
Local cheeses and grilled bread with strawberry pepper jam
Greens with Benton’s Aged Country Ham, Pickled Eggs, and Herb Buttermilk Dressing
Fresh vegetables
Parmesan grits
Purple cape beans with fresh herbs
Tomato Gravy
Pulled pork
Lemon Buttermilk Panna Cotta with fresh berries

The dinners will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights: June 11th, 12th and 13th at 6 pm. There are two tiers of tickets for the dinners, which are on sale now at www.bonnaroo.com. Top tier tickets are $75 and include a sustainability goody bag. General tickets are $50. Thursday night’s dinner is already sold out so hurry and buy your tickets for Friday or Saturday now before they’re all gone!



I’ve raved about The Sutler in the past, and now I’m here to do it again. It has quickly become one of my favorite places in town to grab a drink and bite to eat with friends in the few short months it has been open.

A while back they launched a late night menu, then a few weeks later, a lunch menu, so now there are even more opportunities to dine and new options to choose from!




Shall I take you through a few of my favorite things from these new menus? Yes, I think I shall.

(Be sure to visit this post to find my favorites on the dinner menu)

Thank the Lord that their Sweet Potato Hummus can be found on ALL the menus, as I pretty much want it every time I visit. Heck, if they served breakfast, I’d even eat it then.

Made up of sweet potato and tahini, and topped with a fabulous pecan sage pesto and marinated cotija, it’s not like anything you imagine when you hear the word hummus. Trust me and order it.

Another spread/jar concoction that is quite addictive is the Queso Spread pictured at the very top of this post. Definitely a perfect late night eat that can help soak up some booze.

And speaking of soaking up booze, their Steak & Biscuit Sliders are probably pretty good at that too! Chicken fried steak is topped with grilled pineapple pico & cascabel honey adding a little sweet surprise to the deep fried goodness.



 Roast Beef #2 at The Sutler

But the one thing that surprised me the most of anything on the menu was the Roast Beef #2.

I know, I know. You’re probably like, “what could be so surprising about a roast beef sandwich?” Well, let me tell you — I don’t really even like sandwiches all that much. I never order them unless it’s absolutely the only option. Before I ate this particular sandwich, I could not tell you the last time I had a sandwich (note: burgers, grilled cheese and anything served on a biscuit don’t count).

Man oh man. It is a great sandwich.


And good news – it is also served on the lunch AND late night menus!

Now, what else on the lunch menu do I suggest? Pictured above:

Fried Squash with chive ranch

Kale Peanut Slaw

Hangar Steak Salad – red chile rubbed steak, grilled veggies, ancho chile aioli

Another pic of the Roast Beeef #2 because I love it so

I also hear that their burger is fan-freakin-tastic, so it’s on my list to devour for lunch very soon!


The Sutler Saloon

2600 Franklin Pike #109
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 840-6124

Mondays – Saturdays 11 am-late
Sundays 5-10 pm
Late night menu served 10 pm – late, Fridays & Saturdays



Contest Closed

The Winner is….

#32 Shaunie

Now here’s your chance to try out the new lunch menu for FREE! That’s right, I’ve got Sutler lunch for TWO* to give away!

To enter, all you have to do is this:


1. Leave a comment telling me if you’ve visited The Sutler before, and if so, what your favorite dish on the menu is. If you haven’t been yet, then let me know what dishes from the lunch menu you’d be most excited to try!

For up to 2 additional entries, you can do either or both of the following. Note: You must leave a separate comment for each optional entry.

2. Follow The Sutler on Twitter (@thesutler) and tweet “Win a lunch for 2 at @thesutler from @betheats. You want this. Trust me! http://bit.ly/1KkUpwT ”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

3. Sign up for The Sutler’s email list, then come back and tell me you did so (or just tell me you’re already on the list if that’s the case!)

Contest ends on Tuesday, May 26th at noon CT. Once the winner is chosen, I’ll make contact via email and post the name here on the blog. If they don’t respond within 48 hours, I’ll be forced to choose another, so be sure to check your email!

