Flower & Garden… and Food & Wine!

March 25, 2013

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The 20th version of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival began a couple of weeks ago in the waning days of winter with the usual collection of topiaries…

Watch that finger Phineas!

Watch that finger Phineas!

a big butterfly house…

Floral Butterfly outside the Butterfly House

Floral Butterfly outside the Butterfly House

which this year houses Tinkerbell and her Pixie friends…

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gardening displays…

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and gorgeous flowers everywhere!

These buds are for you!

These buds are for you!

But there is a big difference this year…

DSCF3200food and drink!

The Smokehouse in the American Adventure

The Smokehouse in the American Adventure

Several of the Food & Wine Festival booths have been re-purposed to provide guests with new dining (and drinking) experiences while wandering around World Showcase during Flower & Garden! This is a first for this festival, and the Harem and I were there to take in the first full weekend of Flower & Garden. We sampled many of the items offered, so I thought I’d give you a look, and my thoughts, on some of the edibles (and drinkables) at this year’s event, so let’s start by taking a counter-clockwise trip around the lagoon and dig in…

Fruits by the Glass

Fruits by the Glass

To start your visit off right, as you enter World Showcase from Future World you’re greeted with Fruits by the Glass (the Food & Wine Craft Beer location) featuring several interesting wines, brews, a watermelon cocktail and a non-alcoholic slushie (if you must).

Fruits by the Glass bill of fare

Fruits by the Glass bill of fare

The specialty here is a Watermelon Passion Fruit Cocktail.

Watermelon Passion Fruit Cocktail

Watermelon Passion Fruit Cocktail

This frozen drink features a Florida made cane vodka, the drink is pretty sweet, but nice during the heat of the day – certainly worth a try.

Just keep pouring...

Just keep pouring…

There are also a couple of nice Florida fruit wines available here.

Mango Mama and Blueberry Blue Wines

Mango Mama and Blueberry Blue Wines

Now properly fortified we can make our way to the right and find the Pineapple Promenade…

Pineapple Promenade

Pineapple Promenade

The Promenade Refreshments stand (usually the location where I get my first Stella of the day) has been converted into a Dole Pineapplepalooza….

Pineapple Promenade Menu

Pineapple Promenade Menu

The big hit here is the iconic Dole Whip, but with a twist….

Dole Whip with Spiced Rum

Dole Whip with Spiced Rum

the addition of spiced rum! Yes boys and girls, you don’t have to sneak your own booze into the Magic Kingdom to get a spiked Dole Whip! And yes, this was really good… the frozen pineapple flavor mixes real well with the rum, just remember to mix it up from the get-go, or else it will get really strong at the bottom of the glass.

The Cottage Menu

The Cottage Menu

Next in the United Kingdom is the Cottage, and one of the best things we tried…

Poato, Chive and Cheddar Cheese Bisquit with Smoked Salmon Tartare with Sour Cream (left), and Baked Goat's Brie with Kumquat Chutney

Potato, Chive and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare with Sour Cream (left), and Baked Goat’s Brie with Kumquat Chutney

a savory biscuit filled with a chopped concoction of smoked salmon – this might have been Miss Bonnie’s favorite dish of the festival, and even though I’m not a huge salmon fan I’d gladly stuff another one of these down my craw…

L'Orangerie Menu

L’Orangerie Menu

L’Orangerie in France seemed to get mixed reviews from the Harem (the peach dessert was not particularly liked), but all I had was a bite of the Pate, so I’ll reserve judgement for now…

Verrine Charlotte au Peches (Caramelized Peaches with Rosemary and Light Vanilla Cream) in France

Verrine Charlotte au Peches (Caramelized Peaches with Rosemary and Light Vanilla Cream) in France

Yet another alcoholic slushie in France... Grey Goose Orange Vodka with St. Germain Liquor and White and Red Cranberry Juice

Yet another alcoholic slushie in France… Grey Goose Orange Vodka with St. Germain Liquor and White and Red Cranberry Juice

In Morocco we find the Taste of Marrakesh…

Morocco - the Land of Young Ladies with Amazing Hair...

