I am very excited to be joining you for Dining in Disney World! One of the most popular things going on in Disney World this time of year is the annual Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot Center. The Flower and Garden Festival not only offers beautiful flowers, but it also gives guests a unique opportunity to sample the many food and beverage choices from around the world.
These selections are served in snack size portions and with reduced prices, in most cases, ranging from $4 to $10. The smaller serving size and price allows guests the chance to sample a variety of foods and beverages from all around the World Showcase. Since my husband and I are spending our first spring as Floridians, and enjoying every minute of it, we decided to take the family over to check out the festival and all it had offer.
We began our journey around the World Showcase about 11 a.m., as all the food vendors were opening for the day. Just like the Food & Wine Festival (each Fall) there is a small Passport that Disney provides explaining all the Festival offerings, including what each of the eleven food stations has to sample. We started out by Mexico (which is the opposite of the way we normally flow around the World Showcase, do you have a particular direction you go each time you visit the World Showcase?) and this is how our journey went:
Our first stop was at a new food stand this year called Urban Farm Eats. Lee (My husband) got the “Ghost Pepper Dusted Tilapia with Crisp Winter Melon Slaw and Mint Oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It up Rub (Gluten Free).” I wasn’t too interested in trying this menu item, until I saw it. As most of you know you eat with your eyes first and boy did it look good! As soon as Lee took a bite of it and made the “oh my goodness this is delicious” face, I knew I had to try it. It was just as delicious as his face had indicated. It had plenty of flavor and a bit of spice. I don’t recall the slaw having a huge impact on the flavor of the fish, but it all seemed to mesh together perfectly. Lee found the tilapia to be incredibly fresh and flaky. He said “it simply melts in your mouth! The combination of the rub and the slaw was unbelievable. It was the perfect match between flavor and spice.”
Our next stop was Jardin de Fiestas. Here we had “Taco al Pastor (Corn Tortilla filled with Achiote Marinated Pork garnished with Grilled Diced Pineapple, Onions, and Cilantro) (Gluten Free).” I love fresh cut cilantro on top of these style dishes; it just adds a certain amount of “pop” in the flavor of the dish. Other than that, I thought the taco was a bit bland, not a bad flavor by any means, just not much flavor to the dish as a whole. Overall we found this selection to be good, the combination pineapple, onions, and cilantro works very well together. However, we are not accustomed to having pork on our tacos and the taste of the meat was not something we were not expecting. This selection was good, but certainly not the same experience as the tilapia.
The next stop (which quickly became our favorite) was Florida Fresh. We had the “Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, BW Farm Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Reduction (Gluten Free)” and “Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Cilantro (Gluten Free).” I have to admit I was a little skeptical about the watermelon on the salad. I make, and thoroughly enjoy, a salad using feta, blueberries, strawberries, and candied pecans with either a balsamic or some sort of citrus vinaigrette, so I’m not sure why the watermelon struck me as odd on the salad. I quickly realized feta and balsamic on anything is just divine! The salad was amazing, so much so that I have already had it for a second time when we went back to the festival for my birthday this past weekend. Lee thought the shrimp & grits were very flavorful. The grits were creamy, just like they should be, and had plenty of spice. The sausage and shrimp were cooked to perfection and joined the grits in a heavenly dish that immediately brought back memories of our days in the South Carolina low country. This is a must try for anyone who loves seafood.
We next stopped at Primavera Kitchen and enjoyed “Three Cheese Manicotti (Egg Pasta Stuffed with Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesean, Tomato Sauce, and Bechamel).” Lee had to try the “Torta di Ricotta (Lemon Cheesecake, Limoncello, marinated Strawberries).” Our daughter, Emalie, is the one that wanted to try “the pasta like at Food and Wine,” I thought the manicotti was tastefully made, but nothing in particular to note about it. The giant, fresh basil leaf atop the dish added a certain flare to the appearance of the dish. I did have a small bite of the cheesecake as well and thought it was very fresh and tasty. The lemon flavor was just enough but not overbearing and the strawberries added a fabulous flavor with the lemon. Lee thought the cheesecake would have been better served with a larger portion of strawberries. After you eat the strawberry soaked in the lemon juice all that is left is simply cheesecake. Emalie said the pasta was “…so good, the cheese and sauce were good and the leaf was weird.”
The last item we tried that day was at Pineapple Promenade where I (thoroughly) enjoyed the ever-famous Dole Whip, pineapple soft serve. Only this time it was served with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum over it instead of the normal pineapple juice. You can opt for Myer’s Dark Rum or to have the Dole Whip served over a “Sweet Potato Cinnamon Waffle…” which, to me, sounds like it might be tasty as well. The Parrot Bay served over the Dole Whip took it to a whole different level that I could never have imagined. The coconut and pineapple flavors were fantastic together and made for a delicious adult treat! I think they are on to something and should offer this on a regular basis someplace on property.
We didn’t get to try everything that day. We have since returned to Epcot to celebrate my birthday and found ourselves migrating back to the Shrimp & Grits with the Watermelon Salad.
We would like to find ourselves back over at the Flower & Garden Festival to try a few more things before it ends for this year on May 18th. If you find yourself at Disney during this time of year, not only is the food amazing but the Flower & Garden part of the festival is beautiful as well. The blooming flowers are exploding with color and provide guests with some great landscaping ideas.
So remember to take some time out of your trip to admire the flowers and enjoy the other activities that the Flower & Garden Festival has to offer.
Until Next Time, Abbie
Abbie shares with us: “I am a wife and mother of 3. My parents first introduced me to the Magic of Disney World when I was 5 years old. However it wasn’t until my second trip as a teenager that the magic actually infused into me. I started eating, sleeping, and thinking Disney all the time. I even made a small Mickey head as the dot on my “i” in my first name and it then became part of my signature. I now have 3 children of my own and had the pleasure of introducing them, along with my husband, to the magical world of Disney a few years ago and they have all fallen in love with the magic that is Walt Disney World as I did. We just were transferred to Tampa, Florida with my husband’s job and my dream of living near the Mouse has come true. We will be taking our first Florida resident vacation in September and are excited to say that we are upgrading our tickets to Passholders. We are excited to see what adventures and new things we can learn about the Wonderful World of Disney!”