Our in-depth coverage of Walt Disney World’s annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins with a bang, in the Islands of the Caribbean. This Global Marketplace is among my favorites of the 2018 event, so it seems like a good place to start.
Plus, it’s the very first Global Marketplace you’ll encounter as you enter World Showcase and walk towards Mexico. If you do World Showcase in the “wrong” direction, it’s the final Global Marketplace you’ll see on your way out. A good way to begin or a glorious grand finale, depending upon your perspective.
Over the next few days, I’m going to try posting individual reviews of every single Epcot Food & Wine Festival booth. I know what you’re thinking: wow, what an ambitious and noble public service! Okay, perhaps not, but this is quite the undertaking, so I’ll be starting with the Global Marketplaces that interest me the most (basically, the best and the worst), and save the dull ones for last in case my patience for writing these–and your interest in reading them–wanes. With that said, let’s dig in!
The various islands of the Caribbean have been represented over the years at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, with a handful of unique booths being represented at one point. For 2018, we lose Patagonia after losing the Dominican Republic, which the Islands of the Caribbean booth directly replaced a few years ago.
Not to worry, as specialties from multiple countries–including Jamaica, Colombia, and Cuba–have been represented on the menu here over the course of the last couple years. That’s the upside. The downside is that several food-rich countries are relegated to a catch-all booth, while we witness a proliferation of booths that are not based on countries, or places at all.
Anyway, here’s what you’ll find on the menu…
Ropa Vieja Empanada with Tomato Aïoli – Although this won’t be the first choice for those wanting photogenic items for the Instagram, it’s one of the best items at this year’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Outside is a crust that’s just perfect–not too crisp, not too chewy–with a light flakiness. This could be luck of the draw, as I was handed a fresh-from-the-oven empanada (despite several sitting under the heat lamp right there–not that I’m complaining). It was literally so hot it almost singed my taste buds, a Shakespearean tragedy that would’ve sent me to the DL and precluded me from reviewing the rest of these booths.
Anyway, the empanada is loaded with shredded beef, onions, and a variety of spices to give it a bold flavor. Really excellent stuff. The tomato aioli is a good accompaniment, albeit not strictly necessary, as the beef and pastry really deliver all by themselves.
Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop with Roasted Sweet Plantain Salad and Mango Chutney Yogurt – Calling this “jerk-spiced” is definitely inaccurate, as the seasoning here was nonexistent. This was a big disappointment, as even a mild rub would’ve contrasted nicely with the excellent mango chutney yogurt.
Despite this, the chicken was tender and juicy, the portion sizable, and the plantain salad was a great accompaniment. It’s a great dish, even if it doesn’t match up with the menu description.
Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce – Simple and straightforward, but also tasty. This pastry has a light flakiness on top with a dense layer of cream cheese underneath. The guava sauce on top adds a fruity twist to the top that makes this dessert a winner.
It’s hardly an all-star of the event, but it’s good enough that you might as well order it so you can roll up to the Islands of the Caribbean ordering kiosk and say, “one of each” like a boss.
In addition to the food items, the following alcoholic drinks are available at Islands of the Caribbean:
Red Stripe Lager
Caribbean White Sangria
All in all, Islands of the Caribbean is a great way to start your day at the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. As noted at the top of the post, we’re going to try doing individual reviews for each of these booths, but that Herculean task is already feeling like it might be overzealous, so we’ll get as far as we can, and then do catch-all posts covering the highlights and lowlights. While I have a pretty good idea of what my top priorities are for coverage, if you have any booths you’d like to see in-depth, let us know in the comments. I’ll try to prioritize the Global Marketplaces that receive enough “votes.”
What do you think of the Islands of the Caribbean Global Marketplace? Have you tried any of the three food items at this booth? What did you think of them? Do you like the idea of aggregating places, or would you rather see distinct countries represented? Any thoughts on these items? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!