What’s In My Parks Bag?: Food Edition

Brandon and I are happy to announce that The Ears and Beers Podcast is about to release its 5th episode. The episode will cover what to pack in your park bag and the Fastpass tier system. If you’ve been listening to our podcast, thank you so much; please take a moment to rate us and tell us what you think in the comments. If you haven’t listened yet, now’s a great time to catch up! We’re on Anchor, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts.

Many first-time or even veteran WDW guests often don’t know that Disney allows guests to bring their own snacks and no-heat meals into the parks. This is a great way to save money, eat healthier, or for those of us with digestive trouble/allergies/etc., to know a “safe” option is always available.

Before I get into some options, there are a few rules in place to make sure that items brought into the parks are not potentially harmful to other guests or WDW property. As of 7/4/2019, these rules are:

  • No glass containers (excluding small baby food jars)
  • No alcoholic beverages (can or otherwise)
  • No marijuana/ marijuana based products (edibles included)
  • No plastic straws in Animal Kingdom park or waterparks
  • No loose or dry ice (re-usable ice packs are recommended)

When entering the park, please notify a Security Cast Member that you have food in your bag. There’s no penalty for not doing so, but failure to mention these items could slow down the line and lose you and everyone around precious park time.

All that said, here’s some of my snacks and no-heat meals that you’d find in my park bag:

  • Golden Island Pork Jerky: Korean Barbecue Recipe – this is pure protein and the bulgogi taste always makes snack time feel really special. Just a few pieces will fill me up for hours.
  • Peanut butter or toasted cheese crackers – I live on these at work and home, so they’re a natural addition to my park bag! I find the packs of six crackers to be an easy, no fuss replacement for a PB&J sandwich.
  • Cashews – protein and healthy fats are a win-win for when the park snack options are a little too heavy on the sugar or grease.
  • Bananas – easy, come in a natural wrapper, and not as likely to get funky in the heat as other fruit might.
  • Granola bars (Kind, Nature Valley, or similar) – I have to admit that I pack these every trip and they’re the last snack I’ll turn to of the lot. I think on my next trip, I’ll try to think of these as more of a breakfast option and make it a point to choose these more often.

Most of these items are available in bulk; we are Sam’s Club Members and also use Boxed. I get crackers, bananas, and granola bars from Sam’s, and the pork jerky and cashews from Boxed. I like that the bulk sizes will last Brandon and I the majority (if not more than) the length of our wedding trip, which is just shy of two weeks.

We also like to take our own reusable water bottles and refill them throughout the parks as needed.

I like to pack my park bag with a section that is dedicated to snacks with a gallon Ziplock bag so that I can easily remove the day’s snacks for the Security Cast Member’s convenience. (Side note: of all the CMs on property, I feel that Security must be one of the hardest placements and I’ve noticed guests being nasty to them for no reason. Let’s all be extra nice to the SCMs as they keep us safe and make sure we all have a magical day!!) By having a snack section, I’m also mindful not to crush them while getting on/off rides and I can easily find them while walking.

Let me know your favorite snacks to pack for the parks in the comments below!

Review- Grand Floridian Bakery/ Disney Fairytale Wedding Cakes

The entire purpose of mine and Brandon’s last trip was to meet our wedding planner at Franck’s and finalize the details for our big day! We knew that by selecting California Grill for our reception venue, we would be unable to taste test any of the menu items during our planning session. We did; however, get to taste some cakes from the Grand Floridian Bakery! We pre-selected several flavors of icing and cake we knew we wanted to try. For the cake we wished to try churro (aka cinnamon cake), chocolate, orange, and marble and for icing we tried churro, Bailey’s mousse, cookies and cream, and orange. They brought us some additional flavors, but we’ll talk more about that later.

For our tasting time at Franck’s we were offered coffee service, which we enthusiastically accepted. The cake samples were brought out to us in little loafs with the icing samples in condiment cups, they do this so that you can mix and match any flavor combo! This is really thoughtful and helpful as we played with our original ideas and ended up mixing our flavors a bit.

