2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

We’re back in Orlando for one of the biggest Disney Parks events of the year: the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival! This little shindig has grown spectacularly year and year and we could not wait to try food from as many booths as possible and check out all the fun stuff Disney has planned for guests.

For those who have never been, the Food and Wine Festival is a big deal nowadays. Epcot is slowly turning into the Festival Theme Park, with the International Festival of the Arts in the Winter/Spring, Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring/Summer, Food and Wine Festival in the Fall, and Festival of Holidays in the Winter. The Food and Wine Festival really is the biggest of the bunch, with cooking demonstrations, chef meet-and-greets, special dining events, and the famed food booths lining the World Showcase Lagoon.

The booths are really where most of the party is at. World Showcase is known for their diverse array of culinary treats, a true trip around the world while staying in one theme park! But they are limited to the pavilions that were built. Not so with the Food and Wine Festival. Brazil, New Zealand, India, Belgium, Peru, Russia… more countries that Epcot could hold! All of them with amazing sampler dishes to get you excited to experience new cultures and new cuisines.

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The Festival Center is in the Wonders of Life pavilion, tucked between Universe of Energy and Mission: Space. Head here first if you’re new to the Festival or want to get the most done in one area.

The first place you should head to is the Festival Center, located in the old Wonders of Life pavilion (anybody else miss Body Wars?). Here you can find helpful Cast Members to guide you through all the events, food, and merchandise you’ll encounter; be able to sign up for food and wine seminars; check out the Festival Wine Shop; shop for Festival Merchandise including cookware, art, apparel, home goods, ears, and pins; watch Seasons of the Vine, a short film on winemaking that used to play at the Golden Vine Winery in Disney California Adventure; and check out tastings from Festival sponsors like Diamond Almonds, and more.

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Wine from home! We’ve had Ca’Momi many a time and eaten at their wonderful restaurant in Downtown Napa (I still miss the old Oxbow Market location!) The Rosso red blend is our mother’s favorite.
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The Tasting Sampler. Eight coupons valid for one menu item (read the fine print to see what you can’t exchange them for). On the back is a list of the booths so you can try to plan out your eating. The Sampler comes with a lanyard and an exclusive pin!

Each year the Festival offers Annual Passholders a special deal: a discount on the Festival Tasting Sampler. This little beauty gets you eight items (some restrictions apply, especially on alcohol) and all you need to do is give the Cast Members a coupon off your pass. This could mean a decent discount on food items, but not always. If you want to shop around and budget it out you can, but this is more about convenience than saving money. If you want another convenient option for paying at the booths consider purchasing a Disney gift card on a wristband. This card is reloadable, useable forever, and comes in designs exclusive to the Festival. Just present it to the Cast Members at the booths and they’ll ring you up as if you’re using a credit card.

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These ears were featured on the Disney Parks Blog weeks in advance of the Festival. I had my money saved for a pair!

Among the merchandise we saw this year were the popular Figment Chef Ears, which we bought. There were also these great little trays, made just the right size to hold your food booth food and drinks.

 

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This nifty little tray is the perfect size to hold your drinks and food from the outdoor kitchen booths. 

 

Another popular activity to do during the Festival is the Ratatouille Hide and Seek with Remy. Little rodent chef Remy is hiding amongst the pavilions and booths in World Showcase gathering ingredients for a phenomenal ratatouille. You can purchase a map and stickers from the Festival Center to search for Remy, placing a sticker where you find him. Once you’ve completed the map you’ll get a prize! This year it was a selection of foam charms that could be used as key chains or luggage identifiers, each featuring Remy and his brother Emile. We participated and had a blast searching for a little rat in every nook and cranny of World Showcase. At the end of this post I’ll show you everywhere we found him this year.

But the food.

Come hungry. There is a lot of food to choose from and you will curse yourself if you fill up too soon. You can also check out great blogs like the Disney Food Blog to see what menus will be served before you arrive. That’s what we did so we knew which places to hit up and which we would be okay with skipping.

Every booth has a small menu of food and drinks, usually a few savory options, a sweet options, and at least one alcoholic beverage. Some booths are devoted to a particular style of food (the Food from Fire booth featured barbecue and fire grilled dishes) or even a particular food (there were booths for beer, wine, chocolate, and cheese). Most of the booths are focused on a country. This is a great chance to try something new and be adventurous!

