Saturday, November 16, 2013

Epcot Food & Wine Festival - Booth Reviews from 10/26/13

On October 26, I met my Mom up at Epcot for a little Food & Wine craziness.  My standard advice is to avoid attending Food & Wine Festival on weekends if at all possible.  If you must attend, get there as soon as the World Showcase opens (11am, but some booths open a little early) and try to wrap up the Food & Wine portion of your day by 2pm or so.

I got to the park around 10am and my Mom met me about noon.  I did a little exploring on my own and right before 11am, headed over to the World Showcase.  Now, today was also one of the first weekends we had that the weather was comfortable and gorgeous...which meant I was really expecting a lot of crowds.  So I went in with a plan of attack: since I only had one day, I wrote down some of the new things that I wanted to try.  I really didn't want to just go back to my favorites they have every year and be unable to try anything new since I was filled up.  As I did last year, I'll also rate each dish on a scale of 1-5.

This booth was pretty easy to find new things - the whole booth was new!

I started with the salmon - it was one of my favorite dishes of the day.  The salmon was cooked perfectly and it came with a cauliflower puree that makes me think that maybe I do like cauliflower.  There was a malt vinaigrette on the puree that gave it just the right amount of tang.  Absolutely delicious, definitely a 5!  I would love to eat a full portion of this for dinner.

I also tried the Banoffee Tart at Scotland.  This was also delicious.  There was a butterscotch flavored cream in the center that oozed out when you cut into it.  Also a 5.  I could have eaten at the Scotland booth and never gone to another booth and I would have left fat and happy.

I realized by the time I walked around to France that if I kept up my pace, I would be done before my Mom even got to Epcot.  So I stopped a slowed down a bit.

While not necessarily brand new to the Festival - France has had a beef & potato dish most years - this particular incarnation was new, which was good because I would have hated to miss it.  This was billed as the Boeuf Bourguignon - braised beef short ribs in a Cabernet sauce & mashed potatoes.  Another hit!  The beef was fall apart tender and the sauce made everything heavenly rich.  Another 5.  So far, all of the new additions were setting quite the high bar!

While not new, the Cosmo Slush was a must-get.  I wish they had this one year-round in addition to the Grey Goose and Gran Marnier Slushes. One of my favorite Food & Wine treats.

I found a nice shady bench in France and people watched for a while as I drank my Slush.  The gorgeous weather, bench, and Slush had me quite enjoying life that morning.  It's one of the reasons I love Epcot - I never feel like I'm in an amusement park.

New Zealand
As I was moseying towards Morocco, I had a text from my Mom that she just parked and was heading my way.  As she got closer, I got in line at New Zealand for some Mussels.

These...were not so great.  They were exceedingly chewy and had very little flavor.  Definitely a 1.  I know that's pretty extreme, but I didn't even finish them, I wound up tossing the rest.  So far, mussels at Food & Wine have been rather disappointing.  Maybe I'll learn not to get them next year.

Florida Local
Before my Mom ate her way around the World with me, she wanted something rather plain, so she opted for the Grass-Fed Beef slider at the Florida Local booth.

It's not a very adventurous option.  I don't remember if I took a bite, but she seemed to enjoy it.  ...moving on...

Chase Lounge
View from Upstairs
The Festival has been sponsored by Chase for a few years now.  One of things they do is host a lounge for all Chase Card holders.  This year's was upstairs at the American Pavilion.  And you know I am not going to miss a chance to check out a place that is usually closed to the public.

In the Lounge they have free soda & water, plus a bar to buy drinks if you want.  They have some tables set up to relax at, some charging stations for your phones, a TV that was playing a Soccer game with some comfy chairs, bathrooms, and of course, air conditioning.  If you have a Disney Chase Visa, you can also get wristbands for guaranteed seating to that evening's concerts.  It was a pretty nice area.  I'm hoping they'll have it there again next year.  You can either take the stairs up 3 flights (which we did) or take the elevator.

Hops & Barley
One of the things on my Mom's list to try was the Lobster Tail at Hops & Barley.  After exiting the Lounge, that was our next stop.

She also opted to get the Chardonnay that they recommended as a pairing.  The lobster was surprisingly tasty.  It was cooked really nicely. A solid 4.  The wine however...didn't pair well with the lobster.  It really overpowered the delicate meat.  On its own, it was tasty, but I'm not sure who decided to pair it with the lobster.

Ah yes, the country of Cheese.  This is the first year that I remember where the country of Cheese had more than just a cheese pairing.

I had to try the Blue Cheese Souffle with Fig Jam.  If there were ever a food that screamed me, it would be this.  My biggest pet peeve with blue cheese foods (Disney is a big offender of this) is when the blue cheese is so mild you can hardly tell you're eating blue cheese.  This?  Was not that.  It was rich, and smacks you in the face with blue cheese.  The fig jam tempered that with a slight sweetness.  And the wine from the lobster pairing?  Was ah-mazing with this.  I loved this.  Definitely another 5.

I had the grilled shrimp on my list to try, and my Mom wanted the lamb chop.  To Australia we went!

The shrimp was billed as garlic shrimp...and garlic it was!  This was okay.  The shrimp were cooked well, the flavor was certainly there, but in comparison to the really outstanding dishes I had prior to this one, it just didn't hold up.  I would probably give it a 3.5.  Good, but certainly not in the top tier of dishes.

The lamb chop was served with "potato crunchies" on top, aka the bottom of the potato chip bag.  The lamb chop has been at Food & Wine a bunch of times, and probably for good reason.  It's always well done.  This particular chop was cooked perfectly and had great flavor.  It's a solid 4.  Delicious, but not anything that is going to blow you away.

Refreshment Port
Unlike other years, this year, the Refreshment Port was getting in on the Food & Wine action.  I saw one menu item that really stood out to me and I knew I had to get.

Pineapple fritters. Now, I was expecting more of an actual fritter - round, crushed up pineapple that had been fried.  No, no.  These were whole pineapple rings, dunked in batter, deep fried, and dusted with powdered sugar.  They were essentially pineapple doughnuts.  I loved it.  For being deep fried & battered, they were surprisingly light.  I would totally get them again.  Definitely another 5.

After that stop, the crowds were starting to pick up immensely, so we headed to the front of the park.  All in all, we had a great day.  I loved the dishes that were added to the Festival and wasn't disappointed (except for the mussels, but I'm ignoring them.)  As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I recommend that if you have no other choice but to do Food & Wine on a weekend, get there early and leave when the crowds pick's my biggest piece of advice for the Festival.

Until next year!

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