Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2008

Recently a friend who just moved to Florida asked me if Walt Disney World is fun when you’re an adult. I enthusiastically replied, “of course!” I still love riding Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, and hold on just as tight before the big drop at Splash Mountain. And how can you not smile when you see Mickey and Minnie waving to you during the evening parade that ends with a spectacular fireworks show?

My favorite park has always been Epcot. I loved the rides that showed the future would be filled with computers and space travel. I had so much fun exploring the countries in World Showcase and I’d pretend I was actually there.

Now that I am an adult, my favorite time to visit Epcot is in the fall for the International Food & Wine Festival. If you haven’t been, here’s how it works: in each country there’s a stand where you can buy food, wine and beer from that country. In between the World Showcase countries are stands with food and drinks from other countries like Greece, Chile and South Africa. It’s a great way to try food and wine from all over. There are also “wine walkabouts” where you can learn about the different wine producing regions of a country by trying wine from there. Be sure to bring lots of cash (they do take credit cards). Each offering ranges from $2 to $7 and when you want to try something at each stand, it adds up quickly.

My favorite Epcot country to visit is France. There I ordered escargot and a glass of Michel Picard Vouvray. The escargot was baked in garlic butter and served in a small brioche. The bread was great for soaking up the delicious garlic butter. The Vouvray was light and refreshing with flavors of citrus and peach. There was a hint of minerality on the finish. It was great for sipping in the hot afternoon.

In Japan I went inside the pavilion to a sake bar located at one corner of the expansive gift shop. I ordered a glass of sparkling sake. It came in a bright pink bottle with pink foil at the top. It looked like it would appeal to young women who grew up collecting everything Hello Kitty (perhaps why I wanted to try it). It definitely stood out among the other brown, blue and green sake bottles. The taste was on the sweet side, with a little bit of citrus. The carbonation made me feel like I was drinking soda instead of sake. It wasn’t bad, but I think I’ll stick to non-sparkling sake.

At the Spain stand I ordered a glass of Poema Cava Brut. I haven’t had Poema before and I really enjoyed it. The cava was dry and creamy with a hint of pear and toasted bread. The bubbles were soft, which made it easy to drink. Doing a quick search online, I found a bottle costs around $12, which makes it a great value. It would be a great bottle to have chilling in the fridge for a special evening, and one that’s not so expensive that you can drink it any night of the week.

Istanbul was a tasty stop. I ordered beef ravioli and a glass of Kavaklidere Yakut red wine. The ravioli resembled handmade dumplings and were really good. The meat was moist and nicely spiced. It was two raviolis to a serving and I could have easily eaten many more. The wine was medium bodied with dark fruits and light earthiness. It paired nicely with the ravioli. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had Turkish wine and I’ve only tried red wine; I’ve enjoyed drinking it every time and highly recommend trying some.

In Australia I ordered grilled lamb chops with caramelized onion jam. They were really tasty, though not as good as the lamb chops I make! There was also a wine walkabout featuring wines from Victoria that I went on. I enjoyed the two Pinot Noirs I tried, in particular the Cooralook Pinot Noir. It had flavors of strawberry and blueberry with a warm, earthy taste. It made for a much fuller mouthfeel than other Pinot Noirs, which I really enjoyed.

At the Argentina stand I ordered grilled beef with chimichurri sauce and a glass of Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec. The chimichurri sauce was really tasty with a bite at the end. It had just the right amount of garlic, not too overpowering. The Malbec had flavors of blackberry, cherry and tobacco with soft tannins. Bodega Norton wines are usually pretty good and a good value.

There are a few days left to enjoy the International Food & Wine Festival, it ends on November 9th. Not to worry if you can’t make it there by Sunday — during the rest of the year there’s still plenty to eat and drink in each country.

I’ll see you at Epcot next fall!