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Epcot Food And Wine 2008 Roundup

One of the best things about living in Orlando is the annual Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. For the uninitiated, Food and Wine is a collection of kiosks scattered around the World Showcase. Every country at Epcot is represented, of course, but for a few glorious weeks in the fall, lots and lots of other countries move in. For a few dollars (at each kiosk, of course), you can sample cuisine (not to mention wine and beer) from all over the world. One disclaimer just in case you’re worried about Kevin’s diet: the portions are tiny (just tastes, really), and most times we didn’t finish each dish. Plus we walked about 8 miles today, so that cancels out the bad stuff! 😉

This year we were pleased to see the return of some of our favorites (hellooooooo Ireland), and we were excited to try some new flavors (Louisiana!!!). I was also determined not to wuss out; that is, I really wanted to fully commit to making myself sick by eating all day. Mission: Accomplished.

We began the day at 11:00 in Canada. Kevin had the Maple Glazed Salmon (he gave it 4 stars out of a possible 5), and I had the Cheddar Cheese soup, which is always a favorite (I give it 4.5 stars). From there we headed straight to France, since I have an insane need for escargot whenever it’s available (side note: For most people, the smell of fresh-baked cookies or apple pie brings them back to childhood. For me, it’s escargot. I know I’m weird). Three delicious snail-stuffed brioche rolls later (4 stars), we headed onward to Louisiana. I needed something sweet to cleanse my palate, so I hit the bread pudding (a disappointing 3 stars, but probably because I had the best bread pudding I’ve ever had just last night). Kevin sampled the etouffee and the gumbo. Kevin gave the etouffee a whopping FIVE!!! 5!!! stars and the gumbo 4.5. The etouffee was BY FAR his favorite, and I have a feeling he’ll be dreaming about it for a while.

Thankfully, we had at least a little walk before we happened upon New Zealand, where I quickly inhaled a lamb slider on brioche. I had this last year, and although it was tasty, it gets only 3.5 stars, but more on that later. Then we headed to Japan, where Kevin had the spicy tuna roll (note: not spicy at all, which accounts for 3 stars) and the California roll (4 stars, with a special mention of the super crunchy texture). On to San Francisco and the seared beef medallion with cheddar polenta. The polenta was the real star of the dish; the beef was dangerously close to being over-seasoned. Sadly, the over-seasoned beef drags the review down to 3.5 stars, but I should note that I could eat that polenta all day every day.

Since I needed to make a little room in my belly, we skipped the lobster roll and the crab cake offered by America (although both looked especially tasty) and wandered ahead to Ireland. I had the potato and leek soup (4 stars…Cheddar Cheese soup in Canada is slightly better), and the surprise hit of the day, the Irish cheese selection with apple chutney and brown bread. The cheeses were a reserve cheddar, Dubliner, and Ivernia, and this one little plate (and I say little, but those pieces of cheese were HUGE) turned out to be an absolute perfect balance of flavor and texture. This was DEFINITELY my 5 star plate of the day.

Still on my cheese high, I skipped Italy, but Kevin tried the sausage pizza, and about the best thing that could be said was that the crust was fluffy (so not authentic in any way whatsoever). 1.5 stars, and I’ll also go ahead and note that this is the second year where Italy really disappointed. In order to get back on track, Kevin made a beeline for Germany and a sausage with sauerkraut on a pretzel roll (4 stars). By this time I was ready to get back in the game, so I cruised over to Australia for a lamb chop. Aside from being close to over-sauced (a caramelized onion jam), it was perfectly cooked and delicious. 4.5 stars easy, and because this lamb dish was sooooo good, it knocked New Zealand’s down a bit.

We took a little break to hit Soarin’, and then we were right back at it. Chile gave us a spicy beef empanada, and it was yum-may enough to earn a solid 4 stars. Staying in a South American mood, we sampled some beef with chimichurri and beef and corn pie in Argentina. The chimichurri was WAY too oily, which was sad since the beef was perfect (2.5 stars). The pie was interesting and not at all what I expected. It gets points for being the most unique thing I ate all day, and that moves it to 4 solid stars. Still feeling a little south of the border, we marched on to Mexico for chicken chilaquiles. Kevin gave it a 4, and I give it a 4.5 (but that could be because I haven’t had good Mexican food in over a year). Still, though, the salsa verde was good.

At this point, I was a bit beyond full, but still okay, so we went to South Africa. The Durban spiced chicken was crazy good; it came with coconut milk-infused root veggies which it absolutely needed to offset the crazy heat from the spices. My lips are still burning 3 hours later, but it was soooo worth it. Another solid 4.5. From there it was only a stone’s throw to Austria and goulash and tafelspitz (that’s brisket to you and me, Russ). The goulash came with a bacon dumpling (holla!) which by itself earned the dish 4 stars. Kevin’s brisket, sadly, was bland, and the accompanying horseradish sauce was lackluster. The tafelspitz scored the worst today at a meager 1 star. We wandered back around to Greece for Greek salad (4 stars) and spanokopita which was the second best thing I ate all day and gets 4.75 stars. I should also mention that Kevin stopped back in at Louisiana for a second helping of etouffee.

Poland and Puerto Rico were *right there*, but I had sadly reached my breaking point. It was 5:00, and we had been eating since 11:00. I really, really wanted to stop at these two, but I just couldn’t (plus, we had Fast Passes for Test Track and another round of Soarin’). We also skipped Morocco (did it last year and wasn’t memorable), Spain (no room in my belly, but if we go back I’ll try the seared tuna), China (again, did it last year and it was the same menu), and Istanbul (and again, I’ll try it if we make it over there again).

Food and Wine is a definite favorite; where else can you eat your way around the world in a day? The food is also surprisingly good. And sure, there are wine pairing seminars, cookbook signings, and other foodie-type things, but I really only go for the food. Because really? Any place I can escargot AND a spicy beef empanada is someplace I want to eat.

6 Responses to “Epcot Food And Wine 2008 Roundup”

  1. Angela Says:

    We were also really impressed with the Irish cheeses. I loved the buttery one.

  2. Mike McBride Says:

    You put our “couple of stops” to shame..:)

  3. Kevin Donahue Says:

    Best of the day? Spending time with my wife, followed VERY CLOSELY by that etouffee. 🙂

  4. camille Says:

    So, I can’t help but think of when we all went to New Orleans and instead of eating étoufée or some other NOLA cuisine, he ate cheeseburgers. He saves the étoufée experience for Disney? Ummm….okay.

  5. robyn Says:

    Man, y’all eat a lot more during Food & Wine than we do. You have a much braver (more adventurous?) palette. I head for the Kir Royales in France, the pot stickers in China, and then the empanadas and I’m pretty much out. Last year’s Oklahoma section was just sad sad sad though – I think we’re skipping this year since we’ve had N’awlins food all week long.

  6. Greg B. Says:

    We absolutely fell in love with the Cork, Ireland cheese plate (our 5 star pick). We ended up picking up 4 eatra plates for home. I’m trying to find a recipe or source for the apple chutney. Any help is appreciated.

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