We’ll continue from Part 1 where we left off at Morocco.
Hanami returns in front of Japan.
Frushi is the only returning item. They even did away with that Frozen Kirin nonsense.
The $4.50 Frushi – Fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon, rolled with coconut rice, topped with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side consists of three pieces this year with less rice, resulting in a fruitier bite. It’s more of a dessert than anything and actually a better value than last year with the additional piece. Kids in particular love it.
The $4.95 Temaki hand roll – Sliced Panko fried chicken, curry sauce, rice and pickled julienne carrots wrapped with Nori is basically Katsura Grill’s chicken cutlet wrapped in rice and seaweed. It’s a little spicy with the curry sauce and a reasonable amount of food for the money. Recommended.
The $5.50 Hanami sushi – A flavorful combination of salmon, scallop and beef-topped rice balls served atop a shiso violet sauce on the right.
The fruity Shiso Violet Sauce makes this dish, which consists of three large bites of rice with salmon, scallop, or roast beef draped on top. “It is what it is” so to speak. Pick up a plate if you’re into sushi and don’t mind paying the money for a few bites.
Kirin Ichiban is a 5% American Pale Lager brewed by Kirin Brewery Company, Limited in Japan. It is one of my least favorite beers offered at the Festival. Not that it’s bad necessarily, but there isn’t a lot of flavor and it’s widely available at supermarkets across the country. Expect to taste a lot of grain and malt. If you’re looking for a Budweiser from Japan, this is it, but paying $6.50 for a 12-ounce pour is pretty rough when there are more interesting beers at The Smokehouse and Florida Local.
Mixed drinks from Japan have always been a waste of time and the pricey $8.50 Orange Mango Slushie – Frozen blend of Nigori sake, mango and orange juice is no exception.
Served from your standard pre-made vat of slush, the Mango Slushie is more natural tasting than most. But there’s virtually no alcohol content here.
The $8.50 Pineapple Paradise with Yuzu Slushie – Frozen blend of sweet sake, pineapple juice and crème, flavored with a hint of Yuzu citrus juice is creamier and more pineapple-y, but still lacks much alcohol content. Both are refreshing, but they’re not going to take you very far so to speak.
The Smokehouse returns out in front of the United States Pavilion.
The Pulled Pig Slider and Smoked Beef Brisket return along with The Original Rib Shack Red Wine.
The $5.75 Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw features pork smoked next to the booth and comes sauceless on the bun with coleslaw on top.
Several sauces are available nearby should you wish to liven things up a bit – the pork is a bit dry by itself. The portion is one of the largest at the Festival and would probably measure about 2/3 as big as a regular Disney Pulled Pork Sandwich. It’s recommended, particularly if you’re looking for something with a little heft. The coleslaw can be served on the side or omitted entirely. I wonder how long those darling Tabasco sauce jars are going to be sitting out.
The $6.75 Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeno Corn Bread is more or less a small meal. Reviews on the meat seem to be mixed depending on the quality of your cut. Ours was mostly fat, but what was there was tender and flavorful. The Greens retained a nice crunch and were a welcome addition. The cornbread was a bit dry, but had a nice spicy flavor from the visible chunks of jalapeno mixed in to the batter. I’ll recommend it with a slight hesitation with the varying quality of the beef. This would best be shared if you’re looking to do a lot of snacking around the Outdoor Kitchens. These are probably the two heaviest items at the Festival.
The $4.75 Smoked Turkey “Rib” comes with one or two bones with spicy turkey that’s “literally” falling off the bone. Sauce is available, but I enjoyed the natural smoky flavor. The quality is significantly higher than your typical turkey leg.
This was one of my favorite new items this year.
The $3.50 “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch featuring Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon is smaller than your typical Disney cupcake. The base is a cross between cupcake and cornbread with plenty of bacon in the batter. The maple frosting adds just the right amount of sweetness. Those predisposed to liking bacon/maple frosting will appreciate this in particular, but it tastes just like the description reads.
Magic Hat #9 “Not Quite Pale Ale” is another fruit beer that comes in at 5.1% ABV. It’s lightly hoppy with an apricot kick and mild bitterness on the back end. It’s the go to “craft beer” for a lot of the Bud Light crowd, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The 5.5% ABV Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal English Brown Ale is by far the best beer here and the rarest north of Florida. You do have to enjoy the style with the usual sweet caramel, coffee, and toffee malts. This one stands out with its nutty hops and dark fruit aftertaste. It’s not quite world-class, but it’s close.
New Belgium continues its aggressive expansion into Florida with what must be deeply discounted kegs and bottles as nearly every bar, restaurant, and gas station have picked them up. Fat Tire, a 5.2% Amber Ale, is the brewery’s flagship beer. This is a clean, crisp, refreshing ale with a macro feel to it. There are otherwise some caramel malts and citrus hops in there, but this is a pretty straightforward beer. It come recommended for its drinkability, but it’s not a top-of-the-line beer.
