EPCOT’s 2020 International Flower and Garden Festival kicked off yesterday and Chef Todd Santanello and I were there like always. While sharing festival opening day food is regular for us, we decided to approach this F&G a bit differently. Chef and I decided to trying everything on offer this year with the goal of being able to recommend the best things to be had for a $50 budget. Our budget was determined after an informal poll of genius Touring Plans Lines app subscribers. We kept the $50 per person guideline in mind as we tried everything the Festival had to offer with 3 exceptions. Sadly, The Honey Bee-stro, Florida Fresh, and La Isla Fresca were not open for our first day of sampling foods at Flower and Garden.
In order to allow for the different dietary and preference demands most families face, Chef and chose our top two dishes from the following categories: seafood, meat, meatless or veggie, and dessert.We chose our favorites independent of price concerns and, luckily, ended up just under our budget of $50 each. Chef Todd’s recommendation list totals at $48.50 and I’ll have you spending $49. We hope you have an opportunity to try some of the items we’ve selected. Let’s discuss.
- Seared Salmon with Farro risotto and micro-herbs from the Flavor Full Kitchen, $6.25 – Simple but fabulous. Perfectly seared and medium rare salmon. Farro, which is a whole-wheat grain, was a chewy and nutty base for the oily fish. Garnished with a handful of baby greens, this was a standout dish.
- Tuna Tataki Bowl with spicy yuzu glaze, mango, avocado, and pappadam crisp from The Citrus Blossom, $6.25 – The tuna itself was pristine. The fattiness of the fish was offset by the tart yuzu glaze and the ripe mango. Crispy pappadam bread was a utensil, and a gorgeous garnish. Big winner.
- Southern Seafood Boil with shrimp, mussels, crawfish, potatoes, corn, and andouille sausage from Magnolia Terrace in the American Adventure pavilion, $8.00 – This dish is enormous and wonderful! I loved the shrimp and truly enjoyed the mussels and potatoes. This bowl could easily be shared but be sure to call dibs on the corn – it’s delicious.
- Seared Salmon with Farro risotto and micro-herbs from the Flavor Full Kitchen, $6.25 – I love salmon in any form and this was delightful! I loved the farro even before I knew it was good for me and I’m confident even my seven-year-old daughter will enjoy this one.
- Canard Confit a l’Orange with mashed sweet potatoes from Fleur de Lys in the France pavilion, $6.25 – Another winning duck dish from France. The star was braised to the exact richness and texture. Creamy sweet potato puree was a nice new world addition to this French classic. A must.
- Chilaquiles con Pollo- chipotle-braised chicken and tortillas with salsa ranchera, Monterey jack cheese, crema Mexicana, and Guajillo cheese from Jardin de Fiestas in the Mexico pavilion, $7.00 –This dish caught my eye last year. Not a classic preparation, but I love it. The base is more like a tamale masa, instead of the traditional crispy tortillas, and it soaks up all of the juicy goodness that sits on top like a corn sponge. I would eat this all day. Every day. Maybe my number one.
- Canard Confit a l’Orange with mashed sweet potatoes from Fleur de Lys in the France pavilion. $6.25 – I have never prepared duck but I have made reductions before and this sauce is a plate of the most beautiful sauce and meat I have ever had at an EPCOT festival. It’s one of the few dishes that you can share but you won’t want to. The $6.25 price seems like a bargain for such a special treat.
- Menchi Katsu Slider – Japanese-style Panko-breaded beef patty topped with tonkatsu sauce, mayonnaise, cucumber, and pickled lotus root in the Japan pavilion, $ 6.00 – I wrote “holy wow” next to this one in my notes. (I carried a clipboard and Excel spreadsheets as one does at a festival!) It was well presented but, most importantly, it was so very good! The panko breading was crunchy and the whole package just worked well. Just enough of every topping to make the perfect snack.
Meatless or Veggie
- Fried Cauliflower with capers, garlic parsley, and chili-ranch sauce from Taste of Marrakesh in the Morocco pavilion, $7.00– This was simple but fabulous. Another uncomplicated dish that hit the mark. The blanched cauliflower melted gently inside that crispy fried batter. The chile ranch was sneaky spicy, and I would eat it on literally everything in World Showcase. Real dang good.
- Impossible Farmhouse Meatball with lentil bread, spinach, marinated vegetables, and creamy herb dressing from Trowel & Trellis, $ 5.75 –These Impossible products continue to show up on my “best of” lists. The meatball is great, but I think the lentil bread is what made me the happiest. Chewy and nutty. This is a nice little sandwich.
- Fried Cauliflower with capers, garlic parsley, and chili-ranch sauce from Taste of Marrakesh in the Morocco pavilion, $7.00 – I’m aware that I shouldn’t come into an EPCOT festival with the same coupon / sale mentality that I do my other purchasing, but the $7.00 price tag on this one stressed me out. Independent of the fact that it’s expensive, it was yummy and spicy. If you aren’t someone who piles on the heat, the spice and fire in this dish makes it one you won’t mind sharing.
- Impossible Farmhouse Meatball with lentil bread, spinach, marinated vegetables, and creamy herb dressing from Trowel & Trellis, $ 5.75 – I actually drew hearts on my notes for this dish! I immediately texted my newly vegetarian husband after I had this to tell him about how good it was. I’m headed back to EPCOT in the next few days and this will be my first stop.
- Pecan Cake with maple whipped cream from Magnolia Terrace in the American Adventure pavilion, $4.75 – I don’t think there is any argument that this is the best in show. The pecan caramel should be available for sale in quart Mason jars to take home. Maple whipped cream put it over the top. The new American Adventure kitchen really brought it this festival. Kudos.
- Chocolate Pudding Terrarium with avocado cream, matcha crumble, and baby herbs from Trowel & Trellis, $5.25 – Vegan and gluten free. Normally, I would running away at this point. This dish wowed me last year, and backed it up again this time. Avocado and chocolate is a thing now. Trust me.
- Pecan Cake with maple whipped cream from Magnolia Terrace in the American Adventure pavilion, $4.75 – This cake elicited unholy sounds of pleasure from the TouringPlans festival team. If you only visit one outdoor kitchen during this festival, it has to be Magnolia Terrace in the American Adventure. Get the southern seafood boil and this slice of joy on a plate and settle in. So, so, so good.
- Mixed Berry Buttermilk Cake from the Pineapple Promenade, $5.00 – I’m still waiting for Chef to tell me how in the name of maceration I can make berries taste like this at home?!?! I didn’t have time during our research trip to properly hunt down and nag the brilliant Chef at the Pineapple Promenade, but it’s second on my list (after I get my Impossible meatball) when I return to EPCOT in the next few days. I felt like Mal in the Descendants lake picnic scene. Get two of these if there is anyone close by who might feel entitled to a bite.
Are you planning to attend EPCOT’s International Flower & Garden Festival this year? Do you have a favorite returning dish on your must try list? Leave a note in the comments about what you like to sample and how your plan your budget! As always, thanks for reading!