Eating through Epcot's Festival of the Arts

by Roan Poulter, contributing writer

Epcot's Festival of the Arts gives the park a chance to show off some amazing visual and auditory master works. There are even classes on cooking. However, if you're like me and best appreciate the arts when they're edible, this review will give you some idea of what it's like to eat your way through the art gallery.

Living statues make me think they might be made of chocolate and just wrapped in foil. Photo by Roan Poulter

Let me start by saying that there are many people who complain that the food at the Food and Wine Festival is too expensive for such a small helping. Those people will find the culinary particulars at the Festival of the Arts to be an astronomical cost for very nearly nothing. If Food and Wine is tapas, then Festival of the Arts is an amuse bouche. And if you thought the wait times were bad at Food and Wine, wait until you watch each morsel being assembled with tweezers. A bit of full disclosure: I spent as much as I could afford, then I pulled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my bag because I was starving.

Finishing touches are placed on a dish with tweezers. Photo by Roan Poulter

Are you still with me? Good. For those of you who are not looking for the greatest poundage of food product, the food at the Festival of the Arts is exactly what you want. This festival is an open-air, fine dining experience. Watching the chef inspect each plate to ensure it meets his or her quality standards is a little surreal in the same Kingdom where even churros are cooked in a far away warehouse.

No dish I was served was cooked ahead of time. Each plate is called out as you hand in your receipt, and then it is given the chef's undivided attention. Really the most challenging part of the process is deciding which angle to use for the best photo, and the inevitable sadness that comes from consuming something so visually pleasing.

Even kids can get into the artistic spirit, painting their cookies with colored frosting. Photo by Roan Poulter

The flavors are amazing, but I'm sure you can see that in the photos. If I were to lodge a complaint, it would be that the ingredients lack the imagination one would expect from a passionate chef in an amuse bouche. I think true foodies will be disappointed in the risk-free options, but even the hardest of culinary hearts will be warmed by the care and attention their treat is given.

Our selections and thoughts

Braised Short Rib with Parsnip Purée, Broccolini, Baby Tomatoes and Aged Balsamic – This amazing combination of perfectly prepared vegetables surrounding the fork-tender meat exploded with all the best savory flavors a piece of beef can deliver.

Each serving is a masterpiece of plating, including the short rib. Photo by Roan Poulter

Seared Red Snapper with Braised Ratatouille and Lemon-Thyme Beurre Blanc – The fish was well prepared, possibly just overcooked but perfectly balanced with the braised ratatouille so as not to overpower the fish and allow the natural flavors of the sea to permeate.

The snapper could have benefited from slightly less cook time. Photo by Roan Poutler

Choriqueso Taco served with Chihuahua Cheese, Red and Green Peppers over a Corn Tortilla and garnished with Poblano Peppers and Micro Cilantro – Try not to focus on the fact that you just purchased a single nacho for $7.00. This dish is as fresh, bright, and colorful as food comes. The symphony of flavors lead by a strong helping of queso and fragrant cilantro finished with a deep pepper flavor that makes you wish you had a whole plate of these little gems.

The only thing the choriqueso taco needed was more of them. Photo by Roan Poulter

Roasted Pork Roulade with Marble Potatoes, Baby Carrots and Red Wine Sauce featuring Melissa's Produce – A larger helping of food than most, this is a delicious dish left wanting for additional inspiration. With the attention this received, I expected more flavor.

Beautifully presented pork lacked the pizazz of other selections. Photo by Roan Poulter

Pan-Seared Scallop with Chorizo, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, and a Parmesan Crisp – I watched no less than five people leave the line when they discovered there would only be one scallop per serving. However, this dish is worth the money. You're not going to get filled up with it, but the taste profile on this is unique. The parmesan crisp gives an earthy snap to what might have been a soggy mess otherwise. The chorizo is subtle and doesn't overpower the scallop. The whole piece must be consumed together to achieve the full effect.

The scallop is a truly magnificent bite. Photo by Roan Poulter

Triple Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Crunch, Dark Chocolate Sauce, and Gold Leaf from our Master Pastry Chef – This chocolate mousse is great, and I could probably replicate this at home. Here is where the Chefs at yet another festival have let us down. I had hoped for a better class of dessert worthy to follow such an inspired offering of savory treats. Comment below if you found something I missed.

A delicious, but uninspired chocolate mousse. Photo by Roan Poulter

Our ratings

Dad (42): 4.7 of 5 – Try not to calculate how much you spend on food. Focus instead on the amazing offerings you are indulging in at a Theme Park.

  • Food Quality: 5 of 5
  • Value for money spent: 3.5 of 5
  • Ambiance: 4.5 of 5

Mom (41): 4.5 of 5 – The food was beyond amazing. The lines were very slow moving.

Daughter (18): 4.5 of 5 – Can we just go to a restaurant; this is taking forever.

Son (16): 4.5 of 5 – Maybe next time we can eat food we brought from home while we wait in line to get something pretty to look at.

A reminder that Flower and Garden comes right on the heels of Festival of the Arts. Photo by Roan Poulter.