Watching Disney Fairytale Weddings on TV, I was POSITIVE that we would go in to Franck’s and get at least one layer of churro cake. So I tried this one first, and I’m sad to say I really disliked it. It was actually my least favorite of the whole plate. Brandon also strongly disliked it as well. The cinnamon flavor was just too much and it burnt my mouth a little. We cook and bake with cinnamon a fair amount in our daily lives, so we were shocked that the flavor was a little too much like a Hot Tamale for our liking.

Of the flavors we chose to try, we ended up only choosing to keep the chocolate cake with Bailey’s mousse for our second layer. It compliments our other two layers perfectly. The plate with all the samples comes with a single piece of cake that demonstrates what a slice will look like on the day. I got curious and snagged a bite of the slice. It was absolutely incredible – yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. It was moist, and perfectly balanced. Brandon agreed that this was an absolute winner. The yellow cake and chocolate buttercream was an easy choice to have be the majority of our cake! The bakery knows what they’re doing.

A quick aside: something I think anyone doing a tasting might want to have a heads up on is that the cake loaf things dry out quickly! Since they don’t have any icing on them, they can be a little off on the texture. This was a little difficult for me to get past; especially with the churro cake because it has some extra textured bites. Thank goodness for the coffee service on that one! If you want to get a feel for the texture of the actual cake, try a bite of the slice! It’s much closer to actual texture of your cake the day of!

For the exterior of our cake, we chose “Swiss dots”, or very small polka dots, with a simple pearl border at the bottom of each layer. For decoration, a single Magnolia leaf will be placed on the second layer, with no topper. Our wedding style is pretty much traditional Southern, and is very simple. We chose to forgo a “groom’s cake” because our menu at California Grill came with a dessert trio and we didn’t want to go too overboard on the sugar! The Grand Floridian Bakery will do a groom’s cake, but based on the way our planner didn’t try to sell us one at all – it seems like most couples seem to forgo the separate cake thing!

As far a prices go, the three layer cake with two completely different flavors is much cheaper than any of the cakes that we priced in our hometown of Birmingham, AL. There is a delivery fee and the reception team is helping us cut and serve our cake. This adds an additional $140+ but is so worth it to me for the cake cutting to be done in an orderly manner. We have some food allergies in our family and a diabetic loved one – Disney Fairytale Weddings ran those allergies/other food needs by the bakery, and we will have a nut-free, sugar- free option on standby for those guests for no additional cost. Whether or not those guests take that option is up to them; but my planner explained that the bakery had to provide an option.

Our top layer will be reserved for us to take with us at the end of the night. We will not be able to freeze it as we will continue our honeymoon in the parks and on a DCL sailing. We were a little sad about this, but we do know that we will be back at Disney for our one year anniversary and that the Grand Floridian Bakery will remake your cake (this is an extra expense, exactly how much is still TBD).

All in all, we have been incredibly pleased with the Grand Floridian Bakery. We will provide an update after the wedding; but right now I’m drooling at the thought of that yellow cake layer. Only 4 months until we get another slice!

Cake sample tray

Farewell to Bongo’s Cuban Cafe

A review of Bongo’s Cuban Cafe had been in my queue for a post for a while. However, recently it was confirmed the Bongo’s will be closing later this summer.

Bongo’s definitely isn’t a shiny new restaurant and can’t compete with the likes of Chef Art’s Homecoming, but I did appreciate it for what it was. On our last trip, I got extremely ill after eating at Sci-Fi Drive-In and after taking a timeout in the hotel, we ventured over to Disney Springs. Since we hadn’t planned on visiting DS, we didn’t have an ADR but were able to get seated at Bongo’s.

I ordered the fresh catch, which was salmon, with a side of black beans and rice. I enjoyed my dinner; it wasn’t a new approach to Cuban cuisine or anything particularly daring but it was a good, healthier choice at the end of distressing day.

In a lot of ways the meal I had at Bongo’s actually helped me on my road to recovery. I previously had cut out meat entirely after my total gastrectomy but ordering fish here showed me that I had more leeway than I thought! So thanks Bongos for a meal that hit the spot, and helping me realize I had more options than I knew!

A Quick Health Update

It’s been just over two years since I was diagnosed with my genetic disorder and started the domino-effect of discoveries that led to my total gastrectomy six months ago. The surgery quite literally gave me a new lease on life but also caused some of the issues that made me interested in starting this blog. One of my chief complaints was that swallowing was next to impossible. I would constantly have the tiniest bites get caught in my throat.

