Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival survived its first weekend, although reports of massive crowds and long lines filled social media. If you are going to Food and Wine and can go for a lunch around the world instead of dinner and go on a weekday instead of a weekend, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Following up on some new or “not seen in a few years” foods that I covered last week, here’s some more new offerings for this year.
NEW BOOTH: Sustainable Chew
Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits (GF) ($5.50)
Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (V) ($4.75)
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle (GF) ($4.25)
I suppose it isn’t a good sign for a review when all I want to write about are the plates that the food came on. The VerTerra dinnerware is simply fantastic, however. According to VerTerra, the dinnerware is made from fallen palm leaves and water. But not only are these plates environmentally friendly, they also look wonderful and are much more sturdy than what you’d expect from a food booth.
On to the food, though. Unlike the Chew Lab, which had some unique techniques for the food, the foods here are prepared in fairly standard ways, with the emphasis on sustainable resources. I’m all for sustainability, and so I wish I could tell you that the food here was the best at the festival. Sadly, most of the food was disappointing.
The pork spareribs were cooked well and very tender, but they are bone-in, which makes for a dish that you can’t exactly eat on the go. The cheesy mascarpone grits and red wine and fennel sauce were okay, but nothing remarkable.
For the ricotta and zucchini ravioli, while the pasta was wonderful and very fresh tasting, the zucchini in the filling made the filling very watery, and lackluster in flavor. The rustic tomato sauce was wonderful, although more spicy than I had expected.
Out of the three dishes, the vanilla panna cotta was the best offering. The panna cotta was pretty typical, although the fresh fig slice was an unique offering for a garnish. What I absolutely loved was the pistachio brittle. If they could sell that by the bag, it would quickly become a favorite snack food for me.
New Item: Greek Salad in a Cone (V) (GF) ($3.25)
When I first heard about this dish, I was hoping that it would come in some sort of edible cone (perhaps made of pita, although that would ruin the gluten-free designation). It is one of the few dishes I’ve had at Food and Wine where vegetables are the star. The flavors in the Greek salad, with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives, and an abundance of feta, combined with a light dressing, are wonderful. Unfortunately, having taco-type shredded lettuce prepared in a salad in advance and sitting in the dressing means that the texture was a bit soggy. I even noticed as I was eating the salad that the dressing was dripping out from the bottom of the paper cone. Somehow I don’t think that this particular preparation will be coming back in future years.
Desserts & Champagne
Chocolate Cherry Explosion (GF) ($3.75)
Strawberry-Basil Champagne “Toast” ($5.25)
Last week, I had the chocolate mousse frozen in liquid nitrogen at the Chew Lab booth. Despite the cherry explosion in its name, I would almost swear that the same mousse was used for the Chocolate Cherry Explosion. That said, the presentation was wonderful, and the somewhat glittery cherry flavoring on top did add a hint of cherry flavor. It is beautiful, and for the price, it is a wonderful dessert with a rich, chocolate flavor and delightfully light texture.
For most booths, items containing alcohol are listed under the “drinks” section, so it didn’t occur to me that the champagne in this dish is actual champagne. Served in a flute with the stem filled with a champagne, basil, and strawberry puree, this does fit more as a dessert than a drink. The taste of basil also comes from the strawberries that were somehow infused with a basil flavor that is refreshing and not overpowering. On top of it is a strawberry mousse, some whipped cream, crispy rice pearls, and a white chocolate garnish with the event logo. The only challenge with this dessert was getting every last bit of it out of the flute, which you’ll want to do, thanks to the amazing blend of flavors.
NEW ITEM: Chilaquiles de Pollo: Corn Chips Layered with Seasoned Chicken, Queso Fresco, Sour Cream, and Cilantro (GF) ($5.00)
The Mexico booth is often one of the most popular during Food and Wine, and this year is no exception. By the time I got to the booth shortly after 11 AM, there was already a line. Whether it is for the alcohol offerings or foods that are familiar to most palates, if you want to be able to try foods at this booth, you’ll want to get here early or be prepared to wait. From the description of this item, I had expected the corn chips to be crunchy. Instead, this just seemed more like an enchilada with a tomatillo sauce. That said, it was delicious, and the portion size for the price was an exceptional value. The chicken was somewhat spicy, but not horribly so, and the flavors blended together well. It is one of the few dishes at Food and Wine that I have completely cleaned the plate, which speaks to the tastiness of this offering.
NEW ITEM: Chicken Sausage with Creamy Polenta and Minus 8 Onion Jam ($4.50)
Technically, this item isn’t new, but it hasn’t been offered since 2011. Reading the description, I wasn’t overly excited about this dish. Thankfully, I gave it a try, and it was one of my favorite foods of the day. The chicken sausage had a nice bite to it, but tasted very fresh. The star of the dish is the creamy polenta and Minus 8 onion jam, however. The polenta is made with maple syrup, and so it is both creamy and slightly sweet, which goes amazingly well with the chicken sausage. The onion jam had a delightful flavor, and I did some research about what exactly Minus 8 is. For those who are curious, it is a vinegar made in the same process as is used to make ice wine. A very pricey way to make onion jam, but the flavor justifies the cost in my view. This dish is one I will be going back to have again before the end of the festival.
There’s still much more to see and taste, so stay tuned for more updates from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.