2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival
AllEars.Net Guest Writer
We attended the Culinary Adventures Around the World dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place, located at Animal Kingdom Lodge, on Friday, September 29.
The event kicked off at the Arusha Overlook, a covered outdoor patio area with a view of the savanna. Unfortunately, it must have been monsoon season because it was POURING rain. It was a little steamy, but it didn't take away from the experience.
We were welcomed with small bites and a choice of red or white wine. The bites consisted of goat cheese and mushroom tarts, black garlic roasted pork belly with kimchee, and poached shrimp with fruit salsa. All three were very tasty. Chefs Adam and William were at the table to explain the dishes.
Guests were encouraged to sample the selections and servers were on hand to refill the wine. Chef Eddie Mendoza, who has come to Jiko after three years at Sanaa, introduced himself and talked with guests before we proceeded downstairs for dinner.
We were seated at tables of 12 in a room reserved for our event. Alister Glen was there representing Bellingham Wine from South Africa. Each course featured a pairing from this company.
The first course was a lamb shank ragout, served with bacon-stewed greens, Bhaji onions, goat cheese, and apricot jam. The wine was Bellingham Bernard series S.M.V., Coastal region.
The second course was a lovely portion of poached lobster served with sweet pickled eggplant and saffron aoli. This course was paired with Bellingham Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Coastal region.
Course three was tender, grilled octopus with butter poached calamari and sesame crusted mealie pap. The wine was Bellingham Bush Vine Pinotage, Coastal region.
The fourth course was Alfalfa-Ashed Elk Loin. The chef explained that the meat is first wrapped in wet hay, then the hay dries as the cooking process progresses. By the end, the hay burns to ash. Alister commented that in South Africa they often have kudu or springbok, but elk is a similar texture. The elk was served with gnopi, poached breakfast radishes, okra hay, and a Madagascar chocolate demi-glace. The wine was Bellingham Ancient Earth, Coastal region.
The fifth course was Bouche de Chevre panna cotta with Vadoudan curried dark chocolate, kale gelee, mixed berry texture and a Pecorino Romano crisp. The wine was sparkling, Boschendal Brut Rose, Coastal region.
The final dessert course was carmelized apple dulcey mousse with brown butter cake and blackberry sorbet. This was paired with Bellingham Bernard Series M.M.M., Coastal region.
I will be the first to admit that several of these dishes are more exotic than I would typically order, but they were all delicious. The entire culinary team collaborated on the dinner, with each one contributing their own ideas and creativity to the finished product. The wine pairings were thoughtful and enhanced the flavors of the food. We enjoyed chatting with the other couples at our table, and the entire experience was well worth the $199 per person cost.