Epcot International Food And Wine Festival 2015, My Top 5 new foods of the 20th anniversary

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

Hold onto your hats, it’s my favorite time of the year!  Fall means cooler weather, gorgeous autumnal colors on trees, and a slight nip in the air.  Except, none of those actually happen here in Florida.  However!  We do have the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival to look forward to!  This year is extra special because Disney is celebrating its 20th anniversary of the festival.  I’ve been thinking, and the first time I came to the festival was in 1997, the year I did my student teaching in Orlando.  I’ve been almost every year since (there were a few years when I lived in North Carolina, and didn’t make it down.)  Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane….

I was not above posing as a bosc pear bear at the 2007 festival…

The birth of our son didn’t keep us away in 2009.  In fact, this was Tyler’s first ever Disney trip…

At the 15th anniversary in 2010, guests were given red clown noses as part of the parting gifts from the Party For The Senses.

As in recent years, I am focusing this post on what’s new around the Global Marketplaces.  Food-wise, that is.  First, the Dominican Republic makes a return with new dishes.  Second, there’s the Chew Lab and Sustainable Chew, both located in Future World and dedicated to the television show The Chew.  I spent a good deal of time tasting my way through the new food (and some of the beverage) offerings.  I even made a guest appearance on Lou Mongello’s podcast, along with Julie, as we tasted our way through many new items. Lou was so much fun to hang out with, and I was constantly amazed by how easily he can speak on the fly without any script.  Check out the podcast, if nothing else than for our unguarded reactions to eating haggis for the first time!

(haggis with neeps and tatties)

It was difficult to narrow things down, because just about everything we tried was a smash hit.  The chefs have really stepped it up this year.  I was so impressed by the quality of the food, and how beautifully everything was presented.  I’ve managed to come up with my Top 5 new items for this year.  Here goes:


zucchini ravioli, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • The ricotta and zucchini ravioli, Sustainable Chew.  Ravioli sounds like it’s going to be heavy, but this dish was fresh and light.  The zucchini was shredded and mixed with the ricotta, and the ravioli was cooked perfectly.  The tomato sauce that accompanied it had a slight heat from red pepper flakes.  It was the first thing we ate, and was a perfect start to the afternoon!  And, it’s a fantastic vegetarian option.


Lechón asado: Roasted pork with mangú, pickled red onion and avocado, Epcot Food and Wine Festival

  • Lechón asado: Roasted pork with mangú, pickled red onion and avocado, Dominican Republic.  The pork was soooo tender, and I loved the rustic presentation of the smashed avocado.  Mangú is made from mashed plantains, and made the dish feel hearty.  This is not only delicious, but also gluten free.


butter chicken, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Buttered chicken, South Africa.  This dish shares a similar flavor profile to chicken tikka masala.  It is spiced with garam masala, cumin, and cayenne pepper, and has a fragrant tomato-based sauce.  The naan that came with it was soft and lightly buttered. It was one of the spicier dishes, but not too much.  When I bought this year’s cookbook, this was the first thing I made, and it was just as good at home!


Loaded mac ‘n’ cheese with Nueske's® pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Loaded mac ‘n’ cheese with Nueske’s® pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions, Farm Fresh.  They had me at “mac and cheese,” but then they add bacon to it!  This was loaded with four kinds of cheese, mixed with bacon and red bell pepper, and topped with green onion.  This is definitely a dish to share with friends.  I could’ve eaten it all, but then would’ve been done for the day.  And ready for a nap.


liquid nitro chocolate truffle, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel, Sustainable Chew.  This was my favorite dessert so far, and so much fun to watch the chef make.  First,  she dipped a scoop of chocolate mousse in liquid nitrogen.  Then, she set the frozen mousse on a plate and broke it open by rapping on it with a mallet.  After that, she garnished it with caramel and almond crumbs.  I was impressed by how long the mousse remained frozen.  And it is sooooooo good – silky chocolate, with the almond for some texture and caramel for sweetness.


frozen brown elephant, Refreshment Coolpost

  • Frozen Brown Elephant, Refreshment Cool Post.  Okay, I had to include one more.  Like I said, it was hard to narrow things down!  Of all the drinks I tried, this one was my favorite.  It’s kind of like a rum and coke, but frozen.  And with a cream liqueur.  It went down very easily, especially on a hot day, and when eating the spicy hot dog with kimchi slaw.  I was sharing this with Julie and Lou, but ended up drinking most of it myself.


