We continue from China.
The Alps is a brand new Marketplace at this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival, positioning itself directly across from Norway on the promenade.
Looks like we’re in for $31.25-worth.
If you’ve been doing Food and Wine for a while, then you may remember the little Scandinavia Marketplace that was here as recently as 2012.
It sported this menu:
That was back when desserts were typically around $3 and the $8.75 Iron Horse Cuvee might have been the most expensive drink at the Festival. Now we praise that price point as an above average value.
Scandinavia might have been a little more precious, but it’s always fun to see a new Marketplace sprout up. Previously, it was a long walk from China to Mexico, or vice versa, for another drink or bite to eat.
Warm Raclette Swiss Cheese with Baby Potatoes, Cornichons and Baguette – $5
The Raclette experience is a relatively authentic one. A cast member will shave your Swiss Cheese off of a huge block that’s kept just a little melty in a Raclette Warmer. Unfortunately, the cheese that you’ll be served will likely be sliced sometime before you arrive. At least when we visited, there were five trays sitting underneath the heat lamp waiting to be served, and we were likely handed the oldest. That translates to oily cheese that’s had an opportunity to congeal and harden, instead of being warm and melty as intended. The accompaniments are a weakness, too. The bread is boring, soft, and gritty, and doesn’t do a good job of supporting what little cheese is touching it. A crustier, crispier bread would have been welcome. We came away with two unseasoned Baby Potatoes that tasted like someone had put them in the microwave with a slice of Kraft Swiss Cheese on top and hit 30 seconds on the timer. The little pickles were more interesting with the acidity of the vinegar playing with the creaminess of the cheese. For five bucks, they could probably stand to shave off some more cheese, too. If you do order this, eat it immediately. Right then and there. And see if they will hand you the freshest dish. Seeing the hand-carved cheese and interacting with the cast members does elevate the overall experience more than most. But you can still do that if you order something else.
As far as what we were served:
Venison Stew with Crushed Potatoes – $6
Served piping hot, this is comfort food at its finest. The Crushed Potatoes enjoyed a texture that was a little different than your typical Mashed, lumpier and with more body. I appreciated the firmer texture given the fact that the “Stew” was more like beef gravy. Larger pieces of carrots, and the addition of thicker slices of onion, would have gone a long way. We did benefit from about two and a half chunks of smooth, earthy, tender deer meat that cut easily with the side of a plastic fork, made out of at least 30% recycled material. I enjoyed this more than anyone else in the group, potentially because I like simple beef gravy over mashed potatoes, even if it’s marketed as Crushed Potatoes with Venison.
Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart with Crème Fraîche Cream and Blue Diamond Almonds – $4.50
This was my favorite of the new desserts and I regret not taking a more glamorous picture of it. The Blueberries were fresh and juicy, offering a burst of fruit flavor against the crispy, buttery, almond-forward base. The Crème Fraîche Cream was light and airy with a delicious, creamy sweet flavor. The chopped Almonds add even more of a buttery nuttiness. The Tart is also relatively large for the money. I’d add one of these to any order and if you’re only picking up one thing here, you probably want this to be it.
Frozen Rosé – $9
While we gain The Alps this year, we lose New Zealand and its “Frozen Wine Cocktail.” The Alps uses a Rosé, for a fruitier, more effervescent outing that’s a little sweeter and more satisfying than the sauvignon blanc we saw Down Under. Somehow, they freeze these to the perfect consistency, where you can enjoy the texture of the ice crystals, but it’s all liquid-y enough to drink the whole thing from the start. Even if you expressly don’t like wine, I think you’ll enjoy this. The portion is also relatively large for the money.
Wine Flight – $6.75
With Domaine CARREL et Fils Eugène Jongieux Blanc, Cave De La Côte Rosé, and René Favre Dôle
Of course, the Alps don’t go through Norway, even if the Marketplace positions itself across from the Pavilion. Switzerland would be about 900 miles away and then it would be another couple hundred miles to France, where you’ll find the Jongieux Blanc. Our flight is facing backwards up above, because we are bad at this, with the Jongieux Blanc on the right. It’s a fruity white wine with bright pear and peach notes. Entirely inoffensive. At least the wine in the middle is correct with the Swiss Cave De La Côte Rosé, which is a sweet, fruity, and well-balanced wine with just a touch of acidity showing past the raspberry, cherry, and blackcurrant. On the right is the René Favre Dôle, hailing from Chamoson in southwestern Switzerland. Dôle is unfamiliar to me, but it consists of at least 50% pinot noir and then the other 50% coming from other varietals grown in the vicinity. I liked this one a lot, it was bold and juicy with dark cherry and a rustic backbone. Overall, it’s a solid flight with a wide variety of flavors and styles represented. Anyone who likes wine should consider it.
Overall, The Alps brings approachable items that should be crowd pleasers. Our experience on the first day of the Festival with the Raclette wasn’t great, but they may figure things out moving forward. Unfortunately, I doubt they’ll switch out the bread, but you can take your destiny into your own hands by requesting a fresh dish. The Stew is comforting, if not unremarkable. The Tart is among the best desserts at the Festival and the wines are all above average. Grab the Rosé for a more refreshing time.