We continue from Pineapple Promenade.
The Honey Bee-stro (get it…like a French bistro…I am dying of laughter here…) returns with even more punny hilariousness for its fourth year. I doubt it features much on the French side of the culinary landscape, but a lack of killer bees would be okay, too.
Ah yes, a better time, with the monorail and the people circa about a year ago. But the 2020 picture does a nice job of showing the Bee-stro’s exact location and foreshadows our next Kitchen, Flavor-Full, which is located just about where the picture ends on the right. Helpful, I know. The one positive(?) this year with the monorail not running (yet) is that the photographers won’t have to camp out and wait for it to pass along above the flower beds for pictures with a little additional kinetic energy. It’s always funniest when the monorail is down and we just stand there eyeballing each other suspiciously for a half hour, pretending like our phones are blowing up. Or you can yell, “MONORAIL!” at us and it basically turns us into a pack of Dug the Dogs chasing squirrels. But not this year! Probably!
Florida would remind you that we’re not only the country’s leading location for the filming of “Cops” episodes, but also the fifth-leading producer of honey in the United States with the production of 9,225,000 pounds. Almost all of that goes on one of my biscuits from the Biscuit Barn of all places, or we’d probably export a lot more. If you’re wondering where the most honey comes from, it would be the Dakotas, where they produce about about 53 million pounds across the two states. I would guess without a lot going on there, honey is as good of a (legal) business to get into as any other.
The Spoon Bread is new and the Mascarpone Cheesecake takes on new life with a couple of changes at least as far as the menu is concerned. We also see a new beer in the Honey Bee Citrus Blonde.
The three current food items on the menu.
Tupelo Honey and Sweet Corn Spoon Bread with Jalapeños, Bacon, and House-made Whipped Honey Butter – $4.75
This replaces last year’s “Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Purée, Wild Rice Pilaf, Asparagus, Honey-blistered Grapes, Sunflower Brittle, and Coriander Flowers,” which probably wasn’t on the popular side of things, and also sounds to be relatively involved in preparation.
In fact, if you put me in charge of creating Buckwheat Honey Carrot Purée back in 2018, I’d probably still be working on it for this year’s entry, when it no longer exists. Above is what it looked like. Disney used to put a little smiling strawberry next to dishes on the menu that it deemed “Kid-Friendly.” The Cauliflower made it last year and may be the sole reason why we don’t see the happy fruit marker on any menus this year. Try handing a kid (or blogger) a plate of Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Purée and see how far it gets you. I still don’t trust my dad after he put mayonnaise on a toasted cheese sandwich about 30 years ago. Whenever he serves something, the investigation into its ingredients takes at least an hour as I pretend to nonchalantly pass through the kitchen a couple times and then conspicuously sharpen knives very slowly with what is probably the wrong tool.
Back to the task at hand, this southern favorite is an excellent dish, despite a lack of much color on the photography front. The small muffin-esque baked good is sort of like a mix of cornbread, soufflé, and polenta, and is lighter and fluffier than you might expect. The cornmeal is doing the heavy lifting, with just a hint of jalapeno, if you’re concerned that the spice is going to be a turn-off with whole kernels of sweet corn mixed in. The bacon on top adds a crispy, salty crunch against the pleasant sweetness of the buttery undertones of the honey from the Tupelo ecosystem of the Altamaha and Apalachicola River Basins. There aren’t typically a lot of new items that I would return to at Disney’s price points, but this is one of them, and it’s under five bucks.
Lavender Honey Mustard-marinated Chicken Flatbread with Whipped Honey-Ricotta Cheese, Marinated Vegetables, and Purple Haze Lavender Goat Cheese – $5.75
Above is what we were served last year as “Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread with White Cheddar Cheese, Charred Vegetables, Clover Honey Sour Cream, and Micro Citrus Greens” at the same price point.
And above is this year’s, which is about the same idea, only doused in mustard that may supposed to be tempered by the tang of the goat cheese, which is plentiful on its own, and the blander, creamier ricotta that makes for a cheesier base. If nothing else, we got a lot more chicken this year. But I’d probably put your ~$6 towards something more interesting as you’ll basically receive half of Disney’s standard Flatbread, which tends to be a blank and overcooked canvas for a miserable cacophony of toppings. You could do worse, but you could do a lot better. I’m guessing there was supposed to be more honey going on with the mustard.
Local Wildflower Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange Blossom Honey Whipped Cream, Whipped Honey, Crystalized Honey, Honeycomb, Dehydrated Honey, and Fennel Pollen Meringue Kisses – $5
I don’t think anybody else caught it, but this dessert was Le Cellier’s entry into 2017’s “Orlando’s Signature Dish Competition,” given our high level of honey production that ignores the Dakotas, as one does. I actually ordered this dessert at Le Cellier back in December of 2017 when it was $11. So here at the Bee-stro, you’re basically getting a signature restaurant dessert for less than half the price of what everyone else paid four years ago. And I’m totally not bitter about that because I got three meringue dollops and you’re only getting two. NEENER NEENER.
