Full Review: Biergarten Restaurant at Epcot’s Germany Pavilion

You may remember how much I love sitting in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot with a beer and some food, and people watching.  Its really a perfect spot for a break in the middle of the day, and I thought nothing could top that.  BUT WAIT!  Enter the Biergarten Restaurant in the Germany Pavilion at the Epcot World Showcase.

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How pretty!  We went near Christmas time, so everything was decorated.

The Biergarten Restaurant is awesome.  Seriously.  I was admittedly skeptical, we rarely book a table service restaurant at Disney, particularly buffet service restaurants as we never feel like we eat enough to justify it.  However, I really really enjoyed Biergarten.  The restaurant is located in the back of the Germany Pavilion on the let hand side.  As you enter the restaurant, you are “transported into a traditional Bavarian village” where you enjoy your meal while listening to an Oompah Band.

All the food is buffet style, and is, of course, of the German persuasion. There is also a selection of German beers, which you can order by the 1/2 liter or liter (we went with 1/2 liters). You also sit at communal tables – I think they seat about 8 people depending on where in the restaurant they are. We had a party of 4, another party of 2, and us at ours and no one was too interested in chatting beyond their individual parties (though I’m sure that varies, depending on if you order the 1/2 liter or liter of beer).  For those of you who might get nervous about this sort of thing, it wasn’t awkward at all.

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Beer and menu – shaped like a beer stein!
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Menu page 1 – Beer Selection
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Menu page 2 – Wine Selection

So.  The food.  GUYS THE FOOD.  Okay, so this is a buffet style restaurant, and there are plenty of food options even for non-adventurous eaters.  I’m 99% positive the food pales in comparison to what you can get in Germany, but regardless, it still tastes pretty awesome, particularly for a buffet.  The buffet starts with a selection of cold items like potato salad, macaroni salad, sausage salad (I didn’t know sausage was considered a salad, but hey…), rolls and pretzel rolls (GET A PRETZEL ROLL).  Then hot items like a seasonal soup (ours was beer cheese, which I used as a dip for the pretzel roll), roast vegetables, sausage, pork schnitzel (my personal favorite), meatballs, a carving station, etc.  Finally, a variety of desserts like black forest cake and apple strudel, among other things.  Everything was great, I don’t think I tried anything I didn’t like, but my favorite was definitely the pork schnitzel.  Actually I liked it so much that I missed it when I got back and made it for dinner about a month later.

There really isn’t too much to say about the entertainment, they’re pretty fun to watch and for most of the time you’re eating they’ll be sort of in the background.  You’re going to have a specific reservation time, and the band goes on at various times throughout the day, but you will get to see the entertainment regardless of your reservation time, so don’t worry about it.  There is a dance floor, but no one was dancing while we were there – maybe because it was lunch time.

Overall, the atmosphere of the restaurant is really great and fun.  It will run you $15 to $34.99 per adult for lunch and $35 to $59.99 per adult for dinner.  Pricing depends on time of year.  It was $34.99 for lunch when we were there in early December 2016.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on the Biergarten Restaurant at Epcot?

After being a bit skeptical as its kind of pricey for lunch, and a buffet, I was pleasantly surprised!  Of course, the beers are pretty big, so that might have had something to do with it, but the food was good (again, for a buffet), there were plenty of options, and the atmosphere was really fun.  If you’re looking for table service at Epcot I recommend it for lunch as its cheaper than dinner, but overall it was a good time and I’d definitely go again on another trip!

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Disney Tips and Tricks: Footwear Edition

You might think this is a weird topic for a post.  Trust me.  It isn’t.  I have actually put a considerable amount of thought into my footwear choice at Disney.  The reason is that Disney is big.  You’re going to walk A LOT.

The Walt Disney World Resort area is made up of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 1 shopping area, and over 25 hotels.  According to the internet search I just did, thats over 40 square miles of Disney fun times.  Or, Disney fun roughly the size of San Francisco.

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Map of the Walt Disney World Resort area.  Its big.  Map courtesy https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/

The 4 theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.    With a variety of ticket options, and enough time, you can manage to visit all 4 parks in a single trip.  Ticket options range from 1 day passes to 10 day passes, and you can get admission to 1 park per day, or a “park hopper” that allows you entry to multiple parks per day.  Admission to water parks is separate.

The parks themselves are big, with Magic Kingdom being the smallest park and Animal Kingdom being the largest.  Different sources quote different numbers, but I went with the sizes listed on themeparktourist.com.

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Approximate park sizes.  Sizes are courtesy http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140401/17257/numbers-comparison-disneys-theme-parks

What that also means is that you’re going to do a lot of walking trying to see everything.

