It’s almost here – the 2018 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival starts tomorrow! To help you tackle the festival’s fifteen food booths, I’m going to preview some of the best returning options and a few new items I’m most excited to try at every booth. Be on the lookout for reviews of these new items and a few family-friendly returning favorites after the festival begins!
Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market – Germany Pavilion
- Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce (V)
- Potato Pancake with Caramelized Ham, Onions, and Herb Sour Cream
- Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with Black Forest Ham and Melted Gruyère Cheese
- Warm Cheese Strudel with Mixed Berries
New at last year’s festival, the savory potato pancake with caramelized ham, onions, and herb sour cream was a definite winner from this booth, with salty-sweet ham and onions, cool sour cream, and overall, huge portions. On the sweet side, the potato pancake with apple sauce works as a great dish for kids – the applesauce is a bit more complex than they’re likely accustomed to with ginger and cinnamon notes, but it’s still accessible enough that they’ll devour the dish. The booth’s cheese strudel with mixed berries is a simple but successful dessert – one of the best available at the festival. New this year is the toasted pretzel bread, which, on paper, seems like a German version of the popular French savory delight, the croque monsieur. This dish sticks out to me for its potential to be both kid-friendly and satisfying for adults.
Cider House – United Kingdom Pavilion
- Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Branston Dressing with Pears
- House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare
- Freshly Baked Lemon Scone with Crème Fraîche and Mixed Berries (V) (GF)
The lemon scone and corned beef are always popular traditional fare here, but my longtime festival fave pick for the Cider House booth has been the potato and cheddar cheese biscuit with smoked salmon tartare. It may sound a bit outlandish, but for seafood lovers, this is really a quality pick. The tartare itself is very finely diced, with heavy splashes of lemon and dill to accent the salmon’s natural richness. The sour cream atop the tartare helps add a bit of contrast to the tart tartare, and the dense and cheddar-packed biscuit ties the whole dish together into one tasty bite.
Fleur de Lys – France Pavilion
- Tarte à la Tomate Provençale: Provencal Tomato Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Pastry Crust (V)
- Canard Confit Aux Gnocchi à la Parisienne: Braised Duck Confit with Parisian Gnocchi
- Macaron au Chocolat en Sucette: Large Chocolate Macaron Lollipop (GF)
- La Vie en Rose Frozen Slushy: Grey Goose Orange, St. Germain Liqueur, White and Red Cranberry Juice
Always a popular booth, the Fleur de Lys menu features many new or modified options this year. The duck confit dish makes a triumphant return after an absence last year, served alongside gnocchi now instead of potatoes. La Vie en Rose Frozen Slushy, another longtime favorite, also returns, providing a refreshing alcoholic option as contrast to a few heavier dishes on the menu. The France pavilion always does right by pastry and sweets, so the new Provencal tomato tart with sauteed onions and the chocolate macaron lollipop really seem like they could be winners for those who’ve traditionally enjoyed the tart and macaron options at previous years’ festivals.
Florida Fresh – between the France and Morocco Pavilions
- Carne Guisada with Black Bean Cake and Cilantro Lime Sour Cream
- Spicy Blackened Shrimp and Stone-ground Cheddar Cheese Grits with Brown Gravy and Local Sweet Corn Relish
- Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue
- Watermelon Cucumber Slushy with Tamiami Florida Gin (Non-alcoholic option available)
Florida Fresh, a strong booth for the last few festival years, returns with similar dishes from last year’s festival. (Great news, since I really loved both savory dishes here!) This year, we see a stew on the black bean cake with creamy-cool cilantro lime sour cream (though I hope the cake is a bit less mushy than last year’s – great flavors, but texture was a little off). Also returning with slight changes is the shrimp and grits dish; I’m expecting similarly spicy, smoky flavors, with hints of sweetness from the corn relish, atop rich and cheesy grits. I can’t wait to try this dish again to see how it compares to last year’s. On the sweet end of the spectrum, we have the return of the key lime tart (which will satisfy your craving for key lime pie, though it’s not the best dessert at the festival) and the incredibly refreshing watermelon cucumber slushy. I recommend the non-alcoholic version, as the subtle sweetness of the watermelon and cucumber shine best without the gin.
