France returns in the same location with an upgraded Marketplace that takes orders on both sides.
The Escargots and Creme Brulee are slight variations on what has been available here for years. The Ice Pop Pomme is a fresh take on the frozen popsicle that originally debuted at this year’s Flower and Garden Festival in a peach flavor.
Like Mexico and Japan, check the line on both sides of the Marketplace. But also take note of how many registers are operating. The line might be twice as long on one side, but if there are three registers running, the wait is likely shorter than a line half as long on the other side with just one register running. That’s how ratios work.
This year’s $5.50 Croissant aux escargots with garlic and parsley is the best yet with four escargots baked into the buttery croissant. You know this is just an excuse to consume butter and garlic and what better vessel than a fluffy croissant?
Unfortunately, the 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.
There’s nothing I can do to make this year’s $4.25 Crème brûlée vanille chocolat: Vanilla & chocolate crème brûlée topped with caramelized sugar look attractive.
I tried all kinds of angles. All kinds of tilts. I’m actually still photographing it. What we found underneath the glossy brown exterior didn’t taste any better than it looked. It was just sort of chocolate sauce and a syrupy vanilla pudding mixed together. I have a feeling that they’ll figure this one out down the line, but I’m not sure it’s a compelling value once they do. For what we got:
The $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, but it doesn’t seem to matter considering the number of people walking around with them.
The $6.75 Ice Pop Pomme: Apple juice, vodka, and St. Germain liqueur. I really enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival version, but my Food and Wine version wasn’t nearly frozen enough. The girl working the booth ended up putting the first one she grabbed back because it had melted, but the second one didn’t turn out to be much better. And perhaps because it was melting and I sort of had to down it in three licks, it was extremely syrupy and tart. Hopefully you’ll have more luck on the frozen front.
A $7.75 Sparkling Pomegranate Kir is about 3.75 ounces of lousy sparkling wine topped with pomegranate liqueur – I think you’d be better off with a regular wine from the regular kiosk or the mimosa back in Morocco.
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. Not a tremendous value but it does pair well with the beef if you want to make two mistakes here.
I don’t want to talk about it.
Ireland returns either just before or just after the United Kingdom Pavilion depending on which way you’re walking.
Just the Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale is new.
The Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – $6.50 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.
The Kerrygold cheese selection: Reserve Cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, Skellig – $4.25 and served with soda bread and a chutney. We enjoyed these cheeses less than what’s served at the Cheese Studio, 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.
Taste: 3/10 (you may well enjoy it a lot more)
Warm Chocolate Pudding with the $7.25 Chilled Irish Coffee featuring Bunratty Potcheen in the background. Potcheen is largely undrinkable straight and in my opinion, the Belgian coffee 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.
Bunratty Meade Honey Wine is 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. It may be more viscous than you’re expecting.
Store price: ?/ounce.
Festival price: 63 cents/ounce.
Value: Potentially good.
Kilkenny is not widely available in the United States, I don’t think. I always get it confused with George Killian’s Irish Red (Coors), probably because I barely speak English. This is a relatively low ABV Irish red produced by Diageo under the Guinness brand. It’s a bready, malty, caramel-y beer that’s light and refreshing with the low presence of alcohol that goes down smooth. It’s one of the better beers available at the booths, which is admittedly not saying much, but it’s worth a shot.
I don’t have a picture of the Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur, but sampled a shot (or two) at last year’s Party for the Senses. I wouldn’t recommend paying eight bucks for what basically amounts to an ounce of Bailey’s.
The Chicken Sausage returns after being replaced by trout last year. The Inniskillin Icewine and Tawse Vineyard Cabernet Franc are new.
The popular Canadian Cheese Soup returns in sad little cups for $4.25. These things fly off the shelves despite being absurdly priced. “Very cream. Much cheese. Such good. So price. – doge.” Pay the piper, give yourself a concussion, and try to forget it cost $4.25.
I’ve heard better things about Canada’s Filet Mignon. The picture above is from last year, when I received a very sad, very fatty piece of beef with just a couple thin slices of mushroom and a sad dollop of sauce. At $7.50 it still seems to make a lot more sense as a Dining Plan snack credit than a cash purchase. Add five bucks and you can order the Filet Sliders at Boathouse ($12 with fries). I’ll reserve judgment on this one since the portion and quality vary so wildly.
