It’s hard to believe that the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival is right around the corner!
This year, it stretches to a full two months! The fun begins September 14 and runs 62 days — ending November 14!
While there’s so much to eat, drink, and explore, it’s always fun to take in a few of the Special Events happening throughout the festival.
Events are varied, and include premium parties like Party for the Senses as well as special lunches and dinners that emphasize food and beverage pairings.
Last year, we decided that it was time to try a few new experiences. And since we had already tried the Moroccan Wine Pairing (loved it!), the other event in the Morocco Pavilion piqued our interest.
And now, onto the review!
Mediterranean Food and Wine Pairing in the Morocco Pavilion
The Mediterranean Food and Wine Pairing event took place at Spice Road Table in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion.
Last year, the event took place at sort of an odd time — Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00-3:00. A little late for lunch, but certainly not dinner, so we weren’t sure what to expect as we entered the beautiful tapas restaurant. So armed with a light breakfast ;-), we made our way in.
Unexpectedly, we were greeted with a glass of Cava, a dry sparkling white wine from Spain.
Served in plastic champagne flutes, the crisp, dry sparkling wine was a fitting aperitif as guests milled around, waiting to be seated.
When it was time to take our places, we filed into Spice Road Table’s indoor dining area, where the smaller tables were joined together.
This type of seating is customary for festival events. Normally, guests simply find a seat, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be sitting with strangers. If that’s something that makes you uncomfortable, you may want to plan to attend with a group of friends.
Another word of warning — you may have to move to accommodate other guests with different numbers in their parties. Because I was a single, I was asked to move once to make way for a party of three at the table where I originally sat. No worries, though! Once seated, I made friends easily with the large group at my table.
Upon arriving at my seat, I took stock of my place setting. The paper placemat included labels for four wines (SO smart, just in case you love one of them), three of which were already poured. All of the wines we sampled during the tasting were from Spain.
A menu also gave us an idea of the dishes we would be sampling with each course. Both the wine and food line ups looked promising!
Spice Road Table’s sommelier, Raphael, introduced himself and then gave us a brief lesson in tasting wine.
The Chef was also on hand to talk us through the dishes we would enjoy.
Raphael shared suggestions for how to approach each wine and food pairing and we were encouraged to engage all of our senses as we sampled each wine. We were invited to hold the wines up to the light to check out the color before we sniffed and swirled our glasses.
I had already enjoyed the Cava before entering the event, of course. The second wine, Paso A Paso, was a Verdejo from Spain. While I detected a few herbal notes that made for a lovely contrast, mostly what came through was pleasantly citrusy. I instantly thought this would be a really nice choice for our hot and humid Florida Summers.
But the wine truly blossomed with the pairing. The dish offered with the Verdejo was Shrimp with Fresh Corn, Plum Tomatoes, Garlic, and Ouzo Lemon Butter, and it was incredible. Rich and buttery, the lemon and Ouzo were perfection, and both complemented the wine perfectly.
The next wine to try was Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja Borsao, a Rosé made with Grenache. Ripe but not overly sweet strawberries are the dominant flavors here, and I thought this was a lovely progression from the whites we had already enjoyed.
Our next course was Spicy Tuna with Eggplant, Capers Salad, Zucchini, and Basil Oil. There was nothing that I did not love about this dish!
The tuna, which was a fairly hearty portion, was well cooked. Although this shot is a little messy, I wanted you to see the Salad beneath the fish. It was excellent, and the sweet Raisins worked beautifully with the meaty fish and dry yet fruity wine.
Our third wine, the Bodegas Breca Garnacha de Fuego, is actually a wine that I’ve had before. I hadn’t been impressed with an earlier vintage that I’d tried.
This go ’round was different, however. I found it to be more mellow and rich, with ripe cherries and tobacco coming through.
Grenache, or Garnacha, is lovely when paired with Lamb, and that’s the direction that they went here. For our third course, we enjoyed Coriander Crusted Lamb with Basmati Rice, Roasted Tomatoes, and Zucchini.
Aside from the fact that the lamb was just a tiny bit more done than I would like, I give high marks to the dish. The meat was tender and complex in flavor. The wine-fortified sauce matched the wine we were drinking in a lovely way.
The crushed Coriander lent an exotic flavor as well as a bit of texture and visual interest.
Once our plates were cleared, our servers brought around glasses of our fifth and final wine, Jorge Ordonez & Co. Seleccion Especial No. 1. The dessert is made with Muscatel, and the grapes are dried on the vine before being harvested and pressed. Sweet without crossing into cloying, this was a lovely example of a dessert wine from a region and varietal that I hadn’t previously enjoyed.
Our sweet ending came in the form of a few different Moroccan Pastries.
I couldn’t get enough of the first, with its layers of shredded Phyllo and ground Pistachios.
The other selection, a rolled pastry reminiscent of Baklava, was also delicious.
Thoroughly satisfied with the meal, I was ready to head out for a stroll along the promenade. My “in-between lunch and dinner” was so substantial that it ended up serving as an early supper
I was very pleased with this event. After all, what’s not to love about spending your afternoon eating delicious food, exploring new-to-you wines, and making new friends?
With decent portions and an interesting wine selection, the Mediterranean Food and Wine Pairing made for a nice little treat. It’s a Special Event that feels special, and yet won’t break the bank.