It’s the most wonderful time of the year — to visit the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. It opened on August 30 this year and will conclude on Monday, Nov. 12. I’ve never missed one — even when the official Walt Disney World Wine Festival was held elsewhere on property and in the early days when pretty much the entire festival was confined to the Odyssey event structure. That space now isn’t even big enough for the Festival Center.
But at least it had air conditioning.
Although the festival is nearly 10 weeks old at this point, I only made it out there recently. Scheduling conflicts, domestic and international travel and other commitments just made it difficult to plan some time at the park.
Secretly, I’m glad I wasn’t able to go when the festival first opened. Did I mention it was in August?
I usually attend a media day, which is held on or close to opening day, and it is always oppressively hot. We’re all loaded down with our camera gear and carrying a swag bag of goodies (not always that good), but we bravely face the death march around the World Showcase to sample the foods and taste the wines, beers and other beverages.
What a difference several weeks and about 20 fewer degrees on the thermometer make. I actually enjoyed my stroll.
I started in France — I prefer to enter the park via the International Gateway — because the Escargot offered at its marketplace is a perennial favorite. This year the slugs were baked into a mini croissant and topped with a garlic and parsley butter. Easy to pick up and eat as you walk.
France had a new offering this year: Carbonade de Boeuf, beef and bacon braised in beer, served with pureed potatoes. It was delicious. And my friend and I ended by splitting the Creme Brulee a la Confiture de Framboises, a perfect custard with a crisped sugary top and raspberry jam on the bottom.
If I’d had all that back in August or even September I would have needed one of those electric scooters to make it the rest of the way around.
In Spain I had the Charcuterie in a Cone: jamon, salami, olives and cubes of cheese in a handy handheld cone, perfect for stroll-eating. The cone is made of paper and is not edible; learn from my mistake.
The section called Next Eats that premiered a couple of years ago featured the Impossible Burger Slider at the Earth Eats marketplace. With a name like that you might expect something difficult to swallow — a slider that won’t slide, perhaps. The Impossible Burger, you may know by now, is a plant based substance that mimics the taste and texture of ground beef. I applaud the idea — I’d like to introduce more plant based foods that aren’t kale into my diet — but each time I’ve tried the Impossible it just tastes like an overcooked burger.
Here’s another nice thing about waiting until late October or early November to visit the Food & Wine Festival: the lines are appreciably shorter. Some of the marketplaces had no lines at all, including Canada and its impossible Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup. I saw no takers when I was there, even though the weather was more amenable to a heavy cheese soup.
I enjoyed my stroll around the festival more than in years past, and I can’t wait for next year’s to come around. I’ll look forward to visiting it sometime around Halloween.
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival continues daily through November 12. Check the website for daily events and special demonstrations. As always, admission to Epcot is required to attend.