Last month, I underwent surgery to stretch out my esophagus to help mitigate the issue. The effects of the surgery have been mostly positive and lasting. Sometimes, things don’t stay as stretched as you’d like but I’m managing much better now. During the surgery preparations, we did discover that my recurring anemia was present again and my doctor urged me to add back meat to my diet. I have, and Brandon with me, so our reviews will likely be less focused on plant-based eating, but we will still cover texture and other things that can trip people up!

World Premiere Food Court

On our most recent trip, Brandon and I stayed at All-Star Movies and hit up the World Premiere Food Court a few times during our stay – once for dinner and twice for breakfast. Both meal times have an abundance of offerings and stations geared towards most cravings. I have only ever been to one other quick-service option at a resort before, and that was the Mara. I found the World Premiere Food Court to have more options, as the “food court” part may suggest, however I much prefer the atmosphere and more creative menus at the Mara.

The WPFC is huge! It was also never lacking customers, even as we stayed until close one night. (Did you know that the cast members do the macarena and a bunch of other dances at the end of their evening shift?) It’s themed like a movie theater and a little 90’s for my style. But it was clean and close to the room. I think Brandon actually really enjoyed the atmosphere as we sat near the TV every time, so he could catch up on all the movies he missed before dating me!

For our first breakfast, I got an order of Mickey Waffles with strawberry sauce. The sauce has real chunks of strawberries in it and was delicious. The waffles were great but overly “bready” textures can be hard on me, so I knew it could be a gamble. I ate one and a half waffles, with plenty of sauce, with no trouble and Brandon got to sample my third, untouched waffle too. Brandon got the Vegetable Flatbread and really enjoyed it. I tried a bit of his and really enjoyed the pesto and vegetables in addition to the egg and bread. This was also his first introduction to potato barrels and they were met with warm welcome. I could not eat potato barrels as potatoes, if not mashed or made into chips, are too difficult for me to swallow. The second breakfast, I felt ill and only had chocolate milk and a banana. Brandon got the flatbread again.

For our dinner, we took to separate stations. I got a slice of cheese pizza and Brandon got the Vegetarian Burger with a side of fries and mac and cheese. I can eat pizza pretty well with a fork and knife, so long as I give it some time to cool. The pizza was fine, just standard cheese pizza, and was a relatively large slice. I realized that the Cast Members has been thinking that I was ordering for a child the whole stay, so I was charged accordingly. It was a good way to save some extra money.

Overall, the World Premiere Food Court was a perfectly fine place to grab a quick bite, but I feel that I will not be likely to seek out any of those items again.

Review – Sci-Fi Drive-In

Oh, Sci-Fi Drive-In, how I have tried to love you. I have had very few negative restaurant experiences in Disney in all of my visits, but 2 of them hail from SFDI. All of these experiences hail from Hollywood Studios, but that’s a post for another day.

Brandon and I were getting a little hungry around 11:00 the morning of our HS day and in trying to avoid a trip to Backlot Express, the scene of the previous food crime, or to an overly “medium” textured lunch option at Fairfax Fare. Brandon and I had both agreed that FF’s Seven-Layer Rice Bowl with Vegan Chili was likely a non-starter with me. I decided to give Sci-Fi Drive-In a chance for lunch and to enjoy some A/C in a quirky environment. We were able to get the last “walk up” spot and were quickly seated in the picnic area at the back. I should mention that the front of house was actually very disorganized for this lunch seating and falsely called us up to be seated before the table was actually ready. In the time we crossed the lobby to sit and wait, they were already calling us back to be seated. None of this was a huge inconvenience by any means but is always a little jarring as Disney restaurants are typically better organized than that.

Our table was in the back of the restaurant and overlooked all the cars and the drive-in screen. I always love the atmosphere with the retro vibes and the wacky previews. I ordered the Sci-Fi Wedge Salad and really enjoyed it. I ate about half of the salad, which is a lot for me! I really loved the bleu cheese dressing mixed with the balsamic glaze and found the crispy texture of the salad to be great for my trouble swallowing. Brandon got the Vegetarian Falafel Burger, which sounds delish on paper, but he found it to be very bland and underwhelming. Veggie burgers have been really difficult on me, so I knew better than to try a bite.