Whew!  Like I said, it was hard to keep from listing everything.  There were so many dishes that were equally as good, like the miso udon, venison, loin, and meat pie with mashed yucca.  AND, this list doesn’t include any of my returning favorites like the roasted duck steamed bun, filet with truffle butter, pork belly with black beans, or tuna poke.  *Sigh*  This just means that I need to make many (many) more trips back to try them all.


One last tip: if children will be with you as you eat your way around the world, I highly recommend the Remy’s Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt.  You can purchase a map of the World Showcase along with a set of stickers.  A statue of Remy is hidden in each of the countries aournd the World Showcase, and as you find him you place stickers in the correct spots.  Once you fill up the map with the stickers, you can turn it in for a commemorative pin.  My son was a whiny grumble pants as we entered Epcot, up until we got the map and began the search.  Then he happily walked from country to country looking for the statues while I enjoyed the food.


Have you been to the festival yet?  What dishes did you like?  Are you planning on going?  What food/drink are you most looking forward to trying?  Check out my Flickr album for more pictures from Epcot.  I’ll be updating it throughout the festival’s run.  Oh, and I may manage to post a recipe or two in the next few weeks of dishes from this year’s selections!

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Epcot Food And Wine Festival 2013, The World Is Heating Up!

The Epcot International Food And Wine Festival has been going on for just over a week, and I’ve spent a good amount of time there already.  There are two new countries in the International Marketplace this year – Scotland and Brazil.

I spent the majority of my time tasting the new items – not only from the two new countries, but also new food from returning countries.  A good number of the new items pack a spicy punch.  Here are my top 5 picks among these new offerings:

1)  Kimchi Dog, South Korea.  The hot dog is specially made for Disney filled with Asian flavors.  The hot dog is topped with a kimchi style slaw and a spicy mustard.  This is what gives the dish its heat.

2)  Crispy Pork Belly, Brazil.  From one of the new marketplace booths, this was one of the best pieces of pork belly I’ve had.  Ever.  The accompanying black beans and smashed avocado salad help round out the hunk of meat.

3)  Mango and habañero margarita, Mexico.  Despite the chile in the drink, this is not spicy.  The habañero adds more flavor than heat.  The drink is refreshing without being too sweet, which is just how I like them.

4)  Berbere style beef with okra, tomato, and pap (grits),  Africa.  Another spicy dish, this time thanks to the jalapeño.  The vegetables and grits make this dish feel complete, and it is probably the largest portion for the least amount of money.  The Africa booth also consistently has the shortest line, which is a good tip when the park is full.

5)  Potato Leek Waffle with Braised Beef, Belgium.  I waited all afternoon for this dish, because it kept selling out.  Let me tell you, it is worth the wait. The dish tastes like the best beef stew, in a waffle form.  This is not the best picture of the dish, but trust me that this is a must-try.  I’ll also be sharing the recipe for it soon!

6)  Okay, one more. Silky Spun Ice, China.  If you need to cool off from all the spicy food, I recommend this ice cream.  The flavor rotates by week during the festival, and I had the luck to taste the coconut.  It is so light, it feels like tasting coconut spun air.  It’s perfect for a hot afternoon.

Other favorites of the new items include: seared scallop (Brazil), cherry pistachio mousse (Desserts & Champagne), scotch flight (Scotland), and the rainbow trout (Canada).

Intrigued yet?  Are you going to the Food & Wine festival this year?  Which items sound good to you?  Many of my favorite dishes from last year’s festival have returned and are as good as ever, like the Mongolian beef in a steamed bun, filet with truffle sauce, grapefruit beer, and the lamb chop.  Check out my flickr set of the festival to see pictures of all the food that’s offered.

