We’re just days away from the start of the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and today I’m here to help break down the massive compilation of festival booth menus so you can plan your first Festival visit. I’ll point out a few classic dishes that are perfect to try if you’re a first-time festival-goer, vegetarian and gluten-friendly dishes that are real winners, picks for both picky and adventurous eaters, and of course, some of my favorite desserts and drinks. I’ll also point out a few new dishes I’m most interested in trying in my first trip to the festival for 2018.
Don’t forget – all the menus are available here for review, and I’ll be back right after the festival opens with reviews and photos of new and returning festival favorites!
Classics For Food & Wine Festival First-Timers
First up, let’s take a look at a few classic dishes that are always worth a try on your first or any festival visit.
Australia – Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (GF)
- Belgium – Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
- Canada – Canadian Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup served with a Pretzel Roll and Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
- Chocolate Studio – Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel (GF)
- Hawai’I – Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
- Hops & Barley – New England Lobster Roll: Warm Lobster with Fresh Herb Mayonnaise and Griddled Roll
- Ireland – Roasted Irish Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes and Onion Gravy
- New Zealand – Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney
- Spain – Charcuterie in a Cone with imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses and Olives with an Herb Vinaigrette
My picks above include a few long-time favorites like the famed Le Cellier filet and cheddar cheese soup, along with the tangy and filling New Zealand lamb meatball plus the always fun Australian lamb chop topped with crunchy potato chips. In recent years, Spain and Ireland have added dishes that have been great enough to become instant classics – dishes I have ordered more than once over a single festival season and have highly recommended to nearly everyone I know. For something sweet, be sure to stop by the Chocolate Studio, which brings back the liquid nitrogen-frozen chocolate mousse, a treat that is as fun to eat as it is to watch Cast Members create!
Family-Friendly Bites Perfect for Picky Eaters
This year, Disney has upped the number of (KA) (kid-approved) designated dishes, so be on the look-out for items with that symbol on them on festival guides and menus, as they are sure to please the little ones. I’ve picked out a few favorites that tend to be crowd pleasers for even the pickiest of eaters, plus a few new dishes that look promising for those who prefer flavors on the milder side.
- Active Eats – Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions (KA)
- Brazil – Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread (GF) (V) (KA)
- The Cheese Studio – Braised Beef Stroganoff with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushrooms and Boursin Garlic with Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce (KA)
- China – Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw (KA) (New item for 2018)
- Flavors from Fire – Piggy Wings: Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds (KA)
- Germany – Schinkennudeln: Pasta Gratin with Ham, Onions and Cheese (KA), Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll (KA), Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce (V) (KA)
- Morocco – Kefta Pocket: Seasoned Ground Beef in a Pita Pocket (KA)
- Thailand – Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables (KA)
Active Eats’ Mac and Cheese can be hit or miss on spice, so those averse to a little kick may want to avoid; otherwise, these dishes all tend to mimic traditional simple flavors that most kids and kids-at-heart will enjoy. Young ones will especially love the gluten-free Brazilian pão de queijo and the German Schinkennudeln, essentially cheesy bread and mac and cheese with ham, respectively – they’re easy to eat, and a fun way to teach kids that foreign foods can be just like the stuff they’re used to already. For those who don’t mind a few veggies on their plates, the Chinese dumplings, Thai chicken with peanut sauce, and Moroccan kefta pocket are simpler choices that bridge the gap between traditional international cuisines and simpler palates.
Dishes Aimed Towards Adventurous Eaters
On the other end of the palate spectrum, many folks arrive at the Food & Wine Festival ready and willing to try tons of new flavors they may not normally sample. Epcot’s chefs try to answer that call every year, introducing new dishes to complement existing favorites that tickle your taste buds in new and interesting ways. Here are a few of my favorites, and two dishes from this year’s menus that look promising.
Africa – Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Vegan Yogurt and Quinoa (V)
- Brazil – Moqueca: Brazilian Seafood Stew featuring Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut Lime Sauce and Steamed Rice (New item for 2018)
- China – Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce
- Coastal Eats – Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado-lemongrass Cream
- France – Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley
- Greece – Taste of Greece: Chicken Souvlaki, Feta Cheese Dip with Warm Pita and Lamb Sausage with a Dill Tomato Ragu
- Hawai’I – Grilled Tuna Tataki with Seaweed Salad, Pickled Cucumbers and Wasabi Cream
- Islands of the Caribbean – Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop with Roasted Sweet Plantain Salad and Mango Chutney Yogurt (New item for 2018)
- Thailand – Red Hot Spicy Thai Curry Beef with Steamed Rice
Africa’s red lentil stew was one of my top picks from last year’s festival, and I’m so glad to see this vegan dish returning this year – the spice and cooling effect from the stew and yogurt was on point! Coastal Eats’ crab cake was another winner, alongside the classic favorite, the French escargot croissant (everything’s more approachable when tucked in buttery pastry, even snails). New to this year’s festival, the Caribbean jerk chicken sounds full of bold flavor, and the Brazilian moqueca should satisfy seafood-lovers’ taste buds.
