Review: Old and new favorites delight in a return trip to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

in Disney, Events, Food, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

My wife Michelle and I made our second visit to the 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival last night, trying a whole new array of delicious items. While our first visit was aimed at trying new items for 2011, this time we were set on dividing our stomachs between old favorites along with a handful of dishes we simply never got around to trying in recent years.

Oddly enough, our total spent for the evening between the two of us came out to $42.70, only $0.20 off from last time. It seems $42 is a good approximation of how much we will spend on a feasting trip around the World Showcase during the event. (And it is the the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything, isn’t it?)

So we began this trip in Canada, craving the one of the event’s most popular annual dishes, Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup ($3.75). While there I also ordered the Chicken Chipotle Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta ($4.00). The soup was fantastic, as always, particularly after the temperature had dropped 20+ degrees over the night before. On a cool night, nothing is better than warm cheesy soup. But the star of the night was the other Canadian dish I had, one that’s been on the festival menu for a couple years but I never got around to trying. The spicy sausage has quite a kick, but the sweet onions and polenta complemented it perfectly, cooling the heat. It’s a new favorite for me, and I’m not normally a fan of chicken sausage.

Canada - Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

Canada - Chicken Chipotle Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta

Greece was the next stop, where I wanted to try something else I hadn’t had before. The Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey ($3.25) is a thick slab of cheese, crunchy on the surface and gooey in the middle. It has a full flavor, slightly milky, that blends perfectly with the nutty pistachios and sweet honey drizzled on top. It’s such a large hunk of cheese that even I, a cheese lover, couldn’t finish the whole thing.

Greece - Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey

Australia was a must-do on this evening, as I’d been craving their delicious Grilled Lamb Chop with Potato-Goat Cheese Salad and Shiraz Reduction ($5.75). It’s one of the most expensive Food and Wine Festival dishes but well worth the price. The lamb was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy, with the natural lamb flavor shining through, but enhanced by the reduction. Be careful when picking up the chop, as the reduction sauce can easily run off, and you don’t want to miss out. The goat cheese salad is good, but seems to clash in flavor, temperature, and texture with the lamb. Independently, they both are great. When paired, not so much.

Australia - Grilled Lamb Chop with Potato-Goat Cheese Salad and Shiraz Reduction

Michelle enjoyed the soup in Canada but hadn’t eaten anything else until this point, so her eyes were on China’s Xinjiang Barbecue Chicken Stick ($3.50). She enjoyed the first couple bites, with a slightly fruity flavor, but grew tired of the dish upon reaching the fattier portions of the chicken. I took a couple more bites, agreeing that the meat tasted good, but was far too fatty. We ended up throwing half of it out.

China - Xinjiang Barbecue Chicken Stick

At Germany this year, I was happy to see an improved version of the Nuernberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll ($4.50). The sausage is much thinner this year and while it still spills far beyond the roll, it’s much easier to eat at this size. It’s not spicy at all, but offers a rich, hearty flavor that’s always synonymous with German sausages. The pretzel roll wasn’t pretzel-y enough for me. Michelle had the Apple Strudel featuring Wether’s Original Karamel and Vanilla Sauce ($3.25) and devoured it before I had a chance to steal a bite. Obviously, she liked it.

Germany - Nuernberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll

Germany - Apple Strudel featuring Wether's Original Karamel and Vanilla Sauce

I was fairly full at this point, but the smells wafting from Italy enticed me to go for one more dish, Ravioli di formaggio all’Emiliana ($4.50). What appears to be one large ravioli covered in cooked/melted mozzarella cheese is actually 3-4 smaller ricotta-filled pasta pockets, with a bed of bolognese (meat sauce) underneath. This one is definitely only for lovers of Italian cheeses, as the ricotta is the overwhelming flavor here – in a good way. It’s rich, creamy, and fills the entire dish.

Italy - Ravioli di formaggio all'Emiliana

After only having one bite of Michelle’s Pumpkin Mousse last time (see above, still a bargain at $1.50), I got my own for dessert this time as we made our way to France, where she ordered the Coq au Vin sur Gratin de Macaroni ($4.95). This slow-cooked chicken looks and tastes like beef, absorbing the hearty flavors of the sauce it’s cooked in, featuring pearl onions, mushrooms, and wine. It’s a huge dish that even the two of us couldn’t finish. The flavors are entirely unique, separate from everything else around the festival.

France - Coq au Vin sur Gratin de Macaroni

Finally, Michelle ordered the Dessert Trio at the Desserts & Champagne booth, which features small portions of Lemon Chiffon, White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse with Dark Chocolate Pearls, and Tres Leches Verrine. It turned out to be a perfect dessert to split between the two of us, as I’m not a lemon fan and didn’t like the chiffon, but Michelle (a big lemon fan) loved every bite of it. Likewise, she’s not a big coconut fan, whereas I am, so I loved the Tres Leches, which was moist, milk-soaked yellow cake topped with cream and coconut shavings. We both enjoyed the chocolate mousse, particularly the crunchy dark chocolate pearls scattered throughout. We’ll definitely be getting this trio again.

Desserts & Champagne - Dessert Trio (Lemon Chiffon, White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse with Dark Chocolate Pearls, Tres Leches Verrine)

There are still many more dishes to enjoy at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, so we’ll surely be returning at least a couple more times, bringing back more reviews and photos soon. Be sure to go back and read the reviews and droll over the photos from our first visit, if you haven’t already.

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