For the past 20 years, Epcot has played host to Disney’s International Food & Wine Festival. In celebrating this year’s benchmark anniversary, there are brand new events and experiences, as well as classic favorites for returning guests. There is so much to see and do (or eat and drink) at the festival that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. In keeping with Disney philosophy, the festival offers something for everyone. So whether you’ve made the festival an annual must-do, or you are experiencing it for the very first time, here’s a list of 12 things that should be on your list to try!
12. Food & Wine Pairings
This one seems pretty obvious given that Food & Wine is in the name of the festival, but the World Showcase hosts these signature events in specific countries to give you an in-depth experience. New to this year’s festival is the Mediterranean Food & Wine Pairing hosted by Morocco. Featured dishes are inspired by Asian, African and European cultures and traditions converging on the Mediterranean to produce exotic flavors and wonderful aromas of the signature spices. Other pairings to check out around the world include the Mexican Tequila Lunch, the new Tokyo Pairing and the Italian Food, Wine and Beer Pairing.
11. Dining Adventures Around the World
Much like the Food & Wine Pairings, the Dining Adventures Around the World are also signature events that tend to be in high demand. A couple of highlights come from both France and Japan. In the French Pavilion, you can experience a Parisian breakfast or lunch filled with freshly baked baguettes and croissants or finger sandwiches with delightful petit fours. You can even join the chefs of Monsieur Paul for dinner as they prepare favorite dishes from their childhood in the French Family Meal Traditions event. In Japan, the Hibachi Experience is a 6-course showcase hosted by Teppan Edo with sake selected for each course and an exhibit of traditional and modern techniques by the Teppan chefs.
10. Book Signings, Bottle Signings and Meet & Greets
Throughout the Festival, you have an opportunity to meet a number of celebrity chefs, favorite authors and celebrated winemakers. In each case, you have the chance to chat and share in your mutual love of the culinary arts. Make sure to bring your favorite cookbook or merchandise to have signed and remember that the signed wine bottles make great gifts and souvenirs from your experience.
9. Eat To the Beat
When you are in the midst of the festival, it’s easy to get caught up in the food & wine culture surrounding you. If you are looking for a change in pace, make sure you stop by the America Gardens Theater right behind the American Adventure Pavilion for a musical extravaganza. Performers for this year’s event include The Pointer Sisters, Smash Mouth, Boyz II Men and Hanson, just to name a few. There are three performances every night to suit your schedule and while each performer may only be there for selected nights, you can’t go wrong with anyone on this list.
8. Rockin’ Burger Block Party
New to this year’s festival comes another event with a musical theme. Nestled in between Canada and the United Kingdom is a block party for all burger enthusiasts. While a DJ plays music all night, chefs prepare specialty sliders inspired by recording artists. There are so many varieties of sliders and drinks that the possible combinations are almost limitless. Make sure to vote for your favorite burger of the night and compare with your friends to see if your taste buds match up.
7. The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar
The wonderful Ghirardelli Chocolate Company once again plays host to this must-do event. You are instantly surrounded by the sights, smells and tastes from the famous chocolatiers. Walt Disney World Resort pastry chefs have created chocolate sculptures to visually captivate audiences. Learn about the journey of chocolate from the cocoa bean to a chocolate bar and, of course, sample chocolates along the way. Make sure to pick up a bag of your favorites to enjoy for the rest of your trip.
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6. Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak Scavenger Hunt
For the kids attending the festival (young and old) there’s a brand new adventure this year. Remy is in the midst of collecting ingredients for his signature dish, Ratatouille, and he needs your help. Maps and stickers are available to help you on your quest. When you find a location, mark it on the map and when you’re all finished, take it to the Port of Entry for a special pin that’s only available during the festival.
5. What’s Cookin’ With…
Everyone loves a good brunch and what better way to enjoy brunch than with a special celebrity guest? Each event features a favorite dish of your celebrity guest of the day. They’ll share their culinary insights into why they love that particular dish. After brunch is a question and answer period for you and the other guests to get some insider information into the culinary industry and the world of food. Some of the guests on the list include Cat Cora, Buddy Valastro and Alex Guarnashcelli.
4. 4 New Marketplaces
In this year’s Global Marketplace, there are four new markets that are not to be missed. In the Artistry of Wine & Cheese area, the Cheese Studio and the Wine Studio have set up shop. For the Cheese Studio, try the trio of artisan cheeses, the fondue on sourdough bread or the sweet goat cheese panna cotta. At the nearby Wine Studio, you can sample a number of different red and white wines from California, Oregon and even Sicily. Over by the Epcot Character Spot, two other marketplaces have popped up. Sustainable Chew features a selection of pork spareribs, ricotta and zucchini ravioli and a vanilla panna cotta with a recommendation for their Beso Del Sol white sangria. The Chew Lab offers an olive oil-poached salmon, New York strip and a liquid nitrogen chocolate almond truffle with a pairing of festival wines.
3. Party for the Senses
Another incredible tasting event is the Party for the Senses. With it comes reserved seating to the Eat to the Beat concert series. After the concert, the Pavilion transforms and sets the stage for you to sample dozens of delectable items from around the world. There are two special events within the Party for the Senses. The first is an incredible chef-guided tour through all of the dishes taking place October 24th. The second is new to the festival this year, taking place on Halloween night. Guests are invited to wear yellow and black attire for the Yelloween Masquerade, which features specialty cocktails, beers, wines and champagne.
No trip to the Food & Wine Festival would be complete without attending at least one seminar. If food is your fancy, try a Culinary Demonstration to pick up tips and explore new cuisines while sampling the dishes along the way. Attending a Cheese Seminar might perk up your taste buds as you learn about the world of international cheeses and their pairings with wine and beer. If those seem too daunting, there is the Back to Basics seminar, which gives helpful hints that are foundational to great cooking. Outside of the food world, you can attend any of the Mixology or Beverage Seminars available to learn about the art of creating drinks and pairing them with foods.
1. Global Marketplace
Of course the number one thing you must try at the Food & Wine Festival is to pick up a Marketplace Passport and taste your way around the world. More than 30 different markets await you and each has its own unique style and flavor. Everyone has different tastes, but what makes this festival so wonderful is the fact that each booth will have something for you to try – something that will speak to you. Part of the adventure comes from moving out of your comfort zone to try something new to you. Whether it’s a twist on a classic dish (like the Loaded Macaroni and Cheese at Farm Fresh) or a brand new creation entirely (like the Coconut Porter Float at Desserts and Champagne), there is always something exciting to try at the festival!