Happy March, Disney Guys and Gals!!!
It's Flower and Garden time!!!! Yes, Epcot's newest festival, Festival of the Arts, just closed a few days ago, but back to back, we have another fantabulously awesome festival to enjoy! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!!! Hooray! (That's a lot of exclamation points. I apologize. I'll try and reel myself in.)
I LOVE Flower and Garden! (Dang it! There's another one!) It's an amazingly colorful, vibrant and fragrant festival, the engulfs ALL of Epcot, and gives Guests two
This year's festival is bigger and better than ever, with longer running dates, (March 1st-May 29th), new entertainment acts, (including Simple Plan, Expose and Berlin), and two brand new Outdoor Kitchens. Not to mention 70+ topiaries, dining packages, events and tours, appearances by home and garden experts, playgrounds, and a massive butterfly garden. Whew! I'm exhausted just naming it all! There's tons to see and do at this kid-friendly festival, and I was there to check out opening day with The Hubs, so if you stick with me, I'll take you on a photo safari of the festival, as well as share with you menus and reviews of the food items that we tried. Let's go....
As expected, opening day of the festival was slammed! The weather was hot, hot, hot and gorgeously sunny, which made all of the colors that much more vibrant. This year's entry topiary is similar to last years, but a little more sparse.
Universe of Energy itself was also adorned with floral towers. That's one of the things I really love about this festival. Everywhere you turn, there' touches of floral added here and there. It's really beautiful.
Outside of the Festival Center, there were some great Fab 5 topiaries, and the whole outside of the building has lovely flower displays.
Inside the center, Guests can festival exclusive merchandise, demonstrations, displays, classes and even a little cafe selling fresh fruits, veggies and sandwiches. Oh, and more flowers, too. Great place to hide out from the rain, should a storm roll through. I'll have to keep this in mind for my May visits.
Back outside, we said a quick "hey" to buzz Lightyear, in front of Mission Space, before heading over toward the Cars themed playground.
Also along the way, we checked out the Purple Martins area, which has alien-looking bird feeders, attracting these unique birds. Note that they are Purple MARTINS, not Purple Martinis, as The Hubs misread the sign to say.
The Cars play area is super cute, as always, and the perfect place for younger kids to get out some of their energy, running and climbing. And it's the perfect area for parents to enjoy some Adirondack chairs and a moment's rest.
No kids with us today, though, and it would probably be pretty weird for two adults withOUT children to be hanging out in a playground, so we kept it moving.
Back behind Spaceship Earth, the featured topiary this year has Chip and Dale on one side, and Donald, (Duck, not Trump), and his nephews on the other. There's also the incredible buttery garden topiaries and some gorgeous chalk art, too!
The butterfly tent is always amazing to visit, but it does tend to get better over the course of the festival, as more caterpillars transform.
There's definitely some cool merchandise this year, including an old-school hyper-color type of t-shirt that changes colors in the sun, and the popular wrist tag gift card, perfect for wearing around the festival to pay at the Outdoor Kitchens, This year's is shaped like an orange and is even scratch and sniff!
As usually, Phineas and Ferb were over by the Agent P Scavenger Hunt Game, and the walkways leading to World Showcase were just breaktaking! I love the floating planters, adding pops of color to the lagoon!
Time to hit up those Outdoor Kitchens! For those of you that haven't been to Flower and Garden recently, you may not be familiar with these booths. Epcot has combined the most popular element of the very popular Food and Wine Festival, into the spring festival, opening about a dozen booths around World Showcase. Each location sells smaller, sample sized food items, as well as regional alcoholic beverages. For Food and Wine, the booths are themed to various countries around the world, and Flower and Garden's booths are similar, but they also incorporate the element of farm or garden fresh items, as well. But what it boils down to is this: YUM!
