Epcot Food & Wine 2014 – First Weekend… First Thoughts…

September 25, 2014

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This past week saw the opening of the 2014 version of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and not surprisingly, we were there!

Promo filming going on in the new Puerto Rico area early on Thursday

Promo filming going on in the new Puerto Rico area early on Thursday

I was there on Thursday for the soft-opening day along with Papa Harry and Mama Ginny, and Miss Bonnie joined us for the festivities on Friday and Saturday.

New Patagonia booth before the opening

New Patagonia booth before the opening

I thought I’d share a few pics and initial thoughts on some of the new stuff at the festival, so let’s dig in, shall we?

Food & Wine display at Epcot entrance

Food & Wine display at Epcot entrance

The entrance display is much less elaborate this year than it has been in the past. All the elements look to be recycled from prior displays.

No bog here...

No bog here…

And in the area that formerly held the Ocean Spray cranberry bog sits a few more recycled items and a salad-tossing Mickey topiary.

If you need a brewed libation to start your tour of the food booths, you won’t find the craft beer kiosk in it’s usual location at the beginning of the World Showcase…

Craft Beer is located inside the Odyssey building this year

Craft Beer is located inside the Odyssey building this year

you’ll have to take a detour to the left and enter the Odyssey.

Pour me a beer... or four...

Pour me a beer… or four…

Inside the (thankfully!) air-conditioned space you’ll find ample tables and seating…

Beer Flight and Craft Beer Snack Mix

Beer Flight and Craft Beer Snack Mix

and, of course, beer (and there is something different about beer at the festival this year, more on that later…)! And this year some food items as well are being served alongside the brews.

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip (top) and Muffuletta Pinwheels with House-made Pickles

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip (top) and Muffuletta Pinwheels with House-made Pickles

I really liked the nicely spicy pimento cheese (must be the Southern Boy in me) while Bonnie loved the snack mix that’s served gratis with any beer purchase (oddly you get one nice size serving with a single 6 ounce brew, and the same amount with a flight…) and she also thought the pickles alongside the Muffuletta Pinwheel were perhaps the Best-Pickle-Ever!

Around the World Showcase there are two expanded/highlighted areas this year…

Main entrance to Puerto Rico area

Main entrance to Puerto Rico area

Puerto Rico sits in the area behind the Desserts and Champagne booth (Promenade Refreshments during the rest of the year)…

Brazil!

Brazil!

while Brazil has taken over the large area that has been home to the Belgium booth in recent years.

Seating area adjacent to the Brazil booth

Seating area adjacent to the Brazil booth

Colorful flags fly over the seating area and the new booth is covered in bright tiles…

Oddly, the sign above the booth says "Introduced 2014"... but there was a Brazil booth in 2013... and even before that...

Oddly, the sign above the booth says “Introduced 2014″… but there was a Brazil booth in 2013… and even before that…

A close-up view of some of the tiles that sure looks like, of all things, a Coelacanth! Would sure be more interesting if they were serving those instead of Tilapia! But then, I guess Coelacanth aren't exactly sustainable (and also from no-where-near Brazil...)...

A close-up view of some of the tiles that sure looks like, of all things, a Coelacanth! Would sure be more interesting if they were serving those instead of Tilapia! But then, I guess Coelacanths aren’t exactly sustainable (and also from no-where-near Brazil…)…

There were live musicians in both Brazil and Puerto Rico during the weekend… a very nice touch…

Guitarist in Brazil area

Guitarist in Brazil area

we’ll see if it lasts past the opening weekend.

Recipe, and a little "health note" posted at the Africa kiosk

Recipe, and a little “health note”, posted at the Africa kiosk

At several of the kiosks, the storage boxes have recipes from Robert Irvine printed on them.

Desserts & Champagne Menu

Desserts & Champagne Menu

For the first time in recent years, not all the bubbly beverages at the Desserts and Champagne booth were from the Moet & Chandon label…

This is what a $32 glass of Dom Perignon looks like

This is what a $32 glass of Dom Perignon looks like

Block & Hans

Block & Hans

In the American Adventure, Block & Hans has forsaken beers sales now for wine.

Block & Hans Menu

Block & Hans Menu

And getting back to beer…

Brewer's Collection Menu from 2013

Brewer’s Collection Menu from 2013

let’s look at the Brewer’s Collection menu from last year…

Brewer's Collection Menu from 2014

Brewer’s Collection Menu from 2014

and compare to this year… notice anything???

