We continue our circular review of the Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchens with those that remain. For past kiosk reviews see:
Part 1, covering La Isla Fresca, Jardin de Fiestas, Lotus House, and Bauernmarkt
Part 2, covering Primavera Kitchen, Smokehouse, Hanami, and Taste of Marrakesh
Florida Fresh seems to get booted around World Showcase depending on the year and variety of Festival, settling here for the 2016 Flower and Garden in the spot taken by Brazil during Food and Wine. It enjoys a relatively large seating area in between Morocco and France, in addition to the high-top tables that line the railing to the left and across the way.
For one reason or another, this and Urban Eats traded salads with the Kale ending up here. The Outdoor Kitchen also switches out last year’s Florida Blueberry and Lemon Curd Tart for a Florida Larder Board. The Key Lime Sparkling Wine is up FOUR DOLLARS over last year to $11.25. The Sea Dog is new. The Feast of Flowers, which sounds vaguely apocalyptic, returns for round two. Last year’s Watermelon Slushy added Cucumber, in turn pushing up the non-alcoholic price by $1.25, while the alcoholic version is up just 50 cents. We do have Hendrick’s in place of last year’s Florida Tamiami Florida Gin.
BEGIN PORTION AND PRICING RANT
If you would like to skip my 1,000 word whine, please continue down to, “END PORTION AND PRICING RANT.”
I picked up this year’s $3.75 Kale Salad – Served with Dried Cherries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese with White Balsamic Vinaigrette, which is pictured above. It’s 25 cents more expensive than last year. You may have noticed a trend this year in which I’m complaining about small portion sizes more often than past years. That’s because prices are up and portions are down considerably, even on returning items.
This is what I was served last year. This year’s almost does not even cover the bottom of the small brown tray, while the kale was “literally” overflowing back in 2k15. Look at how much goat cheese is in last year’s and how there’s sufficient dressing so the greens glisten in the sunlight. This year’s is flat and sad looking with exactly five Craisins and half an almond’s worth of shavings.
I’ve long chronicled how unpopular the booths are during the majority of Flower and Garden. Food and Wine prints money, while the booths during Flower and Garden internally have been deemed unprofitable each of the last three years, which may have something to do with the higher prices and smaller portions. You know you are doing poorly when you are in the $10 beer business and still can’t turn a profit. Perhaps that’s why Disney did away with the 6-ounce maximum in favor of this year’s 12-ounce pours.
This is Mexico on March 10th at 2:30pm as people make the right decision in skipping Jardin de Fiestas. I was wondering if Disney would be smart to employ a little better strategy as you may recall my assertion that their quesadilla and Isla Fresca’s grouper were the two most disappointing items at any booth. And if you head towards Mexico first, those two options make up 50% of the possible food choices that aren’t dessert at the first two Outdoor Kitchens. Guests headed this way won’t see another until they pass Mexico, Norway, and part of China.
So what would somebody that doesn’t know anything about the Festival think?
After paying $5.50 for this?
This is apparently the answer as nobody even considers Primavera Kitchen at 12:45pm on a Thursday during spring break. You can sort of see the number of people already moving through this corridor off to the right, not even giving the booth a first chance. One wonders how long it will be before they start paying cast members to stand in line to make the booths appear more popular, not unlike Mango’s Tropical Cafe busing people in to make their “nightclub” seem more popular than the hole in the wall gift shop attached next door.
So I would just say Disney, if you happen to be among the 50,000 other people that will read these reviews over the next couple of days, you might consider going in the other direction on portion size and quality.
Because what you’re doin’ ain’t workin’.
Here’s a lousy nighttime picture of this year’s $6.25 Shrimp and Stone-ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro. Note the size of the shrimp and the fact that you can see the bottom of the carton, particularly towards the left. There’s also very little sauce and because of the lack of grits, the shrimp and other ingredients are low in the tray.
Here’s last year’s version at $6 – slightly smaller shrimp, but an abundant amount of sauce, vegetables, sausage, and other toppings.
