The 2013 Epcot international Food & Wine Festival got off to an amazing start this past Friday, Sept. 27th. Real Food Real Kitchens had the absolute pleasure of spending a full day there, tasting food and drinks from all over the world. We had such a fantastic time. I claimed it as 'The day I fell in love with food!', and that is no joke!
Our morning started off with a brunch of tasty foods. These were samples of some of the new items on this years menus including: crispy pork belly, a kimchi dog, and a very non-traditional vegetarian Scottish Haggis followed up with some great sweets and a delicious Smores-esque bevie. Our bellies were prepped to take on the day of indulgence but not before getting the opportunity to meet Chef Carla Hall from The Chew. What an incredible pleasure. Her enthusiasm for the festival and food alone got us even more amped to travel the World Showcase and grab a sample of nosh from each country around the way. Her admitted culinary weakness is comfort foods and her favorite downtime activity... dancing!
Before taking on 'the world' we caught up with Chef Jens Dahlmann, Epcot's Executive Chef who told us that planning each years Food and Wine Festival is a never ending process, "We already have the 2014 line up."
The Festival Center was an exploration all its own and included food demonstrations and served as a market place for a wide variety of food and cooking related items like: food art, cookbooks, knives, and a HUGE wine 'supermarket' with hundreds of different bottles to choose from. The final stamp of greatness in the Festival Center is the Ghirardelli exhibit, where upon entry you immediately get your chocolate fix.
After leaving the Festival Center we headed in to the park and got a few 'first things first' items out of the way which included an 80's flashback with Michael Jackson and the still amazing 3D film 'Captain Eo'. We then took a quick blast back in time inside the famous Epcot icon Spaceship Earth. A little Nemo, a Mission to Space, and we were on our way to the World Showcase.
Our first stop was at the Ocean Spray 'Cranberry Bog' display which was fun to see in real life. We received a snack pack of Ocean Spray Craisins Brand Dried Cranberries that came in handy to snack on all day long.
We then began to eat our way around the world which made for a delicious rest of the day. We stopped in at Terra to try the amazing Trick n' Chick n' Curry with Basmati Rice. This dish used Gardein brand Chick n' Breast, which is now our must buy mock chicken on any trip to the grocery store. A glass of fresh watermelon juice finished off this stop. We then moved on to China for a quick bite of Coconut Silk Ice Cream Ribbon.
Post China, we made a quick stop by Norway, not for the food but for the memorable Maelstrom boat ride before heading to Africa. In Africa we tried the delicate spinach and paneer cheese pocket that gave us enough of a curry kick to make it to Italy.
Italy offered up some Ravioli de formaggio (the line for Italy was huge) and then we headed to Japan. The Youki Tofu topped with miso sauce and edamame served with grilled vegetables was our fave along with a traditional California Roll. Then it was time to shop. The shops in Japan are by far the best offering up a little of everything we love: anime art and characters, beautiful art by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli (Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away...), incense, and more.
As if that wasn't enough of a day, the 'meat' of our experience was just about to begin. It started with the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. On this day, Starship with Mickey Thomas were playing. A little before our time, but who doesn't enjoy an audience sing-a-long to 'We Built This City'? After the concert we had a bit of R n' R time at the Chase lounge and reception area in the American Adventure pavilion. Here we were treated to a huge array of Coke products (yay!) and a taste of Schöfferhofer Weizen.
We then went half way around the World Showcase to enjoy a magical night in Scotland. What a party! The Scotland: Land of Food and Drink event in the WorldShowplace Events Pavilion was 3 full hours of food and entertainment magic. There was food and drink as far as the eyes could see and it included a little bit of everything Scottish. Lots of whiskys (Oban, The Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker, and Laphroaig) to a special dark, oak barrel aged beer by Innis & Gunn. Then on to the food that included all kinds of traditional Scottish dishes and desserts.
The food and drink alone could have made for a fabulous night, but the added entertainment made it a night of perfection. We were introduced to the amazing and beautiful songstress Rachel Sermanni who had us mesmerized during her performances (the highlight in entertainment for the night). We were then energized by the Scottish marching band and Highland dancers. Wow!
We figured this had to be the grand finale' to the night but no, it was taken one step further by the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth firework show over the World Showcase Lagoon.
Nothing could have made the day better, except of course to be invited back to experience the even more that Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has to offer. The Festival is going on now through November 11th. Plan your stay in advanced because many of the special events you might want to attend sell out fast! For more information visit: www.epcotfoodfestival.com
by Craig Chapman