Holy mother of contenders. Until now the Wine & Dine Studio was my easy answer for best booth of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year, but Flavors from Fire might beat it out.
All I can say leading into this is I'm sorry. I'm sorry it took me this long to get to this booth. Last year I wasn't feeling Flavors from Fire and so I didn't run there this year.
I should have.
It is insane. It is far and away the most beautiful booth at Food and Wine and it is loaded with food that is not only delicious but interesting and creative. It is, in short, what Food & Wine is supposed to be all about. Someone smart and inventive put this together and it not only makes me want to eat – it makes me want to talk about food.
So without further ado, let's talk.
Flavors from Fire has 4 food items – three savory and one sweet.
Thoughtful even in the basis of this list, the booth takes the time to explain the two sides of the “flavor of fire” and represents both in its menu.
Here we have a lovely history lesson about our long, long history of making use of smoke to flavor our foods, as well as an overview of mesquite, hickory, and maple smoking woods. The menu items representing this side of fire are the piggy wings and smoked corned beef.
Next we learn about the fire of spice and its history, as well as details about cayenne, chipotle, and chili peppers. There's a little mistake here – oops – the menu items listed are the ones from last year. But let's safely assume that the representative *current* menu items are the skirt steak and the chocolate picante.
- Piggy Wings: Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds (kid friendly) ($4.75)
Give me a good Korean BBQ sauce any day and these wings would be killer in their own right even without it. There is so much meat on these and it falls off the bone. No fat, great texture, and covered in Korean BBQ sauce and sesame seeds. I could eat these every day of the week. Fantastic. And an insane value at just $4.75.
- Smoked Corned Beef with Warm Crispy Potatoes, Pickled Onions, and Blonde Ale Beer Fondue featuring BelGioioso® Romano and American Grana Cheeses ($5.00)
If I had to sum this up I would call it corned beef poutine on homemade potato chips. The corned beef is smoked divinely and melts in your mouth. The chips are perfection. And the cheese fondue sauce is rich and wonderful. I will say, for me, it needed something to cut the salt. Corned beef and chips are both incredibly salty foods and they needed a fondue sauce that would cut that saltiness – not contribute further to it. So while this is excellent – and a great value at $5 (there's a LOT of food!) – I personally would have enjoyed it more if the fondue was all of the cream and almost none of the salt.
- Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aioli ($6.75)
This is INSANE. Seriously. Go get one now. I'll wait.
I don't even know what to say about this thing except that it's incredible. The corn cake is warm and sweet. The meat melts in your mouth. The slaw adds the necessary cream and crunch. I'll be daydreaming about this one for a long time and back often to eat it again and again. It's easily top 5 at the festival and depending on what I'm craving it could be #1.
- Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, and Mango ($3.75)
I adore this dessert!! The cayenne packs more punch than anything else at the booth (or perhaps the entire Food and Wine Festival) and the paprika adds an awesome layer of complexity. The chocolate itself is dark and not overwhelmingly sweet and a tiny pool of sweet heat sits on top and soaks into the dessert as you eat it. And the mango on the side was ripe and fresh and worked wonders for cutting the heat with sweetness. This dessert isn't just good – it's smart and creative. I'm not even a big chocolate eater (or sweets at all to be honest) and I cleaned my plate.
To be clear, I ate ALL of this tonight. Alone. And I am sitting here wishing that I had it all in front of me again.
So for now, Flavors from Fire: Check.
For the first time. I will be back again. Soon and often.