Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts celebrates visual, performing, and culinary arts. Think Food and Wine Festival, but with the presentation turned up a few thousand notches (here are all the menus).
The sauces are strategically drizzled, the cakes are layered to perfection, and there are printed chocolate pieces poking out of practically everything. But are these foods working flavors or just a gimmicky angle?
I took one for the team and tried some of the most stunning foods that the Festival of the Arts has to offer. Some of you were even there for the festivities during our Instagram live stream. Here’s what was good… and what just looked good.
Your Tongue Will Agree: These Eats are Gorgeous
An Instant Classic: The Deconstructed Reuben
$6.50, Available at The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)
A front-runner for poster food of the 2019 Festival of the Arts, the deconstructed Reuben is certainly showy enough to sail through life on its looks. But it backs up that style with substance as one of the best eats in World Showcase.
With proper corned beef, thousand island dressing, pickled cabbage, and that signature rye ring, it’s as fun to put in your mouth as it is to put back together. For some extra amusement, check your receipt: Yep, it says this is a “classic Reuben”. Well, this booth is close to Future World.
How to Eat the Deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake
$6.25, Available at The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)
Falling somewhere between cheesecake and strawberry shortcake, this was potentially my favorite dessert at the festival. It checks the boxes for beauty, taste and interactive fun (a big theme of the festival).
My suggested order for reassembly is to grab a cookie and use the fork to top it with a strawberry and then dip in the whipped cheesecake. It’s then essential to top your bite with half a basil sprig to give it an herbal kick that will meld the flavors in your mouth.
Why It’s a Must-Eat: Deconstructed BLT with Pork Belly
$7.00, Available at The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)
Seeing a theme here? I’m definitely pointing you in the direction of this booth. This is a snack with a kick-off. You’ll have to pop the sunny side up egg to let it’s warm, gooey insides coat the crisp, soft pork belly slab. Wrestle away a bite of the soaked pork belly (a little difficult with a plastic fork), and slide it through the tomato jam.
The deconstructed BLT rounds out the menu with rich flavors and more interactive fun. If you can only try one food at this booth, make it the BLT.
Uniquely Delicious: Vanilla, Rose Water and Pistachio Panna Cotta
$8.00, Available at Masterpiece Kitchen (Canada)
If the deconstructed cheesecake was crowned Miss Festival of the Arts, then the panna cotta is our runner-up. Beautifully presented, it certainly is one of the most attractive desserts at the festival. For my Flower and Garden Festival fans… do you recognize the edible flower from the honey booth?
The taste matches the looks in this case, as the soft pistachio crust melds with the vanilla and rose flavors. Cut this one in half before you eat it to marvel at the delicate layers inside.
The Almond Frangipane Cake is the Best Bang for Your Buck
$4.50, Available at Pop Eats (Showcase Plaza)
Guys. I did it. I found a menu item under five bucks! If you’re looking to keep your Instagram and snack budget to a minimum, this one is pure photogenic treasure.
This very Mondrian style of cake achieves everything it set out to do… represent modern art in culinary form, and… just be a really good cake. With a dense texture, rich icing, and slightly-lighter-than-marzipan taste, you’re likely to be satisfied (and honestly a little full) after this chic dessert.
Here’s Why the Sushi Donut is Revolutionary
$7.50, Available at Takumi Table (Japan)
For my sushi-loving fans, this one is a must-eat. The rice is what makes or breaks a good sushi roll, and the rice here is delicately flavored, warm, and just the right amount of sticky.
What really blew me away, though, was the idea itself… it was like a curled up nigiri roll… with “Citrus-soy Gelée” (soy sauce jelly) in the middle. Eureka! Of course a sushi donut would have soy sauce jelly inside! It makes perfect sense and my heart yearns for this to be a regular menu item at the Japan pavilion’s quick-service spot, Katsura Grill. Let’s start a petition.
Yes, It’s Purple Sweet Potato Mousse
$6.50, Available at Decadent Delights (Showcase Plaza)
Okay, stay with me here. Yes, this is sweet potato. Yes, it is a dessert. Think sweet potato pie with a little help from some white chocolate, caramel and maple meringue.
This dessert successfully combines the mild sweet potato mouse with the caramel and chocolate flavors to deliver a not-too-sugary dessert. The coconut shavings lighten things up, while the maple meringue offers a couple of cute bites that are loaded with strong flavor.
Give the Taiyaki Red Bean Pastry a Chance
$5.50, Available at Takumi Table (Japan)
Red bean paste can be a hard sell, I get it. But if you haven’t turned your back on this common Japanese dessert food, then this is your chance to taste it done right.
The fish-shaped puffed pastry is as delicious as it is “kawaii”, with a crispy exterior and not-too-sweet dough. The paste is not a strong bean flavor — it’s actually pretty sweet. Dip it in the whipped cream and custard and you’ve got an amazingly light, yet decadent, snack.
