Epcot, Character Spot, ESCALATOR MAINTENANCE, Tokyo Dining, France Ice Cream Reviews

by josh on June 24, 2013

Epcot.  The construction of this food stand or whatever it is in the center of Future World is kind of ridiculous as it’s behind walls for the third or fourth time before ever actually selling anything.  I don’t know what they’re thinking.

Fountain View Cafe construction continues on the other side AS STARBUCKS CONTINUES TO TAKE OVER A THEME PARK THAT IS OTHERWISE EXACTLY WHAT WALT WOULD HAVE WANTED.  They should start selling cinnamon rolls at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  And inside the Lights, Motors, Action theater.  And at the end of Ellen’s Energy Adventure but only if you ride.  And in the middle of Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station.

Character Spot reopened earlier this month.  The new entrance is further down to the right at the old exit.

One of the reasons Character Spot used to be so popular is that you could peer through the glass and see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto interacting with guests.  That’s no longer possible as the characters aren’t visible from outside.

The new entrance.  It says “Exit Only” where the FASTPASS+ entrance will probably go.

The characters aren’t visible from the queue either, which winds around an otherwise bland building.

Guests now have the opportunity to meet three characters.  Mickey.

Pluto.

Minnie.

I visited around 5:45pm on a busy June day and there was “literally” nobody else waiting.  I walked right in and there wasn’t anyone behind me.  Character Spot used to be a high priority because there were five characters in a single room and the characters appearing through the glass caused people to get in line who otherwise would pass right by.  I still recommend visiting Character Spot after 7pm if possible because Future World crowds are lower than the afternoon and most people will be prioritizing Soarin’ and Test Track first thing in the morning.  But it seems like we can expect Character Spot wait times to be significantly lower now that they’ve doubled capacity, dropped two characters, and taken away the window shopping angle.  Goofy greets at the front of the Park and Donald is back in Mexico.

It’s June 13th, which is the same day as this report at Magic Kingdom and this report from Animal Kingdom.  It’s 5:54pm.  Test Track is down, as usual.  And you can see why I recommend going to Mexico and Norway first thing after World Showcase opens at 11am – the wait for Maelstrom is the second longest at 40 minutes.  You’d be able to walk right on through 1pm.  Soarin’ is at an unpleasant 110 minutes, but that’s what happens when you operate one reliable ride people actually care about in the third most visited theme park in North America.

They are fixing this escalator.

They may or may not have moved the loading area further back at Journey into Imagination with Figment.  Talk about newsworthy developments at Epcot.

I have no idea what’s going on here.

Maybe we don’t want to know.

The Oz Playground from Flower & Garden is long gone.

The Monsters University topiary moved outside the Studios’ main entrance.

Construction continues at Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion.

With a scrim added.

Construction has moved the Mo’Rockin stage across the way.  It has a little bit of a Dave Matthews Band – Live at The Gorge feel now.

And Art of Henna moved to the Tangierine Cafe seating area.

Dinner is at Tokyo Dining, the second-level restaurant above Mitsukoshi Department Store.  There may be a line at the bottom of the stairs for people inquiring about reservations etc. but you’ll head up the stairs and inside to check-in.

The waiting area is shared with Teppan Edo behind us.

Part of the seating area is in front of me and the waiting area is also visible on the left, causing Tokyo Dining to be unexpectedly(?) loud.  I’ve read reviews that describe Tokyo Dining as quiet and serene, but that has not been my experience.

The closer to the windows you get, the calmer it becomes.

Another bonus of a window table is the gorgeous view outside.  Theoretically, this would provide a great view of IllumiNations if you’re seated here, but there are only a handful of tables next to the window.  And Bricker will inevitably show up with his tripod and partially block your view.  You have my permission to go outside and throw leftover sushi at him.  I wouldn’t dine here planning to see IllumiNations like you might with Rose & Crown due to the limited number of tables.  This is not ‘Ohana where it’s perfectly acceptable(?) for your toddlers to crawl under strangers’ tables and watch Wishes.  You could probably make a reservation for 7:30pm or so and if you score a window table, drag the meal out a bit with drinks and dessert.  And if you’re seated in the peanut gallery, go straight for the entrees and head outside for the show closer to 8:30pm.

