Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part Two

October 11, 2012

A few days ago I gave you the highlights of our first day at this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, so now let’s look at the rest of the first weekend and some thoughts on this year’s festival.

We began our Saturday AM by checking out the Festival Center.

Ghirardelli’s The Chocolate Experience From Bean to Bar

At the rear of the building an area has been hollowed out and is hosting Ghirardelli’s “The Chocolate Experience”.

Informational displays, chocolate goodies for sale, and best of all, they give you a square of one of the Ghirardelli chocolates when you go in!

Along the back wall are several displays of candy art by chefs from around Disney property.

And a bit further back, was the Chase Lounge for Chase cardholders.

There were (non-adult) beverages provided (even though the soft drink machine was on the fritz when we were there)…

Chase Lounge in the Festival Center

a place to charge your devices, some comfy seating…

Chase Lounge in the Festival Center

and a very cool large touch-screen “Interactive Kiosk” chock-full of festival info.

Touch-screen Interactive Kiosk in the Chase Lounge

Castmember Abe was handing out wristbands that allowed Chase cardholders admittance to reserved seating areas for the Eat to the Beat concert as well as a reserved viewing area for that night’s Illuminations.

As the room isn’t huge, there always seemed to be a line to get in, but all-in-all this was a very nice perk for Chase customers. It was a nice space, but since Miss Bonnie and I had seen the way this room had been previous decorated, at the same time we were both a little sad that the old theming of the space had been lost… but that’s another post for another day…

And of course, there was a ton of merchandise…

Brews Around the World Tee-Shirt

I really like the “Brews Around the World” logo and merchandise.

In case you need a place to store your brew…

Glasses, hats, key chains (with church key)… it’s all good stuff and I think will be a big seller.

Bonnie fell in love with a new series of Italian-inspired merch…

bags, mugs, trivets, aprons and more are adorned with several great logos featuring favorite Disney characters.

This is some really good stuff, and it’s not specifically “Food & Wine” labeled merchandise, so I imagine we might see this line available for a while in the Italy pavilion.

There was a lot more stuff for sale (no shock there!), and overall I think this is a great year for Food & Wine merch – maybe we’ll do a post just on that later…

If you can’t wait until the booths open, yes you can get a beverage or two at the Festival Center.

Menu from the Intermissions Cafe in the Festival Center

We decided to start the days feedings with the Fruit and Cheese Plate here (and yes, I did sample the beer…).

Fruit and Cheese Plate from Intermissions Cafe

Not that it was anything horrible, but compared to the offerings elsewhere, this was a bit disappointing… cubes of basic Cheddar, Swiss and Pepper Jack along with some strawberries and grapes… didn’t they have a more upscale cheese offering here in years past? And if no, why the hell not now?

Watermelon Patch as you enter the World Showcase

It was getting to be that time (11 AM, when the World Showcase opens up)…

More signs at the Watermelon Patch

so we made our way around the lagoon to the back and started our days real dining in Japan.

On the way to Japan we had the good fortune to run into Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann. Chef  Jens was, as always, very personable and generous with his time. We had a nice talk with him, but didn’t want to occupy too much of his time on an obviously very busy day for him and his staff.

Japan Booth

In addition to the beef sandwich I had sampled the night before, they are offering a couple of new sushi hand rolls this year in Japan.

Hand Rolls (and a Kirin) in Japan

The Spicy Hand Roll has (raw) Tuna & Salmon with Chili Pepper, Soy Sauce & Sesame Oil Topped with Kazan Volcano Sauce… and it’s Dang Tasty…

Spicy Hand Roll

while for the more sushi-squeamish the is the Karaage Hand Roll – Crispy Fried Chicken enrobed in Sushi Rice and drizzled with Spicy Mayonnaise – also pretty Darn Good…

Karaage Hand Roll

Despite the flavors being great, these weren’t “Hand Rolls” in the traditional sense – if you go to a sushi restaurant usually a hand roll will be a larger sheet of nori (seaweed) with sushi rice inside and wrapped around the filling – these were basically a compressed sushi roll with a bit of nori wrapped around one end to serve as a handle… not really what they purport to be, but still good…

Another pretty nice shirt hanging at the merchandise cart outside the American Adventure

Outside the Enoteca in Italy a temporary wine dispensary has been set up.

As the lines inside the small wine shop tend to get long during the festival, especially on the weekends, this makes a lot of sense.

Our next stop was at the always popular Brewer’s Collection.

Brewer’s Collection next to Germany Booth

Very popular were the beer flights…

Beer Flight from Brewer’s Collection

Lot’s of guests were opting for these flights…

Brewer’s Collection Menu

and it’s a pretty good deal…

Nothing says “Happy Anniversary” like beer in plastic cups stuck into a cardboard carrier…

of course you could put your own selection together of  four 6 oz drinks (which would run you a total of $2.00 more) and I’d bet you they’d still let you have the handy carrying case.

But today we were on a mission to try just one brew… Schofferhofer Grapefruit… yes, grapefruit brew…

Miss Bonnie, who does not like or drink beer (remember this), was fascinated by the idea of grapefruit beer, so we had to give it a try. Not so sure about it myself, I got us one of the half-sized glasses to sip on (just in case it was horrible…).

Schofferhofer Grapefruit

Wow – this stuff was great! Light, refreshing, very low in alcohol (okay, so it ain’t perfect..) and dang tasty! Miss Bonnie, who, I repeat, doesn’t drink beer, fought me for the glass! There will be more of this sampled in the future!

