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Food and Wine Festival Archives

October 11, 2015

Epcot Food & Wine Festivals Gone By

Gary Cruise banner

I'd like to begin this blog by explaining to you that Carol and I are neither gourmets nor epicures! We are simple “meat and potatoes” people. In fact, for a long time we avoided the Food & Wine Festival for that very reason. Neither of us enjoys wine and our impression of the festival was that you ate overpriced little samples of exotic foods paired with wines that we knew we wouldn’t enjoy.

Festival Logo 2014

Many of our friends assured us that we would enjoy the food, even if we didn’t drink wine, so we finally decided to give it a try.

Festival Logo 2012

On November 3, 2009 we picked up a little gift card on a coiled bracelet which fits handily on your wrist so it can be swiped at each food kiosk.

Gift Cards

We loaded it with a $75 credit and very warily began our culinary experiment!

The "International Marketplaces" are scattered around the promenade that rings the World Showcase Lagoon. As you approach each of the Marketplaces the menu is prominently displayed.

Australia Menu

After selecting what you would like to sample, you queue up for the cashiers who are located beside the kiosk. They take your order and scan your gift card; "CA-CHING". These days you can also pay with your MagicBand.

After paying you move on to the kiosk where your order will be ready quick as a wink!

Australia Marketplace

Our trek around World Showcase took us in a clockwise direction and we ordered one or two items from each kiosk to share between us.

Taste Your Way Around The World

We started with a Shrimp Stew with Coconut and Lime from the Brazil Marketplace; it was excellent. Then we tried a Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri and Boniato Puree from Argentina; excellent as well. Next came a Corn Tortilla with Chipolte Chicken from Mexico; I liked it but Carol wasn’t thrilled with the refried beans on it.

TerraMarketplace

Terra Menu

We stopped at Spain and enjoyed a tasty Crème Catalana, similar to Crème Caramel.

From Poland we ordered Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream.

Poland Marketplace

Poland Menu

Poland Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie

Mmm, Mmm good!

The Pork Pot Stickers from China were excellent but the Rice and Lentil Crepe with Potato and Onion Filling from the India Marketplace didn’t suit our palate; after a quick taste it was immediately tossed in the trash!

We sampled the Chicken and Coconut Soup with Mushrooms from Thailand and really enjoyed it.

German Food 2012

By the time we finished our Nuernberger Sausage on a Pretzel Roll from Germany we were getting full, so we topped it all off with a divine Bread Pudding from New Orleans and decided to head back to Fort Wilderness, the dogs needed to eat too!.

We had both enjoyed a wonderful lunch and there was still a $34.25 credit on the gift card so we decided that we would head back and use it up at dinner time!

When we returned we picked up our journey around World Showcase right where we left off at lunch. Our first stop was Puerto Rico where we shared Chicken with Rice, quite good!

Puerto Rico Marketplace

Puerto Rico Menu

We walked on to Greece where we ordered the Greek Salad with Pita Bread, the Spanakopita and the Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki. I liked them all but Carol wasn’t fussy about the Spanakopita. We stopped to watch a bit of the Off Kilter set beside Canada and then moved on toward England where we shared an order of Seared Scallops from New Zealand. They were OK, not great but OK.

Then came Ireland where I had the Lobster & Scallop Fisherman’s Pie and Carol had the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey’s Ganache. Both were excellent! Once again our last stop was New Orleans for bread pudding. Terrific! We were both stuffed again and there was still $2.00 left on the card . . . so Carol bought some popcorn and a drink.

Think about that folks, two excellent lunches and two equally good dinners for $73.00! If we had eaten at any combination of table service restaurants we would have paid more; so not only was it great food, it was great value too!

Belgium Marketplace

Belgium Menu

Belgian Waffle

Since 2009 we have returned to the Food & Wine Festival every year except 2011, we missed the opening of the festival by just a few days that year!

There are more than 30 food and drink Marketplaces scattered around World Showcase during the festival which typically runs from late September to mid November.

Italy Marketplace

Italy Menu

We’ve developed a nice routine; we read the menu when we arrive at each Marketplace and decide what we’d like to sample. Then Carol hops in line to buy our selections while I snap photos of the menu and the kiosk. By the time she has picked up the food I have normally found a spot at a nearby table and we settle for a few minutes to enjoy our little nibbles.

Food 2012

Food 2012

Note: There are more diners than there are tables, but most folks are happy to share table space. There have been many times, while Carol was still in line and I was standing alone at a table, that I noticed another couple or a small group with their hands full of food looking for a spot to eat it. I always wave them over and offer to share our table. Many times other folks have invited Carol and I to join them and we’ve had some interesting conversations with some total strangers! Don’t be afraid to share!

Sharing a Table

Our typical Food & Wine experience extends over a few days; we start our lunch at one side of the World Showcase Lagoon and eat until we’re full. Then we come back a few days later and pick up where we left off. The last couple of years it has taken us three days to complete the circuit and we have spent about $100 over the three days. That’s six quality lunches for a hundred dollars . . . we would have spent that much if we’d eaten nothing but burgers and fries!

