2021 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

We began our day at the festival by taking some photos of this year’s topiaries, starting with Woody, Bo Peep and her Sheep (located in Future World West)…

Also in Future World West were Simba & Friends

And the beautiful Butterflies

Moving to Showcase Plaza we found Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy

As well as Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale

Also Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie...

Now on to some food, starting with the Trowel & Trellis booth, also located in Showcase Plaza…

o I attempted to withhold the fact that it was meatless (aka plant-based) when I asked my husband if he wanted to try the boneless Short Rib here. I had wanted to see if he would notice the difference in a blind taste test. But he declined on the short rib so I had to come clean and tell him that I wanted to try the IMPOSSIBLE short rib because the review I had read on the Disney Food Blog had said it was DELICIOUS! So we had high expectations when we found an empty picnic table behind one of the Port of Entry shops and removed our masks to dig in to our…

Boneless IMPOSSIBLE Korean Short Rib with Cilantro Lime Rice, Danmuji Slaw, and Kimchee Mayonnaise – $6.75

Ok, first of all, this did not look appetizing. It didn’t look like the photo I saw of it in the Disney Food Blog review…

But looks can be deceiving, right? Well, sadly in this case they weren’t. The “short rib” tasted pretty much as bad as it looked. The texture was not at all like a short rib but instead more like meatloaf. But not a good, tasty meatloaf. This was dry and tasteless “meatless” loaf. So on a scale of 1 (being pretty much inedible) to 5 (being DELICIOUS!) we gave this a 2. Only the Kimchee mayo saved this dish from being a 1 though.

So not a very good start to our Flower & Garden booth eating. We decided to try another booth before moving on to Norway for Frozen. And the next booth along the way was the always popular Mexico booth, Jardin de Fiestas

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Another unexpected trip to Florida resulted in a quick visit to Disney World of only about 26 hours. Yes, it was a very short visit but it was just long enough for me to get a lay of the land…the new COVID restricted/modified version of Disney World. My goal for this visit was to determine if a longer trip in 2021 would be worth the time and money under the current conditions. So stay tuned for my trip report and find out the answer to the question, “Will I be returning to Disney World in 2021?”    

I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ARE HERE!

So here we are, driving under the Walt Disney World arch at 10:04 a.m. on Monday, March 8…

 

We were on our way to the Yacht Club resort, where I had made a one night room reservation. I was happy to be able to get the “35% on Rooms in Early 2021” discount on a Standard view room. The other key selling point for me was Disney’s current cancellation policy…

 

Enjoy added peace of mind when booking! To provide additional flexibility, we are waiving Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in for reservations with arrivals through April 30, 2021.

When I reserved our room, purchased our 2 day tickets, and made our park reservations just a few days prior, this visit was far from a sure thing. In fact, my husband gave it about a 10% chance of happening. But you know what they say, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” So when my husband took me to Disney World on Monday, March 8th, he made his wife very happy.

Happy as an Epcot butterfly…

 

Trust me, there is a big smile behind that mask!

But before Epcot we first had to take care of some things at the Yacht Club…

 

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My husband had not been to Disney World since 2015. So although I brought with us his Magic Band from that 2015 trip, I had very little hope that it would still be usable. And I was correct…there was no magic left in that 5+ year old band, lol.

So at the Yacht Club’s Guest Services his Magic(less) Band was replaced with a Magic Card…

 

So this card became his room key, park ticket, and room charge card.  He could do everything with it that I could do with my Magic Band except wear it on his wrist, lol.  Oh, and speaking of my Magic Band, I brought one of the bands from my Fall 2019 trip and Guest Services made sure all of the new links were in place (room key, charging privileges, park ticket).  Or so I thought…bur more on that later. 

Anyway, our room wasn’t yet ready, so while my husband used the restroom off the lobby I looked around and took some photos.    

The lobby had gone through a refurbishment since the last time I’d walked through it in Nov. 2019. New furniture and area rugs…BLUER. I liked it!

Lots of signs posted in the lobby…

 

Note: Disney Resort guests now receive complimentary parking at the Theme Parks, which we took advantage of the next day.  Now if only they waived the $25/night fee (for Deluxe resorts) for guests to park their car at the resort.  Boo to Disney for taking away the free parking for hotel guests a couple of years ago! 

