We continue from Appleseed Orchard.
We’re still in World ShowPlace [emphasis mine], where you’ll find four Marketplaces right next to each other in pleasant air-conditioning and with an abundance of tables. The Wine & Dine Festival Favorites review discusses the location in more detail.
Back on June 18th, Disney announced that Epcot would reopen with “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival,” ostensibly to balance out the official news that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was off the table for the fall, among other things. June was apparently just two months ago, though it feels like it’s been about five years. I’ve aged ten.
My reaction to the news was probably exactly the opposite of yours. Reporting on the many happenings of Walt Disney World from the ground is more of a hassle than you might expect; the Food and Wine Festival is easily the least pleasant event of the year to cover based on its sheer magnitude. There are usually something like 35 Marketplaces, a hundred new food and drink items, and it’s outdoors in Florida, with an opening date that used to be in September, before Disney moved it to August, and now July. If you’ve never been to Florida, it is hot here during all of those months. A hundred Food & Wine items will run you about $700 and take some amount of time off your life.
You probably have the luxury of picking and choosing what sounds good from each menu. You might even base some of what you order on these reviews, skipping over items that I describe as “slime” or “not my favorite.” I benefit from none of these things. Then there’s finding yet another way to call something “moist” once it’s time to actually write the reviews sometime after the Festival ends.
Upon reading that Disney was not only moving Food and Wine to reopening day in July, but also adding a booth dedicated to four different kinds of macaroni and cheese, elicited a string of cuss words that lasted longer than I’d probably like to admit, followed by some amount of pacing around my house and then a cold shower. I’m not kidding. It’s probably lucky that I’m out of things to throw across the room. There’s just something about Lobster Macaroni and Cheese with Herbed Panko that doesn’t sound particularly appealing outdoors in Florida in July. It might just be me. As it turns out, we’re indoors. This is a very good thing.
Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese – $4.50
With Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce topped with Herbed Panko
Boursin, which I was originally planning on boycotting permanently after seeing that they had the audacity to bring four new macaroni and cheeses to an outdoor food Festival in Florida in July, hosts this Marketplace in lieu of its usual “CHEESE” kiosk. Your brand may lack awareness if it has to sponsor a booth at Disney World with the generic name of the product that it sells. We may yet see “MEAT” sponsored by Ruth’s Chris or “DISNEY FOOD REVIEWS FROM LAST MONTH” hosted by easywdw.com. There are still a couple kiosks yet to open. You may see me flailing around inside one of them yelling about beer company mergers and the average wait for Slinky Dog Dash.
Anyway, “Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce” reads as strangely as “Theme Park Tickets Guests” to me, but this heap of hot macaroni is creamy and comforting with a rich, gooey cheese sauce topped with a light, slightly crispy panko breading. What sort of looks like a scoop of cream is the Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese, which is a crumbly, creamy cheese anchored by chives and parsley. The fragrant herbs help elevate what ends up being a sizable portion of pasta that is leaps and bounds better than anything the Italy booth has ever offered. With layers of flavor and a surprising amount of nuance, the “plainest” of the offerings may also be the best. I’m not sure that it necessarily demands a purchase, but it’s certainly one of the most accessible dishes that will satisfy at this price point. Everyone likes (some) Macaroni and Cheese, after all.
Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese – $5.50
With Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce topped with Carrots, Celery, and Blue Cheese Crumbles
People make fun of me and my railing/garbage can food photos, but if you’ve ever seen one of Disney’s Festival tables, you’d know that “stained” might be the nicest way to describe them. We were among the first guests of the day in here and it still looked like children had been playing Funnel Cake Battle on them for a week straight before we arrived. How this is possible when Big Powdered Sugar isn’t sponsoring one of the Marketplaces I’m not entirely sure. Maybe the tables are so sticky that they have to throw down flour or the bloggers are so gross that we’re being constantly disinfected. While this dish looks the part, our Buffalo Chicken was dry and pasty with only a bland spice that seemed to interfere with the herbs and cheese rather than highlight them. Usually, I think you’re looking for the spicy buffalo sauce to blend together with the richness of the cheese sauce. I’m not seeing a lot of the carrots, celery, or blue cheese promised in the description, either. You may do better than we did and there’s certainly more protein here than the cheese topper for a dollar more. The portion remains generous for the money.
