The Casual Runner

Best Entrees: 2016 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Casual Runners know that while running is a part of our lives, it is not our entire lives. Better yet, as Casual Running allows us to be healthier and live more active lifestyles, it allows us to experience new and wonderful adventures. In this special series, we will look at fun Casual Adventurers that our Team takes on when we are away from our training, even if its only for a day or two!  Check out other installments in this series by clicking here.

The Casual Runner team will be heading to Walt Disney World the first weekend of November for the 2016 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. EVERY FRIDAY Leading up to this we will be bringing you our favorite dishes and drinks from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. We already kicked off our series by sharing our selections for the Festival’s best drinks and our picks for the Festival’s best desserts, now we are turning our eager attention to the best main dishes! If you are wondering if we are doing this backwards (desserts before entrees?), we have this to say: there is no wrong order for attacking the deliciousness that is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival!

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As you know, the members of Team Casual Runner are big fans of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival (and all of its assorted fun and frivolity). For this Casual Adventurer series we decided to call in some backup and enlisted the help of our good friends Laura and Jason from Disney Good Eats.

Make sure you check out our Must Dos at Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival 2016 and our Wine and Dine Half Marathon and Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge Preview.

Candace, Tracy, Jennifer, Jake, Laura, Jason, and Mike all took on the tough challenge of sampling their way around the various kiosks located in World Showcase, and they all had some very opinionated opinions about the various Festival offerings. So, without further ado we bring you the best entrees of the 2016 Food and Wine Festival.

If you want more insider information on all that is fit to eat & sip at all the various Disney theme parks, be sure to check out Disney Good Eats by following them on InstagramTwitter.

The Food: Lobster Roll $7.75
Kiosk: Hops and Barley
Notable: Laura’s Pick and Mike’s (Third) Pick for Best in Show

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Laura: “We have had this in the past and it was an easy “eh”.  But this year, OMG.  This has definitely been my favorite thing so far!  The lobster chunks are plentiful, the sauce is just right, and the roll is a warm crispy garlic bread.  This was perfection!!  It beats Harbour Galley’s Lobster Roll for sure!”

Mike: “The only thing holding this back is that it is not consistently great. But you get nice pieces of chunk lobster with every bite.”

The Food: Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies $7.25
Kiosk: Australia
Notable: Candace’s Pick, Jake’s (Third) Pick, and Mike’s (Fourth) Pick for Best in Show

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Photo Credit and a big thanks to fellow Casual Runner Jessie Winther – we may have eaten ours too quickly to get a good picture!

Candace: “When it was announced early summer that the Grilled Lamb Chops were coming back to the Food and Wine Festival I could not have been more excited.  These lamb chops do not disappoint!  Last year I’m pretty sure I had four in one weekend.  I didn’t even know I liked lamb until last year!  Also make sure you request medium rare as to not get an overdone one.”

Editor’s Note: We can neither confirm nor deny that, during the 2015 Festival, while park hopping between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, Candace insisted on walking to Epcot just so they could catch the monorail…with of course a pass by the Australia kiosk for a lamb chop pit stop. 

Jake: “I’m a big fan of lamb chops in general, but I don’t usually go for mint jelly as a compliment. This is a whole different animal (OK, it’s still lamb, so I guess that would be the same animal).  The mint pesto adds just the right amount of flavor without overdoing anything. The combination of flavors takes the chops to the next level.”

Mike:This is another one where you need to request a rare piece of lamb, overcooking ruins this dish. My biggest complaint is that every time I order this, Candace doesn’t share MY order with me. You may ask ‘Why don’t you order her, her own?’ The short answer is, I do…and she still doesn’t share MY ORDER with me.”

The Food: Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce $7.75
Kiosk: Canada
Notable: Tracy’s and Mike’s Pick and Candace’s (Second) Pick for Best in Show

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Tracy: “Le Cellier, in my opinion, has some of the best food in Epcot, so for a ridiculously cheap price, you get top quality food in this dish.  Plus it tastes incredible – definitely a ‘must eat’.”

Mike: “Undisputed grand champion but with an explanation. Last year I tried this and was very meh about it, it was overcooked and bland. When I gave it another shot this year, I insisted that they make mine rare. I had to wait a few extra minutes, but it was absolutely worth it. The meaty goodness melted in my mouth and I had to fight my friends off with a stick because they wanted more after they tried it. The next day I went back and again requested a rare filet, only to be told by the chef that they do not serve them rare. I told him that I was served rare filet the night before, and he finally obliged (other guests around me mimicked my order as well, so I took it more as he did not want to cook special orders rather than a policy one way or the other). The filet came out just as perfect as it had the day before. So, lesson learned, if you are going to shell out for this one, order it rare or you will be disappointed.”

Candace:  “I completely agree with Mike.  I do not remember liking this at all last year then all the sudden it snuck up on me this year and I found myself liking this right after the lamb chop. Absolutely have to order this rare for optimum taste!”

The Food: Beef Empanada $4.75
Kiosk: Patagonia
Notable: Jennifer’s and Jake’s Pick for Best in Show

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Jennifer: “EVERYTHING HERE (Patagonia) IS AMAZING!!!! (Beef Empanada, Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée, Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri) If I had to pick one, I’d go with the empanada. But honestly my comments apply to all of these. They are spicy and flavorful without defaulting to hot and peppery (which is how a lot of places define “spice”), they were well balanced between carbs and protein, and were just so tasty. I could eat here every time I visit and not go anywhere else and be perfectly happy. (Also, spoiler alert: Patagonia will be my top choice for top overall kiosk).”

