Top ten new tastes at the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival

The 15th annual EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival kicks off today at Walt Disney World Resort.

The festival includes cooking demonstrations, concerts, cookbook signings, wine dinners and celebrity chef appearances, but the “main event” is what the Festival Marketplace around the World Showcase promenade, where 25 kiosks selling regional food and drink from around the world are set up.

The tapas-size portions sell for $3-$8. There are always some festival mainstays, like Canadian Beer Cheese Soup and Polish Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies, but this year 60 percent of the items are new to the festival.

I got a chance to preview the festival last night during a soft opening, and here’s my list of the top new tastes (and sips) at this year’s EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival:

  1. Freshly Baked Waffles with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream – This dish at the new Belgium kiosk was delicious, as expected. The waffles were perfectly crisp – not soggy at all, which is a great feat when they are being prepared outside in the Florida humidity.
  2. Cheese Fondue with Croutons and Roasted Potatoes – This was a classic fondue at a new Charcuterie and Cheese kiosk. Applewood smoked beef, duck and ham are also available at this booth.
  3. Coconut-braised, Beef Rendang with Jasmine Rice – Another new kiosk for 2010 is Singapore, and I loved this spicy dish there.
  4. Bohae Bokbunjajoo – South Korea is the fourth new kiosk for this year’s food and wine festival, and the first thing I tasted there was this black raspberry rice wine. I’m not a huge fan of sweet wines, but this one wasn’t overpowering, and I enjoyed it.
  5. Bison Chili with Wild Mushrooms, Cabernet and Pepper Jack Cheese – The USA kiosk rotates by region every few years. For the past couple of years, the culinary focus has been on Louisiana, but this year it has shifted to the Pacific Northwest. This chili was spicy, earthy and just plain good (though the portion felt a bit skimpy.)
  6. Godiva Chocolate Iced Coffee – This sip from the Belgium kiosk was a great way to end the evening on a sweet note, and, though it is starting to feel like autumn here in Central Florida, hot coffee just doesn’t work most of the year at Walt Disney World.
  7. Asopao de Pollo – Disney Chef Roberto Velez’s family recipe for this comforting chicken and rice soup won a competition to be included on the tasting menu at this year’s festival. It’s available at the Puerto Rico booth.
  8. Heirloom Tomato Salad with Domestic Blue Cheese, Red Onion and Fresh Basil – Another new addition from the USA booth, this salad was flavorful and gorgeous. The tomatoes tasted like they had just been picked.
  9. Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw – I found this dish from the South Korea booth to be packed with flavor. The Jinro Chamisul Soju beverage sold at this booth is a great complement to the lettuce wraps.
  10. Pear Streusel Pudding Cake – While I’m sure the Desserts and Champagne kiosk at the festival is meant to be a last stop of the night, I’ll just admit right here that it’s often my first stop. This cake was new to the menu and caught my eye. It’s dense, moist, and sweet, and it goes great with a dry champagne.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival continues through Nov. 14. While many of the events require reservations and extra fees, the Festival Marketplace booths can be accessed by anyone with regular Disney Parks admission.