Saturday, March 8, 2014

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival 2014

Today, we went to Epcot for the first weekend of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which runs through May 18th.  

The topiary displays are always impressive!  

We also love to look at all the flowers and visit Tinker Bell's Butterfly House.  

Earlier this week, I learned that gluten free food items at the outdoor kitchens were labeled in the Garden Passport that is available at all the food booths.  I was so incredibly excited that Disney took this step to help their guests that eat gluten free.  I hope they continue this tradition in the fall with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

The Fleur de Lys outdoor kitchen at the France Pavilion has two gluten free options.  

At this first booth, I did something I wouldn't normally do.  I ordered the Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes.  I love beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and fish, but I don't eat veal, duck, rabbit, bison, and venison because I start to think of Bambi and Thumper....I think you get the picture.  Partly, I did it for you, my blog readers, but I also thought I might like duck this time around.  Well, after a couple of bites, this dish got passed off to my girls, who happily ate it until they heard it was duck, then it got passed off to my husband to finish.  He liked it, and so did my girls until they found out what it was!  :-)

I was very excited to see that the orange blossom macaron with white chocolate ganache was labeled gluten free.  I loved the raspberry macaron I sampled a few weeks ago at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie in the France Pavilion.  The presentation was a little off because of the cracks, but the macaron was very enjoyable, and I would definitely order this dessert again.   

The Hanami outdoor kitchen near the Japan Pavilion offers one gluten free option, the Frushi (pineapple, strawberries and melon rolled with coconut rice, served with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and whipped cream on the side).  I tried to convince my daughters and husband to try it for you, but I had no luck, and I don't eat coconut.  Hopefully I can convince my GFF Shelley to try it, and provide a picture and review for you.  

I ordered both of the gluten free options at The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews at The American Adventure Pavilion.  The smoked turkey ribs weren't much to look at, but they were very tasty.  

The smoked beef brisket with collard greens and jalapeno corn bread was labeled gluten free, but I learned that was a typo when I asked about the corn bread, which contains flour.  The chef I spoke to told me that the brisket and collard greens were gluten free, along with the barbeque sauces they had at the condiments table.  

At Primavera Kitchen at the Italy Pavilion, I ordered the Caprese.  

Caprese is typically made with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and salt, but this dish contains Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Roasted Peppers, and Olio Verde.  This Caprese is almost exactly like a dish offered at Tutto Italia, but it is lacking the Maldon Sea Salt.  I enjoyed this dish, but it really needed some salt.  Last night, I posted my Caprese recipe and my copycat of this dish called Roasted Sweet Mini Peppers with Buffalo Mozzarella.  

At Florida Fresh, next to the Germany Pavilion, I ordered both of the gluten free menu items.  I enjoyed the shrimp and stone ground grits with Andouille sausage, sweet corn, tomatoes and cilantro.  This dish would have been shrimp and grits perfection if there had been some cheese in the grits.  

I sampled very little of the watermelon salad with pickled onions, BW Farm baby arugula, feta cheese and balsamic reduction because my daughters got their hands on it and ate most of it.  I did manage to taste every element of this dish before they scarfed it down, and it is something I would definitely order again.  It was delicious!

Lotus House, near the China Pavilion, has one gluten free item, the Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries.  

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn't this.  The strawberries had a super crunchy sugary coating that was actually pretty good.  

By the time we made it to Jardin de Fiestas near the Mexico Pavilion, I was feeling very full, but I had to try the Taco al Pastor (corn tortilla filled with achiote marinated pork garnished with grilled diced pineapple, onions and cilantro).  I am so glad I tried the Taco al Pastor, because it was definitely my favorite dish of the day.  I will be heading straight to this booth on my next visit.  :-)

As we finished up our walk around the World Showcase, I spotted Urban Farm Eats.  All three of the food options at this booth are gluten free.  On our next visit, I won't be ordering the pickled beet salad with goat cheese cream, mizuna and pistachios because I don't eat goat cheese, but I would love to try the ghost pepper dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man's Kick It Up Rub.  I might also order the land-grown eggplant "scallop" with romesco sauce and spaghetti squash, even though I am not a huge fan of eggplant.   

At Urban Farm Eats, we did order the cucumber lemon spa water.  It made me miss the fresh watermelon juice from the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last year.  It was refreshing after a long, hot walk around the World Showcase, but I was hoping for something a little tastier.  

I would appreciate any feedback about your experiences at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.  Please comment below.  

My friend Sarah from Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW was also at the Flower & Garden Festival today checking out gluten free and dairy free options.  You can read her review of Jardin de Fiestas here.    

March 23, 2014 Update

Today, we visited the Urban Farm Eats outdoor kitchen first.  It's located near the main entrance to the World Showcase from Future World.  I love that all three food items are gluten free, so I don't need to worry about cross contamination.  The ghost pepper dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man's Kick It Up Rub was amazing!  There was nothing about this dish that I didn't like.  The fish was cooked perfectly and complemented so nicely by the slaw.  This might be my new favorite dish for 2014.  

My GFF (gluten free friend) Shelley ordered the pickled beet salad with goat cheese cream, mizuna and pistachios, which I won't eat because I am not a fan of goat cheese.  She said it might have been her favorite dish of the day.  Shelley describes it as a very creamy goat cheese topped with greens, tossed in a light but flavorful vinaigrette, with crushed pistachios and pickled beets, that were fairly soft with a mild flavor.  We both decided to skip the land-grown eggplant scallop because I have only read poor reviews about this dish.

Shelley and her family raved about the Frushi at the Hanami outdoor kitchen near the Japan Pavilion, and liked it so much, her husband Eddie went back and bought two more, including one without toasted coconut for me.  The Frushi is pineapple, strawberries and melon rolled with coconut rice, served with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and whipped cream on the side.  I am so glad I tried this dish.  It was delicious, and the presentation was beautiful!  

When we stopped at Pineapple Promenade to order some pineapple soft serve for my mother-in-law, I asked if the soft serve and/or the frozen desert violet lemonade featuring Simply Lemonade were gluten free.  Even though Dole Whip is gluten free, I was told the pineapple soft serve is not.  Because it was so hot and other people in line were raving about the lemonade, I decided to try it after finding out it was gluten free.  It was pretty good, and so refreshing on a sunny Florida day.


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