Continuing from Part 1, we find ourselves in:
This year’s Mexico booth returns in the same location, this year providing cash registers on both sides. If one side is long, it usually means that the other side is short depending on the time of day.
Just the cheesecake, tequila flight, and Mexican sangria return.
The $5 Chilaquiles de pollo: Corn chips layered with seasoned chicken, queso fresco, sour cream and cilantro was one of my favorite new items from the Festival.
Mexico usually does a beef taco instead. This is not exactly what I was expecting – I thought it would be more of a nachos situation, but this is more of a baked enchilada kind of thing with some corn chips that are no longer particularly crunchy. But it’s piled high with seasoned shredded chicken, melted cheese, and the other ingredients to make a flavorful dish that probably doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but tastes better than anything currently served at the Mexico quick service. It’s an above average value that’s easily shared.
The $5.50 Tacos de camarón: Battered shrimp, pico de gallo, pickled onions, and chipotle mayonnaise is a slightly different take on Mexico’s usual shrimp taco. This is the best version yet, with four lightly fried shrimp sitting underneath a creamy, spicy chipotle mayo and the piquant onions adding a little crunch along with the pico. It’s on the small side, but this is what these tacos have cost here for years, so it’s a take it or leave it proposition. I think the flavors finally elevate it to a reasonable value.
Lisa enjoyed the Sweet corn cheese cake, which has a pronounced, rich corn flavor, more than I did. It’s semi-sweet with the whipped cream and caramel sauce adding another element of flavor. It’s otherwise interesting and a “little different,” while still playing it safe. I don’t think it’s worth waiting for on its own if lines are long, but you might want to attach it to the end of an order.
Had to go with stock footage on this one as this year’s picture didn’t really come out artsy, despite a generous tilt.
Mexico burns me with their sangrias and margaritas every year. If you’re looking for a marg, I’d suggest the Margarita kiosk outside. Or if you prefer your drinks made yesterday, try La Cava inside the pyramid.
The $14 Tequila Flight has some value and if you’re having a bad time, it’s a good way to have a better one. Despite not being named, the tequilas are typically pretty good and this comes recommended as you’re not going to run into anything with more alcohol anywhere else. But the fact that this much alcohol costs $14 should give you a good idea about what to expect from the cocktails that come in around $8.
China is back, of course.
The Gaoli Beef Slider is a new item as are the Ritzy Lychee, Happy Peach, and Mango Jasmine Tea.
The Beijing roasted duck in a steamed bun with hoisin sauce is among the most expensive items at the Festival, but I think it also presents a good value as duck is relatively uncommon. The bun is chewy and light without having much flavor on its own. That’s okay because the tender, roasted duck in a partially-crystallized hoisin sauce packs a salty, sweet punch and there’s a lot of it piled into the bun with red and green onion on top. It’s a unique dish that I recommend if you don’t mind the higher price point.
The $5.75 Gaoli Beef Slider isn’t much of a departure from the Mongolian Beef that’s usually served here. What I think is a poppy seed bun is sort of a strange choice – easier to prepare than the steamed bun perhaps, but a thick roll isn’t exactly what comes to mind first when you think of Chinese cuisine. But then I said the same thing about those sandwiches they served in Mexico for a short time and it turns out that they’re very authentic. So who knows. Anyway, for 75 cents more I recommend going with the duck, which I think is a lot more unique than this. The beef was chewy and one-dimensional and the bread just added unnecessary heft. I’d skip it unless you’re looking for one of the safer choices. Ask for no onions and you have a Mongolian Beef sandwich.
The Black pepper shrimp with Sichuan noodles. The three-to-four shrimp themselves are kind of sad and gummy compared to what we’ll see in Australia, but it is a heaping portion of the noodles underneath, which might help soak up some of that alcohol. It’s a hearty dish overall and best shared if you want to sample a lot of different things. The overall flavor is kind of bland and one-note considering what it could be, but it does agree with the typical American palate.
Four dollars buys you two chicken potstickers, which I would have trouble differentiating from the big bag of Ling Lings I buy at Costco. They are expertly pan-fried and delicious, but it’s about a dollar per bite and the flavors are straightforward.
Store price: 8 cents/ounce
Festival price: 58 cents
ABV: Not enough
The website weeps. Defenders would point out that Tsingtao is the #2 best selling beer in the world, but Clorox is the #2 best selling bleach and I’m not sure I want to drink that either. If for some reason you have a stroke and accidentally order half of someone else’s bottle of 4.8% American adjunct lager, you can expect a largely skunky light bear backed up by stale grains. Or like the other standard lagers, it’s refreshing on a hot afternoon. Just real expensive.
This is a very dry riesling, almost like a chardonnay with a mineral flavor. The chenin blanc in Africa would be a better choice as this is a below average value.
China sees two new drinks in the $10.50 Ritzy Lychee with cognac and vodka and $8.50 Happy Peach with peach liqueur and dark rum. While the drinks look different and have different ingredients, we found it nearly impossible to differentiate which is which. The drinks are otherwise pre-made and then they add the liquor on top while you watch. The pours are usually well above average, making both good choices. Unfortunately the 2013 version of the Singapore Sling, which even made me blush in its high alcohol content, is long gone.
The Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec is a refreshing, orange-flavored drink with a healthy pour of alcohol on top. Highly recommended if you’re looking for an easily sippable drink with a relatively high alcohol content.
The $6.50 Mango Jasmine Tea withBubbles is non-alcoholic and while expensive, is incredibly refreshing if you’re hot and sweaty, like I was running around on the first day of the Festival taking all these menu pictures. I’m not sure where the recommendation comes down with the high price, but it is very refreshing without any cloying sweetness and the popping bubbles are fun to try and slurp up.
South Korea returns in the same location in between the Africa and China Marketplaces.
Both barbecue items are new, in addition to the Soju Banana Milkshake.
This is the $5 Bulgogi Barbecue Short Rib with Steamed Rice and Cucumber Kimchi. This is basically three small rib pieces that probably look meatier than they ended up being. Each one is just a couple of nibbles of chewy beef that try to cling to the bone a little more than you might be expecting. The flavors weren’t as pronounced as your typical Korean barbecue and it wasn’t particularly easy to eat. The cucumber kimchi basically amounts to a couple bites of pickle, which actually contrast well with the sweetness from the sauce.
The $3.75 Roasted pork lettuce wrap is milder in flavor with a nice scoop of pork on top of lettuce and then topped with vegetables. It’s difficult to eat without a fork, but it’s a lot of food for the money and offers a nice refreshing flavor, particularly in the afternoon heat. Also recommended.
The Vegan version of the same dish is $4.75 and wasn’t originally supposed to be offered, though somebody probably noticed terra’s departure meant that they should pick up the vegan slack elsewhere. These are likely Gardein Beefless Tips in the same soy-based sauce as the short rib. I actually preferred the vegan version, which had a similar flavor to the beef and was considerably easier to eat. Don’t tell anyone I preferred the meatless version as I think it will affect my rep.
Myungjak Bokbunja Raspberry Wine is sweet up front and tart on the back end, not unlike raspberries. There’s also a heavy artificial sweetener presence. It’s worth a taste if you’re looking for something a little out there, but it’s not a great wine or a great value.
I forgot to take a picture of the iCing Grapefruit Sparkling Rice Brew, which is poured from the can into a cup. It has a nice sweetness that eliminates the tartness of the fruit. It’s interesting to try, but not a particularly good value.
South Korea offers a new Soju Banana Milkshake with The Ginger People Ginger Smoother. I’m refraining from making a lot of jokes here. This has sort of a strange flavor, not unlike if you were to somehow whip banana Runts into a frozen drink and then pour a shot of fireball over it. The flavor is sweet and pretty intense. You may want to share. It’s topped with a few banana chips.
The cult favorite “Kimchi Dog” has moved away from South Korea and to the Africa Cool Post.
The portion is about 2.5 times the size of last year’s, which is pictured. Amusingly, most of the beer pours are smaller at the regular World Showcase outlets during the Food and Wine Festival. You’d only get a 12-ounce beer here, for example.
The $5 Buttered Chicken is new, replacing last year’s sponsored bobotie. The Fairview also returns.
You can smell how spicy the $5 Beef tenderloin tips berbere-style with okra, jalapeños, tomato and papit are as you walk by. That spiciness overwhelmed whatever other flavors were going on for me. The pap underneath, which is ground corn porridge, soaks up the lingering spicy sauce from the beef. If you like spicy dishes, you should enjoy the beef here. But if you don’t, it’s best to steer clear. The quantity is a good value for the money. But it’s really spicy.
Of course, you say “butter chicken” and I say “Sanaa.” A high bar perhaps, but this unfortunately didn’t make it half way. The flavor profile reminded me a lot of a Lean Cuisine with a sort of generic peppery flavor alongside chicken that had become limp after bathing in the sauce for so long. The naan was the best part. Maybe next year they’ll go with a bread sampler.
Indaba Chenin Blanc has been available around Disney World for some time now, particularly in Harambe at Animal Kingdom. The $5.25 price here is stupid high – this bottle I bought at Total Wine cost a whopping $9.99. It’s otherwise very drinkable, a little sweet and a little tart, with a zesty citrus-y lemon flavor overall. I’d skip it here, but you might pick a bottle up at the grocery store as it’s a pretty good value on the shelf.
The Fairview Pinotage is a much better value with a higher store price and a lower Festival price. Go figure. This is a medium-bodied, earthy red wine with lingering spice. It pairs very well with the beef.
Another $9.99 bottle, “jam jar sweet shiraz” is…as you might be able to guess…on the sweet side with dark berry flavors giving way to some chocolate on the back end. It’s more refreshing than your typical wine and would probably make a better sangria than it would a glass to go with your filet mignon. In this environment, I think it works though and it’s a good choice if you’re in the mood for something red but don’t like the lingering acidity of your typical cabernet or pinot noir. Very fruity and light.
I have a bottle of the DMZ, but haven’t gotten around to opening it. I’m expecting another light, fruity wine. Will post a BREAKING NEWS update if reality isn’t as expected.
Next up: Brewer’s Collection, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Hops & Barley.