Today in our look back at the 2012 Food & Wine Festival, I’m visiting the other two booths featuring US States. In the past, these booths have changed from year to year, but both Florida Local and Hawaii will be returning for the 2013 Festival, the latter for its third straight year.
Florida Local was a new Festival Marketplace booth for 2012, and it was a big hit. Aside from the popular locavore movement that is much loved by Epcot and its guests, the locally-sourced ingredients were used very well. The menu featured well-known Floridian favorites like shrimp, plantains and Zellwood corn.
We tried every item on the Florida Local menu, and enjoyed them all. The White Corn Arepa with Mangalista Pork Rillette and Zellwood Sweet Corn Salad was our favorite. The Mangalista pork was every bit as moist and tender as you would expect from the breed. The corn cake was not very flavorful, but was a good vehicle to showcase the pork. Zellwood corn is like little sweet kernels of sunshine. The summery Zellwood corn salad was a great combination of sweetness and acidity that I’m really going to miss at this year’s festival. Sadly, this dish isn’t returning for 2013.
The dish that is returning is the Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Vegetables, Fried Plantains and Micro Cilantro. Danny doesn’t care for cilantro, even in its young form, so I was tasked with eating the lion’s share of this one. As ceviches go, it was ordinary. Luckily I very much enjoy even ordinary to sub-par ceviche. Although I think it was the weaker of the two dishes at last year’s Florida Local booth, I still liked it enough that I would order it again.
You’ll notice that both of the above photos had drinks in them as well. We tried both of the Florida Orange Groves wines and both Florida Beer Company’s beers as well. The Florida Orange Grove’s signature wine, Hurricane Class 5, is pictured with the ceviche. The Key Limen is above with the White Corn Arepa. Both wines seemed sangria-ready to me, with mutable flavors that were a little on the sweet side. I was surprised by the taste of the Key Limen in particular. Other reviewers had described it as “not too tart”, so I was expecting a stronger lime presence. I guess I should have interpreted “not too tart” to mean “incredibly sweet”, because that’s how it tasted to me. I suppose the people lauding it for not being too tart were expecting it to taste like lime juice? Anyway, the Hurricane Class 5 was my favorite of the two, but it too was sweeter than I would normally go for. Again, it would be a good base for a white wine sangria, but I probably don’t want to drink either on its own again.
I had small tastes of both of the Florida Beer Company’s brews, but Danny drank most of them. He didn’t think that either of them were very good for what they were. Neither of us care for wheat beers like the Key West Southernmost Wheat, though I have more of a tolerance for them than he does. If I didn’t like this one, it’s safe to say that he didn’t either, so I appreciate him for taking one for the team. Similarly, he found the lager unremarkable. He’s a fan of lagers, but would prefer something like the Full Sail Session Lager that was served at the 15 Beers for 15 Years booth in 2010. Lagers are my favorite type of beer, and I have a whole host that I would choose before the Florida Lager. But if you’re in to the kind of bland beers you might find at a local ballpark, Florida Lager is worth a try.
The Hawaii booth made its debut at the Food & Wine Festival in 2011 and was an immediate hit with the fans. The booth returned in 2012 with no significant menu changes. Both food items will be back for 2013, though the signature drink is changing.
The Kahlúa Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise is a great little sandwich. I don’t love the sweet chutney with the savory pulled pork, but people with less aversion to sweet in their meat dishes will disagree. Danny is one of them, and this is an item that he has no problem ordering more than once each visit.
Pictured with the above pork slider is last year’s Seven “Tiki” Mai Tai, which is off the menu in 2013 in favor of a drink called the Aulani Sunrise. I won’t miss the Mai Tai. If you’ve had one, you’ve had them all. Then again, I feel that way about all tropical drinks, which doesn’t bode well for the Aulani Sunrise.
I think the Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips is easily one of the best dishes of the Festival. If I were a more timid woman, I might take issue with eating raw tuna served from an outdoor food kiosk in the middle of central Florida, but I have no healthy fear of food-borne illness. Lucky me, this sashimi-grade tuna was outstanding. The seaweed salad with soy and sesame was the perfect salty accompaniment. The lotus root chip is a flavorless garnish, but is edible, and has an interesting crunchy texture if you want to eat it. I miss the Tuna Sensation (later the Tuna Salmon Sensation, also available year-round at Teppan Edo) that the Japan booth used to serve, but as long as the Tuna Poke is part of the festival offerings, I’ll be happy.
What are your must-eats from the Florida and Hawaii booths?