The $4.50 Chicken sausage with creamy polenta and Minus 8 onion jam is a smarter investment I think – three bucks less and a larger portion, not to mention it’s a little more unique than steak. Anyway, the sausage has a little bit of a spicy kick to it, in addition to the spice from the peppers on top. The polenta contrasts nicely, offering a little bit of sweetness, in addition to the heft spreading out some of the heat. Recommended overall.
Store price: 11 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce.
Moosehead Lager is a decent 5% ABV American Pale Lager brewed by Moosehead Breweries in New Brunswick, Canada. This is basically your Budweiser option, though it has more flavor than your typical American macro. It’s refreshing, easy to drink, and relatively light.
Ashley sent in this precarious picture of the Neige Ice Wine from last year. $6 buys you about an ounce of what would cost you about $40 for a 375ml bottle (half a regular wine bottle). Unfortunately, there is no indication that the pour will be so small, leading to a lot of unpleasant (humorous) cast member interactions, particularly from those guests that began their expedition on the walk toward Mexico. Anyway, Neige is intense with a sweet apple cider flavor. It pairs very well with the Cheddar Soup. At 12% ABV, it’s not much more boozy than the Canada Cart La Fin du Monde, but it does have a pleasantly sweet apple flavor.
The Inniskillin Vidal would run you about $50 for 375ml in the store. They may let you look inside the bottle for $6 here, but that’s probably about it.
I didn’t catch which bottle they were pouring on the Tawse Vineyard – they have a few different wineries and a few different price points – it was probably the least expensive, which is the $27 “Grower’s Blend.” Still, even at a higher price this is a decent value for those looking for a little bit of an upscale experience and one of the better reds at the Festival. If you’re going to drop north of seven bucks for two bites of steak, you might as well drop another $6 on two sips of wine.
Greece, where the kiosk probably brings in more money than the actual Greek government does in taxes annually, returns just before or just past Canada.
The Greek Salad in a Cone is new and the Vegan Moussaka is a different take than last year.
I’m quoted as saying last year’s Vegetarian Moussaka was my “favorite vegetarian item at the Festival.”
This year’s looks quite a bit different, removing the thick layer of melted cheese in favor of…whatever this is. The sausage crumbles aren’t necessarily bad, but you’re paying somebody a lot of money to reheat frozen fake sausage. It might be worthwhile for a vegan with limited options, but I’d probably skip it if you have more choices, particularly for more money than the chicken sausage.
There is still a layer of potato and mushroom underneath, but I found both bland.
The $3.25 Greek salad in a cone is your standard issue mixture of feta, olives, lettuce, red onion, and cucumber that’s for some reason served in a cone.
The flavors are good, but it’s not particularly unique.
The $4.25 Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce is a skip in my opinion – a chintzy portion and a fairly simple preparation. It does feature relatively plain flavors should you be traveling with someone with limited tastes. You can probably get the sauce on the side.
$4.25 buys you two spanakopita(s), which are flaky pastries filled with spinach, feta cheese, and other spices and stuff. They are quite good, though it’s not a lot of food for your money. The flaky crust easily breaks open to reveal the savory spinach and cheese inside.
The white wine is the Domaine Skouras Moscofilero – $3.50. This is a fruity white wine with a nice floral aroma. I think it’s a bit rarer than some of the other wines and authentically Greek, making it recommended.
A kind of blurry Alpha Estate Axia Syrah-Xinomavro – $4.25. This authentically Greek wine has a lot going on – spice and plum seemed to be the predominant flavors. I don’t think it pairs well with anything offered here, but it would go well with the Canada Filet.
The $8 Tzatziki martini featuring Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka and BOLS Natural Yoghurt Liqueur tastes more neutral than you might expect, almost like water mixed with cucumber. It didn’t seem to pack much of a punch and there wasn’t all that much to it. You may have noticed each menu has a “Festival Favorite” icon next what you might assume are…festival favorites. Considering there’s one after this martini thing makes me think you can throw that designation out the window. Maybe they just asked Crop Organic and BOLS what they thought was the best thing to try. Best skipped I think.
Refreshment Port gets into the spirit with the Dole Whip and “Fried Chicken Chunks.” The Croissant Doughnut remains one of my favorite things, but you may want to pass over it in favor of something more unique.
Next up: Hawaii, Scotland, Cheese Studio, Wine Studio, and Dominican Republic.