Our in-depth coverage of Walt Disney World’s 2020 Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins with a bang, in the Islands of the Caribbean. This Global Marketplace is among my favorites, and in this review, we’ll share menu info & pricing, food photos, and what’s worth the money.
Before we get to that, let’s begin with a brief synopsis of what’s happening with the 2020 Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. As you’re no doubt aware, Walt Disney World’s theme parks were closed for 4 months. Upon reopening, this event began—over a month before the full EPCOT Food & Wine Festival would typically start. In short, the Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is a truncated version of the full event.
Menus have been scaled back, fewer new items have debuted, and some dishes are holdovers from the Flower & Garden Festival. Walt Disney World has not officially announced when this event will end or how it might evolve as the phased reopening continues, but there are signs that it’ll be expanded. Consequently, we’re updating our menus & reviews to reflect what’s currently available—but note that this is all subject to change. Additional items might be added and others removed. Stay tuned for more EPCOT updates!
Islands of the Caribbean is 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 Taste of 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. In recent years, we’ve lost Patagonia and the Dominican Republic, the latter of 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 2020 menu at Islands of the Caribbean:
Ropa Vieja Empanada with Tomato AÃ¯oli
Jerk-spiced Chicken with Roasted Sweet Plantain Salad and Mango Chutney Yogurt (GF)
Flancocho: Passion Fruit Cake with Coconut Flan
Islands of the Caribbean Beverages:
Red Stripe Lager
Opici Family White Sangria
Now our photos and reviews of each item from the Islands of the Caribbean Global Marketplace at the 2020 Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival…
Ropa Vieja Empanada with Tomato AÃ¯oli ($5.50) – 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. This is highly recommended.
Jerk-spiced Chicken with Roasted Sweet Plantain Salad and Mango Chutney Yogurt ($5.50) – Last year this was a Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop, and we enjoyed it, but found the jerk rub and seasoning to be incredibly lacking. Despite this, the chicken was tender and juicy, the portion sizable, and the plantain salad was a great accompaniment.
This year, the dish is a considerable improvement. The grilled flavor and jerk-spice work wonders together, with the sweet flavors from the mango and plantain providing a playful contrast. This is Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival at its best: ambitious, approachable, and delicious!
Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce ($4) – 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.
All in all, Islands of the Caribbean is a great way to start your day at the 2020 Taste of 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!