Many Disney fanatics refer to it as "The best time of the year". I can't argue with that. This year was the 20th annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and it was a smashing success. Held from Sept. 25 - Nov. 16, this year's festival was the longest, running 52 days, and featuring over 30 different food booths, plus carts with special festival offerings, 22 different acts featured at the "Eat to the Beat" concert series, special festival merchandise, passholder festival merchandise, seminars featuring guest chefs, colorful displays and topiaries, and so much more.
We did our first festival in 2012 and were hooked. Having to wait 3 years for our next visit to the Epcot F & W fest, we planned for a stay that would include 5 days of visits to Epcot for the big event. We read blogs and watched videos to prepare ourselves and make up a list of "must taste" items.
The Festival Center
|Our first stop|
Our first stop was at the Festival Center which is located in the original Wonders of Life Pavilion. The domed building that once housed the popular Body Wars simulator ride. Here you can pick up your festival "Passport" which is a great little guide as well as a very informative tool with listings of what's available at the food booths and lots of other information about the goings on. It makes for a nice little souvenir too.
|A Handy little tool|
|The Avengers assemble (in chocolate!)|
|Carl's house from "UP" (in chocolate!)|
The Festival Booths
Now we come to "The Main Event", the booths are located mostly around Epcot's World Showcase, but new this year were a couple of booths in the Future World area. Our first booth of the trip was The Dominican Republic which featured one of our favorite items: "Pescado con Coco" which was a pan seared grouper in a coconut sauce.
|Pescado con Coco & Caramel Flan with Rum Roasted Pineapple|
|The Dominican Republic booth was a beautiful setting|
Crowds were not too heavy during weekdays, and even on the weekend they were very manageable for most of the afternoon. We ate something light in the room, and then made the festival booths our lunch for the day. We wandered around hitting booth after booth and enjoying treats from around the world.
Here are a few of our favorites:
|AUSTRALIA: Grilled Lamb Chop w/ Mint Pesto|
|BRAZIL: "Escondidinho de Carne" (Layered Meat Pie w/ mashed Yucca) and The Brazilian Cheese Bread|
|NEW ZEALAND: Seared Venison Loin & Lamb Meatball w/ Spicy Tomato Chutney|
|HAWAII: Pulled Pork Slider w/ Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chutney|
|ITALY: Filetto di Pollo w/ Marsala Sauce & Ciabatta Bread|
|FRANCE: Beef Bourguinon in Cabernet sauce w/ mashed potatoes|
There were some great desserts this year too. My personal favorite was at the Scotland booth - "The Tipsy Laird" which is a Whiskey soaked Lemon cake with Cream and Toasted Oats.
|Scotland's "Tipsy Laird"|
Some of the others were:
|DESSERTS & CHAMPAGNE: "Chocolate Cherry Explosion"|
|CHEW LAB: Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle|
|IRELAND: Warm Chocolate Pudding w/ Kerrygold Irish Cream Custard|
|SOUTH KOREA: Soju Banana Milkshake w/ Ginger Soother|
The Favorite Booth of the Festival
There was not a single booth that we did not enjoy, but we agreed on our favorite booth of the festival and it was a bit of a surprise. With all of the exotic foods offered, rich and tasty treats from different parts of the world, you would think that it would be something else, but I guess our simple palates just couldn't stray far from home. The favored booth for both of us was the "Farm Fresh" booth! The "Griddled Yard Bird" (Grilled Chicken Breast w/ Braised Greens & Habanero Sauce), and "Loaded Mac n' Cheese" (w/ Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, & Green Onions) stole the show!
|Who'd-a-thunk it? Farm Fresh was our favorite booth for 2015|
|"Griddled Yard Bird"|
|"Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese"|
Favorite Pairing of the Festival
Each booth features a "Pairing" in which Disney's food experts will match an entree with a beverage. Our budget didn't allow us to try every pairing, but of those that we did try, my personal favorite was the Poland booth's pairing of a Sauerkraut Perogi w/ Pork Goulash, and the Donausonne Blaufaenkisch Hungarian Wine.
|Disney Fountain of Youth's favorite pairing of 2015 - Poland|
Eat to the Beat Concert Series
One of the great things about Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is the concert series. 22 great acts performed this year including (just to name a few):
- CHRISTOPHER CROSS
- THE POINTER SISTERS
- .38 SPECIAL
- RICK SPRINGFIELD
- BOYS II MEN
- SISTER HAZEL
- CHAKA KHAN
Because of flight delays arriving, we missed SISTER HAZEL, but we were able to catch 2 of the concerts:
BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY
|BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY: This Southern Cal Swing Band tore it up, and made us instant fans!|
|What a night with "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy"!|
and we ended the trip with...
|HANSON: They don't "look like girls" anymore, and really rocked the house!|
Check out this video from our evening:
|I never dreamed, in a million years, that I'd attend a Hanson Concert... and LOVE IT!|
The Wild Side of Disney
One thing that we learned from this year's Festival is that night time brings on a whole different atmosphere to the event. If you are looking for a "wilder" atmosphere from a Disney park, just head on over to Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival after dark. The crowds seemed to triple from the afternoons, and the loud talking set invaded World Showcase.
A Special time for Epcot
The sights around Epcot during the Festival are beautiful. Special Topiaries and displays celebrating the event are all around the park, and they are both colorful and enjoyable. Making for some great picture taking opportunities.
|The Cranberry Bog|
And other special things like The Cranberry Bog - right there in the middle of the walkway heading from Future World to World Showcase. With a Cranberry farmer in waders there to answer questions about the fruit, and a stand off to the side where you can get all of the free craisins you want!
And the old Odyssey restaurant building transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion during the festival. You can sample different beers from local Florida small breweries.
|Beer Flights from around Florida|
|The old Odyssey Restaurant transforms into the Craft Beer Pavilion at Festival Time|
And for Annual Passholders, there are special merchandise available for purchase, as well as a free commemorative Glass from the Festival for AP holders that attend the event 3 days - getting their passports stamped 3 times (once each day) at the Innoventions West Pavilion
Overall, this really is the best time of the year for this old guy. It's an event that involves all of your senses, and is something to look forward to each year. There are new booths to try every year, and most of the old favorites return.
|Great Annual Passholder merchandise available|
Thanks for coming along on this tour of the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Hope to see you there one day!