The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is here! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Nope, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’m talking about the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! It’s here ladies and gentleman, and it’s bigger than EVER! With over 30 Global Marketplaces (Disney’s term for food booths), there is so much to explore and eat! This year’s festival began on July 14th and runs all the way until November 19th! It’s a crazy long “season” at Walt Disney World (not to mention a hot one)!
Have you visited yet this year? If not, please add it to your must-do (and soon!). There are so many yummy treats just waiting to be enjoyed at this year’s festival. Let’s explore my top 5 picks (and I may even add a little bonus at the end).
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I’m lucky enough to have attended the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival since its early beginnings. Thinking back, it amazes me how much it’s grown, and how many new and unique experiences are created for us each and every year. The last couple of years have been challenging and we’ve had to enjoy the festival in modified versions. But, not this year!
This year, the festival is back! And it’s bigger and better than ever, not only in the number of days, but in the number of food and drink choices too! Knowing that, it’s really important to spend some time doing some research and sorting out what you might want to try, ahead of even getting to the parks. I often encourage this before heading to any of the Epcot festivals – it ensures you get to try everything on your wishlist (so you don’t forget anything!) and it also helps with sticking to a budget (if that is important to you). There are plenty of bloggers and influencers that visit the festival in the first few days of its opening, and provide all the details for you to review.
With a list in hand, you are set and ready for your food and drink adventure! My goal is often to try as many new things as I can. There are always returning favorites year after year, and while I’m a creature of habit and tend to repurchase them, I do try to purposely experience new things. After all, that is the whole point of the festival! With minimal commitment, you can try things you would normally not be exposed to or think to eat or drink.
Here are my TOP picks, in no particular order.
Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
The smoked gouda mashed potatoes, hands down, made this dish. The creamy, smooth, richness of the potatoes paired perfectly with the dark brown hearty gravy. The beef was tender and moist, you could pull it apart with a fork. This was an all around top choice. Pick this up in Belgium and find a nice quiet table in the shade next to the Tangierine Cafe – enjoy!
FLAVORS FROM THE FIRE
Ok, so anything with beer cheese fondue is an automatic winner in my book! You just can’t ever go wrong with that. Pair that with pickled onions for a slight tang and smokey corned beef and you have yourself one outstanding meal. This one was a treat to eat. All the flavors perfectly complemented each other, none of them overpowered the other. I think all the food choices at Flavors from the Fire are outstanding, but this one takes the cake!
Oh, Canada! Canada is one of my favorite places in the world. Perhaps because I used to live in Montreal, I am extremely partial to this pavilion when I visit EPCOT. As a matter of fact, I’m one of those people that start right and not left (towards Mexico). The food and the beer are some of my favorites. And this filet mignon did not disappoint. It was tender, rich and hearty. This is a great option if you can’t find a reservation to Le Cellier or you just simply want to try a smaller sample of their steak. Try this one! It’s absolutely delicious and full of flavor. This is also a gluten free option if needed!
SWANKY SAUCY SWINE
- Soy-glazed Sticky Ribs with green onions and peanuts
- Bourbon Bloody Mary with Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix and Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
Sticky goodness! That about sums up the ribs from the Swanky Saucy Swine! New for 2021, this booth is a returning favorite this year and it once again does not disappoint. The soy-glazed ribs were well marinated and the ribs were nice and tender. They were a little messy to eat, but hey, that’s what napkins are for! Try the exceptional Bourbon Bloody Mary right alongside the ribs. It’s refreshing and compliments the flavors so well. It’s a BIG drink, considering it’s from a festival booth (they are often on the smaller side). Share it with a friend – there are plenty more booths to explore.
- Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Paprika (GF)
Here’s another Marnie favorite! I have had this seafood salad from Spain every year since they added it to the menu. It’s a cornucopia of Spanish flavors in your mouth! This cold, crisp and refreshing salad is perfect on a hot day. The seafood and vegetables (the green peppers are the best part!) paired with the tangy white balsamic leaves your mouth tingly and wanting more! If nothing else, GET THIS! It’s THAT good. You might even go back for seconds.
TIPS & STRATEGIES FOR THE FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
These tips and tricks are tried and true. While some may seem simple or common sense, they are solid strategies to get you through the festival. Especially if you are first timers, it can be overwhelming. The festival is enormous both in popularity and activities/food/drink to take in. These tips will help to manage all of that!
TIP 1: Don’t forget to pick up your Guide Map and Passport.
These are essential to organizing your day. Know where you are going and use your Passport to check off where you’ve been and what you’ve tried. At the start of the day, highlight the offerings that are your “must do’s”, this way you can prioritize those and you don’t miss out!
TIP 2: Plan ahead!
By now we know the list of countries and food/drink offerings for the 2002 Food & Wine Festival. Similar to tip #1, make a list of must try items! Leave room for spontaneity and discovery, but having a list will allow you to not miss anything you want to try, and stay on budget.
TIP 3: Have a budget and stick with it!
With all the food and drink offerings at the festival, setting a limit right from the beginning is the best way not to go overboard. My suggestion is to put a set amount of money on the mini special event wristband gift cards – they are offered every year at numerous locations throughout the park! This will help you stay on track, and they are great souvenirs too!
TIP 4: Find a place to sit and relax!
Scouting out a place to sit and enjoy your tasty treats may be difficult, especially on evenings and weekends. There are a lot of high top tables around the World Showcase, but there are also many nooks and crannies where you can grab a seat and enjoy your food and wine. My recommendation, scout out a table before you purchase your treats. Have a friend hold the table while you get the food – another tip, ask to share a table! It’s a great way to meet new friends! I have met some of the most interesting people by doing this!
TIP 5: Don’t forget about the World Discover (old Future World)!
When most think about the Food & Wine Festival, most think about eating and drinking “around the world” – and while the Food & Wine festival takes place predominantly in the World Showcase, don’t forget or underestimate the offerings in World Discovery! Some of my favorite snacks are offered there – Coastal Eats, Mac & Eats, Fry Basket, and Flavors from the Fire! Be sure to check them out!!
TIP 6: Try new things!!
The Food and Wine Festival is a great time to experience new foods and drinks. With each small plate and drinks ranging from $4-12, it’s relatively inexpensive to test your palate. You may like something you wouldn’t otherwise try!
TIP 7: Pace yourself!!
With all the options available to us at the Food & Wine Festival, we often get excited and dig right in. By the time you hit the halfway point, you’ve had enough! The excessive heat often does not help either. Use your Food & Wine Festival Guide to help you prioritize what to eat and drink first and go slowly. There is plenty of time to try everything!
TIP 8: Annual Passholders!
For anyone who is an AP holder, be sure to purchase the special limited Food and Wine Festival Merchandise! Most are limited quantities, so be sure to check them out early!
TIP 9: Food and Wine Festival Center!
Don’t overlook the Food and Wine Festival Center. Here is a great place to cool off, check out the Food and Wine Festival Merchandise and visit various vendors showcasing wine, beer and various food from around the world. You can pick up your Guide Map and Passports here too!
TIP 10: HAVE FUN!!!
None of this matters if you aren’t having FUN. Let your hair down, try new things, make new friends and enjoy the atmosphere!!