My Disney Top 5 - Favorites at the 2023 Epcot International Food and Wine Festivalby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
If it's September in Walt Disney World then it must be time for the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. I'm sure most of you are aware that for just shy of four months this fall, like every other fall since 1996, Epcot transforms into the destination to wine and dine at Walt Disney World. Way back when, the festival used to be a legit fall activity, typically running from September into October. Over the years it slowly crept into August and then in 2020, after the four month COVID shutdown, the festival began welcoming guests in mid July! For 2023, the festival also began in July, this time on July 27, and it concludes a whopping 115 days later on November 18.
We have been at Disney many times for Food and Wine and I've always thoroughly enjoyed it. Many Disney fans, including yours truly, already consider Epcot's World Showcase as the best place to dine in all of Walt Disney World. The festival cranks that up several notches. On any given non-festival day, Epcot offers up an impressive 46 different places to sit and grab a meal. For 2023, the festival adds 25 kiosks spread out all over the park for your palette to enjoy. Throw in the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, merchandise booths and some scavenger hunts and Epcot is certainly the place to be right now and for the next two months.
So what were my favorite offerings to be found at the various food booths of this years festival? First, let me say up front that I, of course, could not possibly try everything at every booth. We were there for about 6 days in mid-August to move one of my sons out of the Disney College Program. He had an amazing year at Walt Disney World working over at Flight of Passage, but it was unfortunately time for him to come home. We were fortunate enough to be staying at our favorite Disney resort, the Yacht Club, so walking right into World Showcase and hitting up the food booths was a pretty consistent plan over those 6 days. Tie on your bibs and let's count down my Top 5 favorites at the 2023 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
5 - Japan - Teriyaki Chicken Bun
Description - Steamed Bun filled with chicken, vegetables and teriyaki sauce
Japan's food booth always seemed to have a line even when other booths were essentially empty, and with good reason. It's hard to go wrong with any of the three choices here. Japan's restaurants are always popular with the Disney crowd and my wife and I are no different. We're big fans of grabbing something quick and easy at the pavilion's quick service destination, Katsura Grill. The food is always great and you can't beat sitting up by the waterfalls and Japanese gardens. Is a steamed bun the most exotic choice at an International food festival? Not exactly, but so what. This dish has been around for several festivals now.
The bun is soft and pillowy, but it's the perfectly crafted teriyaki sauce coating the chicken that's nestled inside that make this a favorite. I've literally bought one, eaten it and gotten right back on line for another.
4 - India - Mango Lassi with Alcohol
Description - Creamy mango flavored drink with Somrus Chai Cream Liqueur
It has to be said that we were in Disney for some of the hottest temperatures on record. On the final day of our trip, Sunday, August 13, we were walking around Epcot and the temperature was 97 degrees. When I checked the AccuWeather site later on that day, they posted the real feel temp as a dangerously hot 119 degrees in the sun and 109 in the shade. We've been coming to Walt Disney World in August for 20 years now, and we've never experienced anything like that before. I was absolutely downing bottles of water as much as I could on this trip, but every once in a while, I felt I deserved something else. It is a food and wine festival after all.
Wine isn't exactly my cup of tea, so I made it a point to look for some refreshing libations at the booths and was thrilled to stumble upon this silky frozen treat at the India booth just next to the China pavilion. It's milky, but not too milky. Not quite a smoothie either. I thought it was delicious and refreshingly cool at the same time. This might just be my new favorite Epcot drink! And that's saying something.
3 - Ireland - Fisherman's Seafood Pie
Description - Seafood pie with crab and potatoes
I'm fond of saying that when my Irish dad married my Italian mom, he pretty much became an Italian himself, and he did so mostly because of the food. Sure, he took me to the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade each year, and he was proud to be Irish, but my grandmother's cooking won him over. I'm not poking fun at my Irish heritage, but let's just say that Italy typically beats Ireland when it comes to cuisine, at least in my eyes. However, I made a stop at the Ireland booth located near Epcot's UK pavilion and was thrilled with this savory seafood pie that they were serving.
