WDW: Epcot Food & Wine Event Has Something For Everyone

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. features inspired sips and bites at more than 30 marketplaces. Festival guests can pair food with wines, beers, cocktails and ciders as they stroll the promenade guided by a complimentary festival passport. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort features inspired sips and bites at 35 marketplaces. Festival guests can pair food with wines, beers, cocktails and ciders as they stroll the promenade guided by a complimentary festival passport. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

By Sondra L. Shapiro

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. —

If exploring the aisles of your local wine shop is a favorite pastime, or you are the one among your friends who says, “Let’s try that new Himalayan bistro in town,” the 23rd Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World (WDW) Aug. 30 to Nov. 12 is a must.

Culinary demonstrations and beverage seminars offer daily learning and tasting opportunities at the Festival Center. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

While the event is a foodie dream, the array of activities and the aromas wafting through the park also will appeal to the simplest taste buds. Celebrity chefs — including Robert Irvine, Maneet Chauhan, Jet Tila, Shaun O’Neale, Keegan Gerhard, Dan Pashman and Rock Harper — and visiting culinarians from eight countries and 20 U.S. states will participate in culinary demos, book signings, special tasting events and dinners, food & wine pairings and cheese and beverage seminars.

The new “Sunday Brunch with the Chef” series in World Show Place will feature such culinary notables as Top Chef All-Star Richard Blais, Jamie Deen, Tiffani Thiessen, Masaharu Morimoto, Buddy Valastro, Art Smith, Geoffrey Zakarian, Carla Hall and Alex Guarnaschelli.

This festival is a trendsetter, offering new dishes and products to guests. From years past, I recall the Brazilian Caipirinha, a sugar cane brandy that is the country’s national drink and Malbec from Argentina, a red wine that is now one of my favorites. In 2011, the event was ahead of the craft beer trend with its introduction of a marketplace dedicated to the beverage. This year, plant-based food is on some of the menus.

Cuisine From Around The World

The festival gives guests an opportunity to learn about and taste exotic flavors from far off places while staying close to home. The meat and potatoes — excuse the pun — of the festival is the International Marketplace, where you can eat and drink your way around the world, the World Showcase and Future World, that is.

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Thirty five kiosks dot the festival landscape, offering a cultural odyssey to ignite the taste buds and quench a thirst. With prices ranging from about $4 to $10, a nibble here and there of tapas-sized portions — from Africa, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii India, Ireland, Islands of the CaribbeanItaly, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Spain, Thailand and more — is an economical way to experience the festival. Each marketplace will suggest beverage pairings from more than 65 wineries and 40-plus breweries from around the world, including local craft beer operations.

Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on smoked corn cake with pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro aioli (Courtesy WDW)

This year, there are 30 new or reimagined dishes and beverages. Here’s a sampling and where they can be found:

🍴Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on smoked corn cake with pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro aioli — Flavors from Fire

🍴RGB Flight (3 craft beers including a blueberry golden ale, a green kiwi blonde and a red cherry tart) — Light Lab

🍴Butternut Squash Ravioli with brown butter vinaigrette, parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds — Wine & Dine Studio

🍴Islands of the Caribbean Jerk Spiced Chicken Lollipop with roasted sweet plantain salad and mango chutney yogurt — Islands of the Caribbean

🍴New Brunswick Slider: Slow-braised beef brisket “pot roast style” with horseradish cream, crispy fried onions on a potato roll with pickled vegetables —  Hops & Barley (at American Adventure).

Butternut Squash Ravioli with brown butter vinaigrette, parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds (Courtesy of WDW)

Pancake Milkshake (Courtesy WDW)

Follow the scent to The Chocolate Studio, described as a one-stop chocolate shop for delectably dark and milky sweet treats. Let your sweet tooth guide you to the Cheese Studio for a piece of Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream or the Ireland Marketplace for the Guinness Bailey’s shake, which I am told is a decedent dessert in a cup. A pairing impossible to resist is a specialty croissant doughnut and a pancake milkshake at the new Taste Track.

Musical Beats

Sugar Ray (“Every Morning”) will perform Sept. 24-26Vetrtical Horizon at Eat to the Beat Concert Series.

The Eat to the Beat! concert series at the America Gardens Theatre stage boasts nine new headliners — High Valley, Glass Tiger, Tauren Wells, Vertical Horizon, Anderson East, 98 Degrees, MercyMe, Sheila E and Jim Belushi & The Sacred Hearts — who join 23 returning acts. Take a rest from feasting to enjoy the sounds of these hitmakers from pop to country to R&B and more.

Festival Center

The Festival Center is the hub for seminars and interactive events, including the fun-filled Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It, which will offer new opportunities for guests to interact with visiting chefs, bakers, mixologists and other pros. This year the center will include new offerings at the Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar (try the Madras Mimosa), Craft Drafts and the Festival Center Wine Shop where the Disney Family of Wines will be for sale.

Family Fun

There’s a lot of focus on “family fun” this year: New Festival offerings include fun activities for kids of all ages including the Disney Du Jour Dance Party, Junior Chef Kitchen presented by Krusteaz, Candy Sushi presented by Skittles, Adventures by Disney and a play area. There’s also the family scavenger hunt, “Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak.”

Included With Epcot Admission

Back to Basics series, book signings, Eat to the Beatconcerts, Festival Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.

How To Reserve

Party For The Senses (Todd Anderson, photographer)

Party for the Senses grand tasting events, signature dinners and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission. Guests can call 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378) to make reservations; find more details at TasteEpcot.com.

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