Back in 2013 the shrimp were easily 16-20 count, which is on the unusually large side. I commented at the time that they were larger than the three I was served at Tutto Gusto in Italy for $16. The food is almost spilling out with the shrimp elevated above the tray with the amount of grits, sausage, and vegetables underneath. This year’s shrimp are a lot closer to just your standard 30-40 count, each of which you could easily polish off in a small bite. This is a pretty systematic example of charging more for less.
END PORTION AND PRICING RANT (for now)
This is the all-new $5.50 Florida Larder Board: Orlando-made Ricotta Cheese, Cahaba Farms Micro Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic, Country Pâté and House-made Pickles. Considering the popularity and ease-of-creation of the cheese plates at the Food and Wine Festival, it’s sort of surprising that we don’t see something similar for Flower and Garden, which has traditionally focused a bit more on vegetarian options. In the first year that the Festival offered food and drink, 21 of the 35 (60%) items were vegetarian. This year, 20 of 40 (50%) are and most of those are desserts. Anyway, we didn’t care much for this and the serving is kind of uneven with three hard crackers, a single 1.5 inch long slice of mostly-fat pâté, the world’s thinnest slice of cucumber, and a dollop of a really soft, creamy, pungent cheese that’s further liquefied with the balsamic. I think that’s literally one strand of carrot in the corner. I think this is best when you make your own little open-faced sandwich the best you can with each of the ingredients. None are very good on their own.
Last year, I had this to say:
$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.
This year, the price is up $4 or 55.2% to $11.25. And I know what you’re thinking, “Josh maybe the price of limes is up.” But if they are, that hasn’t caused Florida Orange Groves to increase the price of the bottle, which is still 30 bucks.
According to the menu, this is Sea Dog Acai Berry Hefeweizen.
But according to the tap:
Shipyard Acai German Hefeweizen with a picture of an icy chocolate banana?
Anyway, like virtually all of Sea Dog’s fruity beers, this one suffers from some real artificial flavors and in this one in particular, a kind of off-putting, medicinal cherry flavor.
Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale is an exclusive to the Flower and Garden Festival going back to 2014. 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. Serious beer drinkers may want to pick one up since you’re not going to find this exact recipe anywhere else (probably).
Just to see and perhaps to prove that I haven’t learned anything since 2011, I ordered this year’s $10.25 Watermelon Cucumber Slushy with Hendrick’s Gin. Like all of the slushies, the non-alcoholic versions of which are up $1.75 or an average of 70% since 2013, it’s served in a thimble of a cup. With the exception of China, cast now pour the alcohol in the kiosk behind closed doors, ostensibly to shield you from potential outrage over their uncommonly snappy wrists. With that said, this one worked better than most – the watermelon flavor was subtly sweet, tempered by the cucumber and gin with a couple pieces of ice cold, fresh melon on top.
It reminded me a lot of the Watermelon Passion Fruit Slushie from the first year of the Festival, back when the drink was $7.50 and the watermelon was soaked in Florida Cane Vodka.
$3.25 buys you watermelon juice in the same size cup. I’ve never found it to be chilled enough, but you might find better luck. Or just buy a melon back home for the same money and smash it with a giant hammer and start your comedy career. Just remember where you got your start.
So that wasn’t very positive, but it gets better.
Fleur De Lys
France’s booth is probably the most popular of the entire Festival.
Per usual, no past food items return, though we’ve seen all of these drinks in the past.
The $4.50 Tarte à l’Onion Alsacienne: Alsatian Onion Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Puff Pastry Crust is probably the second best of the savory vegetarian options, which are admittedly in short supply. You may recall I liked the pasta in Italy.
They did a very nice job with it though with an impossibly flaky, chewy crust giving way to an incredibly rich onion flavor enhanced further by an assortment of herbs. I would reiterate that this is extremely onion-y and that flavor is going to linger for a long time no matter what you do. Otherwise, this would be a no-brainer at $3.50. At $4.50, you could do a lot worse.