And here’s what’s open at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort as of March 8, 2021…

Though the Yacht Club and the Beach Club Villas (DVC property) are open, the Beach Club remains closed (until May 30, 2021). Also not reopen yet are the Yacht Club’s signature restaurant, Yachtsman Steakhouse, or the adjoining bar, Crew’s Cup Lounge. And I seem to recall that the Ale & Compass restaurant used to serve lunch before the COVID shutdown, but now it’s only open for breakfast (until 11:30) and dinner. But we weren’t planning on doing any Table Service dining on this short trip so the reduced options and hours for Resort dining were no big deal for us.

And one more sign, this one regarding their Housekeeping Service (aka Mousekeeping)…

 

Again, we were only here for one night so this did not affect us.

 

By now it was 10:30 and time to make the short walk to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot. Though it officially opened at 11:00 that day, I had read that guests are being allowed to enter the parks about 1/2 hour earlier than the posted time.

During our walk to Epcot we noticed there were socially distanced spaces marked along the sidewalk in front of the Beach Club Resort. I was puzzled as to why there was a need for this in front of a still closed hotel. The answer to that question became evident to us during our walk back to the Yacht Club after Epcot closed that evening. The socially distanced line of people waiting to board the Skyliner extended all the way over the bridge and along the walkway in front of the Beach Club. WOW! That was our first clue of how the lines/wait times were being affected by the safety measures being taken by Disney World to prevent COVID spread.

 

EPCOT FROM OPEN TO CLOSE

So our day at Epcot began with our first experience with the new procedures for entering the parks. Since this was not a planned trip I had not had the time to research what changes had been made. I knew only that masks were required to be worn (except when stationary and actively eating or drinking) and that our temperatures would be checked before being allowed to enter the park. I was perfectly happy with both of these rules. In fact, if they were not in place I would likely not have gone to Disney World, since I hadn’t yet had a COVID vaccine. But now the question was, what else had changed?

As we approached the International Gateway entrance gates we were directed to a canopy tent set up to the side. It was here that we had our temperature taken with a touchless forehead thermometer. Having both passed our tests, I was next expecting to have to go through Bag Check, as my husband was carrying a backpack. But to my surprise there was no Bag Check. Instead we were waved on to the short socially distanced spaced line for the metal detector scanner. No need to remove your phone from your pocket, etc. to walk through. So I’m guessing that they’ve upgraded their security scanners to allow for this big change. One at a time we walked through the scanner (my husband was still carrying his backpack) and since neither of us set off an alarm we then proceeded to the entrance gates. My husband correctly chose the faster moving line and soon he was inside the park waiting for me. When it was my turn to tap my Magic Band for entry into the park (by the way, gone were the fingerprint scanners) I couldn’t get a green light despite multiple tries. So I had to step to the side and a Castmember with an iPad checked to see what was up with my Magic Band. After a few minutes the problem was apparently detected and solved and I got back into one of the short lines to enter the park. Thankfully this time I successfully tapped in with my band and we were off to the Land to ride one of my favorites, Soarin’.

Soarin’ was nearly a walk on, as we proceeded up the long ramp without ever stopping until we had nearly reached the point where they divide up the line into Groups A, B, and C. It was at this point that I took this pic of my husband and sent it to our kids asking them, “Guess where we are?’

 

Since the possibility of this trip happening had seemed unlikely, we had not told them until now that we were going to Disney World.  Anyway, this photo was taken at 10:59 (with official park opening time of 11:00) so it had taken less than 1/2 hour from when we left the lobby of the Yacht Club.  Not too bad considering the problem I had had with my (un)Magic Band.  

Once we reached the head of the line and were assigned to Group C, we found that they are no longer having the entire group stand in the area where they show the video.  We were among the guests who were held outside of that area until boarding started. I did notice that they had installed plastic shields in between the three lines of this area.  Once we had taken our seats on the ride, I was a little surprised that they seated another couple next to my husband.   There was a plastic shield  between them though and unlike me he is fully COVID vaccinated but still I thought it odd that they had kept us socially distanced while standing in line but then seated us next to each for the 5 or 6 minute ride.  

So this was the first time that my husband rode the World version (rather than the California one) of Soarin’ and he enjoyed the changes.  Afterward I asked what he wanted to ride next, Test Track, Spaceship Earth…?  He asked if those rides had changed since he was last here in 2015.  With the answer being no, I realized that we were likely done with rides for the day.  But then I remembered the Frozen ride and he agreed to give it a try.  So we were off to World Showcase, with a few stops along the way to take photos of these Flower & Garden topiaries…

 

 

After meandering through Future World looking at these topiaries and taking photos plus my husband got a lengthy business call along the way, it was noon by the time we reached World Showcase. So we postponed our Frozen ride until after we visited some of the Flower & Garden Festival Food booths.

