2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival – Soft Opening – our take

We were able to make it over to Epcot on Thursday night… It used to be a loosely held secret that the Marketplace Booths were open for “dress rehearsal” the day before the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins, now it’s widely expected that if you go over, you’ll be able to sample nearly everything… BUT WDW doesn’t guarantee any of that.

We had looked at our preliminary lists (they’ve been refined over the weekend, based on observances during Thursday evening) and selected 4 items that we both had as “must do”…

So here we go…

Our first stop was Brazil where we got the Crispy Pork Belly and the Black Beer

Brazil - Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans

Brazil – Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans

This wasn’t so great. It was more fatty than crispy. The pork on the non-fat-cap side was dry and it was nearly impossible to cut off a bite using the plastic utensils.

2013 Epcot Food and Wine Soft Opening - 3

Brazil – pork belly, this stuff is pretty tough and stringy

The pork under the non-crispy-and-quite-solid-white-fat-cap was moister.

Brazil - pork belly, holding the fat cap out of the way

Brazil – pork belly, holding the fat cap out of the way

Overall, after having two pork belly dishes at bluezoo in the previous seven days, this was pretty disappointing, actual quote “this is a crying shame”. Honestly, there wasn’t anything “crispy” about it, at all. Surprisingly, it was the accompaniments that really stood out… I thought that the black beans were nice (the pork was salty and the beans weren’t – why not just salt everything appropriately? It’s not that freaking difficult). Nick really liked the avocado salsa – it tasted good with the black beans, really good.

We’re likely to give this another shot later in the festival, we really like our pig.

Brazil - Black Beer

Brazil – Black Beer

This was a bit of a disappointment. We were expecting something more like a porter or English style black beer… This is a hot climate black beer (well, duh, we should have seen that coming…) It was less flavorful and rich, it paired well with the pork belly… For a hot climate black beer, well, it was good… [Not as good as the Tres Pistoles from Unibroue that we picked up in Canada at the beer cart (going to be hard to keep me away from there, the only time of the year you can get Unibroue easily on draft, during Food & Wine at the regular beer cart)… this is a really grown up beer, yummy].

So after this, we walked from Canada around to New Zealand for the Green Lip Mussels. Funny thing – when we visited Nick’s family in North Carolina last summer – Mama and the Aunts kept asking me “do you know where we can find green lip mussels?” and I was like “what the heck are you talking about? why do you need green lip mussels? some special recipe?”…. NOPE… They had heard that green lip mussels were good for arthritis, well, I work in an industry highly concerned with arthritis… I’d never heard this one. So, it was with a particular interest that we went to New Zealand Marketplace for Green Lip Mussels – would I wake up in the morning with fewer aches? No, but here’s what we thought of the mussels.

New Zealand - Green Lip Mussels topped with bread crumbs

New Zealand – Green Lip Mussels topped with bread crumbs. 3 per serving (good sized)

The crunchy bread crumb topping seemed to absorb the natural juices. Warning these are not cut free from the shell and combined with the topping, are rather difficult to eat. They weren’t warm AT ALL. They were overcooked.

New Zealand - Green Lip Mussels, we scraped the bread crumbs off so that you could see the mussels

New Zealand – Green Lip Mussels, we scraped the bread crumbs off so that you could see the mussels

New Zealand - Green Lip Mussels - showing you the green

New Zealand – Green Lip Mussels – showing you the green lip

These weren’t BAD, but they weren’t GOOD. As we say over and over again, and why we don’t listen to ourselves I sure as heck don’t know, the seafood items at Food and Wine TEND to be overcooked. We think that we now prefer raw oysters over cooked mussels – even though, I’d still be happy to sit at Raglan Road and eat mussels!

The last thing we tried, right before we headed out (the soft opening was scheduled to end at 8 and we wanted to get back home well before Illuminations), the Garlic Shrimp from Australia. I had high hopes given the accompaniments…

Australia - Garlic Shrimp

Australia – Garlic Shrimp

First of all, when Nick went up to get this, they gave him a serving from under a heat lamp… REALLY?! It’s SHRIMP for crying out loud, they don’t do well at all under heat lamps. These were erasers – sigh… The greens were very, very good. (I’d take a whole container of these and they can keep the shrimp-erasers.) The flavors were nice for the dish as a whole – I just can’t get past the overcooked shrimp. You can cook shrimp in this form in one or two minutes AT MOST… Sigh (again). We might try this again, if they’re actively cooking the shrimp instead of passing them out from under a heat lamp (at least, for goodness’ sake, if you’re going to hold seafood under a heat lamp… don’t cook it completely beforehand).

So, all in all, we know that this was the dress rehearsal. but it seems that the practice of continuing to overcook seafood is here to stay (although we remain optimistic). And then, the pork belly wasn’t cooked enough. Oh well. We aren’t a food blog, we just love to eat…





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