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Walt Disney World: Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

Turns out, downloading Tinder fell in my favor. Within 48 hours of swiping and blocking cautionary messages, I matched with Matt, who wooed me after a few rounds of bowling. This Floridian transplant and I have shared a myriad of days chasing waves and sunsets along the gulf’s white beaches, wining and dining in the comfort of our homes or along the waterfront. An ideal honeymoon phase, nonetheless.

So after a few weeks of quixotic dating, Matt promised to take me where all my dreams would come true; and I’m not talking about in the bedroom.

No, Matt and I escaped to a different fantasy: Walt Disney World.

We headed North to the globe’s most visited vacation resort to arrive in Lake Buena Vista, Florida by 9am. Dropping the car at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, we boarded a ferry to Epcot to claim our FastPass ride for Soarin’, a virtual gliding tour of California. Once buckled into our seats, we glided over the Golden State’s distinguished panoramic views. Scenes of landmarks and cityscapes balanced out natural aerial views of Yosemite and Napa Valley, where gusts of pine and orange invigorated our senses. The condensed images wrapped up at Disneyland, with a fare-well from Tinkerbell floating over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. And like any virtual world, I left the ride in a state of wanderlust.

After departing California, we had the rest of the world to explore. At Epcot, Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, the International Food and Wine Festival was celebrating 20 years of culinary greatness. With over 30 global marketplaces to explore, we grabbed our gastronomic passports and prepared for a gluttonous day.

Prior to entering the park, our ticket master warned to pace ourselves throughout the event. Luckily, college conditioned me to be a seasoned day-drinker, with the motto “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Though with delectable tapas showcasing each country’s finest plates, the pictorial menus were difficult to surpass.

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First Stop, Scotland
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(Left) Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon, Paired with Brew Dog Punk Ale (Right) Potato Pancake and Scottish Smoked Salmon and Herb Sour Cream

Followed By Hawaii:

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Tuna poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips and Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise

Shortly After, Canada:

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“Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce

Scotland’s Scallops and Canada’s truffle sauce were winners in my book, but we had hardly traveled the map.

Next up, Greece:

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Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce

Followed By the Dominican Republic:

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Top to Bottom: Lechón asado: Roasted pork with mangú, pickled red onion and avocado. Pescado con coco: Seared grouper, pigeon peas and rice with coconut sauce
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Spaceship Earth Peeking Through the Festival

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Back into the U.K., We ate in Ireland and drank at the Rose and Crown Pub

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Lobster and Seafood Shepherd’s Pie
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Imperial Sampler

Across the bridge, We entered into France, everything quirky and quintessential you could hope for in this pseudo-country:

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Oui
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Sparkling Pomegranate Kir
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Croissant aux escargots with garlic and parsley, Vanilla & chocolate crème brûlée topped with caramelized sugar

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Sitting blissfully among the adorable scenery, we met up with an old swim friend of mine, currently working at Disney. It was interesting to hear and compare her experience at the parks with my time working on cruise ships. Though she was enjoying her day off, so we carried on with the festival in Poland:

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(Top to Bottom) Sauerkraut pierogi with pork goulash, Kielbasa and potato pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream

Then, into Brazil:

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Frozen Caipirinha and Pão de queijo: Brazilian cheese bread

Then Brazil to Morocco:

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Baklava (My Favorite!) and Sangria

Leaving Morocco, we split a Berbere-style beef tenderloin tips with onions, jalapeños, tomato and pap. This savory plate was nice on my tastebuds but not so nice on film. Therefore, my photo for the Africa booth is MIA… (This bothered me. Some booths were countries, other continents, some, regions of Argentina. No wonder Americans have a skewed view of geography)

While stopping in China, we stumbled into the acrobat show while rehydrating on Bubble tea:

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Mango Bubble Tea

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Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce

 

Of course, we couldn’t surpass Germany:

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Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen From the Biergarten Restaurant

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Trying not to complain, we accused Disney of raping us of our wallets, strategically plotting each food stand dangerously close to one another. How were we supposed to walk off each small plate? Between mini-meals, we wandered throughout the various themed stores, avoiding reaching for our credit cards as we had already spent and ate more than we could afford. We made an effort to talk to the costumed employees, or “cast members”, flown in around the globe.

