Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Noshing at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

I'm sure by now it comes as no surprise that we like to eat. Perhaps a better description is that we like to taste. We don't mind a nice hearty entree, but what we really love are tapas, or food trucks, or other opportunities to have a little nibble of a variety of things.  

For years I've listened to Disney podcasts go over every manusha of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. I vowed that one day my time would come. This past October, I got to see what all the hubbub was about. I attended the 20th anniversary of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. 

First things first, we visited the Festival Center (we did this twice, once at night and once during the day). 

The Festival Center was housed in the former Wonders of Life Pavilion. 

We picked up our Food and Wine passports. 

The passport lists every kiosk and the dishes that you can get at said kiosks.  Each country/kiosk has their own stamp. Once you order a dish, you can get a cast member to stamp your passport, just like an actual passport. Challenge accepted, we thought on the first night. 

The Festival Center was filled with shops and places where various food related seminars were held.  The most fun part was the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience.  

They had neat chocolate sculptures.

There was a place where you could fill a bag with a myriad of flavors, some we've never seen before, of Ghirardelli chocolate squares.  It was one flat price per bag so people were using some interesting engineering skills, trying to figure out how to fit the most squares into their bags. We said that we would come back on our last day and get a bag. Sadly it never happened. 

Once we had our passports in hand, and chomped our one free chocolate square to build up our energy, we set out on our eating world tour. 

We sampled food on three different days. 

For those in the Food and Wine know, the Canadian cheese soup from the Canada kiosk is a must. 

I agree. It was delicious. Sometimes cheese soup can be a little bland, but this soup had a nice tang. It had a perfect consistency. Not too thick, not watery. 

Our next bite was the Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise. 

The pork slider was good, but not great.

With all of those flavors going on, you would think it would be more...flavorful. It was more on the blah side. The spicy mayonnaise wasn't spicy at all. The meat was nice and juicy, so it did have that going for it, but it wasn't my favorite dish of the festival. 

Although I was tempted to finally try haggis (someday I'll give it a whirl), we skipped the traditional Scottish dish in favor of the seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon. I didn't have high expectations for a scallop cooked in a booth. I was pleasantly surprised. 

This tied with the cheddar soup as my favorite Food and Wine dish. The scallop was cooked perfectly.

The bacon went well with the scallop and the spinach-cheddar gratin was gooey-creamy goodness. I could have eaten about five. 

We got two of the items at the Ireland kiosk. First we got the cheese platter that came with Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, and Skellig.

Shannon was more interested in the cheese plate than I was, but I'm glad he insisted on getting it in the end.  The cheeses were quite yummy. 

We also got the lobster and seafood fisherman's pie. This was hearty and filled to the brim with the bounty of the sea.  One warning however, you want to open it up and give it a few minutes, otherwise you will be greeted with a mouthful of molten seafood lava. 

Ireland had my favorite view of all of the kiosks we visited. 

Farm Fresh
At this kiosk we sampled the loaded mac n’ cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers, and green onions.

I really liked this dish.  The pepper bacon and the green onions made it wonderfully zippy. While I thought it had a fine amount of cheese, Shannon felt that the mac and cheese was not cheesy enough. This dish caused us to have a lively debate on what constitutes enough cheesiness. 

While there were plenty of drinking teams?... at Food and Wine, wearing their matching t-shirts, and attempting to drink around the world, we didn't partake in much of the wine part of the Food and Wine Festival. We did get the hard cider flight at the Farm Fresh kiosk however.  

I liked the pear cider the best, and the raspberry the least. The raspberry had the faint taste of cough medicine.  

Chew Lab
Out of all of the desserts at the festival, I wanted to try the dessert from the Chew Lab the most. The dessert was a liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel.  Sure, maybe it's a little gimmicky, but a dessert made using liquid nitrogen is still pretty cool (no pun intended).  

The truffle, once frozen, tasted like ice cream. The truffle part was tasty, but the highlight was the whisky caramel. Yum. 

Our intent was to spend our final day at Disney World noshing on as many of the other festival dishes as we could fit in our bellies. Poland, Patagonia, and New Zealand were just a few of the stamps we planned on collecting.  We made our way to the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning to ride a few of our favorites one last time, then we planned on hopping on the monorail to Epcot.

While walking in Fantasyland, the sky grew ominous.

While we made our way through Frontierland, the heavens opened to poured buckets. At first we thought it was one of those short Florida rain bursts, but the rain continued, and continued. I had enough trouble keeping my churro dry, and the Magic Kingdom has many places to hide under cover.  

All of the Food and Wine kiosks are completely out in the open. Once you get your food, there aren't a lot of ways to keep it dry.  The rain didn't stop until about an hour before we had to leave, so we ended up spending our entire last day at the Magic Kingdom instead of Epcot. So much for collecting all of the stamps. 

We had a fun time exploring the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. The food was good, but I can't necessarily say it was amazing. There wasn't anything that made me want to buy a ticket for next year because I just had to taste it again. If we happen to go to Disney World during the festival, it would be an added bonus, but we don't intend to plan another trip specifically around the event.  

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