I Miss the Caribbean!

Well, to be truthful, I miss the Ropa Vieja that the Caribbean Islands offered us in 2012.  Ropa Vieja is a shredded flank, brisket, or skirt steak served in a tomato-based sauce.  I know.  It sounds simple, but, served with cilantro rice, Food & Wine’s version was a beautifully-seasoned, tasty dish.

In fact, I liked it so much that I ranked it #9 in the 2012 All in WDW Food & Wine Festival Final Top 25 and wrote, “I really liked the flavor of this one and regret not finding the time to fit in a second-helping.  It was the spices that did it for me. I hope it’s on the menu again in 2013 because I want another sample to make sure I haven’t become unduly smitten with it.”

Alas.  Sadly, there will be no delicious Ropa Vieja in 2013.  The Caribbean Islands marketplace made its Epcot debut in 2011, but its meager two-year run ended after 2012.  Then, again, maybe there’s still hope.  After all, in 2013, isn’t Brazil coming back after a one-year absence?

So, how did yesterday work out?

From Group #2, the items that you selected as “safe” (for now) include:

  • Beef Empanada – Argentina 
  • Chocolate Belgian Waffle – Belgium
  • Spicy Hand Roll – Japan

You eliminated:

  • Sweet & Sour Chicken – Refreshment Port
  • Mongolian Beef – China

From Group #3, the items that you selected as “safe” (for now) include:

  • Chicken Gyro – Greece
  • Fisherman’s Pie – Ireland
  • Harissa Chicken Roll – Morocco

You shut the door on:

  • Venison Sausage – New Zealand
  • Lobster Roll – Hops & Barley

My views?  I agree with you when it comes to Argentina’s empanada.  It fell off my 2012 list, but its popularity among Food & Wine diners prompts me to give it a second chance.  The same goes for the fisherman’s pie.  In addition, as a replacement for Greece’s 2011-12 chicken souvlaki, I’m also going to give the gyro a shot.

I, too, cut the sweet & sour chicken, venison sausage (although, barely), and lobster off of my menu.  I’m not interested, however, in the chocolate Belgian waffle (too “dessert-y”) and spicy hand roll (too mundane).  And, to let you know that I am listening to you, I had thrown Morocco’s Harissa Chicken Roll on the discard pile.  I’m giving that some second thought, now.

Finally, let me speak about the virtues of China’s Mongolian Beef.  After last year’s event, I said, “Outstanding! The meat was very flavorful. The texture of the pillowy-soft bun and crispy noodles blended fabulously. The bun made this a very intriguing dish, and for the longest time it was running in the Top 5.”  I ranked this delight as the ‘sixth-best’ dish in 2012.  It’ll be on my menu again this year, and, in spite of this poll, I would highly recommend you try it should you get the chance.

Keep up-to-date with our progress on our Food & Wine 2013 All in WDW Readers’ Pre-Festival Top 25 page.

OK, let’s move on!  Ten more dishes and two more “polls” today, my friends.  Once again, pick your THREE from each group!

  • Potato Pierogie served with Kielbasa, Caramelized Onions, and Sour Cream
  • Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • Shrimp Ceviche with Fire-Roasted Vegetables and Micro Cilantro
  • Berbere-Style (an Ethiopian chili pepper-type spice mixture) Beef served with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, Okra and Pap (a traditional ground corn polenta)
  • Gratinated (cooked with a covering of buttered crumbs or grated cheese) Mussels
  • Shrimp Taco
  • Kefta Pocket (ground meat – usually beef or lamb – mixed with spices and/or onions)
  • Ravioli
  • Pineapple Fritters
  • Almond Crusted Blue Cheese Soufflé with Fig Jam
Shrimp Tacos

2012’s Shrimp Tacos

Building a F&W Top 25? Use a Sharp “Knife”!

It would be great to know what your reaction was when you saw the “List of 61” I presented yesterday. Leave a comment and let us know.

I can tell you what my response was when I first pulled that lengthy menu together.  I better get a sharp “knife”!  As I spent about a ‘half an hour’ scrolling down the page, I wondered how I was ever going to cut out 36 items. 36!

What I usually do is start with the dishes that I know I won’t like – either because I have had them before (like Morocco’s Kefta Pocket) and wasn’t impressed or because I can’t bring myself to try them (like “snails”). Those little critters are not my “thing”.