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Party In The Bog, Ocean Spray Reception at Epcot Food And Wine Festival

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival began last weekend!  This year, there are even more events and experiences.  I had the pleasure to attend  a reception hosted by Ocean Spray on the Friday night.  For the past few years, they’ve constructed cranberry bog near the entrance to the World Showcase.  This reception celebrated the cranberry and the bog.

photo: cranberry and sea salt cured wild salmon with maple sugar crystals representing Canada

Food stations represented one of six countries.  This fit the theme of the entire festival – Taste Your Way Around The World.  Each dish at the tables incorporated cranberries in a unique way.  After sampling the food from each country, guests were invited to stamp a “passport book,” and then collect a special stamp at the end of the book.

Guests also had the opportunity to hang out in the bog.  Working in shifts, we climbed into waders, and (carefully) stomped around in knee-high water floating with cranberries.  This was the highlight of the event.  I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time (as seen above.)  It brought me back to my Massachusetts roots.  I started throwing a “wicked awesome” or two into my conversation.  A signature vodka drink and some more appetizers were served in the bog.

photo credit: Marvin of Foodbidden

Only the first day, and I’ve already experienced one of the highlights of the festival!  Can’t wait to see what other fun events I’ll get to try this year.  Thank you so much to Disney and Ocean Spray!

Disclosure: I was invited by Ocean Spray to attend this event.  All opinions are my own.

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Epcot International Flower And Garden Festival 2013

The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival kicked off recently.   The festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and there are some upgrades.  There’s the usual celebrity appearances from HGTV personalities, Flower Power concert series, beautiful topiaries, butterfly garden, and stations with growing tips. But wait! There’s more.

clockwise from top left: ratatouille tart, meatloaf sandwich, pate with cherry compote, lobster and asparagus with garden cocktail sauce, ratatouille fun facts, Angela waits to taste, lasagna primavera, baked goat’s brie with kumquat chutney, Julius taking a picture, lamb kebab with vegetable couscous salad, butterfly garden


There are two play areas during the festival: one with a Radiator Springs theme, and the other with a very elaborate Oz theme.  New topiaries include: Mike and Sully, Phineas and Ferb, Lightning McQueen and Mater, and the outdoor party with Mickey and friends at the entrance to the park.   Some of the topiaries light up at night. And, there are the Garden Marketplaces.

clockwise from top left: frushi, Tyler, kumquat tree, pancake with chicken and apple, chirashi hanazushi, Captain Hook topiary, vegetable bun


The marketplaces are similar to the booths at the Food and Wine Festival.  Each booth’s name and decor reflects the country it represents.  There are three to four selections at each, as well as a few drink options.  Slushie type of drinks are popular this year, which were a hit with my son (non-alcoholic varieties, of course.)  I went one afternoon with my family, and the next day with some friends, so I’ve sampled most of the food available at the booths.

 clockwise from top left: pulled pig slider, crab tostada, brisket with jalapeno cornbread and greens, shrimp and girts, garden display, meatloaf sandwich (again, sic), Marvin takes a picture


The chefs really outdid themselves on the food. Emphasis was obviously placed on incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into all the dishes.  The quality of the ingredients shone – from the corn atop the shrimp and grits to the vibrant peas in the savory bread pudding.


clockwise from top left: limoncello panna cotta, strawberry slush, Dole whip, candied strawberries, La Vie En Rose frozen drink, trio of trifles, tequila tasting, pineapple upside down cake


While most of the dishes were outstanding, I definitely had a few favorites.  These are on the “Must Try” list.

The smoked salmon on a potato, cheddar, and chive biscuit from The Cottages (between Canada and the UK.)  This was the very first thing I tried, and it was absolutely amazing.  It really set the bar high for all the other dishes.  The biscuit was soft and savory, and the smoked salmon had just the right amount of lemon to balance out the dish.  I’m definitely ordering it again on future visits.

The savory bread bread pudding with peas and wild mushroom ragout from Bauernmarkt (Germany.)  This dish was a real surprise – it looked messy, but the bread pudding tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing, and the peas were so fresh that they burst in your mouth.  And I’m a sucker for mushrooms, so this dish was right up my alley.

The rocky road brownie mousse from The Smokehouse (United States.)  Chocolatey, rich, but not too heavy.  There was the perfect ratio of mousse-to-brownie crust.  I thought there could’ve been a few more marshmallows, but this was my favorite of the desserts I tried (the limoncello panna cotta, candied strawberries, and berry trifle were close seconds.)

The frozen violet lemonade from Pineapple Promenade (near entrance to World Showcase.)  We had this at the end of our day of eating.  It was slightly tart, citrus-y, with a hint of floral – just what we needed to cleanse the palate.  It tasted fabulous on a hot afternoon.  Marvin and Julius liked it so much they each went back for seconds.


Well, that’s my summary of the Flower and Garden festival.  Of course, I focused mostly on the food.  For a different perspective, AJ from the Disney Food Blog has a wonderful review of the dishes.  Check out my Flickr set for full sized pictures of the dishes, and some more topiaries.  I will update the set when I visit the festival again.  If you go, please come back and tell me which dishes were your favorites.  Did you like the smoked salmon biscuit as much as I did?



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Driscoll’s Culinary Demonstration at the EPCOT Food And Wine Festival


The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is coming to a close. I’ve enjoyed so many aspects of it. This year, I had the privilege to attend a culinary demonstration by Chef Jon Ashton and Dr. Wendy Bazilian, hosted by Driscoll’s Berries.


Confession: for all the time I spend at this festival, I have never been to a culinary demonstration. Usually, I’m at the park with my son, and while I think he would enjoy running around and climbing on all the seats, I don’t think it’s the right environment for an energetic toddler.


The demo began with Lucas from Meeker Vineyards presenting us with a FroZin dessert wine. I’ve tried ice wines before, and have found many of them a bit too syrupy for my taste. This wine was not only a beautiful color, but was sweet, bold, and not at all cloying (Best way I can describe it. Oenophile, I am not.) The zinfandel grapes were grown in the Russian River Valley, which I’ve actually visited and have tasted my way through the vineyards tucked into those rolling hills.  More about the wine later.


Next, Chef Jon described the three appetizers that he prepared for the tasting – a blackberry brie wonton cup, strawberry bruschetta, and a Thai turkey meatball. He didn’t really explain the cooking process of the dishes; he gave mostly tips about how to handle the ingredients, other uses for them, and advice on adapting recipes. His charismatic personality was matched by his charming Liverpudian accent. I loved the way he crooned the word “bluuuueberry!” Dr. Wendy was on hand to drop fun facts about each of the berries featured in the dishes. Some things I learned from her:

1 serving of strawberries has more Vitamin C than 1 medium orange.

There are about 100 drooplets on every blackberry. (Drooplets. Still loving that word.)

Blueberries are one of the best superfoods. Their blue color is from anthocyanin.

The dishes rocked!  My favorite was the meatball.  It was garnished with blueberry jam, whipped goat cheese, and mircogreens.  The dessert wine paired incredibly with this dish.  The wine’s sweetness simmered down and enhanced the robust flavors of the meatball.  I can’t wait to try this recipe in a hamburger version.


And of course, every event is always more fun with other bloggers to connect and hang with.  Chef Jon chatted with us for a few minutes after the demo, and he graciously posed for a picture with us. Left to right: Mark from The Daily City, Michelle from The Village Cook, Ken, Denise from Creative Kitchen, Dr. Wendy Bazilian, Chef Jon Ashton, Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers, Katie from Katie’s Cucina, me, and Brooke representing The Disney Food Blog. Not pictured but present were Ricky from Tasty Chomps, Ryan, and Jason.  (Photo courtesy of Julie)


After the demonstration, we headed to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant for dinner.  During the leisurely dinner we ate spring rolls, salad, goulash (most of the table orderd Wolfgang Puck’s renowned family recipe), and cheesecake.

