It’s that time of the year and Epcot is covered with international opportunities to eat, drink and have fun! I confess, I’ve already popped over to the park a few times since the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began and I’m already loving what I see and taste. I am fascinated by the colors, merchandise and featured plates being offered and usually have such a difficult time choosing one bite over another. Now, the thing about THIS year’s festival is that there are quite a few differences and changes that you might want to take into account. Some of these changes are perplexing, while others make up for what’s missing. Let’s dive into what I’ve noticed so far so that YOU know what to expect.
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2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Epcot’s HUGE Transformation is Underway
Many of you are aware that one of the numerous announcements made at D23 is that Epcot will be getting her long-overdue makeover. The people have spoken and the Powers That Be have listened! Now – the caveat with that is the process that goes along with completing that request. While Disney is full of magic, not EVERYTHING happens overnight. Nope ~ it takes a VERY detail-oriented and well organized method of bringing such magic to fruition. So, we are going to feel some of the growing pains over the next few years. Just remember ~ it’s all for a better and more magical experience.
Some of those pains are being felt already. With Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in full blown construction mode and tons of other happening in areas of which we are just completely unaware, the Imagineers working on the planning committee for the festival had to make some adjustments and sacrifices this year.
So…what’s different at the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival?
Let’s Start At The Beginning, Shall We?
We are greeted with change right from the get-go. When you arrive at Epcot between August and November and first walk through after having matched Mickey to Mickey, it becomes evident that something is not where is should be. What’s missing? Well, over the years, we have been welcomed by beautiful photo opportunities that feature the chosen colors, symbols, characters and theme for each year’s autumn festival. However, in 2019 ~ Guests will be met by high walls and construction, not Mickey. In fact, the tall stone statues that used to line the courtyard with the names of families who paid to memorialize their love for Disney….gone.
Yeah – this made me a little sad, too…..
Here’s Another Change ~ There Is No True Festival Center This Year
Yes- you read that correctly. This year, there is no designated Festival Center to tour. I understand why – it’s just too dangerous to have Guests over in that area with all the construction going on. Sure, it makes sense and we all know it’s temporary. I mean, a new festival center is coming! It’s just the idea of not being able to walk into the air conditioned facility and see everything set up so nicely.
So, in years past, the Festival Center is where Guests would find some of the featured merchandise, grab that famous piece of Ghirardelli chocolate, see the chocolate sculptures and grab a bottle of wine to take home. You can still do all these things (well, all except one), though. They are just simply scattered in other places throughout the theme park.
- The Chocolate Experience: This has been relocated to The Land. You can read more about that in the next section.
- Shimmering Sips: This has its own outdoor kitchen at the Port of Entry to World Showcase. UPGRADE???
- Merchandise: Official Festival merchandise can be found scattered between five festival markets and the Port of Entry
- Bottles of wine: These can now be found in the Festival Wine Shop located at the Port of Entry.
- Culinary seminars and demonstrations: These are being held at the World Showcase Events Pavilion, which is the blue building that sits back between the UK and Canada Pavilions. Yup – the one behind the gate.
Oh – FYI!! The Odyssey Building appears to be out of commission during the Festival, as well. It is being prepared to house the Walt Disney Imagineering Presents The Epcot Experience – coming soon!!
So Let’s Talk About The Chocolate Experience For A Moment.
The Chocolate Experience (From Bean To The Bar) has been a hit for anybody who loves a good piece of chocolate. Not to mention it has been the home for some exquisite artwork made out of chocolate. We would be greeted upon entry with our free candy. We would then walk through, taking in the delicious smells and perhaps indulge in a tiny cup of rich, liquid gold (chocolate, not really gold). To round out the experience, we would all snap photos of the Disney-themed exquisite chocolate sculptures encased in the back.
Well, this year ~ no chocolate sculptures. At least, I could not find any (tell me if you found them hiding somewhere!).
So – where can you get your free chocolate fix? The Chocolate Experience hosted by Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has been temporarily relocated to the top level of The Land. Now, the location is small, cramped and very dark, so be ready to exercise patience. However, we still get our free piece of candy upon entry and they still have the drinking chocolate for purchase. The drinking chocolate is located behind the registers, so be sure to head straight to the back right if this is what you are focused on getting.
Now you know.
