Meet our newest chicklet, Lizzie Pierce! You may recall she was a Monday Guest Chick. We’re thrilled she agreed to join us here to share her kitchen adventures! Lizzie was enjoying the fantastic flavors of Epcot this past weekend so we get to live vicariously through her. 😉 (Plus, one lucky commenter will win a cookbook ~ 365 Great 20 Minute Recipes by Beverly Cox!)
I love food. Love it. Both cooking and baking help to calm me down, but there are also times when I don’t want to go near the kitchen because I’m so darned tired/stressed/overworked. Plus, how much fun is it to try all different foods? Much easier—at least the first time eating something – to get that out and know what it’s supposed to taste like. Plus, I enjoy eating some really weird things. It is very rare that I get squeamish about eating anything, but there’s no way I’ll brave preparing something like jellyfish or chicken feet.
Because of my love for all different foods, one of my favorite annual events to attend is the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Where else can you get a mass of international dining opportunities all in one massive orgy of consumption? Mmmm…. So for the long Veteran’s Day weekend, we decided to head up there for the last day of the festival. A break from the grading, the housework, and my NaNoWriMo novel so that we could focus entirely on the explosion of flavor. Well, okay, I confess that I brought my laptop with me and wrote at night after the tiny one went to sleep. But I certainly did not bring my papers with me.
Now, something that you need to know about me: I’m slightly obsessive when it comes to dining out. I pour over menus for days after making a reservation at a new restaurant. I will examine numerous options, moaning over the offerings, before deciding where to go on an evening out. Knowing this about me, you shouldn’t be remotely surprised to know that, a few days before we left, I went to the website and read what would be sold at each and every booth. Took notes on where I needed to go and what needed to be tried in the various countries. By the end of my exploratory mission, I may have possibly had a list of 20 different places where I needed to try at least one item, plus 2 where I wanted to try a drink. *blush* Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a ton of different foods. But remember, I was sharing with a husband and kids, so that made it all okay! Right? Right????
In case you’re curious, the places I wanted to visit on that original list were: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, the Caribbean, the cheese booth, France, Germany, Hawaii, the hops and barley booth, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea. The most important, of course, was France. All of us were looking forward to the escargots, as we’d had them in previous years and they were incredible (yes, my kids all eat snails. Even the middle one, who will generally only eat things like chicken fingers, pizza, and mac & cheese. Don’t ask me how the heck I managed to get him to even try escargots. I think it’s because both of his sisters were enjoying them so enthusiastically…). And there were mussels in Belgium (not to mention the coffee made with Godiva chocolate liqueur. I’m supposed to resist that?), and scallops in New Zealand, and pierogie in Poland, and steak in Argentina, and… yeah, in case you hadn’t noticed? Not a vegetarian.
We drove up to the Mouse House on Friday afternoon, but I didn’t get to Epcot until Sunday. And alas, we didn’t have nearly as much time as I’d hoped. Nor nearly as much stomach room! We started off in Hawaii, where we had tuna poke (pronounced poke-ay) with wasabi salad and a Kalua pork slider with spicy mayonnaise. Poke is basically cubes of raw tuna marinated in an asian-style sauce. I let my husband have one bite, and I ate the rest. It was so fresh and delicious that I couldn’t resist. I’d show a picture, but honestly? It was gone before I even remembered to take pictures. The slider was good, but honestly? I like my own homemade pulled pork better (stay tuned! I’ll post that one in the next few weeks. TRUST me it will be worth the wait….). Hawaii also had a mai tai on offer, and it was tempting but honestly? I’m not a big drinker at all — I drink about as much in a year as most people drink in a night out with friends — and it was 11 in the morning. I just couldn’t do it. But I was tempted…
Our next stop was Ireland for the Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s Pie. Basically, this was a few small bay scallops and a few little pieces of lobster in a creamy sauce, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes. It was… good, but somewhat disappointing. Mostly potatoes and cream sauce. But delicious nonetheless. I guess I’m just used to the food being oh-my-goodness incredible at every booth. In all fairness, I showed up on the last day. They were out of some things.
After Ireland came France, the stop that we’d all been waiting for (by all I mean myself, the man, and the teensy bitsy one. The older two, alas, couldn’t join us. Never fear, though, I’ve promised them a trip back to Disney next month. YAY for annual passes!). In France, I bought two orders of escargots, an order of the coq au vin with macaroni gratin, and one milk chocolate crème brûlée. The escargots (snails, for those of you unaware) were cooked in a garlic and parsley butter and served inside mini hollowed out brioche. Teensy Bitsy ate the tops of all 6 little brioche cups. She also had the equivalent of one cup itself, complete with snail. She enjoyed it but didn’t want any more. That’s okay, more for me. While the size of the snails was somewhat puny, I’m assuming that’s because it was the last day. Love love loved this. One of my favorites of the festival, as usual. The escargots were tender and garlicky, and the little brioche cups were perfect to cut the richness of the dish. The coq au vin was a little mealy in texture, but to be honest, I’m so not a fan of stewed meats and that’s basically all that coq au vin is — chicken stewed in wine. Eh. The man enjoyed it. Teensy Bitsy had one bite and spit it out. Lovely. The crème brûlée was amazing. First of all, this is the first year that they actually managed to crisp up the sugar on top. In previous years it was more crème caramel than crème brûlée. Watching the joy on a three-year-old’s face as she cracks the sugar layer? Brought a huge smile to my face and those of everyone passing by. Not that she enjoyed eating the sugar, mind you. It had that lovely bitterness that comes when you melt the top of your dessert with a blowtorch. It blended wonderfully with the creamy sweetness of the custard itself (which part the little one adored), and it was definitely worth being the only dessert I got in the whole festival!
