Hope springs eternal. This is the time of year when Big League teams return to Spring Training; the sun stays up in the sky a little longer every night; and Epcot blossoms with foliage during Flower & Garden Festival. It is a sign that brighter days and nights are on the horizon, and we have never needed that type of optimism more than in 2021.
The 2021 incarnation of the festival just started on March 3rd, and it will run until the first week of July. With the long running time, and the abundance of special offerings for Flower & Garden, I will return with another blog in the next few weeks. We can go over from some more of the special food items that are available, and discuss some more of the entertainment that is ready to be enjoyed. There is certainly no shortage on either.
At the same time as Flower & Garden was starting, Epcot also debuted a new look for the entrance area in Future World. The construction walls that were blocking the pylons and fountain in front of Spaceship Earth had been removed for a few weeks, but March saw the introduction of new flags representing the different Future World pavilions. The new look of Epcot is going to focus more on those tradition pavilion logos. At night, there is also a beautiful new light fixture that wraps all the way around the lip of the awning that starts and ends at the icon of the park. The fixture changes colors with the water in the fountain. In turn, the fountain changes the color of the pylons. This is a beautiful effect. I guarantee it will have you spending a good amount of time appreciating it the next time you exit the park after sunset.
Out of all of the Epcot festivals, Flower & Garden is by far the most Instagramable. The topiaries are the stars of the show. From Belle and Beast in the France Pavilion; to Buzz Lightyear outside of Mission: Space; to a beautiful dragon underneath the gate in Japan; and even Kermit and Ms. Piggy near the U.K. Pavilion, the sheer (pun intended) craftsmanship is awesome. When you combine some gorgeous floral arrangements around the lakes separating Future World from World Showcase, you have an event that is a photographer’s dream. Here are just a few of the topiaries that can be found throughout the park.
If you have been following my blogs, you know that I have a borderline-obsession with theme park scavenger hunts. Purely to educate all of you on what is available, I found Remy during Food and Wine, Olaf during Festival of the Holidays, and Figment during Festival of the Arts. I went to Disney Springs to do the Christmas Tree Stroll. I even battled I-4 traffic to find scarecrows, holiday trees, and Mardi Gras displays at Universal Orlando Resort. Well, out of all of those different challenges, “Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration 2021” was my absolute favorite. Spike the bee is pollinating twelve different gardens in Epcot, and it is your job to find him. The map is $7.99, but annual passholders do get a discount (if you have an AP, it is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to asking about discounts).
Many of these Epcot scavenger hunts are limited to World Showcase. These missions also tend to be a little easier, so that kids don’t feel lost. Spike’s exploration can, at times, be a little difficult. Believe me, your family will still be able to complete it. You just may have to put your heads together a little more to find the little guy hoovering over some of the foliage. If you are planning on trying this challenge, make sure to note that “Tips of the Trade” is not listed in the festival passport. You will find that one in the World Showplace building between the U.K. and Canadian Pavilions. I will not tell you where to find it in the building, but it was confusing a lot of my fellow seekers. When you have found all twelve incarnations of the little bugger, you can choose from three different styles of plates. You get a two-pack of plates, but they are both the same design. I went with the Figment plates, but there are also Minnie Mouse and Spike patterns, as well. Because the festival merchandise is so exciting, I recommend getting the map at one of the kiosks in World Showcase. There were lines for every single indoor store in the early-afternoon.
You can’t blame the people who was in a hurry to get their hands on this merchandise. Like the topiaries, and the food, there is just too much quality merch to show all of it here. There are Orange Bird ears, spirit jerseys, and glasses. The Mickey Mouse annual passholder sweatshirt is fantastic. No Epcot festival would be complete without some Figment items. Disney did really bring out their A-Game with the Flower and Garden swag in 2021.
Much like Vanessa Williams, I have saved the best for last. It is time to talk about the food items available for Flower & Garden. Since I am a vegetarian, there will be no carnivorous options in this review, but I already have reservations to return to Epcot on March 22nd with my meat-eating wife, who is salivating over all of the things she will get to taste in the name of “research.”
What I tried…
Booth: Trowel & Trellis (Hosted by Impossible)
Item: Boneless Impossible Korean Short Rib – This is a 100% plant-based item. Impossible “meat” with cilantro-lime rice, Danmuji slaw, and Kimchee mayonnaise.
Review: While I really did enjoy this dish, the barbeque sauce was almost unnecessary. Impossible “meat” is good enough on its own to not need a lot of extra seasoning, and the Danmuji slaw left a little to be desired. The Kimchee mayonnaise was the start of this particular show. It really added the right touch of heat to the item. I will definitely get this again before the festival ends, but I will want to try a lot of other dishes first.
Booth: Trowel & Trellis (Hosted by Impossible)
Item: Lavender Pot de Crème – This is another 100% plant-based item. It contains blueberry cake, pink peppercorn, and lime whipped cream.
Review: This is very close to being a perfect dessert item. Epcot festivals have a knack for creating some of these treats that are sweet, but not too sweet. While I could do without the flowery flavor, it is light enough to not bother me. It is light, airy, and provides a nice contrast to the Kimchee flavor of the previous item. I would almost say that the two things should be ordered together to get full enjoyment out of both.
Booth: Refreshment Port
Item: House-Made Italian “Sausage” and Peppers Poutine – Once again, a completely vegan option. Plant-based Italian “sausage” and peppers on a bed of fries.
Review: The “sausage” is very spicy. This is a hefty dish that will give you the energy to walk around a theme park all day. The fries were extremely crispy and fresh. I even had to wait a few minutes, as the cast members wanted to make sure I was getting the freshest possible version of the offering. If you didn’t know this item was vegan, you may not even realize it when you ordered it. It is very easy to replicate the taste of sausage in a plant-based form.
Booth: Taste of Marrakesh
Item: Lemon Magdalena Cake – A plant-based dessert with lemon cake, fig compote, and sangria gel.
Review: This dessert fell a little short for me. The sangria gel was outstanding. The problem, in my opinion, was with the cake. It was too dry, and the lemon flavor tasted manufactured. Not every item is going to be your favorite. You very well may love this item, but it was my least favorite of the day.
Booth: Jardin de Fiestas
Item: Sope de Chorizo – This dish is plant-based ground chorizo on fried corn dough with black beans and avocado mousse.
Review: The absolute best item of the day. There is no way Disney could have improved on this dish. The fried corn dough tasted like a warm Frito chip. This must be the way Fritos would taste if you ate them right off the assembly line. The chorizo was solid, and had a little spice. The avocado mousse is what makes it a complete dish. All of the individual ingredients stand out on their own, while also complimenting the other ingredients. I would say this is a must-taste on your visit to Flower & Garden.