“Excuse me miss, no drinks inside the store” stated a boy sporting a lederhosen. His name tag read American but his accent deemed otherwise.

“Excuse me… I don’t believe you are ‘Peter’ from Florida as your name tag claims you are”, I shot back, teasingly in a buzzed slur.

It appeared “Peter” was really Joseph from Berlin, who had left his name tag at home, and was indeed joking.

After a dazed conversation with Joseph, Matt and I moseyed into Norway, a small section of Epcot sustained primarily from “Frozen” merchandise. Inside the air-conditioned store, we conversed with a girl named Paula for quite some time. Paula was a nineteen-year-old student from Norway, living up her American-Disney experience. With little to whine about, she mentioned how a majority of her paychecks go to daily mochas, leaving her to a diet of soup and Wendy’s.

“Let me bring you some Korean Short-Ribs!” I exclaimed. (Another country not photoed)

“O, no, I’ll be alright, but you must try Australia’s Lamb Chops” Paula replied.

And after more interrogation of this young foreigner, we headed out into the heat more more indulgences.

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Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies

Paula, You had us at “Lamb Chops”, but the Mint Pesto pushed me to another limit.

Later, we drifted inside the Chase Lounge in America for aircon and a cartoon drawing tutorial:

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Then retracted our steps into Japan:

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After a Kirin beer in Japan and an Avocado Margarita inside the San Angel Inn near Mexico, we took on a Floridian Flight inside the Craft Beer hall. A sweet quartet of flavorful brews put Matt a bit on the edge, but I persisted to carry on as the sun set, illuminating the iconic Spaceship Earth. Our final booths took us to the Cheese Studio and the Chew Lab. Drooling over the fondue description on the menu, our cashier regretted to inform us that the melted cheese included a fifteen minute wait. Though after one sip of my sweet Sterling Vintner’s Collection of Cab Sauv, the cashier waved us down, sliding over a fresh bowl complimentary of the staff.

Reviewing the day’s diet, I would like to say our drinking had stopped here, but that was not be the case. At the Wine Studio, I asked for best. “We have a Californian white with a $300 price tag.” I rolled my eyes as I agreed to sample the apparent three-figure wine for a more acceptable price of $3.50 per cup. I’m no wine connoisseur, but I wouldn’t be able to tell the Californian from Franzia.

We threw back the wine and hopped in line for Test Track. After all, the responsible reaction from a day of drinking would be creating a car for driving. Lucky for us, we had no control over the wheel and talked our way into a successive second ride.

The virtual race track had our hearts rushing and our heads spinning as we exited outside, greeted with Disney’s notorious firework show. The lights blasted gloriously above, marking an end to an unforgettable day. We floated back to the Swan on the day’s last ferry, watching the park’s reflection recede in the distance. It’s funny to think back on the last time I visited Disney. A young girl with her family, shaking in her skirt waiting in line to meet Cinderella, screaming in fear at the Haunted Mansion, gawking at awe at the tacky buildings.

This time around, I could appreciate the tacky buildings, though adversely the characterful charm wore off with exhaustion. We spent day two in Hollywood Studios, a park I’d rather wait to return to when I have children of my own. Despite the lines, crowds and screaming children, this romantic getaway to Disney reminded me about the importance of a dream. Walt established a utopia in landlocked Florida for aspiring minds to congregate and wishful families to explore. Or for two young adults, an quick escape from the real-world. Call us childish. Call us immature. Call us what you want, Walt Disney World remains a retreat for all ages:

“That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up”

-Walt Disney

-JMM

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One comment

  1. Nicely written. Fun way to travel around the world, but in your own backyard!

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