We continue from Lotus House.
Jardin de Fiestas returns on the lagoon side of the promenade just before arriving at Mexico or just after leaving it depending on which way you’re walking. If you’ve made a couple of margarita stops, then you may find yourself waffling between several different directions, some of which don’t technically exist. If you’re pointing this way at any given time during your visit, then Trowel & Trellis and La Isla Fresca are ahead on the right.
Much to the chagrin of my bank account, everything is new this year.
Tlacoyo: Blue Corn Masa topped with Black Bean Spread, Ground Chorizo, Queso Fresco, and Mexican Cream — $6.50
What is more or less a thick corn chip underneath all of the toppings reminded me a lot of the Huarache that we saw back at the 2017 Festival of the Arts. For this year’s Flower and Garden Festival, we have a nice layer of flavorful smashed Black Beans, a considerable amount of spicy ground pork, a tangy cheese, and cool Mexican cream. The flavors end up being bold and complex and for the first time in a while, come together well. Try to order one shortly after they’re delivered from the restaurant across the way or the Blue Corn Masa may become a bit stale. I’d order another and that’s not something I typically say here. Everyone enjoyed it.
Beef Torta: Braised Beef served on a Crispy Sourdough Roll with Queso Oaxaca, Avocado, Pickled Onions and Jalapeños in a Spicy Habanero Sauce — $6.50
It’s been a while since I’ve been served a sandwich in a bowl. We didn’t have much luck righting the ship, so what you see here is about as representative of what we received as it gets.
The Torta ends up swimming in the neon orange Habanero Sauce, which packs about as much of a spicy punch as you’d expect. Unfortunately, the thick bread overwhelms even that spice and while the bread is on the hard and stale side on its own, ends up being soggy after sitting in the sauce for so long. The Braised Beef was on the dry side and the Pickled Onions and Jalapeno didn’t add as much crunch, spice, or astringency as you’d probably hope. At $6.50, it might be worth trying on novelty factor and there’s a ton going on here, which makes the whole thing interesting even if it’s not as fresh and flavorful as you might hope. I’d try another one hoping for better results.
Tres Leches: Milk-soaked Sponge Cake topped with Cajeta Whipped Cream and Almond Powder — $4.50
Mexico’s dessert is typically their strongest and this year’s Flower and Garden Festival is no different. The Sponge Cake is light and airy underneath a heaping portion of silky Cajeta Whipped Cream, which carries a bit more tang than the usual heavy-cream-based icing. The Almond topping leans more towards nutty shavings than a ground powder, but I liked the crunchy textural contrast to the soft lusciousness of the cake. The sweet and nutty caramel sauce surrounding the cake is delicious and adds a bit of a lingering cinnamon flavor to the palate. It’s also a pretty substantial portion for the money.
Cerveza: Allende Golden Ale Craft Beer served with a Liqueur Floater — $6.75
I’m not a big fan of mixing liqueurs with beer and there’s probably a reason why most restaurants and bars aren’t adding a floater of coffee or chili liqueur to their beer lineup. The addition of the liqueur, whether you go with Kahlua or the Ancho Reyes Chili, makes for a thicker, more syrupy experience than enjoying the roasted malts and crisp finish of the beer on its own. You might give it a whirl as the beer is somewhat rare, but I don’t think anybody is going to start dropping a shot of Kahlua or Chili Pepper Liqueur in their beers at home any time soon.
Damiana Flower Margarita: Damiana Flower Liqueur, Blanco Tequila, Agave Nectar, and Citrus Juices served on the rocks with a Black Ant Salt Rim — $10.50
The herbal Damiana Flower Liqueur is used in place of Triple Sec, which adds a little bit of a sweet, woody flavor to a margarita that’s on the straightforward side otherwise. It was actually pretty well-balanced for a pre-made Festival drink with the fresh flavors of the citrus mellowed out nicely by the citrus. If the Black Ant Salt Rim weirds you out, you can always ask for it salt-less or I’d be happy to pick off any identifiable ant parts if I’m in the vicinity. I’m usually in the vicinity.
Oaxacan Gin & Tonic: Smokey Gin, Black Currant Liqueur, Vermouth, Lime Juice, and Tonic Water — $12.50
This clear, effervescent cocktail based around a smokey, fruity gin is a departure from the sugar bombs that Mexico typically serves. We appreciated the lighter flavors and lower viscosity, making it easy to drink as we continued our tour around World Showcase. The Black Currant Liqueur did a nice job of adding a little sweetness to the cherry-smoked Gin, while the acid in the Lime Juice helped balance everything out alongside the bitter Tonic Water. In my old age, I’m not in any way a gin guy, but everyone in our group enjoyed this drink, which is something that almost never happens. We think it appeals to a wide demographic, though guests looking for a thick sugar bomb should look elsewhere in the Pavilion. There’s no shortage.
Rosé Sangria: Withers Rosé Wine, Tequila Blanco, Elderflower and Ginger Liqueur, Pineapple, Cactus Pear, and Ginger Juices — $11.75
There’s a whole lot going on here, but we thought the ingredients came together to produce a nicely-balanced, fizzy, easy-drinking Rosé-forward drink. It’s sweet, but not overpoweringly so, making it a good choice for those that want something a little fruitier. The various juices and liqueurs do a nice job of masking any unpleasantness from the alcohol, making for a refreshing drink overall. Another surprising winner.
Overall, there’s some good stuff going on in Mexico this year with two solid cocktails and at least one food item worth adding to an order. The Tlacoyo would get two thumbs way up if it was larger or arrived with two Blue Corn Masa bases. The Torta is an interesting few bites that are tasty when the sandwich bowl is fresh. The Tres Leches Cake is a little bit of a departure from traditional presentations, but the flavors and portion impress.
As always, tell La Cava that easywdw.com sent you. They love me over there.