Here’s a quick tour of the booth menus and a few things we ate:

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Fried chicken with cornbread and red-eye gravy. Red-eye gravy has coffee in it, for those who are curious.
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The Greek booth. The Festival does a good job of offering food for just about anyone’s needs. You can find vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and more at the booths. Here at the Greek booth you can find “Nachos” that are vegan while the other dishes are appropriate for vegetarians.
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Bougatsa: phyllo dough with vanilla custard, honey sauce, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. This is like an éclair crossed with baklava. Not too sweet, totally tasty.
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The Thai booth. Watch out for spices and fish sauce!
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Seared shrimp and scallop cake with cold noodle salad. A delightful mix of savory, spicy, and sour. This would be a great way to introduce kids to Thai cuisine.
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The Mexican booth. Most pavilions have a booth for specialty dishes and drinks during the Festival. Regular dining options remain the same during the Festival. This line was very long due to the margaritas and beer on the menu.
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The Chinese booth. While the food in the China pavilion has been hit or miss over the years the Festival booths tend to be a great way to sample new and familiar favorites.
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The Indian booth. This booth perpetually ran out of food so we often saw Cast Members running new trays of food and ingredients out to the booth throughout the day.
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The African booth. Still waiting for the Outpost area to be turned into an African pavilion, but this will do in the meantime. The food is spicy but delicious and very different from the Moroccan offerings, both the pavilion and the booth.
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The Brewer’s Collection in the Germany pavilion. Most people came for the beer but they had lebkuchen (gingerbread cookie) too.
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The German booth. Classic food and a good selection of drinks that aren’t stereotypical beer. Busy Bumble was torn between which Riesling to try.
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The Spanish booth. Surprisingly popular considering a lot of guests were asking, “What exactly is Spanish food?” The smell of seafood was strong from this booth because of the seafood salad and paella, so stay away if that bothers you or you have an allergy.
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Olive oil cake with lemon curd. This tasty Basque-style cake was totally worth the wait in line. A gentle sweetness, incredibly moist, and a favorite from all the foods we sampled.
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The Italian booth. Another popular booth with a good selection of new and familiar. The cannoli was out while we were in line (boo!).
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Spezzatino con Polenta: A savory tomato-based beef stew served over polenta. It doesn’t look great but the taste is pure comfort food.
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The only reason to ever eat in the American pavilion is when a festival is going on (Seriously, why can’t they have better food to represent our country!). At the Hops and Barley Market booth the big sellers were beer and lobster rolls (Yes! Real lobster! Real American food!)
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The ever popular Japanese booth. The line is shorter than the regular pavilion lines for sushi/curry/rice bowls and kakigori (snow cones) so this is a great way to get your Japanese fix.
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Pomegranate pineapple sake cocktail! Perfect for a humid Florida afternoon. Found a seat to relax and watch the taiko drummers while sipping on this beauty.
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The Moroccan booth. Some people can be timid about trying Moroccan food but the choices on this menu are very safe even for kids. The kefta is amazing, you can’t go wrong with hummus, and who doesn’t like the combination of baklava and chocolate?
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Channel your inner Hercule Poirot and grab something from the Belgian booth. Beef or waffles? Chocolate waffles or berry waffles? The line is long so you’ll have time to choose.
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Fresh berry waffle from the Belgian booth. Crispy fluffy waffle topped with a tangy sweet berry mixture and some whipped cream. Too good to pass up.

 

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The Brazilian booth has some great food that tastes like comfort food. While we were reaching to point of really having to pick and choose where to stop we had to get in line for one thing:
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The frozen caipirinha! Well, this one wasn’t frozen (the machine broke when we reached the front) but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the tangy sweet cocktail.
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The French booth. Almost everything in the France pavilion is good eating, but getting a table is rough. Brace yourself for a long line but totally-worth-it food from the booth. Don’t forget a glass of fine wine to complete your meal.
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Our choices: crème brulee with raspberries (confiture a la frambroises means raspberry jam) and a croissant stuffed with escargot in parsley, garlic, butter sauce. Such decadence! We love escargots and more people should try them if they like shellfish (shellfish like mussels and clams are mollusks just like snails).
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The Irish booth has a few spiked dishes and drinks, but go for the sausage if just for the Colcannon potatoes.
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The Scottish booth’s menu might seem like dealing with a foreign language (“neeps and tatties?”) but if you like hearty, stick-to-your-stomach food you’ll find it here.
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Le Cellier is one of the most sought-after dining reservations in Epcot. Skip the wait (and high cost) by chowing down on the same food at the Canadian booth. The Cheddar Cheese soup is legendary and the filet mignon is more affordable (not to mention more likely to be entirely consumed) than the restaurant’s version.
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New to the festival is the New Zealand booth. Considering the high population of sheep it’s no wonder that lamb is on the menu.
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The Caribbean booth is popular for its bright and tangy savory dishes and the addictive quesitos. If you’ve ever had a Cuban cheese roll (like the ones sold at Porto’s) then you have an idea of what a quesito is.