Morocco – the Land of Young Ladies with Amazing Hair…

we tried a couple of items here, but got distracted with a Random Encounter with a Disney Blogger, so there are no pics from here… maybe we’ll revisit at a later date…

Hanami ("Flower Viewing") kiosk in Japan

Hanami (“Flower Viewing”) kiosk in Japan

The familiar Japan booth has some interesting dishes, but I only got to sample one this trip…

YakiSoba Pan and Yuzu Rita

YakiSoba Pan and Yuzu Rita

and sadly the one food item I had here was the only real culinary mis-step I found that weekend…. the YakiSoba Pan is a teriyaki flavored soba and veggie dish (which would have been perfectly fine on it’s own in a bowl) that is served, for some reason, in a hot dog bun… it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either… I’m looking forward to trying the other items here on our next visit, but I won’t be ordering this one again. The version of a frozen margarita here, the Yuzu Rita, was however a winner – I’m not a huge frozen-drink-kinda-guy, but for the ilk this was pretty good – the bit of yuzu flavor seemed to keep the drink from being overly sweet (as many frozen concoctions seem to be) – this will be real nice as the weather warms…

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In the courtyard of the American Adventure we have a tribute to that All-American favorite combo of Barbecue and Beer.

The Smokehouse

The Smokehouse

The Smokehouse was one of the busier booths the first weekend, and with good reason…

The Smokehouse Menu

The Smokehouse Menu

Dedicated Readers probably know I can be a bit of a Barbeque Snob, but I do cut a bit of slack to someplace that’s going to have to serve mass numbers of patrons, and certainly don’t expect high-end competition-style cue, or even the best thing I can produce off of my Egg from a theme park… in any case, the food here was among the best things we had all weekend.

Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeno Corn Bread (left) and Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw

Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeno Corn Bread (left) and Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw

The brisket was tender and not too fatty, and the greens and cornbread were the perfect foil to the meat. Sweet and (not very) hot tomato-based sauces were served at the condiment area, but really the brisket didn’t need much help. The slider (and don’t get me started on that whole slider-thing) was a take on the usual pulled-pork sandwich, and came out well – it could have used a bit more slaw, and it did need a bit of sauce, but overall was a nice portion and quite good.

Beer Flight at the Smokehouse

Beer Flight at the Smokehouse

The genius idea of offering beer flights surfaced the last couple of years at Food & Wine, and continues here at the Flower & Garden Festival. The flight here features fours American brews of very different styles, and I enjoyed them all (including the Porter, which I’m usually not crazy about – it had an smoky, almost caramel, taste that went well with the meat-heavy entrees here).

Rocky Road Brownie Mousse

Rocky Road Brownie Mousse

Dessert here was a fluffier take on the typical brownie (and the only thing that the currently-vegetarian Surly Teenager tried at this location) and was another nice item – all-in-all this was one of our favorite booths and I expect will be one of the biggest hits at the festival.

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Primavera Kitchen Menu

Waterside in Italy we have the Primavera Kitchen, where Miss Bonnie tried the most expensive food item of the festival….

Asparagi con Aragosta all'Ortolana

Asparagi con Aragosta all’Ortolana

the Asparagi con Aragosta all’Ortolana, which is a combo of asparagus and lobster enrobed in “Garden Cocktail Sauce”. She begrudgingly allowed me to share a bite, and we both agreed this was totally delicious, and it was the sauce that really made it. Miss Bonnie thought there was a bit too much of the sauce, but it was damn delicious and I gladly lapped up the remaining drops after the seafood and veggies were gone…

Bauernmarkt Food Booth

Bauernmarkt Food Booth

Bauernmarkt, the “Farmers Market” in Germany comes up next…

Bauernmarkt Food Menu

Bauernmarkt Food Menu

This area is laid out just as it is during Food & Wine, with one kiosk serving food and some beverage…

Bauernmarkt Beer Booth

Bauernmarkt Beer Booth

and another set up to service the needs of the beer drinkers among the guests…

Bauernmarkt Beer Menu

Bauernmarkt Beer, etc. Menu

sadly the brew selection is not nearly as extensive as the one offered during the fall event, and for some reason this kiosk in Germany, with a German name, only has one German beer…

I tried two of the savory food items here, the Bread Pudding and the Potato Pancakes.

