By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 11 October, 2010
While the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is a big draw for locals and tourists alike in Orlando, Fla., every year, seafood is taking center stage this year. Seafood entrees — including steamed mussels, Atlantic salmon and seared tuna — are a big part of the offerings at the tasting marketplaces throughout the park; about 50 of the 190 entrées served feature seafood.
This year, Epcot added three new tasting marketplaces — Belgium, South Korea and Singapore — and new menu offerings in Argentina, Chile, Poland and several other marketplaces. The 15th annual event, which runs from 1 October through 14 November, also features culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as Cat Cora and Todd English.
SeafoodSource caught up with Jens Dahlmann, executive chef of Epcot Food & Beverage, to talk about the Food & Wine Festival’s seafood offerings.
Blank: What is new this year at the Food and Wine Festival and with the event’s seafood offerings?
Dahlmann: There are 25 different marketplaces and it is all about balance, with a mix of seafood, meat and vegetarian items. Seafood is definitely popular, especially if you make it approachable and tell a story about it. This year, we added Prince Edward Island mussels, steamed right in front of you, at the Belgium marketplace. We also have farm-raised barramundi fillets from Australia, which is cooked right in front of the guest. That is served with arugula salad and lemon oil. We want to showcase the quality of the items we have, not mask them. From Chile, we are using Laughing Bird shrimp, which is certified by CleanFish. It is a great product. We also are showcasing domestic albacore tuna with romesco sauce in our Spain marketplace.
Which seafood items are you bringing back from last year?
A great item that premiered last year is sea scallops, seared right in front of the guest. The dish has great aromas and will be at the New Zealand marketplace kiosk. The home run last year was a lobster and scallops fishermen’s pie, which we feature in Ireland. It is a freshly-baked pie with lobster bisque, lobster meat, scallops and diced vegetables. It is topped with mashed potatoes and Irish aged cheddar and then baked in a casserole dish. Last year, it was the No. 3 seller; we sold around 45,000 portions. Another lobster item is the lobster roll, which is served on a toasted brioche roll with lettuce. We also have Canadian farm-raised salmon, glazed with maple syrup, at the Canada kiosk.
What is your seafood sourcing and menu philosophy for the Food and Wine Festival?
We are trying to get more sustainable seafood in, such as albacore tuna and [Laughing Bird] shrimp. We focus on flavor, sustainability and freshness of the product. We want to showcase the beauty of the product … and have a harmony of flavors. We don’t like to put heavy crusts or heavy garnishes [on seafood]. We try to tell a story with food and represent the food “colors” of each country.