Next up: Was it possible that we started with the “Impossible”?

So in case you didn’t already figure out our first booth from my clue, we began our eating at the Trowel & Trellis hosted by IMPOSSIBLE Foods…

 

So I attempted to withhold the fact that it was meatless (aka plant-based) when I asked my husband if he wanted to try the boneless Short Rib here. I had wanted to see if he would notice the difference in a blind taste test. But he declined on the short rib so I had to come clean and tell him that I wanted to try the IMPOSSIBLE short rib because the review I had read on the Disney Food Blog had said it was DELICIOUS! So we had high expectations when we found an empty picnic table behind one of the Port of Entry shops and removed our masks to dig in to our…

Boneless IMPOSSIBLE Korean Short Rib with Cilantro Lime Rice, Danmuji Slaw, and Kimchee Mayonnaise – $6.75

 

Ok, first of all, this did not look appetizing. It didn’t look like the photo I saw of it in the Disney Food Blog review…

But looks can be deceiving, right? Well, sadly in this case they weren’t. The “short rib” tasted pretty much as bad as it looked. The texture was not at all like a short rib but instead more like meatloaf. But not a good, tasty meatloaf. This was dry and tasteless “meatless” loaf. So on a scale of 1 (being pretty much inedible) to 5 (being DELICIOUS!) we gave this a 2. Only the Kimchee mayo saved this dish from being a 1 though.

 

So not a very good start to our Flower & Garden booth eating. We decided to try another booth before moving on to Norway for Frozen. And the next booth along the way was the always popular Mexico booth, Jardin de Fiestas…

We decided to get two things here. First was the…

 

Tostada de Cochinita: Braised Pork on a Crispy Corn Tortilla with Black Beans topped with Pickled Onions, Mango-Habanero Relish, and Oregano – $7.00

Ok, so again we were in disagreement with the Disney Food Blog. They said this fell flat because the pork was too greasy. Our pork seemed dry but otherwise this was pretty good. In our opinion, much better than the IMPOSSIBLE short rib. However, it wasn’t nearly as good as the chicken tostadas (Tostadas de Pollo) that were once served at Mexico’s San Angel Inn restaurant. Sadly I don’t see them on their current menu but I think they still have them at the Choza de Margarita kiosk (also located in Epcot’s Mexico area).

Here’s my photo of the Choza tostadas I had a few years ago…

They weren’t quite as good as the ones I’ve had several times at San Angel but still better than the pork one from the Flower & Garden booth. The shredded chicken was juicy and flavorful. They just had way more shredded lettuce than I wanted. Also note that these are $10.50 for two while the pork one was $7.00 for only one. So with all that in mind, I would give the F & G booth’s pork tostada a 3. If you find yourself hungry for a tostada while at Epcot, my advice would be to keep on walking past the Jardin de Fiestas booth and continue on to Choza de Margarita for their chicken tostadas.

Ok, now on to our other choice from Jardin de Fiestas…

Taco Vampiro: Braised Beef on a Corn Tortilla with Crispy Grilled Monterey Jack Cheese and Salsa Ranchera – $7.25

So to be honest, I had never heard of a Taco Vampiro before. For those of you like me, here is a definition: Vampiros are a style of taco in which the tortilla is toasted on a comal (smooth, flat griddle) until firm and then topped with melted cheese, carne asada—or other meats, pico de gallo and finished with a salsa of your choosing. So a pretty accurate description for what is being served at the Jardin de Fiestas booth. I just noticed from looking at the photo that there was some (what appears to be) esquites (corn) served with the taco. I don’t recall eating this. So either my husband ate it all or it was totally unremarkable, lol. As for the taco, it was pretty good…the best so far. We gave it a 4.

The next booth was China’s Lotus House. I decided to skip this one since two of their offerings were repeats from last year that I had tried. Here is my photo of these…

Bon Bon Chicken Skewer with Sesame and Peanut Sauce & House-made Crab and Cheese Wontons

I gave the chicken skewer a 5 last year and the wontons a 4, mostly because I thought they were overpriced at $6.00 for 3. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this year’s menu sign but I see from looking at the online menus that they raised the price for the wontons this year to $6.95. Ouch! Oh, and the chicken skewer last year was $6.50 but this year is $6.75.

But anyway, I wanted to try new things this year so we moved on to Germany’s Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market

Last year I had tried both the Strudel and the Toasted Pretzel Bread…

Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with Black Forest Ham and Melted Gruyere Cheese & Warm Cheese Strudel with Mixed Berries

While the Pretzel sandwich was overly salty (mostly due to the ham) and we gave it only a 3, the Cheese Strudel was a winner and received a 5 from us last year.

