Eat (and drink) your way around World Showcase! By Simon and Susan Veness
Say, “Epcot events” and nine out of ten people will respond with, “Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.” September is one of our most eagerly anticipated months at Walt Disney World and it’s all down to the 25 kiosks lining World Showcase, where grazing and sipping are the main attractions.
Why do we enjoy this event so much? First, the heat of summer has dissipated enough that all the locals are happy to venture out again, and we do love our strolls around Epcot. But more than that, the atmosphere is cheerful and inspiring, and when you add a beer sampling or two, well, what better way to while away a balmy evening?
The Top 5 Reasons We Go Every Year
1. Small Plate Tastings
We absolutely love tapas style dining, and the Food and Wine Festival is all about small plates. With over 90 food offerings and 150 beverages, plus 7 Beer Flights for maximum variety, we’re in snacking heaven. But beware: the servings may be just a couple of bites each, but they do add up quickly and we find we’re full after 3 or 4 samples. And, if moderation is good advice for the food, you know it’s even better for the beverages!
2. Party for the Senses
One of our favourite things after small-plate dining (maybe even before) is luxury, and the wildly popular Party for the Senses ticks both boxes at once. Held in the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion (formerly the Millennium Pavilion) between the United Kingdom and Canada, this outrageously decadent experience is a paid-for event, but hey, you can make it a once-in-a-lifetime thing, right? Fully 50 tasting stations and several bars—ages 21 and above only for alcohol—serve up small bites and sips while actors from the fabulous Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba provide entertainment. The setting is beautiful, the food is magnificent, and we always come away from it feeling stuffed but massively pampered.
3. Eat to the Beat Concert series
Who doesn’t love a free concert? Simon certainly does, and if he had his way we’d attend every one of them, including each of the three daily concerts. If you weren’t of concert-going age in the 1970s—or if you were and missed that era—this is the chance to see the oldies-but-goodies, such as The Commodores, The Pointer Sisters, Air Supply, 38 Special and STARSHIP Starring Mickey Thomas in action. Millennials will recognise Boyz 2 Men, Smash Mouth and Hanson. But the major draw is the front-row feeling you get watching them perform. Every seat in the American Gardens Theater is a good one, and band members frequently come out into the audience. Have cameras at the ready! By the way, special reserved seating for the concerts are included with a Party for the Senses reservation.
4.Special Dining Events
We’re back to the food again, but who can blame us when the dining event offerings are so spectacular? We were chatting with Chef de Cuisine Francesco Santin during dinner at Monsieur Paul last year when he urged us to attend the festival’s Saturday morning Parisian Breakfast or one of the swanky French Regional Lunch offerings, as well as the Taste, Shake, and Indulge Like The French Grand Marnier tasting and mixology seminar (phew!). Italy, Japan, Mexico and Morocco pavilions also have special dining events, as does the Festival Welcome Center and several resort restaurants around Walt Disney World.
5. Seminars sponsored by HGTV
If you’re like us and consider a decent gin and tonic the limit of your drink mixing expertise, you’ve got to get in on one of the mixology seminars offered at the Festival Welcome Center. Cereal and toast the extent of your cooking? Take a culinary class. Even if you’re handy in the kitchen, or downright masterful, as Susan claims she is, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll pick up some new techniques and ideas from chefs and celebrity chefs who then share what they’ve made, and even include a wine pairing.
Because there are so many interesting dishes to try during the Festival, we like to spread them out over the course of 3 or 4 visits, sampling a few items each time. Be sure to pick up one of the free Marketplace Discovery Passport booklets so you can tick off the dishes as you try them, and study the guide to help select the ones you’ll try next.
With all the choices on offer, it can feel a little overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions based on foods we can’t wait to try again this year:
• Hawaii’s Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips. Soft as butter, mild in flavour, with a briny punch from the seaweed salad, it’s a great choice on a hot day.
• Africa’s Berbere Style Beef with Onions, Jalapeno, Tomato, Onion, and Pap. Say, “mega-spicy” and Simon’s there. While many Food and Wine Festival samples are a bit on the tame side, this one will blow your head clean off. Yum!
• Scotland’s Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties was a big hit with us last year, and we’re not even vegetarians. Don’t turn up your nose at this one. Try it.
• Argentina’s Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree. This was so good last time that Susan immediately came home and started making her own chimichurri. It’s tender, it’s got a nice tang, and it’ll be part of our first-day samplings this year.
• Italy’s Ravioli de Formaggia all’Emiliana. We love this baked ravioli as much for its value-for-money as we do its creamy goodness. Big enough to split.
A past trip to Patagonia is one of our fondest travel memories, and we’re excited to see this beautiful part of the world will be represented at the Food and Wine Festival this year. With that in mind, we can’t wait to try the Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri. Puerto Rico’s Friturius (sweet potato fries and a cheese fritter) also appeals to us, as does the Kimchi dog with spicy mustard sauce from the South Korea kiosk.
With all that great food on offer, we do make a trip or two to the Hops and Barley kiosk over the course of an evening for a couple of small beers, so look for us there. We’d love to hear about YOUR favourite samples!
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival 2014 will be held at Walt Disney World Florida's Epcot park from the 19th September till the 10th November. If you've already purchased your Disney tickets and are lucky enough to be travelling while this foodie fest is taking place, be sure to make a visit!
Attraction Tickets Direct has a range of Orlando theme park tickets to add happiness to your holidays, so take a look and purchase before you travel!