We continue from The Painted Panda in China.
What probably doesn’t translate to “The Hungry Hamberder” returns to the Mexico Pavilion for this year’s Festival of the Arts at Epcot.
As is tradition, Mexico returns none of its food items from the year prior. The Margaritas feature similar names, but will end up being different drinks. The beer is alone in making a repeat appearance. Unlike other Food Studios, tax is not included in the prices.
Above is a look at last year’s haul.
And this year’s.
Sopes de Chilorio: Slow-braised Pork marinated in Ancho Chili Paste served on Fried Corn Dough with Black Beans, Queso Oaxaca, Crema Mexicana and Salsa Verde – $7.40
This is a solid entry for Mexico. The Fried Corn Dough is a welcome change from the usual, undersized corn tortillas that typically hold the laundry list of ingredients and sauces named in the description. Its crispiness contrasts nicely with the soft Black Beans that serve as the base for the flavorful Slow-braised Pork, which has a nice amount of spice that lingers on the palate before being cooled off by the Crema Mexicana and Queso Oaxaca. There’s a little bit of cabbage in there for a little more crunch. Unfortunately, and something that has plagued Mexico for years, the food is prepared elsewhere and sits in a heating closet until it’s served. Freshness, or a lack thereof, comes into play. Ours didn’t seem to be affected, but it’s possible that you’d have less luck. Overall, it ends up being a very good dish and a solid value at the Arts Festival considering that prices elsewhere are much higher than Food/Wine/Flower/Garden.
Callo de Hacha en Salsa de Jengibre y Habanero: Two Seared Scallops with Ginger-Habanero Sauce atop Yucca Purée – $8.79
Disney typically does Festival Scallops very well, in large part due to the fact that they’re prepared and grilled inside of the kiosk. That isn’t the case in Mexico, where they’re prepared in a far-off kitchen and sit in the booth waiting to be ordered. This comes down to whether or not you’re willing to pay almost nine dollars for two Scallops that were cooked a couple of hours ago. On the plus side, they do stand up surprisingly well, with a nice char that lends a light crispiness to the outside. The Ginger-Habanero Sauce brings much less heat or tang than you might be expecting, but that may help the natural flavors of the Scallop shine a little more brightly.
Overall, I’d save your Scallop money for The Artist’s Table.
Chocoflan: Creamy Mexican Custard and Chocolate Sponge Cake topped with Cajeta and Hazelnuts — $4.80
This is a fresh take on one of Mexico’s standard desserts. The Chocolate Sponge Cake serves to add a nice, solid backbone to the softer Mexican Custard on top and in turn, marrying the sweet flavors of caramel with the lusciousness of the chocolate cake underneath. The Cajeta caramel sauce enhances the sweet flavors further, while the Hazelnuts add a little bit of a nutty quality along with a slight crunch. At $4.50, it’s an absolute steal at the Festival, where most other desserts cost six dollars or more.
Frida Lychee Margarita – El Velo Blanco Tequila, Lychee Purée, Botran Rum, and Fresh Lime Juice – $14.64
Above is last year’s Guava version, served in a plastic martini cup and featuring a disintegrating paper portrait of Frida herself.
This is quite a bit different with the paper portrait replaced by a fresh lychee. I’m not sure how I would describe the flavor – sweet, floral, and tropical without any of the heavy juices that are typically associated with beach-side drinks. On the downside, the fact that it’s pre-mixed makes for a pretty syrupy experience and it didn’t “feel” like there was much tequila going on, both while we were drinking the cocktail and after. I don’t think I would recommend it for the money, but I don’t think you’ll be terribly disappointed if you do spring for one. The flavor is not for everyone, though.
Diego Dragon Fruit Margarita – Bruxo Mezcal, Dragon Fruit Purée, Ginger Cordial, and Guanábana Liqueur — $15.17
This pretty cocktail is as red as it is smoky with a thick, viscous quality that makes it difficult to drink even if you wanted to. Worse, there’s a ton of seeds and pulp swimming around the bottom, making the mouthfeel similar to trying to drink chocolate syrup mixed with sesame seeds. If you’re after a margarita, consider Choza outside or La Cava inside the pyramid for better drinks and a wider selection.
Allende Mexican Craft Beer – $5.04
You’ll receive six ounces of somebody else’s bottle of golden ale. There’s quite a bit of fruit here with a bitter, hoppy aftertaste. I can’t recall seeing this beer on a menu anywhere, so it may be a unique opportunity to give it a try if you’re interested.
With the higher average price point at the Festival of the Arts, a couple of Mexico’s dishes stand out as excellent values this year. In my dreams, the Pavilion will open up a temporary bar area and bring out several mixologists to prepare the drinks as they’re ordered. It would add some cost, of course, but it seems like the interaction with guests would be fun and the drinks would be as fresh and vibrant as they’re intended. As it stands, I think it’s a better idea to send someone else for drinks while waiting in line for the Sopes de Chilorio and Chocoflan here.