The 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicked open its doors this year on September 19th (through November 10th) in it's ever grand style filled with delicious foods and drinks from all over the world. Whether you are a foodie like us that try to eat each and every morsel for a day of flavorful fun or like others who prefer to drink their way around the world... there's always something for everyone, and this years festival will not disappoint!
We started our day with some delicious bites from Terra, which had three amazing vegan offerings this year. We couldn't get enough of their 'CraB'less Crab Cake' with pepper slaw and Cajun remoulade featuring Gardein product. That paired with their fruitful fresh watermelon juice sent our taste buds soaring... we were off to a great start!
Moving on we dropped in to the Craft Beer station which had 8 offerings. One from our very own Florida Beer, their Sunshine State Pils. Another being Abita Brewing Company's always amazing Purple Haze. Feeling refreshed, we continued.
Adding in a little family history... at the Australia stop this year their featured dessert was the famous Pavlova, a delicious meringue topped with fresh berries. Our at home reader Atalie shared her Grandmothers recipe for this dish with us in our TRAVEL section. A little sweet goes a long way!
Speaking of sweets, let's talk about one of Belgium's offering this year. We secretly wish each year will be 'the year of the dessert' and it certainly was in Belgium this year! They served up what is normally thought of as a typical Belgian dish, a waffle, but the warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream sent this one soaring!
A new destination this year is Farm Fresh and their earthy and spicy Nueske's pepper bacon hash with sweet corn, potatoes, hollandaise and pickled jalapenos was perfect. This rustic dish was carried by the apple-wood bacon while the creamy hollandaise sauce had a spicy kick to it that paired well with the sweetness of the corn. This dish followed by a cool Orlando Brewing Company I-4 IPA was perfect! We also love the Florida Orange Groves, Key Limen-Key Lime Wine that can be found at this destination.
At the Hops & Barley destination we connected with a variation on one of our favorite comfort foods (mac n cheese), their Baked Lobster Alfredo. Wow! You can find the recipe for this dish in our RECIPES SECTION (TK). Other offerings at this destination were equally delicious like: Florida grass-fed beef sliders with pimento cheese and fresh baked carrot cake with Craisins and cream cheese icing.
Scooting right along... A standout dish in France was the wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and gruyere cheese, definitely worth the quick stop. Followed by Canada's always famous cheddar cheese soup and almost every dish in Greece was a hit especially the griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey.
With hardly any wiggle room under our belt we had to stop in to Puerto Rico! The offerings of food and cocktails alone could have made for an entire day of celebration. Puerto Rico hit a home run to the mainland with a creative new marketplace menu that highlights the beauty and diversity of the “All Star Island.” We're talking about Caribbean conch salad with onion, tomato and cilantro, slow braised beef with rice, and a vanilla caramel custard with chocolate coffee cake... and that's just the food! We added in a couple of cocktails and we were set, until we realized we had one last stop.
Tempting our taste buds and back to our wishful thinking that each year is going to be the 'year of the dessert', we had to make room for one final destination: Desserts & Champagne! After two sweet treats paired with two equally delicious champagnes and the amazing fireworks show Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, we called it a night and hopped on the monorail back to our Disney Resort.
It was another memorable year of fabulous fun, food, and drink! For more information on the 2014 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival which runs from September 19th 2014 to November 10th 2014 and includes many special events and tastings throughout it's course including special parties, celebrity chefs, the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, and more... visit Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
RECONNECTING WITH CHEF NORMAN VAN AKEN
Out of all of the celebrity Chefs that will be at this years Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Chef Norman Van Aken was the one we were most excited to meet. We of course decided to chat him up about our favorite subject, traditional family dishes and the importance they played in his life in shaping him into the Chef he is today, he said, "that connection with the earth and cooking the way our grandparents used to cook is important. I grew up in a home where my mother used to can her own food that subliminally started my love for food and cooking." Anthony Bourdain calls Norman Van Aken, "...the Jimmy Page of his profession - a man who was there at almost every important moment in its history..."
He grew up in northern Illinois near Wisconsin where he got his start being a short order cook. This was the start of what became his infamous career as a celebrity chef being known for his fusion of flavors. He eventually moved to Key West Florida where he met his wife who was also a cook. He relished in the thought of them now sharing time together in the kitchen at home, outside of work, with their son, who is also now a chef, passing on those same traditional family recipes he learned as a child from his Mother to his own family.
Norman will be a Guest Chef throughout the entire 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at many demonstrations and special events (*see the calendar for details). You can check out Norman Van Aken's book 'No Experience Necessary' all about his career and life HERE.