The rest of the restaurant.  There is potentially not a whole lot to it in this section.  Or as Disney describes it:

Enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine and views of World Showcase Lagoon at this sleek, contemporary restaurant.  Be transported into a true cultural experience through the harmony of traditional Japanese food and hospitality. Enjoy the vibrant feel of modern Tokyo as you watch our talented sushi chefs prepare their works of culinary art, as dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows overlook World Showcase Lagoon.

The area closest to the sushi chefs is a little more interesting, but also louder and there are fewer tables.  It’s probably not worth requesting.

Menu:




I don’t think the menu is diverse as it used to be, particularly in the sushi section.  Looking over a menu from December, the number of nigiri has been reduced from twelve to eight.  And sushi numbers have been reduced from 25 to 15.  Hopefully your favorites are still available.  I am not an expert on Japanese food, but it seemed like the entrees were either deep fried or steak.  And sometimes both.

Having never tried shochu before, I ordered the $8 Tokyo Dome – Shochu, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice, and Sprite.  I wanted to try the shochu on its own and in the drink, so I asked if I could have the shochu on the side and was happy to see that my request was obliged.  Tokyo Dining offers iichiko shochu – probably the 40 proof “Standard” version.  It’s Japan’s best selling “genuine shochu.”  The smell is similar to the rice in sake, a much more common beverage here in the states.  I thought it tasted like a slightly watered down grain alcohol, which is kind of what it is.  By itself, you could definitely tell you were drinking something similar to vodka.  Mixed in with the apple juice, all of the alcohol burn from the straight shochu disappeared, much like a little vodka goes into a lot of cranberry juice.  If spirits are your thing and you’re unfamiliar with shochu, this would be a nice way to give it a try.  I’m not sure where they sell it around here in Orlando, but I’d like to get a bottle or two and mess around with it a little bit.

The much-classier Lisa ordered a $9 Mandarin Orange – Mandarin Orange Vodka, Orange Juice, and Sour Mix.  It was not a particularly substantial drink in terms of volume, but it was on the strong side and it wasn’t on the Disney standard drink menu – two pluses.

I tossed and turned over ordering an appetizer, thinking the Tempura would be more of the same with so many of the entrees also including it.  The Wafu Ribs, Kakuni (braised pork belly) and Tuna Salmon Sensation, all of which were available just six months ago, are no longer available.  But I went ahead and ordered the $8.95 Assorted Tempura – Shrimp, Chicken, and Vegetables.  It ended up including a shrimp, a piece of chicken, a slice of zucchini, and a slice of sweet potato.  The tempura batter was perfect – light and crispy without being oily or overbearing.  Even the vegetables remained crunchy.  It comes with what is probably a soy-based dipping sauce for some additional flavor – the tempura may not have a lot on its own.  As we’ll see shortly, with a number of the entrees including the same tempura, the appetizer may be overkill if you’re planning to order one of the entrees that includes it.

Not being particularly impressed by Tokyo Dining’s steak in the past, I opted for the Ginza – Shrimp and Scallop Tempura w/ Sushi Nigiri & California Roll – $28.95.  It’s a lot of food.

The Tempura was more of the same – this time with the addition of long green beans, scallops, and a slice of onion.  The half dozen scallops were my favorite part.  I am not usually a scallop person because you tend to get four of them for $40 at Disney restaurants, but these were plentiful and prepared perfectly – even better than the Georges Bay Scallops at Raglan Road.  The Tempura Green Beans would make for an excellent appetizer served alongside some kind of citrus sauce.  They were excellent here as well.  The onion tempura caught me a little off guard, but the taste was similar to a lightly fried onion ring.

The usual steamed rice has been replaced recently with this sukiyaki beef rice.  I’m sure you could substitute steamed if that’s the way you wanted to go.  This had a more interesting flavor than your typical white rice, but it didn’t have a lot of beef flavor.  In fact, at the time, I thought it tasted more like it had been prepared with mushroom soup or something of that nature.  But as someone who considers white rice “boring,” I welcomed the change.

This is a nigiri sampler of sorts with a piece of tuna, salmon, and shrimp nigiri alongside two pieces of California Roll in between wasabi and ginger.  If purchased separately, it’s about $12 worth of sushi.  It’s exactly what you would expect from well prepared sushi with fresh seafood on top of rice without any of that fishy smell that you sometimes find in lower quality stuff.  The presentation  makes these entrees easily shareable.  It would be easy to divvy up the sushi and tempura.

