It had been nine years since we were last at Epcot when we returned several months back. We’d never been to the Flower & Garden Festival and never been to the Wine & Food Fest. We’d of course heard great things over the years, and were often jealous of those who raved about these Epcot favorites, but we wondered; are they really worth the hype?
The simple answer: yes.
I’ve already shared some thoughts about the Flower & Garden one, with a few photos as well (hey, we’re adding our photo album soon – keep an eye out), but as October passes, so too does the Wine & Food Fest.
Over the last decade or so, it seems that in the U.S., food and wine have gone from something you eat and drink for nourishment to something you enjoy, savor, become not only knowledgeable in, but perhaps even an “hobbyist”.
While our friends across the pond in Europe had been savoring these as delights for generations, Americans – myself included – never really saw food as more than eats, let alone a “culinary experience,” and wine was what you had with your meal – maybe -, but who knew what paired with what let alone dared to think you could be knowledgeable unless you were rich and joined a wine group.
Then the Martha Stewarts and others on cable started opening doors. TV popped up all sorts of food shows, the Food Network came along and filled an obviously large, empty gap, and most recently, a guy known as Gary V – Gary Vaynerchuk - brought wine home and made it accessible to all.
Dude, it ain’t just what’s for supper any more.
That a wine & food show would become a draw, let alone such a huge success seems the likely and perfect next step. Well, ok, so it’s been around 15 years. Like I said, I didn’t think of food and wine as more than food and wine, so 9 years ago it wasn’t on our radar. Assistant Laura & I talked about it and we don’t even remember it being as big a topic back then – we were here during it, and while we heard of it, it really didn’t seem as big a deal as it is now.
We didn’t go then.
But this time, we couldn’t miss it.
All we’ve heard over the years since is how outstanding it is. How people make their entire WDW plans around it. How those who live here look forward to these weeks all year.
Really, can it be that good?
Our first pass through was last week. I had a meeting set with Rick Howard (Travel with Rick) and we decided to meet up at Epcot. Assistant Laura – who has an outside job that actually pays her – would meet me there after work.
Wouldn’t you know it – I was getting sick. Turns out I ended up with the flu, but last Thursday it was just settling in. I wasn’t all that bad quit yet, but was not really thinking I’d enjoy “interesting International food” – I pretty much grew up a meat & potatoes girl – and was thinking that “getting sick” feel & taste would ruin it all.
Rick & I walked and talked, but I didn’t try anything. We enjoyed the people – hey, Epcot is nothing if not an awesome people watching location – and we talked shop. But we also hopped on Space Ship Earth (the golfball) and made a couple laps around World Showcase.
In general, it was a beautiful day, great people watching, awesome conversation, and a great way to get to “see” the Wine & Food Fest. At that point, I’d been taking a few photos, but was really only taking a look.
Think Epcot & World Showcase with a lot more “booths” set around the exterior of the promenade. That’s the Wine & Food Fest. That all the booths are reflective of Wine, Food and shopping for things w/wine & food as the theme. Yet, there’s this energy…
Where Flower & Garden feels more “like a stroll” around the lovely sites, this feels somehow alive.
Eat to the Beat
After lap 2 or 3, we decided to have a sit down at the music pavilion in the American area of World Showcase. Known as the America Gardens Theatre, there are a variety of shows and concerts held here throughout the year. During Wine & Food Fest: Eat to the Beat.
With a lineup of great acts – many of those bands who you’ll remember from high school, college and “years gone by,” they’re interspersed with groups that are “right now rocking or maybe a little closer to now”. (Check out the list of remaining acts)
We sat down to watch Sister Hazel, which I must admit – we’d never heard of. Turns out they’re not only a pretty good group – I was liking ‘em – but they’ve got music chart stuff and even have stuff in movies. Assistant Laura would later point out I’m clueless and she loves the group.
Eat to the Beat is a great center-area-offering that lets you sit and chill on lovely Florida evenings, listen to some great music, enjoy your glass of whatever, and snack on your tastings. Or stand out back, dance a little, and just enjoy the people watching.
Rick and I had caught the “middle show” and he was off to his dinner, so we parted by England and France, and I met up with Assistant Laura for our walk around. She & I would return here later for their last show of the evening & Laura loved getting to see the band live.
Having been to many concerts over the years, these are shorter in length. Being free and in a smaller venue, it’s intimate, fun, and you can see some great entertainment for the cost of your admission. But you’re not going to get a “full concert” unless you attend the 3 shows over the course of the evening. But this is a tasty bite of music and well worth checking out who’s on tonight’s menu.
Eating and Drinking
Ok, so I was getting hungry after all, though still nervous – was my impending flu going to kill it and would I like anything? But I agreed to give it a shot.
And what do you know – I ended up loving it.
First, I’m finding more and more that my palate has been expanding as I’ve grown older, enjoying increasing food and drink varieties, but as I’ve learned from Gary Vaynerchuk, one doesn’t have to be snooty or an expert to try new things, discover new things and find ones you like and who cares if you don’t in the food & wine world. The world is changing and being snooty just doesn’t cut it anymore – we can all enjoy so much more now and do so being the person we are.
Realize, one can spend a small fortune at this thing. As someone Assistant Laura works with said, “It’s great and it’s easy to drop a quick hundred there”. Wine & Food Fest will cost.
That said, we had a blast & will enjoy it at least once more this year. In order to experience it, we split everything. We chose items at least one of us thinks we’d like – and the other was willing to try. The portions are small, the prices up there. But if you keep this in mind it might help:
The portions are small, but split each. You can get a taste and you won’t feel mad if you don’t like it and dump it. If you loved it – you can get more.
The price are up there: yep, its Disney so you’re paying, but by splitting you can keep costs down a bit. There are “a range” of prices, so you can try more things. But if you want a “meal” you’ll need to go to a quick serve or sit-down place. This is “tasting” portions.
Wine is expensive: Yes, the wine or beer will be most costly. Our first visit we enjoyed several wine options – splitting each – and we “paid the price”. We had half food/half wine (for the most part) and our dollars did not go as far. We returned last evening and only got two glasses, and we saved money/spent it on food.
Looking for a free-be? Check out the Club Cool where they’re serving coke samples for free. It’s in “Future World” or “front” area of Epcot, the large building on the right before you make the change into World Showcase. I tried several – Assistant Laura doesn’t like anything carbonated – and frankly, didn’t like any of them. But many folks were enjoying the range of options.
Plan ahead or take a walk. We live in the area, can return and can linger. We’re not in a vacation rush. If you are, you might try either checking out my thoughts here on RoriTravel’s Florida, then hop over to friend AJ’s Disney Food Blog for a more in depth look. Use the information to plan out what you’d like to try before you go, then spend your time enjoying while you’re there.
Or just go and take a walk. Spend a lap going around World Showcase checking out the different menus and decide what you’d like to try the second time around. Sure you can decide as you make your first lap, but be careful: you may end up full or drunk before you make it half way and won’t enjoy the second half of options.
International Wine & Food Fest continues until November 14th. Visit RoriTravel’s Florida for more of our experiences, check out Disney Food Blog or Walt Disney World’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival page for more information.
And if you can’t make it this year, it truly is something to plan for…