2016 International Food and Wine Festival: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
Our most fun times around Walt Disney World are the holidays, but events leading up to them are always hard to ignore. It seems like one event leads to another, and another, and so on. For us, it starts when the fall decorations go up at the Magic Kingdom. Then there's the International Food and Wine Festival, which is the subject of this month's Photo Tour.
We concentrate mainly on the food, and if the food is any indication of the diversity, you'll find plenty to keep you occupied.
So what's new this year? Many of the marketplaces are here from previous years, and they change up the menus to keep things interesting. There are always a few new markets, and this year there are five. They are The Chew Collective, inspired by the popular TV show, The Chew; The Greenhouse Village; the Chocolate Studio, featuring Ghirardelli Chocolate; The Wine and Dine Studio; and the Islands of the Caribbean. Some of these marketplaces are variations on offerings from previous years, but they have new menus and are as exciting as if they were original.
One new marketplace that caught our eye was the Chocolate Studio, located in Future World West next to the Wine and Dine Studio. It features a number of wines that are interesting, including a Justin Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, and a Blandy's Alvada five-year-old Madiera, from Madiera, Portugal. And of course, there's the chocolate. Our favorites were the Ghirardelli chocolate raspberry torte and the liquid nitro chocolate-almond truffle.
We shouldn't discount the fact that the old standby kiosks will change things up too, essentially presenting new menus each year. One year, Mexico had a great looking ribeye taco. We procrastinated and pretty soon the festival was over. The following year it was not there, replaced by newer, better menu items. We're still waiting for the ribeye taco to return.
The Festival Center is again behind Ellen's Universe of Energy in Future World East. Here you can find festival merchandise as well as many of the classes offered for wine lovers and enthusiasts. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The Festival Center is actually a busy place during the Food and Wine Festival. There are a large number of demonstrations related to cooking and wine appreciation that happen here throughout the course of the Festival, including many visits from wine experts and celebrated chefs. Photo by Donald Fink.
You can attend many of the demonstrations at the Festival Center by making your reservations before you go. A good place to start is at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival web page. From there, you can find links to reservations for cooking demonstrations, wine appreciation talks, even a cheese seminar.
And of course, who would want to leave the festival without taking home a souvenir glass commemorating the occasion? Of course we're poking fun, but many of these items are of good quality, and fun to have if you like to collect them. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
This Ghirardelli chocolate raspberry torte was our favorite from the new marketplace, Chocolate Studio. The Chocolate Studio is next to the Wine and Dine Studio in Future World West, along the western-most walkway toward Showcase Plaza. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Also available from Islands of the Caribbean are an assortment of treats. Shown from left to right here are the quesito, a puff pastry with cream cheese and guava sauce; pescado con coco, seared grouper with peas, rice, and coconut sauce; and finally, mojo pork with rice and black beans. Photo by Donald Fink.
Just as you enter Showcase Plaza, you will encounter the Desserts and Champagne Marketplace. You can enjoy a Sprecher Hard Orange Cream Soda float. They also serve this float in root beer and cherry cola. There are of course other delights of the not-so-hard variety for the younger folks. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
As you walk through Canada, you might notice a small statue of Remy—from the movie "Ratatouille"—sitting on the roof of the kiosk. And you might wonder, what's a rat from France doing in Canada? It's part of a scavenger hunt called Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak, an activity designed especially for the kids. Photo by Donald Fink.
Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt looks to be quite a bit of fun. It's intended to be mostly for the kids, but it could be entertaining for any group of people as they make their way around World Showcase. For the locals and other folks who will visit the Festival more than once, it can be played over the course of several days too. To get started, visit one of the merchandise locations including the Festival Center, Pin Center, Disney Traders, or World Traders. Purchase a map and stickers and have fun.
It's very festive in Ireland. Festive indeed. But it's easy to understand, with the Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale, and the Bunratty Meade Honey Wine. Don't forget the warm chocolate pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur custard. Photo by Donald Fink.
We believe this to be a sampling of the Radeberger Zwickel Pilsner (unfiltered), from the Brewer's Collection near Germany. But by the time you make it all the way back to Germany, does it really matter? Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Those were some of the things we saw at this year's International Food and Wine Festival. We've been attending this festival every year for the past several years, and while many things are familiar, there are always a few new items we either haven't noticed before, or are new. No doubt we'll keep visiting the Festival for many years to come.
Other Things To Do
One of the great attractions to the festival, at least for us, is the Eat to the Beat Concert series. Each year during the Food and Wine Festival, Disney hosts a concert series at the America Gardens Theatre, located at the American Adventure pavilion. These short 35-minute performances are free and usually run nightly at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. This year there are over twenty bands and solo artists participating in this concert series. While most artists are return performers, there are several new bands too. Some of the returning bands and artists include Starship, Air Supply, Boyz II Men, and David Cook. New artists include Soul Asylum, Bodeans, and Plain White T'S.
There is also an Eat to the Beat Dining Package, which works like the dining package at Christmas. Each purchased package includes a fine dining meal at one of the restaurants at Epcot, followed by preferred seating at one of the Eat to the Beat Concerts. What's different from the dining package at Christmas is that you can reserve a breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any of several restaurants. During the Christmas show, the eating arrangements usually include lunch or dinner.
If you like package deals, there is a Tasting Sampler available at the Festival too. There are two packages, one including eight food or beverages and one including sixteen food or beverage items.
To see more images from this year's International Food and Wine Festival, you can check out Alan Dalinka's photo tour during a recent media event in the Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 20-26.
This year we genuinely enjoyed the Food and Wine Festival. So much so that, even though we've completed the photography for this Photo Tour, we're still making plans to go back and enjoy some of the things we missed the first couple of times. The next time we'll just enjoy the Festival though, and leave the cameras at home.