I was not real sure what this was when it arrived as I didn’t remember any mention of it on the menu.  It’s a noodle/fake crab salad of sorts, I think.  I didn’t think there was a lot of flavor and it reminded me a lot of a macaroni salad in texture.

Finally, a couple bites of a seaweed and cucumber salad that is not the most attractive looking thing in the world.  It tasted like cucumber, which I am not particularly fond of in anything other than a La Cava margarita.  And even then.  But like the cold pasta salad thing, it is a refreshing change of pace from the tempura.

Being significantly better at this than I am, Lisa did not order a tempura appetizer and a tempura entree.

The $15.95 Volcano Roll – California Roll with Spicy Chili Mayonnaise Sauce, Topped with Sashimi Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail, Smelt Roe, and Tempura Crunch.  She describes it as, “Okay.  Too many tempura flakes.  Not enough fish on top.”  I snagged a piece and it seemed pretty bland.  I prefer a little more spice on something purporting to be volcanic in nature.  Despite not being world class sushi, it was still filling and relatively inexpensive.  You can get out of here for not a whole lot more money than you’d spend at Katsura Grill (Yakitori House) if you go with some of the less expensive sushi/nigiri/appetizer options.  And the indoor seating is more comfortable and the drink list is better.

Finishing off with a $9 Cherry Blossom Martini – Sake, Plum Wine, Cranberry Juice, and Soda.  I feel like most cherry drinks come off tasting a little medicine-y and this was no exception, even without cherry vodka or liqueur present.  Could have fooled me, as they say.  I’d probably skip it next time.

The dessert and drink menus are shared with Teppan Edo.  Teppan Edo’s sushi list is much shorter than Tokyo Dining’s, but you should be able to order a Tokyo Dining Roll over at Edo if you ask.  Since we were headed to France for dessert, we skipped it.

The Sounds Like Summer Concert Series continues at the American Gardens Theater with shows at 5:30, 6:45, and 8pm every day (other than July 4th) through July 27th. Acts and July 4th schedule available here.

I get a bit of a kick out of the theater.  I’m not sure whose genius idea it was to put trees in the middle of the seating section that hinder the views of anyone behind them.

Light-ish crowds in World Showcase at 8:07pm on a recommended Thursday (still June 13th) for whatever that’s worth.

You may have seen a ton of blogger coverage for L’Artisan des Glaces when it opened in place of the old Boulangerie earlier this month.  It was almost universally praised by the usual suspects…like everything else fake media loves.

The line backs up a bit if there’s more than a dozen people inside, but waits shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.  Expect it to be a little busier around 7:30pm.


Details.

Flavors.

Pricing.

You’ll let the first cast member know what size/how many ice creams/sorbets you’d like to order.  They don’t care what flavors you want – that comes further down the counter.

Cast members at two ice cream cases will take your receipt and your flavor request(s).

You can also opt for two scoops topped with Grand Marnier orange liqueur, Clement VSOP “Rhum,” and Epic Whipped Cream Vodka.  A 750ml bottle of Grand Marnier costs $27.99, the Clement runs $37.99 and the Epic Vodka is $13.99 at Total Wine if that affects your decision.  The pour is a solid 1.5 ounces or so and controlled by the topper.

Portion size could probably be described as small.  Your four bucks gets you a single scoop in a cup or on the top of a cone.  If you opt for the cone, they don’t fill the cone itself and then plop another scoop on top, so it’s about the same amount either way.  I would personally opt for the cone if I wasn’t going the boozy route.  Most people won’t be consuming the cup.  Two scoops obviously makes each about a dollar less expensive.

Trying to instill the magic of bloggability in Lisa, I insisted she order whatever she thought was best.  We ended up with Coco-White Chocolate, Caramel fleur de sel, and Grand Marnier.  It was pretty disgusting.  The poor thing thought Coco referred to chocolate.  It refers to coconut.  But at least we can bring that knowledge to you.  If you’ve put together a tastier concoction, you might share it with us in the comments section.  The ice creams and sorbets are otherwise made in house and unique to the France Pavilion.  There is no dedicated seating inside, but there are several tables outside and seating is available inside Les Halles Boulangerie in the back of the Pavilion.  I would return to give it another shot (NO PUN INTENDED OMG LOL) and most of the other buzz has been positive.  But the buzz is always positive so it’s hard to say what reality is sometimes.