What a fun evening!  I will make a point to attend a few more demonstrations when next year’s Food and Wine Festival rolls into EPCOT.  I’d like to take a moment to thank Pam and the entire Walt Disney World team who worked the event, Fran, Laura, the team at Wolfgang Puck’s who attended us, and especially to Katie for recommending me for the event.

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2012



It’s here!  My absolute favorite event at Disney.  And I’m not the only one.  Thousands of people plan trips to Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival.


top row: zapiekanki, mung bean pancake with shrimp and kimchi sauce; middle row: Caribbean booth, spicy sushi roll, us; bottom row: Brewer’s Collection beers, pork and kimchi lettuce wrap

With so much to do, there’s something for everyone. And the place is decorated so prettily with all the gardening displays and food topiaries.  Every booth has a variety of regional-specific potted plants.  If only my house were as nicely decked out!


We went a few times already, and tried to mainly try the new stuff. I’d like to give a shout out to Julius (of Droolius) and Odessa, who we met up with for a few hours.  My husband and Odessa rolled their eyes while Julius and I took pictures of all the food.  He also took the photo of Joey and I (see above.)  Here are the highlights from our weekend:


The filet mignon from Canada. This is a dish from the Le Cellier Steakhouse menu. It’s a small portion, but quality makes up for the size. The meat was perfectly cooked, and it was served with wild mushrooms and a truffle butter sauce.


The tequila flight in Mexico. This was the first thing we had upon arriving, and after drinking all three, I didn’t notice the heat or the lines for quite a while! We talked with one of the servers in the booth, and discovered that two of tequilas were better for sipping instead of shooting. Wish I had learned that beforehand. Now I want to try them again and savor more of their flavors.


The lamb chop from Australia. This booth has always served a tasty lamb chop, but this year’s dish is dressed with a mint pesto (nice spin on the traditional mint jelly) and a crust of salt and vinegar potato chips.  Yes, please!


White corn arepa from the Florida Local booth. I’ve never had an arepa stuffed with anything other than cheese, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the pork inside the pocket. The corn salsa was refreshing.


The cheese selection from the Cheese booth. This year’s cheese selections were a wicked sharp cheddar, blue cheese, and a goat brie. The cheddar had a drizzle of honey cut some of the sharpness. I just wish there had been a couple more crackers to accompany that wedge of brie.


The grapefruit beer from the Brewer’s Collection booth. We ended up tasting more beer during our visit than wine, and this one was the biggest surprise. It was light, refreshing, and didn’t at all taste like beer. It made the hot afternoon a little bit cooler.


top row: sparkling pomegranate kir, France booth, dessert trio; middle row: shrimp ceviche with plantains and cilantro, escargot and Grey Goose lemon slush, lobster claw; bottom row: chocolate lava cake, spinach and paneer pocket, coq au vin

Other highlights include:


For those people who are weirded out by using a garbage can as a table top (flat surfaces around the World Showcase are in high demand) the park now sells these nifty plates so you can carry your food and drink with one hand. Problem solved!


The Festival Center. This is the old Wonders of Life building, located to the left of Mission: Space. This is where a lot of the cooking demonstrations, tastings, and celebrity appearances occur. There is also a “wine cellar” where you can buy just about any of the beverages that are sold in the booths. And the building also houses the Ghirardelli Chocolate display. You can read about the chocolate making process, get a free sample of chocolate, sip a cup of hot chocolate, and gaze at the amazing chocolate displays (bonus if you can find Captain Jack Sparrow hiding in one of the displays.)


So that was the first weekend of the festival for us! I’m sure we’ll visit a bunch more times during the month. Check out my flickr set, because I’ll be adding pictures as we experience more of the festival. And in case you missed it, I chatted with Christine and Katie about some tips for maneuvering through the festival.

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2011, The Desserts

When I’m at the Food and Wine Festival, desserts usually take a back seat to the drinks and savory food. I’m usually so excited to try the main dishes, that I’m too full when it’s time for dessert. But, there are some sweets that are too good to pass up. Here are my top 5 desserts of the International Marketplace:

Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote from Belgium. This dessert debuted a year ago and was an instant hit. It was easily the most popular menu item from last year. The waffle was crisp and warm, and the berry sauce made us totally forget about syrup.

