Following up on last year’s “A Very Canadian 4th of July,” featuring a review of Le Cellier, we’ll head out to Epcot on the evening of July 4th. It’s 4:45pm and Spaceship Earth has a 45-minute posted wait with the extended queue on both sides full. Looking over wait times from the past week, we can get a better idea about how much longer waits are on a major holiday:
Or as a PDF: http://easywdw.com/reports11/epcotwaitsjuly.pdf or as a larger image: http://www.easywdw.com/reports11/epcotjulywaits.jpg.
Not too many surprises here with Figment wait times 5x to 7x longer on July 4th compared to the recommended days around it. While the average wait at Living with the Land is “just” 12 minutes longer on July 4th than July 3rd, you’d also find yourself waiting 40 minutes at 2:15pm on July 4th and zero minutes on July 3rd at the same time. At Maelstrom, waits top out at 70 minutes and are just about twice as long on July 4th as the two recommended days around it.
Wait times at Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE are about half as long as they were last year under legacy FASTPASS. 100 to 150 minutes is an awful long time to wait for a theme park ride, but it beats 180 to 240 minutes. Spaceship Earth continues to see abysmal waits under FastPass+ where actual waits in the afternoon are routinely 20 to 30 minutes even on recommended days and rise all the way up to 30 to 45 minutes on non-recommended days.
Test Track waits sometimes have more to do with downtime than crowds inside the Parks as it goes down at some point virtually every day. All those blank spaces or ‘-‘ indicate the attraction was down. Otherwise, you’ll notice that peak and average waits are shorter on recommended days virtually across the board.
Compare some of the longest waits of the year at Epcot with Animal Kingdom, the most recommended Park on July 4th. These are by far the shortest waits so far this summer and the lowest average wait times since early May.
Here at 4:57pm, Soarin’ has a 110 minute posted wait. With FastPass+ I had set up a couple days before, it was 31 minutes between the time we got in line and the time we were back out front, which is about 6 minutes longer than the minimum amount of time it’s going to take with FP+. FP+ allows us to bypass the initial wait, but there’s still a substantial amount of waiting for the pre-show video, the video, the ride, and then the walk back out front. Budget at least 25 minutes at Soarin’ and Test Track with FP+.
Walls still line the area outside Innoventions West where the Flower and Garden Festival’s butterfly house sat.
Luckily, the water is back.
And the fountain turned on.
In late breaking chair news, this area in Innoventions West now has some tables and chairs.
This is apparently in the style of “8-bit video games,” which seems to work well in “Epcot Future World” where everything feels like it’s stuck in 1996.
Back to business. La Cantina de San Angel, the quick service arm of the Mexico Pavilion, recently added a Cranberry Patron Margarita for $14.50.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted. This particular margarita debuted at La Cava for national margarita day and is made with Patron Silver, margarita mix, cranberry juice, and grenadine. It’s a strong, smooth, refreshing cocktail with a punch of tequila nicely tempered by the cranberry juice. It’s a nice substitute for a La Cava margarita when the line is long.
Take it inside the pyramid to cool off. The line for Gran Fiesta Tour is actually visible on the left and would be about 25 minutes long.
Attendance-wise, Independence Day is usually the sixth or seventh busiest day of the year, but World Showcase does eat crowds at least as far as empty pavement is concerned. There just isn’t a whole lot to do other than pay for $10 beers.
Or wait in a 40-minute line for the one ride other than Gran Fiesta Tour.
With FastPass+ we were on and off in under 15 minutes.
To a 45-minute wait.
Battling trolls is cause for hunger and Kringla Bakeri in Norway is one of your best bets in World Showcase for a sugary treat.
This time it’s a $3.99 Verdens Beste – Rum Cake with Custard and Almond Meringue topping. The Verdens’ recipe has changed a bit over the years, but the cake underneath remains airy and light with a faint rum flavor. The custard adds a bit of sweetness and the meringue has a nice crunch with a mild almond flavor. Like any lifestyle blogger, my go-to here is School Bread, but just about everything from Kringla is delicious.