At least the France ice cream is a little less sad looking than this $4.49 cup of gelato from Art of Animation, am I right?

And as if the night couldn’t get any better, we had a great view of IllumiNations from behind the wall in the first pic.

The January 2014 crowd calendar daily analysis is coming up next.  I didn’t receive the necessary info until this evening, which caused a bit of a delay in putting that together.  We also have Jiko and La Hacienda de San Angel reviews on the tip of my tongue.  Or at the tip of my fingers.  Or whatever.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike June 24, 2013 at 10:24 pm

First

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Mike June 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Is the video your subtle way of saying don’t do drugs, drink instead?

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dusty cheatham June 25, 2013 at 2:24 am

josh that polo looked a little faded in that shot with Minnie . the poly shirt idea is looking better & ….

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dusty cheatham June 25, 2013 at 2:25 am

rose & crown pub … just dreaming

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csd June 25, 2013 at 4:53 am

Thanks for the menu photos, Josh. Fake media sometimes has conflicting lists of what’s being served. Coco=coconut, huh? Guess that makes it an interesting people watching spot: “count the gaggers”.

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Jessica D June 25, 2013 at 5:12 am

I thought the same thing as Lisa, and can imagine ordering that combo only to be left suffering through my $12 boozy blunder “/ Thanks for taking one for the team Lisa.

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JasonMiller June 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

Other potential cinnamon roll locations: at the end of Stitch’s Great Escape, a drive thru stand at the mid-point of the Tomorrowland Speedway, at the top of the Swiss Family Robonson Treehouse, anywhere in Avatarland if it gets built or a vendor roaming the Norway movie theatre.

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goofyjoe June 25, 2013 at 6:27 am

If you go to Tokyo Dining right when they open for lunch, all the staff goes through an “opening show” with chanting and bowing. Plus, they’re usually not so busy at that time, making it a good choice for an early-ish sit-down lunch.

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Mary Ann June 25, 2013 at 6:30 am

What flavor is Profiterole?

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cupcake June 25, 2013 at 6:31 am

The French can’t do anything right!

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stevenmilz June 25, 2013 at 6:42 am

We’ve been to Tokyo Dining a number of times and it’s towards the top of our EPCOT go-to places as we enjoy the food. My only complaint is that the tempura zucchini and sweet potato tends to be very greasy, but sweet potato is icky and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it non-greasy either. Oh and the kids love it because their kids meals come on a monorail serving “plate”, or at least they have every time we’ve been. I’m sure budget cuts will get to those eventually too…

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cocosmeme June 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

OK = the creepy guy in the rainbow video cracked me up. I agree with Mike’s comment! I don’t know what he was “on”, but he was way out there!

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Mike June 25, 2013 at 7:15 am

I know this is your blog Josh and you can write whatever you want, but you really need to let that Starbucks thing go, it’s kind of teetering on obsessive. You’re making fun of people who don’t like the change, that much is apparent, but seeing comments in the last few entries have pushed it a bit.

Go back to “I DEMAND FREE GRAND FLORIDIAN UPGRADES” bit, that sounded quite a bit less obsessive.

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Adrienne June 25, 2013 at 7:33 am

“Another bonus of a window table is the gorgeous view outside. Theoretically, this would provide a great view of IllumiNations if you’re seated here, but there are only a handful of tables next to the window. And Bricker will inevitably show up with his tripod and partially block your view. You have my permission to go outside and throw leftover sushi at him.”

“Leftover sushi”?! What sort of blasphemy is that?! There is no such thing as “leftover sushi”…at least around me. :-P How about I throw a dirty chopstick instead?

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Tricia June 25, 2013 at 8:05 am

I appreciated the DMB at the Gorge comment.

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neffernie June 25, 2013 at 8:09 am

“I’m not sure where they sell it around here in Orlando, but I’d like to get a bottle or two and mess around with it a little bit.”

Try Super Oriental Market on E Colonial (the stretch between I4 and the mall) if that isn’t too far. They have practically everything else sold in the Japan Pavilion at half the price. I can’t bear to buy the Ramune soda at Epcot for $3 a bottle when I know you can get a case for $5.

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krikiter June 25, 2013 at 9:39 am

“What flavor is Profiterole?”

I’m guessing chocolate and custard, swirled, maybe?

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pfalcioni June 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

The pic of Lisa’s Mandarin Orange cocktail is really cool. The drink itself looks weird, but the picture is beyond artistic.

