Eat This: Northern Bloom at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

We’ve already raved about the Smokehouse at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival. Now it’s time to talk Northern Bloom – the second booth whose menu I was dying to tackle after I did a first flip through the festival passport.

Northern Bloom is Canada’s aptly named kitchen at this year’s festival, and is of course located just outside the Canada pavilion in World Showcase.

The menu looked absolutely amazing and the foods themselves did not disappoint. As usual, I took one for the team and ordered the full slate of options – and here are the results.

  • Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown-Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon ($6.50) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Seared Scallops

I dig a good scallop and Epcot’s various offerings throughout recent festivals have not disappointed. But here they up the ante because these scallops have been cavorting with BACON. I don’t know if it’s typical of this dish, but my order didn’t have much in the way of visible pieces of bacon in it. It was more like I was eating scallops that had been making out with bacon earlier in the day and still had that smell and taste all over them. They were SO GOOD. The beans were crisp and the potatoes were soaked in flavor and the scallops themselves were perfection. The brown butter vinaigrette was definitely strong, so if you aren’t a fan of vinegar this isn’t for you. But if you love this kind of flavor combo as much as I do I beg you to hit this booth up and not be bashful about licking the container clean. Waste not want not and all that.

  • Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, and Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables ($6.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Beef Tenderloin Tips

So this is a solid little dish without a lot of fanfare. If you’re craving a good stew-type dish (and who isn’t in Florida heat in the spring??) this will hit the spot. To be honest, after all of Epcot’s pureed root vegetable experimentation, I had to do a double take at actual mashed potatoes that lacked the soft creaminess of celery root or squash. No complaints here – just not a lot to say. If you’re traveling with a meat and potatoes kinda girl or guy, get them this. They’ll like it.

  • Griddled Maple Pound Cake with Warm Peach Compote and Sweet Corn Gelato ($4.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Griddled Maple Pound Cake

This is grilled pound cake with warm, soft peaches, gelato, and popcorn. So, in short, it is delicious. Honestly the cake itself took a backseat to the peaches and gelato, which soaked into the cake quite nicely to make for a sloppy, delicious, and not entirely overly sweet dessert. The verdict was that all cake should be under warm fruit and corn ice cream (and popcorn if you’re feeling frisky).

  • Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whiskey ($11.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Maple Popcorn Shake

This is basically a maple whiskey milkshake with popcorn floating on top. So you should get it and thank god that there are no calories in Disney World. Cheers and enjoy.

#ArtfulEpcot: Mexico’s El Artista Hambriento at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts

Last weekend I hit Epcot for some train watching and Photopass fun with the kids…

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…so of course I had to knock out another booth while we were there. And that booth was Mexico.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento

Throughout Epcot’s various festivals, Mexico has always been a favorite of mine. Did it measure up again this time? Welllll……

  • Mixiote de Cordero: Wrapped slow-braised lamb, marinated in tres chiles paste and spices ($8.95)

Once when I lived in Manhattan my roommate saw a guy chasing another guy through Union Square with a brown paper bag. He threw the brown paper bag and it exploded against the street and had been full of…..

Oh never mind.

I don’t even know why the bag of poop story popped into my mind just now.

Seriously though. You have to giggle at this one a little. As far as the taste goes? I mean – I guess it’s pretty good meat? If you’re paleo or keto or otherwise craving a bag of slow cooked protein, this works. Otherwise it’s just a bag of meat. A pretty good, $9 bag of meat. So moving on…

  • Tacos de Puerco: Two corn tortillas with slow-roasted pork shoulder, marinated in ancho paste and served with sweet plantain puree garnished with pea tendrils ($9.95)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Tacos de Puerco 1

These weren’t bad. I wish I had more to say about them. The description sounds AMAZING on paper. They had a nice little kick and there was a barely there, wanted to taste it more bit of sweetness from the plantains. I didn’t love them as much as, say, the shrimp tacos that Mexico has featured at other festivals, though. The sauce was more heat than taste and my American palette tends to want a little crunch with my food. And honestly, the price trend continues – because $10 is a lot for what’s on this plate.

  • Atole de Fresa and Mexican Concha Bread: Warm strawberry drink served with Mexican concha bread ($3.95)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Concha Bread

So…um….my picky 7 year old loved this? I wasn’t thrilled. It was basically a slightly sweet, pretty dry roll and a cup of warm strawberry yogurt. The yellow on top was pretty nondescript. Like it had a little texture but wasn’t sweet enough to be noticeable on the taste front. At least the strawberry “drink” dip cut the dryness? Otherwise…nope. Don’t waste your calories here.

