Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Passport to a World of Flavors

I had the pleasure of spending a long Colombus Day weekend down in Walt Disney World. I make a trip at this time of year annually, and though it's one of my quicker trips, it's one of my favorites, mostly because of the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.

For the unitiated, the Food and Wine Festival is held each year for about 6 weeks in Epcot's World Showcase. The event features booths set up for each of the World Showcase countries, plus additional countries that serve authentic foods and alcoholic drinks from each of the countries. The event is one of the few on property events marketed exclusively to adults, possibly why I like it so much. It also attracts a lot of attention on World Showcase, which doesn't get much attention until it's time for Illuminations. The event also features a series of classes and demonstrations from renowned chefs and cooks, as well as a whole slew of tasting sessions.

This year, the theme for the event was "Passport to a World of Flavors." Disney comes up with a catchy name every year, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot, as the event itself rarely changes. For the first time, Disney embraced social media with this event, reminding users repeatedly to tweet about the event using special hashtags. The tweets were also re-posted on the tip boards around the park. This led to some really hilarious tweets, as savvy Disney-ers were tweeting things like "Off to get a Fastpass for Horizons #epcotfoodandwine" which were then posted around the park on the tip boards.

In another exciting exciting move, each of the booths had one of these neat bar code scanners you can use on your smart phone. When you scanned it, your phone took you to a website that gave you more information about the foods there, and also the recipes (my favorite part). I essentially was able to leave the Food and Wine Festival this year with a free international cookbook on my phone. Of course, when I got home and tried one of the recipes, mine didn't taste nearly as good as their version, but isn't that always the case?

Griddle Cheese - Yum!
One of my favorite items of the year was a surprise to me. It was the griddled cheese sandwich, available at the Greece booth. This was an item I never would have tried had it not been for the recommendation from a friend. It sounds simple enough- it's basically a small grilled cheese cooked on a griddle. What made this sandwich great, though, was the selection of cheeses put it on it. This was not your mother's grilled cheese, made with Yellow American Cheese. The recipe describes 4 different cheese that are used, all native to Greece. What made this snack come together, however, was that, instead of butter, the sandwich was flavored with honey. It added a sweet taste to the sandwich and really finished it off well.

Belgian Waffle - duh!
The Belgium booth served the best Belgian waffle (what else?) that I've ever eaten. It was so light and so fluffy. I didn't even need a knife to break off the pieces. They serve it with homeade (read: incredibly fattening) whipped cream and fruit. Absolutely delightful.

Of course, some of the old favorites remained there, and continued to attract huge crowds every time I went by: the Argentine beef, the Lamington cake in Australia (a tasty coconut concoction), the escargot in France (which I won't try!), and the Fisherman's pie in Ireland. All of those booths had incredibly long lines, and guest comments about the items was overwhelmingly positive.

Lemon Citron Slush
As for the booze, this year my favorite drinks were found in the France pavilion, where I drank two wonderful frozen drinks. The first was the Grand Marnier slush, which is a frozen drink made with oranges. The other is a frozen lemonade, called the Lemon Cintron Slush, made with vodka. Both drinks are sweet, though potent. It's pretty easy to have a nice buzz going after just one or two of these. Are we allowed to talk about that here? What's the protocol?

Another drink I tried, again on the recommendation of a friend, was in the Brazil booth. It was called the Leblon Frozen Caipirinha, and is described as the national drink of Brazil. This one goes down easy as it's sweet, but it has a real kick at the end. Another pleasant surprise.

A unique addition to the festival this year was the Ocean Spray cranberry bog that spring up in the International Gateway. Ocean Spray built an actual cranberry bog to educate people on the cranberry growing process because as I learned, it's one of only two berries that are native to North America. The bog had all kinds of displays around it, and cranberry farmers (boggers?) wading around in it, answering guests' questions. At the end of the experience, you received a free sample of Craisins. Not bad!

Despite all of the great food and drink (and there was plenty of it), my favorite part of it (get ready to laugh at my dorkiness) was that the Festival Center was placed inside of what was once Wonders of Life, home of my favorite attraction ever, Body Wars. One day I'll write a post about my irrational love of Body Wars, but for now, just know that the ability to stroll through the pavilion and reminisce made me very happy. I may or may not have even snuck behind one of the planters so I could stroll through the old Body Wars queue...for strictly journalistic purposes of course! I am happy to report that I didn't notice any Overtakers while I was there, either.

Even the rain (it rained for a day and a half straight this trip...the most I've ever had while down there) didn't deter guests from having a great time at the Festival, which runs until November 13. The bottom line is that it's a wonderful event, and you should check it out if you're in the area.

1 comment:

  1. So far, some great commentary on the Food and Wine festival this year. Being a WoL memorial buff, I'm sure as appreciative to sneak a peek at the upcoming article for Body Wars!

    Speaking of which, if you'd like to come have a look at my blog (wol4eva on blogspot), feel free.