Walt Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival is a wonderful thing. Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer frolicked through a land made entirely of chocolate? That’s essentially the Food and Wine Festival in a nutshell, only with less cruelty-to-confectionaries and more damage to your wallet. All around the World Showcase you’ll find new kiosks set up celebrating food and drink from across the globe, with dozens of shareable sized dishes of everything you could ever hope to try available for purchase. While each year they offer a wide variety of new menu items, there are always some that are so popular they keep coming back. Here are some of the best items that will be back this year you should be reserving valuable tummy space for… and make sure to check out the official Food and Wine Festival 2014 menus for all the rest! (Food item prices range from $3.00 to $8.00 USD per.)
Belgium Waffle With Berry Compote – There are few things finer in life than a perfectly cooked, crisp waffle, topped with just the right amount of berry compote and a dollop of whipped cream. This is one of those dishes that could have been really heavy but manages to hit the proportions of each component just right to make it feel like a snack instead of a meal. It’s one of the simpler items you’ll find during the event, but hey… simple can be beautiful, and that also makes it a perfect choice for picky eaters.
Honorable Mention: Chilled Coffee With Godiva Chocolate Liqueur – Nine out of ten doctors agree you’re not getting enough chocolate-flavoured, mildly acoholic beverages. Don’t… look that up or anything, just trust me on this. This is one of the lightest, sweetest, and most refreshing drinks you can find at the Festival. The flavour is actually closer to a creamier chocolate milk than it is, say, an iced mocha, and you don’t have to worry about being walloped in the taste buds with the alcohol itself.
“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon With Truffle Butter Sauce – Le Cellier is one of those places that everyone seems to be trying to get reservations at when they plan on visiting Epcot, and once you taste this you’ll find out why it’s so popular. Can you beat tender beef with savory mushrooms and just enough butter sauce that it adds to the flavour without becoming greasy? No. You cannot. This filet is proof that you don’t need to get crazy with steak to make it delicious, but also might convince salt-and-pepper purists that a little fanciness isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It’s one of the more expensive items at the event, however, and on the small side for its price.
Honorable Mention: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup - Rich, warm, thick, and just peppery enough, this tasty soup would be something you’d want to consume by the bucketload… if this weren’t Florida we were talking about. If the idea of eating a hot and hearty soup while the sun beats down on your head doesn’t bother you, this is a great choice. For the rest of us, it might be best left for those rare days during Epcot Food and Wine Festival when the weather is just chilly enough that the wind coming off the water in the World Showcase will make you appreciate something heavy and warm in your belly. Yes, cold days happen in Florida. Stop laughing at us!
Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun With Chili Mayo – Picture it. You hold, within your hands, a perfectly formed, smooth steamed bun. Within? Strips of tender, savory-sweet beef, crispy noodles, and spicy-sweet pink mayonnaise. You admire its perfect, walk-and-eat style configuration. Its tidy construction. You take a bite. Perfection. Then you try to fit the entire thing in your mouth and turn around to get another. It’s the sort of thing that looks like it’s going to be really filling, but is a lot lighter than it seems. Which means it’s perfectly okay to eat three of them by yourself.
Honorable Mention: Black Pepper Shrimp With Sichuan Noodles – This is one of the simpler items you’ll find at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and don’t let the name scare you off if you’re not a fan of spicy food. The pepper flavouring is very subtle, and the seasoning on the chewy noodles is very simple too, though no less tasty. The downside is that the shrimp-to-noodles ratio is skewed heavily in favour of the latter, so you’ll wind up with a few shrimp and then a pile of noodles that can get gluey if left for too long. Try to get this one as fresh as you can, and share it with a friend.
Spanakopita - If you’re not familiar with it, Spanakopita is a warm, flaky phyllo pastry folded around a filling of spinach and feta cheese, and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival typically offers it in two small triangle-shaped portions. The balance of filling to pastry is just right, so you’re left with neither a mouthful of phyllo, or a soggy mess, and the flavours are simple but also simply good. I’d call it perfect to share with a friend, but real friends don’t ask you to choose between them and Spanakopita. It’s best eaten warm in my humble opinion, so try to time your visit for when a new batch is coming out.