  • Frida Guava Margarita ($13.75)

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Mexico Booth El Artista Hambriento Frida Guava Margarita

Holy freaking expensive drink. Was it tasty? Yes. It was delicious. But the $14 price tag is borderline offensive for this thing. I’m not even convinced there was alcohol in it. If you want a sweet, tasty drink and couldn’t care less how much you spend on it, have at it. Otherwise, there are probably better places to blow $14.

#ArtfulEpcot: Morocco’s Mosaic Canteen at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts

I wasn’t wasting any time on my first trip to Epcot’s 2nd International Festival of the Arts last week. I have, however, wasted too much time in getting around to writing up the second country that I sampled that day. So without further ado, today, I give you Morocco.

Like Japan’s offerings, I love how these dishes jump off the plate onto the camera. If Artful Epcot’s food items are nothing else, they are lovely.

  • Spiced Beef…or Hummus Trifle: Layered hummus topped with spiced beef, pine nuts, and dry cherries served with pita chips ($9)

It’s a little laughable that this is listed as “Spiced Beef” on the menu board. It’s name in the Festival Passport, “Hummus Trifle”, makes so much more sense – since it’s the hummus that dominates here. This thing looks SO good on paper. It’s hard to go wrong with beef, dried cherries, pine nuts, and hummus. And don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. But this is essentially a huge cup of hummus with a few chips and some so so meat crumbles, pine nuts, and cherries on top. It wasn’t bad. If you’re craving hummus it’ll hit the spot. (And bring extra chips because they give you more hummus than you can possibly scoop up with the 10 or so chips that they give you.) But generally I think you can do better than this at Epcot right now. And for $9 you can definitely do better.

  • Mediterranean Flat Bread with Za’atar, Olive Oil Artichokes, Olives, Mozzarella an Feta Cheese ($8)

Artful Epcot Epcot International Festival of the Arts Morocco Mediterranean Flat Bread

Isn’t this lovely? It pops on your tongue just as beautifully as it pops off the screen. The flavors are fresh and simple. The za’atar (a middle eastern spice mixture) is fresh and bold, the cheeses aren’t overpowering, and I’d take a good artichoke as a boyfriend any day. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing about this is going to turn your culinary world upside down. It’s simple and fresh and just good. And it’s huge!! For $8, it’s a solid lunch any day of the week. Two enthusiastic thumbs up. Fine holiday fun. 😉

  • Chebbakia: Hand-twisted strips of fried dough coated with honey, rosewater, and sesame seeds ($7)

Artful Epcot Epcot International Festival of the Arts Morocco Chebbakia

If you like a classic middle eastern dessert or have a sweet tooth that you need to punch in the face, this will be your jam. I wanted to taste more rosewater. (I always want to taste more rosewater.) But this was chewy and sweet and sticky and sated my often insatiable sweet tooth. The sesame here (unlike the sesame in Japan’s taiyaki) was not overpowering, but just added a bit of interest to the overall taste. For $7, this wasn’t the cheapest dessert, but it was certainly rich and big enough to serve two people. I think you should go get some.

 

#ArtfulEpcot – Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

It’s a new year and we’re kicking off another grand Epcot festival!! Epcot’s inaugural Festival of the Arts was just last year and this year we’re getting it back and bigger. It runs from January 12th through February 19th and includes a wealth of unique musical, visual, and, of course, culinary bliss. Festival goers can also see Disney on Broadway events every weekend and take in a long list of seminars, food studios, and other artists. You can even have your hand in a little bit of interactive art of your own….

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Artful Epcot Mosaic Painting

Luck as it was, the kids are (omg finally) back in school after the holidays and I’m more or less walking again after completing my first Dopey Challenge last weekend (recap to come), so I was able to run over to Epcot during the festival’s opening day to wander World Showcase and scratch the surface of its food offerings.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Festival Passport

SO. FREAKING. EXCITED.

(Ignore the nails……I’ve been a little busy……)

Bottom line – I don’t care if it’s because Disney is aiming to bring in guests in its “off season” (bwahahaha…off season…right) or because they’re too tired to move the Food & Wine food booths and are just thinking of ways to repurpose them year ’round instead. There’s a lot to eat, you guys. This little passport lists 19 booths full of new food and drink. And I’m ready to dig in and start earning my completion stickers.

 

 

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Scotland Booth

I finally had the chance to take on Scotland today. I’d been looking forward to this one and had probably only taken this long because it’s hard to get deep into the UK section of Food & Wine with enough of an appetite for lox and stew. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

The Scotland booth is of course in the UK area, past Rose & Crown and the Ireland stand as you walk toward Canada. This year they are offering two savory dishes and one sweet, along with a handful of drinks (which I skipped for now).

