Friday, October 11, 2013

WDW Reviews: Epcot Food & Wine Fest, Olivia's Cafe, and the new Starbucks

Disney, food and wine fest, epcot, olivia's cafe, starbucks

I've mentioned before that I'm a huge Disney World fan. It's definitely my happy place, and my love for it has resulted in lots of close friendships with other WDW addicts like myself. We've gone just about every year for the past 11 years and never tire of it. When at all possible, I try to time it around Epcot's annual Food and Wine Fest!

{is that surprising to anyone?}

Y'all will have to forgive the photography - I opted to not carry my large SLR and instead shot exclusively with my iPhone. 

If you're not familiar with Food and Wine Fest, here's a brief overview: you eat your weight in food and then go home, 20 pounds heavier. Kidding. Sorta. World Showcase (a large portion of Epcot, which features 11 countries) is turned into a food fest. Booths are set up around the lagoon and each booth features large sample sizes of various cuisines from that country/region. The sample sizes range from $3-$7, with various beers, wines, and cocktails also offered for $3-$12. In addition, there are lots of ticketed events you can attend including demos, dinners, and desserts. Plus free demos and seminars!

It's like a foodie dream, y'all.

Parisian Breakfast

We started our weekend by attending an event that's new this year - the Parisian Breakfast, hosted at Chefs de France in France. The breakfast is on Saturdays from 9:00 am-10:30 am.

When we arrived, the heat was already cranked up outside and there was a long line already formed. In the full sun.

They didn't start seating until right at 9am so it took a bit of time to get inside. As you walked in, you were handed a mimosa (or just OJ, if you preferred) and shown your table. Most parties were seated with others - they really filled the tables up. We were a party of 3 so we were seated at a 6 topped with 3 others. They were super nice!

Four buffets were set up and all had exactly the same items so you didn't have to wander the restaurant. Since this was the first year, no one was quite sure what the menu would look like. In short? It was CARB CITY!

I quickly snapped pics as I went through the buffet:

(this was later stocked with sliced ham as well)

My plate:

The waiters came around with refills for the mimosas plus anything else you'd like (coffee, hot tea, soda, etc). You were welcome to get more of anything, but strangely were given just one plate.

At some point, the manager came out and spoke for just a minute.

The good? All the food was delicious and fresh, the service was great, and we didn't eat another bite until 7pm that night! It was sorta like having breakfast in the French Bakery next door but getting to take one of everything.

The bad? It was too many carbs, even for this carb loving girl. A quiche and some fruit would have been a great addition to round it out. Our table also thought the portions were very large - we would have loved for the sandwiches and croissants to be cut in half so much of it wouldn't have been wasted.

As you left, you were handed a gift bag with a small jar of jam and some coupons. Nice touch!

Culinary Demo

On Sunday, I bought tickets for one of the culinary demos. These demos are held in the Festival Center which is located in Future World, between Mission Space and Ellen's Energy Adventure. The Festival Center has free demos, the large festival shop, Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience, a film about wine, large selection of wines for sale, book signings, and an area for the ticketed demos.

When you arrive, you check in at the information desk and get your tickets before joining the line going through the middle of the building. Once they opened, you could take a seat at any of the long tables that were already set.

I chose to attend a beef demo, taught by Chef Tim Hockett from Nacional 27 in Chicago, IL. A wine was also paired with the dish and a representative from the winery was on hand as well. The wine featured was Coyam Red Reserve Blend from Emiliana Winery in Colchagua, Chile.

The demo started with the host introducing the winery representative. He gave a 5 minute or so talk about their winery, how they grow their grapes, and more about the specific wine he brought. Everyone was brought a generous sample of the wine to enjoy. 

When the chef came out, the host and wine person both stayed on the stage so they dialogued some together. 

The dish prepared was Chimichurri Skirt Steak with Pappas Bravas. Not only did we get to watch him make it (and get tips along the way!), but also got a generous sample and the recipe! It was delicious, and we'll definitely be having it for dinner sometime soon. 

The demo lasted less than 45 minutes but was fun to attend. Now that they are in the Festival Center and not in the much more convenient Odyssey building like in the past, I'm not sure I'd go for just one again. 

