2011 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival
On Friday afternoon, I forewent lunch and dinner so I could instead enjoy all that EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival had to offer with Caitlin and Kelly and their boys Josh and Steve. I’ve been really making an effort to open myself up to new and exotic foods recently, so I was excited to sample some dishes and drinks from all over the world. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try everything, but I still made out extremely well.
The first stand we hit was Australia. I got Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon and Shrimp on the Barbie with a Citrus Glaze. I’m not a big shrimp fan, but it was delicious with the glaze. I’d order a full entrée portion. The Cab Sauv was fabulous and I almost got a second sample before deciding to save my money. I also tried a bite of the Grilled Lamb Chop Josh ordered – I’ve never tried lamb before and wasn’t expecting to like it, but I didn’t hate it. It was very tender and not as gross as I find most red meat.
The next stand was Brazil where I sampled the Mahi Mahi with Steamed Rice, Hearts of Palm and Coconut-Lime Sauce. I was surprised by the Mahi Mahi, another meat I’ve never had before. I usually hate most fish on the first tasting, but I really did like this. The rice was really plain-tasting and not worth filling up on, so I ended up tossing most of it.
I didn’t order anything at Argentina, but had a bite of Caitlin’s Beef Empanada. It was meh, but I don’t like beef anyway, so I guess it was good. At the Caribbean stand I got the Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa. The chicken was a solid choice, but boring compared to other stuff I had. The sweet and tangy salsa was much more exciting.
I skipped over the Mexico booth because I already knew I could order fish tacos and Margaritas for a more reasonable price and probably better quality at any old Mexican restaurant. I tried a sip of Steve’s Dos Equis, which I found underwhelming considering it’s the top choice of the Most Interesting Man in the World. Then again, he doesn’t always drink beer, so maybe his taste is lacking.
Scandinavia’s menu scared me a bit, so we skipped that and headed straight for China. The sun was high and it was the absolute perfect time for a cup of Caramel-Ginger Ice Cream and a glass of Tsing Tao Beer. The ice cream was refreshing in the heat, and the new-to-me flavor was heavier on ginger than caramel, which I loved because I prefer spicy to sweet. My only (ridiculous) complaint was that the serving was too big – it was a standard-sized dessert, but I just wanted a sample. It filled me up, and I had to wait awhile until I could eat anything else. The beer was fantastic! Smooth with a hint of fruity flavor. It was definitely the second best drink sample I had all day.
South Korea had a longer line and nothing that really appealed to me (pork and beef – meh) so we skipped over it. Next up was South Africa where I tried Bunny Chow, which was vegetable curry in a bread loaf (you eat like a bunny, not an actual bunny like my mom originally thought.) Of all the non-desserts, this was my favorite! I might have to look up some curry recipes and learn to make my own!
We skipped the Cheese stand on our way to the German selections. They actually had two stands – one for the Brewer’s Collection of beer and the regular one for food and a couple of drinks. I had to get some Goulash Suppe. Goulash was my favorite Hungarian dish from when I studied in Budapest, and I hadn’t had any since returning to the States. This sample was okay, but not quite as flavorful or hearty as what I remembered from Hungary. The Florida heat didn’t help – it’s definitely a cold-weather dish. The guys got two different flights from the Brewer’s Collection, each with 3 different beers to sample. I sipped all 6 and didn’t like a single one.
The next stand was Poland. My sisters and I all commited a terrible sin against our heritage by not ordering anything. Apologies to my Wysocki ancestors, but stuffed cabbage and kielbasa are gross, and pierogies in 85° weather seemed like a seriously horrible idea. I pledge to try 3 bites of every course at Wiglia to make up for it.
I also skipped Italy, but tried a bite of the Ravioli Di Formaggio all’Emiliana Kelly ordered. She really liked it; I’m not a huge fan of ravioli or beef bolognese, but thought it was good for what it was. Caitlin got the Cappellini con Gamberi Piccanti and loved it. They both had samples of the Placido Pinot Grigio and said was very good.
Fife & Drum (at the USA pavilion) featured a specialty drink for the Festival – Frozen Red Stag Lemonade with Jim Beam. Josh had already tried this earlier in the vacation and loved it enough to order another on our Festival tour. I tried a sip and didn’t like it. It was basically a fruit slushee. I wanted more of a whiskey-kick. Another American stand, Hops & Barley, had some Maine lobster dishes and a selection of Sam Adams. Steve ordered a Sam Adams, but I don’t remember which flavor. I do know that he was satisfied with it.
