Saturday, November 10, 2012

A dish you can't miss (and 9 others) at the 2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

If I had to pick just one food festival to attend every year in the Orlando area, it would have to be the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. It's a full day of eating and drinking in an amazing setting with a real sense of international sophistication. If you're a local, or you're in town on vacation in the fall, you have to "drink and eat around the world" at least once. There's no other food fest experience quite like it anywhere.

This year I visited the fest with three good friends. For one of us, the event was a first, and she was blown away by all the food (and beer). I guess she'll be coming along next year too. I live tweeted throughout the day and had a blast. If you missed my tweets that day, check out my Twitter feed and search #eatingepcot.

While the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie from Ireland are perennial favorites, this year, I encouraged myself to try some new plates.

Here are my top 10 favorites from the 2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival:

10. Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw from South Korea ($3.25)

A little messy to eat on the go, but the salty pork and slightly sweet and a spicy slaw was a great combination and earns a sampling this year.

Wine: Bohae Black Raspberry - Bokbunjajoo

9. Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree from Argentina ($5.00)

Meat on a stick - Argentina knows how to serve street food. The steak was a little tough for my taste, but the flavor delivered once you gnawed through it. Loved the chimichurri sauce and the sweet potato puree was a welcome side.

Wine: Terrazas Reserva Malbec

8. Kielbasa and Potato Peirogie with Caramelized Onions ($5.00)

By the time we made it half way around World Showcase Lagoon, we had eaten a little and drank a lot. It was about time we had some substantial food to soak up some alcohol. Poland delivered with a hearty dish of Kielbasa sausage and a delightful potato peirogie. With caramelized onions and a slathering of sour cream on top, this was a dish to put some substance in our bellies and continue our trek around the world.

Beer: Tyskie, Poland's national brew

7. Escargots Persillade en Brioche from France ($5.25)

I'm a fan of escargot, but it's rare to eat them outside of some snooty French restaurant. It's fun to just pop them in your mouth as you walk along like snail candy. The fun factor along lands these garlicky snails at number seven this year.

Wine: Sparkling Pomegranate Kir

6. Dark Chocolate Mousse with Chili and Salted Caramel from Desserts and Champagne ($1.50)

At number six is another fun dish, a chocolate mousse with a very, very spicy kick. This dish wrapped up our day and we were talking about it all the way to the parking lot. With the first spoonful, you taste sweet chocolate, then moments later the chili pepper kicks in and it's a bit surprising. A minute or two later and the heat kicks in and you're reaching for a glass of champagne, water, anything. It's quite shocking but quite fun at the same time. Look around for the facial expressions of those around you a minute or so after they get a taste. And at just $1.50, this might be the best bang for the buck at the whole festival.

Wine: Moet and Chandon Ice Imperial

Water: Dasani (Go ahead and get one, you'll need it)

5. Kefta Pocket from Morocco ($5.00)

One of my friends described this dish as a Middle East Hot Pocket. I'd say it's more a Moroccan Empanada. Either way, it was a great dish. The "pocket" was actually made from pita bread and the filling seasoned beef. I'm a fan of Jamaican beef patties, so I could have used a little more spice, but it was filling and tasty.

Wine: Sangria

4. Spicy Hand Roll from Japan ($4.95)

I've got to give this dish a hand for living up to its name. It was spicy, and it was easy to eat with your hand. For proper naming alone, the roll finds a spot at number four. But it was also delicious. Filled with chili pepper seasoned tuna and salmon, soy sauce and sesame oil and topped with Kazan Volcano Sauce, this was at least one of my friend's favorite dish of the day.

Sake: Bishouned Junmai Ginjo

3. Schofferhofer Grapefruit from Brewer's Collection ($12.25 for 22 oz. in a cool souvenir mug)

Okay, so number three isn't a dish, but it was so good that it deserves a spot on the list. It's hot walking around World Showcase. Even in the fall, it's hot. Half way around the world is a good place to rehydrate, and if you wouldn't dare fill your belly with water or soda, reach for one of these. Schofferhofer Grapefruit was a refreshing (and only 2.5% alcohol) way to chill out and take a break. Half hefeweizen beer and half grapefruit soda this "radler" had a well-rounded taste with a hint of sweetness and a note of bitter. This was the most enjoyable alcoholic beverage of the festival.

Beer: Another one

2. Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream from Belgium ($3.00)

I got laughed at for liking this one so much. So sue me, I like waffles! This was no Eggo Waffle with a its soft, fluffy texture - each tender bite was a sweet delight. And the berries and whipped cream on top only added to the sweetness. I've never been to Belgium, but two things I know - its citizens make some great beers, and they make the best waffles ever.

Beer: Hoegaarden

1. Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($3.25)

Hawaii isn't exactly "international," so I don't know how the fiftieth state got an invite to this year's festival. But I'm glad it did! This amazing little sandwich was my favorite dish of all.

So how did I decide? Well, I thought back at the one dish I would order right here, right now as a full entree, not a small little tasting. Nothing sounds better to me right now then a full-size version of this fantastic sandwich. Sweet, sour, spicy, sweet again and meaty - this little sandwich surprised with its perfect balance of flavors and overall satisfaction. Mahalo to you, my mighty, tasty little slider; you're now ohana.

Beer: Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale

The 2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival runs through November 12th. Grab your culinary passport and head out. Bon Voyage.

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