Now celebrating its 20th year, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival has many long-time fan favorite foods, but also prides itself on bringing new taste experiences each fall. Sometimes this is done with the creation of new booths and other times it is a matter of replacing items at booths from year to year. This year, there are multiple new booths and more than a dozen new items at booths brought back from previous years. Here are some of the new items and one of the new booths that you can find this year.
NEW BOOTH: Chew Lab
Olive Oil-Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn, Bacon, and Pepper Jam (GF) ($5.75)
New York Strip with Parsnip Silk, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula Foam (GF) ($6.25)
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel (GF) ($4.00)
Fans of the ABC show “The Chew” probably will hear a lot about this booth and its sister booth “Sustainable Chew”, located in the Next Eats area near the Imagination pavilion. (Yes, those really are the names.)
At the Chew Lab, innovative cooking techniques are combined with flavorful ingredients to create works of art in the form of food. Chew Lab has three food items on its menu: Olive oil-poached salmon with fresh corn, bacon, and pepper jam; New York strip with parsnip silk, balsamic glaze, and arugula foam; and Liquid nitro chocolate-almond truffle with warm whiskey-caramel.
No question, the food at this booth is some of the most beautifully plated foods that have ever been offered at Food and Wine. In addition, if you’ve never seen food prepared with liquid nitrogen before, watching the truffle being plated in front of you is almost as much of a treat as the truffle itself.
For the salmon, because it is poached, the texture is much more like you’d find raw (like in a sushi roll) or rare, even though it is fully cooked through. The flavors were bright, and while this dish wasn’t a show-stopper for me, it was a wonderful debut in this booth. What completely blew me away, however, was the white bacon “snow”. Yes, you heard that right–bacon snow. The texture was somewhat like powdered sugar, but the flavor was bacon all the way. If they could package and sell that, I think I know what would be my next purchase at Food and Wine…
On to the next item, the New York strip. In general, I am not a fan of foods with foams, so the New York strip started with an uphill battle for my approval. Making arugula into a foam was an intriguing idea, and it worked well with the dish to help cut some of the sweetness of the parsnip silk. Unfortunately, the two pieces of steak that I got were each half gristle, and so that made this dish one that I likely won’t repeat.
And now the star of the show at the Chew Lab booth: liquid nitrogen. Essentially the chocolate truffle is a chocolate mousse made into a ball and then dipped into liquid nitrogen, which instantly freezes it. The frozen ball is then tapped with a small hammer to crack it open, and almond powder is sprinkled over the top and then it is coated with a whiskey-caramel sauce. Although the description says that the sauce is warm, when I was at the booth, the sauce had just arrived, so there was no time to warm it up. The flavor was very rich, but the texture was light. It is something I plan to get at least once more during the festival.
Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas (GF) ($4.75)
Lamington Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut (V) ($3.00)
When it comes to shrimp, one pet peeve of mine is shrimp that are not de-veined. Thankfully, the shrimp here are shelled down to the tail and de-veined. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, and were very flavorful. On the other hand, if there was pineapple in the dish as advertised, I couldn’t swear to it. What I got with my shrimp was a mixture of red and green peppers, a few bits of onion, and a couple peas. It is entirely possible that it just is how the vegetables were scooped out, however, and I would certainly be willing to try it again.
I had extremely high hopes for the Lamington cake. Cake + chocolate + coconut is a recipe for yum in my book. The coconut was fantastic, the chocolate was wonderful, but the cake was painfully dry. Perhaps some Australian readers can chime in about whether this is the norm for this type of cake, but even the layer of chocolate on the outside wasn’t enough to soften up this cake to make it worth a repeat visit for me.
Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread ($5.00)
The other night, I visited Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation and had their wonderful butter chicken meal. I was curious whether this was the same food brought over, and so I was eager to try it right away while the memory of that wonderful food was fresh in my mind. I am thrilled to say that even though the butter chicken at Art of Animation is incredibly good, this preparation at the Africa booth is even better. The micro cilantro didn’t really add anything to the dish (and if you have an aversion to cilantro, you could ask them to leave it off), but the naan bread was great for mopping up the incredible sauce that you will have left over after the chicken. I had no doubt that this was going to be my favorite dish of the day. Until…
Escondidinho de Carne: “Little Hidden One” Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca (GF) ($5.00)
Brazil was my favorite booth last year. There was nothing that they had that I didn’t want to come back for seconds. And while I was sad to see any item go, the meat pie is a worthy successor. Essentially, this tastes like a shepherd’s pie, only without vegetables in with the meat and with mashed yucca on top instead of potatoes. Even though I was incredibly stuffed by the time I got to this booth, I wanted to polish off the entire dish. It was a wonderful blend of flavors–not spicy, but flavorful. Mine felt like it came right out of the oven before it was handed to me, and so the top of it was slightly crispy. Although I didn’t get any of the Brazilian cheese bread to go with it, I think that will be a lunch at some point for me in the future. I don’t know if it is necessarily better than the buttered chicken, but it is at least its equal.
Stay tuned for more reviews of the new items at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival!
Do any of these items make your mouth water? Have you had an opportunity to sample any of these, and if so, what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.