In a moment of throwing caution to the wind, I decided we should get shakes for a treat because we were really digging the vibe. Brandon got a specialty Red Velvet Shake, which was above average, and I got the Oreo Cookie Shake. It went down easy, and was pretty good, although I could not come close to finishing it. I feel like we got a large amount of food for $50, but less than half of it was of good quality. Also, please be aware that the restroom is located outside of the wooden walls on the left-side of the screen and are shared with ABC Commissary.

Fast-forward about 20 minutes, we’re in Launch Bay meeting BB-8, and all is well. Waiting in line to meet Chewy is when it happened. Out of nowhere, a type of GI ache that would make me believe that I still have a stomach hit me like a true gut punch. I was shaking; I broke out in a cold sweat. I struggled through the interaction and after our meet-and-greet, I sat down while Brandon met Kylo Ren. I had an epiphany then; this was actually the second time I had this reaction to Sci-Fi Drive-In previously, a decade ago long before I ever had my surgery. The only thing these meals had in common? The Oreo Cookie Shake.

Before I continue, I know that Dumping Syndrome is a real side-effect of my surgery and those that are similar to it. I do not experience it with sweets but have with fried foods in the past. I know what it feels like, and this was not even close. This is an otherworldly sensation, churning does even begin to describe it. I felt that exact same churning-like sensation and pain a decade prior but had shrugged it off because I was on the Dining Plan and ate an obscene amount of food. Like an appetizer to myself, an entrée, a dessert, and a milkshake amount of food. Yikes.

So, a decade prior, I felt this same nasty GI sensation and took a break on a bench trying to buck up before we rode Tower of Terror. Unfortunately, the closer we got to the FastPass window, the worse I began to feel and ultimately had to forgo ToT and Fantasmic, leaving the park early.

This time around, I kept getting weaker as the sludge in my stomach sets up. I tried to relieve it but there’s nothing to be done. I tried to sit and rest, nothing make it better. I tried to wait it off in Voyage of the Little Mermaid but got so sick in the line that Brandon made the executive decision to pull the plug on the rest of our day at HS. So long Slinky Dog Dash, so long meal at ABC Commissary I was actually really stoked about but isn’t available at lunch, so long “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.” Brandon drove us to a CVS, so I could stock up on my anti-nausea supplies, literally just sour gummy worms and Coke, and we went to the hotel to rest it off. It took about three hours, but it did pass eventually.

Like I said at the beginning of my review, I want to love this place, as I legitimately enjoy the concept, and maybe I should try it again in the future without a milkshake and see how I fare. But for right now I think I’d rather go to Mama Melrose’s or 50’s Prime Time for a moderately priced lunch at HS, or plan on splurging at Hollywood Brown Derby one day.

Review – Boma: Taste of Africa

My darling fiancé, Brandon, and I originally scheduled two ADRs for our most recent trip. The first was to Boma, and the second to Kona Café. We were only able to keep our ADR to Boma as a result of a major menu overhaul at Kona that left me feeling optionless. This put even more pressure on our only remaining ADR to impress first-time Disney visitor and first-time pan-African eating Brandon about the level of sophistication and variety of dining experience WDW has to offer.

Before I begin, I think I should say that if one continent’s food could get a major PR campaign, I would vote for Africa. I have been eating North and Eastern African food for over a decade now and am always amazed at the stereotypes I’ve encountered. First, it’s a truly massive continent with such amazing culinary diversity that examples like Moroccan and Ethiopian and Egyptian and Senegalese foods really can’t or shouldn’t be compared.

As someone with GI issues, I have always found the African cuisines I’ve tried easy to eat and digest. Despite my rave reviews, we have several relatives and friends who have expressed their shock and displeasure with the idea of attending Boma as part of our wedding celebrations. Most were concerned about the level of spice in the offerings.

Boma’s buffet offers so many options, especially for vegetarians and in a wide array of flavor profiles. Brandon and I both started with the Carrot-Ginger Soup which I found to be incredibly flavorful and sweet without compromising its savory notes completely. I think it was very well balanced, and ginger is known to settle the stomach and bowels, so it was a win-win. I got a small plate of hummus and crackers and a small scoop of Pearl Couscous Salad. I found the flavors of everything to be complex and interesting without detecting a single note of that dreaded heat.