We live in Florida and have had annual passes for a few years now (I know you’re jealous).  I’ve put more thought into what goes on my feet than is probably normal, but we walk a TON when we’re at Disney.  The max we’ve walked in a day was during Star Wars Weekends, and we (somehow) walked 13 miles around Hollywood Studios.  Thats a half marathon of walking, just to give you an indication.  On our last trip, our average daily distance was about 8 miles per day, some days being more and some less.

Getting straight to the point, you’re going to walk more than you think.  Thus, your footwear choice is something that you should put at least a little thought into.

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With the right footwear, you could be as happy as Leonardo DiCaprio.

In 5 years of Disney trips, I have yet to find an option that has left me pain free by the end of the trip, and that I didn’t find hideously ugly.  What I have found to work tremendously is a combination of Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons, and swapping them out daily.  Yes, that means I have walked upwards of 8 to 10 miles in flip flops.  Yes, my feet were fine afterwards.  I actually prefer them.  These all get between a 4.5 and 5 rating (out of 5).

Here are some others I have tried (with ratings), hopefully this will help guide your search for the perfect footwear:

Sanuk yoga mat flip flops (4/5):  Actually not bad, but for some reason soap would come out of them when they got wet and that annoyed me.

Chaco Flip EcoTread (0/5):  People swear by Chacos but these were possibly the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever owned.

Merrell Sandals (3/5):  Good for walking but not cushion-ey enough to stand on my feet all day.  The sandals I own aren’t available anymore.

Minnetonka Moccasins (4/5):  These were actually pretty good, but I could only wear them 1/2 a day.

Sperry Canvas Sneakers (2/5 at Disney, 4/5 for casual wear):  I actually love these shoes and wear them all the time, but walking long distances is ridiculously painful in them, so I do not recommend them for Disney.

Seriously though, cycling through Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons has really been the most pain-free trip I’ve had.

Also, what really works is stretching while I wait in line.  Seriously.  You’ll look weird.  EMBRACE IT.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts footwear at Disney?

Before you leave for your vacation, put some thought into your shoes.  Are you bringing shoes you wear every day?  How far have you walked in them?  Are they broken in?  THEY HAD BETTER BE BROKEN IN.

Trust me.  Its better to think about this before you leave then to realize, 3 days into your 7 day vacation, that your feet are killing you and you have blisters.

And really, stretching while your waiting in line is a good idea.

Full Review: La Cava del Tequila in the World Showcase at Epcot

This is really more of a snack/drink post, as that is what La Cava del Tequila sells.  Located in the Mexico Pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot, La Cava del Tequila is a must try.

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Pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot – There are entrances to the left and right.

Depending on your Epcot strategy, you can walk from the front gate of Epcot to the gigantic lake, and take either a right or left into the World Showcase.  If you take a left, you walk into the Mexico Pavilion.  If you take a right, you’ll hit the Canada Pavilion first.  While the Canada Pavilion does have a kiosk serving one of the best rated beers in the world according to Beer Advocate, La Fin du Monde by Unibroue, I recommend going left to Mexico and ending at Canada.  This is partially because the Canada Pavilion is otherwise boring, with the exception of the 360 video featuring Canada’s own Martin Short. If you’re into Martin Short, thats fun…?

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Martin Short is everywhere – O Canada!

Anyway.

Once you take the recommended left hand turn into the World Showcase, you’re greeted with the gigantic mesoamerican pyramid that is the main focus of the area.  The Mexico Pavilion actually has a huge amount of food and drink choices.  Outside the pyramid there is La Cantina de San Angel, a quick-service spot right on the water with tacos, nachos, etc.  We’ve gotten nachos from here before and while they are definitely gigantic, I didn’t think they were anything to write home about.  They were the type with liquid cheese, canned jalapeños, etc.  There is also a sit-down restaurant outside the pyramid, La Hacienda de San Angel, which we have always wanted to try but never have because we always end up at La Cava del Tequila.  Inside the pyramid, there is another sit-down restaurant, The San Angel Inn, that overlooks the Gran Fiesta Tour (or the Mexico boat ride as most people call it).  If you’re there during the Food and Wine Festival, that means you get to sit and eat your lunch or dinner while watching drunken adults get really overly excited on the boat ride.  They will probably wave.  Excitedly.

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Sign for La Cava del Tequila

The final food/drink option is La Cava del Tequila, located inside the pyramid on your right as you come in.  You’ll know you found it due to the giant line of people standing outside.  These people are waiting for drinks to go.  Skip all of them and walk up to the host or hostess and ask for a table.  If there are two of you, you’ll probably get in and sit faster than all those people waiting in line.  I’ve seen parties of 8 get seated in 20 minutes during the Food and Wine Festival when there was a line of at least 50 people reaching outside the pyramid.

