The 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is finally here! Are you excited? Overwhelmed by all the options? I’m right there with you, but as Touring Plans’ resident food reviewer, I’m here to help you navigate all the menus and the festival itself over the next 75(!) days. We’ve already sent many of you down the planning rabbit hole a few weeks ago, when all the festival menus were released.
Today, I’m offering up a few tips I’ve acquired over years of festival snacking. Then, I’ll help point you towards a few highlights at the festival by grouping over 50 dishes by the most popular themes you, our readers, ask about every year! Check out each category listed below, with quick links to that section of the article. To whet your appetite, I’ve included photos of some dishes from previous years’ festivals (of course, they may look slightly different in 2017… we’ll see soon!).
Even for well-seasoned festival-goers, the ever-growing Food & Wine Festival can be a bear to conquer. With so many options, so little time (and money!), and heat and humidity coming into play, there are a few tried and true strategies to guarantee success without going broke or missing out on your favorites:
- Do: Set a budget. It’s ridiculously easy to sink $100 into Food & Wine dishes in less than a few hours, if you’re not careful. Set a realistic limit for what you want to spend and stick to it. To help, each menu featured here at Touring Plans includes the prices for items after they are revealed on festival day one.
- Do: Make a plan for all your must-do dishes, so you don’t run out of stomach space or money before you hit the back of World Showcase. Speaking of planning…
- Don’t: Start your snacking at the front of World Showcase. Just like with touring a park, you’ll want to avoid the first booths you see in order to optimize your waits in line. I won’t tell you to go all the way to the back of World Showcase and work your way forward, either – this is a very common strategy nowadays. Your best bet, in my estimation, is to start with a popular booth on either side of World Showcase – France, China, Canada, Belgium, and Germany are always solid bets for long lines that will only grow longer as the day progresses.
- Do: Pace yourself. Even if you only have one day to snack around the festival, it’s definitely best to take it slow, especially in the early, hottest days of the festival. Speaking of heat…
- Don’t: Forget to hydrate! Even if you aren’t partaking in any alcohol, Epcot in August and September heat is brutally hot midday. Take advantage of the bottled water sold at booths, or better yet, grab a free cup of ice water from quick service locations in Mexico, Japan, Norway, China, and the American Adventure.
Finally, probably my most controversial tip, but after a few years of experience with marathon Food and Wine days, is definitely the key to success:
- Do: Eat breakfast. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. Why eat breakfast before going to Epcot to snack all day? Why? It’s simple – you need to fuel your long day of walking around in the heat somehow, and if you plan to drink any alcohol, this will ensure you are starting your day off on the right foot. I’m not suggesting a character breakfast buffet, to be sure – just make sure you grab something before heading out to the park for the day.
These are a few of the super-popular returning dishes that most guests love year after year. I highly recommend giving these a shot if they sound up your alley – they are typically some of the best options at the festival, especially if you’ve never been!
Not only is this one of the tastiest desserts I’ve ever had (quality chocolate, all around), but it is SO MUCH FUN to watch them make this at the booth – freezing each dessert to order with a quick pour of liquid nitrogen is science in action and ridiculously entertaining.
- Earth Eats Inspired by ABC’s “The Chew” – Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (V)
The sweet and fresh zucchini mixed with tangy ricotta and a zippy tomato sauce in this dish exemplifies the idea that simple dishes can still be delicious.
Personally, this is one of my all-time top-five Food and Wine dishes – this super herbaceous lamb meatball, not too gamey, with a spicy-tangy-sweet tomato sauce is hearty enough to be a meal on its own for me!
- Australia – Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (GF)
For those who prefer their food to be portable, Australia’s booth brings you a dish complete with a handle. The lamb chop here is covered in potato chips, which sounds weird but is delightfully fun, and helps complement the very traditional lamb-mint combo at the core of the dish.