Savory Bread Pudding with Spring Peas and Wild Mushroom Ragout (top) and Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce

Savory Bread Pudding with Spring Peas and Wild Mushroom Ragout (top) and Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce

Both were quite good – the bread pudding was like a great Thanksgiving dressing with a mushroom gravy – I’ll have this again on the next trip…. the potato pancakes were very popular, and the requests for them kept them coming off the grill hot and fresh – the applesauce was a bit too much and could overwhelm the pancake itself, but if you kept it to a minimum was a nice compliment…

Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun and Lychee Aerated Water from the Lotus House

Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun and Lychee Aerated Water from the Lotus House

We also tried both of the savory items offered in the China pavilion at the Lotus House.

The insides of the Vegetable Bun

The insides of the Vegetable Bun

The Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun had a nice filling inside the soft, spongy breading and is served with a sweet dipping sauce.

Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple

Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple

The Spring Pancake is filled with tender chicken and topped with essentially a slaw with julienned green apple. The sweet/tart flavor of the apple really sets this dish off while the fried noodles also give a bit of crunchy texture component. Bonnie and I both thought this was another big winner.

Jardin de Fiestas

Jardin de Fiestas

Near the end of the trip around World Showcase is Jardin de Fiestas in Mexico.

Tostada de Jaiba (left) and Tacos de Carnitas

Tostada de Jaiba (left) and Tacos de Carnitas

The two savory choices here were both good and worth a try: the Crab Tostada was served with a creamy Chipotle-flavored Mayo and Valentina Sauce (a squeeze of citrus did help to liven it up a bit) while the Pork Carnitas Taco had a Tamarindo Salsa (could have used a bit more of this) and fine Chicharron topping in a flour tortilla. But the best thing here was…

Rosita Margarita

Rosita Margarita

the margarita!

Served on the rocks (thank you for not freezing yet another drink) the Rosita Margarita had a light, unique flavor enhanced by the smell of a fresh rose petal floating on the top. Try this one… trust me…

Florida Fresh Kiosk

Florida Fresh Kiosk

The last stop in our tour around the lagoon was (spoiler alert) one of our favorites. Florida Fresh had a couple of very good food choices (one that might be a bit out-the-ordinary to some guests) and a couple of very unique Florida wine selections.

Hot Sun Tomato Wine and 40 Karat Carrot Wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery

Hot Sun Tomato Wine and 40 Karat Carrot Wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery

Florida Fresh Menu

Florida Fresh Menu

The Watermelon Salad is a wonderful contrast of the sweet fresh fruit with the combo of pickled red onion, spicy arugula and feta cheese all glazed with a reduced balsamic dressing, just so, so good! Although this combo may sound a bit odd to some, it really works.

Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sauage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro (left, paired with the Tomato Wine) and Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, BW Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction (along with the Carrot Wine)

Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sauage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro (left, paired with the Tomato Wine) and Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, BW Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction (along with the Carrot Wine)

Miss Bonnie devoured the shrimp and grits, barely allowing me a tiny taste… the spicy sausage gave it just the right amount of zing – the recommended pairing of the unusual tomato wine (which also had just a bit of spice to it) was right on the money! The carrot wine is much drier than you’d expect, and went well with both dishes.

One of the interesting things they are doing at the food locations is to highlight some of the products being used with signs that have some facts about the produce in the dishes.

Some corny stuff here...

Some corny stuff here…

Who knew???

Who knew???

There are also living examples of the produce going into the dishes…

Planter near Florida Fresh

Planter near Florida Fresh

they do something similar during the Food & Wine Festival, but mostly in smaller pots, these large planters really emphasize the fresh fruits and veggies.

Garden Passport

Garden Passport

Another great idea lifted from the Food & Wine Festival is the Passport Booklet.

