Headed to Epcot Food & Wine? Here are 10 things we tried and loved

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Now clocking in at 87 days and featuring more than 30 marketplace kiosks, the 24th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival keeps getting bigger and better. 

The festival, which runs Aug. 29 through Nov. 23, features food and beverages from around the world, with kitchens representing everywhere from Africa and the Alps to Morocco and Thailand.

Feeling cheesy? Pop over to the Cheese Studio hosted by Boursin Cheese for a black pepper Boursin soufflé with fig marmalade. Got a sweet tooth? Don’t miss the Chocolate Studio with treats like the liquid nitro chocolate-almond truffle with warm whiskey-caramel.

Eating — and drinking — your way around the world is what Food & Wine is all about, so we’re not even going to suggest moderation. But if you only have time to sample a few things at this year’s festival, here are 10 of our favorites.

The Alps: Warm Raclette Swiss cheese with baby potatoes, cornichons and baguette. To chefs, dishes are like children, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. But chef Al Youngman, culinary director for Epcot Food & Beverage, didn’t hesitate when talking about one of the new dishes on the menu at this year’s featival. “We’re going to have Racolette cheese,” he said. “It’s going to be toasted right there on stage in front of you, scrapped off on top of a bed of potatoes and pickles and served with French bread. And you’ll smell that Swiss cheese out there in the environment.” 

Flavors on Fire: Smoked corned beef with crispy potatoes, cheese curds, pickled onions and beer-cheese fondue. The Flavors on Fire marketplace is hosted by ESPN College Game Day, so if you’re looking to satisfy more manly appetites, this is your spot. Of course, they had us at cheese curds. And beef-cheese fondue. “You can’t go wrong with more cheese, right?” Youngman said.

Africa: Spicy Kenyan githeri with white beans, pigeon peas, curry rice pilaf and kachumbari slaw.  This vegan dish is big on flavor. “It’s not too spicy, but very aromatic,” Youngman said.

Coastal Eats: Pacifico true striped bass tostada with slaw and fire-roasted tomatillo sauce. Firm, fresh fish, crispy slaw, crunch toastada; with so many textures and flavors, each bite is an adventure.

Islands of the Caribbean: Jerk-spiced chicken with roasted sweet plantain salad and mango chutney yogurt. If you’re having trouble finding it, just follow your nose. “You’ll be able to smell the aroma out there, because we’re going to grill it on charcoal right on stage,” Youngman said.

Thailand: Shrimp and cold noodle salad. This dish is cool and refreshing, with a spark of flavor. Juicy, whole shrimp rest atop a bed of spicy, cold noodles.

Active Eats: Fruit and nut energy snack. You know those store-bought energy bars that taste a little like sweetened cardboard? You’ll forget those after one bite of this energy snack. “Last year we we had an energy bar, but it was more chocolate and dried-fruit heavy,” said chef Daniel Contreras, sous chef, Epcot Food & Beverage. With apricots, almonds, pecans, coconut, puffed rice and chocolate chips, it’s hard to believe this vegetarian, gluten-free and kid-approved snack is good for you. 

Australia: Deconstructed pavlova with pastry cream, citrus-macerated berries and lemon myrtle meringue. “We wanted to offer a new dessert this year that was a little bit on the lighter side,” Contreras said. Epcot’s take on this Down Under favorite delivers.

Apple Seed Orchard: Cider and beer flights. Located in Canada, the Apple Seed Orchard is all about, well, apples. The food is pretty simple, with a charcuterie board and caramel-apple popcorn. The beverages are where the apple goodness shines. “We’ll be having a cider flight, and we’ll also be introducing an apple-inspired beer flight,” said Darlyn Aguilar, guest experience manager, Epcot Food & Beverage. The cider flight includes Ciderboys Lemon Cello Hard Cider (Stevens Point, Wisconsin), Collective Arts Brewing Cherry Apple Hard Cider (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) and Woodchuck Hard Cider Spiced Apple (Middlebury). The beer flight features M.I.A. Beer Company Apple Trappe Belgian-Style Tripel Ale (Doral), Playalinda Brewing Co. Apple Pie Beer (Titusville) and Sea Dog Brewing Co. Green Apple Ale (Clearwater).

Donut Box: Black and White Coffee Cocktail. The Donut Box doesn’t open until Oct. 1, so if you’re planning to hit Food & Wine early this year, this marketplace alone makes a second trip a necessity. As for the cocktail, it’s part dessert, part caffeine jolt, part adult beverage, a mixture of Jim Beam bourbon, coffee liqueur and condensed milk. The garnish is bigger than the drink, a fresh yeast doughnut with chocolate espresso bean crumbles.

More information about the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is available at disneyworld.disney.go.com.

Email sleonard@floridatoday.com

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