Modern Caribbean Rum

Disney raises the bar for cocktails, decadent dishes and desserts at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

The entrance to Epcot beckons you to "Taste your way around the world."
The entrance to Epcot beckons you to “Taste your way around the world.”

Last year, The Atomic Grog spent one whirlwind day at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, sampling food and drinks from 16 different marketplace kiosks. For 2012, Mrs. Hurricane and I vowed to take a more leisurely approach, so we dedicated parts of three days to the same task. The result: We tasted 38 items from 25 of the 29 booths surrounding Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. With our indulgences finally fully digested, we’re ready to share a recap and reviews below.
See below: Photos of the food and drinks

2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Through Nov. 12 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 | Facebook page | Epcot | Walt Disney World | Disney Parks Blog
Atomic Grog preview: 17 reasons to sink your teeth into Epcot’s Food and Wine Fest
Related: 30 great ways to celebrate 30 years of Epcot magic

Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami shakes up a craft cocktail during a seminar presented by the Peter F. Heering Company.
Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami shakes up a craft cocktail during a seminar presented by the Peter F. Heering Company.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival teases you with the enticing admonition to “taste your way around the world.” For the past 17 years, guests have circled the globe more times than the nearby space shuttle astronauts. The futuristic Disney World park is the logical setting for such an adventure, its World Showcase already the site of 11 pavilions representing countries as disparate as Norway and Morocco.

While we barely made a dent in the nearly 200 food and drink items offered up at the booths, we managed to sample most of those on our hit list. It’s highly recommended you plan ahead. Browse online reviews and photos before you go. And if you have a chance, be sure to check out a few of the many low-cost beverage seminars. We attended an informative wine seminar, plus an excellent cocktail seminar. Click here for the review:
* Miami mixologist shows how to jazz up your tired old cocktails with exotic liqueurs

The sun is setting on the 2012 festival, but many of the following reviews should still be relevant in 2013. The most popular items remain from year to year.

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Minimalist Tiki

17 reasons to sink your teeth into Epcot’s 2012 International Food and Wine Festival

UPDATE: Our 2012 review
Disney raises the bar for cocktails, decadent dishes and desserts

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.

2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

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.

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Lowbrow artists to roast the mouse at Fort Myers gallery

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.

Howl Art Gallery and Tattoo Studio

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.

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Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Previous coverage: A taste of paradise comes to Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Related: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s birthday party

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.

The new Hawaii booth. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The new Hawaii booth. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

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).

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Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous coverage: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Related: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival | More on Disney World

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 Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

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.

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Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic

Update/review: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s 40th
Related: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel
Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody

Walt Disney World has come a long way since Oct. 1, 1971. The resort celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday with a 15-hour celebration at the iconic Magic Kingdom park, where it all started.

December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.
December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.

In 1971, there was just the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness campground and two hotels (the Contemporary and Polynesian) connected by the Monorail. Now, there are four theme parks, two water parks, 30 themed resort hotels and much more. Whether or not the sprawling, 30,000-acre complex southwest of Orlando is the true realization of Walt Disney’s vision (see video below) is debatable, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

My first visit was in late 1972, and I still remember the joy and wonder of that day. I’m looking forward to the surprises Disney says are in store for guests on its birthday, although I’ve grown to appreciate Disney World for many different reasons.

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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.

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