Double rainbow…sob sob sob snort…yeah, some people really do live in an alternate reality, don’t they?

I like JasonMiller’s additions to the cinnamon roll locations, especially Indy Speedway. I’d be so all over that one, and I don’t even like WDW cinnamon rolls.

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RazIsland June 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

Great photo by the castmember with Minnie. What were they 50 yards back? If only the had tilted the camera.

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mike June 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I was wondering when they were going to move the figment queue back. The way it was people could get whiplash from the cars moving so fast

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pinochio June 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hey Adrienne that’s an illegal use of wood

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Lisa June 25, 2013 at 1:58 pm

@JessicaD I’m just glad my ignorance/stupidity is beneficial to someone.

Petition update: 24 signatures, thanks guys!!

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Brer_Matt June 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

What’s up with using the kids chopstick (in photo of Toyko Dome)? :-)

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RebeccaMcK June 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Maybe a way to remember now is:
Coco = coconut
Cocoa = chocolate
Chocolate would have the “a” at the end, as in “aaaaaaaaaay, gimme some chocolate!”
Then picture Fonzie saying it, to get my pronunciation, lol.

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Christine June 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm

We saw a double rainbow over Tomorrowland in May. It’s so much more magical seeing a rainbow in Disney!

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Safroim June 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm

They should sell cinnamon rolls at DMB shows.

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Brandelyncon June 25, 2013 at 7:58 pm

You just can’t get decent escalator maintenance updates from any other websites. That’s why this site rocks!

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Anonymous June 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I would not think to add booze to ice cream . I also detest fruit with chocolate.
Lisa’s drink sounded good.

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Francis June 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

Hi Josh, regarding Tokyo Dining in Epcot (where I last visited in 1998…), I noticed the terrace with stairs outside…is that accessible to non restaurant guests? Will it also get crowded during Illuminations? Thanks.

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dusty cheatham June 26, 2013 at 2:27 am

I would like to take to task everyone here on this site for the treatment of prof brainard.
one can only feel for little brainard . the pain he must be feeling . speaking for myself I was able to sleep the other nite after seeing no comments from the prof. sniff sniff I miss his keen whit & use of big words. come back , come back

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Pam H. June 26, 2013 at 6:58 am

I love Italian Gelato. How does the French ice cream compare to that?

Anyone know if Tokyo Dining has gluten free options for any of the sushi?

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Ocalla June 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

Love all the updates!!! I hated logging on today and not finding one :(

Do you ever tour the Water Parks? I ask because we are going to TL in July this year (never visited any of them) and I am totally lost as to what to do first? how to get around? etc.

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JLS June 26, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Another hillarious post! Thanks Josh for the laughs & my WDW fix each night. I immediately had same thought as Adrienne “left over sushi” i’ve never had such a thing!!!!!

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KapBoy77 June 27, 2013 at 5:30 am

DMB at the Gorge comment… thumbs up!!!

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ErinElizabeth June 28, 2013 at 7:23 am

I am so disappointed with the Character Spot! The idea of having 5 characters per one ‘attraction’ always drew us in. Plusvthe pics turned out great. Now with only 3 characters, I am not sure this is a valuable use of our time. Especially since MK has an adorable Mickey photo op (his ‘behind the scenes dressing room is awesome’) and MK has a good Minnie photo op as well. And we’d all benefit from a rotating character option at the now defunct fifth-spot at Character Spot to change it up a bit. I’d love to be surprised with an unexpected Peter Pan or Sulley or whomever as i came around the bend.

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Ocalla June 28, 2013 at 7:30 am

@ErinElizabeth – I thought the same thing, but we decided to take my Niece and nephew in anyway. Since there were so few people, the characters really spend a lot of time with the kids!! The wait was literally 3 min to see them :) If nothing else, its a nice cool spot for a rest!!

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vinotinto June 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Ice cream *and* liquour? :FAINT: It may not be Berthillon, but I’m not missing it in January I don’t care if it’s 40 degrees outside.

On another note, I think it’s about time that you got your data. Some of us are waiting for that daily analysis to finalize our plans ;-)

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darnheather June 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

You may also find shochu listed as “soju” as it can be found as such in Korea. I always liked it with Pepsi even though I normally detest Pepsi.

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Greg June 29, 2013 at 5:09 am

Profiterole + caramel + whipped cream vodka = bloggable

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