We are in the last two weeks of EPCOT Food and wine festival. Earlier this year, we covered edible offerings at Arts Festival, where we encountered shortages but a plethora of fantastic dishes. Can EPCOT the Fall’s festivities top what we sampled in January? Let’s dive into it.
On the non-food level, we had a problem with our tickets. I bought them online and had them delivered to us. In the Walt Disney World app, our reservations looked great, but when trying to enter the park, we were told the tickets weren’t valid for that day. I showed the actor my phone with the tickets clearly showing our November 4 tickets, but that was insufficient. We were told the tickets weren’t for the 4th at all. Weird, since I watch it directly on my phone. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this issue with tickets purchased through Disney Online. Previously, our Magic Bands, which we had linked to our tickets, would not show up in Disney’s ticketing system, even though we had evidence on our phones showing that they were. Odd.
After that, however, everything went well. Once past Spaceship Earth, we encountered the same maze of building walls we had seen during our visit to the Arts Festival. The renovation of this area is progressing very slowly. We could see part of a new building that wasn’t there in January, but at first I thought it was part of the old Communicore West structure. Once you’re away from the center of Future World, everything goes back to normal, thankfully.
Our first stop was in Australia, right at the port of entry. We decided to try the Roasted Lamp Chop, which sat on mint pesto and topped with potato crisps. For afters, we chose the lamington, which is a yellow cake covered in chocolate and coconut with a raspberry filling. The chop was superb, although the mint pest was very inconspicuous, but the crunches made up for that. The lamington is moist, and the raspberry filling is perfect, but you’re really going to have to like the coconut because the stuff is encrusted with it. Definitely not my favorite dessert of the day.
Unlike the Arts Festival, several of the foods at this event did not look appetizing. This is the first time I’ve felt this in nearly 20 years of covering the event. As a general rule, there is something in 95% of the stalls that we would like to try. Here it was down about 50%. Luckily, we haven’t encountered the same shortages since the January event.
However, we did not choose a single item that did not satisfy. After Australia, we moved to Canada. Knowing that we wouldn’t have time to dine at The cellar tonight we decided to try the filet mignon of beef with wild mushrooms and truffle butter sauce. Dining at Le Cellier is an expensive trip, but the Food and Wine Festival lets you experience just how well the food is prepared at this steakhouse.
The tenderloin was very tender, if not as hot as I had hoped. If you like rich dishes, the truffle butter sauce adds a lot of consistency to this plate of two small filets. The steak is cooled just about well, leaving almost no pink inside. However, it is not at all difficult. I would have gone back for the mushrooms alone.
After a visit to our friends in the Great White North, we went down to England in the World Showcase to find the Ireland stand. The fisherman’s seafood pie and hot chocolate pudding cake were a must for the Missus. During this time I had my annual tasting of Bunratty mead honey wine and roast Irish sausage. Since I’m allergic to fish, I couldn’t try the pie, but according to my wife, it was the best deal of all food and wine. For the price, under $10, you get a decent sized “pie” loaded with a generous serving of seafood and shellfish.
The Irish sausage is served on a bed of Colcannon mashed potatoes with an onion sauce. The links are a bit small but have been roasted to perfection. Onion sauce (with small amounts of caramelized onions inside) goes well with potatoes and sausages. The real star of this course, however, was the pudding. Not dense and not too light, the chocolate pudding was surprisingly just that: pudding. Over the years I’ve eaten many puddings that turned out to be chocolate cake, but this was an honest pudding. The custard that topped it wasn’t as thick as I expected, but I won’t deny that it was indeed flavorful without being overly sweet.
Another ride on the water brought us to Belgium for something I had been looking forward to since this year’s menu was announced: Belgian waffles with berry compote and whipped cream. The whipped cream, unfortunately, is from a box rather than freshly whipped, but this waffle…oh, man! Light, fluffy and always crispy! The berry compote is quite tart, so keep that in mind when trying to decide between this one and the one with the chocolate ganache.
Beer Braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes is OK. However, the potatoes managed to be more enjoyable than the beef. Maybe it was the beer used or too much pepper to blame, but the smoked gouda is something I would definitely find on my own.
The Belgian stand was just outside Morocco, our next stop. Here we picked up pistachio cake and fig cocktail. Aesthetically, the cake is a work of art, with the printed chocolate tile accenting the pistachio-colored cake and cream beautifully. To appreciate the dessert from Morocco, you will have to be a fan of this specific nut. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste the cinnamon in the cream because the pistachio caste of the cake overpowers everything else. Mrs. Phalin, however, takes full advantage of it and the cocktail. This drink is made with white cranberry juice and fig vodka. The vodka is almost undetectable thanks to the mixture of figs and white cranberries, perhaps the best alcoholic drink this year.
Photo credit: Mike Phalin
Japan was my biggest disappointment. During the Festival of Arts, this country offered a fantastic sake drink and a chicken skewer. This fall it was steamed bun and Hanan Fuji apple sake. The rolls were pre-made and sat under a lamp. Although they were big, the teriyaki chicken inside was much sweeter than I expected. It almost tasted like barbecue. Although the sake was not as good as the Niseko Flurry, it almost tasted like cider, and if I saw it anywhere else, I would have another drink.
Spain offered an exciting concoction called a seafood salad. Although it was not served in the traditional way we usually expect of a salad, it was a fair amount of scallops, prawns and mussels in a glass.
After carefully reviewing the remaining countries, we made our final stops in Germany and the Alps. At these two stalls, which are right next to each other, we ordered the schinkennudeln, roast bratwurst, apple strudel, and hot raclette Swiss cheese.
Schinkennudeln is like having a whole plate of breakfast put in a pan. It’s a heavy item loaded with ham, onions and cheese held together with a pasta gratin. I would suggest hitting this one if you get to the park before noon and have nothing to eat.
The bratwurst is thinner than I had imagined, looking more like a franc. However, the taste was all snotty and the pretzel roll tasted exceptional with the mustard. But you might not want to finish that whole roll if you want dessert.
The apple strudel was giant. Look at this thing! It almost comes off the plate. Get a plastic knife because this thing requires cutting. However, the apples are not mushy and the batter is thick enough to hold the contents together without being a mushy mess.
Swiss cheese from the Alps was accompanied by pears poached in Riesling, figs braised in red wine, candied pecans and cranberry toast, all drizzled with honey. It’s a delicious dish, and the smell mixed with Swiss cheese can be a bit strong. The taste, however, is well worth the momentary assault on the nostrils. This is another example of Disney giving you more than you expected for your money and it was a great way to end our trip to this year’s Food and Wine Festival.
This year’s event left me puzzled. I had never had to plan my trip so much before, but nearly half of the deals didn’t look or sound appetizing. But, of course, it’s fair to say that every event has an off year, and in 2022 it was Food and Wine versus the Arts Festival. So maybe next year both festivals will knock it out of the park? We will see!
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