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August 2, 2018

Special Diets Accommodated at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

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With the release of the menus for each global marketplace at the 2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival we also learned which items would be Gluten-/Wheat-Friendly or Vegetarian. The list is provided below for reference. Confirm with the cast member at each booth if you have a food allergy or sensitivity. They should be able to provide you with an ingredients list, and perhaps even make adjustments to an item to meet your requirements.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Gluten-/Wheat-Friendly Options

Active Eats

  • Spice-crusted Verlasso® Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar

Africa

  • Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato and Pap

Australia

  • Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas
  • Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies

bush berry shrimp

Brazil

  • Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions
  • Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread

Canada

  • Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce

Chocolate Studio

  • Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel

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France

  • Crème Brûlée à la Confiture de Framboises: Crème Brûlée with House-made Raspberry Jam

India

  • Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas and Basmati Rice

Japan

  • Beef Nigiri topped with Shrimp Sauce and Diced Pickled Jalapeños

Mexico

  • Coconut Rice Pudding served with Mango Coulis

Spain

  • Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Paprika

seafood salad

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Vegetarian Options

Active Eats

  • Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates

Africa

  • Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Vegan Yogurt and Quinoa

The Almond Orchard Hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze

  • Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel

Australia

  • Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut

Belgium

  • Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream
  • Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream

belgian waffle

Brazil

  • Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread

The Cheese Studio, Hosted by Boursin® Cheese

  • Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel and Pecan Crunch

Chocolate Studio

  • Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Whipped Cream

Earth Eats

  • The IMPOSSIBLE™ Burger Slider with Wasabi Cream and Spicy Asian Slaw on a Sesame Seed Bun

France

  • Crème Brûlée à la Confiture de Framboises: Crème Brûlée with House-made Raspberry Jam

Germany

  • Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce

apple strudel


Greece

  • Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles and Vegan Tzatziki
  • Spanakopita: Greek Spinach Pie
  • Bougatsa: Warm Phyllo Dough Strudel with Sweet Vanilla Custard, Lemon Honey Syrup and Cinnamon

Hawai’i

  • Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Toasted Macadamia Nuts

Hops and Barley

  • Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing

India

  • Warm Indian Bread with Pickled Garlic, Mango Salsa and Coriander Pesto Dips
  • Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas and Basmati Rice

Ireland

  • Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread

Islands of the Caribbean

  • Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce

quesito

Mexico

  • Coconut Rice Pudding served with Mango Coulis

Morocco

  • Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce

Refreshment Port

  • Sweet Potato Poutine: Sweet Potato Fries with Caramel Sauce, Mini Marshmallows and Pecans
  • Pineapple Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Wine and Dine Studio

  • Trio of Artisan Cheese featuring La Bottega di BelGioioso® Cheeses made up of:
  • La Bottega di BelGioioso Crescenza-Stracchino®
  • La Bottega di BelGioioso CreamyGorg® Gorgonzola Dolce
  • La Bottega di BelGioioso Artigiano® Vino Rosso

REMEMBER: A cast member at each marketplace should be able to provide you with an ingredients list, or find a chef for you to speak to. They will do whatever they can to modify the dish or food to meet your requirements.

July 28, 2018

Menu Mania! A Weekly Recap of What's New on Our Walt Disney World Menus

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Each week in the AllEars® Newsletter, we tell you that we are continually updating our dining database, and we give you a few highlights. But maybe you're wondering what exactly that means.

In a nutshell, it means that each and every week we are gathering menus from various Walt Disney World restaurants and then updating them on our site. We are also adding photos of the menu items as we go, not to mention photos of the dining locations themselves. Sometimes we even add videos!

We thought you might find it of interest to see exactly what has changed each week, so we've decided to present you with a weekly recap diving into a little more detail.

So this past week, here's what we've done to stay current with the ever-changing world of Disney Dining:

IN EPCOT

-- We've updated the menu for Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. New items on the menu include: Pan-Seared Lamb Loin Medallions with Hummus Rosemary Pancakes; Mussels Casablanca; Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread; Warm Beignets and Sweet Cream; Taste of Morocco, a three-course meal.

