The 2015 All in WDW “Food” & Garden Festival FINAL Top 15! The TOP 10!

And … we’re back!

My tour through Epcot’s 2015 “Food” & Garden cuisine is, pretty much, at an end.  I hope yours is just beginning!  Plan a trip!  There’s so much festival time left!

Click on the dish’s name to see my actual “Flash Reports”!

Where did we leave off? Oh, yeah …

#10 – Osaka Salmon Sushi – Hanami (Pre-Festival: #13)

I do love my sushi.  A simple dish, I felt the portion size was a bit small for sharing.  Having said that, even though I would have preferred tuna, this was quite enjoyable.

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#9 – Seafood Ceviche – Botanas Botánico (Pre-Festival: #14)

A very refreshing item!  The seafood – shrimp, scallop, and grouper – was very fresh.  The veggies were perfectly crisp.

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The best part of this recipe was the proportion of protein to vegetable.  What I mean is that the veggies, as they should, let the seafood be the “star”.

Well done, Botánico!

#8 – Achiote-marinated Pork Corn Tortilla – Jardin de Fiestas (Pre-Festival: #11)

Once again, for me, the corn tortilla tarnishes this taco.  The pork, itself, was very tasty … even if my particular serving was a bit on the cold side.

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Construct this dish with a flour tortilla, and I’d be “all in”!

#7 – Teriyaki Curry Bun – Hanami (Pre-Festival: Unranked)

Yes, unranked coming in, this item was amongst Epcot’s biggest “Food” & Garden surprises. At least to me, that is.

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I was frightened off of this recipe because I just didn’t like the overly-sweet Teriyaki Chicken Steamed Bun that Japan served at last Fall’s Food & Wine.

As a result, I only sampled this delight at the urging of WDW Main Street’s Dennis Conroy.  Great call, Dennis.  It was quite good!

#6 – Watermelon Salad – Florida Fresh (Pre-Festival: #12)

Because it lacks a centerpiece protein, I always underestimate this dish.  As a result, it often lands in the bottom of my Top 15.  Well, in 2015, it gets the credit it deserves.

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This is one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever eaten.  The balsamic is the best I’ve ever tasted.  The flavors meld in a way that’s utterly symphonic.

In short, everyone should try this dish at least once!

#5 – Pulled Pig Slider – The Smokehouse (Pre-Festival: #1)

The mighty two-time “Food” & Garden “champ” has fallen.  My first serving in 2015 was cold and dry.  And, even though my second and, yes, third tries were much better, inconsistency was this one’s demise.

In fact, before I left Epcot, I finally found the best way to enjoy this former “king”.  Meet Billy’s Chilies Beer.  It washes any dryness of the bun and pork right down.

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#4 – Ghost Pepper-dusted Tilapia – Urban Farm Eats (Pre-Festival: #2)

As in 2014, a pleasantly spicy dish.  The portion size was still quite generous.  The slaw was crisp and refreshing.

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The only warning I would have is this … the spice on the tilapia tends to mix with the dressing on the slaw to produce a bit of an orange-colored splash hazard.

Be very careful.  I wasn’t … twice.  I ended up in the restroom washing orange “dots” out of my white polo.

#3 – Shrimp and Stone-ground Grits – Florida Fresh (Pre-Festival: #3)

I have to give Dennis Conroy of WDW Main Street most of the credit for this dish’s description.

After all, he called Florida’s shrimp and grits a “destination dish”.  What did he mean?  You can proudly tell someone to specifically visit Epcot’s World Showcase to sample this delight.

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For my part, I don’t know where to start.  Generous sized shrimp, spicy andouille, crunchy vegetables, and phenomenal taste.  That’s what this masterpiece adds up to … all sorts of fabulous!

#2 – White Corn Arepa with Braised Beef - Botanas Botánico (Pre-Festival: #7)

In truth, stealing the “thunder” from Dennis a bit, in my mind, any of “my” Top 3 dishes can be called a “destination dish”.  Botánico’s Colombian arepas surely qualified.

Its braised beef filling presented the best flavor in the entire festival, as far as my palate was concerned.  But, that’s not the only reason why it screamed to the top of my chart.

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Mrs. All in WDW and I had the pleasure of sampling this delicacy while in the company of one of our friends – a young lady from Colombia.  Her verdict?  “Spot on perfect!”

Great work, Epcot!

#1 – Kung Pao Chicken Bun – Lotus House (Pre-Festival: #4)

And, finally, introducing a new “champion”, China scores again!  Congratulations to the Kung Pao Chicken Bun!

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Going into the festival, I said … “This dish is my ‘dark horse’.  If you’ve followed me for long, you know that I just love China’s steamed buns.

In fact, according to my palate, their Mongolian Beef won the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in 2013.

I’m also quite fond of Kung Pao Chicken.  Kung Pao.  Steamed bun.  This one could be a big winner!”

Well, win big, it did!  If you ask me what one thing you should try at this year’s “Food” & Garden “party”, China’s steamed bun would also win my recommendation.  Hand’s down!

Fantastic performance, China!  Job well done!

There you have it, folks!  “Food” & Garden ’15?  In the books!  If you get a chance to attend this festival, let us know what you liked … and what you didn’t.  We’d love to hear it!

The 2015 All in WDW “Food” & Garden Festival FINAL Top 15! It FINALLY Begins!

