The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is going on now, from March 1st to May 29, 2017. This year saw the addition to two new Outdoor Kitchens, bringing the total up to fifteen. There’s of course the more than 70 topiaries, most based on beloved Disney characters. And it wouldn’t be a garden festival without the gardens. Epcot is truly a beautiful place this time of year. And remember, the festival is included with general admission!
After visiting twice already since the festival began, and eating my way around the world both times, I can say there’s some fantastic food and drink options available this year. Many are returning favorites, but there’s some new offerings as well, including the delicious Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer from La Isla Fresca (pictured above.) With a few more months of festival remaining, I’m sure I’ll be stopping by at least once more to try a few more bites that I skipped on my last trips. And there’s a couple things that were so good I’m going to have to go back for seconds.
For now, please check out the video and my full coverage below of every outdoor kitchen and topiary from this year’s event, plus an in-depth look at the merchandise and some of the gardens as well. If you’re looking for the full food menu and concert lineup, check out our complete festival guide!
The Festival Center is located in Future World between Mission: SPACE and Universe of Energy. (It’s the former location of Body Wars, but back then was called the “Wonders of Life” pavilion.) The Festival Center is your first stop for festival info, merchandise, special seminars and how-to demonstrations, and more. While the festival is open every day of the week, keep in mind that the Festival Center is only open Friday through Sunday.
I’ve already visited twice and sampled over two dozen foods and drinks (and I cannot wait to go back and try some more!) The fifteen outdoor kitchens are located throughout World Showcase and offer a great variety of options. They range in price from $3 to $12 (with the alcoholic mixed drinks being on the higher end.) Many of the food items are also available as Disney Dining Plan snack credits too. Check out the photos below as well as my personal thoughts on the foods I’ve tried. Visit our previous post to see the full lists of food menus.
Urban Farm Eats in Showcase Plaza offers one of the new foods for 2017, the Crabless Cake with Crispy Vegetable Slaw, Lemon Vinaigrette and Old Bay Remoulade. The Crabless Cake has the same texture as a crisp veggie burger and the taste wasn’t anything special, but luckily the Old Bay Remoulade was tasty so the dish wasn’t a complete waste. The Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragoût, Spring Vegetables and Fingerling Potatoes was absolutely delicious. Best thing here. And the Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions was great as well, (and I especially liked the pickled onions on top.)
Moving on to Northern Bloom in Canada, originally I was super excited to try the Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, but unfortunately it ended up letting me down. The scallops were shown with a nice sear in all the released photos, but mine ended up squishy with absolutely no sear. And the green beans were completely raw, which wasn’t entirely terrible given they were in a vinaigrette, but it wasn’t at all what I expecting. The Beef Tenderloin Tips with Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce and Whipped Potatoes wasn’t much better. The sauce tasted amazing, the potatoes were good, but the cut of meat I got was not the best; a little fatty and underwhelming. To drink I had the Maple Popcorn Shake (non-alcoholic version.) It was quite nice, very smooth, with a vanilla-like flavor, and topped with caramel corn. I still want to try the version with alcohol, which includes maple flavored Crown Royal, and I hear is really good.
Next up in the United Kingdom, Cider House offers what might be my favorite dish at the festival, the Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Branston Dressing. Maybe I was just in the mood for some good old corned beef and cabbage, but this dish really hit the spot. It was a huge portion too, not bad for $5.50. The cider brine works well with the cabbage. The dressing goes great over the meat. All in all a great dish. We tried the Cider Flight on my second visit and all three were great! The big winner though was the McKenzie’s Black Cherry Hard Cider, and we even picked up a 6-pack of it from Total Wine on the way home.
Moving on to France, I tried a couple things from Fleur de Lys that I hadn’t tried in previous years, but were not new this year. The Alsatian Onion Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Puff Pastry Crust was quite yummy, but much less onion-y than I was expecting, (which might be a plus for most people.) And the Raspberry Macaron with Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry Jam was so rich I really wish I had someone else there to share it with. Great flavors, just deceivingly filling.