 

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You know they had to put some shrimp on the “Barbie” at the Australian booth. The famed Australian lamb is on the menu, too. The Lamington cake is simple but sublime.
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The Wine and Dine booth is for those who hanker for something fancier. The food is meant to pair with the wine sold at the booth so pick up a pairing and relax in the gardens. It’s California-meets-Florida.
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Lactose lovers rejoice! The Cheese Studio is full of everything cheese. The Cheese Trio is a great little sampler tray that we noticed a lot of guests ordering.
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New this year is Active Eats, offering forward-thinking food for folks on the go. The food was neatly served in easily portable cups and plates. This was a long line so we had to skip it.
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Earth Eats is also new this year. With a menu inspired by organic, sustainable, farm-to-table cooking you can count on fresh flavors and feel good eats. This is also the booth where you can find Kurt Russell’s Gogi Wines. These wines are served in the Signature Disney restaurants alongside other high-end libations.
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Coastal Eats, another new booth, is for seafood lovers. Considering that Florida has access to both the Atlantic coast and Gulf coast, the booth was popular with guests trying to enjoy the ocean’s bounty.
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Flavors from Fire is a new booth focused on foods that are grilled, barbecued, smoked, or otherwise in contact with fire. This booth is one of the new ones that is closer to the Land and Sea pavilions in Future World, so you might miss it if you don’t know they’re there.
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The Light Lab had such a long line we decided to skip it. The premise is that guests gather in a dark room with black-lights to show off drinks and food that glow either through fluorescence or electronically. The room can only have so many people in it at any given time so the line was about as long as some of the major attractions in the park.
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Light Lab didn’t appear to have any food items on their menu, but they did have a long list of alcoholic beverages. Just the beer alone probably made this a hot spot.

 

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We finally made our way back to what counted as the “beginning” well after dark. The Patagonian booth had a great empanada that we bought for breakfast the next day. The pastry crust kept well overnight and we enjoyed it as a pick-me-up in the morning.
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Late night Lamington cake: yellow cake coated in chocolate frosting and shredded coconut. Like an awesome afterschool snack. 
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Our beloved quesitos with caramel sauce over the top. Didn’t need the caramel, but I will not turn one of these down. I happily discovered a recipe for them in the Food and Wine Festival’s Official Cookbook!

 

As you can see there was a lot of food and we didn’t hit up everything, not even to take pictures. Plan your day carefully and if you’ve got a fridge and microwave in your hotel room you could consider packing some food to go, as we did.

Last but not least, where we found Remy!

 

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Grabbing some bell peppers from the Mexican booth!
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I hope that wasn’t Sichuan pepper… Remy’s grabbing some pepper from the Chinese booth.
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You’ve got to have bread to dip in your ratatouille. Remy snuck some out from the Kringla Bakerie in the Norway pavilion.
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Some aromatic white onions were found in the Outpost.
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Careful with those squash, Remy! In the Germany pavilion Remy’s got some lovely yellow squash.
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What better place to find olive oil than the Italy pavilion?
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You’ll need a pan to cook everything in. Luckily there’s one hanging out on the roof of the Fife and Drum Tavern in the American pavilion.
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Do the koi think they’re carrots or do they think Remy’s carrot is a koi? Remy takes in the peace of the koi pond in the Japan pavilion.
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For acidity a few tomatoes from the Morocco pavilion will do nicely.
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That’d better not be malt vinegar, Remy… Remy finds some tangy vinegar in the U.K. pavilion.
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Smells nice! Some herbs from the gardens near Future World will keep the taste fresh and natural.
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Don’t forget some zucchini from the top of the Earth Eats booth!
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Mmm… garlic… Guess the Cheese Studio booth was hiding it away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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