 

La Cava del Tequila sells, obviously, a lot of different tequilas.  They also have margaritas. What most people don’t know is that they also serve some food options to go with your tequila-based beverage of choice.

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Behind the bar at Cava del Tequila

We have sampled two margaritas.  The Passion Fruit (tequila, ginger liqueur, passion fruit, mango nectar, fresh lime juice, topped with mango foam, served on the rocks with a Tajín chili powder rim) and the Hibiscus (tequila, hibiscus juice, fresh lemon juice, agave nectar, elderflower liquor and pomegranate liquor served on the rocks with a hibiscus salt rim).

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Hibiscus margarita at La Cava del Tequila – $14.75

I’m going to be honest.  I hate tequila.  I had a very bad and also incredibly stereotypical experience in college with a bottle of Jose Cuervo where two friends of mine and I drunkenly yelled “YOU’RE AWESOME” “NO, YOU’RE AWESOME-ER” for 20 minutes before all simultaneously puking from said tequila.  Regardless of this ridiculous memory,  I love the Hibiscus Margarita.  Mainly, because you cant taste the tequila, and the flavors work really well together between the bitterness of the tequila and the sweetness/tartness of the hibiscus and pomegranate.  The only thing that I prefer about the Passion Fruit Margarita is the chili powder rim.

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Queso blanco from La Cava del Tequila.  Comes with chips, queso, and 2 cups of salsa.  $9.00

You should also definitely get the queso blanco (warm white nacho cheese with pico de gallo sauce and tortilla chips).  You’re going to be super tempted to get the trio (tortilla chips served with salsa, queso, and guacamole).  But, know that the queso blanco actually comes with salsa as well.  The only thing you’re going to miss is the guacamole, and you probably wont miss it that much.  This is seriously a GIANT AMOUNT of chips, salsa, and queso.  Guys, this is the perfect compliment to that margarita you’re drinking. Its amazing.  Just trust me.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on La Cava del Tequila in the World Showcase at Epcot?

Go.  Seriously.  Just go.  Sit inside, skip the line of people waiting for margaritas to go.  You’ll have a much better time and its a nice break from the sun and the people.  I will say its usually full of adults and couples, I’m assuming that kids are not a fan of sitting in what is essentially a tequila cave watching their parents drink a margarita.  So, if you are an adult or couple, DEFINITELY go.

Snackin’ Around Disney’s Epcot: Germany Pavilion

The Germany Pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot is one my favorite places to take a break, sit, and people watch.  I love to sit by the fountain with a beer and a bratwurst.

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The Germany Pavilion at Epcot.  Photo Courtesy: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2016/08/a-world-showcase-of-unforgettable-shopping-at-epcot-germany-pavilion/ 

While the Germany Pavilion is known for the buffet style Biergarten Restaurant (which is also awesome), there is a great quick service food option in the back of the Pavilion on the right hand side, called Sommerfest.  The menu isn’t large, but the food you get is plentiful.  We usually get an Oktoberfest, a Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen, and a Bratwurst that we split.  The bratwurst is served on a freshly baked Roll with Sauerkraut and House-made Paprika Chips, and is about $10.00.  We skip the sauerkraut because neither of us are fans.

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Bratwurst from Sommerfest sans sauerkraut with 2 pink grapefruit hefeweizens.

Highly recommended is the Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen, while that might not sound appetizing to some of you, I promise this 50/50 blend of Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen and carbonated juice is refreshing and light, and a perfect beer to sip along with the bratwurst that you totally need to get.

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Okay, sometimes we get 2.  Its a lot of food.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Sommerfest at the Germany Pavilion in Epcot?

We try to go to Sommerfest and sit and people watch at least once per trip, if not twice. We have a tendency to try to do everything during a trip, which means we get tired pretty easily. We make it a point to have this downtime at Epcot to sit and take everything in. Even if you dont decide to stick around in the Germany Pavilion, do yourself a favor and get a Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen for your walk around the World Showcase!

Disney Special Events: Holidays at Walt Disney World!

If you’re ever feeling like you’re not in the “Christmas Spirit,” I have found a way to remedy that.  November and December at Walt Disney World are like Christmas/Holiday overload.  There are decorated trees everywhere, gingerbread creations, Holidays Around the World at Epcot, Holiday Wishes, Holiday Illuminations, and of course the Cinderella’s Castle is specially decorated.  Oh, and pretty much everywhere smells like gingerbread.

