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The Baklava Throwdown at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

A kind soul brought it to my attention that there are two versions of Baklava duking it out to “reign supreme” at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. You can fine one at the Athens booth; the other is at the Marrakesh booth.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Athens

Marrakesh Booth

Marrakesh Booth

Now, for those who haven’t tried Baklava, it’s defined by Wikipedia as “a rich, sweet pastry featured in many cuisines in the area once controlled by the former Ottoman Empire, in Central Asia and in the lands in between. It is a pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.” It’s not usually my favorite dessert, but I’ve come to enjoy the phyllo and sweet, nutty filling. I’ll take you through my thoughts as I tried both Baklava contenders, and you can let me know what YOU think.

I began with the Athens version of the dish. I was impressed by its looks. With honey oozing from the bottom layers and light-as-air phyllo perched on top; I couldn’t wait to take a bite. To its credit, the dessert was delicious. I had a difficult time cutting through the layers with my fork, but when I finally did get a chunk cut off, I was delighted by the taste. The Baklava layers melted on my tongue and I wanted to keep eating and eating (despite my promise to myself that I would just taste this year at the F&W Festival, not devour!). I wasn’t sure that Marrakesh had a chance… .

Athens Baklava

Athens Baklava

So around the Showcase I went, until I came to the Marrakesh booth. Now, Marrakesh serves its baklava in a pretty little pastry cup. (Advantage: Marrakesh.) I settled at a table outside Tangierine Cafe to sample, and found that the baklava was just as hard to cut through as it had been in Athens. Finally getting a bite into my mouth, I realized that the baklava tasted shockingly similar to Athens’ version as well. Hmm. I looked at the pastry. Almost identical. Maybe a few more nuts…one or two more layers…? I started to feel ashamed. Can I really not tell the difference between these two dishes? And I soon had to come to terms with my failure to determine a winner.

Marrakesh Baklava

Marrakesh Baklava

The moral of this story, folks, is that I’m no baklava gourmand, and I must admit that if you told me that both versions came out of the Boardwalk Bakery that morning and had simply been shipped to their respective booths, I would probably believe you. The differences, if there were any, were imperceptible to this palate.

Throwdown: TIE!

Now, if you’d like to add your thoughts to the baklava throwdown (hopefully yours will be more insightful than mine!), let me know via twitter, facebook, or email. Thanks!

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10 Comments

  1. Ashley says:

    Wow, they both look amazing! I must admit that when I have had the dish it has always been a little chewy (hard to cut through) and always seems to taste about the same. And I’m talking homemade, store bought, and at restaurants. But I love it every time!

  2. Sarah says:

    I was hoping to try the ‘throwdown’ over the weekend on my ‘official’ vacation, but I found the heat and crowds unbearable! I knew I should have sampled more on preview day… Guess I’ll just have to run over after work one night! :)

    In regard to your difficulty cutting through the layers of phyllo, Matt and I found the same problem with the Spanakopita. We had to rip it apart and eat it with our hands. We didn’t mind though, as it was still delicious! I don’t recall this being a problem last year, which leads me to believe the heat and humidity caused the normally crisp, flaky dough to absorb too much moisture. I’ll have to test my theory…

  3. Ro says:

    One difference might be the kind of nuts used in the baklava. Some cultures tend to use pistachios, whereas others use walnuts. I’ll have to look in to this more closely when I go in a few weeks! Looks like a yummy endeavor.

  4. AJ says:

    Ashley: Good to know I might not be crazy! I did love both baklavas though. I was there alone and wished I could exclaim how much I liked them to someone!

    Sarah: Hmm…let me know when you test your theory!

    Ro: Thanks for the info. I should do some research and see if I can tell a difference. Would love to hear your thoughts when you go!

  5. Ro has a point. In years past the baklava at Greece was made with walnuts and you were served one large triangle. The bakalava at Turkey was a pistachio baklava and you were served two smaller pieces. I would have to assume that the baklava at Morocco is identical to the baklava in Greece.

  6. Gray says:

    You only have plastic utensils to use at WDW, right? That’s probably why they were so hard to cut through. Plastic utensils are useless. I’d have just used that pretty little paper wrapper to hold the baklava and eaten it with my fingers. Messy, I’m sure, though.

    You realize that by declaring this a tie, you have only set up an even bigger competition between Athens and Marrakesh for next year, so they’ll really have to go all out. Next year, it’ll be “Baklava: Battle of the Titans”. :-) Which of course, is all good for visitors to the F&W Festival! Good job!

  7. Tim Sampson says:

    As a Greek-American, and former Greek restaurant owner, I can tell you that if it’s made with phyllo dough, then it’s meant to be eaten with the hands. :-) I would not be at all surprised that it’s the same baklava at both kiosks…they look very similar…probably from different batches. I will try them next month when I go (22 days), but I have never had a baklava as good as my mom’s. ;-)

  8. [...] The Baklava Throwdown at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival [...]

  9. jenn says:

    I agree with Ro…depending on the culture, some areas use walnuts (as the Greeks do) and others use pistachios (as the Turks do). I thought Moroccan’s also use pistachios so i was looking forward to the comparison! I’m secretly a pistachio baklava fan (don’t tell my Greek family though!). Looks like they just used the same baklava at both booths!

  10. AJ says:

    Jenn — Definitely don’t quote me on that! I’m not sure what nuts were used, or whether they used the same baklava for both booths. It remains a F&W Fest mystery!

    I hope you had a great trip! Can’t wait to hear your Kouzzina review!

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