Before we get into the individual booths, I will say this... overall this year, it seems to me that many of the portions are larger, as are the prices. This could be seen as a plus or a minus. If you're the type who likes to just pick a couple of things to sample, you'll be happy with the larger helping. If you're using Disney Dining Plan snack points to get items, you'll get a better value out of the higher pricing. But if you're like me, and you like to try all different stuff, you really need to bring some friends along to share the food and the cost. Otherwise, two booths in, you'll be done. The Hubs and I were the only ones we knew that were available to attend opening day, and so we had to try and sample stuff as much as we could, without getting sick. Now, let's not kid ourselves... eating has never been a problem for us. We can both put away a good amount of food. But when you're starting on an empty stomach, and you only have three hours before you have to pick up the kids from school, it can all go wonky. We did our best, (for YOU, of course!), but to be totally upfront, things that we had reviewed last year, we did not get again this year, so my reviews below are combined with this year's and last year's. Fair enough? Ok, let's go!
First up was the brand new booth, The Berry Basket. It's themed to... you guessed it... BERRIES! Here's the menu:
And here's my mini review of what we sampled:
- What did we try? Warm Wild Berry Buckle
- How would I describe it? A coffee cake-like pastry, covered in a mixed berry compote, and topped with a small scoop of pepper berry gelato.
- How was the portion/value? At $4.25, it was easily shareable between two or three people and is about the size of most Disney desserts, so I think this is reasonably priced.
- What letter grade would we give it? C The cake was served warm, which was nice, but the ice cream melted pretty much on contact, making a gooey mess that ran over the sides of the plate. The cake itself seemed like a package coffee cake, and would have been better as a more hearty biscuit. The flavors were good, and the pepper berry gelato was something a little different. (You get pretty much no pepper-flavor to it.)
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? No. Not my favorite.
- What did we try? Twinings Green Tea Mint Berry Julep (non-alcoholic)
- How would I describe it? A refreshing mint-berry slushy, served with blackberries on top.
- How was the portion/value? $4.25 is probably a little much for a few ounces of slushy.
- What letter grade would we give it? B I loved this and would have given it an A. The Hubs hated it, so I'm balancing us out at a B. This drink wasn't overly sweet and the mintiness gave it such an awesomely refreshing finish to it. The Hubs hate berries. And mint. And tea. This drink was SO not made for him.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I absolutely will. The Hubs, not so much. But at least I know he won't steal any of mine. My four year old totally will though. This drink will be his jam!
Next in line was La Isla Fresca, which has a Caribbean theme to it.
And here's the menu:
They were having some difficulties opening and so we skipped it for now, but I did try the slush last year:
- What did we try? Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink (non-alcoholic)
- How would I describe it? This was pretty much straight-up frozen mango juice. Since I am allergic, my little guy, K, got this one. He loves anything slushy, so he was a fan. Our friend, "A", got the alcoholic version and said it was tasty. The shot of rum pooled at the bottom of the cup, making for a potent final sip.
- How was the portion/value? To me, for $4.25, ($9.25 for the alcoholic version), I should get a full 8 oz. glass, not a little 4 oz. (I'm just guessing here) one.
- What letter grade would we give it? N/A This one was all K.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I do not wish to die of mango poisoning, so, no, I will not.
The Mexico pavilion has some nice Flower and Garden touches, including The Three Caballeros, in topiary form, and some incredible orchids, wrapped around the trees.
Of course, Norway features everyone's favorite icy sisters, who just can't seem to 'let it go':
...as well as some troll friends:
The next Outdoor Kitchen was Lotus House, in China.
- What did we try? Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries
- How would I describe it? Just like a candied apple, but with a skewer of strawberries, and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- How was the portion/value? You get 3-4 strawberries per skewer, depending on size. $5.50 may seem like a high price, but I honestly love these so much, that I'd pay it any time. (Though, I will note, this is up over $.50 from last year!)
- What letter grade would we give it? A I LOVE these! I have come to get them every year now since they were introduced. The strawberries are always super high quality, so they are juicy and fresh, and the candy coating adds just enough sweetness. The light sesame flavor is a nice touch. The Hubs doesn't even like strawberries and he'll usually steal one of these from me.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I plan to get them several more times before the festival is over.
- What did we try? Vegetable Spring Roll
- How would I describe it? Standard Chinese spring rolls, served with a creamy orange sauce.
- How was the portion/value? $4.50 for two spring rolls was ok by me.
