We continue our tour from Part 1, which covered La Isla Fresca, Jardin de Fiestas, Lotus House, and Bauernmarkt.
Primavera Kitchen is located across from Italy on the Germany side. It’s just a few steps away from Bauernmarkt.
I mentioned previously that Mexico and Italy are the two Outdoor Kitchens that I historically look forward to spending money at the least. Prices are typically high and unlike a lot of the other kiosks, nothing is made fresh in the stand itself. At something like Isla Fresca, they are grilling the chicken and fish right there as you wait. In Italy, everything is made in a separate area and then served out of a warmer or cooler. Generally speaking, the fresher something is, the better it tastes. And with the Flower and Garden Festival booths being far less popular than Food and Wine in the fall, dishes are delivered less frequently.
That’s going to end up being a problem right off the bat.
This is the $6 Pollo alla Parmigiana: Breaded Breast of Chicken, Tomato, Parmesan and Mozzarella Cheese. If you’re thinking, “that doesn’t look like six dollars worth,” I have bad news as relatively speaking, this is a lot of food for your money.
But it had been sitting in the warmer for too long and what should have been, and probably at some point was, a nice crispy exterior was instead mushy and the sauce was bland with nothing to spice it up. You may fare better with a fresher dish and it is one of the largest portions at the Festival.
We fared a lot better with the $6 Mezze Lune Primavera: Egg Pasta stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Creamy Sauce with Spring Vegetables and Pecorino Cheese and I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say this is the best savory vegetarian dish at the Festival. There are a couple layers of cheese packed pasta underneath a hefty topping of more melted cheese in a sauce that at least “felt” more robust than the chicken’s, coupled with the sauce that had a creamy bechamel quality to it. There weren’t a lot of vegetables which was just fine with me. Altogether very good and it will fill you up more than you might expect.
Portion size comes into play again I think with the $5 Cremoso al Pistacchio: Pistacchio Cream, Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream. It’s $2 overpriced, even for the Festival. But on a bite-for-bite basis, it’s one of the best tasting desserts. The trifecta of flavors is popular for a reason and the mascarpone cream here is surprisingly light, which really allows for the subtle nuttiness of the pistachio to shine through. With pieces of real strawberry in between the layers to sweeten things up, the flavor is really fantastic. It’s just a really difficult price point to swallow for the amount that you get.
I would opt out of a wine here. Head into the Enoteca for some better pours and more variety. You could enjoy a significantly better selection for not much more money at Tutto Gusto next to Tutto Italia or with the $20 Wine Walk, which includes two wines here, in Germany, and in France.
There’s a reason they don’t name the wines here, though nobody would probably know the difference between a bottle of Placido, which is what they use here, and a Super Tuscan like Ornellaia Masseto. The $7 Desert Rose up in Morocco uses better sparkling wine and has a more interesting flavor profile with the pomegranate liqueur.
Ten dollars worth.
The $11 Frozen Italian Primavera: Assorted fruit slushy, Limoncello and Vodka is a large portion, though there’s virtually no alcohol in it and the flavor is generic strawberries. It is very refreshing through and easily six times the quantity you’d get from similarly priced cocktails elsewhere. They might actually be better off reducing the size as it’s a ton to consume.
Value: Below average.
Longtime readers know that I always come down hard on Moretti, but it’s actually seen a price reduction since the Food and Wine Festival, where a 6-ounce cup would run you a most ridiculous $5. But it’s at least on draft and is somewhat interesting compared to Red Stripe and Tecate.
Value: Above average.
Here’s something that I never thought I would write – the La Rossa is actually a decent value at this year’s Festival with the price reduction, high ABV, and the fact that it’s on draft. The beer is a rich mahogany color with a creamy, smooth mouthfeel to go along with the flavor that’s largely caramel and roasted malts. It’s not a great beer by any means, but it’s not a bad choice at this year’s Festival.
