Today marked the start of the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and we hit the ground to try this year’s new food items! Here are our thoughts.
If you’d like to jump directly to a booth, click on the link below to be taken to the review.
- Flavors from Fire
- Light Lab
- Active Eats
- Coastal Eats
- Earth Eats
- The Chocolate Studio
- The Cheese Studio
- The Wine & Dine Studio
- Taste Track
- The Almond Orchard
- New Zealand
- Hops & Barley
- Islands of the Caribbean
Active Eats Energy Bar Bites – $3.75
The Active Eats Energy Bar Bites are a mixture of chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, and dates. A bit of coconut shaving adorns the top of the bites, and they are just that…bites. At probably two bites each, they’re priced just about right, but we didn’t notice any energy after eating these (although we made a trip or two around World Showcase before eating here). The nuts are present throughout and a bit of the dried fruit shines through to make these a good option for those looking to get a bite or two of chocolate. We can recommend this dish.
Spice-crusted Verlasso Salmon – $5.75
Salmon was also on the menu last year, but this year it comes spice-crusted instead of roasted. The flavors here are wonderful, with a noticeably fresh cut of salmon. Actually, it’s probably too good of a salmon for a Food and Wine Marketplace. It comes with a warm lentil power salad and a dollop of avocado. It’s an all-around solid dish and one that we can recommend.
There are no new food items in Africa this year. Here’s our review from last year.
Grilled Lamb Chop – $7.75
This was delicious. It was soft, hot, and cooked well. The mint pesto paired well with the dish and wasn’t overpowering in the slightest. The overall texture of the meal was enhanced by potato crunchies.
There are no new food items in Belgium this year.
Moqueca – $5.25
The Moqueca is a brazilian seafood stew and we found it to be a wonderful portion. In it, you’ll find scallops, shrimp, and white fish, which were all prepared well and tasted good. The coconut-lime sauce was creamy and it was only some undercooked rice that brought the dish down. Assuming they can address the rice issue, we can recommend this dish.
For more on Brazil, check out our review from last year.
There are no new food items in Canada this year. For more on Canada, check out our review from last year.
Xi’an Pancake with Beef – $6.75
At almost $7, you actually get your money’s worth here. A take on the traditional stuffed pastry of a similar name, this is served open faced, with slightly spicy and soft beef inside. Compared to many of the other meat options at the Festival, you can’t go wrong with this dish. The pancake was a bit chewy and tough to get through, but you’re really here for the tender beef anyway. The portion of the meat alone can justify the price tag when compared to other options, and we can recommend this dish.
Chicken Dumplings – $6.75
The dumplings were served with a Chinese slaw and were densely packed. They’re overpriced, that’s for sure, but they did provide a wonderful amount of flavor in each bite.
Black Pepper Shrimp – $6.75
Not new in name this year, but rather new in presentation. We find ourselves staring down half the amount of shrimp as two years ago, with just two landing on the plate. This dish is a tale of two elements. On the one hand, the shrimp was big, but surprisingly dry. On the other hand, the garlic noodles that the shrimp were served on were excellent. They had more spice to them than most of the items we tried this year and the noodles were soaked in sauce. At $6.75, the whole dish has to work, and the shrimp just weren’t up to par. If you want to roll the dice on whether you get a good pair of shrimp, it’s a pretty good dish, but until we hear of the shrimp improving, it earns a pass. Head for the Xi’an Pancake with Beef instead.
There are no new food items in Coastal Eats this year. For more on Coastal Eats, check out our review from last year.
The Steakhouse Blended Burger – $5.00
A blended beef with wild mushroom slider with brie cheese fondue, arugula, truffle and blue cheese potato chip on a brioche bun. The meat here is wonderfully soft and the brie cheese fondue adds a nice, smooth flavor to the dish. A blue cheese potato chip doesn’t add anything in terms of the flavor, but the soft texture of the meat and brioche bun is contrasted nicely with the crunch from the potato chip. Four or so bites will finish off the slider, which we recommend if you’re in the market for a burger.
