It’s always exciting to be 2 months into Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, feel like you’ve tapped into every food item that really interested you, and then stumble on a country that completely shocks you by hitting it out of the park. Don’t get me wrong – I expected New Zealand’s offerings to be excellent. They always are. But I didn’t expect to love them so much personally – or, to be quite honest, for them to be quite this excellent.
The New Zealand booth is just past Australia near the “top” of world showcase, i.e. the end closer to Future World, if you turn toward Canada and the UK pavilion at the split. This year they offer 3 food items, all savory, and several alcoholic drink options.
To start. I just want to acknowledge how lovely all of the food items at the New Zealand booth are. At a festival where I am constantly wrestling with delicious food that does not want to pose for a picture, the New Zealand dishes are all beautiful and served up with rare attention to presentation.
- Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs ($4.25)
I had to do a double take at the price of these mussels when I actually received them. At $4.25(??!), these have got to be one of the best values going at Food & Wine. They are gorgeous and HUGE, soaked in butter and garlic, and covered in breadcrumbs. They smell like the ocean and have a briny taste that will make you think you’re on a remote beach somewhere instead of eating, perhaps off the top of a (pristine) trashcan, along World Showcase Lagoon. Having expected a tray of tiny mussels dripping in sauce, I was beyond pleasantly surprised. These are not shy about what they are. They are strong, beautifully seasoned mussels and they are delicious.
- Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney ($5.25)
This is a seriously hearty serving at $5.25. A lamb meatball covered in spicy (think little kick more than major heat) chunky tomato chutney with garlic and lots of fennel seeds, all sitting in a soft doughy basket that does a lovely job soaking up everything. The fact that it is lamb rather than a more “common” meat is not in your face. The meat is very mild. It’s probably not a great dish for a hot day, as it’s very rich and hearty, but if you’re looking for a generous portion of something tasty on a breezy evening, this is a very good option.
- Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée ($6.50)
This is a very small serving, especially compared to the lamb meatball that I’d just eaten, but it is wonderful. A healthy little chunk of tender venison, presented beautifully and drenched in marsala sauce. The meat is rich and full of flavor, not at all gamey, and so delicious that you’ll forget for a second that you’re eating Bambi. The kumara is apparently a type of yam or sweet potato found in New Zealand and the purée definitely tastes just like you would expect a mashed sweet potato to taste. It’s a great choice, as the mildly sweet starch cuts the richness of the venison and marsala sauce beautifully. This was really just a wonderful dish all around.
- Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($6.50)
Oh New Zealand. You had me at frozen wine. This was just a happy little glass of slushy wine that went down easily along with the three savory dishes. I’d order it again in an Epcot minute.