Go back just two years, and the Festival typically started in late September, running through the full autumn period until early-to-mid November, a Fall classic as they say here in the US. Not any more. Working on the theory you can’t have too much of a good thing, this iconic Festival now starts in August, and we say Huzzah!
Because this great celebration of fine food and beverages (no longer merely ‘wine’ but now fancy cocktails and craft beers, too) is simply one of those events that you want to last as long as possible and give visitors maximum chance to sample.
This year there are fully 75 days to enjoy, starting on August 30 (the earliest ever start) and continuing until November 12, making for a record duration around the World Showcase area. Disney also staged a special media preview of this year’s Festival last weekend, and we’re here to tell you – this year’s version will be absolutely delicious!
There are around 50 all-new tastes spread through more than 30 international kiosks, as well as a unique new Sunday Brunch with the Chef feature to go with the daily Eat To The Beat concert series and other speciality workshops, parties and seminars that occur throughout the Festival.
It all adds up to the most comprehensive – and tantalising – menu of taste-inspired goodies that Disney has ever presented, and they pulled out all the stops to impress during Saturday’s ‘sneak preview,’ with a genuinely thrilling selection that also included those two hirsute gourmets Remy and Emile from the film Ratatouille!
We’re used to the media preview being in the special lounge on the second level of the old Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World but, with that now being out of bounds due to new development in that part of the park, we were instead led to the GM Lounge on the upper level of the Test Track attraction, which boasts a magnificent view of Spaceship Earth and the whole front section of Epcot.
That wasn’t the only magnificent thing on offer, as the Festival chiefs had put together a mouthwatering selection of nine signature dishes, plus six different beverage tastes (and we must stress the ‘taste’ here, lest readers run away with the idea we had six full drinks with our lunch!).
The food stations were lined up very much as visitors will find them in the park in a few weeks’ time, and it was easy to see that Disney’s culinary team has again raised the bar on their own already high standards, with some exquisite dishes and, especially, a real gourmet flourish in many instances.
We started with a Brazilian speciality, Moqueca or seafood stew, which is a beautifully flavourful mixture of scallops, shrimp and white fish in a coconut-lime sauce with steamed rice. We will definitely be back for more of this when the Festival opens!
We also tried another rather exotic number from the Islands of the Caribbean, a jerk-spiced chicken lollipop with roasted yellow plantain salad and mango chutney yoghurt, which again hit that hugely rich and deep tangy profile, while the Steakhouse Blended Burger should also appeal to those looking for big, meaty flavours.
But the big, big hit with both of us – and one which wowed just about everybody on the day – was a little delicacy from the Hops & Barley kiosk that will be by the American Adventure pavilion. It goes by the name of New Brunswick Slider, but it is SO much more than a bit of meat in a junior-sized bun. Oh no, this is slow-braised beef brisket, “pot roast style,” with horseradish cream and crispy fried onions on a potato roll with pickled vegetables.
It is a combination that can best be called ‘heaven in a bun’ and, while it might make you break out in a slight sweat with the heat from the horseradish cream, it will be well worth it!
If those were the food highlights (and, remember, there will be fully 105 different food items to try when this year’s event kicks off), you will also have your palate teased by the ‘Wine’ part of the Festival equation, which has mushroomed in epic proportions this year to a whopping 174 choices. That’s not a misprint. It’s a hundred, plus seventy, with another four tacked on for good measure. Just 26 short of 200.
That’s a LOT of wine, but equally a huge amount of beer and quite a few cocktails, both alcoholic and sans alcohol, as well as an array of health-conscious mixes. How anyone is supposed to make their mind up with THAT many to choose from, we don’t know. Even given all 75 days to sample them, that’s 2.3 per day!
Thankfully, for our taste preview, the drink options were distinctly reduced. However, they still included the Guinness Baileys Shake (a gorgeously creamy concoction that will be available from the Ireland kiosk); the Madras Mimosa (another rich and heady mix of cranberry sparkling wine and orange juice, on offer at the Shimmering Tips Mimosa Bar); the RGB Beer Flight (a selection of three highly unusual craft ales, featuring a Red Cherry Tart beer, a Green Kiwi Blonde and Blueberry Golden Ale, especially made for the Festival by three Florida breweries and available from the Light Lab); and the super-sweet (non-alcoholic) Pancake Milkshake that will be a highlight of Taste Track, a new global marketplace in Future World specialising in doughnuts and ’shakes.
It’s a truly dazzling, nay, mind-boggling selection, but, for anyone looking for that ‘something different’ factor, this part of the Festival offerings definitely has it in spades!
So, yes, there will be a LOT to look forward to and enjoy at this year’s Food & Wine Festival. The concerts – featuring 32 different artists, including Vertical Horizon, Billy Ocean, Air Supply, Hanson, Jeffrey Osbourne and Smash Mouth – will be memorable, the merchandise will be hugely wallet-tempting, and the seminars and other live presentations will also be eye-catching.
But the food – ah, the food – THIS is what you’re coming here for and we’re pretty sure it won’t disappoint. Just remember to bring a big appetite…!
Check out the video below to find out more...
Want to know more about the Food and Wine Festival or the Epcot park in general? Come and ask your questions – or tell us your experiences – on the ATD forums!
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is included free with your regular Walt Disney World admission. Click here, to buy your Walt Disney World Resort tickets.
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