Yesterday I tasted my way around the world at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. The last time I visited Epcot was back in 2004 with my parents – and I had never been to the Food & Wine Festival before.
Ten of us made the trip over from Tampa to Disney. The rest of my friends had all been in previous years. Unfortunately Lance couldn’t get off work, but I probably ate enough for the two of us.
When you first get to the festival, they give you a passport listing all the food & drink stops throughout the park. There were 36 destinations – and about a half dozen options at each place. So you really have to pace yourself to make it through all the countries and only pick your favorites.
There were so many great dishes – and a couple that I wasn’t so impressed with. The only big downside to this festival is the price. If you don’t already have an annual pass to Disney, you’ll need to purchase a $100 single day ticket. Plus, each food or drink item can range from $2.50 - $10.50, so you can easily blow your budget if you aren’t careful. If you want to sample a lot, it’s probably a good idea to share so you save some money and aren’t uncomfortably full by the end.
They start serving food at the International Marketplaces at 11am. Since we were a few minutes early, we headed to the Festival Welcome Center. They have seminars and demonstrations throughout the day. We got free mini Ghiradelli chocolate samples, and then headed towards the countries for some real food.
Our first stop was Scotland, where a bunch of the guys had scotch. I tried the Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon. While it wasn’t the prettiest looking dish, it was delicious.
Next I had the Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri in Patagonia. It tasted very fresh and healthy.
I didn’t have food in New Zealand (although the Steamed Mussels in Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs looked tasty), but I did have the Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (on the Total Wine website it suggests pairing that wine with salmon – which I had just eaten!)
In Australia I had the Grilled Lamp Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies. And by potato crunchies, they meant the bottom crumbs from a potato chip bag. The flavor was great, but it was pretty messy to eat.
We all head towards the craft beer building next. The only disappointment I had was that most of the beers were ones that I was already familiar with, like Abita Purple Haze and Shiner Bock. I guess they can’t really get beers from the lesser-known craft breweries since Disney needs such high quantities, but it would have been nice to have something I couldn’t just pick up at my local ABC.
I did enjoy my Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Each beer was paired with a complimentary snack mix with nuts, wasabi peas, and crackers.
Next was Mexico – with tacos & tequila flights. Luckily I only had one tequila shot – others tried the whole flight on their own, and it definitely caught up later in the day.
In China I enjoyed the Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Hoisin Sauce. But I’m a fan of pretty much any Asian food, so I’m sure I’d like anything I ordered.
My next food was Lemongrass Chicken Curry with Coconut and Jasmine Rice in Singapore. Again, the presentation was pretty pathetic, but it tasted authentic and had a lot of ginger flavor.
I resisted the Berliner-Yeast Doughnut filled with Apricot Jam in Germany and instead held out for the Cannoli al Cioccolato in Italy. Small but delicious.
At a stand called Hops & Barley I had the Artisan Cheese Plate – which included Cabot Cloth-wrapped Cheddar, Purple Haze Chèvre Goat Cheese, and Cave Man Blue Cheese. It was fantastic – the cheddar was paired with crispy bread, the goat cheese drizzled with honey, and the blue cheese came with craisins and nuts.
After that we headed to Japan. My friend Katie could have spent the whole day there – she was so excited to find Nori Maki Arare crackers wrapped in seaweed (she said her grandma used to bring them back from Japan when she was a kid). I tried the Spicy Hand Roll – Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volacano Sauce. It was pretty good sushi – but not overly memorable.
My next dish was the Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream. Of course it was great – basically a dessert.
After that was my favorite food of the day – Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato, and Cilantro in Brazil. I would order this at a restaurant. The pork flaked away with a fork and the combinations of flavors were spot on. I would have ordered another if we didn’t still have so many more places to try.
I actually skipped over France, although the Escargot Tart with Garlic, Spinach, Bacon and Parmesan sounded really good. And I skipped Ireland, but had a bite of Tony & Katie’s Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie. It had a pretty generous amount of fish mixed in with mashed potatoes.
It was getting colder at this point (the low was 45 which is way below average for Florida this time of year). So I ordered a hot Chai Latte with Bailey’s and Cinnamon Whipped Cream. Perfect drink to warm me up.
Probably the most disappointing dish of the day was the Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey. I love Greek food and of course all cheese, but this tasted like it had sat out for awhile and hardened. The cheese was a greasy unattractive glob and almost impossible to eat with a fork (Tony’s fell on the ground while he unsuccessfully tried to scoop some up). It just wasn’t a very good representation of the wonderful food Greece has to offer.
We finished in Hawaii where I had the Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips. The tuna had pretty large pieces, but the lotus chips were nowhere to be found and there wasn’t much seasoning. I’d skip it next time.
So overall it was great – it was nice to be able to sample so many different types of cuisines all in one place. Most of the presentation could have been better, but I realize they don’t have time to artistically craft each plate with so many customers in line. We spent over 9 hours in the park, so it was a long day of non-stop eating. And having all ten of us together for the day was a blast! Happy I was able to be part of it this year.
Epcot is located at 200 Epcot Center Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32821. The 2014 Festival goes September 19th – November 10th (so you still have one week left!)