This year at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, many tempting food choices await at the booths around World Showcase. I lucked out this year with all good selections. Accompanying us were Sue and Mark Bernstein and Ann Meier.
At World Showcase, we turned left toward Mexico. Our first stop was Lotus House at China. I got the Pan-fried Vegetable Dumplings. They were very tasty and served drizzled with a sweet sauce. I would get these again.
At the Refreshment Outpost by Africa, I got an Ice Cream Float with Tangerine soft serve ice cream and Cream Soda. It was a refreshing drink. This is always my husband’s go-to stop for a hot dog.
Potato Pancakes with homemade Applesauce were found at Germany’s Bauernmarkt Farmer’s Market stand. I thought I’d get one potato latke and ordered two portions, one for me and one for Richard. It turns out we could have shared. On each plate were two thick potato pancakes. They could have been a bit thinner and crispier, but I liked them nonetheless.
At La Isla Fresca (between France and Morocco), I had the Coconut Tres Leches: Vanilla cake soaked in oat milk, almond milk, and coconut milk with toasted coconut. Custardy taste with whipped topping and toasted coconut melted in my mouth. Oh-so-good! Perfect accompaniment was Florida Orange Groves Winery Tropical Perception White Sangria, a light white wine that wasn’t too fruity.
As always, the displays of flowers and topiary were inspiring.
The Festival of the Arts during the winter months at Epcot is always fun to attend. You can view art works on display and sample dishes at food booths around World Showcase.
Here are some of the items we tried:
Duck and Dumplings at the Artist’s Table by the American Adventure. Smoked Duck Breast, Ricotto Dumplings, Petite Vegetables, and Duck Jus. I liked the smoked duck flavor, and the meat was easy to cut. I’ve had better at higher end restaurants, though. The ricotto dumplings were interesting, almost like a potato texture.
Three-Meat Meatloafwith “Peas and Carrots” came with Green Pea Pudding, Carrot Ketchup, Shaved Carrot salad, and Snap Peas. This was a dish that appealed to my husband. He said it was “average,” meaning it wasn’t anything special to his palate. Same location as above.
Red Wine-Braised Beef Short Rib with Parsnip Puree, Broccolini, Baby Tomatoes, and Aged Balsamic at the Pastoral Palate by Germany was by far the best of the batch. The boneless meat was supremely tender and tasty as well. This one would be on my repeat list.
General Tso’s Chicken Shumai at The Painted Panda by China came with three pieces of shumai. These were tasty and enough to share. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s frozen chicken shumai and so I knew I’d like this version.
On a second visit, our friend Ann Meier had the Napoleon with Beets, Cashew-Herb Filling, Pepper-Pine Nut Sauce, and Balsamic Vinegar Caviar from the France pavilion.
Then Ann tried the Carrots Three Ways from Morocco while I had their Chicken Skewer.
Next, we’ll look forward to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. A whole new tasting experience begins March 1st with a fresh set of “outdoor kitchen” choices.
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If you’re looking for a weekend spot north of Orlando where you can kayak, canoe, and hang out by the river or in a tiki bar, Wekiva Island is the place for you. It was not the place for us old fogies. The structures had a dilapidated look about them, except for the bar that appeared much more appealing.
The café, while offering an interesting menu, looked no bigger than a food truck and had outdoor seating. Even the view wasn’t as expansive as I’d expected. It was more like a canal.
I could see the appeal for young adults but not seniors like us who prefer more atmosphere for a lunch venue. We came on a quiet weekday but I understand they can get lines of cars waiting to get in on weekends. Artists had set up their easels along the waterfront on the day we visited. A sign warned of gators and snakes so swim at your own risk if at all and don’t fall out of your boat.
We walked around the perimeter in about ten minutes. For a scene in a mystery, however, this place could serve as a model. The various buildings, including one set up as a classroom, harbored intriguing nooks and crannies.
For lunch, we drove to The Southern Deli in Apopka since I’d been wanting to try it. The food was tasty if you enjoy southern fare, but next time I’d rather go to a deli with traditional favorites like grilled cheese, tuna melt, and nova on a bagel. My meal here was chicken in BBQ sauce over cheese grits and my husband had a burger.
It’s fun to go out exploring and trying new places even if it’s a One and Done experience.
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We visited Harry P. Leu Gardens during their Dazzling Nights display, although we went during the daytime. I love to walk these grounds that remind me of a rainforest. The shady paths wind past trickling brooks and pass by a nearby lake.
The azaleas looked as though they wanted to pop out soon, but the camellias were in full bloom in all different colors. Seeing them made this visit worthwhile alone.
I was surprised at the variety of colors among the poinsettias on display.
We came upon some other interesting plants too, such as these specimens.
This one looked like it had a tongue coming out. It could easily double for a carnivorous alien plant.
We were happy to dine at Disney Springs with our children for our 46th anniversary a couple of weekends ago. It has become our tradition to visit here during the December holidays. When the kids were younger, we would go to a movie on Christmas Day at the dine-in theater for lunch, and then afterwards we’d stroll through the park festive with shops, holiday decorations, and tourists.
I always enjoy seeing the differently decorated Christmas trees as we walk through the site. Their Christmas Tree Stroll is a popular event. We were able to view many of the themed trees. See for yourself:
Nehrling Gardens is a hidden gem in Gotha, located to the west of the greater Orlando metropolitan area. Dr. Henry Nehrling purchased forty acres in 1885 to perform horticultural research. Julian and Maggie Nally bought the property in 1935. After they died, developers purchased all but the remaining six acres. The Henry Nehrling Society took charge of grounds and the historic house in 2009. Nehrling Gardens is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Florida Heritage Landmark.