So we’ve been converted . . . even though we’re not wine-drinkers, we really enjoy the festival! In fact, Carol found a beer she actually enjoyed! She has never been able to acquire a taste for beer, but we had heard good things about Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Beer from the Brewer's Collection kiosk.

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In 2014 I picked up a Schöfferhofer to wash down my bratwurst from Germany. After drinking more than her share of it, Carol announced that it was the only beer she ever enjoyed!

Our favourite dish? For Carol it’s Boeuf Bourguignon from France, braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes.

France Marketplace

France Menu

My perennial “fave” is from Ireland, the Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie.

Of course, there’s more than food involved. During the festival the America Gardens Theatre is home to the “Eat to the Beat” concert series. There’s always a terrific line-up of performing artists for these free nightly concerts. The 2015 schedule includes Wilson Phillips, Christopher Cross, Starship with Mickey Thomas, The Pointer Sisters, Rick Springfield, Air Supply and many, many more!

Eat To The Beat - The Pointer Sisters

Eat to the Beat schedule

There really is something for everyone at the Food & Wine Festival. If you are a oenophile you can find many of the wines offered at the International Marketplaces on sale at the Festival Welcome Center Merchandise Shops. The Welcome Center (formerly the Wonders of Life Pavilion) is located in Future World between Mission: SPACE and Universe of Energy and hosts many seminars and demonstrations including Wine & Beverage seminars, Culinary demonstrations, Mixology seminars, Cheese seminars, etc., etc.

Festival Welcome Center

Every Friday and Sunday there are plated brunches hosted by renowned chefs and Saturday nights you can enjoy the ultimate Food & Wine Festival experience, the Party for the Senses. Guests start the evening with reserved seating at the Eat to the Beat Concert, then head to an exclusive party held in the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion between Canada and the United Kingdom.

Party For The Senses

This elegant party is perfect for foodies who can sample great food from famous chefs, taste 50 wines and beers and enjoy live entertainment.

Party For The Senses

Party For The Senses

For compulsive collectors like Carol there’s a Marketplace Discovery Passport available every year. It lists the Marketplaces, in the same order that you find them as you travel around World Showcase in a clockwise direction, and gives a brief description of what’s available at each location.

Marketplace Discovery Passport

There is a box beside every menu item where you can tick off what you sampled, and a larger box where the cast members in the kiosk will stamp your “passport.” How could a collector possibly resist something like that? It’s also pretty handy for a blogger who’s trying to remember what he had for lunch on a particular Tuesday about six years ago!

Even the youngest gourmands can enjoy the festival by participating in “Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak Scavenger Hunt”. Kids can search for little Remy statuettes with maps, stickers and prizes.

So if you’ve been holding back from the annual EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, take my advice and give it a try! I think you’ll like it!

To find out more about the festival follow these links.

AllEars.net pages with detailed information can be found HERE

There are also AllEars.net blogs about the “Sneak Preview” for the 2015 event.
Part 1 is HERE . . . . Part 2 is HERE

For the menus and prices at the 2015 Marketplaces look HERE

AllEars.net even has some great tips to help you plan your Food & Wine adventure HERE

The official Disney festival information is HERE

Maybe Carol and I will bump into you one of these years as we “Taste Our Way Around The World.”

See you then!

October 9, 2013

Experience a World of Flavors at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival has returned for its 18th year. As always, the Food and Wine Festival features a variety of events and demonstration in addition to the popular marketplaces scattered around World Showcase. One of the most enjoyable things about the festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day (or more) enjoying all the festival has to offer. To start off, here are just a few tips to maximize your time and get the most out of your Food and Wine experience.

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Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival, when many of the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade and much longer lines at the food stands. It is best to avoid the weekends. If you can, try to visit Monday through Thursday when the lighter crowds make the festival much more enjoyable. In the same vein, World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon, resulting in larger crowds and longer lines as the day progresses.

Just as with everything at Disney World, it helps to plan ahead when attending the Food and Wine Festival. If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. It is better to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. Although the portion sizes of the food may seem small, they can be filling and after having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit and, if traveling with someone else, you may want to consider sharing dishes, which also allows you to sample an even greater variety.

This year's 46-day festival features over twenty-five ethnic marketplaces and more than 220 food and beverage menu items. In addition to returning favorites such as Ireland, Australia, and Argentina (just to name a few), this year's festival marketplaces also include the return of Brazil as well as a brand-new Scotland booth marketplace. Here are some of the highlights.

Argentina is consistently one of the most popular of the festival marketplaces. Distinguished by its bright yellow color, this marketplace is also marked by the amazing aromas of the food being prepared inside.

Argentina.jpg

The Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée is one of my must-have items at the festival each year. The chimichurri sauce has a very strong and distinctive flavor (like a slightly spicy pesto) and definitely gives the dish a bit of a kick. The boniato puree, on the other hand, is milder and has the texture, consistency, and flavor of mashed potatoes. The beef itself is tender and juicy, its flavor really enhanced by the chimichurri. While its $5.00 cost makes it more expensive than many other dishes at the festival, it is a high-quality dish that is certainly worth the price.