Vegetarian Dishes Perfect for All Palates
In previous years, festival menu options for vegetarian guests have been few and far between aside from a handful of desserts and a cheese board, and vegan dishes were even more rare. Recent years have seen a few additions that up the ante a bit, and this year’s festival offerings include a few true entrees for meatless diners – an exciting turn after the sad loss of the all-vegan Terra booth a few years ago.
- Active Eats – Active Eats Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates (V)
- Earth Eats – The IMPOSSIBLE Burger Slider with Wasabi Cream and Spicy Asian Slaw on a Sesame Seed Bun (V)
- Greece – Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles and Vegan Tzatziki (V) and Spanakopita: Greek Spinach Pie (V)
- India – Warm Indian Bread with Pickled Garlic, Mango Salsa and Coriander Pesto Dips (V)
- Ireland – Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread (V)
- Morocco – Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce (V)
- Wine & Dine Studio – Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds (V) and Trio of Artisan Cheese featuring La Bottega di BelGioioso Cheeses (V)
A burger! A vegetarian pasta dish! The return of the Greek nachos! There’s definitely some excitement on the vegetarian front this year. With these three dishes alone, alongside the Moroccan hummus fries and African lentil stew, vegetarians and even vegans have more than a handful of savory options this year. For those who can’t get enough cheese in their life, the Irish cheddar cheese dip is a must-stop, while the Indian bread dish is pretty reminiscent of a tamed-down Sanaa bread service.
As always, festival organizers do try to incorporate as many different eating styles as possible; this year continues the inclusion of the “gluten-friendly” designation for several festival dishes. An important note, though: no items are specifically labeled by festival organizers as “gluten-free”; they’re only “gluten-friendly”, so if you are allergic or must avoid gluten entirely, please take caution. For those with sensitivities or dietary restrictions limiting gluten consumption, these dishes may be good options on your trip around the world.
- Active Eats – Spice-crusted Verlasso Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar (GF)
- Africa – Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato and Pap (GF)
- Australia – Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas (GF)
- Brazil – Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions (GF)
- India – Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas and Basmati Rice (V) (GF)
- Japan – Beef Nigiri topped with Shrimp Sauce and Diced Pickled Jalapeños (GF) (New item for 2018)
- Spain – Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Paprika (GF)
Tons of fresh flavors abound here, with the Australian shrimp, Spanish seafood salad, and Active Eats’ salmon dishes making the most of light cooking styles and lots of produce. I really love the Brazilian pork belly, a take on traditional feijoada, as well as the African beef stew with grits once the festival starts cooling down towards October and November. Japan’s beef nigiri dish is new, and certain to be popular.
I’ve already highlighted what is undoubtedly the festival’s most popular (for good reason) dessert – Chocolate Studio’s liquid nitro truffle, but there are so many more sweet treats to try during your visit to the Food & Wine festival. Here are a few of my favorites!
- Australia – Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut (V)
- Belgium – Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream (V) and Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream (V)
- Flavors from Fire – Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder and Mango
- France – Crème Brûlée à la Confiture de Framboises: Crème Brûlée with House-made Raspberry Jam (V) (GF)
- Greece – Bougatsa: Warm Phyllo Dough Strudel with Sweet Vanilla Custard, Lemon Honey Syrup and Cinnamon (V)
- Hawai’I – Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Toasted Macadamia Nuts (V)
- Hops & Barley – Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing (V)
- Ireland – Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard
- Islands of the Caribbean – Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce (V)
- Cheese Studio – Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel and Pecan Crunch (V) (New item for 2018)
- Mexico – Coconut Rice Pudding served with Mango Coulis (GF) (V) (New item for 2018)
I lost track of the number of Greek bougatsa dishes I consumed during the 2017 festival – it was truly that tasty. Coconut lovers should definitely try the Australian traditional cake dessert, lamington. Chocolate lovers rejoice – there are tons of options for you, including the slightly spicy chocolate mousse from Flavors from Fire, as well as the boozy chocolate lava cake from Ireland. If you’re feeling fruity, definitely wait it out in the always-long but always-worth it Belgium waffle line, or try the addictively decadent French crème brulee. Two new desserts caught my eye for this year – the maple bourbon cheesecake from the Cheese Studio, and the coconut rice pudding from Mexico; both booths tend to be solid performers on the dessert front, and I expect this year to be no different.
