Continuing from Part 1.
Familiar Ireland returns in the same location as the past few years near Rose & Crown Pub.
The Fisherman’s Pie returns at the same price point, the cheese is up 25 cents, and the pudding is now topped with sponsored Kerrygold liqueur custard instead of sponsored Bailey’s liqueur custard. The Irish Coffee is the same price and the shot of Kerrygold liqueur is new. Guinness is the same price, but only available in a 6-ounce draft.
The Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – $6.25 is one of my favorite dishes. It looks deceptively small, but it’s packed with hearty potatoes, cheese, seafood, and the ingredient list is something like 30 things long. It is one of the more expensive items, but I’d budget for it if you can. It is quite filling, so you may want to share.
A very lousy picture of the Kerrygold cheese selection: Reserve Cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, Skellig – $4 and served with soda bread and a chutney. We enjoyed these cheeses far less than what’s served at Hops and Barley, though I’m not sure I could tell you why. The flavors may have been a bit more foreign than we’re used to. If you like cheese, it’s hard to fault the options here and I don’t regret the purchase – it just wasn’t for us.
Warm Chocolate Pudding with the $7 Chilled Irish Coffee featuring Bunratty Potcheen in the background. Potcheen is largely undrinkable straight and in my opinion, the Belgian coffee upcoming is an easier-to-drink proposition. It does pair nicely with the couple bites that is the incredibly rich chocolate pudding. The creamy coffee does help mask the alcohol flavor from the potcheen, which comes in at 45% ABV, leaving a sippable beverage. I think the French Crème Brûlée up next is a better value, but this is as chocolate-y as it gets.
Guinness is another prevalent beer that’s on nearly every restaurant menu nationwide. It’s a 4.2% Irish Dry Stout that is not a personal favorite. At least what we get in the United States seems bland and watery, but you should pick up on some roast malts, burnt coffee, and subtle chocolate notes.
Store price: 12.5 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce.
If you love Guinness, my advice is to head into the Pub next door:
The pour, which is important when it comes to Guinness, is assuredly better inside the pub. And the cost per ounce comes down about 20% to 46 cents. On the other hand, the booth is a good opportunity to give it a whirl if you’ve never tried it. It’s an easier drinking brew than you might expect from the color and actually has fewer calories than orange juice or skim milk. So it’s basically healthy.
I attended the Bunratty Meade beverage seminar because I thought it would be a good way to get at the Honey Wine. That’s it on the far left. It’s a very sweet wine that tastes strongly of honey and very little of alcohol, despite having an ABV of 14.7%. It should be available in stores for around $17/bottle (and it’s available at the Festival Center for $22). Purists would tell you that it’s not a traditional mead, which would be fermented honey wine. This is a white wine with honey and spices added to it. Assuming you start drinking around the World in Mexico (and for most, even in Canada), you won’t care. Honey Wine is otherwise sweet with little flavor from the alcohol showing through.
The booth portion in the back.
Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur is a new product that’s currently only available in Illinois and Florida here in the U.S. A bottle would run you $19.99, making $7.25 for a shot of 17% ABV liqueur a spendy proposition.
A surprising number of changes at France this year, which typically offers some of the best received items. The escargots arrive in a tart instead of those three cute little bread bowls. The Pasta Gratin is new. The Bourguignon returns for 25 cents more money. A Sea Salt Creme Brulee replaces last year’s milk chocolate version and the Slush is a slightly different composition.
You may be able to tell how popular France is with the ladies.
The Tartelette aux escargots — Escargot tart with garlic, spinach, bacon and parmesan – $4.35 is a significantly lighter, better composed dish than the butter/garlic bombs that were served in brioche during past Festivals. The pastry portion is crumbly and offers a different texture, but the flavor is much the same, just less intense. Recommended.
Another thing about France…it’s always impossible to make at least one incredible dish look appetizing. The $4.95 Gratin de crozets de Savoie — Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese is a top five pick this year – piping hot, creamy, cheesy, and so decadent. Ignore the picture and pick one up, particularly if you’re looking for something filling and vegetarian. I “don’t like mushrooms,” but still loved the alfredo flavors.
Unfortunately, this year’s $5.25 Boeuf bourguignon — Braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes disappointed on two different occasions over two days. The potatoes underneath are atypically dense and the beef on top is stew quality. The Potato and Leak Waffle with Braised Beef upcoming in Belgium is $1 less and a more satisfying dish.
Yummmmm, the $4.25 Crème brûlée caramel fleur de sel — Sea salt caramel crème brûlée topped with caramelized sugar might be my favorite dessert at this year’s Festival and not something most people are probably attempting to make on a daily basis, which is another bonus. The cream is surprisingly light and the dish is sweet without being overwhelming. Very good.
5.5 ounces of Kronenbourg Blanc out of a bottle, not to be confused with the regular Kronenbourg 1664 that’s served throughout the Pavilion all year, will run you $3.75 at this year’s Festival.