South Africa Booth

Our next food sampling was at South Africa…

South Africa Menu

we were both intrigued by the Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket.

Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket

This was an Indian-inspired dish (there is a large population of people of Indian-descent in South Africa) – essentially the dish Saag Paneer wrapped in a pastry crust…

Inside the Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket

Bonnie didn’t care for this at all, but I ate my share and most of her’s – I loved it… even though she’s had dishes with the bland Paneer Cheese before, I think she was looking for something more “cheesy”.

Next we had a combo meal… Bonnie had a salad craving, and stood in the line at Greece while I queued up across the way in Canada for some meat…

Greek Salad with pita Bread from, well, Greece and the “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with truffle Butter Sauce (phew… long name for such a small portion…)

The salad was good as always, but nothing spectacular. The beef dish was good, especially the sauce, but not anything I’d say is a “must try”. Haven’t have the Chicken Chipotle Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta yet this year, but if it’s nearly as good as in past years, I’d say it’s a much better choice than the beef when dining in Canada.

Florida Local Kiosk

From there we made our way nearly half-way around the lagoon to try the goods at the Florida Local booth.

Florida Local Menu

We had both the savory items, as well as the Florida wines…

Shrimp Ceviche and Corn Arepa with Pork from the Florida Local Booth

The shrimp dish was nicely spicy and really flavorful, it might even be a bit too hot for some…

Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Vegetables, Fried Plantains and Cilantro

The pork-filled arepa (a savory pancake-like bread usually made from corn) was, well, Porkalicious… unless you’re a vegetarian or Kosher (or for some other reason eschew the World’s Tastiest Meat), this is a dish to try for sure!

White Corn Arepa with Mangalitsa Pork Rilette and Zellwood Sweet Corn Salad

There are some Florida produced beers here (and there is quite a number of top-notch local/regional breweries in Florida right now) as well as a couple of wines from Florida Orange Grove Wineries. There are actually a few interesting wineries around the state, many featuring native southern grapes like scuppernog and muscadine, as well as several wineries that specialize in wine based on other fruit/citrus juices. Here we have a Key Lime based (the Key Limen) and the Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria. Both were much better than you might expect – the Key Limen especially had a bright, citrus-forward taste. You have to forget about what you think a “traditional” grape-based wine should be, and enjoy these other-fruit-based-beverages for what they are. The winery that produces the ones served at the festival is actually not that far from the Eating (and Drinking) Around the World kitchens, so maybe we’ll take you on a road trip there sometime… as well as some of the other beverage producers around the state, but now let’s get back to the eats at hand…

We wound up our day’s consumption with a trip to the Desserts and Champagne booth (a logical way to end the day, no?).

Dark Chocolate Mousse with Chili and Salted Caramel

We’d already heard great things about the Chocolate Mousse, and since some spice (for me) and caramel (for Miss Bonnie) was involved, we had to give it a try. Wow – this is a winner for sure! As Dedicated Readers know I profess not to be a big desserts/sweets kinda guy, but I will search this out again… rich chocolate flavor highlighted by some chile heat and a bit of salt… just wonderful… and it’s only $1.50! A perfect ending to a great day of eating.

Projections on the walkway as you exit Epcot during Food & Wine

So what are my overall first thoughts on this year’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival? Pretty darn good… the food we had at the booths was uniformly good, even though we didn’t sample all the new items on the first weekend (which will be rectified this coming weekend), the ones we had were great (and we’ve heard very good things about most of the items we’re yet to sample).

Things seems to move smoothly overall, even though there were pretty good crowds, everything seemly to be pretty well organized.

The merchandise this year is uniformly good – some of the best stuff we’ve seen for sale her in years.

Food served on small plastic plates at the 2011 festival

What may seem to be a minor thing, but if you look at the food pics, you’ll see that the the plastic plates that most of the food had been served on in recent years has been replaced (at many, if not most, booths) with heavy paper (I’m assuming recycled) food receptacles.

The primary food serving vehicle for the 2012 festival

The shape/size of the containers I think is better for diners in most cases, and if it’s more of a “Green” product, all the better.

So overall, darn good job Epcot… Food and Wine is the best time of year…

I’m sure there will be plenty more to report and opine upon in the coming weeks… and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you made it to Food & Wine? What did you think? Please share your comments!
Back to the kitchen… see you soon!

4 Responses to “Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part Two”

  1. Vance Cope Says:

    The tuna hand roll in Japan was one of my fav’s so far this year and I’m generally not of a fan of the sushi that comes out of the booth during F&W…also really enjoyed the paneer pocket, huge portion for the price

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  2. Jennifer Says:

    I also am not a Beer drinker….it just leaves an icky after taste! But I did try the Grapefruit beer also and loved it!! It didn’t have that…yeasty??…..after taste that I dislike about beer. My husband made me take a sip of each beer he got, and the Grapefruit one is really the only one that stands out as good to me!

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  3. […] It’s seems just like yesterday that the 2012 version of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival opened – I gave you some first thoughts in (the appropriately named) posts Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part One and Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part Two… […]

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  4. […] You can see many more details and my thoughts on the first weekend of the festival in the posts Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part One and the cleverly named Epcot Food & Wine 2012: First Tastes, First Thoughts… Part Two. […]

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