Although my elementary-school-age kids are like most others, a little bit of Disney magic this time of year turns them into discerning foodies.
Every year, Epcot's Food and Wine Festival transforms my children, ages 9 and 11, into adventurous eaters. One child usually is a bit pickier than the other, but you wouldn't know it when it comes time to sample the dishes at the international marketplaces at Walt Disney World.
As my kids have gotten older, they have come to appreciate, and even look forward to, the annual festival almost as much as my husband and I do. So far this season, we have eaten our way around the World Showcase twice. Here, I'll share their favorites -- some they agreed on and others they didn't. Of course, every child's palate is different, but perhaps this guide will help your family find some new favorites you might not have considered.
We'll travel clockwise around the promenade, as the marketplaces are numbered. Although we have visited the festival two times, we still haven't tried all the foods. On both trips, we started at the Hawaii marketplace with the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($3.50). Everyone in my family loves this item, though the kids prefer theirs "naked" (without the chutney and mayo).
The kids bypassed the Scotland, Terra and Brazil marketplaces in favor of the Argentina booth. There, they indulged in the Beef Empanada ($4.25). Because of a wonderful Latin restaurant near our house, both of my children eat empanadas on a fairly regular basis. When comparing the two versions, they noted that the Epcot empanada does not have cheese with the beef and instead appeared to have beans mixed in. But that did not deter them from eating their entire servings!
Moving past Australia, Mexico and Singapore, they chose to stop at the China stand for the Silky Spun Ice ($3.95). This marketplace offers three flavors that are rotated on a weekly basis -- strawberry, coconut and mango. Strawberry was the flavor du jour during our visit, and both kids enjoyed the treat. I took a taste, expecting the creaminess of ice cream, but it's really more of a smooth version of shaved ice. I didn't care for the texture. However, Deb Koma tried the coconut version earlier in the festival and declared it one of her favorites.
Next door in South Korea, we all shared the Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce ($3.75) and the Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw ($3.50). I had tried the Kimchi Dog at two previews and loved it. I suspected it would be too spicy for my kids, but they wanted to try it because I had raved about the dish. For the record, I was correct. My daughter did like the lettuce wrap with the Kimchi Slaw, however.
They skipped over the Africa and Cheese marketplaces and queued up in Germany both times for the Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll ($5). This comes with mustard on the plate, but my children asked for the dish without it and ate every bite of the bratwurst. They also thoroughly enjoyed the Apple Strudel with Werther's Original Karamel and Vanilla Sauce ($3.50).
Chef Jens Dahlmann, executive chef at Epcot, also recommended the Schinken Nudel, which is Pasta Gratin with Ham & Cheese ($3.25), in Germany for kids. He told me his own children, ages 11, 8 and 4, love it.
A few steps down the promenade at the Poland marketplace, kids will find two tasty options. "Zapiekanki, a Polish pizza you could say, is a crunchy piece of bread and cheese and mushrooms and house-made ketchup on it. Great textures and great flavors for the kids," said Chef Jens. "Also, pierogies sit well, too. Who doesn't like pierogies with kielbasa?"
In Italy, my kids liked the Ravioli de formaggio all'emiliana ($5.75), which is offered in generous portions. They bypassed Hops & Barley, eager to get to the Florida Local marketplace and chow down on Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles ($3.75). My children removed the pickles, of course.
One of the biggest surprises was that my son really liked Morocco's Harissa Chicken Roll ($4.95), in spite of its spicy flavor. He selected that dish on both visits.
Soon, New Zealand gave way to Belgium, where our quest for sweets was met with Belgium waffles with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream ($3.25) or Berry Compote and Whipped Cream ($3.25). Delicious!
In France, my kids dove into the Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes -- $5.50) both times. Then, we had to walk off some of the great food without stops in Ireland, Canada or Greece. (Canada is offering the always-popular Cheddar Cheese Soup and "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon.)
At the Refreshment Port, my daughter and I -- both pineapple lovers -- enjoyed the new Dole Pineapple Fritters ($1.99). The stand also offers Fried Shrimp or Chicken Chunks with Dole Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce, which are likely to appeal to kids.
Finally, at the Desserts & Champagne marketplace, both children tried the Frozen S'mores drink ($3). My children love s'mores and will even make them in the microwave at home if the mood strikes, but they were not wild about this drink. They both mentioned they preferred the fruit-flavored smoothies served in the marketplaces of Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
I’m sure we will find that repeat visits to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will reveal new favorites for my kids as they explore more offerings. As long as they –- and your children –- can have fun with a sense of adventure, there’s no telling what flavors will become their favorites.
You can see complete menus for the marketplaces of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival here.
The previous post in this blog was Winter from 'Dolphin Tale' lives at nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The next post in this blog is Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin's pastry chef talks about sweet selections at Food & Wine Classic.