Disney's Food and Wine Fest Was a Liquid Coat of Many Colors
All photos by Sara Havens. Back in college, an Around The World party meant a night of mixing all kinds of spirits in the name of geography. One dorm room would be Russia and serve vodka. One would claim Italy and offer only the finest of boxed wines. And then there was Mexico (tequila shots), the Caribbean (daiquiris) and America (beer and pizza). Needless to say, after a quick trip down the hall — essentially around the globe — you were tipsy and toasty.
Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival, which continues through Nov. 10, is a lot like a grown-up version of an Around The World party, but surely we're all a little wiser and more responsible now — or are we? The premise is simple: You drink and eat your way around the 25 or so countries that make up Disney World’s Epcot Center. Each “country” offers three to four sample-sized entrees and a handful of alcoholic beverages native to each location. Prices range from $3-$9 for each, and you get your Marketplace Discovery Passport stamped at each destination you visit.
On the first day of my adventure, I was too eager and tried to sample everything. I don't even think I made it a quarter of the way through without feeling completely full and tipsy. My friends and I quickly decided we should take turns sampling the food and drinks, and the next day we were able to move about at a leisurely pace without scaring children.
Some of the highlights include the Ravioli alla Caprese and the Placido Chianti Classico at Italy; “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce and a Moosehead Lager at Canada; a cheese tray and a Guinness in Ireland; and Baklava and a Mimosa Royale in Morocco. Germany offered a beer garden that featured flights with Altenmünster Oktoberfest, BraufactuM Roog and BraufactuM Progusta IPA, among others.
While wine is in the festival's title, I'd say craft beer was king this year. There was even a separate craft beer building that featured two flight options — 1) Sierra Nevada's Kellerweis, Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, Spoetzle Brewery's Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale and Abita's Purple Haze; 2) Goose Island's 312, Florida Beer Co.'s Sunshine State Pils, Magic Hat's Dream Machine and Terrapin Beer Co.'s Rye Pale Ale. In an effort to keep it local, there was also a separate station for Florida-based beers from the likes of the Orlando Brewing Co.,Cigar City Brewery and Bold City Brewery.
If you did some exploring in each country's marketplace, you might even find some hidden liquid gems. One such example was at Mexico's La Cava del Tequila, which was tucked back behind the Mexican storefronts and merchandise area. Here you could get rare tequila flights or an array of Margaritas — from blood orange and pineapple to horchata and cucumber-jalapeno. The drinks were not only delicious and finely made, they packed a punch that made crying children and angry soccer moms wielding strollers a little more bearable.
The International Food & Wine Festival also features live music on the weekends (we had Christopher Cross and Hanson during our stay) and a free firework show at the end of the evening. Admission to the fest is free with your Epcot ticket, and there are also numerous demonstrations, seminars and talks from chefs around the world. Park hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Visit epcotfoodfestival.com for more info.