Apple Strudel from Germany. This classic appears every year, and for good reason. Flaky pastry, apple filling, and not one but two sauces: caramel and vanilla. This generous portion is big enough to share with a friend.

Pumpkin mousse with dried cranberries (provided by Ocean Spray) and orange sauce from Hops and Barley. The chefs have really stepped up the selections from the Hops and Barley stand (a.k.a., the United States.) This pumpkin mousse is layered parfait-style with an orange sauce and a granola-like streusel with dried cranberries. I really liked the combination of the citrusy orange with the pumpkin.

Chocolate lava cake with Bailey’s ganache from Ireland. These little lava cakes are rich, so it’s a good thing the portion is small. We loved the warm Irish cream ganache so much that Hubs licked the plate clean.

White chocolate macadamia mousse with dark chocolate pearls from Desserts & Champagne. Yes, another mousse. All the selections from the Dessert Trio tasted fantastic (a vast improvement from last year), but this mousse really stood out. The pearls were chocolate covered rice krispie-like crunchies, and they popped delightfully in my mouth.

Have you been to the Food and Wine Festival yet? Do you have a favorite dish? Which dessert would you really like to try?

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival, 2011

First column: passport decoration, cheese selection from Cheese kiosk, keilbasa and pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream, stuffed cabbage. Second column: black pepper shrimp with sichuan noodles, German Bier flight, chocolate lava cake with Bailey’s ganache, fennel. Third column: German beer list, Welcome display, sausage in a pretzel roll. Fourth column: lettuce wrap with roast pork and kimchi slaw, ropa vieja, Kerrygold cheese selection with apple chutney and brown bread. Click collage for larger view.

I spent the better part of last weekend hanging out at Epcot and tasting numerous selections from the Food and Wine Festival. This is my absolute favorite thing at Disney. For about 6 weeks, Epcot hosts a ton of events: private lunches and dinners, tastings, demonstrations, a concert series, and an International Marketplace of 25 countries.

The theme for this year is “Passport to a World Flavors.” Hawaii, Portugal, and the Caribbean made their debut, and Scandinavia returned to the market.

First row: Greek salad, Xante description (don’t believe it), Swedish meatballs. Second row: chocolate cannolis, Hawaii menu, Xante. Third row: Apple strudel, griddled Greek cheese with honey and pistachios, tuna poke with seaweed salad. Fourth row: Belgian waffle with berry compote, Craft beer flight. Click collage for larger view.

I tried the pork slider and the tuna poke from Hawaii. I liked the pineapple chutney on the slider, and the tuna was fresh and well seasoned. I also had the calamari from Portugal – good flavor, but the texture of the calamari was a little too rubbery. And the ropa vieja from the Caribbean was tender and delicious.

First row:
seared scallop with Kumara red curry puree and apple-radish slaw, lobster roll, cappellini with spicy shrimp, Brewer’s collection stand. Second row: wine, Scandinavia kiosk, France, steamed mussels with roasted garlic cream and baguette. Third row: dessert trio, lobster claw, passport decoration, calamari salad with fennel, smoked paprika, and olive oil. Fourth row: escargots in brioche, grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato puree, Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole pineapple chutney and spicy mayo, ribeye taco with chipotle sauce and green onion. Click collage for larger view.

Maybe it was because we were there on the first day, but the rice was messed up on all the dishes that we tried. The rice with the mahi mahi was undercooked and hard, the rice with the ropa vieja was gummy, and the “sticky” rice that came with the bulgogi was more akin to Uncle Ben’s. I’m hoping these kinks were just “first day jitters.” Other dishes I wasn’t impressed with were the ribeye tacos (paltry amount of filling, especially for the price), the stuffed cabbage, and the Xante liquor from Scandinavia (tasted like banana flavored medicine. Blech.)

