Florida Fresh is located in a courtyard to the left of Chefs de France and in front of the Morocco Pavilion.
The Carne Asada is brand new, while the Shrimp & Grits and Florida Larder Board are both returning items and the Key Lime Tart is slightly different than a similar item available a couple of years ago. The Quat and Mirth beers are new, while the Key Lime Sparkling Wine, Feast of Flowers Ale, and Watermelon Cucumber Slushy are returning items.
$6.50 Carne Asada
With Black Bean Cake and Cilantro Lime Sour Cream. I’m not 100,000% sure how carne asada fits into the Florida aesthetic, but with flavors this fresh I’m not sure anybody is going to question why it’s not available closer to Mexico. And it might be sort of Miami-ish. But the colors here are as vibrant as the flavor with the tender, smokey, nicely marinated shredded beef offering 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 on the side. Overall, it was an outstanding dish and a favorite of the Festival.
$6.50 Shrimp and Stone-ground Grits
With Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn , Tomatoes and Cilantro. If you had the displeasure of reading my reviews from last year, you may recall that I was disappointed in the decreasing portion sizes and the quality of the ingredients that Disney was serving, despite ever-increasing prices. You can pull up that rant here if you want to refresh the tone and general positive vibe of this year’s reviews versus last year’s outing. Above is the 2017 portion on the Shrimp and Grits with five medium shrimp and a lot of grits, sausage, and other ingredients that largely fill the container.
This was last year’s – three shrimp that were smaller than this year’s and just a small spoonful of grits that do little to even cover the bottom of the cardboard container.
This is the original version with the three hulking shrimp laid out high over the edge of the container.
But I was satisfied with the five shrimp offered in this year’s version – always freshly grilled inside the Outdoor Kitchen and laid out on top of a sizable bed of creamy grits and a surprisingly spicy, flavorful sauce packed with sausage, corn, peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It’s again a favorite of the Festival and a good value.
$5.75 Florida Larder Board
Orlando-made Ricotta Cheese, Cahaba Farms Micro Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic, Country Pâté and House-made Pickles. I picked up a fresh 2017 version of this one, pictured above, to see if any improvements had been made since last year’s flop.
This is last year’s entry.
And I’m happy to say that while it still isn’t a personal favorite, the Board is a much better value with far tastier offerings in larger supply. The Country Pâté, which there is about twice as much of as last year, is made by the spicy mustard that’s hidden underneath – very tangy against what is a pretty bland, fatty couple of bites of questionable minced meat. Even with the relatively cool 75-degree temperature, I thought the soft ricotta cheese had trouble holding up to the “heat” and is just sort of a mushy, watery mess that is helped by the cracker, but not enough to save it. The micro onions are probably the best part, but I think it would be prudent for Disney to work them into another, more thoughtful dish. The Larder Board otherwise offers a variety of flavors and textures for the money – I’m just not sure any of them do enough to necessitate a purchase.
$4.25 Key Lime Tart
With Toasted Meringue. While it might not look like much on the plate, this is one of the largest desserts available at the Festival and it’s served at a relatively low price. The sweet, sugary crust 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 tips of each dollop. I thought it was fantastic and being so large, is one of the best dessert values at the Festival.
$11.25 Key Lime Sparkling Wine
The price of this went up 55% from 2015 to 2016, but at least remains the same price this year. At 50% more money than the Peach Sparkling Brut from France, there is perhaps some value considering the price of the Key Lime bottle at the store is about 200% higher than France’s entry. The flavor profile is carbonated key lime pie, which contrasts nicely against the spiciness of the carne asada or shrimp and grits. Pricey though.
$4.25 Quat Seasonal Fruit Ale
Brewed to take advantage of the Dade City Kumquat Festival, this 5% ABV American Blonde Ale is 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.
$4.25 Mirth and Merriment Golden Ale
Based out of Largo, Florida, I think this is Barley Mow Brewing Company’s first entry into a Disney Festival. While it’s unlikely to win an award, the Mirth and Merriment is a refreshing, fruity beer that’s yeast-forward with a slight tang on the back end. It’s worth trying as part of the Flight.
$42.5 Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale
Brewed “exclusively” for the Flower and Garden Festival, this Florida Beer Company saison is above average with permeating Belgian yeasts and a spicy, earthy finish. If the beers were available in larger sizes then this would be my choice for a much larger pour, but the best you can do here is four or six ounces.
$11.75 Watermelon Cucumber Slush
Or without the Tamiami Florida Gin for $4.25. While it’s still 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.
$3.25 Fresh-Squeezed Watermelon Juice
$3.25 buys you watermelon juice in the same size cup – here pictured at the Food and Wine Festival. I’ve never found it to be chilled enough, but you might find better luck. Or just buy a melon back home for the same money and smash it with a giant hammer and start your comedy career. Just remember where you got your start.
Overall, Florida Fresh is home to several of the best food and drink options at the Festival and a stop should be on anyone’s short list.