We've just returned from the opening weekend of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and as usual it was spectacular experience. New offerings and old favorites have combined once again to prove why the Festival is one of the most popular-if not the most popular-events at Walt Disney World every year. After nearly two full days of painstaking research, here are our top 7 must-do booths of this year's Food & Wine Festival.
A new addition at last year's festival, the South Korean booth has quickly become one of my favorites. Not to miss is the Boolgogi BBQ Beef, which is served with rice and Kimchi, and features the perfect combination of sweet and spice. The Lettuce Wraps are also a hit, and those looking to be a bit adventurous on their beverage choice should try the Soju. I first encountered Soju on a trip to the real South Korea 5 years ago, and was quickly reminded why I haven't had it since.
When it comes to this booth-one of four making a debut this year-there are only 2 words you need to know... Ropa Vieja. This popular Cuban dish is a welcome addition to Food & Wine and, trust me, tastes nothing like "old clothes." The beverages here are both frozen-coconut mojito and dragon berry colada-and are a great way to cool down, especially in the warmer days early in the Festival.
Next up we travel to Oceania for what every year proves to be two of my favorite dishes at Food & Wine. In addition to the great New Zealand wines, this booth offers a taste of land and sea with the Sea Scallop and Lamb Slider. I paired both with the Whitehaven Pinot Noir, which gave me an excuse to annoy my companions with numerous quotes from the movie Sideways.
Hops & Barley
The name says it all. Sure you'll find a festival favorite in the Lobster Roll, but there's a reason they named the booth "Hops & Barley"...Beer. Here Sam Adams serves up many of their more popular offerings, but the real reason to visit is the one they've made just for Food & Wine. We simply call it Festival Beer, and this year's version does not disappoint.
Another newcomer this year is a booth dedicated to the cuisine of the Hawaiian Islands. It sort of bugs me that Hawaii-which is a state-has a booth while all the others are countries, but the menu quickly makes me forget this seemingly lapse in theme on Disney's part. My suggestion is the Khalua Pork Slider paired with a Longboard Beer. If these are not both found on a menu somewhere at Aulani, then guests are truly missing out.
No "best of" list for Food & Wine would be complete without a stop in Canada. Here you'll find perhaps the most popular food and beverage items of the Festival both in the same place. The Cheese Soup has a bit of a cult following, and I must admit, I've never really been a fan. But keeping my objective journalistic integrity intact, I gave it another whirl, and while I did not faint from over exposure to deliciousness, I can understand why it is beloved by so many. As for the beverage pairing, naturally I went with the Ice Wine, which in addition to its unique taste was very refreshing in the 90 degree Florida heat.
Making its second appearance at this year's festival is Belgium, who's diverse menu could be renamed "Heaven" and not be too far from the truth. In my opinion, in order to fully experience Belgium, it's best to break it up into three separate stops. On your first time by, try the Mussels paired with an ice cold Stella Artois. As the day lingers on and fatigue sets in, come back for a recharge and order the Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Ice Coffee. Finally, as the day draws to a close, and the craving for something sweet reaches a crescendo, make a third stop in Belgium for the Waffle with Berries and Whipped Cream. Or just hang out here all day...I certainly wouldn't blame you.
At this point in the proceedings, I'm happy I didn't decide to write a Top 10 list, because my stomach has reached its capacity. It goes without saying, however, that there are countless other great options for food and drink at the Food & Wine Festival-these just happen to be my favorites. So now I ask, what are yours?
Thanks to WDWFG Guest Author, D.J. Jones! Jones is a lifelong Disney fan and resident of Central Florida. You can follow more of his travel adventures on his blog, The World of Deej!