The up-and-coming, year-end event is shaping up to be a highlight of the park's already busy festival calendar.
Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden—visitors to Epcot at Walt Disney World are increasingly likely to encounter, without even trying, some sort of special event at the park's World Showcase, that never-ending World's Fair, a grownup-friendly paradise within the Land of Mouse.
Already home to the highest concentration of good eats and drinks across the parks, the festivals bring, along with a raft of events and entertainment, even more popular edible options to the table—at the annual Food and Wine event, for example, a whopping 35 additional stations, or festival kitchens, make it almost impossible for visitors to run out of new dishes and drinks to try.
The budding International Festival of The Holidays is—for now!—slightly more manageable; this year's event, which expanded to begin just six days after Food and Wine ended, now features fifteen stations, most of them new, with 51 food items and more than 80 drinks to try. The theme? Holiday traditions from the lands already represented within the Showcase—along with a lot of great beer, wine and other beverages.
Is this growing festival the next big deal, the next Food and Wine? Obviously, there was no other way to satisfy this burning question than an epic tasting crawl through the park. Here, out of dozens of dishes, we've chosen the ten you absolutely need to try.
#10 Slow-Roasted Turkey at American Holiday Table The American Adventure
Can't get enough turkey dinner? Groundhog Day yourself and eat this fine specimen every day—well, every day until the festival ends. There's nothing dainty about it, but there's a lot that goes into this dish—stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans with crispy onions, cranberry—and it's all really good. Only the gravy, thick and tasteless, falls down on the job. The best value of the fest, perhaps; show up hungry to this one. $5.25
#9 Tostada de Tinga at Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen Mexico
A crispy corn tortilla smeared with black beans and topped with a nice pile of shredded chicken, cabbage, queso fresco, crema, tomatillo salsa and a spot of avocado sure looked like the real deal—but how would it taste? The seasoning of the chicken is rather basic (is tomato even a seasoning?), but it's properly juicy, and as a whole package, this dish works. $5.75
#8 Sauerbraten at Bavaria Holiday Kitchen Germany
Edging out the American turkey dinner in the sample-that-is-actually-a-full-meal category, this pile of German pot roast, served with spaetzle and red cabbage, won't win any awards for finesse, but it's darned good eating—very good beef, nice, soft noodles. The red cabbage is, well, red cabbage, but then again, isn't it always. $6
#7 Gingersnap at The Cookie Nook Festive Center
Tucked into the festival hub, this humble counter dispenses an embarrassment of cookie riches, but if you're just going to go with one, choose the gingersnap. Fiery with ginger, that perfect balance of crispy/chewy and topped with cream cheese frosting and a pleasantly tart cranberry jam, it's hard to stop eating. (Even after you've already eaten all the things.) $4.50
#6 Turkey Breast Stuffed with Mushrooms and Chestnuts at Alsace Holiday Kitchen France
A wonderfully civilized antidote to the unholy pile of dinner over at the American kitchen, this prim and proper stuffed medallion, which comes exactly as advertised, veritably floats on a pillow of perfect pureed sweet potatoes. Proof that the French could absolutely do Thanksgiving, if they wanted to. (Next year, we're calling them to do the catering.) $6.75
#5 Fusilli di Gragnano alla Carbonara at Tuscany Holiday Kitchen Italy
Gorgeous, monster-sized corkscrews, a shower of crispy pancetta—what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, really, save the American-style Carbonara preparation. (Yes, they used cream.) But the dish is sauced with such un-American restraint, all is pretty much forgiven—in the end, you'll likely look straight past the technique fail and suck the whole thing down in a couple of minutes. Not a dish to share, unless you're a really kind and generous person. $7
#4 Tourtière at Yukon Holiday Kitchen Canada
Poutine isn't the only thing Quebec can do, you know—slightly more presentable are their meat pies, a distant cousin to the English sausage roll. Here, a 50/50 mix of lamb and pork, gently zipped up with cinnamon, mace and nutmeg, go into a nice puff pastry; it's served with house made ketchup. $5
#3 Smoked Salmon Napoleon at Alsace Holiday Kitchen France
Who knew a simple sandwich could be such a star, at a food festival crawling with more indulgent options? Leave it to the French. The salmon itself is like butter, that helps, but then there's the brioche, delicately and cleverly accented with dill, and of course the soft cheese—it's straightforward, it's well-crafted, and highly repeatable. $5.75
#2 Maple Buche de Noel at Yukon Holiday Kitchen Canada
We'd apologize to the Buche de Noel that France is serving up over on their patch, but the competition wasn't even close—this fun, light dessert pairs gingerbread chiffon and a light, maple mousse to create a festival-wide standout. (It's a bit like eating a holiday candle, and we mean that in the nicest possible way.) We could do without the cranberry sauce drizzled on top, but the pecan crumble is a dessert on its own. $4.50
#1 Confit of Chermoula Chicken at Tarabaki Holiday Kitchen Morocco
The most ambitious—and most beautifully presented—food of the festival is coming from this new kitchen; this dish was easily the most exciting of the entire crawl. A perfect drumstick (with barely a whisper of heat behind it) comes on a small sea of tart, Granny Smith apple puree; there are toasted almonds, Brussels sprouts and a Pinot Noir reduction. This is way too good to be eating standing up at Disney World, but we'll take it. Maybe we'll take two. $7