These Artsy Foods are Great… for Instagram
Cat Food or Nah? The Dariole de Saumon
$10.00, Available at L’Art de la Cuisine Française (France)
This was the most polarizing dish of the festival for my family. My daughter was over the moon for it, I thought it was okay, and my husband declared it was cat food.
I’ve decided that your enjoyment of this dish will depend on how you assemble it. This beautiful plate presents salmon paté in a very creative way, wrapped in tomato and zucchini. Alone, the salmon is too mushy. Spread on the puffed pastry with the beurre blanc (French butter) sauce and topped with the veggies, the dish becomes balanced and enjoyable.
What that boils down to is my daughter and I told my husband he was “eating it wrong”. Priced at $10, that leaves the dariole de saumon as a bit of a gamble.
Fun But Meh: Artist Palette Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookie
$5.50, Available at The Artist’s Table, Cuisine Classique, and Decadent Delights
Oh, cookie palette, maybe I’m expecting too much from you. But I wanted one of the best cookies $5.50 could buy.
If you’re looking for a fun group art project, this one may be worth it, but if we’re talking sheer taste here, this is just a cookie, guys. And not a particularly warm one. I was mostly intrigued by the design… because it means there is a bucket of cut-out cookie circles somewhere at Epcot.
Why You Should Steer Clear of the Crystal Moon Cake
$9.75, Available at The Painted Panda (China)
With sparkling sugar and toasted coconut on top, the crystal mooncake is a soft, delicate beauty. Unfortunately, the taste is just as delicate.
I’ve had rice cakes before, and they can be expectedly light on flavor, but the fruit filling inside this cake didn’t balance out the globulous texture of the rice. Add the price tag of nearly $10, and this one will leave you wanting more.
A Not-So-Great Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts
$9.50, Available at The Painters Palate (Odyssey Festival Showplace)
Another hefty price tag for a few bites of food, the cronut trio needed to be great to be worth it. Unfortunately, the chicken salad and Boursin garlic cheese were merely Publix-worthy. The winner here is the spicy tuna and wasabi seaweed salad offering, but no ala carte orders allowed. Bogged down by its mediocre companions, the tuna just isn’t worth buying this plate.
This is What the Saint-Honoré Tart Needed
$6.00, Available at Cuisine Classique (Germany)
A returning darling of the festival, this caramel cream tart is topped with caramel glaze, two cream puffs, artsy chocolate pieces, and a chocolate sauce. It’s an amazing snack to take a selfie with… and all that culinary drama sets the bar pretty high for taste.
But the tart didn’t blow me away, and the creme puffs aren’t revolutionary. With not enough caramel cream to give it a great flavor, I’d say it was a very solid okay, which doesn’t really match up with the whimsical exterior. If the chocolate or caramel had a deeper flavor, this one would be a winner.
Salt Anyone? The Crème de Brie en Petit Pain
$7.75, Available at L’Art de la Cuisine Française (France)
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of the bread-with-cheese-inside food model. And the presentation of this dish is on-point, with its fancy folded napkin and printed crust. Probably the prettiest way to serve a bread bowl.
However, fans of the annual Food and Wine Festival know that the Bavaria booth serves a similar cheesy bread bowl with steamed veggies… for just a dollar more. That cheesy cousin also isn’t as overwhelmingly salty as the Festival of the Arts version. If you love salt and some just fine bread, this one is for you. If not, it’s only worth saying “cheese” with.
Fishy and Squishy: Salmon with Caviar
$7.00, Available at The Painter’s Palate (Odyssey Festival Showplace)
I’m a huge salmon fan, but here we are again with another salmon dish in the not-so-great column. It was solidly “meh”, due to the drama of the presentation: The taste didn’t match up.
The smoked salmon is layered with cream, then topped with caviar. This made the whole thing very fishy and squishy… not something many people are into. It would do better served with a handful of rice chips to assist in breaking up the texture.
And Miss Congeniality Goes To…
Beautiful on the Inside: Mushroom Risotto
$9.25, Available at The Masterpiece Kitchen
We’re looking at the most attractive dishes and whether they taste as good as they look… but I’d be full of regret if I didn’t mention this rather homely dish. The mushroom risotto was hands-down my favorite food at The Festival of the Arts. It may not have an abstract cheese sculpture, but it certainly has inner beauty.
The risotto is cooked to perfection, giving the mushrooms a great stage to present their bold flavor. The cheese is portioned at just the right amount, perfect for mixing. Talk about a masterpiece.
Did I miss any of your favorites? If you’ve got a gorgeous food that tastes just as good… or if you think I should try one of these beauties again and reconsider my review, please get in on the conversation.
Rain (@rainlovesdisney) is a former Disney Vacation Planner, and current Senior Editor at The Penny Hoarder and DVC Member. Rain can be found at Walt Disney World participating in parades through Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and waxing poetic about the days of Dreamfinder.