If you have looked into taking a trip to Disney World, you have, no doubt, come across references to EPCOT’s annual “Food and Wine Festival.” And a quick online search will reveal that the majority of people who have attended the festival in the past would gladly do so again.
In fact, for many of us who are fortunate enough to go to Disney more than once, we often find ourselves planning our trips with the specific intent to attend the festival. We’re not always successful, but we do try.
Really, really hard.
That’s because the festival is (almost) better than Christmas at Disney World. Picture, if you will: more than thirty kiosks, each offering several choices for appetizer-sized plates and, if you desire (and are old enough), a suggested wine/beer/liquor pairing.
Also, imagine this: live music events, featuring several big-name artists (recently, they boasted a line-up that included Hanson (see video below in the “Cooking Demonstrations & Wine Seminars” section). You also get wine seminars, cooking demonstrations, and cheese seminars designed to instruct you in the art and technique of being a food snob.
There are five aspects to the festival that I want to cover in this Food and Wine Festival review:
- Prices (Disney ain’t free, folks)
- Food and Wine (naturally)
- Cooking Demonstrations (it’s like being an audience member on an Emeril episode)
- Merchandise (just in case you have money burning a hole in your pocket)
- Overall Rating (‘cause we have to wrap it up somehow)
The good news is that your general admission to EPCOT will grant you access to almost all areas of the festival, from the live concerts to the food and wine booths scattered throughout the World Showcase.
Beyond that, however, it is going to cost you. The good news on that is that, if you don’t want to spend much, you don’t have to. It’s totally under your control. Bear in mind, though, that not spending much means not eating much.
You’ll want to consider that.
So what’s food going to run you? The food at the festival runs, on average, $5.50 a plate (the prices range from $3.25 all the way up to $8.00, and they are small plates). The drinks run anywhere from $6, all the way up to $32, but the average price is roughly $6.
In short, if you plan on “eating around the world,” it will cost you.
And none of that includes the wine seminars, cooking demonstrations, or cheese seminars. Each of these has a cost, as well. They aren’t especially expensive (for example, the cooking demonstrations run roughly $20 a person), but it’s still the principle of paying to get into the park, paying for the food you eat at the festival, and, in spite of the free concerts going on throughout, you still have to pay to attend many of the special events.
It’s like a food-driven Comic-con.
Having said that, however, it’s not exactly a terribly bad deal. I mean, you don’t have to attend the seminars, and you don’t have to eat everything you come across.
But then again, if you’re not going to eat, why bother going?
Food and Wine (5/5)
This is it, folks. This is your chance to try snails. I’m dead serious – escargot, sautéed in garlic butter, nestled inside of a warm, flaky, croissant. Seriously, this is the best dish I have had at EPCOT, and I cannot recommend it enough.
However, with more than thirty kiosks and over ninety different plates of food to choose from, if you just can’t bring yourself to eat snails, there’s still food available.
We’re talking spanakopita from Greece, spinach and paneer cheese pockets from Africa, Lamington cake from Australia, Belgian waffles with chocolate ganache and whipped cream, Brazilian crispy pork belly, roasted sausage and colcannon potatoes from Ireland.
Ever wanted to try food from Hawai’i? Here’s your chance. Look, the list goes on and on, and I could spend the next 4,500 words telling you about the food, but the point is that EPCOT does a fantastic job providing you with an enormous a la carte buffet (if you want to see the complete menu of what was served way back in 2017, you can find it here).
There’s really no doubt that the annual festival makes the Fall arguably the best time of year to go to Disney World.
Then there are the drinks. Each dish has a suggested wine pairing to go with it. Oh, wine isn’t your thing? No worries – there’s an entire cart devoted to beer.
An entire cart.
And for those who don’t drink alcohol, there are several non-alcoholic options available, as well (the mango lassi from India is particularly excellent).
Cooking Demonstrations & Wine Seminars (3/5)
Ahhhh . . . the cooking demonstrations. I guess I sort of lied when I said that the cooking demonstrations were like being on a taping of Emeril’s show.
The demonstration was for something that the chef called “Frito pie.”
What he made was a bowl of chili…served with Frito’s. It wasn’t even a particularly excellent bowl of chili. It was onions, garlic, a little jalapeno, tomatoes, beans, and chili powder. There wasn’t even any chocolate in it.
