History of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

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Epcot Food & Wine
This year the Epcot Food & Wine Festival will run from September 19 to November 10.

When asked what their favorite thing about travel is, people often respond with a single word answer – food. One way Disney has answered this question is with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The Food & Wine Festival is an annual event that has been taking place each fall since 1996. Disney showcases food and drinks at International Marketplaces, which represent the regular Epcot pavilion countries, additional countries, and specialty food and beverage categories, such as dessert, vegan, cheese, and beer. The Marketplaces serve snack sized plates and various (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages. An Epcot admission give you access to the food and drinks, as well as the Eat to the Beat Concerts. You must pay for the food and beverages, however, some items qualify as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan. Due to increased popularity, advanced reservations and additional fees are required for special events, culinary demonstrations, and wine seminars. As a result of the fees, these events are not as crowded as they have been in the past.

In the fall, Disney World crowds lessen a bit after school starts through Thanksgiving. As a way to attract more visitors to Disney World during this time, Disney introduced the Food & Wine Festival. This year, the festival runs from September 19 to November 10, 2014. I would like to tempt your palate and look back at some of the highlights that have joined the festival over the years.

Most food items were available for between $1 and $3. Epcot Admission was $42.

Julia Child was one of the guest chefs. It could be argued that Julia Child started turning Americans into foodies when she introduced them to French cooking with her famous books and television shows. How fitting that she was a premiere guest at the first Epcot Food & Wine Festival!

Argentina: Beef empanadas — Grilled Beef Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce — malbec wine
Of course a country that long held the record of “largest per capita consumption of beef” has had beef on the menu. Guests washed the succulent beef skewers down with an Argentinian malbec.

Greece: Spanakopita – Greek Salad with Pita Bread –various Greek wines

Poland: Kielbasa & Potato Pierogies with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream — Okocim beer
Kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage, but in the United States it refers to a smoked Polish sausage made with pork, garlic, and salt. Pierogies are a staple of any traditional Polish meal. They are similar to ravioli, but have a different variety of fillings, such as potato or sauerkraut (a new flavor at the festival in 2014).

Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup — Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce –Moosehead beer
Canada is a regular Epcot pavilion and has been part of the Food & Wine Festival since its inception. Canada serves a couple of the most popular menu items from its difficult to reserve restaurant, Le Cellier. During the Food & Wine Festival you can sample the cheddar soup and the mushroom filet – no reservations required.

Australia: Grilled Lamb Chops — Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry Citrus Glaze — various Rosemount wines

New Zealand: Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney — Seared Scallops — Kim Crawford wines

Most food items were available for between $1 and $4.50.

Eat to the Beat Concert Series introduced. This concert series has grown from six acts to twenty-two acts planned for 2014. In 2002, the acts were the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Sister Sledge, Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Fifth Dimension, and Chubby Checker. This year’s bands are from the 80s and 90s, including Rick Springfield, Boyz II Men, and Wilson Phillips.

Party for the Senses is a Saturday night party of tastings, drinks, and entertainment. Guests dress up for this grand party. Chefs serve small dishes and drinks at several stations. The food is artfully prepared on real plates (no paper). In 2002 the party was $79 per person for admission. Disney has added more food and better entertainment, such as performers from Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba. The cost has gone up as well. In 2013 party price started at $145 per person. Guests could purchase add-ons for reserved seating and specialty cocktails bringing the price up to as much as $285 per person.

California: Goat Cheese Polenta – Tomato and San Francisco Sourdough Bread Salad – California wines

Florida: Fresh Florida citrus – Poached Gulf Shrimp with Florida Greens and Citrus Vinaigrette

Race for the Taste was 10K race that flowed through Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The start was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the finish line was at Epcot. Runners got to sample selected items from the Food & Wine Festival at the post-race picnic before Epcot opened to the public for the day.

Race for the Taste adds a 3K route for its last year.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
Disney replaced its morning 10K run with an evening half marathon. In true Disney style, the race starts with fireworks at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Runners travel through Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, run through Disney’s Boardwalk and the Epcot resorts, with music and several Disney characters along the way. Runners finally reach the finish line at Epcot to receive their medal. The post-race party is one of the best. Several Epcot attractions are open, as are all of the food pavilions at the Food & Wine festival. The party runs until 4 am. Included in the race registration, is a complimentary beer, wine, or soda, plus typical post-race snacks, and a gift card ($10 in the past) to use towards food and beverage purchases.

Hawaii: Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney – Mai Tais – Kona Brewing Company beer

Celebrities from HGTV joined the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in 2011. They gave seminars on entertaining and decorating for the holidays.

Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog
Yes, a bog of cranberries. As you might imagine, it looks like a pool of cranberries. The bog is to educate visitors on the lifecycle and harvest of this popular fall fruit. The demo brings the food source a little closer to the table.

Terra: Curry “Chick’n” – Chili Colorado with House-made Chips and Cashew Cheese – Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Coconut Foam – wine
Terra is an all vegan kiosk (no animal products).

Chase Lounge
Chase bank became a major sponsor of the Food & Wine festival and offered the Chase Lounge to Chase card holders. It is a VIP lounge with free soft drinks, phone recharging stations, and an air conditioned place to sit and to relax. Initially the lounge was located in the Festival Center in Future World. However, in 2013 the lounge moved to the third floor of the American Adventure Pavilion. In 2013, Chase Disney Visa Cardholders received an additional perk: they were able to register a day earlier than the general public for the Food & Wine Special Events.

Most food items were available for between $3 and $8.

Parisian Breakfast – 
Les Chefs in the French Pavilion presented the Parisian breakfast in 2013. It featured fresh, baguettes, a selection of cheese, chocolate croissants, ham and gruyere sandwiches, sweet pastries, and mimosas!

You can see how the Food & Wine Festival has grown over the years. Find out more about what the 2014 Food & Wine Festival will offer at Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2014. Are you excited for this year’s festival? Watch the TouringPlans blog for menu information as soon as we have it and don’t forget that reservations for seminars, tastings, and Party for the Senses will open in August.

I would like to give a shout out to the fantastic website, AllEars.Net , for making the menus of several past Epcot Food & Wine Festivals available for all to view.

Please welcome Kim Turner to the TouringPlans blogging team. Kim is a web developer in her day job and loves vacation planning.

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Kim has been visiting Disney since the mid-1970s and can sing “If You Had Wings”, the song from the defunct ride, to prove it. She still gets excited every time she sees Cinderella’s castle, but now she shares the joy with her children.

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