6 of the Best Foods at EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays

6 of the Best Foods at EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays

Walt Disney World’s winter food fest is an absolute knockout.

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Image for article titled 6 of the Best Foods at EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays
Photo: Julie Tremaine

EPCOT has so many annual food festivals that at this point, it’s hard to find a time of year when there aren’t roughly one million additional temptations on offer at Walt Disney World, a park that’s already bursting with delicious food. Right now, visitors to the park can take advantage of EPCOT’s annual International Festival of the Holidays, which runs through December 31.

This festival adds 16 “holiday kitchens” to EPCOT, which are largely Christmas-oriented, though other occasions such as Hanukkah and Japanese New Year are incorporated into the festivities. Expect to find sushi shaped like a Christmas tree at the Shi Wasu holiday kitchen in the Japan pavilion, but also New Year Celebration Soba, featuring soba noodles in a dashi soup with yuzu, shrimp tempura, fish cake, and green onion.

Though the offerings at the L’Chaim! holiday kitchen are largely predictable—pastrami on rye, smoked salmon latkes—you can find Sufganiyot (mini jelly-filled doughnuts) and a plant-based Black and White cookie, a nontraditional take on a classic that nevertheless hits all the right notes for a proper black and white.

Over in Mexico, at the Las Posadas holiday kitchen, selections include a Barbacoa Tostada (braised beef on a tostada with chipotle black bean puree, salsa verde, cotija cheese, crema and pickled onion) and a Cochinita Pibil Tamal (Yucatan barbecued pork in corn masa topped with pipián sauce, cotija cheese and crema). The options unfurl endlessly around the World Showcase.

This was my first time visiting the Festival of the Holidays, and while I wanted to try absolutely everything, I had to draw the line somewhere. Of the many items I sampled at the various holiday kitchens and pavilions, here are the six dishes I wish I could order again right this very minute.

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Maple Bûche de Noël

Maple Bûche de Noël

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Photo: Julie Tremaine

This dessert, a cake shaped like a yule log, has French origins, but is easy to find at almost any American bakery around the holidays. EPCOT’s version from Holiday Hearth Desserts had a maple mousse and cranberry filling, rolled in gingerbread chiffon cake. I had never had a gingerbread version before—a bûche de Noël is normally sponge cake and chocolate mousse—and I loved the variation with Christmassy spices and sweet maple notes.

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Macaron en Sucette, Ganache à la Menthe Poivrée et aux Chocolats Valrhona

Macaron en Sucette, Ganache à la Menthe Poivrée et aux Chocolats Valrhona

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Photo: Julie Tremaine

Bear with me here. This dessert from the France pavilion sounds very complicated—and I will definitely not be trying to recreate it any time soon—but the takeaway is simple: a macaron with chocolate and peppermint ganache in a delightful lollipop presentation. I normally think macarons are overrated and underwhelming, but my friend and I both agreed this was the best iteration we’d ever had, even counting real macarons from France. The big punch of peppermint was perfectly balanced with the dark chocolate ganache, which added a nice earthy balance.

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Haupia

Haupia

Image for article titled 6 of the Best Foods at EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays
Photo: Julie Tremaine

If you haen’t tried Hawaiian haupia, you could think of it a bit like Mexican flan. This version from the Mele Kalikimaka holiday kitchen features a coconut pudding with candied macadamia nuts and coconut flakes. It’s lightly sweet and refreshing, exactly the kind of thing you want to eat as a sweet send-off after dining al fresco with warm island breezes (or, in this case, the Orlando sunshine).

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Impossible Chorizo Tamale with Plant-based Cotija Cheese and Spicy Red Chile Sauce

Impossible Chorizo Tamale with Plant-based Cotija Cheese and Spicy Red Chile Sauce

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Photo: Julie Tremaine

The Nochebuena Cocina holiday kitchen is a new addition to the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays this year. While the menu also offers Pernil (mojo pork with tostones), the standout for me was the spicy—properly spicy, not theme park spicy—tamale made with plant-based chorizo and topped with red chile sauce. There was so much flavor packed into the dish that I didn’t stop to miss the meat.

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Seared Scallops with Parsnip Silk, Apple Chutney and Hazelnut Croquant

Seared Scallops with Parsnip Silk, Apple Chutney and Hazelnut Croquant

Image for article titled 6 of the Best Foods at EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays
Photo: Julie Tremaine

The Yukon holiday kitchen in EPCOT’s Canada is also serving an incredible Beef Bourguignon (I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing), but the scallop was such a surprise that it won out for top praise. The scallops were properly seared and perfectly cooked—no easy feat for a food kiosk in the middle of a theme park—then finished with savory parsnip puree and slightly sweet apple and hazelnut. It would have been great as a dish from a sit-down restaurant where the food was coming straight from the kitchen; as something prepped and served later, it was outstanding.

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Tortellini in Brodo

Tortellini in Brodo

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Photo: Julie Tremaine

During EPCOT’s annual festivals, I don’t usually stop at the Italy booths. My thinking is that you can get good Italian food in a whole lot of other places, and I would rather save space for foods that are less common in the States—but as the temperature cooled in the evening, this dish from the Tuscany holiday kitchen was calling my name. The five-cheese tortellini with winter truffle broth and chives was earthy and warm, and got bonus points for being served in a miniature soup can.

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