The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, now in its 17th year, offers much more than the opportunity to eat and drink your way around the Disney theme park’s World Showcase promenade at some 30 food and beverage marketplaces. That’s the highlight, of course, but devotees have long known about the special events and distinctive touches that make a trip to Epcot a must-do every fall for foodies and Disneyphiles alike.
The appetizer-sized portions at the marketplace booths are priced in the $4-$8 range, while drinks are $3-$6. The festival is included in the daily Epcot admission price, but most of the special events cost extra and tickets must be reserved in advance. Go to EpcotFoodFestival.com for more info. Click here to see menus and photos from all the participating marketplaces.
Spanning a record 46 days, from Sept. 28 through Nov. 12, this year’s festival will continue a recent trend toward a bigger and better event as guests become ever more demanding of what they expect from craft food and beverages. Beer and cocktails have a higher profile, and the event is also thriving on its association with celebrity chefs and the growing foodie culture in general. As a fan of television’s Food Network and other culinary programming, I have to count myself among that group.
Last year, The Atomic Grog’s experience at the festival was enjoyable beyond expectations. [Click here for the review] Look for even more extensive coverage in 2012. In preparation, here’s a list of 17 things that make this year’s International Food and Wine Festival distinctive and worth looking forward to.
Despite a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that “no evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found,” fans of Florida kitsch and retro culture know better. In fact, perhaps the world’s most famous coterie of real-life mermaids has performed in the waters of Weeki Wachee Springs for 65 years.
The legendary tourist attraction will be holding its 65th Anniversary Mermaid Reunion on Friday through Sunday, July 13-15, including shows featuring both current and retired mermaids. Weeki Wachee proudly embraces its history and holds regular events for its alumnae. But the anniversary weekend is the biggest, serving as a class reunion for the many women who have performed in the crystal clear waters.
There will be special shows all weekend, plus the alumnae will enjoy special swims in the spring, plus a dinner (presumably on dry land), and other reunion activities. For Weeki Wachee visitors, it will be a unique opportunity to see multi generations of performers who brought style and grace to one of the world’s most unusual attractions.
The Greedy Mouse Group Show that opens Friday at Howl Art Gallery in Fort Myers promises to take the iconic Disney character on a much more dark and dangerous journey than he’s accustomed to.
Some of the most talented artists practicing pop surrealism today – Skot Olsen, Scott Scheidly, Andrew Spear, Todd Nolan, N! Satterfield, and many more – have put their own wicked spin on Mickey. The opening reception is 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, and the exhibit runs through July 31 at the gallery and tattoo studio run by artists Andy Howl (who also has a piece in the show) and Alainna Zwiernik.
Some of the top artists in the world of pop surrealism and lowbrow art pay homage to the world’s most famous mouse in a group show coming to Fort Myers this summer.
The Greedy Mouse Group Show honors Disney’s icon in a way not imagined by Walt or his Imagineers. Among the artists taking Mickey down to their level is a who’s who of lowbrow: Derek Hess, Bask, Skot Olsen, Pooch, Scott Scheidly, Andrew Spear, Todd Nolan, N! Satterfield, Rodney Jackson, James “Jimmy Utah” Peterson, Clay McCay, Matt Lackey, Andy Howl, Raymond Hernandez, Mark Stewart, Scott Snyder, Stephen Hayford, Mark Cranford, Mandalin Paul, David Acevedo, Christina Penuel, and Cesar Aguilera.
The show kicks off with an opening reception at Howl Art Gallery and Tattoo Studio in Downtown Fort Myers from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 6. It continues through July 31. The gallery is at 1514 Broadway #101. Call (239) 332-0161 or visit HowlGallery.com.
With rare exceptions, most bars don’t have the proper set-up to mass-produce great Tiki cocktails. The Left Coast Bartenders’ Guild in Florida’s Tampa Bay area recognizes this problem and has come up with a great solution. They’re throwing a gigantic Tiki party at a vintage beachside hotel, complete with live bands, artists and vendors, Polynesian dancers, and of course plenty of vintage cocktails.
Sunset Tiki Party II will invade the Post Card Inn on St. Pete Beach on Sunday, June 10, from 6 to 10 p.m. The mixologists promise an event filled with the best of Tiki culture from the 1930s to 1950s. One of their esteemed brethren, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, will present a seminar on the significance of rum in this retro scene.
Rum, of course, will take center stage. Bartenders from around Tampa Bay will be pouring classic drinks featuring major rum brands on what’s being called a “soon-to-be world famous 26-foot-long bar.”
