Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival kicked off yesterday, so of course Liesle and I had to stop by and check it out.
Today I’ll mostly focus on the actual menus, including prices, with a handful of food reviews thrown in for good measure. Before diving into those, however, here are some overall first impressions:
- The wait to get into the park on opening day was *long* at about 10:30am, with a seeming lack of staff to handle all of the turnstiles that might otherwise have been available. I’m not sure if this will continue as the festival moves forward, but you may want to allow some extra time to get into the park.
- The overall “vibe” of the festival is about the same as in prior years. Nothing really new here in the “atmosphere” department.
- Some of the menus at individual kiosks have been pared down from last year, with fewer food options available at each kiosk.
- Prices are up a bit over last year, as you might expect. The price increases are a bit uneven though, with prices remaining the same for some food items, while others are up as much as 75 cents.
- There are several kiosks which are new to the festival in 2016.
- It may just be us, and I’m sure somebody will do an actual count, but it seemed to both of us that there are fewer dessert options available this year.
As I said above, in this first installment I’ll give you a look at all of the menus, plus first impressions of some of the individual dishes that are new to the festival in 2016. I’ll be reviewing more of the dishes in future installments.
We’ll start at the Greece kiosk near the entrance to the World Showcase, and move counter-clockwise around the World Showcase Lagoon.
As usual, you can click on any of these pictures for a larger view. The Chicken Gyro and Spanikopita return from last year, with the Gyro up twenty-five cents from before.
(Note that we actually didn’t *eat* anything at these first few kiosks today, opting instead to head toward the middle of World Showcase to avoid the crowds that tended to form first near the entrance to the Showcase. Read on though — we’ll hit some of the food reviews below.)
The Canada booth has been reduced to just two food options, down from three last year, with both the ever-popular Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Filet Mignon returning. Both are up in price from last year.
Scotland is down from four dishes last year, to three dishes in 2016. The Lamb Stew is new this year. Oh, and that Potato Pancake is up a full 75 cents over last year, to five bucks from $4.25.
Ireland’s food choices remain the same from last year. Refreshingly, the only item which is up in price is the Chocolate Pudding, which is up a mere quarter from last year.
France bucks the overall trend, with four food options available in 2016, versus just three last year.
Brazil offers three food options, down from four last year. At least they held the food prices steady, with the exception of the Pao de Queijo, which is up just twenty-five cents.
The Beer-braised Beef is new this year…
…and we enjoyed the flavor this dish offers. It’s a nice combination of Belgian comfort food, with the creamy potatoes blending well with the gravy and vegetables. Although we appreciated the dish’s taste, the beef was just a little bit on the tough side, which dampened the experience somewhat.
Next up is Morocco, which is sporting a nice new (and larger) kiosk this year.
We decided to try both of this year’s new dishes, the Chocolate Baklava and the Spicy Hummus Fries.
I’m not a huge baklava fan, but I really enjoyed this dessert. The flaky baklava crust blended well with the filling, and the sliced almonds provided a nice “extra” to the overall texture and flavor of the dish.
OK, so the hummus fries may not look like much, but it actually tasted much better than it looks. The mellow flavor of the hummus was complemented well by the tanginess of the dressing. This was actually one of our favorite dishes of the day.
The slightly crisp outer shell of the hummus gave way to a softer texture inside.
Continuing the “menu downsizing trend,” Japan is down to three food options, from the four it offered last year. The Spicy Sushi Roll returns with a new name from last year. The shrimp and edamame dishes are new this year.
We both really enjoyed the Garlic Shrimp. The dish was infused with a sesame seed oil, which helped to amplify the flavor of the shrimp and rice. My only complaint was that the dish was served at basically room temperature, and I wasn’t sure if this was intentional or not. I think I’d prefer it either be hot or cold — probably the latter.
The edamame were good, and the spice added a nice “punch” to the overall dish. These are messy to eat with your hands though. I’d suggest stocking up on napkins before digging in.
Hops & Barley Market has replaced last year’s beef slider with the Smoked Beef Brisket.
The texture and flavor of the brisket dish remind me slightly of the Burnt Ends Brisket Hash from the Flower & Garden festival (but not as good), with the potatoes in the hash replaced here by the garlic toast. Sorry to say that this one ended up being our least favorite dish of the day. The brisket was on the dry side, and although the dish promised cheese, the cheese taste was hard to discern for me. I don’t think we’ll be repeating this one.
The Chase Lounge is also back this year. If you’re a Chase debit or credit card holder, this is a great place to enjoy some air-conditioned goodness and complimentary soda for a few minutes. It’s located upstairs in the American pavilion.
With just the two of us touring today, we were basically full by the time we made it to Italy, so we skipped the items on the entire east side of World Showcase.
We also noticed that there weren’t too many (if any?) new food items on the east side. I’ll just point you to the menus for this section of the festival without further comment.
We were both disappointed that the only dessert offered at the Desserts & Champagne kiosk this year is basically a float served with soft-serve ice cream. It comes in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. This contrasts with previous years, when you had several desserts to choose from.
New this year is the Islands of the Caribbean kiosk, which replaces and sits in the same spot as last year’s Dominican Republic booth. The Pescado con Coco is a carryover from last year’s Dominican Republic offerings, but we look forward to trying the new items on future visits.
New this year is the Chocolate Studio.
Say hello to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspbetty Torte. This was a delicious combination of chocolate and raspberry, topped with a dollop of whipped cream for good measure. The Ghirardelli chocolate wedge placed on top is also a nice touch.
Hopefully the above picture gives you an idea of what the cross-section looks like. You can see that the filling inside contains real raspberries. I’m glad they didn’t go the cheap route and simply include some sort of raspberry syrup instead.
Liesle and I both give thumbs-up to this one. It’s fairly rich, so sharing it with two people is about right portion-wise.
The Wine and Dine Studio is officially “new” in 2016…
…though both of the cheese dishes are carryovers from last year’s Cheese Studio.
The Chew Collective is also new this year, replacing one of last year’s “Chew” booths. These dishes look promising, and we’ll be checking some of them out in a future post.
The Greenhouse Guru is also new this year.
We opted for the Chilled Tomato Gazpacho as our final dish of the day. For such a small portion it’s probably overpriced at $4.25, but we both really enjoyed the flavor of the dish. It provides a very bright and acidic taste, which seemed refreshing after some of the richer-tasting food options we tried today. Two thumbs up on the taste, if not the price.
Here are some of the merchandise offerings this year.
This one seemed pricey to me at $36.99, but to each his/her own, I suppose.
That wraps up today’s introduction to the Festival. Stay tuned for new food reviews in the coming days.
And as usual, if you’re looking for custom, time-saving itineraries to help you navigate the Walt Disney World or Disneyland parks, be sure to check out RideMax.