It is time at last for the opening days of the 19th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival taking place from September 19-November 10 this year. Yes! The Festival is a record 53-day event this year. This event can be enjoyed by long-time devotees and first-time guests equally. Here is your chance to sample food and beverages from 25 International booths all around World Showcase. You will need a regular admission ticket for Epcot and of course the food and beverages are extra charges. Along with the great food samplings you will also have the opportunity to purchase merchandise, featured wines, and even some additional foodie experiences! As you enter the park look for the box holding the Map and Guides for the Festival. If you don’t see them at the front, look for them near the Pin Trading area. You will also see your first kiosk nearby selling Festival merchandise and wristband Gift Cards that you can load with a dollar amount and just use it as you travel around to all the booths selecting food and beverages and you merely need to have them scan your gift card on your wrist to pay for them. It just makes it easier.
The Festival Welcome Center is the best place to start your experience. You will see signs directing you to this, but if you are familiar with Epcot you will find the Center located between Ellen’s Universe of Energy and the Mission: SPACE pavilions. There are plenty of Cast Members who can answer any questions you have and you can pick up a Festival Passport here, if you did not find it near the Pin Trading spot. The Center is a headquarters of sorts where you can schedule any special Festival presentations you would like to be a part of, and you are able to get a peek at one of these presentations that may be going on while you are in there. There are educational displays that are very interesting and sometimes provide samples of products. There is a walk-up bar for sampling the featured beverages and you may also purchase some there as well. Special 2014 International Food & Wine Festival merchandise is available for purchase in the Center. You will have other opportunities to purchase merchandise as you move around World Showcase. Don’t miss the Ghirardelli® Chocolate Company display! There will be book signings, bottle signings, meet and greets and showings of the film “Seasons of the Vine”. New this year is the weekend 2-hour “Back to Basics” series of presentations that explain some of the basics, or building blocks, to Food & Wine Pairings, Chocolate as an ingredient, Cake Decorating, and Pickling 101. Learn to create simple yet delicious results through culinary, wine, and mixology demonstrations. The Festival Center has different operating hours than the park and the rest of the Festival locations so check your Times Guide for that.
The International Marketplace Experience: Many guests think about eating and drinking their way around the World Showcase, but with 25 booths, that may be a bit much. I would recommend at least spreading it out over the weekend or better yet a few days. Most of these food and beverage offerings are not available during the rest of the year so people come back for their favorites and to try something new. Some menu items are very popular and make return visits, and sometimes the chefs like to mix it up with some new offerings which always give you something brand new to try. Your Passport will refer to these food kiosks as International Marketplaces. Keep in mind that these offerings are on the small single appetizer-size in foods and the beverages are available in a variety of sizes. This allows you to sample foods from several International Marketplaces, but it does add up. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan you will be able to use some of your Snack Credits on these offerings. The Cast Member at the Marketplace can assist you with that. Each year we have been getting more options that are vegetarian and Gluten-free so look for those on the menus and on your Passport. Make sure you record your experience with each item on your Passport and it makes a nice record and souvenir of your visit to the Festival. Use your Festival Passport at each International Marketplace, even if you do not purchase anything from the kiosk you can still get it stamped for each country. The International Marketplaces include: Africa, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, (Brewer’s Collection), Canada, China, (Craft Beers), (Desserts & Champagne), Farm Fresh, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii, (Hops & Barley), Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Patagonia, Poland, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Terra.
Becoming a better Culinary Master: Would you like to learn from some of the most renowned chefs and wine experts about making your home dining and wine pairing more delicious? There are many opportunities to do that at the Festival. Looking for something more on the complimentary side? Back to Basics at the Spotlight Stage on Fridays through Sundays, at 12:15, 2:15, 4:15 & 6:15PM you can attend this dinner party themed workshop to pick up culinary tips from the pros. Many of these are held in the Festival Center, but some are in World ShowPlace as well. You can call for (407) 939-3378 more information or to make a reservation. Reservations are highly recommended.
