As is tradition, the website set out to try one of everything at this year’s Food and Wine Festival and chronicle the experience via trash can, though I was dismayed a bit to find that Disney had stolen the tagline that I was going to use next year. “Taste easywdw.”
If you’re looking for the best of the Festival, look no further than the DVC Lounge, the entrance of which is located just inside the gift shop at the exit to Journey into Imagination with Figment in the Imagination. “Free” soda, snacks, and most importantly, seating and air-conditioning. I was somewhat bemused on Festival opening day when we were quoted a 40-minute wait to go up while Soarin’s wait was ten minutes fewer. They will text you once space opens up. The Chase Lounge in the United States Pavilion, the entrance of which you’ll find to the right of the entrance to The American Adventure, is a close runner up. Remember that you can get up there with any Chase card – it does not need to be Disney branded.
In third place comes this year’s Chef Mickey plush.
With the year on the back.
But if it’s the best food and drink you’re looking for, the good news is perhaps that you don’t even need to venture up into World Showcase. Several of the best tasting items are located in the Next Eats section behind Character Spot/Club Cool. On the weekends and Saturday afternoon/evening in particular, World Showcase can be a crowded, ruckus affair. But you can pretty easily get your fill in Future World, which is typically less crowded and better staffed.
The five kiosks to the right will be familiar to anyone that visited the Festival last year, though they all arrive with new names this year. I suppose “Wine and Dine Studio” is catchier than “Cheese” though I appreciate someone willing to get to the point of the matter.
The $11 Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese – Trio of Artisan Cheese paired with Conundrum White Blend 25th Anniversary, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Maestro Red Blend returns with a slightly different lineup of options. It is approximately the cutest thing ever and since Disney can’t really overcook cheese, is one of the most consistent offerings.
It’s listed on the menu as a snack credit though my assumption is that’s incorrect since none of the other items that include alcohol are available for a snack credit.
All of the food items are snack credits though, up to the most expensive item here at Hops & Barley.
One other thing I will mention on the value front is Disney is offering these Tasting Samplers at a price of $59 for eight or $109 for sixteen, either of which comes with a pretty hefty pin. That gift card is available with the lanyard too. You don’t have to use the gift card on Food/Wine – it’s just a regular gift card – so it might be a worthwhile investment.
There is some value to the Sampler as it’s good on the vast majority of cocktails as well, several of which come in north of $9. They do add tax to the sampler so it’s a little more expensive, unlike the Food/Wine items that include tax. Anyway, the 16-tasting card comes out to $7.26 per item. It’s obviously then dumb to use it on anything that costs less than that.
My favorite item of the entire Festival also photographs among the worst – the $4.50 Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel from the Chocolate Studio. It’s served cold which makes it particularly refreshing in what is still the summer heat of the afternoon. Impossibly creamy, rich, and satisfying. There are not a ton of Food/Wine Festival items that I would order every visit, but this is it.
No matter where it ends up, I feel like Disney does scallops better than you would expect and this year’s version is at the Wine & Dine booth served seared with Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms featuring Melissa’s Produce. I am not sure who Melissa is or how large her garden must be, but we thought the scallop soaked up the flavors from the fresh produce nicely.
Speaking of items that don’t photograph well no matter how many trashcans you carry them around to, we all liked the Hard Alcohol Floats from Desserts and Champagne.
I was rolling with what I think can only be described as the Holy Trinity of Disney Blogging – myself, Bricker, and Corless. If there is someone out there that hasn’t been personally offended by something one of the three of us has done or said, then I would like to meet them. Anyway, if you were to ask me what a root beer float is, I would tell you that it’s a beverage. It’s not really a dessert. The three of us probably argued about it for several days. Anyway, the float is the only dessert at Desserts and Champagne.
Oh, Greenhouse Guru is also over here and with the exception of that tomato thing up top and the $4.75 bag of tomatoes, everything at Guru was really good. I guess that means half of Guru was very good.
We all enjoyed the $4.50 Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with Lump Crab Meat – it’s a little different and again in the heat, cold is good. Very creamy with a decent amount of crab.
We were surprised how much we enjoyed the $4.50 Loaded Greek “Nachos” – Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles and Vegan Tzatziki up on the top left. It is a mountain of a portion and while anyone expecting “tzatziki” will be disappointed as there is really nothing of the sort included, the “sausage” had a nice spiciness to it that contrasted nicely with the onion and “cheese.” But it’s a ton of food for the money, relatively speaking. That Gyro is on my list of worst items though.
The website may or may not have thrown up its proverbial arms when the Canada menu came out and it finally included what I have been begging them to add for years.
But it did not occur to me that the cup of soup could get even smaller…which it has…but people love this stuff and the pretzel bread dunker is so good. Even with the smaller cup I think the pretzel bread elevates this to being in the vicinity of worth-it-ness. You are going to order one no matter what though.
The Scotland booth has moved closer to Ireland on the UK side and brings with it one new item in the $4.75 Traditional Scottish Lamb Stew with Neeps and Tatties.