Now, if you do not cook at all, then I suppose this would be helpful, but chili isn’t the most difficult thing in the world to make. I actually just gave you the ingredient list above. And pouring chili over chips does not make a “pie” – it makes a bowl of chili with chips. That’d be like pouring spiced apples over some bread and calling it apple pie.
For $80 (there were four of us), we watched a guy make chili. Mediocre chili. And he opened a bag of chips to go with it.
In fairness, it’s possible this has improved quite a bit since I experienced this dish. It’s also possible I had high expectations. But that was admittedly a bit of a disappointment.
The wine seminar, on the other hand, was fascinating. It was about the growing and cultivation of better hybrids of grapes used in pinot grigio, particularly in the Northwest region of the United States. I don’t remember what the wine tasted like (because it was approximately a half-ounce pour), but the seminar itself was surprisingly interesting.
I went in knowing nothing about grapes and wine, and I left knowing quite a bit about what goes into making a bottle of wine taste the way it does. It was really, really cool. Even if you don’t drink, sitting through one of those might well be worth your time.
Full disclosure: I’ve never actually bought merchandise at the festival, but that was mostly because we had flown each time, and space was limited. I only mention that little factoid because, let me tell you, there is so much stuff on which to spend your money, you could very easily leave the park with enough stuff to completely redecorate and replenish your kitchen. And it’s not cheap quality, either (we’re talking more like Crate & Barrel—less like Wal-Mart).
There are all manner of cooking utensils, linens, and dishes; cookbooks galore from all regions of the globe; almost every wine featured in the festival (if not actually every wine); and various types of food, including cookies, crackers, breads, and even cheeses.
It’s difficult to not spend money. Think of it as Build-a-Bear for adults.
A Fantastic Experience
Perhaps I’m being a bit hasty, but when it comes to the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT, I honestly have to wonder why EPCOT even bothers to be open the rest of the year.
This is not the type of thing I say lightly, either. I love EPCOT, don’t get me wrong – the World Showcase is cool, Soarin’ is awesome, Turtle Talk with Crush is totally righteous (see what I did there?), and their normal, everyday food is usually worth it.
BUT . . . the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is really just EPCOT on its game. I mean, you don’t have to go to a cooking demonstration, and you don’t have to order every single item in every single kiosk, but being able to control how much you spend – whether it’s more than you should, or very little – is a useful tool when trying to sample flavors from other cultures.
And, while EPCOT has some pretty impressive snacks available year ‘round, nothing compares to the plethora of good eats available during the Food & Wine Festival. If you’ll permit me, I’d like to offer up a handful of suggestions, just to whet your appetite:
- Escargot – snails sautéed in a rich garlic butter, nestled inside of a warm croissant
- Grilled Lamb T-bone – a thick cut of lamb, lightly charred, and seasoned with a hint of mint pesto
- Lamington – A moist, sweet yellow cake, dipped in milk chocolate, and then rolled in coconut flakes. It’s like a candy-bar cake.
- Canadian Cheese Soup – A warm beer-cheese soup served with a dense, salty pretzel roll
- Chicken Potstickers – Yeah, so a warm dumpling filled with stir-fried chicken is almost always good.
- Schinkennudeln – Cheesy pasta and ham bake. It’s a German version of your mom’s breakfast casserole that she only broke out for company.
- Spanakopita – Flaky phyllo dough, melted feta, and sautéed spinach, layered together like some kind of savory Greek layer cake.
I could keep going, but I think you catch my drift. All I’m saying is that EPCOT, as cool a place as it is, really kicks it up a notch when the Festival rolls out, and it is definitely in your best interest to try and go there.
So, if you can arrange it, please try and make it to EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival at least once in your life. I know I’m asking a lot (you’re basically reduced to only two months out of the year you can go, and it’s during school).
But do your best to experience this festival once.
And if you can’t make it to the festival anytime soon—no worries. Check out “regular” Epcot still boasts some of the best Disney restaurants period. But, the Food and Wine Festival is a special experience, so definitely try and find a way to fit it into your schedule, if possible.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars
Final Verdict: Try the gray stuff, it’s delicious!
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