Germany, Italy, and France each have indoor wine bars that are largely unpublicized. Germany’s Weinkeller is on the left side of the Pavilion near Biergarten.
Nearly two dozen wines are available by the glass, in addition to a handful of bottled beers. Bottle pricing on wine and alcohol isn’t atrocious if you’re looking to bring something back to the room. They’ll send it to the front of the Park for pickup.
Those that miss the days when Spaten was available on draft may be happy to see bottles of Franziskaner and Optimator, in addition to the Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, Radeberger Pilsner, and Possmann Pure Cider.
An “Artisanal Cheese Plate” is even available for $5 should you be looking for the full Food and Wine Festival experience.
Wine Flights are available for those that like a little variety or prefer to ask for a “White Wine Flight” rather than a Gunderloch Messidor Beerenauslese.
For about the cost of two flights (or six 2-ounce pours), you can purchase the Wine Walk which will take you on a tour of the three wine outlets.
A White Wine Flight, Red Wine Flight, and Artisanal Cheese Plate.
The white wine tasted like wine.
The red wine tasted like wine.
According to the sign, this is “A selection of premium German cheeses accompanied by sliced alpine ham and a pretzel stick.”
The cheese is not particularly German as far as we could tell – likely a munster (unrelated to the city of the same name), brie, and cheddar. The first two were predictably soft and mild flavored, while the cheddar is reliably firmer and fuller tasting. The ham was rich and smoky and the pretzel had a nice crunch, though lacked much pretzel flavor. The cucumber that came with the cheddar sort of ruined the flavor of the cheese as the excess water made it soggy. In the grand scheme of things, the cheese plate is a decent value and sort of a fun way to pair the wine. A similar plate at the Food and Wine Festival would cost the same money.
Italy at 7pm – far from “insane.” The Enoteca is Italy’s wine bar with a similar setup as Germany. For a much broader selection, visit Tutto Gusto inside the Pavilion next to Tutto Italia.
Looking past the U.S. into Japan and Morocco.
France is the last of the quick wine stops. This time Les Vins de France:
Pricing is pretty rough here, but it’s in line with what you’d expect to pay during Food and Wine or elsewhere at Epcot at the various kiosks. Unlike Italy and Germany, France has a nice kiosk out on the promenade that serves up about a dozen wines, in addition to the popular $15+ Grey Goose Slushes so you have some options. A 4-ounce pour here is basically half of what a bottle would cost at the grocery store. The $12.20 Moet Rose Imperial actually isn’t a bad value – a bottle costs around $60 compared to $40 for Imperial ($12.20) and $64 for the Veuve Demi Sec ($16.90 at Epcot).
Both flights tasted like wine. The bottom line is that you’re paying a 300%-400% markup for the joy of drinking supermarket wine in Epcot.
Monsieur Paul is the French signature restaurant located above Les Chefs de France. It has a separate check-in and waiting area on the opposite side of Les Chefs. When your table is ready, a host/hostess will walk you upstairs to your table.
The restaurant is more refined and elegant than the downstairs brasserie and since our last visit has added white linen tablecloths.
Window tables have an obstructed view of World Showcase Lagoon outside.
Paul is not ideal for IllumiNations viewing, but it is kind of fun if you’re lucky enough to score a window table with a reservation around 8pm. Request such when you check-in if it’s of interest.
Paul has what may be the strangest prix fixe menu I’ve seen. The escargot is a given at the top of the menu, served as a half portion. You then have your choice of one of the two $29 appetizers from the regular menu. If you only have one person doing the prix fixe, they only have one regular entree option. The rib eye requires two. And then you choose one of the $13 desserts.
Appetizers start at $15 and run up to $29.
Entrees are limited to five.
You’ll save a lot of money skipping wine and champagne, which also has a more limited selection than most other wine lists. California Grill offers hundreds for example.