Easily the best choice and by far the best value is the Italian Seasonal Selection, which is currently Birrificio Italiano’s Tipo Pils, styled as a German Pilsener. It’s more hoppy than you might expect, but nicely balanced overall with a crisp, clean finish. Any beer drinker should seek it out.
Overall, Italy impressed given very low expectations. The pasta and seasonal beer would make for an excellent stop.
The venerable Smokehouse returns to the United States Pavilion on the far right side as you look at the large colonial building that houses The American Adventure.
The Smoked Pork Ribs replace last year’s sausage and the turkey ribs before that and the Warm Chocolate Cake takes the place of the ridiculous “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake.
The crispy onions are new on the $6.25 Pulled Pig Slider. It’s 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 $6.50 Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad are a worse value proposition I think.
Your money buys you two ribs that look pretty good in the carton I feel like, but they’re not very meaty and what’s there is dry and difficult to pull away from the bone, which isn’t a good sign.
They really needed to be dressed up with one of the barbecue sauces from the condiment station, which is lacking little paper tubs or any mechanism to get your sauce on your meat other than squirting it directly on. The corn had a macaroni salad flavor to it, kind of creamy and tasting largely of red onion. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible dish, but I’d probably put your six bucks towards a rack of ribs at Flame Tree or something.
There are very few items that I would dedicate precious tummy capacity to on the first day of the Festival, but the $5.75 Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños is one of those items.
It might be my favorite dish at the Festival offering numerous bites of 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. Most of the items I’m happy to share. This is not one of those items.
Oh my science our one way ticket to flavortown continues with the $3.75 Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans. Now I know what you’re thinking…is he going to tilt it…is he going to tilt it…
Yeah he is. The cake is an ooey gooey affair with a fluffy, light base that is not unlike the exceptional toffee cake over at Liberty Tree Tavern, this time with a sweet caramel sauced tempered a bit by some hints of bourbon and spiced up with the nuts. The cake has a pronounced, but not heavy-handed chocolate flavor. It’s a big slice for the money and would be a “must buy” if it were perhaps just a little more unique. It remains one of the better safe bets.
The Great American Wine Company Red Blend returns from the Food and Wine Festival replacing the Rib Shack variety that we’ve seen the last few years. It’s a dry red that’s dominated with zinfandel, which is a spicy varietal that goes best with the hash or spicy barbecue sauce on the ribs. At around $10 a bottle, it’s not a terrific value, but you’re saving a considerable amount compared to the garbage Italy is serving.
It’s a decently unique flight this year with the Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen leading the way. The 5.6% light-bodied wheat beer enjoys the typical flavor profile with cloves and banana dominating before a clean, spicy finish. Very refreshing.
I’ve tried about a dozen Orlando Brewing beers and none of them are what I would call “great.” “Okay” is probably the best word. Their Organic Grapefruit Ale is no different, but it does come in at 6.2%, which is about 2.5 times as much alcohol as the Schofferhofer. On the downside, there is far less grapefruit flavor and the beer is pretty bland overall. Sam Adams has a Rebel Grapefruit IPA that I prefer.
3 Daughters Rod Bender is a pretty weak American Amber that’s forgettable in every way other than it might make you less likely to pick something else up from the brewer in the future. I’ve tried six or eight of their beers in the last year and none has been anything I would get again. It’s worth trying this 5.9% red ale as part of the flight, but it’s too sweet and bread-y for an $8 pour.
Shipyard will always be a Maine brewery to me, even if they moved some of their production down here, probably for tax purposes. You’ll find a subtle sweetness from the maple combined with the smokiness of the bacon. Perfectly decent if you’re into stouts.
I’d definitely pick up the Flight if you’re in the market. The hefe and stout are your best bets for a full pour.
We marched up at around 11:15am on the first day and the cast member working the register warned me that the frozen lemonade “wasn’t quite frozen yet,” but I was not expecting just a small cup of completely unfrozen Minute-Maid lemonade.
When it’s properly frozen, it’s pretty good with the moonshine though I preferred last year’s Palm Ridge Whiskey more. The moonshine would work better with a tarter lemonade.