But again, I wanted to try something new so this year I tried their…

Potato Pancake with Caramelized Ham, Onions, and Herb Sour Cream – $4.75

They went way too heavy with the caramelized onion here. It dominated the other flavors of this dish. Because of this we had to give it a 2.

But that’s not all we had here, because when my husband saw the strudel he had to have it…

Warm Cheese Strudel with Mixed Berries – $4.50

While this looked different from last year’s version…

..it was equally DELICIOUS! We again gave this a 5 so I was glad that my husband insisted on getting it.

After a visit to Germany’s Karamell-Küche we moved on to Italy’s booth, Primavera Kitchen

This booth again had the Margherita Flatbread Pizza that we had last year…

It was pretty good and we gave it a 4 last year. But what cost us $7.00 then was now priced at $8.50!

And here is where I messed up. Though I took a photo of Primavera Kitchen’s menu I did not take note of the prices before ordering. Wanting to try something different I ordered the…

Arancini – Sweet Sausage Fried Risotto Balls with Pomodoro Sauce – $12.00

Yes, you read that right. $12.00!!! While these were very tasty (I think they were the same as what they used to serve at Via Napoli) they were not worth that price. So though they tasted like a 4 they get demoted to a 3 because of their $12.00 price. So BUYER BEWARE…pay attention to those prices.

We then took a break at the American Gardens Theatre…

To watch the 1:50 performance by the Voices of Liberty…

We’ve always been big fans of this acapella singing group that used to perform inside the American pavilion but now their shows are out in the open-air theater. We enjoyed them so much that we returned later for the next performance at 3:20. They switched out a few of the people and sang different songs but were still great.

But between their performances we moved on to Japan…

Oh, but you may have noticed that we skipped America’s Magnolia Terrace booth…

Last year we got the Boudin Two Ways here…

It was not good and we gave it only a 2. I thought about getting the Pecan Cake this time but we weren’t yet ready for another dessert.

So it was on to Japan’s Hanami booth in search of something savory…

Here we found this…

Soy-glazed Pork Shank with Truffle Mashed Potatoes, Crispy Lotus Flower, Garlic Chips, and Green Onion – $7.00

This was very good. I couldn’t really taste the soy glaze on the pork but it was still good and thankfully not fatty. And the truffled mashed potatoes were awesome! We gave this a 5.

After returning to America for another Voices of Liberty performance and going inside for the American Adventure show, we then moved on to Morocco’s Taste of Marrakesh booth…

 

From this booth we chose…

Shakshuka: Moroccan Baked Eggs in a Spiced Eggplant and Tomato Stew – $5.50

I chose this because this was another dish that was recommended by the Disney Food Blog but again I didn’t agree. The egg dish was just okay and the pita bread was a bit overcooked/burned. Overall we gave this dish a 3.

Between the Morocco and France pavilion is La Isla Fresca booth, which was our next stop…

From this booth we chose the…

Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer with Steamed Rice and Coconut-Lime Sauce – $7.00

I was expecting this dish to be sweeter than it was, with a sugary glaze on the shrimp.  But that wasn’t the case.  The sauce was good and the shrimp were well-cooked.  But overall there was nothing memorable about this dish.  We gave it a 3.  

While we were seated and eating our shrimp dish at about 4:15 the character cavalcade passed by…

We had seen it earlier at about 1:00 when we were in Germany. It was the same one both times with 4 princesses on board…Belle, Aurora, Jasmine and Snow White. This is just a parade, with the princesses remaining in their seats and waving to the guests. To my knowledge there is no schedule for this, which is probably necessary in order to avoid people from congregating to wait for the parade.

The next stop on our trip around the World was at another very popular booth, France’s Fleur de Lys

Last year we tried the Goat Cheese & Onion Tart that returned to the booth year. In fact it was the first thing that we tried at the festival last year…

We enjoyed it and gave it a 4. So this time I was between getting the Braised Duck or the Beignet. I let my husband pick and chose the…

Beignet Caramelise, Fourre Creme Vanilla, Glace au Caramel Fleur de Sel: Caramelized Beignet filled with Vanilla Cream and Glazed with Caramel Fleur de Sel – $5.25

This was tasty but nothing like any beignet I’ve had before. It was actually more like a pudding-like creme filled donut. Here’s a look inside…

My husband really liked this and probably would have given it a 5 but I prefer the New Orleans Cafe du Monde-style of beignets. So I would give the Fleur de Lys version only a 4.

