One of Walt Disney World’s premier events, and certainly its biggest culinary event, the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival puts a focus on the very best dishes, desserts and drinks from around the world every year.
This year’s theme, Taste Your Way Around the World, lives up to its billing, and Leap and I were so very excited to take in opening day! Unlike many of the other major Disney special events, the heart of this feastival does not require separate admission (although some select events do). If you’re heading to Disney between now and November 12, plan to make Epcot® one of your stops!
After picking up Fastpasses for Soarin’™ Attraction, our first destination was to the Festival Center inside the former Wonders of Life Pavillion in Future World near Mission: SPACE® Attraction. Inside the center, you’ll find culinary demonstrations ($9-$13), a wine shop where you can try samples, the Ghirardelli® -hosted Chocolate Experience: From the Bean to the Bar, a cooking store as well as original print and artwork at the Art of Food & Wine.
If it’s not too crowded, start the festival here with wine and chocolate samples or purchase a full glass at the Intermissions Café. Leap and I grabbed a glass of Capsolado Prosecco at the café and took a leisurely stroll through the pavilion, taking in the sights and sounds. We enjoyed this time alone, since we used Disney’s recommended sitter service for Leap and Lily. (You can most certainly bring children to the festival, but we’d suggest breaking up your stops at the booths with visits to the various world pavilions and Kidcot Fun Stops to color their very own Duffy the Bear.)
Even on opening day, the crowds were quite manageable, but we suggest you check the crowd calendar when you plan your trip. As we mentioned in our look ahead at October, Epcot® will see it’s biggest crowds on Saturdays this month.
After we left the Festival Center, we made our way to World Showcase, taking in the cranberry bog that made its debut at last year’s festival and a watermelon patch that is new. I don’t know about you, but since I grew up in the pond, I had never seen watermelons still on the vine!
Following Theme Park Foodie’s suggested tips for touring the festival, we stopped at the outdoor gift shop next to the bog to purchase a festival-themed mini gift card. Since Leap and I are on a budget, this was great because we could decide in advance how much we wanted to spend at the international marketplace booths, and we didn’t have to worry about pulling out our wallets at every turn. Each of the booths offers small plates ($3-$7), desserts and drinks from that region or nation.
Here is a map of the international marketplaces, so you can plan your stops.
Since it was nearly lunchtime and we had skipped breakfast so we could save room for all of the fantastic eating we were going to do, we made our way clockwise around the world, starting with Terra. This all-vegan booth new to the festival saw long lines while we were walking though. Mexico was especially tempting, in no small part because it was offering a tequila flight of Tequila Blanco, Reposado and Anejo, but we wanted to see a few more booths before we committed.
For our first booth, we settled on Morocco. The lines were short compared to its neighbors, New Zealand and Belgium. While the booths generally offer smaller portions so you can sample to your heart’s content, Morocco offered the largest piece of baklava I have ever seen — and the most tasty! Coarsely chopped pistachios were nestled between layers of honey and flaky phyllo dough. We paired it with the sangria and the merguez sausage, made of beef and lamb, and sautéed onions and peppers.
Next we headed to France, lured by the Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slushes we were seeing being consumed in abundance on the unseasonably warm September day. We also sampled the Coq au Vin sur Gratin de Macaroni, Escargots Persillade en Brioche and the smooth Créme Brûlée au Chocolat au Lait. I can never have enough chocolate, but the icing on the cake for me (literally) was the thin layer of carmelized sugar topping this creamy delight!
We continued walking around the world and headed to the Canada booth for Le Cellier‘s famed Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, made with Moosehead Beer and bacon. Speaking of Le Cellier, the famed steakhouse was living up to its reputation as the most difficult reservation in Walt Disney World, with a packed house despite the festival!
On the topic of reservations, Theme Park Foodie suggested taking advantage of the great food at the booths and skipping the restaurants. But there are exceptions: If you rarely visit Epcot® and have a restaurant you’d like to try, this is a good time to go! Since so many people are doing the opposite, you can more easily snag last-minute advance dining reservations. If you’re taking kids, a sit-down or a quick-service restaurant is a good way to go, if for no other reason than to get a drink and rest your feet in the air conditioning!
We made it around the world and back over to Soarin’™ Attraction within 2 minutes of our Fastpass window (yes, the cast member checked) and enjoyed the tour high above California as our day at the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival came to a close!
Headed to the festival? Let us know what part you love the most!
– Mommy Frog