Beef_Skewer.jpg

Australia is a marketplace whose menu has gone through some changes over the years, but this year's offerings might be some of the best it has ever featured.

Australia.jpg

A new dish to the festival this year is the Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle and Rapini. This dish features three generously sized shrimp and tremendous flavor. If you are a fan of garlic, you will certainly love this dish. Contrasting the garlic-flavored shrimp is the rapini. Also known as broccoli rabe, this vegetable has a distinct and slightly bitter flavor, but one that matches very well with the shrimp. For $4.50 it is definitely a good portion size and packs a serious amount of flavor.

Garlic_Shrimp.jpg

South Korea was introduced to the festival just a few year ago and since its inception has been a big success. This year's marketplace features a new offering in addition to a returning favorite.

South_Korea.jpg

The Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce is new to the festival this year. The kimchi dog itself is a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the mustard sauce provides another added kick. Countering this, however, is a light and refreshing coleslaw which provides a nice mild contrast. While the portion size may not be the largest, this is still a good value at $3.75 and is certainly something unique among the festival offerings.

Kimchi_Dog.jpg

Africa is the new name of the marketplace which in previous years has been South Africa. With the name change comes some new flavor as well.

Africa.jpg

The Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato, Okra and Pap is certainly not a dish for the faint of heart; it is definitely one of the spicier dishes at the festival this year. This dish can be likened to a spicy stew or a gumbo, and one with a great amount of flavor. All of this spiciness, however, is in contrast to the pap which has a flavor and consistency very similar to grits and helps provide some balance to the dish with its mild flavor. With a very generous portion size, this is one dish that is good to share and its $4.25 price also makes it a great value.

Berbere_Beef.jpg

Florida Local is the marketplace that highlights the various tastes and flavors of the host state, relying on locally-grown products and featuring an assortment of in-state wines and beers.

Florida_Local.jpg

It is here that you can find the Florida Grass Fed Beef Slider with Monterey Jack and Sweet & Hot Pickles. The beef slider was surprisingly juicy and the Monterey jack cheese provided just enough of a kick. I am not usually a fan of pickles, but their sweetness adds some nice extra taste that contrasts that of the beef and cheese. While not anything fancy or exotic, this is a good dish for those who may be a little less adventurous and for $3.75 definitely worth the price.

Beef_Slider.jpg

New Zealand is a marketplace that typically has some intriguing choices and this year's festival is no different.

New_Zealand.jpg

I am not usually a fan of mussels, but the Gratinated Green Lip Mussels with Garlic and Herbs looked absolutely fantastic (not to mention that it seemed as though everybody at the marketplace was ordering them). This is another dish with a tremendous amount of flavor, with the garlic and herbs really enhancing the taste of the mussels. The mussels themselves were cooked to they were perfectly tender while the coating of bread crumbs on top added some additional flavor and texture to the dish. With three good-sized mussels, this is definitely a great value at $3.00.

Mussels.jpg

Belgium has always been the place at the festival to find waffles and this year the marketplace features three to choose from.

Belgium.jpg

When you think of waffles, one topped with beef might not be the first thing that comes to mind but that is exactly what is featured in the Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef. This is such a unique and flavorful dish. To start, the waffle itself is so soft and fluffy with the potato giving it just a slightly heavier consistency. Meanwhile, the braised beef is so tender and flavorful and it actually pairs extremely well with the waffle. Overall, this is probably my favorite dish at the festival thus far and its generous portion size is definitely worth its $4.00 price.

Potato_Leek_Waffle.jpg

Desserts & Champagne is a great marketplace to end your journey around World Showcase, providing a selection of smaller-sized dessert offerings.

Desserts.jpg

There are two choices that are standouts to me at this marketplace. The first is the Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake. Don't let the portion size fool you. Although it appears small in size, it is definitely a rich and filling dessert. Surprisingly, the flavor of the hazelnut is not as prominent as one might expect and the dessert had more of a chocolaty taste. For $1.75, this is a great conclusion to you Food and Wine adventures.

Hazelnut_Cheesecake.jpg

The second intriguing option is the Frozen S'mores. This frozen drink is a kicked-up version of a refreshing chocolate smoothie. Coming topped with marshmallows, chocolate shavings, and graham crackers, this is a drink that you might also need a spoon to enjoy. It is also very sweet and it's portion size just large enough. The prefect refreshment on a hot Florida day, this dessert is certinaly worth its $3.00 price tag.

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Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 11. If you have never experienced the festivities before, it is definitely worth a visit. Be sure to come hungry!

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You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

July 20, 2013

Food and Wine FastPass ??

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Although the 2013 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is still some two months away I've been thinking about an idea that I think would be a win-win situation for both the Walt Disney World Resort and its guests.

At the Food & Wine Welcome Center...

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...you can purchase special Food & Wine Gift Cards.

F%26WGiftCards1.jpg

When you purchase these cards you can place a certain amount of cash value on them. You can wear them on your wrist and when you visit one of the booths you just get it swiped rather than fiddle with plastic or cash. It's a great convenience.

