A taste of paradise comes to Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Review: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Official sites: International Food and Wine Festival | Epcot | Walt Disney World
Related sites: The Disney Food Blog | Facebook: Epcot Food and Wine Festival Fans

One of the best times to visit Walt Disney World is during a taste-tempting six weeks every fall when the 1.2-mile promenade of World Showcase at the Epcot theme park is transformed into a foodie’s dream come true at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Already home to dozens of restaurants and bars spread throughout pavilions representing 11 countries, the picturesque promenade around the 40-acre World Showcase Lagoon will be engulfed this year by 30 “international marketplaces” featuring food and beverages from six continents.

Every year, new countries and themes are added to the eclectic mix of food, wine, craft beers and cocktails. For the 16th annual event, it’s exciting to see two island locales among the three new festival marketplace booths. Say aloha to Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but here’s hoping this is an outgrowth of the renewed interest in tropical and Tiki culture.

Seven Tiki Mai Tai at the Hawaii marketplace. (Disney photo)

Seven Tiki Mai Tai at the Hawaii marketplace. (Disney photo)

Topping the menus are the Kalua Pork Slider and Seven Tiki Mai Tai in Hawaii, and the Jerk Spiced Chicken Drumstick and Rock Coconut Mojito in the Caribbean. Beyond these island paradises, there’s a vast selection of tantalizing tapas and beverages to choose from. Among the dozens of menu items, here are some that will be hard to resist:

* Beverages: LeBlon Frozen Caipirinha in Brazil; Lime Strawberry Margarita in Mexico; Singapore Sling in Singapore; Leffe and Hoegaarten in Belgium, plus the many beers in the Germany, Brewer’s Collection, Craft Beers, and Hops & Barley booths; and perhaps a glass of wine or two in Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Portugal, South Africa and elsewhere.

* Entrees: Beef Empanada and Grilled Beef Skewer in Argentina; Shrimp on the Barbie and Grilled Lamb Chop in Australia; Cheddar Cheese Soup and Chicken Chipotle Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta in Canada; Barbecue Chicken Stick in China; Chicken Souvlaki in Greece; Lobster Claw Cuddler and/or Maine Lobster Roll in America; Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s Pie in Ireland; Cappellini Pasta with Spicy Shrimp and Baked Cheese Ravioli in Italy; Rib Eye Tacos and Shrimp Tacos in Mexico; Lamb Slider in New Zealand; and Seared Filet of Beef in South Africa.

Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise at the Hawaii marketplace. (Disney photo)

Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise at the Hawaii marketplace. (Disney photo)

* Desserts: Lamington (chocolate and coconut covered yellow cake) in Australia; Godiva Chocolate Iced Coffee in Belgium; Caramel-Ginger Ice Cream in China; Crème Brulée in France; Apfel Strudel in Germany; Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Ganache in Ireland; Chocolate Covered Cannoli in Italy; plus the many selections in the Desserts & Champagne booth.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re so inclined, there’s sushi and sake in Japan; pitas, baklava and wine in Morocco; kielbasa and cabbage in Poland; meatballs and a pear/cognac cocktail in Scandinavia; pork, beef and herbal wine in South Korea; plus a gourmet cheese booth. You get the picture. Click here to see menus from all the participating marketplaces, courtesy of The Disney Food Blog. As you can see, there’s much to sample and many items are reasonably priced ($3 to $8 for small sample portions).

The new Hawaii marketplace at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. (Photo by The Disney Food Blog)

The new Hawaii marketplace at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. (Photo by The Disney Food Blog)

Also of interest – and validating the legitimacy of the growing craft cocktail movement – are the festival’s first mixology seminars. Joining the usual culinary demonstrations (by top Disney and celebrity chefs) and beverage tastings (by acclaimed wineries and breweries), these events promise to show attendees new ways to experiment with spirits. Be sure to make reservations since these events tend to sell out fast.

The festival runs from Friday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Nov. 13. Beyond the food, drinks and demonstrations, you’ll also find daily concerts featuring classic rock and retro bands (Night Ranger, Gin Blossoms, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy). There will also be live daily entertainment along the promenade highlighting many of the cultures with music, acrobatics and improv performances.

Of course, your paid admission to Epcot also enables you to explore Future World and the rest of the 300-acre theme park. Most of the attractions focus on technological advancements, innovation and wonder. Don’t miss Test Track, Mission: Space, Soarin’, and the iconic Spaceship Earth, as well as the many educational pavilions.

One-day passes start at around $75 for a Florida resident with a AAA discount. Highly recommended is the seasonal pass from AAA, which gets you unlimited access to all the Disney World parks for one year, except for blackout dates during the summer and holidays. The Food and Wine Festival dates aren’t blacked out, giving you a full 45 days to explore many culinary adventures.

Related: More recent posts on Disney World

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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