The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival kicked off recently. The festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and there are some upgrades. There’s the usual celebrity appearances from HGTV personalities, Flower Power concert series, beautiful topiaries, butterfly garden, and stations with growing tips. But wait! There’s more.
clockwise from top left: ratatouille tart, meatloaf sandwich, pate with cherry compote, lobster and asparagus with garden cocktail sauce, ratatouille fun facts, Angela waits to taste, lasagna primavera, baked goat’s brie with kumquat chutney, Julius taking a picture, lamb kebab with vegetable couscous salad, butterfly garden
There are two play areas during the festival: one with a Radiator Springs theme, and the other with a very elaborate Oz theme. New topiaries include: Mike and Sully, Phineas and Ferb, Lightning McQueen and Mater, and the outdoor party with Mickey and friends at the entrance to the park. Some of the topiaries light up at night. And, there are the Garden Marketplaces.
clockwise from top left: frushi, Tyler, kumquat tree, pancake with chicken and apple, chirashi hanazushi, Captain Hook topiary, vegetable bun
The marketplaces are similar to the booths at the Food and Wine Festival. Each booth’s name and decor reflects the country it represents. There are three to four selections at each, as well as a few drink options. Slushie type of drinks are popular this year, which were a hit with my son (non-alcoholic varieties, of course.) I went one afternoon with my family, and the next day with some friends, so I’ve sampled most of the food available at the booths.
clockwise from top left: pulled pig slider, crab tostada, brisket with jalapeno cornbread and greens, shrimp and girts, garden display, meatloaf sandwich (again, sic), Marvin takes a picture
The chefs really outdid themselves on the food. Emphasis was obviously placed on incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into all the dishes. The quality of the ingredients shone – from the corn atop the shrimp and grits to the vibrant peas in the savory bread pudding.
clockwise from top left: limoncello panna cotta, strawberry slush, Dole whip, candied strawberries, La Vie En Rose frozen drink, trio of trifles, tequila tasting, pineapple upside down cake
While most of the dishes were outstanding, I definitely had a few favorites. These are on the “Must Try” list.
The smoked salmon on a potato, cheddar, and chive biscuit from The Cottages (between Canada and the UK.) This was the very first thing I tried, and it was absolutely amazing. It really set the bar high for all the other dishes. The biscuit was soft and savory, and the smoked salmon had just the right amount of lemon to balance out the dish. I’m definitely ordering it again on future visits.
The savory bread bread pudding with peas and wild mushroom ragout from Bauernmarkt (Germany.) This dish was a real surprise – it looked messy, but the bread pudding tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing, and the peas were so fresh that they burst in your mouth. And I’m a sucker for mushrooms, so this dish was right up my alley.
The rocky road brownie mousse from The Smokehouse (United States.) Chocolatey, rich, but not too heavy. There was the perfect ratio of mousse-to-brownie crust. I thought there could’ve been a few more marshmallows, but this was my favorite of the desserts I tried (the limoncello panna cotta, candied strawberries, and berry trifle were close seconds.)
The frozen violet lemonade from Pineapple Promenade (near entrance to World Showcase.) We had this at the end of our day of eating. It was slightly tart, citrus-y, with a hint of floral – just what we needed to cleanse the palate. It tasted fabulous on a hot afternoon. Marvin and Julius liked it so much they each went back for seconds.
Well, that’s my summary of the Flower and Garden festival. Of course, I focused mostly on the food. For a different perspective, AJ from the Disney Food Blog has a wonderful review of the dishes. Check out my Flickr set for full sized pictures of the dishes, and some more topiaries. I will update the set when I visit the festival again. If you go, please come back and tell me which dishes were your favorites. Did you like the smoked salmon biscuit as much as I did?