At a Tables in Wonderland dinner on Saturday at Walt Disney World, guests were invited to preview some of the offerings for this year's Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The popular event, which begins Sept. 27, allows Walt Disney World visitors to taste their way around the world via kiosks that sell foods and beverages representing various countries.
AllEars.Net founder Deb Wills, AllEars.Net photographer Linda Eckwerth and I attended the event, so we could share with you what to expect when the 46-day festival opens. Deb and Linda agreed to share their thoughts on the adult beverages because I'm really not a wine or beer connoisseur.
When we arrived, an open bar offered a variety of wines, beers and a signature cocktail. The frozen Polish Szarlotka, which will be available at the Poland kiosk, mixes the flavors of an apple tart and Polish vodka. Several of our dining companions declared it a delicious combination. Linda chose the Once Upon a Vine Chardonnay, which she said was refreshing considering it was so hot outside. She described the wine as crisp, with a touch of fruit and very little oak.
Three appetizers were offered: Florida Grass-fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles from the Florida Fresh kiosk; Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce from the South Korea booth; and Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado and Cilantro from the new Brazil marketplace. Of the trio, we all liked the flavors of the crispy pork belly -- which is the same cut of meat as bacon -- best. I normally don't choose to eat spicy foods, but the Kimchi Dog was at first appealing, and then, addictive. I couldn't put it down! The three of us weren't overly impressed with the beef slider, even though grass-fed beef is trendy right now. Deb said she did like the meat, but the bun and the pickles didn't appeal to her.
A Xingu Black Beer from Brazil was paired with the Crispy Pork Belly. Linda said, "This is a dark beer and, when poured, has a slightly tan, frothy head. It appears heavy but was actually a medium to light body. I tasted coffee and a little sweetness." She also sampled the Carnaval Moscato sparkling wine from Brazil and described it as slightly bubbly, but not as sweet as most Moscatos.
For the salad course, we were served a very popular dish from the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. We all were excited to see the Watermelon Salad with Pickled Red Onions, Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction from the Florida Fresh booth. So delicious! It was paired with Florida Orange Groves Hurricane Class 5 Florida White Sangria. Linda said, "This was not like any Sangria I have had; It was light but very fruity. While it is a blend of five fruit juices -- passion fruit, pineapple, mango, lime and watermelon -- I was only picking up the pineapple. It was sweet. I think it paired well with the Watermelon Salad but it was not to my taste."
I asked Chef Marianne Hunnel, content development manager of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, if she thought the new Garden Marketplaces at the Flower and Garden Festival might help broaden the audience for the Food and Wine Festival.
"Typically, the demographic is very different," Marianne said. "I think that by incorporating the food and beverage piece as part of the Flower and Garden Festival, there could be a possibility of people becoming more foodies and more interested in the whole art of food and wine."
And, although the festivals may share the same audiences, they will not share the same food. Sadly, the Watermelon Salad was only making a special appearance at the Tables in Wonderland event. It will not be offered at the Food and Wine Festival.
Our dinner entrees were the Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce from Le Cellier at the Canada pavilion and the Seared Scottish Salmon with Cauliflower Puree, Watercress and Malt Vinaigreet from the new Scotland marketplace. They were served with baby root vegetables. This was my first opportunity to try the Le Cellier filet mignon that guests repeatedly rave about, and I now can understand why. It was a most tender and delicious piece of beef! I am told the salmon was prepared perfectly, light and flaky without a heavy fish taste. The salmon will be featured at the new Scotland marketplace, along with Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties (griddled vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes) and Scottish Banoffee Tart (bananas, Scottish Whiskey toffee, Walker's Shortbread crumbles and sweet cream).
Marianne said, "It's very exciting that this country [Scotland] is being represented because we just had the "Brave" movie. But it was something that the Scottish government really wanted to work with us on this year and have a presence. It's not because of "Brave," but I'm sure "Brave" put some exposure to the whole country of Scotland. It just made sense that this was the year to do something like this. There are going to be a lot of surprises and delights for the guests with the dinners."
Our entrees were paired with two wines. Linda said the Mohua Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand went well with the salmon. "It was a light, crisp citrus wine. I tasted grapefruit, lemon and very little grassy notes."
Deb tasted the Wolftrap Red from Africa, which is a blend of syrah, mourvedre and viognier. She said, "I have had this wine without food before and not cared for it. I tried it again to see how it went with food, and it paired well with the filet. I still don't care for the wine, but that's because I don't care for the viognier grape. If you do, you must try this wine!"
Finally, the best part of the dinner: a dessert trio of Chocolate Orange Cupcake, Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake and Morello Cherry Pistachio Mousse. The three of us enjoyed all three desserts, but we also had favorites. Linda and I agreed we'd be standing in line for the cupcake, while Deb preferred the mousse. The three desserts will be available as a trio or can be purchased separately at the Dessert and Champagne marketplace. Linda tried the Nicolas Feuillatte Rose Champagne and found it to be a little too sweet for her when combined with the sugary desserts.
Another dessert has been developed for the festival with kids in mind -- a frozen s'mores beverage made of frozen Nesquik, toasted marshmallow syrup and topped with graham crackers, Marianne told me. And she said there are plenty of foods and beverages for kids to sample, as well as experiences such as the Ghirardeli Chocolate Experience and the Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog.
"So many kids are being educated about different countries and the different foods from the countries. … Kids have the opportunity to taste sushi or the hot dog with kimchi and different things, so I highly encourage kids to explore. It's really a way that they can expand their flavors of the world without that commitment of a whole dinner," Marianne said.
DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the Tables in Wonderland event. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.
The previous post in this blog was Captain Cook's at Polynesian Resort serves many of Disney World's most popular foods.
The next post in this blog is Tips for dining with young kids on Disney Cruise Line.