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Cinderella’s Castle decorated for Christmas with bonus fireworks.

Really, there is more stuff.  Its too much for one post.  But you definitely wont feel any lack of Christmas spirit anywhere at Disney during the months of November and December.

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Epcot getting in on the holiday action with topiary Mickey and a festive snowman.  Even Living with the Land is decorated!

I absolutely recommend resort hopping to look at all the holiday decorations, Holiday Illuminations at Epcot/Holidays Around the World, and Holiday Wishes at Magic Kingdom.  If you’re going to Magic Kingdom, keep in mind Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which happens on select nights during November and December.  This means that unless you have tickets to the Christmas party, you wont be able to visit Magic Kingdom on nights its occurring.  This also means that Magic Kingdom is pretty busy on non-Christmas party nights because everyone wants to see Main Street and the castle decorated, and Holiday Wishes.

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Christmas Trees EVERYWHERE!  These are at Epcot, the Grand Floridian, and Disney Springs

One of the highlights of the Disney Holiday season is the huge amount of gingerbread creations at both the parks and hotels.  We started at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn.  While the Boardwalk does not have a gigantic gingerbread display, they have a bunch of small, intricate gingerbread houses.  They also offer a “Gingerbread Academy” for guests, where you can build a gingerbread house or decorate an ornament (cost varies, more information here).   Oh, and there is gingerbread for sale.

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Gingerbread house display at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

At Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club (in the Beach Club lobby), there is the amazing gingerbread carousel.  Each of the horses is decorated in the spirit of a Disney Character.  And it actually works!!

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Gingerbread Carousel at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort.  Goofy, Mickey, and Pluto themed horses shown.

And don’t forget to look in the parks.  The America Pavilion at Epcot has a Gingerbread US Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial.

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Gingerbread Washington Monument, Capitol Building, and Lincoln Memorial at Epcot.

And, the pièce de résistance at the Grand Floridian resort.  A gigantic gingerbread house.  This thing is crazy.  If you go around to the back, there is actually a store in it.  Guess what they sell!?  If you guessed “gingerbread”, you’re correct.

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Gingerbread house at the Grand Floridan.  Look at those shingles!  Look at that detail!!!

I recommend capping off your gingerbread extravaganza with some gingerbread ice cream (seasonally available) from L’Artisan des Glaces from France at Epcot.  Its the perfect ending!

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Gingerbread ice cream from L’Artisan des Glaces in Epcot.  Delicious!  And there were huge chunks of gingerbread in it.

Of course, there is plenty more Christmas/Holiday spirit at Disney during the Holidays, and lots more to see. If you’re visiting during November and December, be sure to check out these special details across all of the Disney properties!

Disney Tips and Tricks: About being sick at Walt Disney World

On my last trip to Walt Disney World, something happened that everyone dreads on vacation.  I got sick.  I had some kind of cold-flu-coughing-runny nose-sneezing-sore throat sickness that started from about the third day of our trip and unfortunately lasted through the entire vacation.

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Being sick on vacation always sucks.  But I did learn a few things while I was there that could be helpful if the same thing happens to you.  I also made a few mistakes.  So, beginning with some things I learned about being sick at Walt Disney World:

  1.  Things like Chapstick, Advil, etc. are sold at Epcot at the Camera Center, the store that is located on the left hand side of the Epcot ball if you’re coming in from the entrance, but you have to ask at the register.
  2. Both Sudafed and Claritin are sold at the hotel gift store at Coronado Springs Resort (and probably the others, too).
  3. You can use your passholder discount to buy toiletries, including Sudafed, at the hotel gift store, giving you 20% off.
  4. Taking a morning (or afternoon, or evening) off from the parks can make a world of difference in how you feel.  I skipped Soarin’ fastpasses at Epcot in favor of sleeping in, and managed to make it through the whole vacation.  I didn’t feel 100%, but still made it to all of my favorites.
  5. Disney does have first aid stations at the parks.  While I did not visit them on this trip, I have in the past due to some kind of allergic reaction, and they were very helpful.  They also have in-room medical services, and complimentary transportation to Florida urgent care.  You can find more information here.

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And here are some things I did wrong:

  1.  I did make it through this vacation by taking multiple doses of Sudafed in a day (and Claritin too, when I had tried to convince myself it was “just allergies”), but I shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard to see everything.  I took a morning off, but an afternoon or whole day would have done me a world of good.
  2. Drinking citrus-heavy alcoholic drinks, like the Strawberry-Lemonade Moonshine from Crocketts Tavern at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (Ole Smoky Strawberry Moonshine, Odwalla Lemonade, Wild Strawberry, and Sprite), is a HORRIBLE IDEA with a sore throat.  The drink was great though.
  3. You’re sick.  I know you’re trying to hide it from whomever you’re traveling with because you feel like you’re going to “ruin the vacation”.  But really, they understand.  People get sick.  Its better to let them know you’re not feeling well so the pace can be slowed, you can sleep in a bit, etc.

