I think we all know that I've been…um…researching hard at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival this year. There's little or nothing that's eye catching that I haven't eaten already – and I know so many people are overwhelmed by the options at the Festival's *40* booths this year. And that's warranted, because there are a *lot* of amazing options.
And so it seemed like more than time to sit down and give you the top 10 absolute-not-to-be-missed food items at the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. We'll be addressing drinks and desserts separately, so we'll stick to savory food items here.
So without further ado:
10. New Zealand – Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs ($4.50)
These are easily one of the best values at the Festival. 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. These are not shy about what they are. They are strong, beautifully seasoned mussels, and they are delicious.
9. Hawaii – Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($5)
This was one of my absolute favorite things at the festival last year and it’s a go to item again this year. It’s simple and perfect – slightly salty from the perfectly cooked pulled pork and slightly sweet from the chutney and (very very) slightly spicy from the mayo, and served on a soft soft roll that soaks it all up nicely. And the price is right at $5. Don’t miss it.
8. Australia – Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (gluten free) ($7.75)
I absolutely love this dish. My love affair with mint pesto started when I first ate it last year and I love it just as much now. The lamp is perfect – not fatty or gamey at all. (I have a thing with funny meat textures and this passes with flying colors.) And the potato crunchies – which are basically crushed chips – add an awesome texture. At $7.75 the price tag is a little hard to swallow, but this is still an awesome dish.
7. Brazil – Moqueca and Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
This is the first of the two-for-one favorites, since I'm trying not to give more than one number on the list to any booth…but some booths just blow it out of the water this year.
This is new and replaced last year’s layered meat pie, which I won’t much miss. This, on the other hand, is wonderful. My googling suggests that moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew, is usually in a tomato-based sauce. This is a little different. The sauce is light and creamy and flavored with coconut milk and lime. The white fish is mild and the shrimp and scallops are cooked perfectly. And the rice is a good vehicle for getting the rest of that yum sauce into your mouth after the fish is gone. Really just a mild and lovely little dish that I’ll have more than once during the festival.
So I’m just going to cut to the chase here and say that Brazilian cheese bread is basically synonymous with Food & Wine in my mind. Like, it’s the thing that I look forward to most and absolutely without question the thing that I grab to eat the most often when I’m in Epcot at this time of year. And it doesn’t hurt that my picky kids love it too. It’s soft and warm and doughy and chewy. And not messy at all, as the cheese is the sort that holds its form when it gets warm and melty. Also, added perk, it’s even gluten free, as the dough is made of tapioca flour – which also accounts for its chewy texture. In short, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of and if you’re ever in town with me at F&W the BCB is on me
6. Active Eats – Spice-crusted Verlasso® Salmon
This is new this year and instantly hit my favorites list. Good salmon is not easy to come by and this is good, good salmon. Cooked perfectly, mild, and slightly crisped on the outside and sitting on a bed of crisp cabbage and warm lentils with a very, very generous serving of “crushed avocado” (=guac) on top to gel it all together. This was wonderful and a great value at $5.75.
5. Hops & Barley – New England Lobster Roll: Warm Lobster with Fresh Herb Mayonnaise and Griddled Roll ($8)
This isn't the cheapest thing at Food & Wine but just look what you get. Huge pieces of lobster cooked perfectly and drizzled with herbed mayo (warm and more the texture of a creamy sauce) that tastes fresh and full of dill. The whole thing sits on a crisped roll that soaks everything up perfectly. This is not lobster salad. This is huge, warm pieces of lobster claw and tail with creamy sauce on a toasted bread roll.
4. China – Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce ($6.75)
The China booth is amazing this year and this bao bun was my personal favorite. The bun is soft and warm, the duck is perfect and layered with crisp cabbage and noodles, and the drizzle of hoisin sauce gives it a sort of moo shu taste. It's wonderful and definitely worthy of many repeat visits.
3. Earth Eats – Steakhouse Burger and Impossible Burger
Another two-fer with Earth Eats. It was impossible to choose one of these burgers – so just go with whichever looks better to you personally. Or better yet, get both.
The Steakhouse Blended Burger: Blended Beef and Wild Mushroom Slider with Brie Cheese Fondue, Arugula, Truffle and Blue Cheese Potato Chip on a Brioche Bun ($5)
This thing is amazing – and looking at the description, I don’t think that will surprise anyone. The burger itself is perfection and the layers of brie cheese and arugula are divine – but what really puts the potato chip on the cake here is….the potato chip. Someone at Disney finally realized that we were putting chips on our sandwiches anyway and threw one thick cut, truffle & blue cheese potato chip on here for us. For $5 a pop, I’ll take a bag of these, please and thank you.
The IMPOSSIBLE(tm) Burger Slider with Wasabi Cream and Spicy Asian Slaw on a Sesame Seed Bun (vegetarian) ($5)
It was seeing that this thing was offered at the Earth Eats booth that made me beeline it over there in the first place. I’d had my first IMPOSSIBLE burger at H2O Glow Nights at Typhoon Lagoon this summer and suffice to say it made an impression. I’m going to dare to say that this version is even better. Never in a million years would you know that this thing is vegetarian and the wasabi cream and Asian slaw add a creamy crunchy kick that I could eat all day. And again, at $5 each I’d happily buy a pile of them. Don’t miss this thing.
2. Wine & Dine Studio – Butternut Squash Ravioli and Seared Scallops
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese, and Pumpkin Seeds (vegetarian, kid friendly) ($4.50)
Holy incredible new dish. Disney has mastered the butternut squash ravioli – you’ll find it around property at places like 1900 Park Fare – which we recently reviewed here – and it’s never an offering to miss. But the Wine & Dine Studio at Food & Wine takes it to an entirely new level with the addition of parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds – not to mention the brown butter vinaigrette that’s all over it. At $4.50 this is one of the most delicious values at the festival this year. My only “complaint” is that there were only 2 of them. Again, this will be a frequent stop at the Festival for me. Go. Eat it. Please.
Seared Scallops, Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts, and Wild Mushrooms ($6)
This is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten at an Epcot Festival. They offered it last year, too, but it’s somehow hit the mark that much more perfectly this year. The scallops themselves are loaded with flavor and cooked perfectly. The brussels sprouts and wild mushrooms are outstanding. And the choice to put it on (truffled!) celery root purée instead of something heavier like a mashed potato brings it all home. I’ll be back for this and often and cannot recommend it enough.
1. Flavors from Fire – Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak and Piggy Wings
Flavors from Fire and the Wine & Dine Studio are duking it out this year as best booth. Everyone is a winner though, because nothing is stopping you from eating all of it.
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.
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aioli ($6.75)
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. There are a lot of amazing things on this list but this just might be my #1.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Now go. EAT. And tell me your favorites in the comments!!!