For almost 30 years the annual EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival has served up all manner of delicacies from around the world. From deep fried guilty pleasures to elevated takes on traditional classics, Food and Wine has something delicious for everybody, and way more than any one person could possibly try in a single day. If you’re headed down to Walt Disney World between now and November 19, make sure to book a day at EPCOT to check out this year’s festival—and once you’re there, make a beeline to the seven treats (and one cocktail) listed below. They’re the best of the best of this year’s Food and Wine Festival.
The Impossible Meatball is one of the runaway hits of this year’s festival, and not just with those who avoid meat. This ball of “meat” is plant-based, but it might taste even better than the real deal would. It’s served on a bed of polenta with a puttanella sauce and a streak of basil pesto on top, and together it all makes up what might be the best thing you’ll eat at Food and Wine this year. The rich flavor of the ersatz meat is contrasted nicely by the creamy pesto and the olive saltiness of the sauce, with the pillowy polenta bringing it all together. Find it at the Earth Eats booth near Port of Entry right at the mouth of World Showcase.
If you’re looking for cheese, Food and Wine has you covered. Of all of this year’s cheese dishes, the best for my money is the crispy paneer at the India booth near the China pavilion. Cubes of cheese are breaded and fried and served with a curry-forward ketchup with mango pieces in it, and the result is a spicy, flavorful treat that’s a little more substantial than you might expect. India has always been a glaring absence among World Showcase’s permanent pavilions, but at least we can get a little taste of it during Food and Wine—and a very delicious taste, at that.
It’s way too hard to find good SPAM musubi, especially in the South. This popular Hawaiian dish is one of the things I most look for in a good tiki bar, but surprisingly few serve any variation of it these days. Fortunately the Hawaii booth near Port of Entry at the left side of the entrance to World Showcase serves up a fantastic version of it. The SPAM is glazed just right with teriyaki sauce and served between two rice beds with a dollop of eel sauce. It’s all tied up with nori and painted with a ripple of spicy mayonnaise. It packs an ideal distribution of sweetness, saltiness, and spice in every bite. It’s my single-favorite dish at this year’s festival, and my only minor complaint is that you can’t order a Mai Tai from the same booth.
This might be cheating a little bit. The cheddar soup has been a beloved part of Le Cellier’s menu pretty much since EPCOT opened back in 1982, and during Food and Wine you can enjoy it without having to land a hard-to-get reservation. If you’ve never had it before, it’s a rich, creamy cheese soup with chewy bits of salty bacon, and it’s so delicious you’ll be tempted to lick your bowl when you’re done. This serving comes with a pretzel roll on the side, which is the perfect complement. You can find it at a booth in the Canada pavilion, naturally enough.
Steamed buns have become a fairly common theme park treat in recent years, probably because they’re easily portable, don’t make too much of a mess, and are often quite delicious. Three of my favorite snacks at Disneyland, for instance, are the different kinds of baos served at the Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland. The teriyaki chicken bun at the Japan pavilion is just as good; it’s a steamed bun with a filling of chicken and veggies in a teriyaki sauce, and it’s both tasty and easy to eat while walking through the park. The tang of the filling really pops between the dense, chewy softness of the bun. It might not be the most exotic or exciting dish at Food and Wine, but it’s one of the tastiest and most convenient.
The griddled cheese at the Greece booth near the Morocco pavilion has been an annual favorite over the last decade or two, and is once again a highlight. It’s exactly the kind of unexpected but undeniably delicious treat that makes Food and Wine such a great event. It’s what it sounds like, a piece of cheese (this time made from a combo of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk) heated in a griddle, and then served with a hard layer of honey and topped with tiny pistachio pieces. It’s only three ingredients, but there’s so much happening with this flavor profile, from the rich creaminess of the cheese, to the sweetness of the honey and the earthiness of the pistachios. It might be old hat for annual Food and Wine visitors, but the griddled cheese remains one of the very best dishes you’ll find there.
French fries might sound boring at a festival with exotic delicacies from around the world, but there’s always a need for comfort food. At the Fry Basket booth near the Test Track attraction you can order a flight of three unique takes on fried potatoes. One type of fry comes seasoned with sea salt and malt vinegar for all the fish and chips fans out there. The barbecued bacon fries are almost like an homage to poutine, with bits of bacon and a smoky aioli on top of fries dusted with a barbecue seasoning. And the sweet potato casserole fries could double as dessert, with marshmallow cream, candied pecans, and the rich taste of caramel whisky. This might literally seem like a meat and potatoes type of order (even if only one of the three actually comes with meat), but if you’re looking for a delicious (and salty) snack, the fry flight is near the top of the list.
It wouldn’t be Food and Wine without a drink (or six), but I’m a bit behind the 8 ball when it comes to that. I honestly don’t like wine, try to avoid beer, and will almost always go for a good rum or whiskey cocktail when possible. That leaves pretty slim pickings for me, as most of the alcoholic drinks here are beer, wine, cider, or vodka cocktails. (The only whiskey drink is a bourbon Bloody Mary, which sounds great, but not when it’s 95 degrees out in central Florida.) I certainly love a good margarita, though, and the best ones I’ve ever had at EPCOT is the blood orange charm margarita at a booth in the Mexico pavilion. It mixes together tequila, a blood orange aperitif, vodka infused with blackcurrant and prosecco, and serves it in a glass with pink peppercorns and a rim crusted with sweet dried chile salt. It has a good bit of the sweetness you expect from a margarita, but with a jolt of heat whenever you get near that salt. It’s tart, sweet, and spicy all at the same time, and although you definitely taste the tequila, it all balances so nicely that you might forget there’s even alcohol in it. Be like me and get a couple, why don’t you?
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.
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