Yes, finally!  You see, this is what happens to me.  I get in the middle of a “series” of posts (i.e. “Food” & Garden) and, then, March Madness happens.

Well, we had fun with the Magic Kingdom polls, yes?  Good.  Get your voting “muscles” ready, my friends.  The WDW poll is only days away!

So, before I let that “tourney” distract me from the conclusion of All in WDW’s “Food” & Garden coverage, let’s dive into the FINAL Top 15.  First, the …

Dishonorable Mentions

Sorry, Morocco.  You did it to yourself.  And, even though I liked your falafel less than your kebab, I’d have to say that the chicken was the bigger disappointment.  It was great in 2014.

2014's delicious kebab.

2014’s delicious kebab.

2015's disappointing kebab.

2015’s disappointing kebab.

Simple comparison of the two years, though, and I have to judge 2015 as a huge step backwards.  Try again.

And, when it comes to the falafel, I don’t know what to say.  How about, “Stay far away”!

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Click on the dish’s name to see my actual “Flash Reports”!

Honorable Mentions

On the other hand, I found slightly pleasant surprises in Italy.

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Pre-festival, my expectations weren’t high at all.  As executed, however, both of their dishes were more than acceptable.

That’s big praise from me, too, when you think about how much I’ve criticized Italy since they made the ill-fated Food & Wine Ravioli decision of 2014.

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I liked the naan.  The pesto was all right but layered on a little bit thick.  The cheese added a nice boost to the dish.

By the way, the quinoa “cake”, itself, included white beans as a filler.  I was curious and asked the chef.  Hmm.  Or, was the quinoa the filler?

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Just plain ordinary.  Honestly, an egg roll from my local Chinese take-out is just as good.  I expect more, China.

The 2015 All in WDW “Food” & Garden Festival FINAL Top 15

#15 – Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash – The Smokehouse (Pre-Festival: #5)

Keeping it simple, the ends were definitely burnt.  More burnt than my tastes … and, I like my beef well done!  In addition, it was more hash than brisket.

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No, it didn’t live up to my expectations.  And, it certainly didn’t live up to 2013-14’s Smoked Beef Brisket!

#14 – Cachapas with Farmer’s Cheese – Botanas Botánico (Pre-Festival: #9)

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This Venezuelan corn “pancake” was quite good.  But, it was just that … a corn pancake.  Good.  Not “mind-blowing”.

#13 – Parisian-style Dumplings – Fleur de Lys (Pre-Festival: Unranked)

Not a member of my Pre-Festival Top 15, I owe France’s dumplings a great debt.  They helped me knock Morocco’s Falafel Pocket into the Dishonorable Mentions!

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If you like garlic, you’ll like this dish.  The dumplings are good, but the recipe includes mushrooms.  Have I mentioned how much I “like” mushrooms? Not!

#12 – Spicy Hot Dog – Pineapple Promenade (Pre-Festival: #10)

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Love the condiments!  The spicy mayo rocks.  But, in the end, it’s just a half of a hot dog.  It couldn’t beat …

#11 – Smoked Debreziner Sausage – The Smokehouse (Pre-Festival: #8)

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… a solid serving of smoked sausage.  I’ve heard mixed reviews.  It has a very nice “spicy-ness”.  Some say it’s too hot.  I felt it was just right.  The serving, though, was pretty generous.

OK, my friends.  So, that was a start.  Tomorrow?  I’ll be back with the Top 10!

“Food” & Garden Outdoor Kitchen Menus – FULL List of Links!

It’s hard to believe that Epcot’s 2015 “Food” & Garden festival still has fifty (50) days to run!  50!  Almost two whole months!

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The “party” runs through May 17th.  In other words, there’s plenty of time to slip down to Orlando, my friends.

For a quick “one stop” reference, bookmark this page.  It’ll launch you to every “Food” & Garden menu worthy of note.  Plan your menus, folks!  Enjoy the food!

Jardin de Fiestas (Mexico)

Lotus House (China)

Florida Fresh

Primavera Kitchen (Italy)

The Smokehouse (American Adventure)

Hanami (Japan)

Taste of Marrakesh (Morocco)

Botanas Botánico

Fleur de Lys (France)

Pineapple Promenade

Urban Farm Eats

Menu “Recon”: Pineapple Promenade

One omission that I’m going to have to remedy when we return to Epcot over Easter is the fact that I neglected to sample either version of Pineapple Promenade’s rum-soaked Dole Whip.  Yum.

Having said that, this kitchen’s Spicy Hot Dog was a nice little snack.

Of course, when it came to the dish, it was less about the “dog” and more about the condiment.  Their spicy mayo topping is outstanding!

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Spicy Hot Dog

All in WDW’s Recommendation: “Just OK.”

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Menu “Recon”: Fleur de Lys (France)

If you like the smell of garlic, hang around the Fleur de Lys Outdoor Kitchen.  Garlic permeates … well, it permeates everywhere!

I wasn’t fond of France’s duck in 2014, so I left it off my 2015 menu.  I have to confess … in spite of that, I still sampled one little taste.  Still not a fan.

Their Parisian-style Dumplings weren’t on my original menu either, but, then I experienced Morocco.  Frankly, I had some of the dumplings just so I didn’t have to include Taste of Marrakesh’s Falafel Pocket in my Final Top 15.

Thanks for the “save”, Fleur de Lys!

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Parisian-style Dumplings

All in WDW’s Recommendation: “Just OK.”

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