Late Summer at Pollo Tropical

It seems more and more families are looking for healthier options when dinning out while traveling or after a late day of sports. I know when we chose to dine out I really research healthier options because that is super important to my own family!

Fortunately we live in an area where several healthier options are available, including the inconspicuous Pollo Tropical; an upscale fast food option.

Last week I was invited to try a few new menu options as well as taste some of their original eats from this unique brand.

What makes Pollo Tropical different from other fast food restaurants?

** How about no freezers in the restaurant?! Everything is brought in fresh; prepped and prepared fresh in house daily.

**Pollo Tropical serves chicken that is natural; in other words, no hormones or antibiotics have been injected into their chicken as it was raised.

**The chicken is marinated in their special citrus marinade overnight and grilled fresh (never frozen) & right where you can watch.

** Recipes are traditional made with fresh ingredients daily, including the sauces on the sauce bar.

**Pollo Tropical prides itself in not using trans fats in their foods, and because everything is prepared fresh in-house there are a lot less unnatural preservatives in your food!

While known for their citrus marinated grilled chicken, Pollo Tropical has added Pollo Bites; fresh marinated chicken, dipped and battered in-house then fried in canola oil. These for perfect for those kiddos that love their chicken nuggets!

Also new to the menu are a couple of different chicken sandwiches. The chicken BLT with spicy chipotle ranch is so delicious!

For lighter fare, the bacon-shrimp salad served with dressing hits the spot. The shrimp is also marinated in the citrus marinade and then boiled.

The pulled pork sandwich with guava bbq sauce is such a treat. And I learned that in the Miami area this sandwich is served with a Cuban bbq sauce.

Originally founded in 1988 the Pollo Tropical chain has grown to 140 restaurants throughout Florida and up into the metro Atlanta area. This makes it really convenient for my southeastern friends when they hit the road for vacation!!

Check it out!

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

It’s  beginning to look a lot like Christmas and I am sooo excited!

Magic-Kingdom-Train-Station | Fiddle Dee Dee

Last week I was invited to accompany my gal pal Tammie for a return trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for media night.

Disney-Media-Night | Fiddle Dee Dee

 Naturally I was very excited as I am that crazy person who walks around humming Christmas carols, and always looking for things to do to make the season even merrier!

{Sorry Tammie!}

Disney-Christmas-Party-Celebration | Fiddle Dee Dee

Disney-Magic | Fiddle Dee Dee

 

Party goers get into the holiday spirit as carols are playing throughout the park, festive decorations galore add to the magic Walt Disney is know for, “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration” live show at Cinderella’s Castle that’ll have you singing all season long, the fabulous Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade featuring gingerbread men, elves, reindeer, toy soldiers and a special appearance by Santa Claus, cookies, chocolate and other sweet treats, a spectacular fireworks show and characters all through the park for photos and greetings!

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The excitement and magic is contagious and I promise you will become that person that walks around humming carols all season long as well!

Check out a few images from our fun evening in the park!

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Y’all, I’m such a fangirl!

Disney-Princess | Fiddle Dee Dee

Every little girl loves to meet a prince and princess!

Mickeys-Christmas-Parade | Fiddle Dee DeeGoofy | Fiddle Dee DeeDisney-Christmas-Parade | Fiddle Dee DeeDisney-Santa-Claus | Fiddle Dee Dee

Mickey's-Christmas | Fiddle Dee DeeMickey-and-Friends-Christmas | Fiddle Dee DeeMickey-and-Friends-Celebrate | FIddle Dee DeeDisney-Christmas-Celebration | Fiddle Dee Dee

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Can we discussed the amount of lighting goals in this one picture?!

Chirstmas-Fireworks | FIddle Dee Dee

If you would like to attend Mickey’s annual party for yourself, it is open on specific nights between November 9-December 22 throughout this season. Beginning at 4:00 in the evening and lasting well into the night, tickets to Mickey’s party are a separate entry fee to Magic Kingdom.  Once purchased, you enter a park transformed into a spectacular holiday scene that only the staff at Walt Disney can imagine! It’s fun to dress up in festive attire or even attend in your Christmas pajamas!  With younger children plan to go early so that they can enjoy the magic before exhaustion overtakes them.  Lines could be long for character greetings so stay merry and go with the flow.  If you are a couple or have older kids planning to attend, wait and go later in the evening.  The live show plays every hour, there are two parades (an early and a late), as well as fireworks.   Of course there are the rides and several restaurants to enjoy as well as the magic you can only find at Disney World.

Disney-Fireworks | FIddle Dee Dee

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International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot Center

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the annual International Food and Wine Festival with my girlfriend and lifestyle blogger, Tami Reed of Talking with Tami at Walt Disney’s Epcot Center in Florida. Tami is a blogger for Disney and as a huge foodie I was thrilled she invited me along for this exciting trip!

