Florida Theme Park Vacation Day 5--EPCOT and the 2007 International Food and Wine Festival

Walt Disney World: My wife and I enjoy a great day at our favorite Disney park and experience tastes from around the world.

From Russell Meyer
Posted November 14, 2007 at 9:46 PM
Wednesday was the day we had set-aside solely for Epcot. One of the primary reasons that we chose this week for our vacation was for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. We had done this in previous years and have always had a great time, so we were looking forward to another splendid day of eating around the world. We started our day shortly before the gates opened, and after the opening ceremony, we walked with most of the other people at the park over to the Land and Soarin’. We grabbed a FastPass before entering the standby line to ensure ourselves two rides on this popular attraction without having to wait in long lines. It would have been unthinkable 5 years ago to make the Land your first stop after park opening, but if you choose another path now, you will likely not be able to ride Epcot's most popular attraction without standing in line for an hour. Rumors were flying that Soaring would get a new movie to commemorate Epcot's 25th anniversary, but that upgrade has yet to be initiated. I think I'm more amazed by the simplicity of the ride's engineering than the ride itself. The sensation of flying is accomplished by such simple means that it's hard to believe no one thought of it before. While waiting for our FastPass return time, we tried to ride the Seas with Nemo and Friends, but the ride portion was temporarily broken. Instead we headed across to Mission: Space and TestTrack. An interesting change to Mission Space since our last visit was the creation of two different ride experiences. Two of the ride systems have been deemed “advanced training” and contain the same intense ride program that we had experienced previously. Additionally, two of the ride systems have been converted to less intense ride programs, for those guests who are prone to motion sickeness, or especially affected by spinning motions. I found this a bit surprising, since the heart of these ride systems is the centrifuge design, which allows a simulation of the g-forces during a rocket-powered liftoff. To have two entire ride systems not operating the way they were designed to operate seems like a complete waste of resources. It seems that all of the warning signs and reviews of this attraction weren't enough to educate people as to what they were about to experience. Thus, Disney has been forced to create a wimpy version of an attraction that doesn't completely utilize the ride system technology. Hopefully they will at least maintain the advanced training simulators, because the ride is incredibly realistic, and in my opinion, is the best ride in Walt Disney World right now.

We then rode in the single rider line of TestTrack. This is the best way to ride this attraction to avoid long lines, as long as you are fine with riding separately from your party. This ride is still really cool, but the ride videos could be updated to feature more modern vehicle designs and technologies. We then used our FastPass for Soarin’, then headed to Journey into Imagination to visit with Figment. This charming ride almost never has a line, and it allows you to interact with the first character created primarily for use as the mascot of a Disney park. However, many EPCOT fans, like us, probably wish the original ride was still in place.

Now it was time to begin our culinary adventure around the world – World Showcase, that is. During the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival, the park sets up booths around the World Showcase. Each of the booths offer a number of dishes and beverages from a given country or theme. In addition to countries represented by pavilions on the World Showcase, there are booths from many more countries from around the world. Food items are served on small plates, and can be purchased from $1.50 to $6, which allowed us to taste food from around the world for around $60 in a single afternoon. This is a great way to try food most people would never imagine trying, and the serving sizes are just right to allow guests to try a little bit of everything from around the world.

Dominican Republic—Pastelon de Platanos Amarillos (Shrimp with mashed yucca)
This dish was very interesting, as we had never tried yucca before. However, the seasoning on the shrimp was a bit bland.

Greece—Spanakopita (Spinach stuffed pastry)
This is a classic Greek dish, and the spinach filling was delicious.

Canada—Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup
Mmmm…Do I need to say more? My only complaint was the serving size.

New Zealand—Lamb Slider
I was a little disappointed in the sauce on this one that reeked of horseradish.

Oklahoma-Three Sisters’ Café—Seared Buffalo with Scalloped Wild Onions
This dish was absolutely perfect. The meat was very tender, and not gamey like some buffalo that I’ve tried before. The scalloped onions were a great compliment to the meat.

Morocco—Bastilla (chicken and vegetables baked in philo)
This dish had a very interesting blend of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice), and was a completely new taste for us.

Japan—Crispy Sukiyaki Beef Roll
My wife is not a big sushi fan, so we tried the non-fish option at the Japan booth. The cooked beef was well-seasoned and actually worked well with sushi rice.

Poland—Cabbage Roll with Spiced Beef
This was exactly what you would expect, but still worth a try.

Germany—Debriziner Sausage with Sauerkraut in a Pretzel Roll
This dish was all about the pretzel roll. Simply delectable!

Turkey—Mani with Yogurt Sauce (meat-filled pastry with colorful sauce)
This dish was visually stunning, and the taste was equally spectacular.

