This is part of what will be a larger look at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. Until that’s put together, enjoy the parts.
We’ll take a clockwise look around the World Showcase, beginning with the walk to Mexico. Included will be the Food & Wine Festival booths, menus, food items, alternatives, places to rest, bathroom locations, and whatever else comes to mind. I think visualizing it as you see it will be better than an alphabetical list of the booth names and their respective menus. Remember, pace yourself.
If you have any photos of the items on any of the menus and wouldn’t mind letting me post the pictures, please email them to me at email@example.com. If you have a moment, include a short (or long) review. You’ll save me some money and it doesn’t matter if you took them with your iPhone etc.
“terra,” the first booth you’ll come across is on your left long before you arrive in Mexico. It’s new for 2012 and marks the first all-vegan offering. Last year, Australia was in this location.
One can hope the vegans just congregate here and don’t push forward toward the Brewer’s Collection.
First up is the Trick’n Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice featuring Gardein Chick’n Breast ($3.75). The thing I immediately noticed was the nice presentation with the bright colored topping. This was quite good and I wouldn’t have accused you of serving me something vegetarian. Obviously I’m about as vegan as a buffalo steak, but I don’t have any qualms about recommending this to the carnivores among us. We’d all be better off replacing beef on occasion with fish and vegetables. The curry does have a bit of a kick to it, but nothing off-putting. The texture was chicken-like and I’ll try to avoid the cliche, “It tastes like chicken.” But it does. The rice is forgettable, but prepared well.
Your other choice is the Chili Colorado with House-Made Chips and Cashew Cheese featuring Gardein Beefless Tips. The “meat” portion looks like it resembles a chunk of beef, but is actually multiple pieces kind of lumped together. The texture on this one isn’t as great and the tips feel more like tofu than beef in your mouth. I had just glanced at the menu, knowing I was going to order both items anyway, and originally thought this was the Chick’n. I read “Chili Colorado” and was expecting a cup of vegan chili. The flavor was also similar to the Chick’n, which surprised me. Since vegans have few choices, you’d think they’d want to go in two completely different directions, but this one was on the spicy side too.
The chips had a nice crunch to them and weren’t greasy in the least. I’d buy a bag, though probably not at whatever the price point would be.
If I was going to recommend one, it’d be the Chick’n. I think you’ll be surprised how much you like it. Of course if you’re vegetarian/vegan, you’re probably going to want both, though I probably would order them at two different times due to the similar flavors. Paul Dolan wine is available direct from http://store.pauldolanwine.com/Wine-Store and bottles look to run $18 – $30. Since the Pinot Noir is so much more expensive by the bottle ($30 versus $18), it looks like the better choice.
The Caribbean booth switches sides.
A potentially more interesting Cilantro Rice replaces the white on the Ropa Vieja. Last year’s “Mango Salsa” is now a “Mango Chutney.” The drinks are all new.
2011’s versions of both from the First Bites event. The drumstick I was served at the event last year was juicy and well-seasoned. Both are recommended and relatively inexpensive.
Lines are generally short for the Caribbean outside of Friday nights and Saturdays.
Argentina returns with the same menu, plus the kids’ drinks.
Should look familiar.
The beef is a little spicy and the crust is flaky and crispy. I would have liked a dollop of sour cream, but that probably doesn’t scream Argentina. The Beef Skewer is one of the most well received items at the Festival and I’ll be sure to try it this year, unless someone sends me a picture of it first (please).
The Terrazas Malbec is your best wine choice here. It runs about $19 a bottle. The Torrontes is also rated well.
Lines are usually shorter than others due to a quick turn around, especially on the Empanada.
Australia has moved down further toward Mexico on the Lagoon side. It’s one of the most popular booths.
On the Lamb Chop, Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies replace last year’s Potato-Goat Cheese Salad and Shiraz Reduction.
Last year’s Chop. This is another standout winner that is sure to please, garnering some of the highest ratings from last year’s festival. Lamb is on the expensive side, so the price isn’t necessarily ridiculous.
Rosemount now sponsors the booth, which means you’ll find their wines exclusively offered. I sampled the Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz Cabernet, which would run you $7 – $10 a bottle in stores. Like the other sponsors, they have a wide distribution and are basically advertising their wares at the Festival. I’d skip them because they’re nothing special, but they’re cheap and taste like wine.
2011’s Shrimp, which should look the same in 2012. Ignore the scallop on the left, you’ll be served the five shrimp on a skewer. These are perfectly good, but I didn’t find them to be particularly memorable. We’ve all had grilled shrimp before, but they’re certainly a safer choice if you have someone in the group that’s sticking their nose up at other dishes.
Mexico is located in the same place as last year across from La Cantina and before you arrive at the Pyramid on the left side.