There were perennial favorites: the escargots (how can you resist those cute bread cups?), the lamb slider, and the maple salmon. Even though they are offered every year, I can’t pass by without having them.

Here are some of the standout dishes:

First up, the coq au vin from France. I was disappointed that my beloved short rib wasn’t offered, but am happy that it was replaced by something so delicious. There was a generous portion of chicken, with a rich onion and mushroom gravy. It was placed on a bed of macaroni gratin, or macaroni and cheese. For $4.75 it was the best bang for the buck, and one of the richest dishes in the World Showcase.

Next is the lobster claw from the Hops and Barley kiosk. As complex as the coq au vin was, this dish was stellar in its simplicity. A whole lobster claw with a side of clarified butter – that’s all you need. The lobster was perfectly steamed, and its sweet flavor shone.

I was a bit scared about cracking the shell, but the chef had sliced the shell in a few key places, so extracting the meat was very easy. The Hops and Barley also offers a lobster roll, but with food this beautiful, bread and mayo are totally unnecessary.

The griddled Greek cheese from Greece was a pleasant surprise. The cheese was fried and crispy, and the honey was just sweet enough to offset dish’s saltiness.

And the Brewer’s collection of beer in Germany was fantastic. We had Bier Flight #1, but with the Oktoberfest swapped for the Roog. The Dunkel, a dark beer, was also quite tasty. There was a little biergarten with some tables set up in a grassy area. And the whole Germany pavilion was decked out for Oktoberfest.

Each menu board had a QR code that could be scanned (as seen in the right corner of the menus.) Most of them went to a site that provided menu items and descriptions, which seemed a bit redundant. Every so often, one would provide a gem. For example, the QR code on the Germany menu gives the recipe for their apple strudel. Very helpful!

I’m saving a whole separate post for the dessert offerings. Stay tuned for my favorite sweets of the festival! Click here to see my full photo album.

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Disney Cupcake Crawl

The Disney Food Blog is one of my prime sources for food goings-on at Disney. So when A.J. posted a Disney Cupcake Crawl Challenge, I was totally up for it. (below photo: courtesy of The Disney Food Blog.)

Disney generally tends to be a heightened version of reality, and their cupcakes are no exception – they are bigger, more elaborate, and crazier looking than the average cupcake. I knew I would need some help if I wanted to get through a cupcake crawl, so I enlisted the aid of Julie of The Little Kitchen, Jaclyn of Food Plus Words, and Jessica of The Novice Chef. Hubs and the tyke also came along.

The crawl involved 5 locations and 10 cupcakes, spanning across three theme parks and two resorts. We began our journey at the Boardwalk Bakery. They had three cupcakes available: oreo bon bon, orange cream, and s’mores.

We were informally judging the cupcakes on texture, taste, and presentation. All the cupcakes got high marks for presentation. The oreo cupcake had the a fantastic texture, and the orange cream had an incredible flavor. The s’mores cupcake was a little dry.

Next stop was Starring Rolls Cafe at the Hollywood Studios. They had four (!) cupcakes to try: chocolate peanut butter, butterfinger, marble, and red velvet cheesecake. Again, all the cupcakes looked fabulous. However, they were stored in a well-chilled cooler, and I think that affected their texture. If they had come to room temperature before eating, I’m sure they would’ve been moister.

The cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cupcake was amazing. The butterfinger topping on that cupcake tasted great, especially when combined with the cake. The dense filling of the chocolate peanut butter cupcake was a great combination of both flavors. The only disappointment was the marble cupcake. It was a layer of chocolate cake and a layer of vanilla cake, with hardly a swirl to combine them.

At this point, we were feeling the sugar, so we took a break from cupcakes and rode on Star Tours, and searched for a Star Wars collector’s set for Julie’s husband. We then headed to the next cupcake stop, the Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery located in the Africa area of the Animal Kingdom.

Here were the most impressive looking cupcakes we had seen so far – a zebra cupcake, a white chocolate elephant cupcake, and a cotton top tamarin cupcake. We oohed and aahed over these cupcakes. However, underneath the fancy tops, the cakes were okay. The toasted coconut on the white elephant cupcake was the best part.

