Now in its 18th year, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival has become an annual destination event for food and drink lovers from around the world. Tastes and flavors are abundant, and parents have found that the theme park environment can be a great way to get children to try new foods.
Held this year from September 27 – November 11, guests buy a ticket to the park, and can easily budget daily spending by purchasing prepaid gift cards that each family member can wear as a wrist band. We had the chance to visit Epcot for Media Day, and got to taste and see over 52+ items on the menu this year.
New this year to Epcot was the Scotland Marketplace. Surprisingly, this is the first time Disney has collaborated with a Visitors Bureau from a region represented at Epcot. We hope this change continues, as international cross promotion just seems like a natural progression, and a great benefit to visitors.
Chairman for Visit Scotland, Michael Cantlay was present and dressed in traditional Scottish garb (yikes-felt and wool-not meant for Florida weather!). He spoke with us graciously about Scotland, it’s regional cuisines, and the hope they have to entice more Americans to come and visit after experiencing a small taste of Scotland here at Epcot. From locally sourced beef and lamb to seafood, Epcot has created what they call a ‘modern twist’ on Scottish food. We know this translates to ‘what will sell to tourists’ and Americans that likely aren’t as willing to eat adventurously, but let’s be honest-haggis is an acquired taste. We were quite impressed by the menu, and felt warmly welcomed by those representing the region.
Although lines can be a bit long during the first few weeks of Epcot Food and Wine, Disney has certainly upgraded the experience for park-goers. The festival marketplaces, once called kiosks, are larger, more themed to each country, with many hosting an outside ‘bar’ area for drink service. Inside each popup building, chefs and assistants cook right in front of guests, serving up small-plate dishes and desserts.
A few of the marketplaces have tables for sit-down dining. We noted family seating (with a bit of a wait) in Hops & Barley (America), France, between New Zealand and Morocco, and also across from the walking path near Australia and Brazil (which returned as a booth, after a one year hiatus).
Marketplaces feature food, wine, cocktails, and beer stations. The appetizer-sized portions (2-3 bites, average) usually range in price from $3.25 – $8.00 (a 12 oz beer, for example, will run you about $6).
Chase Bank is once again a featured sponsor, providing card members an air conditioned lounge inside of the America building, complete with old fashioned soda machines, comfortable seating, and televisions (tuned that day to college football games). It’s a nice touch to escape the Florida humidity and heat, and if you’re smart enough to bring your charger, they’ve got enough outlets to get guests’ camera batteries up and running again.
Culinary and mixology demonstrations are available for a nominal fee. Many of these are highly limited in access and seating, and sell out in advance, so we’d recommend planning early.
Master Sommelier and renowned wine author Andrea Robinson is back, educating guests on how to pair food and wine, and we noted that the Cointreau mixology seminars in France had a line out the door. Local spirits distiller Paul Twyford from Winter Park Distilling will be hosting mixology seminars November 4th and 5th, providing attendees with the opportunity to sample Florida distilled vodka, whiskey, and other spirits.
If you’re looking for something education for the ‘little foodies’ in your family, be sure to check out the Ocean Spray cranberry bog exhibit on display near the entrance to the World Showcase. Filled with more than 1,000 lbs. of fresh, floating cranberries, the bog presents an opportunity for guests to see the beauty of a cranberry harvest while learning from Ocean Spray farmers and Disney Cast Members about the taste, health and heritage of the cranberry fruit.
Check out our next article for tips on what to see, eat, and drink at the 18th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.