I’m a skeptic and always have been. And my skepticism is at its peak when it comes to food. Some may call it snobbery, others discerning—whatever it is, it’s all skepticism. And during my recent trip to Disney World, my skepticism was at an all-time high.
Like many Floridians, I visited Magic Kingdom with my siblings dozens of times as a kid, soaring around on the Dumbo ride, spinning in teacups at the Mad Tea Party, and shivering me timbers at Pirates of the Caribbean. We ate Mickey waffles, Dole Whips and chicken nuggets—but we never ventured to the other parks to see the sights and snack the snacks.
Meanwhile, my adult friends who live in the Orlando area visit Epcot on the regular, attending the International Food & Wine Festival and posting their treats on social media for all the world to see. But I never felt the draw to visit the Epcot myself. That is, until last weekend when my brothers-in-law came down for a visit.
After weeks of meticulous planning, I learned phrases like “rope drop” (racing to a ride with a notoriously long line at park open to avoid waiting around all day) and “lightning lane” (a paid perk to get you to the front of a long line). But I couldn’t quite figure out how to eat my way around the world. In an uncharacteristic fashion, I decided to wing it—and in the end, it worked out better than I could have planned.
How good could theme park food be? Turns out, better than it needs to be.
Longtime Epcot visitors, bear with me. Newcomers, here’s the deal. Epcot is set up like a walking trip around the world. Eleven countries are represented through small villages modeled after each country that house tons of food and shopping. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, the United States, Italy, Germany, China, Norway and Mexico each have their own piece of the park, where visitors can order regional foods at cafés, kiosks and sit-down restaurants.
I’ve never been much of a day drinker, so I abstained this go-around. The thought of hopping on a ride with a belly full of alcohol, or stumbling around drunk for 10 hours in the Florida sun, was unappealing so I stuck with what I do best—eating. Here are the best things I ate at Epcot.
Found in a kiosk at the Canada pavilion, poutine was a no-brainer. The fries were crisp (well, at first) and topped with cheese curds and a beefy gravy. My only complaint: give me more cheese curds. There can never be too many.
Also found at the kiosk near Canada. I never expected to scoop marrow out of a bone while wearing Minnie ears. The top was caramelized to perfection and the interior spread across the accompanying toast like butter—meat-flavored butter.
After rope-dropping Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a smell-o-vision-enhanced ride in the France pavilion, we were starving. The imposing line at La Crêperie de Paris left us wondering if it was worth it. But after seeing how quickly it was moving, we jumped in for a hazelnut crêpe and bechamel, ham and cheese galette (savory crêpe).
We stumbled upon this kiosk while exiting France for Morrocco. A black and white striped croissant filled with truffle paste made our taste buds soar. On to the next!
In Morocco, we popped into the Tangierine Café for a quick lamb kebab accompanied by a carrot slaw. Deep, earthy spices uplifted the rich lamb and kept us munching regardless of our rapidly-filling bellies.
As a food writer, I’m often asked what my favorite cuisine is. My answer is usually coy and something along the lines of “my favorite food is whatever food I’m currently eating.” Well, I’m lying. My favorite food is Japanese. We swung by the kiosk in the Japan pavilion for a sushi doughnut and katsu sando (fried pork cutlet sandwich) and were not disappointed. The sando was supreme. Soft rainbow bread cradled a crispy piece of pork finished with a sweet and savory barbecue-style sauce. Perfection.
I had zero interest in stopping at the United States pavilion. I couldn’t image what could be offered there that I hadn’t tasted before. But my companions insisted, and as a result, I got to sample a flight of sipping chocolate: one white, one milk, and one dark. This wasn’t your standard Swiss Miss; instead, it was barely thinned-out melted chocolate in teeny tiny cups. Guess I’ll be drinking my chocolate from now on.
Not everything was sunshine and butterflies as we tasted our way from country to country, and there are a few things I wish I hadn’t sacrificed any calories for.
Everyone said to try Japan’s shaved ice treat. I was expecting the texture of snow lightly sweetened with an unexpected selection of flavorings. Instead, it was just a snow cone, heavy on the syrup and light on the adventure.
My husband hails from a part of the country where the Norwegian flatbread, lefse, is revered. Every little kid slathers butter, sugar and cinnamon on their lefse before giving it a quick buzz in the microwave. But at Epcot, they forgot the butter and the buzz. Cold, limp lefse with a tiny sprinkle of sugar left us all forlorn.
Beef Lo Mein
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was hungry. A heaping pile of noodles in the China pavilion sounded like the right move, but when greasy linguine masquerading as lo mein arrived, I realized my mistake.
After 30 miles of walking in two days, I’m glad to be home but excited to plan our next trip to try all the things we missed.