In normal times – remember those? – Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival would be getting underway about now, settling in for a run that would last until sometime in November.
This year, on what is at least officially the festival’s 25th anniversary, the theme park is offering Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, with “Taste of” the clue that this is a more limited experience. There are no tastings, no cooking demonstrations, no visiting celebrity chefs, no Eat to the Beat concert series.
But there is food, there is wine, and plenty of other beverages, too.
I was invited out recently to see the festivalette along with other members of the media. It wasn’t really a media preview because technically Taste of has been going on since Epcot reopened in July. Full disclosure: We entered Epcot through the backstage area and were escorted to the World Showplace where our temperatures were checked and our bags sniffed by a guard-handled dog who apparently has not been trained to detect contraband fudge.
The World Showplace is the titanic event space that usually is home to the Party for the Senses series. (None of those this year, either.) The Showplace is perfect for 2020’s festival. I firmly believe that when Epcot was in the planning stage, someone stepped up and said, “Hey, everybody, I think we need a venue that’s really big just in case there’s a pandemic one day and people will need to socially distance themselves from one another.” Six feet apart? Take 16 feet, there’s plenty of space.
And the Showplace has only four marketplaces, including one that I think will be the most popular: Mac & Cheese. Really, can you think of any foodstuff more comforting? I’d like to just cover myself in the gooey elbows and sleep until next spring.
The M&C marketplace offers four kinds, including Buffalo chicken, lobster and a vegan option (please do not bury me in vegan macaroni and “cheese”). The best, however, was the gourmet version topped with a fat dollop of Boursin garlic and fines herbs creamy cheese. (Boursin is the sponsor of this marketplace.)
You’ll also find Appleseed Orchard in the Showplace, which for some reason if featuring a charcuterie plate (a good one at that) and caramel covered popcorn, which is served in an apple-shaped container, so it’s at least thematic.
Desserts and Champagnes are here, too, with the former featuring liquid nitrolized cakes and other sweets.
Another station features three traditional festival favorites, including kielbasa and potato pierogi from Poland; seafood fisherman’s pie from Ireland; and spanakopita from Greece.
No, the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup is not on the favorites list in the Showplace but don’t despair, it’s at the Canadian marketplace. Because even Covid couldn’t kill that one.
But I was shocked when I walked past the France marketplace and saw that escargots was not on the list of food being served there. Mon dieu, haven’t we given up enough already this year?
I didn’t do a full survey of all the marketplaces but I did take note of some of the safety items put into play.
There are hand sanitizer dispensers and even portable hand-washing sinks (with non-potable water).
There is no festival booklet, at least not a printed one. Instead, attendees are encouraged to download the guide, which opens in a Disney app.
And instead of the utensil dispensers that required you to push a lever, forks, knives and spoons are doled out one by one. Just grab the handle sticking out of the dispenser and pull. Another handle pops out after it for the next person. You’re the only one to touch it. Well, you and whoever loaded them into the machine.
One other thing you should know: You can’t just decide to pop on down to Epcot and get a taste of Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. You must first have valid admission – you can’t walk up and buy a ticket – AND you must make a reservation to visit the park (this applies to all WDW parks). This policy is to limit the size of the crowds.
The good news is, you’re not likely to find any crowds.
Like everything else in your life right now, Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival does not currently have an end date.