Honorable Mention: Chicken Gyro With Tzatziki Sauce - This is a small changed from the Chicken Souvlaki offered in years past, served on a slice of soft pita bread with the creamy tzatziki sauce. It’s still good and offered in a two-or-three bite sized portion, but once you go Souvlaki, you never go back… i. Uh. Forget I made that joke.
Kālua Pork Slider With Sweet and Sour Dole® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise – Tender pulled pork topped with the spicy-sweet combination of pineapples and mayonnaise? Yes please. This is one of those dishes that feels like exactly what you’d want to be eating outside, in the sun, on vacation… which, hey, you probably are! The slider is of a decent size, making this one of the more filling items offered at the event, so plan accordingly if you want to sample lots of different things… or split it with a friend!
Honorable Mention: Tuna Poke With Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips -If you don’t mind raw fish, the tuna part of this dish, served cubed small and marinated lightly, is… fine. It’s there. But what you should really be interested in is the seaweed salad portion of it, which is really surprisingly excellent. It’s not slimy at all, with a subtle, earthy flavour, great texture, and light oil dressing. Don’t be surprised if you wind up wanting to eat an entire plate of it.
Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – Like the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, this instinctively may not sound like something you’d want on a hot Florida day. It’s rich mashed potatoes whipped atop a lobster bisque filled with scallops and bits of lobster, and it’s also traditionally one of the more expensive items at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. It is also, however, insanely good with a lot of complex flavours. Understandable given that the bisque alone contains a whopping seventeen ingredients… trust me, I make this at home once a year. Try it at least once, and then join me off to the side where I’ll be holding a funeral service for this, the first year Ireland has not also offered the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey’s Ganache.
Cannoli al Cioccolato - The cannoli itself is already a pretty awesome creation, right? So now close your eyes, gentle reader, and imagine a cannoli whose shell is covered in just enough chocolate to give it a snap when you bite into it, and filling studded with small bits of candied fruit. Although it looks innocent, this is one of the heavier “dessert” items on offer, so try t0 resist the temptation to walk around with a bunch of them stuck between your fingers pretending to be Wolverine. Or don’t. I can’t judge you on things I’ve wanted to do myself.
Honorable Mention: Frozen Primavera With Limoncello and Tequila – How, exactly, do you manage to make a frozen alcoholic drink taste creamy? I don’t know, but Italy does it, making this an unexpectedly fruity and refreshing drink you’ll want to nurse for a good long while. If you don’t like Limoncello, the others flavours work together to take the aggressive syrupy bite out of it, so give it a try.
Crispy Pork Belly With Black Beans, Tomato and Cilantro – My husband and I visit the Epcot Food and Wine Festival multiple times each year, and this was one of the items we tried on impulse as we were leaving on our last day. Considering I have yet to stop whining about the fact that we should have tried it sooner so I could have eaten, oh, say, six of them, I’d say it was a hit. Perfectly cooked pork belly so that the meat stays crispy without turning dry or fatty is hard to do, but Brazil pulls it off like it ain’t no thang. Surprisingly, the black beans, which are often treated in other dishes as little more than filler, are also here very flavourful and tasty. Without a doubt one of the most delicious items on offer for om-nom-nomnivores, but if you can’t stand cilantro like yours truly, make sure you flick it off to the side first.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and just because an item isn’t on it, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your money and belly space. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is one of those rare food events that really does have something for everyone, and the ability to try authentic dishes from all around the world you might not otherwise experience is a great opportunity for everyone. Whether you’re a festival veteran back looking for an old favourite or a first-timer aiming for everything, you’re going to wind up, full, happy, and… yeah, probably a bit poorer in the process. But trust me… it’s worth it.