With only 75 days before the start of the 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the even organizers offered a preview Sunday of some of the new dishes that will be served in the Marketplaces around the park’s World Showcase. The tasting was offered to members of Tables in Wonderland, a membership service that gives discounts at certain WDW restaurants as well as invitations to special events, such as this one. I was invited to join in.
The tastings were set up in the World Showplace, which had enough open space for the World Cup Soccer champs to play a demonstration map. Too bad they weren’t there.
One of the more notable new items is haggis, which will be served at the Scotland marketplace. “But the Scotland marketplace had haggis last year,” you interrupt. Sort of, I reply, not wishing to reward rudeness. What was served last year was a vegetarian version of haggis, which if you know what is in haggis might prompt you to ask “What’s the point?” The reason it was a vegetarian version is that it was impossible to gain approval for the importation of actual Scottish haggis, which generally includes sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, suet and some other goodies encased in a sheep’s stomach.
The Disney folks still can’t get clearance to import the real thing, but they’ve found a domestic producer that can provide a more traditional haggis experience. (Few use the stomach casing these days, so you don’t have to get too grossed out.) How did it taste? Exactly like haggis, and nicely plated with neeps and tatties, which are not as naughty as they sound (it’s rutabaga and mashed potatoes).
As was announced recently, ABC’s The Chew will be part of this year’s festival. Besides taping a week of episodes at Epcot, The Chew crew will have a presence at two marketplaces. At one they’ll be serving New York strip with parsnip silk and arugula foam, paired with The Smoking Hibiscus, a drink made with mescal and garnished with a hibiscus bud dipped in liquid nitrogen.
At the other Chew place, a pork sparerib is on the menu, paired with a delicious cocktail called the Chew-tini, made with Meyer lemon vodka, carrot mango juice and citrus sour mix.
Speaking of beverages, the festival will have its own special wine label this year, called, indeed, Festival. There will be a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon to try.
There’s a new item at the Dominican Republic booth this year, Pescado con Coco, or seared grouper with pigeon peas and rice with a coconut sauce.
And Brazil is touting its Escondidinho de Carne, or little hidden one layered meat pie with mashed yucca. I’m not sure why it’s called little hidden one, and I may not want to know, but this was one of the better things I tasted Sunday.
We also learned from festival czar Marianne Hunnel (pictured at top with Epcot chef Michael Deardorff) about a few new things at the festival, which starts September 25 and runs through November 16. This year, the popular Party for the Senses events will take place only on the Saturdays that fall in the month of October. Just as with last year, one of the Parties, on Oct. 24, will feature chefs from Disney properties throughout the world — the real world, not the one immediately outside the venue. It'll be interesting to see if Paris participates this year; the French were conspicuously absent last time. And on Saturday, Oct. 31, the theme will be Yelloween Masquerade. Why Yelloween? I was afraid to ask.
The World Showplace will be home to another new event, the Rockin’ Burger Block Party. The burgers served will be inspired by “recording artists who have left their mark on the beverage world.” This apparently does not refer rock stars who can down a fifth of Jack Daniel’s between numbers. Rather, the inspiration will come from celebrities who have leant their names to beers and wines.
There will be three RBBPs — Sept. 25, Oct. 8 and Nov. 6. The October party will be hosted by the celebrities from The Chew, so best of luck getting tickets for that one. Ticket categories range from $99 to $199, not including tax, gratuity or admission to Epcot.
We’ll have more news to come as we count down to the festival’s opening.