The stage has been set for Epcot’s 2014 International Food & Wine Festival, and the long lines for great food and beverages have been wrapping their way around World Showcase since the end of last week. For those of you planning to attend in the next couple of weeks, I thought we should offer up a top seven list of our favorite bites from our spins around the promenade.
Just to be clear, while we sampled something, whether it was food or drink, from all 36 marketplaces, we were just no able to sample everything from every booth. Perhaps, in your taste touring, you’ll find a new favorite that didn’t make it onto our list. If you do, definitely let us know about it in the comments section!
“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce (Canada – Gluten Free)
It seems a crime that a bite from Le Cellier, one of the hottest meal tickets in Walt Disney World, barely broke into our top tastes. That only shows you how strong the menus were this year. The accompaniments were great, and added nice flavor to the filet, but what you really come here for is the filet. It was an expertly seasoned cut of beef and left no complaints in terms of flavor. The one drawback to this as a festival offering is that you cannot request your own preparation. While I tend to lean towards medium-well, and this hit that mark perfectly, those looking for something a bit more on the rare side could be disappointed.
Sauerkraut Pierogi with Pork Goulash (Poland)
I did not have high expectations of this dish, and boy was I wrong. The pierogi had a nice crust the contained the sauerkraut and its vinegary bite well. As for the goulash, it was amazing. The pork broke and flaked upon under the weight of the fork, and even though there were hearty chunks of pork, this stew left me wanting more.
Artisan Cheese Plate (Hops & Barley - Vegetarian)
This cheese trio came with three distinct tastes and trimmings. There is a Purple Haze Chevre Goat Cheese that comes on a toast round, a Cabot Cloth-wrapped Cheddar in honey, and a Cave Man Blue Cheese with cranberries and Marcona almonds. The broad range of flavors here means that there is something for everyone. I love a strong blue cheese, which the Cave Man is, and the honey and cheddar was delicious. However, I’m not a big fan of goat cheese, but the missus loved the soft texture and delicate flavors of the fennel and lavender of the Purple Haze.
South African Bobotie with Turkey and Mushrooms (Africa – Gluten Free)
This quiche-esque dish is a great example of sweet and savory. The ground turkey comes across as almost a spicy beef concoction and plays well with the golden raisins baked beneath the egg mixture. Even in a small portion, the bobotie is more than filling enough to satisfy your appetite. The spices in the turkey and mushroom blend can be a bit strong for those sensitive to heat, so be prepared for a spicy dish.
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (Australia – Gluten Free)
This bite was so appealing that the missus actually dug into it before I could get a picture! The chops are cooked perfectly, no matter what size chop you end up with. The mint chutney is had a great consistency and was not overpowered by the mint. The Potato Crunchies are basically crumbled up potato chips on the chops, but they give the chop another layer of texture and flavor.
Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon (Scotland – Gluten Free)
There is a real danger of getting an overcooked, rubbery scallop when it comes to mass produced sea scallops, but this was perfectly cooked. The spinach gratin and crispy bacon add a complexity to this dish that could otherwise be one-dimensional. I’ll be honest with you, this could have landed in our top spot, but the fact that there is only one sea scallop per order left us wanting a bit more.
Nueske’s Pepper Bacon Hash with Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Hollandaise and Pickled Jalapenos (Farm Fresh – Gluten Free)
Bacon makes everything better, and when you put them with the heat of the jalapenos, the sweet of the corn, and the earthy flavor of the potatoes you’ve got the best thing we have ever put in our mouths during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I’m not joking when I say that you have to get this as soon as possible! For those of you who are not fans of hollandaise, remember you can get this without the sauce and, honestly, the flavors may be even better without the hollandaise.
In case you were keeping score, six of the seven items listed here were either Gluten Free or Vegetarian. Walt Disney World has been doing some amazing work to meet and exceed the needs of the growing number of guests that have dietary restrictions, while still ensuring that meals can be enjoyable to everyone. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is at the forefront of this movement, and certainly impressed our taste buds!
Now get out there and do some taste touring, and be sure to let us know what your favorites were!