Beignets in Morocco

Taste of Morocco

IN DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

-- We updated the menu for Woody’s Lunch Box at the new Toy Story Land in Disney's Hollywood Studios -- the Monte Cristo sandwich has been deleted!

-- At the KRNR Rock Station in front of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster attraction in Disney's Hollywood Studios, we added frozen lemonade or Coke with a shot of Bacardi, Jack Daniels or Tito’s homemade vodka to the menu.

IN DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM

-- We added the new menu for the Family-Style Dining Experience at Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom. This menu includes pizza, pasta and chicken dishes, caprese & Caesar salads, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages.

Pizzafari

AT THE RESORTS

-- We added the Dole Whip Cupcake to the menu at All-Star Music Resort's Intermission Food Court menu.

-- We added the Iridescent Cupcake, the Stitch Cupcake and Edible Cookie Dough to the All-Star Sports Resort's End Zone Food Court menu.

-- At Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand Floridian, we added the Incredibles' Dash cupcake to the menu.

-- Over at the Contemporary Resort's Contempo Cafe, we updated the menu to include an iridescent cupcake with Minnie Mouse ears topper; an Oreo monorail cupcake; and a Grilled Salmon Rice Bowl and Seared Chicken Rice Bowl.

iridescent cupcake at contempo cafe

AT DISNEY SPRINGS

-- We updated the menu at Amorette's Patisserie in Disney Springs. They've added themed petit four cakes: one with a S’more flavor/campfire theme; one with a peanut butter & jelly flavor/picnic theme.

-- We also did wholesale menu updates for the following restaurants:

-- Terralina Kid’s Menu at Disney Springs
-- The Basket at Wine Bar George also at Disney Springs
-- Fairfax Fare at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Whew! That was more than a few changes, wasn't it? That's it for this week!

Be sure to check back next week when we'll have lots more for you!

Let us know what you think of this weekly recap and please feel free to make suggestions below!

Get a Star Wars Fix at the Star Wars Launch Bay

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If you're like me, you're getting antsy waiting for the new land, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, due to open in Disney's Hollywood Studios in the late fall 2019.

So to get a little Star Wars fix I paid a visit to Star Wars Launch Bay, which I hadn't seen since its update a few months ago -- new models, props and costumes were added from the most recent film in the franchise, "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

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I can't believe I haven't seen the Solo movie yet -- bad Star Wars geek! -- but it was cool to get this "insider's" look at some of what I will be on screen when I eventually view the film. (And I will, soon, I promise!)

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Despite the reviews, I'm still eager to see Han Solo's origin story, as well Donald Glover as the young rascal, Lando Calrissian. Seeing the costumes they wore and the weapons and props used in the film gave me a good taste of what's to come.

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There's lots of other things to see while you're visiting the Launch Bay -- vehicles, posters, and other props from the earlier films -- and of course you must exit through the Cargo Bay shop, where you're encouraged to part with your hard-earned dollars. There are tempting specialty Star Wars items, toys, limited edition pieces, even customized Star Wars MagicBands... everything a Star Wars junkie might dream of.

When was the last time you visited the Star Wars Launch Bay in Disney's Hollywood Studios? The next movie in the Star Wars franchise isn't due out until December 2019, AFTER Galaxy's Edge debuts, but in the meantime, the Launch Bay is a great place to get a healthy dose of all the latest in the Star Wars universe while you're at Walt Disney World.

July 27, 2018

Trying Out the Latest Enhancements to My Disney Experience

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Walt Disney World made some recent enhancements to the My Disney Experience app, expanding its capabilities even further. I finally had the chance to try these improvements out on my latest visit to the World and I have to say, I'm impressed!

First off, I checked out the Bus Wait Times feature. If you've been to Walt Disney World recently, you probably know that most bus stops at the resorts are now equipped with monitors that give estimates as to when the next buses are due to get there. No more wondering when your bus is going to arrive! No more waiting one bus to the Magic Kingdom after another passes you by, as you mope, sure that the Epcot bus is NEVER going to come. OK, maybe that still happens, but it has to be a little better if you see that there is a projected arrival time, right?