- What letter grade would we give it? B The rolls were tasty and not overly greasy. I was expecting the orange sauce to be sweet like a duck sauce, but it was more savory, and I was not a fan.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Maybe. Definitely not a bad snack, and a really good sized portion.
- What did we try? Oolong Peach Bubble Tea
- How would I describe it? A milky iced tea, with a very light peach flavor, (in fact, I didn't taste peach at all!), and a whole bunch of blackish-green tapioca "bubbles" in it.
- How was the portion/value? This one was a full 20 oz. cup, but rightfully so, since it was $6.75. I think that price tag is WAY too high! (Especially since that's $.25 more than last year and I thought THAT was too high!)
- What letter grade would we give it? C First of all, I wasn't expecting this tea to be milky, so that was a surprise, and not exactly en enjoyable one on a hot day. As I said, the peach flavor was barely detectable. Now, I know people who go nuts for bubble tea, but for me, these flavorless tapioca balls made me feel like my drink was full of eyeballs. Ew. It manages to pull off a C because overall, the sweetness and creaminess of the tea was enjoyable, just not my cup of tea. (See what I did there?)
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? That's a "no". For $6.75, I could get two other things elsewhere.
Germany has Bauernmarkt (Farmer's Market):
Several new options this year, so we tried a couple of things:
- What did we try? Potato Pancake with Caramelized Ham, Onion and Herb Sour Cream
- How would I describe it? Similar to a corned beef hash. A savory potato pancake, topped with cubed ham, sweet onions and a sour cream drizzle.
- How was the portion/value? The portion was large and easily shareable for two. At $4.25, this one is a good value.
- What letter grade would we give it? B+ Tasted like breakfast! This was a delicious combination of flavors and we both really liked it.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Maybe. I certainly wouldn't mind, as long as I had someone to share it with.
- What did we try? Warm Cheese Strudel
- How would I describe it? A puff pastry filled with a sweet cream cheese filling, and topped with a mixed berry compote.
- How was the portion/value? Again, this was a good, shareable size, so $4.00 wasn't too bad.
- What letter grade would we give it? A- Loved this one too! There was plenty of cheese filling and the berries went nicely with it. My only com plaint was that to eat, and I couldn't decide if I should pick it up with my hands, or use silverware. Doesn't get any points for presentation, that's for sure.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Yep!
Germany has one of my other favorite topiaries, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. Awesome photo op!
Just past Germany, Italy's Primavera Kitchen smelled fantastic! Here's what they had:
And what we got:
- What did we try? Meatball Parmigiana
- How would I describe it? Five small meatballs, in a rich tomato sauce, with lots of melty cheese, and topped with a crostini.
- How was the portion/value? 5 meatballs can easily be share among a family, which helps with the value, but $7 still seems high.
- What letter grade would we give it? B Though very flavorful, I found the meatballs to be very salty. the Hubs says I am crazy and they were delicious, so he ate the majority of them. I wish they gave you more bread. That way your could put each little meatball on a piece and eat them like a open faced sandwich.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I won't, but The Hubs might.
- What did we try? Strawberry Tiramisu
- How would I describe it? A rich, smooth cream, with a soft cake on the bottom and strawberries on the top. Kind of like a delicate strawberry shortcake.
- How was the portion/value? It was a pretty tiny cup for $5.50. We each only had one spoonful.
- What letter grade would we give it? B- It was ok. I mean, the cream was delicious, and the berries were sweet, but I was expecting coffee to be involved since it was tiramisu and it was not. Plus nothing about it "wowed" me.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Nah.
More gorgeous displays in Italy...
Next we came upon the American Gardens Theater, where the nightly performances of the Garden Rocks concert series will be taking place. Here's a look at the talent this year:
Last year, The Smokehouse was a fan favorite as far as Outdoor Kitchens go, and it seems like this year will be similar. The giant smoker was puffing away, smoking brisket, ribs and pulled pork.
And here's this year's menu:
Mostly the same as last year, but I was disappointed to see that they did not bring back the sweet tea, which I loved. This year, we tried:
- What did we try? Smoked Pork Ribs
- How would I describe it? Two to three smoked ribs with black beans and corn.
