Northern Bloom takes up position on the walk to Canada in what is an “all-new” Outdoor Kitchen with an all-new menu.
Of course, we’ve seen similar dishes and drinks from past Festivals, but each interpretation is unique in one way or another.
$6.25 Seared Scallops
With French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon. Two is perhaps better than one as Disney’s Festival offerings ordinarily include just one saltwater clam. On the downside, the scallops seemed smaller than usual and didn’t enjoy that soft fluffy interior texture and slightly crispy, seared exterior that I’ve enjoyed from similar dishes. The rich brown color of the sear is also not present, though you may have better luck. On the plus side, the vegetables were prepared well and added considerable heft to the dish and the salty, meaty bacon contrasted really nicely with the earthy acidity of the vinaigrette, which is made by cooking unsalted butter until it’s brown and then pureeing it with what is likely mustard, shallots, and a sherry or cider vinegar. The vinaigrette also helps the bacon adhere much more easily to the scallop, which creates that nice crispy exterior even when the sear doesn’t. It’s not my favorite Festival scallop dish of all time, but it’s well thought out with a nice variety of complex flavors – almost like a miniature meal.
$6.50 Beef Tenderloin Tips
With Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables. While not particularly photogenic here, the beef was tender and flavorful. And unlike Canada at Food and Wine, relatively plentiful on top of the whipped potatoes, which did an excellent job of soaking up the flavors from the elegant sauce with some red wine, garlic, and black pepper notes in addition to some sizable pieces of wild mushroom. I thought the carrot was a nice touch – it provided a burst of color in addition to the leeks – neither of which were at all mushy and retained some crispness even after soaking up some sauce. This doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a nice portion of flavorful food and it’s a relatively safe choice. Think of it as high end beef stew. Though I’m sure Disney doesn’t want you to think of it like that.
$4.25 Nanaimo Bar Trifle
This didn’t do much for me…
It’s not so much a bar as a very small cup of very rich cream topped with thick, even richer chocolate sauce and some variety of crispy/crunchy topping. While the portion is on the small side, the rich sweetness is so overwhelming that one bite may be all it takes to get you to put your spoon down and consider what’s next. If you’re looking for something cold and refreshing, I’d instead look at the Shake a little further down the menu.
$11.75 Maple Popcorn Shake
That’s the alcoholic version of the Shake served with Tap 357 Maple Rye Whiskey in the back on the left. The non-alcoholic version is on the right with the beer flight sitting in front of it and the Trifle on the right.
We loved both versions and it would be my choice for best non-alcoholic and alcoholic drink at the Festival, though both are as small as any of the others. The drink has a really pleasant, cold, creamy texture with distant flavors of sweet maple syrup and in the alcoholic version, rye malts from the whiskey. Definitely pick at least one of these up.
$11 Unibroue Beer Flight
If you have any interest in beer whatsoever, you want to stop here and try the flight.
The Éphémère, at 5.5%, is dominated by a sour green candy apple flavor that is arguably the worst of the bunch, but is still quite pleasant and drinkable in its own right. Dave Mustaine of Megadeth helps bring you the 4.5% A Tout Le Monde, which is based on a song for which the music video was banned by MTV over some confusion about the apparent meaning of some of the lyrics. Anyway, the 4.5% farmhouse ale offers some lemon, pepper, and floral notes along with apparent yeast and a hoppy finish. Very good. Maudite is an 8% ABV Belgian Ale with all of the usual characteristics executed to perfection. A very good beer and a very good flight.
Overall, Northern Bloom offers some familiar, safe flavors on the food items and some of the best drinks of the entire Festival. Most people eyeing the Outdoor Kitchens will want to make a stop here and it should set a positive tone for the rest of the Festival if you start on this side or provide some closure to an excellent trip around World Showcase if you end your day here.