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I think that addition was awesome in and of itself. But then Disney went and improved upon it by adding a Bus Wait Times feature to its My Disney Experience app.

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Here's how it works. When you're at your Disney resort, simply open your My Disney Experience app on your mobile device and go to your reservations. Here you'll see a screen that offers you a link to Bus Wait Times.


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The screen will automatically refresh whenever there's an update. As you can see below, the time for Disney's Hollywood Studios went from a generic "every 20 minutes" above to a specific arrival time below. It even gives you an idea of when you will reach your destination.

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The beauty of this is that you don't have to wonder before you leave your room whether you've just missed that bus to Animal Kingdom, or if you should hustle to make the next bus to Epcot. If it looks like you just missed the bus you want, you can relax and enjoy another cup of coffee, or simply take your time heading out the door to the bus stop.

Of course, nothing is foolproof, and delays do happen. You have to allow for traffic and other considerations, like the extra time it takes to load and offload wheelchairs and ECVs. But overall, the app is fairly accurate. We used it several times to determine how fast we had to walk to get to the bus stop in time... or whether we could take a leisurely stroll. And it really helped us plan better.

One drawback, though, is that the app doesn't work in reverse -- that is, when you're at a park, you don't know how long of a wait you have until the next bus back to your resort. But somehow I have a feeling that Disney is working on this!

The other feature I had the chance to try out was the mobile door lock. We were staying at the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, which is where I think testing for this feature began -- I'm not sure how many other resorts it's been rolled out to so far.

But how it works is: When you reach your room after having been away a while, open your My Disney Experience app on your mobile device and go to your Reservations. You should see something like this:

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Hold your device close to the door lock and tap the "unlock door" button.

If all goes as it should, you'll hear the lock on your door click and voila! It's open and you may enter. Just in case you don't hear the click, your device will tell you of your success:

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For those who struggle with their MagicBands, or even for those who don't like to rely on MagicBands, using your phone or other mobile device in this way is a great alternative. It worked like a charm!

When I think of these two app enhancements, combined with Mobile Ordering at the counter service restaurants in the parks, FastPass+, and all the other ways you can use the MDE app, I am amazed at what we can do now without exerting any more effort than holding our phone or mobile devices in our hands. I can hardly wait to see what new features will be added next!

Have you used these new features of the My Disney Experience app? What do you think -- do you like them or not? What enhancements would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below.

July 26, 2018

Beat the Back-to-School Blues with Star Wars

We almost hate to say this, but we know that for many of you school starts in just a few weeks. Ugh! What happened to the summer?

As much as you and your kids may be dreading it, we just ran across some Star Wars goodies that may help take the sting out of the back-to-school-grind for your young Padawans! And the good news for you is -- many of these things are on sale!

Just take a look at this cool Star Wars backpack -- you can even get it personalized! Where was this when our young Jedi knights could have used it?

Star Wars Backpack for Kids - Personalizable

There's also this matching insulated Star Wars Lunch Tote with the iconic text introduction that's a hallmark of all the Star Wars films.

Star Wars Lunch Tote for Kids

Completing the line with similar retro-style graphics is a 13" x 10" organizing Folio that comes with three pencils and lots of compartments to help your child keep school supplies and papers neat and tidy in one zipped-up place. There's even space for an e-reader! And best of all, this folio is half off its regular price.

Star Wars Folio Organizer

A little pricier but super adorable is this nylon Kipling Stormtrooper backpack, complete with the trademark Kipling ape keyring. We love the all-over pattern of the Stormtrooper helmets and Imperial symbols, and it turns out the zipper pulls glow in the dark. We might even consider this stylish pack for ourselves -- a cute way to proclaim our inner geek!

