The mania builds for months before the six-week Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which, on September 27, will start its 18th year. You'll find all kinds of seminars and classes and lunches and dinners, all well-run and well-done.
My favorite part is the simplest: the marketplaces. All around Epcot's World Showcase, little kiosks serve up a trio or so of ethnic foods along with appropriate beverages. This year we travel from Africa to France (always a sure bet for garlicky phyllo-wrapped escargot) and from South Korea to the park's Florida home base. Prices are generally $3 to $7 per dish. I like to arrive just at 11 and stroll, and eat, calmly before the crowds surge. Surge they do, although many folks like making a leisurely evening out of eating, walking and, between tastes, watching the entertainers at the international pavilions.
As always, the marketplaces for 2013 will dish up a mix of popular long-timers and newbies. As a member of the press, I was invited to sample some of this year's debut food and beverage items. Here's what I learned.
Love Me Some Lobster
The Hops & Barley Marketplace will have a lobster tail. Calls for an exclamation point, right? The Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter will be grilled "on stage," so you'll get a waft of the aroma before digging in. It's quite tasty, but a challenge to pull out of the shell--so snag a table before eating this one.
Belly Up to Brazil
My absolute favorite dish of the tasting was Brazil's Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Avocado, Onions and Cilantro. Oh my. Disregard my unflattering photo. This is tender, flavorful meat that has been cured for three days, then cooked in front of you until it has a crisp and caramelized exterior. Add a little refried black bean, avocado and such, and you'll be quite satisfied. Go for the black beer paired with it. They're quite the match.
At the South Korea showcase, you can pick up a hot dog ... sort of. The playful Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard is made by an Epcot master butcher, nestled into a soft sweet bun, and enhanced with kimchi, which is this case is a flavorful spicy slaw. This picture is of half a portion.
Give Me S'More
I'm not much of one for gloppy super-sweet things, but the Frozen S'Mores may convert me. The yummo fixtures like graham crackers and marshmallows are blended into a sweet drink and ooh-la-la.
The Trio Trifecta
Let me end by introducing you to the Trio of Desserts: Cherry Pistachio Mousse, Chocolate/Orange Cupcake and Hazelnut Cheesecake. Say yes.
Or, as they're presented in the official Disney World photograph,
Add dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens more items, and you'll begin to get a feel for the 18th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. For a full listing of Marketplace tastes and such, click here.