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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: The Final Scoop on Food and Wine

Nov 20th, 2011

I'm sure many have heard the old English Proverb that 'all good things must come to an end' and it looks like that day is today. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is most definitely one of the highlights of my time here living, playing, and working at Walt Disney World, and it saddens me to see it come to an end. While walking through Epcot last Friday, it was alarmingly empty with all the booths gone despite the crowds of people. There are still some remnants of the festival with some seating areas created for specific marketplaces still standing though with either a random caramelized nut wagon or nothing in the spot of its kiosk. Still, the olde English were right and it would've been too much of a good thing if the festival did not end, and I hope that I may be lucky enough to be around in Disney World for the next festival to experience everything I missed and try the new things they have to offer.

With lamenting aside, we take one final look back at the festival. While I have no particular order in which to discuss the last few items I sampled, we can start with one with an interesting back story. The Caribbean marketplace was new this year and while many elected to sample the expected Caribbean jerk spiced chicken, I found the country's other food offering, Ropa Vieja, enjoyable and reminiscent of home. Ropa Vieja translates into 'old clothes' in Spanish, and is a popular dish in the Caribbean as well as other Spanish speaking countries of the world. It was named after a story about a poor man whose family comes to visit, but he has no food to feed them. He grabs old clothes from his closet and cooks them with all the love he can give for his family and his love causes it to magically become a beef stew.

 

Epcot's Ropa Vieja was a shredded beef slowly braised in a tomato based broth. It was served with white rice, which soaked in some of the juices from the stew. While the story is sweet and the stew was good, I found the dish the least exciting out of all of the festival. I still really enjoyed it, but mostly because it reminded me of a lot of a beef stew called Machado that my dad makes at home for all of our family gatherings. The beef tasted very similar to Machado and was even served with white rice like I normally eat it. It was great to get a taste of home at Disney World, though for Epcot's festival of flavors, it was least exciting since it's something I've had often before.

 

Next we head to Italy, a country I was cautious to sample as I've had a lot of great Italian food, having grown up between Philadelphia and New York, both cities and its surrounding suburbs having a large population of Italian immigrants and their descendants. One will dine well in both cities and random places in between since authentic Italian food is quite a staple cuisine. My one roommate Tasso, also from this area, joked about how he had some great 'Chef Boyardee' at Italy's Food and Wine marketplace.

 

When I went to try it for myself, I sampled the Ravioli di formaggio all'Emiliana. In my passport, it is explained as baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef Bolognese, Parmesan, and Mozzarella. I love cheese, so I enjoyed it for that factor, but I found it was not too awful nor amazing. 'Chef Boyardee' was not found in our cupboard very often in my house growing up, so I have little to compare to, but overall it wasn't anything I haven't tasted before. It was served hot and fresh and smelled divine as any cheese will do for any dish. The sample was a nice portion size, definitely one of the more filling of the samples at the festival. Still, with such wonderful offerings from the chefs at Via Napoli and Tutto Italia in the main restaurants behind this little kiosk, the ravioli could've been a little better.

 

Next we'll take a detour to the Pacific and head back to Hawai'I for the Tuna Poke. The Tuna Poke looked really amazing as far as presentation, as little cubes of raw tuna sat on a bed of a vibrant green seaweed salad with a crunchy lotus root chip on top. The components all made for an adventurous blend of textures and tastes, with crunch and cold and tender protein. Many may not be too crazy about raw fish, but fans of sushi and other Asian influenced cuisines would like the Tuna Poke. This was something totally new to me and I was intrigued by the flavors and what it had to offer. It tasted like Tuna with a touch of soy sauce. The seaweed salad had some sort of citrus dressing. I ate it wrong though in that I had most of the tuna first and the seaweed last. I should've been more even in my distribution of components, but still I enjoyed it for the novelty of something almost completely foreign to my palate.

 

Next we'll head back towards the Mediterranean area for a Kefta Pocket in Morocco. This food garnered a lot of buzz among Food and Wine guests and it sounded really good: ground seasoned beef in Pita Bread. And that's exactly what it was, plain and simple as the description. Not that I'm complaining or anything, but I could easily see this as the Moroccan equivalent of a hamburger, and who doesn't like hamburgers? Garnished with some lettuce and onion, the Kefta pocket was a great size for a sample. The 'patty' of meat was a bit oddly shaped and I wish they made them flatter to better accommodate an equal pita bread to beef ratio.

 

The final scoop at Food and Wine is at the beloved Canada marketplace for a Maple and Moosehead Beer-glazed Salmon with Barley Salad. First the salmon: it was warm with a heavy maple glaze flavor on the outer layers of the fish, though I was surprised I could not taste the beer. My taste buds were searching for it as I thought it would be a turn-off, but I guess either Moosehead Beer also tastes like maple syrup (which would not be surprising considering this is Canada) or I got lucky and got more maple than bear when this fish was seared. Probably some of the best salmon I've had in life and I hope to get the chance again to have such delicious fish. The biggest surprise though was the barley salad. Barley is a type of grain and acted as the starchy component of the dish. Soft and served cold, it also held in some of the juices from the salmon and maple beer glaze. The cold barley salad was a terrific compliment to the warm salmon sitting on top, making the entire dish a delicious conclusion to a great food festival.

This article was especially difficult to write because now that I've made myself hungry, I no longer have the ability to hop on over to Epcot to try everything again. To lift mine and those of the spirits reading at home, I leave you with one of my favorite moments of Food and Wine:


At the Festival Center''Okay, I'm ready, show me to the register.'

Mr. Paycheck said I could only pick one. So I picked the best one and he's been on adventures ever since!

 

 

 

Though the marketplaces may be gone and the delicious food only remains a happy memory in my mind, I am proud to say I found a new friend at Food and Wine who will be here to stay, even with the festival over. Chef Duffy is my new buddy, my new companion, but mostly a little bear who bears the task of being a remembrance of the delicious and magical moments I had at the 16th Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

 

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