5 cheese dishes so delicious you wouldn’t expect to find them at Disney World

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Mention “food” and “Disney World” in the same sentence, and most people conjure up images of greasy turkey legs and insipid, mouse-eared ice cream treats. For years, the Most Magical Place on Earth had a well-earned reputation for little more than junk food. The past 20 years have seen a vast improvement in dining options. Yes, flavorless ice cream ears are still around, but now it’s possible to find a proper Reuben sandwich, superb nigiri made from seafood flown in from Japan twice-weekly, or an opulent, award-winning, tasting experience set to harp music. For cheese lovers, vacationing in Orlando doesn’t mean a vacation from enjoying great cheese. If anything, this culinary renaissance means more scrumptious options than ever before.

Here are 5 cheese dishes worth seeking out in Walt Disney World.

Saganaki On Fire

Wine Bar George, Disney Springs

Saganaki on Fire

If hot, bubbling cheese sounds good, visit Wine Bar George in Disney Springs. Created by Master Sommelier George Miliotis, Wine Bar George is an award-winning bar and restaurant offering a wine list featuring more than 200 global offerings priced from under $10 to over $1000.

Tucked into the thoughtful lunch and dinner menus is Saganaki On Fire, their take on the classic Greek appetizer. (Despite sounding vaguely Asian, a sagani is the Greek word for a small, two- handled frying pan.) A thick slab of Vlahotiri cheese is splashed with Metaxa, an amber-colored Greek spirit, then lit on fire. It arrives at your table ablaze, exuding irresistible aromas of toasting cheese and warm booze.

A few moments later, the server extinguishes the flame with a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and the saganaki is ready. The accompanying crostini are crunchy and dense, providing the perfect textural counterpoint to the soft, oozing cheese. Sip on a glass of Greek Assyrtiko or Malagousia wine for a pairing Dionysus himself would approve.

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

Cheese Soup, Le Cellier by travelhyper is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Le Cellier Steakhouse, Canada Pavilion, Epcot

With more than 50 restaurants and seasonal celebrations like the Food & Wine Festival, Epcot is the culinary epicenter of Walt Disney World. From a casual plate of English beer-battered fish & chips to a sublime, two-hour omakase tasting experience, there’s something for every taste and budget.

While there are several great cheese-centric dishes to find here, curd lovers should head to the great white north to find one of the most satisfying cheese dishes in all of Epcot. Set back into the towering rock façade of the Canada pavilion is Le Cellier Steakhouse, a signature restaurant with a focus on beef. Amongst the menu’s roster of steaks and chops is the intensely flavorful Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup.

Chicken stock is combined with Moosehead Pale Ale and enriched with milk and cream. Canadian white cheddar is blended in, and dashes of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco add surprisingly deep complexity. Each bowl is topped with Nueske’s award-winning applewood smoked bacon and chopped herbs. This may be found under the appetizer section, but it’s hearty enough to be the star. Add a side of their maple whisky-glazed Brussels sprouts and call it a meal. The recipe is so popular that Disney had made it available online.

Fresh Ricotta Antipasto

Topolino’s Terrace, Disney’s Rivera Resort

Ricotta antipasto at Topolino’s

High atop the newly-constructed Riveria Resort is Topolino’s Terrace, a gorgeous restaurant themed in the same coastal Mediterranean style as the resort itself. Imported Italian marble and glass cases brimming with handmade pasta and wine bottles decorate the space while floor-to-cieling windows provide breathtaking views. It’s no wonder reservations are some of the hardest to get of any restaurant in Walt Disney World. Fortunately the bar is first-come, first-served. Time it right, and one of the high-top tables at the window can be yours.

The menu is an amalgam of French and Italian riviera cuisine. While the entreés are superb, the starters selection has a few hidden treasures for cheese lovers, and can easily satisfy the hungry vacationer.

The ricotta antipasto is a must-try. Hand-made every day, the ricotta is slightly chunky, providing a pleasantly rustic texture. Housemade savory tomato jam and basil-olive oil puree are served alongside the cheese, and random blots of aged balsamic vinegar dot the plate, providing little daubs of intensely acidic sweetness. Fresh pain d’epi from their bakery is served, perfect for scooping up every single scrumptious morsel. Topolino? Italian for Mickey Mouse.

Prosciutto and Melon Neapolitan Pizza

Via Napoli Ristorante, Italy Pavilion, Epcot

Prosciutto Melon pizza at Epcot

While today’s Epcot may not be the exact vision Walt had when he proposed it back in 1966, his ‘it’s a small world’ spirit was certainly baked into the park’s DNA. Half of the 300-acre park is dedicated to a “world showcase”, where sizable pavilions represent 11 different nations through architecture, shops, and restaurants evocative of the host nation.

Understandably, Italy is one of the most popular. In the center is a nearly exact replica of St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, right down to the gold leaf-decorated angel topping the towering, 83-foot edifice. Live performers entertain crowds near the Plaza del Teatro, and the landscaping includes native olive, cyprus, and pine trees.

The restaurants are no less detailed. At the rear of the pavilion is Via Napoli, a Neapolitan pizzeria. Styled in Florentine architecture, it features an open floor design, letting diners watch pizzaioli feed pie after pie into the giant, gaping mouths of the three oak-burning stoves, each named for an active Italian volcano – Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli.

To make the most authentic pizza possible, Via Napoli adheres to the guidelines for Neapolitan pizza defined by the European Commission’s Specialità Tradizionale Garantita (STG) designation, (‘TSG’ in English), as much as possible. They use San Marzano DOP tomatoes, mozzarella di buffala PDO from Campania, and fior di latte, a cow milk counterpart. The flour is imported from Mulino Caputo in Napoli.

Even the water they use matters. Since it’s not feasible to import it from Italy, they bring it in from a secret water source in Pennsylvania that shares a nearly identical chemical composition to that found in Campania. In the pursuit of the best pizza, no detail is too small.

The result is a pizza Napoliana that is just about as authentic as any you’ll find outside of Naples. The blazing-hot, 700°F ovens turn the thin dough and layers of sauce and Fontina cheese into a masterpiece in scant minutes.

The prosciutto e melone pizza features a white sauce and cheese base – no tomatoes! A layer of peppery arugula blankets the surface, the perfect foil for the rich prosciutto di parma DOP and ultra-thin petals of fresh cantaloupe. The symphony of flavors and textures are as much work of art as the pavilion itself.

“Taste of Barcelona” Artisanal Tapas Board

Barcelona Lounge, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Taste of Barcelona

On the bottom floor of the Spanish-themed Coronado Springs Resort is Barcelona Lounge, a Catalan-inspired bar that features a beautiful view of Lake Dorado and a colossal stained-glass mural that runs behind the entire length of the bar.

The lounge menu offers a variety of tapas like Spanish jamón, marinated olives, and figs. For Spanish cheeses afficionados, the “Taste of Barcelona” board is the way to go. It has the olives and adds crunchy, salty Marcona almonds, a crisp, sugar-sprinkled torta, and manchego cheese served two ways. Six-month manchego is imported directly from La Mancha and matched with slivers of membrillo. More manchego is cut into cubes and marinated in olive oil layered with orange and lemon peels and crushed red pepper flakes. The combination of silky oil, zippy citrus, and tangy pepper flakes is a fantastic contrast to the other items on the board. Add a glass of the house Cava and bask in their Catalan hospitality.

This article originally appeared on Cheese Professor and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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