Garden Passport

Garden Passport

Inside are all the food locations where you can check off what you’ve tried, and at each place the castmembers have a cute ink stamp to denote your visit there, and in some places the castmember might even write a personal note!

Garden Passport

Garden Passport

Unlike the Food & Wine version which only lists food & drink stations, this Passport also lists garden locations such as the Butterfly House and the Land of Oz where you can get your passport stamped. Kids (and more than a few adults) love collecting the stamps and getting their booklet completed – this has been one of the big hits at the Food & Wine Festival the past few years and I love it’s inclusion in Flower & Garden!

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Festival Center

Festival Center

And the new food and drink offerings aren’t just limited to the World Showcase booths – you can find some different offerings, including one very fun one, at the Intermissions Cafe inside the Festival Center.

Intermissions Cafe

Intermissions Cafe

There is a nice selection of food items, and beverages here…

Intermissions Cafe Menu

Intermissions Cafe Menu

but the fun, and different, item here is the Beet Lollipop… a couple of pieces of roasted beet (one red, one golden) and a wad of cream chesse – you push the whole mess into you mouth and let the flavors mix as you chew!

Beet Lollipop

Beet Lollipop

Even if you’re not fond of beets, this fun little item is worth a shot (who knows, you may change you opinion of the much-maligned root…), and at 99 cents there’s not a lot to lose… hell, even if you don’t eat it it’s worth buying it just to say you got something at Disney for less than a buck! Just how often does that happen???

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The Festival Center of course has lots of merchandise, including several specialty adult beverages by the bottle…

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and it’s interesting to note that the Florida Orange Groves wines are actually cost less at Disney than at the winery (by several dollars)!

While you’re at the Festival Center, be sure to check out the interesting tribute to Disney Legend Bill Evans.

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Soon after we entered the World Showcase on that Friday of the opening weekend, we ran into Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann. Gracious as always, Chef Jens spent a few minutes telling us his about the festival eats and sharing his favorites with us. He noted they made an effort to have all the food items as different as possible from the Food & Wine favorites to give this event a distinct feeling, and I’d have to say he and his staff succeeded. Overall we found the food to be of high quality and flavor, and with a nice variety (especially considering the smaller number of booths compared to the fall festival).

One thing we noticed on the opening weekend was the distinct lack of lines at the booths…

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despite it being a beautiful weekend during spring break, we rarely had to wait long to be served… from a selfish guest perspective, it was great not having to wait long, but from a fans perspective, who wants this concept to be successful and continue, it was a bit disconcerting…

This was the last weekend of the very popular Strawberry Festival in not-too-far-away Plant City, and certainly the nearly 200,000 people who attended that event the same weekend siphoned many potential guests from the opening weekend of Flower & Garden, so it will be interesting (and maybe frustrating) to see if lines and crowds grow during the coming weeks… I’m hoping (and fully expecting) that Epcot will have a huge hit on it’s hands and the new Food & Wine version of Flower & Garden will continue for many years to come, but as always, time will tell.

If you’ve made it to Flower & Garden already please chime in with your thoughts, or if not, let everyone know what you’re looking forward to trying (or wish you could try if you can’t make it)!

Back to the kitchen, see you soon!

4 Responses to “Flower & Garden… and Food & Wine!”

  1. Nicky Says:

    Great review of the festival and the foods. We leave in a few weeks. Can’t wait to try the Chicken Pancake in China and the Salmon Biscuit in UK.

    Like


  2. […] FishyRocketBoy (a.k.a. Andy) has a long, photo filled post of his experiences there (here) […]

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  3. […] at this year’s Flower & Garden Festival (you can see our first visit in the post “Flower & Garden… and Food & Wine“), as well as some dining away from Epcot… so let’s dig in, shall […]

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  4. […] of an alcohol-laced Dole Whip made it’s appearance to much happiness & joy (see the post: Flower & Garden… and Food & Wine!), and this version with Orange Dole Whip spiked with Creme de Cacao is a very tasty treat! As […]

    Like


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