Forget the passport, Epcot admission and an empty stomach is needed to enjoy the 13th annual culinary festival which kicked off on September 26. Presented by Vanity Fair Premium Napkins, this year’s theme is Cities in Wonderland, featuring cuisine from a handful of North American cities and 22 international cities from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Rim.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival: The Basics
Making the most of a trip to this food and wine festival, festival goers should begin their journey at the Festival Welcome Center in Epcot’s Future World East. Upon entering Epcot, head towards Spaceship Earth (the big silver globe) and to the left. This is where most 30-minute culinary demonstrations, 45-minute wine seminars, and book and bottle signings take place. Wine tastings and book signings are daily and culinary demonstrations are Wednesday through Sunday. The festival hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and there is an additional feel for some of the programs.
Before beginning a day of tastings in Epcot’s World Showcase, food and wine festival visitors should load up and purchase a Disney Gift Card. Festival editions are on sale throughout Epcot and the small card comes with a coil wrist lanyard so hands are free to hold food and beverages rather than worrying about pulling out money from purses or wallets. Money cannot be refunded from the card but it’s valid throughout Walt Disney Resort and doesn’t expire.
Epcot International Food and Wine Festival food portions are bite-sized and prices begin just under $3. Budget at least $30 per person per visit, especially if alcohol will be enjoyed with the mini-portions.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Epicurean Delights
Reference the menus for each marketplace and map out a strategy to tackle the culinary festival. Think of it as a big cocktail party and begin with champagne by Moët & Chandon Wines at the Reims Marketplace then head over to the Mouse Catch for cheeses from Holland, Italy and Spain. After that, the world is a culinary oyster.
For a taste of American cuisine, visit Louisiana’s French Market to taste spicy seafood gumbo, sweet praline bread pudding and wash it down with Purple Haze brewed by Abita Brewery. Musical entertainment and cooking demonstrations entertain visitors to Disney’s version of the French Market which is filled with plants native to Louisiana.
Sip New York State wines including the ultimate treat, sweet ice wine. All sample wines are available for sale by the bottle so they can be taken home and enjoyed for another time. Checkout the Hops and Barley Marketplace for a luscious Boston crab cake and New England lobster roll.
International epicurean delights include the Tokyo, Japan Marketplace with a refreshing seaweed salad, California sushi roll and sweet Hana Raspberry sake. The Krakow, Poland Marketplace serves up creamy wild mushroom soup, juicy kielbasa and potato pierogies while visitors to the Wellington, New Zealand Marketplace will enjoy the lamb slider on a brioche roll and kiwi meringue tartlet.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Special Events
Engaging all the senses, big name bands perform nightly in the America Gardens Theater in the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. Each Saturday night, the Party of the Senses serves up a kaleidoscope of culinary delight in the World Showplace Pavilion with tasting stations prepared by 25 chefs and complemented with more than 70 wines and beers and amazing acrobatic entertainment. The cost is $135 plus tax, per person, in addition to Epcot admission.
Foodies won’t regret making a pilgrimage to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. If not this year, mark the calendars for 2009, tentative dates are September 25 through November 8, 2009. Can’t visit Epcot during the festival? Try some “Character Dining at Epcot” for more unique culinary experiences.