Continuing from Part 1, which covered the first five Outdoor Kitchens.
The following is also available in a PDF file put together by good-friend-of-the-site Steve Milz: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports13/easywdw_f&g_reviews.pdf. It might be easier to load than the site.
Next up is Hanami in front of the Japan Pavilion. Long time readers know this is around the point in our Festival tour that things get a little weird…this marks the first time I’ll forget to take a picture of the menu, which includes:
- Frushi – Fresh pineapple, strawberry and melon rolled with raspberry coconut rice, sprinkled with toasted coconut and whipped cream on the side – $4.95
- Teriyaki Curry Bun — Steamed bun filled with chicken, vegetables, curry and sweet sauce – $4.95
- Salmon Sushi – “Hako-sushi” Box style Sushi with Salmon, topped with Dynamite, Volcano and Eel sauce – $5.50
- Kirin Draft Beer – $3.95
- Yuzu Plum Wine Slush – Sweet refreshing taste infused with the tangy flavor of citrus – $6.50
- Strawberry Nigori – Mild creamy sake infused with sweet-tangy strawberry – $6.95
- Karat Sake – Honjozo style, sharp, dry taste – $6.95
Frushi returns at a 45 cent premium, the other two food items are new, Kirin is $3.95 for six ounces instead of $6.50 for twelve, and the drinks are new.
We’re in trouble if it’s already getting “artsy.” Frushi is basically a light, fruity dessert and as you might imagine, it tastes like the laundry list of ingredients on the menu. A lot of people swear by it.
The $4.95 Teriyaki Curry Bun is very similar to the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun served at Food and Wine.
The bun is soft, giving way to a modest amount of mostly ground chicken and curry powder inside. The overwhelming flavor is curry – if you like curry, you’ll like this, but it’s not a particularly inspiring dish to look at and there isn’t a lot of subtlety in the flavor profile.
$5.50 buys you two pieces of “box style” salmon sushi adorned with dynamite, volcano and eel sauces. This is a step above any quick service sushi you’d find at Walt Disney World and on par with what Tokyo Dining serves. It’s an easy way to get a couple bites of pretty safe sushi for those unfamiliar or uncertain about raw fish. And it’s a pretty good couple of bites for anyone that enjoys sushi. Considering how expensive sushi typically is, this is a decent value and comes recommended.
The Yuzu Plum Wine Slush – Sweet refreshing taste infused with the tangy flavor of citrus – $6.50 caught me off guard a little. Japan’s slushes and mixed drinks are usually overly sugary with a lot of fruit juice, but this one wasn’t. I’m not sure how I would describe the flavor other than to say it tasted like a plum wine slush – very mildly sweet with a lingering sour aftertaste. I didn’t find it particularly refreshing and the citrus taste was virtually nonexistent. I would only purchase one if you’re curious – it doesn’t have a high alcohol content and the flavor profile overall is going to be foreign for most people.
Like the Kronenbourg review in France, I’ve copy/pasted the same thing about Kirin for the last six or seven Festivals:
Probably the worst value we’ll see outside of Moretti in Italy, Total Wine will sell you a 25-ounce bottle for $2.49 or a 6-pack for $6.99. This is otherwise the Budweiser of Japan at Coedo prices with a grainy, malty, corn-y flavor. $4 for six ounces is an insane price.
With a clear color and a rice-y aroma, the subtle flavors of the $6.95 Ozeki Karatamba sake are melon, vanilla, and peach with a dry, fruity aftertaste. It’s rare that you see a quality sake served in Japan and you might want to give this one a go if you’re interested in trying it. Just be warned that sake is very “different” if you’ve never tried it.
The Smokehouse returns to the far right side of the United States Pavilion as you look at The American Adventure.
The Pulled Pig Slider is 25 cents more expensive and the Bacon Cupcake is 50 cents more expensive. The other two food items are new as are all the drinks, save for The Original Rib Shack Red Wine and the spawn of Satan himself, Billy’s Chilies.
As I mentioned earlier, this is around the time the bats start appearing and as I emerged from the bathroom, I think I heard the familiar, hushed, inquisitive, “Are you Josh?” A question that I’m never really sure how to answer. On one hand, “I am Josh.” On the other hand, it’s sort of egotistical (though perfectly in character) to assume I am exactly the Josh they’re referencing. After all, I’m not Josh Childress, Josh Gad, or Josh Gordon (if the National Professional dazney Blogger Association asks, I didn’t actually consume any of the alcohol pictured). So the answer is just as easily, “No.” The point here is that I smiled and said yes and because they were holding a $6 Pulled Pig Slider, I asked if I could take a picture of it. I’m almost positive they said yes. It’s either that or I just walked up to somebody, pushed them aside, and took a picture of their pork. Anyway, above is a picture of this year’s slider.
