The Food & Wine Festival at Epcot makes fall one of the most fun times to be at Walt Disney World. We were able to check out the festival a bit a few weeks ago when my friend Ana was visiting with her family, but we were mostly just tagging along with them and didn’t try too many new things. However, since the weather has cooled down a little bit lately (read: it’s 85° outside instead of 99), Chris and I joined our friend Sarah at Epcot this week to sample some foods and wines. Here’s my tips for enjoying the festival + everything I’ve tried so far!
Before we start, my first pro tip for enjoying Food & Wine: on your way in, buy a Disney gift card from one of the shops that sell Festival merchandise. They should have gift cards available with a little wrist strap, so you can wear it on your wrist like a bracelet (or magicband…). It’s so much easier than pulling out your wallet at every booth, and it also allows you to limit yourself a little – I always load mine with $30-40 and when it runs out, I’m done trying things for the day. Three cheers for self control.
For ease of explaining everything, I’m just going to go in order of the countries around World Showcase, starting with Mexico:
You’ll quickly see how we utilized my next tip: when you go to Food & Wine, go with multiple people or even a bigger group. It makes it easier to sample lots of things without spending $20 at every booth. Just have each person get different things and share!
In Mexico, we started off strong. Sarah ordered the Mexican-style Red Sangria and the Taco de Camarón: Battered Shrimp served over a Flour Tortilla with Crispy Purple Cabbage and Chipotle Mayonnaise. I got the Flan de Chocolate Abuelita: Mexican Chocolate Custard. The sangria was good, and I thought it was pretty strong. I probably wouldn’t order it again just because I don’t like drinks that taste like alcohol haha. The taco was tasty, but I thought it was very small for the price. We both got a couple of bites and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t really easily shareable. The flan was really good and much bigger than it looks. I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the whole thing by myself.
Next we head to China:
Sarah got the Sichuan Spicy Chicken and I got the Kung Fu Punch with Smirnoff Vodka and Bols Triple Sec. The chicken was good, but pretty spicy! I also thought it was a good sized portion for sharing with others. The Kung Fu Punch is my absolute favorite drink from the festival. They have it at Flower & Garden in the spring as well and I get it every year. It’s sweet and refreshing and you can only taste a tiny bit of the alcohol, so it’s perfect for me haha. I highly recommend it.
The next booth we visited was Africa:
In Africa I got a food (Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread), and Sarah got a wine (Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz). The chicken was pretty good – Chris and I love the butter chicken served at Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and this one wasn’t quite as tasty but it was still very good. It was a big portion and the naan bread was also a nice addition for soaking up all the sauce. The wine was good but I am no wine expert so to me it just tasted like wine haha. Sarah is an experienced wine drinker though and she really enjoyed it.
Another tip courtesy of yours truly is to get creative when looking for eating surface. There are usually very few little tables around the booths, so it can be hard to find a spot to eat, especially when it’s crowded. You can see here we used the rock wall at the African Outpost area to set our food down, and honestly…Disney trash cans are the perfect height and provide a neutral background for food photos so they make great “tables” too! 😉
Skipping ahead a bit here – none of us wanted anything from Germany, but we may go back and get something eventually. So our next stop was Chris’s favorite: Poland. Both Chris and Sarah are Polish and are therefore very attached to the Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream (pictured here without sour cream). This is Chris’s favorite item at the festival. He gets it every year and rarely shares. I don’t really think they’re anything amazing, but I’m also not the #1 pierogi fan in central Florida like Chris is, so I always let him enjoy these on his own.
When I came a few weeks ago with Ana, I made a stop in Italy:
This is the Pennete alla Parmigiana: Baked Ziti and Chicken Parmigiana, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese. First of all, I’m not sure why this says it’s baked ziti because this is clearly not baked ziti. I LOVE Italian food, but I feel like the Italy booth is never as good as I want it to be…which is sad, because Via Napoli is one of the best restaurants in Epcot imo. This dish wasn’t BAD but it just kinda tasted like a Stouffers chicken parmesan tv dinner more than anything. I wouldn’t get this again. I wish they would bring back the cheesy ravioli they had a few years ago, that was great.
Moving right along. Our next stop is Japan:
Featuring Chris photobombing my zen garden photo. We didn’t get anything here, but Sarah got Spicy Sushi Roll: Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce. I didn’t try this one because I was feeling pretty full, but Sarah really liked it. She’s a fan of spicy foods and she said it was just the right amount of spice to be good but not overwhelming.
