By Katie Stockdale
When people think of Florida, their first thoughts are often of beaches, sunshine and theme parks. What they don’t think of is high-quality, international cuisine. But Disney’s Epcot Theme Park has an International Food & Wine Festival where people can try traditional meals, snacks and desserts from all over the world. Epcot is the perfect place to bring together international cuisine as the park has many pavilions styled after countries ranging from Norway to Morocco. The event, which runs until Nov. 16, offers food and alcoholic beverages from 23 countries and even more themed kiosks such as Farm Fresh and Desserts & Champagne.
This year, the 20th anniversary of Food & Wine, is the most popular yet. With long lines and not a lot of time, the best way to make sure you get the most for your money is to know what you want. Some countries have been represented at the festival since it began in 1995 and some are different every year. To get the full experience, try the best food from the original countries first and the craziest food from the new additions.
Poland: If you can, head to Poland first, the kiosk located between the pavilions of Germany and Italy, because it always has a long line. Poland offers pierogis, which are traditionally potato-filled pasta dumplings. They handle the traditional, serving the potato pierogi with kielbasa sausage and caramelized onions, and they are the most traditional perogies i’ve come across in Florida. A twist on this is the sauerkraut pierogi, introduced last year and served with pork goulash. The sauerkraut pierogi puts sauerkraut in place of potatoes but it is a fantastic twist, especially when paired with the pork. This is a must try.
Belgium: What’s the first food you think of when you think of Belgium? Waffles? You’re in luck, because the Belgium kiosk is waffle heaven. This kiosk has three types of fluffy Belgian waffles: a waffle with berries and whipped cream, one drizzled with chocolate sauce, and the surprise potato and leek waffle. Potatoes and leeks may not sound appetizing on a waffle, but for anyone who has eaten chicken and waffles, you know how versatile waffles are. The potato and leek stew that goes on top is perfectly savory and the waffle just soaks it up, making it taste superb. The Belgian Beer Flight, including Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Palm Speciale Belge Amber Ale, and Stella Artois; comes highly recommended and is a perfect complement to the waffles. If you splurge at one stand, this is the place to get everything on the menu.
Canada: Canada’s kiosk gives you a taste of what they serve in one of the fanciest and most difficult to get into restaurants on Epcot property, Le Cellier. With the smallest seating area of any restaurant on all of Disney property, it boasts some of the best food. And you can try their staples without the six-month waiting list. Cheddar cheese soup, a Canadian classic and Le Cellier’s signature appetizer, is a must for this stop. Soup may not be what is expected, but it has a classic homemade taste that will make you eager for more. And for those over 21 with a sweet tooth, the ice wine, which is a type of dessert wine, is a great investment.
New To The Table
Hawaii: Although Hawaii is not its own country, it does have a unique blend of tropical and polynesian food that separates it from the continental U.S. At this kiosk you can get Kalua pork sliders with sweet and sour pineapple chutney that will make your day. The pork works great with the pineapple, adding a surprising twist, keeping the meal from being too heavy. Pair this with the Kona Big Wave Golden Ale to complete the meal.
New Zealand: This was a surprise winner for me. I decided to try the venison, even though I rarely eat it, but it was great, very tender and buttery and the mushroom sauce was fabulous. But it was the kumara dumpling that was out of this world. This is a surprise for me, because kumara is a sweet potato and I don’t like sweet potatoes, but they’re now my favorite dumpling.
Brazil: This was a favorite for the rest of my party. The Meat Pie was touted to be “Brazilian Shepherd’s pie” and was claimed to be “very good,” by those of my party. It wasn’t my favorite, but I liked it, the mashed potatoes on top were really good considering they came from an outside kitchen. This is definitely worth your time, especially if you also want to try the Crispy Pork Belly, which was labeled the best dish of the day by another of my party and was probably the best pork chops i’ve had in a few years.
Other snacks to indulge in are Ireland’s Warm Chocolate Pudding (it’s probably the best dessert in the park), Italy’s Chicken Marsala, and the Farm Fresh Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Some must have drinks are the Strawberry Toast at Desserts & Champagne, the Beer Flights at Farm Fresh and Brewer’s Collection, and the Tom Gore Chardonnay at Farm Fresh.
A few tricks to make sure you have a great time: Invest in an Epcot gift card, it comes with a wristband and you can preload it with $50, $75 or $100 so that you don’t have to fumble with cash or credit cards at every stand. Just be sure not to lose it. Also if you have a large party, divide and conquer. Send one person to find a table–there’s honestly not enough tables and people end up eating at trash cans in a pinch–and send the others to different lines so you can cover more ground.
If you want food from a kiosk that has a pavilion, like China or Morocco, skip the line and just get food from the pavilion quick service, you’ll get larger portions without the wait. Remember, don’t stress out over the lines. The festival is a popular event so it’ll be crowded, but the whole point is to relax, have fun, and enjoy the incredible food.
Contact Katie Stockdale at firstname.lastname@example.org