A picture of last year’s, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year’s is more colorful with the cabbage, but remains a really big portion for the money. It’s nearly the size of Disney’s standard pulled pork sandwich and the quality is considerably higher here with freshly smoked pork from the cooker next door to the kitchen. So to recap, this is very good, but also very large – plan to share it or plan to be full.
The $5.25 Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños marries last year’s Flower/Garden Smoked Beef Brisket with last year’s Food/Wine Nueske’s Pepper Bacon Hash. This is the best of both worlds with tender, flavorful brisket on top of a bed of potatoes, jalapenos, peppers, and other goodies with a creamy, cheesy sauce spooned on top. It’s everything that’s right with America and it’s oh so good.
The $4.25 Smoked Debreziner Sausage with House Made Kraut and Mustard arrives in place of last year’s “turkey rib.” This pork sausage is kielbasa-like in flavor. A heavy pinch of paprika gives it its reddish color and slightly sweeter flavor, which can be spiced up with the kraut, mustard, or sweet or spicy barbecue sauce (pictured). The dish is on point if you’re looking for a twist on something that’s usually relatively straightforward. Very good and a good portion for the money.
The $4 “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.
Funky Buddha’s Florida Hefeweizen is surprisingly good considering it’s Floridian in origin. The flavors you would expect to be there are present – banana, clove, citrus, and yeast, all nicely balanced with a clean aftertaste. Very good.
Due South’s Category 3 IPA is a competent entry into the crowded IPA market and considering you’re probably not going to find it much further north than Florida, comes recommended. At 6.1%, the ABV is above average, but you still get a very drinkable, slightly hoppy beer with pine notes and a citrus-y, crisp finish. Is it going to be your new favorite IPA? Probably not, but it’s worth a try if you like the style.
Shipyard Brewing’s Maple Bacon Stout is a Florida exclusive as far as I know. Shipyard is actually from Portland, Maine, but added a brewery in Clearwater last year, and you can apparently call its brews “local.” This is a nice stout with a smoky, almost candied bacon aftertaste. It’s worth a try if you’re interested in the style, but it’s not particularly accessible for the Bud Light crowd.
One other thing to note on the beer. If you see a single beer listed for $3.75 or so, it comes in a 6-ounce cup. The beer flights use 4-ounce cups for a total of 16 ounces. So the per-ounce cost of a 6-ounce beer here is 62.5 cents. In the flights, the cost per ounce is 65.6 cents. Amusingly, they will only sell you two things at a time, so you can come away with two beer flights for 32-ounces or two 6-ounce beers for 12 ounces. The cost is slightly less and you’ll come away with slightly more beer if you can make a friend and each of you purchases two 6-ounce cups.
Last year’s 12-ounce cup (oh the good ‘ol days) of Billy’s Chilies marks the only beer I haven’t been able to finish in some number of years. The jalapeno flavor was overwhelming and of the four people that sampled it, not a one could muster a second sip. (Other than yours truly I’m proud to say. I muscled down another two sips.) I tried the beer again this year and it was less overpowering, but you’re still going to have to like spicy jalapeno water mixed with beer, because that’s what this is. With the 4-ounce/6-ounce pour thing, you don’t have a lot to lose by giving it a whirl. I’m just warning you.
Lisa’s $3 cup of The Original Rib Shack Red Wine is in the back left there. This has a smoky finish that pairs excellently with the bbq options here. South African in origin, it’s mostly easy-drinking pinotage. Recommended if you’re after wine and bbq.
The Frozen Lemonade is $3 non-alcoholic or $11.50 with Palm Ridge Reserve Whiskey. $8.50 buys you a half ounce of the whiskey on the bottom. Now I know what you’re thinking, “What good comes out of Umatilla, Florida?” And while you’re not wrong, the whiskey is the exception to the rule. I’d just drop by my house for a glass instead of wasting your money here. The lemonade is otherwise exactly the same as what’s served at Fife and Drum Tavern year-round in the Jim Beam Red Stag Lemonade ($9). The lemonade completely masks/ruins the flavor of the whiskey, which is okay if it’s Red Stag, but not so much when it’s Palm Ridge. The flavor is otherwise pleasant – kind of sweet and kind of tart, but I’d save the couple bucks and the precious whiskey by picking up the Red Stag instead.