- How was the portion/value? $6.75 is a little on the high side for just two ribs. (This is up $.25 from last year.)
- What letter grade would we give it? B+ Great ribs! They needed a little sauce, but BBQ sauce is readily available and it's kind of nice that they serve them plain, for those that prefer that option. I didn't love the side, but I'm not into a lot of Southwest flavors. The Hubs loved the ribs and the corn/bean mix.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Probably not, but only because there's too much other good stuff.
AND last year we tried:
- What did we try? Pulled Pig Slider
- How would I describe it? Pulled pork on a fresh bun, with light coleslaw veggies and fried onion straws.
- How was the portion/value? So it's priced at $6.50, which I think is completely reasonable for a fair sized sandwich. (This is up $.25 from last year.)
- What letter grade would we give it? B+ In all fairness, I do believe The Hubs would rank it higher. He was swooning over it. Though I liked the sandwich and knew the meat quality was fantastic, I found this one to be dry. I also happen to greatly dislike coleslaw, so that didn't help.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I won't, but The Hubs will.
- What did we try? Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash
- How would I describe it? A hash mix of smoked beef brisket, cubed potatoes, peppers and onions, all held together with a cheese cheddar fondue and topped with pickled jalapenos.
- How was the portion/value? Plenty for the $6.25 price, though this is up $.50 from last year.
- What letter grade would we give it? A Another one of my festival favorites! This was like heaven in a paper basket! The smokiness of the burnt ends matched so nicely with the creamy, sharp cheese fondue. I want a whole plate of this stuff!
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Yes! It'll be my lunch next time, minus the jalapenos!
- What did we try? Warm Chocolate Cake
- How would I describe it? A plain chocolate cupcake, served warm and topped with caramel sauce and candied pecans that have a little kick to 'em.
- How was the portion/value? $3.75 is pretty fair for a small cupcake, so I think this one is priced well.
- What letter grade would we give it? B+ Ok, so warm... chocolate...cake. Can't really go wrong there. And the cake was warm, moist and tasty. (Though the cake itself tasted like it was made from a packaged mix.) The caramel sauce was flavorful, but I didn't get any saltiness from it and I think if it were truly salty, it really would have made this one stand out. The pecans with a kick were a fun surprise. (I gave it the "+" for the warmth. Warm desserts rock! Can't beat the fresh-out-of-the-oven quality!)
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Nah. Again, not bad, but not something I feel the need to repeat.
- What did we try? Frushi
- How would I describe it? A sushi-like roll-up, with pineapple, strawberries and cantaloupe in the middle, raspberry coconut rice around it, and topped with coconut flakes, canned whipped cream and raspberry puree.
- How was the portion/value? Three pieces in the roll, for $5.75 is too much. Especially since this is up $.50 from last year.
- What letter grade would we give it? D- Guys, I am so sorry if you are a Frushi fanatic, (because this stuff seems to have a cult-following), but I just don't get it! The coconut rice was chilled and gummy. The fruit wasn't particularly sweet, and the toppings tasted artificial. Both of my kids spit this out and they love fruit. I tried one bite and hated it. I ended up throwing out almost the whole roll. The only reason I gave it a D- and not an F is because it looks cool.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Um, no. Never. Down with Frushi,
We sadly had to skip Morocco's Taste of Marrakesh booth too, as we were soooo full. Here's what this year's offerings are:
I don't think we got anything there last year either, so no reviews. Boooo.....
On to Florida Fresh! This one is also a very popular booth and with good reason:
It has a really cool garden around it, the Key West-style shack has seating next to it, as well. Plus, look at this menu:
Yum! This year we tried the newest item...
- What did we try? Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue
- How would I describe it? A sweet and tart key lime pie in a graham cracker crust, with meringue and a little shortbread butterfly cookie.
- How was the portion/value? $4.25 was totally reasonable for this dessert. You could easily share it, and you'd pay the same price or more for a similar dessert elsewhere on property.