I haven’t tried anything from Florida Fresh yet, but there’s a Key Lime Tart with my name on it. I haven’t had anything from Taste of Marrakesh yet either, but I’ve tried their Baklava in the past and it’s a scrumptious treat. I did try the Frushi from Hanami in Japan, and I wasn’t that impressed. This is certainly a good-looking dessert, but not as sweet as I think it should be. It’s made of fresh pineapple, strawberry and melon rolled with raspberry coconut rice, but unfortunately the rice just wasn’t sweet enough to really call it a dessert. The whipped cream on the side helped, and it’s still worth trying once, but not as good as I was hoping.
THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews at the American Adventure Pavilion had the longest line when I visited, and I’m guessing the popularity of the returning Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash had something to do with it. Mine was not very good though. Maybe they were rushing the food to help get the line down, but both the hash and my Pulled Pig Slider did not come out that great. The hash was not at all warm. And the bun for the slider was hard as a rock. Luckily there were squirt bottles of tasty barbecue sauce to pour over the dishes which made them more palatable. I’m hoping I caught them on an off day. Having said that, the Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce was absolutely incredible. And unlike the hash, was actually served warm. That’s something I’ll be getting again. And maybe next time I’ll try the Smoked Pork Ribs too. They looked much better than the other dishes coming out.
I was able to sample the Antipasto Misto from Primavera Kitchen in Italy. This cold Italian appetizer sampling includes Cerignola Olives, Sweet Soppressata and Salami, Ovolini, Mozzarella, Sweet Roasted Peppers and Ciabatta Bread. For only $6 it’s a good snack and a nice gateway into Italian meats and olives without getting into anything too out there. The Meatball Parmigiana here looked amazing as well, but haven’t had the chance to try it just yet.
The Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries from Lotus House in China is something you have try at least once. It’s certainly unique with crispy clear candy shell over fresh strawberries and covered in sesame seeds. The sesame seeds add a flourish of Asian flavor to this otherwise simple dish. We also tried the Kung Fu Punch, with Vodka, Triple Sec, Mango and Orange Juice, which certainly packs a punch. And I had the Oolong Mango Bubble Tea (originally listed as Peach on the menu.) The bubble tea was unique with lots of tapioca pearls floating in it, but I didn’t realize it was made with green tea, which I am not a big fan of, so I did not finish it. (I did however eat all the tapioca pearls out of it with a spoon, cause I’m weird like that.)
Some of the best things I’ve tasted were from La Isla Fresca in Showcase Plaza. The Caribbean Conch Salad with Avocado, Mango and Onions is a great mix of some of my favorite things all in one bowl. It’s crisp and light (which can be nice after trying so many heavy dishes in the hot sun all day.) The Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro was a nice surprise with great flavor and a much better meat texture than the dish from Northern Bloom. The rice that came with the beef was simple, but nice and filling.
Besides the corned beef from Cider House, I have to say the Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer with Steamed Rice and Coconut Lime Sauce was the only other dish that hit it out of the park for me this year (so far.) The shrimp were much larger than you normally see in festival dishes. The flavors were all amazing. And I’m not usually a big fan of coconut milk flavor, but the sauce was perfect on this dish and complimented the rice perfectly, which was a nice generous portion. This was not only a great dish, but I think it’s a fair price as well at $6.50.
TOPIARIES AND GARDENS
While sampling foods and drinks can be fun, I’ve always loved seeing the topiaries most of all. Not only are there a few new entries to this year’s lineup, but many classic topiaries are offering more brilliant colors this time around. I hope this trend continues. When the festival began topiary displays were all green, but over time more colors and different plant materials have been introduced, helping to bring beloved Disney characters to life more than ever before! Of course there’s also many walk-through gardens, and the infamous “Festival Blooms” and “Floating Gardens” along the water that separates Future World and World Showcase as well.
Future World Topiaries and Gardens
World Showcase Topiaries
This is one of my favorite times of the year. The flowers, food, and topiary displays really bring Epcot to life during the Flower and Garden Festival! I hope you enjoyed our coverage of this year’s event. I can’t wait to go back and sample some more tasty dishes, and with the festival running until May 29, 2017, there’s still plenty of time. Be sure to watch the video for even more gardens and topiaries and stay tuned for more theme news and events coverage!
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