The following is also available in a PDF file put together by good-friend-of-the-site Steve Milz: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/easywdw_f&g_reviews.pdf. It might be easier to load than the site.
We’ll begin coverage of the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with a look at the good stuff…a review of the items served at each of the various Outdoor Kitchens sprinkled around World Showcase for the event, which runs from March 5th through May 17th.
The 11 Outdoor Kitchens operate daily from 11am-9pm. That’s down from around 30 kiosks for the Food and Wine Festival, which makes the event a bit more manageable, at least if you’re trying to review one of everything.
One other major difference from Food and Wine…the Outdoor Kitchens just aren’t that popular, whether we’re talking about a busy Saturday over spring break or a sparsely attended first day like today. The atmosphere can go one of two ways – it lacks the kinetic energy of Food and Wine, which makes for a potentially easier going and more relaxing experience. But it also lacks a lot of the fun and community aspect of the Food and Wine Festival, at least for those of us who have two drinks in our hands before thinking about getting in line for the next booth. While you might run into a few other people “having a good time” on your walk around, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to ask the person in front of you if they’re enjoying their drink and duck confit because there won’t be anybody in front of you enjoying a drink or eating duck confit. In other words, Flower and Garden and the Outdoor Kitchens that go with it have a negligible impact on World Showcase crowds.
The map for this year’s Festival is pretty insane:
There are something like 4,000 different icons and numbers on the map, which identify everything from where the topiary butterfly is, to Soarin’, to where you can find the closest defibrillator. The full map is available directly from Disney here: https://wdpromedia.disney.go.com/media/wdpro-assets/parks-and-tickets/tours-and-experiences/epcot-international-flower-and-garden-festival/Epcot_International_Flower_Garden_Festival_2015_Menu.pdf. Hopefully the pictures below will help you get your bearings better than an upside down map.
One major change from previous years is that HGTV is no longer a sponsor and the Festival Center is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
There are also no Outdoor Kitchens on the walk from Showcase Plaza to Mexico. Last year, you would have found Urban Farm Eats and during the Food and Wine Festival, there are usually five or six booths set up. Fans of last year’s quaint Buttercup Cottage kiosk will be disappointed to find out that it’s been pulled in favor of Botanas Botanico, which is located in between France and Morocco in the space Brazil used for last year’s Flower and Garden Festival.
That also means no Outdoor Kitchens between Canada and France, which is an unusually long stretch to go vacant. Disney probably found that the lack of energy I mentioned earlier drives sales down. By clustering Kitchens together, you have the opportunity to create four or five little pockets of intoxication and reckless spending around World Showcase. It’s potentially good news for those that find the crowds and drunkenness of Food and Wine annoying – they are largely absent from the Festival. Or at least no worse than if the Kitchens weren’t there.
Anyway, let’s take a look at what’s available.
Pineapple Promenade returns in the same location, taking over the usual Promenade Refreshments (it’s Desserts and Champagne during Food/Wine) space.
The Pineapple Dog replaces last year’s Sweet Potato Cinnamon Waffle. Dole Whips with a splash of alcohol are up a whopping $2.25 each or 34.6%. The non-alcoholic Desert Violet Lemonade returns for 25 cents more money, the Berry Tea Cocktail moves over here from Buttercup Cottage for $2.25 more than last year, and the sparkling wine and pineapple cider are new additions.
We’re starting off on a high note with the $4 Pineapple Dog – Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney and Sriracha Mayo, which was one of the more unique and flavorful dishes at the Festival.
The hot dog itself was nice and spicy, kicked up a level by the sriracha mayo, and then tempered by the sweetness of the pineapple chutney. Value wise, this one is above average, despite being only four or five bites.
This is what I wrote about the Dole Whips last year:
Watching people’s unhappy reactions as they’re served their miniature $6.50 Dole Whip is worth the price of admission alone. I wish I could show you this guy’s face in good conscience. Imagine utter disgust.
Now that the price is up more than two bucks, it seems impossible to justify the meagerest of splashes of rum over a reconstituted-from-powder non-dairy treat. But they’re here…
The $3 Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade is an excellent non-alcoholic slushie. It is perhaps too sweet for its own good, but it’s a good choice for the kids.
The $9.75 Berry Tea Cocktail — Twinings Cold Brewed Mixed Berry Tea with Florida Cane Vodka and Plant City Strawberry, Flavored with Raspberry and Açaí Syrup was a waste of time and money. There was virtually no alcohol in it and it’s a teensy weensy cup. SKIP.
