Wednesday, October 27, 2010
And The Winner Is .........
And The Winner Is .........
Over the past week, I spent one of the most enjoyable mini-vacations of my life at the International Food and Wine Festival in the Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unlike a typical trip to the Disney complex, this was a Fantasyland for adults.
The Festival celebrated its 15th year with a flare usually found only in Europe, and this time around, my wife and I experienced the best variety of food and drink the planet has to offer. In addition to the regular pavilions located in the Epcot Center, some 30-40 temporary structures were erected to house culinary delights from around the globe. I can only begin to highlight some of the treats we enjoyed.
We arrived on Friday evening and stayed at the Disney Caribbean Beach Resort near the Epcot Center. We had enjoyed this hotel once before, and its location was perfect for the International Festival. It was reasonably priced, and the accommodations were excellent.
As we entered the Epcot area on Saturday morning, the Chilean exhibit was just opening. The Shrimp Ceviche served with a Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc looked superb, but we passed the first option due to the enormous selections that awaited us at other pavilions on our stroll around the huge lake setting.
Argentina was our first test of the day, and the Roasted Corn and Cheese Empandas were as tasty as anything found in South America. While the server suggested a taste of Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, we hesitated. Although it was a food and wine event, the previews indicated that some of the world’s finest brews were just down the road a piece.
Surprisingly, the United States fare proved to be remarkably good, considering the exotic culinary surroundings. We hail from New Hampshire, so we had little hope for the USA New England lobster roll. It was excellent! For landlubbers, the Bison Chili with Wild Mushrooms, Cabernet, and Pepper Jack Cheese was receiving rave reviews.
China, Japan, and Greece had standard offerings, although China did have a myriad of hot and cold oolong teas that were very tempting, and the Moroccan food appeared to be more Greek than Middle Eastern or African. Likewise, Mexico and Poland, with their Tamal de Pollo and Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies respectively were less than tempting. We passed.
In the French pavilion, I enjoyed the Escargots Persillade en Brioche, while my wife tasted the Napoleon pastry she claims is second-to- none. France had much to offer. Cheese Fondue with Croutons and Roasted Potatoes, desserts like Creme Brulee au Chocolate au Lait, and a variety of Bordeaux wines forced many patrons to spend the afternoon. We, however, proceeded on our quest for the perfect food, and we found it – in Australia.
Without a doubt, the pan-seared Barramundi with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes Arugula, and Lemon Oil wins hands down. It was possibly the best meal I have ever consumed with a passion that will jar my memory forever. I could easily be gluttonous down under!
Non-vegetarians appeared enjoy the Polpettine Toscane with a Rosemary Breadstick, and the Baked Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Bolognese Sauce and Melted Mozzarella offered by Italy. It was served with Chianti.
South Africa featured Flavors of Africa, like Salad, Bread, and Spreads. Spain produced a variety of Rioja wines, along with a delicious Seared Albacore Tuna with Romesco Sauce, which could not top the Australian Barramundi, but was very tasty. Likewise, the Lobster and Scallop Fisherman's Pie from Ireland was superb.
Some of the better and more unusual foods for Americans were Shrimp Cakes with Noodle Salad from Singapore, and the Seared Sea Scallop with Vegetable Slaw and Lemon Oil from New Zealand, served with Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
The prize for liquid refreshment must go, not unexpectedly, to Germany. It might be ironic for wine to be placed on the back burner at an international food and wine event, but the steins of Altenmunster Dunkel and Weihenstephnaer Doppelbock instantly launched me back to Munich. Wow, do I love Munich! As they say in New Hampshire, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise,” I’ll let you know what the Festival is like again next year.