Observations from Epcot: October 5

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Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2013 is in full swing now, and today’s post is all about what you’re going to see on a typical day at Food & Wine. Well, typical in environment but likely not in perspective, so we’ll call this a casual Food & Wine day with Morgan. This is my first Food & Wine Festival, so I’m happy to share with you the ins and outs of what it is, what you can do, and what I found exciting about it all.

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I started out at the Polynesian Resort for a quick look at the construction fences said to be going up for the resort remodel and addition of Disney Vacation Club villas. Fences were, in fact, going up, and at an impressive rate. Sunset Point is closed to all guests currently and the walkway to the Transportation and Ticket Center will also be closed eventually, but was still open on this day. Some rooms will eventually be unavailable due to obstructed views, but for right now, these fences at the TTC end of the property are the only indication that changes are taking place.

The monorail to Epcot was mostly empty, and the ride quick and pleasant as usual. The entrance flower bed has been set up for Food & Wine, and it looks great, but the PhotoPass photogs are set up incredibly close, making for a hard scenery shot. Feel free to use this one and pretend you took it.

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IMG_5297I did a couple of things in Future World, including getting shots of this new (it used to sell merchandise) snack cart across from the Pin Station. What does it sell? Popcorn, popsicles, wine, and beer. I guess there’s never a wrong time for a glass of white, but I usually don’t associate it with popcorn. To each her own, I guess, but notice the one person in line.

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Future World was not crowded at all, and popular rides like Soarin’ and Test Track were posting wait times of less than an hour each. It’s still incredibly hot here with heat indexes hitting the 100′s plus, so make sure you have sunscreen (I didn’t. Yikes!) and plenty of water, especially if you’re headed toward World Showcase.

My friend visiting from Virginia wanted to check in on the Camaros at Test Track presented by Chevrolet and, never being averse to a good smokeshow, I agreed. The Camaros were definitely cool (not a huge fan of the shorter hood style on the 2014, but they never ask me), but the real zinger was the 2014 Corvette concept car tucked into the back side of the showroom. It looks like they took a ’63 Stingray and gave it Lambo overtones. I need.

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I spent approximately five minutes just standing there drooling over this car, and I don’t even like Corvettes. They wouldn’t let us past the rope. I can’t really blame them there. After Test Track I started my Food & Wine adventure. While I’d not previously been to this festival, I have been to Flower & Garden, which this year was much the same, so I knew it was best to start at the Festival Center. Located between Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Mission: SPACE, the Festival Center is tucked away, but there are lots of signs pointing you in the right direction.

The Festival Center, where you’ll find all the information you need on Food & Wine

The Festival Center features the Food & Wine Festival information booth where you can pick up your passport (don’t skip this – it’s really fun to get it stamped later!), demonstration areas for events like mixology seminars, special Food & Wine Merchandise shops, a wine shop, and exhibits like Ghirardelli’s “The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar.”

 

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A presenter gives a wine seminar at the Festival Center

With Food & Wine Festival passports in hand, we proceeded to the mecca of snacking, the World Showcase. Food & Wine is set up in a series of booths that are added to the Showcase each year. Each booth represents a country or region or food/beverage group and features a selection of dishes and beverages from those regions or groups. Being the planner that I am, I had already gotten the menus from Touring Plans here and decided what I wanted to try. The Showcase was definitely more crowded than Future World, but nothing like it is on the weekends during the Festival.

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Crowd levels at the gateway to the World Showcase from Future World

As soon as we hit the Showcase from the Horizons bridge, we literally stopped in our tracks. There was some kind of amazing smell wafting from the Australia booth. It wasn’t on my list, by my nose and stomach didn’t care. It turned out to be Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle & Rapini, and it was incredible. We agreed that the shrimp were perfectly cooked and had an awesome flavor – not too iodine-heavy – and the vegetables were crispy and wonderfully seasoned. For the approximately 1 minute and 36 seconds the dish existed (including time to photograph), it was a beaut.

