You may or may not know I went to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, you most certainly know this. This was only my second year doing the festival, but I think I do it pretty well. Last year we arrived not really knowing what to expect and were handed little passports. We quickly realized that these weren't passports, they were hostile challenges that dared us to prove our worth by consuming at least one item at each "destination."
We made it our mission to get a stamp at every single booth, and we did IN LESS THAN EIGHT HOURS.
All I can tell you is that it hurt.
This year I planned ahead and set aside two days and a stupid amount of money because nothing at Disney is cheap. Luckily we have season passes so admission was covered.
Before we begin this journey of 30 tasty destinations, some disclaimers:
1. I don't have a sophisticated wine palate. When sommeliers start talking about "hints of pencil lead" and whatnot, all I can do is smile politely and wonder how they're so familiar with pencil lead. My wine descriptors will be along the lines of "dry," "sweet," and "wet."
2. I didn't do any demonstrations because hitting all the destinations was my number one priority.
3. Not all of these pictures will look super appetizing. All of the food is served in these unfortunate looking cardboard vessels, but nothing can be done. Also, I didn't get super up-close pictures of every item because theme parks don't really lend themselves to food photo shoots.
Also I sometimes started eating before I took a pic.
You can tell it's on because of our game faces.
I was super excited because Dogfish head Namaste was featured this year. We payed for our beverage and waited in line only to be told that they were out but we could come back later with our receipt and get what was rightfully ours. They were still out when we came back later that evening, so I chugged a Fat Tire real quick before going on Spaceship Earth.
The options at Terra were imitation meat dishes, vegan wine (isinglass free!), and fresh watermelon juice. I was going to do a wine, but it was quite warm so I opted instead for a refreshing glass of watermelon juice.
It was quite nice and frankly the most hydrating thing I drank that day.
Ooh my babies. Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado, and Cilantro. I was tentatively excited about this dish. Pork belly is phenomenal when done correctly and disgustingly chewy when done poorly.
I am happy to report that this was phenomenal and one of the more filling small plates available. The pork belly was seasoned really well and fried perfectly. My only wish is that there was more pork belly and less black beans because who wouldn't want that?
I also enjoyed a delicious frozen (but impossible for me to pronounce) Caipririnha because it was hot and I hadn't had a drink yet.
I will give Epcot this, they put alcohol in their alcoholic beverages. I really appreciate that, because that ish is $8-$10.
I ordered the Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato (a variety of sweet potato) Puree; Sean got the Beef Empanada.
Oh what a skewer. The meat was medium rare and tender, and the chimichurri was super flavorful. The boniato was a pretty basic mash, but who doesn't like mashed potatoes (besides Olivia)?
The empanada was delightful as well, but the skewer was the real star of this destination.
The choice here was a Shrimp Taco with Purple Cabbage and a Mango-Habnero Margarita.
The taco was good, flavorful but not spicy, and the shrimp were cooked well and seemed fresh enough.
This margarita had a KICK and it was DELIGHTFUL. This spicy-sweet drink was one of my favorites of the fest.
We each ordered a Singapore Sling. It's full name was Singapore Sling featuring Hendrick's Gin and Cherry Heering garnished with an All Natural CherryMan Farm to Market Maraschino.
Sean (disgruntled): This is just red gin.
Claire (elated): This is JUST RED GIN.
This is a repeat from last year and one of my favorites. The Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun is delicious and topped with an amazing, spicy peanut sauce. I love a steamed bun, and this one is pillowy and warm and I just want to live in there.
Destination: South Korea
I was really excited about the Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce, and this exceeded my expectations. Though there isn't any true kimchi on here (at least not that I could detect) the kimchi marinade on the slaw is sweet and acidic and the dog itself is SPICY.
I find it really strange and unfortunate that all of Africa gets boiled down to two items of food and three wines, but here we are.
My stomach was threatening fullness, so I decided on a liquid option. The MAN Vinters Chenin Blanc wansn't really that memorable, just a dry-ish white wine.
Sean got the Spinach & Paneer Cheese Pocket, which he described as an "elevated hot pocket."
I've always thought of cheese as less of a "food" and more of a "destination" or "state of being." I'm glad Epcot agrees with me.
UNFORTUNATELY this was the biggest disappointment. I was so excited and so hopeful about the Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Souffle with Fig Jam, but it just didn't get there.
The souffle was damp and mealy and the fig "jam" was one giant fig coated in a sticky sweet syrup. The little plastic knives were no match for the mighty fig, so the only option was to gnaw.
It was really pretty though.
Sean got the Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll, which I had a bite of and found pleasing, and I enjoyed the Green Tea Colada. Pineapple and green tea go really well together, and it also got me nice and drunk for the Japan gift shop.
Sadly, I did not purchase this. A decision I regret to this day.
BUT. I did buy a Chef's Hat Mickey Ears! Which made me so happy, I went straight to...
Where I celebrated my excellent purchase with a Mimosa Royale (Royale=liquor added).
Destination: New Zealand
I wan't a huge fan of these huge mussels.
The Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter & Toasted Bread Crumbs were a little fishy tasting. I didn't really detect any garlic butter.
I was pretty excited about the Potato & Leek Waffle with Braised Beef, but the sweet waffles smelled SO GOOD.