Primavera Kitchen returns out in front of Italy on the Germany side.
A Pinwheel of Mozzarella replaces last year’s Caprese, the “Three Cheese Manicotti” returns as “Cheese Manicotti” with three cheeses, and the dessert is slightly different. The wines are similar and the beer is the same, only you get six ounces for $5 instead of twelve ounces for $8.50.
The $5.25 Fior di Latte, Prosciutto e Pane di Casa — Pinwheel of Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Olio Toscano, and Ciabatta Bread is a sad little spiral of low quality mozzarella wrapped with low quality prosciutto.
And stale bread and too much oil. Unless you’ll die if you don’t eat mozzarella at the particular moment that you pass the booth, I’d skip it in favor of something more interesting. Head to Tutto Gusto for your cheese fix.
The $5.75 Cheese manicotti – Egg pasta stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and béchamel was better. It might not look like much, but it’s heavier than it looks with a ton of cheese in a robust sauce. It’s one of the more filling (vegetarian) dishes, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Italy’s kiosk drinks range in value from bad to really bad. All of the wine is low quality grocery store brands that come in 1.5L bottles. The $10 Rossini is no different – you’d be better off picking up the $7 Desert Rose in Morocco, which uses better sparkling wine.
10 bucks worth.
This year’s $11 Frozen Italian primavera – Assorted fruit slushy with limoncello and vodka is as much of a waste of time, calories, and money as any other year. On the plus side, it’s a large cup and a large portion, it just tastes of generic strawberries and there’s no alcohol in it. If you do happen to arrive with some vodka in your pockets unexpectedly (coincidences happen), this would be a good candidate for a heavy pour with the portion size and fruitiness. I think anyway…
I run the same Moretti review every Festival:
Store price: CHEAP
Festival price: EXPENSIVE
ABV: WHO CARES
Value: NOT GREAT BOB
This isn’t quite the worst value at the Festival, but it’s almost the worst value at the Festival.
La Rossa is at least 7.2% ABV, but paying $10 for what amounts to a 12-ounce draft is nuts. If you want to spend that kind of money, head into Tutto Gusto for more interesting drafts.
Florida Fresh returns to the space usually occupied by Germany/The Brewmaster’s Collection for Food and Wine.
I was excited to see two of my favorite items from last year’s Festival return – the Watermelon Salad (same price) and Shrimp and Grits (25 cents more expensive). The Passion Fruit Slush now arrives with a half ounce of gin instead of sugar cane vodka and the Channel Marker Red Ale and Jai Alai are new to the booth, as is the Key Lime Sparkling Wine.
The $3.50 Watermelon Salad with Pickled Red Onions, B&W 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 a little more interesting than the Kale Salad at Urban Eats.
This year’s $6 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.
This year’s $3.25 Florida Blueberry and Lemon Curd Tart replaces last year’s Kumquat pie. The tart uses fresh blueberries in a creamy, sweet/tart lemon curd topped with a whipped blueberry foam on top. It’s a potentially lighter dessert than most of what we’ve seen so far and it works well with the flavors of the more savory items, but I’m not sure it’s compelling enough to get in line for specifically.
This is both the alcoholic ($9.75) and non-alcoholic ($3) Watermelon Passion Fruit Slush. Can you tell which is which? Me neither. An extra $6.75 buys you about half an ounce of gin on the bottom, making the alcoholic version another expensive proposition.
$7.25 buys you a flute of Florida Orange Groves’ Key Lime Sparkling Wine. Since the bottle price is $30, it’s not a terrible value compared to other offerings. The flavor is like carbonated key lime pie. It’s a pretty unique flavor that you might want to try if you have interest.
The card included with the numbered cup holder makes it easy to identify which beer is which, though each is fairly unique looking.
The 4.7% ABV Orlando Blonde Ale is straightforward, crisp, and light without much bitterness or hops.
The Channel Marker Red Ale is the amber-colored beer in the back. This is a caramel-y red with medium carbonation with some herbal hops. It’s worth trying.
In front is the Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale, which returns from last year as a Festival exclusive. 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.
Cigar City’s Jai Alai is a lot better known now than it was when I first started writing about it four years ago. It’s an incredibly hoppy 7.5% IPA with some citrus bitterness and a clean finish, which means it’s not for everyone. But if you like hoppy bitterness and like your IPAs, this one is world class and by far the best beer at the Festival.