I’m a little less enthusiastic about the $5.75 Cassoulet au Confit de Canard: Pulled Duck Confit with Braised Flageolet Beans. It’s a substantial portion presented nicely and the duck on top was abundant and flavorful. But the beans underneath were flavorless and didn’t do anything to enhance the dish other than provide some heft. Nobody was interested in eating them, which is rare considering the money spent.
I preferred last year’s presentation on top of roasted garlic and parsley potatoes.
You can buy a variety of macarons throughout the France Pavilion year-round, but they trot one out to the booth each year for easier access. This year, it’s the $4.75 Chocolat Framboise: Large Raspberry Macaron with Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry Jam. It’s perhaps the best yet, which is a tall order. It’s incredibly rich, soft, chewy and decadent. If you visit often, you might save tummy space for something that won’t be widely available come June, but it is very good, albeit a little spendy.
The $6.75 Ice Pop – Grand Marnier Peach Raspberry, Vodka, and Iced Tea is kind of a fun novelty as it returns from last year. There’s just a mild vodka flavor on the back end with some sweetness from the iced tea up front. 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 and a decent value.
The $9.95 La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush – Vodka, Grey Goose Orange, St. Germain Liquor, and White and Red Cranberry Juice is arguably the best frozen cocktail at the Festival and certainly the most glamorous to carry around in the plastic martini glass. It’s not too sweet and the vodka flavor is present, but almost completely masked by the juices and liqueurs. If you’re only going to get one frozen drink, it should probably be this one, though it is not significantly different from what the Pavilion ordinarily offers.
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.
Kronenbourg 1664 is on draft for perhaps the first time at the Festival.
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. With the price in essence dropping over last year with the larger pour, you could do worse.
“Cider House” is largely regarded by Disney and others as a “new addition to the Festival,” located just before or just after Rose & Crown Pub/Restaurant depending on which direction you’re headed.
Do everyone a favor and don’t make a “Cider House Rules” joke out loud. In your head is fine.
Those that visited in 2k14 will recognize it as “Buttercup Cottage.”
The House-made Potato and Cheddar Biscuit and Freshly Baked Lemon Scone are exactly the same as they were in 2014, while the Field Greens returns with the same name but different ingredients. I don’t remember a corned beef dish being offered in recent memory. All of the drinks are new offerings.
Our $3.75 Land-harvested Field Greens – Served with Apples, Dried Blueberries, Stilton Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette was terrible. Do you even see any blueberries or apples or just a dense wedge of lettuce? The flavor profile here makes sense with the sweetness of the apples and blueberries theoretically contrasting nicely with the sharpness of the blue cheese and acidity of the vinaigrette. But the execution on ours was terrible. You might risk better luck.
Here’s the 2014 version, of which I had this to say:
(The Cottage’s Field Greens with) Plant City Strawberries, Toasted Almonds, and Farmstead Stilton was one of our favorite dishes. Most or all of the salads we’ll run into are excellent. The Stilton adds a creamy, tangy dimension that contrasts nicely with the sweet, ripe strawberries.
Which one would you rather be served?
The $5,25 Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing was a large portion, but I didn’t personally care for the flavor or texture. Corned beef is naturally kind of soft and grainy already and then you’re topping it with soft pear on top of what basically amounts to sauerkraut which is then topped with a creamy dressing of unknown origin. It just kind of combined in the mouth into this soggy mess. I really wanted to like it because I really like corned beef, but I didn’t think it worked at all and nobody I was with would take a second bite.
Taste: 1/10 from me, but that doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” I think this is a personal taste thing.
Value: 6/10 – This is kind of arbitrary as I would not personally order a second, but it’s a big portion with seemingly high quality ingredients, particularly on the corned beef front.
This is a picture of the 2014 Freshly Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare, which had a pronounced lemon flavor. It remains a hearty, freshly baked roll with a generous scoop of smoky salmon tartare. We could have done without the unadvertised capers and the lemon flavor overwhelmed things. I have not yet picked one of these up for 2016 and will update when I do. It should be very similar if not entirely the same.
