Two wonderful weekends in a row filled with good food. Last weekend we went to Disney World to enjoy Epcot's Food and Wine festival for the first time. We met up with my boss and her boyfriend, and our intern got us in since she works at Hollywood Studios (thanks Megan!). Although I am not a theme park kind of person (nor is S, we get antsy waiting in lines and large crowds) I have always wanted to attend the Food and Wine Festival.
Two years ago when I first started my Event Management classes, one of my intro classes had a guest speaker that actually plans the F+W festival every year. I remember her being incredibly passionate about food, so much so that she renovated her home in order to make half of it her kitchen. I was really envious of the thought of a huge kitchen like that. Since her presentation, it's an event I've always wanted to attend.
We started the day at Animal Kingdom since S had never been to that park. We saw tigers laying in the sun, baby monkeys jumping around the ropes, and a hippo that was doing laps around his pond area! We caught him at the perfect time and in the pond full of colorful fish, he'd swim right by the glass, slow and immense.
We also saw these amazing giant bats that hung on ropes and stretched their translucent wings in the sunlight. They were about the size of a medium dog when all curled up, but even larger with their wings stretched out.
If you've never been to Animal Kingdom, it's kind of beautiful with open land for the animals, without cage wires and barriers where they could go without them. Plenty of luscious land and hiding spots for the animals, as well as stone architecture with a vintage wash to make the area feel lived-in and overgrown.
At 11:00 in the morning, Animal Kingdom was pretty packed and full of families. I was a little nervous that the longer we spent at Animal Kingdom, the more crowded Epcot was getting and the longer the lines were getting for food! But it turned out, Epcot wasn't overcrowded at all.
Our game plan was to start from the last country in the passport and work our way to the first - going counter-clockwise while most groups went clockwise. Whether it was our technique, or Disney's efficient system, we never waited in line more than five minutes. That's crucial when trying to try as many of the 30 destinations as possible.
Some of the food and beverages we tried included starting with a craft beer from Abita with fall season flavors, a griddled cheese with pistachios and honey in Greece, seared rainbow trout with bacon, frisee, and maple vinaigrette in Canada, a kefta pocket from Morocco, and a delicious almond crusted blue cheese souffle with fig jam from the cheese destination.
Each of the destinations had ethnobotanicals including figs, eggplants, cinnamon, peppers, and it goes on. I thought it was a lovely touch to add of where our food comes from. What was great was that the fig tree was near the cheese destination which had a dish incorporating fig jam, and the eggplant tree was near the Greece destination that served a dish with eggplant dip. It was a small detail that had a lasting impression on me.
My absolute favorite dish of the day was the lemongrass chicken curry with coconut and jasmine rice from the Singapore destination. It was spicy and flavorful and left me craving curry for a week.
Although in one afternoon I knew I wouldn't be able to try every destination, I wanted to have the entire experience and stamp my "passport" of all the destinations that we visited. What's even cuter, each destination has it's own stamp design. Even the discovery of the design was a part of the fun.
In Epcot there are small rides within each stationary country called the World Showcase like a viking-esque boat ride in Norway and a childish boat ride in Mexico. The lovely thing about Mexico is that the "town" representing it is indoors and gives a break from the heat, but more importantly, it's set as a night market and the close quarters really give the sense of a bustling market. France has the wonderful feeling of little cafes, perfume shops, and cobblestone streets. Germany has the gorgeous wooden architectural accents and trinkets for sale like beer steins, nutcrackers, and lots and lots of Werther's Orginal caramel candies.
We started and ended our F+W exploration with the Spaceship Earth ride inside of the Epcot ball. It's one of S's favorite rides, taking the passenger through time from the burning of the Library of Alexander that really smells of cinders, to what alludes to Steve Jobs in his garage in California that really smells musty like an old garage. I'm so happy that we finally got to attend this event, and I loved it as much as I thought I would. I may even try to convince S that we need to go one more time before it ends in November.