New Dishes That Sound Like Winners
It’s so hard to save room in your budget and stomach for new dishes with all those returning favorites, I know, but this year’s menus feature several all-new dishes that sound absolutely delectable – I, for one, can’t wait to try them all.
- China – Xi’an Pancake with Beef
- Earth Eats – The Steakhouse Blended Burger: Blended Beef and Wild Mushroom Slider with Brie Cheese Fondue, Arugula, Truffle and Blue Cheese Potato Chip on a Brioche Bun
- Flavors from Fire – Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aïoli
- Hops & Barley – Brunswick Slider: Slow-braised Beef Brisket “Pot Roast Style” with Horseradish Cream and Crispy Fried Onions on a Potato Roll with Pickled Vegetables
- Islands of the Caribbean – Ropa Vieja Empanada with Tomato Aïoli
- Italy – Pollo Alla Cacciatora: Braised Chicken Thigh, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Parmesan Polenta and Mezzi Rigatoni: Vodka Sauce, Crispy Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese
- Japan – Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki Sauce
- Mexico – Short Rib Tostada: Corn Tortilla topped with Short Ribs, Black Beans, Salsa Verde and Spring Onion and Shrimp Quesadilla: Corn Tortilla with Shrimp, Oaxaca Cheese and topped with Spicy Guajillo Sauce and Sesame Seeds
Tons of new beef dishes dominate the horizon here – Earth Eats’ burger, a return of sorts for the dearly departed Patagonia chimichurri steak appears at Flavors from Fire, pot roast sliders in America, and ropa vieja empanadas in the Caribbean? Say no more – I’ll be there day one to try all of these. I’m always interested to see what new dishes Mexico introduces – generally this booth is pretty successful and crowd-pleasing, while Italy and China continue to introduce new dishes that replace lower-performing dishes. Fingers crossed each of these offers fun flavors for festival visitors!
Can’t-Miss Specialty Drinks
I’d be remiss not to mention a few specialty alcoholic (and some non-alcoholic) drinks available at the festival that may be worth your time; It is the Food & Wine Festival, after all. Here are a few of my favorite unique sips (aka outside the normal beer and wine selections), alongside a slew of new options to sample responsibly as you make your way around Epcot.
Active Eats – I.A. Beer Company HRD WTR and Pineapple Coconut Hard Sparkling Water, Doral, FL
- Brazil – Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaça
- Brewer’s Collection – Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer
- China – Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk (Non-alcoholic) and Byejoe Punch: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice
- Chocolate Studio – Twinings Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea and Chocolate Shake (Non-alcoholic)
- Craft Drafts – First Magnitude Brewing Co. Lemongrass Saison, Gainesville, FL
- Earth Eats – Kombucha Flight featuring Health-Ade Kombucha’s Pink Lady Apple, Pomegranate, and Beet-Lime flavors
- Festival Center – Skywalker Vineyards Sommita Pinot Noir, Marin County
- France – La Passion Martini Slush: Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice
- India – Mango Lassi with Sōmrus Indian Cream Liqueur
- Japan – Fuji Apple Cocktail: Sake, Peach Schnapps and Green Apple Syrup
- Light Lab – Non-alcoholic Phosphorescent Phreeze, InfraRED, and UltraVIOLET; RGB Flight
- Mexico – Mariachi Loco: Margarita with Libelula Tequila Joven, Mango Purée and Chamoy
- Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar
New to this year’s festival is the Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar, aimed towards early arrivals to the festival each day. Aside from several breakfast pastry options, the bar will feature five mimosa flavors that guests are sure to flock towards every day. Following recent trends, Disney has also added a kombucha flight and several hard seltzer waters, sure to be popular with younger partakers. Don’t sleep on the Craft Drafts and Festival Center offerings – these are usually drinks that are tough to find at a reasonable price point elsewhere and can even sell out early at the festival because of popularity.
Overwhelmed by the options? Looking forward to any of the dishes I mentioned above? Leave a comment below, and let the festival feasting begin!