Taste the World at the 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Ahhh, Epcot. It’s easily one of my favorite places in Orlando. If you ask me what I want to do on any given weekend, I guarantee that Epcot will come up at least once. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Epcot is Disney World for adults. In addition to some great rides centered around creativity, imagination and innovation, the park features a charming, mile-long World Showcase representing several countries. Ever wanted to travel from Mexico to Norway in just a few seconds? Now you can. And when you’re done there, don’t forget about Japan, France, Canada and more!
Officially, each “country” is called a pavilion, and this traveler at heart loves wandering between them whenever possible. Epcot helps to soothe my wanderlust, just for a moment. If I could take one thing with me on a desert island…well, it would be Epcot. I’ll just stop in at Japan for a glass of sake, then have a hot croque monsieur in France…
But wait! It gets better.
Every Fall, the World Showcase transforms into the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Walk a mile around the world, and you’ll see dozens of pop up booths, serving up smaller portions of the regional dishes each country is known for.
Take France for example. We all know I have a personal preference for anything French. Stop at this pavilion’s adorable red booth, and try a croissant with a regional surprise nestled inside!
For those who prefer to play it safe, there is also a delicious crème brûlée. Before I get lost in the tasty details, however, let’s back up for a minute.
Separate admission is not needed to attend the Epcot Food & Wine Fest, but since it is hidden inside Epcot, a regular park ticket is needed to even stroll around the World Showcase. I myself have a Walt Disney World annual pass, and even though the payments come out of my checking account each month, I like to pretend I go to Epcot for free. It is definitely not free, or even cheap. And once you get to World Showcase, expect to fork out a lot more to taste the world.
Make sure to pick up a Festival Passport and document your taste testing! These adorable little booklets can be found at the Festival Center, at Guest Services, and at most pop-up festival registers. Country by country, the passport lists the items available for purchase. Take it with you to the register, and get a stamp in each country!
I love this feature. Since I attend the festival several times each year, checking off the items I’ve already tried helps me to stay focused and on budget. Plus, it makes for a one-of-a-kind souvenir!
Speaking of budget…I wasn’t kidding when I said this is a pricey event. Generally speaking, food items run from $3-10 a plate, with drinks starting around $3. It may not sound like much, but it can add up as your stroll around the world continues.
I usually budget $30-40 per trip. It’s enough to keep me full and happy, but that number could go up or down depending on your own personal preferences. If money were no object, I could easily spend $100 per visit tasting my way around the globe. To help curb spending, I recommend purchasing a pre-loaded festival gift card or paying in cash. When the money runs out, just stop eating! (Good luck with that.)
Work has been keeping me from my beloved festival this year, but I’ve managed to squeeze in three visits so far. It may not sound like much, but by sharing plates with my friends, I’ve been able to sample food and drinks from 22 booths! Get ready for a wealth of pictures, because this is one celebration I’ve been bursting to share!
Some of these booths have been around for years. The Dominican Republic is back in 2015 after a lengthy hiatus. In my eyes, it’s a brand-new booth, and instantly one of my favorites. My first visit of the season was with my boyfriend Dan and my younger brother Jared, and we tried every single food item on the Dominican Republic tasting menu. Just look at all that food!
My favorites here are the Lechón Asado and the Caramel Flan. I should point out that the serving sizes at this particular booth are pretty large. Many of the booths sell smaller servings, especially when it comes to pricier meats like lobster and New York Strip steak.
The Mexico Pavilion is a great place to stop and enjoy a bite. Need to stop and digest for a while? Grab a margarita at the indoor tequila bar, do some window shopping, and catch a performance from the mariachi band!
With so many delicious items spread across the showcase, it’s hard to decide what to eat and what to skip! Many of the festival picks are returning favorites. I usually save those for the last visit, and spend the rest of the festival trying out menu items that are completely new to me.
But some menu items, which I’ve tried and loved in the past, are just too good to resist.
The American pavilion, while hardly exotic, provides the perfect place to stop and rest. It’s located halfway through World Showcase, and Chase cardholders have access to an exclusive lounge area upstairs.
Just look for the roped off area to the right of the American Adventure, show your Chase debit or credit card, and make your way upstairs for free soda, comfortable seats, and even a charging station. During the festival, there is even a small bar upstairs, with a limited selection of wine for purchase. We happened to arrive one evening just before closing time, and were each gifted with a coupon for one free glass of wine. I’ll toast to that!
For more Food and Wine freebies, check out the Festival Center (free Ghirardelli chocolate squares!), as well as Club Cool, an international soda fountain just outside of World Showcase. Here you can sample soft drinks from South Africa, Zimbabwe and more!
My personal favorite is Thailand’s melon Fanta, though I recommend trying everything! Just start at either end and make your way down. Bonus: Club Cool is open year-round! Stop in anytime!
I could go on for ages about how much I love the International Food and Wine Festival. I have tons of photos yet to share, and plenty of things still to taste. Some of the things I’m still dying to try are the New England Lobster Roll (America), Smoking Hibiscus cocktail (Chew Lab), and a tasty sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and bacon (Scotland)! And don’t even get me started on the rest of the park! With rides, shows, plenty of sit-down dining options, fireworks, and more, this is an awesome place to spend an afternoon. But why am I still just sitting here talking about it? Time to go back for round four.
If you enjoyed this post and want to see more tasty food offerings, check out my post on the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival – or as I like to call it, Food and Wine 2.0. And get to Epcot already! This year’s food and wine fest ends on November 16!