Then, I move on to carve away the mundane. For example, China’s Chicken Potstickers get good “press”, but, for me, they’re not as good as what can be found at ‘Ohana. When you have to cut a list back as severely as we do here, something’s got to go.

Oh, and let’s take a step back to yesterday.  The dishes that you selected as “safe” (for now) are:

  • Garlic Shrimp – Australia
  • Chicken Potstickers – China
  • Roast Pork Lettuce Wrap – South Korea

For me, I can “spill a little bit of the beans” and tell you that the shrimp and the lettuce wraps are presently on my official list … but, I’m not done workin’ yet!  As I mentioned above, I prefer ‘Ohana’s potstickers, so F&W’s rendition doesn’t make the cut.

On the other hand, yesterday, you eliminated:

  • Spanakopita – Greece
  • Lamb Meatball – New Zealand

I’m in full agreement when it comes to the Greek spinach and cheese pocket.  The lamb meatball, however, is still on my menu.

Keep up-to-date with our progress on our Food & Wine 2013 All in WDW Readers’ Pre-Festival Top 25 page.

Let’s move on, my friends!  Here are two more groups.  Pick your THREE from each!  By the way, one of the things that often bothers me is that a menu item is announced with a really “fancy” name but a clear explanation of the ingredients is omitted.  Where I can, I’m going to clarify the description.  Frankly, I needed to do it for myself!  I didn’t have a clear “mental picture” of some of this stuff!  So, today, we’ll tackle these ten dishes in two randomly-generated groups …

  • Beef Empanada (a Spanish baked or fried stuffed bread or pastry)
  • Chocolate Belgian Waffle with Whipped Cream
  • Mongolian Beef in a Steamed Bun
  • Spicy Hand Roll
  • Sweet and Sour Fried Chicken with Dole Pineapple
  • Chicken Gyro (a Greek dish of moist but crisp meat roasted on a vertical spit) with Tzatziki Sauce (made of strained yogurt from sheep or goat’s milk that is mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and sometimes lemon juice, dill, mint and/or parsley)
  • Lobster Roll with Lemon Herb Mayonnaise
  • Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie
  • Harissa (a Tunisian hot chili sauce) Chicken Roll
  • Venison Sausage with Pickled Mushrooms, Baby Arugula and a Black Currant Reduction
Mongolian Beef

China’s Mongolian Beef

The “Contenders” … All 61 of Them?!

I promised you that Food & Wine would be back today!  What do I have “cooking” [pun intended] now?  It’s going to look like a “mouthful”, but bear with me.  The fun is right around the corner … or it comes as you scroll down the page!

You have to start with a “playing field”, some “players”, and a set of rules.  Well, this blog is the “field”, so before we talk about the “players”, let’s address those rules!

They’re pretty simple, really.  No desserts and beverages allowed!

Wait!  Don’t freak out!  I don’t have anything against desserts.  In fact, we may have something in store for you later when it comes to sugary delights.  I’m just “all about” the entrees.  Of course, the other concern is cost.  I simply can’t afford to buy everything Epcot’s ‘food fest’ has to offer!

What I have done over the last two years is cut the list down to the 25 (or so) dishes that I feel I will like … before heading off to Orlando.  And, I rank them in the numerical order I think I will like them.

So, what job do I have in mind for you?  If you please, we’re going to construct the All in WDW Readers’ 2013 Food & Wine Pre-Festival Top 25!  And, we’re going to do it “All in WDW style” … by way of polls!

How can we do this, you ask?  I mean, we have no samples to taste.  Not a lot of pictures to view.  It’s easy!  You know what you like.  Are you going to pick Garlic Shrimp if you don’t like shellfish?  Will you choose a Belgian Waffle if your alternative is one of your personal favorites … Ravioli?  Let’s have some fun making those selections!

For today, I present the 61 “contenders” that I am using to construct the ‘official’ All in WDW 2013 Food & Wine Pre-Festival Top 25 … as well as the first of your choices.  Here are the “players”, folks!  Scroll down to start the “game”.  Some of the dishes have pictures.  Click on the names to view their “delicious-ness”!

