We return to this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival to take a good look at what’s available.
Our adventure begins with the first booth towards Canada and continues from there.
The Sea Scallop and Potato Pancake are new. The Glennfiddich Scotch is available by the glass at three different price points rather than last year’s flight.
There are only two sizes of beer at the Festival this year. Individual beers are six ounces. As part of a flight of four (as we’ll see at Brewer’s Collection, Belgium, etc.), each is four ounces. There are no 22-ounce Festival souvenir cups available anywhere.
Vegetarian haggis with neeps & tatties (griddled vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes) – $3.75.
According to Wikipeida, “Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.”
As many have pointed out, I’m not exactly sure how you make a vegetarian version of that. What we end up with is a dense vegetable patty packed full of vegetables, grains, and spices. There’s a lot to chew and the flavor is kind of a bland mishmash of vegetables. Several bites of mashed potatoes and whipped rutabaga accompany the patty. Both were creamy with a lot of flavor. For vegetarians, it’s a great dish. Meat eaters can probably do better.
The $4.25 Fresh potato pancake with smoked Scottish salmon and herb sour cream pairs a fluffy, lightly pan-fried potato pancake with a thin layer of quality cold smoked salmon and a dollop of sour cream with chives. This is one of the simpler dishes we’ll run into and a nice “safe” bet, so long as you like smoked salmon. Recommended.
Seared Sea Scallops are a Festival mainstay, this time served on top of spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon for $4.50. This is my favorite presentation thus far, with several bites of creamy, cheesy greens and a pile of bacon aiding the subtle flavors of the scallop. It’s a solid seven or eight bites and recommended.
The $2.75 Cranachan (cran-uh-kin) with raspberries, toasted oats and whipped cream disappointed. There were no raspberries on the bottom, which is common with a traditional presentation and the overall dish was bland, with little flavor from the unseasoned oats. It’s also unlikely any whiskey is involved as it traditionally is. With desserts like the France creme brulee and the Hops and Barley carrot cake on the horizon, I think this is best skipped.
Innis & Gunn Original is probably the second most unique beer at the Festival, behind only the Smoked Roog from the Brewmaster’s Collection. This 6.6% Scottish Ale has stronger vanilla and toffee notes than the bottle indicates with a serious oak-y finish. While I want to like it, it’s too sweet for me to drink more than a 12-ounce cup (so you’re golden since you can only get 6 ounces this year).
Store price: 25 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce.
Value: Very good.
The Loch Lomond featuring Glenfiddich 12 year – $11 is on the far right. A Loch Lomond is scotch, Drambuie, and dry vermouth. The drink is mostly/all alcohol with the sweet, honey flavored liqueur helping ease the oak flavor of the scotch. It’s a winner if you like scotch and despite being more expensive than most mixed drinks, is a good value considering the alcohol content.
A 750ml bottle of 12-year Glenfiddich is $30, compared to $100 for the 18-year. And if you’re going to go, you might as well go big, so I recommend the 18 year. You may want a 12-year (and okay, get the 15-year too) to compare and contrast the flavors.
Hawaii is just a few steps away.
Your Slider is 25 cents more expensive and your Poke is 50 cents more expensive. Pineapple Sweet Wine replaces last years Gewurztraminer, the IPA takes the place of the Pipeline Porter, and it’s an “Aulani Sunset” with Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum instead of a “Aulani Sunrise”with Ocean Vodka. It’s also 50 cents less expensive!
Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise – $3.75 is one of the most popular items at the Festival, thanks to its relative simplicity. I like this one a lot. The spicy mayo helps cut the sweetness from the pork and pineapple chutney, making the flavor profile more complex than you might expect. The rolls are fresh and there’s a decent spoonful of pork on each slider. Recommended, though the preparation isn’t particularly unique.
This year’s $4.50 Tuna poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips may be the healthiest option at this year’s Festival. Your money buys you just three bites of tuna on top of seaweed with toasted sesame seeds spooned on top. The tuna seemed to be high quality fish with an attractive pink color and the seaweed retained a nice crunch. It’s not a filling dish for the money, but it is nice, light, and unlike most items, nicely chilled. Sort of recommended, but it’s not going to fill you up and it’s probably $1 overpriced, even for the Festival.