Live music will be provided by three of the state’s premiere purveyors of Tiki party tunes. The Intoxicators (Tallahassee), The Crazed Mugs (Tampa), and The Stolen Idols (Tampa) are all veterans of The Hukilau and other major events. It’s an eclectic mix that includes surf, exotica and tropical/Hawaiian styles.
Floridiana – A term referring to artifacts relating to Florida history, geography, folklore, and cultural heritage.
Florida is a curious state. To outsiders, it may seem kitschy, exotic and just plain weird. To some of us residents, it’s an odd cultural and artistic melting pot that way too often is bulldozed for the sake of progress.
But many natives and longtime Floridians appreciate our quirky history and think it’s something worth preserving. From time to time, shows and exhibits pop up that deserve attention and attendance. Once such event honoring vintage Floridiana, including the legendary Florida Highwaymen artists, will be held Sunday, Jan. 29, in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show is held at least once a year in the Tampa Bay area, organized by the fine folks from Hula Hula Productions. Billed as the Sunshine State’s longest-running show and sale of vintage Floridiana, the event also gives attendees the unique opportunity to meet and mingle with many of the original Florida Highwaymen artists.
The venerable Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale will give back to its local clientele next Wednesday with a special party featuring extended happy hour prices and complimentary buffet.
In addition, DJ Mike “The Jetsetter” Jones will be playing some of eclectic “retro-active” tunes plus old Mai-Kai favorites. The bash starts at 5 p.m. in The Molokai bar and half-price food and drink prices last until 9, maybe later.
Drop by to see old friends, make new ones, and marvel at the perfectly preserved mid-century Tiki temple. Management will also bring out the old scrapbooks for those who enjoy Mai-Kai memorabilia and want to take a trip back in time.
According to Critiki.com: “The Mai-Kai is perhaps the last of the grand Polynesian palaces still operating from when Tiki was at its peak in the late ’50s and early ’60s. That The Mai-Kai not only still exists today, but is vibrant and thriving, is something we should all be very grateful for – but not take for granted.”
2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Through Nov. 13 at Disney World, Buena Vista, Fla. Access to the festival marketplace is free with theme park admission; food, seminars, and special events are priced individually. [Official site]
Review by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward
“Please overindulge!” This very succinct advice came from the artist and Tiki/cocktail enthusiast Shag when he signed an event poster for me at the 2010 Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Words to live by, to be sure, but not until this year’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was I able to experience that mantra on such a grand and eclectic scale.
For 16 years, the six-week festival has served up tastes from six continents at dozens of themed booths offering tapas-sized portions of delicious regional specialties paired with an impressive selection of wines and beers. Now, finally, cocktails have truly joined the party as the art of mixology gets its due respect. The result: An opportunity to eat and drink your way around the world with a Mai Tai and Singapore Sling to compliment an amazing array of foods.
So overindulge, we did, on the opening weekend of the 2011 festival. After attending the maddeningly crowded Walt Disney World 40th anniversary party on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Magic Kingdom, my wife and I were looking forward to a leisurely food-and-drink adventure Sunday at Epcot. We were not disappointed. And in honor of Shag, whose commemorative merchandise I picked up the day before, we were on a mission to overindulge (albeit in small portions).
Masses of mouse-minded fans flocked to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And while initial crowd forecasts were low, interest in the birthday bash quickly grew among the Disney faithful and resulted in a sometimes overwhelming throng even though actual celebratory festivities were modest.
The Oct. 1 opening date was selected in 1971 because it was considered the slow season, and it typically remains so today. But Disneyphiles came out of the woodwork for the anniversary party last week and took advantage of the late park hours at the Magic Kingdom (it was open from 9 a.m. until midnight).
My wife and I combined this event with a visit to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sunday, and it’s a good thing we did. The overflowing crowd on Saturday made for a hectic day and not much time to relax and enjoy the Disney experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights):
We stayed at the Caribbean Beach, one of Disney’s moderate resort hotels, and were pleasantly surprised. We had previously enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside, and this was on par with that experience.
The rooms were spacious and clean (with the great details that Disney is known for), the grounds (200 acres, including the 45-acre Barefoot Bay) were huge and full of amenities (be sure to take a walk around the lake) and the theming was spot-on. It was closed when we wandered by early Sunday, but I’ve heard the pool bar makes a great Piña Colada.
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.
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.