I just returned from another trip to Walt Disney World, and one thing is clear: I think I ate enough food to last me through Thanksgiving. Between family birthday celebrations, trying out new restaurants, and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I still feel stuffed. Food & Wine was definitely a highlight of my trip. While I have definitely enjoyed the offerings at the Festival in years past, something about this year’s food seemed a notch above what I had in previous years. Without further adieu, here is everything I tried at the 2014 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Keeping with the theme of the festival, I will be ranking each dish from 1 Chef Duffy to 5 Chef Duffies, with 5 being the best.
We’ll start our culinary journey on the bridge from Future World and work our way clockwise through the World Showcase.
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Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies – This has been a Festival favorite for me for a few years now. The lamb is juicy and flavorful, while the mint pesto doesn’t overpower the dish. The lamb chop was delicious as ever, but my family had some issues with consistency. The first chop I ordered was pretty big and meaty, while the second chop I got was about half the size. My mom got a couple of lamb chops that were so undercooked that she had to return them. This is an absolutely delicious dish, but the execution could be a little better. 4/5 Duffies
Shrimp Taco – The shrimp taco from Mexico has consistently been my favorite dish at previous Food & Wine Festivals. Something about the sweet fried shrimp with the spicy chipotle mayo made for an irresistible combination to me. I was a little hesitant to hear that the recipe slightly changed this year. They replaced the cabbage with a pickled habanero slaw. Fortunately, this change actually improved my favorite dish at the Festival. I never was a big fan of the cabbage in the old version of the taco, as it was a little hard to chew and swallow. The new slaw vastly improves the texture of the dish, while the flavor stays fantastic. 5/5 Duffies
Mango Strawberry Margarita – Another positive change to the previous offering. This margarita was extremely tasty, and much more refreshing than the Habanero Margarita they had served in previous years. 4/5 Duffies
Sweet Corn Cheese Cake – I was actually going to skip this one until my sister and brother-in-law recommended it. I really enjoyed this dessert. It’s pretty much what it says on the label: a sweet corn cheesecake topped with whipped cream and caramel. This was extremely tasty, and one of the few desserts I had at Disney World that wasn’t entirely sweet. It was a nice change of pace, and I definitely hope they bring it back. 4/5 Duffies
Nueske’s Pepper Bacon Hash – Served with sweet corn, potatoes, hollandaise, and pickled jalapenos, the Bacon Hash had a pretty big buzz around it online. As a big fan of bacon, hollandaise, and jalapenos, I was really excited to try this. Unfortunately, this was one of the few big letdowns of the festival for me. The flavor combination was nice, but there wasn’t much bacon in the Bacon Hash. Something about the mixture of potatoes, corn, and jalapenos just made for a weird, grainy texture. I can see why some people would like it, but it just wasn’t for me. 2/5 Duffies
Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steamed Bun with Hoisin Sauce – The China Marketplace continues to impress with the duck bun. With tender duck, crunchy onions, sweet hoisin sauce, and a perfectly made bun, this dish was absolutely delectable. 5/5 Duffies
Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun with Chili Mayo – This dish is a spicy alternative to the sweet duck. It has the same fantastic bun, but instead its filled with beef, crunchy chow mein noodles, and a chili sauce that has a pretty big kick. This was one of my favorite dishes last year, and it did not disappoint this year. If I could only have one, I would probably order the duck again, but they are very close in my book. 5/5 Duffies
Chicken Potstickers – This wasn’t the most exciting thing I had at the festival, but they were oh so tasty. Chicken Potstickers are pretty standard in Chinese cuisine. These are a very good execution of them. 4/5 Duffies
Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll – This was a pretty forgettable dish. While I enjoyed it, nothing about it stood out to me. The Pretzel Roll was good, but not as good as the pretzel bread they serve at Le Cellier. The bratwurst was just average. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. 3/5 Duffies
Altenmünster Oktoberfest – This beer reminded me of the bratwurst: Fine but forgettable. Personally, I’m a fan of flavorful beers like an IPA, and this beer just seemed pretty weak. 2/5 Duffies
Hops & Barley
Florida Grass-Fed Beef Slider with Pimento Cheese – They changed the slider offering from last year’s festival, and I’m not sure if this was for the better. Whereas last year’s grass-fed beef slider was topped simply with cheese and pickles, this year’s slider had a much more bold topping in pimento cheese and onions. It was spicy and made for a big impression, but the pimento cheese slider was divisive in my family. I liked the kick that it added, but others in my party found the new topping off-putting. Fortunately, last year’s version of the slider is still for sale at the Epcot Food Truck at Downtown Disney. 3.5/5 Duffies
Spicy Hand Roll – I am a big fan of Spicy Tuna and Salmon rolls, so this dish is almost tailor made for me. For sushi fans, this is a must have while at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. 4/5 Duffies
Teriyaki Gyoza Bun – I had high hopes for this dish. A steamed bun filled with teriyaki chicken and vegetables: this sounds pretty close to the Beijing Roasted Duck with Hoisin offered at China. Unfortunately, the Japanese dish pales in comparison. The bun had a weird mushy texture, and the filling was way too sweet. Whereas the Duck Bun was perfectly executed, the Teriyaki Gyoza Bun had room for improvement. It wasn’t the worst thing I had, but it definitely isn’t among the best either. 3/5 Duffies
Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato, and Cilantro – Pork belly can be a risky proposition. When it’s good, it’s “I must tweet about this immediately” good. When it’s bad, oh boy, it’s bad. Fortunately, Brazil’s Crispy Pork Belly falls into the first category. It was perfectly cooked, living up to its crispy moniker with not a fatty or chewy part to be found. It also had a hint of nice smokiness that wasn’t too overpowering. Overall, one of my favorite things I tried at the Festival. 5/5 Duffies
Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread – Another winner from Brazil. Served piping hot, this gluten free bread was extremely tasty. The fact that it was filled with delectable cheese made me a repeat customer. 4/5 Duffies
Warm Chocolate Puddy with Kerrygold Irish Cream – This small treat reminded me a lot of a Lava Cake, which is one of my favorite desserts. The combination of warm gooey cake with a cool cream topping was a huge success in my book. My favorite dessert at the Festival. 4.5/5 Duffies
Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon – Another perennial favorite for my family. It’s hard to go wrong with a tender filet mignon served with mushrooms, and this is an excellent execution of that. 5/5 Duffies
Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce – The pita in this gyro was pure perfection. I think the Gyro I got had been sitting out for awhile, so the chicken was kind of lukewarm when I got it, but the dish was still extremely flavorful. 4/5 Duffies
Kalua Pork Slider – Hawaii consistently had some of the longest lines for the week I was at Disney World. Once I took a bite of this slider, I knew exactly why. With tender pulled pork topped with a sweet and tangy pineapple chutney on a soft Hawaiian roll, this slider had a killer flavor profile. 4.5/5 Duffies
Seared Sea Scallop – Served with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon, this scallop was probably the best thing I ate at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. I was a repeat customer, and each time the scallop was perfectly cooked. Tender with a crispy sear on the outside. This is also a dish where the garnish is as good as the protein, if not better. The spinach and cheese was creamy and delicious, while the bacon was chunky, crunchy, and smoky. Overall, the combinations of textures and flavors made this dish extremely successful. 5/5 Duffies
That concludes our culinary tour around the world. Maybe I just got lucky with what I ordered, but I really feel like the entire Festival delivered excellent food this year. It was so excellent that I’ll be wearing stretchy pants all the way until Thanksgiving.
If you were at the Food & Wine Festival this year, let me know what your favorite dishes were in the comments below.