Florida Fresh – 2013 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Florida Fresh

Florida Fresh

Florida Fresh is located to your immediate left after you enter World Showcase (it’s in front of one of the lagoons with floating flowers and the Odyssey). This actual structure has been employed during the Food & Wine Festival for the Florida Local booth (last year it was between the America pavilion and the Japan pavilion). Again, there were no clearly defined tables (it’s really nice when there are, but we understand that there are space limitations at work), there were some standing tables across the walkway – mostly in the direct sun and heat.

A look inside...

A look inside…

The educational poster was about “Sweet Corn” – some of this we already knew. Did you know that corn is one of the three sisters of Native American “agriculture” (here)? It’s companion planting of corn, beans, and squash.

Learn about Sweet Corn...

Learn about Sweet Corn…

The listed featured plantings are Bell Pepper, Orange, and White Corn… Nick took photos of what we could identify in the planters…

Florida Fresh Epcot Flower and Garden Festival 2013 - 04

By this point of the Flower & Garden Festival, the planters are looking rather lush

Florida Fresh Epcot Flower and Garden Festival 2013 - 05

A tomato plant with green tomatoes that are slightly bigger than golf balls

Florida Fresh Epcot Flower and Garden Festival 2013 - 06

“Did you know?” … Watermelon facts (watermelon features prominently in one of the dishes from Florida Fresh)

Look! A rather strange looking orange

Look! A rather strange looking orange

A close-up of the tomato

A close-up of the tomato – can you say “fried green tomatoes”?

Bell Pepper

Bell Pepper label, amongst the strawberries and the carrot tops

Strawberries!

Strawberries! unripe to be sure

The menu…

Menu for Florida Fresh

Menu for Florida Fresh

Now, I had already tried the two wines when Al & Judy were visiting (Thank you for the treat Judy). I didn’t care for either one. The carrot wine (40 Karat) was just kind of strange and the tomato wine (Hot Sun) seemed like it would make a better Bloody Mary than a glass of wine. So, this go round, we skipped the wines.

In keeping with our goal of trying all of the food items (well, it seemed more manageable than the Food & Wine Festival when we decided to do it!) – we started with the Watermelon Salad and the Shrimp & Grits.

Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro

Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes and Cilantro

Our first observation… there’s quite a bit of grease in here.

Grease

Grease

These shrimp were waayyy over-cooked and had too much black pepper for nick’s liking. I thought that the flavor was good and I really liked the texture of the grits and the snap of the corn. Although it isn’t mentioned in the official description, this is where the featured bell pepper was incorporated into the menu.

Another view of the Shrimp & Grits

Another view of the Shrimp & Grits

Honestly, we’re more accustomed to Carolina Shrimp and Grits – it usually doesn’t contain andouille sausage, corn, or green peppers. In our experience it was usually a breakfast item, grits & shrimp & red-eye gravy & maybe some bacon or ham. This isn’t to say that we don’t like shrimp & grits done differently, but this dish was a pretty poor execution – especially the actual cooking of the shrimp (sure as heck don’t worry about getting undercooked seafood at the food booths around Epcot!).

Next item, the Watermelon Salad…

Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, BW Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, BW Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Nick REALLY liked this dish. First of all, the balsamic reduction & feta cheese reminded him of a happy memory – he said that he got a happy endorphin rush from it. After I tasted the salad, I knew exactly when & where he was thinking of… We have a friend that lives on the North Carolina Coast and we used to go visit her a few times a year, she’s the person who used to make us huge salads with chunks of feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Oh! And he said that the watermelon was GOOD.

More Watermelon Salad

More Watermelon Salad

I really liked how the pickled onions added a sour balance. This dish was really fantastic and if we’d had it at the beginning of the festival, I think we’d have stopped for it over and over again. Definitely a home run!

Now, it was time for dessert…

Angel Food Cake with macerated Florida berries

Angel Food Cake with macerated Florida berries

Basically, it’s strawberry shortcake with angel food. The angel food cake was much sweeter than expected…

view from the other side

view from the other side

The top of the small cake was very crusty. Baker that I am, I suspect that they used a cake recipe with a HIGH sugar content.

interior of Angel Food cake

interior of Angel Food cake

Personally, we think that Angel Food Cake was a poor choice, it’s really difficult to cut in the best of circumstances (have you ever seen an Angel Food Cake server?) and trying to eat it with a plastic knife and fork was nearly impossible. The strawberries weren’t overly sweet. All in all, it wasn’t really that good… pretty much run of the mill.

Nick remarked that we’d been spoiled by the Oneida Indians… Story… When we lived in Upstate New York, we’d stop at the Oneida Indian Smoke Shop because it was about half way on our drive typically and because they had a wonderful diner style restaurant. I can only remember two things that we ate there… Biscuits and Gravy (very, very good biscuits & gravy) with eggs over easy on top AND Strawberry Shortcake. The Strawberry Shortcake was made with the same wonderful biscuits, fresh flavorful strawberries with nothing but a little sugar on them, and fresh whipped heavy cream with a touch of vanilla… OMG my mouth is watering…

Final Thoughts…

We’d be very likely to order the Watermelon Salad if we saw it on the menu somewhere (hint hint, what about offering it at Liberty Inn in the America Pavilion? or what about Sunshine Seasons?)

I’m getting mighty tired of overcooked seafood (specifically shell fish) at the booths. For goodness’ sake, if street vendors can get it right, why can’t these food booths? Is it a food safety thing? or do the “cooks” (I don’t dare call them all chefs) just not know when shrimp are done? Especially if they’re going to sit in a heated environment and then be covered in a hot “gravy”, sheesh.

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