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Now, remember that passport I told you about? It looks like this:

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Inside you’ll find menus for each booth, along with places for special stamps that Cast Members in each country can give you when you visit. The Flower & Garden version had a special square for a completion stamp that you could only get once you’d visited ALL of the venues at F&G, which resulted in a crazy day spent running (literally) around World Showcase with fellow Touring Plans blogger Krissy Murphy collecting stamps so as to have a completed pass to satisfy our Type-A natures. Thankfully, the Food & Wine Passport is much more relaxed with only a stamp box in each country, like this cute kangaroo I got for eating delicious shrimp in Australia. Double reward? Yes.

photoNext up was China, where my friend and I had scoped out another shrimp dish, Black Pepper Shrimp with Sichuan Noodles, and a drink called Kung Fu Punch with Vodka. Both were total winners. The shrimp was again perfectly cooked (though this time a little smaller), and the noodles were the perfect al dente mix of garlic and butter and carbs. My friend related that if he could, he’d live off those noodles for the rest of his life, and I took it as a very serious measure of praise given his affinity for pasta; the man doesn’t mess around when it comes to noodles. The Kung Fu Punch was a pleasantly kicky mix of citrus and peach and complemented what I like to call Noodlepalooza ’13 beautifully. IMG_5332At this point, given the searing heat of the afternoon, we likely should have stopped. But, I take my job responsibilities very seriously, and I knew you all would want to know more. So I took a break for a scenery shot (nice, huh?) and soldiered on.

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Lines were reasonable at most of the booths (on weekends they’re bananas), and the walkways were relatively uncrowded. We passed Germany and its tiny railroad village, which was having a festival of its own. Given that there were no tiny people passed out on miniature benches in the railroad town, it appears that crowd control is much more strict in the little German burg.

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Next on the list was the Hops & Barley Marketplace in America. It was way too hot for anything lobster, so we settled on Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and Craisin Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Anglaise. Though I will say that “Grand Marnier Anglaise” is a bit of an excessive moniker for “vanilla sauce,” this desert is really, really good. It won’t take your tastebuds on a culinary magic carpet ride, but the sweet pudding and sauce are nicely contrasted by the plump, tart Craisins. The review on Cherry Wheat is that it’s pretty good stuff, but the beer drinker in the duo (not me) was displeased that there wasn’t a new offering this year. Not too displeased by this picture though. A little hint on the souvenir mugs – they won’t refill them at the booths, but just pour the beer from your plastic glass into your souvenir mug and keep on keepin’ on.

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Craisin Bread Pudding. Yum

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Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Half Full or Half Empty?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We passed the International Gateway on the way to our last stop, Canada, and I found myself in a sort of magical moment. I was walking toward Pooh and Tigger, who are currently meeting and greeting outside while their Meet and Greet location is refurbished, and found myself behind a blue dress and a giant white bow skipping down the path. It was a pixie-dusted shot, I thought, so here you go. I think it’s so neat that there are so many people going about their regular business who haven’t even noticed her at this point.

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We made one last stop in Canada for the “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. I was skeptical even though I’d put it on the official list myself, because I love steak, and it’s hard to get a filet right when you’re cooking it in a restaurant kitchen, much less a booth on a sidewalk. But Canada came out swinging, and this cut was fantastic, even though it was cooked medium over my personal preference of still mooing. The mushrooms were meaty and herbed, and the butter was the perfect assist on the tender, perfectly seasoned beef. Had I not felt like I was going to pop already, I may have gone back for seven dollar seconds. It was just that good.

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A couple of Food & Wine hints to close out: First, get a gift card. Working with cash and credit cards at a zillion different booths is a total pain and can get really expensive if you’re not paying attention or you’ve hit it heavy on the Cherry Wheat. Second, check out all of the possible things to do at the official site, especially if you’re planning a few days here. Finally, come hungry. There are some really great offerings here, and I’ve only shown you a few. Until next time, Keep it Magical.

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Posted on October 9, 2013

24 Responses to “Observations from Epcot: October 5”

  • I was there in the early afternoon/evening this past Saturday. I’m one of those locals that help to drive up crowds lol.

    I found that even though there were many people in the world showcase it wasn’t terrible. The lines at the booths (despite some being long) moved fast. I think the longest I waited was france for like 10 minutes.

    My favorites:
    Scotland: Salmon with pureed cauliflower was tasty

    Deserts and champagne: the desert trio WOW!

