Today we have the unenviable task of taking a lap around Disney’s Hollywood Studios in search of as many $5-$8 seasonal holiday treats as we can reasonably expect to consume over the course of a couple of hours. And then we’ll probably add a dozen more to the roster.
Fortunately, a number of the desserts are actually pretty good this year, including this $5.79 Chocolate Chestnut Pinecone from Backlot Express. It’s probably more intricate than it has any right to be – the base is chocolate cake surrounded by crispy, nutty, sweet praline shavings that Disney says create a “leaf.”
The delicate, creamy chocolate mousse on top is molded to look like a pinecone and then finished with white and green sugar to give it that “fresh from grandma’s front yard” look. Add the gold wrapper and you’ve got a surprisingly classy dessert from a quick service best known for offering chicken nuggets in packs of six or ten. The size is pretty decent too, making this (arguably?) the best of your seasonal dessert options.
Also at Backlot Express, which you’ll find in a warehouse to the left of Jedi Training and Star Tours, is this $4.49 Frozen Hot Cocoa. At first blush, the name of the drink doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We may not bat an eye at the thought of a Blue Raspberry Fanta Slurpee, where the sixth ingredient is yucca extract (seriously), but there’s just something about seeing “Frozen,” “Hot,” and “Cocoa” together that makes for a bit of a head scratcher. Does it work? Yes, for the most part, though the hot cocoa flavor tastes pretty watered down given all of the ice involved. “Cold Hot Cocoa Puddle” might be a more accurate name, but I’m not sure if that would make it sell any better. You might consider one of these on a particularly hot day, but I think your standard Frozen Coke is more refreshing, albeit a little less novel.
On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, you’ll find this $12 Hot Cocoa Flight at Fairfax Fare on Sunset Boulevard and Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner on Echo Lake.
While the sign implies that you’ll be receiving three precious little martini glasses full of what I’m sure is artisinal, never-frozen hot cocoa and an eloquent swirl of whipped cream on top, reality deviates from that slightly.
In what I’m sure is the first instance of fast food looking somewhat sadder than the promotional picture, we’re left with these three small cups of lukewarm Nestle Hot Cocoa. On the left is the Bailey’s Irish Cream with a pinch of cinnamon – a nice blend of creamy liqueur with the faint flavor of artificial chocolate – easily the best of the bunch. In the middle is probably the one with the Vanilla Vodka that tastes like if you mixed Nestle Hot Cocoa with Vanilla Vodka. Your experience will depend on the strength of the pour, which has been pretty decent in my experience. It’s also a smooth drink. On the right is the Jim Beam Red Stag Hot Chocolate, which we also saw in unlimited numbers at the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party. The medicinal cherry flavor overwhelms the hot chocolate in my estimation, and the syrupy quality of the bourbon makes for a viscous overall experience. Whether or not you love any particular hot chocolate is potentially of little concern as each is only about four sips. Overall, it’s a fun little assortment of flavors that probably amounts to about as much hot cocoa and booze as you’d get if Disney was going to sell you a single $12 hot cocoa. But it’s not really anything you can’t put together yourself at home with some hot cocoa powder and a liquor cabinet.
Also at Fairfax Fare, you’ll find this $5 Strawberry Mint Creme, which is not topped with the festive Mickey and Minnie chocolate piece that’s advertised on the menu.
Like so. At least they didn’t substitute a piece of Chili-Cheese Foot-long Hot Dog instead. (Right?) Anyway, the mint flavor here is subtle, which is probably a good thing as it adds just a little bit of a cool herbal flavor to the sweet layer of cream on top and what ends up being a pretty decent amount of strawberries mixed with some pound cake underneath.
This is the Strawberry Shortcake that’s typically available here at Sunset Ranch Market throughout the year and the seasonal offering doesn’t deviate a whole lot from it. For that reason, I’d probably skip it unless you’re really in the mood for sweet marinated strawberries with a cool mint vibe. And it’s just fine if you do.
In a staggering turn of events, not unlike the Houston Astros now being good at baseball, the Eggnog Panna Cotta from Catalina Eddie’s is a surprise standout.
Who would have thought?
Literally, which one of you? Anyway, there’s a thick, silky layer of eggnog cream on the bottom that’s surprisingly light given how thick and rich your typical eggnog is served. Then there’s several fresh, vibrant raspberries underneath a layer of luscious vanilla cream that’s then topped with little bits of sweet, slightly tart cranberry. It’s fantastically refreshing and perfectly festive. Is it worth five bucks? Five Disney World bucks probably…The Pinecone from Backlot Express is still best of show, but if you’re less of a chocolate person, then this is very good.
I’d say that we’re striding confidently over to Rosie’s All-American Cafe, but at this point, it’s probably more of a sad little waddle.
According to the physical menu, this is the $5 “Spiced Chocolate Verrine.” Online or via the app, we’ve got the “Spiced Cold Chocolate – Chocolate Verrine with a Homemade Cinnamon Marshmallow and Chocolate Cake.” I’m not entirely sure why some things are creme and some things are verrine and some things are mousse and some things are panna cotta and some things are pinecones, but here we are nonetheless. This ends up being a very rich, very bold chocolate mousse with just a touch of spice on top of a layer of chocolate cake. Then you’ve got a thin layer of vanilla cream and some soft marshmallows dusted with cinnamon along with some crispy chocolate pearls and then a twist of dark chocolate on top of all of that. If chocolate richness is what you’re after then this is a good selection and while it’s not a pinecone, it’s photogenic in its own right. A chocolate lovers delight, at least as far as Disney fast food desserts go.