Country Dish
1 Africa Berbere-Style Beef
2 Africa Cheese Pocket
3 Argentina Beef Empanada
4 Argentina Grilled Beef Skewer
5 Australia Garlic Shrimp
6 Australia Grilled Lamb Chop
7 Belgium Berry Belgian Waffle
8 Belgium Braised Beef Waffle
9 Belgium Chocolate Belgian Waffle
10 Brazil Crispy Pork Belly
11 Brazil Seared Scallop
12 Canada “Le Cellier” Filet Mignon
13 Canada Cheddar Cheese Soup
14 Canada Seared Trout
15 Cheese Artisan Cheese
16 Cheese Blue Cheese Soufflé
17 China Black Pepper Shrimp
18 China Chicken Potstickers
19 China Mongolian Beef
20 Florida Grass-Fed Beef Sliders
21 Florida Shrimp Ceviche
22 France Braised Beef Short Ribs
23 France Escargots
24 Germany Roast Bratwurst
25 Germany Schinken Nudel
26 Greece Chicken Gyro
27 Greece Griddled Greek Cheese
28 Greece Spanakopita
29 Greece Taste of Greece
30 Hawaii Kalua Pork Sliders
31 Hawaii Tuna Poke
32 Hops & Barley Clam Chowder
33 Hops & Barley Lobster Roll
34 Ireland Cheese Selection
35 Ireland Fisherman’s Pie
36 Italy Ravioli
37 Italy Salsiccia
38 Japan California Roll
39 Japan Spicy Hand Roll
40 Japan Teriyaki Chicken Hand Roll
41 Japan Youki Tofu
42 Mexico Shrimp Taco
43 Mexico Taco de Ribeye
44 Morocco Harissa Chicken Roll
45 Morocco Kefta Pocket
46 New Zealand Gratinated Mussels
47 New Zealand Lamb Meatball
48 New Zealand Venison Sausage
49 Poland Potato Pierogie
50 Poland Zapiekanki
51 Refreshment Port Pineapple Fritters
52 Refreshment Port Sweet & Sour Chicken
53 Refreshment Port Sweet & Sour Shrimp
54 Scotland Scottish Salmon
55 Scotland Vegetarian Haggis
56 Singapore Lemongrass Chicken Curry
57 Singapore Seared Mahi-Mahi
58 South Korea Kimchi Dog
59 South Korea Roast Pork Lettuce Wrap
60 Terra Chili Colorado
61 Terra Trick’n Chick’n

Your job is pretty straightforward.  Imagine that you’re making your culinary “wish list”.  You’re on your way to Orlando, and you can’t wait to eat!  Of this list of five dishes, which THREE can’t you wait to sample?  Go ahead … make your picks!

  • Roast Pork Lettuce Wrap with Kimchi Slaw
  • Lamb Meatball with a Spicy Tomato Chutney
  • Spanakopita (a type of Greek savory pastry with a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese, and onions)
  • Chicken Potstickers
  • Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle (a lemon herb native to Australia), and Rapini (broccoli rabe)
F&W 2013's Garlic Shrimp!

F&W 2013’s Garlic Shrimp!

Dining Recon: Whispering Canyon Cafe

Pardon this little interruption, folks. I promise we’ll get back to Food & Wine tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll leave yesterday’s poll open. How many times have you been to “the festival of all festivals”?

I’m hungry. I just have to stop off at Wilderness Lodge for lunch. Do you guys like BBQ? We had heard all about it on the podcasts. We read the reviews. But, for whatever reason, we had never made the time to go over and visit.

Click your way over to Kingdom Magic Vacations’ Blog to see the pictures and read the details. Join Mrs. All in WDW and I for lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe!

Bon appetit!

Whispering Canyon!

So, What About You?

Before we get down to constructing the All in WDW Pre-Festival Top 25, it occurred to me that I have spent a whole bunch of time rambling about my Food & Wine exploits.

That led me to think … what about you?  What are some of your stories?  Have you gone to Food & Wine?  How many times?  What did you like?  What did you not?  What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Tell us about your Food & Wine “shenanigans”.  Leave a comment on this post or in the All in WDW Facebook group.  In the meantime, here’s a quick poll.

Don’t forget to leave those comments, my friends!  Let’s start a conversation!  After all, what better thing is there to talk about than the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival?

Food & Wine!