With April now here, we’re entering the second month of Epcot’s annual Flower And Garden Festival so what better time than now for the second batch of reviews from the kitchens around World Showcase?
As stated in the first part of the reviews, it’s much easier simply eating at the kitchens in a circuit than it is by playing favorites and jumping to the ones I want to try the most. Visiting them this way opens me up to try kitchens or dishes that I probably would have skipped in favor of others first. And while I might hit some of them out of order due to hunger, and if I’m still eating a dish from before as I get to the next kitchen, I still think this is the best way to visit.
Continuing around World Showcase lead me into France…
Fleur de Lys
After a great showing during the Food And Wine Festival I was looking forward to trying something from France again. Being a fan of ducks (Donald, Daffy and delicious) as soon as I saw the Cassoulet au Confit de Canard I knew what my choice would have to be. While the dish may sound fancy, it’s simply a duck and white bean stew. See how accessible French cuisine can be? Over the past couple years I’ve learned that a lot of people are afraid of trying duck. While other birds such as chicken and turkey are common enough, duck just seems too foreign for some. A much more savory meat, duck has a nice richness of flavor that resides closer to the dark meat of a turkey than the white of chicken. As someone who isn’t a big fan of beans in general I can’t talk about them too much besides to say I finished the helping and didn’t mind the beans (flageolet) used here. The gravy was very light and while I don’t know what the base for it was I would not be surprised to see if it was some sort of white wine. My favorite part of this meal was clearly the duck but I think this would be something worth trying for those that might want to branch out and try something a little more outlandish than what they’re used to.
Not to ruin the Magic but I actually ate at Hanami before this visit and chose not to report on it so I could place it closer to where it actually falls in World Showcase at the Japan pavilion. I enjoyed this kitchen during my pre-Parks N’ Wrecked visit last year and this time tried what I had last year as well as something new. First up the new: the Chicken Edamame Bun. This is a simple steamed bun filled with ground chicken and edamame then topped with a curry sauce. Sadly my first two bites of this were all bun and curry sauce which I was not a fan of. The curry sauce tasted closer to a mustard which was kind of a shock, and when tasted with the doughy bun instantly put me off. My third bite actually contained the chicken and edamame which I really enjoyed. The exact middle part of this dish was the best part as that’s where I finally got to try it all, and while this didn’t sway me on the curry sauce at all the bun was better when the ratio was balanced to the meat. After my fourth bite this golden ratio was lost and I actually didn’t even finish the rest of the bun. Both because of being over it and being excited to try something I loved from last year again.
Enter: Frushi. For those scared of sushi due to not liking seafood allow me to introduce you to it’s fresh fruit desserty cousin. Pineapple, strawberry and melon rolled with a raspberry coconut rice, then topped with toasted coconut and whipped cream. Perfect and light, frushi has a nice sweetness without being overly sugary. This is something I could easily eat an entire plate of, and it also stands as a vegetarian option for those with dietary concerns.
The Smokehouse: Barbecue And Brews
Now if there’s one place I would eat just based off of the name it would be America’s entry to the Flower And Garden Festival. What sounds better than BBQ and a beer? This is one of the only kitchens that has a menu that I want to, nay, WILL try all of. For this first visit I went straight to the Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos. Brisket tends to be a much denser cut of meat making it perfect for long smoking sessions to get it nice and tender. The dish consisted of maybe eight cubes of beef that had a fantastic smoke flavor and managed to be tender while still maintaining a solid consistency. The white cheddar fondue was melty and sharp and even though it took me a bit to find a spot to sit and eat, it still didn’t start to harden which is an impressive feat when you consider that this is theme park melted cheese. The jalapenos gave a nice and solid heat without overpowering the rest of the flavors. The whole thing was served on a bed of hash brown potatoes and while I can’t say anything great about them, I can’t say anything bad either, they were small cubed potatoes. Not too hard, not to soft, but they provided a nice starch as this dish could have used something, oooohhh man I just thought of something. I wish this came with a side of corn bread. Then it’d be perfect. Disney get on it.
Here I also sampled one of the beers, this was the Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout, which I had also tried last year. While I don’t remember much of what I sampled from it last year, I’m adamant that this years offering was a much more solid showing. Stouts are normally nice and rich on their own but when the maple sweet gets added on top and then the twang of bacon smokiness rolls in, this was great. Especially with the beef brisket.
Baurernmarkt: Farmer’s Market
I liked what Germany had to offer back during the Food And Wine Fest, and the pavilion stands as one of my favorite places to grab a beer and/or lunch. German food has always been something of comfort food to me (you cannot go wrong with sausage and potatoes, ever) so I went right for the Currywurst with Paprika Chips. Again, this is something that might sound scary until you realize that currywurst is basically a bigger hot dog that’s spiced with curry. The sausage had a nice flavor too it and was topped with a Curry Ketchup to give it a little extra pizzaz. While the ketchup was good and I appreciated what it brought to the plate I think there was just a bit too much. If you look to try this ask for light ketchup or even the ketchup on the side, as i couldn’t even fish out the chips from underneath the seas of sweet and spicy tomato paste. The paprika chips served here are the same ones that accompany most of the dishes at the Biergarten counter service window. They’re a great house made chip that are a fantastic side for what’s essentially a hot dog (see how accessible German cuisine is too?). If the thought of paprika chips sounds scary just look at them as a less sweet style of barbecue, and you’re golden.
Jardin de Fiestas
Welcome to the Party Garden! Or is it Garden Party? It’s been 15 years since I’ve taken Spanish, but regardless stepping into Mexico delivers exactly what you would expect for latin style street food: tacos and quesadillas. While I’m not a fan of shrimp the Food And Wine’s Australia kitchen showed me it’s something that I can enjoy when prepared in a way I like. So the Tacos de Camaron, or Tempura Shrimp with Hibiscus Flower, Carmalized Onions and Habanero Sauce sounds like something that I would enjoy. Sadly this was pretty forgettable. Everything else about this dish should have sold me on the shrimp but it just didn’t happen. The flavors and textures all just mashed together resulting in a plate of ‘meh’ that has me itching for Austrailia’s return in a couple months for the Food And Wine Festival again.
Italy is a pavilion I usually skip past, and wasn’t a huge fan of during previous food fests at Epcot. It was starting to get late and I needed something else to eat before Illuminations started for the night. Deciding upon the Mezze Lune Primavers (Egg Pasta stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Cream Sauce with Spring Vegetables and Pecorino Cheese). I was very pleasantly surprised by this dish. Everything about this dish sounds heavy, and while all the ingredients provided a sharp richness it was surprisingly light and easy to eat. This is something I would gladly get again or try to make at home if I wanted to jazz up pasta night.
Final Thoughts – This second visit was a great experience much like my first. Trying everything as it comes really does balance out feelings and expectations. The Smokehouse will stand as a kitchen I go back to multiple times for the next two months, so there will be more reviews from there, but there’s also more kitchens on the horizon that I’m very excited to try and will soon.