Making a Meal of Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival

by Roan Poulter, contributing writer
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Each fall for the past 21 years, Epcot has hosted a Food and Wine Festival. To say it is the marquee culinary event at Walt Disney World may be an overstatement, but judging from the massive crowds, many with dedicated t-shirts, it has become a highlight of many people's year. The potential for smaller crowds during autumn does not apply at Epcot, with the World Showcase seeming like one solid wall of humanity around all twelve countries.

Epcot's World Showcase is a great place to get a meal, with options as varied in cultural significance as they are in level of sophistication. The International Food and Wine Festival adds more than two dozen additional country options to this already impressive outlay. But with so many options, how does that translate into a meal? If you're new to the Festival, how should you budget each meal in comparison to a typical dining day in the park?

Many visitors never stop eating and drinking, migrating from one line to another in a progressive smorgasbord of culinary and vinous indulgence. We don't do that. One reason is the expense, though an ever growing case of week on week indigestion is a close second. Instead we treat it as tapas dining, small plates of which you may make a meal.

Find a Central Location

It is a regular sight to find festival goers eating atop garbage cans. The reason for this is the lack of table space around the expanded pavilions. Food and Wine puts up a smattering of stand up tables, but it is rarely enough for the typical weekend crowds. In places like France and Italy, where tables are always at a premium, this compounds the issue. The outdoor seating in Japan, Morocco, and to some extent Norway may be close enough and allow a few moments of contemplative peace away from the crowds.

We plan out our choices ahead of time, knowing a few places where tables are abundant. Once the meal is mapped, we separate to our respective lines, secure our orders and regroup at a table. Versus the far too many people devouring their treasures from atop garbage cans, we think this is the way.

Divide and Conquer, or Make New Friends

A little preparation here is invaluable. We separate our group into each chosen country line before regrouping at a preordained table. If we have an extra person, they secure the table.

If you're alone, talk to the people in front or behind you about their experience and favorite dishes. Everyone wants to be a critic and share their festival discoveries. Be bold and friendly, then see if it doesn't earn you just desserts.

Set a Budget

Eating from the expanded World Showcase venues is not cheap. While the prices are not overly high, the quantity is small. Our impression is that it would take four of the smaller dishes to make a typical counter service entrée. Of course where else on earth can you get an entrée from four different countries? Prices vary from four to nine dollars, therefore the conclusion we drew is that it's about 35 percent more expensive dining in this style.

Consider an Alternative

If you're too overwhelmed by the choices, or want to sit down for a meal, try checking at some of the table service restaurants around World Showcase. Reservations to exclusive restaurants like Le Cellier or Chefs de France may open up as the day progresses and people overindulge. We were able to get a same day, weekend table at Le Cellier by checking online as the day progressed.

Find Your Favorites

These choices are not meant to provide a complete or even near comprehensive listing of available dishes, but are meant to provide some thoughts from our opening weekend visit.

Australia


Where the chefs found such undersized, emaciated lambs to create the world's smallest lamb chops with mint pesto and potato crunchies is unknown, but they're delicious. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Belgium


The Belgian waffle with berry compote and whipped cream is a delicous blend of sweet and tart, sadly missing a higher quality whipped cream. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Brewer's Collection


The Brewer's Collection is a subpar grouping of German beers, where German nationals should be required to hang their head in shame. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Canada


The Canadian cheddar cheese soup served with a pretzel roll is a delicious and decadently rich treat on a cool evening. Photo by Roan Poulter.

China


Beijing roasted duck in a steamed bun with hoisin sauce and chicken pot stickers are both savory morsels that vary in quality from visit to visit. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Craft Beers


A vastly superior showing of brewing capability is found at the Craft Beers kiosk. Some truly excellent beers can be had here, including the Shipyard Milk Stout (right) and Two Henry's Blueberry Vanilla Ale (left). Photo by Roan Poulter.

Farm Fresh


A tale of two entrees features a loaded mac and cheese masterpiece, while the chicken and dumplings is worthy of only being thrown away. Photo by Roan Poulter.

France


The croissant aux escargots and bouef Bourguignon are well prepared and consistently among our favorite choices. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Germany


The roast bratwurst in a hard roll is an uninspired miniature version of the same carried at Germany's counter service. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Japan


The grilled spicy edamame and spicy tuna roll are both worthy of purchase. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Morocco


Chocolate baklava, our favorite item from the weekend, perfectly balanced sweetness with flawless pastry cruch. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Patagonia


The savory and textured beef empanada is a consistent winner; if only there were a sauce to increase the spiciness. Photo by Roan Poulter.

South Korea


Korean BBQ beef is incredible, as is the roasted pork lettuce wrap, however they are messy beyond reason; be sure to grab extra napkins. Photo by Roan Poulter.

It may be hard to imagine, but this is only a small sampling of what's available at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Recently someone did the math about how expensive it would be to sample every single food item once, and the total was over $450. Happy hunting and if I've missed your favorite dish, mention it in the comments and I will consider it for next year's version.