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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
Now, remember that passport I told you about? It looks like this:
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.
Next 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. At 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.