Epcot-International-Food-and-Wine-Festival

We flew out at 6:00 on Tuesday morning and landed in Orlando where we went nonstop until 11:00 PM.

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First, we stopped in at Magic Kingdom for my first ever glimpse of Disney, then we ventured over to Epcot where we grabbed our Festival Passport and thoroughly enjoyed a taste of so many culinary delights from all over the world!

Chef-Mickey

Chef Mickey!!

Epcot is celebrating 35 years, so there is one big party going on right now!

Y’all, the food was really good. With over 35 food and wine “marketplaces” there was plenty of options for tasty delights. The festival actually began August 31, but continues to run until November 13, a full 75 days to check it all out!

Tequila-Chipotle-Shrimp

Tequila Chipotle Shrimp

During the festival, park guests can mix and mingle with celebrity chefs, experience hands-on culinary workshops and demonstrations and enjoy live music each evening at Eat to the Beat concerts.  They also can book special tasting experiences at Epcot and at Disney resort restaurants. Family fun will be in the mix with kid-friendly dishes geared toward young palates and a Ratatouille-inspired culinary scavenger hunt.

Creme-Brulee

Creme Brûlée a la Confiture de Framboises

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Popular chefs and other known culinary enthusiasts have been on hand to entertain foodies and inspire the chef in all of us!

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Throughout the days of the festival you can learn to pair beer and wines with different foods if you choose, or just stroll and eat, which is what Tami and I did!

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Mango Bubble tea from China

We picked up a passport upon entering the gates at Epcot, purchased a special festival gift card to make purchasing a little easier and headed off to explore the World Showcase where most of the food tastings were held.  Some of my favorite tastings were Ireland, France, Canada, and Mexico!

Rib-Eye-Taco

Rib-Eye Taco with toasted chipotle sauce

Roasted-Irish-Sausage

Roasted Irish Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes and onion gravy

If you plan to go, here are a few quick things to know:

**When you purchase an Epcot admission it includes your Culinary passport, Back to the basics cooking seminars and the Eat to the Beat concert series, plus any other Epcot attraction covered under general admission. There is a small fee for any food that you taste in the World Showcase and for some culinary classes.

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Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles

**Purchase a special Food & Wine Festival gift card to make purchasing so much easier than counting cash or swiping your credit card all over the park. We put $60 on our card (which I guess to be the cost of one meal at a park restaurant) and it was plenty for the time that we had. Most tastings were $4-$10 depending on what you chose, with beer and wine drinks quite a bit more. If you need more, money you can add to it and anything left over can be spent at any of the Disney parks.

Food-and-Wine-Festival-Card

**Tasting plates are a decent sized portion, so if you want to share in an effort not to get too full and taste more, it can definitely happen! Tami and I were actually full after a couple of stops, but I was really bad and kept tasting.

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Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup with a Pretzel Roll

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**Some events do require advanced reservations, so be sure to check a schedule before you go and book those early… they will sell out.

**Be nice as some lines can be long. Disney is popular attraction for guests all over the world and everyone wants the same memorable experience that you have. Be patient and be kind. The lines do move rather fast, the longest line I experienced was in “France” and it was about a 10 minute wait for Creme Brûlée. Go first thing in the morning if you want to avoid the heaviest of lines.

**Don’t forget to visit the Festival Center. Here is where you will find classes, seminars, and have to opportunity to purchase culinary related items to carry home.

Epcot-Festival-Center

**Allow plenty of time for your visit. Tami and I just had part of one day, but I could have easily spent 2 or 3 days there to get the full experience.

Epcot-World-Showcase

Have you ever visited Epcot for the International Food and Wine Festival? Let me know your favorite part! I fully intend to return again!

Epcot-Night

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Our Top Things To Do in the Florida Keys

Our family kicked off the new year in a way we never have before; leaving all of our traditions behind from black-eyed peas to college football and made so many memories together traveling to the Florida Keys!

It’s actually the busy season in the Keys as many people are wanting to leave behind the cold, wet days of winter and find a little sunshine and fun!  That is exactly what we did and I do believe we have discovered a new tradition for our New Year; every year!

After the lovely few days away I thought it would be fun to share a few highlights of our trip with a list of Our Top Things to do in the Florida Keys.  These are completely teenager friendly as we are not partiers at all, but out more to enjoy sights and culture when we travel.

Top Things to do While Visiting the Florida Keys

1. You can’t drive to Key West without travel the highway that runs parallel with the Historic Seven-Mile Bridge.  Seven-Mile Bridge, when it was finished in 1912, was the longest bridge of its kind.  It connected the middle Keys to the lower Keys as a railroad line until the 1930s when it was refurbished for auto traffic.  Now it is closed, but portions are open for pedestrians and bicyclists.  If you like history it’s a neat little stop as you travel through.

7 mile bridge

Not all of the bridge is accessible at this time, but there is a massive project getting ready to begin to restore the entire length of the bridge.  I find that very exciting!

seven mile bridge

I apologize for the blurry pics…. we were driving while I was trying to shoot.