What was not a great convenience during the 2012 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival were the incredible long lines....especially on the weekends.

I happened to sneak down to F&W a few times and noticed that the crowds on the weekends were extremely high...more so than during the week as locals would partake of the tasty treats waiting for them.

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One Saturday in particular I counted 85 people waiting in line in Mexico for shrimp tacos.

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That made me think of possible solutions to these long lines...something that would work for the resort and also for the guests.

Introducing the Food & Wine FastPass.

It's very simple. Why not offer the guests a GOLD Food & Wine card...similar to the normal ones except that this particular special card allows you to go into a special line at each kiosk, a line that offers you a shorter wait.

This would work as a win-win situation for both the resort and for the guests. The resort would benefit from a revenue stream as the guests would have to pay for this privilege with either an upfront surcharge or adding 5% to the cost of whatever purchase they would be making at a kiosk. To help encourage guests to purchase such a card there would be an added benefit.

For every ten purchases made with this special FastPass F&W card the guest would receive a FREE purchase. So let's say you spent the entire day at EPCOT for F&W and were trying all the booths and holy cow you go to one booth and they tell you that this one is on the house.

Would you go for it?

My point is that F&W has become so popular that you might say it is TOO popular for everyone to enjoy themselves.

So putting a little carrot out there like this F&W Gold Festival card may help shorten the wait for some folks while at the same time offering a free bee from time to time.

Thoughts?

October 9, 2012

Taking Tweens and Teens to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival

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We are just a few weeks away from our (nearly) annual visit to the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. The hotel reservations have been made, plane tickets purchased, and Advance Dining Reservations are in place. I have prepared the latest version of The Spreadsheet, mapping out every minute of our itinerary (ok, not every minute, but pretty darn close).
Our approach to visiting the Festival and enjoying its offerings has changed over the years, although I must say that we have yet to only scratch the surface. The first year we went, when our kids were elementary school-aged, we were happy to discover (almost by accident) that the Festival was taking place at the same time as our four-day fall visit, which happened to (and still happens to) coincide with our school district's long four-day weekend, which, by the way, is meant to be set aside for parent/teacher conferences. (I would like to take a moment to apologize sincerely to all of my children's teachers who have had to reschedule Miller Family conferences over the years. Thank you for your understanding.) At that time, we focused ONLY on getting Mom and Dad a few bites and glasses of wine from the Festival Marketplace booths. Then, we moved on to trying to get the kids to try some of the offerings. Last year, Mom and Dad attended a very special event on their own, and the whole family enjoyed an entertaining and informative culinary demonstration.

Here are some pointers that I have for enjoying the Food and Wine Festival with tweens and teens in tow:

1. The International Marketplace food booths provide a great opportunity to expand your child's food experiences. Plan at least one lunch or dinner that will consist entirely grazing from one booth to the next. When the kids were younger, my husband and I had a difficult time getting them to make a meal out of the food offerings at the International Marketplace food booths. They thought that the food was just too strange. (A hint for parents of young children who may not be interested in the Festival food offerings: The American Adventure is halfway around your noshing route, and "American" fare can be procured for your picky eaters at the Liberty Inn as you make your way around the World Showcase. Do not let your young picky eaters stand between you and the Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry Citrus Glaze, and its accompanying Rosemount Estate Traminer Riesling!) As they have gotten older however, they have found some favorites, including the Cheese Fondue and Trio of Artisan Cheeses at the Cheese booth; the Kerrygold Cheese Selection from Ireland (the girls LOVE cheese, do you see a pattern here?); the Pork Potstickers in China; the Seared Filet of Beef with Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Braai Sauce from South Africa; and their new favorite, Ropa Vieja from the Caribbean.

2. Expensive events are not necessarily a good buy for kids. We had never actually done any of the larger, more expensive events associated with the Festival until last year (see #5, below), because it did not seem to make a lot of sense from a financial perspective. When the kids were younger, they simply did not have either the attention span or the interest in sitting still for several hours while "weird" food was being served. Now, even though they are much more likely to be interested in the food, since wine (or other spirits) make up much of the cost for these events, it still does not seem to make much sense, unless your older kid is particularly interested in a particular type of cuisine (or dessert-is dessert a cuisine type?). I was ready to do one of the more expensive events this year, but the festival schedule did not quite cooperate. The only one that really might have worked for us was The Party for the Senses, and that was not one that I really wanted to do, particularly with all of the confusing pricing tiers. Oh, and we are going to miss "the Cake Boss" by one day. Oh, well, maybe next year.

3. The less expensive Culinary Demonstrations might be a huge hit. Last year, we decided to try one of the Festival's Culinary Demonstrations. I checked the demonstration schedule, and found one that was being led by a local (to us) chef (David Guas of The Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia, who will be returning this year) who would be preparing something my kids might like (in this case, the vague description was "Pastry"). For a very reasonable price (demonstrations are priced at $11 and $14 for 2012) we got an hour-long cooking demonstration from a very entertaining chef, four glasses of superb champagne (yes, the French stuff from Champagne) and substantial tastes of the apple cake that Chef Guas was preparing. Since the kids are not old enough to drink, Mom and Dad each got two glasses of wine, and the kids were served some apple juice. Not bad, and we all loved the experience. We will be doing it again this year. (With a different chef, but again, the description for the event is a vague "Pastry." Do you see another pattern emerging here?) I considered booking more than one demonstration, but I thought better of that idea, and will leave it at one. While the girls enjoyed the demonstration last year, teenagers bore easily, and I wouldn't want a very nice experience to be turned into a total drag.