Steak lovers should take notice of this dish – always a must-do for me, the garlicky-herb chimichurri and boniato puree (think: mashed potato-like starch) presents steak-and-potato lovers with an international twist.
- China – Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce
China always features some kind of bao bun dish stuffed with meat, crunchy veggies, and a tasty hoisin sauce. While most of the food at the China booth is pretty simple, this dish is often a fun surprise, packed with flavor and a bit outside the box from your traditional Americanized Chinese food.
Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? This version, packed with diced ham, is classic comfort food at its best – perfect for kids, too!
- Belgium – Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
Tender beef braised in Belgian beer, steeped in a delicious gravy poured over rich and cheese mashed potatoes – this isn’t your mom’s pot roast (it’s better).
- Canada – Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll and “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
Though the quality and portion sizes on these two dishes have both decreased in recent years, I would be kicked off of Food and Wine coverage if I didn’t at least recommend them as returning favorites. Both are worth a shot if you’ve never had them inside Le Cellier, or if you don’t feel like splurging on a full-sized portion.
- Active Eats – Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onions
Mac and cheese with bacon? Count me (and most people) in. Though the quality of this hasn’t been the highest the last few years, I’m hopeful it’ll come back strong in this year’s festival.
- Germany – Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce (V)
The easiest way to sell this to kids? Tell them it’s apple pie with melted ice cream on top (you *technically* wouldn’t be wrong, either). The Germany booth in general is generally a good bet for those with milder tastes, and this dish is no exception.
One of my favorites from last year’s festival, this is an easy sell as it looks and tastes just like a traditional stew over mashed potatoes. The mashed turnips taste a bit different than the potatoes, but are still very mild and just a little sweet, which helps offset the lamb flavor for those unfamiliar with it.
- Brazil – Escondidinho de Carne – “Little Hidden One”: Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca (GF)
If you can sell this as cottage pie, or mashed potatoes with ground beef, most picky eaters will go for it, and never know the difference. It’s a pretty mild dish in flavor, not a lot of spice (as some might fear from the Brazil pavilion), but hearty and worth a shot if kids are looking for something good to try.
New dishes to look out for:
- Epcot Legacy Showplace – Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich
- Cheese Studio Hosted By Boursin – Braised Beef “Stroganoff” with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom, and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce
- Hawai’i – Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash with Potatoes, Peppers, Onions, and Spicy Mayonnaise
- Farm Fresh – Crispy Chicken with Griddled Cornbread and Red Eye Gravy
- Thailand – Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables
- India – Warm Indian Bread with Pickled Garlic, Mango Salsa, and Coriander Pesto Dips (V)
For those with a sweet tooth, these are a few of my favorite dessert dishes, and a few new desserts that have caught my eye for this year’s festival.
Tangy, sweet cream cheese, crunchy puff pastry, and fruity guava sauce? Count me in. This is a surprisingly light dessert option that also isn’t cloyingly sweet, for those in search of something simple after a long day of snacking around the world.
- Mexico – Cajeta Mousse served with Cajeta Sauce and White Chocolate Flakes
My general rule of thumb for Food and Wine Festival is to always, always order dessert in Mexico – it will be great. This cajeta (Mexican caramel) dessert returns after a few years’ hiatus, and I simply can’t wait to try it again.
Another good rule of thumb for Food and Wine? Always wait in the waffle line. It will be long. You will be tempted to skip it. Then you’ll smell the amazing waffles, rich chocolate ganache, freshly whipped cream, and sweet berry compote, and (smartly) decide to tough it out and order it.
