Via Napoli Beer Pairing – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2014

This Epcot Food & Wine Festival experience took place on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We (nick & I) have done this twice in the past (2011 & 2013) – and honestly – we haven’t been overwhelmed either time. But, when we started planning a visit during Epcot Food & Wine Festival with our niece, Nevie, we thought this would be something she’d enjoy trying.

We arrived at Via Napoli a little before lunch was scheduled to begin (in past years we’ve arrived quite a bit early and have had to wait in the heat and sun until they figured out how to start seating guests. This year, the managers and staff seemed to have a better system in place and we were quickly given a small glass of Italian sangria and seated at our table.

Via Napoli Food & Beer Pairing with JMD 140923 - 02

the table settings looked lovely, but as usual, there was little true space on the tables

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thankfully, although the event was well attended, there wasn’t as much noise as there has been in the past

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looks like we’re nearly ready to begin

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the beers are waiting on ice

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Italian Sangria

Nevie liked the sangria and I thought it was pretty refreshing, nick thought it was citrusy and sweet but not overly so.

Bread and olive oil was brought to the table right away. We were seated at a table for four, no one else was seated with us. Nick thought the olive oil was rather bitter and I thought it was very grassy. I guess we both have come to prefer the olive oil at Spice Road Table. The bread was more like a ciabatta than what us Americans think of as “Italian bread”.

Gabriel

Gabriel

Gabriel was there to greet us and to lead the meal along (he’s the manager of Via Napoli) and Chef Charlie Restivo was overseeing the preparation of our food. They worked together before Food & Wine to plan and pair the components. Eric, the beer expert, has been at Via Napoli since its inception; Eric is a second level certified cicerone.

Eric

Eric

Italian beer culture is very much grounded in Italian wine culture

Darker beer are served at warmer temperatures just like red wines are usually served at warmer temperatures than whites

Beer is typically bottled in 740mL bottles, similar in size to wine bottles, thus you aren’t embarrassed to have beer on your dinner table instead of wine (it isn’t as obvious that you’re having beer instead of wine)

Beers are meant to be shared (like bottles of wine)

First Course

Bocconcini di Bufala e Carciofi Tartufati
Buffalo Mozzarella & Truffled Artichoke Bites
Paired with
La Cinque, Birrificio L’Olmaia

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Bocconcini di Bufala e Carciofi Tartufati

La Cinque is a light yellow colored beer

La Cinque is a light yellow colored beer, slightly cloudy

La Cinque, Birrificio l"Olmaia

La Cinque, Birrificio l”Olmaia

The mozzarella arrived in Miami from Italy last night.
The La Cinque is a bit bitter on the front of the tongue, it’s 5.5% ABV. This is a beer that you can get regularly at Via Napoli.

Buffalo Mozzarella & Truffled Artichoke Bites

Buffalo Mozzarella & Truffled Artichoke Bites

The mozzarella had a very creamy center and the artichokes could have benefited from a little salt. The three of us agreed that we just weren’t getting the pairing with the artichokes alone. The beer did pair nicely with the mozzarella alone. The best pairing was to get some of the cheese and some of the artichoke and then the beer. I liked the beer best alone. Nick said that it was best to have all of the components together. We all liked the beer better as it warmed a bit. Although the mozzarella was imported just for this meal, overall, I was underwhelmed…

Nevie’s Comments:  The buffalo did not come across in the mozzarella in my opinion but the truffle artichokes were very good. The beer was great with the food and actually one of the only ones I really enjoyed drinking. It wasn’t very bitter and was easy to enjoy.

(back label)

(back label)

Second Course

Pizza Romana al Prosciutto
Roman Style Pizza with Prosciutto
Paired with
Moretti, La Rossa

Pizza Romana al Prosciutto

Pizza Romana al Prosciutto

La Rossa, Moretti

La Rossa, Moretti

This beer has a sweeter nose because of the toasted/carmelized malt. It is 7.2% ABV and is brewed in the German Dobblebock style. Again, this beer is readily available at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot.

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Roman Style Pizza with Prosciutto

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The pizza didn’t look much like a pizza or a flatbread.

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It looked like the crust was baked blind and then dressed with toppings for service.

The parmesan was very nutty and sweet, it went well with the La Rossa. The saltiness of the prosciutto was great. Nevie liked it best when she could get a taste of everything. Nick and I thought that it all worked well together, especially as the beer warmed a bit. Nevie also liked the arugula, saying that it helped the pairing. While I enjoyed this course more than the first course, I wasn’t massively impressed with the pizza (sorry all you fans of Via Napoli, I’ve haven’t been overwhelmed with the pizza here ever). There was very little oil or rosemary on the crust – when you got some of that, it was much better. Perhaps there was an error in the preparation and the rosemary and olive oil should have been more prominent. Gabriele wanted to give us something different from what’s on the Via Napoli menu re: pizza during the Food & Wine Festival. When he came around, he said that it was basically a foccacia with toppings (I thought the texture was more like a flat ciabatta with toppings).

