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Food & Wine Festival, 2013

The 18th Annual Epcot International
Food & Wine Festival
September 27 to November 11, 2013

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The first Epcot International Food & Wine Festival was in 1996. Since then, more and more loyal guests have returned year after year. The main draw is a collection of food and beverage kiosks—dubbed International Marketplaces—that surround World Showcase Lagoon. But the Festival really involves four different aspects. Here’s what I’m calling them:

   1. The Festival of International Marketplaces
   2. The Festival in the Festival Center
   3. The Festival of Food and Beverage Events
   4. The Festival of Entertainment

I’m back now from the Food & Wine Festival with my thoughts on this year’s event.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, November 1, 2013


1. The Festival of International Marketplaces

It seems that to most guests of the Food & Wine Festival, the International Marketplaces are the Festival. These kiosks provide an opportunity to “drink around the world,” try unfamiliar foods, and share favorite tastes with friends and family.

This year, the Festival map lists 30 kiosks. Most are temporary structures, but a few are there all year and just have special menu items during the Festival. In addition, the year-round quick-service and beverage kiosks, such as the margarita stand in Mexico, mean there are really far more than 30 places to get foods and drinks.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Scotland Marketplace

The Scotland Marketplace is new this year. As one would expect, there’s Scotch Whiskey. One might also expect Haggis, considered the Scottish national dish. Here’s how Wikipedia describes Haggis:

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.

The Scotland Marketplace at Epcot offers Haggis—but it’s “Vegetarian Haggis with Neeps and Tatties (Griddled Vegetable Cake with Rutabaga and Mashed Potatoes).” Since when does a griddled vegetable cake pass for Haggis? Where are the sheep innards? I’ve had real Haggis in real Scotland, and I thought it was tasty.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Brazil Marketplace

Each International Marketplace has its own distinctive design, appropriate for the country it represents.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Serving cheese at the “country” of Cheese

The eleven World Showcase countries, along with 14 other countries, states, and regions, each have a Marketplace. But not all Marketplaces represent countries or other geographic locations. There are also specialty Marketplaces, such as Terra (vegan), Cheese, and Craft Beers.

In fact, there are so many beer choices that the event could be called the Food & Wine & Beer Festival. Unlike the little tasting portions of wine, beer comes in various sizes, including 22-ounce souvenir steins. The Schofferhofer Grapefruit beer is back this year. It’s surprisingly good.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard Sauce ($3.75) (left)
Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw ($3.50) (right)
from South Korea Marketplace

I didn’t spend much time or money at the International Marketplaces this year. But I had to try some things. I’ll give high marks to just about everything I tasted. Generally, the foods are prepared, or at least finished, right in the Marketplaces, so food is fresh, hot (or cold, as appropriate), and served immediately—not dished out from a cafeteria vat or zapped in a microwave. My only real disappointment was the Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies ($6.00) at the Australia Marketplace. It was rather small for the money and not nearly as delicious as the other foods I tried.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Lamb Meatball with a Spicy Tomato Chutney ($5.00)
from the New Zealand Marketplace

At this point, I want to mention MiceChat’s Sip & Nibble event on Friday, October 18. Participants shared food and beverages in an effort to “Sip & Nibble” something from every Marketplace. Great people and a lot of fun! Even my wife—who is not a fan of standing in line for small plates of food or hanging around with people she doesn’t know—admitted that she enjoyed the event much more than she expected to.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Spicy Hand Roll:
Tuna and Salmon with Chili Pepper, Soy Sauce, and Sesame Oil, topped with Kazan Volcano Sauce ($4.95)
from Japan Marketplace

Last year, Food & Wine Festival sponsor Chase Bank provided a lounge for Chase Visa (including Disney Visa) cardholders at the Festival Center. Offering complimentary beverages, comfortable (but very limited) seating, and wristbands for reserved viewing areas for Illuminations and the “Eat to the Beat” concerts, it was great for those of us who were often at the Festival Center, but inconvenient for festival-goers who were visiting the International Marketplaces. And because the Festival Center is climate-controlled and has plenty of seating anyway, the lounge didn’t provide much benefit.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Chase Lounge on the third floor of The American Adventure pavilion

This year, there is again a Chase Lounge, only it’s now located on the third floor of The American Adventure pavilion, reachable by stairs or elevator. For most festival-goers (at least those with Chase Visa cards), this is a big improvement. The new location provides a welcome opportunity to get out of the heat or rain, have a beverage, and relax—right at the halfway point around World Showcase Lagoon—before hitting more Marketplaces.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Coca-Cola Freestyle drink machines in the Chase Lounge

The first place I saw a Coca-Cola Freestyle drink machine was at Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure in 2010. These cutting edge vending machines let you pick from more than one hundred flavors of Coca Cola products. But the Chase Lounge this year is the first place I saw one that is free.

I avoid both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks, but I discovered that the Freestyle drink machine also made Seagram’s seltzer. The bubbly, ice cold water was perfect on a hot day. Thank you to Chase for putting the free in Freestyle.

