Sunday, March 6, 2016

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival 2016

This post was updated with new food reviews on March 17, 2016

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival started earlier this week, and runs through May 30th.

For the third year in a row, gluten/wheat friendly options are marked in the Garden Passport, and for the first time, they are also noted on the large menu signs at each outdoor kitchen.  The passport contains this disclaimer, which is very similar to what you see on allergy-friendly menus at Disney World - "You may consult with a chef or special diets trained Cast Member before placing your order.  We use reasonable efforts in our sourcing, preparation and handling procedures to avoid the introduction of the named allergen into these menu choices; however, it is possible for the allergen to be introduced before the food is provided to us or inadvertently during our preparation or handling.  We do not have separate kitchens to prepare allergy-friendly menu items or separate dining areas for guests with allergies or intolerances."

The Urban Farm Eats outdoor kitchen has one gluten free option, the watermelon salad with pickled onion, B&W Gourmet Farms Baby Arugula, feta and balsamic reduction.  My daughters and I have really enjoyed this dish in past years, and plan on trying it again the next time we visit the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival.

At La Isla Fresca, they offer gluten-friendly jerk-spice grouper or chicken with mango salsa, chayote and green papaya slaw with lime-cilantro vinaigrette.  I decided to order the grouper, but was not impressed, because the grouper was fishy, and did not taste very fresh.  The menu mentions chayote and green papaya slaw, but there was a whole lot of raw onion, which overpowered the taste of everything else.

Even though they are not marked with a "GF" in the passport, the Beijing-style candied strawberries at Lotus House are still gluten free and dairy free, which was confirmed by my friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW.  Disney does not directly operate all the outdoor kitchens, so they will not mark dishes as gluten friendly unless they are in charge of those kitchens.  The outdoor kitchens at the Mexico, China, and Japan Pavilions are run by the restaurants in those pavilions, which are not Disney owned and operated, so their gluten friendly options are not marked in the passport.  A blog reader told me that the corn tortilla quesadilla at Jardin de Fiestas at Mexico is gluten free, but you should confirm that at the outdoor kitchen before ordering it.

At Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market, the one gluten-friendly option is the currywurst with paprika chips, which is roasted bratwurst with curry ketchup and paprika-spiced chips.  

I was very excited to try the Cremosa al Pistacchio at Primavera Kitchen.  This dessert, which contains pistacchio cream, strawberries and mascarpone cream, was the best dish out of the five I tried the first day we went to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival.  The second time we dined at the outdoor kitchens, I ordered two.  My daughter Katie also loved this dessert.

The smoked pork ribs with roasted corn salad are a gluten-friendly option at The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews outdoor kitchen.  The ribs were seasoned well, and were fall off the bone tender, but both my dad and I thought the corn salad was very odd tasting, so I doubt that I would order this dish again.  Gluten Free Gigi was told that the beef brisket burnt ends hash with white cheddar fondue and pickled jalapenos at The Smokehouse is gluten free without the fondue.  You can read her Epcot Flower & Garden Festival food and drink reviews here.

The Frushi at Hanami has been marked gluten-friendly in the past, and Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW confirmed that it is still gluten free.

The Frushi features fresh pineapple, strawberry, and melon rolled with coconut rice, and served with raspberry sauce, whipped cream, and toasted coconut.  Without the toasted coconut, I am a big fan of this dish.  Be sure to rub your frushi around in the raspberry sauce, which is my favorite part.  If you are looking to sample a beverage at the Hanami outdoor kitchen, Gluten Free Gigi highly recommends the Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy, which she says is one of the best drinks she has ever tasted.

The Florida Fresh outdoor kitchen features a returning favorite of ours, the shrimp and stone-ground grits with andouille sausage, sweet corn, tomatoes and cilantro.  This dish was more flavorful than I remember it being in past years, and it has quite a spicy kick.  The shrimp and grits is my favorite savory dish of the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival this year.

Florida Fresh also offers a gluten friendly kale salad with dried cherries, almonds, goat cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette.  Because I do not like goat cheese, I asked for it to be left off.  I enjoyed this salad, but thought it was a little bland, which I am sure would not be the case if I had ordered it with goat cheese.

I ordered the fresh-squeezed watermelon juice, which has been a favorite of ours at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in past years.  I was told that it is 100% watermelon juice, with nothing else added.

Florida Fresh also has a non-alcoholic watermelon cucumber slush, which I confirmed is gluten friendly.

My daughters were split on this one.  Katie really liked it, but Emma did not.

Fleur de Lys offers two gluten-friendly options - pulled duck confit with braised flageolet beans, and a large raspberry macaron with chocolate fudge and raspberry jam.  The macaron is not marked as a gluten-friendly option in the passport, but that was an omission.  It is clearly marked with a "GF" on the sign at the Fleur de Lys outdoor kitchen.

The Cider House outdoor kitchen, located at the United Kingdom Pavilion, features two gluten-friendly dishes - Land-harvested field greens with apples, dried blueberries, stilton cheese and apple cider vinaigrette, and a freshly baked lemon scone with creme fraiche and mixed berries.  Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW confirmed that the scone is made with Cup4Cup flour.

I have always been amazed by Disney's commitment to making everyone's vacation a magical one, and this gluten free scone is an incredible example of that.  Cup4Cup is my favorite gluten free all-purpose flour, because you would never know the baked goods I make with it are gluten free, and this scone was no exception.  The texture and taste were amazing, and I loved that it was served with mixed berries, though I passed on the creme fraiche.  I prefer the scones I make at home with Cup4Cup, but the scone I had today at Disney was pretty incredible.  The Cider House also has several cider options if you are looking for a gluten free beverage.

You can view some more food photos, and see what dishes are both gluten free and dairy free at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival on my friend Sarah's blog Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW.  You can also check out her video reviews here.

What are your favorite gluten-friendly options at this year's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival?


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