Aside from my annual Food & Wine finale, this has got to be my favorite post of the year. It is just so much fun for me, this whole food festival process.
In fact, it’s like a great culinary game! The agony of ranking dishes. The joy of dining on Epcot’s delicacies. Then, presenting the final results to you … our friends.
So, now that I’ve tasted their “wares”, how do I carve “Food” & Garden’s delights into a Final list of All in WDW’s recommendations?
First, it comes down to, “Would I even want to have it again?” Then, it comes down to, “Man, I really, really want to have that again!” Finally, I decide on an item-to-item basis as to which one I would choose over the other.
For this year, let’s start with the items that found their way out of our Final Top 15. France’s Pulled Duck Confit, for example. Pre-ranked before the festival at #12, its excessive richness placed it clearly in the I never want to have that again category. Mrs. All in WDW wouldn’t agree, but, for me, it’s gone, gone, gone.
Likewise, the Land-grown Eggplant “Scallop” (pre-ranked at #14) and the Lamb Brewat Roll (pre-ranked at #15) both “bailed out” of our Top 15. The lamb was just too greasy for me. The eggplant was just … well, it was bad. The big loser was Italy’s Three-Cheese Manicotti. Pre-ranked at #5, I loved the concept. I hated the execution.
So. That brings us to the Final Top 15. From bottom to top, here we go! Pre-rankings are in parenthesis.
#15 – Temaki Hand Roll (#13)
I guess my idea of sushi is a nice tuna sashimi or salmon nigiri. I love a good sushi roll. A hand roll is just a bit too much Nori for my taste, I guess.
Temaki Hand Roll – Hanami (Japan)
#14 – Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit (#11)
I just was disappointed. Maybe it was the first-day “blues”, but my biscuit was overdone. The smoked salmon wasn’t as enjoyable as last year.
Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit – The Buttercup Cottage (United Kingdom)
#13 – Parisian-style Dumplings (Unranked)
Only the mushrooms kept this one on the “Just OK” list. We had this one as we wandered around World Showcase one evening with friends. It was quite tasty, which enabled it to break into the Top 15, but … well, did I mention the mushrooms?
Parisian-style Dumplings – Fleur de Lys (France)
#12 – Watermelon Salad (Unranked)
Still very refreshing. Still very good. The balsamic, watermelon, feta, and onion meld into a tasty symphony of flavors. Such a simple dish. But, oh, so good.
Watermelon Salad – Florida Fresh
#11 – Caprese (Unranked)
This one beats out Florida’s Watermelon Salad for only one reason. Did you see the size of that piece of mozzarella?!
Caprese – Primavera Kitchen (Italy)
#10 – Hanami Sushi (#10)
When it comes to sushi, this was pretty good. It was quite unique to see it presented as nigiri “balls”. Having said that, when I want sushi, I want sushi! Other entrees offered a bit more for the money.
Hanami Sushi – Hanami (Japan)
#9 – Pork and Apple Sausage Roll (#7)
Tasty. The piccalilli (relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices) was very good. I just wish there had been more than two little pieces!
Pork and Apple Sausage Roll – The Buttercup Cottage (United Kingdom)
#8 – Corn Tortilla Pork Taco (#8)
A disappointment only because of the corn tortilla, the flavor of the achiote-marinated pork made this entree worth trying. If I could replicate this on a flour tortilla, I’d be in love with the dish!
Corn Tortilla Pork Taco – Jardin de Fiestas (Mexico)
#7 – Smoked Turkey “Rib” (Unranked)
A tale of two tastings. Left to our first attempt to tackle the turkey’s “rib”, this item would have been left in the discard pile. It was salty. It was paltry. One “rib”?
Smoked Turkey “Rib” – The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews (American Adventure)
A few days later, the salt was gone. The “ribs” had doubled. The dish went on, and skyrocketed up, the “charts”. Just one more success for The Smokehouse!
#6 – Harissa Chicken Kebab (#9)
A very pleasant surprise. Very pleasant. I would highly recommend this kebab. The chicken was perfectly-seasoned and well-cooked. The couscous salad was excellent.
Harissa Chicken Kebab – Taste of Marrakesh (Morocco)
#5 – Shrimp and Stone-Ground Grits (#4)
It pained me to drop this delight out of the Top 4, but I just had to.
Shrimp and Stone-Ground Grits – Florida Fresh
As deliciously spicy as this dish is, the fact that you have to dissect the tails off the shrimp place it second to the …
#4 – Ghost Pepper-dusted Tilapia (#6)
Not too spicy. Just right. But, the portion of fish was very generous. I also loved the crisp winter melon slaw accompaniment. In fact, I liked it much more than the shrimps’ grits!
Ghost Pepper-dusted Tilapia – Urban Farm Eats
#3 – Spring Pancake (#3)
This “pancake” that’s not a pancake is just outstanding. Chicken, plum sauce, Sriracha, green apple, onions, chow mein noodle. The dish is unique. The flavors blend into a blast of fireworks. Highly recommended. Very highly recommended.
Spring Pancake – Lotus House (China)
#2 – Smoked Beef Brisket (#2)
Healthy portions. Great-tasting beef. Perfect accompaniments. The cornbread had just the right amount of jalapeño bite. Just like 2013, The Smokehouse’s brisket was a flat-out outstanding meal.
Smoked Beef Brisket – The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews (American Adventure)
The only drawback was its price tag. At $6.75, it was the most expensive entree at the party. That didn’t keep it out of the Top 2, but it couldn’t slide it past the better value and more pronounced BBQ flavor of the …
#1 – Pulled Pig Slider (#1)
Champ! Yes, the “champ” is back! It’s the sheer flavor of the pork, my friends. It’s so hard to do justice to the taste. Combine that pork with fresh, crisp cole slaw. Layer it on a, similarly, fresh roll. It is phenomenal!
Pulled Pig Slider – The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews (American Adventure)
The Smokehouse provides you with a variety of BBQ sauces. I have to tell you … I passed them by both times I had the slider this year. I didn’t want to mask the flavor of the pig! Yes, it is that good!