4. Take an interest in cooking home with you. Last year, my kids loved the Ropa Vieja from the Caribbean booth so much that they talked me into buying the festival cookbook ("Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Cook Book: Passport to a World of Flavors," $14.95 in 2011). While we were not able to exactly replicate this yummy beef stew at home, it ended up being a reasonable facsimile, and it got my kids cooking. It is a well-known fact that kids will be more likely to try new foods if they are involved in its preparation. (At least that is what "the experts" say. My older daughter will help cook just about anything, but there are still lots of things that she won't eat-especially if they are green.) (By the way, does your family pronounce the word Car-RIB-bean or CAR-ib-BE-an? Let me know. The Miller family cannot agree on this one.)

5. The ability of the kids to look after themselves for a few hours opens up opportunities for Mom and Dad to enjoy some of the more expensive events on their own. Last year my husband and I splurged on the "Best of Bocuse" dinner that was held at the Bistro de Paris. The very high price tag meant that this was not an event that we wanted to include the kids in, but they were able to walk over to Epcot with us from the Boardwalk (see #6, below), do some touring on their own, and return to our room by themselves before we got back, with periodic check-ins via text message). We had the amazing opportunity to sample some iconic dishes from the great chef, and they got to experience a bit of controlled independence.

6. If you can, stay in one of the Epcot resorts. It is much easier to return to one of the Epcot resorts after touring the Festival. We find that a leisurely walk back to the Boardwalk (our favorite) after sampling yummy food and beverages is a good way to wind down and let the food settle before taking an afternoon break, or getting ready to sleep.

7. The "Eat to the Beat" concerts are a great way to introduce your teens and tweens to the really good (or pretty good) music of your youth. I love the fact that most of the musical acts playing at the "Eat to the Beat" concerts were popular bands that I listened to when I was a teenager. (Some, it appears, are now bands that were popular when I was a young adult, and they are now considered "classic." I refuse to admit that I am getting old, and do now consider myself to be a "classic" as well.) I don't know about your kids, but mine think that their generation invented popular music. This year, we will be introducing them to the great Howard Jones (we will unfortunately just miss .38 Special!). Last year it was Night Ranger (returning again this year). Follow the concert with a lively discussion over something sweet (I recommend the Crème Brulee au Chocolat au Lait from France) about whose music is better. I guarantee you will have fun with this one!

8. Be careful about overindulging in the wine bit of the Festival. Young children might not notice if Mom and Dad get a little tipsy, but teenagers will count every drop of alcohol that passes your lips, and then will comment loudly about any tiny sway they might see in your steps. The Festival is a good opportunity to show tweens and teens how to enjoy a glass of wine with amazing food, and how adults can drink responsibly. In any case, make good use of Disney transportation, and please don't drink and drive. Your teen will thank you.

Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.


November 4, 2011

A Little Taste of Food & Wine

Andrew Rossi

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival is one of my favorite times of year at Disney World; there is so much to do, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. One of the things I enjoy most about the Festival is that it allows you to sample the cuisines of so many different countries that you do not normally get to experience. The Festival is a dream come true for the adventurous eater, allowing one to encounter new ingredients, flavors, and dishes both exotic and unique. Epcot is always my go-to park when it comes to great food and this is all the more heightened during the Food & Wine Festival.

Festival Signage

This year's Festival features twenty-nine international marketplaces ranging from Singapore to Portugal to the Caribbean Islands and with so much good food to be found it can sometimes be very difficult to decide which dishes to try. As you walk around World Showcase and look at various menus you quickly find yourself wanting to try everything, the pleasant aromas filling the air only adding to the temptation. Of course, it would cost far too much money to try every single item that the Festival has to offer and so here I present a few of my favorites in the hope it will help you decide which dishes might interest you most.

We will start with Morocco. Although the Moroccan pavilion features both a full service restaurant and quick service eatery, the country's Food & Wine marketplace presents some different offerings.

Morocco Marketplace

Here I decided to try the Kefta Pocket which was described on the menu as ground seasoned beef in a pita pocket. I likened the beef to a spicy hamburger. While the beef did have a very distinct spiciness to it I did not find its flavor to be overwhelming and, even though the beef was a little on the dry side, this did not take away from the flavor. Accompanying the beef in the pita was a type of cole slaw that provided a light and refreshing accompaniment that paired very well with the stronger flavored beef. For $5.00 this is one of the more expensive items throughout the marketplaces, but the size of the dish makes it a good value.

Kefta Pocket

The Hops and Barley marketplace features foods and beers from the United States. Although I like to use the Food & Wine Festival as a way of sampling the cuisines of distant countries that I may not be as familiar with, I could not resist trying a new item on the menu here this year.

