Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival kicks off this year in just about one month, running from September 19th to November 10th. Menus for the 2014 Marketplaces can be found here.
Every year, when making a plan of attack for the Festival, I intend on hitting EVERY booth to try at least one item from each, and inevitably I miss a few. For one reason or another, last year I missed even more than usual. But, I thought I'd share some favorites, several of which are returning this year, and also some selections that I wish I hadn't made, and will be sure to avoid this year!
Our first stop was Greece, which has always served one of my wife's favorites, the Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey. This year however, she thought it was a little greasier than usual, which could have just been a one off, as I thought mine was the same as in years past. We also got the Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce, which was very good, if very heavy on the onion.
Next was a stop at the Refreshment Port which is newly offering selections for the Festival. We only got one thing, the Dole Pineapple Fritters, and really liked them. Essentially these are deep fried pineapple rings.
We started walking back towards the Mexican Pavilion side, to a favorite, the Argentina booth.
Along the way we stopped at Hawaii, where I had the Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chip, which never lets me down.
We made our way to Argentina for our perennial favorite, the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree, with high hopes that this would be a high to the Scottish Salmon low.
Wrong! This was unfortunately a let down this year, as the beef was overcooked, and there was little sauce on them. In the future, I'll ask if they can give me one less well done, and try to get extra sauce as well.
By now, it was about 12:30 pm, HOT, and already getting crowded. We decided to hit the Mexico Pavilion, where a favorite activity of mine is to get a Tequila Flight at La Cava del Tequila and take a ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour.
As we were about to go into the Mexico Pavilion, we stopped at the Mexico booth, which is located out in front. We got what had been a hit with my wife last year, but had been way too spicy for me, the Taco de Rib-eye with Salsa de Chipotle. This year the heat was turned way down, and we both loved them! A strong finish to a shaky start.
We returned the next evening, and this time, started in France. We shared the Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes), and Crème Brûlée au Chocolat au Lait (Chocolate Milk Crème Brûlée topped with Caramelized Sugar), both terrific, but Barbie wanted no part in the Escargots Persillade en Brioche (Garlic and Parsley Snails in Brioche), despite the fact that you honestly cannot taste anything but garlic and butter. These are awesome, and I get them every year. Pictured with the food is what was my favorite beer of the Fesitval, Kronenbourg Blanc. It is a Witbier, one of my favorite beer styles. It has a light citrus undertone, perfect for a hot humid evening.
We skipped a bunch of booths on our way to the Florida Local kiosk, mainly because they are serving a beer from a highly regarded brewery, Cigar City, which doesn't distribute much to the Northeast USA yet. I got their Cracker Belgian-style White Ale, and it was very good, I'd absolutely recommend trying. I also had the Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles, which I loved, but which didn't impress Barbie.
Continuing on, Barbie wanted to try the Ravioli de formaggio all’emiliana in Italy, one of 2 items a friend had raved about. We also got the Salsiccia e ‘Papacelli” Napoletani (sausage).The Ravioli was good as always, but the Sausage was terrific.
Skipping a few more booths, with the thought that we'd get back to them, which we never did, we visited South Korea for the other menu selection Barbie had heard was great, the Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce. While in line we heard a humorous exchange where a child very stubbornly declared that she would under no circumstance eat dog. Well, if she didn't, she missed out, because it really was delicious, and the photo below doesn't do it justice.
Our last stop of the evening topped them all however. We had the Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and “Singa” Sauce at Singapore, and it was tremendous, among the best dishes I had at the Festival. Again, the picture does it absolutely no justice.
We didn't hit any more of the food kiosks for a few more days, until October 3rd, when we met up with a friend at the American Pavilion. Before heading all the way back there though, I stopped at the Craft Beers booth and got a Namaste from Dogfish Head Brewery to get me through the long, hot walk. This is another Witbier, and another wonderful beer from one of the best brewers in the US.
Back at the American Pavilion, we all split the Craisin® Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Anglaise from the Hops & Barley kiosk. Despite the fact that it is bread pudding, it was extremely light, and didn't sit on the stomach like a brick, as some bread puddings do.
We next hit Belgium, for the Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream and Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote featuring Driscoll’s® Berries and Whipped Cream. Waffles with fruit and chocolate. Need I say more? I had a Leffe Brune, a Belgian Dark Ale with the waffles, and it paired nicely. Beer. Waffles. Not really any way you can go wrong here.
We decided to hit Spaceship Earth, but to do that, we needed to have more dessert. I'm not really sure how this evening turned into the sugar and booze fest it became, but, there it is.
To get all the way back around to the front of World Showcase, I got a beer in the Japan Pavilion at the Saki Bar, a hefeweizen called Premium Unfiltered, which is the Japan Pavilions best kept secret as far as I'm concerned.
On the way out, we stopped at the Desserts & Champagne marketplace again, and both Barbie and I got the Dessert Trio, which consists of:
- Chocolate Orange Cupcake
- Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake
- Morello Cherry Pistachio Mousse
These were all great, the top of the Orange Cupcake being my favorite, I wish they'd have just served that in a bowl.
I also had the Pyramid™Weiss Cream Beer, a wheat ale, which was very light, but still tasty, and to be honest, you could have handed me just about anything at this point and I'd have been happy.
So there you have it. I missed several kiosks that I wanted to try, and will hopefully be able to get to them this year.
I hope these reviews help you if you visit my favorite event ever, Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival!
Portions of this article were originally posted on the Tips From the Disney Divas and Devos Blog, where Nick is a contributing writer.