I’ve been lovingly referring to the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival as “Fake Food & Wine”. Why shouldn’t I? I’m sure the gardeners will hate me for it but I do come from a farming family (My child has her very own farm and you can read about it in this: Homeschool piece). And I do appreciate the Flower and Garden aspect of the festival. I love that you can see what you are eating at the various Outdoor Kitchens in the planters near each of the food booths. I think kids would be more interested in eating their vegetables if they grew them themselves…but I digress.
If you’d like to read about the horticulture aspect of the festival you can do so here: My Hard Hat Tour of the 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. But this post…this post is about the food…all the glorious food and what I did and didn’t like. Take each recommendation with a grain of salt (pun intended).
THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews
This year we have some new beers to sample at The Smokehouse, which is in the American Pavilion. I was intrigued with something called Billy’s Chilies from Twisted Pine Brewing Company (Boulder, Colorado).
Could it be? A “hot” cold beer??? I knew I didn’t want to go all in on a 12oz pour of this beer so I ordered up a 6oz pour along with a 6oz pour of Maduro from Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, Florida).
I knew I would like the Maduro..I’m a fan of most Cigar City beers. As I went in for a sip of the Billy’s Chilies I felt it cool on my lips and then after the first swallow felt a tingling sensation in the back of my throat. Crazy good! Tasted just like a chili pepper but not so much as to completely overwhelm your palate. If you like spicy…give this one a “go”.
On a subsequent visit I ordered up the Beer Flight – Magic Hat #9, Maduro, Fat Tire and Billy’s Chilies. And sat with a few friends at the picnic tables there as we all tried these 6oz offerings.
Also new this year is the “Piggylicous” bacon cupcake with maple frosting and pretzel crunch featuring Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon. I have been on the fence about this offering since I saw pictures of it online. I’ve seen maple cupcakes with crunchy bacon topping the frosting but never a cupcake with large chunks of what looks like ham in it.
I have to say, I’m glad I tried it but it wasn’t the best. I think I just couldn’t get past the fact that there was so much bacon inside the batter. Also, I like my bacon really, really crispy…an effect you can’t achieve while baking it inside a cake.
The Buttercup Cottage
I love The Buttercup Cottage, formerly known as just “The Cottage”. It’s located in the UK Pavilion. The Salmon Biscuit was one of my favorite offerings last year and this year was no exception. On a visit with my friend “Travel with Rick” we shared the selections here.
Here’s a look at the Freshly baked potato and cheddar cheese biscuit with smoked salmon tartare. This little bundle of happiness is a good bang for your buck and very filling.
The next three menu items are new this year.
Field greens with Plant City strawberries, toasted almonds and Farmstead stilton (TRYit!). This salad was light and refreshing and packed a punch with some crumbled stilton cheese.
Pork and apple sausage roll with house-made piccalilli is up next. We spoke with Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann out on the promenade one day and he told us that the initial concept for this dish was to make it an apple and sausage pie. It finally morphed into this roulade by the time the menu was finalized. The side dish served with it was like pickled peppers. I’m not a big sausage fan but if you asked Rick, I’m sure he would tell you to go for it.
The final offering here I tried were the Freshly baked lemon scones with berry preserves and crème fraÎche. I’m a certified scone addict so it was a no brainer that I would go for these. The scones by themselves were pretty good, but drag them through both the preserves and the cream for a perfect bite!
Located in the Italy Pavilion you will find the Primavera Kitchen. At this locale I opted for the Three cheese manicotti – Egg pasta stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and béchamel. This was a rather large serving but I think it had been sitting in the warmer too long. You can tell from the photo that it kind of has a film to the top of it. Not an ideal texture. The park is kind of limited on what they can and can’t do at each one of these Outdoor Kitchens so I’m not sure if there would be a solution to preventing this or not. The flavors were good though and I paired my pasta with a glass of Placido Pinot Grigio which was light and crisp and one of the more generous pours of wine along the World Showcase Lagoon.
