Epcot's Food and Wine Festival Archives

September 22, 2009

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Press Preview

The 14th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off on September 25th. To help get things started, Disney invited members of the press to preview some of the new and exciting taste-treats being served this year and to provide us with some interesting facts about the event. So when Deb Wills asked me if I'd like to represent, I jumped at the chance to cover this gastronomic assignment.

The preview was hosted by Chef Jens Dahlmann, Executive Chef, Epcot Food & Beverage and took place in the kitchen located behind the World Showplace pavilion. World Showplace Pavilion is the exhibition area positioned between Canada and the United Kingdom.

Chef Jens Dahlmann

For those of you who haven't visited Disney World during this six-week festival, Epcot plays host to a culinary explosion of tastes. Surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon, twenty-seven kiosks are erected and dedicated to a number of international cuisines. Each station serves samples of that culture's best recipes (for a nominal fee -- credit cards accepted). The portions are just large enough to give you a nice sampling, but not too large as to fill you up. This allows you to "eat your way around the world."

In addition, daily wine and beer tastings are held around the lagoon. Also, a series of special culinary programs featuring a lineup of renowned winemakers, guest chefs, and speakers are available. Wine seminars and elegant dinners are also offered.

This is a hugely popular event that is attended by many locals from the Orlando area, but also by a large number of out-of-state visitors who plan their vacation around this happening.

Besides finding samples from some of your old Epcot friends like Japan, France, and Mexico, you'll also discover other countries represented like Greece, Poland, Chile, and India. This year, three new stations have been added, Thailand, Brazil, and a Dessert and Champagne booth.

Planning the Food & Wine Festival is a mammoth undertaking. Even while last year's event was taking place, Chef Jens was already making notes on how to improve this year's celebration of food. Serious menu planning and recipe creation began earnestly in March and needed to be completed by May in order to make this year's September deadline. In all, seventy new items were created for the 2009 event. Or in other words, 70% of the menus were recreated. But for those of you who love the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, don't worry. This most popular dish of the festival is still available.

When Chef Jens was asked if the food was "dumbed down" for picky eaters, he gave a definite no. He went on to say that he makes every effort to be authentic and respectful to each culture. In addition, whenever a recipe called for it, the dish would be created at the actual kiosk to preserve freshness. He also hoped that his selections would have aromas enticing enough to draw us into kiosk after kiosk.

Of the 27 food stations, 21 are operated by Disney and 6 are operated by participants. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of additional man power to put on an event like this. Between the International Food Fair and the Party of the Senses (to be discussed later), 400 additional cast members are needed. Disney uses 77 of their own chefs and 117 guest chefs to make it all happen.

In the past, Disney printed one guide book for the Food & Wine Festival. Within its forty pages, you could find detailed information about the entertainment offered and the many seminars being conducted. But it was discovered that most guests only wanted to know the times and places and weren't all that concerned with the details. So this year, a second, weekly handout is available that only provides the essential information about the event. So try to be "green" and select the brochure that's right for you.

Festival Guide

Weekly Guide

Chef Jens provided us with eight samples of some of this year's new offerings. If I tried to describe each dish individually, I'd quickly run out of synonyms for delicious. Just let it be said that all of us at this tasting were gushing over each selection. Below I give you the item's name and the kiosk where it can be found.

Shrimp Stew with Coconut and Lime garnished with Popcorn - Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Shrimp Stew with Coconut and Lime

Chicken and Coconut Soup with Mushrooms - Bangkok, Thailand

Chicken and Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie - Cork, Ireland

Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki - Athens, Greece

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney - Wellington, New Zealand

Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney

Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree and Mango Barbeque Sauce - Cape Town, South Africa

Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree

Grand Marnier Parfait with Orange Coulis - Desserts & Champagnes

Grand Marnier Parfait with Orange Coulis

Warm Chocolate Lave Cake with Bailey's Ganache - Cork, Ireland

Warm Chocolate Lave Cake

Each Saturday evening during the Food & Wine Festival, Party of the Senses takes place in the World Showplace Pavilion. From 6:30 to 9:00, up to eleven-hundred guests partake in a tribute to gastronomic pleasures. Eighteen, four-sided booths offer a vast array of food and wine - all included in one price of $135. I know some of you are taking a deep gulp at that price, but this is a special event and Disney doesn't skimp. And if the food isn't enough to convince you to attend, live entertainment is also on hand.

This year, a couple of things are different. First, each party will have a different theme as listed below:

September 26 - Spanish Cuisine
October 3 - Comfort Food with a Twist
October 10 - South American Cuisine
October 17 - Classical Cuisine
October 24 - Asian Cuisine
October 31 - The Fall Harvest
November 7 - Indian Cuisine

Also new this year at the Party of the Senses is the "Wine View Lounge." For an additional $75pp, an exclusive area is set up within the World Showplace Pavilion where you will have a reserved table for your party. In addition, a premium bar, an artisan cheese station, and white-glove service will enhance your evening. Note, the Wine View Lounge is already sold out for five of the seven events so you might want to start thinking ahead to next year. Call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378) for more information and reservations.

Even if you're not a foodie, you should think seriously about giving the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival a try. If nothing else, strolling the World Showcase promenade is a treat during this time of year. And it's nobody's fault but your own if you go away hungry.

September 25, 2008

Food & Wine 2008

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival officially opens on Friday, September 26, but Disney held a preview or "soft" opening today, September 25. This year's theme is "Cities in Wonderland" and the entrance to Epcot features a large "Alice in Wonderland"-type table, all set with dishes and teapots and waiting for the March Hare and the Mad Hatter to arrive.


Located around World Showcase are a number of banners, depicting many of the cities featured at this year's event.



One thing that struck me this year was that the food booths are more accurately themed than in previous years. Very few of the booths have a generic look. I feel that Disney did a much better job at depicting the architecture of the given country.






I also feel that Disney has tried to facilitate good crowd and line control by placing a podium with a cash register a short distance away from the food booth. Guests line up at the podium, make their section, them move on to the food booth to pick up their taste treat.


One negative that I noticed was the lack of large, hanging menus that have been used at past events. Instead, a small menu is positioned on the podium.



I saw a number of people peering over the cordons trying to get a glimpse of the menu. Since today's event was just a "soft" opening, I'm hoping that this is just a temporary situation because I see problems ahead if this is the way it's supposed to be.

In front of the American Adventure a display has been created to extol the virtues of the pear and its many varieties and uses. The entire exhibit is presented in a cartoon-style format that makes it appealing to children and adults.





The state of Louisiana is sponsoring a large exhibit this year to promote their bounty. But unfortunately, it wasn't completed for the soft opening and was hidden behind plywood walls.

As with every year, merchandise especially designed for the Food & Wine Festival is available. Most of these wares can be found in booths situated between the Canada Pavilion and the Tower Shops.






Return to Blog Central

About Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Epcot's Food and Wine Festival category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival is the previous category.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - Magic Kingdom is the next category.

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