Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival 2018by Roan Poulter, contributing writer
It may be said that only a fool would attend Epcot's International Food and Wine festival on not only the opening weekend but also Labor Day. Well, as God is my witness, I am that fool.
As this is not my first review of Food and Wine, I did my very best to expand my horizons and brave new culinary adventures. You may note that many of the locations have changed, or at least to my memory they have. Scotland is noticeably missing, sorry Haggis lovers. Also missing were Patagonia (alas for meat pies) and Farm Fresh (though rest assured my compatriots, you can still find the Mac and Cheese).
We did not attend the 2017 Food and Wine, so for us there were some great additions.
What We Had:
Light Lab: Have you ever dreamed of paying $3.75 for a shot of Kool-Aid? How about a $9 Slurpee? Well, would you like it more if it were in a glow-in-the-dark room? How about if they poured it through a cool tube first? How about if you waited in a 15-20 minute line first? The short answer is go home and take a palm full of cotton candy, pour sprite over it. I just saved you a half hour and $3.75.
Kahlua Pork Slider (Hawaii): I know it's not new, but this was the first time we had it. Delicious and tender savory pork with Pineapple Chutney and spicy mayo. This is island delicious with just enough spiciness in the mayo to keep it interesting.
Grilled Tuna Tataki—with Seaweed Salad and Pickled Cucumbers and Wasabi Cream (Hawaii): A very small helping of tuna, understandable, but isn't there an ocean full of seaweed? I really enjoyed the Tuna, but it was standard fare. The Wasabi Cream was good, though again I found it to be just enough to wish I had a little more.
Moqueca—Brazilian Seafood Stew with Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut-Lime Sauce and Steamed Rice (Brazil): We almost didn't order this, thinking it was pretty hot for stew. We were wrong, this was by a good measure the best thing we had at Food and Wine. All of the seafood was nearly perfect, still containing that essential taste of the ocean, but it was the sauce that really blew our minds. The coconut and lime is somehow refreshing, even in the heat. It has a sweetness that combines so well with the fish, accentuating each other and not overbearing the other. I typically love savory heavy dishes, but this really had me rethinking all that.
Crispy Pork Belly—with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions (Brazil): For those unfamiliar with our good friend the pig, pork belly is the same meat that bacon is made from. Needless to say, this is a bit greasy, though the crispy exterior keeps it from coating the lips. The meaty flavor of the pork belly is contrasted with the earthy taste and texture of the beans, with tomatoes and onions to provide some much needed acid to cut through what might otherwise be a heavy mouthful indeed.
Mochi (Japan): This is a treat offered year round in the small kiosk outside. It is a lovely treat on a hot day, the chewy mochi (Pounded rice until it becomes the texture of a gummy) with a sherbet interior available in many flavors. My daughter's favorite treat in all of Epcot.
Spicy Roll—Tuna and Salmon topped with Volcano sauce (Japan): I love sushi, but this roll is dumb. As if someone decided the drumstick was the ultimate in food, this seaweed handled monstrosity is always a mess. Yes it's delicious, but my teeth arent' sharp enough to cut through one layer, much less two layers of seaweed wrapper. But it does taste great and is one of the better values in my opinion.
Charcuterie in a Cone—TAPAS! (Spain) New for us was Spain and glad we were to see it. If you haven't tried this, you simply must. The cone of meat and cheese and olives is coated in an herb vinaigrette that gives at least nine possible flavor combinations. Savor each morsel as the pungent cheese and spicy cured meats battle bitter olives to explore your individual pleasure centers preference.
Spanish-Style Paella—with Chorizo and Roasted Chicken (Spain): I don't like Paella, I find it always to be over salted. I thought this in Barcelona and I think it at Epcot.
Warm Naan Bread—with Pickled Garlic, Mango Salsa and Coriander Pesto Dips (India): Honestly I didn't care for the dipping sauces. They were interesting flavors, but overpowered for bread dipping.
Korma Chicken—with Cucumber Tomato Salad, Almonds, Cashews and Warm Naan Bread (India): This dish looked nothing like the picture. Nor was there a single nut that we found. But it was good. I would have called it Chicken Tikka Masala, sort of like the one at Yak & Yeti. You compare the photo and comment below if you think I'm off base.
Piggy Wings—Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds (Flavors from Fire): Not sure what part of the magical pig these little nuggets are from but they're delicious. The sauce is great, though the meat could have been softer.
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak—on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aïoli (Flavors from Fire): The steak was a little tough and not seasoned enough for my taste. Of course by this point in the night I was nearly dead of overeating and the folks at American Express were holding my family hostage, so maybe I would have felt differently at the beginning of our odyssey. The smell of the steak cooking is what brought us over.
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel (Chocolate Studio): Having not been a big fan of the Chocolate Studio in the past, I was pleasantly surprised. The love child of a truffle and Liquid Nitro ice cream, this is a decadent treat on a hot day.
Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Whipped Cream (Chocolate Studio): Also very good without that overt sweetness that might make my teeth ache. A nicely sized portion well worth the money spent.
Our thoughts (no ratings this time because we had SUCH varied experiences):
- Dad (43): What a terrible weekend to visit. Wait for the mania to die down. Brazil's seafood stew was a knock out of the park
- Mom (43): Can't believe that Greece doesn't have gyros, will miss them. Loved the sushi in Japan
- Daughter (19): Get the Mochi, it's a great treat on a hot day
- Son (17): Pork wings were awesome. The chocolate shop was way better than last year