It was now nearly 5:00, which means Happy Hour! Being in France my cocktail choice was the…

Grand Marnier Orange Slushie from the France Kiosk – $11.50

It had been a few years since I’d had this.  I’m happy to say that it’s still awesome!  But I should warn you that if you are susceptible to “Brain Freeze” like my husband is then this might cause you a little pain.  But thankfully I’ve never experienced “Brain Freeze” so I say, “Bring on the Slushie!”

My husband decided he wanted something from the Rose & Crown pub for his Happy Hour drink so we were ready to forge ahead to the UK. But first one more topiary pic from France…

While the Rose & Crown restaurant is closed right now for refurbishment [NOTE: I just read that it reopened yesterday, 3/21], the bar service is still available at the pub for takeout drinks. While he was inside getting his Smithwick’s Irish red ale, I took some photos of the topiaries in the UK area…

While he enjoyed his ale, we took in a performance of the JAMMitors…

They were performing on the Mill Stage between the UK and Canada pavilions. I still think of it as the Off Kilter stage though.

Afterward we were ready for a little more food and since we were in Canada…

From Canada’s booth, Northern Bloom, we chose the…

Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon – $7.00

Unfortunately I didn’t care for the vinaigrette that was used with this dish. It tasted to me like pure vinegar. My husband didn’t mind it but he’s not a big fan of scallops. Even so, he ate most of this anyway, as he didn’t want to waste the $7.00 that we paid for it. So overall we gave this dish a 3.

By the time we finished here it was about 6:45 (with Epcot closing at 8:00 that night). While he was ready to call it a day, there were still 3 booths that were on my list to check out.

However, the Citrus Blossom booth was not one of the three, so I just took a photo of their menu…

Actually my next destination was in Future World, all the way over by Test Track. My husband pretty much complained all the way there but eventually we arrived at the Sunshine Griddle booth…

Looking at the menu with all of the yummy sounding brunch-type foods, I wish this had been the first booth that we visited that day rather than one of the last. Had that happened I might have ordered all 4 of their food items, lol. But I guess for the sake of visiting more booths, it’s probably best that this didn’t happen. Anyway, again referring to the Disney Food Blog review, which called these “AMAZING!”, my one choice here was the…

Fried Cinnamon Roll Bites with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Bacon – $4.25

Finally we were in full agreement with the DFB. These were AMAZING! We both declared them our favorite dish of the day, beating out the Cheese Strudel from the Germany booth. So in the end my husband was ok with the trek to Future World in search of the Sunshine Griddle booth.

The second of the remaining booths on my list was located back in Showcase Plaza, near the Port of Entry. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the menu at the Pineapple Promenade though. But from this booth I ordered a…

Pineapple Dole Whip – $5.25

We took this with us as we walked to the location of our final booth of the day, the World Showplace pavilion (located between the UK and Canada). By the time we got there and started taking photos it was starting to melt. But it was DELICIOUS as always! They do also offer the boozy version of this at the Pineapple Promenade, Dole Whip topped with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, for $12.00. I tried this during my 2019 trip and loved it too. Anyway, the Dole Whip of course gets a 5 from us.

It’s pretty inside the World Showplace pavilion, with its colorful lighting…

It brought back fond memories of the four Party for the Senses I’d attended here during my Food & Wine Festival trips. The stage was still set up and a grand piano sits upon it. I think I read somewhere that someone plays the piano there during the afternoon. I think it might be the “Hat Lady” who previously performed at the Rose & Crown Pub. Wow, that brings back so many great memories. I’m sorry that we didn’t make it there during the afternoon to see if she was there. It would have been fun to see her perform again.

Now on to the food. There are 3 booths located in this indoor pavilion. There is the Cider House

They had a large projection screen displaying photos of their offerings…

Then there is the Farmers Feast booth…

They are to have a rotating menu but so fat it has not changed.  Here are their three current food offerings…

But the booth that I most wanted to try was this one…

The problem was choosing what to get, as they all sounded good. So by process of elimination, we decided against the Key Lime Tart since we had just had two sweet treats. The slider also looked like it was more than we could eat at this point…

So that left the Fried Green Tomatoes or what we ended up choosing…

Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Reduction – $4.25

This was good. It was a nice, lighter choice for our last snack of the day. I would have liked a little more watermelon and a few less greens though. We gave it a 4.

It was a little bit after 8:00 when we finished our salad. The park had closed at 8:00 so they had locked the doors to prevent anyone from entering the pavilion but we were able to exit.

I hadn’t noticed this on our way in but there was another Mickey & Mickey topiary next to the Showplace pavilion…