*Gift card, $50 value



I’ve been to Disney World a few times in my life, both when I was a child and in young adulthood. But the trip we just had a couple of months ago was BY FAR the best yet. The Most Magical Place On Earth with our little guy was certainly magical!

Where do I even begin? My gosh, there is so much I could tell you, but I’ll try to keep it fairly short and sweet.

First things first, a little explanation of what took us to Disney. You might recall that a few years ago, my friends Lindsay, Leah and I planned Food Blog Forum here in Nashville. Well, in the years since, FBF has visited Disney twice. Once was less than a month after Archer was born and the next was just a year later, and while I could have gone and taken my family, visiting with a 1-year-old didn’t really appeal to me. But when I heard that Walt Disney World was hosting Food Blog Forum 2015, there was absolutely no hesitation- I knew we simply MUST go!

Fun in the pool and courtyard at Disney’s Art of Animation hotel

For most of our stay, like other FBF attendees, we were at the beautiful Grand Floridian hotel. We loved everything about this place- the pools, the beach, the proximity to the parks, being on the monorail line, and most of all, the dock right around the corner from our room where we could watch the Electrical Water Pageant at night.


We also added a night to the front end of our trip, and since the Grand Floridian didn’t have any rooms available, I took the opportunity to book us at a place I knew Archer would be tickled with- Disney’s Art of Animation hotel. The suites are themed as Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. Nemo is by far his favorite Disney movie, so it was the Nemo suite for us! The courtyards and pools here were so much fun for him that he actually cried the morning we left to go get on a bus to go to Magic Kingdom, begging to stay at the hotel and play. I think we probably could have spent the entire 4 days playing at just that hotel and he would have been happy!



Excited to meet Donald Duck!

But of course there was no way we were just going to hang out at a hotel all day every day. We had Disney parks to conquer! Day 1 was Magic Kingdom, and despite the overcast and slightly drizzly weather, we had a blast. (In fact, the cooler weather may have been a blessing in disguise) Archer didn’t show much interest in most of the rides, but what he did love were the characters! The face you see above is not terror, it’s actually him screaming with excitement/happiness.

I’m not sure if we got lucky or it’s like this most of the time, but the lines for character meet & greets at Pete’s Silly Sideshow were short and moved super fast, so if you’re planning a visit to MK, keep that in mind.

Archer’s favorite experience of the day seemed to be the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, which absolutely made me the happiest mama, as it was my favorite as a kiddo too! As soon as we finished going through it, he begged to go back again, so we did. And for a few days he talked about moving into that tree house to live forever. Which I kinda wish we could do…



Watch out Mickey, I think Archer may steal your girlfriend!

Day 2 for my family meant a rainy day at Animal Kingdom while I headed to the Food Blog Forum conference being held at the Contemporary resort.

I’m so glad that Disney has photographers everywhere to capture moments like these, particularly since I was not around when Archer met Mickey and Minnie for the first time. They captured so many cute pics of the meeting that I almost felt like I was there!



While I would have loved to see this magical moment in person, I can’t say that I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying my time with other food bloggers at the conference. There were some awesome speakers, and there really is something to be said about surrounding yourself with so many inspiring people for a day.

After a few years of blogging, there are times when I feel myself barreling toward burnout. Trying to balance a full time job, a family, multiple social media accounts, writing a blog (which is almost like a second job) and just a little bit of leisure time is not easy. There are many times I’ve felt like shutting it down, but then I go to something like FBF and I’m reminded of why I started it in the first place and how much I love it.

Or maybe I’m just reminded of how much I love food ;-)



California Grill – Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Braised Pork Belly with Goat Cheese Polenta and Country Applesauce

Ah yes, the food. Let me just say that Disney knows how to host a food blogging conference. Overall I was blown away by their generosity, and the lunch they prepared for us was pretty much mind-boggling. They brought together a huge group of chefs from all of the top restaurants on property to serve us a feast at the California Grill.