Store price: 12 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 54 cents/ounce.
Value: Below average.
Big Wave Golden Ale is a 4.4% American Blonde Ale. It’s a smooth, easy drinking, light option and a nice choice if someone in the group wants to get something a little more interesting than a Bud Light, but isn’t quite ready for the next step. The value isn’t great, but at least you’re not spending $5 on a 6-ounce Moretti!
The Castaway is a 6% IPA and less bitter and hoppy than your typical India Pale Ale, but retains a tropical, citrus piny-ness (not a word) with a grassy aftertaste. It’s very good here with temperatures remaining high into October.
Store price: 11 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 54 cents/ounce.
That’s the $3.50 Maui Splash Sweet Pineapple Wine on the left with the Poke on the bottom, the Sunrise to the right, and the Tzatziki Martini on top. Despite the description, the Pineapple Wine was not particularly sweet and suffered from an alcohol-y, acidic flavor. With what is probably a low ABV, this one is best skipped.
This year’s $6.75 Aulani Sunset with Rum is another pineapple/passion fruit juice mess with virtually no alcohol to speak of. I suppose you could say it’s refreshing, but don’t expect it to pack a punch, because it doesn’t. Not recommended.
Puerto Rico is located on the walkway up to World Showcase from the Imagination Pavilion or shortly after the Desserts and Champagne booth as you walk towards Canada on the right. As a major sponsor, Puerto Rico is a compound with several tables and live music (probably only on the weekends).
This is an all-new menu.
The $4.25 Ensalada de carrucho — Caribbean conch salad with onion, tomato and cilantro offers perhaps the most unique presentation in this paper cone. This is a light and refreshing cold salad with a salty kick from the conch. It’s the most interesting dish here.
The $4.50 Carne guisada con arroz blanco — Slow-braised beef with Puerto Rican-grown rice. Our beef was mushy and overcooked like a stew that had been left on for a few hours too long, but the sauce had a nice subtly spicy kick to it that was soaked up nicely by the rice. You may have more luck on the beef front than we did.
The $3.50 Tostones – Fried Green Plantains with Mayo-Ketchup were the single worst Festival item I’ve ever been served. I would ordinarily chalk it up to first day jitters, except Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann handed them to me himself. The Tostones were already a last minute change from Sweet Corn Sorullitos, which were served at several fake media previews leading up to the event. What we received resembled wet cardboard with less flavor. I’d rather chew tires. You may have better luck.
The $3.50 FlanCocho — Vanilla caramel custard with chocolate coffee cake is a highlight of the Festival with a caramel-y custard and a soft coffee cake bottom that helped cut the sugar from the flan. Easily worth the 75 cent upcharge over Scotland’s Cranachan.
Store price: 11 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce.
Rarity: Fairly common.
It tastes like a can of corn shaken with a bottle of Orlando water. Easily one of the worst beers at the Festival. And it’s not on draft, so you get half of someone else’s bottle.
For five bucks, the Frozen San Juan Breeze with Don Q Limón is one of the better values. Like many Epcot frozen drinks, it’s the non-alcoholic version with rum poured on top. Even with the cast member pouring more rum over the ice than in the drink, I still came away with a better drink than most others here. And the Breeze itself has a nice flavor that isn’t too sweet. Recommended.
Gasolina is a popular brand of pre–mixed, pouch cocktails in Puerto Rico, this time in the “Sangriiiia” flavor at 7.5% ABV. Your money is better spent on wine.
And if you order the rum over the Glenfiddich 18-year I’ll punch you in the face.
Desserts and Champagne
Desserts and Champagne takes over for Promenade Refreshments during the Festival.
Yes that is $32 for a glass of Dom P.
There was a time (last year) when the desserts were available individually for $1.75 or as a trio for $4. This year, it’s just the trio.
The spongy Chocolate Cheesecake suffered from four slippery layers that didn’t want to play together. The Passion Fruit Coconut Creamsicle was the best of the bunch, but still tasted like fruit jelly. The Blueberry Lime Cheesecake was creamy and refreshing, but lacked texture. Overall, I’d wait for Ireland or France on the dessert front or skip back over to Puerto Rico for the flan.
