We pick things up at this year’s Food and Wine Festival with the Farm Fresh booth on the Mexico side and then continuing around World Showcase Marketplace by Marketplace. This year, in addition to wordy reviews that don’t really say anything about the item in question, I’ve included “Taste” and “Value” ratings on a scale of 1-10. Like the crowd calendar, the ratings really do start at a “1” and go up to a “10” with more 4s, 5s, and 6s than 1s or 10s, not unlike a bell curve. I’m harder on this sort of thing than a lot of the other blogs, where everything is AMAZING followed by an arbitrary number of exclamation points. While I might agree that reading nothing but positive comments is more pleasant than reading, “this melted before I could get it to my face,” I think it’s more important to discuss value in real terms. It’s your money, after all.
The ratings are not set in stone and a 3/10 doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid an item like the plague. Your tastes and what you’ll ultimately be served will vary from mine and you’re welcome to say so in the comments. Nothing brings me more joy than contradictory statements that I can stew over from in front of my computer screen and I’m sure making anonymous comments on the Internet provides quite the rush of excitement for my target audience of single adult men that still live with their parents.
And with that, we head in.
Farm Fresh takes over terra’s location as the first booth on the Mexico side of World Showcase.
The Griddled Yard Bird is the only returning item from 2014.
The $4.25 Loaded Mac n’ Cheese with Nueske’s pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions seems like a no-brainer, but the execution is poor. The macaroni was well overcooked and this is probably as much green onion as you’d want to top the entire pot of pasta. The overwhelming flavor was green onion and chewy pasta. For north of four bucks, I think you’d be looking for a little more than this.
The $4.50 Griddled “yard bird” with braised greens and house-made habanero sauce is a larger piece of chicken than it probably looks like with crispy skin and a healthy dose of salt. Fortunately, the habanero sauce has a nice pepper flavor and a lot of spice. The overall flavor profile is not unlike spicy buffalo wings. There’s a few bites of crunchy, salty (in a good way) braised greens underneath. While it’s a straightforward dish, it’s executed well and a large portion. Recommended, particularly if some of the other items at the upcoming booths seem a little too exotic.
The $10.25 Hard Cider Flight is a good way to try four sweet, refreshing ciders.
The Ace Pumpkin is my favorite of the bunch, particularly here looking towards Halloween and the fall. The pumpkin flavor is distant, instead tasting of cinnamon and spice with a mild pumpkin-y sweetness. The Two Henrys Elderberry is a little different as well and recommended. The Woodchuck and Wyder’s are your typical grocery-store-quality ciders, though both are worth trying as part of the flight.
The $3.50 Florida Orange Groves Key Limen wine has been available at a variety of Festivals here at Epcot for a number of years now. It’s a crisp, fruity wine that tastes like sweetened lime juice with some lingering alcohol on the back end. It doesn’t really pair well with anything here, but it might be worth a try for a light, fruity taste of Florida.
Tom Gore chardonnay is a fruitier white wine than most others at the Festival with apple and pear being the two prominent flavors with just a little bit of creaminess showing through after the first couple of sips. It’s a pretty average wine at a pretty average price overall.
Like the chardonnay, this is a decent cabernet with some berry notes on the front and a little bit of coffee on the back with a clean finish. I don’t think either wine particularly differentiates itself from any other bottle on the shelf, but they’re both perfectly average, which is just fine.
Patagonia, which was called “Argentina” for many years before the name change in 2014, returns to the Promenade boasting a similar menu as last year:
All three popular food items return, in addition to the Terrazas Reserva Malbec, which is one of the best red wines at the Festival.
The $4.75 Empanada may be the least exciting looking item at any Marketplace.
And it’s about what you would expect with a flaky fried crust leading to spicy beef, onions, and pepper inside. As I’ve mentioned in past years, I’d love a dollop or two of sour cream to liven things up even more. This is otherwise a relatively “safe” dish for the unadventurous, though kids may stick their noses up at the presence of onions. There are certainly more interesting flavor profiles out there.
The $5.50 Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato purée is a Festival favorite and one of their biggest sellers, but I haven’t had as much luck. On my samples, I’ve only received a couple bites of overcooked, shriveled beef. It’s a pretty safe item though.
The $5 Roasted Verlasso salmon with quinoa salad and arugula chimichurri.
The salmon is expertly roasted, but the arugula didn’t add much to the dish other than color. The quinoa underneath is refreshing and soaks up the flavor from the salmon nicely. There are more interesting dishes out there, but this is a reasonable value and the dishes are generally executed very well.
$5 buys you a glass of Undurraga Sparkling Wine Brut, which is a dry, middle of the road sparkling wine. For whatever reason, Disney prices sparkling wines at an absurd markup as a bottle of this would cost less than a bottle of Tom Gore, despite being almost 50% more expensive. Anyway, if you’re looking for a sparkling wine, these are far less expensive than the Moet and Dom P options at Desserts and Champagne on the Canada side, but it’s still an expensive proposition for what basically amounts to a glass of Andre.