Hops and Barley Marketplace

The Pumpkin Mousse with Ocean Spray Craisins and Orange Sauce immediately jumped out at me because I am a huge fan of all things pumpkin and I am happy to say that it certainly lived up to my expectations. The pumpkin mousse was very smooth and creamy and had a flavor similar to that of a pumpkin pie only a little more on the sweet side. To be honest, the only flavor that I really noticed was that of the pumpkin and could not really pick out the orange sauce (which I was glad because the combination of pumpkin and orange seemed a little odd to me). The mousse came topped with chopped nuts and craisins that added a nice contrast in texture to that of the mousse. For $1.50 this is one of the best valued items in the entire Festival.

Pumpkin Mousse

Scandinavia makes its return this year after a brief hiatus and may have one of the best themed exteriors of any of the marketplaces.

Scandanavia Marketplace

Here I chose the Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries. While this may not be the most visually appealing dish at the Festival, it certainly has great taste and flavor. The meatballs themselves were very moist and tender and were somewhat different in consistency than the meatballs you would get if dining out at an Italian restaurant. Accompanying the meatballs was a lingonberry sauce, which to me tasted very similar to cranberry sauce. I found the lingonberries to be very strong in flavor, and while they did provide some sweetness to the dish and a nice contrast to the flavor of the meatballs, they were a little too overpowering. The meatballs were just as good without the sauce as they were with it on them (and without the sauce you could actually appreciate the flavor of the meatballs more). For $3.50 I found this to be a good sized portion and a good value.

Swedish Meatballs

Argentina is a marketplace that always stands out, not only because of its bright yellow color, but also because of the tremendous aromas wafting from the food being cooked inside.

Argentina Marketplace

I had heard great things about the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée last year and this year decided to give it a try. The chimichurri sauce gave the dish a very strong and distinctive flavor, but it really made the dish what it is. I can best describe the chimichurri sauce as being a slightly spicy pesto and its taste was the dominant flavor in the dish. This is definitely a dish with a kick to it and not for the faint of heart. The boniato puree had the texture and flavor of mashed potatoes that was really enhanced by the chimichurri sauce. The beef itself was tender and juicy and while its $5.00 cost makes it one of the more expensive items it is most definitely worth the price. This is a very high quality and great tasting dish and I would not hesitate to say it is my favorite among the dishes I have sampled so far.

Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce

Hawaii is a new addition to the Festival this year, helping to draw attention to Disney's new Aulani resort which just recently opened.

Hawaii Marketplace

Here I ordered the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. I did not expect the slider to be as spicy as it actually was. The mayonnaise provided a definite kick to the dish and even the pineapple chutney was more on the spicy side than the sweet side. That being said, the pineapples did provide a sweeter, refreshing accompaniment to the flavor of the pork. Overall, I thought that all the varying flavors of the dish blended together very nicely. The pork came served on a soft roll, although I wish the roll had been more crusty because it would have made an already good dish even better. For $3.00 this was a very good value in terms of both portion size and quality and one of the better new items at the Festival this year.

Pork Slider

No trip to the Food & Wine Festival for me can be complete without a stop at the Ireland marketplace because it features my favorite dessert.

Ireland Marketplace

The Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Ganache is something that I order every year and keep wishing that there was someplace at Disney that served it all year round. This is definitely a sweet, rich, decadent dessert and, even though it is small, it is still very filling. The chocolate cake comes served warm and is extremely moist, but what truly makes the dessert is the Bailey's ganache that is served on top. While the sauce does have a distinct Bailey's flavor, I did not find this to be too overpowering. Rather, there was just enough taste of Bailey's to give the dessert a little bit of a kick. I was disappointed to find that the price had increased from $2.75 last year to $3.00 this year, but it is still a good value even though the portion size is exactly the same as it was last year.

Lava Cake

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival continues through November 13.

You can further examine all the marketplaces and menus this year's Festival has to offer here.

See how others are rating the various Festival marketplace offerings here.

If you have been to the Food & Wine Festival this year, you can take part in the survey as well by clicking here.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

October 30, 2011

What's New, What's Next: Epcot - October 27, 2011

Ashleybanner.jpg

On October 27, we spent some time at Epcot. My last visit to Epcot was at the beginning of the month.

At The Land pavilion, there is a pumpkin patch set up next to the Garden Grill.

Pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch

Part of the Canada pavilion is still under scrims.

Canada

Work continues on the Japan pavilion.

Japan

When I last visited Epcot, I forgot to check out the train village. Villagers are having their own Food & Wine Festival.

