The holidays are truly a special time for the theme parks. From the moment the first decorations go up, the joyous tones are set, and it’s as if the year’s concerns melt away. Things may be a little different from years past, what with COVID-19 and all, but Universal has still done its part in providing us a wondrous selection of yuletide food and beverage offerings for 2020.
The list is vast, so we’ve delivered the gift of narrowing it down to our favorites for your consumption. And to make this even easier, we’ve indicated where you can find each item – which is mostly in the Tribute Store, with one exception – as well as their respective cost.
Now, let’s see what’s good, for goodness’s sake.
The Tribute Store – the drinks
Earl’s Nutty Nog ($10.99)
Earl the Squirrel has been something of a local legend at Universal Studios Florida for some time, having evolved from a mischievous critter hiding in New York‘s Christmas tree to becoming a sort-of mascot beloved by guests and team members alike. This year, he’s made some big moves – he’s been granted the finale section at the Tribute Store as well as a signature eggnog bearing his namesake. I, for one, can think of no better way to honor this woodland prince.
Earl’s Nutty Nog is premade in a non-alcoholic form or with an addition of silver rum, allowing the whole family a chance to partake in its enjoyment. Although some store-bought eggnogs contend with an artificial taste, it’s quite the contrary here – instead, the flavor is more akin to a spiced sweet cream, as is typical from this festive drink when properly made.
As a fan of eggnog, this is my top pick for this year’s liquid holiday offerings. Personally, I prefer mine with a little “spirit” and a dash of cinnamon, as the latter truly elevates the personality of the drink. Either way, the duo of Earl’s Nutty Nog and its chocolate coconut cake accompaniment are sure to bring you some tasty Christmas cheer during your visit.
Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Bomb ($3.99)
If we’re being honest, who doesn’t love a warm mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows during the holidays? This beverage was my wife’s favorite, and the hot chocolate lives up to its name, as it’s served piping hot. Of course, I’d suggest letting the ingredients cool and mingle for a few minutes; once you do, you’ll notice a wonderful chocolate flavor and smooth, velvet texture that the heat otherwise gets in the way of. Don’t let it get too cool, though, because next comes the best part.
Teamed with the hot cocoa are chocolate Christmas-ornament bombs. Each is 100% edible and comes in three different colors: red, yellow, and green. The process leading to their purpose is a simple-but-fun one: when you’re ready, simply pick the ornament up, make a Christmas wish, and place – don’t drop – it in the cocoa. As it melts, a flurry of marshmallows is released while the bomb’s chocolate enhances the hot cocoa, serving as a nice culmination.
You’ll want to know that the bomb’s chocolate gets thicker as it collects at the bottom of the drink, so I’d suggest swirling the mix back together in order to get that rich, sweet flavor consistent throughout. If you ask me, this is a great idea for an inexpensive opportunity to create some long-cherished family memories. The cup is also themed with the new Earl the Squirrel branding, which I’ve quickly become a big fan of, so I may be a bit biased here.
The Tribute Store – the food
Vegan Reindeer Brownie ($5.49)
Given my affinity for sweets and my interest in alternative cooking methods, whenever I see a confection labeled “vegan,” I simply must try it. Beginning with the Vegan Reindeer Brownie’s presentation, it is adorable! The aesthetic of the frosting reindeer face and the mini-candy cane antlers make me almost regret that the brownie is made to be eaten. The portion size is also pretty generous for its asking price, which qualifies it as a shareable snack between attractions. On the surface, it’s hard to see this as anything besides a tasty treat.
I hate to be a Scrooge, but that’s where it ends for me. The chocolate flavoring was mediocre, and, most notably, the brownie was very dense. Instead of enjoying what should have been a moist, luscious holiday delight, I found myself overcoming a daunting, confectionery task due to how chewy it was and how tough it proved to be to cut into. In all fairness, if they were to label this as “fudge” rather than as a “brownie,” I’d have fewer complaints, but my critiques would nonetheless remain.
Having had my fair share of vegan eats, I can say that this is something that vegan baking naturally contends with. In that same breath, I’ll also say that there’s a science to it, and the genre has become popular enough that recipes have championed past this obstacle, providing treats comparable to their non-vegan counterparts – any number of which Universal’s culinary masterminds could have pulled from. While I wouldn’t ever deny you the Reindeer Brownie or say that you shouldn’t enjoy it, I would state that you could do better.
Fortunately, you won’t have to go far to find it…
Gingerbread Whoopie Pie ($4.99)
Located within the same showcase, this bad boy delivers exactly what you’re hoping for in a delightful treat. The confection’s texture is moist and light, and the sweet cream-cheese filling compliments the overall warm, spiced flavor. If I were pressed to be critical, the flavor does align more with “spiced cake” rather than “gingerbread,” and I wouldn’t say it’s shareable, but that doesn’t knock any points off. It’s still highly enjoyable, and it’s inexpensive enough that it wouldn’t break the bank for a couple or a small family to each have their own.
If you want my suggestion, this is your holiday treat. I would even go as far as saying that this pairs perfectly with Earl’s Nutty Nog. The duo collectively left me reminiscing upon Christmas memories of sitting next to a warm fire in a cozy blanket – memories which I’ve never experienced directly!
All humor aside, the Gingerbread Whoopie Pie and Earl’s Nutty Nog were my favorite combination for this event, and I humbly – but confidently – state they should be yours, too.
Central Park Crepes
Thanksgiving Crepe ($9.99)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Thanksgiving during the holidays – given its close proximity to St. Nick on the calendar, you could almost call it the “gateway holiday” to the most wonderful time of the year. Especially considering how much we all look forward to Thanksgiving dinner annually, it certainly deserves its own amount of recognition. This brings us to an offering that presents all of its best parts right in the palm of your hand: the Thanksgiving Crepe.
Central Park Crepes provides exactly what you’d expect from this seasonal item in every positive way. It’s loaded with moist, tender turkey that’s dressed with fluffy, flavorful stuffing and sweet, semi-dried cranberries. All of this is then drizzled with just the right amount of turkey gravy and wrapped wonderfully in a freshly made crepe. It’s literally like a small, handheld feast! I wouldn’t say this is inherently shareable in terms of size, but let’s be honest- you’re not going to want to.
This was another favorite that hits the holiday spot in both your heart and soul.
What’s been your favorite yuletide treat this year at Universal Orlando? Or which would you most want to try? Share your thoughts with 110,000+ other die-hard Universal fanatics in our Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.