The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival gets better every year, and for me the best addition to recent festivals has been the FOOD! Food booths, called ‘outdoor kitchens’ highlight each area of the festival, allowing guests to taste and experience each area with ALL of the senses.
The food is totally different from the offerings during Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest, drawing inspiration from the signature crops of each country. The lines are still short enough to sample all the delicious offerings, since word hasn’t gotten out everywhere about the new Outdoor Kitchens. I spent a sunny springtime Sunday exploring every part of the Festival, trying a variety of food and taking photos for gardening inspiration.
We started our trip around the world with the new-for-2014 Urban Farm Eats booth. This booth is focused on all-natural menu items, many of which have been cultivated entirely from the soil.
My beet-loving friend enjoyed the Pickled beet salad with goat cheese cream, mizuna and pistachios. The beets were nice and crisp, and the contrast of crushed pistachios on top made the dish very interesting.
The ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil pleasantly surprised me, since I often find tilapia a bit bland. This was definitely the most complex and balanced tilapia dish I’ve experienced, and I was wowed by the cool slaw, balancing the heat of the fish. Unfortunately, we were not at all fond of the eggplant “scallop” with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash. I LOVE scallops and when I asked the booth manager, he said this dish is just like a scallop. I can now say that eggplant does NOT taste like scallops. We didn’t let this stop us though, and we moved onward to find things more to our taste.
We quickly forgot all about that slippery ‘scallop’ by the time we arrived at the Pineapple Promenade next door. The much-vaunted Pineapple Dole Whip Soft Serve with Myers’s Dark Rum lived up to its reputation as a must-try at Epcot. We were in heaven, also sampling the sweet potato cinnamon waffle with pineapple soft serve. It was a perfect waffle, soft and moist inside with a crisp crust. I could happily eat a dozen of these! The Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade is also a must try, as the flavors remind one of something I’d imagine a fairy would drink. Lightly floral and very sweet, it’s a good one to share, since the flavor is intense.
The United Kingdom Buttercup Cottage booth was my absolute favorite. Every dish we sampled was divine. A savory baked potato and cheddar cheese biscuit was topped with smoked salmon tartare, and the pork and apple sausage roll was enveloped in a decadent pastry. My friends had been raving about the lemon scones, and they were right. The flaky, light textured pastries tasted sublime dipped in berry preserves and crème fraiche.
My other favorite Outdoor Kitchen was Italy, where we savored a White Peach Bellini, made with Prosecco and white peach puree, and a Strawberry Rossini that paired Prosecco with marinated strawberries. The kitchen’s twist on Caprese paired Fior di latte mozzarella with roasted peppers and olio verde was a mouthwatering combination!
There are lots beautiful new topiaries to enjoy this year, including a very realistic one of Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy from the Muppets. In honor of Miss Piggy, the American BBQ Food booth offers a Piggylicious bacon cupcake. These pork-filled cakes are topped with maple frosting and and pretzel crunch featuring Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon. We also loved exploring the Twining’s Tea Garden in the English section of the park. It was a lot of fun to see examples of the plants that our favorite tea ingredients come from.
One of my favorite things about the Epcot Flower and Garden festival is getting container gardening ideas from the displays. I love finding new plant pairings that can make my herb and vegetable gardens look pretty, while they produce delicious produce for my family. This year, I especially liked the herb towers and the raised beds, with colorful annuals as borders. If you’re planning a visit to the Festival, be sure to bring a good camera, since you’ll want to capture Mother Nature’s glorious displays in full bloom. I can’t wait to go back again and try more of the delicious food and experience the evening concerts. There’s so much to explore at this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden festival!