Thoughts on Disney’s 2016 International Food and Wine Festival
Happy New Year to everyone! Hope the ending of 2016 was sweet and full of love and laughter. As part of ending the year and starting the new one with a ‘clean slate’, I like to look back at experiences I enjoyed (or maybe didn’t) during the year.
As a newbie blogger on all things food, I OF COURSE have to share my thoughts on Disney’s 2016 International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. As a Floridian, the Food and Wine Festival is basically a yearly tradition. I don’t personally make it every year but I sure do try!
Introduction : Food and Wine Festival Passport
Can I say something? (sure, go right ahead) The Passport is definitely a lifesaver and obviously something we all pick up when we first enter the park. It definitely came in hand showing ALL THE OPTIONS. And the stickers thing is cute and I can see how that is definitely catering to the kids (and inner kids as well). First thing I did was go through everything and circle star dot dot everything I wanted to try. Like I was mostly trying solo thanks to the boyfriend’s food sensitivities, I had quite a big goal for my stomach and I. I definitely recommend you go through the lists before embarking on your journey so you don’t end up reaching a kiosk with something that looks like a MUST HAVE but your stomach is saying “NO SPACE!” already.
Ok, so I obviously didn’t try it all. Wish I could, but nope. So this is what I tried and thoughts. These go in order of how they appear on the Passport.
Future World West
This area was my favorite based on design. It was just plain beautiful and spoke to my inner tree hugging soul. It definitely was a well thought presentation of edible vegetation and had a very relaxing outdoorsy feel to it. They also had just as relaxing ambient music playing in the background to just hug you and make you feel like you never want to leave. Or you can just hang around until the heat forces you to move on.
The Chew Collective: Inspired by ABC’s “The Chew”
It was the beginning of our go around for the day and so I decided to start light. And although there was the option of a Grilled Beef Skewer, I opted for the Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce. Easily, one of my favorite items I tried the whole festival. The stuffed ravioli was just perfect with the tomato sauce and my taste buds were high up there in love. I don’t know how much I’d love this as a full plate but definitely a sharing plate or even a starter-slash-appetizer would do well for it.
In the same area as The Chew Collective, the Greenhouse Guru, hosted by Village Farms, gave me the notion that it specialized in fresh garden ingredients. Here I tried the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Micro-Basil. I’m a sucker for goat cheese and usually always go for whatever food item includes the goat cheese as an ingredient. The dish was definitely refreshing. The mix of the basil with the balsamic vinegar is a perfect compliment to the goat cheese and tomato. I truly and fully enjoyed this and would have gone for seconds if I knew I didn’t have a bunch of other items to try.
The Showcase Plaza is basically where the World Showcase begins and this is where we find most of the kiosks that either didn’t fit in or just plain fit in between the permanent countries. As I am a one-woman-show, I selectively picked items that legitimately called my interest.
Islands of the Caribbean
I’m sure this naming was a play on words on the highly regarded Disney franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean). Like half my roots descend from the lovely Caribbean nation of Dominican Republic and born and raised in Miami, Florida (Free Cuba to the locals), this place was a MUST for me. I just had to try out how Disney not only Americanized but attempted to replicate the Caribbean dishes I like to consider myself an expert in.
The boyfriend helped at this spot with food items that he could eat. We tried the Mojo Pork with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice and Pickled Red Onions. The rice was way too sticky and watery, a definite pass. The time spent at this kiosk location, which was beautifully decorated, we noticed this was the most requested food item although it was the weakest one of the three we tried. The pork was good, but obviously doesn’t come close to the mono pork you find down in Miami. The dish was sub-par at best.
The Pescado con Coco: Seared Grouper, Pigeon Peas and Rice with Coconut Sauce was the best plate we tried at this stop. The coconut sauce was very close to spot on and the fish and rice were very nicely prepared. One of my favorite items of the whole festival.