Stormtrooper Backpack by Kipling - Small

If you're looking for something a little heavier-duty for school trips or carrying more gear, there's a Hardshell backpack that features one of our favorite Droids, R2-D2. It has room for a water bottle and three exterior zippered pockets to keep little things handy, but safe.

R2-D2 Hardshell Backpack - Star Wars - American Tourister

For the upcoming warm days on the bus or at school sporting events, you can be sure to stay hydrated with this Chewbacca water bottle on sale for $9.99. We love the "Chewie is my Co-Pilot" slogan and the built-in straw sure is handy.

Chewbacca Water Bottle - Solo: A Star Wars Story

Of course, we can't ignore Dark Side. You might prefer this Star Wars Water Bottle that features the evil Lord Vader and Death Star, alongside icons of the Rebel Alliance.

Star Wars Water Bottle

For another way to keep cool, we spotted this marked-down kids' ball cap, which features Rex, the former pilot of the Star Tours attraction. We hear he's going to be acting as a DJ when the new Star War's:Galaxy's Edge opens in Disney's Hollywood Studios next year!

DJ Rex Baseball Cap for Kids - Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Once you get your youngsters outfitted with school supplies, of course they'll need a few new t-shirts. And like all good Jedis, they could probably use some new underwear to start the school year off right, too.

Yes, that's right, I said Star Wars underwear!

Star Wars Underwear Set for Boys

It's a 5-pack of 100-percent cotton briefs with designs including Stormtroopers, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, the Death Star, TIE fighters, and the Star Destroyer. Who wouldn't feel like a Jedi Knight wearing those?

There's also a bargain set of Star Wars socks -- $5.99 for three pairs of crew socks, with ''Force in Training'' artwork inspired by lightsabers and the Death Star.

Star Wars Socks for Kids - 3-Pack

We couldn't even begin to share all the various t-shirts that you can find with so many different Star Wars motifs -- from original franchise films like "A New Hope" and "Return of the Jedi" to the most recent, "Solo - A Star Wars Story." But we will point out a few of the styles that caught our eye -- maybe they'll appeal to you as well.


Star Wars Rainbow t-shirt
, sports a colorful Star Wars logo on a bright purple background.

Star Wars Rainbow Logo T-Shirt for Girls

Star Wars ''Stand Out'' pink t-shirt, recalls that moment when Stormtrooper Finn realizes he's not like all the other guys in the Empire.

Stormtrooper ''Stand Out'' T-Shirt for Kids - Star Wars

ThisTrio t-shirt captures the cool of Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Trio T-Shirt for Kids

The Star Wars Americana t-shirt boasts a red, white and blue patriotic Star Wars logo.

Star Wars Americana T-Shirt for Kids

And finally, this "The Dark Side Made Me Do It" t-shirt is perfect for those occasions when your little Padawan starts down the "dark path" a bit.

The Dark Side Made Me Do It T-Shirt for Kids - Star Wars

Armed with all this cool Star Wars stuff, I think any kid is going to know that The Force is strong with them as they head back to do battle with the books!

Which of these Star Wars items do you think your young Luke and Leia (or Rey and Kylo) will love? Leave a comment below tell us what you think!

July 23, 2018

Keeping Cool with Non-Dairy Treats while at Disney Parks

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D23, the Official Disney Fan Club, has clued us in to a number of treats around the Disney Parks that will help us keep cool this summer, whether in California or Florida. As a bonus, all of these treats featured are non-dairy!

Just about every regular Disney theme park-goer knows about Dole Whip, the pinapple-y good soft serve that you can find on both coasts. You can enjoy the Dole Whip in Walt Disney World at the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle. You can also track it down at Animal Kingdom at Tamu Tamu., as well as at a few locations within the Polynesian Village Resort, like Pineapple Lanai. It even pops up in Epcot during some festivals!

If you find yourself in the California theme parks, you can gobble up this goodie at the Tiki Juice Bar in Disneyland's Adventureland.

When keeping cool in Florida on summer days you can enjoy several other treats, both in the parks and at the resorts.

