We continue from Northern Blossom.
The World ShowPlace, which Disney has historically utilized for spendy private events during times of non global-catastrophe, is open to everyone again for another Festival as Disney opts to fill in all of the available space. While the website has mocked the notion for some time – as long as the maximum number of people are within appropriate distance to board and fill a vehicle when it’s time to load, there will be no disruption in service, or change in capacity; you have to give it up to Disney for picking up some of the slack. The 6-foot social-distancing markers may keep us at a comfortable distance now. But once I hear that familiar, “Fill in the space now so that your wait will be shorter later,” you can bet that you’re going to feel like you’ve teleported from the safety and distancing of the queue for The Seas with Nemo and Friends and joined me in a packed Miami nightclub. I’m going to be right there no matter which way you look. Just in case you might need something.
Before the demolition of the middle of Future World that will bring lesser versions of every building than the one that came before it, we’d see three kiosks out in front of Club Cool, but the outdoor terrace space where Disney would ordinarily set up the kiosks is currently part of the massive hole in the ground. I think the only redeemable end to the construction woes is if Epcot is the setting for the end of “National Treasure 3,” and Disney didn’t have the money to invest in digital effects because the cash is already allocated to “Unnamed Star Wars Project 9,” coming to Disney+ this December 2026. Nic Cage actually will run that giant spherical contraption until there’s enough power for the lasers. I don’t want to give too much away.
Speaking of the demolition, if Disney had any sense whatsoever, they’d be selling the pieces of the Future World buildings as they come down and people can take a bit of the Park home without having to buy some framed pin set sometime down the line. Or I’m looking to heave concrete at other bloggers. The jury remains out. Even if a construction worker served you garden variety 40+ year-old Rubble without the traditional flambee presentation, and just a pinch of asbestos for seasoning, they’d still probably be serving better food than the Italy kiosk.
We’ve got a little bit of advertising going on with the trailer full of gear. Imagine visiting Epcot for some Fish and Chips and a Violet Lemonade and coming home with a rideable lawnmower shipped to your house. It happens. Not that I know anything about it.
The ShowPlace is indoors and air-conditioned, which makes it more popular during times when you’re also more likely to want to visit – principally during afternoon highs or in the middle of other inclement weather that pushes people indoors. You may want to get a jump on the potential for either by heading over earlier or later in the day. There is a capacity limit inside the building, and when it’s reached, you’ll need to add your phone number to the waiting list to be called over. Should you not get in with the initial wave, that call will come right around the time your interest in heading inside has declined considerably and the skies clear. The fact that the area is temperature-controlled and offers three menus of food and drink in a consolidated location means that you’ll likely want to check the ShowPlace out, whether the chance of rain or heat are culprits or not. At a minimum, check out the size of the bathrooms and tell me they couldn’t just run IllumiNations in there.
If things are feeling congested in the middle of the ShowPlace, there are additional tables just inside the entrance that most people pass by and forget about once they’re carrying a food or drink item. If you’d like to sit, most of the tables with chairs are on the far side closer to the farm equipment for sale. Who would have thought that random idea to go grab some fish (pending park pass availability) at EPCOT would turn you and your family into legume farmers for life.
The first “kiosk” you’ll come to inside the ShowPlace is Festival Favorites:
Unlike Festival of the Holidays, when Blackened Bass graced the “Favorites” menu without ever actually appearing on a Festival menu, I think we’ve actually seen all of these dishes in the past.
Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, Feta, and Balsamic Reduction – $4.25
You’ll have to excuse the quality of some of the photos as it’s dark in the ShowPlace and I am not the sort of person who is going to walk a quarter of a salad outdoors to take a picture of it and then return to my table inside to eat it. That’s why I got the salad. So I don’t have to do that.
This one comes from Florida Fresh in 2013 with a similar version showing up at Urban Farm Eats circa 2k17. The salad “just works” so to speak, with the juicy sweetness of the watermelon contrasting perfectly with the tanginess of the feta and the earthy, sweet complexity of the vinaigrette. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel – it’s a returning item from seven years ago after all, but it’s a refreshing and vibrant choice that’s worth adding to just about any order. It might be my favorite salad at the Festival, but it’s not necessarily unique enough to demand a purchase on its own.
Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue, and House-made Pickle – $7.50
With Regal Eagle Barbecue now a permanent institution in World Showcase, you could make the argument that the Festival’s “Smokehouse” is superfluous. Instead, we see the most popular items from that kiosk move over here.