New Desserts That Caught My Eye
- Epcot Legacy Showplace – L’Orange Cotton Candy: A mixture of Lime and Orange Cotton Candy (V)
- Chocolate Studio – Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte with Whipped Cream and Raspberry Dust (V)
- India – Pistachio Cardamom Bundt Cake with Chocolate Coconut Mousse (V)
- Flavors from Fire – Sweet Pancake with Spicy Chipotle Chicken Sausage, Onion Jam, and Maple Butter Syrup
- Coastal Eats – Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette
- Cheese Studio Hosted by Boursin – Cheese Trio: Profiterole topped with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese and Orange Apricot Jam; Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Boursin Shallot and Chive Cheese and Everything Seasoning; Strawberry Macaron with Boursin Pepper Cheese
- Almond Orchard – Cauliflower Risotto with Pulled Chicken, Artichokes, Spinach, and Parmesan Cheese with Aged Balsamic
- Greece – Bougatsa: Warm Phyllo Dough Strudel with Sweet Vanilla Custard, Lemon Honey Syrup, and Cinnamon (V)
- Ireland – Roasted Irish Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes and Onion Gravy
Every year, the Food and Wine Festival culinary teams try out some new and slightly more adventurous dishes that pique my interest. This year, nearly every booth has something that caught my eye for those who prefer their food on the wilder side of things. With one returning favorite and many more new or modified dishes, it’s sure to be a fun trip for your tastebuds around World Showcase!
- France – Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley
- Flavors from Fire – Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, and Raspberry Dust
- Active Eats – Sweet Avocado Crema with Strawberries, Yellow Cake, and Tortilla Streusel (V)
- Islands of the Caribbean – Jamaican Beef Patty with Mango Salsa
- Hawai’i – Grilled Tuna Tataki with Seaweed Salad, Pickled Cucumbers, and Wasabi Cream
- Greece – Taste of Greece: Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lemon Dill Sauce, Grilled Octopus, and Feta Cheese Dip with Warm Pita
- Thailand – Red Hot Spicy Thai Curry Beef with Steamed Rice
- Spain – Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, and Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar, and Smoked Paprika (GF)
- Japan – Wasabi Shumai Steamed Pork Dumpling and Salmon BLT Sushi Roll
Even meat eaters will love some of these vegetarian dishes. This year, the festival brings us several new veggie options (that aren’t dessert – always a good thing!), and a breakout favorite from last year (the spicy hummus fries from Morocco) returns.
- Morocco – Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce (V)
- Cheese Studio Hosted by Boursin – Savory Caramelized Onion Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Tart with cold Arugula Salad and Aged Balsamic (V)
- Africa – Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Vegan Yogurt and Quinoa (V)
- France – Moelleux au Fromage de Chèvre et Épinards: Warm Goat Cheese Pudding with Spinach (V, GF)
- Ireland – Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread (V)
An important note: no items are specifically labeled by festival organizers as “gluten-free”; they’re only “gluten-friendly”, so if you are allergic or must avoid gluten entirely, please take caution. For those with sensitivities or dietary restrictions limiting gluten consumption, these dishes may be good options on your trip around the world.
- Australia – Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas (GF)
- Farm Fresh – Roasted Beet Salad with Green Beans, Feta Cheese, Minus 8 Vinaigrette, and Toasted Walnuts (V, GF)
- India – Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas, and Basmati Rice (V, GF)
- Spain – Traditional Spanish Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, Chicken, and Crispy Chorizo (GF)
- Brazil – Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato, and Onions (GF)
Aside from quality beers and wines, many festival booths also offer fun cocktails and non-alcoholic specialty drinks that are worth a try. Here are a few that stick out for me on this year’s menus.
- Ireland – Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea and Caramel Shake (non-alcoholic)
- Brazil – Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaça
- Light Lab – T=C2: Tonic Water and Cotton Candy (non-alcoholic)
- Active Eats – I.A. Beer Company HRD WTR Cucumber & Lemon Lime Hard Sparkling Water, Doral, FL
- France – La Passion Martini Slush: Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice
- Scotland – Citrus Thistle featuring Hendrick’s Gin
- China – BaiJoe Punch: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice
- Brewer’s Collection – Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer
Are we all ready for the festival now? Be on the lookout next week for my reviews and photos of every (yes, *every* – check out last year’s coverage!) new dish at the festival, along with a few returning favorites. Let the festival feasting begin!