Magic Kingdom:

Storybook Treats in Magic Kingdom introduced the Peter Pan Float this summer. It's Sprite with a soft green Key Lime Soft Serve. Be sure to order this without the chocolate feather adornment to make this truly dairy-free. It's $5.49 or a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

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Gaston's Tavern is home to LeFou's Brew.

Epcot:

L'Artisan des Glaces in the France Pavilion offers several flavors of Sorbets .

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Disney Springs:

Goofy's Candy Company has a host of flavors that you can mix and match for their Goofy's Glaciers (slushies)

If you're visiting the California theme parks there are a host of dairy-free treats in both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, too.

Disneyland:

Tiki Juice Bar serves up the classic Pineapple Dole Whip, as mentioned above.

Maurice's Treats is home to the Boysen Apple Freeze

Disney California Adventure:

With the recent opening of Pixar Pier, DCA debuted a new snack spot called Adorable (not Abominable!) Snowman Frosted Treats, many of which are non-dairy. A particular favorite is the It's Lemon soft-serve, which can also be made into the Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait: it takes the non-dairy lemon soft serve and adds a blue raspberry swirl for $5.99.

Pixar Pier Parfait

And the Cozy Cone Motel offers several non-dairy treats:
Ramone’s Pear of Dice Soda
Fillmore’s Fuelin’ Groovy All Natural Lemonade
Fillmore’s Fuelin’ Groovy Pomegranate Limeade
Doc’s Wild Grape Tonic
Red’s Apple Freeze (pictured below)

red's apple freeze


It is encouraging to see Disney offering more options for vacationers with food sensitivities and allergies. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity always be sure to let a cast member know. Depending on the location, you can either ask to see the ingredients list, speak with the chef, or receive an allergy-friendly menu.

And whether you're going to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, be sure to check our Dining section before you go -- we have menus for most dining locations, with lots of enticing photos to whet your appetite!

July 19, 2018

World of Disney Renovations Progress Update

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As you probably already know, the World of Disney stores at both Disney Springs in Orlando and Downtown Disney District in Anaheim have been undergoing extended renovation that started in February of this year.

One of the AllEars® team was wandering around the Disney Springs Marketplace the other evening and captured a few photos of this work-in-progress, so we thought we'd share and get your thoughts.

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As you can see, the outside of the building is still covered and some of the entrances are still blocked off. Even so, parts of this iconic shop -- the world's largest Disney store, in fact -- are still open for business selling souvenirs, apparel, home decor and much more.

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On the inside, though, lots of changes have been made, and the store is sporting a brighter, much more contemporary look that is in keeping with the other recently re-imagined areas found around Disney Springs.

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Just to refresh your memory in case it's been a while since you visited, this is the sort of thing you used to see in World of Disney:

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world of disney

Lots of bright, colorful characters were scattered around the store, evoking memories of a wide variety of Disney animated classics. From what we can see here so far, they seem to have been set aside in favor of this brick and wood architecture with clean, less-cluttered lines.

No official end date has been announced for this renovation project, but we'll be sure to bring you news on any re-opening celebrations that are sure to be forthcoming.

So... let us know. Which version of the World of Disney do you prefer? Are there any elements of the old look that would you like to see stay, or would you rather shop in this updated environment?

July 13, 2018

How You Know It's Time to Go Back to Walt Disney World

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A question we get asked a lot is, “When do you know it’s time to go back to Disney World?”

We’ve decided to collect and share our answers to this question with all of you, in case you are struggling right now.

It’s Time to Go Back to Disney World when:

• Clouds and puddles start to look like Hidden Mickeys to you.

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• You make pancakes in the shape of Mickey without even knowing you are doing it.

• You’ve been humming “it’s a small world” all day.

• While on your morning run or walk you start daydreaming that you are actually walking up Main Street, USA while eating a churro/popcorn/cookie.

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• You’re eating ice cream at home and in your mind you’re really eating a Dole Whip.

• You wear your Mickey Ears while cleaning the house, or running errands, or mowing the grass.

