I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Epcot Food and Wine Fest for the past three years. 2012 was a crazy few days of drinking and debauchery with my BFF. 2013 was slightly less debauched as I was with Mr. MouseChow and the kid, but we still ate everything in sight. 2014 was different. Our purpose for visiting wasn’t actually to go to Food and Wine…it was to say goodbye to our favorite attraction, Maelstrom. And this time, it was just the kid and me, not staying in a Disney resort, and I had a rental car. So as you can imagine, there was far less drinking, and less focus on eating everything just in order to post pics on the blog. We spent a magical two days together, just Mom and Kid, attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, enjoying each other’s company and riding more attractions than usual.
So we had a short list of items that we really wanted to eat, of new items or those that we hadn’t had the chance to try in years past. Here’s our take on a few of this year’s Food and Wine fest new additions (or at least new to us), as well as a few old favorites that we couldn’t pass by. We’ll go in clockwise order around World Showcase, which of course is the only way to go.
The vegetarian Terra booth was new in 2012, and for the past couple of years they have served two of my favorite dishes. You can see them here. This year they changed it up, still using Gardein products (the booth’s sponsor), but in different ways. I was excited to try the Blackened Chick’n Breast with Farro Wheat and Spicy Gumbo (though as a Louisiana native I was skeptical) and the CraB less CraB Cake with Pepper Slaw and Cajun Remoulade. (Weird capitalization is all theirs.) I am not a fan of tofu-based desserts, so decided to skip this one.
Sadly, I was really disappointed in both dishes. The Chick’n and Gumbo lacked the deep rich flavors of actual gumbo, which is really unforgivable as it doesn’t require any animal products to make a good roux.
But the most disappointing was the CraB less CraB cake. The artificial seafood flavor was really off-putting. Texture was pretty bread-y. We each had one bite, and in the trash it went. What a shame.
I miss my Chile Colorado! The one bright spot was the Watermelon Juice. I think I will start making this at home. Perfectly refreshing and not too sweet. I bet it would be great with some vodka…
We stopped for one of our past favorites here, the Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney. Nothing new, but it was delicious. The meatball was nice and moist, chutney was tart and sweet, brioche was nicely toasted. A satisfying little bite.
We always enjoy the tacos at the Mexico booth, but this year we skipped them in favor of trying the new item – the Sweet Corn Cheese Cake. If you like rich, slightly savory desserts, you’ll like this. The corn flavor is pretty pronounced, so that it tastes more like corn pudding than cheese cake. And it’s rich – this is not a light little dessert. Good thing it’s fairly small. It would probably benefit from some fruit or other acid rather than caramel, as it gets a little one-note after a few bites, but it’s worth trying.
Farm Fresh was new this year, and is a great addition. It turned out to be my favorite booth at this year’s festival, in part because of its location outside of the Norway pavilion. (It’s pretty great to grab your food and take it over to the Kringla patio…even with the chair scrapings…) But mostly, because of the scrumptious food.
Probably the most popular item at this booth is the Nueske’s Pepper Bacon Hash. And with good reason. It’s a big pile of comfort food…like breakfast potatoes with really good bacon and hollandaise. The pickled jalapenos were a nice addition. And bonus, the dish is gluten free!
My absolute favorite dish I ate at this year’s Food and Wine Festival was the Griddled Yard Bird with Braised Greens and House-made Habanero Sauce. Nothing exotic about this, just really comforting, flavorful crispy chicken skin, moist roast chicken, bitter greens (mustard? turnip? I can never quite tell) and a nice kick of heat and vinegar from the sauce. I could eat this happily for dinner forever. It’s the kind of dish that places me squarely in my grandmother’s kitchen and makes me want to cook more often. Just heavenly.
Both went down nicely with the Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale from Cigar City Brewery. It was my favorite from the sampler. (As you can see, I almost forgot to take a picture before I drank it all.)
This booth falls into the category “new to me”, because I missed it last year. Be forewarned – basically if you’re not a fan of kimchee, there won’t be much for you here. Luckily, I like kimchee, so was very happy.
Let’s go from least favorite to most favorite:
The Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap with Kimchi Slaw was yummy. We didn’t bother to pick it up with the lettuce – that’s what forks are for. Hard to mess up roasted pork, and the slaw wasn’t too strong. Very nice.
I heard several people rave last year about the Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce, and thought, “It’s half of a hot dog with kimchee. So what?” I was very pleasantly surprised by just how tasty this was. The only downside was that half of my bun was super soggy from the sauce. But still…really yummy. I could have eaten a few of these.
But my absolute favorite item from this booth (and my favorite drink of the festival) was the iCing Grapefruit Sparkling Rice Brew. Oh wow, this is so refreshing and grapefruit-y, and wow. For those of you who like the Schofferhofer Grapefruit beer, do yourself a favor and try this. I need to find someplace where I can buy it locally. Mmmmmmmm.
I didn’t love the food options at the Singapore booth. The kid really liked the Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and “Singa” Sauce. The fish was nice and moist, but the sauce was too sweet for my taste. The Lemongrass Chicken Curry with Coconut and Jasmine Rice was just fine, but not too exciting. If I had this as a frozen entree I’d think it was great, but in a restaurant I wouldn’t be thrilled. Just meh.
But THIS. I need to get the recipe for the Singapore Sling featuring Hendrick’s Gin and Cherry Heering. At least I think it was Cherry Heering. The Festival Passport says it’s Cherry Herring, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as good. If you want to get drunk fast, have one of these. Whoa.
Past years I’ve adored the Escargots in Brioche and was really disappointed to see that it had changed this year. But life marches on, and if I can handle Maelstrom changing, I can handle this. So I took a deep breath, and instead ordered the Tartlette aux Escargots – Escargot Tart with Garlic, Spinach, Bacon and Parmesan.
I am sad to say that I just didn’t enjoy this as much as the brioche. The crust was somehow both dry and oily at the same time. And the escargot was very hard to find. If you had told me that this was a spinach, cheese, and bacon souffle, I would have thought it was fine. The escargot were just a bit of chewy texture hidden in the middle. It’s as though they did everything they could to hide an offensive ingredient. Quel dommage.
The Sparkling Pomegranate Kir was fine. Inexpensive sparkling wine with grenadine. Yawn.
Finally, the Puerto Rico booth was a sight to behold. It’s set apart from the other booths slightly outside of World Showcase proper. Featuring a lovely garden, large patio area, two story building, and pretty evening lights, it’s easily one of the most appealing booths of the festival. When we were visiting there was entertainment in the form of salsa music, a live drummer, and a really beautiful and talented salsa dancer. Guests were even dancing with her. There was a party atmosphere to the place, and it was easy to get swept up in the excitement.
Sadly, I think we may have chosen poorly when it came to ordering food. We had the Carne Guisada con Arroz Blanco (braised beef with rice) and Tostones with Mayo Ketchup. I thought the beef was fine, but nothing super special. And the tostones were just not very good – too large, starchy, dry and heavy. They really needed that sauce. (As an aside – what’s up with everyone online raving about Mayo Ketchup? Have they never had a Big Mac? Russian dressing? It’s not exactly revolutionary.)
We heard great things about the Conch Salad and Flan with Chocolate Coffee Cake, but we were just too full and couldn’t eat any more. Judging from the reaction to the booth I’m confident that we’ll get a chance to try them next year.
So that’s it. Two short days in Epcot, mostly spent riding attractions and saying goodbye to Maelstrom. Best of all, it was two days spent with my favorite person, actually talking with each other and creating memories. My teen actually linked arms with me and gave me spontaneous hugs. That’s some Disney Magic for you.