There were still two more stops, but by this point we had reached our heat threshold and sweetness breaking point. We tried a total of 10 cupcakes, which means we added two to the original challenge. We headed for our respective homes to cool off and drink lots of water.

Never one to leave a project unfinished, I followed up a few days later to check out the cupcakes we missed. The vanilla caramel cupcake at the Germany pavilion of Epcot was sorely disappointing. The cake was dry, and the buttercream was hard. I think I got one that was past its prime.

While on our cupcake crawl, we were tweeted by a fan about a must-try cupcake at the Contemporary resort. I headed there and found two fantastic looking cupcakes: the dos leches cupcake, and the Florida strawberry cupcake.

My favorite by far of all the cupcakes I’ve had (and by this point, that was 12) was the dos leches cake. It was a moist yellow cake, with a caramel filling, topped with a creamy frosting and chocolate shavings. The strawberry cupcake was similar, but with a strawberry filling and a strawberry frosting. The tyke especially liked this one.

And I’ve saved the best for last. That was the s’mores cupcake at the Wilderness Lodge.

This was a different s’mores cupcake than the one we tried at the Boardwalk Bakery. It consisted of a graham cracker flavored cake studded with chocolate bits, topped with a marshmallow frosting and capped off by a Hershey’s chocolate square. It was the perfect balance of the three flavors. Additionally, this cupcake was a little smaller than all the others, making it more manageable (i.e. realistic) to finish.

What a challenge! I can’t imagine anyone having the stamina to make it through all those cupcakes in one day. I’ve been inspired by all the flavors and toppings, but right now I need a break from cupcakes.

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2010

It is that time of year again! The Food and Wine Festival is our favorite event at Disney. It is celebrating its 15th year. We have already gone twice this month to sample all the tasty food. We are going again next weekend to “The Party of The Senses,” a private event held every Saturday night during the run of the festival.
The kiosks seem more organized this year than in the past. Lines can get long, but they move at a brisk pace. We didn’t wait for more than 5-10 minutes in any line. For Disney, this is quite an achievement. Each year, we seem to initiate some newbies to the festival. After many years of experience, I have a few tips for successfully making it around the World Showcase.
-Go with a group, and share food. We usually have between 2-4 other people. Sharing means that you get to sample more (more economical as well), and you don’t get full as quickly.
-Take your time. Our one-year old squirt came with us, which forced us to take lots of breaks so he could crawl and stretch his legs. It took us 6 hours to make our way around the World Showcase. Our glacial pace meant that we didn’t eat too much too quickly. This was also the first year that I didn’t feel totally stuffed. There’s lots of good shopping in each of the countries. For example, the fellows from this group spent some time purchasing hats.

-Most plates have a recommended drink pairing (wine, beer, non-alcoholic specialty.) We have found that the wine pairings match very well with the food.
There are two countries debuting this year: Belgium and South Korea. We tried the food at both – barbecued beef short rib and a pork lettuce wrap at South Korea, and mussels and a Belgian waffle at Belgium. The Korean food was tasty. I wasn’t expecting too much from the waffle, but it blew me away! It is easily the best-selling item of all, and one of the tastiest. There were three waffle irons going to keep up with the demand.
We tried lots of new dishes, and for the most part, were not disappointed. Some, like the coconut beef rendang, looked the most unappetizing but tasted the best. The dessert trio was the opposite. They looked fantastic, but each one of them was bland and surprisingly tasteless. That was probably our biggest disappointment.
Here is a sampling of stuff we tried.

Row 1: braised short rib, coconut beef rendang, Korean barbecued shortrib with pickled cucumber.
Row 2: chocolate lava cake with Bailey’s ganache, spanokopita, black pepper shrimp with Sichuan noodles.
Row 3: asopao de pollo, “Parisien” Cosmo slush, escargots in brioche.
Row 4: corn and cheese empanada, beef tenderloin with mango barbecue sauce and sweet potato mash, mussels in a garlic-cream sauce.

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