This is another surprisingly hearty dish and one that will fill you up a bit more than you might be expecting, which is something that doesn’t happen very often at the Festival. It’s way too hot to eat this at the moment, but there is a lot of lamb involved and the stew will be satisfying as temperatures drop. Please let them drop.
I really hate these Monsters University hats, which is why people are constantly tweeting me pictures of them and everyone I know has bought one.
Just between the two of us, I will occasionally reuse a picture from a past Festival if it’s “the same,” but I think we picked up a fresh version of just about everything outside of maybe the pierogi which I refuse to support and the potstickers in China. I mention this because the $3.50 Tipsy Laird: Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats was terrible this year while I have enjoyed past versions. Almost no flavor and the cake was really gritty. Hopefully you will have better luck. The potato pancake is still good though.
With few exceptions, the various cocktails are the non-alcoholic version with a short pour of liquor served underneath. This is the $9.50 Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea Frozen Cocktail with Caramel Vodka. They are using Pinnacle Vodka, which is vile stuff, but the pumpkin does a nice job of masking some of the alcohol-forward vodka. This is the only time the cast member warned us to stir it and he was absolutely right. Nice fall flavors if you can put up with Pumpkin Overload.
While it is not very “authentic,” I think the best Festival-exclusive cocktails come from the various Joffrey’s stands.
This sucker with a double shot of Grey Goose was $10.50 and it was really refreshing.
France is home to one new food item, which is the one that you can barely see in the back – Soupe à l’oignon au Gruyère et Cognac: Gruyère and Cognac Onion Soup – $4.25. I thought it was pretty skippable, particularly in the heat. “Just fine.” The $5.75 Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley is a perennial favorite though.
I have never had much luck with the ice pops, this one being the Frozen Daiquiri Version: Strawberry Puree with French Caribbean Rhum Clément – $8.50.
This one is from Flower and Garden.
An atomic version from Food/Wine. Anyway, liquor doesn’t really freeze and these are served barely frozen in a container that doesn’t do anything to keep the very sticky goop off your hands. The shelf life on these things is like 60 seconds and because it’s a pop that’s theoretically meant to be licked, the flavor is off-puttingly intense when quickly consumed. But I may be in the minority as these things have returned Festival after Festival.
In something that almost never happens, Morocco got not only an entirely new booth, but two new food items as well.
The $5 Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce move over here from Spice Road Table. Because I guess Spice Road is so popular that they are concerned with being able to get these in enough people’s hands.
I think this is more falafel-y than french fry-y – there is a touch of spice involved that is cooled down nicely by the cucumber and tzatziki. It’s one of the better vegetarian items that most people should strongly consider.
The $3.95 Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce is a very sweet dessert that’s decently sized. Like you, I would not make baklava, so it’s a good opportunity to try it and it’s the sort of thing that is typically on the expensive side because of the amount of work that goes into it. This “felt” fresh and less defrosted than past years. There’s a nice crunch involved too. Very good.
Japan was 75% bust this year. We all liked the Grilled Spicy Edamame tossed with Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce and Chili Powder – $4.75. It’s a nice shareable portion and the chili rub has a really nice spice to it. It can get a little messy though.
The $6.95 Garlic Shrimp: Marinated Shrimp sautéed with Garlic and Butter and served over Rice might have been the worst item we tried and at seven bucks, it’s an expensive proposition. The quality of shrimp was low and they were gummy with virtually no flavor with some boring, overcooked rice underneath. Zero out of ten on a scale that starts at one.
Are you ever served a cocktail and there is no identifiable reason why it’s the color that it is? It’s blue. And somehow tastes like pineapple juice. It is a seemingly poor value though and I would suggest trying one of the sakes inside the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
If you are ordinarily sushi-adverse then this $4.75 Spicy Sushi Roll: Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce is potentially a nice opportunity to try some. I think the quality on this is higher than typical Katsura quick service, but if you are a sushi snob you probably want to keep walking. It’s pretty good though and not terribly priced.
I was looking forward to the $5.25 Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese Served on Griddled Garlic Toast more than most new items and it didn’t disappoint. The beef is perhaps a bit stringy, but it has a nice smoky flavor. I’m not sure this necessarily reinvents the wheel, but it’s an interesting take on barbecue. I’d get another.
I will have to apologize for the photo of one of Food/Wine’s more controversial items in the $7.75 New England Lobster Roll. Unlike past years, this one is at least not LL Bean branded and simply defrosted and there is quite a bit of chunk lobster along with a creamy buttery sauce. You probably want to spring for it with a Dining Plan snack credit, but it is pretty rough out of pocket for something that’s done a lot better elsewhere.
Speaking of disappointments, we have to rewind a bit to the Belgium booth for the $4.75 Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes. This used to be served on top of a freshly pressed waffle, but perhaps to keep the line moving, they’ve elected to go with the potatoes. I do think this stands on its own relatively well, but it is literally beef stew on top of mashed potatoes.
We will move on to the second half.