If you have been to Disney World as an adult, you have probably heard of or participated in the popular practice of "Drinking Around the World". If not, it's exactly what it sounds like. You go to Epcot and drink your way through the world showcase. While that's all well and good, I have a different way of enjoying the various cultures represented in the World Showcase. Now this method is extreme and not for the faint of heart... Instead of drinking around the world, I go desserting around the world. Now, I am a trained and conditioned professional, so this quest is only for those who have the stomach (ha, but seriously) for such a journey. For those intrepid gastrowarriors... this guide is for you.
*DISCLAIMER: Dessert is my passion, so expect a lot of ALL CAPS ACTION and general fervor. I promise I'm not angry. I'm just shouting my love from the virtual rooftop that is the internet. Thank you.*
*DISCLAIMER PART TWO: I've never eaten something at every country on the same day. As ashamed as I am to admit that, tis true. It's all a matter of knowing which countries I really want to indulge in and enjoying the journey rather than turning it into a miserable race where the only prizes are shame and self-loathing. BUT I've included something from every country, to better assist you in crafting your own culinary adventure.*
Ok, so the Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada is a fancy sit-down restaurant, so you definitely want to make a reservation for this one. But if you want something ever so Canadian.... they have Maple Creme Brulee. Maple. Creme. Brulee. (Also, this is not dessert, but they have POUTINE. IF YOU'VE NEVER HAD THE JOYOUS PLEASURE OF EATING FRIES COVERED IN CHEESE CURDS, GRAVY AND OTHER MAGICAL THINGS, YOU MUST NOT FORSAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY. PROMISE ME YOU WON'T.)
In the lovely UK, equally lovely treasures await you at the Rose and Crown Pub. Guys, the have Sticky Toffee Pudding AND Banoffee Tart. Look, I know your first instinct is to get both (or maybe that's just me?), but we've just started this thing and we have an entire world (showcase) left to taste. So, draw straws, eenie meanie, or whatever you have to do to pick one. Or better yet, you and a friend can order and split both. Just know that you can't go wrong because they are both glorious and gloriously British. For those who don't know, Sticky Toffee Pudding is essentially a cake served with warm vanilla custard and a hot butter rum sauce. Gorgeous. Banoffee Tart is literally all of my favorite things in one - banana, caramel, sweet cream and chocolate. No one knows the struggle of this decision better than I do.
Bonjour! You've officially arrived in DESSERT HEAVEN WHERE THE OPTIONS ARE DOWNRIGHT OVERWHELMING. Looking for something cool on a hot Orlando day? Pop into L'Artisan des Glaces, an adorably French ice cream shop! They do absurd and wonderful things like ICE CREAM MACARON SANDWICHES (GUYS, I LIVE FOR ICE CREAM AND MACARONS) and Croque Glace, which is basically ice cream in a warm brioche covered in a chocolate or raspberry sauce. Amazing.
But then... there's Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. This is the place that my dreams/nightmares are made of. Happy because I'm surrounded by glorious pastries. Agonized because I can't have all of them. Napoleons and Creme Brulee and MACARONS OH MY. Never fear, friends. I have a system. First, you and your companion(s) get different items and split them. THEN, you get a box of macarons for later when you can finally eat again. Et voila.
Shameful collage of things I have sampled.
Ok, so I hate to say it... but I've never had dessert in Morocco. It's not as quick and easy to get a dessert in Morocco because you have to go to one of the two sit down restaurants, unless that's changed since I was last there. BUT at either Restaurant Marrakesh or Spice Road Table you can get assorted baklavas, which sound amazing. A Spice Road Table, they also have a Saffron and Lemon Custard that really sounds interesting and has officially been added to my list for next time.
In truth, I've never had dessert in Japan either. I knew that I would be stuffing myself with things I would enjoy more than shaved ice and green tea mousse cake (not that I wouldn't enjoy those, but sacrifices had to be made in the name of French pastries.). BUT if those items appeal to you, check out Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining for Green Tea, Mango and Ginger Mousse Cakes, Katsura Grill for Green Tea Cheesecake and Kabuki Cafe for Japanese Shaved Ice with Sweet Milk Topping.
The American Adventure
This, my friends, is up to you. If you are all about doing it right and not cutting corners, you GET that funnel cake (They even have Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake, so you can live the fat kid AND basic girl's dream all at once! #Murica). Typically, I skip it because I like to enjoy the things I can't get as often at home.
Oh hi, Italy. I see you.
I. Love. The Italian Pavilion. If you don't have time for a sit-down restaurant, the Gelati stand has just about everything you could ever want. Gelato, Gelato stuffed between two CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES and even Affogato, which is perfect if all of these sweets are making you want to take a nap. A few shots of espresso over ice cream is just what you need to power through. They even have tiramisu and canolli. Oh, Italy. I tiramisu already...
Listen, if you choose to sub a big pretzel in place of dessert, I will never ever judge you for that. But if you're a dessert purist, there's always Apple Strudel and Black Forest Cake. You can get this at either of their dining options - Biergarten Restaurant or Sommerfest.
Personally, I say keep it light in China. This is a marathon, not a sprint, people. Hit Joy of Tea for some Strawberry Red Bean Ice Cream or a Mango Green Tea Slush! If you must splurge, get the Coconut Rice Pudding at Nine Dragons Restaurant.
Ok, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Norway's dessert scene is a hidden GEM. A GEM, I tell you. You swim right on through all of that Frozen memorabilia (Sorry, Elsa. Love you, Olaf.) until you make it to the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. Order the School Bread, and start living your best life because this will change everything. It's so sneakily magical, looking all unassuming like some ordinary pastry. But no. School Bread is in fact a special snowflake. It is a sweet cardamom bun filled with vanilla creme custard and topped with glazed and toasted coconut. I made a trip back to Epcot the next day JUST to get school bread and macarons. Practically ran through the park because I had 40 minutes to accomplish this task. And, friends... running is simply not something that I do. Order it.
Magical, Magical School Bread
We've made it, you guys. We have reached the end of our journey. As Drake says, "Started from Canada, now we're here." If you feel the need to sit for a bit, (no one would fault you after the day of desserting you've had), I would go to Hacienda de San Angel for the Empanada de Manzana. It's basically a dessert empanada filled with sautéed caramel apples and served with dulce de leche ice cream and caramel sauce. That is a dish that is just doing everything right, y'all. But if you're looking for something that travels well, go to the Cantina de San Angel next door for churros with caramel sauce. Whichever you choose, this is a valiant way to end your pastry pilgrimage.
If you are going to embark on this glorious quest, it always helps to bring along a Samwise Gamgee type. Someone who can keep up, but can also make sure you don't get ahead of yourself and order two desserts in one country that you have no intention to share. Mine is my mother, from whom my love and respect for dessert comes. You can certainly do it by yourself, but where's the fun in that?
Good luck and Godspeed, you gastroglobetrotter you.