All the foodies are flocking to Epcot! Why? Well, isn’t it obvious? The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is in full swing! The perimeter of World Showcase is lined with outdoor food kitchens featuring cultural small plates and pairings from all over the globe. So – what does this year’s festival look like? Over the first days, we took a look inside to find out what was on the menu, what was on the shelves and what kind of opportunities were being offered. We also took a brief look into how Guests with either food allergies or dietary restrictions may be able to enjoy the edible festivities.
Disclaimer #1 Any items purchased during this event were paid in full by me. This post was not requested, nor compensated by any means for its publication.
I’m not going to lie ~ being a local now really feels good. When something new happens over at Walt Disney World or a Festival opens its doors, we have the opportunity to jump over and check it out early. It certainly helps with being able to bring the information to you a lot faster, as well. So, I figure you’re not too surprised to hear that we jumped over to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival as soon as the gates opened on August 30th this year. Am I right?
It was an early rise for Logan and me. There are a few select Thursdays throughout the Festival when Epcot Parks is offering Annual Passholders earlier admission to the park (looks like in conjunction with Extra Magic Hours) and opening day was one of them. We were there just after rope drop in Future World and made our way casually over to the Festival Center. Since World Showcase doesn’t open until 11 AM, the priority was simply to check out the merchandise, the demo areas and everything else the Festival Center usually showcases.
To be quite honest, it actually took me years to realize there WAS a Festival Center. I never knew there was this haven of “amazing” waiting for Guests to explore. If you haven’t been to the Festival Center, first of all – why? Second – I guess I can’t fault you. Again, it took me years to discover. In any case, you’re missing out, so I highly recommend you need to make your way over there. It’s the large building that sits back and between Mission: Space and where the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction is currently being built. The center is not open year-round, but rather seasonally and houses several exhibits and demonstration areas particularly at this time of the year.
For the 2018 Festival, there are a few new areas of interest. For instance, there is a new Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar and Festival Center Wine Shop.
There remain the demonstration areas and two or three seminar locations, where learning experiences and programming opportunities will be held.
Signings and greetings usually also happen here in this building, as well as shopping – yes, shopping. This is where Guests will find a good deal of the new Festival merchandise.
Of course, one cannot forget Ghirardelli’s “From Bean to Bar.” Every year, they showcase some amazing chocolate artwork that mesmerizes everyone as they pass by each encasement (please be sure to watch the YouTube video below to see whats’ on display this year).
Oh…and do NOT forget to grab that free piece of chocolate (and say thank you to the Cast Member, please – she has tons of hot and tired Guests to whom he/she has to smile).
Our Stroll Through….
When Logan and I first entered, we noted that there were two fairly long lines to the left and quiet to the right. The lines were for those who were purchasing Annual Passholder merchandise on one side and picking up the free AP magnet on the other. We jumped into line to grab our magnets, since that line was moving rather quickly. At that point, I had 74 more days to grab merchandise.
From there, we walked around just to get a feel of the layout for this year. This was also a great opportunity for Logan to take out his camera and begin working on some of the photography skills he recently learned in class.
Once we made it around full circle, we spent some time over in the merchandise area to get a closer look at what is being offered. I am in love with the color scheme this year and have already begun to create my own personal wish list (psstt – our anniversary falls just before the close of the festival – someone remind Hubby, please and thank you).
Roaming the Promenade
Once we had our fill of exploring the Festival Center (at least an hour or so), the two of us met up with some friends inside the park. As we were still waiting for World Showcase to open completely and the outdoor kitchens to open, this ended up being the perfect time to roam the portions of World Showcase that were accessible to Guests (up to Norway on the left and up to France on the right).
As we strolled, we were able to snap some great pictures of the menus and begin planning our list of “must-eats” over the next 75 days.
The above is not an exhaustive set of pics ~ there were a few I didn’t catch. Nonetheless, it was actually nice to walk around World Showcase before the crowds. Things were neat and pretty and we could even see and hear Disney Chefs giving their pep talks to their Cast Member teams. It was fun to watch things unfold, just before they went full steam ahead.
Because that was what happened!!!
The Outdoor Kitchens Opened!
As the rope dropped at 11 AM, World Showcase was made fully accessible to all Guests and the windows to each of the outdoor kitchens were opened. Everyone was eager to get a taste of everything from Australia, Thailand and Ireland to Brazil, India and Hawaii. With over 40 destinations to explore, there is no shortage of opportunity to try something new. While some “bites” are returning favorites, there are a good deal of new bursts of flavors waiting to be tried, as well.
Here are a few of the plates we purchased over the first few days of the Festival’s opening. Anything look appetizing to you?
Food Allergies at the Festival
While roaming the Promenade just prior to World Showcase officially opening, I had the opportunity to chat with a few Disney Chefs to discuss food allergies and the outdoor kitchens. My plan is to address this more in depth in a designated blog post, but here is the basic gist of what a Guest needs to know:
- Take a look at the Passport and Outdoor Kitchen menus.
- Decide where you think you would like to eat.
- Approach the Cast Member at the register.
- Mention you have food allergies and that you need to speak with a Chef.
- The Chef will come out to you and you two will then have the opportunity to discuss what food allergies you have, as well as their severity.
- The Chef will then go over options for you at that particular kitchen. DO NOT BE AFRAID to ask the Chef to sit down with you and the Festival Passport and check off options you may be able to have throughout the section for which he/she is responsible. Unlike “Flower & Garden,” this festival apparently has more than one Chef in charge due to the sheer volume of Guests and food.
