Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival: The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews (America Pavilion)

This post is for all you carnivores out there. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may just want to skip right over this one.

I was going to try to label this as Paleo, but no, I cannot even make that fly. This is just… well, this is the American Pavilion.
Woody Topiary at the American Pavilion

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews Outdoor Kitchen

The smoker- it was raining, but they were smokin'

There are two gluten free offerings at The Smokehouse- the Smoked Beef Brisket and the Turkey Rib.
The Smokehouse Passport Page

We ordered the Pulled Pig Slider, the Smoked Beef Brisket, and the Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake. EPCOT had featured the Piggylicious cupcake in the pre-event publicity, and it was the one food item that I was really looking forward to seeing. I just had to see what this little gem looked like in real life- and find out (ask) how it would taste.
Left to right: Pulled Pig Slider, Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake, Beef Brisket (gluten free)

The pulled pork with cole slaw was fantastic (I had one bite with a fork, not touching the bun- not best practices for food sensitivities, but hey, I was living on the edge). I also had a bite of the brisket and collard greens- both delicious. Neither the pork nor the brisket tasted smoky to me at all- which is a good thing, as I do not care for even a hint of  smoke flavor. The jalapeño cornbread looked fantastic, but I didn't try it.
Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw

Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeño Corn Bread (gluten free)

Smoked brisket

I would like to sound knowledgeable here, and make a great comment about the "fabulous marbeling" in the brisket, but who am I kidding... I really don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to meat, LOL. I can say the beef was very tender and flavorful, which probably means there was a lot of fat... I've learned the ones with lots of fat are the only cuts of meat I even like. Heh. It's a good thing I like fruits, nuts and veggies much more than meat.

OK, and now for the pies de resistance… oops, wrong Pavilion. Now for the star of the show- the Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard me correctly. Bacon. Cupcake.

(Cue angels singing)
Ta-da! Bacon Maple Cupcake at the American Pavilion

I gazed wistfully at the (definitely NOT gluten-free) bacon cupcake, as I urged Tim to try it. I was so focused that I was sure I would vicariously taste it through some sort of psychic gastronomic osmosis. Tim looked at me uncertainly, "Are you sure..?" he asked. "Yes!" I said, "Eat it! I must know what it tastes like! Tell me in every delicious detail." 

Tim said it was good…it was very good. It was so good that I decided I would have a taste of the maple frosting (ignoring whatever potentially problematic ingredients that could have been in there). 

Using a fork, and avoiding the pretzels, I tried a little bit of the frosting. A ray of light poured down from Heaven. The frosting was fantastic. It was not just maple, but cream cheese and maple. Cream cheese frosting is my favorite frosting. I think it is the only reason I like carrot cake as much as I do.

Sometimes I can convince myself that I can "wish away" food allergies/sensitivities by simply refusing to accept that they exist. "I'm healed," I convince myself. A little taste won't hurt me, I say. The mind is a powerful thing, I surmise. If I believe that I won't get sick, and I truly, truly believe that, and if I want that badly enough, and if I tell myself that I am cured, then I Won't. Get. Sick

Usually temptation happens with puff pastry. Today, it was bacon. Along with the angels singing from heaven appeared a devil on my shoulder. I rationalized... one teeny, tiny taste of the actual cupcake, a perfect little bite, with a tiny bit of cupcake, a sliver of bacon, and a bit of maple frosting wouldn't hurt me... and if it did, surely it would be worth whatever discomfort I experienced as a consequence.

So I did it. I took an actual bite, of gluten, on purpose. Gasp! 
A Cupcake Concept Sent From Heaven

My verdict? Meh, not really worth it. I found the bacon very smoky, which kind of ruined it for me. Also, I am not a huge fan of cake in general, but if I were to eat cake, I would prefer a lighter, airier cupcake, whereas this one was dense and moist. BUT- I am glad I tasted it, because now I have full intention of making my own (gluten free) version. In fact, I already made one trial run of bacon donut holes with maple glaze- which were pretty darn delicious. A few tweaks to the maple part of that recipe, and I think we'll have a winner- and, I dare say, even better than the Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake!

For those of you reading, please realize that my opinion of the cupcake is biased in several ways. 1) I cannot help but weigh the taste of anything on a "was it worth it to get sick" scale- which is an individual experience that varies depending on one's sensitivity to a given ingredient, and does not apply to everyone, 2) I am not a huge fan of cake (although I love the idea of anything in miniature, so cupcakes always appeal to me for the fun factor), 3) I really, really do not like smoke flavor. So for those of you who can eat anything, and who like smoky bacon, I think you may really enjoy this cupcake. 

On the culinary aspect, I love the contrast between sweet and salty, and the added bonus of a little salt and crunch from the pretzel. And I have to say, the maple-cream cheese icing was to die for. The icing by itself, would be worth getting sick for. Ha. That is kind of a strange statement, but you know what I mean. Mmmmm…. maple frosting… (just picture me drooling like Homer Simpson).
Mmmm, frosting...

p.s. Sigh, yes, I suffered (dearly) from the sum total of all of the food-festival-frivolousness (there are a few more posts to come, but I know you guys will ask about that after what I posted here). Although I was careful, I did eat things that were questionable for me… I knew better, but darn it, I LOVE FOOD! I did this at the Food & Wine festival too. Every time, I convince myself that "it won't be that bad"- and every time I wind up VERY uncomfortable for weeks afterwards. 

It reminds me how much diet really does make a difference in how I feel. And, it's the kick in the butt I need to get back on track and really watch what I'm eating. But then... 6 months go by... and I feel better because I've been eating perfectly, and when I feel better, I feel invincible, and it is easy to once again convince myself "I can handle this". Perhaps 6 months from today, I will remember how lousy I feel right now? Hmmm…. I have a feeling time will dull that memory… although perhaps not.

p.p.s. This is the first time in a couple of years that I can remember willingly eating gluten. I'm sure I've probably ingested gluten accidentally, and via cross-contamination, but I typically don't take chances there. Now, corn, soy, and other ingredients… those I sometimes am a little risky with… although I must say, I've gotten much better with corn, in small doses.

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