Food and Wine Fest Booths

After we finished at the demo, we went back to World Showcase to start our sampling. Our plan was to try anything that looked good, share as needed, and pretend the prices were Monopoly money :) 

Singapore: Lemongrass Chicken Curry with Coconut and Jasmine Rice - $4.25
This is really a dish that I'd choose to make at home so I knew already I'd love the flavors, and I did. It had some heat but was very flavorful. My only complaint is that some of the chicken quality was questionable, but I'm admittedly very picky with my chicken.

China: Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun - $5.00
This was really good! The meat was tender and flavorful and the sauce had a bit of a kick. Jason didn't care for the crispy noodles on top but I loved the texture. The bun was the coolest part - I'd don't remember ever having a bun exactly like it and it is hard to explain. This was a decent sized portion, too, for the price.

China: Chicken Potstickers - $4.00
These were your average pan fried potstickers. Flavorful, good, but nothing special. They were served with a sweet sauce for dipping. We would not spend $4 on them again.

Cheese: Almond Crusted Blue Souffle with Fig Jam - $3.25
"Cheese" isn't really a country or region but it has it's own booth and for that I am grateful. When I first saw this souffle on the list of offerings I was stoked to try it - and thank goodness it lived up to my expectations! The blue cheese, mixed with the crunch of the almonds and sweetness of the fig, was unbelievable. I wish I could have brought home a cooler full. At around $3, this was a great value in my opinion.

Cheese: Artisan Cheese Selection: Flagship Reserve Cheddar served with Honey, La Bonne Vie Triple Creme Brie served with Apricot Jam, Wijngaard Goats Gouda served with Craisin Bread - $4.75
My mom ordered this and just raved about it. It was a generous serving of all three cheeses and at less than $5, we thought it was a good value as well. 

Germany: Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll - $5.00
When I read the menu's to Jason weeks prior to our trip, he proclaimed that he would be stationed in Germany with this item. He LOVES brats and I refuse to eat them. He thought the brat was a bit weird, since it was so long and thin, but happily ate it. The bread was soft and, well, pretzely. Overall, he liked it but said it was "nothing special"

Germany: Apple Strudel with Werther's Original Karamel and Vanilla Sauce - $3.50
This was Jason's, again, but he let me try a bite and it was very good! 

Hops and Barley: Craisin Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Anglaise - $3.25
Jason's a huge bread pudding fan so he was all over this one. It tasted fresh, warm, and tasty! No complaints here.

Florida Local: Florida Shrimp Ceviche wtih Fire Roasted Vegetables and Micro Cilantro - $4.25
My mom has ordered the ceviche in the past and made a bee line for the booth once we got close. She said it was delicious, with a bit of a spicy kick. Full disclosure: she's super sensitive to spice so I'm not sure how hot it really was.

Japan: Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll - $4.50
I really loved this dish - and those who love sticky rice will, too. It's a lot of rice with some good quality teriyaki chicken strips inside. Good portion size, too!

Belgium: Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef - $4.00
This was probably one of my favorite items we tasted! Our table mates at the Parisian Breakfast the day before had recommended it so I gave it a shot. Y'all, so good. The flavors were amazing together, the portion was good, and the beef was incredibly tender! I love savory waffles.

Belgium: Belgium Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream - $3.25
My mom chose this and was a happy camper. How can you go wrong, really? Decent portion for $3!

Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup - $4.25
This soup is always delicious, in my opinion, and we were not disappointed again this time. Jason ordered it, even though I've made it at home, and he nearly licked the cup clean. I think it's a pitiful amount for the price but people (like us!) seem to buy it regardless. If you've never had it before you should try it!

Greece: Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey - $3.50
Once again, Aimee went straight for the cheese - and am better for it! This was SO good, even though my after dark picture doesn't make it look appealing at all! This was also a large portion and could be shareable... if you're nicer than me :) If I wasn't already stuffed, I would have gone back for more.

Refreshment Port (Dole): Dole Pineapple Fritters - $1.99
Yeah, I know, the picture is pitiful but I thought something was better than nothing! New this year is a Dole booth with the famous Dole Whip and other pineappley items. These pineapple rings are breaded and fried then sprinkled with powdered sugar. I think there were 3 rings per order but it may have just been 2. I was too busy savoring my Greek cheese to notice... my mom ordered these and loved them!

Hawai'i: Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise - $3.50
Yeah, this was a total winner for us. The portion is a good size and it's SO flavorful. Even the bun was delicious! It was the savory, sweet, and spicy thing going on and the meat was flavorful, tender, and good quality.