I did pick up this year’s version of the $3.75 Freshly Baked Lemon Scone with Crème Fraîche and Mixed Berries. On the plus side, they give you a lot more of the accompaniments than past years and the berry preserves in particular were sweet and satisfying. But I thought the scone was too dense with a mostly artificial lemon flavor. We aren’t quite in hammer and chisel territory, but we’re close. You may like it more. It isn’t priced terribly at least.
There was a time when the Flights provided some value on the per-ounce front. But here, $9 buys you 12-ounces, which comes out to 75 cents per ounce. $12.50 theoretically buys you 16-ounces in four by 4-ounce cups, which comes out to 78.1 cents per ounce. So by spending more money, you’re also paying more for the privlege. And then on top of that, these are not particularly full pours on ciders that don’t have any head, so there isn’t much of an excuse for under-filling. I’m probably missing two or three of my sixteen ounces.
Since we’ll be well over 4,000 words here, I won’t bore you with the specifics of each one, other than to say I didn’t find any of them unique enough to even consider the purchase of a full pour. Connoisseurs will want to look at the Keel and Curley as you may not find it elsewhere. The Cigar City Lager is surprisingly lemony, which seems to go along with the other dishes served here. It’s otherwise light and dry at 4.5% ABV. If I was going to spend $9-ish dollars on a drink here, it would be the Snakebite.
A glass of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider is like $3/bottle in any store or $4.75 for a small glass here. You might splurge on it if the kids are feeling left out. But it wouldn’t kill Disney to sell it for $1.75 a glass and they’d still make $1.50 a pop.
Pineapple Promenade takes the place of Promenade Refreshments during Flower and Garden.
For whatever reason, Disney increased the size of the Spicy Hot Dog this year and made it the only food or non-alcoholic drink option at the Outdoor Kitchens that doesn’t qualify as a snack credit. The Pineapple Soft-Serve is of course the Dole Whip, though due to licensing agreements etc. the brand is not advertised here. It’s 31 cents more than you’d pay at Magic Kingdom for a considerably smaller cup. The Sparkling Pineapple Wine is up a whopping $5 per glass or a whopping 80% compared to last year despite no increase in the retail bottle price. The Pineapple Hard Cider is new and the Dole Whip with Coconut Rum is up 25 cents over last year and $2.50 over 2014. The Desert Violet Lemonade returns.
This was last year’s serving at $4, where the same hot dog is covered very liberally with the chutney and Sriracha mayo, in addition to the unadvertised-at-the-time taro chips.
For your money, this year’s is a significantly larger portion with the full hot dog, though little attention is apparently paid to even distribution of the chutney and what are now largely invisible taro chips. What is a standard Arnold-brand hot dog bun doesn’t really hold up well to the gooey-ness of the fruit and the mayo and the whole thing kind of fell apart. The dog does not have much spice up front, but it does linger surprisingly long after finishing. Altogether, I don’t think it’s a particularly stellar dish for the Festival, though I wouldn’t be adverse to trying to make one at home. Two halves of the dog are probably more food for the money than the $8 you would have paid for two pieces last year, which potentially increases the value a bit. Most people are going to want to cut this one in half anyway.
I would potentially hold off on the Dole Whips for Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom, Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Animal Kingdom, or Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian. For another $4.50, you get the very definition of a “splash” of rum. And I don’t think the flavors really complement themselves well in the alcoholic version. But it’s here if you want it.
Last year, I said Florida Groves Sparkling Pineapple Wine was “hard to recommend at this price point” and that was before the price nearly doubled. This is more than Disney charges for Moet & Chandon Imperial during Food and Wine. It’s absurd. Even with the low ABV, you still get the taste from the alcohol immediately from the first sip and then the sort-of-artificial, candy pineapple taste thereafter. Yuck. Dole isn’t even paying to sponsor this booth anymore – you wonder why they are so adamant about pineapple when the flavors are so unnatural.
Florida Beer Co. Ocean Tropical Pineapple Hard Cider is available here on draft at a cost of $9 for a 12-ounce cup. It’s significantly more pleasing on the palate than the artificial-tasting Ace that was served here last year, but it still suffers from a kind of candy Lifesavers flavor. The Cider House options are better in my estimation and you also have the benefit of trying them as part of a flight before committing to a large pour.