The IMPOSSIBLE Burger Slider – $5.00
This was my first time trying the IMPOSSIBLE burger and it really does earn its name. The texture is spot on and while the “meat” runs a little bit drier on the palate than a regular burger, it is paired smartly with a wasabi cream and spicy asian slaw. The wasabi cream is much more subtle than what you’d find on a plate of sushi, but a hint of flavor follows you through the four bites it takes to finish the burger. The asian slaw adds a bit of a crunch to the burger. Just like the Steakhouse Blended Burger above, the IMPOSSIBLE Burger Slider earns our recommendation.
Flavors from Fire
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak – $6.75
We were looking forward to this dish, but almost all of the steak was either burnt or so overcooked that the steak was dry. It really turned us off to the whole dish…until we took a bite of the Smoked Corn Cake underneath. The cake was moist and they really nailed the corn flavor. If we can chaulk the terrible steak up to a bad first day, this dish could be a wonderful option for steak lovers. If the steak issues can be addressed, we can recommend this dish. If it stays the same as what we were served, it earns a pass.
Swine Brine – $8.25
The Swine Brine isn’t new this year, but we heard that the offering had improved, so we decided to give it another try after last year’s disappointing debut. The Evan Williams Bourbon from the 2017 version has been replaced with Jim Beam Bourbon for this year’s attempt. The bourbon is still mixed with lemon juice, apple cider, and dijon mustard to make for a unique flavor. This year it’s smoother than the nearly overpowering sour flavor from last year. I’m assuming the improvement is due less to the switch of bourbon and more to a toning down of the other elements.
The piggy wing on top is also an improvement. It’s tender and falls off the bone nicely. We noticed that all of the meats were being cooked on the spot, just behind the booth. While it may not have helped the Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak above, the Swine Brine benefits nicely and puts this offering “on the fence” for us this year, while last year it earned a pass with prejudice. It’s still a bit expensive for our taste, but if you’re looking for a nicely cooked pork wing and a unique bourbon offering, the Swine Brine is finally a good option this year.
Carbonade de Boeuf, Purée de Pommes de Terre – $6.25
We tried to make this dish look good, we really did, but there was no saving it. The blandness of the visuals translated directly to the tongue, and it disappointed. Combine a bland flavor with two small chunks of beef and you’ve got a dish that earns a pass.
There are no new food items in Germany this year.
There are no new food items in Hawai’i this year. For more on Hawai’i, check out our review from last year.
Hops & Barley
New Brunswick Slider – $5.75
A slow-braised beef brisket “pot roast style” is soft to the bite and surrenders as you would expect from a pot roast. Our slider had an unexpected infusion of heat that was probably an overambitious bite of the horseradish cream and maybe a pepper. Overall, its a solid slider that is maybe $0.75 too expensive for what amounts to three or four bites. That said, you’ll find some really tender meat and a nice kick, which earns the New Brunswick Slider a recommendation from us.
There are no new food items in India this year.
There are no new food items in Ireland this year. For more on Ireland, check out our review from last year.
Islands of the Caribbean
Ropa Vieja Empanada – $5.25
A wonderfully flakey crust on this empanada gave each bite a nice texture. The ropa vieja inside is infused with flavor, so much so that it’s easy to forget about the tasty tomato aioli drizzled on top. Our empanada was served very warm, which allowed the crust to break down nicely and the meat was enjoyable. We’d like to see a bit more meat packed in, but this dish earns our recommendation.
Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop – $5.50
The jerk-spiced chicken lollipop was a standout for us. Not necessarily because of the flavoring on the chicken itself, but more in the way of how it was prepared. The chicken falls off of the bone, which allows you to easily pair it with the roasted sweet plantain salad – a must. A mango chutney yogurt on top provides a nice citrus flavor and rounds out the dish well. We can recommend this dish.
Fritto Misto – $8.00
Let’s just start with this – everything in Italy is always overpriced. Ok, there you go. Now, this dish is a wonderful $6.00 dish, with crispy shrimp, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. The problem is that it’s $8.00. The shrimp is good, really good. The crispy breading is just subtle enough to allow the shrimp to shine through. The zucchini and sweet potatoes are fine. Not enough to bring this dish to a recommended status though.