The website spares no expense when it comes to Food and Wine, this time with a $153 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, but it does however wonder what the endgame is. Nobody really buys a $150 bottle of champagne to enjoy the flavor. And the website has to imagine the number of people dropping $32 a glass is fairly slim. In fact, when I asked around 3pm on the first day of the Festival, a cast member confided in me that no glasses had been sold. On the other hand, offering an expensive glass often causes people to spend more than they would otherwise.
Store price: $6.12/ounce.
Festival price: $8/ounce.
ABV: 12.5% .765
The value is actually excellent compared to the other options.
Store price: $1.73/ounce.
Festival price: $3/ounce.
Brut Rose is a crisp and elegant champagne with hints of orange and rose on the aftertaste.
Store price: $2.17/ounce.
Festival price: $3.13/ounce.
Nectar Imperial is great paired with fresh fruit. On its own, you’ll taste the honey sugar on the backside. It’s my favorite of what’s offered here.
Good luck pronouncing this one. I’m not real sure why I bother since nobody seems to be able to pick up on the fact that ‘Ohana is not “O’hana’s,” but Moet is a Dutch name and pronounced “Mo-wett,” not “Mo-aye.”
Store price: $2.96/ounce.
Festival price: $5.69/ounce.
If you’re going to go big, go for the Dom P. If you want to settle, go for the Nectar Imperial.
This year’s S’mores is nearly identical to last year’s. I didn’t care for the texture of the whipped milk, which is kind of foamy and yucky (in my opinion). There’s only a subtle chocolate flavor amid the whipped mess. You might have a better experience.
Refreshment Port gets into the action a bit:
It’s probably not worth a special stop.
Though the Croissant Doughnut is one of the most delicious items anywhere, sweet and fluffy.
Moving on to Greece.
Perennially popular, we see a few new items:
The Moussaka is new, the cheese is up 25 cents, and the gyro is up 50 cents. The Tzatziki Martini is an all-new cocktail.
The $4.25 Moussaka on the right with the cheese to the left and the martini on top.
This probably looks gross, but tasted great and is my favorite vegetarian option from the Festival. It has a layer of eggplant and potato on the bottom, then a layer of tomato and other vegetables, before being topped with a thick layer of cheese. Very hearty for the money and highly recommended.
This year’s $3.75 Griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey remains one of the best dishes at the Festival and one that should appeal to the masses. It’s a hearty slab of cheese sweetened with honey and nuts. You really can’t go wrong.
With that said, ours wasn’t done up quite as much as previous years.
The $4.25 Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce is a skip in my opinion – a chintzy portion and a fairly simple preparation. It does feature relatively plain flavors should you be traveling with someone with limited tastes. You can probably get the sauce on the side.
$4 buys you two spanakopita(s), which are flaky pastries filled with spinach, feta cheese, and other spices and stuff. They are quite good, though it’s not a lot of food for your money. The flaky crust easily breaks open to reveal the savory spinach and cheese inside.
The white wine is the Domaine Skouras Moscofilero – $3.50. This is a fruity white wine with a nice floral aroma. I think it’s a bit rarer than some of the other wines and authentically Greek, making it recommended.
A kind of blurry Alpha Estate Axia Syrah-Xinomavro – $4.25. This authentically Greek wine has a lot going on – spice and plum seemed to be the predominant flavors. I don’t think it pairs well with anything offered here, but it would go well with the Canada Filet.
The $7.75 Tzatziki martini featuring Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka and BOLS Natural Yoghurt Liqueur tastes more neutral than you might expect, almost like water mixed with cucumber. It didn’t seem to pack much of a punch and there wasn’t all that much to it. Best skipped I think.
Canada Proper is located on the walk into the excitement that is the bitter north.
There’s actually nothing new on the menu, save for Dasani Sparkling Lemon taking over for Seagram’s.
At $7.25, the “Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce may be the most expensive item at the Festival. Mine was fatty and lacked much sauce with an overall gristle quality. You may have better luck.
The Seared rainbow trout with bacon, frisee and maple Minus 8 Vinaigrette – $4.75. The fish was well cooked and the sweet, syrupy maple vinaigrette complemented the subtle fishy flavor of the trout. The bacon added another layer of flavor. We really enjoyed this one and I think it’s the best value at the Booth.