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• You realize you need just one more mug/trading pin to complete your collection.

• You cry during the opening credits of Disney movies because you miss seeing Cinderella Castle in real life.

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• You stand at the kitchen sink doing dishes and are daydreaming you are really sitting in front of a Beaches and Cream Kitchen Sink Sundae.

• You buy everything you see in stores that has Mickey on it from lawn ornaments and greeting cards to toys and clothes.

• Someone introduces themselves as your host and you automatically ask “My Ghost Host?”

• You look out the window of your office and instead of seeing the parking lot you are picturing Main Street USA and Cinderella Castle.

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• The local fireworks shows no longer impress you after seeing Happily Ever After.

• While watching the local fireworks show you wonder where the dessert party is being hosted.

• While taking down your American flag at night you find yourself re-enacting the Flag Retreat Ceremony.

• You get on your commuter train or bus and have to stop yourself from saying aloud, “Please stand clear of the doors” as the doors close.

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• You realize your social media feed is 95 percent Disney World-related.

• You tear up because you miss Disney World so much when reading AllEars.Net.

• You can actually taste the food being reviewed on AllEars.Net and just need to have it now.

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Those are just a few of the ways we know it’s time to go back to Disney World. How do you know it’s time to go back to Disney World? Share your reasons with us below!

Mini-Review: Terralina Crafted Italian at Disney Springs

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terralina crafted italian restaurant

Last week, I had the chance to pop in to Terralina Crafted Italian, the newest restaurant at Disney Springs, which had officially opened its doors without much fanfare just a few days earlier.

It was late in the afternoon, well after the lunch rush, so I had the place almost entirely to myself.

For those of you who remember the previous Italian restaurants that have sat on this spot -- Portobello Country Italian Trattoria and, going even further back, Portobello Yacht Club -- the place will still feel vaguely familiar, despite the building's multimillion-dollar makeover. Still, there's a freshness about it, with new, lighter, eclectic decor, tile floors and a laid-back ambiance that's supposedly inspired by Italy's Lake District.

With several defined dining areas, an open kitchen, and comfortable, casual seating, the space has been designed to make you feel you're dining in someone's home. This is apparent from the moment you walk in, where you're greeted by a cozy waiting area, with comfy-looking leather chairs gathered around the focal-point fireplace.

Terralina Crafted Italian

Steps away is the welcoming, well-stocked bar, which was not crowded at all this lazy Sunday afternoon.

Terralina Crafted Italian

There's both booth and table seating, and lots of homey touches like family photos, plants, candles and stacks of dinnerware accenting the space.

Terralina Crafted Italian

Terralina Crafted Italian

I know, you're wondering, "What about the food?" To be fair, I didn't get to try much -- that's why this is only a mini-review -- but here's what I can tell you about what I did sample.

My server, a holdover from the previous restaurant, seated me and brought me water in a quaint, old-style glass, as well as a loaf of ciabatta bread with the housemade "giardiniera" -- an old-school Italian relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. The bread was warm and crusty, and good with a dash of the extra virgin olive oil left on the table, but the giardiniera mixed vegetables were a little too tart for my liking. That's not necessarily a ding against Terralina -- that's how giardiniera often is, and I've never been a big fan.

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As I took a look at the menu, which was put together by James Beard award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and implemented by returning Portobello exec chef Justin Plank, the very knowledgeable server pointed out several of the new items. The first appetizer that jumped out at me was Spaghetti Fritters ($12). I'm half-Italian, but I can't say I ever saw those on any of my family's dinner tables. What were they?

Spaghetti Fritters at Terralina Crafted Italian

No surprises, they were exactly what the menu said. Fritters... made of spaghetti. Three generous-sized, deep-fried balls of pasta and cheese in a tomato-y sauce were topped with a few whisper thin slices of fresh parmesan and came with a side of tomato-basil sauce for dipping, too. I suppose they were meant to be Terralina's answer to arancini, the delightful, deep-fried arborio rice balls found on many Italian restaurant menus. (They were also on Terralina's by the way, disguised under the name "Mozzarella Stuffed Rice Balls.") While the Spaghetti Fritters were unusual, and worth trying once, I can't say I'd get them again. The outer fried shell was very crunchy and dry and the spaghetti inside was just OK. They're very heavy and veeerrry filling. If you try them as a starter, I would say definitely share with several other people... otherwise, that course may be as far as you get.