2. The Festival in the Festival Center

The Festival Center is Epcot’s former Wonders of Life pavilion. It offers Wine Seminars, Mixology Seminars, Culinary Demonstration, other paid events, a wine bar, free “Authentic Taste” seminars (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only), a gift shop, a wine shop, a book and art shop, a Ghiradelli Chocolate shop, and desks for Festival information and event ticketing.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Culinary Demonstration

Culinary Demonstrations have been a mainstay of the Food & Wine Festival since the beginning. Over the years, they bounced around several locations, even outdoors in 90-degree heat on the plot between Morocco and France. Their home is now the Festival Center, and they’ve been refined to include wine served in real wine glasses and tasting portions served on real plates.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Emily Ellyn, a finalist on season 8 of Food Network Star

Except for a handful of repeats, each Culinary Demonstration is unique, with a different chef, different food item, and different wine. Not surprisingly, some are better than others. I attended 15 Culinary Demonstrations this year. I have a separate article about them; there’s a link at the end of this article.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

A sparsely attended Wine Seminar

Before 2009, wine seminars were free. That could mean waiting in a long line. In 2009, wine seminars became paid, ticketed events, bookable in advance. At the time, I wrote, “Essentially, guests are asked to spend $5 to $8 for three 1-ounce tastes of wine and a 45-minute sales pitch from a winery.” The tickets made the long lines a thing of the past, and that was good.

Although the prices crept up each year, I grudgingly bought tickets anyway. I probably booked around ten wine seminars in 2012. Despite the dubious value, the best ones offered real wine education and a chance to experience new wines, even though the speaker was promoting a particular winery.

By now, the price is up to $14 (minus a $2 discount for qualified advance buyers Monday through Thursday). Same three little samples. Same 45-minute sales pitch. This year I booked zero.

Wine Seminars on weekends can fill up, especially if it’s a higher-end winery, but the winery representatives at weekday wine seminars often speak to an audience consisting primarily of empty chairs. I hope Disney will improve the value of wine seminars.

3. The Festival of Food and Beverage Events

It’s likely that most of the people going to the Marketplaces of World Showcase are completely unaware that the Epcot Food &Wine Festival has an extensive schedule of paid events—and that many of these events sell out the first day they go on sale, usually some time in August.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Food & Beer Pairing ($55 plus tax, including tip)
at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria each Tuesday (1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

This year, the prices for paid events range from $37 per guest for the new Parisian Breakfast to $525 per guest for the Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining dinner at Victoria & Albert’s, the top restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

The biggest event is the Party for the Senses each Saturday evening. It’s a giant party with food stations and wine stations spread throughout the World Showplace, the former Millennium Village. Some people love it. We only went a few times in years past, and we haven’t gone in years. We prefer sitting and being served.

We made an exception for the Parisian Breakfast, which included a buffet of wonderful items from the new Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie at Epcot.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Parisian Breakfast ($37 plus tax, including tip) at Chefs de France each Saturday

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

A plate piled with goodies from the buffet stations at the Parisian Breakfast

In addition to a Parisian Breakfast, I booked three French Regional Lunches, one Italian Regional Lunch, and an Italian Food & Beer Pairing. Also, I booked three wine dinners that were not part of the Food & Wine Festival (at two different Disney resorts and one off-site hotel).

I had better mention that our events were spread across three weeks. I don’t want you to think I crammed all these events into a brief vacation.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

French Regional Lunch featuring Côtes du Rhône

Each of our three French Regional Lunches had a completely different menu, and each was excellent. The regions I booked were were Champagne, Côtes du Rhône, and Bordeaux.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

French Regional Lunch menu, October 13, 2013.

To me, multi-course wine lunches and dinners are the highlights of the Food & Wine Festival. It may seem odd that I won’t pay $14 for a wine seminar, but will pay $55, $65, or $99 (all plus tax) for a lunch and much more than that for dinner.

Actually, the wine (and beer) lunches at Epcot’s France and Italy—at restaurants operated by outside participants, not Disney—are reasonable values, considering what you get. Look at the menu above! And it’s all executed superbly. The wine dinners at Disney resorts are big splurges, which is why I only booked two of them.

4. The Festival of Entertainment

The final aspect of the Food & Wine Festival—and probably the second best known—is the entertainment. The Eat to the Beat concert series has been a fixture of he Food & Wine Festival since 2002, when there were six acts.

This year there are twenty different Eat to the Beat acts. The emphasis is on popular performers who saw their greatest success in past decades, but still have name recognition and following.

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Wilson Phillips

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Manhattan Transfer

2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The Pointer Sisters

The Eat to the Beat concerts can be fine way to end an evening at Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival—and it’s also how this article ends.

Now, please continue to Culinary Demos, 2013


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Culinary Demos, 2012
More Flowers & Gardens, 2013
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Updated November 1, 2013.