So, we went over for a day of fun in the sun and to sample the great culinary treats at Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival this past Saturday and boy, did we eat!
First Things First
The first thing we did, was head over to the Festival’s Welcome Center at the former Wonders of Life Pavilion. This is the hub for all of the happenings for the festival as well as the place for all of the festival merchandise. New this year, at least new to me, is the Festival’s gift card – similar to the small Disney Photo Pass card in size and functionality.
It is a Gift Card you can purchase and apply a certain amount of money towards to make it easier to wander the Festival. Instead of having to deal with hoards of singles, you can buy one of these handy cards and pay for your food and wine experiences with a swipe.
I love Greek food and every year I look forward to stopping for some great food at the Greek pavilion during the festival. We tried the Greek Salad and the Spanakopita. The Greek Salad was good, but this year there was an almost unreasonable amount of red onions throughout; it seems to have created some significant mass to the dish yet the onions overpowered their usually delicious salad.
The Spanakopita, however, was about as perfect as you could get. The filo dough was flaky, the combination of the spinach and other ingredients was on the mark.
Wellington, New Zealand
Being the only seafood lover in my group, the next stop for me was New Zealand and their Seared Sea Scallop with Vegetable Slaw and Lemon Oil. The scallops were a decent size and cooked to perfection, while the slaw was quite tasty but suffered the onslaught of red onions found in the Greek Salad. Luckily, that did not overpower a perfectly cooked pair of scallops.
While I was barely finished with my scallops, the rest of my family was busy getting the Kerrygold Cheese Selection as well as a Lobster & Scallop Fisherman’s Pie for me. The cheese selection was very nice and the chutney served with it was great. The combination of the brown bread, tangy cheeses played nicely with the sweetness of the chutney.
The fisherman’s pie, however, was a bit heavy for a hot day. Although the flavors were well balanced, the sauce was a bit runny and overall the dish was just too much for the season. I can imagine liking this much better towards the end of the festival, when the nights are a bit cooler and you need something to warm you up.
After the heavy fisherman’s pie, we bypassed the offerings from France for this visit and headed over to the Beer Hop. This is a great way to sample some beers if you have not tried a wide range from around the world. You buy the passport and try a sampling of the beers offered – in 4 oz cups. When you get done with the tasting, you can pick your favorite and buy a nicely drawn glass (plastic cup, actually) as you continue on your way around the festival.
I went with the Fire Rock and my daughters had the pretzel bread and cheese sauce. The pretzel bread looked like the great bread from Le Cellier in Canada, but the cheese sauce was merely whizz-type product and nothing memorable.
New Orleans, U.S.A.
We continued our stroll around the World Showcase, albeit at a slower pace considering how much food we had been consuming with a stop at New Orleans. I tried the Spicy Cajun Crawfish and Vegetable Stew, more commonly referred to as etouffee; it was great! Although the serving was bit small, the flavors were just the right balance, offering enough spice to make it interesting.
Hops and Barley
We were too early for the beer seminars at the American Adventure, but it certainly looks like a great seminar if you can fit it into your schedule while visiting the festival.
Up to this point, our little 3 year old had found nothing to her liking. We were sure that a little pizza and pasta might do the trick. We got the Cannelloni and Pizza as well as a couple of Primavera (Strawberry, Banana, and Peach Slush) for the girls. The Cannelloni was great – so great, I had to go back and get another one since everyone seemed to enjoy it so much. The Primavera was also excellent, offering the right blend of flavors in a cold drink to beat the heat of the day. The Pizza, however, was another matter; it just didn’t deliver. The dough was bland, the sauce overpowered the cheese and the slice of ham placed on top seemed to be a bit of an after-thought.
Wrapping it Up
By about this half-way mark on our tour around World Showcase we had enough food for the day. The food we had sampled was very good, with a few standouts. One thing to note, is the festival is scaled down from previous years. For example, Australia has customarily taken over the green-space around Germany, but this year they have opted for a small, traditional booth. Also, some of the seminars and events that in previous years were offered for free, now have fees to participate. Despite that, this is still one of the best ways to spend a warm Autumn day here in Central Florida.
We strolled the remaining portion of the showcase looking over the menu for our next visit to the festival. There are some great dishes that I am looking forward to sampling and we will bring that walking tour to you as well. Until then, bon appetit!