The dessert item, Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce, is what we call a Pastelito de Guayaba y Queso. The translation is Disney uses is perfect and I can see why they would just re-phrase it as Quesito. Although a quesito to me is just a puff pastry with sweetened cream cheese. Disney’s attempt at this pastry was a good one, although it could use more work. Especially the puff pastry part. But good job either way.
The boyfriend jettisoned off to the bathroom and I decided to wait on him with a drink in hand. Tried the very popular Pineapple Dole Whip Soft-Serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum. The server was generous with the rum and the ice cream was super sweet. The drink is refreshing and has a lot of flavor to it. I’m not much of a drinker nowadays and eventually couldn’t finish the whole drink, but thoroughly enjoyed the bits I did drink.
The other options at this stand sounded just as sweet and savory. If I were to try another item here, it would have been the Fried Chicken Chunks with Dole Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce. Maybe in 2017!
A popular stop, picking just one option in Greece was challenging. For the boyfriend to be able to participate, we chose the Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles, and Vegan Tzatziki. Immediately after one taste, the boyfriend was out. A no-go for him. I tried giving it more of a chance, but also couldn’t find the liking to it. Although Disney has increased their vegetarian options, totally vegan options are still rare. With the Greek nachos are one that can also pass for a vegan option, we were both disappointed. Not planning on repeating.
I also opted to try the Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce featuring Oikos Greek Yogurt. Again, not impressed with the gyro that wasn’t properly cooked and the sauce was really not as good as other tzatziki sauces I’ve tried. Another no repeat. Probably will stay away from the Greek kiosk next festival.
Patagonia covers the southernmost South American countries of Argentina and Chile. The region of Patagonia covers the southernmost tip of the two countries. Here we tried the beef empanada. I was very tempted to give the Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri a try, but my stomach had limits. The beef empanada was a good example of the south american empanada. As I’ve only tried Argentinian empanadas, I can’t confirm the closeness to authenticity of the dish. I prefer the ones from local Argentinian restaurants and delis.
Whenever there is mac ‘n’ cheese offered somewhere, I either go for it wholeheartedly or fight with every inch of my resistance to not order it (usually when I’m trying to eat healthy). Like this is the Food and Wine Festival, I did not resist the Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onion at the Farm Fresh kiosk. I paired with the Florida Orange Groves Mango Mama Wine. The mac ‘n’ cheese was definitely a very good plate. It was spicy good but not the best mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve tried. The wine was sweet and refreshing and something I very much enjoyed. Hopefully they offer this wine again in 2017. Try it if it is!
This kiosk was new to me and might have been new to the festival. My kitties at home eat a limited ingredient diet that includes venison as one of the ingredients. So I obviously went for the Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Dumpling. By the way, I am also a sucker for mushrooms and so this dish was a must-try.
The venison was probably a bit too cooked. Venison in general has little fat to make a ‘juicy’ cooked meat so I don’t think much could be done in regards to this. The mushroom marsala sauce was very good though and helped with the dried venison. The kumara (sweet potato) dumpling was pastier than I imagined, but it was good nonetheless.
The boyfriend found a food item he wanted to try in Germany. The Roast Bratwurst in a Hard Roll. Aesthetically, the dish wasn’t very appealing. His comments on the dish were “It’s a Bratwurst”. He didn’t sound impressed.
And so, these items were all that I could fit into my stomach. Wish I could have tried more and this might just be something to be done on more than one trip. It definitely helps to share the load with others. In 2017 I hope to go with more folks than just the boyfriend to share this load.
I hope 2017 brings you lots of joy, happiness, good health, and you reach all the goals you set up for the year. My biggest goal is to register for many RunDisney events for 2017-2018 with the first one being the 2017 Wine and Dine. I also hope to increase the audience of Plenty of Stef. Food is such a lovely topic to discuss and sharing recipes are a great and very fulfilling subject for me.
So cheers to a New Year and lets hope for a great 2017!