The $6.25 Sparkling Pineapple Wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery in St. Petersburg, Florida arrives in Disney’s favorite plastic flute. It’s a Festival exclusive and even with what is probably a very low ABV, the alcohol is present at the beginning of each sip with a fruity finish. It’s hard to recommend at this price point, but it’s a bit different if you’re in the market. And realistically, the values aren’t going to get any better as we continue forward.
$3.75 buys you six ounces of Ace Pineapple Hard Cider. The taste is not unlike Pineapple Lifesavers, sweet and artificial, with light carbonation and a sweet aroma. It would pair well with the dog if it didn’t already arrive with pineapple on top. It might be worth a try if it’s hot and you have the inclination to pay over twice the grocery store 12-ounce bottle price for six ounces.
Urban Farm Eats returns in a different location this year, now occupying Puerto Rico’s Space from the Food and Wine Festival.
Some might recognize it as the terra booth:
Only the Ghost Pepper-Dusted Tilapa returns from the food menu, in addition to the Cucumber Lemon Spa Water, both at the same prices as last year. Everything else is new.
While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, the $3.50 Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese with White Balsamic Vinaigrette impressed on freshness, flavor, and portion size. It’s not unlike a salad kit from the grocery store (Costco’s Eat Smart Sweet Kale Salad Mix comes to mind), but if you’re looking for a healthy burst of flavor and a lot of bites, then this would be a good choice.
The $4.25 Quinoa Vegetable “Naanwich” with Arugula Pesto and Oven-Dried Tomatoes is a more interesting proposition. The sort of mushy patty of quinoa had a nice earthy flavor by itself, which was enhanced (enhance enhance) by the fresh flavors of the tomato, pesto, and a nice sprinkle of cheese. Of the two vegetarian dishes available here, I think this one is more interesting, but not quite as “safe.”
Last year’s $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.
Hess Shirtail Creek Vineyard Chardonnay is one of the few wines we’re going to run into at the Outdoor Kitchens, and it’s actually a holdover from last year’s Food and Wine Festival and served year around at the Liberty Inn.
At $3.19 with tax it’s actually cheaper at Liberty Inn, but I digress. Anyway, this particular Hess is relatively rare and is nice and crisp with tropical notes. It’s also one of the better values.
The King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir has been available around property for a couple of years now, most recently at The Wave bar and Canada Cart and Refreshment Cool Post at Epcot. It’s available on tap at all three locations, in addition to Urban Eats. It’s the best red wine served at the Festival, which is potentially not saying much considering it’s one of very few available. Still, with the $19 bottle price, it’s a decent value at the Festival if you’re in the market.
The $7.75 Urban Mary with Smirnoff Vodka and Pickled Green Beans is spicy – almost like sipping a thin, zesty cocktail sauce. It’s very light on the vodka with just a single, crunchy green bean sticking out the top. I would only recommend this if you really want to spend eight bucks on spicy tomato juice mix. I really did like the green bean though…it’s a shame you can’t get a container full.
$3.75 buys you half a bottle of Crispin Blackberry Pear Cider. Unlike the Ace Pineapple, where pineapple juice and other flavors are added to an apple base, Crispin Pear is naturally fermented using 100% pure pear juice. There’s no extra sugar, colorants, or other nonsense added. It’s a better, more complex cider than the Pineapple that doesn’t suffer from the same artificially sweet taste.
As mentioned before, we’re not even in Canada yet and there won’t be another outdoor kitchen until France.
Each of the Joffrey’s locations is offering a slightly different coffee blend, in addition to the lattes.
The best topiary.
Winnie the Pooh alone this year. Oh, bother.
The Twinings takeover of the UK Pavilion continues with the “tea garden.”
The Tea Caddy in the UK Pavilion is hosting complimentary tours in the afternoon on weekdays. You’ll want to sign up as early as possible if you’re interested.
Fleur De Lys
France’s outdoor kitchen returns in the same spot in front of the Pavilion:
The Gnocchis and Pulled Duck Confit return for the same money, while last year’s orange macaron is replaced with strawberry for something we almost never see…a 50 cent price reduction. The Ice Pop is new, the frozen slush is 20 cents more expensive, the Kir Imperial is 45 cents more expensive, and the Kronenbourg Blanc is now served in a 6-ounce cup for $3.95 instead of a 12-ounce cup for $7.