Perennial favorite Japan returns across from the Mitsukoshi Department Store on the Lagoon side.
Japan returns the Frushi, in addition to the Yuzu Plum Wine Slush and switches out Kirin on draft for Sapporo and last year’s Karat Sake for Suigei.
The $5.25 Frushi is basically a light, fresh, fruity dessert that a lot of people seem to find a lot of fun. Your money buys you three pink pieces filled with pineapple, strawberry and melon, which is then rolled with coconut rice and finished with raspberry sauce and toasted coconut with whipped cream on the side. This is sort of like China’s candied strawberries in that you either love it or hate it and I’m not sure where to come down on the ratings. It does not beckon a second purchase from me, personally.
The $5.50 Chicken Edamame Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken and Edamame and topped with Curry Sauce is a little bit different than what the kiosk has offered over the last few years. Inside you’ll find a modest amount of curry chicken which is then finished with a squirt of curry sauce and a few edamame beans. The flavor is a little less curry-focused than last year’s bun, but that remains the dominant flavor. If you like yellow curry then you’ll like this and it’s not a bad value for the money.
Here we have another new addition in the $5.95 Beef Teriyaki Udon: Thin-sliced Beef, Onions and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger.
The website has long come down on Katsura Grill’s sukiyaki beef – it’s slimy, fatty, gristly and my inclination has always first been to spit it right back out. How’s that for an endorsement? That’s exactly what these udon noodles are topped with, though the presentation here is significantly better and it’s altogether a very attractive dish. The soft noodles add a considerable amount of heft to the dish. I just wish there was a little more flavor and a little less slime. It’s not an insignificant amount of food for the money.
Back in my drinking days I would occasionally purchase a keg of beer just to have. It’s usually a pretty lousy value proposition as the yield is typically on the low side and the beer itself is as expensive or more expensive than it would be in bottles or cans. But there is some amount of prestige involved in sitting out on your patio by yourself with your keg of some frilly microbrew that nobody’s heard of and you don’t really like. I bring this up because Japan was having a terrible time with their tap on the first day. The kegs are operated by a third party and the poor guy inside the kiosk wearing a Miller Lite polo (as if it could get any worse) was pouring beer after beer down the drain. If the Discovery Channel still aired anything more useful than Gator Wrangling Louisiana with Larry the Cable Guy, there would probably be a tragic documentary chronicling just how much beer goes to waste here. As my father always said growing up, “There are thirsty kids in China. Finish your beer.” Anyway, Sapporo is Japan’s Budweiser with a light, watery, grainy, malty sweetness. Of all the bad beers in the world, this is one of the better ones and the price is half decent.
In something that almost never happens, Japan returns the Yuzu Plum Wine Slush – Sweet refreshing taste infused with the tangy flavor of citrus, though it’s a dollar more expensive than last year at $7.50. The flavor 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.
The sake actually returns from this past year’s Food and Wine Festival as well. That’s it in the upper right. It’s pretty thin with some pineapple and citrus up front with a lot of rice and coconut at the end. For a wider selection and more personable service I’d probably head into the Mitsukoshi Department Store’s sake bar in the far corner of the store where the packaged food and drinks are sold.
Overall, this is perhaps a down Festival for Japan – I would have liked to have seen a sushi roll rather than a remix of the usual sukiyaki beef and I’m not sure how appealing the general public will find the curry bun. The Frushi is potentially unique and for once, the beer isn’t terrible priced.
Taste of Marrakesh
Marrakesh returns to the Japan side of Morocco with literally the exact same menu as last year.
Except for the ho hum Mint Iced Tea, which is absent.
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.
The Falaffel Wrap at Tangierine Cafe is easily four times as much food for twice as much money.
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 and it’s $3 less than the same stuff in Mexico.
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. It’s easily the best value on the wine front.
I won’t bore you with the same Casa Beer review as the last 17 Festivals. It’s still the same thing served out of a bottle. The price has sort of come down as last year they served you half a bottle for $4.
We’ll finish our run with the remaining booths.