Hanami – Japan Pavilion
- Frushi: Fresh Pineapple, Strawberry and Melon rolled with Coconut Rice, sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream with Raspberry Sauce on the side (V)
- Ginger Beef Yaki Udon: Thin-sliced Beef, Onions, and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger
- Teriyaki Salmon with Furikake Seasoned Brown Rice (GF)
Returning in 2018, Frushi is sure to continue reign as the festival favorite to end all festival favorites. An intriguing mix of sweet sushi rice with fruit filling, served alongside sweet raspberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream, this dish is far from authentic but wildly popular and fun for all ages. Also returning is the ginger beef teriyaki-flavored udon noodles, a filling and accessible dish with simple Japanese flavors. The teriyaki salmon with seasoned brown rice should be a fun new dish to try for seafood lovers, as this booth typically does great justice to fish dishes every year.
Jardin de Fiestas – Mexico Pavilion
- Pork Taco: Slow-braised Pork Taco served with Apple Relish, Goat Cheese, and Chile de Árbol Sauce
- Chilaquiles: Chilaquiles served with Chorizo, Mexican Cream, and Cotija Cheese
- Capirotada: Bread Pudding served with Rompope
An all-new menu at the Jardin de Fiestas booth for 2018! Mexico’s festival booths have previously served chilaquiles (both in breakfast and lunch varieties) that were out of this world, so I’m pretty excited to give these a shot and see how they compare. The pork tacos take on a sweeter, more elevated note this year, it seems, which should make for an interesting and fresh dish that I’ll be sure to check out first thing. Rounding out the menu, a sweet bread pudding and egg nog drink (I believe) is reminiscent of the Festival of the Arts offering here, a fun duo that proved to be interesting and tasty.
La Isla Fresca
- Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro
- Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer with Steamed Rice and Coconut Lime Sauce
- Caribbean Conch Salad with Mango, Papaya, and Pickled Red Onions
- Tropical Mousse Cake: Layers of Passion Fruit Cake, Coconut Mousse and a Tropical Fruit Glaze with Fresh Pineapple
Though I was not a fan of last year’s conch salad effort, I’m hopeful this year’s dish has resolved a few of the texture and flavor issues to become successful. The Jamaican braised beef tends towards the spicier side, while the shrimp skewer with coconut lime sauce is a successful sweet/sour seafood option for those looking for something on the lighter side. New this year, the tropical mousse cake sounds like it will be a real home run, mixing fresh flavors with decadent preparations.
Lotus House – China Pavilion
- Spicy Meatballs with Crispy Tofu
- Fried Chicken Dumplings with Peanut Sauce
- Vegetable Spring Rolls (V)
- Oolong Peach Bubble Tea (Non-alcoholic)
- Kung Fu Punch: Vodka, Triple Sec, Mango, and Orange Juice
- BaiJoe Punch: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut, and Pineapple Juice
China’s Lotus House booth is really taking on a new challenge this year, presenting several new food dishes to accompany their long-time favorite drinks. Spicy Meatballs with crispy tofu definitely sounds the most interesting to me, though you can’t go wrong with a few crispy dumplings with peanut sauce (sure to be a kid-friendly favorite). My personal pick here for drinks is always the oolong peach bubble tea – not too sweet, fun to drink, and very refreshing for a stroll around World Showcase on a hot day.
Northern Bloom – Canada Pavilion
- Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Apple-wood Smoked Bacon (GF)
- Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, Whipped Potatoes, with Garden Vegetables
- Griddled Maple Pound Cake with Warm Peach Compote and Sweet Corn Gelato
- Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whisky (Non-alcoholic option available)
Northern Bloom has struggled with consistency in the last few years, particularly with the hit-or-miss seared scallops dish that featured great flavors but not well-cooked vegetables in last year’s sample. I’m hopeful this year’s entry is a bit more consistent, matching the strong flavors and presentation of the beef tenderloin tips with mushroom sauce. Similar to pot roast in texture and flavor, this beef dish really nails it with delivering a solid dish that many will try – who doesn’t love a simple meat and potatoes dish? The creamy and buttery maple popcorn shake was a star from last year’s drink options (with or without alcohol), and I’m excited to see how it pairs with the booth’s new dessert option this year, as they sound like a match made in dessert heaven.
Pineapple Promenade – World Showcase Promenade
- Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney and Plantain Chips
- Pineapple Soft-Serve (V)
- Pineapple Soft-serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum (Non-alcoholic option available)
- Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade (Non-alcoholic)
Everyone really stops here for one reason and one reason only (Dole whip topped with rum!), but the real hidden gem here is the frozen desert violet lemonade. A shocking fuschia color, this sweet-sour treat is a real hit with kids and kids-at-heart.
