The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of the most anticipated events at Walt Disney World Resort every year. From the middle of September to just after the beginning of November, Guests from all over the world come to taste test dishes from a multitude of countries and regions, “drink around the world,” attend culinary demonstrations taught by world-renown chefs and enjoy the Disney touch to a delicious vacation.
The festival has been a part of the Epcot calendar since 1995 and has grown in popularity and opportunity through the years. Our first visit to the Food & Wine Festival was just a few years ago for our 18th wedding anniversary and we were hooked right from the get-go. Hubby and I could not wait to go back and I have been dropping hints ever since that I have been in need of a Disney fix! This year, we will be fortunate enough to attend twice – once with the kids and once without.
We recently crossed that “without” trip off the list and visited the festival just a few weeks after it opened this year. It was sort of a “spur of the moment” trip, so we weren’t able to schedule any demonstrations or seminars and certainly didn’t spend the $450+ it would take to eat one of everything solid on the menus, but we did sample quite a few scrumptious entrees and are looking forward to sharing these with the boys when we go later this fall.
I’ll tell you now – it would be wise to have at least some sort of a plan when visiting Food & Wine. There are over 20 countries represented and several special marketplace and festival offerings with a plethora of delicious options from which to choose. There is also a Festival Center with merchandise, chocolate, wine and stages for various demonstrations and classes (I believe Cake Boss was just there after we left). When we went for the first time, we went without a plan and knew we were walking away having not experienced everything to the fullest. This trip, we went with a semi-plan and feel we did better, but do hope to do some more research before our next excursion later this season. Many websites, such as The Disney Food Blog and WDW Info, have detailed menus and photos to guide you and your taste buds in the right direction. At the festival itself, you can pick up a booklet that lists demonstrations, menu offerings at each kiosk in World Showcase and some photos that will make your mouth water before you even smell the food!
Hubby and I arrived at Epcot early so that we could visit the Festival Center before the food kiosks even opened (we also wanted to get in at least two attractions before the crowds grew ~ talk about a mad dash to Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After!). The Festival Center is located to the far front left of the Park in Future World, currently next to where Ellen’s Universe of Energy is situated (rumor has it this is going on the closure list). I love roaming the Festival Center ~ first of all because it’s air conditioned, but I also love looking at this year’s merchandise. From tumblers and t-shirts to aprons and cookbooks, there are many souvenirs to collect as mementos of your trip.
NOTE: Annual Passholders can purchase special merchandise. Simply ask the Cast Member behind the register for the various options such as a pin, t-shirt, coin and more.
Also within the Festival Center is an opportunity to snag a free piece of Ghirardelli’s chocolate at The Chocolate Experience: From the Bean to the Bar. While enjoying that gift, you can gaze upon the exquisite chocolate sculptures created by Walt Disney World Resort pastry chefs and learn the journey chocolate takes from the bean to the chocolate bar so many of us love to savor. The artistry of these sculptures is truly magnificent!! You won’t believe your eyes!
When we realized that the one free sample of chocolate was not going to hold us for much longer, we made our way to the Promenade in World Showcase, but we did it by way of the Odyssey Center where craft beers are offered. Only one register was operating at that point and the line was long, so we decided to continue. This brought us out by the Australia kiosk, so we just began our journey there.
The total adventure is approximately one mile long and includes countries and regions such as Australia, South Korea, Greece, France, Scotland, Patagonia and Islands of the Caribbean. We briefly studied the menus and chose something to share from a good portion of them. We enjoyed Australia (grilled lamb chop), China (chicken pot stickers), South Korea (Korean BBQ beef), Morocco (spicy hummus fries) and Greece (chicken gyro) before a storm knocked out the power to the registers.
At that point, we ducked into the American Adventure for an air conditioned moment. This is almost perfectly situated in the middle of the festival and worked as a nice break for both our legs and our appetites. If you have never heard the Voices of Liberty sing in the middle of the American Pavilion rotunda – you are missing out! Stop by and give them a listen before moving onto the next set of food kiosks. You will walk away inspired and amazed!
Once the systems were back up and running (having been cash or coupons** only for a good period of time), we were able to pick back up around Canada (filet mignon and cheddar cheese soup) and finish our culinary voyage through Patagonia (beef empanada), Hawai’i (Kahlua pork slider), Farm Fresh (mac ‘n’ cheese) and New Zealand (venison).
By the time we had made it around the world, we felt quite full and rather satisfied. One more trip to the Chocolate Studio would have been nice, but their registers actually suffered water damage from the storm, so they continued to be cash and coupon only. Next time, I suppose.
We ended our day’s journey by planting ourselves in the new air conditioned DVC (Disney Vacation Club) lounge to discuss our likes and dislikes. You would think we would have differences of opinions somewhere along the line, right? Husbands and wives don’t agree on food choices! Well, strangely enough, we ended up coming to the same conclusions and chose the exact same top three! What did we like the most? Here’s our selection:
#1 ~ Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Neuske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions ~ found at Farm Fresh. The flavor was potent and the portion worth it. The Pepper Bacon was amazing! My boys may find the onion flavor a little overpowering, but I loved it.
#2 ~ Canadian Cheese Soup served with a Pretzel Roll ~ obviously served in Canada. We loved the kick and texture. The pretzel roll was perfect for dipping, but I loved scooping this up by the spoonful, too! Give me a shovel next time! This is one we will be getting when we go later this fall.
#3 ~ Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies ~ served at the Australia Kiosk. The Mint pesto was “DA BOMB!!” Oh, my goodness. This was the first thing I tasted and I loved every bite of it. Of course, the portion size was a bit on the skimpy side and it doesn’t “look” to be worth its cost, but I don’t regret getting it at least once.
Nothing was really terrible and we actually enjoyed every dish we tried. The pot stickers were a little tough and the Korean BBQ a little dry, but we don’t have a single regret in our purchases….well, except the Mimosa Royale. That just didn’t taste very good.
Yes ~ drink offerings are also available at every kiosk. As we were childless this trip, we indulged just a bit and enjoyed probably about three adult drinks (yes, three is indulging for us) spread across the course of the day. We enjoyed the Strawberry Plum Wine Cooler with Takara Plum Wine in China, a Mai Tai featuring Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum at Hawai’i and a Mimosa Royale in Morocco (Sparkling Wine and Orange Juice topped with Orange Liqueur). Our favorite out of these three: The Strawberry Plum Wine option from China. I have to be careful with this one – I could sip on this one all day long…
All in all, we spent a spectacular day walking around World Showcase and we are counting down the days until we visit the festival again later this fall with the boys. We ended our day with full bellies, satisfied palates and a better idea of how we want to approach our next adventure. If Epcot is on your must-visit list this fall, be sure to do your research and then when you get there…..make it an unforgettable trip around the world. If you have already been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in 2016 ~ what were you favorites? Leave a comment below as you may inspire me to try something new with our next trip!
Until the next set of footprints ~ T
**Within the Festival booklet, you will find an option to purchase coupons for the food and & wine portion of the festival. It seems to work for those who plan to “drink” around the world; however, for us personally, we have found that it doesn’t make that much financial sense to purchase coupons.