One thing I did notice is the dark ambiance. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult to read ingredient labels, which is important for those of us who have to read for allergens and disclaimers. It was a huge strain on the eyes and I just could not focus well enough to find something our son may have been able to enjoy. Of course, the afterthought is that I should have used my phone flashlight. Yeah – next time, I’ll remember that!
Now, I am certainly not discouraging anyone from getting their free piece of chocolate yumminess. I just want to make sure you understand what you’re going to encounter this year. So – GO!! Indulge!! Check it out!!
Okay – Let’s Talk About Merch!
As noted above, Official Festival merchandise can be found at various Festival Markets scattered through World Showcase, as well as at Port of Entry. This year, there are five exciting festival collections and each Festival Market showcases one in particular. The collections are listed towards the front of the Festival Passport, but include:
- Taste Your Way Around The World
- Chef Minnie & Mickey
- Recipe for A Figment
- Brews Around the World
- Chef Remy
I came across a young Guest (may be late teens, early twenties) who was ALL about Chef Remy!!! She was so excited to see him get his own Festival Market and so much merchandise featuring him. It made me smile to see how excited she was!
Now, On To What’s New at the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
There Are A Few New Outdoor Kitchens
There are about 40 outdoor kitchens to enjoy this year, including a few new ones this year. To be quite honest, I am actually pretty excited about all the new additions!
- The Alps! ~ This outdoor kitchen is located in Norway and features three plates and five drink options (to include a wine flight). Of note, the dessert option has almonds, but the cheese option is on Emile’s Fromage Montage (outlined below). The beverages have a Frozen Rosé that is VERY tempting.
- The Donut Box ~ This outdoor kitchen does not open up until October 1st and will be located over near Test Track. It will have two food choices and three beverage options. So that you know, the Strawberry Smoothie will be made with almond milk. However, I have to say that the Black and White Coffee Cocktail looks AH-MAZING!!!! (no pictures, sorry)
- Appleseed Orchard ~ This venue is located in the theater that shows the Canada CircleVision 360° movie. At current, a new film is being produced. So, in the meantime, they are using the space to create an autumn scene. There are too-many-to-count beverage options here, as there are several cider and wine flights and at least one non-alcoholic drink. To contrast that, there are two food offerings and one of them comes in a souvenir container.
New Artists for Eat To The Beat
Every year, we are spoiled by the celebrity artists and acts that come to the America Gardens Theatre Stage in the American Adventure Pavilion. It’s always a treat to see which artists are returning and which ones will be gracing the stage for the first time. For this year’s Eat the Beat concert, Epcot will be welcoming newcomers:
- Sawyer Brown
- Grace Kelly
- Zach Williams
- Lauren Daigle
- Jimmie Allen
- INDIA La Princesa de la Salsa
- Boyce Avenue
- Southern Avenue
- Kris Allen
- Spanish Harlem Orchestra
I am so excited to see some of these names on the list – MercyMe (who was here during a different festival), Lauren Daigle and Kris Allen in particular!! Who are you looking forward to seeing? For a complete list of who will be performing this year, check out the Eat to the Beat page on the site.
Emile’s Fromage Montage
This one is fun!!! During last year’s Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, they introduced a fun new stroll involving holiday cookies. Since it went over so well, they ARE bringing that back this year, but they also decided to incorporate it into the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
Introducing, Emile’s Fromage Montage! If you are familiar with the Disney animated film Ratatouille, you know that Emile is Remy’s brother with an insatiable appetite. This “stroll” leads you to five different outdoor kitchens throughout World Showcase. At each of these five locations, the goal is to purchase and try five different designated plates involving cheese (fromage). These specific plates are detailed on page 40 of your Festival Passport.
With each purchase, you must have the Cast Member at the register stamp that back page of your Festival Passport. Now, once you collect all five stamps, you take your complete Festival Passport over to Shimmering Sips (located in the Port of Entry) and receive a free pixie dusted piece of CHEESECAKE!!
YUM!!! Hubby and I plan on doing this at one point and hope to bring you our findings!
Now, What At The Festival Is The Same?
There is plenty that has remained the same!
You can still purchase gift cards for the event that can hang around your wrist. It’s a great way to expedite your purchase AND an easy way to keep track of what you’re spending!
Some of our favorite specialty outdoor kitchens have returned, such as The Chocolate Studio and The Cheese Studio. Shimmering Sips, which used to be inside the Festival Market now has its own outdoor kitchen near the Port of Entry.
