Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit Walt Disney World and, more specifically, Epcot during their 25th Annual Flower and Garden Festival. The plants were beautiful, the sun was shining, Epcot music was everywhere, and the food… well, that was on a whole other level. I was able to participate in a media event where we were given samples of the speciality items from several festival kitchens. If you’re heading to Epcot in the next 60 days then you have try the deliciousness being offered throughout World Showcase. Check out all offerings here.

Cider House

House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare

Those reading the menu description and expecting a Cheddar Bay Biscuit equivalent will be sorely disappointed. The biscuit is dense and chewy and not as flavorful as its colorful crustacean counterparts. However, the Smoked Salmon Tartare is amazing. A small sprig of dill added a brightness to the already refreshing and perfectly seasoned dish.

Should you try it? If you like salmon, you will not be disappointed.

 

Freshly Baked Lemon Scone with Crème Fraîche and Mixed Berries

One of the most surprising things we learned during this tasting was that the lemon scone evolved by accident. A typo on a menu caused chefs to rethink the dessert and develop it as gluten-free. It’s vegan too! Some foods lose their outstanding quality when made without the ingredients we’re familiar with, but that’s not the case here. I would never guess something this tasty lacked animal and wheat products. Just like a proper scone should be, this dessert is dry and goes excellently with the berries and cream. The lemon is prominent in every bite, but not overpowering.

Should you try it? Yes.

 

 

Ciderboys Grand Mimosa Apple Orange Hard Cider

Sweet and refreshing with well-balanced flavors. I could taste the apple and the orange and neither overpowered the other. This would go nicely with both items listed above. While I prefer drinks on the bitter side, this is a perfect way to cool down during the midday heat and sunshine.

Should you try? If you like hard cider, go for it. If you don’t, save your money for something else.

 

Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market

Hugo-Charles De Fère “Organic” Brut with Elderflower and Mint

I really enjoyed this beverage. It was definitely on the sweet side and was strong too. Good flavor and carbonation—just the right amount of bubbles—and the mint was a nice enhancement.

Should you try it? Yes.

 

La Isla Fresca

Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro

I only sampled a bite of this dish, but it was tasty. The beef was tender and not spicy and the rice was seasoned well. The micro cilantro added another layer of flavor and color. A great option if the spicy items are too much for you of if you’re looking for something with a little more sustenance.

Should you try it? There are better items to sample, but if you’re eliminating anything with heat, then yes.

Golden Road Brewing Tart Mango Cart Wheat Ale

This fruity ale had a pronounced mango flavor and aroma, that worked very well with the wheat ale. Its medium body makes for a refreshing and easily drinkable beer. I liked it overall and would get it again, but after trying other beverages first.

Should you try it? Do you like wheat ale and/or mango? Then yes.

 

The Berry Basket

Field Greens with Fresh Strawberries, Crisp Quinoa, Strawberry Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans

Crisp greens, crunchy quinoa, spiced pecans—not spicy hot—perfectly sweet strawberries, and just a hint of sour? I have not enjoyed a salad so much in a long time. This combination was delicious with well-balanced textures, tastes and flavors. The biggest take away was how ripe the berries were, they never even veered into mushy territory. It was taste bud heaven.

Should you try it? It would be senseless not to.

 

Twinnings Green Tea Berry Mint Julep

The name says it all. I could taste every bit of the green tea, berries, and mint. Not overly sweet and remarkably refreshing, this drink is a winner. We were served a non-alcoholic version. At the festival kitchen both options are available.

Should you try it? Oh yes.

 

Pineapple Promenade

Spicy Hot Dog With Pineapple Chutney and Plantain Chips 

They were not lying when they said spicy! I’m not a big hot dog person, but this was too good to pass up. While it’s a literal “hot” dog, the pineapple, plantain, and bun help to spread out the spiciness while also adding a variety of textures that all came together well.

Should you try it? If you want something unique with heat, then don’t hesitate to get this dish.

 

Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade

I wanted to like this so much. It’s a beautiful color, has a fun name, and it just sounds refreshing. Sadly, I didn’t care for it, as much as I thought I would. Maybe it was too melted by the time I got around to trying it because it was more of a drink than a dessert. It was also very, very sweet and not something I could consume in large quantities.

Should you try it? If you like frozen lemonade, then go for it. Otherwise, you’re not missing out.

 

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews

Pulled Pork Slider with Coleslaw

This baby was gooooood! Tender pork and crunchy coleslaw complimented with your choice of sweet or spicy barbecue sauce (we tried both)? Bring it on! It might be a simple dish, but it’s a classic and it’s done well. The pork was perfect, the slaw had the right amount of sauce/dressing, and the bread to meat ratio was good too.

