Today is the opening of the 2016 edition of the Epcot International Flower & Garden. Just wondering: Does Epcot ever host anything that isn’t international? Could we have an Epcot National Flower & Garden Festival? Or how about the Epcot Statewide Flower & Garden Festival? That one could feature only vegetation grown in silty, sandy soil with displays of tomatoes pecked by birds and cucumbers devastated by pickle worms. Don’t get me started on pickle worms.
But the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (many thanks for not making that one only statewide). Several years ago the festival planners decided to add a food element. It made sense because many things we ingest do, in fact, originate from gardens. Then the food part became more popular, because you can only look at pretty flower arrangements for so long before you think to yourself, “I could really go for a beer and beef teriyaki.”
Well, if that’s the way your mind works you’re in luck. Beer, much more than wine, it seems, is in full bloom, if you will, at this year’s festival, including some brews that will be available only within the pricey walls of the theme park. One, the Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale from Florida Beer Company even matches the theme with its flowery notes.
I was invited to a preview of some of the food and beverage offerings at this year’s fest. If you plan on attending, do seek out the Smoked Salmon Tartare on Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit at the Cider House kiosk. (Like the Food & Wine Fest, this event features kiosks, called Outdoor Kitchens officially, situated around the World Showcase.) This little two- or three-bite handheld is the perfect sort of food for this situation, and the freshness of the tartare and soft biscuit are wonderful.
Another favorite of mine was the Jerk-spice Chicken with Mango Salsa Chayote at La Isla Fresca, one of the new kitchens this year.
Although the festival’s web page says that the Bauernmarkt is new this year, it is actually returning from 2013. Here you can sample one of the most famous street foods served all over Berlin: Currywurst. I call it curiouswurst, because I can’t image why people go gaga, or whatever the German term would be, for what is essentially a couple of slices of a wiener with some spiced ketchup squirted on. That said, the currywurst (pictured above) that I sampled here was just as authentic as the several I have tried on my trips to Germany.
The kitchen in front of the France pavilion is called Fleur de Lys, which, thanks to my recent efforts to learn French, translates to Flower de Lys (it’s still early in my tutoring). Here, they’re serving macarons, but not those delicate little cookies the size of, well, a salmon tartare sandwich — these look like pink burgers. But they’re so much better, of course.
You’ll also find Seared Pork Tenderloin (Urban Farm EATS; also try their Urban Mary, the head-scratching name for its Bloody Mary); Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash (The Smokehouse); and, oh look, Shrimp & Grits (yawn) (Florida Fresh). And lots lots more.
The Flower & Garden Festival runs almost to the end of May. For some reason it ends on May 30, like it would have been too much to extend to the 31st. But then they also could have started on March 1 instead of March 2. As with everything Epcotian, admission to the park is required. With the new surge pricing strategy, I guess you’ll have to “check local listings,” as they say. Food and drinks (yes, there are plenty of wine options) are priced separately. And there’s a whole lot of other things to do besides eat, drink and fawn over flora. Here’s the link to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival website I mentioned.