Color and flowers and fairies and butterflies. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival annually delivers a whimsical burst of nature and imagination from March until May. Never has there been a winter when a preview of spring was more appreciated!
And probably for that same reason, munching and sipping amongst the flowers sounds sublime. For me, the hit of the Festival is always the Outdoor Kitchens and their many delectable and enticing goodies. I thought I’d share my favorites with you. So, get your feed bag on and let’s take a stroll around World Showcase!
A brand-new booth this year, Venezuela is now represented in Epcot. Raves are already pouring in for this new stop; I don’t know about your palate, but the Seafood Ceviche- Shrimps, Scallops, and Grouper with mango and avocado sounds fresh and delicious to me!
Urban Farm Eats
Biggest disappointment? Ghost-pepper dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub. This year’s addition of Quinoa Vegetable “Naanwich” with Arugula Pesto sounds like a wonderful alternative.
Dole Whip with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
No sweet potato cinnamon waffle this year, but the new Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney and Sriracha Mayo sure sounds taste-worthy!
Buttercup Cottage is sadly gone this year. Not only did they always offer some tasty tea and crumpets, but it was my absolute favorite spot to sit and gaze at the incredible topiaries at (and atop) the United Kingdom. This Outdoor Kitchen may be missing, but be sure you spend some time resting in the sitting area next to the Rose & Crown Pub. Remember Peter Pan can fly, so look UP.
Fleur de Lys
Though I adore French food, this stop never did float my boat. The Kir Imperial- Sparkling wine, Chambord, and Black Raspberry Liquor- now THAT sets me sailing!
Taste of Marrakesh
The Harissa Chicken Kebab with Couscous Salad is always a winner and a frequent returnee; it is a simple but flavorful dish that is not overly spiced. It sure does go nicely with the Desert Rose- Sparkling Wine with Pomegranate Liqueur.
There are several new offerings this year, but one of the Festival favorites, the healthy fruit sushi “Frushi” has returned. Try it!
The Smokehouse: Barbecues and Brews
Just try and walk past their smoker- I dare you! The Pulled pig slider with cole slaw is a goodie (though if you go when business is slow you may end up with a slightly dried-out version.) The “Piggylicious” bacon cupcake with maple frosting and pretzel crunch is as interesting as it sounds. Order one and split it up amongst your group; a little goes a long way, and you can then forever claim an adventurous palate. Gone is the superb Magic Hat #9 (straight from my neighboring town, South Burlington, VT), but the new Maple Bacon Stout sounds incredible!
Italian food is my absolute favorite cuisine, unless it comes from this stop. In the past, most all the choices were gummy and cheesy messes. However, I have heard terrific things about the new Fior de Latte, Prosciutto e Pane di Casa- Pinwheel of Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Ciabatta Bread.
Popping Bubble Tea has been replaced by Oolong Peach Bubble Tea and sounds amazing! Gone is the Spring Pancake, but I doubt it will be missed. The new Kung Pao Bun might be a tasty replacement, but with so many enticing choices at other Outdoor Kitchens, I’d keep walking!
Jardin de Fiestas
My consistent favorite- Tacos al pastor- Corn tortilla filled with achiote-marinated pork, garnished with grilled diced pineapple, onions and cilantro and salsa verde- returns again this year! Ole!! (Personally, I still can’t cheat, and NEED to wash it down with a visit to La Cava del Tequilla for the famous Blood Orange Margarita…)
The refreshing and light Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, B&W Gourmet Farms Baby Arugula, Feta cheese and balsamic reduction remains, and with good reason. By the time you get to this Outdoor Kitchen you’ll need a dish to aid in digestion!
Meh. Unless you are craving some grapes or a tuna salad sandwich, I say skip along.
These are my favorites based on my palate and just a place for you to start. The only MUST-DO is to grab a Garden Passport and document your best-loved bites and sips; it not only makes a wonderful and free keepsake, but after one or two libations your memory might not be so rosy. Eat up!