Store price: 20 cents
Festival price: 68 cents/ounce
Blanc is stupid expensive in Florida for some reason. Back home in Seattle, a 6-pack would run you $9.79 (15 cents an ounce) instead of $12.99. A bottle would also run you $6.92 at Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, compared to $7.50 here. ANYWAY, Blanc is a decent witbier, crisp and light with citrus notes that are marred (in my opinion) by too much coriander. It’s not as cloying as some wheat beers. I personally wouldn’t order one but you can do much worse!
Wine pricing is always insane in France. La Crema at Hops and Barley is $1.50 less and significantly better, but if you want a white from the booth….this is it.
A bottle of Chateau Bonnet cost $18, compared to $5.95 for 2.5 ounces at the booth. This is medium-bodied with blackberry and cherry notes backed up by some oak.
Your other options at the Boulangerie aren’t much better. More about French wine options at the end of this post should you be so inclined (with a bonus Monsieur Paul review).
A $7.75 Sparkling Pomegranate Kir is about 3.75 ounces of lousy sparkling wine topped with pomegranate liqueur – not really a compelling value, but what is?
This year’s $9.95 La Passion Martini Slush — Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, cranberry and passion fruit juice is sweeter than previous iterations with less of an icy texture. Is there any alcohol in it? Probably not much, but it doesn’t seem to matter considering the number of people walking around with them.
Brazil takes over in Belgium’s usual spot this year. Don’t worry, Belgium is just a few feet toward Morocco.
Pretty seating with the possibility of live music (probably only on weekends).
The Crispy Pork Belly is the only returning food item, at the same price as last year no less. The Carnaval Moscato actually DOUBLED in price over last year to a whopping six bucks. The Caipirinha is up 50 cents.
The $4.50 Moqueca de Pescado — Regal Springs premium tilapia with coconut lime sauce and steamed rice is a nice portion for the money. While tilapia is not ummmmmm exactly a premium fish, it works here to soak up the coconut and lime flavors from the sauce. There is a bit of spice to the dish, but it’s far from overpowering. I’m not sure it’s unique enough to compel a purchase given tilapia’s prevalence, but it is prepared well, flaky and fresh.
This year’s $5.25 Crispy pork belly with black beans, tomato and cilantro is better and one of my top five dishes from the Festival on flavor and value. It’s also a good example of a dish that’s “the same” as last year, but improved heartily. It’s high quality meat with little fat and a crispy texture, despite sitting in the generous spoonful of flavorful black beans. I hope you have the same luck!
Lisa was perhaps looking forward to the $3.25 Pao de queijo — Brazilian cheese bread more than any other new item. What we received on day 2 was significantly better than day 1, but these are gluten free, and suffer because of it. It’s otherwise largely flavorless bread surrounding melted cheese that also lacks much flavor. For two hunks at this price point, they may be worth a shot, but lower those expectations.
So the description on this thing is “Cocada- Brazilian Coconut Candy – $1.75). I was expecting a pre-packaged candy of some kind, but received this very dense, very sweet, very chewy hunk of coconut candy. You’re really going to have to like coconut to enjoy this one, but for the money, everyone might as well grab a fork and dig in.
Xingu (pronounced shin-goo) is a 4.7% schwarzbier from Cervejaria Sul Brasileirain in Jacarei. It’s not as rare here in the states as you might expect and local Total Wine stores would sell you a six-pack for $10.49. Taste is a little sweet and caramel-y with a toasted malt finish. Mouthfeel is thin, but these dark beers are not as boozy as you might expect.
Store price: 15 cents
Festival price: 54 cents/ounce
It’s an interesting beer and while your local superstore probably stocks it, most people probably haven’t tried it.
I recommended Carnaval Moscato last year at the $3 price point, but $6 is pretty nuts for a bottle that would run you $12 at the store. Particularly when said moscato is 7.5% ABV, which almost makes it not even worth swallowing. Avoid.
The Monte Paschoal Reserve Tannat at $2.75 is priced right and is more intense than the French wines, thanks to the tannat grape and Campanha Gaucha terroir where it’s produced. It pairs exquisitely with the pork – not so much the fish or waffles in Belgium.
The caipirinha (ky-pee-REE-nyah) is Brazil’s national cocktail, made here with LeBlon Cachaca for $8.75. Cachaca is mostly unknown here in the U.S., but the pure sugar cane spirit is the most common hard liquor in Brazil. Anyway, this particular drink is served blended with the subtle sourness of the limes masking the taste of the liquor. It’s a refreshing cocktail that’s boozier than it tastes, unlike a lot of mixed drinks that we’re going to run into with hardly any alcohol content. Recommended.
Belgium moves a few feet down toward Morocco.
Each of the waffles return 25 cents more expensive. Stella Artois Cidre replaces Leffe Brune.
Another apology is in order on the $4.25 Potato and leek waffle with beer-braised beef, which is another dish that is significantly better than it looks. Several large bites of tender, slow cooked beef top a freshly pressed waffle. It’s basically beef stew over a waffle with a little bit of an onion-y kick from the leeks. Highly recommended, despite the unfortunate look.
