Saturday, November 18, 2017
Things To Do

Best things to eat and drink at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

RECOMMENDED READING


If you still think theme park fare is limited to hot dogs and turkey legs, think again.

Increasingly at Florida theme parks, and especially at the four on Walt Disney World property, food is an important part of the experience.

That comes through at the 23rd Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, running now through May 30 in Orlando, a record 90 days total. More so this year than ever before, food threatens to upstage the intricate topiaries that are scattered throughout the park.

With 13 outdoor kitchens serving up more than 30 small-plate food items (and dozens of new options), the festival is turning into a spring version of Epcot's massively popular International Food and Wine Festival, which this year runs almost two months from Sept. 14 through Nov. 14.

And even without the word "food" in its title, the dining options are top-notch, particularly the new stuff. For two hearty small plates, try the jerk-spice grouper with mango salsa and Jamaican-braised beef from the new La Isla Fresca kitchen. In the United Kingdom area of the park, the new Cider House kitchen is serving up a refreshing and complex salad, with field greens from Epcot's Land attraction and greenhouse, apples, dried blueberries, Stilton cheese and apple cider vinaigrette.

Other highlights include Urban Farm Eats' vegetable and bean sandwich on naan with arugula pesto and a quinoa-rice blend; Smoked Pork Ribs With Roasted Corn Salad from the Smokehouse; and the delicately composed Florida Larder Board, with Orlando ricotta cheese, pate and house-made pickles, from Florida Fresh. As in many restaurants these days, "local" ingredients are in vogue (many of them coming directly from the Land).

The festival offers solid drink options, too, with a lot of Florida-crafted beers and wines. The Cider House's signature cider flight is a must-try, with samplings of the alcoholic drink made from apples ranging from sweet to more complex. The flight gets you Sonoma Organic Pear Hard Cider from California, McKenzie's Black Cherry Hard Cider from New York and two from Florida: Keel & Curley's Mad Man Blueberry Hard Cider from Plant City and Cigar City Brewing's Tampa-style Lager. For this kind of setting, a cider is the ideal hard beverage, with its crisp, refreshing notes and fruity flavor.

You can also try locally brewed beers at the Smokehouse, including the Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen brewed in Oakland Park, Orlando Brewing Company's Uncle Matt's Organic Grapefruit Pale Ale, 3 Daughters Rod Bender Red Ale from St. Petersburg and Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout from Clearwater. The bacon-flavored stout goes quite well with those smoked pork ribs.

After you get your share of small plates, move on to dessert. You can't go wrong with the bright pink (and rather large) chocolate raspberry macaron from France's outdoor kitchen Fleur de Lys, and Tres Leches With Guava Puree from La Isla Fresca. But Warm Chocolate Cake With Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans from the Smokehouse (clearly one of this year's best outdoor kitchens) is one of those magical treats that hits all the right notes: sweet, salty, gooey, crunchy.

Beyond just the edibles, the Flower and Garden Festival is full of ways to learn about where your food comes from. Try one of the hands-on gardening demonstrations and seminars happening in the Festival Center, which offer useful tips for planting a garden at home and actually reaping vegetables from it.

In many ways, the Flower and Garden Festival is a nicer experience than its fall counterpart, due to shorter lines for food (at least for now), longer spring days and the bright, floral ambience — you literally can nibble on small plates while strolling through a butterfly garden.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

   
Comments
Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

Flo Rida coming to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg

In 2016, Flo Rida headlined a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium.Come January, he'll have the place all to himself.The Carol City hitmaker will top a show at Al Lang on Jan. 14. St. Petersburg. native Macy Kate will al...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.It gets tougher at night when you’re hounded by...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

Christmas in downtown Tampa as Winter Village ice rink opens

TAMPAWhile her teenage daughter and 6-year-old son glided effortlessly across the outdoor ice rink at Curtis Hixon Park on Friday, Danielle Engram, 35, stood nervously on her rented blades.This would be the lifelong Tampa resident’s first time on the...
Published: 11/17/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Published: 11/17/17
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving.   From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Published: 11/17/17
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Ideas for sidesThese recipes go beyond the traditional, with a corn casserole, Brussels sprout salad and moreSee what our food ed...
Published: 11/17/17

Making it in America, Ybor(w/video)

The first cigar rolled in Tampa’s Ybor city in 1885 marked the beginning of one of Florida’s most famed immigrant enclaves.Since it was founded by a Spaniard who emigrated to Cuba in 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor, Ybor City has morphed into one of Tamp...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17