We continue from The Painted Panda in China.
Mexico’s Festival booth, El Artista Hambriento, returns to its usual spot on the water just to the right of La Cantina de San Angel, the Pavilion’s quick service.
As is tradition, Mexico returns none of its food items from the year prior. Surprisingly, there isn’t a dessert offered for this Festival. Last year, “Chocoflan” was on the menu. The Margaritas feature similar names, but will end up being different drinks. That means this review is a $53 investment.
Here’s the haul from two years ago.
And this year, minus the Banana Daiquiri, which we’re going to have to return later to order, since it was not yet frozen on our first trip around World Showcase.
Sopes de Barbacoa: Braised Barbacoa Beef served on Fried Guajillo Corn Shell with Black Beans, Cotija Cheese, Mexican Cream and Chives – $7.25
This is a solid entry for Mexico that isn’t a big departure from what we saw last year. 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. The addition of what must be a pinch of guajillo pepper in the batter adds a little bit of peppery spice to the base. Its crispiness contrasts nicely with the soft Black Beans that serve as the base for the juicy barbacoa beef, which has a nice amount of spice that lingers on the palate before being cooled off by the Mexican Cream and Chives. There’s a little bit of cabbage in there to add even 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 at most other booths are much higher than their Food/Wine/Flower/Garden counterparts. This is about how much you’ll spend at Mexico regardless of which Festival is currently in season.
Agave Pork Belly: Pork Belly caramelized with Agave atop Pumpkin Seed Pesto Lentil Salad – $7.50
I liked this a lot too. Pork belly is inherently fatty, but I thought the pieces on our dish were trimmed nicely, resulting in a trio of large, crispy bites with a rich buttery pork flavor and a little bit of sugar from the light agave glaze. The Lentil Salad was delicious in its own right, sitting on top of a garlicky, fragrant sauce with a little bit of a smoked pumpkin seed flavor. Again, the quality will depend on the freshness of your dish. Hopefully you’ll time it as well as we did.
Frida Banana Daiquiri: Mexican Handcrafted Rum, Banana Purée, and Applejack (served Frozen) – $14.25
This was not popular at all among our group. On our first pass, the drinks were not yet frozen, and looking at the machine, it didn’t look quite like the sort of thing that should be mixing up daiquiris ten hours a day for about six weeks. The texture of ours was thin and goopy with a medicinal banana flavor mixed with thick apple liqueur. You could certainly give it a whirl, but it’s an iffy proposition at 14.25 any way you look at it. I can’t imagine a whole lot of alcohol is involved, either.
Diego Blackberry Margarita: 100% Agave Tequila, Blackberry Purée, Fresh Jalapeño-Lime Juice served with Black Ant Salt Rim – $14.50
We liked this pretty purple drink, though I would have liked more spice from the Jalapeno-Lime Juice. It mostly tasted like blackberries mixed with cheap silver tequila. I’d recommend it for $10.50 or so, but there are better cocktails available at the outdoor Choza de Margarita stand and inside the pyramid at La Cava. With that said, it’s sweet, fruity, and inoffensive, and wouldn’t be the worst thing to add to an order, even if it comes in near fifteen dollars.
Mexican White Sangria: White Wine, Fruit Juices and Sweet Cinnamon-infused Tequila – $9.50
This was sort of like drinking thin cinnamon water with some very distant fruit notes. The flavors of wine and tequila were entirely absent. I actually thought it would have tasted pretty good warmed up for the holidays, but I’m not sure that it works too well served outside over ice at Epcot in January or February. There’s nothing particularly refreshing about it and it doesn’t taste at all like your typical sangria.
With the higher average price point at most of the Festival of the Arts booths, the two food dishes offered at Mexico look better in comparison. 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 for drinks elsewhere while waiting in line for the Sopes de Barbacoa and Agave Pork Belly.