Our next dish was one of my favorites, in Morocco:
This is the Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce. Baklava is a favorite dessert for both me and Chris. Morocco usually has a baklava at every festival and we pretty much always try it. This year’s was shaped a bit differently than the triangle slices we’re used to, but I actually found it easier to eat and cut into. We also thought the chocolate sauce was a nice touch. Sarah had never tried baklava before and she enjoyed it as well. We’re seriously obsessed with baklava…I might have to look into buying it in bulk somewhere to enjoy at home 🙂
After Morocco we made a stop in France, but didn’t get anything from the booth. France can usually have some good things though – I may come back to try the escargot. It is also worth mentioning that we let our stomachs settle while watching Impressions de France, the best film attraction in World Showcase.
We continue on to the UK, where we stop by the Ireland booth:
This is the Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea and Caramel Shake (non-alcoholic). Chris is a big chai tea fan and this was actually the second time we tried this shake. Normally it comes with cookies on top (I think they’re Nilla wafers, honestly) but this time we asked for it without because they just ended up getting all soggy and gross last time. This shake is really good though – very refreshing and “fall” tasting without being too heavy. It comes in an alcoholic version too with caramel vodka. On our past visit I also tried the Irish Cheese Selection Plate: Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Irish Porter but I didn’t take a photo (oops) and it was good, but nothing new. I do love a good cheese plate though.
I also was reminded that I want to come back and try the lamb stew and potato pancake from the Scotland kiosk…next time, I guess!
Another favorite coming up – Canada:
Here’s where I have another tip for you. If you are at all able to, try to go to the festival when the weather is a bit cooler. Today was SO much more pleasant than the first time I went, when the sun was beating down on us and the trash cans were too hot to eat off of. We were able to try so many more things just because we weren’t tired from being out in the sun for more than 5 minutes. It also made it a lot easier to enjoy certain foods, like this Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Pretzel Roll. This is the same soup that’s served at Le Cellier, and I LOVE it…but it’s just not something I can enjoy when it’s 99° outside. On this day, though, it was breezy and pleasant and I really enjoyed this soup. So do yourself a favor and try to come on a cooler day or maybe in the evening when your skin doesn’t feel like it’s going to boil off.
Oh, and that pretzel bread is AMAZING !!!
Nearing the end here! From this point we ventured out to some of the Future World booths. First is the Wine and Dine Studio:
Here I ordered the Seared Scallop, Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms and Sarah got the Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese. First of all…HOW CUTE IS THAT CHEESE PALETTE!!!! We were obsessed with it. The scallop was good, though not really what I was expecting – in years past, Scotland kiosk has had an AMAZING scallop served with a cheesy spinach sauce, and this was good but I really miss Scotland’s scallop. The celery puree was actually quite good (I thought it was cheese!) and the scallop was cooked perfectly.
The cheese and wine palette was awesome. The cheeses were La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese served with toasted Craisin Bread, Karst Cave-aged Cheddar Cheese served with Fig Compote, and Statesboro Blue Cheese served with Spiced Candied Walnuts. The wines were Conundrum White Blend 25th Anniversary, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Maestro Red Blend. Again, I know NOTHING about wine, so these words mean nothing to me…but I do know a thing or two about cheese. The cheeses were great and each pairing was super tasty. It made me wish that I knew more about wine and cheese pairings because I think it is something I would enjoy haha. My favorite was the Chardonnay paired with the Cheddar, but all were very good!
Finally, our last stop was the Chocolate Studio.
This is the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel. This is probably my favorite food item at the festival. I’ve gotten it twice this year and I don’t even know how many times last year. It’s amazing. So chocolatey and tasty, a huge portion size, super refreshing on a hot day, and the fact that it’s made with liquid nitrogen is just plain COOL!! I love this and consider it a must…I’ll probably get a few more by the end of the festival.
So that brings us to the end of my Food & Wine experiences so far this year! And I’ll wrap up with my final tip for enjoying F&W: go into it with some idea of what you want to try. It makes it a lot easier to know what to expect so you don’t have to waste time figuring it out when you get to each booth. For super in-depth reviews of everything on the menus with great photos, check out the F&W reviews from my favorite WDW blogger, Josh aka EasyWDW. He always tries everything and makes it really easy to figure out what you want to try from each booth.
And to finish I’ll present you some gratuitous photos of me and my friends at the festival lol
Us with Ana and us with Sarah 🙂 Note the visibly cooler weather in the second photo haha
So that’s it for our first impressions at Food & Wine for 2016! Hopefully we’ll go back soon and try more things 🙂