Just take a gander at all of these photos. And yes, I ate every bit of this!



Flying Fish Cafe – Disney’s Boardwalk
Local Ocean Shrimp, Risotto di Carnaroli all Frutti di Mare



Sanaa – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Fragrant Lamb Potije with Basmati Rice and Minted Lemon Pickle

Trattoria al Forno – Disney’s BoardWalk
Braised Beef “Bolognese” with House-made Cavatelli

Be Our Guest Restaurant – Magic Kingdom Park
Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables and Mushrooms served in Puff Pastry and Creamy Lobster Sauce



Le Cellier Steakhouse – Epcot
Roasted Baby Beets with Pear, Goat’s Milk Feta, Toasted Pistachio, and Petite Greens

Sunshine Seasons – Epcot
Power Salad – Kale, Chard, Chicory, Radicchio, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Quinoa, Goat Cheese, Toasted Sliced Almonds, and Dried Sour Cherries with Spiced Honey Vinaigrette


Disney’s Contemporary Resort Bakery – Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Chocolate Pudding Cake with Chocolate-Hazelnut Sauce and Mint Cream


Florida Strawberry-Orange Cake with Champagne Sorbet

Now that is some kind of lunch, wouldn’t you say?!?



The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion at Epcot

Day 3 we headed to Epcot, which was probably our favorite park of them all. Not only was there plenty for Archer to enjoy (the Seas with Nemo and Friends was definitely the favorite), but mommy and daddy got to partake in some adult refreshments as we made our way through all of the countries, and the kiddo slept in his stroller for almost 2 hours while we did so!

Oh, and we had some great meals here too. For lunch we dined at Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion, and they had some wonderful healthy offerings at reasonable prices.



Pastries in Epcot’s France

Of course, a healthy lunch must always be balanced with a decadent dessert…


Avocado Margarita
La Hacienda de San Angel

And then there was the avocado margarita for dinner!!!! Oh man, this was perhaps the best frozen margarita I’ve ever had. The avocado gave it a creamy consistency and I’m now not sure if I can ever drink a regular old margarita again. Will be trying this at home. For sure.

Must not forget to mention the best purchase we made during out trip, which was the Mickey ‘lightsaber’ (as Archer calls it). I’m not sure of the proper terminology- glow stick? Anyway, they were selling them after dark at Epcot and I think we only paid $12 for it. Definitely well worth the money. Not only did he carry it everywhere with him for the rest of the trip, but we’ve had countless number of hours of play time with it once back home.


Archer and his Mickey lightsaber at Hollywood Studios

Day 4, our last day at the parks, took us (and the lightsaber) to Hollywood Studios for one of the other highlights or our trip, a character lunch with Jake! While most of the rides and shows at HS are meant for an older crowd, we knew we wouldn’t spend too many hours there, but we definitely could not miss meeting Jake of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, A’s favorite show.

The character dining experience at Hollywood and Vine was awesome. The characters were from Disney Junior shows – Sophia, Jake, Handy Manny, Doc McStuffins – and even though Archer doesn’t watch all of those shows consistenly, he knew who they all were and absolutely loved meeting each of them.

Every few minutes, the characters, along with other performers, dance around the room and sing, and kids are encouraged to join in. Great for burning off some of that seemingly endless toddler energy!



 Meeting Jake. Thankfully he didn’t mind that Archer put his hand in his mouth.

The happiness this experience brought him was priceless, and as an added plus for us adults, the food was actually great too. Set up buffet-style, there are a plethora of options for picky palates and adventurous ones. I don’t remember everything I had but I do know some things I thoroughly enjoyed were a roasted beet, apple and goat cheese salad, an antipasti salad, lobster mac & cheese, roasted chicken, and a fantastic bean cassoulet.

It’s hard to put into words what a great time we had, and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience this trip to Disney through Food Blog Forum. We look forward to many more visits in the years to come!