More sweetly decadent is the Belgian waffle with warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream – $3.25. The freshly made waffles here are great and the chocolate ganache and whipped cream help bring out its naturally sweet flavor without overwhelming the waffle. Extremely good.
Mmmmmmmmm, for those of you not in the mood for chocolate, the $3.25 Belgian waffle with berry compote and whipped cream is a nice alternative. There was a time (two years ago) when waits for the waffles were long, but they seem to have streamlined things and longer waits than the other popular booths are uncommon.
The Chilled coffee featuring Godiva Chocolate Liqueur is back. The drink was too chocolatey for me, perhaps due to some unadvertised chocolate syrup. And the cup is not particularly large considering how easy it is to drink. You may have better luck.
It’s pronounced “who-garden,” though you’re more than welcome to ask the female cast member how good the ho garden is this year. Hoegaarden is a light and refreshing 4.9% witbier, better than the Kronenbourg Blanc, with lemon and orange notes.
Store price: 11 cents
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce
Miss you 22-ounce souvie cup. A favorite of young, mid-level managers that don’t want to order a Miller Lite in public, Stella is a decent 5% Euro Pale Lager.
Store price: 11 cents
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce
You could do worse (hello Moretti), but any of the other options are more interesting.
Leffe Blonde is slightly harder to find than Stella, which is available at just about every convenience store in the U.S., but not by much. It’s actually a pretty decent Belgian Pale Ale, though the beer snobs among us will say that this is “no Belgian Pale Ale.” At 6.6% ABV, it’s also boozier than most of the beers offered at the Festival, including the other two here. The good news is that despite having more alcohol, you’re not going to taste it. It’s nice and crisp. Expect to taste cloves, bananas, and other spices. But be beware, this is a gateway to other more robust (and expensive) Belgian Ales.
Store price: 11 cents
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce
It pains me to rate the value as “poor” but it is pretty expensive compared to the store price of $7.49 for a 6-pack. With the highest ABV, it is the best beer value at this particular booth and all three are at least on draft, which is a bonus.
Store price: 16 cents
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce
Cidre arrived stateside last year to compete with the other macros launching lines under various names, including MillerCoors who owns Crispin and Redd’s Apple Ale and Boston Beer (Sam Adams) who launched Angry Orchard in 2011. Figuring out who owns what can be confusing. Even our heralded Unibroue is owned by Sapporo in Japan. Anyway, Cidre is clean, crisp, and a bit too sweet for me. This may be a nice opportunity to give it a whirl without committing to a 4-pack.
Remember that the flights consist of four beers that are four ounces each, for a total of 16 ounces for $9.25. That’s the same 58 cents per-ounce price as the 6-ounce cups.
Morocco is the Spice Road Table of the Festival and usually sees the shortest lines of any booth.
The Spicy Shrimp Roll replaces the Chili’s-quality Harissa Chicken Roll. The Guerrouane White Wine replaces the Ksar. Casa Beer will now run you the equivalent of eight bucks for a 12-ounce bottle.
The $5 Kefta Sandwich is basically a Moroccan meatball sandwich with the beef further back in the pita and the vegetables stuffed closer to the opening. The pita is on the bland side and I think most people will prefer the lamb meatball at New Zealand.
The $5 Spicy Shrimp Roll with cilantro and Mint Sauce is not particularly spicy.
Nor is it particularly shrimp-y, instead stuffed mostly with cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables.
I wanted to like it more than I did. If there was some more spice, some more flavor from the mint sauce, and some more shrimp, it would be a standout item. But as it stands, you probably want to skip it.
Baklava is horrendously time consuming to make, which is one of the reasons why it’s usually expensive. At $2.95, Morocco’s is reasonably priced. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of stacked layers of phyllo dough in between layers of melted butter and filled with chopped nuts (along with whatever else). The baklava here is sweet and moist with a distinct nutty, cinnamon-y flavor. Fortunately, the baklava doesn’t tend to be dried out here at the booth like it does at Tangierine Cafe. Recommended, especially if you haven’t tried it before.
Store price: ?
Festival price: 67 cents/ounce
Total Wine at least doesn’t sell 6-packs for $7.49 like the Belgian beer, but four bucks for half of somebody else’s bottle is pretty rough pricing on what is basically a Heineken.
The “Juice Bar” that doesn’t actually serve juice on the opposite side of Spice Road will sell you a 12-ounce bottle for $7.45 after tax, which is a little less expensive. Casa is otherwise always available in Morocco.
Zniber Guerrouane Blanc is probably going to be difficult to track down outside of Epcot and Morocco tends to fill the cups to the brim, unlike most booths that have pour stoppers that only allow two to three ounces. It’s still a $4 cup of a $14 bottle, but you could do worse.
The $5 Sangria is on the left and the $7 Mimosa Royale on the right. Morocco serves a sweet Spanish sangria that tastes more of sugar than alcohol. It’s pre-made from a bottle and isn’t anything special, but it’s sugary and here if you’re in the market. The Mimosa Royale is what you would expect from champagne and orange juice. Neither is a compelling value, but they’re both here if you’re in the market.
Japan, Hops & Barley, and Italy up next.