Our coverage of a Festival that you probably won’t be attending before its December 31st conclusion now begins with an Outdoor Kitchen that I can only spell correctly when I copy and paste the name. But you’re also talking to a guy who misspelled Morocco for the first six or seven years that I operated this website. Thank goodness for spellcheck that I pay attention to 25% of the time. The tropical Mele Kalikimaka is brand-new for this year’s Festival. It situates itself on the walkway into World Showcase on the Imaginagination Pavilion side or on the right as you walk towards. If you’ve hit the Yukon, you’ve gone too far.
If Epcot were in Hawaii, I wonder what the equivalent of the Florida booth would offer. Probably LSD, golf cart rentals, and a $25 bribe to the state legislature on behalf of the Walt Disney Company. As it stands, Mele Kalikimaka brings some Food and Wine Festival vibes with a similar Kalua Pork to what they serve on a bun earlier in the summer and fall. We’ve seen the beer and wine before.
The Salmon should be similar to the usual tuna dish, and I think we’ve also seen a similar dessert in the past as well.
There’s the Passion Fruit Cake with Toasted Macadamia Nuts circa Hawaii 2017. If you are wondering if I have been doing this a long time, the answer is yes. I have probably reviewed 2,500+ of these things over the years.
Kālua Pork with Okinawa Purple Sweet Potatoes and Mango Salad – $5.25
We start out on a high point with Kalua Pork that may be identical to what’s served during Food and Wine. The mesquite-smoked, shredded, juicy pork is tender is fork-tender. And there’s quite a bit of it on top of the creamy base of deep, plummy purple Okinawa Potatoes, which add a little sugar, starch and honey to the mix. Okinawan Potatoes are the Fortune Cookies of the potato world. They are both indigenous to the United States. And the Okinawan Potato is not actually a potato, either, but I digress.
The greens may not interest many, but it does add a nice crunch to the bite. While mango isn’t advertised, a couple more pieces would have brightened up the flavor profile even more, but it added a little bit a tropical vibe to a dish that may have needed it. Anyone who likes the Kalua Pork Sliders during Food and Wine, which is basically everyone, will want to give this one a look. The portion is pretty fair for the money, too. At the risk of me looking like I’m going soft, the website awards it:
Don’t worry. Italy is still coming.
Lomi Lomi Salmon with Tomatoes, Onions, Salmon Roe, Yuzu Mayonnaise, and Yucca Chips – $6
This is nearly identical to the Spicy Tuna Poke from Food and Wine, this time served with Yucca Chips on the side, so we may have a bit of a salmon civiche nachos situation going on.
The careful presentation reminded me of something that we’d see at the Festival of the Arts, which is high praise, and we don’t have to worry about any trendy foam. But you also typically pay more for that presentation, and that seems to be the case here. I don’t think Yucca Chips are made of gold, despite their yellow color. Doubling the serving on that would only cost a handful of cents per dish, and add a lot more heft to the dish. With four people sharing, everyone won’t even get a chip, which seems sort of sad. You can probably guess who went chip-less in my entourage. The creamy Yuzu Mayonnaise is the standout, combining with the salty, cured salmon to make for a pleasant citrus-forward flavor profile that works well given the continuing afternoon sunshine. It’s definitely more of a warm weather dish. The Tomatoes, Onions, and Salmon Roe are apparently there, but serve mostly to add salt and crunch to the bite. They’re also what makes it Lomi Lomi. It’s a good dish, but a dollar overpriced.
Haupia: Hawaiian Coconut Pudding with Candied Macadamia Nuts and Coconut – $4.25
I prefer the cake coming up in the Yukon, but if you’d like to add a sweet, nutty cake to your order that’s lighter and airier than you might expect, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s a nice, sweet, toasty coconut cream quality to the whole thing with a nice crunch from the generous Macadamia Nut topping. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this one in particular, but it’s worth trying if you’re making a stop. And you probably want to make a stop.
Kona Brewing Co. Big Wave Golden Ale– 6 oz. $4.25 / 12 oz. $8.50
That’s it on the right. Kona’s year-round golden ale is crisp and clean with subtle honey, vanilla, and hoppy tropical notes that pair nicely with the dishes served here. You might save your money and a grab a 6-pack back home, but the malty and refreshing beer has probably never accompanied a better menu.
For the Snobs? Probably not.
Florida Orange Groves Sparkling Pineapple Wine – $12
Despite what is probably a low ABV, the wine is very alcohol forward, with a strong, off-putting artificial sweetness continuing through each sip. Disney introduced this at $6 about four years ago, and now charges twice as much. If you’re looking for some overpriced fiz, then this fits the bill. But Citrus Blossom across the way offers even more options, some of which are half the cost.
Melon Breeze with Spiced Rum – $14
If you like a lot of Midori, a little Rum, and a lot of syrup mixed together in a nondescript plastic cup, then this is the beverage for you. The cloying sweetness was a little much for me, with the artificial melon flavor overwhelming just about everything else, but if a sweet green drink is what you’re after, this is it. You may still be trying to finish it by St. Patrick’s Day. You’d really be set.
While Mele Kalikimaka is a new booth for the Festival of the Holidays, it returns a number of memorable flavors from past Festivals. It’s not the greatest drink lineup, but the food options are all solid.