After such a heavy-duty beginning, I realized I really didn't have room for a big meal. I opted instead for one of the pizzas -- pizza funghi, with portobello, shiitake, cremini mushrooms, roasted garlic, and fresh mozzarella ($15). I have to admit that I'm a harsh pizza critic -- pizza is a passion -- and this one passed the test.

Terralina Crafted Italian pizza

With a wood-fired crust so thin it bordered on crunchy, the pizza was covered with a good dose of mushrooms and cheese and was quite tasty. I only ate half of it, about three slices, but don't worry! My server boxed up the remainder so I could have it for dinner later. And I did!

I really didn't have room for dessert, but in the name of research thought I should try at least one. I love creme brulee, I love cappuccino, so when my server mentioned the cappuccino creme brulee ($9) I told him to stop right there and fetch me some.

Sadly, it wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. The brulee itself got my hopes up. It was caramelized perfection -- I really had to tap hard to crack through it. But instead of creamy coffee-flavored goodness waiting for me underneath I found a rather starchy, almost pudding-like "creme."

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I was also able to taste a few other desserts, though, that more than made up for the disappointing creme brulee.

The flourless chocolate cake with berries, for example, was outstanding... not to mention enormous. The exterior was coated in rich, dark chocolate, while the inside was a moist chocolate cake layered with not-too-sweet vanilla cream. I thought it was excellent and well worth its $11 price tag, especially if you were sharing -- which you definitely could and not feel cheated. If I'd had more room, I might have been tempted to eat all of it.

Terralina Crafted Italian

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The other dessert I sampled was the Chocolate-Dipped Gelato Sandwich -- salted caramel gelato between two pizzelles (thin, waffle-like Italian cookies) and rolled in a toffee crunch, then stood on its side and anchored on the plate with dark chocolate, all for $10.

Terralina Crafted Italian

The presentation of this dessert is visually impressive -- it looks rather like a Ferris wheel that's been drenched in gooey ice cream and chocolate. And that's not a bad thing. The pizzelles are not as light and crispy as my Grandma's, but they were still good, and the gelato hits all the right sweet-and-salty-at-the-same-time notes. Yes, I would get it again.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to dig deeper into Terralina's menu on this trip, but what I saw was encouraging, so I will definitely be making a return to try out a few more entrees... and of course to revisit a couple of those desserts.

Terralina Crafted Italian Restaurant page

Terralina Crafted Italian lunch/dinner adult menu

Terralina Crafted Italian lunch/dinner children menu





July 5, 2018

Shop No Longer Casts Its Sweet Spells

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A few months ago, the rumor was circulating that Sweet Spells, part of the Beverly and Sunset shop in Disney's Hollywood Studios, was going to close to become a Pixar-themed store. We didn't want to believe it was true that the confectionery that carried so many long-time favorites (like the Carrot Cookie) was going away, but sure enough, soon afterward we saw the construction walls go up.

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It just so happened that I was in Disney's Hollywood Studios a few days ago when Sweet Spells reopened in its new incarnation -- now known as Tinseltown Trinkets, the space has been completely revamped and sells exclusively Toy Story merchandise.

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Some of it is really cute, don't get me wrong.

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But what about the carrot cookie? The candied apples? All the other sweet treats the store was beloved for?

Well, you can still get the carrot cookie at the Trolley Car Cafe (Starbucks) at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. But if you're hankering for cotton candy or chocolate covered strawberries... you'll have to head back to the Magic Kingdom's Confectionery. There's really no similar shop in the Studios theme park now.

Sorry, Charlies. We'll miss Sweet Spells, too.






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