We continue from Citrus Blossom.
Northern Bloom takes up residence in the cabin either just before arriving at the Canada Pavilion or just after passing through, depending on which way you’re traveling through the arctic tundra that’s capped by the 90+ degree daily highs that we’ll be seeing more and more frequently as the Festival presses forward. Refreshment Port sits just to the right of it when looking in this direction, with the prickly Pineapple Promenade and Citrus Blossom behind that in the distance, and the walkway down to Honey Bee-stro and Flavor Full down the path to the left.
I wasn’t expecting to wither through my 11th existential crisis of 2021 while going over a Festival food review, but I had an impossible time deciding if I would prefer to be blossoming, as we were back in Citrus Country, or blooming, like we are here up north. They’re essentially the same thing, but to further complicate things, we aren’t even technically that far north, considering the majority of Canadians live south of Seattle. We’re also standing on the southern half of Epcot, which is the reasoning behind that strange upside-down map we had to continually flip back and forth for a couple of years in an effort to find our bearings. Luckily, EPCOT only has like the one ride. Then there’s the whole east/west thing with what is still Future World West to the right of the entrance, when east is usually the direction that we associate with that side of an area. It’s just a lot to take in.
Back to our ongoing crisis, it’s possible that citrus doesn’t exactly bloom. The Wikipedia page for the orange fruit mentions its blossoms, but never any potential “bloom.” “The flowers are in bloom” sounds about the same as “The flowers are blossoming.” But Citrus Blossom and Northern Bloom probably sound better than Citrus Bloom and Northern Blossom. But “Blossom” may sound more positive in both instances. Either way, whenever someone asks how I’m doing, I respond with “blossoming radiantly, Dear.” So I may or may not have emerged from Walden Pond on top, as it’s been some amount of time since anyone has asked about my status. “Obviously single,” I guess they assume.
Just the Goose Island beer is new, replacing last year’s Unibroue selection. We used to complain about pricing more often, but we may have reached the upper limit of what Disney thinks they can get away with charging. Instead, we may see portions start to decrease ever-so-slightly. Sort of like that bag of Oreo’s at the grocery store is still $3.99, but comes with 48 cookies instead of the 60 packed into the sleeves a few years ago. Just the non-alcoholic shake is up a quarter over last year. I don’t think we’ve seen more than a handful of price increases so far. Don’t tell Disney.
Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Apple-wood Smoked Bacon — $7
This picture may be a little misleading, as the scallops appear larger in the tray on the railing than they actually are in “real life.” But the two small scallops equal at least as much as one of Disney’s larger Festival scallops, and this year, ours were prepared perfectly with a nice crispy sear giving way to a soft, fluffy, fork-tender interior. The vegetables were prepared well too, and added considerable heft to a pricy dish. 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 more easily to the scallop, adding an even more satisfying crispiness. If you ever see a typo on the website, it’s because I’m making vinaigrette with my other hand. It’s a thoughtfully-constructed dish with a nice variety of complex flavors – almost like a miniature meal. It would be a great value if snack credits were in play, and is pretty fair compared to other booth items. I’d still take another scallop.
Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables – $6.75
You can barely even see the small amount of sauce in the bottom of the tray, which is too bad because the bland, overcooked, chewy beef sure could have used it. And with three small pieces making up about six bites, the portion doesn’t impress even if it was Food and Wine’s best Le Cellier Filet Mignon. Which this is not. The potatoes are fine – whipped up nicely with butter and enhanced by the onions. The carrots are fork tender, but retain a bit of their crunch despite rolling around in some butter. It’s a “safe” choice, but there are more unique dishes available.
Griddled Maple Pound Cake with Warm Peach Compote and Sweet Corn Gelato featuring Burton’s Maple Syrup — $4.75
This was a little out there – I thought the pound cake itself was overcooked with a strange, tough exterior layer and an interior that’s denser than you’d expect. At least that’s how people describe me when they pass over “blossoming.” The maple flavor of the cake also tasted like everything else on the plate, with the maple popcorn, cinnamon and sugar in the compote, maple syrup on top, and all of the sugar in the gelato. I think the Sweet Corn Gelato would have worked if everything else was a little less sweet and a little less heavy, but this didn’t do much for anybody. It’s an interesting item though, and they may improve upon it over the coming days. At least in this instance, it’s a mercifully small portion, but I would try it again for under five bucks. The Mascarpone Cheesecake from The Honey Bee-stro still calls out to me, this time in Québécois, but these reviews wouldn’t be great if I just reviewed my favorite slice of cake over and over and over. Then again, content is content, and the website could use some. As it stands:
Maple Popcorn Shake – $4.75 or with 357 Tap Maple Whisky – $13
The Shake has a really pleasant, cold, creamy texture with distant flavors of sweet maple syrup, and in the alcoholic version, rye malts from the whiskey. It’s in my top three favorite cocktails at the Festival, though the portion is unfortunately small for the money. So are most of the others.
Beer Flight with 81Bay Brewing Apricot with Maple Syrup, Collective Arts Brewing Blackberry Fruit Beer, and this year, the Goose Island Lost Palate Hazy IPA with Mango and Cinnamon – $9.50 as a Flight of Three 4-Ounce Pours, or $4.50 for Six Ounces or $8.50 for Twelve
I’m guessing that the 81Bay Apricot with Maple Syrup is a stronger version of the brewery’s Griddle Cakes beer. Everyone in our group thought that the maple flavor overwhelmed the light fruitiness of the apricots and made for an unpleasantly oily, syrupy mouthfeel. Four ounces was plenty, but you may appreciate the flavor more than most of us did.
We’ve seen a lot of beers from Collective Arts Brewing over the last couple of Festivals. This time, we have their Blackberry Fruit Beer, which is a tart, blackberry-forward beer that tastes more like a cider than what we’ve seen here in the past. That’s it on the far right.
Goose Island Lost Palate Hazy IPA with Mango and Cinnamon – As Part of the Flight or Individually
This beer is actually dedicated to a longtime brewery employee who battled cancer and survived, only to now be able to taste a limited number of things, a couple of which happen to include Mango and Cinnamon. So here we are. It certainly could be worse if the other two things he could taste were armadillo and winter squash and they chose those flavors instead. This wouldn’t top my list of favorite IPAs, but it works as a fruity ale with plenty of dried mango sweetness up front followed by cinnamon spice and a smooth finish. Given the backstory, we can’t badmouth it too much, but let’s just say there are about as many bottles of it in my fridge as there are armadillos. Unfortunately, I think I’ve become strange enough where nobody would really be that surprised if I was stocked better than you would expect with the blue-collar delicacy that tastes like a grainy pork. Or so I’ve heard. If you’re after something fruitier than the typical hoppy bitterness of your standard IPA, then this would be a good choice. No armadillo tasting notes to speak of.
This is an interesting selection of (mostly) rare fruity beers that’s available if you like that sort of thing. I wouldn’t order any of them again, but it’s fun to give each a shot on draft as part of the flight, and chances are at least someone in your group will be happy to polish off at least one of the small 4-ounce samples. If you find something you like, you can always get back in line for a larger pour, or start out by adding a 12-ounce cup to your initial order based on past experiences or expectations. You can’t be too careful.
Overall, the Seared Scallops dish is one of my favorites and I’d add one of the Popcorn Shakes to the order. You may like the straightforward beef stew dish more than we did, and the cake is interesting, but perhaps trying to do too much in this setting. We’re not too far from World ShowPlace, where we’ll find three booths with plenty of other options.