It may not look like much from this photo, but the seafood pie was delicious. That must explain why MousePlanet's Donna Fesel took this photo in 2016 and the pie is still on the menu! Photo by Donna Fesel.
The crust was buttery and flaky, the seafood was delicate and fresh and the sauce that bound it all together was delicious. Despite the fact that we were in the middle of a legitimate Central Florida heatwave with that aforementioned 119 degree real feel temperature, I could easily see myself enjoying this seafood pie on a cold blustery fall day. It was perfect comfort food.
2 - France - Croissant aux Escargots
Description - Escargot croissant with garlic and parsley
Aside from Epcot's France pavilion, I have never eaten escargots. What can I say? I guess I don't frequent too many restaurants with snails on the menu. But I will say this: each and every time I head to Walt Disney World for Food and Wine, my very first stop is France and my very first dish is the escargots. This summer was no exception. We love to stay at the Yacht Club. There's nothing like having such easy access to Epcot, especially during the Food and Wine festival. That puts France square in my sights as soon as we enter through the International Gateway.
There's just about nothing better than this dish and I hope it comes back year after year, because when the festival is over and I walk by this area in France, the garlicky goodness of this little dish is permanently burned into my taste buds.
1 - Canada - Filet Mignon
Description - Canadian Filet Mignon served with mushrooms, Boursin Black Truffle & Sea Salt Mashed Potatoes and a Boursin Black Truffle & Sea Salt Whipped Butter
Living as close as I do to New York City, I literally have my choice of cuisines to pick from when it comes to dining out. I grew up in Queens which proudly boasts that it is the most diverse county on the planet. It's said that, when it comes to food, if you can't find it in Queens, it probably doesn't exist in a restaurant. However, if you google Canadian restaurants Queens, you come up with absolutely nothing. Think about it; when's the last time you heard or uttered the following statement, "You know what I feel like tonight…Canadian!"
So, I was never expecting too much from the Canada booth at Food and Wine, that is, until I tried the Canadian Filet Mignon. As soon as I saw the words "Black Truffle" associated with this dish I knew I had to try it. In my hungry opinion, it's hard to beat anything with truffles. That's just as good as it gets for me. One would think that the truffle butter on top of the truffle sea salt mashed potatoes were the star of this dish and you'd be right if it weren't for the fact that the meat was just phenomenally good. Smooth and buttery, the generous piece of steak was just what a perfectly cooked filet Mignon should be. I ordered it one night around dinner, got back in line and got a second one and came back the next day and did it again.
As always with my top 5 lists, things have to be left out. With 25 booths to pick from, there was plenty to keep me going on my several visits to the festival. You can't go wrong with the Crispy Duck Bao Bun in China, the Paella from Spain or the Feijoada, which is black beans, pork belly and Brazil nut pesto from the Brazil booth between Morocco and France. On top of that there were several booths that still hadn't opened yet. The Festival Passport, the guide to the whole festival teased me with dishes like the Kalua Pork Slider from the Hawaii booth which would open 2 days after I left and the Roasted Porchetta from the Char & Chop booth opening September 22. If anyone tastes these please let me know because as much as I'm ready to go back, I don't see myself getting there this fall before the end of November when the festival concludes. We might actually spend Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World this year, but that will be another article, for sure.
If you've never been to Epcot for Food and Wine, I highly encourage you to check it out. In my opinion, it gets better and better every year. I imagine once the CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza in World Celebration are finally finished, the festivals will have a new home base and Food and Wine will continue to grow. Enjoy it now. Enjoy it then. But make sure, if you haven't already, to put Epcot's international Food and Wine Festival on your Disney wish list. You won't regret it. I'm already looking forward to next year.
That's all for this time. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below, share your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.