Review: Epcot International Food and Wine Festival 2014 brings big flavors on small plates at Walt Disney World

in Disney, Events, Walt Disney World

Last week marked the beginning of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival 2014. Though its first day was a gloomy morning, excitement was still in the air for the festival to begin.

This year’s colorful signage features Chef Mickey.

My first stop of the day was the Festival Center that is, as always, located in the Wonders of Life Pavilion, between Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Mission Space.

Inside the Festival Center, you will find most of the Festival’s demonstrations and celebrity signings, as well as a large selection of Festival merchandise and a fun Ghirardelli chocolate exhibit. There are also light snacks and drinks inside, but unfortunately no return of the popular $1 Caprese push pop from the Flower and Garden Festival earlier this year.

I was happy to see this year’s Festival logo features our Epcot exclusive character, Figment.

The merchandise clearly encourages you to have a taste at every food booth around World Showcase – a worthy task.

There’s a perfect glass for enjoying a Drink Around the World challenge.

Cast members were already setting up for the first demonstration of the day

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience is always a popular spot, mostly because of the free delicious chocolate samples you get. But make sure to check out the exhibit too as it features detailed chocolate art masterpieces of some of our favorite Disney friends – and Avatar too.

I was really impressed by the Maleficent chocolate sculpture. It must have taken many hours for pastry chefs to create it.

I wonder if the upcoming Avatar land at Animal Kingdom would be a more exciting concept if it was all made in chocolate. Though that wouldn’t work out so well in the Florida heat.

As I was heading out from the Festival Center, I made sure to grab the Festival map and passport. It’s always fun (and helpful) to collect stamps in every country and keep track of the food and drinks you have tried.

A Chef Mickey topiary has taken the place of the cranberry bog that was around for a few years.

I decided to start my trip around the world, heading left, with the newly named Patagonia booth. Some of the menu items from this booth you are sure to remember from last year’s Argentina booth.

The Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree ($5.50) and the Beef Empanada ($4.50) was both very good and a decent portion size. The chimichurri sauce is a perfect compliment to the beef and not too spicy so most people can enjoy it.

New for this year’s Festival is the transformation of the Odyssey Center into the Craft Beer location.

Beer is clearly a big seller at the Festival and Disney wanted to make sure to give their guests a big enough place to enjoy it. I really like how they make sure to use these otherwise closed locations for the Festival.

Next up I headed to the new Farm Fresh booth to try the yummy Pepper Bacon Hash with Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Hollandaise and Pickled Jalapenos ($4.00).

The bacon hash was amazingly flavorful and the hollandaise sauce and jalapenos really worked well together. I only wish the portion they serve was bigger.

Then I decided to try another classic from previous years’ Festivals, the Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies ($6.25) at the Australia booth.  Again, the sauce on top of the meat is what brings out the flavor and even though potato crunchies may just be a fancy word for chips, they are still really good.

The Germany booth is always popular with its Oktoberfest beer, beer flights and lots of extra added seating.

There are lot of tasty options for seafood lovers at the Festival, like the Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and “Singa” Sauce ($4.50) from Singapore. It’s a great portion size and the ginger “singa” sauce gave it a nice kick.

The Brazil booth has gotten the same treatment as the Germany booth with lots of extra theming and seating. Disney knows who some of their most frequent guests are.

The France booth is always a heavily visited booth at every Festival and with their change-up of the classic escargot bread bowl to a tart, it surely will be this year too.

I skipped the escargot this time for the Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes ($5.75) and the Sea Salt Caramel Crème brûlée ($4.25). The crème brûlée is one of the best desserts I have ever tried, a definite must have if you are attending the Festival.

The Puerto Rico food booth also received a really nice location treatment, now located on the pathway to the Imagination Pavilion.

Some of the food you can enjoy at the Puerto Rico booth is Caribbean Conch Salad with Onion, Tomato and Cilantro ($4.25), Tostones – Fried Green Plantains with Mayo Ketchup ($3.50) and Vanilla Caramel Custard with Chocolate Coffee Cake ($3.50). I absolutely have to come back and visit this booth on my next trip to Epcot.

Pins have always been a popular addition to the Festival merchandise. This year two of them come together with a recipe card.

I unfortunately had to cut my first Food and Wine Festival trip of 2014 short as the sky was opening up to a really nasty rain storm (it is still summer in Florida, after all) but I will be back in the near future to try some more delectable food.

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