That’s the same thing I do to my phone when My Disney Experience says I have a weak signal.
Lotus House returns in front of the China Pavilion:
The Kung Pao Chicken Bun is new. The strawberries are up 70 cents and the vegetable spring rolls are up a quarter. The Oolong Peach Bubble Tea is new and the mixed drinks are up 50 cents. The honey mango wine cooler is new and the Tsingtao is $3.50 for 6-ounces instead of $7 for 12-ounces.
The $5.75 Kung Pao Chicken Bun is very similar to last year’s Food/Wine Beijing roasted duck in a steamed bun. There’s a lot going on with the chicken, peanuts, onions, and other vegetables overflowing inside the soft and chewy bun. The kung pao sauce packs a sweet, salty, mildly spicy kick. It’s a nice portion and comes recommended.
The $4.95 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 and a broken tooth.
$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 $6.50 Peach Oolong Tea with popping bubbles is non-alcoholic and while expensive, is incredibly refreshing on hot days. 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.
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. China is the last bastion for a decently strong mixed drink. Take advantage.
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.
That’s this year’s South Sea Storm on the left with the $8.50 Honey Mango Wine Cooler on the right. I was expecting the wine cooler to come in a bottle of something, but as far as I could tell it came out of a beverage dispenser like the mixed drinks. It was sweet and refreshing with virtually no unpleasant alcohol flavor to speak of. It would be the sweetest, least boozy drink here.
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.
$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 and is available all year at the Joy of Tea stand. The flavor is otherwise sweet with a lot of alcohol at the front of each sip.
Jardin de Fiestas
Jardin de Fiestas returns to Mexico across from La Cantina de San Angel.
In my opinion, Mexico has a long string of Festivals with disappointing food quality and prices that are far too high, even compared to prices at other booths that are also far too high. The quesadilla and flan are slightly different than last year. The taco is 25 cents more expensive. The margarita is blueberry instead of raspberry. The Tecate comes with a Citronage floater, the sangria is red instead of white and costs a dollar more, and the tequilla flight is flavored tequilas instead of blanco/resposado/anejo and costs $1 more.
$5.75 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.
The $5.50 Vegetable Quesadilla – Flour tortilla filled with Monterey Jack Cheese and mixed veggies might be the worst value at any booth.
It’s a tiny tortilla filled with 15 cents worth of zucchini, corn, and mushrooms.
The $4.20 Flan de queso con chocolate Abuelita – Mexican chocolate custard with whipped cream and cinnamon was the best thing here – rich and creamy with a mild, natural chocolate flavor enhanced by the cinnamon. I’m not sure I’d get in line specifically to try it, but if you’re trying to order something from every booth, it’s the best and least expensive food item.
The $8.75 Blueberry Pomegranate Margarita on the Rocks is served out of a beverage dispenser and tastes like if you left blueberry Monin syrup and cheap tequila sitting somewhere for a few too many hours (days). You’d be better off getting a margarita at one of the other outlets. Speaking of which, I thought I read the margarita stand would be carrying a different menu for the Festival, but it looked to be unchanged:
It’s a smarter choice for the tequila flight if you don’t want flavored shots.
$13.50 buys you three very short shots of tequila – 1800 Coconut, almond, and coffee. I guess it’s an opportunity to try a variety of different tequila flavors, but it seems unlikely anybody will fall in love with coconut tequila. Anyway, they’re here if you want to blow 14 bucks on them like I did.
Tecate is a pretty lousy 4.5% American adjunct lager with the usual characteristics – watery, grainy, smooth, and nondescript. The floater is a good idea and at least tries to mix things up a bit, providing a little bit of citrus and upping the alcohol content slightly. It’s a smarter buy than most of the usual boring beers like the Tsingtao and Kronenbourg.
Finally, the Flower and Garden Festival’s Intermissions Cafe serves its own menu, though it’s only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10am-5pm this year.
A few of the bottled alcoholic drinks from the Outdoor Kitchens are available here, in addition to the cheapest sparkling wine you’ll find, the Zonin Prosecco. It’s otherwise hard to imagine anyone would be interested in the pre-packaged food items.
Without a major title sponsor, there is very little to the Festival Center this year. You’re not missing much if you can’t make it over.
All in all, pricing is rough on most items considering the portion size, though a few decent values remain. I would advise avoiding most of the costly mixed drinks, perhaps with the exception of France. You could easily spend $50 and come away with less than three ounces of alcohol and a thousand calories worth of sugar. Avoiding the beers that are always available makes things more interesting as well.