- After you have gone through options, decide upon what you would like to eat. Then, depending upon the severity and sensitivity of your food allergies, the Chef will make it either in the outdoor kitchen or prepare it in the backstage kitchen.
Now, here are a few of my favorite reminders:
- Know your comfort level.
- NEVER eat without having an epinephrine auto-injector nearby, if not TWO!
- Be familiar with the medical procedures and first aid locations where you are located. For Disney, Cast Members are everywhere! TRACK ONE DOWN!
- If you’re not at peace with the situation, please don’t chance it. It’s not worth it. Food allergies have the potential of producing life-altering, life-threatening results, so it is important that you have the confidence in what you are about to consume.
- I am not a medical professional ~ just a mom who has a son who has life-threatening food allergies and has a love for all things Disney. We just want him to live life as normally as we can possibly and safely provide him. I would never advocate the ingestion of dangerous ingredients that could negatively impact someone’s life. Please remember that it is your responsibility to make a well-informed decision whether or not a food is safe for you or your family member who has food allergies.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way……shall we continue?
For more information on the success we had the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival this year, click here.
Eat to the Beat
Of course, nothing goes better with food and wine than music, right? The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival invites an array of musical talent to the America Garden Theater stage each year to entertain Guests. Why should 2018 be any different?
At 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM and 8 PM each night of the Festival, the Eat to the Beat concert series features musical artists from various genres on the America Gardens Theatre stage, bringing their past and present work for our listening enjoyment. I’m pretty psyched about this year’s roster, to be honest.
For more information on who is coming to the American Gardens Theatre stage this year, click here.
During the first week of the festival, we had the opportunity to catch both Tiffany and MercyMe. Both concerts were fabulous. Tiffany showed us that she is still full of vocal talent and ready to sing her way back into our hearts and MercyMe was authentic, genuine, transparent and inspiring. I can’t wait to see more on that stage this season!
Don’t forget about These Exciting Events!
Now – enjoying the kitchens and listening to music are not the only things happening at Epcot during this Festival. Throughout the 75 day event, Guests have multiple opportunities to sign up for culinary demonstrations, beverage seminars food and beverage pairings and various other classes and the like. Reserving your spot is easy – simply visit TasteEpcot.com, stop by the Festival Center or call 407-WDW-FEST. Hubby and I are considering a few ourselves ~ so maybe we will see you at one!
There are also Festival experiences that are considered signature dining experiences, such as the Sunday Brunch with a Chef and Party for the Senses. If you plan on enjoying any of the Eat to the Beat concerts, you can also call to reserve an Eat to the Beat Dining Package where you dine in one of the select restaurants around Epcot and then receive guaranteed admission to the concert that evening.
For the Littles
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is not just for the adults, my friends. In fact, there are several ways the littles can enjoy their time at Epcot.
For instance, I love that they keep bringing back the scavenger hunt to find Remy year after year. It’s fun not only for the littles, but for adults, as well! Each festival, there is a new map available for purchase that guides the younger Guests on a scavenger hunt throughout World Showcase. The map sends them on a hunt for Remy, the lovable, adorable rodent from Disney’s Ratatouille. He’s hiding here, there and everywhere and it’s fun to be the one who finds him among the decor. Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak map can be purchased at the Festival Center, Pin Central, Disney Traders or World Traveler. There are a variety of prizes to collect for bringing a completed map back to designated locations!
The younger Guests also have opportunities like the adults to participate in certain activities such as the NEW Junior Chef Kitchen (presented by Krusteaz®), learn how to roll sweet sushi treats with a Disney Chef (presented by Skittles® and Adventures by Disney®), jump in on a dance party or play in the festival area designed specifically with them in mind.
Since we don’t have littles anymore, we don’t have opportunity at this point in life to participate in any of these. Unfortunately, with Logan’s food allergies, the Junior Chef Kitchen is just not an option we are ready to consider.
There are just too many things to share – be sure to check the Passport for other ways you can enjoy the Festival.
One More Fun Thing!!
And speaking of Passports!!!! BE SURE TO PICK UP THAT FESTIVAL PASSPORT!!! This is your ticket to everything! Well, not ticket ~ but it is your guide to where things are, what is being offered and what times things are happening.
This is what Iove about the Passport!
Inside the booklet, you will find stickers about halfway through. These stickers correspond to the countries with outdoor kitchens represented around World Showcase this year. When you visit a particular country and try something from their kitchen, you can then take the corresponding sticker and attach it to the designated section in the booklet. The goal is to see how many countries you can visit during your visit ~ or within the 75 days the Festival is open!
It’s going to be a GREAT Year!
Trust me ~ I know I missed a few things here. There is just so much to do, see, eat and hear at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I am so psyched for the next few months. The Festival always starts off when the weather is still hot and humid. However, it ends when the cool breeze is just starting to blow. It’s perfect!
Besides, there are so many different tastes to try and I have a lot of research to do for you. I need those few months! So be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to get your Disney fix and see what we’re eating and enjoying at this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!
Are you coming? Do you have plans to visit the Festival before November 12th? I’d love to hear what countries you explore and what foods you try while you’re here. Are you looking for a particular concert to attend? Culinary demonstration in which to participate? Share with me your “Food & Wine Festival” goals and dreams below!! I’d love to hear them.
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