The Taco de Filete has a new name and sauce, but should be basically the same. The “Flan” is now “Natilla de Cajeta” but should also be very similar. The Tequila Flight is new. I really can’t emphasize enough not to buy it, as it’s three half ounce (at best) pours of three unnamed tequilas. We’ll discuss tequila alternatives shortly.
Last year’s shrimp taco, which is listed as being the same this year. While the Shrimp Tacos seemed to garner rave reviews, I thought there were way too many flavors going on. You can see it’s topped with two difference sauces, not to mention the lime, the sauce on the shrimp, and the cabbage. Compared to others, it is a decent portion and the quality seemed high. We’ll have to see about 2012’s iteration.
I’m not sure what I did with my Dos Equis picture, so the label expertly Photoshopped over a bottle of Tecate will have to do. Dos Equis is a widely available 4.3% American Adjunct Lager (think Budweiser) that would run you around $12 for a 12-pack at just about every grocery store in the country. It’s refreshing, but so common that you most likely want to put your money somewhere else.
L.A. Cetto wine runs $9.99/bottle at local Total Wine stores, but would probably be difficult to find in a grocery store. It doesn’t look to be particularly special, but I’ve never tried it.
Finally, lines are surprisingly short most of the time over at Mexico. They’re quite efficient.
Bathrooms, Places to Sit, Better Alternatives, Notes in This Area
The best bathrooms in this area are located in the Odyssey Building, which is located along the walkway that connects Mexico with the area outside Test Track. This picture is taken looking at Future World in the area around the Australia booth and the bathrooms are just to the right of where this picture ends. It’s about a two minute walk from Australia.
The best place to stop and enjoy your haul is up the steps and right outside the pyramid. You’ll find actual tables with chairs that are rarely occupied because they’re behind a wall. You can also opt to stand and put your items down along the railing and have an elevated view of the drunken debauchery down below.
The best place to cool off is inside the pyramid, where you can hop on Gran Fiesta Tour with a short wait or browse the shops.
Just inside the pyramid is a new cultural exhibit. While there aren’t a lot of seats, it will feel like it’s basically freezing and there’s plenty of room to sit or stand with few people other than those quickly passing through. I was way too hot photographing menus and this cooled me down in just a few minutes.
While La Cava del Tequila inside the pyramid is super-hyped, it’s probably the most deserving of said hype. Their margaritas really are that good, and while they run $15 a pop, they’re also as close to a good value as you’re going to find around here. Pictured above are the to-go cups if you want to head back out to the promenade or you can sit inside and drink out of a glass.
It would also be wiser to head in here to pick your tequila flight, rather than rely on the half-ounce portions served outside on the promenade. Historically, they have also offered $5 Milagro shots to their Twitter followers. I have heard they aren’t serving food during the Food & Wine Festival though. Arrive before 1pm to avoid the lines as you could be looking at a 20+ minute wait after 5pm.
The outdoor margarita stand and La Cantina de San Angel also offer a variety of margaritas.
I wasn’t too enthralled by the Patron Margarita (on the left), but it might be worth looking at if other lines are much longer.
Scandinavia returns on the Lagoon side of the promenade across from the Norway Pavilion.
The Taste, Swedish Meatballs, and Rice Pudding along with the Xante and Xante Sunshine return at the same price points, other than the two Xantes, which are 25 cents more expensive.
The 2011 Meatballs, which don’t look particularly appetizing. I can assure you that they taste fine, but you’re better off hitting your area Ikea store because they’re really nothing special.
That’s the 2011 version of the pudding hiding behind the superior Pumpkin Mousse. It’s two or three bites for $2.75. It’s refreshing, light, and fresh, but it’s also on the expensive side of things. I’d personally double down on the Pumpkin Mousse at Hops and Barley.
I caught a shot of Xante at last year’s First Bites event. This is what I had to say about it:
More negativity here, sorry. Xante is available at the Scandinavian booth ($5.75 (now $6.00) for a shot or $7.25 ($7.50) for the Sunshine, which adds lime juice and ‘elder flower’). It’s a “pear infused cognac.” They seem pretty desperate to get their product in the hands of the media and celebrities, which is probably what they’re doing at an event like this. It wasn’t as good as pears or cognac and at $40/bottle, you could buy a bottle of Courvoisier and some pears.
The Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee is an interesting addition. It’s only available at Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and at the Iron Horse Winery.
As well as by the bottle at the resorts. This was spotted last week at the Grand Floridian, where it runs something like $55 a bottle. It didn’t have a price and if you have to ask… Anyway, I’d be more prone to spring for this than the $12+ glasses of Moet we’ll see over at the Dessert and Champagne booth because it’s at least harder to find outside of Disney. Your local grocery store stocks Moet and an upscale store would stock the Imperial, Rose Imperial, etc.
Lines at Scandinavia are among the shortest at the Festival, even on Friday nights and Saturdays because the items are quickly plated.
Next up is China, which is one of the more popular booths, probably because people are comfortable with their local “Chinese” food.
The Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun, Chicken Satay with Spiced Peanut Sauce & Pickled Vegetables, and Mango Tapioca Pudding are all new, along with the Francis Ford Coppola wines and Sunny Guava with Coconut Rum.
I’m not sure what I did with my Tsingtao picture either, but it’s another of the American adjunct lagers, coming in this time at 4.8%. It’s widely available at grocery stores and not particularly good. On the plus side, it’s light and refreshing.
The Coppola Su Yuen wines are actually from California, but may be a little more interesting than what we’ve seen previously, even if they aren’t particularly authentic. After seeing the Chinese Hollow Dragon last year, it would have been interesting if they could have found some quality(?) Chinese wines.
South Korea returns in the same location on the left side just after you pass China.
The Lettuce Wrap returns alongside a new Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp and Kimchi Sauce. It sounds like the Raspberry Wine and Soju are the same, only have names that make them sound more appealing than last year’s. The Soju and Bokbunjajoo are a little out there, meaning they’re authentic South Korean wines. They’re a good choice for the adventurous, but not necessarily for someone who is iffy on Sutter Home Cabernet.
A particularly unflattering picture of last year’s Lettuce Wrap. It looks positively disgusting. While somewhat difficult to eat, it’s much better than it looks. This picture is seriously grossing me out though. Buy one anyway – the price is right.
Bathrooms, Places to Sit, Better Alternatives, Notes in This Area
The bathrooms in Norway are going to be the least crowded until you get to Morocco, thanks to being less obvious than the ones in Germany. The best place to sit with food is one of the benches that run along the Lagoon. Seating is also plentiful at Lotus Blossom quick service in China, particularly during off-peak hours from 2pm – 5pm. Kringla seating as pictured may be viable, but there are a limited number of tables. You should be able to find somewhere to set up shop though, with more curbside seating than most other Pavilions.
For cooling off, I recommend the Temple in China.
There’s a lot of bench seating inside. You can also opt to see Reflections of China, which is a pleasant way to spend 12 or so minutes in nice air-conditioning. Just be aware it’s standing-room only, but the room is big enough that you should be able to spread out. The store in China is generally a better place to cool off than Norway because it’s more open and less busy. In Norway, the room in the store closest to Maelstrom that sells the more expensive hand-made sweaters is the least crowded.
Also in China, you can spend some time looking over the tomb warriors.
There aren’t necessarily any better options in Norway alcohol-wise. Kringla Bakeri serves superior treats and I would put the $2.75 you’d spend on two bites of Rice Pudding towards something there. Of course, you can always visit Kringla, but the Food and Wine Festival isn’t always available.
Carlsberg is a 5% German Pilsener hailing from Denmark. It’s okay, but nothing special. Unlike the beers in Mexico and China, it’s a little rarer and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it at a local grocery store, but it should be available at specialty stores. I’d pick it over the Tsingtao or Dos Equis, but with Germany and the Brewer’s Collection coming up, you may want to wait a moment because some truly rare, fantastic beers are just across the bridge.
For the Aquavit, you can actually buy a whole bottle of it inside the Norwegian store for $40. So if your group is thinking of “doing shots,” you may want to pick up a bottle to pick up on your way out and do them back at your resort for a night cap. Aquavit is “Produced from potatoes and flavored with caraway and herbs. Then the tastes are mellowed by rolling oak casks that travel through various conditions during a 4 and a half month voyage at sea.” A bottle runs $30 at Total Wine, so the $40 pricetag seems sane.
On the Lagoon side in the China Pavilion, you’ll find the Joy of Tea Stand.
There’s rarely much of a line for the Joy of Tea Stand and their prices never go up, making their drinks a good value.
I finally had the opportunity to try the “Tipsy Ducks in Love.” I am certain they are omitting an “r” and “n” from “Ducks” and this drink is based on the story of my life.
This one is not for the faint of heart. Unlike the girls at Animal Kingdom and other locations that spritz a half ounce of Bacardi under your non-alcoholic frozen lemonade, the Chinese pull out chilled bottles of Jim Beam bourbon and load you up on top. This was a strong drink and you’re talking to someone that mixes a quarter of generic diet cola into a glass filled three quarters of the way with Evan Williams and ice.
Messing around with auto focus points – don’t think it works but your eye is supposed to be drawn to the drink. Anyway, if you like bourbon and coffee, you’re going to like this. But it tastes strongly of bourbon, which makes it ideal for bourbon lovers and not ideal for those who want something like the Frozen Jim Beam Lemonades we’ll happen upon in the United States Pavilion shortly. Otherwise, Joy of Tea’s other alcoholic beverages are recommended, though they are available year around. I’d jump on the Tipsy Ducks because it’s supposed to be a “summer special” and summer is coming to a close.
I’m not sure if anyone cares about the fluff, but there you go. We’ll continue with South Africa, the Brewer’s Collection, CHEESE, Germany, and wherever else we make it to in Part 2.