Mezzi Rigatoni – $7.00
If you like your pasta al dente, you’ll likely enjoy this dish. It’s a bit too hard for us and those who we tried this dish with, but it’s a style of cooking pasta that many enjoy. The red vodka sauce was good and the few bites we got from the pancetta (Italian bacon) was enjoyable. The portion size is the only saving grace for this dish when it carries a $7 price tag. If you’re looking for an al dente pasta when strolling World Showcase, this is not a bad option.
Pollo Alla Cacciatora – $7.95
A braised chicken thigh comes in a bed of tomatoes and mushrooms and sits next to a parmesan polenta. The chicken was actually quite good and everyone who got a bite of it enjoyed it. The tomatoes and mushrooms added some variety to the taste profile, but it’s just too expensive for us to recommend fully.
Teriyaki Chicken Bun – $5.50
A sweet teriyaki chicken is found within a warm, soft bao bun. Roughly the same size of the cheeseburger bao found in Satuli Canteen, the teriyaki chicken bun is a wonderful addition to the Festival that we’ll be returning to order again. Recommended.
Beef Nigiri – $5.95
Two strips of cold beef sit beneath a shrimp sauce and a few pickled jalapenos. The shrimp sauce was the prevailing flavor of the dish. Two solid portion sizes earn this dish a recommendation. Japan is two for two on earning our recommendation. Can they sweep?
Spicy Roll – $5.75
A lager than normal roll would probably be about 4 normal sized sushi rolls. The volcano sauce was essentially a spicy mayo and added a welcome kick to the roll. The tuna and salmon in the roll were very good and noticeably fresh. This dish earns a recommendation from us and we foresee ourselves returning to Japan a few times throughout the Festival.
UltraVIOLET or InfraRED – $3.75/each
We can consolidate our review of both of these drinks into one – its Sprite. I should clarify, it doesn’t taste like Sprite, but rather a knockoff version. A bit of coloring is added depending on which you order, but make no mistake, you shouldn’t order these drinks.
Phosphorescent Phreeze – $7.00 (Update 9/6: Sold Out)
The Phosphorescent Phreeze is more than just a drink. When you order the drink, you’re handed a card that asks you to partake in a thought experiment. In a Festival full of similar drink offerings at most booths, the Phosphorescent Phreeze is a fun experience. Served in a plastic souvenir Laboratory flask, this is as much of a no-brainer for its tart, sweet taste as it is for its social media potential. Skip the other offerings inside Light Lab and head for the Phosphorescent Phreeze.
Update (9/6): We returned to Light Lab after hearing that the Phosphorescent Phreeze was sold out. Turns out that Disney didn’t order enough souvenir Laboratory flasks and the Phosphorescent Phreeze is no longer available. We review its replacement below.
Phosphorescent Phlight – $7.00
Replacing the sold out Phosphorescent Phreeze is the Phosphorescent Phlight. Three frozen drinks are now offered in a flight with accompanying glow cubes. It was tough to make out the exact flavoring, but it’s worth noting that it each of the flavors in the Phlight are different from the Phreeze.
In the Phlight, you’ll find yellow, purple, and blue frozen drinks. They’re closest in flavor with traditional Gatorade flavors of the same colors. We found that the liquid (and flavor) quickly melted to the bottom, leaving a difficult layer of shaved ice at the top. The shaved ice was nearly flavorless and not the most enjoyable experience. For the same amount of money as the Phreeze, the Phlight misses the mark completely. The gimmick/fun of the Laboratory flask and “experiment” has been lost, and with only the disappointing InfraRED and UltraVIOLET left as new items, Light Lab now earns a pass from us completely until and unless the Phosphorescent Phreeze makes a triumphant return.
Shrimp Quesadilla – $7.25
The Shrimp Quesadilla find shrimp and oaxaca cheese inside a corn tortilla and topped with a spicy guajillo sauce. The corn tortilla is authentically presented, but it always seems a bit dry to us. Maybe it’s the fact that we usually find our way to Mexico around high noon, but it doesn’t pair well with the Florida heat experienced during the majority of the Festival.
Short Rib Tostada – $6.50
An oversized chip holds short ribs, black beans, salsa verde, and spring onion. This dish ended up on the bland side of things due to a short rib that lacked flavor paired with black beans. A mountain of greens on top don’t save the dish and an inconsequential amount of spring onion leads to a pass for us.