The key to the burnt ends is the caramelization of the sugar in the sauce, which ideally gives the dense meaty bites a little bit of a crispy exterior before giving way to the juicy, soft, chewy, interior. The Smoked Pork Belly is typically much thinner, softer, and more delicate than the Burnt Ends and it’s what you see doused in the cheese fondue inside of the substantial bun. Unfortunately, what amounted to two bites of brisket served more as a side dish. The pork also disappointed, with the bacon flavor losing itself in the creamy cheese fondue. We’ve got some bonus items up top with the very garlicky sausage and the acidic, thick slice of pickle. With so many things going on, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy at least a couple of the components. Unfortunately, we felt like the quality dropped. Previously, many of the components were grilled and smoked throughout the day right next to the booth and then served shortly thereafter. Now, the sliders just appear. There’s also about four times as much bread as there is stuff inside of it, which makes the whole proposition less desirable unless you like your bread with a side of burnt ends. You may have better luck on freshness, but at $7.50, you’re half way or more to a full entrée at Regal Eagle, where the food is better and you’ll receive about five times as much.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Blue Crab-Fennel Salad, Remoulade, and Smoked Paprika Oil – $6.25
What a crazy time this was when the ARBOR kitchen situated itself inside the Odyssey Building, most of Future World was still standing, and the monorail would occasionally glide by. A lot has changed since 2019 and we last saw the following dish.
When Disney served the dish at ARBOR, the website had this to say: “Each slice of juicy, ripe tomato is encased in a crispy layer of cornmeal and breadcrumbs with just a pinch of salt and pepper. The creamy Remoulade sauce was the star of the show, adding a tang to the Blue Crab and adding a ton of flavor to the crunchy Fennel Salad, which has plenty of celery mixed in to help cut a little bit of the lingering, sweet anise flavor of the herb. The Paprika Oil is largely an afterthought, circling the dish and adding a bit of color along with a little bit of smoke. It ends up being a delicious, table-service-quality appetizer and one of the best dishes we’ve tried in some time. The elements really come together here.”
Things didn’t come together nearly as well this year, with a lot more fishiness from the crab and soggy tomatoes surrounded by a much limper, less flavorful crust. It’s another dish that worked well at the previous booth, but something was lost in translation moving the item over to the ShowPlace. Maybe it was the springtime breeze bringing in a little bit of seaworthiness back at The Odyssey. It may come down to freshness again, though we ordered ours right around 1pm, which you would think would be prime time. At $6.25 for two slices of tomato and too little old, mushy crab, this is another dish that loses its “favorite” status.
I had the original as a 10 on taste and 9 on value. Go figure. At least these fresher reviews are up within a couple days of the end of the Festival.
Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue – $4.75
Here’s this year’s presentation in the dark.
Compared to what had been served at Florida Fresh in the past, when I awarded the Tart an 8 on taste and 7 on value.
While this year’s version appears to be on the flatter, blander, less inspired side of things, the sweet, sugary crust holds up well against the surprisingly bold, rich flavors of the tart, sugary lime. The meringue, which is perfectly toasted, has a nice fresh marshmallow flavor with a slight crispiness to the top that sweetens things up. While the butterfly of yesteryear is more precious than this year’s thin slice of chocolate, the fresh take adds texture and gives people the option of sweetening things up a bit if they’d like or keeping things tarter by leaving the chocolate out. Just wait until the purists even see the chocolate.
Key Lime anything is one of those things where everyone seems to have a strong opinion on how it “should” taste. Disney’s version is a pretty safe take, where you can sort of choose which components of the tart you’d like to include in your bite. I wouldn’t specifically wait in a long line for it, but it’s probably the best dessert in the ShowPlace and you’ll notice how I’m not bringing up the Bee-stro. Though that Mascarpone Cheesecake is still better.
3 Daughters Brewing Maple Bacon Stout – $4.50 for 6-Ounces or $8.50 for 12-Ounces
It’s possible that Disney didn’t put the order in for the large number of kegs until finding out The Smokehouse was no more. The only item that the beer really complements is the Slider, which would have also been served at The Smokehouse. It’s heavier on the bacon and the cocoa than the maple, so anyone looking for something a little sweeter may be disappointed, but it’s surprisingly competent if you ignore the word maple and have had a few drinks before giving this one a try. But you could also say that about these blog posts.
Frozen Lemonade – $3.50 or with Firefly Blackberry Moonshine for $11.75
If you’ve ever been to a 7-11 and accidentally pulled on the cherry flavor lever for a a half second, only to find out that Bruce is in more of a Tangerine Dream mood, you’d come out with about this much frozen beverage, which is icier on top than down below, probably because that’s where the vodka is sitting. The kids will enjoy the Lemonade, but it’s a silly price point when Joffrey’s will sell you a similar frozen solid drink in a cup that’s four times as large for about $5. The Blackberry Moonshine works well here and the alcohol pours have been on the generous side in our experience, though I can’t make any guarantees. You’re still better off at Joffrey’s where you can get a double shot of Grey Goose in a much larger container for not much more money.
The Watermelon and Key Lime Tart are your best bets here. The good news is that we have two more kiosks and two more complete menus within just a few steps, in case Watermelon Salad and Key Lime Tart don’t sound like the perfect pairing. Options ought to abound.