Be very careful with Billy’s Chilies from Twisted Pine in Boulder, Colorado. This 5% chili beer tastes like carbonated jalapeno water. This is the first beer I’ve thrown out in some number of years and they were going in the trash left and right as people unknowingly sipped their 6-ounce sample from the flight. You’ve been warned.
The $3 Original Rib Shack Red Wine advertises itself as “wood natured – extra smooth.” This pinotage-shiraz is actually from South Africa and the oaky, dark fruit notes pair very nicely with the barbecue items served at The Smokehouse. It’s not quite as good on its own.
Something about Italy makes me skip it on the first go around every year. Maybe it’s the $11 belinis or the $8 Placido toilet wine. Or the $8.50 Moretti. Or the cardboard vegetarian fare. The rest of the menu, and all the other menus in text format, are available here.
Florida Local takes over in the courtyard in between the Germany and China Pavilions.
It returns as the strongest booth in my opinion.
The $3.50 Watermelon Salad with Pickled Red Onions, BW Farm Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Reduction is very good and mirrors a lot of salads you’ll see at signature restaurants. It “just works” so to speak, with the sweetness of the watermelon contrasting perfectly with the tangy-ness of the vinaigrette. A healthy sprinkling of cheese helps carry the dish. Highly recommended and one of the three best salads at the Festival (Field Greens at The Cottage and Pickled Beets at Urban Farm Eats).
This year’s $5.75 Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro is even better than last year’s version.
Three large shrimp on a spicy bed of grits, this is also one of the better values at the Festival, despite the higher price point.
The $3 Kumquat Pie was extremely sweet and grainy. I’m not sure what they’re trying to cover up with the sugared crust, sprinkled sugar on top, and sugar balls on top of the toasted marshmallow, but you come away with a very sweet pie.
At $3 it might be worth trying, but it’s unlikely to be a favorite.
The $2.75 Watermelon Passion Fruit Slush comes sans sugar cane vodka this year, unfortunately. It’s still a satisfyingly cold, not-too-sweet non-alcoholic cocktail that would be perfect for the kids in the party.
The $3.25 Florida Orange Grove Hurricane Class 5 Florida White Sangria is a mainstay at these Festivals, appearing in one place or another. It’s smooth and not too sweet. It’s also going to be difficult/impossible to find outside of Florida, making it a good choice while you’re here.
I’m not real sure what is going on with Quantum Leap Winery, but this is a $4.50 cup of “their” Rogue Valley Pinot Noir.
They are somehow based in Orlando, despite the Rogue Valley being located in Oregon. Anyway, this was a pretty blah red without anything to differentiate it from the less expensive options. Fine, but spendy considering the $19/bottle price.
The card included with the numbered cup holder makes it easy to identify which beer is which, though each is fairly unique.
The 4.7% ABV Orlando Blonde Ale is straightforward, crisp, and light without much bitterness or hops.
Swamp Head should not be confused with the almost entirely undrinkable, medicinal Swamp Ape from Florida Beer Company. Swamp Head’s 5% Cotton Mouth Belgian Style Witbier is an easy drinking beer, particularly as temperatures increase. There is not a ton going on – some fruitiness with hints of banana, but not every beer has to taste like a meal, right?
Florida Avenue Blueberry is merely okay with the same artificial smell and taste that plague beers of this style. The blueberry taste is somewhat reserved, but six ounces should be enough for most.
Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale is exclusive to this year’s Festival. This variety of low ABV saison is one of my least favorite styles, but Florida Beer’s is on point for once. Belgian yeasts permeate with a spicy, earthy finish.
The Bud Light crowd probably wants to stick to the Blonde or Witbier here. Blueberry is interesting to try as part of a flight, but not compelling enough for a $7 12-ounce pour as far as I’m concerned. The Farmhouse Ale is unique and an excellent choice for those that appreciate the style. It won’t be to the tastes of the uninitiated.
Lotus Blossom returns across from China.
The Stawberries and Pancake return, both with hefty 75-cent price increases. The Vegetable Spring Rolls replace last year’s Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun. The Popping Bubble Tea replaces last year’s Oolong Tea.
The $4.25 Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries are tres sweet. The strawberries are basically encased in a hardened sugar glaze. They were enjoyable for what they were – just be ready for early onset diabeetus.
The $5.25 Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple was a standout dish, with the perfect combination of juicy chicken and vegetable crunch. A spicy sauce adds flavor. Highly recommended.
$4.25 buys two Vegetable Spring Rolls with a dollop of spicy dipping sauce.