I still ordered the savory option, and it was okay. A little bland. The braised beef tasted like a basic pot roast, which isn't bad.
Luckily, Sean had ordered the Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache & Whipped Cream and it was a waffle worthy of Lesley Knope. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, sweet but not so sweet that it competes with the ganache.
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS.
I loooooove the Escargot Persillade en Brioche (Garlic & Parsley Snails in Brioche) and I love the Eiffel Sour Slush (Vodka, Grey Goose Cherry Noir, Grand Marnier, Cranberry Juice).
The snails are garlicky and buttery and in a wonderful little brioche house. The snails themselves aren't actually all that noticeable, but I still love this item.
The slush is tart and strong and I really needed it as all that walking will sober you up real quick.
Another favorite. The Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie was so tasty and I was pleased to find detectable pieces of lobster! Do you see those mashed potatoes on top? Forget it! And the sauce! Savory but not too salty with a hint of sweetness and plenty of umami.
Last year I had the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and that's a solid item, but this year the Seared Rainbow Trout with Bacon, Frisee & Maple Minus 8 Vinaigrette called my name in a way that could not be ignored.
I think I made the right choice. The fish was cooked perfectly and everything was SO BALANCED. When you're playing around with bacon, it's easy to overwhelm everything else but luckily it didn't outshine the fish.
Also I want that vinaigrette in my life.
The Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios & Honey (recipe here) was a favorite last year, and though I still enjoyed it, it wasn't as excellent this time around. Sean said it was too salty, but I think it wasn't fresh enough.
Still tasty, but not amazing.
Destination: Refreshment Port
This was a new destination featuring ALL OF THE PINEAPPLE and I was a little disappointed to find that the Dole Whip they were serving was the orange flavor. They made up for that by drowning it in Creme de Cacao White, but still.
I would have preferred the Pineapple Whip.
That ends Day One. We joined some friends and hopped over to the Magic Kingdom, where we rode Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean before our feet fell off and we were forced to return to the hotel.
Destination: Desserts & Champagne
My only real regret is that I didn't do any real desserts, but it was before noon and I hadn't eaten anything so I thought champagne the more reasonable choice.
The Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial champagne was OUTSTANDING. Really drinkable and just a little sweet and that's all I'm going to say because my wine vocab is limited.
I got the Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties.
Here is the problem: Haggis is illegal in this country because of all the sheep lung, but calling a veggie loaf "haggis" is not the answer. I'm sure there had to be a better route to take with this.
Whatever, this wasn't bad, just really bland.
Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chutney & Spicy Mayonnaise.
Nice. Very nice. I love pulled pork that is well done, and this was moist and not drenched in a too-sweet sauce.
Sorry about this pic. I have no idea what happened.
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto & Potato Crunchies. Get ready.
Lamb can be a little gamey for my tastes, but this was everything that lamb (and grilled meat in general) should be. Nice and tender, not at all chewy. The mint pesto was PERFECT. I was worried it would be too minty but it was nice and subtle.
Here's a little something for you:
Destination: Brewer's Collection
Kiiiiind of a misnomer. It's really just a collection of German beers and I'm not a huge fan of those so I got this Schofferhofer Grapefruit. It's tasty enough (if you like grapefruit) but really low ABV. Nothing spectacular.
Another carryover from last year is the Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll. It's exactly what you would expect, which is delicious.
Get the Kielbasa & Potato Pierogi. That's what Sean did and it was fantastic. Everything about it is good, especially the kielbasa.
I wanted to branch out so I got the Zapiekanki (Toasted Mushroom, Caramelized Onion & Cheese Bread with House-made Ketchup) and it was literally the sum of its parts. The ketchup was a little sweet and over-powering.
I wasn't impressed with the Ravioli last year so this year it was the Italian Margherita which tasted like a regular margarita.
That was fine.
Destination: Hops & Barley
Another favorite of mine is the Lobster Roll with Lemon Herb Mayonnaise. There is a generous amount of sweet, fresh lobster and I really appreciated that they don't overdo it on the mayo.
Destination: Florida Local
Also a little disappointed here. The Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles was so underwhelming. The burger was bland and tasted microwaved, and the cheese was flavorless.
The pickles were really good, though.
Destination: American Adventure Coffee Cart
Not only does this destination have the worst name, it also only gives you one option! The only item available at this stop is the Shakin' Jamaican Coffee Made with Kahlua, Vanilla, and Caramel and it was TERRIBLE. I got the "frozen" version and it wasn't frozen! It was just thick and kind of cold and way too sweet and here's a picture of me drinking it.
AND THAT WAS IT. WE DID IT.
So we went back to the pavilion and some dude gave us our final stamp without even verifying we had all the other stamps so it was kind of anticlimactic.
It was like that last year too. Maybe it was the same bored guy.
BUT THEN THE DAY GOT EVEN BETTER.
I got to meet the amazing and inspiring Lesley Kinzel! She is just as nice as you think she is and we had a great time visiting with her and her husband.
She also has the best laugh out of all the laughs.
Did you guys read all of that or did you just scroll through the pictures? I don't blame you. It was a lot to take in.
Are you going or have you gone to the festival? What were your favorites? I'm going again for Sean's Wine & Dine Half Marathon, so I'm going to try and hit the things I missed.