Coconut Rice Pudding – $4.25
The coconut rice pudding is served cold and is quite a refreshing offering. If you’re a fan of rice pudding, we think you’ll like this dish. A mango coulis sits atop the dish and adds a bit of variety to the flavor profile. It won’t really knock your socks off, but it’s not a bad option for a cold dish.
There are no new food items in Morocco this year.
Seared Venison Sausage – $6.50
The sausage came with a jumara puree and wild mushroom marsala sauce. The dish had a bbq flavor to it that was appreciated, but an overabundance of salt ultimately leads to a pass on subsequent visits.
There are no new food items in Spain this year. For more on Spain, check out our review from last year.
There are no new food items in Thailand this year. For more on Thailand, check out our review from last year.
The Almond Orchard
Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip – $5.00
Pulled chicken, Blue Diamond lightly salted almonds, and parmesan. Served with Nut Thins crackers. The creamy spinach and artichoke dip had an explosion of flavor in each bite, and lived up to the “creamy” naming. We really enjoyed the bits of chicken in the dip and the almonds added a nice texture. The portion size is also fantastic which makes it hard to believe that it’s only priced at $5! We can’t recommend this highly enough.
The Cheese Studio
Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake – $4.50
A rich cheesecake is the base for a maple bourbon cream and drizzled with caramel. A pecan crunch tops it off. The portion size of this dish offers a wonderful dessert option that can easily be shared among two people. Everything really worked well here. From the maple bourbon cream to the caramel, the elements have been smartly paired and we can recommend this dish.
The Chocolate Studio
There are no new food items at The Chocolate Studio this year, but we couldn’t resist stopping by anyway.
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle – $5.00
This is, perhaps, the best $5 you can spend at the Food and Wine Festival. A chocolate-almond truffle is flash frozen with liquid nitrogen at the time of purchase to create a colder-than-normal ice cream. A warm whiskey-caramel drizzle is applied after the chocolate-almond truffle is cracked open with a hammer. The chocolate is rich and creamy, the best of any chocolate offering at a Festival Marketplace. We can’t recommend this dish enough and we’re glad to see it return in 2018.
Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte – $4.25
While the name of this offering hasn’t changed, the presentation has. The Chocolate Studio knows what they’re doing. A rich chocolate torte is laid on top of a bed of raspberry sauce. The sauce is fruity and it supplements the chocolate nicely. Another solid offering from The Chocolate Studio. If it wasn’t sharing the menu with the Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle, it would earn a recommendation, but for $0.75 more, I would go with the nitro.
The Wine & Dine Studio
Butternut Squash Ravioli – $4.50
Fans of squash will certainly enjoy this more than we did. It’s served with a brown butter vinaigrette, parmesan, and pumpkin seed.
Trio of Artisan Cheese – $5.25
The Trio of Artisan Cheese features La Bottega di BelGioioso Cheeses. The three cheeses at play here are Crescenza-Stracchino, CreamyGorg Gorgonzola Dolce, and Artigiano Vino Rosso. Google-ing those names will probably tell you more about these cheeses than I could, but there are a variety of textures, from creamy to firm, and all of the cheeses were enjoyable.
Croissant Doughnut – $6.00 to $6.50
There are four different toppings available for the Croissant Doughnut offered here, and we chose what was described to us by Cast Members as the most popular choice of the day. Pictured below is the version with hazelnut cream and raspberries ($6.50). The basic croissant doughnut is the cheapest ($6.00) and is topped with cinnamon sugar, the chocolate and marshmallow version as well as the version with sprinkles are $6.50 each.
Somewhere between a proper doughnut and a flakey croissant, the croissant doughnut has a unique texture that eventually lead to some layers coming apart. The raspberries were fresh and the hazelnut was rich, but it proved to be too odd of a texture to work for us.
Pancake Milkshake – $5.00
Perhaps the biggest letdown of the Festival was the pancake milkshake. Hours later and we’re still trying to figure out why Disney decided to add the word pancake to the name. It surely doesn’t reflect any noticable flavoring, as the entire shake was a plain vanilla until we reached the cherry and whip cream. It earns a pass.