There are still seminars and demonstrations, but these are just held elsewhere and only those registered for the events can go beyond the magic gate leading to the World Showcase Events Pavilion.
The Eat to the Beat Concert Series is still entertaining us.
The One Thing That Worries Me This Year
Oh, I hate having to share this. It honestly breaks my heart just a bit and I can’t stand sharing the negatives. However, I am true to my word about being authentic and this, while I understand it to some degree, just pulls on my heart a little more than normal.
T, what are you griping about??
This year, many, many, many of the plates and beverages being offered contain a nut product of some sort. While this isn’t a HUGE surprise (there are always offerings containing nuts), I saw almond, hazelnut, peanut and walnuts on so many of the menus. Now, I simply cannot ingest almonds (which is also used in some of the beverages). However, I know many other food allergic people have difficulty being around too much of the allergen or cannot even touch something that may contain the allergen.
You can do any combination of these three things.
- Avoid Epcot during the Festival and enjoy the other parks to their fullest. Just don’t NOT come to Walt Disney World.
- Bring wipes (always have an epinephrine auto-injector on hand) and be ready to wipe everything down before touching it.
- Talk to a chef about what may be safe for you in the Passport and then discuss if the possibility exists that it can be made in a backstage kitchen. As we have not explored this option yet THIS Festival, I cannot guarantee that Chefs are prepared to do this in 2019.
- Have your own snacks for the one who has food allergies – things that are special for him/her and him/her alone. We do this often!!
Quick note for the Littles!
YES! They think of all ages when it comes the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!! Littles can enjoy play time at the Family Play Zone found near Test Track. They can participate in the Disney Du Jour Dance Party that happens every day of the week starting at 5:30 pm. There are Kid-Approved Dining options – just look for “strawberry” throughout the FEstival Passport to find food and beverage items that will put a smile on the faces of younger Guests.
And I can’t forget this one! Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak is a scavenger hunt that takes younger Guests (and, well, not so younger Guests) on an adventure in search of Remy around the park. The designated map and stickers can be purchased at various locations throughout the park (these are listed in the Passport, as well).
Sooooo ~ Here’s What We’ve Tried So Far
Hubby and I went on a date within the first week of the festival opening. Since there are soooo many kitchens and opportunities to enjoy, we have decided to break up our excursions into sections.
This first trip had us touring through about five or six different kitchens, more so in the western portion of the park. We explored The Land, Next Eats, Flavors From Fire, The Cheese Studio and Hawaii. I also had to take Hubby over to the Canada Pavilion to check out the new Appleseed Orchard (which I had explored a few days prior).
So – what did we try?
We visited The Chocolate Experience and grabbed our free piece of chocolate. This trip, it was a dark chocolate freebie.
Flavors From Fire
We savored and devoured The Steakhouse Blended Burger and the Chocolate Picante ~ TWO THUMBS UP!
Catch Hubby’s reaction after tasting the Chocolate Picante plate here on our Instagram post!!
Here, we tried the Loaded Mac (TWO THUMBS UP) and Cheese and the Spice-crusted Verlasso Salmon (TWO THUMBS SIDEWAYS).
The Cheese Studio
Oh, my goodness ~ this was sooo good. At the Cheese Studio, we enjoyed every single bite of the Black Pepper Boursin Souffle (which is on Emile’s Fromage Montage) and the….wait for it…MAPLE BOURBON CHEESECAKE. Both plates were TWO THUMBS UP!
Hubby was all over the AULANI Sunrise and just absolutely had to try the Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash. The drinks were TWO THUMBS UP and Hubby liked the hash. I was too full to give it a try.
While we did not pick up anything here during our date, I had enjoyed a Frozen Apple Pie and a souvenir container of caramel apple popcorn.
During our date, however, we did sample three kinds of maple syrup!!
Let’s Wrap This Up
So, needless to say, this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is literally packed with flavor and opportunity!! We are looking forward to many dates during the Festival, so be sure to follow our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.
Will you be visiting the Festival this year? If so, what’s on your agenda? Culinary workshops? Taste-testing ALL the food? Catching any concerts in particular? Picking up a special piece of festival merch?
**ANNUAL PASSHOLDERS!! Don’t forget to pick up your annual passholder magnet (Minnie during the first half of the festival, Figment during the second half. I believe we are allowed to pick up one of each) and then, after four visits, your wooden set of coasters!!!!
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