While they had a nice crunch to them and weren’t at all greasy, there was virtually no flavor from the vegetables. The sauce added a spike of flavor, but I’m not sure these are anything special. They are a nice, light vegetarian option though.
The $5.25 Popping Bubble Tea was an interesting take on the standard bubble tea with a mixture of chewy boba/tapioca balls accompanied by lychee balls that “literally” pop when bitten. It remains a creamy, heavy drink that’s best shared. As an added bonus, they actually have the right straws this year!
China is the best place to pick up a mixed drink in World Showcase whether we’re discussing one of the Festivals or not. The smart money used to be on La Cava in Mexico, even with the $14+ price tag attached to their margaritas. Unfortunately, they’ve been pre-mixing their drinks in large batches and serving them out of jugs recently, hardly making them worth the significant upcharge.
The South Sea Storm has about two ounces of light and dark rum poured on top of a sweet guava juice base. This is not a good choice for those that prefer their drinks to taste like something other than rum.
The Kung Fu punch has just as much of a kick, but is much fruitier and kinder to those who don’t like the taste of alcohol.
$5 is a pretty hefty price to pay for about an ounce and a half of unnamed plum wine, which typically come in around 18% ABV.
Tsingtao is a fairly ubiquitous 4.8% American adjunct lager, similar to Corona Extra or Budweiser. Some may deem it thin and watery, while others will respect its light mouthfeel and slight sweetness. I fall on the thin/watery side, but it is refreshing in the (potential) spring heat.
Mexico is perennially one of my least favorite booths at Flower/Garden and Food/Wine.
This year is another step in the wrong direction.
$5.50 buys you this Taco al pastor – Corn Tortilla filled with Achiote-marinated Pork, garnished with Grilled Diced Pineapple, Onions and Cilantro. You can see the grease oozing off the meat and onto the tortilla, making for about three very soggy, tough, gritty bites. As usual, there’s far too much going on and none of it works.
Another of the offensive items, $5.25 brings you this Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso – Flour Tortilla filled with Mushrooms and Cheese. This is about an eighth of a standard tortilla filled with canned mushrooms and melted cheese. It’s maybe $2.50 worth.
Tecate is a pretty lousy 4.5% American adjunct lager with the usual characteristics – watery, grainy, smooth, and nondescript. While excellent after mowing the grass, $8.50 for a 20-ounce draft is pretty rough.
The $8.50 Franbuesa (Raspberry) Margarita on the rocks is actually fairly strong. Or the tequila is just so cheap that the drink tastes like tequila even though there’s just a drop in it. Either way, it’s pre-made and served out of a large container. The taste is artificial raspberry syrup and tequila. Recommended if you’re looking for a precursor to the Lotus House drinks in China, but it’s not a well-balanced cocktail.
Lines remain nonexistent at the kiosks for the most part. In 13 visits to the 11 kiosks over the course of about six hours, I think we waited behind a total of 35 people.
Urban Farm Eats is either the first or last kiosk you’ll encounter depending on which direction you’re headed. I neglected to take a picture of the menu (HAHA) but this is it:
- Pickled beet salad with goat cheese cream, mizuna and pistachios – $3.50
- Land-grown eggplant “scallop” with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash – $3.75
- Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub – $4.75
- Cucumber lemon spa water, finished with a sprig of fresh mint – $2.00
- The Vegan Vine Chardonnay – $3.25
- The Vegan Vine Cabernet Sauvignon – $3.25
- Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer, Anheuser-Busch (St. Louis, Missouri) – $6.50
I guess the deal is that some of the produce from “The Land” is served at the booth, in addition to these poor fish swimming around in a tiny tank a few feet from where they’ll be served later. No word on when the Whitefish documentary will come out.
The Pickled beet salad with goat cheese cream, mizuna and pistachios was excellent with a creamy goat cheese dressing and crunchy pistachios and greens. This could easily be served at a signature restaurant for $12.
You really have to like eggplant to enjoy the $3.75 Land-grown eggplant “scallop” with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash. I thought the eggplant was slimy and the squash lacked much flavor.
The $4.75 Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia was one of my favorite items at the Festival. The “dusting” of ghost pepper isn’t overwhelmingly spicy, but it catches up with you as you take a few bites of the fish. The melon slaw helps temper the fire. Highly recommended.
The $2 Cucumber lemon spa water, finished with a sprig of fresh mint is a travesty. The process starts with three slices of cucumber carefully placed at the bottom of a plastic cup. A small sprig of un-muddled mint is placed on the side before the cast member fills the cup with Zephyrhills-branded water out of a room-temperature tap. Of course, the room temperature in Florida in March is 80+ degrees most days and there’s no ice.
Vegan wine tastes like wine, which I guess is an accomplishment considering it isn’t filtered through the usual sturgeon bladders.
That’s the Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchens.