Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
The 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival takes place Aug. 30 through Nov. 12. Here's just a taste of what you can see, do and eat while you're there.
By MacKenzie Smith
Since Orlando has a centrally located international airport, a trip to Disney's theme parks can be unimaginably easy. We decided to stay at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort because they have this really cool waterslide and, hey, I'm a sucker for really cool water slides. The property itself was a lush paradise that showed off all the beautiful flora Florida has to offer and since we were staying on the Disney "campus," everything was super accessible.
If you're unfamiliar with Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, let me give you a brief synopsis of what goes on during this awesome event.
Epcot is essentially made up of two parks. One is Future World, in the front of the park; the other is the World Showcase, in the back. Future World is more about space and technology whereas the World Showcase is more about culture and worldly traditions. Most of The Food and Wine Festival takes place in the back half of the park but there are also exhibits and attractions in the front as well. So you'll definitely want to explore Epcot in its entirety.
During the Food and Wine Festival, Epcot's best chefs come together to create individual menus that showcase the cuisine and beverages of different countries. It all adds up to the perfect learning environment for tasting and experiencing different cultures all -- without leaving the country. As you walk into the park, you're handed a passport book that guides your eating and drinking adventure. From there, you can explore the park, and pick and choose what you'd like to try. Most dishes and drinks are below $8, which makes trying a little bit of everything quite possible.
So, here's our insider's guide the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We'll begin by telling you our favorite cheesy dishes, then we’ll go on to explore the amazing, non-cheese-centric dishes, and finish with our favorite drinks.
10 Cheesy Dishes You Must Try
1. Loaded Mac n Cheese with Nueske's Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onion
WHERE: Farm Fresh near Showcase Plaza
WHY: If you know anything about me, then you know how much mac n cheese means to me. This cheesy concoction is the epitome of comfort food and the wonderful chefs at Disney's Epcot pulled it off perfectly. Farm Fresh's al dente macaroni noodles are coated in a delicious creamy cheddar cheese sauce and topped with my Nueske's bacon (which just so happens to be my favorite bacon in the world), along with sweet nuggets of pimento pepper and a burst of freshness from the green onions. It basically encapsulates everything that is right in the world, and for that, it gets an A+.
2. Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce
WHERE: The Chew Collective in Future World West
WHY: Although ravioli might seem like a heavy dish to eat in the Florida heat, this cheese and vegetable filled dumpling was perfect. Crisp shreds of zucchini and fresh whipped ricotta were woven together, then packed into handmade ravioli dough and topped with a rustic, chunky tomato sauce. The whole dish was light, airy, and flavorful, which made it nearly impossible to not get right back in line to get another.
3. Quesito Puff Pastry Filled with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce
WHERE: Island of the Caribbean in Showcase Plaza
WHY: Whenever I talk about pairing cheese with fruits, or jams, I always include guava paste as my go-to condiment. This creamy and crispy puff pastry did an excellent job of combining a tropical sweet, fragrant guava sauce with the sweetened-yet-still-tart cream cheese. The puff pastry was undeniably flaky and the flavorful balance couldn't have been executed better.
4. Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Micro Basil
WHERE: Greenhouse Guru in Future World West
WHY: Although most of the dishes we had at Epcot were on the heavier, richer side, this bright and refreshing tomato salad instantly made you feel hydrated and healthy. The tomatoes, which were grown hydroponically in Epcot, were so flavorful we almost thought we were biting into one from Italy or Greece. The crumbled goat cheese gave it just the right amount of tang and the aged balsamic vinegar balanced everything with a sweet note, while the micro basil provided a fun and beautiful flash of herby goodness.
5. Beer-Braised Beef over Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
WHERE: Belgium, near Morocco
WHY: Even though the star of this dish was probably supposed to be the beer-braised beef, this rich and meaty dish melted our hearts because of the delicious smoked gouda mashed potatoes hidden underneath. Smoky, creamy, and laced with cheesy goodness, these mashed potatoes would put a tear of joy in any cheese lover’s eyes.
6. Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast
WHERE: Hops & Barley near The American Adventure
WHY: Of course the most buttery, utterly cheesy dish came from the American section of Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. This crispy buttery piece of garlic bread is topped with rich and gooey pimento cheese, shreds of braised beef brisket, and sweet compote on top. To us, it tasted almost like a piece of Sonny's famous garlic bread topped with any Southern grandma's pimento cheese, beef from an authentic barbecue joint, and some fancy fruit compote from a four-star restaurant. It was great, in a total low brow/high brow way, and for that we loved it.
7. Pao de Queijo: Brazillian Cheese Bread
WHERE: Brazil, near Morocco and France
WHY: Back when I used to live in Brooklyn, we'd sometimes brunch at this Brazilian place down the street. This tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant was the first place I’d ever tried these fluffy crispy airy balls of cheesy goodness. When we saw that the Brazil booth was offering them, we had to order them. To our surprise, they were monstrous! Unlike the little tiny ones I was used to, Epcot's version were almost as big as my hand, which meant that instead of eating 500 of them, I needed to eat only one. The flavor profile was legit and the mouthfeel couldn't have been better.
8. Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Pretzel Roll
WHERE: Canada, near France
WHY: The ratio of dip to dipping vessel is a very important thing in my life, so I was thrilled that Epcot Canada pulled this off so flawlessly. Although they label the dish Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, Jeremy and I both agreed that it was more a dip. A dip that was perfect for their classically dense and chewy pretzel baguette.
9. Soup a l'oignon au Gruyere et Cognac
WHERE: France, near Canada
WHY: Before we begin, can we just take a minute to appreciate this gorgeous cheese pull? There's nothing quite like digging your spoon into a hot bowl of French onion soup and pulling out a 1-inch cheese drip... especially when that cheese drip is made with one of my all-time favorite cheeses -- nutty gruyere! TBH, Jerm thought the soup was "too buttery" but I think the more buttery, the better. This cheese and onion soup was rich, creamy, and had everything you want in this French dish.
10. Schinkennudeln: Pasta Gratin with Ham and Cheese
WHERE: Germany, near Italy and China
WHY: This creamy, cheesy, pasta bake was flecked with delicious chunks of smoky ham and with just a bit more salt and seasoning could have been Number One.
10 Non-Cheesy Dishes You Must Try
1. Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce
WHERE: Morocco, near France and Japan
WHY: I'd describe this dish as the most delicious deep-fried logs of a falafel-hummus hybrid topped with shepherd’s salad, fresh herbs including mint and parsley, and the most ridiculous sweet and spicy orange yogurt sauce we'd ever had. And TBH, this was the only dish we decided to buckle down and get seconds of. Seriously, if you take any advice from me, take this -- You cannot leave Epcot without trying this dish.
2. Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
WHERE: Australia, by Showcase Plaza
WHY: This grilled lamb chop was like heaven in my mouth. The charred crust from the grill left the interior perfectly moist and flavorful. The mint pesto was unlike anything I've ever tasted before and the potato crunchies were an added bonus. I had to pry this thing away from Jerm because after the first bite, his eyes glazed over with pure ecstasy. Gahh, this dish was good! I wish I could have some more right now.
3. Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Hoisin Sauce
WHERE: China, near Norway
WHY: A few months ago I worked long and hard on a collection of steamed bun recipes. After trying out dozens of variations and testing different methods, I felt as if I’d became an unauthorized bao expert. So what made this one so special? The bun itself was moist, dense, and just the right amount of chewy. The roasted duck was perfectly tender and melted in our mouths like warm butter. Then there were the crispy fried wonton strips and the red onion slices, which provided a nice crunch. And to round it all out, fresh cilantro, hoisin sauce and self-added sriracha came together to make all the flavors pop.
4. Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream
WHERE: Poland, between Germany and Italy
WHY: I'm a sucker for anything dumpling related. Fill said dumplings with delicious mashed potatoes, then top with tangy sour cream, sweet caramelized onions, and crispy, salty chunks of kielbasa and my mouth and heart basically explode with happiness. I wish they’d added another pierogi and less meat... but that's probably because I had to share with boyfriend.
5. Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney
WHERE: New Zealand near Showcase Plaza
WHY: First, this was a luscious lamb meatball. Second, why aren't all meatballs baked in a delicious flaky breadbasket and topped with a sweet and spicy tomato chutney? I don't know, but the New Zealanders really hit the mark with this dish. I actually had to fight Jeremy for the last bite.
6. Butter Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread
WHERE: Africa, near Outpost
WHY: This butter chicken dish might look, and sound, like a hearty stew, but it was so light and fragrant that I think I actually got healthier after eating it. The chunks of chicken were tender and the overall flavor profile was right on. Salty, spicy, sweet, and aromatic -- I could have been tricked into thinking I was actually in Africa while enjoying it.
7. "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter
WHERE: Canada, near United Kingdom
WHY: It's not often I crave red meat, but when I do, it's on. This tender morsel of steak was cooked medium rare just the way I like it. The umami from the mushrooms played up the meatiness of the dish while the rich and creamy truffle butter sauce made it hard not to lick the plate. And even though this wasn't the prettiest of dishes, it was totally delicious.
8. Roasted Berlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri
WHERE: Patagonia, near Showcase Plaza
WHY: I loved watching the Patagonia Episode of Chef's Table on Netflix and since I've never been there, nor tried any of their cuisine, I was excited to finally get a taste. The fish was cooked perfectly, the quinoa was great, and I could have drank an entire cup of the arugula chimichurri.
9. Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap with Kimchi
WHERE: South Korea, near China
WHY: This dish was definitely on the healthier end of the Food and Wine options spectrum, composed of tender chunks or roasted pork, topped with a kimchi that more resembled an Asian slaw, and drizzled with a bunch of Kewpie mayo laid atop of sprig of lettuce. I could definitely see myself enjoying this again on a beautiful beach somewhere while wearing a bikini and not feeling bad about my choice one bit.
10. Loaded Vegan Greek Nachos with Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles and Vegan Tzatziki
WHERE: Greece, near Showcase Plaza
WHY: Since I have to realize that not everyone eats everything under the sun as Jerm and I do, I wanted to include one of the vegan options at Epcot's latest Food and Wine Festival. These loaded "nachos" were flavorful and texturally pleasing even though they didn't contain any meat, cheese or butter.
3 Cocktails You Must Try
Ever since I was old enough to (legally) drink, I'd always wanted to participate in Epcot's Unofficial Drinking Around The World Game. I'd heard stories of traveling the "world" while trying a different drink from each country but since I spent most of my 20s in New York, I never got the opportunity.
I don't really drink much, so participating in this as a 30 year old seemed sort of scary at first. Luckily, I had my partner in crime help me try all the drinks so we didn't get slammed. The decision to share the drinks and food is something I highly recommend. Not only will you not want to die from eating too much, but sharing the drinks helps you actually remember everything you tried. Isn't it fun to get smarter as you get older? Lol.
1. Pineapple Dole Whip Soft-Serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum
WHERE: Refreshment Port near Showcase Plaza
WHY: I’d heard a lot about the cult following for the Pineapple Dole Whip at Epcot and after one lick, I knew what the hype was about. I'd never tasted anything more tropical, luscious and creamy in my entire life. Jerm and I slurped this baby down in no time, and to our surprise we never even got a brain freeze. The mouthfeel was almost like a silky ice cream similar to gelato but creamy like a Mr. Frosty soft serve. The coconut rum sinker made this treat even more fun and it actually helped cure Jerm’s queasy tummy after our not-so-chill ride on Mission: Space! Final thought: They need to make this available outside of Epcot.
2. Avocado or Hibiscus Margarita
WHERE: La Cava del Tequila
WHY: If you go to Epcot while it's still warm out, you definitely need to seek refuge inside the Mexico attraction at the beginning of the World Showcase. As you walk into a mock Mayan temple, a wave of cool air provides instant relief. The interior of the temple tricks your senses into thinking you're at a midnight fiesta in Mexico City. Tiny twinkles light the sky, a bustling night market full of carts offers piñatas and candy skulls, and most important, there’s an-almost-hidden tequila bar that most people overlook. Their avocado margarita was amazingly rich and creamy and tasted almost like a boozy smoothie. Jerm got the Hibiscus margarita and I have to admit it was just as delicioso.
3. Florida Orange Groves Sparkling Pineapple Wine
WHERE: Hawaii, near Showcase Plaza
WHY: Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits, so it's no surprise I would fall in love with a pineapple sparkling wine. I bet if Beyoncé said something about sparkling pineapple wine in one of her songs, it would become so popular that girls would totally forget about rosé and drink this stuff by the bottle.
When you go…
200 Epcot Center Dr.,
Orlando, FL 32821