South Africa—Durban Spiced Chicken on a Skewer
The chicken was so tender, and the spice blend was very unique.

India—Samosa with Tamarind Sauce (pastry filled with chickpeas and spicy sauce)
Wow! This dish really blew us away. It was like walking into a spice market and taking a bite of the air.

Ireland—Boxty with Bacon Chips and Kerrygold Garlic and Fresh Herb Butter
This dish was all about the butter. Simply some of the best butter we’ve ever tried.

Spain—Spicy Calamari Stew with Saffron Rice
My wife is not a big fan of squid, but I talked her into trying this, and we both thought it was excellent.

Argentina—Shrimp con Pebre Salsa
This was a cold shrimp salad with salsa. It was very good, but surprisingly ordinary.

Mexico—Quesadilla con Chorizo
It tasted like a quesadilla with chorizo sausage. What more can I say?

Hops and Barley Market—New England Crab Cake with Barley-Lentil Salad
Living near the Chesapeake Bay, we are very particular about our crab cakes. This dish stood up to our picky palettes.

Peru—Arroz con Pato (Duck with rice)
This dish brought a fitting close to our taste around the world. The duck was very tender and just about perfect.

As we tasted around the world, we began our adventure around the World Showcase on the right, proceeding counter-clockwise around the world. As we worked our way around, we watched the American Adventure – the finale movie was recently updated to include many modern American icons, inlucding Mohammed Ali, Oprah, and Lance Armstrong. To put it more simply, American Adventure is the Hall of Presidents without most of the presidents. With that patriotic lift, it was time to continue exploring how the rest of the world lives, as we continued around the world showcase. We stopped and grabbed FastPasses for Maelstrom, and proceeded into the Mexico pavilion to ride the revamped river ride, now featuring the Three Caballeros. This ride was vastly improved over the previous incarnation – it was surprising to see that the line was so short.

We then went to the Odyssey to watch a cooking demonstration by Ahmed Hardy, the chef of Banquets at the Contemporary Resort. He demonstrated how to cook an easy tandori chicken with naan bread and cucumber sauce, which we were able to sample. The demonstration probably would have been better without the interruptions by the host of the program, but a free plate of food was worth the annoyance.

We then went back to redeem our FastPass for Maelstrom and valiantly escaped the clutches of the evil trolls. We then hustled back to the American pavilion to attend a Sam Adams beer tasting. The complimentary tasting included 4 samples of Sam Adams beers and a free bottle opener keychain. It's hard for us to pass up free beer, so these annual beer tastings are a must-do for us during the Food and Wine Festival. We were disappointed to discover that the In-Bev tastings that were held in the past were not occurring this year, so the Sam Adams tasting was the only opportunity for free beer at the festival. We continued our way around the World Showcase clockwise, heading into the Canada pavilion, where we watched the new Circlevision-360 film. This updated movie starring Martin Short is awesome. It's funny, entertaining, educational, and captures the true Canadian spirit. Guests travel from the western city of Vancouver all the way across the vast nation in stunning Circlevision. Disney should really try to make an effort to update films and attractions like this on a more regular basis, because it's important that attractions, especially in Epcot, remain relevant.

We headed towards the Seas with Nemo and Friends, riding the new clam-mobile through the Seabase Alpha Aquariums. The new attraction is family friendly and true to the movie, while adding a new dimension of interest to this aging pavilion. I was a little disappointed that there were only three water-projected images on the ride, but they were very well done, and gave small children a way to relate to our ocean wildlife. However, by using the Nemo theme, the educational aspect of the pavilion is dimmed, since every blue tang is a Dory-fish, and every clown fish is Nemo. There are very few panels in the pavilion telling visitors what they're really looking at, and it's clear that Disney still has a long way to go to catch up with Sea World in the aquarium business. While in Seabase Alpha, we watched Turtle Talk with Crush, which is a great show for kids and adults, utilizing projected images and audience interaction. Kids especially enjoyed this show, since they get to sit in the front on the floor by the screen. The theater is not very large, so be sure to arrive early if you want a seat. We did also take a quick walk through the EPCOT 25th Anniversary Exhibit, which contains a number of artifacts, drawings, and designs for EPCOT Center.

To conclude our day, we decided to take in a wine tasting, held in the former Wonders of Life pavilion, which was serving as the headquarters for the Food and Wine Festival. The tasting was hosted by Chataeux de Charmes located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The winery offers several different types of wine, but specializes in authentic Icewine. The presentation was a nice way to finish off a great day at Epcot, after which we headed back to our hotel for the evening. We skipped Illuminations because we’ve seen the show many times before, and an early night’s sleep was something my wife and I both needed.

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