Sipping and Snacking Around the World! Southern Girl Travel’s Quick Guide to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

IMG_9896-634A favorite from Africa – read on to find out more…

Strolling around Epcot’s World Showcase, sampling a drink and a snack from the various international pavilions, has become one of our family’s favorite Walt Disney World experiences.

Right now, we’re now just 5 days away from day 1 of the Epcot International Wine & Food Festival – the ultimate Sipping and Snacking Around the World experience.

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More of our friends and clients than ever are visiting Epcot for Food & Wine this year, and this guide is meant to give you a tool to plan for stops around the festival. We’ve included photos of nearly all the Marketplaces and menus as they appeared during the 2014 Festival (menus and prices may change for 2015).

Lending a hand with this post is one of our first Southern Girl Travel clients and Food & Wine Festival fan, Kim Hannum. Kim and I have known each other since 3rd grade in Hillsborough, North Carolina and we had a ball putting this post together (THANKS, KIM!!!).

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From Kim:

First of all, the name alone – Epcot. Food. Wine. What’s not to love?! My husband and I first went to the Food and Wine Festival back in 2000 and absolutely fell in love with all the different booths. Alas, it would be 13 years before we would get to come again but there was no question as to when other than sometime between the end of September and early November!

Those booths – Disney calls them the Marketplaces – are the cornerstones of Food & Wine (which runs each year from near the end of September to early November in Epcot). The French Marketplace is pictured above, and here’s a shot of the 2014 France Menu:

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The shot’s a bit blurry, but a stop in France will give you a chance to try Escargots and a glass of sparkling wine for a relatively reasonable price.

If you’re entering Epcot via the International Gateway, France can be your first Marketplace, simply head to the right after entering.

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Belgium and its 2014 menu (nothing like waffles and a Stella)

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Disney’s official description of the Marketplaces:

Sail away from the ordinary on a tour through international tastes and domestic delicacies.During the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, you can bask in a bevy of appetizing stops as you travel through a cornucopia of cultures and cuisines. With menus inspired by specific regions of the world, along with refreshments crafted by brewers and master wine makers, you can rest assured that there’s an offering for every kind of foodie.

Experience a shift in your palate’s perspective—discover more than 30 unique marketplaces, and be on the lookout for corresponding asterisks (*) placed next to our suggested food and beverage pairings!

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 The Japan Marketplace and its menu

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Japan’s Spicy Hand Roll and Kikusui Ginjo sake was my favorite combination of Food & Wine 2014.

Epcot’s Japan pavilion is one of the World Showcase spots featuring both great year-round restaurants (like Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo in Japan) as well as Food & Wine Festival Marketplaces.

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Drink prices are much less in the Marketplaces than you’ll see in other outlets around Walt Disney World. The quantities are much less as well, so you can sample a wider variety of tastes without breaking the bank (or enjoying the festival a bit too much).

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Check out Kim’s list of things she and her family love about Food & Wine:

Trying foods that we might never try if not for the small plate presentation. You can always share a plate too and then not have to commit to the whole dish (read: Haggis!! Eeep!! Although it’s actually vegetarian so a little less adventurous than you might think.)

The kids love it too, well, one of them anyway!! My daughter tried almost everything that we tried and loved all of it! Great way to introduce new ethnic foods at a smaller price!

The booths allow you to use Disney Snack credits if you have the Meal Plan (especially great if you are lucky enough to have scored Free Dining on your trip – something we are excited to have this time!)

New Booths mixed in with Old Favorites!! New for 2015 – the Chew Lab (food science and trends) and Sustainable Chew (featuring sustainably grown food) – can’t wait to try these. Old favorites for us are Canada (Cheddar Cheese soup and “Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce), Belgium (waffle galore!), and Africa (counting it because we went 7 – yes 7! separate times last time!! You MUST try Africa’s Berbere-style beef tenderloin tips with onions, jalapeños, tomato, and pap).

Don’t miss that last tip from Kim. We tried the beef tips a few years ago and it’s become one of our favorites!

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Beef tips, pap, and the Wolftrap Red from our featured photo above!

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Africa is a Marketplace we might have skipped had it not been for Kim’s recommendation.

Both the tips and the Wolftrap Red were amazing, and I had never even heard of southern Africa’s pap, a dish that bears a striking resemblance to our own famous Southern dish, grits! It was perfect with the tips.

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Another of my favorites – and a less-than-common dish here in the South – is the lobster pie and mead from the Ireland Marketplace.

Mead, while popping up in the occasional wine shop, is still a rare sight. It’s a medieval alcoholic beverage of fermented honey (it’s also the origin of the word honeymoon – stay tuned for a post on that). Give it a try if you can.

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Do pay attention to tips from friends, family, and those you might read online (and of course, tips from your travel agent). Food & Wine is a major event with tons of options.

You never know when you’ll find a gem you might have missed had you not caught a tip.

A few more tips from Kim:

Do your homework! Read sites like Southern Girl Travel to see what all the festival has to offer and then come up with a general game plan. What are your “must gets”? What’s the most intriguing? What’s your budget? There are several sites that offer “game plans” or themed “crawls” if you are limited on time, or want to hit all the chocolate, vegetarian, beer, etc.

Get a Festival Passport from the Festival Center – it’s free and lists all the booths with all of the items to sample. You can check them off and add notes about your favorites! Great for a souvenir.

Go weekdays if you can and early on weekends. The Festival is QUITE the event for Florida locals to hit on weekends so late afternoon and evenings can be a bit… crazy.

Do try new dishes!! REALLY!! Re-hinting on Africa!

If it rains – buy a poncho and STAY!! It clears out and you practically have the place to yourself!

Pace yourself!! Especially with the wine! Share a glass with the hubby or a friend and be able to last much longer and eat much more!

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In addition to the geographically themed Marketplaces, Food & Wine has a few Marketplaces that encompass a particular style or type of food.

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 Try the Moet & Chandon – decent resort price for a great Champagne

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One other aspect of Food & Wine is a huge draw for Jennifer and our girls – Eat to the Beat.

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In 2014, Jenn and the girls spent (in my opinion) way too much time catching Air Supply shows at Eat to the Beat – Food & Wine’s annual concert series.

The concerts come at no additional charge and are held in the amphitheater near the American pavilion. Check out this year’s line up.

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We’re headed to Walt Disney World on September 28th (just 7 days from now), and are psyched up to try some new things at this year’s Food & Wine.

Morocco (above) is one we missed last year as is Patagonia and New Zealand.

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As Kim mentioned above, Food & Wine is extremely popular among Florida residents, so choose a weekday to visit if you can (that’s one of the reasons we time our fall Disney trips to arrive on Mondays).

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Don’t be afraid to try something new!

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Don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email with any questions you might have – and stay tuned, we’ll have just a little more about Food & Wine before the Festival is over!

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And never forget to:

Relax…you CAN get to the Food & Wine Festival from here!

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