Brandon got a bowl of lentil soup that was also well-spiced without being spicy. I found the medium texture of the dish to be a little difficult for me to eat, and might have had a better experience if it had been less chunky or if it had had more crunch to it. Brandon really enjoyed the dish though and still raves about it. He also was particularly fond of the Peanut Rice, although I knew that one was going to be off-limits to me for textural reasons.

The menu shows several other vegetarian options, including a Zulu cabbage, but I did not see the cabbage on the buffet during our visit. I have always had good luck with cabbage since my surgery, so this was slightly disappointing. We split some Plantain Crisps as well and both really enjoyed them; dip them in the hummus sometime – it’s actually really great!

As I said, the medium texture really tripped me up and I needed to run to the restroom. Please be aware the restrooms are located outside of the restaurant near the stairwell back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s lobby. Be sure to scope out their location prior to an emergency, unlike me!

I returned to the table to see that Brandon had very sweetly made us a dessert plate to share. Zebra Domes have been a favorite in my family for years, so I was pleased to eat one of those without any textural problems. There were other assorted desserts, including the Kenyan Coffee Tart and Key Lime Cheesecake, but neither were particularly exciting or worth the risk of another hurried run across the restaurant to the restroom.

As they do not offer AP discounts, I would do a few things differently on my next Boma trip. I think the vegetarian options are Boma are incredible, but the price per head for soup and sides was a little steep. We were comped two glasses of champagne for our recent engagement and wedding planning trip at Franck’s so that did help make up for some of those “losses” in my mind. Since then, we have added meat back to our diets which will expand our options. I also wished that we had taken more time to enjoy the atmosphere, but our table was in a very high traffic location and very close to several bussing stations.

Overall, Boma is a restaurant that truly deserves closer investigation, even if at first glance it seems like it might be out of the question. I found the food to be a nice break from some of the more processed park foods and enjoyed the soups as a healthy and simple alternative. Trust me, your gut just might thank you for it! I know mine did.

Welcome to Stomachless at Disney

Hi, my name is Amy and I’m a Disney girl living with two rare genetic disorders. One of my disorders, Juvenile Polyposis Syndrome, affects my GI tract and causes the growth of polyps and tumors in my digestive system. As a result, I lost a foot of my colon in 2017 and my entire stomach in 2018. Since those surgeries, my portion sizes have been radically slashed, and I have difficulty swallowing and keeping down certain foods plus some new textural aversions.

I’ve been a regular visitor to Disney since I was a small child and have enjoyed two Disney Cruises. My favorite princess is Moana and my favorite Disney movie is probably “The Emperor’s New Groove.” I love to collect ears and Disneybound. My incredible fiancé, Brandon, and I are planning our own Disney Fairy Tale Wedding and Honeymoon. We are purchasing our first round of Annual Passes later this year!

In my non-Disney life, I live in Alabama and work in the arts. I am the proud dog mom of 3 pups! I enjoy cooking, baking, knitting, and reading. I also love watching movies and spending time traveling around the Southeast with my loved ones.

A few weeks ago, I met a bride online in a bridal forum who suffers from GI distress and was very concerned about finding a restaurant on property her family would like where she could also eat in peace without the terror of a flare up. I felt for her and all of us who worry about these issues, while wanting to make the best of our vacations. I had noticed in my own life, that the new realities after my surgery had impacted the way my Disney trips go. Eating has always been a huge part of my Disney experiences, but that has shifted.

The purpose of this blog is to help myself and others that have GI issues and digestive troubles that are not affected with diseases with great visibility. I think sometimes it’s difficult to talk about “tummy troubles” openly and honestly. I plan to review items related to dining at Disney properties, as well as ask for guest reviews to get other perspectives on Disney while living with Crohn’s disease, IBS, or other diseases that I cannot write about personally. I’m still experiencing a learning curve and would like to invite you to follow along with me. No review is universal or “one size fits all” but I hope that the reviews are helpful and honest about real experiences had at Disney parks or on the Disney Cruise Line!