The $4.75 Gnocchis Parisenne à la Provençal – Parisian-style Dumplings with Vegetables, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese was an excellent vegetarian option. It’s a large helping of tender gnocchi in a light sauce, topped with the savory goat cheese. Recommended if you’re in the market for something sans-meat.
France tends to serve some of the most flavorful items at Food/Wine in some of the most unattractive packages and I think they continue that trend with the $5.50 Confit de Canard, Pommes de Terre Sarladaise – Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes. The potatoes remain nicely firm with a nice big helping of rich duck leg in the middle. It’s one of the best items at the Festival and one I don’t think most people would attempt to prepare at home.
This year’s $4.50 Macaron Guimauve à la Fraise, a Strawberry Marshmallow Macaron with jam in the center, was a pleasant surprise. It’s sort of like two soft strawberry flavored Nilla wafers stuck together with a layer of marshmallow and jam. While tasty, this sort of thing is available year-round at the Boulangerie bakery in the back of the Pavilion. It’s otherwise worth a try.
The $6.75 Ice Pop – Grand Marnier Peach Raspberry Liqueur, Vodka, and Iced Tea was my favorite new alcoholic item from this year’s Festival and the only one I’ll be strongly recommending you try.
The predominant flavor is peach raspberry iced tea with a mild vodka flavor on the back end. It’s not quite frozen solid, making it sort of fun and sort of messy to try to eat with the ice shards breaking off into delicious little bites of vodka-infused iced tea. Very good.
Lisa didn’t offer up a sip of this year’s $9.95 La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush – Vodka, Grey Goose Orange, St. Germain Liquor, and White and Red Cranberry Juice, which is probably okay since it’s the same as the last two years. One of the Bocuses was on hand overseeing the first day’s operation and commented as I was walking away that it was the best drink at the Festival. I smiled because what else is he going to say…but in this instance, he’s (unfortunately?) right. It’s not too sweet and the vodka flavor is present, but almost completely masked by the juices and liqueurs. Plus, unlike a lot of the mixed drinks we’re going to run into, a cast member doesn’t offend you by pouring a quarter ounce of liqueur in your non-alcoholic lemonade at a $9 upcharge. Very good.
The $7.95 Kir Royale – Sparkling wine, Chambord and Black Raspberry Liquor – is available in the Pavilion in one form or another year-round. It’s an expensive proposition using lousy sparkling wine, but it’s at least all alcohol, which you can’t say about most of the drinks.
I’ve been running the same Kronenbourg Blanc review for years now – it’s a Flower/Garden and Food/Wine mainstay, in addition to being available year-round here in the Pavilion and over at Be Our Guest Restaurant for dinner, among other places. It’s 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. Four bucks for six ounces is highway robbery.
All new for 2015, Botanas Botanico sets up shop where Brazil left off for the Food and Wine Festival.
It has a bright, relaxing seating section adjacent.
The Reserve Tannat wine returns from the Food and Wine Festival.
While it does arrive in a small cup (anybody that ordered Japan’s Chirashizushi from last year’s Food/Wine will be familiar), it’s packed with seafood and mango.
The avocado is largely absent, while the mango helps sweeten things up and cuts the acidity of the marinade. There’s seven or eight sizable bites of seafood underneath, making this one of the better values at the Festival and one of my top picks.
The $3.25 Cachapa con Queso – a Venezuelan Sweet Yellow Corn Pancake, was different, but similarly good. The cheese on top, which had congealed by the time it was served, didn’t add much flavor, but does give it sort of an off-putting look. Fortunately, the corn pancake underneath was flavorful – almost like soft flattened corn bread. It’s 50 cents overpriced, but I wouldn’t let that cause you to skip it.
The $4.25 White Corn Arepa with Braised Beef and Chayote Slaw included a very sad serving of beef inside the arepa, which is a flatbread made of ground maize dough. It’s nowhere near as sweet as the cachapa, which some people may prefer, and the beef that was present was tender. But there’s so little of it that I can’t recommend it unless they stick another spoonful or two of beef in there.
The $3.75 slice of Coconut Tres Leches cake is larger than I think it looks like in this picture. As far as bites and physical size are concerned, it’s probably the largest dessert portion at the Festival. The yellow cake is appropriately spongy and moist, if not a bit more dense than you would expect. The toasted coconut adds some…coconut flavor. It’s good…but I’m not sure you want to burden yourself with the calories or heft of the thing unless you’re sharing with two or three other people. It’s pretty heavy and pretty one-note otherwise.
