Florida Fresh returns to the 2018 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival in between the France and Morocco Pavilions.
Last year’s Carne Asada is Carne Guisada this year and we see a fresh (get it?) take on the Shrimp & Grits for the first time in a few years. While the Key Lime Tart hasn’t changed in name or description, it will come out looking more like a log than the circular pie that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the past. The beers that aren’t the Quat Seasonal are also new.
As seen with nothing in focus.
Carne Guisada with Black Bean Cake and Cilantro Lime Sour Cream – $6.50
This didn’t really resemble any guisada that I’ve ever encountered and I’m not sure how it differentiates itself from last year’s “Carne Asada.”
Above is last year’s.
Stew? Not so much, I don’t think. It’s still tender, smokey, nicely marinated shredded beef that offers a surprising kick that’s washed away by the cool sour cream and the citrus notes from the lime and cilantro topping. The Black Bean Cake offers a nice crispy, contrasting texture to the beef and soaks up all of the flavors well, including the flavorful tomato salsa. But last year’s was a crowd favorite and I’m not sure why you’d mess with it. The spices seemed to be toned down and the flavor “felt” less complex than I remember. I think the meat was a little overcooked with a less pleasant, softer mouthfeel that may be a little more stew-y. It’s still an above average choice and a considerable portion for the money.
At least 85% of blogging can be broken down to delusions of grandeur, whether you’re the insignificant host of a YouTube show taking credit for changing Disney’s mind about whether they wanted to rename Hollywood Studios to the stupidest thing humanly possible or think that Disney is keeping an attraction open out of spite just because you said it was going to close. In my case, you’ll often see me saying something like, “I really didn’t like _______, no wonder they took it off the menu. I guess that proves it sucks!” But probably just as often, they’ll take something away that I reviewed positively. Which I’m pretty sure is Disney spiting me.
Anyway, above is last year’s Shrimp and Stone-ground Grits.
This year’s is not all that much different, though we’re back down to three shrimp from five. The Gravy “felt” thicker than last year’s sauce, to the point where it bordered on finding itself in an unpleasant gelatinous state. The Sweet Corn Relish is also cold and sprinkled on top of the shrimp, which makes for a lot chewier endeavor. We also don’t see any of the sausage that added a nice salty, meaty component to last year’s preparation and there’s far less of the grits. I don’t think I’d be too concerned about the spice in the title, but there is a little bit of a chili presence in the rub. I’m not sure if anybody did a taste test between this year’s and last year’s versions, but anybody that voted for this one should be sent back to Electric Umbrella. Still, it’s not bad. It’s just different. Which I guess is always bad when it comes to Disney.
Oh my gosh, though. The original was so good. Look at the size of those shrimp and all that sausage!
Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue – $4.50
This is still really good. The sweet, sugary crust is thinner this year, but it still holds up well against the creamy sweet/sour key lime custard inside and the meringue, which is perfectly toasted, has a nice fresh marshmallow flavor with a slight crispiness to the top.
Here’s last year’s – it was a larger portion, but the crust was much thicker and the meringue on top a little more uneven. I’m also guessing there’s utility in the slender rectangles. it’s easier to store the longer, skinnier pies.
Florida Orange Groves Winery Key Lime Sparkling Wine, St Petersburg, FL – $11.75
A bottle of this will set you back $30, which is a lot higher than the retail price on most of the wines available at the Festival. And with the prices of the regular wine pours rising so fast over the last couple of years, there’s probably some value here, in addition to the novelty factor. The flavor profile is carbonated key lime pie, which contrasts nicely against the spiciness of the Carne Guisada or Shrimp and Grits. You might give it a whirl if you’re curious and making a stop.
Beer Flight with Tampa Bay Brewing Company Quat Seasonal Fruit Ale, Big Top Brewing Company Conch Republic Key Lime Wheat, and First Magnitude Brewing Co. Monarch Milk Stout – $9.50
Another terrible beer flight picture to add to the collection.
That’s a little better. Brewed to take advantage of the Dade City Kumquat Festival, the Quat is a 5% ABV American Blonde Ale that’s helped by the fruitiness of the mashed and infused kumquats added during the brewing process. The flavor is dominated by the sweet and sour notes of the citrus with a distinct juiciness that’s not unlike the popular Schofferhofer available in the Germany Pavilion all year. It’s worth trying especially at an ABV twice as high as the German grapefruit beer.
The Conch Republic Key Lime Wheat is a refreshing lime-forward beer that captures the trajectory of this website pretty well – sweet to start followed by a bitter, drawn out finish. It’s pretty easy to drink as part of the flight, which comes with three individual pours that measure four ounces each, or as an individual pour that comes in at six ounces.
The Monarch Milk Stout is interesting in that it’s a partnership between the brewery and the Florida Museum of Natural History that attempts to “shed light on the recent population declines of the iconic Monarch butterfly.” There’s probably some literature available somewhere that the beer flight buying public probably isn’t going to take the time to search out. The beer is decent enough – perhaps a little watered down with less of a roasted malt presence and little of the creamy quality that you’d hope to find from a milk stout. But a couple of cents may go to the butterflies, which is reason enough to get two.
Watermelon Cucumber Slushy with Tamiami Florida Gin – $11.75
While it’s incredibly small, this one works 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. But this is more than Disney charges for most cocktails on their standard lounge menu and something like $7.75 would be more fair.
The changes are a little disheartening considering Florida Fresh had such a good thing going, particularly in its debut year. But compared to other 2-18 Festival offerings, just about everything here remains above average. I just think we’ve lost some of that “wow” factor. But most people should find at least a couple of things that they want to pick up.