Scotland: Seared Scottish Salmon with Cauliflower Puree, Watercress, and Malt Vinaigrette - $4.50
Another delicious item! The puree was so good, and the salmon was perfectly cooked. The malt vinaigrette wasn't noticeable at all (unfortunately) but the other pieces worked well together. The booth is also selling something with mashed rutabagas and mom said she found herself wishing they had paired some of that alongside the cauliflower, too. Would have been a nice addition!

China: Joy of Tea Stand
This stand is a permanent fixture in World Showcase but I had to give it a shout out. Y'all know I LOVE flavored iced teas and this stand is one of my favorites to hit when I'm touring the lagoon. It was hot, humid, and yucky outside so I stopped for a Mango Green Iced Tea. It's $4.25 and SO GOOD. 
If you're a fan of flavored teas, stop by and try one!

My top 3 items: blue cheese souffle at the cheese booth, griddled Greek cheese in Greece, and savory waffle with beef in Belgium

Jason's top 3 items: Canadian cheese soup in Canada, apple strudel in Germany, and bread pudding at Hops and Barley

New Starbucks in Future World
The whole Starbucks in Disney World has been a sore spot for many but I just about did a victory lap when I heard they were coming. Y'all, that Nescafe they have served for years is gross! Before they opened, I'd hit up a Starbucks on my way to the park and just carry it in. 

I stopped by the new location in Future World at the Fountainview location. 

They are like a well oiled machine! You walk in and are asked if you'd like bakery items or just a beverage. Since I just needed my iced coffee fix, I was directed to an open register. There were 6 or 8 open and they are split in half with two completely identical coffee stations.

As I was ordering, someone else was writing it on my cup and handing it immediately over to a barista (many on hand!). Practically before I got to the end of the bar, my drink was ready to go. And in a cute Starbucks/Disney cup!

I think my local Starbucks could learn something from the Disney version, to be honest. I stopped by around lunch time and didn't have any wait at all. 

The menu is a typical Starbucks menu and my coffee was actually the same price as any other Starbucks. I used my gold card app without any issues. 

I did walk past the Main Street location (in the Magic Kingdom) as well and it's set up the same - hopefully just as well done! 

Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West
We arrived on Friday night, with plans to hit a park, but decided it wasn't worth wasting admission for a few hours. Instead, we decided to have a nice dinner and then visit Downtown Disney. Friday night in Orlando means all the restaurants being crammed. Thankfully, Olivia's Cafe is a hidden gem! It's located at Old Key West resort, a Disney Vacation Club resort. I'd not been there before but my mom and her boyfriend had. 

They were busy but taking walk-ups so we had no wait at all for a party of 4. We came around 7pm on Friday night. Their menu is reasonably priced and has something for everyone (see menu here). 

At our table, we ordered Conch Chowder (no picture, but a favorite of mom's boyfriend), Shrimp and Grits (no picture, but delicious!), Cuban Sandwich, and Duval Street Burger.

This was the Cuban Sandwich that Jason ordered:

Cuban sandwiches are fairly commonplace on Orlando area menus and Jason has a hard time passing one up! This was very traditional: pork loin, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles pressed and served hot. He had the choice of housemade chips, marinated cole slaw, or fries. He said it was good!

I ordered the Duval Street Burger:

This is a ground beef patty topped with grilled shrimp, pepperjack cheese, sliced avocado, and pico de gallo. Y'all, this will be recreated at home soon - it was so good! I, too, had the option of chips, fries, or cole slaw and went with the chips; they are very tasty and a generous portion.

Our service at Olivia's was great, the atmosphere is very family friendly and casual, and it's a pretty resort to check out. It's not worth going out of your way to visit but if you're looking for a hidden gem that's easy to get into on a busy evening, you should give it a try. 

(psst - you can take a boat from Old Key West to Downtown Disney West Side! It's a lovely, relaxing ride)

We had a GREAT quick trip to The World and (as you can see!) ate well! Hopefully this will help someone else plan their upcoming trip, too. Let me know if you have any questions - I'd love to answer them!


  1. Sounds like you had a great time! I'm super jealous of all the food... the Greek cheese sounds especially amazing!!!! I miss living in Florida!

  2. Okay, I totally need to steal that Duvall burger - that sounded so amazing!! Glad you had fun! I'm volunteering at the NYC Wine and Food Festival next weekend - so excited! (Even though I know it will wear me out - oh well! :)


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