    Greece: the spanakopita and the chicken “gyro” were great. I put gyro in quotes because I thought of it more as souvlaki than gyro. I’m Greek so thats why I’m being picky :)

    Ireland: Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s pie–you MUST try this if you love seafood. It was basically shepherd’s pie but with seafood instead of the normal meat and peas/carrots. Crazy good
    Warm Chocolate Pudding with Bailey’s Custard–its like a small cake with melty pudding inside. They put this lovely sauce on top that mixes wonderfully with the chocolate “pudding”

    Canada: the Steak was tasty but my piece was a wee bit overcooked. The rest of my party said their’s was cooked more medium

    Italy: Ravioli de formaggio all’emiliana- Ravioli with cheese and meat sauce. I died and went to heaven. Covered in mozerralla and bubbly so good

    France: I had the cosmo slush very nice!

    Germany: Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll-very nice

    Poland: Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream–it was ok. I would have prefered maybe an extra pergogie and minus the sausage

    Hops and Barley: Lobster Roll with Lemon Herb Mayonnaise –VERY nice a pretty decent amount of lobster and what was nice was that the lobster was not coated in mayo. The mayo was just on the toasted bun so you really got a lot of great lobster flavor
    Craisin Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Anglaise- nice desert very tasty I loved the sauce

    I’m going this Saturday again :)

  • I literally was a few steps ahead or behind you in that Alice photo! We had just met her and she went running off on break! Small world indeed ;)

  • found myself behind a blue dress and a giant white bow skipping down the path

    What happened to her left stocking?

  • Hi Morgan. Thanks for a great post. I will be visiting Epcot for this festival in this exact week next year. Can you give me an idea of what ‘reasonable’ weekday wait times and ‘bananas’ weekend wait times at the booths might be like? Are evenings busier on weekdays and weekends? Is the same food offered at all booths regardless of time of day (ie lunch vs dinner)? Thanks!

  • Hi Hilary! I think of reasonable as between 0 and 10 minutes, while I classify “bananas” at 30 minutes or more. On the weekends the very popular booths can reach long wait times that hit “bananas” pretty quickly. Evenings are much busier on weekends (which usually start gearing up Thursday night and peak at Saturday night) and slightly busier on weekdays because of events like Eat to the Beat concerts and Illuminations that happen in the later hours. Booths serve the same selection all day from open at 11 a.m. to close. Hope this helps! Thanks much for reading. -M

  • When I was there this past Saturday evening I never waited longer than 10 minutes for something. Even if the line is long, it moves quick! Every booth I visited was a well-oiled machine

  • There was a new (to the Food and Wine Festival) beer at Hops and Barley this year: Rogue Chocolate Stout.

  • Hi Morgan great article! We were there this past weekend also. Went there Sunday afternoon and stayed till about 5 pm working clockwise (past Mexico and China etc)from the International Gateway to the American Adventure. There were 4 of us and a lot of sharing. Went back Monday and started from the Gateway again going counter clockwise going Past Canada and England etc. Had all the main dishes both times at select locations. Then starting from the American adventure did another 360 of just the desserts we specifically wanted to try (not all of them and sat down for the fireworks back at American Adventure. Wait times were never an issue less then 10 minutes. Sounds like a lot to eat but we did very well with sharing. Will definitely be back again !!!!

  • Morgan-early in the blog you say the walkway between the Poly and the TTC will be closed off eventually. Is that confirmed information? I’m asking because I’m staying at the Poly early next year and I chose that resort only and specifically for ease of transportation to a rundisney race start. Do you have further information of when ‘eventually’ will be?

    • Christy, there’s not been an official announcement as to the closure of the walkway, but there’s going to be so much construction over there that it will have to close at some point. I’m quite sure that they will make every accommodation possible for runners at both WDW marathon weekend and the Princess Half, so I wouldn’t worry about that. Last year the monorails ran nearly all night/morning at both races.

  • We were there today! Tried a bunch of things, but the standout for me was the griddled cheese in Greece. Oh, my, wow! Will be sure to go back a few times for all the booths we missed!

  • Can anyone tell me if the festival center opens at 9 with the rest of the park? I seem to remember it opening later (like 10ish) in the past. Thanks! :)

  • I think what you published was actually very logical.

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    I mean Observations from Epcot: October 5 – TouringPlans.com Blog |
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    note how they write article titles to grab viewers to click.

    You might add a video or a related pic or two to grab
    people interested about everything’ve written. In my opinion, it would make your blog a little livelier.

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