We came during their annual amaryllis festival. I have a black thumb so I didn’t care about the plants, which you could buy for $10 or so, but I love to stroll along shady paths at parks. This one didn’t disappoint. The mulched walking trails require diligence, but we watched our footing and did fine.
My attention was drawn to the historical house built in the late 1880s. We noticed how it had an inviting screened porch on stilts in back.
Vendors had set up shop to sell wares during this event, and musicians played near the entrance. I didn’t realize Gotha had originally been a German colony. That would explain the food truck at the park selling German cuisine.
If you walk all the way to the back and down a slight hill, you come upon Lake Nally.
The shady paths provide for a peaceful stroll. If you’re in the area, stop by to see this garden. It reminded me of Leu Gardens in Winter Park and Fairchild Gardens in Miami, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The Space 220 Restaurant at Epcot in Disney World is an out-of-this-world restaurant. It’s so popular that it is nearly impossible to get an online reservation. We went in person on a Friday morning at 10:30 and lucked out. They had several slots available for lunch. This themed dining establishment is located next to the Mission: SPACE Pavilion. As you come into the park by Spaceship Earth, veer left toward the attractions on that side of the park.
At the designated time, we gained entry and were given boarding passes at a neon-rimmed reception desk.
From there, we lined up to ride on the space elevator. This would take us to the space station 220 miles up from Earth. A small group of us went inside. There’s a round rail in the center where we held on, with viewports at the bottom of this circle and overhead on the ceiling. With a rumbling vibration, we took off. Florida receded below as we shot toward the sky.
The station came into view above and grew larger until we docked. Here we entered a snaking utilitarian corridor. One section rotated with hydroponic vegetables reminiscent of the Land Pavilion.
A server escorted us to our table. Out the wide set of windows, we saw the curvature of Earth.
I ordered a Planetary Punch – Bacardi Silver, Malibu, Blue Curacao, Guava, and Coconut. The purple beverage bubbled and had an intriguing taste.
For $55 each, we had a two-course fixed price lunch with an appetizer and entree. Annual passholders get 10% off lunch only. Dinner is $79 and includes different choices of appetizers and entrees plus dessert. Here is the lunch menu. You can see the dinner menu here. Lunch starts at 11:30 am and Dinner at 4:00 pm. Remember that you need a reservation to Epcot for the day plus an admission ticket or pass.
I chose the Space Greens which was huge – Bibb and Red Leaf Lettuce, Honey Crisp Apples, Radish, Cornbread Croutons, Bacon Bites, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette. The lettuce was so fresh it might have been grown right there in the hydroponic garden.
My lunch was the Spaceghetti & Shrimp – Sautéed Shrimp, Spaghetti, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic Beurre Blanc. Richard had the Rocket Flame Seared Tuna – Fennel Spice-Rubbed Tuna Loin, Eggplant Caponata, Arugula, Aged Balsamic. Sue and Mark both had the Galactic Miso Salmon – Miso Glazed Salmon, Glazed Rainbow Carrots, Edamame, Celeriac Puree.
While the food was tasty, I wouldn’t return based on the meal alone, although the dinner menu is very appealing. However, the out-of-this-world space station experience would definitely be worth another visit. You can go to the lounge without a reservation if you don’t mind standing in line for a spot, but there’s limited seating and it faces away from the viewports.
As we dined, suited spacemen floated past and various spacecraft came and went. It was awesome to imagine yourself dining on a real space station. Space elevators have been elemental to science fiction novels since I’ve been reading them, and our imagination often fuels invention.
The ride down to Earth was even more exhilarating than the one up to the station. It seemed real as we jostled with movement and sped down toward the land far below. With a gentle thump, we reached the terminal and entered reality once more.
For a more immersive experience, there’s always the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Adventure. That’s a mind-blowing two-night stay in the Star Wars Universe. If not for the cost … well, maybe our kids will get there someday.
In the meantime, Space 220 Restaurant offers a stellar adventure. We were glad to enjoy it with Sue and Mark Bernstein. Next time, we’ll have to try this place for dinner.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival is the main reason we get annual passes to Disney World. It’s fun to stroll among the food booths at Epcot’s World Showcase to sample new dishes. A number of cookbooks in my collection feature previous festivals and include many of their popular dishes.
Here is what we sampled this time:
Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp at Australia with pineapple, onions, peppers, and snap peas.
Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard at Ireland
Teriyaki Chicken Bun at Japan with chicken, vegetables and teriyaki sauce.
Chesapeake Crab Slider at The American Adventure with tangy coleslaw and Cajun remoulade.
Warm Raclette Swiss Cheese with Riesling poached pears, red wine braised figs, candied pecans, honey, and cranberry toast. I liked this dish, except for the toast that was too hard to bite.
Alps Wine Flight – I liked the white wine, Huber Vision Gruner Veltliner from Austria. The rosé, Cave De La Cote Rosé Gamay from Romand was also good. I didn’t care for the red choice, René Favre Dole from Chamoson.
Flavors From Fire over by Test Track – We shared the Smoked Corned Beef on crispy potato chips with melted cheese. My blurry photo doesn’t do this dish justice, but it was delicious. It was more than enough for the two of us.