The line at the South Korea marketplace last Thursday was long.
That's OK, I thought, there won't be anything there I can eat. Bond-villain-style, I'd made a hit list of countries offering items that could accommodate vegan or vegetarian visitors at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and South Korea wasn’t one of them.
But listed below the menu’s bulgogi barbecue short rib and roasted pork lettuce wrap was something awesome.
“Vegan Korean BBQ.”
We had to stop.
Like its carnivore-friendly counterpart, the vegan ’cue arrives at the pick-up counter in a brown food tray filled with accompanying slices of cucumber kimchi and steamed rice. Flavorful and unexpectedly filling, the dish, our third of the day, can be summed up as “yum.”
While a four-course Italian wine and food pairing, culinary demos and beverage seminars, including one from Infinium Spirits on rye, whiskey and rum, were available during our visit, we had the most fun exploring Epcot’s 25-plus global marketplaces.
Before South Korea, we stopped in Mexico for sangria and pastel de elote con queso, a sweet corn cheesecake that blows the socks off those dinky two-slice cheesecake packages the grocery store always gets me with at the checkout lane. Before that, we stumbled onto a big air-conditioned building full of craft beer. If you happen across this empourium (whose name I can’t remember), go for the Florida-centric selection that highlights cities like Gainesville, Cape Canaveral, Oakland Park, Lakeland, Plant City and St. Petersburg.
Italy’s ravioli and the Belgian waffle we sampled from, well, Belgium were super-tasty and paired well, weirdly, with the random beers we picked up in Germany. Then again, you can’t go wrong with anything covered in whipped cream and chocolate or red sauce and cheese, amirite? Just know you’ll want, like, four extra orders of raviloi.
My favorite meatless tastes came out of Greece’s kitchen: a vegan moussaka and spanakopita. The warm moussaka features Gardein sausage crumbles and a swoon-worthy gravy-like sauce, and the light, creamy, cripsy, spinach-y spanakopita hits all the right notes.
Unsurprisingly, the indulgent Orlando festival is a cheese and dessert lover’s paradise. Ireland has a cheese plate of Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig. Crème brûlée awaits in France, there's Cheddar soup in Canada, and Scotland’s Tipsy Laird, which is basically trifle with whiskey-soaked cake, toasted oats and lemon cream, is not to be missed.
Even more satisfying goodness comes from the Cheese Studio and Desserts & Champage booth, but my one cheesy regret is missing the Dominican Republic’s soufflé de yuca, a griddled cheese-topped yuca soufflé. Way to go, self.
Use my discoveries and flubs to experience the meat-free wonders of this year’s food and wine festival while you still can. The event runs through Nov. 16, and like I said, there’s an array of other activities to keep you busy outside the marketplaces.