We’re still counting down to opening day of the 2013 International Food & Wine Festival at Epcot! This Friday, the Festival Marketplace will officially open and the food photos and reviews will start rolling in. Until then, we’re continuing our look back at last year’s Festival. Today we’re stopping by the booths at the American Adventure pavilion: Hops & Barley and the Fife & Drum Tavern.
The Fife & Drum Tavern isn’t really a Marketplace booth. It’s there year-round, but Epcot includes it on the Festival circuit now. That’s fine with us as we’re always happy to get another stamp in our “passport.” Unfortunately, the only menu items that are deemed Festival offerings are frozen drinks featuring Red Stag by Jim Beam. It would be nice if there was at least one limited-time food item there exclusively for the Festival. Other year-round menu items at the Fife & Drum Tavern include popcorn, turkey legs, and the American Dream slush drink.
Jim Beam is one of the large American distilleries that has decided as a collective in recent years that whiskey is yucky, and that the way to make people buy it is to infuse it with corn syrups vaguely resembling honey, maple, or in the case of Red Stag, black cherry. The company talks a big game about Red Stag and its quality, which is highly entertaining.
The spirit spends some time tumbling around in a slush machine with some lemonade, which almost makes you forget what an abomination it is. Epcot knows that its visitors love their alcoholic slush drinks, and have perfected the art of setting such libations at a price point that makes guests cringe, but then shrug their shoulders and say, “oh well,” before opening their wallets.
The original Red Stag Frozen Lemonade retuned from the 2011 Festival. Despite being a frozen drink, it was far from refreshing. The Red Stag suffers from being too sweet and tasting of artificial flavors. The drink is one that I’m in no hurry to revisit.
The Red Stag Frozen Honey Tea Lemonade was, surprisingly, slightly better. I worried that the honey flavor would make the drink even more cloying, but the tea flavor won out. In fact, I would like to see this frozen honey tea lemonade served at a permanent location without the Red Stag. It would have made a decent option for LeFou’s Brew in Gaston’s Tavern, actually. We did find the drink’s pink color puzzling, though. There’s nothing pink about these ingredients, so I’m not sure why the artificial color. I suppose the powers that be thought that the pink color would look better than the brownish-yellow hue the drink would probably have naturally. Either that or they made it pink so that the staff could easily differentiate it from the original lemonade.
Fortunately, neither Red Stag drink is returning to the Festival menu this year. The Fife & Drum Tavern remains at Marketplace location, but its only Festival offering this year will be a SkinnyGirl wine blend. I can’t say that Valerie Frankel’s wine piques my interest any more than Jim Beam’s
cough syrup, ahem, whiskey did, but we’ll give it a shot.
The better option in the American Adventure area is the Hops & Barley Marketplace. Traditionally a showcase for Sam Adams beer, the food offerings have had a hand up in the last couple years thanks to a partnership with L.L. Bean heiress, restaurateur and Perfect Maine lobster lady, Linda Bean.
I should mention here that the footprint of this particular Marketplace is very large. It must be a fairly popular booth for Epcot, because it’s set up with two snaking lines for ordering, and basically all of the outdoor elements of the American Adventure pavilion for seating. Although we were there just as the Festival was opening on a weekday morning when these photos were taken, the booth was slammed later in the evening.
We usually stop at the Hops & Barley booth for some of the familiar Sam Adams brews before sitting down to watch the Eat to the Beat concerts. As such, we don’t have a single worthwhile picture of any of the beers from Hops & Barley this year. Sorry, I was too distracted by Boyz II Men and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. With the exception of that year’s “Festival Beer” (a regular Sam Adams brew re-labeled for the event), not much changes at Hops & Barley in the beverage department. 2013 will also add a chocolate stout from Rogue brewery and two of my favorite wines from the Russian River Valley, which is a major shakeup for this location.
We did have the lobster roll again, which we enjoy despite it not being what most New England lobster aficionados would consider a worthwhile sandwich. The lobster is cooked properly, topped with fresh dill, and served on the kind of fluffy, chewy roll that I think goes best with this kind of sandwich.
Even better for me was Linda Bean’s Maine Home Style Clam Chowder. To be honest, I’ve never met a clam chowder that I didn’t like. New England, Manhattan, doesn’t matter. Whether it’s the wonderful, brothy variety served at Todd English’s bluezoo of a can of Snow’s, I’ll happily devour it. This clam chowder was probably closer to the canned variety, but there were some decent pieces of clam, tasty vegetables, and a nice creamy base. The dish is pictured above with the Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins Brand Dried Cranberries and Orange Sauce. I don’t traditionally enjoy pumpkin, though pumpkin pie spice flavored everything is one of the best things about autumn. That said, the dessert was delicious, especially when we managed to get all of its flavors in one bite. I’m sure I would have ordered it again this year were it returning. Alas, it isn’t, but its replacement, the Craisin Bread Pudding with Gran Marnier Anglaise, sounds even better to me.
Do you like the Food & Wine Festival Marketplaces near the American Adventure? Are you looking forward to anything from Hops & Barley, the Fife & Drum Tavern or the American Adventure Coffee Cart this year?