This picture of the Canadian cheddar cheese soup – $4.25 was taken by Michael last year. I flat out refuse to purchase a cup because of the absurd price, but I seem to be the only one as these cups print money for Disney. The soup is otherwise creamy and cheesy and salty and wonderful. I’d pay the money if it came with a pretzel roll/stick of some kind instead of just three bites in a cup.
Monica sent in this picture of an alternate Filet, piled high with mushrooms with the $5.25 Mission Hill Family Estate Syrah in the background. She was not impressed with the wine, which runs about $25/bottle if you can find it.
Moosehead Lager is a decent 5% ABV American Pale Lager brewed by Moosehead Breweries in New Brunswick, Canada. This is basically your Budweiser option, though it has more flavor than your typical American macro. It’s refreshing, easy to drink, and relatively light. The Unibroues are much better, with higher alcohol content and a lower price by the ounce.
Store price: 11 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 58 cents/ounce.
Rarity: Fairly common.
Ashley sent in this precarious picture of the Ice Wine from last year. $5.75 buys you about an ounce of what would cost you about $40 for a 375ml bottle (half a regular wine bottle). Unfortunately, there is no indication that the pour will be so small, leading to a lot of unpleasant (humorous) cast member interactions, particularly from those guests that began their expedition on the walk toward Mexico. Anyway, Neige is intense with a sweet apple cider flavor. It pairs very well with the Cheddar Soup. At 12% ABV, it’s not much more boozy than the Canada Cart Unibroues, but it does have a pleasantly sweet apple flavor.
The pour on the 7.5% Neige Bubble is better and the flavor is similar, though less acutely apple. A bottle runs $21.99 at the Festival Center, so you may want to pick one up and do the Food and Wine thing back in your hotel room.
Yes, we would be remiss not to mention the Canada Cart, home to excellent Unibroue on draft and excellent St. Ambroise bottled beer.
Yes oh yes.
The Trois Pistoles (twaw piss-toe-lee), a 9% ABV Belgian Strong Dark Ale, is outstanding. I get excited about it because it’s not only great, but a 750ml (25.36 ounce) bottle of Trois Pistoles in stores would run you $9 – $11. These Unibroues are an absolute steal compared to what you’d pay for something like Guinness or Sierra Nevada. Maybe the best deal I’ve ever seen on a beverage at Walt Disney World. All of that said, the Trois Pistoles isn’t going to be for everyone – sweet raisins dominate with a spicy complexity not found in most brews. Being a Belgian beer, there is a lot of flavor from the yeast with an earthy finish. It’s going to be a little out there for the Bud Light crowd, but try to convince your brain to like it.
You could make an argument that La Fun du Monde is one of the best beers in the world. This complex 9% Tripel is perfectly balanced, rich, and crisp with tart apple and pear flavors mixing in with the traditional bananas, cloves, and yeast. There’s a little bit of pepper on the back end. Truly magnificent, this is on any serious beer drinker’s shortlist. It’s also a bit more accessible than the Pistoles for those looking to expand their horizons a bit.
Cherry Ephemere is a 5.5% fruit beer similar in style to Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, but without that yucky medicinal quality. Cherry Ephemere is officially unavailable in the United States and Epcot is one of the only places you’ll find it. As you would expect, the predominant flavor is cherry with some bready yeast. Cherry beers are not my favorite style, but this is much more drinkable than the Sam Adams and remains an excellent value. Highly recommended, though not as outstanding as the other two entries.
The St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is excellent and relatively difficult to find in the states. Canada does only offer it in a bottle, but per-bottle pricing outside Canada is going to be $3-$5, making it a better value than most of the other options, including anything at the UK, Italy, France, etc. As is typical from the variety, St-Ambroise is chocolatey with oatmeal and robust malts.
The Apricot Wheat is decidedly more summery and a better fit for the typical Florida afternoon. It has a natural, subdued sweet apricot flavor without the medicinal aftertaste that plagues most fruit beers.
The $8.75 Torontopolitan is the best frozen drink we’ll see until France. It’s slightly sweet and slightly tart with more vodka than most.
Ireland, France, and Brazil up next!