During our Walt Disney World trip last week, we sampled savory snacks and desserts from booths at the 2017 Epcot Food & Wine Festival, trying a good portion of the 90+ different items. By and large, Walt Disney World’s culinary teams did a good job this year–the vast majority of what we tried was (at least) good. In this post, we narrow down everything we’ve tried into a list of the best snacks at this year’s Food & Wine Festival.
Think of this post as a companion to our Booth Menus: Epcot Food & Wine Festival post, or maybe even the tl;dr version (for the Attention Deficit Generation). We’ll (hopefully) have those menus fully updated with reviews and photos for all menus at some point, but wanted to share this right away for those of you visiting Walt Disney World sooner.
In addition to this post, we’ll also be back later this week to rank the worst items at the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Although this year has a surprising number of good items and some of the most inventive new booths we’ve seen in years, there are some “foods” that shouldn’t even be fed to the ducks of Epcot. (Technically, nothing should be fed to the ducks of Epcot, but you get the idea.)
Now, the caveats. Of course, tastes may vary. Then there are the problems inherent in mass production. As we’ve seen since we’ve been covering Food & Wine Festival over the years, quality control is not always the best…or even so-so. Samples are produced quickly and in large quantities. Sizes are inconsistent, items may be under or overcooked, and there problems can arise. (Basically, all of this is a cop out for us in case you vehemently disagree on any of this rankings.)
Anyway, let’s start with the best-of Epcot Food & Wine Festival list…
Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich (Craft Beers) – As an EPCOT Center geek, I’m all about Handwiches, and was pretty excited when the concept was re-introduced in Cars Land a few years back. The idea behind this is way better than the execution, but it’s still fun and worth trying.
As for the contents, it’s pretty straightforward: a mac & cheese sandwich. When I think of the word zesty, I don’t normally associate it with macaroni and cheese in a bread cone, but Walt Disney World is all about its throw-away buzzwords, so I guess this is zesty? In any case, the richness and creaminess of the cheddar mac does nicely with the bread cone, which soaks up some of that. It’s one of the more filling dishes of Food & Wine, too. The only downside is that it’s difficult to photograph this on top of a trash can…BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE.
Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash (Hawaii) – Inventive preparations of SPAM have been a trendy thing for a couple of years now, and it seems Walt Disney World is finally getting in on the act. Personally, I find the whole thing kind of silly. It’s predicated on negative visceral reactions and preconceptions to SPAM; basically a way of setting the bar low and then having people be shocked even if the dish only stumbles over it.
In reality, SPAM is a pretty mild base, and a dish is going to be good or bad because of the other things going on with it, not despite or because of the SPAM. In this case, the hash is good because it is well-prepared, with a nice crispiness and teriyaki glaze that adds a light sweetness to the flavor. The spicy mayo plays nicely with this, and the end result is an excellent, complex dish. (Also, if you didn’t tell someone there was SPAM in this, I’m guessing less than 5% would be able to pick up on it.)
Pistachio Cardamom Bundt Cake (India) – This was one of a couple items we did twice. (The other was Cauliflower Risotto, which went from being one of the better items of the festival one day to mediocre–at best.)
The first time, it was exceptional, with a heaping portion of mousse and generous amount of pistachio’s dusting the cake. The second, the cake was too dense and there was too little mousse. Both times, it was still good, and worth a potential gamble.
Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel (Chocolate Studio) – For something like the third or fourth straight year, this is the best dessert at Food & Wine. The name itself is a grab bag of awesomeness, with “liquid nitro,” “chocolate,” “truffle,” “whiskey,” and “caramel.” You know when “almond” is the weakest word in a name, it’s a damned good name.
In Walt Disney World’s stock photos, this is one of the coolest-looking desserts, but I’ve only ever taken one mildly appetizing photo of the dessert. The rest look like the remnants of a dessert that someone threw up. Fortunately, it doesn’t taste like throw-up. (Not that I’d know.) It’s an agglomeration of chocolatey stuff, and that’s exactly how it looks and tastes. The various flavors all come together for an exceptional dessert with more ‘layers’ to it than meets the eye. In a normal dessert, the rich flavors might be too much, but the coolness of the liquid nitro provides a nice counterbalance, giving this dessert a “light” vibe. (Also making it great for humid days.)
Piggy Wings & Smoked Corn Beef (Flavors from Fire) – In our Flavors from Fire Booth Review, I already rambled for over 1,000 words about why we loved these two dishes so much. I’ll spare you that again here.
Suffice to say, the Smoked Corn Beef was my #1 dish in all of the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and this booth was my overall Festival MVP.
Moelleux au Fromage de Chèvre et Épinards (France) – At the behest of Josh from easyWDW, who was raving about it as we approached France–which I was foolishly otherwise planning to skip since there was a line–I gave this a try. Honestly, my expectations were not high, as the English “subtitle” to this dish is “Warm Goat Cheese Pudding with Spinach (vegetarian and gluten friendly).” While I like goat cheese, it didn’t sound appetizing in context, and I dislike most of the other words in that description.
It was inexplicably amazing. As Josh points out in his review, this would be even better served with a baguette, but even as a pudding instead of a dip, it’s fantastic. The variety of texture and flavors add nuance to a dish that could otherwise just be cheese soup, and it’s wonderfully decadent–almost dessert-like in quality. After the Smoked Corn Beef, this is my second favorite dish of the 2017 Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip (Coastal Eats) – Another cheesy dip type dish, this one is actually served with bread. I’d call it the standout of the new Coastal Eats booth, which is a strong addition to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.
This is exactly what you’d expect, and while I wouldn’t call it particularly complex or even mildly ambitious/adventurous, it is really good. Good cheesy and creamy flavor, and a nice amount of shrimp. As with several of the hotter, heavier items at Next Eats, I’d probably recommend taking this inside nearby Innoventions or getting it later in the evening hours.
Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney (New Zealand) – This dish made the list last year, and it makes it again this year. I’m a total sucker for lamb, and this dish at the New Zealand booth really delivers with a hearty lamb meatball on a large bread puff.
The lamb has a mild gamey flavor (which I appreciate in lamb–YMMV), and is nicely prepared. The dish is topped with a spiced tomato chutney that enhances the flavor of the meat. I don’t know why “spicy” is in the name of this as it’s not even remotely spicy, but I’d welcome a bit of kick if they went that direction with it next year.
Croissant aux Escargots (France) – Last year, I commented that the France booth, once one of the best at Food & Wine, was in decline. This year, it has two items on my ‘best of’ list, and could probably have two more if we expanded this to a top 20.
As with last year, the escargot croissant is an absolute standout. Having escargot in a flaky, buttered croissant makes this approachable for people who don’t normally like the texture of escargot, and the flavor is excellent. It’s definitely a rich dessert, but it’s a good preparation. I also appreciate that this is not simply escargot swimming in butter (as much as I love butter).
Okay, that’s it for the 10 Best Snacks at the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. As this list snubbed a number of favorites, I’m considering revisiting the topic with another 10 items we enjoyed…if there’s any interest(?).
Do you have any favorites from the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Would you like to see our second ten best items of F&WF?Anything you’re excited to try? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!