We tried a bottle of $59 Auguste Antonin Chablis because I had never heard of it before.
This somewhat unfortunately shaped piece of bread is offered along with a couple of other very French sounding choices from a roving server with about 30 pieces in a basket. You can request as much as you want, but it’s unusual not to receive a basket tableside and the bread person never returned to offer a second go-around. Unlike my last meal, there was no “amuse bouche” offered.
We started with the Escargot cassolette with whine wine, bacon, shallots – $17. This was split up in the kitchen a la the prix fixe portion. The frothy foam topping helps hide the largely unattractive snails underneath, which fortunately taste a lot better than they look. The escargot soak up the butter and wine nicely and the saltiness of the bacon contrasts well. Very good. The previous Monsieur Paul review covers the Maine lobster appetizer, Serrano ham salad appetizer, seared scallops, beef tenderloin, and a couple desserts.
Lisa ordered the Free-range Chicken Ballotine – with carrot and sun choke puree and creamy spinach – $39.
Being entirely unfamiliar with ballotine (traditionally a boned thigh part of the chicken, duck or other poultry stuffed with forcemeat and other ingredients tied to hold its shape and sometimes stitched up with a trussing needle according to Wikipedia), we weren’t sure what to expect. What arrived was an unusually flat, tender roasted chicken thigh wrapped in a thin layer of fat(?) over a rich wine sauce and topped with asparagus. It was a delicious meal and a fairly unique take on chicken. It sometimes seems like a boring, “cheap” decision to spring for “the chicken,” but this is anything but.
Sides are typically served on the side (go figure) at Paul and the creamy spinach is no different. A great accompaniment.
I ordered the Magret de canard (Roasted Duck Breast) with apple fondant, baby onions, cabbage stuffed with braised oxtail – $42.
This is another exquisitely executed dish from top to bottom from the tender, flavorful duck cooked to a perfect medium to the tender oxtail hidden inside the cabbage to the same rich wine sauce that’s served with the chicken. Potentially the only misstep is the apple on the right, which has a mushy texture that may not appeal to everyone.
We opted to forego dessert in favor of ice cream downstairs. The Le moelleux – Warm chocolate & almond cake with raspberry coulis in the center, hazelnut crust, hazelnut ice cream is one of the best desserts I’ve had on property if you’re looking to tack one on.
As the sun sets. Service is reliably authentic and attentive at Paul with many of the same professional touches you would expect from a high end restaurant ooff property.
With kids, Les Chefs downstairs is probably the better choice unless they enjoy a finer dining atmosphere. Kids choices are relegated to:
Roasted chicken breast with mashed potatoes – $13
Filet mignon served with mashed potato and natural jus – $16
Otherwise, Paul is not much more expensive than Les Chefs downstairs for considerably more upscale food. For example, the steak downstairs is $36 compared to $44 here. The duck is $33 downstairs compared to $42 here. It is more money, but if you’re a couple looking for a romantic restaurant, you really should look no further inside Epcot.
L’Artisan des Glaces opened in place of the old bakery in France in June of last year where it’s only becoming more popular.
They have a nice selection of ice creams and sorbets prepared daily.
A double scoop in a waffle cone with a cup on the side is your best value here. While I don’t often turn my nose up at a shot of alcohol, we’ve found that the booze doesn’t usually go well with the ice cream and just causes it to melt quicker so you get sort of an ice cream soup with rum by the time you get outside and the sun hits it. Please share your delectable combination if you think you’ve come up with something particularly stellar.
Vanilla and pistachio in a cup. Ice cream here is rich, dense, creamy, and decadent – perhaps the creamiest ice cream I have come into contact with – an excellent dessert.
We moseyed up to a spot for IllumiNations in Canada just as the show began.
Here’s the July 4th IllumiNations tag from last year, which is similar to every other year. The show is the same as usual other than the last four or five minutes when Disney throws up just about everything it can into the air for the finale.
Next up is Frozen at Hollywood Studios.