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10/7/2009

The Arts > Live Active Cultures

Live Active Cultures

 

Each year, just after I’ve recovered from Universal’s Halloween effort to liquor me up and “boo” me till I barf, Disney comes along with their own assault. Yes, I know the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is a terrible value: $3-$6 for each appetizer-size portion. And any individual dish on offer could probably be found better and cheaper in some non-corporate restaurant in the area. But I look forward to the annual event, and I’m willing to pay for the variety (27 “marketplaces”; more than 100 dishes, many new this year) and atmosphere. Your opinion may vary, especially if you don’t have a pass to offset the $84 admission.

This year, I tried Twittering my gourmand gambol around the (artificial) world; the following is a transcript of my postings, edited for legibility and legality. Last time I Twittered a column (Aug. 27) it was a stunt. This time it was a necessity to remember what I ingested.

12:18 p.m.: After a little hassle at the front gate (turns out the Birthday Fun Cards” given to annual passholders can’t be used to buy tickets), we’re inside the park for our inaugural Epcot visit of the festival, which runs through Nov. 8.

12:23 p.m.: First stop: Canada! First disappointment: No more half-sized beers?! Boo! I’ll be sticking to wine, then. Beer and cheese soup is as good as (and the portion smaller than) ever. New chicken sausage and polenta = sweet + spicy. Good start.

12:38 p.m.: We have our first food and wine fatality: Greek chicken souvlaki on the ground. It was meh anyway. So was the Greek salad. Oh well, the wine was OK. Next!

12:51 p.m.: Chilean rock shrimp ceviche with popcorn. Traditional preparation, iffy execution. Hint: Next year don’t use stale day-glo yellow movie popcorn.

1:04 p.m.: Eat dessert first! Grand Marnier parfait and champagne = sweet heaven.

1:09 p.m.: Brazilian shrimp stew: more meh. Needed more lime-and-coconut kick.

1:17 p.m.: Stopping in “Club Cool” for free Chinese watermelon-flavored Coke.

1:26 p.m.: The Living With the Land boat ride is down for refurb, so we are taking the Behind the Seeds greenhouse walking tour.

2:40 p.m.: Good tour. Got to eat hydroponic cukes and play with ladybugs. But sad to learn that the fancy “biotech research lab” just cultures Mickey Mini Garden souvenirs. Sigh.

3:27 p.m.: At the “Festival Center” inside the old the Making of Me theater, watching Seasons of the Vine, a dull doc on wine-making. Didn’t this used to be at Disney’s California Adventure? It’s making me miss Martin Short.

3:36 p.m.: Waiting for the Makers Mark “spirit seminar” to start. The giant mobile in the former Wonders of Life pavilion is moving for the first time in I-can’t-remember.

3:49 p.m.: $8 seminar fee also buys three drinks: a shot of Makers, a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. Cheapest liquor on Disney property!

3:51 p.m.: Bill Samuels on becoming CEO of Makers Mark with a “below zero” college GPA: “It’s easy when your father starts the company.” He dropped the S-bomb a half-dozen times and ran overtime telling salty stories. I don’t think Disney knew what they were getting.

5:05 p.m.: Back to food: Argentinean chimichurri beef skewer paired with malbec. Slightly overdone, but good garlic flavor and decent-sized portion.

5:16 p.m.: Mexican pork and onion tortilla is a spicy hot mess.

5:23 p.m.: Spanish red snapper: firm, flaky fish and fun carrot-onion slaw, but I wish they’d forget the olives.

5:34 p.m.: Polish kielbasa sausage and potato pierogi: longtime faves, but for $5 shouldn’t it be served hot? Pork and cabbage is bland but oddly comforting.

5:48 p.m.: Time to visit the cozy new tequila cave inside the Mexico pavilion. They did a nice job with the folk-art décor; I don’t feel like I’m in a theme park for a moment.

5:53 p.m.: My flight of aged tequila has arrived (along with a frozen margarita, plus guacamole and chips on the side). Jebus help me!

6:05 p.m.: Three shots of top-flight tequila down: smooth, smoother, smoothest with a spicy tomato-cilantro chaser. I’m still standing (sorta). But my iPhone is rapidly dying.

6:30 p.m.: A trip on the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride is in order. Bad idea: stuck for five minutes at the end listening to Panchito and José mock Donald’s speech impediment. Poor Duck.

7:18 p.m.: South Africa: crabmeat soup and beef tenderloin. Not bad, but not amazing.

7:26 p.m.: Thai coconut soup. It’s no Thai Place, but still darn tasty!

7:44 p.m.: Last nosh: Aussie lamb chop and pinot noir. Yummy note to end on!

7:52 p.m.: Starship is on the American Gardens stage sucking their way through “We Built This City.” Must walk faster.

8:02 p.m.: I couldn’t resist the raw tuna and avocado cocktail in Japan. It’s as tasty as it sounds, but overpriced.

8:16 p.m.: Desert is Irish lobster-and-scallop pie with a mashed-potato crust, warm chocolate lava cake and a pint of Guinness. The beer was a bad pour (all head), but otherwise this is the best of the fest. My iPhone battery is at 8 percent. Signing off …

The author was last seen entering Soarin’. The only sign of him found was a bundle of receipts from the day totaling $184.49.

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