The broken railings?  They were made from the railway trackage when the bridge was converted from a railroad bridge to an auto bridge in the 1930s.

7 mile bridge 2

2.  The Ernest Hemingway Home.  If you ever took a high school or college lit class, you read Ernest Hemingway at some point.  Visiting his main residence in the 1930s was a really awesome way to visualize his life.  From the studio where he wrote his best-selling novels to stories that brought the man to life, the Hemingway Home was a fabulous treat.

Ernest Hemingway Home

Built in 1851, Ernest Hemingway acquired this well-built island home in 1931 while he was married to Pauline Pfeiffer, A French Vogue editor, for $8000.

Hemingway Dining RoomHemingway Portrait

Hemingway Chandelier

Pauline hated this chandelier and had it removed & stored in the attic while living in the house.  I can’t even imagine…

The tour guide we had was absolutly fantastic and truly brought the colorful life of Hemingway to us in an entirely new way!

Hemingway Porch

James Bond turned in his “License to Kill” at the Hemingway house in the 1988 movie of the same name.

Hemingway Office

The room above the garage where Hemingway wrote some of his most famous works including “To Have & To Have Not”.

Heminway House 2

This fountain and “flower bed” was built by the original builder/owner, Asa Tift, to resemble an old confederate ironclad boat.

3. Key Lime Pie from Blue Heaven restaurant.  If Blue Heaven is packed (or closed getting ready for a New Year’s Eve bash), just head across the street to Andy’s Cabana which is owned by the same family.

Andys Cabana

And they have THE Key Lime Pie.

Blue Heaven Key Lime Pie

4. Take a sunset cruise from the Port of Key West.  We chose the Jolly II Rover and are so glad that we did!  With a fun crew and beautiful views, it was the perfect evening to a fabulously fun day!

Jolly II Rover

raising the sails

Madeline helping raise the sails!  Such a neat experience!

You’ll discover on this cruise that you are closer to Cuba than you are the nearest Walmart.  I thought that was just a really cool fact.

cruisinsunset sail

On the Jolly II Rover you may also have the adventure of firing a cannon at other passing ships!

Ahoy mates

And the sunset?

Breathtaking, amazing, and unforgettable.

Florida Keys Sunset

5. Visit the Southernmost point.  If you want to get technical it is really not the southernmost point, but unless you wan to be arrested for trespassing on a military installation this will have to suffice.

southernmost point

Lines form early to have your picture made here, so plan to arrive super early, or do like we did and go after sunset; no waiting necessary.

6. Take in the island real estate.  I love the houses and historic buildings found in both Key West and Key Largo.

key west real estate 2Key West real estate

Enjoy the sightseeing and don’t catch island fever…. It can be costly!

island real estate 3

7.  “Sail away to Key Largo” with a ride the African Queen.

The African Queen is not a replica; this is the real deal built in 1912 and used in the 1951 movie The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn.

The African Queen

With the history behind the boat, as well as the legend, this evening cruise was a true highlight of our stay.

African Queen Steam Engine

Enjoy your own Boggey & Bacall … Or is it Bogart and Hepburn moment?

Take your pick, but a cruise on the African Queen is a step back in time allowing you to have your own romantic moment.

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African Queen Sunset

8. Hit the water in Key Largo at John Pennecamp State Park in a canoe.  Canoeing is a lot of fun and the perfect activity for everyone in the family.  The park also offers camping, snorkeling, swimming, and various other water-sports.

Kayaking

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9. Don’t forget to hit the beach.  Seriously.  The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away from your environment and relax.  Take time for this.

On the beach

If not for you, do it for your family.

on the beach 2

 I loved the naturally preserved beaches at John Pennecamp State park, but I also loved the man-made sandy beaches of the resorts.

And as you can see, my teenagers had a blast!

buried in sand

In no way is this a list of all the things to do in the Florida Keys.  With this being our first trip and only having a few days to kick back, these highlights were what we enjoyed most!  When we return this year after Christmas we will have a whole new list of activities planned.

Just a few tips to getting around Key West.  First, if you are wanting to hit up historic Key West, find you a good parking space (legally) on the street and leave your car for the day.  You might want to brush up on your parallel parking skills before you go.  Walking about town is honestly the most logical way to go.  Key West is extremely pedestrian friendly. Make reservations if you have a specific, but popular hot spot you want to visit.  Lines for dinner can be quite long, especially when mile high Key Lime pie is involved.  Also, book your cruises early.  We purchased our tickets a few weeks in advance and the tickets were texted to me on my phone.  Quite convenient indeed, and we didn’t have to  risk being turned away at the dock.  Key Largo does involve more driving as the area is not so compact.  The drive all the way to Key West can be a long one. The speed limit is 45-55 and there is a lot of traffic.  Drive safely and go with the flow.

It’ll make the trip much more enjoyable!

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