2010 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Every year around my birthday, my wife and I make a weekend trip down to Walt Disney World to attend the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. We made our trip a little early this year, as my wife was running in the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Disney which is the kick off to the Festival. Having completed her first half marathon, and I facing a bout of depression from the Florida Gators loss the night before, spending an afternoon at Epcot enjoying great friends, weather, food, and drink was just what the doctor ordered.
The Festival takes place every year from October 1st to early November, which is the perfect time of year in Central Florida, as the temperatures are just starting to dip to where it is actually enjoyable to be outside. As with all things Disney, the Festival has a theme, which is a journey around the world. There are over 20 kiosks featuring different countries and offering a sampling of food, wine, and beer from the region. This is in addition to the 11 permanent "pavilions" which make up the Epcot World Showcase, and feature their own food and beverage offerings. Needless to say, there is no shortage of food and drink, and it proves smart to pace oneself.

It is here that I must note that sadly the food and beverages are not free. Perhaps you already assumed that, however given the number of people I overhear complaining to the Disney cast members about the unfairness of charging for the food on top of admission, I figured it was worth pointing out. Each kiosk will set you back about $8-$10 per person on average, assuming an order of one food option, and a glass of wine or beer. The wine is actually a 3 oz pour, and the beers are usually offered in 6, 12, and 22 oz options. A money saving trick if ordering beer is to buy the 12oz size, and ask them to split it into two cups and share with another in your party.
This is the 15th anniversary of the Festival, and there were some welcome changes to the event this year. Over the last few years, the Festival had gotten a bit stale in their food offerings, in my opinion, as one would find the same things year after year. And while there are some things which I am happy to find every year, the excitement of seeing what new items will be on the menus had been lost the last few years. Needless to say, I was happy to see some new countries, and changes to some of the menus from last year. From the pork and kimchi lettuce wraps in South Korea, to the steamed mussels in Belgium, these new options paired well with my regular favorites of lamb chops in Australia and beef tenderloin with sweet potato puree in South Africa.
In addition to the food and beverages, the Festival features other events as well. From cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, to wine tastings and seminars by renowned wineries, the Festival can be quite educational also. Bear in mind, most of these events are designed to entice you to open your wallet and remove money. The wine seminars are the best value, but if money is no object, then the dinner prepared by Cat Cora might just be the option for you. There are also concerts each weekend featuring artists that are usually a decade or more removed from their last hit, but if one happens to be a Taylor Dane fan, it's a good place to kill half an hour and digest.

Finally, an important thing to consider when planing a trip to the Festival is where one should stay. Disney has a multitude of hotels on property, and there are countless more in the surrounding area. The key, however, is the logistics of returning to your hotel at the end of the day. About the last thing anyone wants to do after 8 hours of indulging is get on a bus packed with tourists and cranky babies. Therefore, my suggestion is to stay at one of the Epcot resorts, which are a short walk from the festival area of the park. The Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club, and Swan and Dolphin are all fantastic resorts, and will save you plenty of stress at the end of a long day.

The Food & Wine Festival is perhaps my favorite travel related tradition. It combines several of my favorite things: Disney, food, wine, beer, and usually time with great friends. If you find yourself at the event, stop by the American pavilion and have a Sam Adams "Festival Beer" for me. And remember, pace yourself....its a big world out there.

Bon Appetit! Salud!

~Insert Dude-Like Closing Here~