From perennial favorites, like Hawaii’s Kahlua Pork Sliders, to newcomer sensations, such as The Almond Orchard’s Cauliflower Risotto, food has always been the star during the 22 years of Epcot International Food & Wine Festivals.
However, what the culinary world knows and sells, is that even the most perfect dish is made better with the correct pairing of beverage; namely sparkling wine, wine, hard cider, or beer. Occasionally, that extends to hard alcohol as well. This post is NOT an ode to the drinking games that increasingly play out along World Showcase, but yet recommendations for the best of the best sips that may compliment your favorite tastes.
In fact, for this reason, each year more and more Global Marketplaces will recommend these food/wine pairings for you. These suggestions come right from Walt Disney sommeliers. What follows is my own “research” into these offerings. A votre sante.
Best Sparkling Wine
This flute of Italian pink bubbles is THE ultimate winner, in my well-worn book. (AKA Festival Passport.) Though classically known as a dessert wine- perfectly paired with anything offered at its home in The Chocolate Studio- it also works well with cheese, spicier fare, and honestly can stand alone. ChEARS to Rosa Regale!!
Second Place? While I was quite tempted to sample The Almond Orchard’s $32 glass of Dom Perignon Brut Champagne, the price tag did not make it palatable. Instead, try Italy’s Prosecco; it is refreshing, not too dry, and a perfect compliment to just about any dish it comes up against- salty or sweet. And both of these bubblies are winners at $9.
There is no real contest here, but who know Florida brewed such delicious beer?! Also no surprise is that their most solid offerings are created by the addition of local citrus flavors. Craft Beer, located in the Odyssey Building, sells two unique beer flights. My personal favorite was the Western Florida Flight, which is the perfect way to sample the best sellers here; JDub’s Passion Wheat, Central 28 Trekker Bier Farmhouse Ale, and the delicious Cigar City Guayabera Citra Pale Ale. Now that I had my sample ($9), I am looking forward to a full serving of this pale ale that showcases pink grapefruit and tangerine. Think Florida sunshine in a mug!!! While these fruity beers would pair nicely with lighter flavors, I would suggest a heartier choice, such as the Florida Beer Company Passport 35 Triple Chocolate Milk Stout, to pair with the Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich. YUM.
Best White Wine
Call me a sentimental softie, but just for the heck of it I just had to sample Kurt Russell’s ode to his gal Goldie. This is one of the best Chardonnays I have ever tasted, with just the right balance of oak and buttery taste!!! So delicious, in fact, that this glass stood alone… Typically, risottos, chicken, pork, veal, and more delicate fishes stand up well to this variety of white wine.
You can read a full summary of the Disney Family of Wines, including this one created by Disney acting legend Kurt Russell, HERE.
Best Red Wine
My own personal bias overrides all other red wine choices here; red sangria (typically concocted with a red wine base) is nectar of the gods. This year the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival offers two goodies- Mexican-style Red Sangria and a darker, less sweet Moroccan Sangria. Each was stellar when matched with their prospective national dishes; the former with Rib Eye Taco: Marinated Rib Eye, Roasted Chipotle Sauce, and Grilled Scallions on a Corn Tortilla, and the later with Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions, and Tzatziki Sauce.
Best Mixed Drinks
There is a reason the Kahlua Pork Slider and Mai Tai show up year after year. If you want to be transported to Hawai’i just get them. Both. No questions.
Despite initial misgivings, trying the Traditional Spanish Paella was one of the best choices I made here last month. Because I am not very familiar with Spanish wines, I took the recommendation of those Walt Disney sommeliers. The Rafael Palacios Bolo Godello was crisp and stood up well against the hearty and rich seafood pasta with chorizo. After this meal, I swore to do more of these pairings in the future!
Best Special Event
Yes, I am a fan of the Trader Sam’s locations on both coasts, so when I saw that Going Behind the Scenes at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto was returning as an Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Special Event, I jumped at a reservation. While you can read my full review of this experience HERE I will share that I came away with a new appreciation for the grogs once they were expertly paired with Sam’s sample dishes. That Hippopotto Mai-Tai tasted sooooo much better alongside the Headhunter Roll Sushi Bite.
This event is expensive ($126), but considering it comes with live Skipper entertainment, I call it winner winner chicken dinner. And it doesn’t all taste like chicken…
Best Non-Alcoholic Beverage
The Non-alcoholic Mango Lassi is a sure-fire way to extinguish the flames from the Madras Red Curry; the blend of yogurt, mango, honey, and cardamon is a classic exotic Indian beverage.
Another particularly refreshing drink (ask for a virgin version) is Joffrey’s Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset. Cool!! Grab one at Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company at The American Adventure before you head to Eat to the Beat.
Still hungry? Refer to Sherry Boswell’s 5 Best Eats at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!
As the placards state: “Please Enjoy Responsibly.” The correct beverage can elevate the flavors of your trip around the World. Just be sure to keep your feet on the ground!!!