Epcot Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview, Part One: the Appetizers

July 19, 2011

This past weekend, Miss Bonnie and I were fortunate enough to attend the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview hosted by Tables in Wonderland. We got to sample food (and drinks), get the news on what’s new for 2011, and all-in-all have a great time while looking forward to the Best Time of the Year at Walt Disney World! Heck, it’s the Best Time of the Year period!

There’s so much to cover, we’re going to break this down into multiple posts: first (in this post) we’re going to go over the buffet reception that started the evening, next we’ll taste the sit-down portion of the menu, and then we’ll look at the presentation part of the evening which gave us a detailed look at the events, seminars, etc. (and we may even break that down into more than one post, time will tell…).

So, let’s start the evening, shall we?

The event was being held in the Wonders Retreat at Epcot. Never heard that name? Well neither had we…

The Wonders Retreat turns out to be on the second level of the old Wonders of Life Pavilion (former home of Body Wars, Cranium Command, etc.) now better known as that “Geodesic-Dome-Close-to-Ellen’s Energy Adventure” that serves as the Festival Center for Food & Wine as well as the Flower and Garden Festival.

Festival Center (dome in the background) shown during the Food & Wine Festival

We arrived for check-in about 6 PM, and semi-patiently awaited our admittance into the air-conditioned heaven of the pavilion.

Once admitted, we were directed to the back of the building and taken through a door leading us past some of the forgotten areas for the pavilion – the hallway took us to an elaborate elevator that accommodated the massive number of eight guests at a time – a castmember ferried the guests up to the second floor into what was once the private environs of former sponsor MetLife.

A table with our name tags showed where we would be sitting for the evenings event – each table was designed by the name of one of the kiosks or events of the festival – our seats we were located at the Caribbean Marketplace table.

Prior to the seated meal was a selection of foods and, of course, beverages in a reception-style area.

Seating area with presentation screen

The beverages were plentiful (at least in volume, just had to ask for whatever you wanted) – Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc and La Capra Pinotage were the wine choices (Miss Bonnie particularly liked the former).

There were five varieties of beer: Radeberger Pilsner, Sam Adams Boston Ale, Stella Artois (Stella!!!), Abita Purple Haze and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Cocktails were well represented by the “Xante Sunshine”, a refreshing, summery beverage based on Xante, a Swedish spirit of pear and cognac. Xante will be featured in the new Scandinavia kiosk this fall.

Before the lines got too long, I dispatched Miss Bonnie to gather our drinks while I hunted down some food…

Two of the three items offered at the reception were from the new Marketplaces being featured this year: Hawaii and Scandinavia (the third new Marketplace kiosk, the Caribbean, was the focus of our entree at the sit-down portion of the evening).

The first of the preview items was from Hawaii: Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise.

The inclusion of Hawaii this year makes perfect sense – spotlighting the new DVC resort of Aulani (can you say “synergy”), and there is a sponsorship by Dole as well… so expect to see lots of pineapple… will we see Dole Whips at Epcot?

The pork was tender, but to my tastes the flavor of pineapple was a bit overwhelming (and I do think that pork and pineapple do go nicely together). The “spicy” mayo wasn’t so spicy (if it had been a bit more assertive it may have counter-acted the overly sweet pineapple). But all in all it was fine, and as is I’d imagine it would be a popular item at the festival, but with a few tweaks it could actually be really good.

Kalua Pork Slider

“Kalua”, by the way (as we were told later in the evening by Chef Gregg Hannon), is a traditional cooking technique and has nothing to do with the liqueur Kahlúa (which I had always assumed… you always learn something new at Epcot…).

Next up were chafing dishes full of Swedish Meatballs with Lingon Berries from Scandinavia.

Meatballs in sauce should be a no-brainer for mass production and perfect for the festival.

Swedish Meatballs with Lingon Berries

The lingonberries, a popular Scandinavian fruit (see your local IKEA), provided an interesting contrast to the creamy, rich sauce. A solid, but not spectacular dish (but yes, we did have more than one…). This was another item I’d expect to be popular this year.

Last, but as they say, not least…

was Shrimp on the Barbie (can anyone of a certain age not visualize Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan when they hear that???) with Pepper Berry – Citrus Glaze.

Yes, we’ve had versions of grilled shrimp served at the Australia booth before, so I wasn’t expecting anything exceptional here… but we both really did like the glaze that finished off the shrimp.

Shrimp on the Barbie

The sauce actually had a nice bit of heat, which nicely didn’t show itself right off, but took a few moments to develop in your mouth. Another dish that was not a real knockout, but pretty darn good, and I’d certainly recommend you plan on trying this year at Food & Wine. We had more than one skewer of these tasty crustaceans, and was our number one choice of the offerings during the reception.

Next we have the dinner portion of the evening to get to, so we’ll pause here…. back soon with more eats…

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. For more articles like this one, please visit Dismarks.

6 Responses to “Epcot Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview, Part One: the Appetizers”

  1. Lindsay Says:

    Swedish meatballs with lingon berries? Sounds just like the cafe at IKEA! As a person of Swedish decent, I am excited about the inclusion of Scandinavia this year – but I do hope the offerings branch out from the IKEA fare. I’m sorry I missed out on the TiW event, but I’m glad to see you’re covering it in detail here.

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  2. […] reason haven’t yet read our first two parts of the Sneak Preview review, you can visit part one here, and click here for part […]

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  3. […] high time we wind up our review of the preview dinner we attended earlier this year… in Part One of of the Sneak Preview we covered the appetizers served, and in Part Two, we had the main course, […]

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  4. […] in July Miss Bonnie and I attended the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview dinner where we sampled, among other offerings, Swedish Meatballs with Lingon Berries as it would be […]

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  5. […] we attended the Sneak Preview dinner during the summer, one of the items we sampled was the Pork Slider from the Hawaii booth […]

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  6. […] room upstairs (see the post at Zannaland about this room) that Bonnie and I got to see after the Food and Wine Festival Preview last year – hopefully the decor in that room will stay around for a […]

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