Enjoying the finer side of Festival Dining has never been easier. There are several new events in this category this year. One of the most exciting ones is “Dining through the Decades, A Tribute to Walt Disney” that will take place October 24 from 7:30-10:00PM, prices from $99.00 for General Admission and $119.00 for Reserved Seating. This event pays tribute to Walt Disney by chefs preparing some of Walt’s favorite dishes at interactive cooking stations. The wine pairings for these dishes also have special Disney connections. It is sure to be a magical evening! Have you wondered how best to pair your Truffles and wines? You may enjoy learning more about that at a special dinner offering at Tutto Italia Ristorante on select Thursday nights in October. How about the opportunity to eat food from Disney Chefs from all over the globe? Then be sure to check out the “Party for the Senses” on October 25, beginning at 7:30PM. Maybe you would like to learn more about creating a stunning brunch from celebrity chefs? Then check-out the “Celebrate Sundays” event. Walt Disney World resort guests have been given a Premium Package just offered to them. It begins with a select bottle of wine waiting for you in your room, a Festival wine glass, and chocolate truffles. It includes a Monday through Thursday, for one week, any week you choose during the Festival dates, credentials that will give you entrance to a special area where you can purchase food and beverages from 6 continents, a one-time admission to the new after-hours party on Thursday evening, a specially themed MagicBand, a $50.00 Disney Gift Card, use of 10 special concierge areas around the promenade where runners can purchase from the Marketplaces what you send them for you and have it delivered to you. (Each party provides 6 food & beverage selections, live music, other entertainment and a DJ.) The cost of this Premium Package is $199.00 per person, plus tax, plus admission to Epcot. (The party, by itself is $79.00 per person and are available to the general Epcot guest.)
There will be a special line of merchandise celebrating the 2014 International Food & Wine Festival in the form of apparel, glassware, aprons, Gift Cards, cookbooks, kitchen items, posters and decor. Local artists are there as well. There are shopping marketplaces placed near the International Marketplace areas around the World Showcase Promenade and in the Festival Center. Wine is available in the Festival Center Wine Shop which makes it convenient to pick up on your way out of the park.
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To top off the afternoon, or the evening, make sure you listen in at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the American Gardens Theater. These concerts are complimentary, with park admission, and popular stars appear nightly for your enjoyment. Performance times are 5:15, 6:45 and 8:00PM. Come swing to the beats of popular tunes from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, by top groups and single artists. There are two ways to get seats inside the pavilion for the concerts: stand in line, to the right of the theater, or choose an Eat to the Beat Dinner Package which features a meal at a select list of World Showcase restaurants and a voucher to get you into the reserved seating inside the Theater. Tax and gratuity not included. The package includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert-or 1 full buffet where applicable, a non-alcoholic beverage and 1 seat voucher per person. Theme park admission is required. Restaurants that are participating are: Biergarten (Germany), Coral Reef (The Seas with Nemo & Friends), La Hacienda de San Angel (Mexico), Chefs de France (France), Nine Dragons Restaurant (China), Restaurant Marrakesh (Morocco), Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room (United Kingdom), San Angel Inn Restaurante (Mexico), Teppan Edo (Japan), The Garden Grill Restaurant (The Land), Tokyo Dining (Japan), Tutto Italia Ristorante (Italy), Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria (Italy). Prices for lunch adults, range from $40.00-$60.00; for dinner adults, range from $51.00 to $75.00. Prices for children lunch, range from $13.00-$19.00; children dinner range is $17.00-$29.00. The list of artists who will be performing are: Jo Dee Messina, The Pointer Sisters, The Commodores, Christopher Cross, Hanson, Air Supply, STARSHIP Starring Mickey Thomas, Sugar Ray, Fuel, Sister Hazel, Richard Marx, Billy Ocean, Night Ranger, Smash Mouth, Jim Brickman, Los Lonely Boys, Wilson Phillips, Dennis De Young (original member of STYX), 38 Special, Boyz II Men, David Cook, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
To make reservations for any of these special Festival events, call (407) 939-3378. You will find a complete list of these opportunities at the Walt Disney World website’s 2014 International Food & Wine Festival page: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-international-food-and-wine-festival/ Keep an eye out for the Ocean Spray® Cranberry Bog where you may get a free sample of dried Cranberries to snack on!