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Sunday Brunch

Bite Size Brunchies and Crunchies: A Travel Log of My First Experience at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

As a student of Food Science and Baking and Pastry, and now as a working member of the Food Service Industry, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has been one of the many goals in food to achieve. I had been a picky eater in my early life, so I was perfectly fine that the festival was held annually in the Fall season when I never dreamed I'd be able to be in Walt Disney World. Once I was older and wiser, I've welcomed new foods with open arms, and since dreamed of getting a taste of the Food & Wine Festival. Imagine my delight when I realized that my Disney College Program would allow me to be in Walt Disney World for this Fall event! For the next few weeks of Sunday Brunch, we'll be looking at some of the tasty treats and lip-smacking samplings the Festival had to offer.

The Festival debuted in 1995, featuring booths and kiosks, dubbed officially Marketplaces by Disney, scattered around the promenade of World Showcase. Each marketplace features at least 2 food samples from a country, region, or state, with some offering a dessert selection and all offering some form of alcoholic beverage: wine, beer, and frozen beverages. I won't go into the full history of the festival as author and show host Brent Dodge will focus on the Food & Wine Festival on the October 19, 2011 episode of the W.E.D.nesday Show. Be sure to check it out right here in our show room on FromScreentoTheme.com.

 

This year's festival theme is 'Passport to a World of Flavors.' Special park maps come complete with a guide of the many events (some of them free!) offered at the Festival Welcome Center and a map noting where each of this year's 29 Marketplaces are located, as well as what they have to offer. If that's not enough, pick up a Marketplace Discovery Passport at any marketplace or merchandise location. In a passport style booklet, each country is listed with every food and beverage offered, allowing guests to check off what they've had and get their book stamped in a way to validate that they were there. Also, gift cards conveniently attached to a phone cord bracelet are available to guests, making paying for each item easy and quick.


Festival Guide, Gift Card, Passport


Inside the passport, featuring a marketplace new this year: the Caribbean!

On September 29th, the day before its official opening on the 30th, my good friend Donna G. arrived in town and we knew we had to start her trip with the Food & Wine Festival. Things were timed just right as Cast Member preview of the event was that day! Though it was not much of a separate event as all the marketplaces were available to all guests at Epcot that day. In a sense it was a soft-opening for guests, with event advertisements only to Cast Members. Nonetheless we had a spectacular time and there were virtually no crowds at the beginning. Now that I've been to the Festival at least four times since my first, I have to say I miss the empty first hour we were there. We probably waited in line not two minutes for each country we visited and now that the event is in full swing, you can find yourself waiting in lines stretching well outside the designated stanchions and borders.


Donna, Donald and Daisy greet guests at the entrance to World Showcase from Future World

We started by checking out Donna's handy Food and Wine application on her mobile. They list the countries and all of the things they have to offer, though with so many countries and so little time, we decided to start at the beginning. Our journey began at Australia's classic and funky marketplace, where Donna treated herself to Shrimp on the Barbie with pepper Berry Citrus Glaze. She really enjoyed it, not only for its inherent deliciousness, but because it fell under her Disney Dining Plan as one snack credit!

 

 

Next we headed to the Caribbean! New to the Festival this year, the offerings include Ropa Vieja with White Rice and the expected Caribbean Jerk Chicken. I forgot to take a picture of the marketplace booth, but it was designed very similar in style and color to the Caribbean Beach Resort. Donna and I each sampled the Chicken, which was a Jerk spiced chicken drumstick that came with a mango salsa. Sweet and tangy, it was a terrific complement to the drumstick. The spice was just enough to get the typical flavor of jerk chicken without overwhelming the tastebuds with too much heat.


Special event paper plates and napkins along with the Festival Guide from the first week


Chefs, cooks, and greeters have nearly everything they need in each marketplace

We continued our journey down towards Canada, as Donna's recount of her and her sister's experience with Le Cellier's famous Cheddar Cheese Soup had me salivating. On the way we passed one of the new markeplaces this year: Hawai'i. We passed over since Donna, being from Hawai'i, knew nothing could compare to the meals of her everyday life!