Lobster Macaroni and Cheese – $6.50
With Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce and Lobster Cream topped with Herbed Panko — $6.50
This was (almost) everyone’s least favorite. The Buffalo Chicken from the previous dish just sort of got in the way, while the seafood here brought an overwhelmingly fishy flavor that overpowered everything else. On the plus side, there was an impressive amount of chunky lobster involved. I think there was more in just that one bite on top than in the Tiffins’ $22 side that I recently ordered. But the dish was too goopy to be enjoyed with a runny sauce that wreaked havoc on the pasta below. The Herbed Panko may be there in part to help soak up some of the lobster slime, but it didn’t work for us. The Seafood Fisherman’s Pie from Festival Favorites is more of a sure thing for the same money. You may have better luck. You probably won’t. But I’ve been told these reviews are too negative.
(Plant-Based) Macaroni and Cheese – $5.50
With House-made Italian Sausage and Peppers
This one surprised on a number of fronts. First, it’s rare to see anything Italy-related attached to a Festival item that I actually recommend. Second, I thought the flavors and texture of the sausage aligned more with spicy chorizo and something that I’d expect to pick up from the Mexico Pavilion than from a Boursin Mac & Cheese booth with Italy in the description. Fiesta Mac & Cheese may be more apt. This is probably all good news as the tender pasta is topped with a ton of the meatless sausage and spicy pepper blend. It tasted freshly-prepared and there was a lot of it for the money. As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t ordinarily go plant-based, but the dishes are typically among the best executed. This was really good, though I’m not sure it delivered on its promise of Italian Sausage. It also didn’t delve into Hamburger Helper territory, which is a triumph in its own right.
Overall, there isn’t anything particularly novel about Macaroni and Cheese, but we liked the Regular and the Plant-Based quite a bit. With enough people in your group, it’s likely that someone will prefer each of the iterations. I think someone in our group even liked the Lobster version. They have since been jettisoned.
Stiegl Brewery Radler Zitrone – $4.50 or $8.50
The Stiegl Brewery Radler Zitrone moves over here from the Bauernmarkt Kitchen from Flower and Garden. It’s similar to the various Schofferhofer beers that are available in Germany most of the year. At 2.5% ABV, it’s basically half lemonade and half hefeweizen, making for a tart lemon soda flavor. It’s among the lightest and most refreshing beers you’ll try at the Festival, but with half as much alcohol as a Budweiser, it isn’t going to pack much of a punch. That’s it on the right of this Flight, which was available in the spring.
L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines – $6
The Chenin Blanc, which moves over here from Active Eats, is tasty, with bright pear, apple, and citrus notes with a crisp finish. It’s overpriced by a dollar or two, but you could do a lot worse.
Evolution by Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir – $5
Also from Active Eats circa 2k19, this is a fruit-forward, light, easy drinking pinot noir that actually pairs nicely with the macaroni and cheeses. I’m not sure anyone is looking around for a Radler to go along with their Lobster Slime, but if you’ve made it this far in the review, you’ve probably been alone on the couch with a 1.5-liter bottle of Woodbridge and a saucepan full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Or is it just me?
As it turns out, Mac & Cheese was not worth swearing for three straight days over, thanks largely to the fact that it’s indoors. The price points are also reasonable with a nice variety of flavors, including a plant-based option. I haven’t read anything positive about the Lobster or Buffalo Chicken versions of the dishes, but they may have figured things out by now. If not, they’ve still got a couple of months. Come November, you might even want to walk your tasty pasta outside. Assuming Epcot is open after 7pm, perhaps.