During my weekend at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival I ate and drank my way through six continents! Here are my favorite dishes and drinks:
I had tried the escargot at previous festivals so this year I skipped the snails and tried the braised short ribs in Cabernet with mashed potatoes. The meat was tender and extremely flavorful in the red wine. With a bit of the potatoes, it was a delicious bite.
I paired the short ribs with a 2007 red Bordeaux from Château Mezain. With delicate flavors of cherries and blackcurrants it was a nice accompaniment to the meat, and a wine I would definitely drink again.
Skip the food stand in the Japan pavilion (unless you’re craving a spicy tuna roll or a California roll). The real treat is inside the store, where you can try a variety of sake. Last year I discovered a fun sparkling sake, this year I had a glass of vintage sake.
The Tenryo Koshu is aged for three years. It is medium bodied and extremely smooth with layered flavors of dried apple, melon and nougat. The sake was one of my favorite discoveries at the festival, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it at restaurants and wine shops.
The United States
At the American Adventure Pavilion it’s all about beer. Samuel Adams serves up a variety of their brews and has free seminars about their history and the art of brewing.
At the seminar you get to taste four of their beers: Boston Lager, Sam Adams Light, Octoberfest and the 14th Anniversary Festival Beer. My favorite was the Octoberfest, which has notes of caramel and toffee balanced out by a slight bitterness from German hops. A close second was the 14th Anniversary beer which has a nice fruitiness from blackberries and orange peel. Though I tend to stay away from light beers, Samuel Adams’ version is surprisingly flavorful.
I couldn’t decide which of Australia’s main dishes sounded better so I tried both! The seared barramundi was served with blistered cherry tomatoes and topped with arugula and lemon oil. The flavor of the tomatoes went really well with the fish. It actually inspired me to make my own version with halibut a few days after I returned home from the festival. The lamb chop was even more flavorful, in a yummy red wine sauce that I hope to replicate the next time I cook lamb.
Cape Town, South Africa
I remember South Africa being one of my favorites from last year’s festival and this year it didn’t disappoint. I started with the mealie soup, which reminded me of corn chowder. Full in flavor and packed with corn and crab, the soup was hearty and satisfying. I could have easily had another cup, in spite of the 80 degree weather.
Of course I couldn’t visit the South Africa marketplace without getting a glass of Pinotage, the country’s signature varietal. The Fairview Pinotage was a nice match for the beef tenderloin, with deep red fruit and earthy flavors.
New Delhi, India
I love Indian food and have been craving it ever since my favorite downtown spot closed (I miss you Taste of Bombay!). Though there was only one entree offering at the India marketplace it was quite tasty — a rice and lentil crêpe with a potato and onion filling.
I paired the dish with a crisp and refreshing Chenin Blanc from Sula Vineyards. This winery is located about 100 miles northeast of Mumbai and makes an impressive variety of reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines. Sipping the Chenin Blanc made me want to explore more of their wines.
I ended my trip to India on a sweet note with a chilled mango lassi. It’s like a mango smoothie only better, with a nice creaminess from yogurt. It’s a delicious dessert if you’re in the mood for something fruity and not too heavy.
The Spain marketplace is a must visit for the wine, especially if you’re not familiar with Spanish varietals. Here you can try Cava, Albariño and Verdejo. Last year I enjoyed the Poema Cava Brut, a dry and creamy sparkling wine with a hint of pear and toast.
This year I tasted the Bodega Don Olegario Albariño alongside the Poema Verdejo to compare their flavors. Though the Verdejo was aromatic and soft with notes of white flowers and tree fruit, I preferred the Albariño with its light and crisp peach and apricot flavors.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
If it has chimichurri, I want to try it. So I made sure to save room for the grilled beef skewer with chimichurri and boniato purée. The grilled beef was tender and full of flavor, and I couldn’t get enough of the chimichurri. It’s a must-try dish unless you’re not a fan of garlic because this chimichurri packs a punch. But you’ll definitely want to try one of the Argentine wines. The beef was great with a glass of the Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, and I’m also a fan of the Torrontes.
If it’s a hot afternoon and you’re craving something cold and refreshing, head to the Chile marketplace for the rock shrimp ceviche. Served chilled in a tart tomato-based sauce, it hit the spot in the 80 degree weather. It was even better with a glass of the Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc. The wine has fresh citrus flavors with a hint of herbs and minerals on the finish. It’s a perfect wine to sip on a hot afternoon and at $10 a bottle it’s a great deal too.
My favorite fish of the entire festival had to be in Canada: maple glazed salmon served on top of lentil salad. The salmon was cooked perfectly, with a nice crust from the glaze. The lentils were so good I could have easily eaten a bowl of just them.
After the salmon I enjoyed a glass of Château des Charmes Merlot. It was more full-bodied in flavor than I expected of a wine from Ontario, with silky flavors of cherry and cassis.
The New York Wine Adventure
After the Canadian Merlot I moved a little farther south on the map (but just a few steps away at Epcot), to try some wines from New York State. I started on the North Fork of Long Island with a glass of the Lieb Cellars Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc. The wine is pale in color because the juice has no contact with the skins of the grape. It has fresh raspberry and strawberry flavors with well-balanced acidity.
Next I moved to the Finger Lakes for a taste of the Red Newt Cellars Circle Riesling. It’s semi-dry and aromatic with tangerine, apricot and citrus notes. Both are wines I would drink again.
Wellington, New Zealand
Though the lamb chop in Australia was a worthy competitor, my favorite lamb dish of the festival was the lamb slider. It was a big chunk of meat served on a bun with a dollop of tomato chutney. The lamb was moist and well-seasoned; it was hard to resist getting a second one. I tried it with a glass of Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, a pleasant mix of cherry, raspberry, cedar and tobacco flavors.
I ended my tour in Ireland with the lobster and scallop fisherman’s pie. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Underneath the creamy potatoes were big chunks of lobster in a yummy sauce. I accompanied it with a glass of Bunratty Meade. The honey wine had a hint of sweetness and nice spice on the finish.
Of course I had to try the dessert, warm chocolate lava cake with Bailey’s Ganache. It was every bit as good as it sounds, rich and indulgent with a warm and gooey center. It’s a must for any chocolate fan.
If you’re counting, I visited 12 countries. Not bad for one weekend!
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs through November 8th.