Train village

Train Village 2

That's all for this update. Have a great day! :)

October 4, 2011

Five Tips for Food & Wine for First Timers

Andrew Rossi

The International Food and Wine Festival is now underway at Epcot thru November 13. This is the festival's 16th anniversary and it seems to become more and more popular each year. This is definitely one of my most favorite times of year at Epcot because there is so much going on, so much to see, and so much good food to taste. The festival is a lot of fun but, as with everything at Disney World, it is not something that should be jumped into without first doing some planning in advance. Here are some tips to help maximize your time, money, and enjoyment of all the festival has to offer:

Food & Wine Signage

1. Avoid the Weekends:
Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days of the week at the Food and Wine Festival because this is when all the locals come to enjoy the event. This results in greater crowds and congestion along the World Showcase promenade, much longer lines at the food stands, and also a higher number of guests who have had a little too much to drink (if you go on a weekend you will notice many groups sporting "drinking around the world" t-shirts). The best days of the week to attend the festival are Monday thru Thursday. Lighter crowds makes the festival much more enjoyable, especially when you do not have to wait in a crazy line to get your food and can actually find a table or bench to sit at.

2. Start Early in the Day:
World Showcase opens at eleven o'clock and this is definitely the best time to head over to sample the various festival marketplaces. Most guests tend to spend the morning in Future World and then make their way to the back of the park in the afternoon. As a result, there are fairly short lines at all of the various food stands for the first few hours after World Showcase opens (even on weekends). The later in the day it gets, however, the more crowded it becomes.

3. Pace Yourself:
Although the portion sizes of the food you receive at the various international marketplaces may seem small, they can be filling. After having just three or four different dishes you can easily find yourself starting to get full. Do not rush and get a lot of food from the first few stands you visit because you will not have room to try anything else as you make your way around World Showcase. I like to try one dish, walk around for a little bit, and then try something else from another stand. If traveling with someone else you may want to consider splitting the food, which also allows you to sample a greater variety of dishes.

4. Plan Ahead:
If you just walk up to every booth and order what sounds good you will end up spending way too much money. Almost every dish offered at the Food and Wine Festival sounds, smells, and looks really good, but there will be some dishes that stand out to you more than others. Just like everything else at Disney World, it pays to do research. I find it best to see what every stand has to offer and then decide on the dishes you want to try most. This will really help you to budget your money. Also, if on the Disney Dining Plan, try saving your snack credits to use at the festival's marketplaces. See which items are most expensive and use your snack credits on those. This will offer you the greatest value for your money.

5. Take Your Time:
You could spend an entire day enjoying everything involved with the Food and Wine Festival. If you can, rather than trying to cram all of the festival into a single day, take a few days to enjoy all the events, demonstrations, and various foods and beverages the festival has to offer. I like to treat the festival's food offerings as snacks rather than trying to make a whole meal of them. Instead of spending a lot of money all at once, I prefer to sample one or two different things each time I go to the festival (note that this is easier if you are a Florida resident rather than visiting on vacation). Attending the festival on multiple days can let you sample an even greater variety of foods, spread your money out over a series of days rather than spending it all at once, and allows you to really take your time and enjoy all of the festivities.

July 17, 2011

2011 Food and Wine Festival Preview

by John Bowers
AllEars Guest Blogger

The 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is not too far away, and Tables in Wonderland played host to a Sneak Preview of the Festival on Saturday night, July 16.

The event was held in the Wonders Retreat, one of the 'hidden' event rooms that are in many of the Epcot pavilions. The Wonders Retreat is above the main floor of the former Wonders of Life pavilion. Since the pavilion ceased to be the Wonders of Life, it has hosted many events during the Flower and Garden Festivals as well as the Food and Wine Festivals. Up above the area where the Body Wars attraction used to be, you can see a row of windows -- that's where the Retreat is.


food-and-wine-preview-1.jpg


The food we were served was a preview the samples that will be served in some of the kiosks (or "International Marketplaces" that will join the many others encircling World Showcase during the Festival. The three new kiosks this year will be Portugal, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. We also tasted food from another booth, Scandinavia, which is making a return to the Festival this year.


food-and-wine-preview-2.jpg


For our buffet reception, we were treated to:

-- Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Hawaii)
-- Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries (Scandinavia)
-- Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry - Citrus Glaze (Australia)

Our appetizers were:

-- Seared Sea Scallop with Kumara-Red Curry Puree (New Zealand)
-- Apple Radish Salad (New Zealand)


apple-radish-salad-and-scallop.jpg


And for the entrees:

-- Ropa Vieja (Braised Beef) with White Rice (Caribbean)
-- Jerk spiced Chicken Drumstick with Mango Salsa (Caribbean)
Ocean Spray Craisin Bread with Butter


jerk-chicken-and-ropa-vieja.jpg

Wines paired with the entrees were an Argentinian chardonnay and an Australian shiraz.

Our dessert trio included:

-- White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse with Dark Chocolate Pearls
Tres Leches Verrine (Caribbean)
-- Pastel de Nata (Portugal)


dessert-trio.jpg


The pastel de nata was a delicious egg tart pastry made famous in Portugal. They better get ready to serve about a million of these at the Festival. It was that good. Wow. We had a unique Apple Ice Wine from Canada along with the desserts.

Our hostess, Pam Smith, spoke about some of the effort and the planning that goes into the Festival. About halfway through each year's Festival, they start sifting through the feedback from guests as they begin preparations for the following year.

She introduced Greg Hannon, the chef who oversees all of the food kiosks. Greg spoke about the intricacies of putting all the kiosks together, how they decide what will be new and what will change or be retired from previous years.

