Last week, World Showcase at Epcot® went from representing 11 countries to over 26 countries in the blink of an eye courtesy of the International Food & Wine Festival. Celebrating its 14th year, the International Food & Wine Festival, which runs through November 8th, celebrates foods from some of the world’s greatest cities.
Although delicious in their own right, the Walt Disney World Resort is more than just burgers, fries, turkey legs and Mickey premium ice cream bars. Charles Passy recently reported in the Palm Beach Post, “If there’s any proof of how much a culinary mecca Disney has become, it’s the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival… the festival, now in its 14th year, plays host to scores of prominent chefs, winemakers and celebrities: This year’s participants include famed chocolatier Jacques Torres, master sommelier and television personality Andrea Immer Robinson, and singer-turned-cookbook author Patti LaBelle.”
Navigating the food and wine festival, which happens throughout Epcot®, can be a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The festival is broken down into four basic categories: demonstrations, seminars, special experiences, and the International Marketplace. In addition there is nightly entertainment with the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. Theme park admission is required, and although some of the events will require an additional fee, others are included with admission.
Good Things In Small Packagess
In addition to foods at various International Marketplaces from the permanent Epcot® countries: Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The United States, Japan, Morocco, France, The United Kingdom, and Canada, the cuisines of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Poland, India, South Africa, Australia, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Greece, Chile and Puerto Rico will have pop-up kiosks at World Showcase.
Depending on the country, each International Marketplace offers small dishes of traditional appetizers, entrees, and desserts ranging from $2.00 to $7.00 each. Traditional alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase. Global eats include: lobster and scallop fisherman’s pie (Ireland), Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (Canada), Corn and Cheese Arepa (Chile), Chocolate Milk Crème Brûlée (France), Caramel Ginger Ice Cream (China), just to name a few.
Show Me The Vino
Experts from some of the world’s best vineyards, hotels and restaurants will present daily food and beverage seminars. At the culinary demonstrations guests will learn from the pros. At each of the 45-minute culinary sessions, featured chefs will offer tips and demonstrations, also giving guests the opportunity to taste the demonstrated dish or sample the wine pairing. At the wine and beverage seminars, guests will meet wine experts and learn the ins-and-outs of a particular wine or wine region and after sample selected wines or beverages. These seminars are also 45-minutes long. Both the demonstrations and seminars are $8.00 per person / per session (tax included). All events are held at the Festival Welcome Center unless noted.
Other Seminars & Demonstrations
Other seminars and demonstrations that will take place during the festival is Authors Without Borders – a renowned author from the food and beverage world conducts each of these 30-minute seminars. Presented by industry experts, Authentic Taste Seminars are also 30-minute seminars celebrating the origins, properties and history of some of the world’s finest and best ingredients.
Hosted at the Italy Pavilion, Puglian chefs and wine experts bring the regional flair and flavors of southern Italy to the Festival with the Taste of Puglia — Hosted by Taste of Puglia Comune di Andria-Qoco. On the Promenade, learn about the history of olive oil and pasta, see traditional techniques used in preparing gourmet Puglian foods and have the opportunity to purchase food products native to the region. Specialty programming that celebrates the flavors and products of Puglia will also be available.
Additional events taking place at the Festival Welcome Center includes book signings & meet and greets with celebrated authors and personalities, bottle signings where guests can meet winemakers and have purchased wine bottles signed, and The Wonders Bar always features an array of champagnes and wine.
Returning again this year is festival favorite: The Boston Beer Company, brewers of Samuel Adams Beer®. The Boston Beer Company will be conducting daily demonstrations at the American Adventure Pavilion about the history of beer and the art and science behind the brewing of Samuel Adams. In addition, there will a kiosk – Hops & Barley – that will feature 10 Samuel Adams beers – 5 of which are on tap – including one brewed especially for the festival – the 14th Anniversary Festival Beer.
By purchasing a $20 Wine Walk Passport at the Germany, Italy, or France pavilion wine shop, guests can enjoy a flight of specially selected wines. Special Festival Experiences include Mexico Tequila Tastings, $35 every Friday to Sunday at 3 pm at La Cava del Tequila; Food and Wine Pairings at Tutto Italia Ristorante every Saturday from 2:30-4 pm, Tokyo Dining every Monday from 3:30-5 pm, and Restaurant Marrakesh every Tuesday from 3:30-5 pm. Each food and wine pairing is $55 per person.
Every Saturday from 10:30-11:45 am in the Festival Welcome Center, Max McCalman from New York City’s Artisanal Cheese Center and other cheese industry professionals will be conducting in depth Cheese Seminars. And of course, the cheese doesn’t stand alone – there will be paired wines with each tasting. Each seminar is $75 person.
Also on Saturdays from 1-2:30 pm at the Wonders Retreat is the Epcot Adventures in Wine Varietals – a comparative tasting of a single grape type. Hosted by a wine expert, the three seminars are $80 per person.
Going, Going, Gone
Some of the more popular events at the International Food and Wine Festival are Sweet Sundays, French Regional Lunches, Celebrating Friends & Families in the Kitchen, and Culinary Adventure in Signature Dining.
With two events already sold out, Sweet Sundays are held every Sunday morning from 10 am to Noon. Each of the scheduled acclaimed pastry chefs or bakers will demonstrate three signature desserts or baked goods and then guests will have the opportunity to sample each one. The event also includes a breakfast buffet complete with sparkling wines. Sweet Sundays is $80 per person.
Also almost sold out are the French Regional Lunches. With Bordeaux on October 4, Alsace on October 18, and Burgundy on November 1 still available – guests discover the cuisine and wine from different regions of France on selected Sundays. Presented at the Bistro de Paris at the French pavilion beginning at Noon, each lunch is $95 per person.
Celebrating Friends & Families in the Kitchen guests will enjoy a 3-course lunch and celebrate the joys of preparing meals for family and friends. Each celebrity chef or host, along with a notable winery representative, will not only demonstrate each course, but involve the guests as well. Some lunches are already sold out, but available demos include The Deen Brothers on October 3rd and on October 9th singer Patti LaBelle. Lunches range from $110-130 per person.
With what is proving to be one of the most popular series of the festival is the Culinary Adventure in Signature Dining. A well-known visiting chef joins the resident chef from Disney’s signature restaurants to create a truly memorable dinner. Representatives from one or more of the hosting wineries present accompanying wines with each dinner. The dinners are held on select days at the host restaurant. Dinners range from $100-$375 per person. Theme park admission is not required for this event.
The Eat to the Beat! concert series features acts from many musical genres including classic rock, jazz, R&B, funk and soul. Concerts are performed three times each evening at America Gardens Theatre along the World Showcase lagoon.
“Our philosophy is to make every guest feel special,” said Ed Wronski, director of product development for Disney World’s food and beverage operations. And given the events and experiences at this year’s International Food & Wine Festival – it’s just icing on the cake.
1 The Palm Beach Post, Charles Passy, September 21, 2009