By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
The ‘magic age’ in the U.S. is 21. It’s the age when young adults become full-fledged adults, and that means legal drinking. This year it’s Epcot’s turn, and, to celebrate, there are five new kiosks featuring 40 foods and beverages.
Floridians get little notice from Mother Nature that the seasons are changing, so we mark the turn from summer into autumn by several highly anticipated festivals and events, and among the most popular is Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. This year, autumn came early, moving from late September to mid-September, for an extra two weeks of indulgence. That number is even more impressive when you consider the F&W Festival debuted in 1996 with a run of just 30 days.
We attended a media sneak-peek to sample some of the new offerings, and there were certainly some stand-out dishes worth adding to your list. And you should make a list. With 30 kiosks and 216 samples to choose from, it’s impossible to get through them all in just one visit. We recommend breaking it down into several visits (avoiding weekends, if possible, when the locals stream in), with 5 or 6 choices per visit. To get you started, these are the samples we tried, and our thoughts on each one:
Wine and Dine Studio offered a gorgeous Trio of Artisan Cheeses, featuring an ultra-creamy Statesboro Blue Cheese with Spiced Candied Walnuts (Susan’s favourite); La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese with Dried Cranberry Bread (light, with a distinctive tang); and Karst Cave-aged Cheddar Cheese with Fig Compote (nicely sharp, but mellowed by the compote). A second dish from this kiosk, Seared Scallop with Truffled Celery Root Puree, Brussel Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms, had a melt-in-the-mouth scallop and pate-like wild mushrooms.
From Village Farms, we sampled the Duck Confit with Creamy Polenta and Fire-roasted Salsa, a smoky delight set off perfectly by the polenta. Meaty and flavourful, it was our stand-out favourite.
Greece isn’t a new pavilion, but it has a new offering in the vegetarian Loaded Greek Nachos (pita chips, meatless sausage and tzatziki, which was probably the least impressive, and a bit difficult to handle), while Hops and Barley has a new item this year with their Smoked Brisket with Pimento Cheese (deep and smoky, and a good sized portion).
Brazil is also a returning kiosk, this time with Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato, and it’s another stand-out dish with a superbly salty, meaty slice of pork belly as opposed to the fattier versions we’ve often had (and that’s a good thing!).
Africa also debuted a new item in the beautifully fragrant Butter Chicken with Steamed Rice and Naan Bread, which we both devoured. Slightly spicy, but not overly so, it’s now in our Top Ten.
Dessert came next, with Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with Caramel Drizzle (ultra-sweet, but nicely peanutty) from THE CHEW Collective; Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel from Chocolate Studio (you may recall us waxing poetic about this one last year, and indeed, it isn’t a new item. It’s been moved from the former Chew Lab to Chocolate Studio, but it’s as rich, creamy, chocolatey and addictive as ever. Make sure this one is on your list); and a delightfully delicate Quesito (puff pastry with sweetened cream cheese and a gorgeous guava sauce, ideal for those who prefer their dessert to be less sweet) from the new Islands of the Caribbean kiosk.
Beverages we tried included Festival Chardonnay (a bit thin, but nice in the heat of summer) and Festival Cabernet Sauvignon (dry and slightly butterscotchy); Chateau Ste. Michelle “Cold Creek’ Reisling (sweet and buttery); Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose Champagne (pretty in pink, with a slightly dry finish); Florida Orange Grove Sparkling Pineapple wine and Florida Orange Grove Mango Mama Mango wine (both very sweet and fruity; they’d make excellent wine slushies!); and 3 Daughters Brewery’s Bimini Twist IPA, which is the IPA for non-IPA drinkers (a superb beer, with a less-hoppy finish for an IPA).
We’re not sure if this was a beverage or dessert, so we’re listing Ireland’s excellent Twining’s Pumpkin Chai Tea and Caramel Milkshake with Salted Caramel Vodka Floater in its own category, and that category is Ridiculously Delicious. Get this. Maybe twice. We’ll be making it at home. It’s just that good.