That’s only like 25 desserts so far, so I don’t think we’re going to see any signs of stopping.
Speed is the most important thing when it comes to these reviews and as we’ve learned recently, you don’t even have to actually order anything in order to offer your thoughts based on what someone else said. Such is life in the fast lane as we’re missing another chocolate topper as this is the $6 Prep & Landing Cupcake without a whole lot of prep or landing going on. The gingerbread cupcake portion is light and moist with just the right amount of ginger spice, sweetened up nicely with just enough of the cream cheese frosting. The vivid red icing on top is a little unruly – you’ll want to be careful to keep hands, clothes, and probably mouths away from it. The sheer amount of food coloring gives the frosting an off-putting, artificial flavor to what would otherwise probably be tasty. It’s a bit of a shame because it’s a nice entry without the finger-staining icing. Be careful not to get it close to anything.
Okay…there is a lot of stuff on Sunset Boulevard, probably due to Sunset Seasons Greetings pulling so many people over to this area. This is Hollywood Scoops with the Shortbread Cookies.
Six bucks buys you four pre-packaged cookies each featuring Mickey’s face with iced ears and festive sugar pieces. These are one of the more-transportable items that might make a good gift for whoever is picking up all of your credit card overdue notices from the mail while you’re on vacation. As it stands, it’s a pretty basic shortbread cookie with the additional sugar from the icing and snowflake/snowman sugar pieces. They’re not particularly compelling in my estimation.
Better is this “Large Shortbread Cookie” that rings in at nine dollars from Trolley Car Cafe.
With the number of “bloggers” that make cast members show them the desserts so they can take a pic and then copy someone else’s review i would tell you to only trust reviews with a bite out of the item but then chip and co would make people take a bite before they photo and dash pic.twitter.com/Ad0JQym0tK
— josh (@easywdw) November 12, 2018
I had misplaced my banana right before I took these pictures, so I can’t really help you with scale, but the cookie is “gigantic,” particularly considering that there’s two of them with sweet raspberry jam in between. It’s easily six times as much cookie as the four Shortbread Cookies from Hollywood Scoops, plus the jam, for only 50% more money, and it’s wrapped up as a darling present with the bow and tissue paper. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck packing it back up after we had our fill. You’re going to want three or four people sharing this thing unless you really want to get your Linzer on. And it’s just fine if you are.
There’s a number of seasonal drinks available, like this Winterberry Margarita available at ABC Commissary and Rosie’s All-American Cafe.
What we were served was somewhere beyond terrible, syrupy and artificial-tasting. It was somehow too sweet and too tart at the same time, almost like whatever “Wildberry Syrup” is was the main ingredient. An easy pass, particularly for nearly $16 with the generic glow cube.
Here’s Disney’s description of the other drinks available:
Gumdrop – You’ll be dreaming of sugarplums and gumdrops with this special holiday cocktail made with raspberry liqueur, raspberry vodka, pineapple and cranberry juices, and Sprite available at The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and mobile bars near Echo Lake and Hollywood Scoops.
Holiday Mule – There’s nothing like a good mule with vodka, lemon liqueur, cranberry juice, and ginger beer. You’ll find it at The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and mobile bars near Echo Lake and Hollywood Scoops.
Christmas on the Beach – Wishing you were on the beach this holiday season? Well you can make your wishes come true with this tropical cocktail! Made with blue liqueur, Caribbean rum, and pineapple and cranberry juices, you’ll find it at The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and mobile bars near Echo Lake and Hollywood Scoops.
Frosted Gingerbread Martini – If you love gingerbread cookies, you’ll love this gingerbread cocktail with vodka, Irish liqueur, coffee liqueur, gingerbread syrup, and ice cream mix available at Backlot Express.
Frostbite Cocktail – Get your freeze on with this cold cocktail made with vodka, blue liqueur, cranberry juice, and sour offered at Dockside Diner and Backlot Express.
Here’s what one of those menus looks like – typically you can order the drinks without the glowcube to save about two dollars.
If you’re looking for a more serious drink, I’d stop by the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge. Their Margarita and Martini flights are very good and they also offer a number of drinks to-go from the bar.
Speaking of Echo Lake, Oasis Canteen to the right of the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular offers five Santa Macarons for $8. They’re quite cute, but don’t taste as good as what you’ll find at the Boulangerie in France at Epcot. BaseLine Tap House also offers them.
We close things out with what might be the best buy on the holiday treat front at Woody’s Lunch Box, which has two registers.
The Cinnamon Cran-Apple Lunch Box Tart is a subtle addition to the holiday menu.
And it’s a fantastically tasty Pop-Tart-esque treat. The flaky crust is topped with vanilla icing, a toasted marshmallow acorn, crunchy chocolate pearls, and the hard sugar snowflakes.
Inside, you’ll find far more spicy cinnamon apple than cranberry, but it’s a delicious combination that isn’t too sweet.
There’s a better look at the cranberry sauce.
You can pull up Disney’s official word along with the names and locations of all the treats along with some stock images here.
Overall, my pick for best buy is the Cinnamon Cran-Apple Tart from Woody’s Lunch Box. You might mobile order one for breakfast or attach it to a festive lunch. Everyone I’ve talked to about the treats has raved about the Egg Nog Panna Cotta, potentially making it the best-tasting dessert of the bunch. And try the Chocolate Chestnut Pinecone from Backlot Express if you’re looking for a delicious chocolaty dessert that takes a great picture.