Should you try it? Yes, but only if the Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider doesn’t appeal to you. Seriously.

 

 

Beer Flight 

  • Central 28 Brewing Co, Sunshine Greetings Orange Hibiscus Wheat Ale
    • This beer was smooth, sweet, and floral with a nice body to it. It goes well with the pork slider and I’d imagine that this ale would compliment the entire Smokehouse menu nicely. It provides a refreshing light balance to the deep and rich flavors of the other dishes. Should you try it? Yes.
  • 3 Daughters Brewing Phantasmas Spicy Double IPA
    • Nothing really stuck out for me with this beer. I think I was enjoying way too many flavors to fully appreciate it. I didn’t pick up on the “spiciness” or the trademark hoppy-ness of the IPA style, and don’t remember much about it. Should you try it? It’s safe to skip this one.
  • Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout
    • Could I taste the maple? You bet. The bacon? Uh huh. Did it have the richness I’ve come to expect from stouts? Ehhh… it was a little weak (for me) in that area, but overall it was good. Points for the novelty of the beer; it works in this smokehouse setting and something I’d like to have again, but definitely not in the regular rotation. Should you try it? If you like anything in name of the beer (including shipyards), then, absolutely yes.

 

Florida Fresh

Spicy Blackened Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits with Brown Gravy and Local Sweet Corn Relish

Shrimp is not my favorite seafood and while I don’t seek it out, it’s not something that I’m opposed to eating. That being said, this was one of the best items that we sampled. Surprisingly, the blackened shrimp wasn’t the spiciest part but rather the corn relish that contained jalapeños. The grits helped to dilute the spice and added an interesting texture to this well-constructed dish.

Should you try it? Yes.

 

The Honey Bee-stro Hosted by National Honey Board

Local Wildflower Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange Blossom Honey Ice Cream garnished with Fennel Pollen Meringue Kisses

I almost passed this one up when I first read the menu. Fortunately for me, prior to the sampling, Chef Gregg filled us in on the buzz around this dessert. He told us they hoped to sell 100 of these a day, but not even 30 days into the festival they are selling about 500 a day! Well at this point, we knew we had to try it. It was amazing. I’ve had dozens of cheesecakes, but there was something special about this one. Probably the honey!  Since mascarpone is softer and creamier than cream cheese (ironic?) and less biting it mixes well with the honey giving a light, sweet flavor. While the ice cream was just a scoop of vanilla drizzled with honey, it brought everything full circle and added a temperature element to the dessert. The meringue kisses were sweet and a little harder than I expected. Also, while I could see the fennel pollen, I didn’t get an additional flavor from it. Regardless, this one is a winner.

Should you try it? Oh Honey, yes. It’s unBEElievable!

 

Bonuses!

A trip to Epcot the next day resulted in more sampling.

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue and House-made Pickle

You had me at cheddar and chorizo. While we didn’t get to sample it during the event, we went back to Epcot the next day to made sure to try it. Worth it. Worth the expensive $7.25 price tag and I probably could have eaten the whole thing instead of sharing it. The beef and pork were tender, the garlic sausage was delicious, the pickle was pleasantly spicy with a more intense sour taste than I prefer, but not brine-y like jar pickles. The bun was good, the cheddar fondue was good, and everything came together so nicely. It’s no wonder why this dish is the biggest seller at the Festival. Pro tip: don’t eat this while walking around, be sure to grab a seat and extra napkins because this deliciousness is messy!

Should you try it? Do you even have to ask?

 

Fleur De Lys

Macaron au Chocolat en Sucette: Large Chocolate Macaron Lollipop

Our friend who isn’t a big fan of chocolate decided to try it due to FOMO. When it proved to be too much chocolate, we took it off his hands! Sweet, rich, and chewy, I would recommend and get this dessert again. Yes, it’s very heavy on the chocolate, but if you’re like me, you can never have too much! C’est magnifique!

Should you try it? Oui!

Photo by Aaron Wallace

 

Summary

If you still can’t decide what to sample then these are my top six recommendations (beverages excluded).

If you’re going it alone and/or can only try 3 items get:

  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider
  • Field Greens with Fresh Strawberries, Crisp Quinoa, Strawberry Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans
  • Local Wildflower Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake

If you have a friend joining you and can bear to share, get these items as well:

  • Spicy Blackened Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits with Brown Gravy and Local Sweet Corn Relish
  • Spicy Hot Dog With Pineapple Chutney and Plantain Chips
  • Macaron au Chocolat en Sucette: Large Chocolate Macaron Lollipop
 
 

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