Jake: “Patagonia is what’s up!  Everything is so well balanced and packed with flavor.  The Empanada is my number one pick for a reason.  The delicious blend of spices makes this a culinary delight.”

The Food: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll $4.75
Kiosk: Canada
Notable: Jason’s Pick, Candace’s (Fourth) Pick, and Jake’s and Mike’s (Fifth) Pick for Best in Show

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Jason: “I have several classic favorite food items at the festival.  Sadly, some have gone downhill over the years (Beef Empanada in Patagonia) and others are no longer offered at all (Chilaquiles in Mexico).  In 2016, my serving of Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup was the best it has been in years and that is why it is my top pick for best food item!  This soup can be enjoyed year round and is always delicious when dining at Le Cellier, but in my experience it has never been quite as good at the festival.  This probably has to do with it sitting out on a hot day.  This year, I waited for a nice cool evening and the soup was perfect!  It was just the right temperature and just right blend of cheddar, bacon, and beer.  Oh, and the best part was that they added a side of pretzel bread for dipping this year!”

Candace:  “If cheese were a food group it would be my favorite!  So how can you go wrong with cheese soup?  This was absolutely delicious and loved dipping the pretzel bread in it.”

Jake: “A mainstay of Le Cellier for a reason, this soup literally put Canada on the Epcot map. Alright, I may be exaggerating a little, but it definitely keeps people coming back.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone why this dish is also a mainstay of Food and Wine Fest.”

Mike: “I love this one so much I’ve actually made it at home for my family. This is perfect item should you get a cooler November night during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend.”

The Food: Seafood Fisherman’s Pie $6.75
Kiosk: Ireland
Notable: Mike’s and Jennifer’s (second) Pick and Candace’s (third) Pick for Best in Show

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Mike:This beats out my #3 (lobster roll) for one reason and one reason only, it is consistently great.

Jennifer: “Good flavor and well-balanced between the potato, seafood, and sauce. I had this after the race and it was a perfect recovery food.”

Candace: “Mashed potatoes with shellfish in every bite, yes please!”

 

Honorable Mentions:  With so many foods to choose from at the festival we were all bound to have choices that others didn’t rank in their top five.

Jennifer was very fond of Brazil’s Crispy Pork Belly, “It’s hard to go wrong with pork belly, but these guys do a good preparation of it. The pork is the star but the beans and tomato are a good complement.”  Also Jennifer would like to give an honorable mention to the cheese bread in Brazil stating, “Cheese Bread (I know I already voted for this in the dessert category, but it’s worth a 2nd vote as an entree…).”

Jason stated, “I don’t typically eat any seafood, but even I liked the Croissant des Escargot in France!  The garlic, butter, and croissant texture makes you almost forget that a snail is inside!”

Mike and Tracy both had opinions on the Irish Cheese Selection Plate: Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Irish Porter.  Mike said, “Loved the cheese plate, BUT it does not hold up well in the Florida heat and sunshine as the cheese was way too soft, so this is best left to order when the weather is cooler” and Tracy added, I am a sucker for Irish cheese, so this cheese plate is heaven for me.”

Candace, Mike, and Jake all tried the Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Neske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onion and had very differing opinions.  Jake said, “Nueske’s Pepper Bacon has the uncanny ability to elevate just about any plate, but it really brings the flavor profile of this dish to life.”  Candace and Mike are both huge fans of Mac ‘n’ Cheese, but this didn’t cut it for them as the peppers overwhelmed the entire dish.

Laura enjoyed the Piggy Wings from the Craft Beer Area, stating “they were really good!  Very flavorful.  Plus a decent price.”  Candace cannot wait to try these, but is always afraid of the long line to get into the Craft Beer Area!

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Insider Festival Tip: Tasting Sampler vouchers can be purchased at the Food and Wine Festival Center, both Bridge Kiosk locations, Canada Festival Emporium, and the Festival Boutique Kiosk.  You can either purchase 8 vouchers (coupons) for $59 plus tax or 16 vouchers for $109 plus tax.  The 16 voucher pack is the better deal as each voucher is worth around $7.25.  So it is best to use these coupons to pay for items that cost over $7.25.  Disney DOES charge tax when you buy these vouchers.  In contrast, the food and drink item prices at booths are the tax-included prices. So, when you are doing the math to see if this is a good deal for you, make sure you take note of this. Essentially, if you are using your vouchers for items that cost $7.25 or more and pay cash for everything else, it is a good deal!

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These vouchers do not have to be used on the day of purchase and can be used on both food and beverages. There are a few items that the vouchers cannot be used on, so make sure to read the fine print!  Also with your purchase you receive a collectible Food and Wine Festival pin.  There is no passholder discount available for this purchase.

BONUS Insider Festival Tip: The various menu boards will tell you which items are eligible for purchase with Disney Dining Plan Snack Credits. This is a much better (and much more delicious) value than using those credits on bottled waters or Coke products.

Hopefully this gives all of our readers a great place to start sifting through the many tasty food offerings at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival this year.  Make sure to check back next Friday (October 28th) as we bring you our favorite overall kiosks of the festival! 

Thanks to our friends at Disney Good Eats for helping us out this week, make sure to follow Disney Good Eats on Instagram and on Twitter!

We hope you enjoyed the list of our favorites, and remember, ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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