Last year, after five years in the making, outdoor kitchens debuted at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The kitchens are similar to the popular kiosks at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, which serve up appetizer-size portions of dishes from around the world that normally are not available at Epcot.
For adults, the food and beverage set-up is a no-brainer. Who doesn't like to stroll, sip and sample? But for children, it can be more of a challenge to get them to give new foods a chance. In 2013, Flower and Garden Festival organizers offered younger guests a TRYit food or beverage at each outdoor kitchen, and Deb Wills and I took my kids, who were 8 and 10 years old at the time, on a food tour around World Showcase. You can see a video -- don't miss the bloopers at the end! -- and read about our experiences on last year's blog.
This year, we took a less formal approach and decided to just let the kids eat what appealed to them at each kitchen. As they have gotten older, my children look forward to the food component of the two Epcot festivals more and more. But I think even picky eaters can find foods that appeal to them in this setting, and it's fun to help decide what the family will try. In that spirit, here are some notes from what we enjoyed this past weekend:
** My favorite, hands down: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Waffle with Pineapple Soft Serve (Dole Whip!) at the Pineapple Promenade kitchen. I love Mickey waffles and Dole Whips, so this was a perfect pairing for me. I suspect I'm not the only adult -- or child -- who will visit this kitchen for seconds.
** At the Jardin de Fiestas outside the Mexico Pavilion, we tried the Taco al Pastor (Corn Tortilla filled with Achiote Marinated Pork garnished with Grilled Diced Pineapple, Onions and Cilantro) and the Quesadilla de Hongos con Queso (Flour Tortilla filled with Mushrooms and Cheese.) Although my son steered clear of the latter dish because of the mushrooms, which can be a common issue with kids, the rest of my family really liked it. The mild flavor and cheese appealed to my daughter. The first dish was a little spicier, but not so much as to deter her or my husband.
** My daughter was already talking about the Candied Strawberries at the Lotus House when we entered the theme park, so I knew she would enjoy them again this year. The large strawberries are very ripe and juicy, and the crunchy, sweet coating makes them even more delicious. While we were at the outdoor kitchen in front of China, we also tried the Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple again, and it was surprisingly flavorful. We definitely liked it better this year. I think this dish is something that would appeal to even the pickiest of kids, who are used to eating the protein and fruit separately.
** Florida Fresh has brought back its much-talked-about Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, BW Farm Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction. If you missed it last year, don't miss it this year! The combination of the feta cheese and the watermelon is amazing, and even my daughter enjoyed the salad (minus the onions). Both kids tried the Watermelon Passion Fruit Slush at this kitchen, but didn't care for the flavor.
** At the Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, we all got our hands messy and enjoyed the Pulled Pig Sliders. (My husband and I kept the Cole Slaw on the sandwich, while our kids had theirs "naked.") My son and husband also enjoyed the Smoked Turkey Rib. Both meats have a tangier taste than, for example, the pulled pork sliders at the Hawaii kiosk of the Food and Wine Festival. Afterward, we all split the "Piggylicious" Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch. I didn't expect to like this dessert, but I really did. My children liked the cake, but their palates were not used to the unusual frosting.
** Next stop: Hanami in front of Japan. My son fondly recalled the Frushi (Pineapple, Strawberries and Melon rolled with Coconut Rice, served with Raspberry Sauce, sprinkled with Toasted Cocounut and Whipped Cream) from last year. He actually ate seconds when it was a TRYit food.
** At Taste of Marrakesh near the Morocco pavilion, both kids sampled the Harissa Chicken Kebab with Couscous Salad. The chicken was similar to what was offered last year, and they both enjoyed the spicy flavor. They weren't as adventurous with the cold couscous salad.
By this point, we all were so full we couldn't eat another bite, and, unfortunately, there were several additional outdoor kitchens we had not visited. Still, we thought that starting around World Showcase in a counter-clockwise direction offered the most kid-friendly foods first.
We hope that some of our suggestions might help guide you and your family when you choose to sample what the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has to offer. My children tended to gravitate toward many of the same foods they enjoyed last year, but, of course, every child has different food preferences. With the variety of choices, though, it shouldn't be difficult for everyone in the family to find something they like.
Kids TRYit! 2013 Style:
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