Nearly a week after Logan’s merry jaunt around Epcot, I had the great honor to join my colleague in an all out attack on the world, the world showcase that is. I’ve compiled another half-dozen menu items on offer at the festival, along with a few pro tips for anyone planning a visit.
I’ve spent a good chunk of my life in Florida, and I must sheepishly admit that this is my first year at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I may not have over a decade of experience with the event like Logan, but I do share his years of experience in the mosh pit. Let me first say that his comparison of said pit, to the hungry hordes of Epcot is terrifyingly accurate. Having spent the beginning of our day at the other Disney parks, we were somewhat acclimated to the crowds. Nevertheless, it was still amazing to see that many people milling around the 30 booths around the World Showcase Lagoon.
Let’s get the first pro tip out there straight away…
Pro tip #1: Grab a map and plan your route!
If your family is like ours, the days schedule will likely get stretched out beyond your expectations. So when you get to Epcot, get a map if you don’t have one already, and figure out which booths you want to hit before you even pass the Coolzone. Which brings me to…
Pro tip #2: On a budget? Limit your alcohol!
Purchasing adult beverages will drain your bankroll quicker than marrying Kim Kardashian. If you want to maximize the amount of dishes you get to try, grab a swig of Kinley or Smart Watermelon from the Coolzone, located in the last building on your right, just before you reach the bridge to the world showcase. If you’re dying for some booze though, there are many budget friendly options in the $2.50 – $3.00 range that’ll hit the spot.
But enough chatter, this IS a food blog after all. So let me dish out the meal Logan and I put together on our recent visit. Since Logan went left last time, we went right. First stop on our map was Canada, our eyes and stomachs set firmly on the wild mushroom beef filet with truffle butter sauce from “Le Cellier”. People in line were raving about the cheddar soup, which I’m sure was fantastic as well, but the tender filet with its truffle aroma had a stronger pull. I received a nice chunk of beef, smothered in mushrooms and truffle sauce. Naturally I would’ve like it to be cooked just a touch less, but when you’re feeding the masses, medium is a safe bet. No matter, the flavor was there and it was a great start to my first Food & Wine visit.
Pro tip #3: Divide and conquer!
While I was in line for the filet, Logan wisely moored himself at the Refreshment Port, aiming to get his hands on the Dole pineapple fritters. Take this strategy and you’ll efficiently plow through multiple lines at once, garnering a couple of different dishes in the time it usually takes to get one. The more friends you have the better! We met up and exchanged our ooo’s and ahh’s, and promptly dug in. The fried batter had a light sprinkling of powdered sugar that stayed crispy despite the juicy pineapple below. It was refreshing and decadent all at once.
With two dishes secured in our bellies, we made a beeline for France and its escargots persillade en brioche. You get three little snails tucked into puffy, golden and thoroughly buttered brioche pouches. I feel like snails are gaining in popularity in America as people get over their squeamishness at the protein. If you’re still on the fence about them, try them here, it’ll change your mind. They’re coated in a butter, garlic and herb glaze that gives them a rich flavor and ultra creamy texture, no balloon-like chewiness in sight.
Once again, while I was in line in France, Logan headed to New Zealand. We deliberated between the venison sausage and the lamb meatball and eventually agreed on the sausage. You get a nice, plump sausage link with generous amounts of pickled mushrooms and baby arugula, drizzled with a black currant reduction. This was definitely the “entrée” of the night. The sausage was hearty and full of flavor. Venison often tends to be gamey, which can taste like licking an iron tree. This had no sign of that off-putting taste. The meat was tender and almost sweet, with just enough fat content to keep things juicy inside the casing. The pickled mushrooms and black currant reduction threw their tangy and sweet weight around and balanced the dish perfectly.
On our short walk past Japan, we lamented the missed opportunity to showcase some of that countries finest dishes. Instead of serving a hot cup of rich ramen, there’s a California roll. A slick stand serving takoyaki (diced octopus in a wheat batter, served with a variety of toppings) would’ve been more exciting than the chicken teriyaki you can get anywhere in America. It may be the result of demographic, but in my opinion, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival should serve to expand people’s culinary horizons…but there’s always next year (hint hint).
Just off the main path as you cross the border into “America”, you’ll find the “Hops & Barley” booth. We skipped over Ireland’s lobster and seafood pie in favor of a traditional lobster roll with lemon herb mayo. Let me sing my praises here, Disney does not skimp on the lobster and this ain’t no claw meat only roll either. You get a heaping mound of lobster with a good variety of meat from all corners of the crustacean. It hit all the marks you want in a lobster roll. Fresh meat, a nice coating of butter and just the right amount of mayo to give the whole affair creamy citrus twinge. It may seem expensive at $7.00, but you’d be lucky to find this quality, or quantity for that matter, at a better price point anywhere else.
With our bellies filling and our feet aching (well my feet, Mr. Postman over there was running circles around me) we stumbled upon the cheese booth on our way to a previously planned stop at China. Logan had already sampled the tempting almond crusted blue cheese soufflé, so we went with the artisan cheese selection. We both consider ourselves major cheese heads, and not in the Green Bay Packers sense, but we were both impressed with the trio on offer here. First in the photo below we have La Bonne Vie Triple Cream Brie with apricot jam. Ultra creamy, buttery and full-bodied, unlike most average Brie you’ll find in the store. In the center, Beecher’s Flagship Reserve, a special cow’s milk cheese made only on days where the milk is just right. Here it’s paired with a small drizzle of honey to play off its rich, salty notes. Last but in no way least, Wygaard Goat’s Gouda with crispy Craisin bread. This had the salty kick of a fine Gouda with the creamy, sour notes from the goat’s milk. Surprisingly one of the best cheese plates I’ve had in a while, and I wasn’t even sitting down to enjoy it.
Sadly we didn’t make it to China and Singapore as was planned, but I’m sure we’ll be back soon, so stay tuned. My first visit to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival was a resounding if exhausting success. Where else can you eat delicacies from around the world, WHILE you exercise? It’s a win-win. There’s less than a month left, so get it while it’s hot! See you there!