  • Fresh Potato Pancake with Scottish Smoked Salmon and Herbed Sour Cream ($5.25)

Food and Wine Scotland Fresh Potato PancakeI am sitting here looking at this picture and wishing I had another one of these in front of me. It’s so simple and perfect and good and I’m thrilled that it’s back this year. A healthy little pile of lox and generous dollop of herbed sour cream sitting on top of a warm potato pancake. I’m not dainty with it – I just pick it up with my fingers and bite into it. The combination of no frills ingredients works so well together. Go have one for a late breakfast tomorrow. Then have another for lunch. You’re welcome. 😉

  • Traditional Scottish Lamb Stew with Neeps and Tatties ($4.75)

Epcot Food and Wine Scotland Stew 2

I admittedly had to google neeps and tatties. They are a sort of turnip and potatoes, mashed here, under the stew. This was so good. Simple, again – just a mild stew, not too much salt – thank goodness, lamb and veggies – carrots and onions. Nothing about it is wildly different. If you’re looking to try the 5 most inventive things at Food & Wine, this isn’t going to be on the list. But it’s delicious and if you happen upon Scotland and are hungry, it will do the trick quite nicely. I am again sitting here looking at the picture and wishing I had some more.

  • The Tipsy Laird: Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats ($3.50)

Food and Wine Epcot Scotland Tipsy Laird

This is a pretty little layered dessert. It has a berry compote at the bottom with cake, oats, lemon cream, and a dollop of whipped cream and fresh raspberry on top. It’s moist and creamy and has lots of flavor. I was expecting it to be the sort of syrupy reduced liquor taste that you’d find in, say, a rum cake – but I honestly didn’t taste the whiskey at all. Still, at $3.50 this is a lovely little dessert.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – New Zealand Booth

It’s always exciting to be 2 months into Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, feel like you’ve tapped into every food item that really interested you, and then stumble on a country that completely shocks you by hitting it out of the park. Don’t get me wrong – I expected New Zealand’s offerings to be excellent. They always are. But I didn’t expect to love them so much personally – or, to be quite honest, for them to be quite this excellent.

The New Zealand booth is just past Australia near the “top” of world showcase, i.e. the end closer to Future World, if you turn toward Canada and the UK pavilion at the split. This year they offer 3 food items, all savory, and several alcoholic drink options.

To start. I just want to acknowledge how lovely all of the food items at the New Zealand booth are. At a festival where I am constantly wrestling with delicious food that does not want to pose for a picture, the New Zealand dishes are all beautiful and served up with rare attention to presentation.

  • Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs ($4.25)

Food and Wine Epcot New Zealand Mussels

I had to do a double take at the price of these mussels when I actually received them. At $4.25(??!), these have got to be one of the best values going at Food & Wine. They are gorgeous and HUGE, soaked in butter and garlic, and covered in breadcrumbs. They smell like the ocean and have a briny taste that will make you think you’re on a remote beach somewhere instead of eating, perhaps off the top of a (pristine) trashcan, along World Showcase Lagoon. Having expected a tray of tiny mussels dripping in sauce, I was beyond pleasantly surprised. These are not shy about what they are. They are strong, beautifully seasoned mussels and they are delicious.

  • Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney ($5.25)

Food and Wine New Zealand Lamb Meatball

This is a seriously hearty serving at $5.25. A lamb meatball covered in spicy (think little kick more than major heat) chunky tomato chutney with garlic and lots of fennel seeds, all sitting in a soft doughy basket that does a lovely job soaking up everything. The fact that it is lamb rather than a more “common” meat is not in your face. The meat is very mild. It’s probably not a great dish for a hot day, as it’s very rich and hearty, but if you’re looking for a generous portion of something tasty on a breezy evening, this is a very good option.

  • Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée ($6.50)

Food and Wine Epcot New Zealand Venison 3

This is a very small serving, especially compared to the lamb meatball that I’d just eaten, but it is wonderful. A healthy little chunk of tender venison, presented beautifully and drenched in marsala sauce. The meat is rich and full of flavor, not at all gamey, and so delicious that you’ll forget for a second that you’re eating Bambi. The kumara is apparently a type of yam or sweet potato found in New Zealand and the purée definitely tastes just like you would expect a mashed sweet potato to taste. It’s a great choice, as the mildly sweet starch cuts the richness of the venison and marsala sauce beautifully. This was really just a wonderful dish all around.

  • Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($6.50)

Epcot Food and Wine New Zealand Frozen Wine Cocktail

Oh New Zealand. You had me at frozen wine. This was just a happy little glass of slushy wine that went down easily along with the three savory dishes. I’d order it again in an Epcot minute.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Patagonia Booth

We’ll keep this short and sweet, because Food & Wine’s Patagonia booth only offers 2 items this year – one simple, solid enough dish and one crowd favorite.

  • Beef Empanada ($5)

This is…a beef empanada. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very tasty beef empanada. If you are in the mood for a beef empanada and are okay eating it without sour cream or salsa or other toppings, you should get this. The crust is flaky, it’s spiced very well, the peppers and onions give it a little kick… It’s as straightforward as it gets. You’ll enjoy it but you probably won’t be writing home about it or reminiscing about it next year.

  • Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée ($5.75) (Gluten Free)

Oh glorious skewer of garlic and butter soaked, chimichurri covered, thinly sliced beef. There’s not much not to like about this little dish. The beef is thinly sliced and skewered, the chimichurri is plentiful, and the entire thing sits on a bed of mashed boniato – a Caribbean sweet potato that, mashed here, reminds me of a textured polenta or hearty mashed cauliflower that is a perfect vehicle for making sure that no butter or garlic gets left behind. This quickly jumped to one of my favorite beef dishes at the Food & Wine Festival this year.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival – Italy Booth

It’s rare that the weather is cool enough during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for me to even think about Italian food, but the cloud cover yesterday offered up the unique Florida afternoon pasta craving. I jumped on the chance to see what Italy had to offer this year.

Italy Booth Menu Epcot Food & Wine 2017

  • Crispy Calamari with Spicy Pomodoro Sauce ($8)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Calamari

I so wanted to love this. I adore a good calamari and a sauce with a kick. The calamari itself was prettily presented and cooked perfectly, but at least this particular batch was much too salty. That actually seems to be a theme at Food & Wine this year. It’s rare that I don’t like a dish but when it happens it’s often the salt content that does it. If you’re craving calamari I certainly wouldn’t turn away from this, but it wasn’t a favorite – especially considering the $8 price tag.

  • Spezzatino con Polenta: Beef Stew with Parmesan Creamy Polenta ($7.50)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Spezzatino con Polenta

This. was. delicious. A rich beef stew with lots of sauce nestled in with a healthy serving a creamy, cheesy polenta. The stew was hearty and the polenta with parmesan was everything that a good polenta should be – the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes that cut the richness of the stew perfectly. Admittedly not something that would call my name on a typical hot day, but if the weather is right again I would happily go back for more.

  • Absolut Penne: Vodka Sauce with Shrimp ($7)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Absolut Penne

Yes. Yes. Yes. Eat this. The pasta is cooked perfectly. The shrimp are generous. The sauce is light and has a perfect little kick to it. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be out there inventive to be good. And when you’re trying to represent a country with a dish, sometimes it pays to keep it simple and good. Japan’s BLT sushi roll could learn a lesson from Italy this year. The spezzatino was excellent, but this penne was easily my favorite dish at the Italy booth.

  • Cannoli al Cioccolato: Chocolate-covered Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate, and Candied Fruit ($4.25)

Italy Booth Food & Wine Cannoli al Cioccolato

The candied fruit element in this delicious piece of heaven didn’t click until I typed out the description just now. I’d forgotten about it while I was inhaling the cannoli itself – knowing only that I was eating something incredibly sweet and good that had a little kick of interesting going on in it somewhere. It’s a sort of cannoli that has a fruitcake somewhere in its family tree several generations back. In a good way. The shell is also very substantial – it manages to tame the chocolate and ricotta fairly well so that the overall taste isn’t “too much” the way that some cannolis are. There are a handful of desserts at F&W that I’ve personally liked more this year – the crème brûlée in France, the cheesecake in Hawaii, the cajeta mousse in Mexico… But at that point it just comes down to personal taste. If you want a cannoli, this is a very, very good one.

Eat This: Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival – Australia Booth

I took advantage of a “free” hour, some merciful cloud cover, and an empty stomach yesterday afternoon to sample what Australia and Italy had to offer at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival. Let’s cover Australia first…

(Don’t mind the coconut rum spiked Dole Whip….)

  • Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas ($5.25) (Gluten Free)

Food and Wine Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp

This was one of those dishes that was very tasty, but I don’t have much to say about it because it wasn’t really anything that different in the end. I’d order it again in a heartbeat if I was at Epcot with a taste for it – but it basically tasted like really good (ducks for cover) Chinese food. Nicely seasoned shrimp with pineapple and veggies. End of story. But don’t worry because Australia is about to make up for it with….

  • Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies ($7.50) (Gluten Free)

Grilled Lamb T-Bone Australia Food & Wine

You guys look how UGLY this is. A fatty little piece of meat covered in green sludge. A delicious, lick the cardboard container clean, fatty little piece of meat covered in minty, delicious, swan dive into me green sludge. EAT THIS. I beg you. If you haven’t had mint pesto – and I actually don’t think I had before now – you need it in your life. I want to mass produce it and bathe in it. Perhaps in part because I’m just not all that familiar with Australian food (outside of Vegemite and pavlova), it tasted Moroccan or otherwise Middle Eastern to me. It refused to pose for a pretty picture but made up for it 1,000 times over by easily jumping into my top 5 at the Food & Wine Festival this year. It was perfect and I cannot wait to eat it again.

  • Lamington – Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut ($3.25) (Vegetarian)

Lamington

This is one of those rare moments when it’s okay to use the word moist. Because this is some damned good yellow cake dipped in some damned good chocolate sauce and coconut. Is it going to win prizes for inventiveness? Probably not. But it’s apparently classically Australian and if you’re in the mood for a perfect little piece of chocolate and coconut covered cake you should eat this, like yesterday. It will cure what ails you.

Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival – Hawaii Booth

You know how they say everything tastes better in Disney? Well, it does. But it tastes even better in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to live there. But while I’m relatively convinced that most of it was fairly normal food, every damned thing that I ate during my 2 week honeymoon on Maui, the Big Island, and Oahu tasted better than pretty much anything else I’d ever had. The pizza was divine. The kimchi popped. The bibimbap was a downright religious experience. The shrimp trucks… don’t even get me started on the shrimp trucks. It’s the joy of eating in a place that brightens every color and forces you into the moment. If you’ve ever eaten miracle fruit and sucked on a lemon……I’m pretty sure it’d taste just as sweet on the North Shore.

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So basically when you’re trying to serve up some Hawaiian food, you’d better do it right.

So how did Epcot do? They did good.

  • Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE(R) Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($4.75)

My only issue with this this is that it ended a few bites after I started eating it. Why is pork hitting it out of the park at F&W this year?? The pineapple chutney was SO good and the spicy mayo was more of a little kick than real spice. As far as the roll, I don’t know if it was actually King’s Hawaiian or just channeling one, but either way it was alright with me.

  • Grilled Tuna Tataki with Seaweed Salad, Pickled Cucumbers, and Wasabi Cream ($5.25)

Yes!! Here is my simple seared tuna dish – while Japan is over there serving up BLT sushi. Simple and delicious – give it a swirl in the wasabi cream sauce and eat up. The seaweed salad and pickled cucumber were mild and added the necessary texture. (Plus we all know seaweed basically gives you superpowers….)

  • Teriyaki-glazed SPAM(R) Hash with Potatoes, Peppers, Onions, and Spicy Mayonnaise ($4)

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 10.35.58 PM

I so wanted to love this. I mean – teriyaki SPAM(R)?! How fun! And judging from others I’ve spoken to and the people I’ve watched around the Hawaii booth, a lot of people *do* love it. For me, it was not a favorite. The mix of ingredients sounds amazing on paper but it just didn’t come together for me and the overall taste was a little bland. I was expecting a major punch of flavor from the description and it just didn’t get there.

  • Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Toasted Macademia Nuts ($4)

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 11.39.18 PM

Unquestionably one of my top 3 desserts at F&W this year. This is a creamy cheesecake, lightly flavored with passion fruit sauce and sprinkled with macadamia nuts that bring their typical soft texture. Unless you are vehemently opposed to any of those things, please eat this. More than once if possible. Your thighs will forgive you and your taste buds will be forever grateful.

  • Florida Orange Groves Sparkling Pineapple Wine ($6)

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 11.43.39 PM

Oh sadness. I love sparkling wine. I love pineapple. I love a pretty drink in a tall glass. And at $6, the price (for a F&W alcoholic beverage) wasn’t bad. I so wanted to love this. As always, just my most humble opinion, but this didn’t work for me. It was syrupy sweet – almost like an ice wine, but not in a good way, and I honestly had to force myself to finish it so as not to have wasted the money. Oh well. Many others will love it and plenty of other options for me.

In short, I think that so far Hawaii overall hit it out of the park more than any other booth I’ve tried so far. I didn’t love everything personally but what I did love I’d rank as among the best dishes at all of F&W.