By Pete Covino
For the News-Gazette
Spring is still more than two weeks away, but it’s already all about the days of wine and roses at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
The most popular event on the Epcot calendar, after the Food & Wine event, there are more things to do at the festival than there are Dalmatians in a Walt Disney movie.
First stop: Check out the Festival Welcome Center at the World Showcase and pick up a Garden Passport. The free book is your guide to Outdoor Kitchens, music events, garden showcases, merchandise and more. Plus the passport includes stickers so you can mark your journey as you travel through Future World and the World Showcase.
Among this year’s many food highlights is a brand-new kitchen for 2018, The Honey Bee-stro. Yes, the accent is on honey at this kitchen.
Located at Showcase Plaza, food highlights include:
Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Puree; Wild Rice Pilaf; Asparagus, Honey-blistered Grapes and Sunflower Brittle.
Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread with White Cheddar Cheese, Charred Vegetables; Clover Honey Sour Cream and Micro Watercress.
Local Wildflower Honey-Mascrpone Cheesecake with Orange Blossom Honey Ice Cream, garnished with Fennel Pollen Meringue Kisses.
Beverages at the new Bee-Stro include Florida Orange Groves Winery Orange Blossom Wine; Orange Blossom Brewing’s Orange Blossom Pilsner; Honey-Peach Cobbler Freeze with Blueberry Vodka. Also available in a non-alcoholic variety.
The garden festival will also feature many returning kitchens serving up favorites from past years including Pineapple Promenade (you know the theme here, Spicy Hot Dog with pineapple chutney, etc.); La Isla Fresca, with its Caribbean influence (Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer, Caribbean Conch Salad); The Berry Baskets, which is most definitely, all about the berries (Lamb Chop with Blackberry Gastrique; Field Greens with Fresh Strawberries); Jardin de Fiestas, featuring everything that is not a Taco Bell taco (Pork Taco with slow braised pork, apple relish, goat cheese and chile de arbol sauce); Lotus House, with a Chinese menu that includes Fried Chicken Dumplings with peanut sauce; the German Farmer’s Market (Bauernmarket) featuring Potato Panckes, Toasted Pretzel Bread, Warm Cheese Struedel.
Other kitchens include Primavera Kitchen (Italy); The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews; Hanami (Japan); Taste of Marrakesh (Morocco); Florida Fresh; Fleur de Lys (France); Cider House (United Kingdom); Northern Bloom (Canada) and Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company.
Also scattered throughout Epcot as the topiaries, those sculpted garden landscapes that have been a part of the festival since the beginning. Featured topiaries include Daisy Duck and Chip ‘n’ Dale; Bambi and Friends; Butterflies; Stitch; Figment, Buzz Lightyear; Bromeliad Dragon; Lady and the Tramp; Beauty and the Beast, Tinker Bell, Winnie the Pooh and many more.
The many Garden Destinations include the Bamboo Garden (China); Tropical Rainforest (Mexico); Garden Italiano (Italy); Bonsai Collection (Japan); Shakespeare Garden (United Kingdom).
There are several Play Gardens throughout Epcot that are made with youngsters in mind.
And try to make time for the various garden tours like the English Tea Garden Tour featuring the history of tea and the plants used to make the finest tea blends. You can sign up for the tour at the United Kingdom. A Royal Tea Garden Tour, which includes a sampling of tea and scones, also is available for $18. Call 407-WDW-TOUR.
If you visit during a weekend (Friday through Monday), make sure you check out the Garden Rocks Concert Series. The upcoming schedule includes Starship, Simple Plan, Little River Band, The Orchestra with former members of ELO, Fog Hat, Smash Mouth, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Village People, The Guess Who and The Spinners.
Dining package, with reserved seating available for the concerts. Call 407-WDW-DINE.
Concerts are held at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.
For more information on the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/.