The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom for 2014, attracting flora and fauna fans to Walt Disney World through mid-May. This year Disney’s horticultural and culinary teams have further focused their attention on improving traditional offerings of the long-running event along with improving some recent edible additions.
The festival features nearly 100 topiaries depicting many classic and contemporary Disney characters, this year adding Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to the lineup that includes Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Lightning McQueen, Mater, princesses, pandas, and many more.
Among the most eye-catching of the updated topiaries is Snow White and her seven dwarfs, given new sculpted faces with increased detail.
But while the visuals are always stunning and a perfect place for photographs to unleash their talents, there’s now another side to the Flower and Garden Festival that has many guests even more excited: food. Last year, Disney introduced garden marketplaces around the World Showcase, adding enticing flavors to the event. Walt Disney World horticulture manager Eric Darden explains that the addition of what’s known this year as Outdoor Kitchens was in response to guests frequently asking if they could actually eat any of the foliage being showcased. Darden notes that the most popular plants around the Flower and Garden Festival are the ones that are edible – herbs, vegetables, and the like.
Though the food was largely fantastic at last year’s event, the lines were never long for any of the 13 booths. So now in their second year, the festival’s food and beverage booths have been slightly reduced to 11, focusing in on returning favorites from 2013 as well as adding many bold new flavors. Outdoor Kitchens include vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, hearty barbecue offerings at The Smokehouse, locally grown ingredients from the Florida Fresh Outdoor Kitchen, and Urban Farm Eats featuring sustainable garden foods.
The single most talked about new food item this year is easily the Pigglylicious bacon cupcake from The Smokehouse. Epcot executive chef Jens Dahlmann praises its applewood smoked bacon pieces inside a corn meal-infused cupcake that blends sweet and savory. But what makes its bacon flavor over-the-top is the bacon fat that’s mixed into the cupcake’s batter, infusing a bold flavor that’s a dream for hardcore bacon lovers (though perhaps too intense for everyone else).
Other inventive offerings include a vegetarian “scallop” made from eggplant (below) and an extra-large orange macaron (above) that’s delightfully light.
Though many of the festival’s small plates are upwards of $4-5, one of the best bargains is the $1 caprese salad shooter found inside Festival Center – well worth the small price for a quick and delicious bite.
The Festival Center is also home to presentations from HGTV designers every Friday through Sunday, such as Vern Yip of “Trading Spaces” fame this past weekend.
Outside, the new Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden gives kids a chance to burn off some extra energy within a fun themed area.
The Flower and Garden Festival also features the Power Concert Series, bringing two new acts for 2014: Gary Lewis and the Playboys (“This Diamond Ring”) March 14-16, and The Alan Parsons Live Project (“Eye in the Sky”) May 16-18.
More photos from the 2014 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival: