Disney and food lovers, rejoice! The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is a dream come true. Running through most of the Autumn season, the festival features unique small plates and beverages for less than $10. To celebrate the 35th year of EPCOT, the 2017 festival rolled out 35 Marketplaces in addition to all of the permanent pavilion offerings. Personally, I think it’s only ever worth it to visit EPCOT during festival season, but maybe I’m just biased. I was able to visit this past weekend so I only find it fitting to share.
Here’s what I tried:
*NEW* Flavors from Fire: Piggy Wings
Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds
My thoughts: Pretty good! Came with 2 “wings,” making it perfect to split with one other person. The sauce was less sweet and sticky than traditional Korean BBQ but no less delicious. I thought the meat was cooked perfectly and was balanced well as far as having a satisfying ratio of indulgent fattiness and hearty protein.
The Chocolate Studio
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle
with Warm Whiskey Caramel
My thoughts: A festival must. The concept of nitrogen-frozen desserts is fascinating! It’s hard to find restaurants savvy enough to use this technique, so I recommend trying this for the experience. Especially in the warm weather, the cold and creamy dessert was refreshing. I liked that the warm whiskey caramel was not overwhelmingly sweet, but I do think that it could have been a bit more rich in its whiskey flavor.
Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte
with Whipped Cream and Raspberry Dust
My thoughts: I’m a massive chocolate lover, but I found this dessert to be much too rich. Perhaps it is best enjoyed cut by a red wine. It is quite good, though, and if you decide to purchase this, be warned and ready to share. The raspberry was just subtle enough to not overpower the depth of the chocolate, creating a balance between fruit and cocoa.
Islands of the Caribbean
Jamaican Beef Patty
with Mango Salsa
My thoughts: Underwhelming at most. This didn’t do the Jamaican Beef Patty any justice! Disappointment begins with the appearance of the two miniature patties, which look more like two hush puppies. The meat filling is under-seasoned and the dough lacks that buttery, crispy crunch. I did enjoy the addition of mango salsa, which made this more of a well-rounded bite than most small plates.
Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce
My thoughts: This was nice! I’m not a fan of sweet cream cheese desserts, but this was very pleasant. The flakiness of the puff pastry was excellent and the cream cheese filling was not cloyingly sweet. I thought that the guava sauce gave a nice acidity that brightened this dessert and stayed true to Caribbean roots.
Grilled Lamb T-Bone
with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
My thoughts: DELICIOUS. The lamb was succulent and the mint pesto was the perfect addition. Adding a crunchy texture, the potatoes really did this dish justice. Highly recommend to anyone who likes lamb and savory meat dishes!
*NEW* The Almond Orchard
Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae
with Fresh Berries and Crunchy Chocolate Oats
My thoughts: This was SO good. It was like a hybrid yogurt parfait and ice cream sundae: just indulgent enough to enjoy, but still light enough to be guilt-free. Out of all of the plates, I think this was one of the most generous serving sizes for the price. I loved the banana soft serve ice cream. It was smooth, creamy, and true to its banana flavor. The berries were fresh– a delight on a hot day! The oats were crunchy, but not so crunchy that they were annoying.
My thoughts: A very good beef empanada. The beef was flavorful, the fat content was satisfying, and the outer pastry was pillowy. Just an enjoyable dish!
Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash with Potatoes, Peppers, Onions, and Spicy Mayonnaise
My thoughts: This was touted as one of the best dishes at the festival this year, but unfortunately I didn’t see that. It was a pretty mediocre hash. There wasn’t enough crunch from the potatoes and the sauce was a bit too salty, especially considering the already high-sodium SPAM. I did really like the peppers and onions in the mix- they were a much appreciated brightness!
Pistachio Cardamom Bundt Cake
with Chocolate-Coconut Mousse
My thoughts: There aren’t too many baked goods at the festival, but this one is really good. Pistachio may be my favorite flavor when sweet; it’s delicate and nutty. I loved how the bundt cake tasted and it was not dry or overly dense. My only complaint was the mousse– it unfortunately melted, but I think it would have been excellent if airy and light.
in a Pretzel Roll
My thoughts: A glorified hot dog. Bratwursts have all the potential in the world to be flavorful, juicy, and hearty. This was a minuscule brat with no sear and even less flavor, the pretzel bun was stale and flavorless, and the mustard was as generic as can be. Pass on this one and check out the full-service offerings in the Germany pavilion.
What else is there to do and see at the festival?
Visiting the festival is an all-day event. I’ve learned to take it slow, making sure to stop and rest. I love to wander around the pavilions and check out the shops for hard-to-find goodies. My favorite shops are located in Japan, Norway, and Morocco! You can pick up traditional snacks, clothes, trinkets, and gifts. I’ve been to Disney so many times that I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually purchased anything, but it’s never boring to browse. In each of the pavilions, you can find quick-service and seated restaurants. Unless you really are keen on sitting for a meal, I think you are better off picking up something smaller at quick-service. You’re served quicker, obviously, and you get a better value for your dollar in my opinion.
If you show up to the park early, you will probably notice that the pavilions don’t begin food service until 11AM. What to do until then? Check out the Starbucks at the front of the park. The line may be long, but you’ll be able to caffeinate for the long day ahead of you and grab a quick bite. There are some park-exclusive offerings that are worth checking out, but if you do order anything to eat be sure to ask for an ice water. This will be your easiest access to free water, and it comes in a convenient plastic cup with a lid that you can recycle or refill when finished.
The most photogenic pavilion by far is Morocco. The beautiful mosaics make for a colorful backdrop. It’s usually less busy than other pavilions, so you can stop for a little photoshoot without feeling pressed by the crowd. Speaking of crowds, I highly recommend heading out on a weekday rather than a Saturday or Sunday. It’s much less crowded on weekdays during the day, so you don’t have to wait long for food.
For those willing to spend a few more bucks, there are several other events available at an up-charge. You can attend seminars held by celebrity chefs, taste test beer and wine, and enjoy private tastings. Events are made public, so be sure to browse the schedule to see if there is anything you find worth attending. There are certainly free things to do at the festival, like live music, character appearances, and various performances. I love that you have lite access to so many cultures in one theme park! If you haven’t heard of Club Cool’s free soda tasting yet, I recommend checking it out. Located towards the entrance of the park, Club Cool is an air-conditioned haven. You can try some of Coca-Cola’s popular international products for free! My favorite was the Fanta Melon Frosty, which was so refreshing. The Beverly from Italy is infamous, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you and instead will let you try it for yourself.
The Food & Wine Festival is a fun event for those who like to try new foods! Yes, it can get a little expensive, but certainly still enjoyable on a budget. My biggest piece of advice for those interested in attending for the first time is to do your research. Make sure you have an idea of what plates you want to try (you don’t have to stick exactly to your plans, but being prepared will prevent you from stuffing yourself at the first three pavilions!), what events you’re interested in, and what characters you’re interested in seeing. Most of the schedule is available to you beforehand, so take advantage of as much information as you can!
xoxo The Offbeat Venusian
Thank you for taking the time to hear what I have to say. I hope you’ve found something helpful, or at the very least interesting. You can keep up with my beauty adventures by following me on Instagram @offbeatvenusian. If you have any questions or comments, I always love hearing what you have to say. You can comment below or you can contact me here.