$3.50 is probably too much to spend on the Calle Ocho Chardonnay, which would run you about $10 for a bottle if you could find it.
The Terrazas Malbec is one of the better wines available at the Festival and the extra 75 cents over some of the less expensive options is well worth it.
Perrenital favorite Australia returns in the same location a few steps in front of the Mexico Pavilion.
On the food front, just the Grilled Lamb Chop returns from last year, surprisingly. The shrimp see a new recipe and the Lamington returns after a hiatus of a couple of years. All of the wine and beer offerings are new.
$4.75 buys you the Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas, which consists of three large grilled shrimp with a pile of “stuff” on top. While the presence of pineapple as the top billed topping might insinuate a fruitiness to the dish, I didn’t detect any. Instead, the predominant flavor was a kind of generic spiciness from the pepper and onion. The shrimp were expertly grilled and for the money, the value isn’t there. The dish and flavor profile just aren’t particularly unique though, which either means they’re a smart, safe bet or a boring one depending on your preferences.
The $6.75 Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies tends to be a bit fatty and the “potato crunchies” are fancy potato chip flakes. While there is not much flavor from the mint, the crunchies soak up the flavor from the lamb and they do an excellent job of grilling each chop. It’s a better value as a snack credit than out of pocket. This is one of the more expensive dishes available at the Festival and one of the least consistent as you don’t know how fatty your chop is going to be until they serve it to you.
The $3 Lamington – Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut returns from I think was the 2012 menu, if memory serves. There’s been a lot of wine between then and now and my memory isn’t as good as it was in my youth. Hopefully that instills confidence in the rest of this website’s meager content. They’re on the right track with the Lamington, but the cake is extremely dry and the coconut and chocolate aren’t enough to make up for it.
The shrimp with the riesling and beer.
Store price: ? cents/ounce.
Festival price: 63 cents/ounce.
Value: Average depending on whether it’s hard to find in your area
Coopers Brewery Limited is Australia’s largest and only wholly-owned brewery, dating all the way back to 1862 when some guy brewed beer in his house. They are also the world’s largest producer of home brewing equipment. Foster’s is probably better known, but it’s actually owned by the British firm SABMiller, which will in turn become AB InBev assuming the bribe to the government over that acquisition is satisfactory. Anyway, this 7.5% English strong ale is one of the best beers available at the Festival with a high ABV and a fruity, smooth, taste with a little bit of earthy bitterness at the finish with virtually no presence of alcohol. It should be rare on draft and is highly recommended.
The $3.50 Chateau Tanuda Grand Barossa Dry Riesling. According to Wine Enthusiast, “This medium-weight, slightly austere Riesling boasts aromas of struck flint and lime, with flavors of citrus and underripe stone fruit. Drink it now with raw oysters.” You took the words right out of my mouth. It pairs nicely with the shrimp and comes recommended, even if you have to bring in your own oysters in your pockets.
Bulletin Place Unoaked Chardonnay is a juicy white wine, almost like a sauvignon blanc without the grassy-ness. I’d pick up the riesling first, but this should be relatively rare in stores.
The booth returns in the same location across from Australia.
The first two food items and both Kim Crawford wines return.
“Green Lip” seems like an unfortunate name for a food item, but the turquoise edge is indeed pretty. Otherwise, $3.75 buys you three Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Bread Crumbs. These were grit free and tasted like garlic butter with a crunch from the bread crumbs. They were really quite good and come recommended in front of the other items at this booth. Also easily shareable.
The Lamb meatball with spicy tomato chutney – $5.50 is exactly the same as last year’s. Despite advertising a spicy tomato chutney, I thought it was a bit on the bland side. But the various spices do give the meatball a bit of character.
A fairly substantial meatball hides underneath, wrapped up inside an airy bread bowl. The meatball itself was spicier than the chutney on top. I enjoyed this one too and it’s a reasonable portion for the money. I’m not sure it’s special enough to go out of your way for though.
Kim Crawford Pinot Gris is on the expensive side, but it’s also one of the better wines, with a ripe pear flavor on the front with a clean finish. The “wine is wine” crowd, present company included, may want to skip due to the higher price point, but it is very good though I think it would go better with something spicier.
Brancott Estate Flight Song Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a mouthful to say, but comes in low at just 9% ABV, which is 4-5% lower than most other wines. That leads to a light-bodied wine with lemony citrus notes. I’d skip it in favor of something that packs a little bit more of a punch, but some may prefer the lack of alcohol.
The $3.50 Unoaked Chardonnay is a bit different than most, with no woody flavor from the typical oak barrels used in the fermentation process. That leads to more of a pineapple, fruity flavor than your typical chardonnay. Lisa and I didn’t care much for it, but it is a little different and potentially worth trying.
Finally, the Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir is a good value. While it’s 75 cents more expensive than the whites, the bottle price is almost double at around $22. It’s got a bit of spiciness to it before opening up to a fruity, earthy finish. Very good with the beef.
We’ll continue with Mexico, China, South Korea, and Africa.