The waterbound octopus topiary is just one of the sights at the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival
Look, I love Epcot, and because you’re a faceless (but doubtlessly beautiful and well dressed) internet entity, I’m going to project and say you love Epcot, too, and one of the things we both love about it is the International Food and Wine Festival. What’s not to love about food and adult beverages from all over the world amassed in one beautiful sunny location? But this year, for the first time, we have… other options. Saturdays and Sundays from March 7th to April 26th, Busch Gardens Tampa is having their very first Food and Wine Festival, and as a local who now has literally been wined and dined by both of her beloved theme parks, it’s only fitting that I tell you what you’re missing if you stay in Orlando, and what the differences are. Is this a “one is better than the other” situation? Given that the events take place at different times of the year in different locations with different offerings, not really. It’s more my hope to let Epcot fans know that there’s something else going on nearby in Florida now that they really might want to make a visit to when their tummies are a’rumblin’ if they’re on vacation. Hey, if you’re gonna be a foodie, at least be an equal opportunity foodie!
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Image copyright Disney
Between the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and its newly expanded Flower & Garden Festival, it seems like Walt Disney World gets to have all the fun where cultural celebrations are concerned. But last week the Disneyland Resort announced that it would soon be getting some international excitement of its own.
For the weekend of May 25-27 (10am to 6pm daily), Opa! A Celebration of Greece will bring authentic Greek music, dance, art, food, history, and more to both parks at the Disneyland Resort. Activities will take place in both “it’s a small world” Mall in Disneyland park and Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure park.
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The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is many things. A drinker’s paradise, an adventurous eater’s heaven, and a vegan’s worst nightmare. I know, it’s blasphemy to not be completely head-over-heels in love with the yearly foodfest that draws so many visitors to The World Showcase Promenade, so hate me if you must. I have to admit that up until this year, the Food & Wine Festival was probably my least favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World. Why, you ask? It boiled down to pure jealousy. Hearing everyone rave about all of the options they were exploring from different countries, spooning edible culture into their mouths as I sat chomping on a plain pretzel just seemed unfair. That is, of course, until this year.
Now, I can’t claim to have singlehandedly strong-armed Epcot into having vegan options at the International Food & Wine Festival. However, I also can’t deny sending numerous e-mails, and making a few (ok, a lot of) “suggestions” regarding the lack of vegan options available around the ‘Showcase. And as Disney magic would have it, the fine folks at F&W dreamed up Terra, a brand new marketplace for 2012 in which all of the food options, yes, I said all of the food options, are vegan!
The marketplace itself is presented by Gardein, a brand of mock meats with which I am quite well acquainted. Gardein is a favorite among vegans for meat alternatives, and offers meatless meatballs, chick’n strips, and barbecue riblets just to name a few. The Terra menu features two items: Trick’n Chick’n Curry and Chili Colorado, each priced at $3.75. Each item is paired with a wine option, but please be forewarned: neither of the wines offered, the Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc nor the Paul Dolan Pinot Noir is vegan. The Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch and Silk brand Berry Smoothie, however, are totally vegan so you can get your G-rated drink on!
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, it will be in about a month and a half.
Mexico Marketplace Booth
Epcot Food and Wine Festival bookings begin today, August 16th, and even though the festival is still a month and a half away, it’s always good to start planning early — especially when events book up as quickly as they do at the festival. I’ll be doing a few guest blogs here at Touring Plans about the different parts of the festival, but I wanted to begin with an overview of what you can expect during the event.
Epcot and select restaurants around Walt Disney World
September 30-November 13, 2011
The largest food and wine festival in the world, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival will be celebrating it’s 16th annual event this year. Accomplished chefs (including some celebrity chefs) from around the world join experts in in the culinary and beverage fields to present a series of events about a variety of “consumable” topics! Pair this with some fantastic Disney magic and some great food, and you have the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
Overview — What You Can Expect at the Festival
With 45 full days of culinary adventure, there’s a lot to talk about! I’ll go into more detail in later posts, but to begin, let’s cover the basics. Here are the major events, activities, and draws to the festival:
Special and Signature Events: Taking place in restaurants and event spaces around Epcot and the rest of Walt Disney World, these events range in cost from $55 to $495 and cover a gamut of topics including pizza and beer tastings, desserts and fireworks events, multi-course meals with celebrity chefs, and wine schools that offer a certificate of completion when you’re finished! But there’s so much more! You’ll find more info on these events in our Special and Signature Events coverage over on DFB.
Chefs from "Baked" Present a Culinary Demo
Low-Cost Seminars and Demonstrations: Ranging in price from $10-13, these events offer guests the opportunity to see a dish made by an expert chef in a show kitchen, learn about select wines and beers, or take a turn at the art of mixology. Culinary demos and beverage seminars usually last about 45 minutes and are often followed by a meet and greet, book signing, or bottle signing with the event presenter. See more details and what events are available in our low-cost seminar and demo coverage over on DFB.
Delicious Baklava from the Morocco Booth
International Marketplace Booths: These are considered by many to be the true draw of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. 30 tasting booths set up around the World Showcase offer guests the chance to indulge in tapas-sized portions of regional and ethnic cuisine as well as sample some great wines, beers, and spirits from the represented countries. Prices for food and beverages range from $3-8, with larger beverages costing a bit more.
This, in my opinion, is the ultimate way to spend a meal during the festival — simply check the booth menus to decide what you want to try, then spend an hour noshing around the World Showcase! It’s lovely. But here’s a tip — in the evenings and on weekends the booths start to develop long lines. If you head to the booths when they first open at 11am, you won’t have to battle the crowds quite as much.
New booths being introduced this year are Hawaii, the Caribbean, Portugal (with its own wine bar!), and Scandinavia (returning from a hiatus). You can see full menus and details about the booths (including food pics) at our World Showcase Booths page.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do at the festival with just those three types of events, but there’s a lot more where that came from. I’ll be back with you soon to detail those different opportunities and give you a few more tips and tricks about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
You can book special events and seminars starting today — August 16th — by calling 407-WDW-FEST! If you’re a Tables in Wonderland member, Disney Vacation Club member, or Annual Passholder for Walt Disney World, you’ll get a discount on seminars and demos offered Monday-Thursday — don’t forget to ask!
Check out all of our coverage (including live coverage during the festival) on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival section of the Disney Food Blog.