Primavera Kitchen – Italy Pavilion
- Frittata di Asparagi: Asparagus Frittata, Mixed Greens, and Citrus Dressing (GF) (V)
- Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimps, Zucchini, and Spicy Sauces
- Ravioli: Maine Lobster Ravioli with Vodka Sauce
- Panna Cotta al Melone: Cantaloupe Panna Cotta (GF) (V)
Another all-new menu for this festival season, Primavera Kitchen hopefully capitalizes on the success of the Italy booths from Food and Wine 2017 and Festival of the Arts 2018 to bring us some awesome dishes this year. I’m happy to see a salad option added to the mix here, and two seafood options should help bring a little lighter fare to the festival’s otherwise heavy menus. The cantaloupe panna cotta is most intriguing to me, though I fear it may be a divisive flavor and texture if not pulled off well – the ultimate test to see just how far this booth has come in a few short years.
The Berry Basket
- Lamb chop with Quinoa Salad and Blackberry Gastrique
- Field Greens with Fresh Strawberries, Crisp Quinoa, Strawberry Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans (V)
- Warm Wild Berry Buckle with Pepper Berry Gelato (V)
- Twinings Green Tea Berry Mint Julep (Non-alcoholic option available)
Last year’s festival brought all of these dishes to us, with some more successful than others at being berry delicious (couldn’t help myself). I was not a fan of how the lamb chop was cooked, a bit tough and overdone, though the gastrique was bitey and sweet, with a fresh and filling quinoa salad. The field greens salad was not mind-blowing in originality or execution, and I found it overpriced last year – I fear without a bit of an upgrade, it will be even less of a value this festival season. The true winner from this booth is the berry buckle: a rich and decadent cobbler topped with ice cream is hard to beat, especially when it doesn’t knock you out from sweetness (as the syrupy-sweet julep does).
Taste of Marrakesh – Morocco Pavilion
- Harissa Chicken Kebab with Dried Fruit Couscous Salad
- Fried Cauliflower with Capers, Garlic Parsley and Chili Ranch Sauce
- Walnut Honey Baklava
- Desert Rose: Sparkling Wine topped with Pomegranate Liqueur
Two completely new dishes from Taste of Marrakesh this year pop out at me: the sure-to-be-spicy harissa chicken kebab with sweet couscous is a fun, fresh take on fare served elsewhere in the pavilion, while the fried cauliflower with chili ranch sauce could be a great new way to try an oft-maligned veggie. Morocco always shines with the baklava dessert, and the desert rose is popular for those looking towards the sweet and bubbly end of the cocktail selections available at the festival.
The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews – American Adventure Pavilion
- Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw
- Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue, and House-made Pickle
- Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños
- Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans (V)
- Frozen Lemonade with Firefly Blackberry Moonshine (Non-alcoholic option available)
Last year’s pulled pig slider didn’t wow me, and with so many new barbeque options around Walt Disney World, I’m hoping chefs pull out all the stops to step this dish up a bit this year. Sadly, the burnt ends hash was poorly executed and lacking flavor compared to the first year this dish debuted, when I found it to be one of the best dishes at the festival. I’m hoping both dishes are back to good form this year, especially with the new slider option in play, as well. My best pick for this booth will always be the warm chocolate cake – the salty-sweet bourbon caramel and crunchy spiced pecans offset a perfectly moist and decadent chocolate cake that’s too good to pass up.
NEW! The Honey Bee-stro Hosted by National Honey Board
- Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Puree, Wild Rice Pilaf, Asparagus, Honey Blistered Grapes and Sunflower Brittle (GF) (V)
- Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread with White Cheddar Cheese, charred vegetables, Clover Honey Sour Cream and Micro Watercress
- Local Wildflower Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange Blossom Honey Ice Cream garnished with Fennel Pollen Meringue Kisses
- Honey-Peach Cobbler Freeze with Blueberry Vodka (Non-alcoholic option available)
This year’s new booth offering, the Honey Bee-stro (get it? Ha!) menu is packed with interesting items I can’t wait to try. Another cauliflower dish (riding the wave on a big trend in food recently) will satisfy those in search of a warm and savory vegetarian dish, while the chicken flatbread should be a kid-friendly delivery vehicle for new and interesting flavors. I’m always in for cheesecake, and this version, with marscarpone honey base and honey ice cream, sounds absolute divine, while the honey-peach cobbler freeze sounds like it could be a sweet treat of its own.
What dishes are you most looking forward to at this year’s 2018 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival? Let me know below!