We continue on from Earth Eats.
Active Eats is part of Future World’s “Culinary Corridor” behind Club Cool along with Earth Eats and Coastal Eats.
The Salmon brings new accompaniments, in addition to its spiced crust; the Energy Bar Bites dish replaces last year’s surprising standout, the Sweet Avocado Crema. We’ll also sample a Chenin Blanc instead of a Riesling.
- Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions – $5
- Spice-crusted Verlasso Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar – $5.75
- Active Eats Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates – $3.75
- L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines – $6
- Evolution by Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $5
Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions – $5
“Active Eats” and “Mac n’ Cheese” have the same number of letters, but I’m not sure what else they have in common. It’s also listed as “Kid-Friendly” despite the fact that 5-year old me isn’t getting within 300,000 feet of anything with peppers and green onions in it. YUCK.
But perhaps Macaroni and Cheese, preferably microwaved in the same cup that it’s served in, is the food that we all enjoy while our brain gives us credit for eating healthier and finally getting off the couch and doing something productive with our lives….tomorrow. Speaking of which, am I the only person that thinks the most important measurement in the world is the amount of water that you add to Kraft Easy Mac? It’s like one extra drop of water over 2/3 of a cup and it comes out a soggy mess that’s still quite tasty. And one drop too little and it’s a dry clump of powdered cheese sticking to undercooked pasta that’s still quite tasty. With the amount of time I spend looking into my microscope making sure there’s exactly the right number of water particles in the cup, I could have probably just gone to the Drive-through. I feel like Easy Mac should be marketed as a science project.
Anyway, you could probably say that quality runs the gamut on a lot of items over the course of the Food and Wine Festival. A lot of that depends on the freshness of the food and how hungover the poor culinary students grilling their 900,000th scallop of the Festival might be, but I feel like this is one of the dishes where you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get. At its best, there’s a spicy kick from the peppers and onions up front and a salty, meaty component from the sprinkle of bacon that complements a decent portion of creamy, cheesy, soft pasta. At its worst, the Mac ‘n Cheese is a dry, bland clump of macaroni where you can stick your fork in one noodle and carry the whole bowl to your mouth. Over the years, I’ve given it a 2, a 3, a 4, and a 5 on Taste, but for me, the Food and Wine Festival is more about trying new things and what amounts to a pretty basic macaroni and cheese recipe doesn’t cut it. But people do typically respond to this better than I do, even as I adjust my ratings higher. We both know you’re going to pick one up even if I give it a negative 9000. So it’s still a five from me. The bottom line is that it’s probably overpriced at this point and the portion isn’t getting any larger.
Spice-crusted Verlasso Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar – $5.75
Last year’s version certainly looked more vibrant with a bright green chimichurri sauce that added a nice fresh garlic and herb flavor.
Here’s this year’s, which is a larger piece of salmon with a really nice crispy exterior that adds just a little spice. The Warm Lentil Power Salad was also an improvement over the cold Quinoa Salad of yesteryear, providing heft and a little bit of a crunch in its own right that contrasts nicely with the firm, flaky salmon. I didn’t get a lot of Sherry Vinegar flavor, but the Crushed Avocado does provide a cool, fresh element that brightens the flavor of the overall dish. It’s a pretty sizable portion and while we’re far from reinventing the wheel, Disney does continue to do Festival salmon well.
Active Eats Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates – $3.75
We’ll miss you, weird avocado dessert cup thing.
Enter…whatever this is… The texture isn’t unlike a thick Nutri Grain bar or gummy brownie with your teeth sinking into the dried fruit and dates that will stick to your mouth for some period of time. Whenever I see a layer of coconut shavings as tall as the “dessert” itself, I always wonder what it is you’re trying to hide. In this case, it’s probably just hiding a dull brownie bar filled with dried fruit. Whether or not they “work” comes down to how “healthy” they actually are; my guess is “not very,” considering what must be a lot of sugar involved. In that respect, there are far more satisfying desserts to be found up at the Cheese and Chocolate Studios. As it stands, each “Energy Bar Bite” is three or four bites large, if that. There’s not much value in that.
L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines – $6
“L’ecole” means “The School” in French, so we are already starting off on the wrong foot. Occasionally someone will tell me that I seem like “a smart guy,” but all of this intelligence was born from the streets, not the classroom. Most of the Chenin Blancs I drink hail from South Africa, where some real values are still available if you know where to look. This one comes from Washington state, which, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anything positive about. The wine is a good value at the store with its $15 bottle price, making the $6 pour here a little more questionable. It’s tasty though with bright pear, apple, and citrus notes along with a crisp finish. It’s good, but it should be $4.
Evolution by Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $5
This is a fruit-forward, light, easy drinking pinot noir that actually dropped a dollar in price from last year. It’s nothing spectacular, but you could pretend it’s some famous wine. “This ’96 Château Margaux tastes delicious. And to think, just six dollars a glass!”
Overall, we both know you’re going to get a Macaroni. And that’s fine. You might consider the Salmon to go along with it and you have a nice little meal, particularly with a glass of the red.
We’ll move on to Coastal Eats, reviewed here.