I really like the Desert Violet Lemonade and it’s always seemed ripe for an infusion of vodka. It is very sweet though.
Urban Farm Eats
Urban Farm Eats moves into the space taken by the Dominican Republic for this past year’s Food/Wine.
The same spot it was in last year on the Future World West side as you head up through World Showcase near the Imagination Pavilion.
The Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, B&W Gourmet Farms Baby Arugula, Feta and Balsamic Reduction moves over here from Florida Fresh. The Naanwich is up 50 cents and the Pork Tenderloin replaces the now-very-missed Ghost Pepper Talapia. The red wine and Urban Mary return while the beer and sparkly are new. Thank goodness that Cucumber Lemon Spa Water is gone.
Here is said $3.75 Watermelon Salad. It’s 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.
The $4.50 Quinoa Vegetable “Naanwich” with Arugula Pesto and Oven-Dried Tomatoes is an interesting proposition that has potentially iffy execution. The sort of mushy patty of quinoa had a nice earthy flavor by itself, which was enhanced by the fresh flavors of the tomato, pesto, and a nice sprinkle of cheese. Vegetarians have two very good non-dessert choices here, I think.
The $6 Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragoût, Spring Vegetables and Marble Potatoes is a new item this year and for whatever reason, the Festivals don’t typically offer a seared pork dish, perhaps because it’s more likely to dry out. That isn’t a problem at all here as the pork was grilled to a nice medium well and nearly fork tender underneath the creamy mushroom ragoût that reminded me a lot of what Canada tops its Le Cellier Filet Mignon with every fall. With that said, this is at most five bites of meat and pork isn’t typically expensive. The potatoes served with our dish were under-cooked and nearly raw and what is basically a single thin spear of asparagus would not hold up well to The BOatHOUsE.
Taste: 8/10 (hopefully you’ll have more luck with the vegetables)
$8.50 is just 49 cents less than you’d pay for an entire bottle of the Avive Natural Peach Sparkling Wine at your neighborhood World Market. At a very sad 7% ABV, the wine doesn’t taste bad at all and would be very pleasant accompanying a Sunday brunch when you don’t want to be hosed by the time the matinee at the theater starts, but it’s a tough price point to swallow here. Considering the glass price is nearly the same as the bottle price, it makes the Florida Orange Groves sparklers look good in comparison. There you’re paying $11.25 compared to the $30 bottle price. I wouldn’t on this one.
The King Estate Acrobat Pinot is a better value at $5.25 compared to the $20 bottle price, plus it’s served from a tap which is still kind of novel. It’s probably the best wine value at the Festival, which is sort of like saying you’re the best McDonald’s in the eastern part of Modesto, but we’ll take what we can get.
Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez is a goze-style beer served on tap here at Urban Farm Eats. I think this is the first of its variety we’ve run into at the various Festivals – the beer is named after where it was first produced in Gozlar, Germany. You don’t really see much of this style around anymore, perhaps because most of us have moved away from herbal, salty beers. Anyway, Sierra Nevada is smart and brewed this one with most of us in mind, I think. It’s still probably the tartest beer of the Festival with some lemon and grapefruit citrus followed by the tangy-ness of the prickly pear cactus fruit that it’s brewed with. I kind of wish this was available as a flight because I’m not sure how appealing it is going to be to most people at $8 for a full 12-ounce draft. You might order one and request a couple extra cups to split it up or just pass it around. Or just buy a 6-pack which would cost you $7.99 at Total Wine. It’s not a personal favorite, but it is an innovative and respectable entry.
And finally, the $9 Urban Mary (which was $7.75 last year) now with no explanation, though it’s still served with Smirnoff Vodka and a Pickled Green Bean. It’s 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 nine 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.
And with over 40 individual reviews that span more than 10,000 words, we mostly conclude our coverage of the Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchens. I might be back with some second thoughts as I graze over the various options during the Festival, which runs all the way through May 30th this year.