Next stop was in China at the Lotus House. New this year is a Spring pancake with grilled chicken and green apple. I did not sample this yet, but when I asked Chef Dahlmann what were some of his favorite dishes this year, the pancake in China was the first thing he said. I did however try the Vegetable spring rolls…twice. Serving size was two crisp rolls with a smidge of spicy cream sauce. These were delicious and perfectly portable.
Florida Fresh, near the Germany Pavilion, has quite a few beer and wine offerings. There’s a Festival Exclusive Beer available here…Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale, Florida Beer Company (Cape Canaveral, Florida). I sampled it, but actually preferred the Cotton Mouth Belgian Style Witbier, Swamp Head Brewery (Gainesville, Florida). There’s also a blueberry beer offered here…Florida Avenue Blueberry, Cold Storage Craft Brewery (Tampa, Florida), however I didn’t find it very blueberry’ish. If you want a truly fruity beer, opt for the Schöfferhofer Grapefruit beer served at the Germany Pavilion year-round.
I’ve heard rave reviews on the Shrimp and stone ground grits with andouille sausage, sweet corn, tomatoes and cilantro. My girlfriend Helen sampled this offering and ate every single morsel. I didn’t try it but it looked divine.
Also available there is an amazing and sweet white sangria…Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria featuring Simply Lemonade, Florida Orange Groves (St. Petersburg, Florida)…I don’t have a photo to share but loved this offering.
On one of the afternoons I was exploring the festival we attended a demonstration at the Festival Center in the Wonders of Life Pavilion and I stopped by the Intermissions Cafe for a small glass of Garda Italian Wine Blend, Quantum Leap Winery (Orlando, Florida). This wine didn’t have much body and was light on the palate.
Fleur de Lys
In France we have an Outdoor Kitchen called Fleur de Lys where you can find the most succulent macaron as big as my head! Macaron à la fleur d’ Oranger – Orange blossom macaron with white chocolate ganache (TRYit!). I’ve been slightly obsessed with the macaron sampler offering inside Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France and this super-sized orange macaron is just as wonderful!
Pair your macaron with the orange beer (Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 – Fruity white beer with citrus notes) for a real taste of Florida in France.
My trip wouldn’t be complete without a little sushi right? New this year to the Japan Pavilion is the Temaki hand roll – Sliced Panko fried chicken, curry sauce, rice and pickled julienne carrots wrapped with Nori. This offering is also very portable and I loved how the curry sauce played with the pickled carrot.
We’re going to round out this food review with a trip to the all NEW…
Urban Farm Eats
We’re going to start with something that I didn’t like and then get into my favorite offering at the festival.
Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer, Anheuser-Busch (St. Louis, Missouri). Don’t TryIt! Just kidding…try it, but you’ve been warned. I am a craft beer drinker and usually prefer IPA’s and Ales. I asked the Cast Member if the beer tasted like molasses since it was made from sorghum and got a resounding “no”. Well, this beer tastes like molasses…kind of sweet…not appealing at all.
The two food items I tried at Urban Farm Eats were pretty amazing.
First, the Land-grown eggplant “scallop” with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash (TRYit!). There was a light coating of oil in the bottom of this dish that I found unnecessary but the overall flavor was delicious! Everything had good texture, especially the spaghetti squash and the romesco sauce did a nice job of tying all the ingredients together.
The “Best in Show” of the festival goes to the Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub. I asked the chef doling out this dish if I was going to be sorry to not have a drink to wash down this fish dish and he informed me that I might. I must also tell you that tilapia is one of my least favorite fish. This.Dish.Was.Amazing! The fish was dense and cooked perfectly. The rub had a kick, but not a kick-you-in-the-face kick…more of a slap-your-mama-good kick. The melon slaw was the ideal accompaniment. I can’t wait to go back this weekend for another serving!
That’s it for now kids. Be sure to follow me over on Instagram for live updates from the parks. I’ll be there this weekend finding more delicious morsels to share with you.
Have you Made it Out to the Flower & Garden Festival Yet? What are You Looking Forward to Trying?