Conveniently placed by the Hawai'I marketplace is a kiosk devoted to Aulani, Disney's newest Vacation Club resort at Hawai'i

For the past several years, I've heard all about this famous Cheddar Cheese Soup, so naturally my expectations were quite high. I was worried that I've heard too many good things and I would be disappointed, but let me tell you the aroma alone from large kettle in the booth was enough of a sign that I would be enjoying this. It was quite odd to have a hot soup on a hot day, but it was well worth it! The soup had a creaminess you wouldn't believe with a bit of salty bacon to highlight the sharp cheddar flavor. I enjoyed it down to the very last drop, licking the spoon and the little paper bowl. The one complaint is that this portion was unbelievably small. The portions are tiny to begin with at the festival, but for this famous soup, the cup was smaller than the Kids Meal Mac & Cheese, and they give you half a ladle full. I guess to make the popular soup last for all the festival participants, they keep the portion size small and controlled, but I say, just make more soup! The soup sample was priced at $3, which is ludicrous for a bowl that size, but I have to say the soup exceeded my expectations, I'm willing to pay that much again for just a small smackerel!

 

 

After lamenting the absence of my Canadian friends who now are back home in the real Canada, we moved on around the world. The American Adventure had a marketplace called 'Hops & Barley' representing the New England, north eastern region of the country. Its main attraction is its namesake: a wide array of Samuel Adams beer and lager, though also offered are Lobster rolls and Lobster claws and my most favorite thing out of all the foods I have tried at the Festival. Few words can describe the delight of the Pumpkin Mousse dessert. It was actually more like a trifle as it had a spice cake, the Pumpkin mousse with some granola and Ocean Spray Craisins. At the very bottom was a delicious Orange Sauce, a sweet acidic way to round out the flavors of the pumpkin. Each bite was like a taste of home in Autumn, with the tangy, acid punch from the dried cranberries, the sweet spices associated with Pumpkin flavored desserts and of course the pumpkin itself. I am looking forward to having this mousse again, especially with October in full swing. This was also a terrific value, priced at $1.50.

 

Speaking of cranberries, also set up at the festival on the bridge from Future World to World Showcase was a recreation of a Cranberry bog by Ocean Spray. It was a delight to see the cranberry 'farmers' wading through the bog, demonstrating how the bogs are flooded and the floating cranberries are raked away for harvest. I was fortunate enough to visit one of Ocean Spray's cranberry bogs in Cranbury , NJ, so it was fun to compare the pretend one to the actual ones. The one pictured below is probably 1/1000th the size of an actual bog. They use boat tractor type things with long mechanical arms to rake the bogs after they are flooded. Make sure to visit the Festival's mini bog as you get the chance to chat with the farmers and also score a free package of Craisins!

 

To end our day of Food and Wine samplings, we made it to Germany where we found From Screen to Theme author and W.E.D.nesday Show host Brent Dodge, enjoying a Nuernberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll, also one of the best values at the festival. I chose to continue my dessert rampage and ordered the Apple Strudel with Werther's Original karamel and Vanilla sauce. The strudel was not bad, and tasted as expected and the Karamel vanilla sauce was a nice sweet touch.

 

 

 

 

My last sample of the day was the cheese plate at the cheese only marketplace near Germany. Donna tried the cheese fondue with Sourdough Bread. Her only complaint was that there should be more bread to soak up all the delicious fondue. Still, there is no shame in draining a cup of cheese fondue like drinking the leftover milk from a bowl of cereal. My cheese plate included three cheeses with fancy names: Le D'lice de Bourgogne Lincet, Thomasville Tomme Sweet Grassy Dairy cheese, and Ch'vre Affin' Wyngaard Kaas. The white cheese on the right was my favorite, it was very creamy and sweet with a subtle nuttiness.

 

 


Each marketplace had information stands like this one describing the country and the ingredients used. In this case, the dairies that made the cheese are presented with descriptions of their featured cheese.

Our delicious day at the Food and Wine Festival was just the first of many as there are 29 marketplaces representing countries and regions all over the world plus the state of Hawai'i. I look forward to sharing with you my continuing adventures dining around the world as this is just the beginning. In addition to the marketplaces, there is also the Festival Welcome Center located at the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World. More on that later as there are still dozens I need to try and many strange, new, and delicious things I'd like to share in the next few Sunday Brunches! The 16th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is being held until Sunday, November 13, 2011 so for those travelling to Disney within the month, there is plenty of time to please your tastebuds.

 

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