Pam also introduced David Buckley, the Imagineer who works on many design projects for Walt Disney World. David has designed the banners, posters, and many of the large visual displays which will highlight the theme of this fall's festival, "Passport To A World of Flavors."

There are many new events this year. A few of them include The Discovery of Chocolate, the return of the Vertical Wine Tasting featuring Napa Valley's legendary Freemark Abbey, Mexico Tequila Lunch, Italy Food and Beer Pairing, Italy Dessert and Wine Pairing, Italian White Truffle Lunch, a Best of Bocuse Dinner, and a real, live Cranberry Bog. Not sure if we'll all get to play in it, but it's going to be between the Fountain (behind Spaceship Earth) and the entrance to World Showcase.

It's not easy to get a sense of how they manage to put the Food And Wine Festival together every year, and keep it going for 45 days. 'Remarkable' is hardly the word for it. Living in Orlando, I can vouch for the fact that it is the most-anticipated yearly event for us locals.
On the weekends, it's always crowded with area residents. But no matter when you go, weekday or weekend, don't miss it. It's Magic.

October 27, 2008

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - Day 1

>From Canada to Istanbul in 1 hour: LIVE Food & Wine Festival Blog.

So how exactly does one get from Canada to Istanbul in 1 hour? The International Food & Wine Festival at Epcot!

Hi, my name is Megan and I'll be blogging LIVE from Epcot's Food & Wine Festival for the next week or so. Tonight our group, myself, 23 and my parents, decided to cover the International Marketplace Booths that stretch from the Canadian Pavilion to the French Pavilion.

Upon entering Epcot, through the International Gateway, we purchased these adorable Disney Gift Cards themed to the Festival. They feature a small coiled wristband and a square card that you can load with any denomination from $5.00 to....well more than most would spend on the Food Booths!

We decided that we would rank the items on a scale of 0 to 5.

0 = awful!
1 = forgettable not worth trying
2 = mediocre, not worth trying
3 = good, worth trying once
4 = excellent, worth repeating
5 = exceptional, give me as much as i can get!


As we made our way to Canada, intending to work our way back to France for our dinner reservation, we noticed the crowds were relatively light and lines at the Marketplaces were a few minutes at most. I started at Athens, Greece, while my parents went to Krakow, Poland.

Our first round of marketplace items consisted of Spanakopita $3.50, a spinach and feta cheese filled phylo pastry, and Kielbasa with Potato Piergoies with caramelized onions and sour cream $4.50. We also sampled two Greek wines, one similar to a cabernet sauvignon and one similar to a sauvignon blanc, unfortunately we didn't catch the names.


Spanakopita

Kielbasa with Potato Piergoies


Our party would rate the items as follows Spanakopita = 4 out of 5 Kielbasa & Pierogies = 3 out of 5.

blue line

For our second round we travelled to Montreal, Canada, our home country!

We ordered the Cheddar Cheese Soup $3.25, the Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Corn & Arugula $4.25 and a Moosehead Beer $5.50.

Cheddar Cheese Soup, Maple Glazed Salmon and Moosehead Beef


Our party would rate the items as follows Cheddar Cheese Soup = 5 out of 5 (Dad says 6!) Maple Glazed Salmon = 4 out of 5 (Dad & I) 5 out of 5 (Mom) Moosehead = 4 out of 5

blue line

For our third round we continued around the world to Istanbul, Turkey.

We tried the Meze $3.00, cucumber & tomato salad, pita bread and eggplant hummus and the Manti with Yogurt Sauce $3.50.

Meze Eggplant Hummus


Our party would rate the items as follows Meze = 2 out of 5 Manti with Yogurt Sauce = 2 out of 5 This was our worst round of the evening. The pita was dry and the eggplant hummus had an odd spice to it. The cucumber & tomato salad was nice, but not good enough to buy the whole plate just for that item. The Manti were oily and the filling, beef & vegetables was tough and chewy as was the dough.

blue line

Our fourth round took place after a light dinner at Chefs de France.

We were all in the mood for something sweet. So we continued the theme of our dinner and went to Lyon, France where we picked up one Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee $3.75. In addition we had a glass of champagne, a grand marnier slushie and a pomegranate kir.


Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee

Deciding that this little portion would not satisfy all our sweet cravings we also visited Louisiana for the Praline Bread Pudding with Bourbon Carmel Sauce $2.75.
Praline Bread Pudding


Our party would rate the items as follows Chocolate Creme Brulee = 4 out of 5 Louisiana Bread Pudding = 6 out of 5! This seriously deserves its own rating category! Its a fantastic value for a rich, cinnamony, creamy, luscious and rich dessert. We could eat this every night of the Festival!

Well that's all for tonight! Tomorrow evening we will be returning to Epcot to continue our journey and we are planning on visiting the following marketplaces:

Lyon, France
Tokyo, Japan
San Francisco, USA
Hops & Barley Market
Cork, Ireland

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About Food and Wine Festival

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Food and Wine Festival category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Flower and Garden Festival is the previous category.

France is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.