Although the Tiger Beer sounded enticing, we skipped over Singapore for the Japan stand. Kelly got the Spicy Tuna Roll and said that it was okay, but not as good as what she’s used to. Steve got a Kirin Draft Beer and really loved it. I ordered my first-ever Sake – they were two options and I asked the cashier what the difference was. He said the Junmai Ginjo Masumi was fruity and lighter than the Itami Onigoroshi, so that’s what I went with. The first sip really caught me off-guard – I knew Sake was suppsoed to be strong, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to clear up my sinuses like that. After a couple more tentative sips, I just decided to shoot it and didn’t die. I might be a Sake fan someday, I just need to get a little more acclimated to it.
I seriously considered the Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney from New Zealand, but by this point in the day I’d spent a lot of money and had to be more frugal with my choices, so we skipped over it. Next up was Morocco, which I think was the winner of the whole Festival! Caitlin and Kelly got delicious Mimosas and actually went for seconds; I tried a sip and loved it as well, but was more interested in the food. Specifically, the Harissa Chicken Roll and Baklava. The roll was wonderful, but the Baklava was hands-down the best thing I ate all vacation! It was a perfectly rich combination of nutty, cinnamon-y and sweet, and the pastry wasn’t too flaky for my liking. I’ve been daydreaming about it ever since!
We skipped the Portugal stand and Wine Bar, but I had to stop at Belgium for the Godiva Chocolate Liquor Iced Coffee. This drink was seriously good. It almost tasted like a chocolate milkshake but much smoother. I could cap off every night with one of these. (Bonus points to me for passing on the Seashell Truffles and the Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream, despite how evilly tempting they were. Willpower – I kind of have it!)
France was another stand I skipped – nothing on the menu really sang to me. Then I shamed the other half of my heritage by skipping Ireland. But I did not need to drop $7 on Guinness when I can find it at any decent bar or restaurant. Besides, the man pouring them was awful – Steve got one, and the guy just poured it straight into the glass!!!! It foamed all the way to the bottom of the glass, and Steve said it tasted bad. I tried a sip out of curiousity, and he was right. It was flat and flavorless. If it’d been mine, I would have gone back and demanded they let me pour myself a new one. That guy should be arrested, or at least banned from the taps.
Josh had to stop by Canada (he’s part Canuck, which is why I’ll never be able to fully trust him) and get a Moosehead beer. I think I tried a sip? I don’t actually remember, not because I was too drunk (as you could probably tell, I was all about the “Food” portion of the Festival,) but because I was distracted by Joel, or as Caitlin calls him, “Joel the Troll.” He was a cast member who Steve, Kelly and I stopped to talk to while Caitlin and Josh stood in line at the Canada stand. He was recommending the Kona Pipeline beer at the Hawai’i stand to us Guinness drinkers when Caitlin and Josh returned. Even when sober, Caitlin is extremely…”gregarious” is a good word, I think. Joel did not know her, so he did not understand this. After Caitlin had been talking to him for a bit, he made a crack about kicking out guests who got too unruly with the alcohol. I thought it was hysterical; Caitlin did not. The conversation got incredibly tense, then Joel randomly started talking about how he wanted to be a video game designer. He then gave us a mini-lecture about how long it takes to produce games, which was weird, because we had already established that none of us are gamers, nor are we even mildly interested in gaming. So we awkwardly said “okay… nice talking to you!” and quickly walked away without looking back. I’m not sure Joel noticed.
Next up was Greece, the stand I was most excited for. All of the food items looked seriously good, but I settled for just Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki. Good thing too, because that cost me just enough money to finish off my swipe-card. It was really yummy. The Tzatziki was nice and tart and made the otherwise ordinary dish really pop. Not the best of the night, but still memorable.
I made sure not to even look at the menu for the Dessert & Champagne stand, lest I steal somebody else’s card and order 2 of everything. The last stand we ordered at was Hawai’i, where Steve bought me a Pipeline (thanks, Steve!) Joel’s word proved to be good – it was a nice, earthy porter similar to Guinness, but a bit sweeter. I prefer the stronger and smoother taste of Guinness, but it was still the best drink of the night. And a hell of a lot better than that flat, foamy monstrosity from the Ireland stand.
The last stand was the Craft Beer Collection, but it was closing up by the time we got to it, and we didn’t really want anything there anyway. We’d had our fill and were ready to head back to the resort. It was a long day, and we were in much need of sleep!
The 5 of us had a lot of fun and were really happy with most of our samples. Though it’s very expensive (I will not disclose just how much money I spent, but I will say I’m glad I’d been saving my pennies for a few months) and the sample portions were pretty small, the Festival offered a nice variety of foods and drinks to try and had a warm, fun vibe. I’m already trying to figure out if I can afford a trip next October!
Posted on 10/20/2011, in Uncategorized and tagged Alcohol, Caitlin, Disney World, EPCOT, fattie, Food, Food & Wine Festival, good eats, Kelly, new ventures, Vacation. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.