Here’s last year’s, when the description was quite different, highlighting the ice cream.
And this year’s, with the garbage can table top to prove that it’s still me behind the lens. Don’t expect Cheesecake Factory here as the Honey-Mascarpone Cake is incredibly light and airy with a fluffy, whipped texture and a mildly sweet, radiant honey flavor. The orange-scented Honeycomb and Brittle serve as sweet mechanisms to scoop up some of the delicious cake and carry it to your mouth, so go straight for that while everyone else is deciding the best plan of attack. It’s usually just to stick a fork in it. The (unadvertised this year) ice cream is refreshing and delicious in its own right. The crispy meringues are fun, especially when you throw them at other passing bloggers. Actually, if you closed your eyes, spun around, and gave one a good heave, it’s almost impossible that you wouldn’t hit someone recording their exact opinions on the differences between thyme and basil live on camera. Oh, the excitement of hearing words like “tasty,” and “this is one of the best things I’ve had in my life” over…and….over. Both are true in this instance, at least. If the vlogger gets upset at the recent pelting, just tell them you’re trying to give them free stuff in exchange for a positive review of your life. It’s why you hear so many good things about me. But the cost of the meringues has dug deep into my 401k. This is a top three dish at the Festival in terms of taste and innovation. Very good.
Honey-Peach Freeze in a Souvenir Spike the Bee Sipper Cup – $15
You may recognize Spike the Bee from a couple of the previous Flower and Garden Festivals, where he’s appeared as part of the World Showcase scavenger hunts. After 2020’s Flower and Garden Festival lasted about six seconds before the theme park shutdown, everyone’s favorite pollinator stuck around as an option for much of the year and with a variety of fillings. If you are about a hundred years old, you may also be familiar with his appearance in a variety of cartoons from the ’40s and ’50s, including my favorite, “Inferior Decorator,” which is where I honed my own home decorating skills, including proper placement of the pineapple should you be fortunate enough to come over and enjoy my promenade.
Spike continues to appear as just about the most precious sipper cup ever, complete with little plastic wings in back so he can take flight, potentially to a better theme park or at least farther away than the line for Slinky Dog Dash in the middle of the afternoon. For most people, nothing about him exactly screams “Disney,” and you may be wary of having to carry the little guy around around all day, but I brought one home myself, when I initially had no intention of doing so. The non-alcoholic version of the Honey-Peach Freeze will be served in a cup on the side, and is worth about $4.50 on its own compared to similar drinks. It’s a thick, viscous, sweet drink with the lingering flavor of fresh peaches. While the cup is small, it “feels” like there’s a lot of it to get through, so you’ll probably want to share one and then fight over who gets to hang out with Spike for the rest of the day. You might make it a late stop if you don’t have an easy way of carrying the sipper around. And if you don’t pick one up this year, it certainly appears like he’ll be buzzing around longer than Club Cool. Too soon, I know.
Florida Orange Groves Winery Orange Blossom Honey Wine – $6
This is a very thin mead with a really unpleasant aftertaste, almost like we had thrown up in our own mouths, which is unlikely as it has been several hours since visiting the Italy booth and subsequent bathroom break. Considering the $26 retail bottle price, it’s not a a bad value on cost alone, and you may well like it more than we did. You probably won’t. But you might. Bottles are available should you elect to take one home, potentially to scare off animals that would ordinarily be attracted to honey and cause them to become existentially confused about their own palates for the rest of their lives. Imagine six straight months of eating nothing but terrible, undercooked Red Barons. Then a $56 Via Napoli pizza appears. You may question your sanity too.
That doesn’t seem like a bad investment, all told.
First Magnitude Brewing Co. Honey Bee Citrus Blonde Ale – $4.50 for six ounces or $8.50 for twelve
This may be close to a Festival exclusive, though the various breweries typically repurpose one of their other annual options and offer it on draft at the Festival, usually with a little twist. This year’s Honey Bee Citrus Blonde Ale is a refreshing beer with plenty of citrus-y lemon and orange peel up front backed up by the faint flavors of raw honey and a touch of earthy spice, making for a smooth, easy-drinking, beer, particularly during the heat of the day when you’ll appreciate its balanced, refreshing approach the most.
Honey-Peach Cobbler Freeze with Blueberry Vodka – $12
Grab a straw for this one or you’ll be wearing the same pie crumb mustache that I’ve been sporting since the Festival opened on March 5th. This is thicker and denser than the other frozen drinks we’ll see, and it requires a considerable amount of effort to sip. I preferred the drink with the vodka, which thins out the viscous freeze and adds a fruitier berry element to the hint of peach and heavy honey presence. And you know, the vodka helps.
Overall, the Cheesecake is worth going out of your way to order and I’d probably select one of the other two items to go with it – the Spoon Bread is more interesting. The Freeze is basically another dessert in a cup, and while it’s not quite as refreshing as some of the easier-to-drink cocktails, it’s quite tasty and should last a while. Spike the Bee, now perennially available until they run out or make a minor cosmetic change, is also a precious pick-up.
Flavor-Full is up next.