Another Fest is upon us! I'm feeling filled to the brim with glee.
It seems there are some who aren't on board with the foodie aspect that's been added to EPCOT's annual spring festival. I, personally, couldn't be more thrilled. I think it's a great addition to Flower and Garden Fest, and hey, if eating your way through a Fest isn't your thing? Just skip it! No one's forcing you to use your sense of taste. There's plenty to see as well. I, for one, think any excuse to incorporate delicious food into the picture is one with my name all over it. So, let's get down to it, yes?
LA ISLA FRESCA
Jerk-Spiced Grouper with Mango Salsa, Chayote, and Green Papaya Slaw with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette.
No easing into this Fest. This was a smack, right in the kisser. So much flavor! The fish was light and didn't compete with the spices one bit. And while there was a mild warmth in the back of the throat from the jerk spices, it was by no means too much. I'm going to be honest: I hadn't a clue what chayote is and had to look it up. It's a squash. And that slaw was the perfect accompaniment to the fish. It was cool and crunchy, and that vinaigrette was peppy and bright. I didn't taste much in the way of cilantro (maybe it was drowned out by the jerk spices already on my taste buds?), but the lime was there. All told, this was an excellent way to start this Fest, because it embodied everything I think the Flower and Garden eats should be: light, bright, and fresh.
JARDIN DE FIESTAS
Tacos de Camaron (tempura shrimp served with hibiscus flower, caramelized onions, and Habanero sauce). Elderflower Watermelon Sangria.
I'm pretty much always all in on a crispy shrimp taco, so the second I saw this on the menu preview, I was salivating, but... Don't get me wrong, it's very tasty. The tempura shrimp was wonderful, and the caramelized onions brought flavor to the party, with the Habanero providing the zip. I just don't feel like this was a Flower and Garden Fest dish. The richness of the caramelized onion was too heavy for the spring, and it completely obliterated the hibiscus into little more than a note on the menu board, because there was no other indication of its presence. This taco needed to have some sort of slaw or shredded lettuce, and for the onion to be thinly sliced and raw, in order to scream SPRING!! So, I was disappointed in the timing of this one, not in the way it actually tasted. That sangria, though, was everything it should be. Fresh and slightly sweet, with a hint of floral. *That* was spring-ish in every way.
BAUERNMARKT: FARMER'S MARKET
Armer Ritter (egg battered toast with cherry compote and powdered sugar).
Yum. Also, YUM. At first, I was mildly skeptical about French toast showing up on the menu of a decidedly German Outdoor Kitchen. But those cherries and the dusting of powdered sugar changed my tune. The cherries were vaguely reminiscent of what I think of with Black Forest (just no chocolate anywhere) and that seemed enough to sell my senses. And, somehow, this dish wasn't ridiculously heavy (as I sometimes find French toast), so it fit my criteria for the spring. My one and only complaint: not enough toast to soak up all that delectable cherry juice. It was all I could do to refrain from licking my plate.
THE SMOKEHOUSE: BARBECUE AND BREWS
Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos.
This was a "top five" favorite from last Fest and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I think I pulled a dud on this one. There were several pieces of meat that were mostly fat and one only that was "burnt ends" crispy. The potatoes was overdone and mealy (ick). There were almost no onions and peppers to be found. The cheese sauce, which was more like a Hollandaise than gooey, was a bit...clumpy? I dunno. For a dish I thoroughly enjoyed in 2015, it really fell flat. But the menu description hadn't changed at all, so I have to believe I just got a serving that missed the mark on quality. Oh well, that's rare, so I'm not going to dwell.
TASTE OF MARRAKESH
Desert Rose (sparkling wine topped with pomegranate liqueur).
Know what makes you not care about a dud? BUBBLES. In Fez House. They've offered this drink since they introduced the Outdoor Kitchens to Flower and Garden Fest, and it's one of my favorites every time. Bubbly and not too sweet, left me refreshed and smiley.
Land-Harvested Field Greens with Apples, Dried Blueberries, Stilton Cheese, and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Keel and Curley Mad Man Blueberry Hard Cider.
This is exactly the sort of dish I expect to find at Flower and Garden Fest. Fresh and crisp, and bursting with bright flavors. I mean, it's just a salad, right? WRONG. The greens were super tender, but let's be honest, they're just a vehicle for the rest. The sweet blueberries, the powerful blue cheese, the crisp, tart apples (cut matchstick-style!), and that dressing. My Lord, I need a recipe for that vinaigrette. Oh, and lest it not get its due, that blueberry hard cider (which is made at a vineyard not far from where I live -- blueberry wine!) was dangerous. It did not taste like an adult beverage. It was all sweet and deceptive. And then I was all buzzed and I couldn't stop laughing (which my friend, Daniel, finds hilarious, the instigator). That poor, tasty salad was no match to balance that hard cider, good as it was.
Frushi (fresh pineapple, strawberry, and melon rolled with coconut rice, with raspberry sauce, toasted coconut, and whipped cream on the side).
This is such a fun take on sushi, I can never resist. It's so playful! It's like dessert sushi! And no matter how full you are, there's still room.
Cremoso al Pistacchio (pistachio cream, strawberries, and mascarpone cream).
Thank heaven this was small, because I was so full. Truthfully, pistachio anything isn't generally my thing. It's ok, but it isn't a flavor toward which I gravitate. I figured, given the size, that it couldn't be that dominant, and I was right. There was definite pistachio flavor in that top layer, but when you combined that with the sweet strawberries and that creamy dreamy mascarpone, it's all good. I have no idea what the crunchies were on top, but they gave the bite just the right amount of texture. Round one closed on a full but happy note.