The 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is officially underway today! Yesterday I got a sneak peek at the soft opening for the annual Walt Disney World Event and sampled several of the Marketplace offerings…all in the name of research of course…and I am here to give you a full report on what I loved and could have lived without. Shall we begin?
We started our journey entering the park via the International Gateway. First stop was at the gift shop there to pick up our Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Wristlet Gift Cards. So much easier than fumbling for cash or swiping your credit card a million times. We loaded each one with $50 and away we went.
My husband was excited about the return of a beef dish to the France Marketplace so we headed over there first.
Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes) – $5.50 – This was a nice sized portion of protein which was cooked until fall apart tender. I can’t say the same for the potatoes. They were more of a potato disk. The gravy had wonderful flavor.
Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef – $4.00 – This was one of my favorites! The dish was served on a quarter section of savory waffle. The waffle was light and fluffy and delicious. Atop that was a stew of beef, gravy and carrots and what looked and tasted like a butter sauce. You MUST try this dish! I loved that the Belgium booth had covered seating adjacent to it and my husband and I were able to sit for a spell while we enjoyed their marketplace offering.
Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll – $4.50 – When I first read about this dish, I pictured a piece of deep fried tempura chicken wrapped in seaweed. When I got to the Japan Marketplace I saw something different. It actually looked better then I had imagined. This offering is white meat chicken shredded and rolled in seaweed with what tasted like cabbage. It is then rolled in rice and topped with a teriyaki sauce and served with ginger and wasabi. There’s a small strip of seaweed on the base of the roll so you can pick it up with your fingers (hence the hand roll). I gobbled this one right up. It was delicious.
At this point in the afternoon it was getting warm so the husband and I decided to head over to the American Adventure Pavilion so we could sit in the AC of the Publick Dining Room. I happened to run into Chef Kim (right) and Chef Jens Dahlmann (left) there. Chef Jens is the creative genius behind the entire festival. If you see him out on the promenade make sure and thank him.
Hops & Barley
Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter – $7.50 – While small in size, this offering was large in flavor. The lobster was not chewy in ay way. It was tender and dressed in a delicious butter sauce.
We also tried the New England Clam Chowder with a side of Tabasco – $3.00 – This soup was screaming for salt…or that side of Tobasco that my husband refused to let me pour in. He thought it was fine just the way it was and ended up polishing off the entire cup.
I decided to go for my first adult beverage at this point. The Rogue Chocolate Stout (6oz) – $3.50 – I love this beer. It’s not too thick with just the right notes of chocolate. I don’t think I could drink more than three ounces but it is also available in 12 and 24 ounces as well.
I’m happy to report that all of the beers at Hops & Barley are on tap this year. In years past, they have served some of the beers out of bottles that were half sitting in ice and half out. This made for many warm pours. Perhaps that’s the reason why there are less Sam Adams beer offerings. After we had cooled off we headed to sample something I love only second to cats…cheese!
Artisan Cheese Selection: Flagship Reserve Cheddar, La Bonne Vie Triple Crème Brie and Wijngaard Goats Gouda – $4.75 – In the past I found that the cheeses here were often cut too early and left to dry out. Not this time. Each cheese was perfectly pared and deliciously ripe and soft. I devoured the entire board. The Cheddar was drizzled with honey, the gouda came with a craisin cracker and the brie was accompanied by an apricot preserve. I paired my cheese with…
Selbach-Oster Mosel Riesling Spätlese – $4.75 – This was a decent sized pour. The wine was fruity and sweet and went lovely with the salty cheese. Sweet and salty…how can you go wrong? There were wines available at the Cheese marketplace, but that’s the nice thing about the festival…you can mix and match to your liking…and the German wines just so happened to be right across the promenade from the Cheese. Well played Epcot…well played.
Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun – $5.00 – This dish caught my heart and my taste buds last year and I was happy to see it return. It’s got a slight kick with the sauce so be prepared with a cold beverage…
…we went for this one…also from China. The Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.00 – I think they went heavy on the triple sec and light on the vodka here. In fact…I saw one of the cast members pour a vodka floater on top and I think that was all the alcohol that was in this super sweet drink. Not a great value.
Another disappointment was this dish. Which made me very sad. I’m a sucker for pork belly.
Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado and Cilantro – $5.25 – The pork belly was neither crispy nor melt in your mouth. It was just meh. Tasted like it had been braised…but not long enough. I loved the light fresh topping and the beans were excellent but the protein was a definite fail. Save your money and go for the decadent pork belly at California Grill instead.
Napa Smith Organic IPA (12oz) – $6.75 – I sent the hubby over to the Terra booth to pick up an IPA for me while I was shooting the pork belly and he came back with a big cup of it. I love an IPA. This one was not too bitter and was unfiltered. I found it refreshing and it was nice to try something new. I don’t know that I would go back for another but I didn’t dislike this offering.
We were getting pretty full by this point in the day but had saved some room for dessert so we made our way to…
Desserts and Champagne
One of my Instagram friends had been longing for the new Frozen S’mores – $3.00 – I was excited when the cast member handed me this treat through the window. It looked delicious. The taste didn’t match the visual appearance at all. I was expecting a slushy icy consistency. Instead I got foam. Like all foam. Like the head of a beer or soda foam, albeit S’mores flavored. It was not what I was expecting.
I ran into Marianne Hunnel, the Festival Content Development Manager, and told her about the issue with the Frozen S’mores and she took one look into the window at the machine and knew exactly what the problem was. I’m going to give this dish another go sometime later in the festival. I think it may have been a problem with the machine. This is one of the benefits to a soft opening right?
Dessert Trio: Chocolate Orange Cupcake, Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake and Morello Cherry Pistachio Mousse – $4.00 (or $1.75 each) – Hail Mary full of grace were these delicious! The chocolate cupcake was moist and has just the right amount of frosting. The frosting wasn’t cloyingly sweet and had a crunchy orange topping. The cheesecake was thick and decadent…and I am NOT a fan of cheesecake…but I would order this again. My favorite was the mousse. Light and airy with juicy cherries on the bottom.
I needed something to wash down all those mini desserts so a trip to Craft Beers was in order.
Dogfish Head Brewery, Namaste and Widmer Brothers Brewing, Alchemy Ale (6oz) – $3.50 each – Dogfish Head makes some killer brews. I’m not a fan of hefeweizen and that’s what the Namaste beer (left) resembled to me. It’s a witbier. I wasn’t impressed. The Alchemy Ale (right) on the other hand was pretty good.
We were both stuffed and even though we still had money left on our gift cards we made our way towards the International Gateway to exit the park. Check out the chalk drawings in the UK. Such clever cast members!
The 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will take place from September 27th – November 11th, 2013, in Epcot. A full list of menu items can be found here. Stay tuned. I’m headed back to the festival today to sample more offerings and will report back again here with my findings. See you around World Showcase..and if you see me please come up and say Hi! I love meeting you!
My husband and I were provided free admission into Epcot. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.