Note: The above video is from 2013. Not all events or kiosks shown are available this year, most notably the cranberry bog.
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival kicks off today. No need to hurry — it runs for 53 days this year, ending on November 10. During that time, attendees can immerse themselves in all sorts of culinary and winerary events and activities.
For many people (including me) the main attraction is the collection of food kiosks, officially called Marketplaces, set up around the World Showcase Lagoon. The permanent countries are all represented, of course, but there are a few other countries or cuisines brought in, too. Both Argentina and Chile have had Marketplaces in the past. This year, they’re combined into a Patagonia kiosk. Be sure to try the Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri there. I had a chance to try it at a preview dinner and I liked it very much. The piquant chimichurri sauce is usually served with meat, but it goes well with this strong-flavored fish, too.
Stop by the Greece kiosk and try the vegetarian moussaka, another winner. It’s so good that even meat eaters won’t be disappointed there’s no lamb or beef in it.
As I explain in the video above, the best way thing to do is to make one entire loop of the World Showcase and scope out the various dishes along the way. See what people are buying and ask them if they like it. Also take notice of the prices — they can vary greatly, and if you’re not careful they can add up quickly (they can add up quickly if you’re careful, too, for that matter). Make notes in the passbook you get with your Festival brochure, but DON’T buy anything on that first loop. (Well, OK, you can get a beer or a glass of wine to tide you over.) Then make a second loop around and stop only at the kiosks that looked most promising. Otherwise, you’ll just blow your budget too fast and you’ll miss something potentially better a couple of Marketplaces away.
In addition to the food kiosks, there are exhibits, demonstrations and tastings. Most tastings have a fee attached. They used to be free, but a few years ago the event organizers figured out that people were leaving one wine tasting and immediately getting in line for the next.
A fun event I’ve attended a couple of times is the Shake and Indulge Like the French, which features a Grand Marnier tasting and a chance to learn how to shake your own GM-based cocktail.
After my trip to Mexico earlier this year, I’m intrigued by the Mexican Tequila Lunch at the Mexico pavilion. The Italian White Truffle Lunch sounds over the top, too.
Of course all of these events require admission to Epcot as well as the event fee. An exception is a new event called Late Nights LIVE! (caps and exclamation point provided by WDW). This is an after-hours tasting event on Thursdays beginning at 9:45 p.m. after the Illuminations fireworks show and going until 1 a.m. There will be six food and beverage items from some of the Marketplaces plus live (or LIVE!, if you prefer) entertainment and a DJ. Cost is $79, but if you just show up for that one you don’t have to pay extra to get into Epcot (of course you won’t have full access to everything else in the park, either). The event was originally planned for multiple nights during the festival but was scaled back to just Thursdays, presumably because sales were DEAD!
Another good tip: If you’re able, plan your visit for mid week. Crowds will be less manic and you can enjoy yourself more.
Not taking my own advice, I’ll be heading out to check things out tomorrow and I’ll report back to you next week.
Here’s a link to the official Epcot International Food and Wine Festival website.