Polar “Pilsener Type Beer” is odd…it’s Venezuelan in origin, hence why it’s at Botanico, but what’s served here in the USA is brewed by The Florida Brewery Inc in Auburndale, Florida. It’s sort of like Kingfisher or Presidente in that respect. Here in the U.S., your Kingfisher is probably not brewed in Bangalore and your Presidente is probably not brewed in the Dominican. Anyway, at 4.5% ABV, it’s a pretty lousy light German pilsner not unlike a Beck’s. Think corn and bitter malts. For your money, there are a few better beers coming up at The Smokehouse and Florida Fresh. If you really want to try it, you can drop by as I purchased a 12-pack from Total Wine for $11 and I will probably always have 11 left.
The La Tizana is available non-alcoholic for $2.75 or $9.75 with Santa Teresa RHUM Orange Liqueur. Disney describes it as “orange juice, lime juice, banana puree, grenadine and garnished with a tropical fruit medley of diced pineapple, mango, strawberries and oranges.” What you receive is a surprisingly thick drink. I naively ordered mine with RHUM at a $7 upcharge. All you get is a very small splash of the liqueur on top. The alcohol doesn’t impact the flavor and there’s so little of it that it won’t contribute to your buzz. It might be worth a try in its non-alcoholic form, but you’re throwing your money away on the alcoholic version.
The Monte Paschoal Reserve Tannat returns from the Food and Wine Festival for one reason or another, only it’s priced $1 more expensive at $3.75. It’s a relatively bold wine for South America, thanks to the tannat grape and Campanha Gaucha terroir where it’s produced. I don’t think it pairs well with anything served here, but you could do worse on the wine front for less than four bucks, even with the price increase.
At $5.25, the Monte Paschoal Natural Brut White Sparkling Wine is on the inexpensive side of things as far as sparkling wine is concerned. I’m not sure it’s anything special, but if you’re in the mood, it’s less expensive than anything sparkling you’ll find in France and a full $1.75 less than the Desert Rose coming up in Morroco.
Taste of Marrakesh
We’ll battle the crowds toward Morocco for a Taste of Marrakesh.
The Chicken Kebab returns for the same price as last year. All the drinks return as well, with only the Desert Rose increasing in price by a dollar.
The $5 Harissa Chicken Kebab with Couscous Salad was dry, having been cooked some time ago and there was no discernible spice from the harissa. It’s just three bites of meat.
The couscous was a bit soggy, but otherwise prepared well. I’m not sure it’s enough food to beckon a purchase.
The $5 Falafel Pocket with Cucumber Tomato Salad and Tahini Sauce was also on the small side and nearly as dry. It needed quite a bit more tahini sauce or something else to liven up the gritty, compact falafel.
I’m not a big proponent of Tangierine Cafe’s Falfel Wrap, but it’s at least four times as much food for around $9.
The $3 Pistachio Baklava was excellent – seemingly freshly made and naturally sweetened with honey with a subtle pistachio flavor. It’s a big hunk for the money and considering how time consuming it is to make, a good value. Note that this sort of thing is available year-round at Tangierine Cafe, so it’s safe to skip it if you’re running out of money or stomach space.
A picture of last year’s Desert Rose. This year’s $7 iteration is made with JP Chenet Sparkling Brut (not bad) and the flavor is very similar to your standard Kir Royale in France. It’s not a tremendous value, but you could do a lot worse.
Morocco’s White Sangria is about as Moroccan as their French sparkling wine, but the Taste of Marrakesh usually fills your small cup to the brim, providing more value than Fleur de Lys, which tends to try to make up for your half full glass by offering a charming smile. Sorry Pierre, but your smile only lasts three seconds and I’d like my wine to last at least twice that long…Anyway, if you’re desperate for a $5 cup of Spanish sangria out of a box, this would fit the bill. It’s lighter and fruitier than most others.
Guerrouane Red is actually Moroccan, which seems like a rare find in these parts. Four bucks buys you a full cup of this easy drinking wine that would pair well with the chicken.
$4 buys you half of somebody else’s bottle of Casa. Available all day every day in four or five different places here and over at Animal Kingdom/ Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s best skipped in favor of more interesting options.
Pictured is last year’s $3 Mint Iced Tea. We picked up this year’s, but I apparently forgot to shoot a pic. This year’s is greener in color with a strong mint flavor. It’s okay, but I’m not sure it’s worth the three bucks.
Head over to Part 2 for the rest of the kiosks.