Nevie’s Comments: This course varied greatly between the three of us. Mine had the most olive oil and rosemary which allowed my toppings to stay on better than anyone else’s. It was very hard to get a bite of everything because there was no sauce or melted cheese to hold the toppings onto the pizza. The flavors were very good once you got everything together.  The beer was nice with the food but a bit on the bitter side for me.

Eric describing another one of our beers

Eric describing another one of our beers

Third Course

Cotoletta di Vitello con Cicoria e Olive
Veal Cutlet with Chicory & Olives
Paired with
Birra Amiata, Contessa

Cotoletta di Vitello con Cicoria e Olive

Cotoletta di Vitello con Cicoria e Olive

This beer is also 7.2% ABV. This is an Italian IPA, Eric noted that it was hard to pair chicory with anything except a stout but he’s hoping that since this beer has lots of hops, fruit, sweetness, and heroines that it will pair well with the food. It was interesting that we each had a different reaction to our first nose: Nevie said “pine trees”, Nick said “evergreens” and I said “flowers”… each of these is pretty emblematic of hops. When we tasted the beer, Nick (as usual) said that perhaps it was served too cold… but we both liked the taste with food. Nevie thought it had a very bitter aftertaste.

Veal Cutlet with Chickory & Olives

Veal Cutlet with Chickory & Olives

The components of this dish had a variety of flavors: Nick & I thought that the potatoes tasted like english potatoes (yes, the potatoes taste differently in England. We all liked the veal cutlet. Nick & I particularly liked the chicory (well, we tend to like our bitter greens). In all, we liked this dish quite a bit. Nick and Nevie weren’t that crazy about the beer, too many hops.

Nevie’s Comments: The chickory and olives were amazing! The veal was a bit on the bland side and wasn’t my favorite. The beer was very bitter and I did not enjoy this beer at all and didn’t even finish my sample. The beer was better when taking a bite of food.

It’s nice that they keep changing the menu every year.

Fourth Course

Cannolo Bicolore
Cream & Pistachio Cannolo (bicolored cannoli)
Paired with
Amarcord, Bionda

Cannolo Bicolore

Cannolo Bicolore

Amarcord, Bionda

Amarcord, Bionda

back label

back label

This course is from Sicily, usually made with sheep cheese. This one is a bit different in that there are two distinct flavors in the connolo.

Cream & Pistachio Cannolo

Cream & Pistachio Cannolo

This beer is a Belgian-style blonde ale and the beer should lift the heavy cream (fat) from your tongue. This Bionda is brewed in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery (not one of our favorites and so far, we aren’t impressed with their beers). The connolo was excellent – the cookie was very crispy and the fillings were tasty. Nick thought that the beer paired quite nicely, “the pairing is really good”. Nevie only got bitterness from the beer without food, the pairing improved the beer but it isn’t going to become a favorite of hers.

Nevie’s Comments: This was by far my favorite! The cannolo was beautifully presented and very colorful with the green pistachios coming through. I liked how they did a double stuffing one traditional and one pistachio. Both creams were delicious and I wish I had room to eat 3 more. The beer was very good with the dessert but after all the food and beer before it was hard to me to enjoy it a lot.

candied orange on the cream side

candied orange on the cream side

this was very well composed and executed

this was very well composed and executed

Metting Chef Charlie Restivo

Metting Chef Charlie Restivo

Before we left, one of the servers danced for us...

Before we left, one of the servers danced for us…

... leaping into the air...

… leaping into the air…

... kicking up his legs ...

… kicking up his legs …

... all with loads of energy

… all with loads of energy

As we left, we were each given a gift bag with Cantucci… almond cookies and the recipe for same. I hope to make these this winter – there were quite tasty, not too sweet but not bland.

Via Napoli Cantucci

All purpose flour – 150 g

Almonds – 100 g

Sugar – 100 g

Butter – 50 g

Baking powder – 1/4 tsp

Salt – 1 pinch

Eggs – 2 hole, beaten

Slightly toast almonds for 10 minutes at 300 degrees then soften butter to room temperature and mix all ingredients (except eggs) together thoroughly, roll dough into two logs, place on parchment paper or greased cookie sheet pan and brush logs with beaten eggs.

Bake on sheet pan for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, cool whole logs, after logs are cooled, slice on bias across the log; re-bake slices for 20 minutes at 300 degrees until slightly golden brown

Post Script:

We think this is the last time that we’re going to do this luncheon. The others are typically much more interesting and frankly, better. Now, if we have guests or visitors who really want to do this pairing lunch, then we’ll do it again… It’s not a BAD event, just not as good as some of the other options during Epcot Food & Wine.

Nevie’s Post Script: Overall the meal was great but the beer choices really weren’t in my wheel house. I really did want to take more of those cannolos home with me.

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