- What letter grade would we give it? A- The Hubs is a key lime pie connoisseur. He's super picky and likes his pie super tart, super sweet, and with cream and not meringue. Well, because you can't have it all, this one did have meringue, but he didn't seem to mind. He said this was the best key lime pie he's had on Disney property! I don't even like key lime pie and I thought it was pretty good too.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? I am pretty sure The Hubs will get it again.
- What did we try? Fresh Squeezed Watermelon Juice
- How would I describe it? Pretty straight forward... a liquefied watermelon in a glass.
- How was the portion/value? Well, it was $3.25 for a small, 4ish oz. cup. Considering that the large, 32 oz. cup used to be $3.50, it is a little hard to pay the same for a much smaller portion, but since I love it, I do it.
- What letter grade would we give it? B As much as I adore this refreshing and naturally sweet juice, the glass I got was room temperature at best, making it not nearly as enjoyable as it usually is, hence the "B".
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Yes, but I hope it's cold! The colder, the better!
|Watermelon Juice on the left and Watermelon-Cucumber Slushie on the right|
- What did we try? Watermelon-Cucumber Slushie (non-alcoholic)
- How would I describe it? This was more of an artificial watermelon flavored slush. Very sweet.
- How was the portion/value? $4.25 for a small cup of slush is too much. ($11.75 for version with gin)
- What letter grade would we give it? B- It tasted good, but compared to the watermelon juice, it was just too sweet for me. The cucumber flavor was pretty minimal. It was more like a Jolly Rancher watermelon flavored slush.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Probably not. I'll stick with the juice and hope that it's cold.
Since two of the three food items were repeats from last year, I decided not to get anything this time around, but here's last year's reviews:
- What did we try? Tarte a l'Onion Alsacienne
- How would I describe it? A flaky, buttery crust, covered in oniony goodness.
- How was the portion/value? $4.75 for this pastry was totally reasonable, considering it was about the same size as a pastry you'd get at Starbucks for the same price. I'd guess it was about a 3" x 4" square. (This is up $.25 from last year's price.)
- What letter grade would we give it? A+ Oh lordy. Butter. Sauteed onions. Flaky pastry. Fresh French herbs. What about this could possibly be bad? (Well, unless you don't like onions.) This pasty was as delicious as it sounds, and more. Served warm and fresh, it was heaven-sent. One of my very favorite things from this year's festival.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Oh yeah. For sure. Can I have one NOW?
- What did we try? Macaron Chocolat Framboise
- How would I describe it? A raspberry flavored French macaron cookie, filled with a fudgy ganache and raspberry jam.
- How was the portion/value? Everyone who has had a French macaron knows that those little suckers are expensive. You can expect to pay a couple of bucks for one small macaron, so $4.75 for one large one doesn't seem that bad. I'd say the macaron was about 3" across.
- What letter grade would we give it? A- Loved this one too. The cookie part was perfectly crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside. The fudge filling was plentiful and so smooth. The raspberry jam was only directly in the middle, (which The Hubs thought was great, because he doesn't like raspberry jam, and he was able to nibble the macaron, enjoy the chocolate, and avoid the raspberry), and a good balance of tart and sweet. The only reason I added the "-" to the grade is because it was served out of a fridge, making it cold and a little on the hard side. Buuuut, I get that it's Florida and they HAVE to keep them in the fridge. Had I waited a few minutes more to enjoy it, it probably would have softened up, but it was irresistible. So it's their fault for making it irresistible. Yeah.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Oui. Oui, very much.
Over the bridge we went, and into the jolly old UK. The UK Tea Garden hosts an awesome tour this year. The Royal Garden Tea Tour is offered daily, at 9:30 am only. The tour is $15 per person, and for 45 minutes, Guests learn about the art of tea, and then are served tea and scones in the lovely outdoor garden area. (The complimentary English Tea Garden tour is still being offered multiple times a day, as well, but this one has SCONES!) I can't wait to check it out. I bet my Mom will love it!
And Tinkerbell has found a new home in the UK this year, accompanied high in the sky by her pal, Peter.
Then, between the UK and Canada, we came across the Cider House Outdoor Kitchen.