Once you’ve tasted all you can taste, consider one or more of the seminars (some free, some paid for) or special experiences such as the Rockin’ Burger Block Party or Party for the Senses, and be sure to take in at least one (free with admission) Eat to the Beat concert at the American Gardens Theater.
Visiting with children? Don’t worry; kids aren’t left out of the fun. Pick up a free Festival Passport, which lists every kiosk and its offerings, and look for a symbol shaped like a pear (there are also icons for Vegetarian and Gluten Free choices), for the most kid-friendly foods. And be sure to visit the Kidcot Fun Stops in each of the World Showcase pavilions, and join in the fun of Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak scavenger hunt (map and stickers are extra, but you can search for Remy, who is hidden in several locations around World Showcase, on your own).
We had one more surprise in store during our media preview, with the arrival of Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef fame, and now owner of the fantastic Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. He serenaded us with a little karaoke—in Japanese—about a fisherman, and, while it’s unlikely he’ll do so outside of our event, he did lead a sushi-rolling seminar, so if you plan ahead for next year you may just meet him, too!
Food and wine samples range from $3 to $8, but if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan each item counts as a snack credit.
We’re never sure if we should recommend using a pre-loaded Epcot Food and Wine Festival Gift Card, which comes on a handy-dandy spiral elastic band so it’s never further away than your wrist. It’s incredibly convenient, and that’s both the blessing and the curse of it. No wrestling to pull a card out of your purse, bag or wallet, and it’s easy to carry your plate and/or drink. But it’s also easy to just slide that card without thought for the $$$ that come off of it each time. Of course, by pre-loading it with a specific dollar amount, you’re naturally limited in how much you can spend. But if you’re like us, you’ll just top it up when you run out and the ease in paying with it makes you forget it’s still real money you’re spending, so use this (fantastic) option only if you’re far more disciplined than we are!
Other forms of payment are cash, credit/debit card, and, of course, your Magic Band or park pass. If you have a Disney Visa card, you can also use reward dollars.
Here’s the full list of food and beverages at the new kiosks, to help you narrow down your choices, or convince you to visit 2, 3 or 4 times during your stay.
THE CHEW Collective:
Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots, and Feta Cheese
Ricotta and Zucchini (Courgette) Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce
Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with Caramel Drizzle
Adult beverages here are the Festival Chardonnay and Festival Cabernet Sauvignon, both from California.
Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel
Red Wine Chocolate Truffle
Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte
Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port
Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
Rosa Regale Sweet Red Sparkling Wine
Blandy’s Alvada 5-year-old Madeira
Greenhouse Guru hosted by Village Farms:
Duck Confit with Creamy Polenta and Fire-roasted Salsa
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic Vinegar, and Micro-Basil
Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with Lump Crab Meat
Mini San Marzano Tomatoes
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling, Washington
Acrobat Pinot Noir, Oregon
Islands of the Caribbean:
Mojo Pork with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice, and Pickled Red Onions
Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce
Jamaican Beef Patty
Pescado con Coco (Seared Grouper, Pigeon Peas and Rice with Coconut Sauce)
Wine and Dine Studio:
Pork Tenderloin with Cannellini Bean Ragoût and Zinfandel Reduction
Seared Scallop, Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms featuring Melissa’s Produce
Trio of Artisan Cheese
La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese served with toasted Craisin Bread
Karst Cave-aged Cheddar Cheese served with Fig Compote
Statesboro Blue Cheese served with Spiced Candied Walnuts
Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese
Trio of Artisan Cheese paired with Conundrum White Blend 25th Anniversary, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Maestro Red Blend
Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford
Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills
Conundrum White Blend 25th Anniversary, California
Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir, Monterey
Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Tiger” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
Michael David Winery Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi
Robert Mondavi Winery Maestro Red Blend, Napa Valley
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