Yep, up until this year beer drinkers could chose from a 6 ounce, 12 ounce or even 22 ounce glass (and a 24 ounce flight of four 6 ounce taps), this year all festival beer locations are serving exclusively 6 ounce glasses, and the flights total 16 ounces (four 4 ounce glasses). When I queried a cast member if this was a method to keep the drunks a bit more in line (which it most certainly is), she gave me the well-prepared answer that the festival was intended to be a “sampling” event, and the smaller servings was simply going “back to the roots” of the event. Actually I think this is fine, I liked when they added the 6 ounce servings a few years ago exactly for the reason that it allowed me to sample more beers without getting too bloated or blotto (at least early in the day…). It’s also worth noting that when they first added the smaller servings that didn’t really jack the price for them (only about a quarter extra on average), and somewhat surprisingly they kept prices the same this year. Regular (year-round) beer locations, BTW are still serving 12 ounce beers.

Souvenir Wine Glasses

Souvenir Wine Glasses

Since they don’t now have a vehicle for selling the 22 ounce souvenir beer glasses, Disney has added a souvenir wine glass (for an extra $4) with a wine purchase at the kiosks (or you can just buy the glass if you like). The glasses are heavy plastic and hold about 8 ounces, they are sturdy and a reasonable size for home use, so not a bad price for a Food & Wine remembrance.

Cookbooks, mugs, towels and more...

Cookbooks, mugs, towels and more…

And don’t fall off your chair, but there is a ton of new merch for the 2014 festival! The cookbook this year features recipes from not only the Food & Wine Festival, but also ones from Flower & Garden and the Holidays around the World (so they will get to sell it year-round I imagine…).

The 2014 festival poster

The 2014 festival poster

Beers continue to be a big theme with “Brews Around the World” showing up on several pieces of merchandise, including tee shirts…

Front of "Brews..." Tee

Front of “Brews…” Tee

The backside of "Brews..."

The backside of “Brews…”

there’s even a women’s cut this year.

The ladies version

The ladies version

And yes, Dear Dedicated Readers, there was some food too…

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi and an O.K. Beer (I guess not a great beer, just an ok one...) from Poland

Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi and an O.K. Beer (I guess not a great beer, just an ok one…) from Poland

so here’s some pics of some of the new items…

Mocequa de Pescado (Tilapia with Coconut Lime Sauce), Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread) and a Xingu Black Beer from Brazil

Mocequa de Pescado (Tilapia with Coconut Lime Sauce), Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread) and a Xingu Black Beer from Brazil

The tasty insides of the Pao de Queijo

The tasty insides of the Pao de Queijo

(you can find the recipe for these goodies in the post Let’s Cook! Pão De Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Puffs)

Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese and a Sam Adams Octoberfest

Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese and a Sam Adams Octoberfest from Hops & Barley

Ensalada de Carrucho (Conch Salad) and Medulla Light Beer from Puerto Rico

Ensalada de Carrucho (Conch Salad) and Medulla Light Beer from Puerto Rico

Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Coppola Su Yuen Reisling and Su Yuen Red Wines from China

Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Coppola Su Yuen Reisling and Su Yuen Red Wines from China

Griddled "Yard Bird" and Pepper Bacon Hash with an I-4 IPA and Eroica Riesling from the Farm Fresh booth

Griddled “Yard Bird” and Pepper Bacon Hash with an I-4 IPA and Eroica Riesling from the Farm Fresh booth

Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon from Scotland

Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon from Scotland

Escargot Tart in France

Escargot Tart in France

A trio from Japan (top to bottom): Tuna and Salmon Spicy Hand Roll, Chirashizushi (Salmon, Shrimp, Crab and Egg Omelet over Seaweed Salad and Rice), Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

A trio from Japan (top to bottom): Tuna and Salmon Spicy Hand Roll, Chirashizushi (Salmon, Shrimp, Crab and Egg Omelet over Seaweed Salad and Rice), Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Inside the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Inside the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Green Lip Mussels and a Kim Crawford Pinot Noir in New Zealand

Green Lip Mussels and a Kim Crawford Pinot Noir in New Zealand

And how was the food? Everything we tried was anywhere from good to great… The Sea Scallop from Ireland and the Bacon Hash from Farm Fresh were definitely our top two of the new dishes we tried this weekend, both rated a wish-I-could-have-more-right-now status. I liked the Slider with Pimento Cheese much more than I expected, and everything in Brazil was a winner… Nothing in Japan was transcendent, but all were good (with the Chirashizushi being the most interesting), and I’d gladly down any one of them again… the Conch Salad in Puetro Rico was very flavorful, but it was a very small portion of the salad atop quite a bit of rice… the small items in Craft Beers were all pretty good, with the Pimento Cheese being my favorite…

All in all, it was a great start to a record-long Epcot Food & Wine Festival! There’s still a lot of dishes to try, and we’ll have many other things to share and discuss over the next several weeks… so…

We’re back to the kitchen, and back soon to the Food & Wine Festival! See you soon!

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to “like” and “share”!

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