Melyssa and the Mouse: Epcot's Food & Wine Festival
With the first month of Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival coming to a close this weekend, let's take a look back at all the food and drinks that have been tasted and sampled since the August 31st kickoff, along with the Disney Parks Blog event I went to this week.
Along with an unprecedented length of the festival, the marketplaces have also expanded into Future World and there are things to see in the Festival Center and the Odyssey building. There are also a few new marketplaces this year, the most interesting of which has to be the Light Lab located in Future World West. Other new marketplaces include Flavors from Fire, Active Eats, Coastal Eats, and The Almond Orchard have premiered this year. India and Spain have also made a return after a couple of years away. With so much to eat and drink, and with more time to do it in, there's much to discuss. So let's jump right into it!
I want to start off with the Light Lab as this is the most unique area of the festival, combining senses of light, taste, touch, and smell. In the little booklet, the only offerings listed are beverages; however, the most famed item out of this marketplace is the glownut- the donut that glows in the black-lit area. It was a really good donut but nothing super special about it besides the fact that the light makes it glow. I also tried the Bleu Spectrum- Blanc de Bleu Cuvee Mousseux with Boba Pearls, which was a light bubbly drink with flavored balls- a fun drink for a hot day. I think the experience of this room is worth it, though I wish there was more to taste.
Moving into the rest of the outdoor marketplaces over in Future World West, we can take a peek at the new Flavors from Fire. The Piggy Wings are the highly praise roasted pork wings with Korean BBQ sauce and sesame seeds. They deserve the praise as they were fall of the bone tender and the twist of this not being traditional BBQ wings made the end taste wonderful! I was also able to try the Sweet Pancake with spicy Chipotle-chicken sausage, onion jam, and maple-butter syrup, which was a combination of sweet and savory. This was probably not one I would have sought out if it was not at the event, but it was a pleasant surprise with the mix of flavors. If you like sweet and/or savory, you should definitely seek this out.
At Coastal Eats, the Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip served with sourdough baguette was my favorite fish dish so far, though the Lump Crab Cake with Napa cabbage slaw and avocado-lemongrass cream was also a good option, just nothing terribly new. A light dessert from Active Eats was the Sweet Avocado Cream with strawberries, yellow cake, and tortilla streusel. While this initially sounds weird because of the avocado, the end result was absolutely delightful- I could not even tell there was any avocado in it besides the light green color on top! Inside at the Odyssey Center, which holds the Craft Beers and Epcot Legacy Showplace marketplaces, you can find the Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich. this style of serving food in a cone has made a comeback this year and this dish did not disappoint. The mac and cheese portion of it was spectacular with just the right amount of creaminess and the cheeseburger portion was simply some meat tossed throughout. Overall, an easy way to eat something delicious on the go!
The Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte with whipped cream and raspberry dust and the Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle at the Chocolate Studio were two very different desserts, but both equally delicious. The raspberry helps off-set the bitterness of the dark chocolate, leaving you with a blend of sweet and bitter that is pleasant but does leave you wanting a glass of cold milk. The liquid nitro truffle is a fun new option, but be careful if you have cold sensitivity as this will definitely hit a nerve. Personally, I enjoyed the torte much more.
At the Cheese Studio, you can find the Braised Beef "Stroganoff" with tiny egg noodles, wild mushroom, and boursin garlic and fine herbs cheese sauce. I was able to try this at the Parks Blog event, which was good as I could say I probably would have not sought this out and paid for it while on my way around the festival. It was a pleasant surprise with very tender beef and a lovely sauce that was not too heavy. I'm not sure how this would hold up if you were eating it out in the hot Florida sun, but it was a delectable dish overall.
Now let's head into World Showcase for more! A stop at the Farm Fresh marketplace in the front of World Showcase will bring you to the Crispy Chicken with griddled cornbread and red eye gravy. Again, I tried this at the event so this was delicious while sitting in the air conditioned room. The chicken had a perfect skin on it and the cornbread was some of the best I've tried. Also served here is Woodchuck Raspberry Hard Cider and the Two Henrys Elderberry Cream Hard Cider, both of which I highly endorse. I don't typically enjoy beer and wine can give me a headache but ciders have become a nice replacement, particularly in the hot Florida weather- just be careful if you have to watch your sugars. The Loaded Greek "Nachos" in Greece returns this year and did not disappoint- a perfect sharing size! If you're hesitant about Thailand- try the Seared Shrimp and Scallop Cake with cold noodle salad! Over in India, the Madras Red Curry with roasted cauliflower, baby carrots, chickpeas, and basmati rice is a great vegetarian, gluten free option with a really nice kick in the spice department (and I like spicy food!). The mango lassi non-alcoholic drink is a perfect compliment to the spiciness of the dish- so you should definitely pair them together. Another great surprise was the Pistachio Cardamom Bundt Cake with Chocolate-Coconut Mousse, which was offered at the Parks Blog event, thankfully, because I would not have sought this out to pay for. If you've ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, then this dessert is perfect- the pistachio flavor was not too overwhelming and the mousse in the center was a good compliment to the somewhat drier texture of the cake. If you're looking for a good light dessert, and can handle nuts, then I would suggest this. If you don't like pistachio in your sweets, then you can definitely pass on this.
Moving onto the back part of the World Showcase, let's head into Italy, where the Crispy Calamari with spicy pomodoro sauce and the Spezzatino con Polenta: beef stew with parmesan creamy polenta are awaiting. The spicy sauce on the calamari is not as spicy as the curry in Indian, but if you want a little kick, this definitely has it. The polenta was good, though may not be great on a hot Florida day- save it for post 4pm. The McKenzie's Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider from West Seneca, NY was offered at the Parks Blog event, but can be found out in Block & Hans in The American Adventure, and instantly became my favorite cider with their black cherry flavor. I've tried apple cider, pear cider, pear and strawberry cider, and elderberry cider- but this black cherry was amazing- not too sweet as a pear cider and not as crisp as a typical apple cider. Also over in the American Adventure, the Hops & Barley marketplace has the favorite New England Lobster Roll and Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing- both of which are very good, though the cake drenched in icing was a bit much. Over in Japan, the Salmon BLT Sushi Roll: Futomaki Roll with lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, and carrots topped with yuzu miso salmon, tomato, and bacon chips was a great option, though it was two very large pieces and was less like sushi than I would have preferred. It tasted amazing, but had a lot going on than typical sushi rolls I've tried before. However, pairing it with the Pom Pineapple Sake Cocktail was a perfect treat. And finally, a returning favorite, the Belgium Waffle with Berry Compote and whipped cream is still a perfect sized treat!
So what have you tried? Did you have a favorite? What are you looking forward to trying?