Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is right around the corner. What else is right around the corner? Lines for the food booths on the first Saturday afternoon of the festival. With so many booths to choose from, but lines being almost guaranteed at most, how do you know what is worth waiting for and what can be skipped during peak times? Here’s my views from sampling all the foods last year and eagerly anticipating the new ones.
If you’re just looking for the highlights, you might want to check out my Top Ten Returning Items.
*Indicates item returning from last year.
- *Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapenos, Tomato and Pap (Pictured)
- *Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread
Perhaps it is its location near the back of the park, or maybe it is because people either don’t feel “adventurous” enough to try African food (or those who do already have an ADR for Boma, Jiko, Sanaa. or Tusker House), but lines rarely seem to be too long for this booth. It’s a shame more people don’t give it a try, because the Buttered Chicken is one of my favorite meals. For a little more of a kick, the Beef Tenderloin Tips are good, but not as good as the chicken, in my opinion.
- *Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas (Pictured)
- *Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
- *Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut
The dish most people will be talking about is the grilled lamb chop, which tends to be a festival favorite. For me, I find eating a lamb chop on the go a little awkward, as it just doesn’t seem right to pick up the bone and gnaw on it like one would do with a turkey leg. It feels a little better to grab the shrimp by the tail and eat them, although it is messy with the sweet and spicy sauce. The vegetables in that dish feel like an afterthought. The Lamington is the one dish I want to love, but every time I got it, the cake was horrifically dry. If that trend continues, it is a dessert to skip.
- Beer-braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
- *Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream (Pictured)
- *Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream
New this year is a beer-braised beef dish with smoked Gouda mashed potatoes, very similar to an offering last year, but now with 100% less waffle. Perhaps this makes a gluten-free dish at a formerly gluten-laden booth? Gouda is my favorite cheese, so I think this dish will be a winner. The other waffles are always delicious, but in the end, they are waffles with toppings. If you’re eating Mickey waffles during your trip or taking a visit to Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom for a Nutella waffle, is it worth it to sample the waffles here?
- *Escondidinho de Carne (Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca)
- *Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato
- *Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pictured)
Every year, my order at the Brazil booth is the same: One of each of the foods, please. There’s nothing at the booth I wouldn’t recommend, and it is no surprise that I stop there several times during the festival. Whether you sample one food at a time or go for everything at once, this booth has some of the most consistently best food at Food and Wine.
- *Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup
- *”Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce (Pictured)
Nothing says high-class like eating filet mignon out of a paper tray with plastic cutlery? Although the beef is delicious, it isn’t the easiest food to eat on the go, and the price can cause a bit of sticker shock. For that reason, this is on my list of foods to skip. The cheddar cheese soup is always a favorite, and with the reported inclusion of a pretzel roll this year, this wonderful dish is even better.
The Chew Collective
- *Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (Pictured)
- Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots, and Feta Cheese
- Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle
The Chew Lab and Sustainable Chew have now merged into the equally awkward sounding “Chew Collective” booth. Two dishes from last year’s Chew booths are returning, and one of them will be found at the Collective–the ricotta and zucchini ravioli. My husband and I were split on this dish. He enjoyed the fresh flavors, but I thought it was a bit “soupy” in texture. I am excited about the other two dishes, and expect that the dessert offering will be a hit. The unique combination of flavors with the beef skewer will likely bit hit or miss for some people, but it is a flavor combination that I can get behind.
- *Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Hoisin Sauce (Pictured)
- Sichuan Spicy Chicken
- Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
- *Chicken Pot Stickers
The Sichuan flavors from the noodles that accompanied the black pepper shrimp have now been moved to a spicy chicken dish, making the black pepper shrimp a bit more approachable if you’re not a huge fan of spicy foods. Perhaps it is the Nine Dragons effect, but the China booth often gets a ho-hum response. Unless you’re really craving pot stickers, skip them–they’re on par with any Chinese takeout.
- Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte
- Red Wine Chocolate Truffle
- *Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel (Pictured)
Can I be the first to say that I’m quite thankful the small box of prepackaged chocolate seashells is no longer being offered? Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but prepackaged food just doesn’t fit with the festival booth vibe. What I’m most curious about is to see portion sizes and prices for the new chocolate offerings. One thing is for certain, I will be in line to get the Liquid Nitro truffle, returning from its debut last year at the Chew Lab booth. Foods made with liquid nitrogen are just plain cool. (Yes, you see what I did there.)
- *Charcuterie Plate: Country Pate, Cured Meats, and Crostini (Pictured)
- *Pimento Cheese Dip with Pretzel Chips
- Piggy Wings: Fried Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds
Let’s face it–the main attraction at the Craft Beers booth is not going to be the food. Unless you really need something to chow down on while you sample beers, you can skip the returning foods from last year. I am intrigued by the idea of “fried pork wings”. Did someone say “Hey, we need to have good food at Craft Beers” and someone responded “That’ll happen when pigs fly”? In my mind, I’m thinking this may develop some sort of secret McRib-like cult following. Only time will tell.
Stay tuned for the next exciting post with some returning favorites and some new booths to sample.
Any of these foods your returning favorites? Are any going on your must try or must skip list? Feel free to sound off in the comments.