Belgium, right near France, had several different items, including a Godiva liqueur iced coffee. I somehow managed to resist the coffee, but I could not resist those mussels. A roasted garlic cream sauce and a slice of crusty baguette helped to round out the plate nicely, but the majority of the bread ended up as a mop for the sauce, because we were just popping the (sadly few) morsels of mollusk into our mouths.
As I’d had baklava the night before, and Morocco did not have one of my favorite offerings from previous years (this incredible mint iced tea that tastes as though they just brewed mint leaves, sweetened it up a touch, and poured it over ice), we gave it a pass and moved right on to New Zealand, where I had no trouble making a choice — seared sea scallop with a red curry sauce and an apple-radish slaw, plus a lamb slider with tomato chutney. The slider was good, if a bit messy. Well-seasoned with a slight tingle to it, the burger got decent marks from me. The scallop, on the other hand, was cooked perfectly – incredible, crisp golden brown sear on both sides. How the heck did they manage to DO that? The sauce was decent, though not the best red curry I’ve had, and the slaw was okay. But that scallop… I could’ve eaten a dozen and still wanted more. In fact, I was tempted to go back for another but by this point it was really heating up out there. The family was ready to move on so that we could eventually go home.
Singapore’s shrimp cake was all shrimp and no filler, browned on each side and stuffed with shrimp and seasonings. Delicious! The cold noodle salad that was served with it was a bit too tingly for my little one, but trust me when I say it got eaten. We were good enough not to lick the plate, though.
The Teensy Bitsy is an odd one when it comes to food. If her mood is right, she will eat anything and everything. Alas, at preschool she is surrounded by kids who won’t eat anything; it rubs off on her and I get so frustrated by that. Today she was in an in-between mood. She would taste things, and she really seemed to like the escargots and the crème brûlée (and the garlicky tops to the brioche!), but in general she wasn’t a big fan of most things. Until we got to Italy. In Italy they gave us the biggest portion of any of the booths — I got the baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef bolognese sauce, parmesan, and melted mozzarella, and the tray that held the dish was generously sized and quite full. That could’ve been a full lunch portion for a kid, even one with a decent appetite. I was nervous that any one of the elements would turn her off, but I needn’t have worried. That girl vacuumed the dish. When I say vacuumed, I mean she was eating it almost faster than we could cool off bites. From what I could tell by looking at it (what? me actually get a bite? yeah, you MUST be joking!), the pasta filling was a creamy ricotta mix, the sauce was rich and meaty, and the layer of mozzarella was thick and bubbling. She did such a great job, in fact, that we actually bought her a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar as a treat… that was her favorite item she ate all day 😉
By this point we were slowing down. It was far warmer than we’d expected, given the cool and breezy weather of the previous two days, we were on our third day of Disney, and we were all exhausted. So we passed right by a number of the booths that had been on my original list. At South Korea, we got the bulgogi bbq beef, served with rice and kimchi. The beef itself was bland and had an unpleasant texture, but the rice helped to balance it out and the kimchi had a nice kick to it. After a brief detour to the boat ride in Mexico, from which I didn’t want to get up because it felt so good to be in that cool, dark area, we made our final stop of the day — the Caribbean kiosk for the frozen rock coconut mojito. I will be looking up the recipe for this one, and if it’s not available? I’ll experiment. It was fabulous. There was obviously some rum in there somewhere, but I couldn’t taste it. All I could taste was the fact that they put the lime in the coconut and mixed ’em both together. YUM! There was a teeny after-kick of mint, but it was very faint. Ohhh was that a good drink. One of the best slushies I’ve had!
All in all, while there were some delicious items there, I found the Epcot Food & Wine Festival somewhat disappointing this year. Yes, there were a number of dishes over which I waxed lyrical. But there were also more mediocre dishes than previously. I will, of course, chalk it up to the fact that we didn’t make it until the very last day. Clearly my own fault and something I’ll have to remedy next time. Additionally, next year we will be a group of 5 rather than 3. Room for more dishes!
And now, if you’re still with me, I thank you for reading this far! And I promise to be a bit less long-winded in the future. Well. Okay, I can’t promise that. But I’ll try — it’s all I can do…
Have you been to the Festival before? What’s your favorite dish you’ve had there? Or, alternatively, what are some of your favorite international dishes? And if you have a recipe to share, I won’t complain!