- What did we try? Freshly Baked Lemon Scone
- How would I describe it? A warm lemon scone, lightly iced, and topped with mixed berries and fresh whipped cream.
- How was the portion/value? Bigger than a mini-scone from Starbucks, but smaller than a full sized one. Does that help? I thought $3.75 was a fair price.
- What letter grade would we give it? A+ Also one of my very favorites from the festival! What a delightful surprised to be served an oven-warm scone! The flavor was lemony, but not overwhelmingly so. The berry topping was not sugary, and more like fresh berry compote. The cream gave it a nice contrast. I loved this and it might be my top pick.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Absolutely.
- What did we try? Martinelli's Sparkling Cider
- How would I describe it? Your typical, sugary, sparkling apple cider that you were likely served as a kid, on New Year's Eve.
- How was the portion/value? A small glass for $4.75? I can buy a bottle for $2 at any grocery store. Perhaps one of the most overpriced things a bought all day.
- What letter grade would we give it? B Yeah, it tasted good and was served cold, but this is not in any way something special.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Not a chance I'm paying almost $5 for this again.
...and then, of course, came across the gorgeous gardens in Canada, in full bloom, and some other little forest friends.
Canada is home to a brand new Outdoor Kitchen, Northern Bloom. It was super popular with the crowd of Guests that were in the park, so I had to check it out. Here's the delicious menu:
- What did we try? Seared Scallops
- How would I describe it? Caramelized scallops with green beans, roasted red skin potatoes and bacon crumbles, in a brown butter sauce.
- How was the portion/value? $6.25 got us two scallops, two potato halves and about a half a cup of green beans. Not too bad.
- What letter grade would we give it? B The scallops were fantastic and some of the best I have ever had. The green beans, however, were warm, but raw, which made them kinda gross. Overall, stellar flavors, but I wish the beans were cooked.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Maybe, but I'll probably try the beef next time.
- What did we try? Nanaimo Bar Trifle
- How would I describe it? A smooth, creamy vanilla pastry cream, with a rich chocolate topping and a cookie crumble.
- How was the portion/value? $4.25 for an very small cup seems a bit much. Some of the other desserts are a much better value.
- What letter grade would we give it? B+ Very, very tasty. The Cast Member that sold it to me claimed it was coconut flavored, but I did not taste any coconut. It was great, but again only about two spoonfuls.
- Will we get it again, when we return to the festival? Nah. It was good and I'm glad I tried it, but it's not worth getting again.
The Urban Farm Eats area had some really cool urban gardening displays, including a modernized chicken coop, small space gardens and vertical gardens.
They also have a pretty cool set of offerings:
Sadly, we were far too full to try anything from Urban Farm Eats as well, so we kept on moving.
Over at the Pineapple Promenade, the main feature is the pineapple soft serve, (Dole Whip), with or with without rum. They do have a couple of other unique options too, though:
We once again skipped out, since I've had Dole Whip many times before, and a spicy hot dog is not my idea of a good time. I have had the Desert Violet Lemonade before, and I really liked it, but I wasn't up for trying it again.
We quickly checked out the musical playground, which my kids loved last year, and I'm sure that they will love to kill some time there again when we take them there this year. Mamma certainly doesn't mind checking it out either, since there are astroturf and Adirondack chairs, and some nice shade. Ahhhh..... Flower and Garden can wear a parent out!
And just like that, we were done. Around the world in 3 hours! Took some gorgeous pictures, filled our bellies, and got lots of sun. I can't wait to take the Littles soon, so that they can enjoy the food and flowers! Flower and Garden definitely has more kid-appeal than Food and Wine, so they'll be psyched to attend. And I promise, anything else I taste-test, I'll tell you all about it.
Thanks for joining me on my 'round the world tour of Epcot's 2017 Flower and Garden Festival. Please gather up your personal belongings and exit to the rear of the post. Oh, and should YOU want to check out this festival, or any other Epcot festival yourself, contact my friends over at Kingdom Konsultant Travel. They'll take care of all of the deets to make your trip sweet! Until next time, Disney fans!!!
- Jenn aka "Tink"