October in Disney’s Epcot has got to be the perfect time for foodies. The International Food and Wine Festival, appropriately marketed as “taste your way around the world,” is set up in such a way that you can hop from one booth to another and enjoy offerings influenced by different cultures. Once you have completed (tasted) a food item from a “destination,” you can have them stamp your Food and Wine Festival passport, which also lists what’s available in each location.
For our anniversary this year, my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to go to Florida — this being a year we thought travel was out of the question, this was a truly blessing — and being the foodies that we are, the Food and Wine Fest was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
My apologies for the not-so-good photos of the food. It was a combination of the crowd and lack of places to sit.
Our favorite was the Greek stand with their grilled greek cheese with pistachios and honey (a wonderful salty-sweet combination). My boyfriend also liked their chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce (I didn’t think it was out of the norm and came even close to anything we tasted in Greece), but the greek cheese was definitely in my top 3.
I would put Patagonia at the top of my list as well. We went to the Festival twice, one on a weekday and another the following Saturday (if you are going to go and do not have any events planned on a weekend, do yourself a favor and go during a weekday — the crowds are much thinner and your experience would be much more pleasant) and we visited them twice. We especially liked their grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato puree (gluten free). The sauce was very good, the herb taste pronounced, and the puree was smooth and creamy. We also tried their beef empanada — my boyfriend liked it, but I wasn’t as much a fan as the skewer, which I would list as my favorite.
New Zealand’s steamed green lip mussels with garlic butter and toasted bread crumbs were pretty good as well for seafood lovers. The mussel taste is very pronounced and crisped up by the crumbs. My boyfriend tried their lamb chop with spicy tomato chutney, and he claims it was okay (if you read my food posts on this blog, you know how I feel about the difference between lamb here and the ones I’ve had in Greece and Turkey, so I was very hesitant to taste it, plus the fact that I don’t generally like tomato sauces.
We liked the Mexico booth’s shrimp and rib eye tacos, although we wouldn’t call them great. We had high expectations — there is this small restaurant in upstate New York that has set the bar high on shrimp tacos (more on this in a separate post soon) so we didn’t think their offerings were as good.
Speaking of shrimp, the garlic shrimp with roasted tomatoes, lemon myrtle and rapini in the Australian booth was also very good. I don’t like lemon as compared to citrus but the lemon-garlic taste they achieved was just right. I liked the mint pesto in their grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies, but did not like the lamb though my boyfriend did (both were gluten free). If asked whether it’s one worth lining up for in a sea of people with limited time though, I’d say skip it.
Coming into the festival, we heard so much about the Brazilian offerings, especially the much revered pork belly. Needless to say, we had high expectations. So when we found them, we bought the crispy pork belly with black beans, tomato and cilantro, which definitely was one of the top dishes of the festival for me. The cilantro was a nice touch and it was a big serving. One caveat is that even though it was good, it’s still not the best pork belly dish we’ve had (that being the Culinary Institute dish and some from the Party of the Senses, which I will talk about later). We also tried their mocequa de pescado — Regal Springs premium tilapia with coconut lime sauce and steamed rice. It had a good coconut flavor. I don’t usually like sweet in savory food so it is not my taste, but my boyfriend surprisingly liked it. Considering he isn’t a fish eater, that’s a compliment.
Another thing we heard so much about before we got there was the Canadian cheddar cheese soup. One person even said if this is no longer served people are going to storm the gates. We tried and liked it, and if given the chance to go back another year would try it again. The other item we ate from their selection was the “Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce, which we wish we skipped.
Being that it was October, I was expecting the weather to be cooler, but the humidity was high. So the Desserts and Champagne booth’s frozen S’mores featuring Monin® Toasted Marshmallow Syrup was the best solution to the heat. It was refreshing and just the perfect sweetness. Another must-try is the Refreshment Port’s Dole Whip Soft Serve.
It’s funny because I thought I was done writing this (I am not writing in sequence of the passport) — and then I saw that there’s more!
The Farm Fresh booth had farm to table offerings. My boyfriend loved the breakfast-like Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon hash with sweet corn, potatoes, hollandaise and pickled jalapeños; and we both liked the griddled “yard bird” with braised greens and house-made habanero sauce (it had crispy skin and was juicy on the inside).
We were disappointed with the Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise from the Hawaii booth, as well as with Hops and Barley’s baked lobster alfredo and baked carrot cake with Craisins® and cream cheese icing, which my boyfriend thought was too sweet.
Should there be a teriyaki gyoza bun — steamed-bun filled with chicken, vegetables and sweet teriyaki in the Japan booth in future years, I don’t recommend trying it.
Overall, it was a great experience and we would love to go again another time.