Epcot Food & Wine Festivals Gone By
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
This elegant party is perfect for foodies who can sample great food from famous chefs, taste 50 wines and beers and enjoy live entertainment.
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.
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
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!