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So, is the above meme true?  Did I have a bad vacation because I was sick?  NO!  Not at all.  Should I have taken a little bit more time to sleep?  Probably.  But after I found out that many of the things I would have tried had I been home were at the parks/hotel, I did manage to feel a little better.  Those things being Sudafed/Claritin/Advil, lots of hydration (including coffee and/or tea), and sleep.  And also remembering that its not the end of the world, and trying not to let it stress me out.

Snackin’ Around Disney: Epcot Food and Wine Festival (Part 2)

We were at Epcot A LOT on our last trip. If you can make it for the Food and Wine Festival you should definitely do it. In Part 1 of this “Snackin’ Around Disney” series, I talked a little bit about what happens during the Food and Wine Festival, where there are lots of booths from various countries scattered around the World Showcase, each offering small plates and snacks from that country.

I reviewed small plates from Greece, Patagonia, Belgium, and Hawaii in Part 1. In Part 2, I am going to review Germany, Italy, Morocco, Hops and Barley, and Farm Fresh.

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The Italy pavilion is just lovely!

Germany: The Roast Bratwurst in a Hard Roll is a pretty solid option, and consistently good from year to year. It did come on a pretzel roll in previous years but this year’s hard roll wasn’t really a big change. It comes with a dollop of spicy brown mustard (I think its Gulden’s as that is what they have in the Germany pavilion). You can probably split this, but the roll is small.  And they definitely do not give you enough mustard.

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Germany:  Roast Bratwurst in a Hard Roll ($5.00)

Italy: We had the Pennete alla Parmigiana, which is baked ziti and chicken parm with tomato sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. For the Food and Wine Festival, this is a GIANT portion, with plenty of pasta and a large piece of chicken. It is, however, incredibly sub-par. If you’re hungry, consider it, but don’t go out of your way.

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Italy: Pennete alla Parmigiana ($6.25)

Morocco: At the top of my “need to try” list this year was the Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce from Morocco. When you read that, you might expect French fries with hummus and tzatziki on top (well maybe, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect). You get something more akin to falafel with a spicy tzatziki sauce. The tzatziki sauce is unlike the cool, cucumberey, minty, tzatziki from Greece, it actually has some spice to it. This was delicious. It was heavy, for the small portion you get I felt satisfied. I hope this makes the cut for next year.  Again, easily split-able as you can just grab one of the fries, but you wont get a ton of the spicy tzatziki sauce.

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Morocco: Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce ($5.00). It doesn’t look like much here, but it was great, I swear!

Hops and Barley: Epcot also has the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, which features the Smokehouse at the USA pavilion. Its always a winner, and I think the Food and Wine festival wanted to get in on the action this year with the Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese Served on Griddled Garlic Toast. My fiancé had this twice this year and loved it, but I found it incredibly salty. Its an okay portion size, you can split the meat easily.

A note on Hops and Barley. The Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing ($3.75) has been one of my favorite desserts for years. This year, I didn’t even have it. I love carrot cake, but my favorite part of this carrot cake was that it was baked with Craisins. Ocean Spray didn’t seem to be the Food and Wine sponsor as they were in previous years, so instead, it had pineapple. I try not to complain about change at Disney because there are definitely things that need an upgrade, but damn did I love that Craisin-ey carrot cake.

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Hops and Barley: Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese Served on Griddled Garlic Toast ($5.25)

Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions. It just sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Admittedly, I hate bacon (I know, I know), but I had a bite of this and it was great. A large size, obviously filling because its Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and completely worth it. Split this if you want, but I recommend a portion for yourself.

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Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions ($4.50)

So, Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (Part 2)?

I’m going to bring in Part 1 and include my full rankings for the food we tried at the Food and Wine Festival this year.

1. Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes (Belgium)
2. Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce featuring Oikos Greek Yogurt (Greece)
3. Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Hawaii)
4. Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce (Morocco)
5. Roast Bratwurst in a Hard Roll (Germany)
6. Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions (Farm Fresh)
7. Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese Served on Griddled Garlic Toast (Hops and Barley)
8. Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache (Belgium)
9. Beef Empanada (Patagonia)
10. Pennete alla Parmigiana (Italy)

Yep.  The Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes (Belgium) took the top spot this year.  Seriously, you all have to try it!